The Great Wide Open – Episode 5

The Great Wide Open is a different climbing video than I am used to because it discusses history, culture and American identity. It speaks about the American Independence day and watching fireworks from “Devils tower“, a laccolithic butte. This is an interesting rock formation. The rock has vertical cracks that are impressive to see.

There are many aspects that I like and enjoy about this video. I like the visuals and I like the discussion of history and opportunism and passion. The segment that I like less is about death. I associate death with scuba diving rather than climbing. Recently I have watched quite a few documentaries about climbing and death. The film Sherpa and one other explored the themes both of mountain professionals and the risks they take and the other looked at climbers and the risks they take. They’re interesting topics but exploring the lives of people who live their passions is more pleasant. One person said “I think too many people live their lives, five days looking forward to the two day weekend and they don’t look forward to their life on the small amount of time we have on this earth.” That’s why I enjoy watching documentaries about this topic. For brief instants we get to dream and to aspire to new things.

There is a lot of attention in the media today about how women look and how they are perceived. The focus needs to shift away from how women look and focus instead on what they can do. Climbing news and videos are one way to achieve this goal. We see women who excel at their chosen sport and this has a positive effect. It takes us away from the superficial and presents us with the concrete. In climbing we notice women for their prowess rather than their looks and this is positive. I appreciate them for their ability  to challenge and overcome their fears. I frequently climbed with someone who was afraid and I would not hesitate to do it again. Enabling others is a good quality to have.

Climbing in Bramois

Climbing in Bramois is a pleasant and practical experience. This is a climbing area with numerous walls and routes. There are single and multipitch routes ranging from 3-4 up to 7 and 8. The climbing area is within a gorge with nice rock on both side and a river running through the middle.  This area has over 150 routes from which for you to choose from. The routes vary in length from 10-40 metres for single pitch routes.

When I was there I climbed around the Africa wall. There are quite a few 5a and above routes. Some of these routes are more instinctive than others. There is one particular route where we had a tendency within the group to go too far too the right and then had to go left and then make it up to a crack. Once the complicated bit was negotiated the rest of the climb was easy. I am still getting used to climbing on rock rather than on an artificial wall or via ferrata.

I later went to another wall a few minutes walk away and that climb was more interesting because it was up a chimney and some bits were mild overhangs that could be negotiated with observation. That wall was fun to climb.

For more information about the climbing walls you can visit this site. The advantage of this climbing area is that multiple groups can be present at once and climb without getting in each others way. You have a variety of climbing routes and experiences and getting around is easy if you don’t mind walking up and down short trails. I will be tempted to climb around this area many more times in future. The climbing season is coming to an end for this year but I do plan on climbing here again next year. With the people whom I drove to the site we climbed until the sun had left the valley.

Climbing 5C comfortably

Yesterday I was climbing 5C comfortably and consistently for the first time. I often climb 5a, 5b and sometimes attempt 6a and 5c. Yesterday I skipped the easy grades and went straight for the 5C+. I expected it to be hard and I expected to struggle. I expect strength and fear of falling to be issues but they were not.

I believe that three factors contributed to this. The first of these is that last time I went climbing I was also bouldering. I believe that bouldering got me to work different muscle groups and that these muscle groups were primed for use when lead climbing.

The second factor that helped is that I noticed that the door frames in the building where I live have tiny ledges that I can grip and pull on laterally. By making this lateral effort I was strengthening my grip for tiny holds. I was using the strength I developed on holds that I would not otherwise have trusted. Amusingly it seems to have worked.

The third and most important factor is that I took a one week break from climbing. In this time my body had the time to recover and so did my mind. It had the opportunity to absorb what it had learned and desaturate from the previous climbs. In effect I arrived to the wall with a clean slate (no pun intended).

I love to go climbing because it is a wonderful form of escapism from all of the stress of adult life. It provides you with a workout and with an opportunity to clear your mind. Some would describe it as a form of meditation. As a former diver I would call it desaturation. You have the opportunity to live in and enjoy a moment with no past and no future. That’s why people love these sports. It can be summarised to one phrase. Well being. Yesterday’s successful climbs contributed to mine.

Prison Architect – a game review

The leaves are going from Green to brown and are starting to fall. At the same time nights are getting longer and temperatures are decreasing. As a result of this the fun sports season is slowing down and getting ready for hibernation. In effect the prospect of outdoor sports is decreasing. This presents a perfect opportunity to play games like Prison Architect.

Prison architect is a good way to unwind after a week of work. You can familiarise yourself with gameplay either by watching youtube videos or by playing the game in campaign mode.

In Campaign mode you are in charge of a number of prisons with issues. As you resolve those issues you are trusted with a new set of issues before resolving these. It is an easy way to familiarise yourself with gameplay before moving on to creating a prison from scratch.

When you start a prison from scratch you have limited funds. You can get around this issue by applying for grants and completing tasks. Completing tasks gives you more funds. These funds allow you to progress quickly.

As your prison expands and as you take responsibility for more prisoners you can also research various aspects of prison management. This goes from prison labour to rehabilitation and more. You control the prisoner’s regime. You can choose the regime for low security, medium security and high security prisoners. You also assign patrols. These include normal guard patrols, dog patrols and armed guard patrols. Dog patrols can be used to detect weapons, tunnels and drugs. Armed patrols can be authorised to shoot without warning shots.

Prison labour can be used for making licence plates, carpentry, cleaning the prison or working in the kitchen. The bigger you make these rooms the more prisoners you can allocate to specific tasks.

With carpentry, kitchen work and workshops prisoners must first be trained. The more time you allocate to work the more groups you can have working at once. If you have two or more workshops you can get two to three sets of prisoners  to be trained at once.

Education and detoxes are also possible when you build common rooms, a medical ward and offices for psychologists. Prisoner ratings go up as a result of this. With the right regime prisoners can be rehabilitated and paroled. Parole is a desirable feature because every early release gives you 3000 dollars. It’s a nice and easy way of earning extra cash.

There is a prison scorecard which you can consult. On this card you can see health, security and other ratings. Reoffending rates are also visible. When playing this game I managed to get single digit re-offending rates.

The prison gains value as you expand. Avoid escapes and deaths as these prevent you from selling your prison for a period of 24 hours in game. When you decide to sell a prison you keep the money earned through its sale and can use it to start a new prison.

With this capital you can build bigger and better sells and you can expand the prison faster. You can also buy more land and choose the security levels for various sections of the prison.

As you play this game you have the opportunity to experiment with regimes, parole conditions and more. The more you play the happier your prisoners will be. As the prison expands you have to make sure to keep your prisoners happy to avoid riots, prisoner escapes and more. You can just as easily play this game for long stretches as short ones.

Attack on Titan – The Jack Septic eye play-throughs

One of my favourite play through series at the moment is Attack on Titan by Jack Septic Eye. I haven’t watched the manga series so I don’t know the context of the series. I like this series because I find the story okay and I like the idea of swinging around between buildings and through an entire city.

When I hear of Titans I think of Greek mythology rather than Japanese Mangas. I would expect it to be about Greek gods, Titans and of course humans. In this case we’re transported to a city that has three layers of walls around it. When the Titans are hungry they break through the walls and eat the humans. The Humans were forced to retreat from the outer wall and part of the city to the inner walls.

Some people are trained to fight. They have grappling hooks, boosters and swords. Using the grappling hooks they can move from one part of the city to the other quickly. With their blades they can attack the titans and subjugate them. The game starts with a training session in some woods. When they are qualified they can protect their part of the city. They can attack the titans by amputating their legs and arms before getting the nape of the neck of these titans. When the titans are killed they vanish. There are small, medium and large titans.

I find the episodes fun to watch because I like the idea of flying across a city using grappling hooks. It reminds me of Assassin’s Creed but with greek mythology and manga lore. This isn’t the type of game that I would play but it is fun to watch. It provides for a nice moment of escapism, to forget about reality and daydream. Jack has produced five episodes so far. Two and a half million out of twelve million subscribers have watched at least the first episode. Will you be one more viewer?

The Iphone 7 has Raw support and is waterproof

The Iphone 7 has RAW support. This will allow people to take mediocre quality images and re-work them in post production. This is an interesting development because in theory you no longer need to get dedicated hardware capable of shooting raw. This is good for covering events when you do not want to carry a DSLR or compact camera. This could include via ferrata, a night out or a trail journey where weight reduction is key.

if you’re going to shoot RAW then I would strongly recommend getting the highest capacity iphone possible. It has 256 gigabytes of storage and will allow you to take at least a hundred pictures before offloading them to an external hard drive or storage solution. Ideally you would want the iphone to be like most android phones. SDHC card support is useful because you can easily buy these cards and increase your phone’s memory capacity. With the latest devices you can use SDHC cards with a capacity up to 200 gigabytes. The cost of these cards is decreasing. I like being able to take images with a mobile phone, ejecting the card and downloading to the computer in an instant. If you’re travelling you can walk around with terabytes of storage, if you’re that way inclined.

Samsung, Sony and other brands have recently started to make mobile phones that are waterproof. When playing Ingress we would play in the rain thanks to this feature. Crosscall has been designing weatherproof phones for a while now with an IP certification of 68. The new iphone only has an ingress protection of IP 67. It’s waterproof enough to survive caving but don’t take it canyoning. For that you should still rely on Crosscall devices.

In essence Apple have come out with a waterproof camera that has internet connectivity and can make phone calls. They are moving towards a more adventurous market at least two or three years after I said they should. I might soon consider using them again.

A 360° cooking Show would be interesting to watch.

For a few weeks now I have been thinking about how you could make a 360° cooking show. For this video I would like to be able to see the process from an angle where I see the person cooking. I would also like to see all of the ingredients and the preparation of various stages of the recipe. For this you would need an open plan kitchen where preparation takes place in the middle of the room.

If it was to be filmed with just one camera then the camera should be lower than eye level but not by much. I would want to look straight ahead in to the eyes of the person preparing the meal and talking. As the person speaks about ingredients I would like to be able to look down and see all of the ingredients. You would need enough room for chopping and marinating. I would think about having a camera above the cooking surfaces so that we can see how the textures change from the start of cooking to when the mix becomes “saucy”. That’s how they describe it in recipes.

I want the 360 approach to be justified. I want to make it so that the viewer has a reason to wear VR goggles. The video above justifies a 360° video whereas the video below does not. The camera needs to be placed as close to the action as possible. It should be designed so that the viewer has to turn his head to see what is happening.

This video does not justify the 360 approach because the action happens in front of the camera and although you can look around the background is not relevant. The action is too small on screen. You can’t see what they are doing.

The camera operator and the producer should learn the recipe and identify what the stages of preparation are. They should have a shot list of every thing that is relevant and place the camera accordingly. Is an oven or a grill used? is sauce prepared? Is something timelapse friendly?

A few years ago we were up in a swiss chalet with a friend and we decided to cook a pizza with a log fire rather than an oven. We started the log fire and then we placed the pizza next to the fire. As the fire was only on one side we rotated the pizza to get it to cook in full. In watching the playback you see the pizza cook as well as the logs go from being logs to embers and “melt” downwards as they burn. If the camera can safely be placed close enough to the fire then you could look down at the pizza as the ingredients change appearance and look up to see the logs decrease in size.

I believe that 360° cooking shows have a future. In theory you need just one well placed camera and editing is cut down to a minimum. Instead of editing and vision mixing from two or three cameras you need just one. I believe that the programme should not be more than 5-10 minutes. People, for now, are still getting used to VR headsets and may find extended periods of time more tiring to watch.

How long will it take before someone like Jamie Oliver uses VR cooking simulations to teach people to cook in the real world. With enough time they could emulate real cooking times at different heats so that when you transition from VR to reality you have the right intuition to successfully cook for yourself and others.

The Selfie Stick cutter

In some cities you see a strange set of creatures and the selfie stick cutter is there to resolve this issue. People carry long poles at the end of which they stick their camera. They look at the phone held at a safe distance and smile, do victory symbols and other such gestures. These sticks would be really interesting if they were used to provide people with interesting images. Instead they are used to take pictures in interesting places with ordinary people in front. As a camera operator I photograph landscapes or monuments. It is an old fashioned habit.

The selfie stick is so endemic to some parts of the world by now that pranksters run around and cut people’s selfie sticks with the phone still attached. You can watch as dozens of phones fall to the ground in this video. Mobile phone repair shops must really enjoy watching this video. Look at all the work they will soon have.

I think that this video is meant to be seen as a joke but can you imagine how much anger such an action would generate. Can you imagine how fast you would have to run away from some of these people. You see these people look surprised and in some cases betrayed.

They have a quarter of a million views so far and it will grow from tomorrow onwards, as people in offices share the video with their friends and colleagues. Maybe by next week it will have more than a million views. Selfie sticks are popular and so are pranks. With the money they could make from monetising this video they could compensate the people whose screens they broke.

The story is not viral yet
The story is not viral yet

Selfie sticks do have one practical purpose. You can fix 360 cameras to them and take pictures without the giant index finger getting in the way. That is how I use one. You can get them for cheap from certain types of shops. You do not need to spend 29 euros.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Apple

I have read numerous articles and I think that Corporate Social Responsibility and Apple are hot topics at the moment. When it was found that European firms were cheating on their emissions reports it was a great scandal and the European and German automotive industries took a financial hit. Their cheating cost them billions. In the US people were financially compensated whilst as one article put it Europeans got a plastic tube.

We should look at the Apple Back taxes story within the context of Brexit, the rise of the far right in a number of countries and the emerging popularity of Trump within certain sectors of the American voting public. The group anonymous is defending the rights of the 99 percent. They protest against Wall Street and the abuses of corporations and the wealthy.

When houses in the US were foreclosed because of the bubble bursting because of complex dividends those who suffered were the poor and the middle classes because they borrowed money at a rate that they could not pay it back. A number of documentary makers have explored this issue and there have been talks at the Graduate institute and other places.

Apple is currently making billions per quarter and that money is being stockpiled in offshore accounts so that neither the US government nor the European union can get to it. Other writers and journalists have written about this extensively. The perspective that I want to take is a moral one.

Apple products are expensive, they can cost twice as much as their android equivalents. People in the European markets are paying for these products. They pay the country’s VAT along with the product’s cost. They are contributing to the local economy.

Tim Cook argues that what the European Commission is doing is a “load of crap” and that it is abusing of its power. From an ethical and moral point of view though it is Apple that is being unethical and amoral. They are part of the economy. When they sell products they make huge profits that are taxed at less than one percent. 12 billion dollars could do a lot of good within the European Union if and when it is recovered because it could contribute to the road networks and transport infrastructure. It could contribute to housing, education and much more. In contributing to the economy those billions that Apple owes in back taxes could improve the quality of life of millions.

They hide behind the mask of job creation. They believe that because they contribute to the creation of 6000 jobs in Ireland that their corporate social responsibility stops there. It does not. Apple must be ethical enough to pay taxes like every other business is expected to do.

In effect Apple is providing a concrete example of what Brexiters voted against, the corporations syphoning off money to the detriment of living conditions of many populations around Europe. If corporations are allowed to make billions in profits without paying taxes because of creative accounting then society as a whole suffers. It also ferments resentment and encourages people to vote for the right.

In my opinion, based on the reading of numerous articles and watching many documentaries Apple should agree to pay the 14 billion as a gesture of good will and as a Public relations exercise. Imagine what a positive effect those billions would have for the European Union as a whole. Imagine how much social good having that money re-invested would do.

I believe that Tim Cook and Apple need to pay these back taxes to diffuse the tensions caused by austerity movements across Europe. A wealthy, rather than austere Europe could buy more Apple products. Other corporations would also benefit directly from people’s increased disposable income. A few weeks or months ago I watched a documentary about how the United States benefited from corporations paying their fair share of taxes.

Strava now has rock climbing, hiking and more

Strava now has rock climbing, hiking and many more sports. Sports tracker, movescount and other applications already allowed you to do this but it is nice to see one more network provide us with this option.

Strava expanded the number of sports you can track
Strava expanded the number of sports you can track

Up until now I had to make sure to go for a bike ride or three per week to keep people updated on what I did. During week days I am likely to go for bike rides. On two to three evenings per week I may go climbing and on the weekend I may go hiking or for a walk. As a result I can track the diversity of my activities.

Strava has updated the list of sports
Strava has updated the list of sports

With rock climbing I would like them to add two or three more fields. I would like them to add an option to add the grade of the climb we did. This would need to use the European and the American systems. It would help us track our progress and even track how hard we worked if we’re wearing a heart monitor as we climb. In effect it could provide us with a way of seeing who else is climbing and whether we match their skill level. In the long run this could contribute to new groups. I have created a group for Swiss Via Ferrata in anticipation of via ferrata practitioners joining the network and sharing their climbs.

Until recently I would only track cycling and running. Now that walking, hiking and climbing have been added I can track a number of new sports. It should result in people using the app more frequently.  It could be fun to see climbing and hiking heat maps. We will see how they adapt the input section to match the sports.