Learning about Tiny Houses

Learning about Tiny Houses is interesting. There are a number of features/documentaries online where people build their own tinyhouses either from shipping containers, trailers or other structures. The aim of these tinyhouses is to maximise space and reduce costs. Some of these homes are entirely off the grid. They collect rain water and solar panels provide power. The bedroom is often built above the kitchen and climbing wall holds are used instead of ladders or conventional stairs.

One home folds out from a truck to become a castle. One tower serves as a toilet and the second one serves as a shower. The space above even features a bath.

Another Tiny home is designed as a tree house providing a beautiful 360° panoramic view of the landscape around.


This tiny home is interesting because it’s built out of half a shipping container. For a change the bed is below and the living room is above. The kitchen and office are next to it and there is a shower from which to watch birds.

I have seen a lot of people speak about minimalist living, living off the grid and living out of cars, campers and other vehicles. By watching videos about tiny houses you begin to understand that there are certain basics that you need to have and that these basics fit in to small spaces. If you have a van, a caravan or other vehicle then you can live as comfortably as these people.

This last video would make for a perfect summer home for recent university graduates or high school graduates. It’s small, light and mobile. You’re self sufficient to a great extent and as long as it’s warm you have your own space. It’s amusing that in at least three videos we hear about people learning to be neater through living in such small spaces.

As a scuba diver, rock climber, cyclist and geek the biggest challenge for someone like me would be to find a place where I could store my diving gear and especially the scuba tanks. They’re bulky. Diving gear also needs to dry properly to avoid the smell of the lake (as I used to dive weekly in the lake).

My view of living in a tinyhouse has changed through the watching of these documentaries. It shows you that what you want is functionality rather than size. You want “gadgets” as these maximise how you use available space.

The High Tech World is not making us weak and weird.

The High Tech world is not making us weak and weird. I believe that the opposite is true. According to Patrick Mustain in his article “Welcome to the Devolution: The High-Tech World Is Making Us Weak and Weird” for The Daily Beast he worries that modern technology and conveniences have taken the physical aspects out of our daily routine. We don’t need to clean clothes by beating them against a rock and we no longer need to clean dishes manually. We take the car from point A to point B and we take a lift to go up a floor or two.

“We find ourselves interacting with chairs and doors and walkways, and as a result, we get used to bending only forwards. Almost never backwards, never to the side, we don’t really rotate our hips very much.

This premise is false. This article ignores that there are a growing amount of climbing and bouldering gyms. This article ignores that there are an increasing number of via ferratas being built and that crossfit gyms are common. “But our evolutionary drive for acquiring cheap energy also makes us loath to unnecessarily spend it.” is a fallacy. Look at Strava, Sports Tracker, Movescount, Runkeeper, fitbit, Withings and other products. Each one of these not only tracks the effort that people are making on a weekly basis but congregates that data so that people can compare their workout to that of others. This implies that technology is encouraging people to move, to compete with friends, family or other sports enthusiasts.

strava stats 2016
Strava stats so far for this year

There is some humour in the article. “I think any change in the direction of just moving more is better. You don’t have to take off your shirt and go climb a tree to get value.” It is not simply about moving more but about moving more energetically, more enthusiastically. If you’re walking down the street increase your stride length just a little and you will increase your heart rate and energy expenditure. When I walk up to the base of the Val De Tière via ferrata and when I walk up to the base of the Tour D’Aï via ferrata I am usually the first one, leading the way. I love endurance training so I forget about the group and I enjoy the hike. Once I am at the base I relax, I look at the landscape and I take photographs.

As a camera operator/photographer I need to be at least as fit as everyone else and if possible I need to have more energy. By having more energy I can go ahead of the group and document their effort as they make their way up or down a mountain.

Since I owned the Nokia N95 8GB model I have tracked more than a thousand sports activities. I have tracked skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, cycling, climbing, via ferrata, indoor training, sailing and swimming. It is thanks to the high tech world that I can track my progress and assess how well I am doing. It allows me to set goals and exceed them and it allows me to evaluate when to take breaks and when to continue pushing forwards.

I love technology but I still walked up five floors to get to my office. I almost never sit in public transport and I usually take the stairs or walk up escalators rather than stand around. Movement is an integral part of my daily routine so I do not accept the premise that high tech world makes us weak and weird.

 

Montagne en Scène Genève

Au Vieux Campeur held the summer mountain film screening event at the Batiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva. They introduced the event as being the opportunity for them to share the passion of the mountains with people who may not be aware of the activities that are possible. They then went on to say “but as we’re having the screening in Geneva we know that you’re just half an hour from the mountains so many of you are practitioners and today we may even have participants from the cancelled Patrouille Des Glaciers.

Mountain film screening
Montagne en Scène, four films screened at the BFM buildling in Geneva

Four films were shown at Montagne En Scène. The films shown were A Line Across the Sky, a documentary following two less experienced climbers as they attempt the Fitzroy traverse during a rare good weather window, Chasing Niagra, a documentary about Rafa Ortiz and his preparations to shoot the Niagra Falls in a Kayak. The third film is Mont Rebei Project, a documentary looking to achieve a new Rope Jump record.

The Last film, and my favourite is Valley Uprising. It takes a look at the American climbing scene from the fifties up to the Modern day. This documentary is great because it provides us with a deep understanding of the American climbing psyche. Mountain climbing is a sport of passion and so to see how different groups helped this passion progress over the years is interesting.

Film screenings are in Switzerland, France and Belgium

Sony and Crosscall Mobile phone advertising

The Sony Xperia Z5 compact is for women who blog about fashion and the Sony Xperia M5 is for baristas who dream of owning a sports car but can’t quite pay for it yet. These adverts will never hook me in to wanting their products. I’m the type of person who lives in the countryside and spends his weekends in the mountains on adventures.

I want the Sony Xperia Z5 because of it’s fast autofocus, it’s new technology and it’s 4k recording technology and new image sensor. The geek press gave me information about the device and that’s what woke up my interest. Marketing to geeks is all about the specs and the technology. Marketing to normal people is about “This is the lifestyle you have and this device will survive it”. In the land of Sony people live in cities. Now to contrast with crosscall.

 

Crosscall make rugged strong mobile phones and their advertising is more in line with my own lifestyle.In the space of one month I shattered three screens on two phones. Two of those screen shatters were as a result of playing Ingress. In one case I stood up and the phone slipped from my lap on to the floor, bounced and then fell down again. It fell about two metres and the screen became unresponsive. In the second case I tripped on a step and fell with my hand rotated so that the screen took the impact rather than my wrist. I was so disgusted with myself for the incident that I was tempted by the Crosscall Odyssey+. The phone is rugged and would probably survive such a fall. It has excellent battery life but it’s data connection leaves to be desired especially when playing location based games like Ingress.

Crosscall advertise their devices as rugged, for the adventurous among us. They use runners, surfers, climbers and snowboarders as brand ambassadors. It’s through one of Xavier De La Rue’s posts on Facebook that I learned of the brand and that my curiousity was peaked. The Crosscall Odyssey+ is a niche device. The Trekker X1 has a better chance of appealing to a broader audience.

 

I love that devices by Sony and Crosscall are being advertised as weatherproof now. As an iphone user I liked that Lifeproof provided me with weatherproofing. I appreciate that brands are making their devices weatherproof by default. Soon it will be possible to throw people in to pools without warning once again… once autumn and winter have left place for next summer, of course.

Audible books and Kindle Unlimited

This year I have set myself the goal of reading 30 books. I am currently on track to reaching that goal. Most of my reading material comes from two sources. Audible.com and amazon.de. What I like about reading books via Audible.com is the freedom it gives me to do something at the same time as people are telling me stories.

This habit was born from listening to podcasts while I went for hour long walks. Over time podcasts went down in quality and my time was taken up by other activities. As a result of the scarcity of time I moved towards audible books. Audible books provide me with an opportunity to listen to stories and learn whilst I do other things. I can listen to them while I commute, while I go for hikes or while I mow the lawn. As a result of this ability to multitask I have finished many more books than I would finish if I was only reading.

I am an audible platinum member and I pay in advance. This gives me the option to buy 23 books a year. Audio books are not cheap when you buy them individually so buying a subscription makes sense. Below a certain price I buy the books and use credit when the value justifies it. For at least two years I have felt justified in keeping the subscription.

I am lucky because I like to read on electronic devices. I have used iphones, android phones, iPads, iPad Mini, Tablets and a kindle for reading. As a result of this I always have several books with me at all times. I have a tendency to buy many more books than I have the time to read. This is especially true of books when they cost less than an airport coke. Eventually I will get to read them.

Today I took a step which may make conventional book readers envious. I will test Kindle Unlimited for the next month. I can “borrow” up to ten books simultaneously per month. I can be as uncommitted as ever with books. I am working through the James Bond Collection and reading three history volumes at the same time.  I “read” the history volumes as audio books and this allows me to enjoy the nice weather we have had. When I am in a fixed location I can read James Bon books on the kindle.

At the end of the trial month we will see whether I keep using Kindle unlimited.

Staring at phones in the rain once again…

Once again I was out in the rain walking around a city. Once again I was looking downwards and then up. I was also looking around and navigating through a city I have been to before but only for a meal and on my way to another place. I went there for a blogobar event many months ago. More recently I went through the city on my way to a Via Ferrata near La Chaux De Fond. This time was different. I was meeting people who stare at their mobile phones when walking around city. To many of you this describes what you think is wrong with society. Too many people withdrawing from society, not interacting. This isn’t the case.

These people who met from 10am on a saturday until 1145 before a group picture was taken are ingress players. Ingress as you know from previous posts is a muntiplayer augmented reality game that people play by walking around in the real world. They walk towards buildings, monuments, statues and other sights of interest. As a group, as I wrote about yesterday we had three missions as a group. I only did two of these with the group. One of them required a physical walk up to the castle of Neuchatel and back down the slope. As we walked we saw parts of the city which I had yet to see. The second walk was from the train station down towards the lake side.

This is relevant for two reasons. The first of these is that I am a hiker and in summer I spend my weekends in the mountains. The second is that I have walked around more cities than I can remember. The best way to get to know a city is by walking. You gain a sense of scale. You understand it’s geography and you also see what points of interest are where and how they are connected. Rome is a city which I visited many times alone. I love the city because I love the life style contrast between Geneva and Rome. I also love the city because of it’s history. Where else do you park a car in a basement next to some Roman walls. Where else do you have two Millenia of history so visible?

Ingress today offered me an opportunity to meet with strangers and do activities with them, to see parts of a new city and to have company. So often mobile phones are associated with solitude and isolation. Through this account you may understand that mobile phones and especially smartphones can be inclusive. The conversations that we had through social media have faded as the noise has gone up and this is where social augmented reality games can pick up. They can provide a new opportunity for people to connect.

Next month I plan on going to Firenze for another event. So far over 600 people have signed up. They will come from around Europe and around the world to meet in a beautiful city with a rich cultural history. This will be the backdrop for the game. I look forward to visiting the city once again and meeting new people precisely because of smartphones rather than despite of them.

Modern Life Is A Western

A few afternoons ago I tuned in to a Western on Television and I thought about how similar our modern lives have become to Westerns. Either we’re the ones travelling all the time meeting new people and then leaving them behind or we’re the ones staying in place while everyone around moves. The Western is out of favour but modern life makes Westerns more relevant than ever. Life is about perpetually meeting new people. doing new things and visiting new places.

Every  Monday and Friday I arrive or leave work and see people with suitcases. Either they are leaving to another city for the weekend or coming back. Lives in a place like Geneva is a migratory one. On radio they announced that over 15 million passengers transited through that airport. There are far fewer people living in Geneva. Geneva has 184,500 people according to a google search several seconds ago. That’s 81 flights per capita. That’s not bad. That’s a trip back and forth twice a week for fourty weeks out of fifty one.

After this you have the jobs that people do. Humanitarian work, journalism, business etc. Every one of these activities keeps people travelling. If we are of the right age we are called The “Easyjet generation”. Can’t drive a car but can afford to fly every single weekend, see every european capital and have friends in every country. When I graduated we were 100 students from 120 countries… That’s not bad. This explains why when people ask where we’re from we mention a country rather than a city. ;-).

Imagine going back to village life, imagine going back to living within 30 kilometres of where we were born and never travelling beyond-

We are not just the easyjet generation. We are also the social media generation because phone costs and SMS are less affordable than facebook, twitter, instagram and google plus. Imagine how often a group of friends would meet up and converse without modern social networks. Imagine if the social networks had remained as a place for friends to converse with friends. If that was the case I would travel more because I would be sleeping on a couch at friends’ places in various countries.

How PADI divers see an over-romanticised side of diving

 

Whilst it is true that divers are at the beach every weekend the location is not quite that nice. Some of us are or were in the mountains every Saturday and in the lakes every Sunday. We did have to wear shoes because the dive site is a lake. We don’t all drink beer and are not always salty. What you will have to get used to is that 6 or 7am wake up to be at the dive site by 8 or 9 in the morning. You will also need to get used to the bath being used to rinse off all of the diving equipment Sunday afternoons. You won’t need to get used to beer drinking because not every diver drinks beer.