What is There to See in the Lake

What is there to see in the lake is a question that people have frequently asked me. For at least two years I would go diving nearly every weekend. I would dive in the Lac Léman, the Lac de Bourget, the Gouille Du Duzillet. I also dived the English channel in November. I dived all year round. In summer we would cook in our dry suits and in winter our hands were sometimes so cold that we couldn’t take off our dry suits.
Lake divers are an eccentric, hardy bunch of people. I used to say that the beauty of lake diving is that it is not affected by weather. You’ll get wet anyway and if you go below a certain depth water is always at 5°c. I’m in Spain at the moment and I decided to go snorkelling with my semi Dry Suit around El Portet. This is the cove where I worked on getting my rescue diver certification. I snorkelled by the rocks to the west at first. The waters are shallow and I did see a school of juvenile fish. As I finned further I saw some slightly larger fish and urchins.

After a while of searching I finned to the other side of the bay. New sand has been deposited along this beach. As a result of this new sand visibility has suffered near the beach. By the rocks the visibility is still good.

From the image above you can see that the water is really clear. I thought that with such clear waters I would see a lot. I was hoping to see fish, maybe an eel or two and maybe some crabs. It’s good to dive and snorkel close to marine reserves. In marine reserves fish are allowed to mature and grow and eventually they branch out to other areas. As a result diving and snorkeling are more rewarding.

It’s at the supermarket fish section that I saw the most fish. It’s a shame that they were lying dead, on ice, rather than swimming underwater. In effect I see as many fish in the mediterranean as in the lakes of Switzerland and France so you travel for the climate rather than aquatic life. People need to allow the seas and oceans time to recover. It’s a shame not to see much aquatic life. I should try again in a different location where there are fewer people. I might be luckier.

Replacing Social Media with Book reading

This year I am replacing Social Media with Book Reading because social media is no longer a conversational place. It has become a place for sensationalism and the spreading of fake news and emotional news. As a result of these factors the potential gain of new friendships and interesting conversations has declined. For this reason you might as well find some interesting books and broaden your horizons.

Replacing social media with book reading
Replacing social media with book reading

I currently have hundreds of books on Kindle and Audible and my collection on the Kobo reader is bound to grow. Recently I read Too Loud A Solitude. This is a book I came across by accident. I was browsing through Goodreads recommendations and it came up. The book is interesting because it tells the story of a person who worked compacting books for 35 years. Every chapter begins with the phrase “For 35 years…”. The journey is an interesting one because we see how someone with a passion for books rescues some before they are destroyed. It is worth reading when you have the interest and motivation.

Another interesting book I read is Tartarin Sur Les Alpes. This book is interesting because of its age. It is about the early days of Alpinism. It speaks of various mountains and locations that are easy to get to today but that were accessed by horse and carriage at the time. It also explores the early days of tourism.

Books require an investment of time of several hours in the same way that television series require. You can read a chapter or “episode” a day or you can binge through them reading several chapters in a single day. They usually require from seven to 21 hours to get through just like television series seasons. It’s easy to lose entire days.

I like e-books and I like audible books. As a result of this I can walk around with hundreds of books at a time and read from one book and then another. It transports me to different time periods and places. For a moment I stop living in the present. With audio books I can drive, hike or walk at the same time. I can be a bookworm without being stuck in a building.

It’s a shame that we don’t read more.

Reaction to Social media and the loss of identity

My answer to:

Social media and the loss of identity

From 1996–2007 I saw the World Wide Web, discussion forums and other places as opportunities to socialise with like minded people. Over the years we went from one platform to another using nicknames rather than our real identity. in 2006–2007 there was a shift. When Twitter came about I would post about my dissertation progress and eventually converse with more and more people. Eventually the @ symbol started to be used for answers and then we discussed meeting in person.

The online conversation moved from being about ideas and a virtual self to meeting in person. Twitter changed us from anonymous web users to friends in meat space as it was called at the time. At the same time as this occurred we also had Facebook and here the opposite took place. We took friends whom we drank, studied and collaborated with and added them to an online network. In effect social media extended our real life and our real life extended our online life. Social media became a lounge.

This was short lived. Within a year social media experts, marketers, celebrities and other characters took social media from being a conversation medium to being an observer/follower medium. The things that you worry about in your post are a consequence of the loss of engagement. We went from social networks where the more time you devoted to a network the more connections you had to a social environment where the more famous you had the more followers you had. Those followers don’t know you as a person. They know you as a projection. You become an illusion, an ideal. You lose your identity.

In a sense those of us that are still relatively unknown can be genuine. We follow those we know and they follow us. We also have mutual friends.

The Work-Visa program and US tech domination

Trump’s next steps could strike even closer to home: His administration has drafted an executive order aimed at overhauling the work-visa programs technology companies depend on to hire tens of thousands of employees each year


Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, Fitbit, Garmin and other companies benefit enormously from the international appeal that their products have. Not only do the products have great appeal but the environment within which they work is envied globally. Tech entrepreneurs from Europe and other regions migrate from Europe to the US precisely because they want to be part of the most influential tech landscape. By making this migration more complicated it could encourage technological development internationally.

According to a recent article in Le Temps scientists are considering a move from the United States to Switzerland, to continue their research at the EPFL.

By blocking migration from the rest of the world to the US people like Trump are reducing the flow of intellect and ideas for an industry that owes billions of dollars per year to international audiences. We saw the stories about Apple, the European Union and Ireland from a few months ago.

Under the Trump administration the US is saying “We want your money but not only will we not pay taxes in your nations but we will also not hire your skilled workers”. They are practically monopolising the global social media landscape at the moment. It would be nice to have European alternatives.

With the Trump administration I wish that I had EU alternatives to social networks. Could this be an encouragement to revert to blogging?

Black Mirror – A television series

Black Mirror – a television series

Black Mirror is a television series that was broadcast by Channel 4 a few years ago and made available to Netflix audiences recently. The series explores a variety of topics and issues to do with technology from death to crime and existentialism. It also explores themes like family and friendship.

We spend a lot of time thinking about technology and how it has changed our lives. Sometimes it’s fun to watch 80s series to see the world as it was before computers and the internet and sometimes it is fun to watch dystopian essays or short stories exploring facets of modern life.

In modern society we see that social media is affecting the discourse that is taking place between politicians and normal people. We see how social media and the lowering of the barriers of entry to the fourth estate have created a golden age for propaganda and disinformation. We see in The Waldo Moment that a CGI bear can mock the political system. It could be directly related to what we have seen happen recently.

Be Right Back deals with online identity and how a person can be emulated once they have died. The question is an interesting one. The more active we are on social media the more our character and personality can be understood and reflected back. This is limited. We are not entirely ourselves online. There are some things that we hide from the online world.

In Fifteen Million Merits we see a dystopian vision of the world where everyone lives in a small dark room. They get out of this room to go and peddle for a few hours to get Merits. Once they have 15 million merits they can “apply” for a different kind of job via a talent show.

Nosedive explores popularity and social networks. Everyone is constantly being rated based on what they share, how they interact with others and more. In such a dystopia people can progress or lose privileges based on reputation. In such a reality people are vulnerable.

A vertovian theme is explored in “The Entire history of You”. An implant called the Grain records your entire life and you have the ability to fast forward and rewind moments of your life. In so doing you can analyse what went well, what went badly and more. You can also see more than you were intended to see through other peoples’ recorded experiences. In this episode we see the Kino-Eye, the all seeing eye. Your life is no longer private.

I like some of the themes that are explored in this series and I recommend people to watch at least some of the episodes. I feel that they are relevant to our discussion about social media and online lives.

The New Mac Book Pro

Last night when I saw the new Mac Book Pro I was turned off by the lack of USB-3 ports. To me that lack of ports made the machine unattractive as I do not want to use dongles or pay a premium for thunderbolt drives.

Ingestion of data from fitness devices is by USB ports so I would need a dongle for that. I would also need a USB to Thunderbolt 3 adaptor to ingest from the SxS cards I use with the Sony PMW-200.

The Mac Book Pro becomes interesting when you look at the storage options of either one or two terabytes of internal storage. My current machine has about 250 gigabytes of internal storage so I only keep the project that I am currently editing. Once I finish I shift it to an external drive. With the new system I would have more headroom. I could easily have a number of projects on the machine and would need a thunderbolt 3 to USB-3 dongle for archiving that material.

It means that I would use my current mac book pro for my fitness trackers, USB-3 drives and more. The new machine would be a dedicated editing machine as my current MBP was until the Mac Book air stopped being a reliable machine.

As the investment for a new machine is so high I would wait until I have a number of projects to work on. At that point I might consider upgrading to the new machine. You might also remember that I posted that what I wanted was a dual screen editing laptop where the keyboard part of the machine would be for the timeline whilst the monitor would be for the playout monitors and more. With the touch bar we’re a step closer to what I wanted.

It might be practical.
It might be practical.

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.

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.

Climbing in Dorénaz

Dorénaz is a small village on the way to Sion and about 18 minutes from Saillon. It is also a few minutes from Aigle. I walked around the area before climbing two of the routes and I noticed that the rocks around here appeared to be magnetite. I saw rust where old climbing equipment had been removed. The magnetite idea came from the rust colour on some of the larger blocks that had broken free decades ago.

Climbing in Dorénaz
One of the climbing walls in Dorénaz

As I continued the exploration of the village I noticed that on one roundabout they have a mining wagon so I looked up the village but there was no mention of mining so I extended the research to include mining in the region. It is at this point that I found mentions of anthracite mining in this village. As this pdf illustrates coal mining was one of the local activities. The coal was hard to extract for two reasons. The first is that the deposits are only thin and they have been folded by geological activity. In 1881 they extracted 900 tons of coal from one of the deposits.

I did not expect that Dorénaz was going to be a former coal mining town.
I did not expect that Dorénaz was going to be a former coal mining town.

Ce tour d’horizon des mines et carrières de Dorénaz met en évidence la vocation particulière de cette commune. Elle sort du schéma habituel du Valais, ayant abandonné le «labourage » et le « pastourage » traditionnels. Les Diablerains – puisque c’est ainsi que l’on appelle les habitants de Dorénaz – se sont presque tous adonnés à l’industrie de la pierre. Elle leur a insufflé une extraordinaire dynamique économique : les Diablerains parcoururent la Romandie en livrant et posant leurs ardoises54. Il y a aussi eu un revers de médaille. Dorénaz a eu des allures de ville du Nord de la France avec ses façades noircies par la poussière du charbon. Et la silicose a frappé nombre de carriers.

That is what I noticed in the village. I saw two or three old chalets built on stilts like you expect to find. The church looks darker than in other villages. In the quote above they wrote “Dorénaz as the appearance of cities from the North of France with its coal darkened walls.”

Le charbon: un bassin houiller s’étend des bords du Léman, entre Lausanne et Montreux, jusqu’à Oron et Sensales/FR. Un très grand nombre de mines ont été exploitées de 1709 à la deuxième guerre mondiale, sur la base de 120 concessions attribuées. L’utilisation de ce charbon sera la cause de la première pollution de l’air sur les bords du Leman. D’autres mines importantes ont été exploitées par exemple entre Colonge et Dorénaz.


Dév : 5’000 m  Déniv. : 200 m
Remarque : anthracite

Source: Mines et carrières souterraines de Suisse romande.

I find it really interesting to read about how Polish coal miners helped in the mining of resources from Valais.

Dans la lettre envoyée à Joseph Dionisotti, de Muralt exigeait encore que ces internés reçoivent un salaire relativement élevé, soient bien nourris, bien logés et surveillés par la gendarmerie valaisanne. Le 27 septembre 1940 déjà, les premiers internés militaires polonais arrivèrent aux mines de Chandoline. Le lieutenant polonais Raspondek était responsable des quarante-cinq internés. Il fut d’une aide précieuse pour l’entrepreneur montheysan, grâce à sa grande expérience acquise aux mines de Kattowitz.

source: Camps et Homes d’accueil du Valais

If and when I go back to Dorénaz I want to walk up the path I walked up. I was looking for a route to get above the climbing wall but instead I found a steep path. On either side of this steep path I saw stone walls had been built on either side. These walls looked old so I went back down to get my hiking boots, my bag and the camera. When I saw that the hike was about 1hr30 I turned around and came back down.

Les mines d’anthracite (charbon) de Dorénaz ont été exploitées durant une centaine d’années. Le gisement principal d’anthracite se trouve au Plan de La Méreune, au-dessus de La Giète (commune de Dorénaz), où trois bâtiments sont encore visibles de nos jours. Les premières extractions ont lieu dans les années 1855-1859, mais la véritable exploitation commence dès 1874 grâce au président de la commune de Dorénaz, Pierre-Maurice Paccolat. La concession du charbon de La Méreune passe en novembre 1913 aux mains du chimiste saint-gallois J. Billwiller, de Goldau, mais celui-ci n’exploite finalement pas le filon.
C’est la société “Dorénaz SA, Charbonnages du Valais à Vernayaz” qui reprend le flambeau en 1917 par la remise en état des deux anciennes galeries à La Méreune. Un véritable village industriel se construit alors au Plan de La Méreune; il accueillera jusqu’à 750 ouvriers, avec trois grands bâtiments et vingt petites baraques. Le charbon est conduit à la briqueterie de Vernayaz grâce à un téléphérique qui relie La Méreune à la gare de Vernayaz, avec une station intermédiaire à Alesse.
Passée la production de charbon liée à l’économie de guerre (1917 jusqu’en 1921), la société Dorénaz SA est liquidée par voie de faillite entre 1922 et 1924. La faillite englobe les mines et la briqueterie, avec un découvert de plusieurs millions de francs. C’est alors la Société de Banque suisse qui reprend les mines et bâtiments de la Méreune.
Au cours de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, la société anonyme “Mines d’anthracite de Dorénaz”, sous la direction de l’industriel sédunois Oscar Machoud, relance l’exploitation de l’anthracite. O. Machoud rachète les immeubles en 1941 (logements, cuisine, bains, bureaux, magasin, infirmerie, salle des machines), puis, la même année, la société entre dans le giron de l’industriel montheysan Joseph Dionisotti, détenteur des concessions de Chandoline, Nendaz, Salins, Aproz, Collonges, Veysonnaz, Maragnénaz et Sion. L’administration est concentrée à Monthey où J. Dionisotti dirige aussi une fabrique de chaux vive et sa carrière de “grès dur” de Choëx. Il exploite la mine de Dorénaz jusqu’en 1953, année où celle-ci est délaissée et à partir de laquelle les installations sont laissées à l’abandon. Malgré plusieurs projets de relance de l’exploitation, aucune activité ne reprendra dans les mines de Dorénaz. Source

Travelling experience, going to places like Kiruna in Sweden and towards old railway lines in the Jura have taught me to do some research to see how places in the middle of nowhere, that you would not normally visit can be historically interesting.

This is a village with a current population of about 800 people and they commute to work according to the English wikipedia entry. If you are still curious here is a final document about mining and Dorénaz, in French.

Although the village was interesting I was disappointed by the climbing. If I drive for one hour I want to go to the real mountains, to enjoy a nice landscape and to feel closer to nature. This climbing wall is right on the road side and this detracts from the usual pleasure of climbing. If you do want to climb here then this site will provide you with the required information.


Paragliding from Plan Praz to the Mont Blanc

In this video we see someone paragliding from Plan Praz to the Mont Blanc. To do this the individual finds ascending air at a number of points going from 2800 metres up to 5000 meters before finally landing on the summit of the Mont Blanc.

This video gives you a practical example of how a good paragliding flight should go. When I flew at Les Diablerets last week I was surprised that we don’t feel the wind as much as we would expect when on a parapente and I was surprised that you do not feel when you are going up or down. In this video you hear a beep that increases in frequency and intensity as you ascend. The faster it beeps the faster you are climbing. There is another beep that we hear just once in the video that indicates that the parapente is going down.

It’s a shame that in this video we do not find out how long the flight lasts. We hear him at one moment speak about the need for patience as he looks for pockets of rising air to raise him to the desired altitude. We hear him comment about how certain people seem to struggle and we hear that his breathing is more laboured as he gets higher.

It would be nice to see them take off from the summit and head back down in to the valley. It must be nice to ascend the Mont Blanc in such a way. We seldom hear of people ascending the Mont Blanc by parapente so this video is interesting.

In this second video we see people hike up the Mont Blanc and take off from the summit. The view from there must be spectacular and the feeling must be pleasant. Many of us have seen the vista from the Aiguille Du Midi but imagine seeing it from a place as calm and quiet as below a parapente.