Weeknote 28/2019

As a result of supporting Buster Benson‘s work via Patreon, I’ve unexpectedly found myself on a Discord server with some very smart people. Happily, they also do weeknotes.

I really like the structure of Buster’s weeknotes. First off, each week has a name. Second, and I think this is the best part, he has a section where he looks to the week ahead and says “this week will be good if…”

With only three weeks to go until Team Belshaw goes on holiday, I’m thinking about routines I can get into when I return. I certainly haven’t got the mental or physical energy to make changes right now. It’s heads-down and get through the next little bit.

The reason I like routine is because it helps me control my physical and mental health. So the last couple of weeks haven’t been very helpful at all. I ended up back at hospital at the beginning of the week, convinced there was something seriously wrong with my ribs. They’re still hurting, but given the damage is actually muscular, I’m pleased to say the pain is easing off a bit.

The other thing is that it’s the time of the year where routines to do with my children’s school (and after-school) activities go out of the window. So I was at their sports days this week, there was a summer fayre, and a rain-soaked football tournament on Saturday.

Add in some travel for colleagues at work, end-of-term Scout business, and uncertainty around projects, and you get a heady cocktail guaranteed to give a routine-lover like me sleepless nights.

Anyway, at least everything is making progress, and no balls have yet been dropped. I’m really pleased that we’ve committed to MoodleNet supporting Free Cultural Works by default, and the clickable prototype for the new UI is pretty much done. I’ve also been writing/recording some good stuff for Thought Shrapnel.

So, deep breaths. Not much further to go. If I can ensure that the current 0.9.5-dev sprint completes as expected this week, then the MoodleNet team is set up for success before I go away. (See what I did there?)

Finally, I’m nearly finished reading a new novel by my very talented friend, Laura Hilliger. Entitled Maybe Zombies it’s not quite what you’d expect from the title, and is well worth a read. She’s also looking for a literary agent, if you know a good one?


Image created from a photo I took during a Photo Walk around Morpeth with Scouts on Wednesday.

Weeknote 27/2019

Last week I struggled a little bit with my routine given the pain I experienced with my ribs. I went to hospital on the Monday morning and was told that I’d bruised the muscular wall, but not the ribs themselves. Nevertheless, I was given a cocktail of codeine, ibuprofen and paracetamol to take for 10 days.

That meant no real exercise all week, which really affected me. Without my usual running, swimming, and going to the gym, I became a little lethargic and felt a bit down. I still can’t even do a press-up without pain shooting down the right-hand side of my body.

It also meant that I couldn’t go snorkelling with the Scouts on Wednesday night, something that I was really pleased I’d organised for them. Still, the sunset I witnessed while they were in the North Sea next to St Mary’s Lighthouse was incredible.

On the work front, though, the MoodleNet team managed to fix the problems we’d had with deploying v0.9.4 alpha. In addition, we’ve continued work on the new user interface, and change around some of the ways we work. I’m not a big fan of implementing approaches other than those that work in your particular context. For us, that means outlining everything in a Google Doc, and linking it to issues in the Moodle Tracker.

Due to the pain in my ribs, I was close to not going away at the weekend to finish off my Quality Mountain Days. However, I didn’t want to let down Tom, who had agreed to go with me. I’m pleased I went, and enjoyed our walks and talks. You can read more about that here.

This week I’m taking a half-day today, and then Wednesday as my non-Moodle day. The rest of the time I’m ensuring the MoodleNet team feel supported and have no blockers so that we can release a major update before I go on holiday in a month’s time!

Quality Mountain Days 19 & 20: Sharp Edge and Hayeswater Gill

Note: This completes the twenty Quality Mountain Days (QMDs) required to book myself on a a Mountain Leader course!


This weekend, I’ve once again been over to the Lake District to get in a couple of walks. There were two differences this time around, other than walking up mountains I haven’t attempted before:

  1. My ribs still weren’t right from the previous weekend at Scout camp and I’m still on a cocktail of painkillers.
  2. I was accompanied by Tom Broughton, who I picked up at Penrith train station.

QMD 19: Sharp Edge, Blencathra, and Bowscale Fell

Tom was kind enough to send through some suggested routes from a book he had. I adapted one of these to create this route for our walk on Saturday (QMD 19):

QMD 19 (planned)
QMD 19 (planned)

We left the car near Mungrisdale, and walked clockwise up Souther Fell, and then up to Scales Tarn. Tom fancied a dip, so he stripped down to his underwear and dived in!

Tom swimming in Scales Tarn
Tom swimming in Scales Tarn

After lunch, we walked up the path you can see behind the tarn, up Sharp Edge. Tom enjoys scrambling, and I appreciated the challenge! We made it up though, and in a slight deviation from the original plan, then headed over to Blencathra.

Scrambling up Sharp Edge
Scrambling up Sharp Edge

It was a pretty straightforward walk from Blencathra over to Bowscale Fell, and then down back to the pub and then to the car.

Foxglove near the end of our steep descent down from Bowscale Fell

The main challenges on this walk were our health. I was struggling a little with my ribs, and Tom hadn’t done much since injuring his knee last year. Although it turned out to be a walk of about six hours, but one which we were just pleased to complete!

QMD 20: Hayeswater Gill, The Knott, and High Street

At YHA Patterdale on Saturday night, Tom and I planned out our route for the next day. He was keen to do some scrambling, and we identified a particular one up a waterfall just up from Hartsop that looked interesting.

QMD 20 (planned)

From there, we planned to go up The Knott, and then down High Street and around to Stony Cove Pike.

Given Tom had a booked train to catch, we gave ourselves the option of going down Pasture Bottom instead. In the end, because we spent a good deal of time going up Hayeswater Gill, that’s exactly what we did.

Relaxing in a waterfall pool after scrambling up Hayeswater Gill

The scramble up Hayeswater Gill was challenging in places, and I slipped over once onto my knees, and saw my sunglasses float away down a narrow channel. Thankfully, Tom managed to retrieve them, and it was mainly my pride that was hurt.

Tom convinced me to have a dip in a pool created by a waterfall near the top of Hayeswater Gill. The water was freezing, but the experience nevertheless glorious.

Hayeswater
Hayeswater

The ascent up from Hayeswater up The Knott was pretty steep, but worth it when we got to the top. We then walked across to Thornthwaite Crag where there is a beacon.

Tom at the top of Thornthwaite Crag
Tom at the top of Thornthwaite Crag

We stopped for something to eat, but there were lots of midges about, so we ate quickly and started the steep descent towards Pasture Bottom.

The walk along the river and back to the car was a little bit boggy, but relatively unproblematic. Tom and I talked about life, the world, and… co-ops, actually.

When we got back to the car, I stripped off and had a quick rinse in the river before getting changed. We found a pub, sunk a pint, and headed to Penrith to drop Tom in time for his train. I’d definitely go for a walk with him again, as he was good company, and challenged me to do stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise done!

Next steps

The Mountain Training website lists a number of organisations that run Mountain Leader courses. It’s a six-day course, and it looks like I’ve got a couple of options:

  • All in one go: take a week off work and do six days in one go in a single location
  • Split weekends: do three weekends spread over a few months, in three different locations

The second option is most appealing to me, but can’t make any of the options this year. So it looks like potentially May 2020.

In the meantime, I’ll probably get in some bonus QMDs just in case, and sign up for the Mountain Training Candidate Management System so I can officially log all of the walks I’ve recorded on my blog!

Weeknote 26/2019

Last week I:

  • Worked on MoodleNet stuff from Monday to Thursday. We’re having some technical problems, but the new user interface is looking good!
  • Changed the way I work on Thought Shrapnel and wrote about it here.
  • Went to Scout camp as a leader for the first time (previously I’ve been a ‘parent helper’). We had a great time, although I hurt my ribs on Friday night so sleeping was a bit uncomfortable.

This week I’m working Tuesday-Friday.

Weeknote 25/2019

This week started with a camping and walking trip that seems a long time ago now. I wrote that up here.

The rest of the week seemed to be an attempt to get back into a routine, both in terms of work but also in terms of exercise. I find that when my exercise regime (such as it is) gets out of whack, it has a knock-on effect on what I eat, how I sleep, and therefore how productive I am.

A highlight was backwoods cooking with the Scouts on Wednesday, which is always enjoyable.

I’m pretty much back to normal now, although I just want to forget last week, as much as possible really, and move on. It wasn’t awful, just nothing to write home about. And I’d like to use my energy on making sure next week is better.

Quality Mountain Days 17 & 18: Skiddaw, Great Calva, High Pike, and Carrock Fell

Note: I’m near to completing the twenty Quality Mountain Days (QMDs) required to book myself on a a Mountain Leader course.


I’m sitting writing this in our garden in the blazing sunshine. In front of me, my tent, which I only put up again to dry out about 10 minutes ago, is ready to be put away.

A day only counts as a QMD if you do something that takes you out of your comfort zone a bit. So, if you go up the same mountain by the same route a couple of times, it only counts as one QMD. This time, I thought I’d throw some camping into the mix.

I haven’t been camping by myself before, ever. To ease myself in gently, I thought I’d camp outside a hostel, although to add a bit of spice I thought I’d make it Skiddaw House, the highest hostel in Britain.

As a result, I had to carry my tent, sleeping bag, and other equipment I’d need for an overnight stay, to the hostel. I planned my routes accordingly:

QMD 17

On the first day, I’d planned to walk up from the public car park next to the Blencathra Field Centre, leave my large rucksack, and then do a circular route around Helvellyn while carrying my smaller rucksack. On the second, I planned to walk to High Pike, come back to Skiddaw House and pack up my tent, and then head back down to the car.

Setting off towards Skiddaw House

Neither went as planned, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, unlike Santa Claus, when I make a list I have a habit of forgetting to check it twice. As a result, I didn’t take my gaiters or walking poles. Second, the routes I’d planned weren’t really long enough.

View from near the top of Skiddaw

As a result, on the first day, after ascending Sale How and Skiddaw, I amended my route to also head up Little Calva and Great Calva. After a very steep ascent up Dry Gill, a few spots of rain turned into a downpour and, despite putting on my waterproofs, I got absolutely soaking. Trudging down through the heather back to Skiddaw House wasn’t an enjoyable experience.

The rain coming in as I ascended Great Calva

Although I tracked my route using my smartwatch, I kept forgetting to press ‘continue’ after any short rests or breaks. As a result, I’ve only got the first four hours of data for the QMD 17, but I was definitely out for over five hours in total!

Altitude over the first four hours of QMD 17

That night, after pitching my tent on wet ground in the rain, I went inside and spent a very enjoyable evening making dinner, conversing with those staying in the hostel itself, and drinking whisky.

Skiddaw House

When I reluctantly headed out to my tent, it rained until midnight, but according to my stats, I did manage to get some deep sleep in before waking at 05:30.

QMD 18

The next morning, I went into the hostel for breakfast and to get changed. Given how wet my tent was, I left it up to dry out as best it could, made some lunch, and started striding out towards High Pike.

Heading out for QMD 18

My boots gave me some problems on this trip. They’re about 12 years old, and so had many pairs of insoles. Unfortunately, while the most recent gel insoles I’d purchases are comfortable, the bottom of them have lost all stickiness, meaning they roll around my boot. I kept having to stop to sort them out and, indeed, I’ve got a few blisters.

Walking along a river

Towards the end of last year, I gave up drinking coffee as part of my daily routine. I discovered that it was correlated with me getting migraines. What I had found, however, was that Lucozade, coffee, and other caffeine-based stimulants, seemed fine when I was doing any kind of exercise (like walking).

High Pike

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this time around. After dragging myself up High Pike, I decided to head towards Carrock Fell, as we’d talked about the remnants of an Iron Age hill fort there the previous evening. It was extremely windy. I was struggling a bit. A fell runner nonchalantly ran past me.

Carrock Fell

I kept on plugging away when the tell-tale signs of migraine started to appear; that little coloured shimmer that appears in the corner of your eye and starts working its way over. I took one of my Rizatriptan tablets and drank plenty of water. I made it to the top of Carrock Fell, and flopped into a little circular shelter made of stones.

Sheltering at the top of Carrock Fell

By this point, I knew that this was going to be a longer walk than I’d planned, so I tried to shave some time off by traversing the side of Carrock Fell and making my way down to the path. In my migrainey state, I tripped and fell a couple of times, but only into the bracken and long grass.

Walking back to Skiddaw House

Once I made my way to the path back to Skiddaw House, I once again took off my boots, sorted out the insoles, and removed my waterproofs. The 5km from there back to the hostel was entirely on autopilot. I felt like a broken man.

Back at Skiddaw House

Back at the hostel (finally!) I sat down for a minute, then set to work packing up the tent. It was still a bit wet, and I didn’t have the energy to take it down properly, so I stuffed it in its bag, and packed everything inside the larger rucksack that I’d left inside the hostel.

Almost back to the car

The walk down from the hostel to the car was another 5km, but this time with my large rucksack on my back. It felt like double that. I would have collapsed at the boot of my car, to be honest, had there not been a group of schoolchildren listening to their teacher pontificating.

Conclusion

As I’ve mentioned before, every time I go on a walk I have a music track that ends up playing on repeat in my head. This isn’t something I choose, it’s just something that happens. Quite appropriately, this time around it was Got To Keep On by The Chemical Brothers. The lyrics are simple but were oh-so-appropriate:

Gotta keep on, gotta keep on
Gotta keep on, gotta keep on

[…]

And the rain comes down
Like tears, like tears
And the rain comes down
Like tears, like tears

There are many things I learned about myself and about spending time in the mountains during this trip. These include:

  • Camping isn’t such a big deal when you’re staying next to a hostel
  • Double-check equipment lists before leaving
  • Don’t drink coffee, even when doing exercise

I’ve only got a couple of QMDs left to do now, and I plan to do at least one of them with one other person. Although yesterday in particular was hard-going, I’m really glad I did it, and can definitely see why this is a requirement of getting on the Mountain Leader course!

Weeknote 24/2019

This week has felt long. I can’t believe it hasn’t actually been a fortnight, actually. The main excitement in the Belshaw household over the past few days has been taking delivery of one of these, which has meant completely re-configuring our lounge. The idea is that everything isn’t arranged around the television. We’ll see.

I’ve been working on three different things for Moodle this week:

  1. MoodleNet — the resource-centric social network for educators. I’ve been helping Ivan, our UX designer and front-end developer map out a new, more ‘conversational’ interface. It needs to use educational content before sharing with the community.
  2. Sunsetting moodle.net — we need to shut down the existing service at moodle.net in a graceful way and it looks like I’m responsible for that! There’s a Moodle Tracker epic with sub-issues.
  3. P2P badges for informal recognition — I shared a proposal with the Culture Champs group on how we could use Open Badges internally, pointing out the difference between credentialing and recognition.

Excitingly, Mayel has been doing some research into using a version control system such as git for providing the ‘fork/remix/share’ approach we want to encourage with MoodleNet. We’re also closer to releasing v0.9.4 which will allow users to choose a username and reset their password.

Other than that, I’ve been tired. Mainly because I’ve been sleepwalking(!) and dealing with more life admin than usual. In a moment of temporary insanity I’ve booked a stay at the campsite outside the UK’s highest hostel, so I’ll be carrying a tent while I walk on Sunday, camping at 1550ft, and then walking on Monday too.

I’m still writing every day for Thought Shrapnel, which I’m really rather proud of. No matter what people think of the content (although they seem to like it!) I find it a very valuable discipline to read enough to then be able to write something every day with at least six links in it.

Next week I’m working Tuesday to Friday on MoodleNet stuff after my (hopefully not ill-advised) camping/walking trip…

Weeknote 23/2019

This week has been much more enjoyable than last, after which I had a bit of a whinge. It’s been book-ended by two things I really enjoy doing: going for a long walk, and going out for food with my wife.

On Monday morning, I really was not in the mood for work, and had this almost primal desire to see the sea. So I re-arranged my working days and, as my wife had the car, decided to walk to the beach and back again. The caveat? I had to fit it all in between dropping off and picking my daughter from school.

Route from where I live (Morpeth) to the beach

As you can see from the Google Maps route above, I was pushing it to fit it in between 9am and 3pm. In the end, though, I managed it, and it proved to be a very enjoyable 18 mile (30km) walk!

This week has been an interesting one for my work on MoodleNet. It’s not all just fun and innovation when running a project like this. There’s compliance and legacy infrastructure to deal with, too. Happily, I’m pleased that the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) we’ve put out for community consultation is reasonably clear and interesting to read!

I’ve been working with Ivan, our UX designer and front-end developer on taking the MoodleNet user interface in a different direction. It’s an iterative approach, but I like the way it’s heading.

As usual, I wrote a bunch of things for Thought Shrapnel that are only available to supporters until next week. The one with the best title is probably There’s no viagra for enlightenment and the one I enjoyed writing most is What is no good for the hive is no good for the bee.

On Monday evening, Dai and I managed to record another episode of the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast. Episode 118 was entitled ‘Raising Digital Citizens’ where we discussed research in schools, walking long distances, screen time, digital citizenship, tech veganism, fully automated luxury communism, and more!

On Friday, Moodle colleagues in the Perth and Barcelona offices went out to celebrate the release of Moodle 3.7. We remote workers were given an allowance to take a friend or family member out for pizza, so I took my wife to BOX.PIZZA nestled deep in the Northumbrian countryside!

Next week I’m at home all week, working Monday to Thursday on Moodle things.

Weeknote 22/2019

I don’t know why I don’t just book time off every half-term. Unlike the summer holidays, where the kids get into a rhythm of entertaining themselves, as a parent you always feel ‘on-call’ when they have just one week off school.

Thankfully, my wife was around, but I felt like my work was an inconvenience to family life this week. And, after all, why do we work? Part of it is to have the money to spend time with your family doing fun things. I don’t feel like I enjoyed the fruits of my labour this week.

There were good reasons why I didn’t book holidays this week, though. One of them was because it was Product Management Planning Week at Moodle. These have been a bit sporadic since their inception just after I joined the organisation at the start of last year. So it was good that I got to spend some time, albeit virtually, with fellow Product Managers.

In terms of MoodleNet, the product whose development I’m overseeing, this has been the second week for Karen and James, our new backend developers. They’re getting into the swing of things and it’s good to see so much conversation happening between them and Mayel, our Technical Architect, on team Telegram channels! I’ve also been spending some time with Ivan, our designer and front-end developer, about taking MoodleNet in a different direction in terms of user interface.

Back on the home fromt, my wife’s sister and family were up last weekend. They’re so much more chilled-out than our family, which tends to schedule all the things and treat everything as a competition. Sometimes you need a welcome encouragement just to relax.

Other than that, it’s been good to see support come in via Open Collective for We Are Open community projects like Badge Wiki. We’re planning to launch a forum soon for the discussion of badges, among other things. This will go under the umbrella of our ‘Learning Fractal’ sub-brand, which we’re currently using only for our newsletter.

Finally, I took the opportunity of some spare hours on Friday while my son was at trials for the Newcastle Eagles academy to go to the Laing Art Gallery. I’ve been trying to carve out time to see Chris Killip‘s photos of the decline of shipbuilding on the Tyne since reading about the exhibition in The Guardian earlier this year. The photos are amazing and the story is a sad but evocative one.

Next week, I’m getting back into the regime of taking Fridays as my non-Moodle day. I’ll miss having my week split in two, but on the other hand it should give me more scope to get up some mountains and get 20 Quality Mountain Days under my belt!

Weeknote 21/2019

This week has been one of adjustments, for a couple of reasons.

First, my wife is back doing supply teaching, meaning that I have to be more flexible in my working arrangements so that I can drop off and pick up my daughter from school.

Second, two new people joined the MoodleNet team this week, so we’ve take the opportunity to shake things up a bit. Other than me, everyone else on the team will soon be doing 2.5 days per week. So we’ve agreed to have team meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, doing the bulk of our work together between those times.

This week, however, I was already committed to a co-op day on Wednesday with my We Are Open colleagues. It was enjoyable, even though we were talking about hard things like money. We’ve put a call out for people and organisations to fund Badge Wiki, which you can read about on our blog. Thanks to those who have already stepped up!

Other than that, I’ve helped ship MoodleNet v0.9.3 which is looking good, said goodbye to Alex Castaño, hello to Karen Kleinbauerů and James Laver (our new backend developers), done some planning for future releases, and produced a report for the rest of the Moodle Management team.

After a three month hiatus due to playing the magnificent Red Dead Redemption 2 together, Dai Barnes and I have finally got around to recording another episode of the TIDE podcast. Of course, it didn’t quite go to plan and Dai was called away to deal with a pupil (he lives and works at a boarding school) about halfway through the recording.

I’ve been doing plenty of other stuff as well, including writing for Thought Shrapnel every day (are you supporting that yet?), going geocaching with Scouts, taking my daughter to her first swimming gala, booking a family holiday to Iceland in December to see the northern lights, getting better at FIFA 19 Seasons, finishing Jamie Bartlett’s excellent book The People vs Tech, having my last Moodle coaching session (all of the Management team have had them), and trying to fit in daily exercise.

Next week, it’s half-term, and as I hinted at above I’m moving my non-Moodle from Wednesday to Friday. That means I’ve got a glorious Bank Holiday weekend with the in-laws, before spending Tuesday to Thursday planning with the rest of the Moodle Product Managers. I’m not sure whether that sounds intense or pretty chilled.

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