I’m writing this sitting in my lounge while my daughter is watching Gym Stars (her favourite programme) and my son is upstairs playing Fortnite (his favourite game). My wife has just served up some magnificent scones with clotted cream and jam to celebrate the end of the school term.
Even though it’s almost a decade since I worked in schools, my brain still works in academic terms. It’s hard for it not to, really, given the lives of the other three members of my immediate family are school-centred.
I’ve got another couple of weeks before we head off on holiday. There’s plenty to get done, but it’s all manageable, I think. The clickable prototype that Ivan has been working on is looking great, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with the community next week.
I was looking forward to the Scouts Beach BBQ this week but, unfortunately, it rained. That meant we decamped to the Methodist church (where are meetings are usually held) and cooked the burgers, etc. in the ovens. Thankfully, everyone still came, so it was a good end-of-term event.
In other news, I’m taking a bit more of a back seat with the co-op over the next few months. I’m not leaving, just with everything else on I need to focus on other things and know that my colleagues have my back. Which is a great feeling.
Finally, I bought a bunch of books in the Verso sale. Their deals are so good, as you get the ebook and hard copy for the price you’d often pay just for the ebook. This time around I went for:
Next week, I’ll be working around the logistics of ensuring our two children get to various summer activities (football camp, church holiday club, etc.) while ensuring everything is going according to plan with MoodleNet.
Photo taken by me of a wonderful sign in a neighbours porch: “Watch out for the cat” (in Italian)
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 Zombiesit’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.
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!
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:
My ribs still weren’t right from the previous weekend at Scout camp and I’m still on a cocktail of painkillers.
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):
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!
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.
It was a pretty straightforward walk from Blencathra over to Bowscale Fell, and then down back to the pub and then to the car.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!