Thoughts about climbing, coding, management... maybe running... and food... possibly dating mishaps and more!

Work life balance

As I’ve mentioned in other recent posts I’ve been getting back into reading the Personal MBA. I’ve been surprised how much of the book covers common sense (at least it seems so to me) but the latest section I’m reading I’d say isn’t common sense but something that far too many people just don’t think about or strive for enough! That being a balance between work and life.

In the personal MBA the story is similar to the below which I found online here.

The businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The businessman complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while.

The businessman then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The businessman then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your time? The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The businessman scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor and eventually open your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?” To which the businessman replied, “15-20 years.” “But what then, señor?” The businessman laughed and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.” “Millions, señor? Then what?” The businessman said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “Isn’t that what I’m doing right now?”

I read this and it just reminded me to continue the approach I’m taking myself, that being work as long and hard as is necessary to hit any deadline however if you do get a bit of downtime in work take advantage of it and leave on time to do something else you enjoy.

I truly think that in the long term this keeps productivity and focus high rather than burning out. So remember dear reader strive for a balance between work and life!

The Imitation game


I went and saw ‘The Imitation Game’ recently and it got me thinking.

Overall I think it was a very good showing with a stand out performance by Benedict Cumberbatch, who again shows he has a full spectrum of talent. I wasn’t so enamoured by Kiera Knightly’s performance. It wasn’t bad but next to Cumberbatch it didn’t seem to excel either.

Anyway this isn’t a review of the movie. I left the cinema with a feeling I thought was telling. Disgust.

I’m not meaning to ruin the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. At the end there is a sequence where the viewers are told about some facts about the effect Alan Turing had on the war etc. As I remember them they are:

  • Alan Turing invented what other people at the time called ‘Turing machines’. Today we call them computers
  • ~48,000 gay men were charged with indecency
  • Alan Turing’s breaking of the enigma code was estimated to have shorted the war by 2 years… saving an estimated 14 million lives
  • Alan Turing committed suicide one year after accepting HRT rather than going to jail
  • It was only in 1013 that Alan Turing received a posthumous pardon from Queen Elizabeth

Of course being a developer I knew most of the facts and story however I still left the cinema with a feeling of complete disgust. Disgust over this instrumental man only receiving a pardon in 2013! Disgust that so many gay men were treated that way. It really is shameful that our country treated Turing that way (along with all the other men).

Anyway dear reader I would highly recommend you see them film and I’d love to hear what you thought of it!


An original idea for gift giving

I’ll be honest with you reader. I’m not the biggest Christmas fan. I find it forced and shallow in todays world. It’s become, as many things have, far too commercialised.

I cringe and worry in equal measures when I hear reports about people putting themselves into serious debt just so as they can fund their gift buying at Christmas! If I received a gift from someone and I knew they had put themselves into serious debt in part to buy it I wouldn’t feel right. I would rather they do something very small for me as a token and keep their hard earned money!

I do enjoy Christmas time to see my family and friends back home. It’s been about 7 years now since I moved to England from my home in Northern Ireland. Christmas time for me is mostly about seeing everyone back home from my father to my sister and niece and nephew to my friends.

Considering the above normally I give and receive gifts with a feeling of emptiness (or possibly emotional neutrality?) however recently I read a post on the verge about one way to help inject some originality and personality into your gift giving that I thought was an amazing idea. Especially if you happen to not be with the person who is opening your gift.

The idea is to wrap your present not only in paper but also music. Think about the person you’re giving to and the gift they are receiving and select a song that matches the feeling! A simple concept and an easy gesture however this little thing alone I surmise will put an extra big smile on the face of the person receiving your gift!

Try it out this Christmas and see what response you get. If you have any other ideas on how to make gift giving more personable do drop a comment!

On expectations

Lately I’ve been getting back into reading Josh Kaufmann’s ‘The personal MBA’. It’s a good book. I’d highly recommend it. Before I begin the article in earnest I’ll tell you a funny (sort off) little story!

In my spare time I like to do some instructing at my local climbing wall. A lot of the instructors there are freelance. One of my fellow instructors and I were chilling in the cafe between sessions of screaming kids hyped up on Coke when she noticed the book I had set on the counter whilst I was chatting with the cafe staff. She questioned me on it, asking what I thought about it. I told her that so far I thought it was good. I liked the straight forwardness of his language and the overall aim of the book. I did confess to thinking that some things, especially at the beginning of the book seemed a little basic. I thought that for instance if you gave any reasonable person a pen and piece of paper and asked them to jot down their thoughts on a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) you would get something that hit on most of the points the book made. I don’t consider this a bad thing. Two other books I have read, 9 Out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes: Navigation Through the Maze of Advice for the Self-coached Climber by Dave MacLeod and The Inner Game of Tennis by Gallwey, W.Timothy both discussed aspects of climbing and tennis respectively that I found to be common sense, however there was something valuable in hearing someone else say these things that I was thinking. It reinforced the points in my head and gave me more confidence to more fully stand behind them.

So after giving her my 1 minute review of the book I said to her that I was contemplating doing an actual MBA at one point in time however having been working in a SMB for about 7 years now I felt that I had absorbed so much from that experience that I didn’t need a full MBA anymore and so I decided to do some personal development on the matter instead. In addition I said I also thought that a lot of people who had done a little bit of work would benefit from doing the same and that a lot of the time a full MBA course wasn’t actually required… that’s when she said in addition to working she was in the middle of doing her MBA! Luckily she didn’t take offence and as it turns out she is doing a specialised derivation of an MBA which I’m more willing to believe people could benefit from having it traditionally taught (though I’m still on the fence).

Anyway enough rambling Richard! On to the point; Expectations!

Responsive images polyfill and why IE9 still sort of… sucks…

With the release of Chrome 38 stable, responsive images are here. Now of course if the browser being used to view your site isn’t Chrome 38 then you’ll need a polyfill to add the missing functionality to the less functional browser.


From the site they describe picturefill as:

…allowing web developers to deliver an appropriate image to every user depending on a variety of conditions like screen size, viewport size, screen resolution, and more. Picturefill is a JavaScript file (or a polyfill to be more specific) that enables support for the picture element and associated features in browsers that do not yet support them, so you can start using them today!

I just wanted to highlight this polyfill as I believe it to be important in the willingness of developers to adopt responsive image, and adopting responsive images is increasingly essential as more and more people use more and more devices to access more and more content (phew!).

I do want to pull out one fact from the documentation for developers who don’t like to RTFM as they may misinterpret the hack requirement for the polyfill not working.

In IE9 (ah lovely IE9) there is a strange requirement of wrapping the <source> tags of the <picture> element within a <video> element! Because that makes sense to IE9! It looks like this

If you do actually want to know why we need to do this for IE9 you can read the browser support section of the picture-fill site. Id highly suggest reading it as it’s short and means you’ll be ready for any of the known pitfalls.


The way to respond to your users after a security… ‘hiccup’

Hacker taking password from modern interface 1

It’s a fact of life that security breaches will happen to a company that you have data associated with. There are not if it happens only when will it happen. That’s why I don’t immediately rail against a company when a security breach is found and published. Recently this is what happened to Browserstack, a web service that allows developers (or anyone really) test their web apps and sites on various configurations of software to aid in testing.

Recently one night in the early hours of the morning I wasn’t sleeping and happened to hear an email pop onto my phone, grabbing the phone and trying not to be blinded by its 6 inch glass radiating about the same amount of light as earth’s sun I looked to see who it was from. Noting Browserstack I was about to replace it on the bedside table however I glanced the first part of the message stating that they were closing down. After reading the email I was thoroughly confused for about 10 seconds as to the reasons for closing down. It finally dawned on me that it was likely a security breach and I’d be hearing again from Browserstack.

That was indeed the case. However the thing that pleased me was in the response from the company. Bear in mind that the vast majority of their customers will be developers or technically minded people, which is why I think their response struck the perfect note. It got to the pertinent points and dealt with the succinctly whilst simultaneously  giving enough detail to appease their customer base.

As an example for anyone else looking to reply to their customers after a ‘hiccup’ I’d seriously suggest reading the below email and taking a few pages from it’s book!

Give your climbing rope some love with a rope brush

climbing ropes

Climbing ropes are probably the most costly semi regular purchase you make as a climber. (Good) ropes are quite expensive. You spend lots of time and effort researching the best one and then lots of money picking it up. Shouldn’t you show your rope that you weren’t just interested in a one night stand and give it some love!

Comp wall stamina



Weakness! 99% of us struggle with it. There are many things that we can do to battle it. Training, techniques, mentality and agileness among them. However recently I was shocked by just how quickly one can lose their endurance.

In the past I have experienced this a little bit upon my return to England after spending Christmas at home in Northern Ireland, where I don’t climb at all. When I returned to the comp wall I was struggling with 6Cs and feeling a bit more worn out at the top but after a session or two I was back to it at almost full strength (or as full strength as I was before heading home for xmas)!

One little line completely sunk a recent first date

First date


Most people say first dates are hard but I don’t think they are! I think they’re (mostly) fun and a chance to just talk and see what happens. For me comparing the experience of the first date to actually getting a first date is night and day. If you’re on a first date it’s assumed that the other person is there as they said yes and that they actually have an interest in you. That’s a pretty great position and state of mind to be in compared to the previous step of getting the date where sometimes you have no idea if the girl or guy even knows who you are and whether they will be the person that finally laughs in your face when you ask them out for a drink!

Here’s how I view the first three stages to get on a date, including the actual date;

  1. Find someone you actually like and flirt – Love it! If it’s in a natural environment it’s great fun. One can be funny, cheeky and interesting. Basically you can show off your personality anyway you want!
  2. Approach the ‘chosen one’ and ask a simple question, most likely something akin to ‘Hey, would you like to get a drink sometime?’ Hint; replace ‘drink’ with coffee if you meet at an AA meeting! – Hate it! Pure dread fills my heart and it feels as if gravity has just been cranked to max, preventing me from even moving towards the girl! Familiar feeling anyone? :)
  3. First date – Love it! See point one…

Recently I got musing on this whole topic after having a drink with a girl and having any chance of a second date being blown out of the water by one. Little. Line.

Emotion in marketing


I value honesty above all else so let me be honest from the get go.

I pretty much suck at (implementing) design. I can visualise things in my minds eye but when it comes to actually creating it I just can’t seem to translate my idea to ‘paper’!

This was the aspect of my university degree that I struggled with most. My degree, I believe rather stupidly, tried to meld the worlds of programming and design and teach both to a significant level. In fact in addition to trying to make us all both designers and programmers also tried to incorporate video shooting & production, disc authoring, 3D modelling and industry analysis! I’d guesstimate that maybe 1% of students were able to apply themselves to a high level across all or the majority of the covered topics and that everyone else had to focus on an area they found they had a natural affinity for. I chose to focus on development. Alas I get off topic.

Though I chose to focus on programming I do really appreciate good design and marketing, creative marketing. Maybe six years working in a creative agency has rubbed off on me! That’s why I’ve been pretty impressed with the marketing for the Hunger Games franchise. The penultimate movie in the series is due to be released later this year and the marketing machine behind LionsGate and the movie have begun their assault.

As I said I’m not a designer so won’t try and blag my way and analyse these images for all their subtleties. I instead present them without comment but with an appreciation for good marketing. PS my personal favourite is district twelve followed by the snow image above.

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