29 December 2012


Another item off my todo list done: setup automatic twitter updates from blog posts.  See @_onesmallstep_ for details.

This account will be used as as one-way feed of updates from the blog and anything else I fancy adding - please (pretty please, with cherries on top if it will help) see my contact me page for info on how to reach me whilst keeping me sane. Ta.

Interesting side-effects of travel

The planning for this trip has generated some interesting side effects, specifically: doing things which I've been meaning to do for ages, but never quite got around to.  All those little jobs that we've all got that are on our mental or physical todo list(s) and never quite get around to, despite having been there for years in some cases.

I've actually sorted-out my todo list and am doing more because of it.  Like everyone else, I'm using Evernote.

With the exception of a handful of CDs I'm sure I'll find in random places at home, I've got all my CDs ripped.  This blatantly ignores the box-sets of classical composers complete works I've got; I just don't have the time or inclination to rip another several hundred CDs - this remains firmly on the mañana list.  Or given that I'm Cornish, the dreckly list.

I'm sorting out the data on my computers and it's mostly done; I've sorted-out a regular back-ups too.  Crashplan, in case you're wondering.
(This isn't perfect, as I still need to work-out how to backup pictures whilst on the move - whilst not carrying a computer, just a Nexus 7 tablet + a card reader.  Ideas welcomed.)

I'm in the process of de-junking life.  I really can't recommend this enough.  (Sorry, L).

I've started a bucked-list.

I've written my Will, although the making it formal it still on the todo list.
I'd been mulling over what I wanted to put in it for a couple of days, it does take a little thought.  However of all the places to sit-down and write it, Caffe Nero on Fenchurch Street isn't where I'd been expecting.  I'd got the time to kill pre gym PT session, so I did.

I've been forced to do all of this, and more, in preparation for leaving - a most useful side effect.

Cameras (part 3)

I intentionally only took my Canon G11 with me in the US and Canada, which I bought a few years ago with the intention of carrying everywhere (ha!), as it would give me the chance to live with what was a contender for taking with me instead of my DSLR.

I still need to extract and process the pictures from the trip (sorry for those waiting on them), but having lived with it as my main camera for only 2 weeks I know it isn't what I'll be taking with me.  It just didn't feel right - yes the pictures are good, but I can't get on-with the camera for extended periods.  I'd have known this if I'd used the camera as planned - oh well.

Among my friends are a group of amateur, semi-pro and professional photographers who all range somewhere between very good and very good in their ability to take (make) a picture.  They're also a danger in the pub, but that's another story.
Cue much debate and discussion on options and the rather talented Mr. Hardwick pointed me in the general direction of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, where he'd heard good things despite having not used one.  Back in the day Olympus were a brand to be reckoned with, but I'd only been looking at Canon (my current kit) or Nikon (whose latest DSLRs are stunning).  Cue what I'd expected to be a quick look at the OM-D and an even quicker write-off.

Several hours later and I've got dozens of tabs open in Chrome, I've read countless reviews of it and taken a look at all of the sample images I could get my hands on (see DP Review for some RAW samples).  I spend the next few days doing more of the same. This is a very serious piece of kit.  A really very interesting piece of kit.  The first time in a very long time I've been interested in taking photographs - this is a good sign.

A quick trip to a physical camera shop (Jessops on New Oxford Street, mostly as I was on a bus going past it) and it feels pretty good - it feels like a proper camera, giving a "oooh, this feels right" feel; something I've had with the cameras I've been happy with (the D10 and the 7D).  There is also a touch of "proper" old camera about it, which harks back to the Canon AE-1 Program I first used when I was a kid - the body is still owned by my dad, if not used on a regular basis.

The one thing it doesn't have which I'd like is built-in or hot-shoe mounted GPS, as I'd really like to be able to geo-tag photos; although if the only thing I'm really complaining about is the lack of GPS in a camera that can't be too bad.

I need to get some more hands-on time with one, but it is a very strong contented to take with me.  It'll be interesting to see what Olympus and others release in their traditional spring releases - in time for Focus?

28 December 2012

Another flight booked

The last of the flights I can currently book is now booked: the outbound from London to Istanbul.  I depart on Monday 22nd April at 10:30 on BA0676 from LHR T5.  Not quite as nice a seat as the rest of it, but it'll do me.

The only flight I can't book is the return - I get to set off, travel and have no idea of when, or how, I'll return. I can't wait.

27 December 2012

See ya later, Gil

Jean-François has taught me many things, the one which is most useful is "see ya later".

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

At the time of writing this (18:50 GMT, 27th December 2012) Gil is currently on a plane to Madrid, which puts her on to a plane to Chile later tonight.  As of some point tomorrow lunchtime (GMT) Gil will have landed in Santiago for the start of her adventures.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

On Sunday morning, about 09:15 GMT, Gil drove off my from place; the end of The Last Super (part 2), having had the chance to have one more evening of chatting.  Fate, in her twisted way, had found us a bit more time.
Not a great morning, but it's easier the second time.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A few weeks short of 6 (yes, six) years without eating chocolate it made one hell of a return to my diet last Wednesday, when Gil and I had a Gu chocolate soufflé as the desert to our Last Supper (or more accurately, The Last Supper (part 1)).  We also had Lindt wasabi chocolate, which is amazing (far far better than chilli chocolate).
The return of chocolate to my diet is something which was very planned - I want the ability to eat/taste/sample anything when travelling, so bring it back now to share it with Gil during The Last Supper and then to have things like Christmas Pudding with the family.  I'm glad I shared it with her.
(side note: for those who've just given me that look - don't worry, I'm still on-the-wagon. As I've said before - keep me honest.)

Getting out of bed and going to work on Thursday morning sucked more than I thought possible.

Now I'm not ahead of myself.

My friend Jean-François has taught me many things, the one which is most useful is "see ya later".  There isn't a goodbye, there is just a "see ya later" - given how small the planet is even a departure with a unplanned return is a "see ya later".  See, for example, meeting Jean-François going into the Okavango Delta as I'm leaving it - the planet is tiny.
As for Gil... Well, we'll be meeting up for a week of adventures in Lima in September 2013 - I'll have just landed in South America after 4 months of travel through Central Asia and she'll be in her final days in South America before she heads back to the UK for a bit.  For those who've read the early posts - we've had to work hard to be able to do this.

Gil is one my closest friends, it'll be strange to not have her around.  If nothing else, who is going to sleep on my sofa?

See ya later, Gil.

CD Encoding

One bonus of finding all your CDs and encoding them, along with finding all the MP3s you've acquired over the years: a musical walk down memory lane. 

So many CDs I've forgotten about and random tracks I've found, mostly from when I was a student.  So I hope you'll excuse me, I'm off to pretend it's 1997 and I've got hair.


My todo list isn't getting any better, with the exception of sorting, reducing the amount of crap I own / crap which owns me [1], and the packing & storage of the remainders.

Six boxes of books have gone to be stored with Gil's stuff; DVDs to my brother, who'll also be taking the TV and assorted bits; more boxes of books to my folks (I'm not addicted, I can give them up any time I want [2]) along with other bits, including the CDs when I've finished ripping them all[3] and there is plenty more to finish sorting. I've given myself (and have a semi imposed) deadline of having it all done by the end of January.

What is interesting (and horrifying) is the amount of crap I owned (you'll note the past tense) and how wonderful it is to get rid of it all and not be owned by it any more. Several car-loads of, frankly, crap have been taken to my local recycling centre; bags full of old clothing and books are now with Oxfam and Cancer Research to find other homes and there's probably the same again, if I'm honest with myself.  I may not make a once-stated goal of being able to fit my life in to a large duffel bag, but I'll have a damn good go at it.  (A couple of large duffel bags is probably doable - if you ignore the little things like beds. Then again, I do like hammocks. :-) )

Got a weekend with not much planned? Want to get to the end of a weekend and feel that you've done something? Just want more space?  Blitz your home and reduce the amount of junk you own / which owns you - it's wonderful.  The things you'll say most are: 1) "why on earth have I kept this?"; 2) "why didn't I do this sooner?".

You don't have to be going walkabout to do it, but you're welcome to come join me.

[1] - This will make L laugh, but removing all the junk from my flat and my life is something I wish I'd done years ago (sorry, L); only when you have to get rid of things do you realise how much crap you own. I'm a total convert to the concepts of your possessions owning you. With the exceptions of books and CDs, of course.
[2] - OK, we all know that I'm lying. I just don't want to give them up.
[3] - There's a crap job: Find all your CDs (because, like me, yours aren't all in one place either), the majority of which you've encoded already, and the find the ones you've not done - you're trying to find a few dozen needles in a fairly large haystack.  Then pack them away.

Address changes

Have you ever stopped to think how many people you need to tell when you change address? Given that I've not moved house in years (a good thing, given the number of national and international house moves I did between 2000 and 2003) it is something I've just not needed to think of. Well, that's changed.
  • Banks
  • Credit cards
  • HMRC (bless 'em)
  • Insurance providers
  • Previous employers who still need to send you stuff
  • Current employer (well, technically still current)
  • Pension people
  • Magazine subscriptions (all cancelled, apart from National Geographic)
  • DVLA
  • And... 
  • And... 
  • And...

Anyone care to bet how many silly forms I get to complete instead of a nice and simple online system? Maybe I should award a prize to the worst.

8 December 2012

Dear BA (or The Point of No Return (Part 2))

Dear BA,

There is a person working on your booking call centre today called David; I know nothing about him other than he is Scottish (based on his accent) and has just spent he last 40 min helping me find and book my flights.  He has helped me find a sensible, non hell-like, route from Beijing to Lima and (and I hope the rest of you will excuse me for this bit) fly the vast majority of it in first[1].
David took the time to find various routing options for me and found something which worked - no it isn't the perfect flight, but it appears no carrier actually has the perfect flight; it is the perfect flight which is actually routable[2].

I hope a manager at BA Customer Services sees this, then finds David and gives him the utterly massive hug that I'd like to give him.  His time and help today just made the The Dream come true.

In the off-chance you ever see this... THANK YOU.  I fell over myself to say thanks on the phone and I do it again now.  You, sir, are a Gentleman and a Scholar, and I thank you.

Most sincerely,

[1] - Yes kids, after years and years of saving airmiles (or Avois as BA likes to call them these days) I managed to burn a whole bunch of them and get my flights around the world in first and it not cost a fortune. I'm giggling like a schoolgirl at this.

[2] - The "cost" of doing this is that I'm flying via London for all of it, which I would have liked to avoid[3]; given what I've got this was the easiest trade of them all.  The upside of this is I get a few hours in London to see people, assuming people come to LHR to see me.

[3] - I have, had, this thing about being out of the country for a whole year.  Given what I've booked today I'll take a few hours at LHR T5.

7 December 2012

Another gadget

OK, I confess - I like a gadget.  I know this isn't going to be news to most of you, but there you go - I've finally "come out".  Again.

The Guardian, bless it, does like lists of stuff, most of which I ignore.  For reasons best know to the universe I looked at their gift guide for travellers, which is very strange given my opinions of that event.  Much to my surprise this was in their (otherwise dull) list: The Scrubba.  Looks most useful.