A Simple Question

Should Scotland be an independent country?

It’s straightforward enough and thankfully we will know 5 days from now how Scotland has voted. This has been the longest most drawn out political campaign I’ve experienced and despite the money spent by each camp there is still a vacuum of real answers. It’s clear that the result is closer than many thought and is also causing real division across families and friendships and I just hope once the answer is known on September 19th that we can all move on and accept the result.

There have been some negative aspects to the overall campaign:

  • Better Together’s campaign has been a mess. Negative, lack of a plan A around devolved powers and an obvious last minute panic as the poles narrowed. Their mismanagement will be costly.
  • Alex Salmond’s comments on Team Scotland vs Team Westminster and the snide assertion that if you are Scottish you will vote Yes and if you are a No voter then you aren’t part of Team Scotland. Bullshit of the highest order.
  • The lies from both camps. Never ending.
  • Citizen journalists and analysts and ‘their sources say’. What sources? More bullshit.
  • I’ve had no hassle but I know my mum has been called an idiot for not voting Yes and does feel intimidated by some of the behaviour of campaigners in town at the moment. I’ve also seen some heated Facebook threads just because someone has said they are voting no. Sad.
  • The lack of clear answers from the Yes campaign. In my opinion they watered down what independence really means to guarantee a win – monarchy, currency etc. Be honest and set out a truly independent vision rather than a 3/4 way house.
  • The assertion that ‘big business’ is in cahoots with the No camp only. Jim McColl’s rescuing of Ferguson’s and the subsequent mailshot that I and many others received from him on behalf of the Yes campaign was stage management of the highest order. All from a guy thats stays in Monaco.

However the positives have been great:

  • The referendum vote has grabbed the public imagination and sparked debate and participation after decades where people have felt disenfranchised by the main political parties. The use of social media has certainly exploded over the last few months – even today there is a massive rally protesting at BBC bias over the last weeks and months and if it wasn’t for friends posting about it you’d have no idea it was taking place. Hours after it started it’s only now that the editor of Reporting Scotland has tweeted about it (and much later the BBC reported on it themselves – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-29196912). Thats the only recognition that around 1000 people are now at Pacific Quay protesting. Well done Roy for on the spot reporting :)
  • Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, has been great. Spoke well, debated without getting into slanging matches and has campaigned tirelessly for the Yes campaign.
  • One hundred weeks of Scotland is a blog started by Alan McCredie in October 2012. Each week he would write about a different aspect of Scotland highlighted by some great images that he took on his journey. Been great to follow this on the run up the vote with some amazing photo’s and stories.

I’ll be voting No on Thursday as the arguments for change haven’t been made clear for me but my expectation is that the Yes vote will win and on Friday Scotland will be an independent country. I hope then we can all move on and make the best of what lies ahead – it won’t be an easy journey.

Ice Bucket Challenge

Danny nominated me for the MND Ice Bucket Challenge that has swept the social networks over the last week. To donate, Text ICED55 followed by an amount (such as £5) to 70070 and you can find out more here.

Of course I recorded it in slow motion using the iPhone.

Glasgow 2014 – Bowls

It’s halfway through the Commonwealth Games 2014 hosted in Glasgow. I’d tried to get a variety of tickets and ended up with some badminton for later this week. A few weeks ago I decdied to get some tickets for the bowls for me and mum to visit as the event takes place at Kelvingrove which is where my dad used to play.

Over the years the clubhouse and the greens had become unloved and looked pretty shabby so it was great to see then renovated and the facilities looked superb.

As for the bowls itself, it was good to watch and some great competition across the various matches going on.

It was a great day and hats off to the organisation at Kelvingrove which was great. The clydesiders were in good form and it was a breeze going through security. Plenty of toilets and everything was clearly signposted.

The only negative was the range of food on offer. Two food outlets with a poor choice of food and it was expensive and of fairly poor quality. It’s a real shame that some of the great food outlets from around Glasgow weren’t there – were they given the opportunity? Not sure if it’s the same across all venues but felt like an opportunity missed especially with Mother India just across the road and a whole host of great restaurants around Kelvingrove and Finnieston.

Overall though it was a great day and the weather played ball too – full set of photo’s are up on Flickr. Glasgow has never looked better and I’m looking forward to the badminton on Saturday – semi-finals day!

Still Running

Three years ago I bought some proper shoes so I could start running. I lasted 4 weeks. The year after, two weeks. Useless. July 14th 2013 I gave it one more go….and this time it stuck.

In the last year I’ve:

  • Ran 463 miles
  • Ran 110 times
  • Averaged 4.21 miles for each run, much higher than expected
  • Seen a lot of Glasgow
  • Realised that I love running in winter, summer…not so much
  • Tracked all my runs in RunKeeper

I mention RunKeeper for a good reason. Firstly it’s free and using it’s 5k training plan it got me running on a varied program which kept it interesting and challenging. Secondly I can download all the GPX files (XML file of GPS waypoints) and produce graphics like this.

Where I ran in 2014. Each run mapped onto a Google Maps export.
Where I ran in 2014. Each run mapped onto a Google Maps export.

When I read the Flowing Data post called Where People Run in Major Cities and saw the visualisations they had produced I knew I wanted to do the same. I worried I wouldn’t have done enough runs with variety but I’m pleased with how it came out. I’m also surprised at some of the area’s I haven’t run in which means some good options going forward. Nothing better than running somewhere new to keep things interesting. RunKeeper also exports your data in csv so you can graph it with ease.

Distance per month in miles
Distance per month in miles
Number of runs per month
Number of runs per month
Average speed in mph. Getting slower!
Average speed in mph. Getting slower!

Lessons I’ve learned over the last 12 months are obvious really with hindsight but worth repeating. Firstly, always stretch, warm up and warm down properly before and after each run. I’ve got lazy with this sometimes and can feel little niggles creep in when I don’t do this properly. Secondly – listen to your body. If you are feeling a bit under the weather or are carrying an injury then tailor the run accordingly. Third – BFH – bus fare home. A couple of times on longer runs I’d be three miles from home, feeling a bit sore, tired or ill and no money to get a bus or taxi home. So I carry a small bit of money on those longer runs just in case. Fourth – hydrate. Don’t underestimate how much fluid you will lose on hot long runs. Plenty of water before and after should see you through a run up to 10km but anything more then I’d carry some water to keep me going. Finally, enjoy it and keep the routes varied. I struggled to get going at first as I stay on a hill and the climb back at the end always defeated me. Building up on a flat canal close to home got me running further and further until I’d got a large enough base to tackle hills. However it was getting boring running up and down the same stretch of water so it was great to branch out and vary my runs.

Looking forward I’ve some small goals to keep me going:

  • Run 500 miles in a year. Narrowly missed this year but if I keep consistent and injury free it should be achievable
  • Improve speed
  • Buy new shoes as the current ones are starting to get a bit done. A trip to Achilles Heel is in order.
  • I’m interested in measuring heart rate but hanging fire on getting anything until Apple announce…something?
  • Play some more with R. Some interesting data in those RunKeeper files.
  • One thing I won’t be doing is entering any races. I don’t know why but racing just doesn’t appeal to me.

So thats my running year. I still can’t believe I’ve been out over 100 times but looking forward to 100 more. At least.

NomadKey Review

Charging cables aren’t usually the most interesting of topics and not something I think much about apart from ensuring I have cables for my devices at work, home and when I travel. That basically means a lightning cable and a micro USB cable to cover the many devices that I use day to day.

I was contacted by Nomad and asked if I was interested in trying a NomadKey and passing on my thoughts via this site. A few weeks ago I received a Lightning and micro-USB NomadKey and since then I’ve been using them to charge my iOS devices and my work phone and mifi device.

Lightning NomadKey
Lightning NomadKey

The NomadKey is a reworked version of the Nomad ChargeKey that launched last year. The main feature of the NomadKey is it’s size and flexibility. Slightly larger than a standard house key it’s designed to live on your key ring so no matter where you are, if you have your keys you can charge your device…well, as long as there is a USB socket nearby.

The NomadKey features a slim USB connector at one end and a lightning or micro-USB connector at the other. Both ends are made of a hard plastic and the middle is a flexible rubber which covers the cable connecting both ends. This allows the NomadKey to twist and allow you to charge your device in some pretty awkward places. While fine for phones and small devices it’s not practical for things like an iPad. The chargers are really light, so much so you won’t notice any additional weight on your key ring or if you decide to carry them in a travel or office bag.

In use I’ve found the NomadKey to be fast and reliable. For iOS devices it’s not only a charge cable but sync’s as well and is certified by Apple. I’ve seen no difference in charge or sync times between an official Apple cable and the NomadKey. It also carries enough current to charge an iPad.

Flexible NomadKey
Flexible NomadKey

Although reliable over the last three weeks I do have a couple of niggles. Firstly the USB and lightning connectors are uncovered. As the premise of the NomadKey is for the charger to live alongside your keys I do worry that over time the connectors will pick up dings and scratches. The more durable plastic that hooks onto your key ring does look robust but again, over time will it become chewed up?

Finally is the question of value. The NomadKey costs $29 with free shipping to the UK which feels a little steep. A 1m lightning cable from Apple is £15 and I think the NomadKey would be more appealing to users if they managed to undercut Apple even slightly.

Despite the niggles I loved the NomadKey cables and would recommend them to anyone looking at picking up a new charge cable or who tend to misplace or forget their current chargers. It’s an excellent day to day charger and especially useful for the frequent traveller. Nomad are also bringing out a new product called the NomadClip which is a portable charging cable in the shape of a carabiner and something I’m far more interested in.

If you like the look of the NomadKey or any of their other products then you can pre-order them now and for a limited time you get 25% off if you use the code “LIVESIMPLE”.