Stepping stones


I’ve run back to Laura. I went looking for information about how essential the 5-minute walking warmup is (no other running training I’ve come across uses it, it always seems to start with a (more or less) light jog). I have yet to find the answer to that (comments welcome), but did stumble upon some podcasts designed for Couch to 5k “graduates” looking to improve their speed. As I’ve at best not progressed in this respect, I figured I’d give them a go. I’ve done three runs with the Stepping Stone podcast so far – I’m still no faster and find it much more unpleasant than running with my own music, but it does contain some good tips such as checking your posture. My sins: tense upper limbs, slouching, looking down rather than ahead. Speed one next. I’ve also run back to Sports Tracker (and given up on the European Cycling Challenge) after finding Endomondo lacking after all. Turns out Sports Tracker does voice feedback too. At least Eastville Park is teeming with baby birds who make me smile as I go past – new ducklings, almost-adolescent-already goslings and now cygnets too!


As usual, I had all manners of ideas and ambitions for the monthly theme set by work’s photography staff club – “Time”, and didn’t achieve very much. My main attempt involved photos of the same flowers in my garden on consecutive days, with the intention to do “something” linking them in post-processing. The first one I picked, a red and yellow tulip, had lost all its petals by day three. As for my plan B, a bunch of dandelions at various stages of development, I found that my experimental system of markers and body positioning for preserving angle and composition had been severely flawed . One of these days I will have to get over my dislike of tripods.

Composite photo of tulip on three consecutive days

Badly merged photos of same tulip from same angle on three consecutive days.

My main photography mission right now is getting things ready for the Easton Arts Trail. This has so far involved me purchasing Photobox credit while they were having a 70% off sale, and now fiddling with my selected images to make them fit the canvas proportions – mostly adding bits to wrap round the sides. If there turns out to be an interest in my products, I may need to get into the habit of judging quickly if a photo would look good on canvas so I can take a wider angle shot. Then again, a visit to my dentist’s today included finding that people with white walls don’t mind photographic canvases with white edges.

The main area of improvement highlighted by this process has been, unsurprisingly, my monitors. They are cheap and nasty and I haven’t got my head round how to calibrate them or use colour profiles. As a result, there is a marked difference in the test prints I’ve had done of selected pictures depending on whether they were good SOOC (straight out of camera) or needed some adjustments. The latter don’t look right, because I essentially can’t see them or what I’m doing to them properly. I’ll need to look into investing in at least one better one (I work with two), and possibly some serious training. I know there’s a lot more I could do with Photoshop than my current self-taught dabblings.


I coincidentally attended two talks by Guardian writers last week. The first, by Cambridge University economist Ha-Joon Chang, titled ‘The Role of Economics in Public Life, and the second, organised by the Bristol Cable, by journalist John Henley, titled ‘Using social media for citizen journalism’. There were some common themes between the two, the main one being that people formerly known as audiences should challenge those who have so far been considered the custodians of knowledge and information, be they experts or journalists. Henley pointed out that audiences have always known more than journalists and are now able to make this known; Chang, that economists have somehow convinced the public that their subject is far too complex for the common person to understand, when in reality it is no more so than, say, international relations, which people don’t seem to need a degree in to have an opinion on the Iraq war. Chang was a very engaging speaker with his heart in the right place (he opened his talk by deploring the current ambience of only valuing things that make money, reminding us that we “cannot live by bread alone“). I was particularly taken by his exhortations to challenge, listen and cross-pollinate, as I frequently despair of the opinionated’s tunnel vision and cherry-picking (whether we are on the same or opposed sides) and of how difficult it seems to be for most people to see beyond the status quo (re. the latter see also Ruth Levitas on utopia). There was much more, I took copious notes and this really would deserve a post of its own – for now I will just say that I’d certainly like to read his books if I can ever find the time.

As for Henley, he told us about how the internet has radically changed what it means to be a journalist and pushed back the limits previously imposed on the “audience”. He used as illustrations two impressive Guardian projects of his involving Twitter and other interactive online resources: Greece on the Breadline (which essentially involved him requesting stories of hardship and solidarity on Twitter and weaving a series of blog posts, videos, interactive maps etc from the responses) and Firestorm (a multi-media online presentation covering catastrophic fires in Australia last year from a variety of angles, from home footage by an affected family to explaining how global warming has caused these events to become uncontrollable). His advice to would be citizen journalists was to aim for the same higher ideals that a good old-fashioned journalist would, and if at all possible learn to code.