Another Year Older

Christmas Eve means it’s my birthday, an exciting day of celebrating the year past and year to come.  I always feel it’s the best use of Facebook that people wish happy birthday there.


This last year I’ve had a fabulous canoeing year.  I’ve been to Uganda and had the privilege of paddling down the Nile and competing against the world’s best in the Nile River Festival on Nile Special wave before it was submerged under a newly built dam.  I competed in Hurley and the British Champs/European Open Freestyle competitions.  My freestyle is only slowly getting better and is pretty limited by my fitness and lack of easy access to good waves but remains great fun, I moved from a Jackson Rockstar to a Pyranha Jed as I find it surfs waves better and I can get the nose under easier but I’m still working out the best boat for me.  I took part in a couple of kayak surf competitions and had fun surfing a few more days, I always want to do more of this but am limited by the east coast’s unreliable waves and not having a decent boat or knowing what I would want to buy if I decided to commit more.  I also went on a trip to the Alps for a couple of weeks which I’ve always wanted to do.  It gave me longer river rapids than I’d ever paddled before and another freestyle competition with Kayak Sessions magazine. Vienna also has a fun white water course much under-used.  Just last month I’ve done training in Advanced White Water Leader and run some trips out on rivers which are new to me including the long Alpine Upper Braan.

Just as important to me as paddling is helping the sport. It’s been a couple of years since it was made clear to me and half a dozen other volunteers that we weren’t welcome to help at the club I grew up in, which was heartbreaking, but I’ve been doing coaching quite a bit for Edinburgh Kayak Club who have lovely people and some nice facilities and I’ve run Safety and Rescue training and White Water coaching for them.  As well as coaching I’ve been a “major contributor” to the Scottish White Water Guidebook where I edited a couple of chapters, proofread a bunch more, raised a few thousand pounds from advertising and brought in some new contributors.  And one of my proudest achievements was working out the tech and social requirements on how to get the river levels page SCA Where’s the Water rewritten so I can now update calibrations and add new features.

I doubt I’ll do quite so much paddling next year but I would like to get the Advanced White Water Award completed and find some other way to help the sport.


It’s some 7 years since I ended up in a coma after being attacked by pirates in the Caribbean (other explanations are possible but I have no memory) and my health continues to be decent but challenging.  I do still get fatigued randomly and I increasingly feel it is linked to drinking alcohol but the fatigue is a day or sometimes a week after so it’s very hard to tell.  I’m able to do a decent amount of gym work (thanks Poppy!) but I’m not getting any lighter on the scales probably because the fatigue feels like it gets fixed by eating sugary and fatty foods so it’s very easy to convince myself I need to eat them.


I’ve spent a great year making KDE neon continuing to challenge the traditional open source model of allowing someone else to take the credit for the hard work of the projects which make the software by just shipping it directly from the creating community.  I’ve travelled to Kansas on an exciting project, got a new edition of the high end KDE Slimbook selling with KDE neon, seen the ultra-cheap Pinebook shipping with KDE neon, been to Vienna and visited Barcelona to see four different project all using or interested in using KDE neon.

I continue to be frustrated when there are problems in KDE which nobody but me seems to see how serious they are.  In the past it was fraud in donations and broken licences.  This year it’s the promo team being changed from a community team to a closed team.  It was a lot of energy and effort to get that fixed but there’s still not been anyone explained why that happened or why they thought it was a good idea.  But I continue to think it’s important to fix problems even when others would prefer to just pretend they don’t exist in the hope they go away (which just makes the people go away).


The political and social year in the UK has been overshadowed by the continuing process of the UK government wanting to leave the EU following a corrupt sham vote which has propagated racism and division. I mostly stopped trying to engage directly with politics after the 2016 referendum in which no person or media or political party did a good job of pointing out the dangers and arguing for sanity or enabling people like me to campaign.  It continues to be astonishing how few people, parties or media point out what a broken exercise of democracy the 2016 referendum was, Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are about the best at this and of course the Guardian does a lot of important investigative work but it’s not enough.

Nobody knows what will happen next and there’s no point giving any probability for any outcome.  But the most significant thing to keep in mind is that the default option is for a no-deal Brexit which would see the very sudden collapse of UK as a society and economy. Food will not get delivered, medicines will run short, power supplies will be interrupted, people will die and riots will come fast.  This will happen in 100 days time unless the gridlocked UK parliament can agree to do something else, it’s a very serious possibility.  I’ve moved all my savings into Euro as the pound will crash but the food I have in store won’t last long and money does no good locked in a bank in another country.  Maybe parliament will extend the problem for a few more years as Theresa May wants which won’t help anyone’s mental health. Maybe Labour will get a new anti-brexit leader and stop this nonsense. Maybe Nicola Sturgeon will use her mandate and call for a Scottish independence referendum which would be very exciting. But nothing is predictable and the astonishing thing is how entrenched the public’s opinions are on the matter since the polls don’t change more than a few points.  I hope to help campaign for a sensible outcome in some way or other in the coming year but surviving will be the main objective.

Happy Christmas all


Achievement of the Week

This week I gave KDE Frameworks a web page after only 4 years of us trying to promote it as the best thing ever since cabogganing without one.  I also updated the theme on the KDE Applications 18.12 announcement to this millennium and even made the images in it have a fancy popup effect using the latest in JQuery Bootstrap CSS.  But my proudest contribution is making the screenshot for the new release of Konsole showing how it can now display all the cat emojis plus one for a poodle.

So far no comments asking why I named my computer thus.


Room 23: Surviving a Brain Hemorrhage

Room 23 is the true story of Kavita Basi.  An English lady in the prime of life, healthy with friends, family and career who one day had a headache which rapidly turned into an emergency trip to hospital.  Aquired brain injury happens for a bunch of reasons, from physical trauma to CSF leak but in this case it was a subarachnoid hemorrhage, an uncommon type of stroke caused by a burst blood vessel in the brain (a ruptured brain aneurysm).  There’s no warning for any of this and she covers how it feels so unfair.  She spent several weeks in hospital and even out of hospital had a long and slow recovery.  The books follows her successes and sticking points.  She covers how such sudden and severe illness affects those around her but also the support she got.  A common feature of aquired head injury is changes in personality and this is noteable in how it changed her approach to work and colleages.  A true story of love and loss, happyness and sadness, frustration and overcoming challenges.


Advanced White Water Kayak Leader Training

I did an Advanced White Water Kayak Leader Training course at Glenmore Lodge with Bruce Joliffe who together with George Fell make a fun duo to paddle with. I’ve done this before when it was called 5 Star Leader but I didn’t have enough experience to go to assessment.

We went to the Findhorn Gorge section starting at Randolph’s Leap. I thought Randolph’s Leap looked fun to do and most of the group and trainer agreed but the second trainer asked how we could cover a section of rapid we haven’t considered and given time constraints and that we hadn’t been on the water so didn’t know each other’s capabilities we decided to skip it. This shows how a two overlooked issues, overlooked, can change the whole decision.

When doing a rapid consider ASL – Assess if it’s do-able, Safety set up and finally Line for paddling. Most people consider these in the wrong order.

It can be useful to visulise the rapid once you have looked at it and before paddling it.

When reading a rapid have a look at what could go wrong. If you can’t see the rapid work out what worst-case-scenario hidden tree etc could be in the unseen rapid. Just because there is a route consider what problems may occur and how likely they are. There is a tree stuck in one rapid on the Findhorn and a first drop goes either to safety or into the tree and it would be hard to guarantee which.

3×3 criteria from avalanche and hill danger is also useful for running rivers, considering conditions, character and people against planning, selecting and cataract. I don’t know much more about this, it’s quite involved.

Heuristics means a quick mental way of making a decision based on a rule-of-thumb.

Pertinent means relevant to a situation.

Sit upright and forward, good posture is important when surfing (or anything) and having your blade infront when supporting is essential.

Bruce’s observations were all spot on as well as his knowledge of and use of the river.

One the Sunday we were on the Spean gorge, a low river which annoyingly has no gauge near it. We played at catching eddies and tried more boofs (it’s all about the timing) and lead folks down the rapids.

A fun weekend which highlighted how I’m still now at the standard needed for an Advanced White Water Leader but shows me what I need to do to get there.

It’s not uncommon to come across some dusty corner of KDE which hasn’t been touched in ages and has only half implemented features. One of the joys of KDE is being able to plunge in and fix any such problem areas. But it’s quite a surprise when a high profile area of KDE ends up unmaintained. is one such area and it was getting embarrassing. February 2016 we had a sprint where a new theme was rolled out on the main pages making the website look fresh and act responsively on mobiles but since then, for various failures of management, nothing has happened. So while the neon build servers were down for shuffling to a new machine I looked into why Plasma release announcements were updated but not Frameworks or Applications announcments. I’d automated Plasma announcements a while ago but it turns out the other announcements are still done manually, so I updated those and poked the people involved. Then of course I got stuck looking at all the other pages which hadn’t been ported to the new theme. On review there were not actually too many of them, if you ignore the announcements, the website is not very large.

Many of the pages could be just forwarded to more recent equivalents such as getting the history page (last update in 2003) to point to or the presentation slides page (last update for KDE 4 release) to point to a more up to date wiki page.

Others are worth reviving such as KDE screenshots page, press contacts, support page. The contents could still do with some pondering on what is useful but while they exist we shouldn’t pretend they don’t so I updated those and added back links to them.

While many of these pages are hard to find or not linked at all from they are still the top hits in Google when you search for “KDE presentation” or “kde history” or “kde support” so it is worth not looking like we are a dead project.

There were also obvious bugs that needed fixed for example the cookie-opt-out banner didn’t let you opt out, the font didn’t get loaded, the favicon was inconsistent.

All of these are easy enough fixes but the technical barrier is too high to get it done easily (you need special permission to have access to reasonably enough) and the social barrier is far too high (you will get complaints when changing something high profile like this, far easier to just let it rot). I’m not sure how to solve this but KDE should work out a way to allow project maintenance tasks like this be more open.

Anyway yay, is now new theme everywhere (except old announcements) and pages have up to date content.

There is a TODO item to track website improvements if you’re interested in helping, although it missed the main one which is the stalled port to WordPress, again a place it just needs someone to plunge in and do the work. It’s satisfying because it’s a high profile improvement but alas it highlights some failings in a mature community project like ours.