Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Imperial 8

As you may know I row. Well, mostly I scull, but for this year’s end-of-year event in Victoria, BC, the Head of the Gorge race, we decided to dress up and row an 8. So far that’s been a fairly good experience … we have costumes, we have airline tickets, we have hotel rooms … and even the boat works well enough for a bunch of people just thrown together.

Well, I hit a snag today when I made the suggestion to match our blades to our costumes. And then spent an inordinate amount of time today dealing with the insanity that is club politics. In the process we were discussing spinning of a separate club, just for the purpose of that race, so we could break the “club colors” rule: 2013 rowing canada racing rules, section 6.5. This was the proposed photo for the club president:

- Please recheck your ID(s).
- If you are showing a private album, check that the "Retrieve Photos From" option is set to "User's Private Album" and that the Authorization Key is correct.

Of course reading rules is a dangerous thing … apparently (according to section 6.2 of the same rules) if all rowers are from the same club the can wear whatever they want as long as everyone is wearing the same thing … if rowers are from different clubs they must wear singlets. Who write these things? More on this after races …

Keeping track of cool stuff

Today I had time in front of a real computer and so I went down the rabbit hole of . There’s amazing stuff here and like always when I see amazing stuff, I would like to keep track of it!

Like any other site that want to sell you stuff, they have a wishlist and favorites … and that’s actually very well implemented … but it still requires for me to be logged into their site and doesn’t really lend itself to sharing …

This seemed like an obvious case of Pinterest to the rescue …

Now getting that to EMBED … that’s another story entirely! Once again being at the bleeding edge of WordPress is working against me because the recipes people have shared don’t work in 3.6.1 (yet).

Probably the cutest solution to the problem was using the Flickr plugin with the Pinterest RSS feed, so if you have a Flickr plugin that works … great.

The second best suggestion I found was this: use the Pinterest widget builder and embed that into your site. This is great but I want this to work whether I am displaying just one post or many and it’s quite specific about not loading the widget multiple times. What to do …

… I ultimately decided to embed this is the theme … but the suggested “easy” execution scheme is mindboggling. It suggests to put the script tag just above the /body tag, apparently because it needs to execute onLoad. Well, it does seem to work in the footer (Appearance – Editor – Footer) … but the page rendering is … less than desirable.

Embedding the “Advanced” version in the HEAD section work much better …

Is it safe? I don’t know but I don’t keep anything high value here, right?

Mont Blanc Corvids

After all that pain of embedding images / galleries it seems anticlimactically simple to embed videos into a blog …

  • set up a youtube account … it’s as easy as logging in – google will know who you are, I am sure
  • upload video … it’s as easy as drag and drop
  • drop the youtube url directly into WordPress …

And …

But the best part of it is how smart youtube is about the video … the video above was a freehand 3gp from an ancient android phone and you can see that it’s portrait, not landscape. Youtube notices this! It also offers post processing such as de-shaking – ok, I could do better with virtual dub but not at the cost of clicking a button!

Youtube plus WordPress … so easy!

Looking for galleries (2)

Spent a little more time today trying to figure out how to make the gallery thing work. It’s weird, hoarding pictures seems like one of the most common things people do: snap a million pictures, scribble some notes on them to remember where they were taken, laugh about the most compromising ones with friends and make a couple of prints of some special ones for the dresser …

… yet there seems to be practically nothing decent out there to do this with.

Here is what I figure the deliverables for common photo hoarding should be:

  1. Easy to get pictures out of camera
  2. Easy to bulk caption pictures
  3. Easy to do the basic cleaning operations (rotate, crop, red-eye, white balance)
  4. Easy to organize pictures
  5. Easy to share pictures with everyone, ideally on the couch, yours or theirs
  6. Easy to embed them into other projects
  7. Easy to back up.
  8. Not subject to changes in web software version or at least in a data format that’s easy to bulk re-ingest somewhere else.

Photo-albums  - you know, paper and stuff – can do 2,4, 5 and 8. Slides can’t actually do any of the above.

Digital age to the rescue … you’d think …

Facebook, the biggest photo sharing site out there, can do 1,2 and 5. Picasa can do 1-3, 5, and maybe 6 and 7. I haven’t looked at flickr but I suspect it’s going to be similar.

As for offerings that a normal person can install on an amazon or digital ocean instance … gallery/gallery 2 will do 1, 2, 4, and 5 but is a nightmare of bugs. WordPress can do 1 and 5, but unless you are Steve Jobs and don’t believe anyone needs folders it’s probably no good for more than about 5 pictures, not to mention that apparently the code changes so much between versions that it’s a FEATURE of the plugin system to collect user reports on what plugin works with what version.

Why is this so hard?!? And I am not talking about building lightboxes, which is hard but basic fuctionality.

So where am I at now?

Sigh …

Adventure Park Anthares World

I used to watch fear factor and whenever they had the obstacle courses suspended high in the air I thought that looked like fun and I would love to do that. But I never realized I COULD do that. So naturally I really wanted to go when I saw the pictures at the entrance to the pool.

From Trips\2013-08\Italy\AdventurePark

Getting tickets was interesting because the girls at the entrance spoke practically no English but since I had previously reconnoitered I managed to get a ticket for 1pm and knew to be there half an hour in advance for safety instructions and get a harness. Thankfully the guy doing the instructions spoke excellent English, and the instructions were easy enough to follow:

  • always clip in.
  • Always use only one hand (so you never accidentally unclip both your safety lines).
  • On red marks clip in directly.
  • On yellow marks remove your roller thingie from the clip on your harness, fit it over the cable and clip in ONE line to secure it on the cable.
  • Check that your landing point is free. Then, and while I followed these instructions I can’t help wonder if this is good practice, clip the second line into the CARABINER of the first line – and jump.

After I demonstrated my understanding and proficiency by walking around the training course clipping and unclipping he sent me off by telling me the order of the first three courses: green, blue, orange.

- Please recheck your ID(s).
- If you are showing a private album, check that the "Retrieve Photos From" option is set to "User's Private Album" and that the Authorization Key is correct.

Essentially these are training runs that get progressively harder and higher with variations on the themes of ladders, rope bridges, high wires, and zip lines with landing nets. Probably the biggest challenges on these courses were: getting over your fear of heights if you have it, the generally low hanging safety cables (to accommodate the minimum height of 140cm I suspect) and landing in the nets at the end of the zip line, more on this later.

Fortunately I had brought water because even in the shade of the trees it was hot, especially wearing long jeans. Lots of people did this in shorts but there were a few place I am glad I had covered legs and in one place I wished for kneepads. Also in the process of grabbing the water I found out that if you wanted to go to the restaurant you would have to get out of the harness, so another win there.

With all the warmup out of the way, now for the real fun! I may not have all the obstacles in the right courses so here a best guess:

The red course starts with a long rope ladder and because clipping in and out on a rope ladder would be suicidal, it comes with a fall arrestor line you have to pull down. This was only labeled in Italian so it took me a couple minutes to work out but fortunately there was a dad with his 8 year old ahead of me giving me plenty of time. The highlight of this course was probably a set of individual footholds like hangman’s nooses although one could have used a short zip line instead. Hard on arms and coordination and being more than 140 cm tall helps immensely.

The black course had a Tarzan rope swing. The swing was actually quite easy, especially if you put your feet on the knot at the end of the rope. However clipping into the rope is a challenge because the rope is heavy and you can’t easily support yourself while clipping in the second carabiner. The subsequent landing on a coarse rope net and clipping in are easy and natural … until you realize the way out is UP and that the net you are clipped into stops 4m above ground. This was to me the scariest point because I realized I was getting complacent. The course ends in a super long zip line and here I had my only major mishap: I hit the net backwards and didn’t manage to grab on before sliding back on the zip line, ending up stuck and needing rescue. Clearly this is common though as one of the attendants just came and threw me some rope and then pulled me to the net.

At this point I was exhausted and should probably have stopped, especially because I was told that the yellow course was the hardest, but since I wouldn’t ever get the chance to do this again I braved it anyhow. True to promise this course is hard. A zigzag horizontal ladder, a cable loop horizontal ladder, a net/cable car, a high rope walk with a support that looks like a trapeze – I tried that and it hurt – but is actually a suspended version of a balance pole – works like a charm that way, another high rope walk but with loop obstacles you need to climb through. After all this you end up on a platform that’s a dead end. After calling for help it turns out there is a descender that you can grab and attach to your harness. And then you need to step off the platform. This is extremely daunting because the anchor point is at least 1m away from the edge of the platform and it’s clear you will swing sideways. In the end it’s not as bad as it looks but you do need to push yourself away from a tree trunk.

In summary: the best 20 euro spent this trip and the best 2h spent in a long time!

Went to the pool after to cool off but that was really all that pool is good for on a Sunday afternoon as you will be lucky to find a lawn chair or any shade at all.


Looking for galleries

What is the point of having a blog? Ramblings. What makes people like ramblings? Pictures. So how to get pictures into WordPress.


Apparently you can just use the native gallery and it’s actually fairly easy and functional:

  • in the editor click “add media”
  • upload media
  • click “create gallery” and select media you want in the gallery
  • insert gallery

Cool but boring.


The jetpack plugin promises lots of goodies. Maybe I don’t get it but the gallery seems to simply not work at all. The mobile theme is a nice addition but since you can’t customize it to match the main theme also falls short …

… to be continued

(Re)building web presence: wordpress

The Cloud Formation Way

For the last couple of months I have wanted to try WordPress, and specifically the Amazon Cloud Formation template. I initially tried this from my iPad while on vacation but there are some … issues. It could probably be done but my would you be in for pain!

The process is slick and fast although you will need to already have a key pair installed and probably should know how to log into your instance afterwards. Note that the default instance size is m1.small which is likely overkill for your test site.


After confirming that wordpress looked like the right tool for the job I really don’t want to have yet another instance … the monthly fees do add up … so how about installing on my existing instance. This looks easy:

  • make sure you have mysql php and a web server
  • download the tarball to web root
  • follow the install instructions

It gets a little tricky if you happen to be using nginx … in that case you probably want to also consult these:


I would post a link to the result … but you are looking at it ;)


In the process stumbled on which seems to be trivially cheap in comparison to EC2 … likely a future post