Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Back Problems

So my back is still not right from the fall in Nepal. And still waiting for a referral from the NHS. :-( I'm tempted to go for private care but how the heck do I know if a chiropractor is good/honest/legit? I confess that my default position is that they are all shysters and I worry that if I walk in as a cash customer, that they'll think "I've got a live one here!".

Useful advice in the comments please!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Thanksgiving in Namche -or- Cooking with Altitude

On Wednesday the 21st I was having lunch with the Girls atThe Nest (I recommend the chicken sizzler) when it dawned on me that Thanksgiving was the next day. So I rather glibly said "Oh! We need to do Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow".

Next thing you know, advertising was up and Sushila and I were scratching our heads trying to figure out what we could make.

My initial thought had been that we would buy a bird and have it slaughtered but those birds are really too rangy and are better for the pot than the pan. So instead we bought 2 frozen chickens. The problem then was how to defrost them when the ambient temperature is below freezing. In the end, we sat them in a sun well for a few hours.

And then poured boiling water over them and turned them every so often for an hour or so.

Once they were mostly defrosted, the next challenge was to butcher the beasts. I asked for butchers shears but was handed a huge cleaver and a ghurka knife. So rather than be a danger to myself and others I handed the birds and knives to the kitchen girl.

She then proceeded to pull out a small block of wood which she placed on the floor then she perched the carcass on the wood and I pointed out to her where to cut. I swear to you we washed the chicken pieces very well after this procedure. Then dried them well. I sliced up some limes on the baking tray then placed the chicken pieces on top, rubbing in salt, pepper and chilli powder.

Then popped into the oven at 240C for 1:15 minutes. This had to be done in 2 batches as we had so much chicken and such a small oven. Plus as soon as anything is cooked it starts to freeze so the idea was to precook everything and then heat it up again just before serving.

Other dishes prepared included sauteed chinese cabbage.

With fried SPAM.

And mashed potatoes. They were a challenge as well since the girl had never heard of them and we didn't have proper ingredients other than the potatoes themselves.

Of course it didn't help that by the time the potatoes were cooked and peeled they were freezing cold again. Anyway, while I had the girl mashing away I added 2 cans of canned cream, then melted and added a packet of something halfway between butter and margarine. Then we switched places with me mashing/whipping while she made powdered milk which I then whipped in. I'll be honest - it tasted a bit odd but I knew I would be deglazing the chicken pan to make a proper gravy and that will hide a myriad of sins.

We also cooked some of the local sweet potatoes and I made up a batch of honeyed carrots. Sushila made a big salad with lettuces, tomatoes, and radishes from her greenhouse that she served with fresh garlic croutons and 2 apple pies were baked.

All that was left was to set the tables and call in the guests.

I, of course, made my usual little speech about the true meaning of Thanksgiving and everyone tucked in. It was all well cooked with a crisp and yummy skin on the chicken, noone got ill, and we proved that it could be done - Thanksgiving Dinner at Altitude with Local ingredients.

The big lesson, I think, is that when cooking at altitude everything will take longer and need a higher temperature to cook.

I'd also like to say a big, grateful thank you to Sushila for allowing me to take over her kitchen and for putting up with my madness. ;-)

Final note: I am also cross-posting this to my family cooking blog at Tales from the Kitchen Table

Monday, 19 November 2012

Namche Bazar - Hospital

It's been a week now and my back is still a problem and, to make matters worse, the pain has spread to my hips.

So this morning I headed up to Namche Hospital. Frustratingly the clinic is at the top of a very steep incline although there are other paths there that are less steep but not as direct. Evidently if you are really ill you must either be carried up the hill or a home visit arranged.

Anyhow, Sushila and I took the more roundabout approach, stopping at the Yeti Mountain Home hotel en route to enjoy the views with a pot of tea and some fresh butter cookies. I was then given a tour of the hotel - one of the nicest and most expensive here in Namche. Rooms are like a proper hotel and include en suite bathrooms with western toilets and the beds have electric blankets.

Anyway, we eventually crept our way to the clinic where, for a charge of $50 I saw a doctor and got some muscle relaxants prescribed.

I'm beginning to doubt whether I will have healed enough in the next few days to attempt to hike out and I certainly don't want to chance another fall and injury so I may have to make arrangements to helicopter out. I'll keep y'all posted.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Namche - continued

The feast last night was great. Hitherto I had thought that I didn't like the local food. Wrong! I just don't like shitty local food.

The starter was a lentil/garlic soup that was very tasty while the main course(s) were a spicy buffalo dish and a twce-cooked pork dish accompanied by rice and lentils and some sort of pickle. The dessert was a revelation and I must get the recipe from Sushila.

Oh wait - actually after asking her it turns out that my fave dishes were chinese and middle eastern.

Anyway, I've confirmed that whenever I'm in Namche I can stay at the bar. MUCH better than the local lodges/hotels who really have to up their game.

So at the party last night all of the great and the good of Namche attended but as in any culture the men stayed in the main room drinking and playing pool and the women convened in the kitchen to cook and gossip until they'd decided that men had had enough fun at which time they collected their menfolk.

The chanting of the monks woke me up at dawn this morning and after flirting over coffee with some trekkers I attended a small ceremony to the household god and then we were off to the market to get supplies. Today is fairly casual as we are all recovering from the party but tomorrow we'll take a walk up to the Everest View Hotel for lunch.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Managing from the Mountaintop - Needs Improvement

Sometimes even the best laid plans must bow to the power of mother nature. While the weather was beautiful yesterday morning - enough that I was actually able to skin down, take a hot shower and get into some clean duds, by noon the wind was picking up and by 3pm had gotten boisterous enough that just as I was getting patched in for the morning meeting connectivity died entirely. Since then connectivity has been hugely unreliable although it seems to have steadied enough now that I can post this. ::fingers crossed::

At least I was sent an update from th team so I know the results of the meeting I was unable to attend.

Sushila got me up early this morning (well, 7:30) and we walked up to see the local holy man. He and his wife were born and raised here and their home is enchantingly traditional, down to the supply of winter fuel in the ground floor - dried yak dung.

We then walked over to the Gompa (monastery) to make a donation and then visited the museum there before walking across town to the Sherpa market to get fresh meat and produce to prepare for the feast/party tonight. So with that said, I'm going to end this post now so I can go help in the kitchen.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Diwali in Namche

It's interesting how Hindu and Buddhist beliefs happily coexist here. Anyway it's Diwali and children of all ages (even grown men) have been going around town in groups and dancing. In exchange they are given money. The meaning/symbolism of the holiday is lost on me. When I ask I'm just told that it's the Festival of Lights. As a notional Jew this only confuses me further. I do see that candles are lit and fried foods eaten so the similarities just add to the confusion.

Ah well. In any case we had a very late and very raucous time in the bar last night. And I have been invited to one of the Sherpa's homes for his family's Diwali party tomorrow night. Plus my hostess has invited me to help her tomorrow to cook Newari food including roti and then climb up to visit the local holy man and bring him food. Obviously I am honoured to accept her generous invitation.

Meanwhile, today is Bhai Tika - when sisters mark their brother's foreheads with a mark like a bindi and brothers give their sisters money. Dunno why (again my questions are met with shrugs) but I can only support the sentiment.

I guess that at some point I will have to do some research unless a willing volunteer cares to enlighten me.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Namche Bazar

So I think I left off shortly after my rather messianic entry to Namche - on horseback, in the driving snow, one hand clasping my phone to my ear as I participated in the morning meeting and the other clutching a cigarette (of course).

Having decided that I couldn't possibly go on without damaging my back more and/or being a drag on the group, I popped over to Danphe's Bar to have a decent cup of coffee and a chat with fellow ex-pat New Yorker Sushila about where I should stay in Namche. Well, after a bit of discussion, she said "You know, I have a spare room here. You could have that in exchange for a few hours behind the bar each night.". So I asked to see the room and the deal was struck.

Personally I'm delighted. What better way to get to know the community than by working in the very heart of it?

And thus last night found me behind the bar on my trial run.

And this morning I bid farewell to my group and moved myself into the bar. Which, by the way, also offers massage and sauna. So I've had an awesome hot stone massage this morning which has helped my back enormously and my first decent meal in a week (penne with homemade pesto) and a few propositions from mountaineers fresh off of Ama Dablam (those poor guys haven't seen a woman in a month so they can be excused for throwing themselves at me).

Plus I have access to the fastest internet in Namche (not that that is saying much) which should help with managing the team.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Kathmandu - Lukla - Phakding

So I've been generally off comms for the past 2 days other than keeping up with work. That side of things has been fine and I'm pleased with th remote working aspect. I've been able to partake in the morning meetings and get updates from JIRA and check my work email without any problems.

The trekking side of things has been problematic though.

Assembling to go to the airport - in broad daylight.

Ania P. and Anna B.

The Three Anias

 First off, just getting to Lukla was a megillah. Normally you get to the airport ~6am and try to get on the first available flight possible. The weather window opens and closes all the time so the earlier you get the the higher you are on the list for a flight. So by the time we got to the airport at 10:30 there was already quite a queue. In the end we spent most of the day there with all of our bags in a pile in the centre of the hall and taking it in turns to sleep on the baggage and/or guard it. In the end the group and its baggage were separated over 3 flights with the last few just squeaking into Lukla on the last flight of the day at about 6pm. By then the sun was setting and we were fairly shattered from the stress of it all.

Getting bussed out to the plane

Now most people would have just accepted the inevitable, spent the night in Lukla and adjusted the itinerary accordingly. But no, what actually happened is that we undertook a dangerous night hike from Lukla to Phakding. I'm not sure that the other trekkers understood the dangers. The group rapidly separated into fast, medium and slow hikers. There were points when the path split and none of the hikers knew which way to go and had to wait until one of the guides got there to point the way. I took 2 nasty falls, gashing my knee pretty badly and exacerbating my already dodgy back (from sleeping on the baggage at the airport).

All things considered, it was a miracle that only 1 of us was injured and fortunate that that was all that went wrong. Many trekkers are unaware of this but there are other dangers - there are people living wild in those mountains and they do come out to rob the unwary, particularly at night. Worse than that, every year trekkers go missing. Sometimes the bodies are found, and sometimes they are still intact.

In fact, I heard later that a trekker had gone missing from that stretch of trail just the night before.

So the next morning, even after taking some painkillers, I could barely move. Our guides did not offer me any advice/guidance/suggestions. In the absence of any help from the guides, I was initially going to just stay in Phakding and let the rest of the group go on without me until I had an idea - rent a horse! This way I could at least get to Namche where there are massages and, if needed, medical facilities. And it had to be better than being abandoned in Phakding where there is absolutely nothing. The cost was only $100 which, frankly, is what I spend on taxis on a Saturday night out so the call went out out get me a horse.

And so Rocky was procured. I have to say that I was slightly worried by the fact that I've never actually sat on a horse before (although I have ridden camels and elephants). As a New York Jew  I've never even been on a pony ride in Central Park (Horses? Feh! Filthy beasts and they bite - for what do you want to sit on a horse?). But as luck would have it, it turns out that I'm a rather good horsewoman and was able to keep my seat on even the steepest gradients. There were times, however, when I thought it might be best to get off the beast and hobble my way up or down - put it this way, if Rocky was getting fractious I figured it was a good bet to let him have his head rather than stay seated. I'm sure he knew better than me). I even rode him across bridges!

I'm not sure why I was able to ride with my back like this when I couldn't walk but who am I to argue - it just worked. And this way I was able to avoid the hell that is Namche Hill. I may even do this next time unless I can source an elephant instead. ;-) Anyway, I'll be sure to insert photos when I get back (Update 27-11-12: Photos inserted).

As we approached Namche the weather closed in and it started to snow  We were all pretty damned grateful to get to our lodge - the Kongde View. I'll be staying in Namche for the next week or so while the rest of the group continue on to Gokyo to let my back heal while everyone else goes on. Not sure if I'll remain in this hotel or find a nicer one but after today's morning meeting I'll have a word with the proprietress of Danphe's Bar (a fellow New Yorker) to get her take on which is the nicest hotel in Namche. Yet again there has been no guidance or help from the trekking company. Not that I would trust any advice from these jokers but you would expect them to say something!

And I'll be honest with you, I'm not that disappointed to be "stuck" here. I wanted to spend more time in Namche - there's so much to see with local monasteries and nice day hikes. I've previously said that I think the Khumbu treks should allow more time to spend getting to know the communities and cultures, so now I get my chance!

And I promise to keep you all posted!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Pre-Trek in Kathmandu

So I've been palling around in Kathmandu with Anna P and Anna K, doing loads of shopping and a bit of sight-seeing. Most of the group arrived last night so we did dinner at Rum Doodle while the rest of the troupe arrived today so I subjected everyone to dinner and folkdancing at Nepali Cholu.

Meanwhile I'm on the edge of collapse already between the jetlag and the noisiness of this hotel. My room at the Tibet Guest House seems to overlook a house where they only get their water from a well with a noisy handpump plus a screaming baby and a barking dog. So I've hardly slept for 3 nights but at least we fly to Lukla in the morning and then exhaustion will shepherd Morpheus to me.

On the plus side, working remotely seems to be working well. I've got my Nepali sim (which involved a ridiculous amount of red tape including scanning my passport and visa and fingerprinting plus passport photos!) so can get patched into audio conferences and my remote office is working fine if a bit awkward. The interface is a bit fiddly on the kindle because it's so tiny. JIRA and Confluence still working fine but Monday will be the real test of those as we will be doing our big weekly catch-up and planning.

Right, I've got to go now and pack up the bits that I want to stay at the hotel and the bits that I want to have laundered while I'm away.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Final beta testing

OK so we have confirmed that it is possible for someone to call me and then patch me on for the orning meetings. Clare ran the meeting this morning and Pam ran the board with only the teensiest of prompts from me.

The only problem is that the Hard Token issued to me just isn't working. This could be a crisis as without it I won't be able to access my work email and a vital component of my plan to work remotely goes down the pan.

UPDATE: Got the hard token to work at last! It took a stroll to the helpdesk to actually loom menacingly over someone but it was worth it as I can now check my email remotely. Excelsior!

So right now I'm assembling all of my tech and making sure it's all fully charged. Matching converters. Making sure I have all the right attachments. And Pam has been a star and lent me an unlocked phone so I can have one with Nepali SIM and my iPhone with UK SIM. I just need to remember to try to keep everythng charged when possible and to keep the wifi and bluetooth turned off as they just suck up all the juice.

Dare I say that I begin to have hope again that this mad plan may actually work?

Anyway will generally be off comms until I get to Kathmandu. My glight to Mumbai leaves Heathrow at 10am so I'll be up crazy early and my poor mom will pick me up to ferry me to the airport for a 7am check-in. I plan to try to stay up late watching the American election so it'll be easier to sleep on the 9 hour flight to India. And I've found the smoking lounges at Mumbai airport so that's alright for my 9 hour layover.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Last Minute Panic Repack

So there's been some confusion over itineraries for Gokyo Ri each of which has a knock-on affect to my planning and therefore my packing. At this point it's anyone's guess what the hell my kit list is comprised of. Have lost the will, you know? My living room is utterly festooned with colour coded and sized stuffed sacks.

Anyway, theoretically we go back to my original plan to drop caches of clothes along the way. Theoretically. Frankly I don't trust any itinerary that crosses my path right now and have probably overpacked in my resultant confusion.

So now the new (and original) itinerary is:

Day 01: Arrival at Kathmandu airport and transfer to hotel. (8/9/10 November)
Day 02: Fly to Lukla (2804m) to Phakding (2610m) / 3 hr trek / overnight stay at lodge. (Subject to weather) (11 November)
Day 03: Phakding (2610m) to Namche Bazar (3441m) / 6hr trek / overnight at lodge.
Day 04: A day to acclimatise in Namche Bazar, overnight at lodge.
Day 05: Namche (3441m) to Thame (3800m) / 4hr trek / overnight at lodge.
Day 06: Thame (3800m) to Khumjung (3780 m) / 5hr trek / overnight at lodge.
Day 07: Khumjung (3780 m) to Dole (4040m) / 5hr trek / overnight at lodge.
Day 08: Dole (4040m) to Machhermo (4470m) / 4 ½hr trek / overnight at lodge.
Day 09: Machhermo (4470m) to Gokyo (4790m) / 5hr trek / overnight at lodge.
Day 10: Gokyo (4790m) to Gokyo Ri (5483m) / 5hr trek / retreat to Gokyo with overnight at lodge.
Day 11: Retreat to Dole (4040m) / 5hr trek / Overnight at lodge.
Day 12: Retreat to Namche (3441m) / 5hr trek / Overnight at lodge.
Day 13: Retreat to Lukla (2804) / 6hr trek / Overnight at lodge.
Day 14: Early morning flight to Kathmandu / Overnight at hotel. (Subject to weather) (23 November)
Day 15: Transfer to airport for departure from Nepal. (Departing 25 November)

I haven't had the heart to update my Outlook calendar but in that regard there's been something of a stroke of luck and the timings are less critical now. When I was over loast year it was summertime so the time difference was 4:45 which was what I had based my assumptions on for this trek (reasonably enough), HOWEVER it turns out that Nepal does not offset an hour between summer and winter SO the new time difference is 5:45 so there should be absolutely no problems with my being off the trail and available for the morning meeting and to connect for emails during the same time that my team is in the office.

Update: I've just weighed my rucksack and it's coming in at 12.7 kilos. which is awesome because I usually pack right up to my limit. So I will have weight allowance for shopping on the way home. My daysack, which will be my carry on, only currently has my first aid kit, tent mules and map but I will be adding all my tech kit to that so in the end I should have the two adding up to the 20 kilo limit advised by the trekking company. Success!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Pre-trek Vital Statistics

I've measured and weighed myself in order to do a little exercise to see how much physical improvement the trek will impart.

Blood Pressure - 120/80 which is pretty damned good so not sure I'll see much improvement on this
Weight 143 lbs. :-(
Measurements - 40"x30"x38"

I don't expect to see much movement on the weight but I am hoping that my layer of fat will, in part, be transformed into more muscle as happened last year. That said, I don't expect as dramatic a change as last time because I'm fitter and thinner and this trek will be 4 days shorter. Nonetheless, should be interesting to track.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Island Peak?

Is it utterly mad that I'm now thinking about going back (yet again!) after next year's trek back to EBC to try doing Island Peak? Where/when will this madness end?!?!

And how will that fit in with my plans to do Mt. Elbrus and Kamchatka and Mustang and Macchu Pichu and Antarctica?

I really must get a will made. And work up a timeline.


Managing from the Mountaintop - Planning Handover

So I'm beginning to reach the panic point. I've been doing as much planning and risk mitigation as I think I can but the reality is starting to hit. Cause listen folks, this shit is gonna be hard.

I had a session today to explain my planning and processes for connectivity to upper management.

1. We've come up with a way for me to be called and then patched in to the morning standups. This will be cheaper and use less juice than skyping in via kindle.

2. I've added all the conference numbers to my skype account anyway

3. I've decided to bring my Macbook Air in addition to my kindle because it's hard to do any actual computing or labour intensive work on the kindle. I know, I'm a wuss

4. I've ordered a bluetooth headset to ease being on the phone while on laptop or kindle

5. I may get a second handset so that I have one for UK number and 1 for Nepali number

6. I've tested the RSA hard token to access my company's internal systems. Good thing because I need to get my password reset because of the switch from soft to hard token.

7. I will train Pam to run the Jira board and Clare will run the actual morning meetings. This is because, while I will be dialled in I may not be in a position to get wifi. I think it's better to set things up this way than to hope for the best.

8. I will produce a series of training recordings so that people can refer to them instead of me for the new functionality that has been created

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Actual Itinerary - Gokyo Ri Trek

Sorry, after all that bitching earlier it only just dawned on me that y'all don't know the itinerary. 

So, where it says Day 02 on the list below, that will be November 11th to put it into context

Day 01 Arrival at Kathmandu airport and transfer to hotel. Group meeting programme for detailed information about trekking. Overnight at hotel.

Day 02 Fly to Lukla (2804 mt.), trek to Phakding (2610 mt.). Walking 3 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 03 Phakding to Namche Bazar (3441 mt.). Walking 6 hours. Overnight at guest house. (honestly I think this day will be a killer. Mongcho to Namche is bad enough)

Day 04 Acclimatization day in Namche Bazar. Overnight at guest house.

Day 05 Namche to Dole (4040 mt.). Walking 4 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 06 Dole to Machhermo (4470 mt.). Walking 4 ½ hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 07 Machhermo to Gokyo (4790 mt.). Walking 5 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 08 Gokyo to Gokyo Ri (5483 mt.) and retreat to Dole. Walking 7-8 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 09 Dole to Tyangboche (4040 mt.). Walking 5-6 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 10 Tyangboche  to  Monjo. Walking 5 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 11 Monjo to Lukla. Walking 5 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 12 Early morning fly back to Kathmandu. Overnight at hotel.

Day 13 Transfer to airport for departure from Nepal.

Although obviously now the Day 13 is also incorrect as we are all in Kathmandu for several more days. 

I don't mind the change to the return route as it's an interesting pass from Gokyo to Dole and for those who followed my blog last year, you will know that I had to walk past Thyangboche as the monks were meditating. I think the Day 09 walk to Monjo is optimistic and frankly I would prefer to spend another night in Namche (I dig that berg) but Mongcho to Lukla is good because the Namche- Lukla walk is a bit much.

At Lukla I'll probably try to break off to stay at the Sunny Gardens again because they have such nice beds, en suite bathrooms (!!!) and the best veggie burger I've ever had and I ain't a veggie.

Managing from the Mountaintop - Planning Madness

Wow. Ok so I did a little exercise in translating the Gokyo Ri Itinerary to my Outlook calendar including timezone shift so that it would be clear to my team when I would be available to work. In the course of this I checked a few things that were niggling me with the trek leader over in Nepal.

Well. All I can say is that it's a good thing I did. It turns out that the itinerary that I originally had was wrong. In the end, after much to-ing and fro-ing, it transpired that the itinerary I was given was off by 2 days and the return route was wrong. Frankly I had thought it looked  a little odd - there were 2 days of trekking which looked weird because I know the area and they looked like quite a bit of milling about. And indeed, the optional day hike(s) for the rest day at Namche had been pulled out and described as separate days of hiking.

On top of that, the "original" itinerary was a straight shot there and back but it now transpires that it's actually more of an ellipse and the return is via a different route. The nice thing about this is that we will see more BUT it affects my planning because I was going to drop caches of laundry so that I would have clean and fresh clothing. So I'm going to have to rethink how I manage that.

Also this means I need to study the variation to the route. Luckily I know most of the new leg from last year. I'm just worried that everything will be ok for the other trekkers. I mean, we all booked our flights based on the intial understanding of the schedule so now we will have an extra 2 days in Kathmandu. Will they have to pay for 2 days extra accommodation and food? I know some folks are on a tight budget so I hope it doesn't cause too much hardship. 

I'm just glad I discovered this now rather than there! After all, we'll be flying out in one week and that doesn't give folks much time if they need to alter their plans. Personally I don't mind a few extra days to kick around Kathmandu. I may even take a day trip to see another city or something.

Anyway, really glad I embarked on my planning exercise to get everything scheduled with my team. I'll be distributing my Nepalese phone number to them so that they can call me and we will be scheduling our daily stand-ups so that I can skype in (although I hope they can figure out a way to call me and patch me in as that will be both cheaper and use less of my precious batteries). Plus it will be hard to both skype AND run the Jira board simultaneously on my kindle.

I also still need to record webex's of how to do some things on Jira and Confluence, train Pam in the admin duties, and hand her admin access.

Oh crap, and I have to redo half of the entries in my calendar to reflect the new understanding of the itinerary and then reflect that in the scheduling of our morning stand-ups.

It'll get there but in the meantime, please don't forget to donate to TNMOC. The button is on the right side of this page, it's really quick and easy and, of course, ALL proceeds go to The National Museum of Computing.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

New funding enables TNMOC to seize the opportunity to support schools in computing learning

New funding enables TNMOC to seize the opportunity to support schools in computing learning

"Any self-respecting science needs to understand its past" 30 October 2012 New pump-prime funding is enabling The National Museum of Computing to develop its unrivalled, hands-on, computer learning programme for schools, colleges and universities. This year, the Museum is already on target to quadruple the number of visiting groups who have an educational and often hands-on experience spanning the 1940s Colossus to the 2011 Touchtable, from valves and tapes to chips and touchscreens. 

 The new funding has come from Google UK and private individuals and is already enabling TNMOC to increase the number of educational group visits, and to enhance those students' experiences with more hands-on activities with TNMOC's unique range of working vintage computers.

 You can read the full release here:

Monday, 29 October 2012

Weather forecast - EBC

The weather forecast for Everest Base Camp. Closest I can get to Gokyo Ri and I figure it's close enough as it's just the next valley over. Guess it's coming from the Pyramid weather station?

Weather by meteoexploration

Meteotest is an excellent resource and this info shoudl help tremendously with my decisions about what to have in my final mix for packing.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

A Wee Snort

I always bring a wee snort of whisky (well, 10oz. if I'm to be honest) and have selected my tipple for the Gokyo Ri trek. And the winner is... Chapter 11 from the English Whisky Company. 

I think that legally it has to be called a single malt rather than a whisky but I don't care, it's gorgeous.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Walking Boots

Your boots will probably be the most important piece of kit that you buy. All it takes is one tiny blister to destroy your hike.

My first suggestion is that if you don't have good walking boots, buy some NOW and start breaking them in.  I wear new boots several days/week for several months before I take them out on the mountain.

Look for good ankle support, something like a vibram sole, waterproof, etc. Personally I wear 2 pairs of socks with my boots (1 thin inner and 1 thick outer which is sometimes referred to as the double-socking method) so if you plan to do that make sure you're wearing them when you try on the boots. And leave enough room in the toes for your foot to travel on descent.

Update: My brother reminds me of a quote from our fave author, Robert Heinlein: "If possible, have your feet clean and dry. Smear your feet all over and especially between your toes with cold cream. Or Vaseline, carbolated is best. Use lots, a thick layer. Then put on socks-clean if possible, dirty if you must, but don't skip them-and put your boots on. When you first stand up, it feels as if you'd stepped into a barrel of soft soap. But your feet Will thank you for it and you won't get jungle rot between your toes. Or not as much. Take care of your feet, Ted, and keep your bowels open." -Time Enough For Love

Hopefully such measures won't be necessary where you are trekking. And I really must read that book again. Maybe I'll download it for Gokyo Ri.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Managing from the Mountaintop - Software Selection and Implementation

Sorry I've been a bit lackadaisical but no worries, everything is copacetic. It's just a bit difficult maintaining this and prepping for a trek and managing my project while occasionally making efforts to maintain my relationship as well.

Anyway, apart from building Shelving and wardrobes and working on the house and all that shit, lets go back 3 weeks to when I returned to work from the team holiday. We had an ongoing problem in that there was a distinct lack of visibility between the folks on the development floor and TPTB. I was doing daily reporting to TPTB but, nonetheless, the inevitable BS that gets in the way of declaring work DONE was not being communicated effectively.

I've run into this sort of problem before - how do I bridge the gap between the project plan and people working day-to-day without boggng them down in endless and profitless reporting cycles? I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty of how and why I selected my solution because, honestly, I've been through this any number of times over the years. Suffice it to say that I have wanted to use Jira by Atlassian for ~3 years but have been thwarted by the sort of projects that I tend to work on (global enterprise). So my options have been to buy software for this purpose that then needs to be approved for installation and management on corporate infrastructure (a project in itself), or use an on-demand service based outside fo the corporate infrastructure (which always gives security the willies).

Fortunately my programme manager at the site had previous experience with Atlassian products from his previous project - managing ~50 people so when I happened to be wearing my Angry Nerds shirt to the office one day, we very naturally got into the conversation about using it on our project.

And that's it - within minutes we were up and running. I signed up for the JIRA OnDemand evaluation for <10 users and had set up our issues board and started populating it. I'd called the entire team in to be onsite for the day and we did a monster all-singing, all-dancing project re-planning session. The post-it notes were flying all over the shop!

Next all I had to do was to translate the post-its to the Jira board, creating issues, assigning them as appropriate, including estimates and breaking them out into the sprints.

As the week progressed we learned to use things like commenting and including things like @joe.bloggs in order to make sure that the right people are aware of problems, how to create subtasks and dependencies, etc. The team responded really positively and then started coming up with ideas and requests of their own and so we then got Confluence OnDemand so that we could set up a Team Calendars and a Project Wiki so that we're now working collaboratively on our documentation. Hallelujah! Goodbye knowledge silos!

It's not perfect. There are definitely improvements that I'd like to see (although to be fair I'm still learnign how to use the toolset and may just not have figured out how to do everything I want yet) but it certainly beats the pants off of working from project plans that are always out of date almost as soon as they're updated.

And then it dawned on me. I now had a web interface to my project. I could use this when I'm working remotely...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Does Scrum really work for remote teams?

Woke up this morning to find an invite to a meetup entitled 

Does Scrum really work for remote teams? Had to RSVP No due to the fact that I will be remotely managing my team from Nepal. Shame really as it's obviously a topic that is currently of interest to me.

Anyway, I've asked the group for advice so hopefully someone with more experience fo doing this will visit and give input. Can't hurt to ask, right?

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Managing from the Mountaintop - Hardware

In my last post I laid out the backstory. To recap briefly, I had agreed to do the Gokyo Ri trip on condition that I continue working while away. As mentioned in a post at the time this is generally logistically possible due to the 4.5 hour time difference so theoretically I should be able to do several hours of trekking then spend the afternoon online.But this assumed that I would lug my big laptop AND that I would be able to get online.

It was about this time that, due to budgetary constraints, my team was asked to take off a few weeks in September. So I grabbed the chance to visit my family in NYC and dutifully packed my heavy company Dell so that I would still be able to check emails and attend a few meetings. What I did NOT remember to pack was my kindle. 

::shock:: ::horror:: ::gasp:: ::swoon::

Although I bought myself a physical book at the airport, I soon realised that it just wasn't the same. Unbelievably I've become so accustomed to using an eReader that that the physical interface was unsatisfying. ::sigh:: Fortunately I was getting to the states just in time to order the brand spanking new kindle fire HD and get it delivered to my brother's house the day it came out AND due to the exchange rates it only cost £129 at which price it almost becomes disposable. I quickly ordered it without really examining the specs beyond battery life and price.

Well, the kindle was delivered on September 15th and WOW, was I surprised? I was used to my old kindle with the doddering web browser and the display that took me back to the days when I used to use pine or elm for my email. Remember those days? The point is, when I'd ordered the fire I hadn't clocked that I was ordering a tablet. I can be pretty dim sometimes.

That was it, I spent the rest of the day playing with my new toy, setting up email, setting up skype, facebook, photos, whatever. Sadly I was (and currently still am) unable to buy any apps like office or webex because I do not have a US credit card associated with my Amazon account. ::grumble::

And then the question dawned on me - what hardware should I bring to Nepal? Company Dell or Macbook Air? Old kindle that is a power miser or new kindle that guzzles juice? Getting past the questionable wifi, will I even be able to charge these things? Should I bring my solar charger? Is the benefit worth the weight impact?

All of these questions were roiling around in my mind when I got back from NYC and got back to managing my team.

Next Post I start finding solutions and my plan for connectivity in Nepal begins to clarify.

In the meantime, please don't forget to donate to TNMOC and that ALL proceeds will go to the museum.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Managing from the Mountaintop - Background

When I decided to go to Gokyo Ri, it was with the understanding between my client and myself that I would continue to work while on the trail. The next logical question would be, "How?".

Before I get into that I suppose that it's time to tell y'all a little bit more about who I am and what I do. Basically I'm a freelance project manager who, for my sins, tends to work on software projects often focused on delivering EMC Documentum. And because I'm freelance, if I'm not working then I'm not getting paid.

Therefore I'm no stranger to remote working and most of my clients issue me with a corporate laptop and secure access to their systems so that I can work from home 1 or 2 days/week. And I've even been known to work that way when doing things like going fishing in Portugal or visiting my family in NYC. Indeed my current team is distributed so we are lucky to see one another in the flesh 1/week and during the recent London Olympics I didn't go into the office for 3 weeks at a time!

But my glib proposal to work from the Himalaya was a horse of a different feather. While this trip and the next will be during the high season and I'm more likely to find wifi, what do I do when there isn't any connectivity? And do I really want a big heavy laptop in my daysack taking up valuable shopping space? And if I wasn't going to lug around the corporate laptop, how was I going to work?

So with those questions in mind, I'm now beginning a series of posts with the prefix "Managing from the Mountaintop" that will endeavour to answer those questions from a hardware, software, and process perspective. Keep tuned.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Everest Prep - Isle of Skye

I've just booked a long weekend fell walking on the Isle of Skye. It's 3 weeks before we leave for Nepal for the TNMOC Trek to Everest Base Camp and I'm praying that this will help to whip me into shape as I'm sure most of the goodness gleaned from the Gokyo Ri trek will have worn off by then. :-(

Anyway I sorta lucked out because I still had my easyjet flights for the EMC Momentum conference in Vienna that I'm now not going to as it clashed with Nepal so I was able to change the flights for a small charge (at least a smaller charge than buying new tickets. easyjet doesn't do favours, even for charity). 

And I have 1 bag booked for the hold so I'll be able to buy a few good bottles of whiskey while I'm up there which ought to mollify my poor, long-suffering boyfriend. Sorry honey-bunny, that's yet another weekend I shan't be home. 

But enough about me - please justify my pain, donate to TNMOC. It's very easy, there's a button just on the right of this post and ALL proceeds go to TNMOC!!!

Berkhamsted - Hemel Hempsted

Did an enjoyable little hike yesterday comprised of a circular hike around Berkhamsted in the morning then lunch and a walk along the canal to Hemel Hempsted in the afternoon.

We met at Euston @8:30am yesterday for the trip to Berkhamsted. I'm really enjoying London-Hikers for the variety of walks, the frequency of the walks and the dedication of the membership. Also the membership are fairly dedicated and so at this point there are always people on the walks that I have met on previous walks as well as nice new people to meet. Perfect, right?

Anyway, I was surprised at how good the circualr walk in Berkhamsted was. I'm not entirely  unfamiliar with the area becuse my ex-in-laws live ther and in fact we walked right past their home but I'd had no idea that there are good rambles just behind their house. There were cute little donkeys, spotted pigs, horsies, and interesting flora.

We finished uo walking along Berkhamsted Common

to Berkhamsted Castle

Which is rather near and dear to my heart due to its association with Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. A nice addition to the walk was a historic presentation by one of the hikers at the castle. I bit my tongue because I was anxious to contribute my bit but perhaos next time I'll work with the other hikers to assemble a more complete story.

Lunch was at The Boat on the canal in Berkhamsted. Not a bad pub and they get extra points for having a very friendly Maine Coon.

We then had a good long stroll along the Grand Junction Canal to Hemel Hempsted.

Next lot of pics from Tunde @ London-Hikers

So, a very enjoyable though sedate hike. Nonetheless I managed to do something to my left knee and am having trouble bending it. I'm tempted to hobble my way down to the pharmacist today for a consultation as I've never had it feel this way before.

Still, one of the Anias was on the walk and while we were discussing Nepal and our fitness, or lack thereof, for the upcoming trek she came up with such a blindingly brilliant idea for prep. And here it is: Greenwich Hill. The hill up to the Greenwich Observatory is really fucking steep - we need to use that for training. Genius! It's only a few blocks from my house and she only lives the next stop away from me so we can do this in company. Ania, just let me know when is convenient! Let me tell you, even 1 ascent of this fucker will hurt your average punter. One hour of this would be far beyond that. So, that's the plan children. Anyone want to join?