Does good tech make you better?

Does good tech make you better?
This is a really interesting topic actually, so good it’s goaded me into writing another blog – after far too long.
Does enhanced tech make for better or more users?
I’m thinking mainly about videographers, editors and the photographic community but actually it relates to most areas of skill, service and business.
Frinstance: I’m in the market for a new car. I call a car retailer and he sends me a video of a new car he has on the forecourt right now, shot on a smartphone. He’s not a good presenter and he’s certainly not a videographer but I get the film just the same. It’s the sort of stuff I’d expect from a 6 year old who thinks (s)he’ll get squillions from a youtube channel he has yet to create. It’s rubbish, but I do like the car, and I like it more for having seen it. But does that make it a good video? No, it makes it a useful one.
Some time later, I’m browsing a post from a colour-grading software company on Facebook and I got a post from a snapper who says “everyone’s a photographer these days – they use lots of tech but if you’re rubbish you’re always rubbish”
Not exactly.
We humans (photographers and others) and our skills do steadily improve over time but as new tech becomes available the market gets wider, more competitive.
When Michelangelo put down his pencil and picked up a brush, he adopted a tech that took him from a jotter who liked  to draw over-muscled Romans and fancy flying machines to the originator of the Sistine Chapel.
Rubbish photographers and videographers will always remain just that. Really good photographers and videographers and one or two really good techies however are getting smarter at making standout films and images but you bet they all use the software – perhaps they have just become good technicians?  Maybe so, but they are still good at spotting, capturing and processing great stuff.
I measure the quality of this stuff by the output.  I hope the work I do is useful but I also hope it’s good.  With film and photography, when I judge something I think looks great, I don’t usually ask what college they went to or what software they used, I look at the quality.   When I’m done, I ask myself if I could do as well as that.
Usually the answer is no, but I’ll keep on trying.

The secret to enjoying a game of Golf.

The Heydon Grange Golf club breathed a sigh of relief as the Griffith motorcade of sensible family cars rolled out of the car park late last Saturday afternoon in a cloud of fine orange dust drawing to a close the 2014 Griffith Golf Tourney.

Every year for about a decade or so my brothers and I have played a round of golf together.  In principle, it’s a family bonding exercise; we grew up together, schooled together, then raised families and explored diverse careers across three counties of southern England.  In practice however it’s a display of some of the worst golf by some of the most shameless cheats you’re ever likely to see followed by arguments and beer.

Now that our kids are old enough to play, we made up a team of seven. Well, six actually with one walker (me) as I was relieved of my clubs from my garage two years back by a thief and spent the insurance money on a flatscreen TV.  Last year I hired clubs for my annual game but this year none were available so I walked.  Determined not to let a small matter like not having any golf clubs spoil my day, I took my GoPro along to generally put people off and in doing so capture the missed putts, bunker fluffs and shocking drives for posterity.

While I set out frustrated at not being able to play, I returned to the clubhouse in high spirits after a good walk unencumbered by a golf bag, bronzed by the bright sun and invigorated by lots of fresh air.  The others meanwhile were hot, lank and belligerent after a ragged game of zigzags across the flinty fairways, alternating as they had for four hours between tall pampas and murky ponds.

This, it transpired, brought about an epiphany.  If you really want to have a good day out on a golf course just leave your clubs at home.

Endure24 2014; It rained, we ran alot, ate meatballs.

Firstly a short apology to my regulars for such a long radio silence. I blog when I feel like it not against a specific timetable which would make it a chore more than a pleasure. Anyway, Endure24 on 28/29th June was a blog-worthy event and I filmed it too so I thought I’d post the video and add a note…

This is my 5th year of attending a summer 24-hour trail-running relay event – The Thunder Run (2010/’11) and Endure24 (2012/’13 and now ’14). I find them irresistible and I’ve filmed the last two.  It’s a 24hr, non-stop, 5-mile, wooded trail relay around the Wasing Estate near Aldermaston and we attended with a team of 7 including this year my unfeasibly fit son Charlie, two of his mates and former Thunder team-mates JohnFol and the eager whippet, Nollie (32 minutes for 5 miles??!!!).

There’s something unique about running with a pack of runners of assorted paces at odd times of the day and night.  Some walk through the night others smash out single loops but all have a great time and there’s a Glasto spirit what with tents, kids, dogs and kitchen sinks.  All that exercise needs fuel and the 24hr food tent took same abuse. I’d like to have known how many meatballs and flapjacks were consumed. Most of them by Charlie and his mates.

Despite some massive thunderstorms which merely added to the fun, our team put in a total of 155 miles in 24 hours (as the senior team member I only put in 3 loops, Charlie managed 5) putting us 29th out of 132 teams in our category. Not half bad.

Watford 10k 2013 (or Batman on the run)

The weather can be a bit risky on May Bank Holiday but this year the sun shone over Cassiobury Park as I followed my mate Mick “The Butcher” chasing his PB over 10k.

Contrary to an earlier post they changed the course this year and there were concerns over bottlenecks on the canal path but the day went off without a hitch and was enjoyed by runners, families, dogs and, er, Batman and Robin….

What actually is technology? A short rant.

advertising guySomething has caught my attention on the telly recently and it’s starting to irk me not a little.  No, it’s not that weather forecasters always say “Let’s take a look”, and add an “a-” to statements for emphasis (what exactly is “Apache rain” anyway?) although in irksomeness that’s up there too. No, I’m irked by the way product advertising is using the word “technology”.

We are awash with ads that exhort product technology: Non-stick technology, Non-slip technology, Stain removal technology, Electro-optical synergy (ELOS) technology for nonablative skin rejuvenation (!) and so on.  We are becoming brainwashed to believe that because something has a technology in it then it must be really good.  “Phew! Thank god that drink’s got L. Casei Immunitas in it – I feel so much better now!”

I have no doubt that technology played a significant part in delivering these fascinating features that the brand owners are so proud of.  But removing spots is not technology; it’s hygiene.  And L. Casei Immunitas (along with Bifidus Regularis) is a bacteria.  The science that goes into creating a product doesn’t make the product scientific.  Besides, much more technology went into making the product in the first place than in adapting a new feature so what’s the take on that?

So I’ve suggested a few rules below that will help us all understand what technology really is:

  • Technology is found inside machines with lights on them and involves the exchange of data governed by coded instructions entered by people with spots wearing lab-coats.
  • The deployment of aforesaid Technology assists in the making of decisions and things by making other things happen faster and more accurately than the ham-fisted, spotty technology folks could manage as their lab-coats would get in the way.
  • Technology is not found in face-cream, socks, glasses, food, frying pans, masking tape, nit-shampoo, hair-dye, probiotic yoghurt or any other inanimate consumer good or any feature thereof nor will it ever be.
  • Everything ever made used technology of some sort not least the wheel which used a chisel
  • I’m not clear as to what technology was used to invent the chisel; this might have been pure serendipity.

Why total recall is bad for your health.

Memory, remember thyself!

Ever since my school days I’ve had a bad memory. What I can remember of them anyway. I had to work hard to remember stuff and write lots of it down in lists or mind-maps and even then my own prompts or efforts at mnemonics often puzzled me minutes after writing them down. While some lapped up history, jotting dates and events, I always preferred English and Art.

elephant-memoryIt always struck me as a gross injustice that I, or anyone for that matter, should be punished for forgetting something. If you forgot to turn up to a meeting then how could you have possibly been there? You forgot; that data was inaccessible at that time so how could you possibly remember? You can’t remember things to order.

Of course if you have a good memory then you can hold a lot of things in mind at once. Some students walk into a history examination with years of coursework all ready to fire up into instant access. For me spontaneous recall is a miracle and bulk ready access to knowledge is nigh impossible. If good mental order is Mondrian then I am Jackson Pollock.

It’s not possible to bear all things in mind all the time otherwise we’d be besieged in a cacophony of memory-bites; prone to overload, leading to the occasional pyrotechnic explosion of thoughts, experiences, memories and images; some good, some bad and most probably a fair portion illegal or at best inappropriate.  And all in explicit detail too.  One factoid too many would become Mr Creosote’s “wafer-thin” mint leading to a projectile disembowelment of history.

And you can’t forget things to order either. Has anyone ever actually WON “The Game”?

There are methods to improve memory so I’m told, ranging from tying your scarf to your handbag strap (there, that should do it) to leaving odd items in inappropriate places (*puts underpants on kettle*) but then you’re faced with the inevitable challenge of remembering why you… You get the picture.

So armed with lists and prompts and pursued by nags and nudges we memorially challenged souls travel on our way delighting in the novelty of things we should already know and blissfully unaware of places we should already be.

Now, what was I doing?

Rain again; perfect running weather!

Sometimes I forget this was supposed to be at least in part a running blog so it’s not just acceptable but essential to talk about running like a geek once in a while.  So if you are reading this and you are a runner (which seems to be most of you judging by your blog titles) then this won’t appear too self-indulgent.  Non-runners might want to re-tune now!

rain runner
I don’t have thighs like this but I do like running in the rain.

Running outside is a pleasure at any time and in countryside such as I am able to enjoy here in Hertfordshire even more so.  Only one thing adds an extra frisson of excitement to a run for me and that’s extreme weather.  Brow-scalding sunshine, a good dump of snow or, as we had here this Christmas week: heavy, horizontal slabs of driving rain.

There’s no such thing as bad weather; only inappropriate clothing.  And over the years my running wardrobe has steadily grown to accommodate most conditions.  Here are some tactics and items that work for me.

– Driving rain can be somewhat blinding which if you’re traipsing through woods can lead to a fall over rocks or roots.  I take a cap with a visor or wear a sweatband to clear the water and keep good visibility

– I warm up well before going out; stretches or press ups get the blood circulating and make the first dousing less of a shock

– In the wet you need a decent jacket; I have a bunch of them. A light Saucony showerproof single-skin, an extra-warm Brooks Silver bullet high visibility and an all-purpose and super-luxury Ashmei (my fave) with merino wool panels

– Top: a Mizuno long-sleeved baselayer for cold weather (below 4 degrees) or a standard long-sleeve wicking running top if above 4 degrees

– Cold-weather Mizuno Breathe Thermo Bio leggings.

– Shoes: Inov8 Roclites or even Mudclaws. These shoes are outstanding and last for ever.  You can hurtle down a wet, grassy hillside with total confidence that you won’t slip.

– Headphones: waterproof CX 680 – indestructable.

I just love that feeling of “Me versus the weather!”.  During my Marathon training in early 2010 I went for several 15 mile runs in deep snow and just loved the extra muscle stretch that demanded.  The cross-country routes I took this week in the rain were just as exhilarating.  With the barren fields completely waterlogged, I splashed and splooshed along to the sounds of DJ Shah’s Magic Island and returned with a Ready-Brek glow only to rinse down with the garden hose which seemed decidedly warm.

Back inside and showered, I refuel with a litre of Lucozade Recovery and a square meal making sure to balance a good loading of carbs and protein and to do so within 15 minutes of getting in to restore the glycogen ready for the next outing.  Bring it on.