24 January 2022

Gyrn Ddu

The cat had run out of worm medication, so I had to pop by the vet's. They are in Caernarfon, which is to the west of where I live. I decided I might as well seize the opportunity to do a walk somewhere in the West. It is not a direction I go often! And I had had the look at the map. There was a ridge of three hills that way; I had never been on them. I had been on hills on either side; on the one side there was Bwlch Mawr, That I had once scampered up when I was on its flank anyway in order to visit Seler Ddu with the PCG. On the other side was the Eifl, where I had been once on either side of the ridge (south with my sister, north with Fiona). But this very ridge, with Gyrn Ddu as the highest hill in the middle, I had never been on. And I thought this might be a good opportunity!

My business with the vet was quickly resolved, so onwards I went. I parked up and found the public footpath. There is no path Over the ridge, but there is a path that starts you off in the right direction for all of kilometre or so. And then you're on your own! But it was okay. I walked up the rather steep slope of Moel Pen Llechog  in the clear noise of the road. By the time I got to the plateau at the top it was pretty much lunchtime, but I hadn't had coffee yet. So that happened first! One needs priorities in life. And the views were nice.

I headed towards Gyrn Ddu. In order to get there I had to cross a saddle with a lot of old agricultural land. It was an amazing landscape! And I crossed the actual public footpath. I wasn't going to follow it, though; I wanted to go over the ridge. So I left the comfortable path and scrambled through heather and scree slopes. Progress wasn't fast, but it was nice to be somewhere so rarely trodden. I was soon following a drystone wall that went in the right direction. It didn't quite go over the top of Gyrn Ddu; for that I had to veer off to the right and do some scrambling onto a block field. And the views were vanishing! I was wondering if I should just forget about the last peak: Gyrn Goch. But I sat down for lunch while contemplating that, and in that time the view cleared again. So I was good to go again!

I was on the top of Gyrn Goch in no time. From there I knew I just should bushwhack down the slope until I would come across a path. That would lead me back in the direction of civilisation. I was wondering if I would have the time and the energy to explore the quarry on the side of the mountain, but I was soon deciding I didn't. I just walked back to the car. It took me about half an hour. I'll come back one day to see that quarry! During my walk back I had a good opportunity for having a look from a distance. When you drive past, you need to keep your eyes on the road. And I don't think my plan for walking around would have worked. This will be for another day! But I am convinced you can get to the quarry from the public footpath. And if I am there anyway I might check out some farms that looked abandoned! I like these days where you tick something off the list, but something else immediately replaces it…

Eifl range from Moel Pen Llechog

Coffee and cake!


Old agricultural landscape

Scree on Gyrn Ddu

View on Gyrn Goch

Stone wall geometry

23 January 2022

Hesitant start of side gig

On the night my side gig would kick off I made sure to log in a few minutes early. I wanted to make sure all was well, and I like a few minutes of chat before the session starts. Unless I'm not ready on time, I always log into my Welsh session a few minutes early as well.

The technology worked. I was in! And I immediately saw that a participant was logging in too. Good! It took a while before she was in, though. But she got there. And soon afterwards I saw a second person logging in. And quite soon Cecilia, one of my contact people, appeared too. But after that, no new faces appeared. The first login counted for two; it was a married couple using one computer. But three in total, that'll still a lot less than I had hoped. Cecilia said she was going to check her email and her phone and what not to see if anyone had got in touch with her, with technical difficulties or something. But after a while she reappeared. She had nothing! What to do? Courses like this have minimum number of participants, and it is higher than three. Should we just call it off? Should we just see what the matter was and try again next week? Should I just do the whole session for only these three? There was some discussion. One of the participants also pointed out that they had been charged for this course, even though online courses so far had always been free. Would that be the problem?

After some discussion we agreed that Cecilia would find out if this was what the problem was, and that we would just try again next week. And for now the three participants wanted to know what I would have said if I would have gone along. I kept it a bit brief; I didn't want to run through the entire two hour session twice. So I focused on the climate bit; in the beginning I have some general introduction but I skipped that. And I skipped some stuff I had bolted on at the end.

It wasn't as I had hoped it would go, but it was nice to have a bit of a climate chat with three interested people. Altogether we were on the call for about an hour. And then we said our goodbyes! I would have another chat about the situation with Cecilia the next day.

I don't know what will happen now! Will we get sufficient numbers next week? I sure hope so! But even if not; the course exists now. And there will be other people interested. Cecilia had already had contact with a group of Quakers who were also interested! I think sooner or later this course will run. But well, I had had a nice hour! And that is worth something too…

21 January 2022

Getting better at Zoom

My side gig takes place on Zoom. I have used Zoom before, but I have never used it for teaching. When I teach I normally use Blackboard Collaborate, and if I just have one-to-one meetings I tend to use Teams. I am used to doing things like sharing screen in Blackboard Collaborate and Teams, but not in Zoom. So I would have a practice session with the Adult Learning Wales IT support team to run through it.

The first issue we had was some confusion that had its root 46 years ago. I had registered as Margo, as that is officially my name. But they had noticed I call myself Margot. So IT had first given me an email address with Margo in it, but then, on their own initiative, made another one with Margot in it. So first she had to wrestle with which account to use; did we need both, could she just kill one of them? But which? We settled on the account with the t. I am quite used to having accounts with that name.

Then there was Zoom itself. I started a meeting and invited Sarah, the IT lady, into it. The first thing that happened was that the software was using the wrong camera, microphone and speakers. That was quickly sorted. The next step was: showing my PowerPoint. If you present a PowerPoint, you normally put it in full screen mode. That means you have to share that entire screen with Zoom. But things got weird. I normally use two screens. My laptop screen is in their somewhere as well, but I don't really use that. It just shows the same as my main screen. But now suddenly my laptop screen and my main screen showing different things. One of them had the full screen presentation on it, and the other one had presenter view. And my cursor would only go onto one of these. And the problem was that Sarah saw my presenter view. That's not how I want it! In presenter view, your slides are quite small, because there also has to be space for the upcoming slide and for notes. Showing my PowerPoint like that would make the fonts quite small. We had to sort that. But I didn't understand what the computer was doing anyway!

Our session was also lit up by funny sounds coming from Sara's side: I heard growling, and it turned out that she had her dog lying under the desk, and it heard someone outside. Quite cute!

Sarah didn't quite know either. I did a quick Google. I first googled on how to present PowerPoints in Zoom, but that didn't help. Then I just googled how you can make PowerPoint put the full screen view on the secondary monitor. And that turned out to be very easy! So I just moved my camera around, put Zoom on my main screen, and presented on the secondary one, which I shared. And that worked! Sarah now had the view I wanted her to have.

We also checked whether I can see raised hands (yes) or the chat (no) while presenting. And lastly, I sent her off into a breakout room. That worked fine! And then I had no further questions. I felt ready for the actual presentation!

20 January 2022

Side gig admin

A new teaching job comes with new teaching admin! I had to get the course material together, of course, but I also needed to provide information for the participants so they know what they got themselves into, and a lesson plan for the organisation. The information for participants was not much work; I was just asked to provide a paragraph of information per session. As I pretty much had the material ready, that was easily done!

The lesson plan was more work. I was expected to submit a breakdown per 10 minutes what I would be doing in every session. That's a bit difficult if you've never actually met the people you will be teaching! Or not even group anything like them. I mean, if you have taught a course in University a few times, you get an idea of how it goes down with the average cohort of students. But I've never taught retirees before! But I made something up. I'm sure I am free to diverge a bit from this schedule.

Communicating all this was another thing. They were sending me emails on my private email account, and sometimes they seemed to get a bit lost. And some of them I seemed to not get it all. I noticed they had created an adult education Wales email address for me, but I assume that was just an alias of my private mail. That was a bit of a silly thought. I had a proper account, on Microsoft Office 365, but the login information had never quite reached me. Only the day before the course happened, I communicated with their IT support and got in. That was great! Now I don't have to worry about important emails being lost in my Gmail. I just have a separate mailbox for it. And all the other Office appliances involved.

It probably would have been a good idea to organise this a bit earlier, but hey, better late than never. I was almost ready to start!

19 January 2022

Back to the Roman Road

Having two jobs should not stop me from enjoying the beautiful surroundings here! So I decided that the weekend before my side gig would kick off I wanted to go into the hills. And I decided on a nice loop; I knew there was still new terrain to see in the vicinity of Llanfairfechan. And the Roman road goes there; even though it is clear and wide, I still like it. I was also still on the mission to one day see the field boundaries cut through by the Roman road, that I had heard about during an online lecture about regional geology, and while talking in person to the archaeologist that had given lecture. Before I had actually planned this trip I had already realised that it was probably not this stretch of Roman road where you could see this, but hey ho. No idea where else, though! The Romans were all over the place; there is an estimated 280 km of Roman roads in the area. Quite a lot of this is now obscured by modern roads, of course; but there is more in good nick than this stretch between Abergwyngregyn and Rowen. I'll ask the next time I see the archaeologists in question. I'm sure he'll pop up again one day.  

I decided to park up in the village, followed a public footpath in the direction of Bwlch y Ddeufaen, But veer off to the left a bit in order to hit the summit of Foel Lwyd; this was a hillock I had never been on. Not too long ago I had been on its neighbour: Tal y Fan, with Kate. But there was more to see! And then I would descend to the Roman Road, and follow it westward to the imaginatively named Garreg Fawr (big rock), which leads you back to town. And so I did!

The first part of my walk was on the road; that is never the most scenic. But this was only just a bit more than a kilometre. And then I was on a path. And a beautiful one it was! And it climbed out of the gorge and onto the plane above it. There I did my veering off to the left, and ended up enjoying the views from Foel Lwyd. From there you look down on Bwlch y Ddeufaen. It looked great!

Once I had tdescended down to the Roman road I was at Garreg Fawr in no time. I had never been there either! It was a pleasant walk back to the village. A good half day in the hills! And still new terrain after eight years of living here…

scenic bridge



on the plateau


Roman road in the distance (parallel with power lines)

view from Foel Lwyd

descending to Bwlch y Ddeufaen


looking back from Garreg Fawr in the direction of Drum

beautiful sheepfold


18 January 2022

Walk in the Moonlight

One evening I was sitting in my office, doing preparations for my side gig. My phone pinged; it was a message from a friend who had sent a picture of the village from above. In the moonlight. He had scampered up the hill! What an amazing idea! I felt like a bit of a dunce. There I was, being of the opinion that my day job was too busy, and somehow trying to solve that with an additional one. And he was out in the moonlight. I absolutely love moonlight! And I decided that even two jobs should not stop me from enjoying beautiful nights when they occur. So the day after I just nicked his idea and went up Moel Faban. And it was gorgeous! I didn't need torch at all.

When I got to the top a surprise awaited me; there was a tent there! I figured someone had gone there for reasons of solitude, and I felt a bit too much. I also imagined that if this tent was occupied by one person, they might be a bit spooked by the sound of approaching footsteps. What was the polite thing to do? Just keep walking, pretend I wasn't there? Or approach the tent and say hello, in an attempt to convey I had no bad intentions? I decided on the second. I approached cautiously and said "good evening". No response! Oh well. I kept walking.

I had brought my cameras, and had some attempts at taking long exposure pictures. I had not actually brought a tripod. That doesn't help! But you can sometimes just balance your camera on a rock or something like that. The results weren't great but better than nothing. I was glad I had got out, even though it was only for a walk that was as long as my standard run! There just is something about moonlight. And maybe next time it will be me in a tent in the middle of it…




17 January 2022

The continuing fight for ergonomic hardware

 Since I had swapped my desktop for a laptop, my arms had been getting worse again. Somehow the laptop didn't communicate with my voice dictation software as well as the desktop had done. And a lot of improvements had been made, after some initial inertia; the Dragon helpdesk have helped me with audio input, and the University IT helpdesk had been doing some tampering I don't understand. But altogether it still wasn't at the same level as it had been. IT had claimed this was probably due to the laptop having a different version of Office than the desktop; maybe Dragon didn't really work well that? But I checked my version of Dragon, and it was totally compatible with this version of Office. So when the University opened again after Christmas I got in touch with IT again. They had earlier suggested that maybe reimagining the laptop would help, so I asked them if that might still be an option. But then they answered they had got me a desktop ready. I suppose reimagining the laptop wouldn't work if there was nothing wrong with the combination of office and Dragon. I was chuffed! If a desktop doesn't help then at least it doesn't do any damage either. So I went to Bangor and picked it up. The bloke I had been communicating with had asked if I had mouse, keyboard, et cetera? And I answered I indeed had all the peripherals. So when I appeared the bloke on duty duly appeared with just a desktop. I accepted it, thanked him, and left. And when I got home it dawned on me that something was amiss. Yes I had screens, cables for screens, mouse, keyboard, network cable, head set, the works! But there was one thing I didn't have, and that was a power cable for a desktop. Oh dear. And without power they don't work. I wondered if I should contact them, or just quickly get a cheap second hand cable from eBay. I decided for the second option! I didn't have any business in Bangor for a while. So now I had a lovely desktop but it was just standing around like a paperweight.



As soon I have the power cable I need the establish the next issue; will I be able to install Dragon on it? It is a personal licence. And I have already installed it on the second computer, namely my laptop. Will the licence allowing third machine? I really hope so! Watch this space…