Emerald Reverie

Gwmngilfen's blog - Tech, cooking, walking and other randomness from the heart of Scotland

Building a Todo System With Tracks, Openshift, Postgresql, and Mailgun

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Over the last year or so, I’ve been working on my own personal take on Getting Things Done. When I started working from home a little over a year ago, I knew I needed to be productive in the absence of people looking over my shoulder. I also wanted to be better at dealing with the stuff I personally wanted to achieve.

It’s taken a year of tweaking, but I’m going to share with you the system I’ve built, and as you’d expect from me, it’s all open. Let’s get started.

When Is a Desk Not a Desk?

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Sounds like the start of a really bad joke, doesn’t it? Fortunately, this is not a post full of bad puns (well, any more than normal) but about the changes I’ve made to my home office this last week or two.

Why, Hello There, Octopress

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Unless you’re reading this on a braille reader, you’re probably wondering what happened to my blog. The theme has changed, the sidebar is different, the background image different, and so on. What gives?

Walking the Arran Coastal Path - Day 7

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  • Walk distance: 8.3 miles
  • Walk time: ~4.5 hours
  • GPX file
  • KML view on Google Maps





Goatfell from SannoxGoatfell from Sannox

So we come to the final day, and we still hadn’t made a decision about the towering mass of Goatfell. The plan throughout the week had been to do Goatfell on the last day. There were two reasons for this; one, to do it when we were supposedly at out fittest, and two, to look back from the highest point of Arran on everything we had walked over the course of the week.

Walking the Arran Coastal Path - Day 6



Day 6 - Lochranza to Sannox





The Arran Alps
So, the penultimate day, taking in the north coast of Arran as well as a famous scientific landmark. Better yet, our target for the day was, in fact, the very cottage we were staying in! As such, we could leave the heavy weight in our room, and take just one light pack with food, water, and first aid kit. Joy!

The weather was again bright and clear, and we were expected high temperatures. After a superb breakfast from out hosts, we were driven back to Lochranza to start the day. We stopped to grab a picture of the so-called Arran Alps; a view of Goatfell and it’s lower siblings from the north. We then started off around Loch Ranza and picked up the northern trail to Hutton’s Unconformity.

Ex-scientist ponders the Unconformity
Hutton’s Unconformity is a place on the north coast of Arran where two different rock strata meet, but at almost 90 degrees. Along with a number of other similar formations around Scotland, this helped Hutton disprove the geological theories of the day, and in doing set some of the principles of modern geology (including establishing it as a proper science). That it has a splendid view of northern Kintyre and Bute does nothing to spoil it’s significance.

The next section of the walk is extremely difficult to describe - but this time, in a good way. If all walks were like this, everyone would be doing it. The temperature was mid-twenties, with a light sea breeze. The terrain was easy walking, with splendid views across the sea and into the island. We took a break
just before the An Scrior rockfall, and leaned in the shade tossing pebbles into
the sea. I could have stayed there all day, it was bliss.
An Scrior

An Scrior was not as difficult to cross as the rocks around Black Cave, as there was a reasonable path above it, and we soon passed into a verdant coastline. After lunch, the heat and the horseflies both became brutal - we estimate it was 32C in the shade by 3pm. We drank copious amounts of water, but it was never going to be enough in those temperatures, and before we reached the forest just north of Sannox, there was no shade at all. We took a few stops, but the flies were not about to give us any peace, so we soldiered on through some of the remotest parts of Arran.

It’s 5 miles to the nearest road from here
I hope you like privacy…
Once in the trees, out of the direct sun, it became once again an extremely pleasant walk. We were tired, but the light in the trees was a lovely bonus. We returned to our B&B (which conveniently has a garden gate on the Coastal Way itself) at around 4.30pm. Given it was our last night on the island, I treated myself to steak for dinner :)

That left one more day, and the big question was still unanswered. Goatfell loomed large on the horizon as the sun was setting….





Walking the Arran Coastal Path - Day 5



Day 5 - Pirnmill to Lochranza










Clisham Lodge, Pirnmill
So after an excellent rest day (involving the joy of buses!), and our delayed-but-not-forgotten meal at the Lagg Hotel, it was time to shoulder the bags again. Over half-way distance-wise, and with the longest day done, we were in good spirits. Doubly so, since this was the shortest day of the walk. As such, we breakfasted in the excellent Clisham Lodge in good cheer.

The plan called for a short road stretch to Catacol, then over the headland on the old Postman’s Path to Lochranza. The added joy is that Lochranza is home to Arran’s own whisky distillery, and given the short distance, we aimed to be arrived in time for a tour and a taster before being picked up by our host for the evening at 4pm. A grand plan.
The Apostles of Catacol

It was not such a sunny morning as others on the walk, overcast and somewhat humid. The sea across to Kintyre was unbelievably still; it barely rippled. If it weren’t for the midges flying around, it would have been possible to think time itself had stopped. The road was easy going when fresh from breakfast, and we were at the base of the Postman’s Path in Catacol before 12. Catacol’s only noteworthy fact is that it’s cottages are called the Apostles, for reasons that were explained to me at the time, but now escape me. They were good resons, I assure you :)

Looking back the way we had come
After a short break we started the ascent, and it’s on such short sharp climbs that I realised how heavy my bag was - the knees really protested. But it was over quickly, and we ambled along above the road as we rounded the headland. The view was only spoiled the the horseflies once again going crazy - several new bites were obtained.

We dropped down into Lochranza itself by just after 1pm, and as we rested on a bench, we discovered Mrs ER had picked up a big collection of ticks from the close vegetation as we passed. Ticks are not pleasant critters, and in rare cases can transmit the extremely nasty Lyme’s Disease, so we immediately broke out the tools and removed them. Gladly, they were so quickly
discovered that some hadn’t even latched on yet, and were easy to remove.

Lochranza Castle
Vowed to do a more thorough check later that evening, we set off on the last mile to the distillery, picking lunch from a cafe along the way. Worth the wait - the Arran distillery was lovely. I’ve been on numerous tours, and the process is no mystery to me now, but the bonus tasting of Arran whisky (unpeated, fairly sweet, with lots of spices - good with Christmas Pudding, we think) as well as Arran Gold (a whisky-based cream liqueur, like Baileys, but considerably nicer) was really the point of the entry price ;)

Finally we were collected by our host, as we were staying in nearby Sannox for the evening. Darven Cottage’s owners were incredibly welcoming, and we felt right at home. After a shower and a meal, we hit the sack, feeling ready for
the north part of the island the following day….






Walking the Arran Coastal Path - Day 4



    Day 4 - Blackwaterfoot to Pirnmill









    Setting off towards King’s Cave
    A night’s rest had done a hell of a lot to restore my spirits, but as we an excellent breakfast in Blackwaterfoot, and contemplated the OS map in front of us, it was hard not to be a little worried. We had approximately 11 miles to go (an underestimate, as it turned out), and about half of that was by road. I’m no fan of road walking - I’m slightly overweight as it is, and with a heavy pack, the unyielding surface tires my feet out very quickly. Still, our accommodation was booked, and for once so was our evening meal - 7.15pm at the Lighthouse Restaurant, so we had to get rolling whether we liked it or not. 


    Looking back to Drumadoon Point


    The first 4 miles or so were some of the nicest of all. The path from Blackwaterfoot around Drumadoon Point and out to King’s Cave was of excellent quality (we were experts in this now, after the nonexistant paths of the previous day). 




    King’s Cave
    King’s Cave itself was fairly impressive (allegedly it was even used as a schoolroom in the past), and it gains it’s name from a story concerning King Robert the Bruce. Pretty much everywhere in Scotland has a story about the Bruce though :)



    From there we climbed into the woods at Torr Righ, following a track around the edge that gave some great views over the moorlands back to Goatfell on the far side of the island. We then joined the road and strolled down into Machrie for lunch.



    *How* much food?
    After some cold drinks and some serious munching (Mrs ER’s ‘Arran platter’ was impressive!) and a good bit of ‘feet-up’ time, it was time to tackle the road section. We had 5 miles to do to reach Imachar Point, where we would diverge from the road again. It was tough, and both of us were struggling at various points. We even had to resort to singing at times to keep moving. There’s not much else to say - road walking is fairly dull, even if the scenery was quite nice.

    After a short break (read: collapse) at the start of Imachar Point, we proceeded. On the plus side, it was only about 3pm - road walking is fast, so we still had 4 hours to cover the last few miles. On the down side, we were
    very tired by this point.

    Imachar Point - yet more bracken…
    The last section was varied - we started out on good grass/rock paths, but that quickly went to (yet more) shoulder-high bracken, and then eventually to a shingle beach. This was the last straw for my belaboured feet, as discussed yesterday, thumping my weight down on loose rocks is not fun.

    We limped into Pirnmill around 5.30pm, and somehow found the energy to stand up long enough for a shower. There was much self-congratulation over dinner - the hardest day was done, no other day was as long, we had a rest day coming up, and a short walking day after that. Bliss!

    Walking the Arran Coastal Path - Day 3

    Day 3 - Lagg to Blackwaterfoot








    Farewell, Lagg!
    This day was going to be good. Some of the wilder terrain on Arran, not too hilly, just a long way from towns and villages. Nice to get even further away from things. In addition, the distance we estimated to be 8 miles, which after the epic march of the evening before was a welcome relief.

    Since it was going to be a short day, we had a slightly later breakfast, and were underway by 10am. The main issue of the day was going to be lunch - there were no convenient towns to stop in en route, so we tried to get supplies in Lagg. Sadly the village store seemed to be closed. Not to worry, there was apparently another store en route to the coast path.

    Wading through bracken
    On yet another sunny day (in Scotland! Unbelievable) we set off, sad to leave such an awesome spot. On subsequent trips to Arran, I think the Lagg Hotel will be a strong contender for accomodation. The first section of the walk was road-based, and we strolled up out of Lagg and along a couple of pleasant miles to Sliddry, when the second store was said to be.

    While Sliddry does indeed have a store, it seems it’s a farming supply store rather than a food shop. Good job we still had the provisions we bought on day 1! Heading down a lane, we found ourselves back on the coast proper, and with good paths underfoot, we set off around the southwest corner of Arran.

    Wilder parts of the Arran Coast
    The paths didn’t stay good for long, and a few times we lost our way and started to make it up a bit. We’d heard on previous days that we “were going the wrong way round” - apparently nearly all walkers go anti-clockwise around the island. Here it made a difference, as the Coastal Way arrows only served to tell us when we had regained the path, rather than stopping us from losing it in the first place.


    Lunch was taken on some appropriately large and comfortably shaped rocks. We figured we had about 3 miles to go to Blackwaterfoot, and it was only 1pm. Easy work after the previous day. However, we hadn’t reckoned on the terrain.

    Can you see the path? This was a highway
    compared to what we had just done
    Our notes said “Uneven rocks underfoot, with constricting vegetation. Progress will be slow”. That was one hell of an understatement. The bracken was easily 5ft high, and concealed a large number of brambles which proceeded to hook onto our clothes at every opportunity. All this vegetation was growing on an uneven boulder scramble, which meant you couldn’t always see where your feet were coming down, and as such you had to test your footing carefully. The saving grace was that the rocks were marked with blobs of paint to signify the course of the path - which zigzagged up and down the side of the coast as we progressed northwards. At one point we lost the path entirely, and might have done the rest of the walk as a boulder scramble nearer the sea, but the one solitary other walker we saw that day gave us a point to aim for (“He’s got to be on the path right?”). Given the abysmal nature of the terrain, we arrived at Preacher’s Cave, 1 mile south of Blackwaterfoot, by 3pm. 2 hours for less than 2 miles - not the greatest speed ever, but we
    were glad to be out of the hell zone.

    Preacher’s Cave
    Preacher’s Cave itself was impressive (so called as sermons were held in it in past times), but weren’t in the best of moods to appreciate it. My feet were not happy at all - with my rucksack I was weighing around 17stone, and having that jolting down on one unstable rock after another was not fun. We took a good long rest, and then ambled the last mile into Blackwaterfoot itself.

    Another good meal at the Kinloch Hotel, followed by a pint in our B&B (Blackwaterfoot Lodge), as well as a chat with the owners of said B&B helped set things to rights.


    Finally, Blackwaterfoot in sight!
    We went to bed in good spirits, but I was worried - the next day was to be 11 miles, over half of which was by road (very hard on my already aching feet), and today had not been as restful as expected. If that wasn’t bad enough, we had a dinner reservation for 7.15pm, so we had a deadline as well. It was going to be a tough day…




    Walking the Arran Coastal Path - Day 2

    Day 1 - Whiting bay to Lagg






    Another glorious day, and another large breakfast - required though, as we set off on our longest day, both by distance and time. The issue was that we had two tidal sections to do - first, the boulder field at Dippen Head (which has an optional inland route if it’s a problem) and the coast at Black Cave (which doesn’t). Black Cave is impassable for 2 hours either side of high tide, and with that being at 4pm, we had to aim to arrive at either 2pm or 6pm. Figuring 2pm was unrealistic, we set upon a plan to arrive later and take our time.

    Glenashdale Falls
    Packs were settling in, and we were in pretty high spirits, so we started with a couple of miles inland to see the Glenashdale Falls - Arran’s own Niagra. Truly impressive, and a good way to warm up for the day, with wide easy trails that are firm underfoot. After a short break to take some pictures we headed back to the coast, within sight of where we’d left it.





    South to Dippen Head from Largymore
    Next up was a stretch of coastal walking from the edge of Whiting Bay down to Largymore Point, at which we had to decide about Dippen Head. Given some of the horror stories about taking 3 hours to cross it, and so on, we decide to take the road route and avoid it. We trudged over the top and down into the Kildonan Hotel, which was a very welcome sight indeed. Mrs ER commented when we left that she was sure the short lane leading to it was 3 times longer on the way in than when we left…

    There was a strong possibility that passing Black Cave at 6pm would get us to our hotel after they stopped doing food, so we decided to have a pretty sizable lunch - if all else failed, we had our emergency provisions in our packs.

    Seals enjoying the afternoon sun
    After food and a nap on the grass in Kildonan, we set off for Black Cave at 4pm. We saw loads of seals - apparently there’s a colony of 40-50 just off Kildonan. Our timing was perfect, and we clambered over the boulder field on the approach to Black Cave, arriving spot on at 6pm. Sadly, our tide forecast was not so good - it still wasn’t passable.

    We had information that the remainder of the walk should take around 1.5 hours, and that food stopped at 9pm in the Lagg Hotel, our eventual goal. But we were tired, and carrying heavy bags, so we assumed it would take longer. However, we had no option but to wait, so we rested and watched the tide. It definitely was going out, no doubt about it - but very slowly…

    The rocks we had to cross…
    By 7pm, I couldn’t wait any longer. There were enough rocks visible now for me to attempt to hop my way over the wet section - something I’d spent years doing as a kid. So I had a go. There were a few slippery moments, but the impassable section was only about 15 metres wide, and I soon figured out a route across. I then ferried both packs over, as Mrs ER wasn’t so confident, and she came along last.

    We could now actually see the cave - and it’s pretty huge. We didn’t admire it for long though - we had miles to go to Lagg, and if we wanted any food, we had less than 2 hours to get there (it was now 7.15pm). We set off at a surprisingly high pace.



    The awe-inspiring Black Cave
    I don’t know what happened next. The last 4km of this walk are a blur. I remember not really being able to see at one point because the sun was setting in front of me and my eyes were watering from the light. We were exhausted, yet we set one of the highest paces of the walk - arriving into Lagg at 20.40, less than the stated 1.5 hours. Astonishing.

    We paid the price though. Because of the big lunch, and the big exertion, we weren’t hungry. We’d pushed every limit to arrive in time to get a meal, and we weren’t hungry! We settled for an ice cold beer, and a dessert each. It was heavenly, and we spent the ‘meal’ discussing exactly how crazy we are, and how we managed to keep that pace up for over an hour.


    The Lagg Hotel
    We went straight to bed afterwards. It was a comfortable bed, but it could have been a floorboard for all that I would have noticed. I was asleep in seconds, knowing that the next day was considerably shorter… what a fool I was…. but more on that later ;)






    Walking the Arran Coastal Path - Day 1

    Day 1 - Brodick to Whiting bay









    Rothwell Lodge
    (Apologies for the text spacing, it seems necessary to insert a lot of blank lines to make the photos line up properly in Blogger. If anyone’s got tips for doing it better, let me know)

    The first day of our epic walk started with sunshine blazing in through the window - it was clear, blue, and going to be hot. I started the day with an epic walker’s breakfast (porridge and a cooked breakfast :P) and some lively chat with our host at Rothwell Lodge.



    Is this for real?
    We set off through the town of Brodick, grabbing supplies from the supermarket as we went. We had places planned to eat lunch and dinner for almost every day of the walk, but it’s a good idea to carry provisions in case of emergency. Looking back across Brodick to Goatfell looked like something out of a fantasy novel - it really was quite impressive.





    “Lunch is that-a-way”
    We left Brodick by road as there’s a small diversion due to erosion of the coastal path at the moment, but soon enough we were back on the coast and heading for Clauchland Point. Progress was slow over rocks and boulders, but as we reached the point and started to turn towards Lamlash, we had splendid views over to Holy Island. There were plenty of dragonflies about - they always fascinate me, for an insect they seem to big to fly.




    Holy Isle from Clauchland Point
    Lamlash was reached around 1pm, but my rucksack was started to really hurt my shoulders by then. This did not bode well - having issues with the pack half a day into a 7 day walk is not good. I grumbled my way over the last mile through Lamlash to the Old Pier tearoom, where ginger beer and ice cream was had (it was starting to really heat up by this point in the day). It also gave me a chance to examine my pack after my shoulders had relaxed a little, and I determined the the height of the adjustable back was probably just a little short, putting nearly all the weight on my shoulders, and very little on my hips. Easily fixed.

    Forestry tracks - no shade!

    We now headed inland, up to Dyemill and the Forestry track over the headland towards the Glenashdale Falls. It was blisteringly hot - 2pm is the heat of the day, and forestry tracks rarely have much shade, as the trees will be cleared back to a good 10ft either side of the track. Also, we were climbing uphill, so we had to take it slow.


    Holy Isle from the southwest


    Once the track levelled out, we could start looking for our turning left off the main track, down into Whiting Bay. This lead us down the hillside, with great evening views of the south side of Holy Isle, before passing a few houses, and heading north up the road to our second accommodation, the Burlington Hotel.






    The Burlington
    After the first full day of walking, we were pretty glad to see the place - it was nearly 6pm at this point - so we grabbed a fast shower while our host booked a table for us at the Trafalgar resturant 3 doors down. Having a meal within staggering distance was a welcome relief. The meal was great, the owner (Wolfi) being something of a local legend.

    We hit the sack early, as we had a big day ahead of us next - the only day with any real tide-dependant sections. I was tired, sure, but not exhausted, and pretty pleased with the first day’s walk. The next promised to be interesting…