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Last Sunday, I journeyed with a few like-minded souls to Coumshingaun in the Comeragh Mountains in Co. Waterford. The centrepiece is a corrie lake caused by glaciation during the last Ice Age. The corrie has a classic “armchair” shape: two gently ascending narrow ridges with precipitous drops on all three sides.

Overlooking the corrie

The journey upwards was quite difficult, compared to Galteemore. It’s a more challenging ascent due to the preponderance of rock outcrops and winding, up/down paths.

A rock outcrop

It took us about 2 hours to reach the top. Here’s a view of the ridge by which we ascended.

Our path upwards

The “summit” is pretty flat, owing to the fact that the Comeraghs are about 350 million years old. Significant weathering, not to mention a few Ice Ages thrown in for good measure, have reduced the mountains to a uniform boggy plateau around 700 metres high.

At the top

Coumshingaun lake is impressive – a mile long, dark, mysterious, fed by gently gurgling waterfalls. Strewn around it are tons of piled up debris from ancient landslides.


We completed the “armchair” circuit in good time, returning to the car park in just over four hours. Just the antidote for those Monday morning blues!

It’s just an observation, but technology companies that no longer take risks are companies in great trouble.I’m talking about companies that have become used to a particular “way” of doing things. Where everything eventually becomes routine. New products are predictable. The launches are the same, the engineering details say more about technology obsolescence than they do about customer needs. These companies are in serious danger of extinction.

In the world of technology, the customer has become used to being spoiled. Customers want new, they want different. If they don’t get it from you, there are plenty of alternative options. This market is no place for those who wish to play it safe. You make it big by innovating. And innovating, more often than not, means taking a risk with the company’s money.

But here’s the problem. Very often, managers look at the new, the untried, the dangerous, and the instinct of self-preservation kicks in. Instead, they seek refuge in the safe world of numbers. Well, numbers are important, but they are not everything. Numbers only tell you what has happened in the past, but the past is a poor guide to the future. If you have a product that is on the decline, every promotion and marketing effort under the sun will only provide short-term respite from that long-term downwards trend. The refuge of numbers can be a leaky tent indeed.

That’s where vision and risk-taking come in. The people who impressed me greatly in my last job were those who said “I know this might not work at all. I know this may hurt us. I know I might need to look for a new job if it goes wrong. But, even still, we need to do it”. People like these are vitally important because they have a sense of what the customer might actually want, and they are prepared to stick their head over the parapet. They may often indeed be proven wrong, but that is rarely a reason to think less of them. Without people with that talent for seeking out the different and seeing it through, a company will go nowhere.

Here’s the formula: you’ve got to listen to your customers, feel their pain, then design solutions that will blow their mind. That’s it: apart from the fact that you need to keep doing it for as long as you can.
With innovation, failure is a high probability. Without innovation, failure is a certainty. Innovation gives your company a fighting chance.

Some time ago, I wrote about five books for small children that my kids and I absolutely love. I now would like to add another book to this list.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury)

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Oh no! We forgot to shut the door!

The premise of the book is quite simple. A dad brings his three kids into the countryside with the aim of finding a bear. The group are totally unprepared for what lies ahead as they clamber past all sorts of obstacles during their quest. (I can relate very much to the dad in this book). Much to their surprise, they find a bear, and what follows is an exiting race back home with the grizzly on their tail. It’s got everything: repetition, actions, fear and humour. The drawings are superb, particularly as the kids reach the entrance to the cave. I was amazed by how quickly my toddler kids picked up the narrative and were able to recite the whole story verbatim.

Here’s an additional treat: in the following video, Michael Rosen himself plays out the tale. It’s interesting to watch as I use a very different style when reading the story to my kids.

If you know of other small children’s books that really deserve a read, please let me know.

Ooh, ooh, ooh! I just had to do this, even if they don’t actually have a country called Ireland listed… I had to sign myself in as a Brit to do this! Generations of my ancestors are already spinning in their graves no doubt..

Here’s the finished product: what’s yours?

Murphy McCloud

Here’s where you need to go.

(Via Friendly Atheist)

Teuchter has tagged me on the question of why I blog, and I’m happy to try my hand at answering them (in between wrestling with the complexities of software distribution).

  1. I like writing. When I write, my thoughts seem to come alive. Writing helps me to make my mind up about things. I’m an introvert, so thinking on my feet doesn’t always work so well. So, if you ever want a decision from me, give me a couple of hours, a laptop and Internet connection.. (only joking – well, almost).
  2. It’s a good way to stay in contact with friends. I am lucky to have Internet friends who have a lot to say about the world we live in. What’s fascinating is that they often have very different interests to me – so much for the Internet limiting everyone only to their own narrow obsessions.
  3. I have had some spare time in the recent past to blog. With a new job imminent in the near future, this may well change. If my future blogs start waxing on about supply chain management and business process re-engineering, shoot me quickly.
  4. Judging by the amount of times I check out the WordPress stats page, I must secretly crave celebrity! That’s me folks: yet another cheese eating recognition monkey.. Anyway, I’m so far down the Long Tail it’ll be a cold day in hell before I become a household name..
  5. I blame this guy. He launched an online community back in 1999, and I took to it like a duck to water. I became a blogger last year when it seemed to me that h2g2 was not keeping up with the times. Anyway, I wanted a place to show off my photos.

So, in strict compliance with the laws of memespace it stands to me to pass this question on to the following three lucky people:

  • Ophelia, who is one of my blogging friends that I have met a few times in real life.
  • Edward: this man always has something fascinating to say, even if he doesn’t like U2..
  • Azahar: She has sold me, lock, stock and barrel on Seville.

Oh yes, and anyone else who wants to give this a go, I’d love to hear why you blog!

I know, I know – I haven’t lived.

I came across the classic comedy sketch “Dinner for One” in YouTube over the weekend and laughed myself silly. So, if any of you have been hidden below ground for your whole life as I seemingly have, this will be quite a treat.

Part 1

Part 2

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July 2007

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