Petestack Blog

15 May 2016

Petestack for narrower screens

Filed under: Site — admin @ 1:45 pm

[Update: 19 May 2016]
Have to say some of what’s below already smacks slightly of ‘false dawn’, but hopefully cracked it now through a combination of further reading, real-life phone feedback/screenshots and Chrome Developer Tools as apparently the only mobile phone emulator I can trust. So now we’ve got the meta viewport tag, HTML5 replacing XHTML everywhere except the blog (apparently some work to do on validation there), some more thoughtfully-tweaked ‘break points’ in line with what I’ve learned and seen, and things looking/working much better?

Also bashed ahead with a long-desired rebuild of the whole site to parse all those irritatingly uneditable legacy static HTML files as PHP to include main menus, section sub-menus etc. from a much smaller, more maintainable repository, so now much, much easier to make quick site- or section-wide changes where things should be almost infinitely adaptable because the layout’s been predominantly freeflowing/unconstrained from the very start.

[Original 15 May post with some annotations]
As a hand-coding, standards-compliant web designer from my first forays into HTML and CSS to create this site 16 years ago, nobody should be surprised that I’ve always believed in fluid/flexible layouts. But I doubt many designers were really thinking about phones or even tablets back then (I still don’t use them for Internet myself, but try not to forget folk who do), and have been aware for a while now (= years!) that some site elements here like the main menu (still a slicker variation of the original 2000 concept) and blog sidebar (a 2009 addition) were going to be at least ugly on smaller tablets and impossible for many phones. So now finally (!) some quick belated hacks to keep things more or less usable [edit: fail!] in narrow viewports:

  1. CSS max-width now overriding hard-coded sizes for all site images (with a few necessary exceptions like the Kinlochleven main photo) so they shrink with the viewport width.
  2. Hide the menu text at <= 768px width (yes, I’m still thinking way narrower!) because that’s basically neater than reducing font size, allowing word wrap, hiding overflow etc.
  3. Add HTML title attributes to the menu images for when the text’s hidden. [No use when you can’t hover with fingers?]
  4. Restyle the blog sidebar to make it slightly narrower and send it to the foot of the page when there’s no longer room for it down the side. [Stayed put on some phones where I’d expected to see it gone, but hopefully getting there now I’m starting to twig stuff like the difference between physical and logical pixels?]

Now I don’t have a smartphone when my idea of a mobile phone’s a weatherproof, ruggedised brick for the great outdoors, but I have tested my modifications down to phone-type widths in computer browsers without finding anything unusable to the previous degree. So perhaps some of my smartphone-wielding, mobile-browsing friends could give things a whirl (especially the blog) with actual phones and let me know if they’re still finding any absolutely ‘stopper’ issues?

8 May 2016

Short Trail Routes from Kinlochleven

Filed under: Running,Walking — admin @ 11:21 pm

See maps and text at

Something I got absorbed in making for outdoor education and thought might sit well on my website!

30 April 2016

Running streak

Filed under: Running — admin @ 10:33 pm

Some people might get it and some might not (the clue’s in the title above) but, copied straight from tonight’s Facebook post:

(3 + 366 + 3) / 3 = 124 = Saturday 30 April… so, yeah, this has maybe got beyond just ‘finishing January’ (2016) now?

Strangely I need one more day (Sunday 1 May tomorrow) to complete one third of the calendar leap year despite already being over that third of the way counting the last three days of December 2016. But might consider a complete non-running (sometimes called ‘rest’) day on or soon after 4 January 2017 if I get that far! ;-)

9 March 2016

Fly has windows!

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 9:53 pm

Twig came up today to fit Fly’s new windows. So my once-beautiful boat’s looking that bit more wholesome again and, while we’ve still got a troublesome cockpit leak to pinpoint (mainsheet track?) and stop before we can start working seriously in the cabin, the hated tarp’s off and I can see a recognisable (if still somewhat filthy) Impala almost smiling back! :-)

2016-03-09port-1 2016-03-09starboard-1

2016-03-09port-2 2016-03-09starboard-2

7 March 2016

Wrong side of Resipol

Filed under: Walking — admin @ 9:29 pm

Seduced by a fine forecast on Sunday, I headed for Beinn Resipol above Loch Sunart anticipating (to quote the SMC Corbetts guide) ‘one of the finest views along the West Highland Coastline’. And the hills certainly looked great as I left the house, but things were already changing as I hit the Corran Ferry with my peak subsequently disappearing almost as I left the van to leave a day of clag and intermittent drizzle/snow showers. So I never even saw the mountain properly, let alone the famous views…

Now, you might wonder why I’ve chopped part of my GPS track and I suppose I’d better fess up. Having ascended via the Graham Top of Beinn an Albannaich and stopped to talk to a guy called Ben (who lives in Fife and works as a ranger in West Lothian) atop Resipol, I thought to vary my descent (to ‘make a nicer shape on the map’) by descending the attractive-looking eastern ridge a short way and swinging back round west past the northerly lochan somewhere. But afraid I neither really gave the map more than a cursory glance nor really thought that through, so followed my nose way too far east creating a horrible shape as I contoured and climbed my way back from where I’d never have gone with better visibility! So I’ve, um, ‘censored’ my track round the ‘wrong’ side where it stays between me and the mountain, but am happy to tell you the silver lining of this particular cloud was meeting Ben (who’d lingered some considerable time on the summit hoping things might clear) again just where my ascent and descent tracks converge for a sociable descent with much interesting discussion on the way.


29 February 2016

Circling with Lucy

Filed under: Walking — admin @ 9:16 pm

Stob Coire a’ Chearcaill is a curiously-named peak because the corrie from which it takes its name is not especially circular. But then we never saw a yew on the subsidiary top of Sgurr an Iubhair either…


I’ve known Lucy and Wally Wallace since we did Winter Mountain Leader Training together six years ago, and we’ve remained good friends. They’ve been escaping Arran for a few weeks to walk, climb, work etc. from Achaphubuil, so we had to do something together while they were up. Except that Wally further escaped to go climbing on the Ben the day Lucy and I set out to climb their new pet mountain (and my second-last Ardgour Corbett) Stob Coire a’ Chearcaill! So we just had to do it for him… starting and finishing by Gleann Sron a’ Chreagain with a 2.5-mile detour to pick up the Graham Top of Sgurr an Iubhair (Lucy made me… and my nose is growing!) and gaze unimpeded at the Heart of Ardgour (fantastic views in all directions, but possibly most distant to the south-west with the Paps of Jura clear and the Mull Ben More having remarkable presence) before short-cutting a full return circuit by 558 and Meall Ruadh to dive back into the Glen. Where we found some rough/tussocky ground and the odd avoidable craglet on our descent through the woods before encountering the stags-that-don’t-run (some of which you see below) further down. Oh, and we saw the eagles the birdwatchers missed, so I guess you could say we had a good day!

2016-02-28lucy-1 2016-02-28coire-a-chearcaill-1

2016-02-28coire-a-chearcaill-2 2016-02-28lucy-2

2016-02-28lucy-3 2016-02-28lucy-4

2016-02-28coire-a-chearcaill-3 2016-02-28lucy-5

2016-02-28coire-a-chearcaill-4 2016-02-28gleann-sron-a-chreagain


So Lucy leaves raving about the area and I get to colour in one more star in my increasingly sunny-looking constellation of Ardgour/Morvern/Moidart Corbetts. But why have I left one ‘Corbett Top’ (diamond) in here? Because Druim Garbh (west of Sgurr Dhomhnuill) is one of the eight with drops of between 450 and 500ft suggested by Robin Campbell’s research to have been removed from the tables on the erroneous assumption that Corbett’s criterion for inclusion was a drop of 500ft, and therefore not just a Top in my book (and, mark my words, we’ll see the Corbetts officially defined by 450ft drop one day!)…


31 December 2015

To be fair to the pBone…

Filed under: Music — admin @ 11:56 am

I seem to have finally got that damned slide working properly just weeks after the ‘brass trombone in my future’ quickly became reality with the arrival of my lovely new Yamaha 354. So (touch wood that the pBone continues to behave) I now have two very playable trombones, though nobody should be surprised to hear I still prefer the Yamaha!

So what got the pBone slide working in the end? Perhaps all those repeated baths with snake brushes and cleaning rods had something to do with it and perhaps the four magic words are Yamaha Trombone Slide Lubricant (the bottled ‘liquid’ rather than the cream in a tube) because it was still sticky as hell last night after yet more cleanings till I decided (with glorious synchronicity?) there was nothing more to lose by trying. Now you might think lubricant is the obvious answer, but I’m pretty sure the original pBone instructions clearly stipulated just water and guess its addition to the current online FAQ is a more recent development driven by countless reports (just Google it!) of its necessity. Whatever, I’ve now got a pBone slide that’s falling under its own weight over its whole length for the first time and currently probably as effortlessly playable as its still much quieter Yamaha counterpart. While there are still things I don’t like about the pBone (e.g. the changing push-fit slide receiver and almost-square slide bow that just won’t take snake cleaners), it blows OK, now slides OK and can be played/left in places I wouldn’t dare take my otherwise preferable Yamaha.

Happy Hogmanay! :-)

28 November 2015

Master of nine?

Filed under: Music — admin @ 11:37 am

A slip of the tongue, a Facebook post later and ‘master of nine’ seemed too good a mistake to waste, so here’s what I wrote with appended list of my non-masterly ‘skills’…

Having described myself yesterday as a ‘jack of all trades and master of [oops!] nine’, I’ve tried to count the instruments I ‘play’… not a clear-cut task when some things maybe count separately (e.g. Boehm flute vs. simple flute or smallpipes vs. border pipes) whereas others clearly don’t (e.g. different sizes/makes of recorders and whistles), but let’s say ten or eleven to a useful (not master!) standard and a few more I’ve dabbled with, taken lessons in or (trombone alert!) started learning now. No way I’m still as good at anything as the recorder player who spent a year at Koninklijk Conservatorium, Den Haag, nearly thirty years ago, but it’s fun… sometimes frustrating fun when I can’t practise everything all the time, but fun!


  • Recorders (learned at school, then studied with Rosemary McGillivray and Jennifer Hill in Glasgow, Alan Davis in Birmingham and Michael Barker in Den Haag)
  • Flutes (studied Boehm flute with Frances Wilson and Joanne Boddington in Glasgow, self-taught on simple/trad. flute and dabbling with baroque flute)
  • Whistles (short course with John Gahagan at Battlefield Band’s Highland Circus, Ullapool 1989, otherwise self-taught)


  • Piano (studied with Ian Dobie, Vince Chudy and Robert Foxcroft in Glasgow)
  • Accordion (self-taught)
  • Guitar (self-taught, and better 20 years ago than I am now!)
  • Bass (self-taught, and much the same as guitar!)
  • Scottish smallpipes (started March 2012 and largely self-taught, but have also attended several of Ian Kinnear’s smallpipes weekends)
  • Border pipes (started August 2013 and basically self-taught)

Working knowledge (mostly for school)

  • Tuned percussion
  • Drum kit (intro. from Ron Forbes at Northern College teacher training)

Now seriously starting and intent on keeping up

  • Trombone


  • Violin (had one for a while)
  • Cornet/Trumpet (tried as a boy when my dad bought an old cornet at auction, but it was my brother Angus who became the trumpeter)
  • Oboe/Baroque oboe (lessons from Maurice Checker while at university, but ended up just playing recorder with his group!)
  • Clarinet (had one and tried, but not for me!)
  • Bodhran (sure, I own one, but haven’t touched it for years!)

NB the main bar to violin, modern oboe and clarinet would be my lack of fingers… not so much of an issue on guitar and bass, which I play left-handed to get four fingers on the fretboard.

22 November 2015

pBone mechanics

Filed under: Music — admin @ 12:07 pm

[Update, 31 December 2015: To be fair to the pBone…]

Three years ago I got a pBone (plastic trombone) after hearing about them from our school brass instructor and thinking that sounds like fun. Then blew it a few times before hardly touching it again till a YouTube video of Alison Balsom trying the pTrumpet recently had me digging it out for another go. And now I’m making real progress, completely sold on the trombone (yet another diluting diversion for an incorrigible jack of all trades!), but increasingly unhappy with the mechanics of my pBone…

Musically, it’s fine for now, and that ABS construction will undoubtedly take knocks a brass instrument won’t. But, mechanically, it’s just not good enough. Or, more specifically, no matter how well/badly other pBones work (and I’ve researched this extensively looking for cures), mine seems poor. While I have various minor gripes like the water key spring rusting and having to remove the slide lock to stop it unexpectedly rotating and reengaging, the real stoppers (which might or might not be related) are the bell-to-slide-section joint (aka bell, or slide, receiver) and the wretched glassfibre slide.

So let’s start with that main joint, where the two halves of the trombone plug together. And I mean plug because it’s just a push fit with no retaining ring. When I got the pBone it was very, very tight, but now it’s not. It’s still tight enough to work, but the outer (blue) housing is opening up. Which might not in itself be problematic because there’s an inner black housing forming the socket and apparently taking care of leaks, but it’s quite clearly stressing the plastic as shown by the photos below (clearest if you click through to the enlarged second pic, where you can see three little stress cracks where the socket ends, but there’s also another further to the right):

2015-11-22pbone-1 2015-11-22pbone-2

And what about that slide? Well, even the most cursory search will tell you that pBone slides start stiff, noisy, grabby, scratchy or whatever (take your pick!) but should ease up with use and regular cleaning. Except that some apparently just get worse, and mine seems to be one of them. I’ve done all the research on breaking it in, worked it in the bath and cleaned the bearing surfaces ad infinitum, but it remains at best usable and sometimes impossibly stiff and/or grabby. It was briefly falling under its own weight when not at its shortest, but has got much worse since and is typically spending as much time being cleaned and worked free as played (and that’s loads of time!). But perhaps it’s related to the stressed housing described above when it was briefly getting quite smooth before that opened up so much and started cracking. Why? Because you can still improve its operation (not while playing!) by easing the inner slide tubes outwards above the top of the hand slide as it goes, which suggests developing misalignment to me.

One more thing I’d guess might be contributing to the problem is the shape of the u-bend (slide bow), which is strangely square with rounded ‘corners’ on the pBone. And why? Because the cleaning/sticking problems are typically related to the build-up of deposits in the slides as they supposedly wear smooth (causing annoying black dribbles everywhere from the water key!) and you’ve surely got unreachable deposits landing in that ‘bend’ where no brush is going to get round those two tight corners but said deposits could find their own way back up the slide.


So where do I go from here? No doubt there’s a brass trombone in my future and it’s merely a question of when. It’s a great instrument for me to play and would, of course, have been a good choice for me in the first place with my nine fingers (on which note I did enquire about lessons at school some forty-odd years ago before taking up the flute). And, while there’s no way I’d want to give up my woodwinds now, it could yet be a useful standby in years to come if my arthritic fingers keep getting worse! While I so much want to like the pBone and get it going as both a cost-effective starter and longer-term ‘beater’, I’m so fed up of that slide and thinking that socket housing’s simply going to give one day even if I do miraculously get the slide going properly. :-/

2 November 2015

Staggering on

Filed under: Running,Walking — admin @ 10:13 pm

It was Ian Beattie’s stag do at Tyndrum this weekend, so I was among friends runners and we had to run to the pub for lunch on Saturday. About seven miles to the pub in Bridge of Orchy. Where we watched New Zealand beat Australia at World Cup Rugby and I fell asleep because that’s what I do when I’m not doing anything else. And then we ran back to the pub for dinner. About seven miles to the pub in Tyndrum, in the dark with too few headtorches between too many (disclaimer: at least mine was a shining light!). Where I fell asleep because that’s what I do when I’m not doing anything else, but most of the others seemed to get mixed up in some kind of karaoke with the zombies of Tyndrum (apparently normal on 31 October!). After which Keith (perhaps scunnered by his team’s loss) and Dod made renewed attempts to wake the (un)dead with some colourful noise at 2:00am and I had to play whistles in the hostel because Ian made me start and Scott wouldn’t let me stop…

So that was that and then it was Sunday (or, to be technically correct, still Sunday) and time for everyone to go their separate ways again. Which, for me, meant two Corbetts and a Graham Top on the way home, with a splendid, staggeringly appropriate display of carefree non-nav (note the ‘Oops!’ on the map) on a stunning November day when you could see for miles around…


Now the rules for non-nav are very simple. It’s not like bad nav (where you actually look at maps and stuff but still get it wrong), but quite simply following your nose without checking the map because you thought you’d registered it all from one quick look before you set out but hadn’t (all-time classic: Not Fyne but Shira!). Which is the only rational explanation I can offer for maintaining that rising traverse for so long with no sign of the expected bealach despite being fully aware of lower ground to the right I just hadn’t associated with what I thought I was looking for. At which point I did consider just skipping Beinn Bheag (which turns out to be a splendid viewpoint!) and pretending the agenda was just the more ‘hilly’ hills of Beinn Bhreac-liath and Beinn Udlaidh, but why let such a sensible solution spoil a good story? ;-)

The question mark on the map, by the way, marks a possible alternative route to Beinn Bheag up a big forestry track where I took a small (ATV?) track up and came down a big, open cleft with a burn.

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