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My Year of Running

Running has taken over my life this year. From taking part in 10 races in 2018, including the Liverpool Half-Marathon, Southport 10k, Run for Rhys 5k and the Liverpool Santa Dash, I have lost over 2 stone in weight since January. In addition, my year in running has given me some proud memories, which I would like to share with you as 2018 draws to a close.

It was back in January when I set myself the goal of running the BTR Liverpool Half-Marathon. By running that race for the first time ever, I was out of my comfort zone, but at the same time relishing and energised by the challenge of pushing myself. Looking back, it was a proud and rewarding experience for me, even if I had to perform through the pain barrier, and I would gladly repeat the experience again. I say this because crossing that finishing line in under 3 hours was a great feeling, and I am convinced this was when I knew I had caught the running bug.

Another pleasure was the opportunity of experiencing such delightful scenery. This is because running has allowed me to take in some picturesque views of the River Mersey, the lush outdoors of Croxteth Park, and the Three Graces of Liverpool. As I have pounded the pavements and off-road tracks, seeing such fine sights through my own eyes has been a lovely treat.

Through the races and training, I have also learned about running in different weather conditions. This year, I have run in conditions where the weather has been either very hot or cold. When I ran the Southport 10k in July, the weather was very hot, meaning I had to adjust my running style to suit the conditions, by pacing myself and keeping hydrated.

In comparison, the Run for Rhys 5k was on a day of torrential rain and winds. This meant the course in Croxteth Park was full of mud, fallen leaves and big puddles, making it extremely difficult. On reflection, I was glad to have done the run, if only to experience the feeling of running when it is very wet and windy.

In addition to the races, I have done plenty of running in the countryside as part of my training, which has been extremely enjoyable. An example was back in October, when I ran 7 miles from Ormskirk all the way back to my house. This was on a cool Saturday morning, and my route took me past Edge Hill University, through the village of Bickerstaffe, and all the way back home. I also vividly remember being surrounded by blue skies, hanging clouds and being surrounded by peaceful countryside. Running along the pavements and open roads surrounded by silence, I can honestly say it was pure bliss!

There has been plenty that I have learned from my year of running. I have learned that anything is possible when you put your mind to something you want to achieve. Secondly I have also learned that training and preparation is important, and that you need to be courageous and willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Finally I have also learned is that running is not just good for losing weight, but it is useful for relieving stress. This is because after a hectic day, I enjoy going for a quick run, as it helps me to mentally clear my head of stress and doubts, and allows me to calmly think more clearly with perspective, and it makes me feel good about myself. I also find running outdoors to be rather meditative.

And that’s all I have to say about my year of running. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my experiences and also what I have learned from them. Rest assured that I will be keeping up the habit, and will be looking forward to more running exploits in 2019.

In the meantime, I would like to wish all you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thanks for reading!

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Liverpool Tester Gathering – Featuring Lisa Crispin

Having enjoyed and learned plenty about testing from the previous Liverpool Tester Gathering event, I was delighted to attend last week’s event at Avenue HQ. The featured speaker was Lisa Crispin, a well known and famous tester, in the world of agile testing.

Since 1982, Lisa has worked extensively as a programmer, analyst, engineer and tester, with many organisations. Therefore with such experience gained from an incredible journey, I was intrigued to learn more and I was not disappointed.liverpool_tester_gathering_sept2018_3

The event began with a lively and welcoming introduction by Leigh Rathbone from Liverpool Tester Gathering. I was greatly impressed with how Leigh introduced the evening with warmth, humour and a vibrant enthusiasm, creating an atmosphere of positive energy that swamped and caught the audience’s attention. Such an introduction certainly helped to set the feel good tone for the evening.

Listening to Lisa share her testing knowledge and experiences, there was plenty that I learned about testing simply from listening to her stories. What I learned was testing is more than just using technical tools, as it is also about human interaction, through the power of collaborative working. This is because agile testing of applications is paramount, and affects everybody who interacts with them, meaning that testing requires teamwork, collaboration and winning the hearts and minds of people. Therefore testing is the responsibility of everyone!

I also learned that testing requires the following:

  1. The courage to experiment, keep learning and push yourself.
  2. Willingness to use your beginners mind and curiosity to ask questions.
  3. Acknowledging and learning from your team and other people.
  4. Knowing when to stop testing.
  5. Understanding skills and knowledge can be transferred by asking questions, writing documentation, team activities, switching roles, video blogging and shadowing colleagues.
  6. Learning through self education including meetups, round table sessions, online courses, digital content, social media and peer learning.

Audience members also had the opportunity to take part in a lightning talk. This was a three minute slot where volunteers could talk about any subject they feel passionate about, so I took the opportunity to talk about blogging to share stories aliverpool_tester_gathering_sept2018_4nd knowledge with others. I admit I felt the nerves beforehand as giving an unscripted three-minute talk was daunting, but I kept calm and spoke clearly and to the point with confidence. It seemed to go down very well, as I received applause from the audience, and also a person asked me afterwards for advice on blogging, of which I was happy to help.

There were other volunteers who took part in the lightning talks. One talked about the importance of caring and sharing knowledge and expertise, and another talked about the importance of sharing domain business knowledge with colleagues. Such talks encapsulated the whole theme of the evening and spoke volumes of the Liverpool Tester Gathering community.

I would like to thank Leigh Rathbone, Duncan Nisbet, Chris Thacker and Philip Hughes from Liverpool Tester Gathering, for organising the event. In addition, my thanks also go to Lisa Crispin for sharing her testing expertise and knowledge, Stephen Johnson of ROQ for sponsoring the event, and to American Pizza Slice for providing such incredibly delicious pizza!

If you are interested in testing, technology or digital, I recommend these events wholeheartedly, and you can follow Liverpool Tester Gathering on Twitter and YouTube.

Maghull Young Adults Social Club – Serving the Community

Volunteers are vital to the local community. Those who willingly volunteer for a noble cause to help and benefit local people are real heroes, who deserve to be recognised for their worthy deeds.

The reason why I say this, is that I am writing about the wonderful work of Michael and Viv Penn. Since 2002, they have run Maghull Young Adults Social Club (MYASC), which provides a monthly Friday night disco for young adults with learning disabilities in Maghull and the surrounding area. This club allows young adults to make new friends, socialize, take part in prize giving raffles, and to generally have fun in a nice and safe environment. Having been a member for over 15 years, the club has not only helped and transformed the lives and confidence of many people including myself, but I have also seen through my own eyes, how it has helped change the lives of others.

At last month’s club night in Maghull British Legion, Michael and Viv received a surprise presentation from the local branch of the Rotary Club. The presentation was the Paul Harris Fellowship award from the Rotary Foundation, for their tireless work in running MYASC, which was a lovely moment to witness, and I was delighted for them both. As I watched, I felt their immense pride by seeing them with their lovely medals, and of the delight of their son Jonathon. It was truly a wonderful and deserved achievement.maghull_young_adults

I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Michael and Viv’s wonderful work with MYASC. Indeed two years ago, I was delighted to help repay this by taking part in the Scouse 5k run in Liverpool, where I raised £980 for MYASC. Even today, I still look forward to attending the club and catching up with my friends, and also enjoying a social chat with Michael, Viv and other volunteers.

To conclude, I would like to personally thank Michael and Viv for all they have done for me and the other MYASC members, past, present and future, and also for their well deserved achievement.

Liverpool Tester Gathering – API Testing Challenges with Postman & REST Assured

Development of an application programming interface (API) requires extensive testing. Such testing not only relates to the usability of an application, but also of the underlying coding mechanics, to ensure the API performs and executes the functions required.

Last week, I attended an event organised by Liverpool Tester Gathering at Avenue HQ, which looked at the challenges involved with API testing when using two specific API tools. These tools are Postman and REST Assured, which enable testers to create and customise templates, in order to test different API performance scenarios.

The event was compared by Ian Smith of ROQ, and featured two speakers in James Hattersley-Dykes and Jonny Fletcher. This event was also my first time attending, so I was looking forward to dipping my toe in the testing world. I was made to feel very welcome, as Ian opened the event by allowing me and other first-time attendees to introduce ourselves, in a warm and friendly manner.

Both James and Jonny proceeded to deliver a fascinating presentation into how Postman and REST Assured can be specifically tailored to test multiple scenarios. One of the major points that I learned early on, was there are lots of variations to consider as part of the API testing process. In addition, I also learned other useful points from James and Jonny, to consider when testing an API.

These points include the following:

  1. Important to document your API’s, as you would do your business processes.
  2. Postman is an API testing tool, which allows testers to create customised testing outputs.
  3. REST Assured is a Java-based library used for writing tailored API tests, which are understandable and human readable.
  4. User interface (UI) is suitable for testing API interface usability, but cannot sufficiently verify functions and back-end services associated with multi-user architecture.
  5. API testing is more suitable for testing automation than UI testing.
  6. In addition to API testing, it is also important to support and compliment both pre and post-testing activities.

Listening to James and Jonny speak, I was impressed with the depth of their knowledge. I not only left with a taste of what is involved with API testing, but also with a book prize that I also won, from tweeting about the event. To summarise, this event has lit the testing flame for me, and I am looking forward to hopefully attending September’s event featuring Lisa Crispin, who I believe is a legend in the Agile testing community.

In conclusion there are several I would like to thank for this event. These include James and Jonny for delivering the presentation, Ian for being a welcoming compare, and also to Avenue HQ for hosting the event. Finally I would also like to thank Doris IT for sponsoring the event, and providing the beer and delicious pizza. Doris IT is an IT recruitment company that works with talented young people from schools, colleges and universities, and develops them with many well-known organisations in the UK.

Thanks for reading!

World in Motion by Simon Hart – A Book Review

As a Liverpool supporter, I enjoy reading autobiographies of great players including Sir Kenny Dalglish, Steven Gerrard and John Barnes, as well as other football books that look at Liverpool’s history. In addition, I also enjoy reading about international football, including the England national team and the World Cup.

As I write this, the 2018 World Cup in Russia is currently taking centre stage, which has already seen a number of surprises. During matches, I have just finished reading World in Motion by Simon Hart, which looks at the inside story of the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and how its impact changed football forever.

Once I started reading, I was hooked and absorbed by how the book painted a fascinating and colourful picture of Italia 90. From Gazza’s tears, England’s journey to self-final heartbreak, to the emergence of Cameroon, Costa Rica and the Republic of Ireland on the World Cup stage, the book chronicles a tournament put to the memorable sounds of New Order’s World in Motion.

World in Motion is more than just about football. Instead it leads you on a journey through a period in history, before the age of the Premier League, and the evolution of the game into the billion-pound industry that we know today. Told through interviews with key players from Italia 90, the book explores and vividly describes the experiences, emotions and circumstances of the players, supporters and countries, at a time of change with the Cold War ending, the Berlin Wall falling down, and cultural barriers between East and West disappearing.

The interviews themselves are a tremendous collection of anecdotes, which are funny, entertaining, yet also poignant reminders of a different time. From all over the world, these interviews include several key players from Italia 90, including Cameron’s Roger Milla, Italy’s star striker and World Cup leading scorer Toto Schillaci, and also England’s Terry Butcher, team captain on that dramatic Turin semi-final against West Germany.

I found the players stories to be very interesting, with some making me laugh, and also thinking about what if results had turned out differently. Indeed there were several times, when I thought about those two words “what if”. These include what if Paul Gascoigne hadn’t been booked, what if Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle had scored in that heartbreaking penalty shootout, what if Cameroon had gone further, or what if Yugoslavia had beaten Argentina. Reading the book, there were so many moments that made me think about “what if”, which is one of the reasons why I loved World in Motion as a book.

Overall I found World in Motion to be a superb engrossing read, well researched and put together by Simon Hart, with the interviews giving this book a big heart, and a strong sense of nostalgia. If you are a football fan, I wholeheartedly recommend it, as it captures the spirit and essence of Italia 90. For those who remember watching the tournament, every one of the 384 pages will take you back in time, to those hot summer days of Italia 90.

To conclude this review, I would like to leave you with a montage of Italia 90, put to the memorable music of Luciano Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma.

Hope it brings back the memories!

Ciao!

Social Media Meetup – Thursday 19th April 2018

Recently I attended Social Media Meetup, which was held at Launch22 in Liverpool. This was organised by Mark Russell of bmicro, and featured knowledgeable speakers in Peter Buglass of Objective Comment Consultancy and Edward Ridding of Umami.

I had never been to this event before, although others in my network had recommended it, through word-of-mouth on LinkedIn. Therefore as a blogger, I decided to attend the event, and see what I could learn. It was certainly worth the investment of my time and energy.

The event featured a brief talk from both Peter and Edward, who shared their professional experiences of using social media, as part of their businesses. Peter and Edward also gave their views on the recent announcement of JD Wetherspoons, closing down their social media accounts, and allowed the audience to contribute to the discussion.

From this, the discussion opened up a wide range of opinions, leading to other relevant issues surrounding social media. These included how organisations collect and use personal data, to provide personalised communications to their customers. A typical example is Amazon using data collected on customers, to send personalised ssm2_290418recommendations, based on browsing and shopping habits.

In addition, the event allowed the audience to ask each other questions, and discuss how to improve their online platforms. This was a good opportunity for me, to tap into the experience of the speakers and audience, who gave me some useful advice and pointers.

There was a real community feel to the event, as the audience was a diverse mix of professionals from different backgrounds, including entrepreneurs, digital marketers and bloggers. The bloggers I met included Jo Fitzimons who not only has a travel blog called Indiana Jo, but also a prosecco themed-blog called Visit Prosecco Italy. Another blogger I also met and was impressed by was Aditi Chawla, of Try New Today. Being surrounded by like-minded people, and a friendly dog called Buttons was very relaxing and pleasant, making this one of the nicest events I have ever attended, and one that I recommend to anyone.

If you have ever been to Launch22’s offices in Liverpool, I guarantee that it offers something completely different (in the words of Monty Python). As a co-working space, Launch22 has a quirkiness andssm1_290418 homely environment allowing for entrepreneurs and creative-minded people to launch their dreams. Such homeliness was evident, when I noticed a huge teddy bear in the office.

To conclude, I would like to personally thank Mark, Peter and Edward, and everyone at Launch22 for putting together an evening, rich in learning, delightful conversation, and for the popcorn.

I shall certainly be looking forward, to attending another event in the near future!

BTR Liverpool Half Marathon 2018 – My Recollections

Have you ever felt the urge to do something you have never done before?

Something that challenges and pushes you out of your comfort zone?

Last month, I did exactly the above, when I ran the BTR Liverpool Half-Marathon for the first time. Whilst I have previously taken part in the Santa Dash and Scouse 5k for charity, my reasons for doing the Liverpool Half-Marathon were different. As well as to lose a few pounds, I had also set myself a personal challenge of running a half-marathon, so this forced me to step out of my comfort zone.

In order to take the half-marathon seriously, I trained hard over a period of 12 weeks. This was to ensure I was physically and mentally prepared, although I must confess there were occasions when I wondered what I had let myself in for. However I was excited and looking forward to tackling the half-marathon, and as race day approached, the hardest part was keeping focused, whilst trying to remain calm on the surface.  Indeed the night before, I barely managed to grab any sleep, as I was pumped up, full of adrenaline and raring to go!

On the morning of the half-marathon, I arrived at the Pier Head feeling relaxed, calm, and yet keeping my mind solely on the challenge that lay ahead. Taking up position at the start, I was surrounded by blue skies, beautiful sunshine, and a carnival-like atmosphere, with plenty of colourful sights, sounds of music and joyous excitement. There were thousands of runners taking part, with lots running for charity, including several dressed in superhero outfits and funny costumes. I even recall noticing a runner dressed up as Captain America, and another as a bumblebee, which certainly added to the fun-filled mood.

Soon the run started, and everything that I had prepared and trained for, came together instantly. It struck me that I was now entering the unknown, like Christopher Columbus sailing and discovering America.

The route itself was demanding, yet also picturesque. From Mann Island, the route passed along Upper Parliament Street, Park Lane, Sefton Park, through Otterspool Park and back along Otterspool Promenade, to the finishing line at the Three Graces. Running along the route, taking in the sights was a delight for me, and along with the cheers and encouragement of fellow runners and passers-by, certainly kept my spirits up.

I realised the half-marathon was always going to be a physically draining effort. However I learned it also required a great amount of mental strength, to persevere to the finish. I discovered this when I felt a sharp pain in my right leg, about halfway through the race, which prevented me from running at my best, meaning I had to power walk the remaining distance. Rather than damaging my confidence, this setback only served to spur me on to keep going, despite the pain. This was rewarded when I eventually completed the half-marathon in a time of 2 hours and 51 minutes, of which I was delighted and ecstatic.

As I crossed the finished line, the reality of what I had achieved sunk in, and I felt extremely proud, even I was feeling numb and in pain, whilst walking like John Wayne!

Looking back, I feel great pride in succeeding and meeting my goal of completing the half-marathon. Of course, there are aspects of the training, preparation and running I would have done differently in hindsight, but what I achieved in completing the half-marathon though my hard-work and determined efforts, shows that anyone can achieve anything.

To conclude, if what I have achieved inspires other disabled people like myself, then I am proud to have helped in blazing the trail.

Thanks for reading!