Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Down the Yahoo! drain Pipes

It came to my attention that Yahoo! ends its Pipes service by 30 September. What the ... is Yahoo! Pipes, you are rightfully to ask.

I started using the free Yahoo! Pipes service some years ago to merge RSS feeds from various news agency websites to filter out kayak related news articles while not be bothered with a volcanoe. The graphical interface of Yahoo Pipes! made that very easy to do. The result was again a RSS feed that could be integrated on my blog, for instance. The feed was even 'pumped' to a KayakNewsFeed Twitter account to 'archive' the messages. For RSS is only triggered for new messages and old messages drop down the list and eventually out of it and are 'lost forever'. Little effort, big results.

Some interesting websites did not offer RSS feeds, though. Yahoo! Pipes made it also possible (directly or indirectly) to create a RSS feed out of any web page that has structured repetitive blocks of content. Converting the 'repetitive block mess' into a RSS format with 'Reg-ex coding' was not so easy though. Big fuzzy efforts (^.{0,99})( \| )(.{0,99}$), even bigger results.

A RSS feed provides only a snippet of each item. To read the whole article one is directed to the originating website. Everybody's happy? Surely the news provider wants some credit for supplying the news, by visiting their website. By offering RSS they have a way of telling the world 'read more? visit me!). For commercial use there would sure be loads of small print...

There are alternatives to Yahoo! Pipes. However that will mean hosting the alternative one selves and more hardcore coding... I am not so keen on that.

Moreover, there are other developments that work against RSS altogether. More and more websites use proprietary ways of offering news that cannot be 'scraped'. Those sites want you to visit them in the first place for advertising, logging and profiling. I.e. the developments regarding supplying news on Facebook based on profiled interests, tracking, friends' activities and related advertising. How 'independent' news would that be?

The other worrying example I found out recently is that the Dutch Watersports Counsel (WSV) is offering a news web page that looks like it is created from plain RSS, but in fact the news text snippets are a collection of images created with a kind of proprietary Adobe Flash. How to filter (OCR) the word 'kayak' out of image text? End of story for RSS?

I think the inventors of XML and RSS should be awarded an IT 'Nobel Prize'; even posthumously. My first job after College was writing software in COBOL to extract lines from bank balance and transaction statements from SWIFT 'wire transfers' off a computer reel tape. That was pre-XML and very hard-core coding indeed. XML (and RSS) would have made that a piece of cake. Yahoo! Pipes indeed rewired the web using RSS. Now some wires will be cut and lights start to go out.

NewsCURRENT will be reduced to a mere trickle by 1 October and the KayakNewsFeed will stop flowing altogether.

From all of these signs saying sorry but we're closed
All the way down the telegraph road
- Mark Knopfler -

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pretty in Pink

Yesterday I enjoyed a nice afternoon with Tatiana, paddling the spectacular coastline from Porth Dafarch to North Stack. The georgeous sunny weather and a lively turquoise sea was a great opportunity for promoting pink kayaks. This one is a SKUK RomanySurf RM from Phil Clegg's fleet.
After more than two great weeks in Anglesey I have finally time and opportunity to (start) updating my blog. So more to follow in reverse order.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

She Just Does It

It is possibly a tricky thing for me to write, as a male, about female achievements, because we might have a totally different perspective.

We are very likely to remember EXACTLY when Freya Hoffmeister hit the kayaking scene in our part of the world and kayaking discipline.

Determined female paddles showed that they are just as capable to achieve long and committing expeditions. Possibly they generally less bragg (and write) about it. They just do it their way. While most of the 'high-profile' 'firsts-fastest-longest' had already been paddled, men could easily argue that it had been done (or written about) before; by men... On other occasions women were (at the time) even written out of history; i.e. female air force test pilots in WWII.

Freya Hoffmeister will complete her 3-year long epic circumnavigation of South America, that she started on August 30, 2011 in Buenos Aires on May 1st 2015. How fitting: on Labor Day. I am not sure if Freya now has set a 'standard' that CAN be achieved by others. Focus and determination is universal and that is inspirational!

Below is the (Google Translated) Press Release:

Hereby I have the pleasure to invite you to the ceremony on May 1 for Freya Hoffmeister, the best expedition kayaker in the world, coming to Puerto Madero finishing the first circumnavigation of South America. Freya paddled from Buenos Aires on August 30, 2011 and after 26,832 kilometers traveled back to the city where she was starting from with a new world record under her belt, being the first person to perform this feat. Freya, 50, will be escorted by dozens of kayakers, and she will be received with full military honors of the Argentine Navy at the Fragata Sarmiento, both by local authorities and members of European diplomats and media Argentines and international

All paddlers are very much welcome to be part of the arrival ceremony on the water. You will be paddling a short distance on sheltered waters inside Puerto Madero. The start will be from the new jetties at -34.62043, -58.36295. The kayakers will wait for Freya at the port entrance at -34.59508, -58.36479 while she is paddling in from her current arrival spot , and escort her to the Fregata Sarmiento at -34.60893, -58.36571.

Please contact Javier Perez to sign up on a list for the paddling escort and for possible access to the ceremony on the Fregata.

Every non-paddler is surely welcome to watch the event from any spot on the harbor!