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Kudos to Eddie Izzard

So last week I completed my Couch to 5k journey and despite not really enjoying it (I said in the last post “I have always found exercise to be a chore and derive no pleasure from it whatsoever” and I stand by that) I have continued with it as I am using it as a way to help me lose weight.

At the same time as I was complaining about completing 5k Eddie Izzard was doing 42.195 kilometres a day for 27 days for charity. I take my hat off to him as I really cannot comprehend how he managed to do it when I struggle to run for half an hour. In fact on the last day Izzard did the equivalent of two marathons (84.39K). Unbelievable.

So kudos to Eddie Izzard. I won’t be emulating your feat but I am inspired to keep it up and I have bought some new trainers to celebrate!

You can donate to Sport Relief the charity Eddie was running for here.

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Couch to 5K

So I am happy to write this blog post now that I have finished the nine weeks of couch to 5k. For those that don’t know what c25k is it’s a nine week plan that gets anyone at any level of fitness from sedentary to running for 5K three times a week.

As it turns out, C25K is not a strictly accurate name as it actually gets you to running for 30 minutes three times a week and whether that is 5k will, of course, depend on your speed. For me the closest I got was 4.49006976 kilometres!

It has been a deliberate move on my part to not tell anyone that I was doing the plan until now that I have completed it. This was simply because I didn’t want to tell everyone only to not complete it. Also I knew that it would come up when I met anyone I told who would want to know my progress which would pile on the pressure to complete it. So I didn’t tell anyone even when it would have been obvious to say, something my wife found very amusing. So I have completed it on my own terms.

This secrecy also extended to going out first thing in the morning when it was dark and cold. Week one it was pitch black when I left and also when I returned 30-40 minutes later. By the end of the ninth week it was just cold and everyone in the street could see what I was doing. And how I was dressed. As you can see from the picture below I look like Reading’s best dressed cat burglar!

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C25K is a nine week plan and there are many podcasts to guide you but I chose the one from the NHS figuring that they would go out of their way to ensure I didn’t end up in hospital using their services which would be self defeating. These podcasts are narrated by “Laura”, a Northern lass who guides and encourages you along the way.

Laura assures me that it is quite natural to feel knackered and when she is running she does such and such. I have no way of validating this and strongly suspect that she was chosen for her comforting voice rather than running prowess.

I found some of Laura’s idioms a bit odd. She regularly tells me that “You’re doing really great” when I would have thought that it would be more natural to say “You are doing really WELL”. I can imagine a committee somewhere in NHS Towers where they argued long into the night over the precise wording that would motivate.

As the weeks progressed I got to week six where I was running with no walk break in between and Laura announces that I am now officially a runner. I await delivery of my certificate in the post. I get back home and my legs ache for pretty much the rest of the day and I wonder if it will ever feel easier. My wife helpfully tells me that “if your legs hurt it shows it’s doing some good”. Easy to say from her position of not having been out for a run!

Last week I completed the ninth week of couch to 5k. If I was expecting hearts and flowers from Laura I was to be disappointed. The last week of the NHS’ C25K podcasts were strangely impersonal with the last three runs being all exactly the same. I don’t think it would have hurt to have recorded a different one for the very last run.

So what now I have completed the nine weeks?

Well, some people apparently get a rush of endorphins when they complete their exercise and have a buzz for hours after. I don’t. I have always found exercise to be a chore and derive no pleasure from it whatsoever – it is a means to an end. I recognise that I need to do something and so I will persist until something less taxing but with the same benefits comes along. I might buy some new trainers though!

This post has been adapted from a weekly blog on The Chubby Challenge and you can read them all here.

The Human Google Interface

I had a request from one of my sons recently where he was struggling to find something on Google (other search engines are available just not as comprehensive) and asked me to see what I could find. If there was a university degree in finding things on Google I’d have a first with distinction.

What was interesting about this was that both my sons are very intelligent and have grown up with search engines so the request could only be one of two things: laziness or a failure in the simplicity of the interface. Given the nature of the request I discounted the first option and anyway it was never going to be quicker to ask me than to just do it yourself, right ;-).

The Google interface is deceptively simple – type in some words and a list comes back of things Google thinks are relevant to your search. Searching for human google interface, for example, brings back “About 103,000,000 results” – that’s a lot of pages to wade through sifting the wheat from the chaff. Gone are the days of finding a Googlewhack. However, searching for “human google interface” returns only 85 matches. That amount I can sift through.

And there is the issue in two quotation marks. The real real power of Google lies not in being able to type in the search box but in being able to harness the power of the search operators to get a list of results that is both manageable and meaningful. So while Google is an amazing resource much of the usefulness is trapped behind that simple text box and until they, and other search engine providers, discover a way to humanise it then it will remain that way.

It will make someone enormously rich.

Worried about Jeremy

I make no secret about my political leanings but if you were in any doubt this post will dispel them.

There always seem to be problems with electing leaders of the Labour party. Last time out, in 2010, Ed Miliband out manoeuvred his brother David by gaining the backing of the unions to get elected. David wasn’t the only one to be unhappy with the result and the party changed their rules for the next selection process. Under the old system votes were weighted a third to elected members (MPs, MEPs etc), a third to party members and a third to unions but this was changed to be a more democratic one member one vote.

The race for the leadership eventually boiled down to four individuals: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall. Three of whom seem (to me) to be Tory-lites and lacking in very much substance and Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn was different in almost every way, unconventional with ideas that weren’t very “New Labour” at all and for whatever reason resonated with the voting members and Corbyn was elected leader with a commanding 60% of the vote (greater than even Tony Blair managed). And immediately the problems began.

Members of his own party have attempted to undermine Corbyn at every turn making it very clear, in public, that they disagree with, well, pretty much everything he stands for and says. Ironically the right wing press has helped the cause of the detractors in the party by regularly coming up with the most ridiculous articles and suggesting that they are “news”.

The party didn’t like the way the 2010 leadership election chose it’s leader and, quite frankly, they didn’t like the leader that it ended up selecting either. So a review was held and the party agreed the way future selection processes were run. It was under this process that Corbyn was elected. Now the Labour MPs are complaining that they are unelectable. But here’s the thing – perhaps the public do want a real change, maybe we don’t want a choice of the Tory’s or Tory-lites.

It’s time for the detractors to realise that the opportunity to complain about the outcome of a selection process they approved has long passed and, quite frankly, they should just shut the fuck up.

Sadly though I am reminded of the lyrics to Going Underground by The Jam

What you see is what you get
You’ve made your bed, you better lie in it
You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
You’ll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns
And the public wants what the public gets
But I don’t get what this society wants

Politics in the UK needs a complete reset in my opinion and maybe, just maybe, Corbyn could be it. I hope we get the opportunity to find out.

Image by No machine-readable author provided. Soman assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Ten Years a’blogging

I missed an anniversary in January – ten years since I have been running my own blog. I did blog prior to that, sporadically, on Blogger but this was the first time that I took it seriously, firstly using Greymatter and then transferring to WordPress.

Over the years there have been some ups and downs and I even considered quitting completely after one particularly nasty attack with the hacker trying to extort money out of me to get things back online. I refused and rebuilt everything on a more secure platform.

Looking back across all the posts they have seem to converged onto a couple of themes: music and travel, which seems to accurately reflect my interest. Although other passions (technology and Williams F1 Team) are dealt with elsewhere.

The blog is really here for my enjoyment rather than yours which is why I don’t bother much with SEO, finding the right post title or any keyword analytics. In fact it’s pretty amazing that you are here at all, did you stumble upon the blog by mistake? Well thanks for looking you are in a select band of 50-60 people that stop by every day.

I enjoy bashing out the occasional post so I will continue. Here’s to the next ten years!

Always the Bridesmaid…

I have written about my younger son’s playing of League of Legends before. Yesterday was the culmination of months of games in the NUEL (National University eSports League) with over 300 teams having been whittled down to the final two with Mat’s UoB Storm pitted against Nottingham Bears. Unfortunately they lost out but it was still a mighty achievement and we are incredibly proud of what he has achieved.

Thinking about Mat’s participation reminded me of a post I wrote way back in 2009 about something I saw, with Mat as it happens, at Gadget Show Live and my comments. Part of the show was seeing the Guitar Hero World Champion in action. This is what I said at the time:

He must have been about 16 and while quite impressive you can’t help but think that his parents would probably have been more pleased if he put in the same amount of effort on revising for his GCSEs than the enormous amount of practice he must have put in on Guitar Hero!

One of the boy’s parents subsequently contacted me to say how proud they were of their son and how well he had done in his exams.

Fast forward six years and I find myself in a similar position with Mat in the final year of his degree and as parents wanting him to do well and here’s the thing – he is, very well. It seems that, my offspring at least, are capable of managing their time more so than perhaps I have given them credit for.

It’s hard as a parent to realise that your children have grown up and don’t rely on you anymore but sometimes you’ve just got to let go. It seems that they are quite capable without our support – it must have been they way their mother brought them up!

Solar Eclipse

As I write this and look out of my window it is a beautiful day. The sun is shining down and there is not a cloud in the sky.

Wind back to this morning when the solar eclipse was supposed to be happening it was grey and overcast with zero chance of seeing what the BBC described as ‘Breathtaking’. I think that this is a prime example of ‘sod’s law‘.

So I have drawn a picture of what it would have looked like had the skys been clear…

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Every Episode of House M.D.

Opening scene somebody gets ill, others around are concerned but this is misdirection as ta-dah it’s one of the concerned others that falls sick and needs a trip to the hospital.

Someone tries to entice House to take the case by offering up tidbits of information about the illness but he is not interested. Then someone mentions something inconsequential and he snatches the case file and accepts.

Initial diagnosis is unclear but it could just be Lupus but ‘it’s not Lupus’ (except for when it is). Patient is started on a series of meds but they get worse, usually involving a lot of blood from some unusual orifice. An alternative diagnosis rears its head at this point and the patient begins to respond to the change of medicines but we are not fooled as it is only half way through the episode and know there is an imminent relapse coming.

At this point Foreman is sent to break into the home of said patient to rifle through their draws and find something that might relate to the case. Often this will show up nothing but later in the episode Foreman will casually mention something trivial such as a bus pass they had seen and House will chide Foreman for not mentioning it earlier. The next diagnosis will related to something caught off the seat of a public bus.

By now prospects for a healthy recovery are looking low and you fear the worst – that House might finally fail and a person might actually die. But no, wait a minute, perhaps it is the thing that we thought it was in the first place just hiding as something else! Start them on the meds and they’ll be right as rain.

Literally minutes later the colour is back in the patients cheeks and within 24 hours they are discharged and are last seen running a marathon.

Three cheers for Doctor House!

When the Usual Becomes the Unusual

I guess that there was a time when seeing a display such as this would have been the norm and wouldn’t have caused crowds to gather below it with cameras pointed skywards. However, this was exactly what happened at the weekend outside of Huttons in Knaresborough.

There was an impressive display of animals, including a group of squirrels. It wasn’t clear whether they were doing much trade in in these but they certainly caused interest.

Here’s what the shop itself looks like courtesy of Google Street View.

I sent this Snapchat to my sons. I think they might order in this Christmas!

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