Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Reverse taper being very slow in starting

I've attempted a couple of longer runs since the marathon. But getting back on track is proving harder than I'd hoped.

Last Sunday was glorious weather (here's a beautiful scene of the Surrey hills – not mine but rather like what I saw) but I couldn't really enjoy it, as after half an hour of gentle running (chest still not properly cleared) my ITB started complaining of tightness.

Tonight I dusted off my gym card and tried things differently. A few revs of the bike, some proper stretching, a gentle 2km row, then 15 mins in and out of the sauna. Aah, that's better!

Oh, if the leisure centre people are reading this, it was me who removed the ridiculous "swimwear must be worn in the sauna" notice.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Peak District catching-up

Just got back from the Peak District, where I met up with some old friends from ... too long ago. The Cliff Road boys are scattered all over the country so it's rare that we all meet up. We Stayed in Longnor near Buxton (in this fine pub), and had far too much to eat. After breakfast, we waited in the slanted, stony High Street for the local brass band to greet each other, assemble in ranks, and march off, with the Brownies in tow.

We then drove to Thorpe, up and down dale. Thorpe is another village within the National Park, where another old uni mate lives. He told us about mud a-plenty in the Dovedale Dash (his missus does fell-running too - must visit them again and bring my trainers!) and snow in the harsh winters. Today, spectacular low sunshine picked out thousands of details during our walk in Dovedale and around. We sat outside the pub (the Izaak Walton hotel, Ilam) in strange November sun.

As we laughed and joked, well-dressed gentlemen and their ladies returned from participating. from one of the thousands of remembrance services that were held in the UK today. Years ago, gangs of lads from all over the country went out together on sunny mornings like this.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Superglue ... suprglu

The thing about Super Glue, I suppose, is that it sticks anything to anything with mimimum fuss. In theory, a universal attaching device.

Here's a new webservice that bolts your web stuff together: Suprglu.

In my case, delicious tags, flickr phots and a few blogs.

It's all done with feeds, the new string – the universal connector – of the web. It's a shame it doesn't emit feeds in of itself, but I hear that's coming.

Let's hope it doesn't stick your fingers together or go dry in the tube.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Finish medal

Originally uploaded by Drift Words.
At last! After the finish and the walk back to the hotel, I was able to take this picture before having a shower (aah warmth!) and a quick nap. The in-run photos are available now at Action Sports, though they are not especially pretty.

This was quite a tough run, more so than any of my rather sunny London efforts. So much so, I think, that this weekend has been more or less written off by me having a cold.

And so to bed.

Monday, October 31, 2005


Originally uploaded by Drift Words.
Time: 4:00:53

15 ok miles then 11 increasingly sadistic ones. So much pain. Even more

tomorrow. M clocked 3:45 so we are all happy. We ravage the goodybag and

look for our friends.

The sun's out at last!

cheers, matt.



Sunday, October 30, 2005


Originally uploaded by Drift Words.
What are we doing snaking around this carpark? Registering for the race

number, that's what.

The wind has gone down a tiny bit, and it sends brief showers now and

again. Dublin chatters cheerlily.

cheers, matt.



Saturday, October 29, 2005

Week 0. Day -2. Ready?

Originally uploaded by Drift Words.
Got my shoes and kit packed, my passport looks roughly like me, some gels and bars to top up the fuel tanks? Can I really be ready?

Thursday's strange sunshine saw me in the glistening meadow, jogging and testing the legs. This could be the last warm sunshine for 100 million miles or more, so I had to make the most of it.

We shall travel to damp Ireland, where Wilma's Whimper showers the roads with warm Atlantic.

I don't feel supremely fit and full of boundless energy. Some of my muscles don't behave athletically (or perhaps stiff and twitchy is athletic). Some of my nerves are fighting the others, and I've having difficulty doing simple tasks like matching socks and counting t-shirts.

I keep coming back to thinking of Mile 20 in London. The long windy road around Docklands. Come on, walk to that post, then run a bit more. You'll be fine. Go on!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Did someone turn the heat up?

My sort of colleague Mark (also a decent runner, as well as an impressive climate scientist) has stood up many times and predicted, well before the fact, that recent tropical storm seasons would have significantly above average activity. His group is using this sort of knowledge to improve understanding of property risk in those areas of the globe (insurance companies take note, premium payers take it in the wallet). Back at pub level, I muse that the remaining inhabitants of such areas will either be those too poor to brush up their CV's and shift North, or those sun and fun-seekers (like M's uncle apparently) who are loaded enough not to be bothered with insurance.

Over at Interconnected, there's a curious post about Northern latitudes opening up as the ice recedes, I quote his sources all jumbled together, like glacial rubble:
a new northern culture, connected by open ocean, global warming, and a different kind of aesthetic ... exempt the North from the traditional territorial discourses based on power, history and identity, placing it in a deterritorialized post-national paradigm in which spaces are increasingly imagined and communicated. The North emerges as one of the so-called "meso-regions", i.e. less determined by geography than by ideas, symbols, visions or strategic instruments, all aimed at mobilizing resources ...
I can't really see us being not determined by geography very soon, unless those people of JET/ITER etc get cracking and grant us all with free energy for life, but something about the optimistic tone of these essays reminds me of Iain M. Banks's dazzling energy-rich Cultures, who think of a planet as a small space and sculpt awesome artful living spaces with real style.

Try this Iain Banks "Culture" novel, Excession

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Week -3 : nearly there

So, three weeks to go to the Dublin Marathon (official site). The taper begins. I can't honestly say I feel Ready. However, I'm not injured, I've done a couple of good long runs, a dollop of speedwork. I'm not concerned about shoes or clothes (I will stick with what I have) and I know I can cope with carrying a few energy gels along with me during the race. More importantly, we have flights and a room!

Sunday's long run wasn't that great. My legs felt stiff and slightly unwilling. It could well have been the effects of the Yasso session (search for more about Yasso sessions) I did last Friday. This time I wasn't on the track, but on the local cricket/footy pitches (photo on Flickr). I ran for 3:30 at what felt like the pace of the the previous time on the track, and marked the locations. This was one and a bit times around the two fields. Ithen did 9 more efforts over the same time, starting from a particular bench and aiming to reach the scorer's hut at the end.

In between most of them, I jogged for the same time. As the session went on, my times drifted from the ideal by up to 10 seconds. In order to preserve the mathematical regularity of the session, I rested completely a couple of times. So I can say that I almost completed a 10 x 3:30 Yasso. Therefore I should be within reach of a sub 3:40 Marathon. I can't quite believe it but there it is.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Week -4 : coming along

I almost didn't train at all this week. The first few days were a torrent of to-ing and fro-ing, and I was just happy enough to stick with tai chi (another sword move – "Major Literary Star"), and glad of the recovery period. Legs were quite sore after last week's "half".

EDIT: I have been reminded of an hour at marathon pace on Wednesday, but I can't remember a thing about it!

Friday almost came and went without doing any running, but I squeezed in enough time to do a decent half an hour at threshold pace.

Saturday was pretty busy with 10,000 things, one of which was the purchase of new shoes (adidas Supernova control mk 7) and fuel (usual PSP, Go bars and Squeezy gel). Thanks, Malcom!

Today's long run took in familiar Wey path and North Downs loops, largely in fresh sunshine. The first two hours went fine, but I slowed and started to plod after that. I was out for three and a bit hours altogether, with tired legs glad to be back home.

Given that this was my really long run of the program ("only" two hours next week) I had hoped to be in better shape by now. Maybe some magical improvement will happen tonight, as I sleep. A lot.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Week -5: pretty good!

Let's see where are we? End of W-5. I've just got back from a half marathon in Cricklade, Wiltshire (near Swindon). Quite a small village race, 200-odd in the half, plus a few more in the 10 k and fun run. We had to plough through the back end of the 10k field at one point, but I wasn't complaining. I must be stressed (teaching soon aargh!) or still recovering from a cold, because my chest felt tight at 8 am this morning, as we were setting off to go. You know, that organ that keeps us all going? I joked about it of course, but didn't tempt fate by divulging my Flickr password. It would have to be serious for that.

We kept a good, slightly intense but steady, pace through the run. Most of the miles were about quarter-to-eight, with the odd one over 8:10 when drinking water and running didn't quite work at the same time. I could feel the chest saying "no more" during the last third, so the pace had to be judged quite finely. No major problems, though I could feel a knee getting tired in the last couple of miles. It felt almost good (running well should not feel good in the normal sense of the word), certainly nothing like the last half we did – at the end of August – when all I could think of in the last three miles was that old Foreign Legion adage "pain is weakness leaving the body". In that race I took a fair few walking breaks, but today, with the exception of the drink stations, I ran continuously. I coughed a bit at the end, so evidently the cold hadn't gone completely. Final time for me 1:42:32, with M slightly behind.

She complained of feeling de-carbed at the end, lightheadeness and not noticing traffic being the main symptoms. I reckon she needs to slurp the energy gels a bit more often during long runs.

Earlier in the week, we did a nice Yasso session (pictures): 8x 800 m intervals in sub 3:30, with moderate wind going up the track. Again it felt as if my lungs weren't totally clear, but the legs handled the pace pretty well. After the first one, judging the pace was quite easy. Not bad for my first such session!

We are feeling pretty confident about a 3:30 – 3:40 marathon, as long as we can hold a good long run together next week.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Don't really know what week it is.

I'm back in training again, after taking at least a week off for a cold. It must have struck me after the last long run. I witnessed my partner's track session, in which we tried out the Yasso 800 theory.

The two runs in the week were OK, given my condition. A bit of hillyness on Wednesday: two iterations of Charterhouse Hill. A bit more challenging on Friday morning, when we did some 2-minute speed sessions. Attempted in my case, coughing and wheezing for the first two. The effort must have cleared things up because I was able to keep up for a few more.

A nice long run on Sunday, with bright sunshine making the most of the still-green countryside. From Godalming, through Munstead, Bramley (stopping for supplies) and along the Down's Link to join the North Downs way to loop back. About 17 or 18 miles altogether. Reportedly my sniffles were not as prominent as earlier in the week. Energy was in short supply after that. Other supplies are dwindling too – time for a trip to the shoe and sugary goo merchant.

This week we have got more speed work and Yasso sessions to look forward to.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Week -7 : careful

I need to be really careful about overtraining.

Nice long run on Sunday, some 2:40 all told, in overcast conditions. I was pretty sweaty at the end, but otherwise not too many ill effects. I took a drink with me this time, and some money for Lucozode.

Yesterday, however, I had a little bit of a sore tendon on my big toe, and more seriously a sore throat. By the evening it had turned into a proper cold so I missed my Tai Chi class. Today is "gym" day but I imagine I'll miss that too. I've cancelled a few London meetings and I'm going through my fresh fruit collection. Let's hope I can do the next important sessions properly: hills tomorrow and a Yasso 800 session on Thursday. Recovery runs can be subsituted with recovery yoga.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Week -8 : getting better

This week I've been running without my usual partner, which has an effect on motivation. It's easier for me to keep going if someone else is trotting along ahead, or even better, if I'm leaving them in my wake.

Last Sunday's long solo run was not too bad, although it was hottish, misty at first then steadily getting sunnier. I did an extended version of our usual canal path loop, coming back home after nearly 1:45 (without water!) to feed and drink, then did a little extra loop as far as Broadford Bridge. Not sure about pace, but it took 2:30 to do. Lots of walking if I'm honest.

Wednesday's threshold run not so bad, I found it easier to sustain effort than previous week. This was mostly along the canal path. When it gets wet later in the year, we are going to have to find somewhere else, probably a road. Booo! I missed the gym slot, but that wasn't a "key session" according to the RW schedule being followed. Last night's intervals (4 x 5 min efforts) were OK in the warm/humid late summer evening. I don't mind sweating a bit, provided I'm hydrated enough to begin with.

I've started using my Mizuno Wave Creation for the speedwork, because they feel like a slightly more cushioned version of the Asics DS Trainer to me. I bought these in a London Marathon expo a couple of years back, but they have never felt like a distance shoe to me, despite their wonderfully plush fit. I'm going to need new shoes, since my NB 854's have given up, leaving me with a 200-mile pair of Adidas Supernova to be getting on with. Time to visit my friends at The Tortoise and the Hare, and to stock up on not-exactly-tasty-but-effective SIS gunge.

A note on shoes. As you can see from the links, there are loads of places to get shoes, and you can try Googling, Froogling or Kelkoo-ing on the make and model if you know what you want. I prefer to deal with my local place if I can. If you are reading this, and fairly new to shoe buying, I recommend rummaging through the RW shoe guide to build up knowledge about the shoe market and technology, then go and see your friends at the running shop. In case you are wondering how I've arrived at such an eclectic collection, I'm a 6-foot 85-ish kg moderate overpronator, who likes to dash along at sub-8 miling if I can, i.e. in shorter runs. If I'm out plodding all morning though, I prefer a steady shoe like the NB or Asics GT-2xxx, of which I must have had half a dozen pairs.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Week -9 : not bad

Friday's interval session wasn't so bad. I did four reps of 6 minute 10k pace efforts, with 3-minutes jogging rests. Although the canal path can be a bit slippy and sandy, the DS Trainers were fine (they are light, but low on texture and grip).

I did a sort of organic upper body workout (seven bags of shrub prunings now await transportation to the tip), rounded off with a sauna.

It looks like being a hot sort of day tomorrow (max 28 C), so I'm planning to start my long easy run on the early side. I should be home before the grill really gets going, but to be on the safe side I'll loop back past the house to top up on fluid and sunblock.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Re-learning basics

Today was quite nice for the time of year. It rained on me on the way back from the paper shop and as well as being pleasantly showered I was rewarded by a beautiful afternoon rainbow, whilst munching a Boost (bad for me but what the heck). I never complain about the British weather, and you don't have to study the news very much to realise why.

After yesterday morning's threshold run (yuk!) and light hilly jogging the evening before, tonight was cross-training night. I jogged along the canal bank to the leisure centre (lovely late summer, such a shame it has to leave us soon) where D had already gone directly from work.

I did a few yoga-type stretches and ball exercises. It's a while since I've done any of those, and I could feel some memories of what to do next week coming back. I've got "The Runner's Yoga Book" by Jean Couch. Not the usual yoga manual, it recognises what runners do to themselves. Must consult this and start building a practice. The hour before breakfast seems to be good for this at the moment - another difference from winter training.

While at the gym, I hopped on the rower for a moderate 2 km. Not much energy! Had I eaten enough today? I certainly didn't have the oomph for any weights. D was on the treadmill, so I jogged along with her for a while. Intervals tomorrow, I thought, so how about a bit of pace. I reckon 10k pace is 7:15 or so for me, so 7:00 flat on the mill is about equivalent. Thirty seconds of that was OK, but a minute took forever. Jogged for a minute, then upped the pace again. Bloody 'ell! Was I really gonna do 4x5 mins of this tomorrow?

Apart from just being pathetic, I think I didn't eat right today. No banana on cereal, slim sandwiches and the Boost probably had the opposite effect by the time my insulin had kicked in and mopped up by blood sugar. None of this is nutritional rocket science, and I know all this already. I must eat properly, before even light workouts!

Running blogs

I've added a few running blogs to the sidebar, see if you can spot them amongst the geeky rubbish. I've found most of these through this list of running blogs. I'm not sure I'll want to join that list as this blog is somewhat wider ranging.

Here, I anticipate doing roughly weekly reports over the next ten weeks, as I approach Dublin. I'm probably going to focus on how the speed and endurance development work is going, but I also promise at least one energy bar recipe, as field tested on the mountains of Britain!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Dublin marathon

I finally, after much prevarication, signed up for the Dublin Marathon on the 31st October. Along with hill-walking, I've been doing a fair bit of running. Yesterday I sat down with my running partner and we sketched out a training plan for the next nine weeks. As part of that, we ran in the Pewsey 1/2 marathon last Sunday, and we did some decent-ish threshold pace work this morning.

This will be my fourth marathon, so I've a fair idea of what to expect. The other three were all in London. That involves training in the dark of winter (race is in April), but this time we'll be making use of the late summer and autumn.

I've been to Dublin once before, for a friend's stag do, so I'm looking forward to seeing it in a slightly calmer, i.e. less pissed, state of mind. Now to look for a hotel, preferably mid-range but with a sauna.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

3 peaks roundup

The long and the short of it: we did it! In 23 hours and 52 minutes to be precise.

I've more or less recovered, caught up on sleep, and have even been for a run to squish the three-hills badness out of my legs. It's good to be back in my own bed amongst my favourite creatures again.

The previous blog posts, which I did on the fly on my Treo, were looking unruly, so they've been culled. You can still see the Treo images and the texts by following my 3peaks Flickr tag. There will be some nicer photos soon so keep an eye, e.g. RSS (what's that?) on that tag (what's a tag?).

Update: Liam did a nice set too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

castle acre qi gong

castle acre qi gong
Originally uploaded by Drift Words.
First morning practice begins.

The sun is warm and happily forgets the stories of the stones.

Our limbs soften.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Art Loves Science and wants to go out

Science and Art, despite going about their businesses by seemingly different lights, occasionally desire each other, as it were glimpsing something attractively other-worldly in an after-work encounter. Part of the mutual desire must arise from recognition of a kindred soul, the common ancestors perhaps being creativity and patience.

After all, to make progress in either, an individual must endlessly observe, absorb the work of others, form a unique theory and push something new, no matter if it is imperfect or unlovable, into the world.

All very well, and despite some fumbling, occasionally something fruitful develops from Science/Art partnerships. Their less glamorous and rowdier cousins, Engineering and Craft, seem to have no difficultly in getting it on, and have been in and out of bed together for as long as anyone cares to know.

Now and again, there are official efforts to unite the two haughty suitors (thinking of the Wellcome Trust's or Research Council initiatives). Hoorah, you might imagine me saying, as practitioners are brought together. I generally find the the matches are too formal and unnatural. Here such-and-such-in-residence takes the letters of her name arranged in a double spiral, there, bits of the solar system is painted onto institutional car parks. The forced connections seem superficial and insincere, as well as probably taken down after two months. It is the processes and thoughts of the Two Cultures that really need to be connected, not their artefacts and manifestations.

Some more success at unifying the traditions comes when individual practice can be refracted through the glass of the other. UCL Graduate School has run a photo (actually any image) competition Research Images as Art / Art Images as Research for some years, and here's another one in Princeton (via Ratchet Up).

These things are fun to wander around, and wonder. To my mind, the most successful partnerships - bearing in mind that the dancefloor is the mind of one person - are those where both are trying to achieve the same things at the same time with the same materials, albeit with complementary steps. In other words, where the aesthetic values of the artworks and the scientific story visualised in the same document come from the same qualities in the image.

Sadly there seems, even in these exciting competitions, to be a tendency to hold up examples such as where some microscope slide or other just happens to look nice.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

UK digital printing services

So I've got digital photos to print, where do I send them? I could do without being a member of anything in particular, and I'd like to specify aspect ratios and and finishes fairly precisely. I certainly don't want to schlep around the chavvy high street with memory cards and CDs.

Therefore email/upload to send and letter box to receive.

As well as speed, cost and quality, I'm interested in the way that metering is done, and whether this can be controlled at my end. I'm also curious as to whether there's any integration with my software - e.g. an export plugin for iPhoto. (Jessops had something like that going with Windows XP, as I recall.) I'm not interested in sharing, cos I've got all the Flickr I can handle.

Can anyone recommend anything in particular?

Having built up a short list, I'll do a few test runs, and report back here as I find out more and as the results come back in. If I give a price it's for a 6x4, with quantities in brackets.
  1. Jessops photoexpress "Register now" blah blah 20 p, 15 p [100+] +£1.50 or pickup. The annoying ofoto Kodak gallery model? Sharing options.
  2. Truprint Registration. 10 p + 99 p p+p. Pay in advance facility for cost reduction.
  3. Snappy Snaps No registration. Based on local stores (you can email the store directly -whoo!) who offer varying services. Mine offers loads of print options (25 p for small quantities). Equivalent to walking in to the kiosk, as no delivery option (cos no payment system, presumably). SS is a franchise outfit, which explains the local variety.
  4. photobox 15 p each, but lower if you buy credits. £1.50 p+p.
  5. Bonusprint 12 p +99 p p+p
  6. dlab7 a sister-outfit of the VAT-busting Guernsey based 7dayshop. (cheap consumables, but mixed reviews in other cases) 80 p to 10 p [100+]. Prints from CD, with restrictions on what sizes you put on your submitted CD. Free delivery (I should jolly well cocoa as you've had to pay to get the files to them).
Results of trials posted here in due course.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Greetings from sunny Reading

Greetings from sunny Reading
Originally uploaded by Drift Words.
@ WOMAD with my beautiful lover!!

The sun has got his hat on, but I have left mine at home. Off to the market stalls ...

.. as it happened, buying an emergency hat only ensured that it rained all afternoon. Bewaring the drips, crowding into the tents, tempted by veggie curry and filling up with organic beer (Bath Ales stood out, though here it was Guinness), stamping the festival mud to the funky rhythms – splendid!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Bang, bang! bang bang bang.

So, what now?

Last week we (cynical Lan-daners) were sniggling at the London will fucking twat you in a minute, son vein of humour. This was really an oh-get-off-it reaction to faux-sincere empathy, mostly from Over There.

I dare say ex-SAS men in the papers and loads of Americans all over the place were at the same time urging us to collectively Get Tough.

Well, There you go.

What now, may be that the cynical dirty clever mystery of intelligent Intelligence will come to the fore as a police tactic, and running about in tube stations will be largely confined to the TV screen where it belongs.

Another scenario is that the city will have to get used to being "fucking twatted" out of, and by, the blue. Statistically though, this work will make us safer.

Nice cabinet, sir!

Andy Boyd (Croeso) is clearly a multitalented generous-hearted clever person. He eschews TV so can't be bad. But I have questions.

Why does he read Harry Potter? I read the first, middle and last page of the latest lump in Borders yesterday and thought it too much. Still I would never berate random commuters for being Potterists, only my friends.

And why, if he doesn't watch TV, is he building this wonderful Mackintoshian media cabinet?

Not only is it quite stunning as a piece of design, I love the thought of this idea – allowing you to keep the nice doors closed AND fastforward the DVD:
Placed high in the drawer separator is one of my favourite features of the cabinet, an infra red remote control repeater sensor. This picks up the IR signal and via a small amplifier hidden underneath the cabinet feeds 2 LEDs that are housed in the lower compartments to trigger the amplifier and DVD player that will be housed there.

If only the ads on DVD's weren't locked out!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Explosions in London

I was just getting into a happy mood about London (the Games! Yipeee!) and now this, perhaps inevitable, disaster.

Desperate for news
Originally uploaded by Adam Tinworth.
Tom Coates has good roundup of news. More BBC news.

The Olympic bid team slinks back to the capital whilst we keep the telly on. I have friends who work in BMA house, right on Tavistock Square.

I'm struck by the swift professionalism of the emergency services, the ability of Tony Blair to act as a president (compared to the laughable Bush), and the quiet desperation of the English commuters and their international friends.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Originally uploaded by Drift Words.
I don't think I'm turning into a steam buff, but I can tell when something is impressive.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Scafell descent

Originally uploaded by Drift Words.
An absolutely splendid day of walking Scafell Pike with these two lads. Here we are finding an interesting (i.e. crunchy and technical) route down the northern approaches to Scafell back to our car.

After a misty and grey start (enlivened by a thrilling drive over Wrynose and Harknott Passes - almost the most fun you can have in a vehicle without it being a Challenger tank) the day brightened to give occasional cloud-dappled views over the valleys of the Lake District.

We had reached the summit of the Pike in 1:50 or thereabouts, which was encouraging. This climb was part of our preparation for a forthcoming attempt at Britain's Three Peaks within the space of 24 hours, of which more later.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Blogger codes. Whatever next?

I noticed that certain highly obsessive pasty blogger types (e.g.) (remember Chris Tarrant calling proto-bloggers "netties"?) have blogger codes. Uh what?

My blogger code: B5 d- t k+ s- u- i- o x-- e++ l- c (decode it!)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

I really need one of these

snack time
Originally uploaded by phraseling.
I really hate lawns. In an effort to spruce up the back garden we have been scratching around with the "lawn". Why do we have to have one? The moss is clearly winning, so why all the anguish about inadequate grass?

Our garden slopes quite a bit, so regular mowing is just so much faffing about. I really fancy installing one of the grass-munchers as shown, that way we could be in for some cheese as a by-product. The dangers to laundry and our other plants are only too apparent, sadly.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sunny days

Now and again, the sun breaks through and it pays to get out of doors. This past weekend to the capital, where happy crowds on the South Bank, and the Africa Remix exhibition kept us amused.

South Bank South Bank South Bank

Last weekend to friends in North Wales, and a healthy scramble up the north face of Tryfan.

Tryfan Scramble Tryfan Scramble Tryfan Scramble

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Recalling the Eclipse of 1999

Tihany village, North shore of Lake Balaton, Hungary.

11 August 1999.


This shows the gang assembled in the churchyard. Ady and Sarah, who also work at the lab, were in the town on the same day and we met up with them to view the event. Dawn is pictured sitting next to the device we used to project an image of the eclipse on to a nearby screen. It consists of a small camera tripod, a make-up mirror, and several post-it notes arranged to form a pinhole.


The all-important screen is again formed of pieces of paper and post-it notes. Jason's motorcycle helmet serves as a support. This was about 3 or 4 ft away from the mirror. We were able to view the shadow of the moon as it crossed the sun, in complete safety and without straining our necks. Passers-by were amused the apparatus that we had set up. We were pleasantly surprised as well since it was totally unplanned! The other two shots show the images of the sun formed by the light passing through natural pinholes (gaps between the leaves of the trees). It was possible to make similar images by holding up cracks in the fingers and thumbs. These effects were seen for about an hour either side of the total eclipse.


The totality itself, not shown in any photos here, was spectacular! We were gripped with suspense in the minutes leading up to the total eclipse because a large bank of cloud had arrived. It looked as if they would threaten our pleasure. At almost the last minute however the clouds vanished leaving us with a good view of the sun. Since the churchyard at that time was thronged with people, there was quite an atmosphere. In our high vantage point we were able to see red skies all around, a 360 degrees sunset!

Our excitement got to a high point as the points of the crescent sun approached one another. With a few seconds to go before totality, only a few bright spots could be seen on the remaining edges of the sun. These were the famous Bailey's beads. At last even these disappeared from view, leaving just the corona, the outer atmosphere of the sun, in view.

It took about 20 seconds for us to become accustomed to the darkness, and to be able to see the corona properly. There must have been a little bit of haze at high altitude, since the structures in the corona were not particularly clear. Some binoculars may have been quite useful at this point! Despite that, it was the most amazing feeling to look at this strange object high in the sky. It seemed so bizarre and unusual. Knowing what it was seemed to make it even more wonderful. Thinking about the objects in space, arranged so perfectly, just seemed to intensify the feeling of strangeness. At this point I really felt as if I could appreciate the astronomical distances of our solar system.

At our site in central Hungary, the totality lasted for about 2 1/2 minutes. There was plenty of time to look around and drink in the strange atmosphere of the crowd. As the time went on the eyes became more accustomed to the low light levels, and the corona seemed to expand accordingly.

It was soon time to reach for our protective glasses, as the so-called diamond ring started to become visible. This drew a loud gasp and a cheer from the people.

After that, there seemed to be a universal feeling of anti-climax. The light levels gradually increased to normality, and the temperature, which had taken a sudden dive during the eclipse itself, took some hours to return to the midsummer levels. The crowds dispersed quietly, with none of the excited chatter apparent before the event. I suspect that most people were feeling emotionally overwhelmed, and did not know what to say to their neighbours.

We retired to an inn for lunch and conversation.

Monday, February 14, 2005

It takes a month

Some cultures have an established routine of mourning. Friends, family and neighbours take food to the bereaved household for period, until things can get back to normal.

Last week I sorted out the last Thing, that is, clump of atoms, that needed to be sorted. It has taken a month, during which my flow of Normal Work has been a minimal trickle.

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Now I am the inheritor of two thousand miles on the car, a garage full of boxes, and a head of memories and thoughts I didn't know I needed to go through. It's going to take more than a month, but the proper work of the living in respect of the dead now begins.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The line just got shorter

I'm living in interesting times, but I'm living. I had a half-expected phone call last weekend, so I've been going around the place Registering, Notifying, Organising.

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Soon I'll need time to reflect properly. Also consequently, Tommy Womble needs a new home.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Drifting into 05

Whizz. Bang. The celebrations are hollow, the fizz silent in the fridge.

It is truly awful when demons strike in the world's playgrounds. I hope with you - having friends somewhere in SL - that, in this new and already damaged year, our fears are resolved. The resolution may not be want we want to hear. I'm powerless and shameful, my words drift ugly in the water.