Saturday, 31 July 2010

July 2010 List

Here's my July 2010 list. Again, it's not the actual end of the month yet but it's physically impossible for me to go for another run and mentally impossibly for me to finish another book. As for drives, I'm no longer going to be recording them as I am now on a course of lessons, hopefully for the last time.

01/06/10 - 5km, 31 minutes (9.7km/hr)
08/06/10 - 6km, 38 minutes (9.5km/hr)
12/06/10 - 6km, 37 minutes (9.7km/hr)
08/07/10 - N/A, ABORTED AFTER 2km, nausea
13/07/10 - N/A, ABORTED AFTER 1.7km, pain
16/07/10 - 6km, 35 minutes (10.3km/hr)
20/07/10 - 6km, 39 minutes (9.2km/hr)
23/07/10 - 6km, 34 minutes (10.6km/hr)
26/07/10 - 6km, 35 minutes (10.3km/hr)
28/07/10 - 6km, 34 minutes (10.6km/hr)
31/07/10 - 6km, 36 minutes (10.0km/hr)
So it started off fairly badly - lesson being that it is difficult to run a good distance after a long break. However, once I had got over that initial (and metaphorical) hurdle, I have had a great string of successes. Not only have I succeeded in my objective of getting a good list of 6km times, I have also managed to run more frequently without getting injured. Very pleased. The success was simply down to pacing myself - ensuring I didn't rush the first leg of the run and that I had sufficient energy to stay on my feet the whole time. The 39 minute time was the instance in which I rushed the first leg and was worn out for the return journey.

My objective for next month will be to mix in a few longer runs (8/9km) while continuing to mainly run 6kmers. I haven't ran 9km since February, and that took 64 minutes. If I can finish the month with a 10km run done in under an hour, I'll be very happy indeed.

Don't worry, I haven't let these successes get to my head. Lots of words have been getting to my head too.

Reading
Dan Harrington - Harrington on Cash Games Volume I (2008)
Anthony Seldon - Major: A Political Life (1997)
Robert Beckman - Crashes (1988)
Alistair Cooke - Letter from America (2004)
Matt Mattross - Making of a Poker Player (2005)
Paul Ellis (ed.) - Hardy Heating Co. Ltd (1968)
Christopher Hibbert - George III (1998)

Read
Giles MacDonogh - Frederick the Great (1999)
Liz Fisher, John Courts - The Bluffer's Guide to Accountancy (2006)

Literally didn't touch Harrington, Seldon or Mattross at all. In future I shall prevent myself from half-finishing books.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

A Rhyming Play

As uploaded and posted on Three Men on a Blog

It's a eleven-minute play (I had intented it for more like thirteen minutes but the voice actors spoke very fast!) which was broadcast on Radio Warwick during their Best Playwright competition in early 2009.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Text from a while ago

Hi, I'd like some ORGANIC tomato & basil soup for starters, some DOLPHIN-FRIENDLY tuna and SUSTAINABLE cod for my main, some chocolate cake made with FREE-RANGE eggs and FAIR TRADE cocoa beans, and a pint of endangered albino swamp hippopotamus blood packaged in a Malaysian sweatshop and flown over using high-carbon fuel.

Another dream

Some people say real life is stranger than dreams, or that fact is stranger than fiction.

Those people are wrong.

And to prove it here's a dream I just had - I don't think Mother Nature has anything on this.

I was dressed only in my towels as I was driving down the road in a large, navy-blue car, which may have been a Citroen Picasso. When I got out of the car I realised the numberplate was French. I also realised that most of the cars around me had German number plates. The people around me too were speaking mainly in German, some in Spanish.

The area itself reminded me a bit of South Kensington, though I had the feeling that I was in Berlin. I went into a large, formal building. It had the feel of a Victorian mansion.

As I ascended the broad, circular stair-case I arrived in an office. Behind the desk was my father, with my mother to his right. I did not see them as my parents but as my potential employers - they had offered me an interview and I was here to thank them for paying attention while trying to make a good opening impression. It felt slightly odd being there on a Sunday (as it was in dream-time) but I thanked them for my time.

I walked downstairs, still in my towels, and peeped into a ground-floor ball/function room. I laughed that this may not only be my office soon but also my home. On my way out I registered how odd it was that my parents and my potential employers were the same people. I was happy with this arrangement though.

However, as I went back out into the strasse (street) looking for my car I couldn't find it. I consoled myself a little on the basis that I couldn't remember exactly where I'd parked it so it could have been anywhere in that area. But I was dead worried about it having been stolen, not simply because it was valuable (in my dream I estimated it at $10,000 - yes, dollars) but also because it would likely have been my fault: I might have left a window open or the door unlocked.

My panic subdued a little as the scene changed. Gone were the Germans waiting at the bus stop - along came a bunch of school people. English school people. My old school friends, as if from nowhere. None of us talked to each other - it was all 'cordial nods' and light embraces, or just bumping into each other awkwardly. For it was very crowded. I was trying to go forward, presumably still looking for the car, many of them were trying to go in the opposite direction.

But the entire scenery had changed, and the building in which I had been earlier had disappeared, replaced by a stage on which some musical performance was going on. There was some sort of theme to the music (it might have been 18th century) so I was surprised when they suddenly started playing Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony 2nd Movement. It was playing only very quietly, yet foreground noises could no longer be heard and the music took over - it was a very strange sort of bliss.

Then I was woken up by my phone.

I do wonder if the last few seconds of the dream (being as they were so different from the rest) somehow managed to anticipate the text message - perhaps the telltale signals, which can be picked up so effectively by speaker devices, can be picked up by the brain too.

I'd pay good money for a good study into dreams. Not dream-money either. Real money.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

25th July 2010

Had a fairly nasty dream - dreamt I was at a Chinese buffet with my friends. It was 10am so the selection of foods was rather limited. Worse still, there were all sorts of unpleasant table-dyanmics going on - there were two tables and people were moving between them like idiots according to crass favouritism. I decided to stay in my own initial seat and dismiss the trivialities around me.

However, the worst was to come - after I'd piled my plate fairly substantially at the buffet section the food literally disappeared off it even before I was able to sit down. Then just as I was going to get some more (this time with my hands, having learnt not to trust my plate) my alarm went off.

Had some good meetings yesterday - one with a barrister friend of the family who had come down from London, and another with my ex-tutor. I say ex-tutor, it was literally fifteen years ago.

Anyway I actually wrote this at around 9ambut Blogger is (not unusually) having problems. I'm literally trying to sign into it as a write. Had to type this in using NOTEPAD.

Off to a breakfast engagement now (not coincidentally, a 10am one), though by the time this is up and posted I will already be busy digesting it.



S

Friday, 23 July 2010

From the large mouth of George III

Six hours sleep is enough for a man.

Seven for a woman.

And eight for a fool.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Review: A History of Britain

Review: A History of Britain

There comes along, every now and then, a documentary series which stands out as the best in its field. For Art History there is Kenneth Clark's Civilization. For anthropology there is Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of Man. For astronomy there is Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Others such as Alistair Cooke's America and James Burke's Connections also stand out - experts in their fields taking us down beautiful, well-paved paths. All leave us feeling better informed and sometimes slightly humbled. They are the great documentaries.

Simon Schama's History of Britain is not one of them.

Though Simon Schama's academic credentials are beyond dispute (as is the case with most television historians, they are all distinguished professors) there is something missing in this series.

Let me put it like this - a lot of the charm of the 'great documentaries' I have listed above is as much to do with the host as it has to do with the subject matter. In a way that's part of the idea - you need an expert who is able to spark an interest in the subject and inspire the viewers to study further. Or at least to think about things they hadn't really thought of before. The ideal aim is to educate and inform as broad a group as possible without having to resort to over-simplification and patronisation.

But this is precisely what Simon Schama does. The personality required to tell a story as great as the entire history of a nation ends up giving way to underwhelming, topical subjects. This is less true in the earlier episodes, in which Simon seems quite happy discussing the Kings and Queens. But when we get to what might be called the age of parliamentary democracy, the world he is describing is suddenly much more real - much closer to our own. Unfortunately, he uses this to make rather irresponsible cultural inferences, as I shall explain presently.

(It is worth noting that the series was made in three parts, from 2000 to 2002)

One need only look at some of the episode titles to see that there is a clear agenda. This does not mean to say there is anything wrong with the presenter having an opinion. James Burke's Connections was an "alternative view of change".  Kenneth Clark's Civilisation was "A Personal View". These views run through the programme.

But Schama's views seem to jump around from episode to episode, so much so that it is hard to really know whether they are his own. Take some episode titles. "The wrong empire.", "Victoria and her sisters." The latter of these two episodes is the worst of the series, not because simply because it apes to a particular theme but because the narrative is sacrificed a little in the process. The reign of Victoria was presented almost entirely through the eyes and lives of 'her sisters'. Not biological sisters, but her female contemporaries. The Victorian narrative was not ignored, but there was no real effort to show any sort of change and continuity - Victoria's 64 year reign is presented in an almost static manner. If you are making a programme about gender identity in late-nineteenth century England, fair enough. But if you're making a series about the history of Britain, it seems a little self-indulgent (or perhaps, indulging someone else) to structure an episode in this way.

Though this is one way of looking at history, I feel there is something rather lame and short-termist about it. Anyone politically aware at the turn of the millennium will remember that these were still the golden age of 'political correctness' - it was fashionable to be open-minded about other cultures, races, and alternative lifestyles generally. Whether this was a genuine fascination or not or just an institutionalised form of overbearing politeness, it is hard to be certain of. What is perhaps more certain is that it has gone out of fashion in the last year and a bit, Marcus du Sautoy's Story of Maths (which I reviewed here) being one of the later examples.

My complaint isn't that they are coming from a viewpoint I disagree with, but rather they are giving too much credence to any current viewpoint. Whatever your own opinions of how history should be presented and what aspects should be emphasised, I think we might agree that for a subject as long and weighty as A History of Britain we must try and tell as much of the story as we can without pandering too much to modern sensibilities, or trying to draw excessive parallels with the present, as Schama does rather glibly in a few of the later episodes. How can the viewer get lost in a sense of timelessness when the burden of the present is continually lumped on their backs? Hearkenings to the present day should be subtle - they should certainly not govern the content of episodes.

There were some good points too. Between cringeworthy platitudes there was quite a lot of material covered, particularly in the earlier episodes. But the greatest danger in giving various episodes 'themes' is that you omit some of the key processes which underpinned the nation's development. For instance, Industrialisation is only mentioned in the context of the squalor it produced and the romantics who opposed it. The growth of the middle class and the birth of a consumer society isn't really tapped upon. We hear hardly anything about the spectacular Georgians. Though the last episode, which covers the lives of Winston Churchill and George Orwell, is one of the best, it does not go past their lives, and so the one chance Schama has to make a real commentary about the present age he ignores: 1948-2002 is not documented.



So in the end what we get is little croutons of interest pulled out from the great historical soup. However, both with soup and with documentaries, I would rather have the whole bowlful. This, would of course, means that the texture and flavour of these croutons becomes drowned out in the rest of the dish. But at least you are left satisfied.


VERDICT: Ambitious, but ultimately patchy and uncompelling.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

ACA III

Filling forms on computer
That's the thing I do
So I'll be a commuter
Aged twenty-two

Life Tips - No. 2

When talking to people who are clearly brighter, faster talkers than you, don't worry about sounding uninformed or dull - they'll be too busy enjoying the sound of their own voice to notice.

ACA II

Having done most of the donkey work of form-filling I am now on to the more creative side of things, and there are some pretty tough questions. They are mainly short ones (i.e. 200 words) but there are many of them and they ask things which I would not be able to answer off the top of my head.

However, I have realised that if I use the same rigour and methodology I used for equally-tough exam questions and long essays during my time at University, then I can pretty much answer any question thrown at me. On paper anyway - interviews are another matter.

And that's my life right now. Forms. Well, punctuated with sleeping, eating, meeting friends, drinking, reading, thinking, running, walking, driving, corresponding, writing, washing, dreaming, tidying, cleansing, standing, sitting, watching, listening and talking.

But mainly forms.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

ACA

Some of these application forms ask some pretty tough questions. Fair enough though - I wouldn't want a dimwit taking care of my finances.

Also for those who didn't know already (or did know but have forgotten, or hadn't forgotten but were too lazy to save the link) I post on this tripartite blog every Thursday at 3pm.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Stupid

Once again I saw a group of children (presumably from a nearby school) dressed in flourescent waistcoats. I don't recall ever going missing as a child, or being hit by a bike/car because my clothes weren't bright enough. Perhaps it is easier to count the children this way, and see if anyone has run away from the group. But to be honest, if I lived in a society where I was forced to wear a flourescent waistcoat, I think I'd want to run away.

Excerpt from a dream

It was a Friday. I was in Slough with Sago and Bott. We were planning to stay with a host family as of Monday. On going to the address, the host was rudely surprised at how early we were. On telling him that we were only there to drop our luggage off, he claimed that was not possible, and that we would have to use alternate facilities.

He was helpful enough to show us the direction to these facilities, though. We had to walk along a river bank. Higher up on the embankment there was another path where various groups were walking. They were all young and threatening, and one of the gangs threw something at the gang in front. This did not spark any altercation, presumably because hurling stones was just part of the routine banter between gangs in that part of the world.

We eventually found the building where we were to deposit our luggage. But we were unable to find a specific room, as the entire building seemed to be one labyrinth of corridors as if it were the London Underground. There were a few passages that had stairs, but even they led to dead ends.

I do not remember any more from the dream.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Life Tips - No. 1

i) Think of the most pathetic thing you've ever done.
ii) Think how much more pathetic it could have been.
iii) Remember that no matter how pathetic it could have been, there are millions of people who have already actually done things far more pathetic than that.

WOT I DID DIS WEEKEND

An example of all the exciting things you can do in a weekend if you ignore the constraints of finance and time and physical health.

Saturday/Sunday

1200 - out, meal, purchase of drinks
1330 - bath
1530 - arrival at BBQ ; beefburgers, ribs, chicken, pizza, ale
1815 - arrival at beach lawns ; football, frisbee, catch, conversation
2045 - collective viewing of remainder of Germany vs Uruguay match
2115 - another round of pizza
2230 - walk to pub
2330 - bus to town
0000 - bar, garaussing of j├Ągerbomben, dancing
0100 - club, more of the same but with better music
0230 - exeunt
0300 - kebab in Hove
0330 - cab to friend's
0400 - sleep
0500 - woken up by emergency call
0545 - back to sleep
0630 - back up
0655 - walk home
0745 - shower
0830 - leave house
0845 - arrive at station
0900 - leave Brighton
0936 - arrive at Balcombe, walk to Ardingly
1036 - arrive at Ardingly vehicle festival on foot (irony)
1200 - lunch of sausage and chips washed down with coke
1210 - parade of old motor vehicles
1230 - resting under the sun
1300 - beer tent
1400 - morris dancers
1425 - ice cream
1440 - spitfire demonstration
1445 - walk back to Balcombe
1530 - drink at The Half Moon Inn
1550 - walk to station
1600 - arrive at station
1615 - catch train
1650 - arrive in Brighton
1710 - dinner
1800 - home
1930 - world cup final
2315 - sleep


Plan for this week:

Monday to Friday
0000-2359 - work

Friday, 9 July 2010

Story of my Life

I did some things. That was it.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

But then he asked himself

...was writing about his life the main hindrance to actually living it?

Friday, 2 July 2010

Rinse your words

"It's not just a bath. It's a ceremony. It's a visual-sensory experience. It's a surrender to temptation and the warm bask of the water, yet at the same time an expression of defiance against modernity. It's not work, but it's rewarding. It's not play, but it's fun. It's not sex, but it's sensual. It does not seek to conform, nor to justify itself. It can not be pigeonholed. It is a world unto itself. It's unique, just like you. The world of the bathtub. And the world is yours alone, a world of your own creation. For sixty minutes nothing external matters. You are a castle. The bathwater is your moat. You are an island of blissful tranquility, the tropical waters lapping against your sands, politely drawing away the sediment, bowing majestically, washing away your worries. -- And in the end when the sullen withdrawal comes the water drains away like some sort of metaphor for the transient nature of existence. As if a confirmation of the brutality of reality, it slips into the void never to be seen again, like so many childhood toys. -- But it doesn't worry you. It can not. For you know all too well that, in time, the ritual shall be repeated - hot water shall be drawn afresh like some life-giving ethereal substance, to be let go once its power has been harnessed. The cyclical harmony is confirmed, after all. It's not just a bath. It's a ceremony."

"Mate, what are you talking about, it's not a fucking ceremony it's a fucking BATH. Get in. Drain. Get out. Simple as that. Simple as fucking that."

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Monthly List

Here is a list of running/driving/reading activities in the month of June, cause I know you've all been waiting desperately for it.

Running

27/01/10 - 5km, 37 minutes (8.1km/hr)
29/01/10 - 6km, 42 minutes (8.6km/hr)
01/02/10 - 6km, 43 minutes (8.4km/hr)
04/02/10 - 7km, 48 minutes (8.8km/hr)
07/02/10 - 9km, 64 minutes (8.4km/hr)
09/02/10 - 4km, 25 minutes (9.6km/hr)
27/04/10 - 1½km, 10 minutes (9km/hr)
10/05/10 - 3km, 19 minutes (9.5km/hr)
29/05/10 - 4½km, 30 minutes (9km/hr)
01/06/10 - 5km, 31 minutes (9.7km/hr)
08/06/10 - 6km, 38 minutes (9.5km/hr)
12/06/10 - 6km, 37 minutes (9.7km/hr)


So three new runs. Been playing a bit of football recently which meant more exercise but fewer runs. But the key thing is comparing my June scores to my January/February scores. My 5km 6km 6km times have gone from 37 42 43 to 31 38 37 - that's a pretty decisive improvement. My aim for the upcoming month is to build up a solid base of 6km runs. Might end up hitting the magic 10km/hr mark soon, but that's not a goal in itself.

Driving
23/05/10 - 50 minutes, through Hove
26/05/10 - 40 minutes, to Poynings
27/05/10 - 25 minutes, to supermarket
03/06/10 - 20 minutes, to Hove
06/06/10 - 35 minutes, to Joan's
07/06/10 - 30 minutes, to Kemptown
14/06/10 - 30 minutes, to Kemptown

Again, notable lack of activity during second half of month. This was due to the combined pressures of having a holiday, a houseguest and a World Cup!

Reading
Dan Harrington - Harrington on Cash Games Volume I (2008)
Anthony Seldon - Major: A Political Life (1997)
Robert Beckman - Crashes (1988)
Alistair Cooke - Letter from America (2004)
Matt Mattross - Making of a Poker Player (2005)
Paul Ellis (ed.) - Hardy Heating Co. Ltd (1968)

Didn't finish any books this month. Again, haven't really had time.

How then, do I have time to keep a blog?

How then, do you have time to read it?