Thursday, May 31, 2007
I weighed in at around thirteen stone on the bathroom scales in Wales this morning (it is difficult to read the analogue scale accurately) but I am undoubtedly a lot lighter than I was in the middle of 2005 when I estimate I was over fifteen stone.
I was down to 14 stone by November 2005, then 13 stone 3 in March 2006, before going into reverse and getting back to 14 stone again in July 2006; a weight where I seem to have stayed until Dave suggested the Childline Challenge and Triathblog was born.
What I've learned is that what works (and I hope will continue to work for me) is almost fitness by blogging; daily recording of efforts and results reinforcing discipline and demonstrating progress.
In retrospect it is clear today that I gained ten or eleven pound in the second half of 2006 when I stopped recording my weight regularly. QED.
This morning I did my standard Cardiff run in 30 minutes 20 seconds which is five minutes and 43 seconds faster than I did it on April 15 in the run up to the Challenge. Just knowing these numbers gives me a huge boost plus an appetite to break half an hour the next time I go out on it.
Given the way that I'm wired, that is the way to do it.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
For lunch I would like to have a cheese and onion cob. A cheese and onion cob is the same thing as a cheese and onion roll, though it should strictly be aged for a few days in clingfilm behind the bar in order to render the cheese appropriately rubbery. (Was it only me who felt a strange complusion to bite Stadler erasers in school? You remember, the posh rubbers with the blue edged cardboard wrappers.)
For tea, bakestones rather than scones.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
But if I was to say that ........
A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or Maguffin) is a plot device that motivates the characters and/or advances the story, but has little other relevance to the story.
The director and producer Alfred Hitchcock popularized both the term MacGuffin" and the technique. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Hitchcock explained the term in a 1939 lecture at Columbia University: "[We] have a name in the studio, and we call it the 'MacGuffin.' It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is most always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers."
The element that distinguishes a MacGuffin from other types of plot devices is that it is not important what the object specifically is. Anything that serves as a motivation will do. The MacGuffin might even be ambiguous. Its importance is accepted by the story's characters, but it does not actually have any effect on the story. It can be generic or left open to interpretation.
The MacGuffin is common in films, especially thrillers. Commonly, though not always, it is the central focus of the film in the first act, and later declines in importance as the struggles and motivations of characters play out. Sometimes the MacGuffin is all but forgotten by the end of the film.
...... you might well assume that something I read recently has a doozy of a MacGuffin. I couldn't possibly comment.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Sunday, May 27, 2007
A judge overseeing the trial of three alleged Muslim “cyber-terrorists” has been given a basic lesson in the internet – after admitting that he did not know what a “website” was.
Mr Justice Peter Openshaw, who is conducting the trial at Woolwich Crown Court, stunned prosecutors when he said: “The trouble is I don’t understand the language. I don’t really understand what a website is.”
His remark looks destined to join a list of comments by judges that are forever trotted out in support of the legend of judicial ignorance.
In response a niggly Statement from the Judicial Communications Office retorted:
A media report on a judge reported as saying “I don’t really understand what a website is” has been taken out of context
News reports have appeared implying that Mr Justice Openshaw, in the course of proceedings, did not understand the term ‘website’.
In fact the Judge is currently in the fifth week of presiding over a trial which is largely based on computer generated evidence. Evidence is being provided by expert witnesses that will inevitably be of a specialist nature.
Trial judges always seek to ensure that everyone in court is able to follow all of the proceedings. They will regularly ask questions – not for their own benefit – but on behalf of all those following a case, in the interests of justice.
In this specific case, immediately prior to the judge’s comment, the prosecution counsel had referred to various internet forums with postings of comments relevant to the case. Mr Justice Openshaw was simply clarifying the evidence presented, in an easily understandable form for all those in court.
Mr Justice Openshaw is entirely computer literate and indeed has taken notes on his own computer in court for many years.
My Dad worked as a forensic consulting engineer, so he was essentially a professional expert witness in court. Years ago he explained to me that the reason that judges ask stupid questions in court is that a judgement may only be based on the evidence that has been submitted. There is a limited amount of information that can be taken for granted (that the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening for example) but everything else must be specifically stated in court. If for example it was essential to a case that it was understood that David Beckham was a professional footballer, but nobody had got around to saying it the judge would be compelled to peer owlishly over his spectacles and enquire how Mr Beckham made a living, because if he didn't, the fact would not appear in the transcript and any verdict based upon it would be vulnerable on appeal.
This seemed obvious to me once explained but I've never heard or read it elsewhere, and hence state it here m'lud. (If I've got it wrong, the fault lies with my memory not my illustrious parent.)
Saturday, May 26, 2007
We're one of the sponsors again this year (this time with our www.bumblebeeauctions.co.uk rather than www.coraider.co.uk hats on) and as is traditional we will be colonising the peerless viewpoint that is the walkway between our offices in the Apprentice Shop and the Coles Shop for the Friday night gigs. Let me know if and when you're coming along.
Friday, May 25, 2007
John Osborne ("utterly without talent," according to Colin Wilson - and he's one to talk) ended up bankrupt in Shropshire, begging money to fix his teeth from the Royal Literary Fund. Kingsley Amis became a bulging-eyed boozer and misanthrope, being funny in the Garrick with his zip undone, and virtually incapacitated by his phobias - flying, folk dancing, hailing taxis and sitting on his own, to mention only a few.
Philip Larkin succumbed to "depressive nihilism", expiring of oesophageal cancer in Hull surrounded by his ugly birds, the devoted Maeves, Monicas and Bettys. John Braine ("contrived and perfunctory") drank heavily, grew "downright stupid" and "bored everybody silly". His Room at the Top archives failed to sell at Sotheby's and for Christmas he went to the community centre and lunched with tramps.
John Wain kept churning out unreadable epics about Oxford, went blind and died "short of money", living off handouts from the Society of Authors. Kenneth Tynan's cheques bounced, too, and he died of emphysema, weighing less than eight stone. Before that, his obsession with sadomasochism got the better of him, and he broke a blood vessel in his penis, which took on "the shape of an egg-timer". ......... read on .....
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Here is a story called "The Luncheon" by Somerset Maugham.
I remember hooting with laughter when I heard it on the radio in my father's car as we drove somewhere or other when I was a boy.
To this day you can raise a smile from either of us by announcing:
I never eat more than one thing.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
On presenting myself at the school office to pick him up I was astonished when the lady working there outed herself as a reader of this blog. She initially stumbled upon it while googling "Surrey Strings" and coming across my references.
"I hope you won't feel that I'm stalking you", she said before broaching the topic, which seems like a strange thing to say but is exactly what I felt after learning so much about Simon Crane from the Internet Movie DataBase after his sister mentioned him in passing. (I remember feeling that I might appear to be some sort of freak if I started demonstrating an encyclopedic knowledge of his career to members of his family even if all it took was two minutes on the internet to acquire the information.)
It seems like these scribblings inexorably become more and more significant a part of the face that I present to the world. There are strange and new privacy barriers to be negotiated. Interesting but not a little scary.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
I’ve got a fast connection so I don’t have to wait
There's always some new site,
I browse all day and night
It's like I’m surfing at the speed of light
The internet is for porn,
Why you think the net was born?
Porn porn porn.
I laughed out loud at the lyrics above after stumbling upon a great song from Avenue Q. Phil was in the house band when the show opened in London, and I remember his brother Andy telling me it was bawdy and hilarious. (Rabelaisian, peut-être?) Looks like I need to make a date in my diary for the Noel Coward Theatre.
While I'm on the subject I've also triangulated raves for Wicked from my sister, the parents of a school friend of my son, and Kevin Smith, so - even though of my own volition I wouldn't have thought that it would float my boat - I should try and get to the Apollo Victoria as well.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Click on the image for more details.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
I am honoured to accept this precedent on behalf of A Welsh Born Icon (Nicholas Browne), The Profit Burglar (Paul Robert Fright) and the New Ninja Bomber (Benjamin Browne).
Rabelais has a place on my notional, inchoate, amorphous to-do list. Who can fail to be drawn to works in which "long lists of vulgar insults fill several chapters"? But in truth my knowledge is limited to what I gleaned from Roberstson Davies' wonderful 'The Rebel Angels'; which is drenched in references.
I learned of Davies from Anthony Burgess' invaluable 99 Novels. Perhaps I should set The Rebel Angels for the El Grupo after next? I still think often of the Parlabane Bounty, specifically the following mental image, conjured frequently to help me me smile rather than scowl when I am being obstructed by jobsworths:
I make a final bequest under the provisions of the Human Tissue Gift Act of 1971. I leave my arse-hole, and all necessary integument thereto appertaining, to the Faculty of Philosophy; let it be stretched upon a steel frame so that each New Year's Day, the senior professor may blow through it, uttering a rich, fruity note, as my salute to the world of which I now take leave ...Rabelaisian.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Now as a general rule I'm more of a rugby man than a footie fan, and a celebrator of the rich tapestry of nationalities that make contemporary London so stimulating, but I can't help but find it a bit sad that scenes from Durban's Absa Stadium will be crowding out the new Wembley at a boozer in SW19 later today.
That said, looking at today's telly, the first half of the FA Cup final clashes with the latter part of Casablanca on Channel 5, and the second with the movie of The Entertainer on BBC2.
Having recently seen the Old Vic's revival of the latter, and dug up a picture of the Gillster breathing the same air as its writer and two of the film's stars, I could possibly be drawn to that rather than the muddied oafs at the goals. I wonder what pub will be showing it?
Friday, May 18, 2007
Blow me down with my cash he runs
Thief in the night
No chance to fight
Your last half crown's for Gordon Brown
Every time just like the last
On his ship tied to the mast
Permanent frown from Gordon Brown
Golden Brown Scottish big mouth
Through the decades he's headed South
Old folk to flay
Taxes to pay
Permanent frown from Gordon Brown
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Subtlety is not the watchword at this Teutonic Hooters, but we raised steins of Hacker Pschorr, toasted the Bavarian Pope, and set to work.
I had the Special Bavarian Beerhouse "Wurstplatte" - Sausage Platter: Spiral sausage (Bratwurst Schnecke), Merguez(!) spicy sausage, Cheese cracker Sausage (Kaeseknacker) served with mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and mustard.
Paul had Jäger Schnitzel: ‘Hunter Style’ Pork Escalope topped with a creamy mushroom sauce served with french fries and a mixed salad.
Desserts were demurred in favour of more ale, choice inspired by Maturin's recommendation of wheat beer to me when we were putting the final touches to our triathlon preparations in Holt's Tollgate Inn earlier this month.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Idly googling him last night to see if he has got up to anything accessible to me since last year's Voysey Inheritance, I came across the picture below at this website.
Graduates and stars of the Royal Court Theatre, 1969. Standing (left to right): David Cregan, playwright; Jack Shephard, actor; Sir Laurence Olivier; Anthony Page; John Osborne. Seated: Christopher Hampton, resident dramatist; Joan Plowright; Peter Gill, Jill Bennett, Victor Henry (Jimmy Porter in the revival of Look Back in Anger), Edward Bond. On Floor: Kenneth Haigh, the original Jimmy Porter.
There is a larger version of the photo here. For all my antipathy to Jimmy Porter (I can never understand why Cliff doesn't punch him in the bracket) that is gobsmacking company and certainly a long way from Splott. I always knew Gill was eminent, but I'm not sure I realised he was quite so precociously exalted.
Monday, May 14, 2007
First off the bat, the signage made it difficult to find, which is discouraging, to say the least, in the pouring rain. And once we made it to the exhibition itself, a lot of the props on display were rather on the prosaic side.
"What exactly 's 'posed to be int'restin' 'bout this chair?" asked Ben about some throne or other. I silently agreed that it was less than fascinating, but didn't own up because the memory of the entry fee was still fresh.
We're blessed with a lot of parks and bike routes in my neck of the woods, so early in the evening I agreed that the new ninja bomber could cycle the two or three miles back to his mum's with me riding shotgun. It only seems like yesterday that he learned to ride at all.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
On leaving university, Stef became agoraphobic and could barely travel. She has never been to Canada and researched The Tenderness of Wolves at The British Library. Now recovered, Stef lives in East London.
I imagine that, never mind Canada, she has never been to the 19th century either suffering from as she did from agoraphobia rather than Chrono-Displacement Disorder.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
There is no evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.
Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.
There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard. There is only another fist.
When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.
Chuck Norris is so fast, he can run around the world and punch himself in the back of the head.
Chuck Norris does not get frostbite. Chuck Norris bites frost.................
Friday, May 11, 2007
This week, we visited Hunan in Pimlico; an establishment - like the Sappho Meze Bar - that does not have a menu. On arrival we were issued with spicy peanuts, pickled cucumber and the wine list, then Mr Peng the proprietor came over for a chat about our likes and dislikes and decided what we were going to have. Nothing as vulgar as money would be mentioned until we got the bill.
I remember that we started with soup from little wooden bamboo barrels but after that details escape me as we were served with dish after dish. It was all delicious. I particularly remember pig's ears and frog's legs but only because they were unexpected ingredients. Mr Peng - definitely the governor - paid close attention to our reactions to each dish, coming over occasionally to demand that we spooned more suace from the serving dish over our plates etc. I can see how that might irritate some, but I was more than happy playing aspirant to his adept. It is a long way from Matthew Polly "eating bitter" in Hunan's Shaolin monastery.
A great meal consisting of about twenty delicate courses and unencumbered by any rice or noodles. Six more Chinese styles to go.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Thousands from the fxxking Persian Empire in, yes?
Take one Persian.
On the floor.
Basic knife skills, big man.
Keep it simple.
[Screams at random hoplite]: Simple, you fxxking simple minded fxxker!
The above was triggered by the juxtaposition of the new series of The F-Word and my idle wondering about when the DVD of 300 might be out. (There's no date but you can get Amazon to email you when it is available here.)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an Achaemenid king in possession of a large empire must be in want of a war ............
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
I've noticed this morning that Matther Polly the author has posted some videos of his time at the temple to YouTube here. These are well worth a look in light of the book.
There's also a video of Polly being interviewed on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
I had wondered what had happened to Ferguson after he wrote and starred in two movies (The Big Tease and Saving Grace) that I really liked, then I'll Be There which I missed even though it was set in Wales; seems he went to America to seek his fortune.
Next stop in my Shoalin research is to find a Hunan restaurant in London and see if I can't rustle up some baijiu.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
I need to get reacquainted with my inner geek, but I'm wary of too sharp a transition. Perhaps I could gently decelerate between the physical and cerebral via a fratboy interlude.
The Popdrive (hat tip Simon): a combo 1GB USB thumbdrive and beer bottle opener could be just the thing to ease me through this difficult rite of passage.
Monday, May 07, 2007
I, I wish I could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim,
Though nothing will drive them away
We could beat them, just for one day
We could be heroes, just for one day
Maturin, Llewellyn, and I cycled round the bike route and the run route on the days before the event. This sort of scouting is essential I think. I can scarcely imagine how disheartening it would be to come across an unexpected uphill section - for example - right at the end of the event in the run.
I completed the Springfield triathlon this morning. It wasn't a spectacular performance but I ground it out fortified simultaneously by two convictions: first, that there was no chance in Hell that I wasn't going to complete it; second, that there was no chance in Hell that if I stopped to rest at all I would get going again.
Now that I know I've got the wind to propel myself round a sprint triathlon course, I'm also pretty sure that I could improve my times, without necessarily getting fitter, by getting better at cycling and swimming.
That said, I was killing my speed this morning with plenty of braking while swooping down Box Hill in the pouring rain on slick tyres. I could have gone faster, but I couldn't help but wonder if triathletes get their numbers written on both arms and both legs by officials to help with reassembling bodies after accidents.
Thanks are also due to the Maturin family for looking after me so shplendidly over the weekend.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
This piece (and especially the last two paragraphs) by Anne Enright from the London Review of Books resonates with a lot of the circumstances. Not my circumstances, the circumstances.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
There's a blog on Garmin's Motion Based site that contains tips and tricks along the lines of:
We hear it quite frequently, "I've got this ultra marathon and I want to track it with my Forerunner 305. How do I go about making sure I capture all the data?"
I generally find that 8 to 10 hours of battery life is enough for one session, but then I'm not entering 100 mile races .... yet.
I also see that Garmin are sponsoring Tim Don, Great Britain's World Champion Triathlete.
Now he's using MotionBased for performance analysis, I can see (at tim.don.motionbased.com) how much faster he moves than me (at nickbrowne.motionbased.com).
Always nice to get a reality check of a Saturday morning.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Paul suggested teaching him endgames. This seems to me to be an excellent idea, not least because as Benny will be learning checkmates in a simplified environment he will actually be winning the mini games we play which should be good for his motivation.
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Chess/The_Endgame looks to be a good primer.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
I've always loved Al Forno's. It is noisy and crowded, but the pizzas are so big that you could order a large one, screw four legs into it and sit at that if the place was full.
It has also become a touchstone of authenticity for me since I saw them serving fish wrapped in foil once. I thought that was odd until I noticed the Corleones dining in exactly the same fashion at first communion party that kicks off "The Godfather Part 2". I still don't know what the thinking behind it is though.
The profit burglar and I both ordered Escalope Milano with spaghetti in honour of the game and washed it down with a bottle of house white.
As for the match itself, "what we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence".
"But why is the club called AC Milan?", I hear you muse. "Surely it should be Associazione Calcio Milano." Attend:
The club was founded in 1899 by Alfred Edwards, a British expatriate. In honour of its origins, the club has retained the English spelling of its city's name, instead of changing it to the Italian Milano (though it was forced to do it during the fascist regime).
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Doesn't do any work,
But if badgered he
Claims to study theories of tragedy.
A clerihew I wrote in 1985 when I was knocking round in Edinburgh with the author of Deadwateras well as Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern and The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derridapopped unbidden into my head this morning so I am sharing it with the world.
I get a name check in the preface to "Authorship". How cool is that?
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
President Andrew Jackson, in the main foyer of his White House, had a big block of cheese ........We're getting towards the end of series 2 in More4's mammoth screening of the West Wing from the beginning.
Although I try to be home at 8pm on Sundays, I've missed the following episodes:
5. And It's Surely to Their Credit
6. The Lame Duck Congress
Further, next Sunday being the eve of my attempt on The Spingfield Triathlon, episode 18 "17 People", looks to be vulnerable as well.
But hold. As I will be staying with Maturin, who is responsible for the the thing getting its hooks in me in the first place, redemption may be on hand from his DVD collection.
All together now:
I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff Leo McGarry insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you? One last thing: while you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building, when the President stands, nobody sits.