Saturday, May 31, 2008

Car Hunt part 2 - New Toy !

Went to Car Craft earlier, did the deal and ended up driving home the new toy :-)

It's a Ford Focus ST170, which means a little bit bigger in the body and a 170bhp engine. Kinda like the XR3i to the RS Turbo if you remember back to those days ... It's silver and I may end up taking a snap of it some time. 6 speed gearbox, which will take a little getting used to after the 5 speed in the Puma. Half leather seats with lumbar support (nice!) and cushion height adjustments.

It's a bit of a wrench passing on the Puma but with the MoT test coming up in August, I really couldn't afford to keep it. The little silver buggy has been a very faithful servant over the past 7 years and has given a good bit of fun too. Shame Ford don't make them any more ! Trouble is though, the MoT would have needed :

Brake cables redoing
Handbrake fixing
ABS/Traction Control repairs

I knew about the brake cables from last year, when it was an advisory note. The handbrake's been fairly useless for the last few months. That didn't overly concern me as the handbrake only works when a car is stopped. The linkages are different to the link from pedal to brake and the feel of the brake pedal plus the stopping ability said those were working just fine. (Except for some strangeness probably related to the ABS!)

There's probably some more things too that would have needed fixing, like the £1000 bill a few years ago when a heap of little things went wrong, all at the same time.

So - new toy ... and I have a guaranteed service & replacement warranty thingy that should keep it low cost over the next 3 years - well, outside actual cost of ownership that is. That's what comes with going up a size class ... The emissions are worse and we're starting to get taxed on those. Plus the economy isn't great, it'll use about 30% more fuel than the Puma. However, I only do about 7-8000 miles a year, so that's no big deal for me.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Car hunt

I'll be off car hunting tomorrow ...

MoT time is looming - for non-UK people, that's an annual test that all cars have to take to prove that they're roadworthy. I'll need to spend money on mine again for essential repairs and I've had the car for over 7 years now. Time for something newer with fewer miles and more toys.

I'm looking at a slightly bigger one next time, as Ford have seen fit to discontinue the rather excellent Puma. Probably something to do with also retiring the Fiesta, which donates the underlying bits for the Puma. The new Fiestas are a little small and the place I'm going to doesn't have anything interesting (i.e. has power+toys) apart from a Focus ST170. There's a few interesting Renault Meganes there but there's two problems with those :

1- The arse of the Renault Megane is not something I want to be looking at in the morning.
2- Internet research suggests they have very questionable reliability

We'll see what we find tomorrow, hopefully this Focus will be in good shape. It definitely looks like the valets have given it a good polish.

PS Going for a Focus also means IpodFM stays viable :-) My sister also has IpodFM but it doesn't work too well in her MR2 because she can't remove the aerial.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Helmets Save Lives

Simple one this time, inspired by 4 cricketers being hit on the head in the games last weekend. They're all ok, although one of them lost a few teeth.

(I've had my airbrush out to get rid of the worst of the wrinkles in my bedsheet !)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bank Holiday - rain no shine

After a frenetic Friday getting some finance figures done, I've had 4 days all my own. It's consisted of :

Watching England pull off a surprise win in the Test Match - Yey !
Marathon World of Warcraft sessions
Seeing the satellite pic break up due to storm interference
And catching Tin Man

I'm just past a third of the way through Tin Man, it's one of the new collection of mini-series that have been hitting Sci-Fi channel recently. They'll take a story that's been done before, like Dune, Earthsea and now Wizard of Oz and redo (I'm wary about the made up buzz word re-imagine) it. The producers take advantage of more up to date production techniques, better effects and apparently bigger budgets and apply them to telling the old stories.

Now it's the turn of Wizard of Oz, this time around switched around a little. The title is Tin Man and we meet him pretty early on in the shape of Neal McDonough who had the lead role in Medical Investigation as well as playing the part of 1st Lt Buck Compton in Band of Brothers. He's a good actor who I keep an eye out for. Back to Tin Man - the old favourites are all there, in slightly different forms. Lol - Glitch, taking the part of Scarecrow, just expressed a fear of scarecrows. That's the pattern for the new productions, they take the same basic story but add something new to it. I like 'em.

Back to Tin Man, I'm midway through the second episode of three and it's looking good for something to be added to the dvd wish list later on today. I'm going to try and avoid playing Warcraft today, as I've been doing what could only be described as "Benders" on it over the weekend. The stage my new main character is at the moment involves hitting an area called Stranglethorn Vale in a big way. It's a sizable area that keep a character happy for quite some time. Which is something everyone knows, so you get higher level characters coming in to bully the people who are just trying to level. Unless you start at midnight and go on until 6am. Plays hell with the sleeping patterns but it lets you plow thorugh without too much molestation :-)

I'm not quite sure what I think of doing the mammoth WoW sessions. It's still the best game I've played and it happily runs on my main PC. Eve runs well but it's a drop dead boring game to play, plus its servers can't cope with the fleet battles. The new kid on the block, Age of Conan, looks promising but early reports suggest it should still be in beta testing. Plus it has insane hardware requirements.

I suspect my graphics card would probably melt if I threw AoC at it, I get the feeling it's suffered a fan failure which will be the second fan failure I've had. The hardware monitoring is telling me that it idles at 70 degrees C and has been hitting 105-110 C when pushed. Which is rather too hot for any electronic gubbins and it about 30 degrees above what it was when I got the card. It still happily runs WoW, Settlers IV and Moo2 though, so I'm not quite switching it for my older spare just yet.

Back to work tomorrow and to see how the cyclone is going with that finance stuff. We've been talking about what will happen when the dust settles, so we're in the period when all that dust is up in the air. I have a plan for tomorrow's Wordless Wednesday pic - inspired by all the cricketers who got hit on the helmets in the 2 Tests that have been going on. Looks like no lasting problems for 3 of the 4 but I'm concerned about the New Zealander Daniel Flynn. He got hit full on the grill of his helmet, which deformed under the impact allowing the ball to hit him in the mouth. He's lost a couple of teeth and didn't take any further part in the match. He needs to get back on the horse as soon he possibly can, because those psychological effects can be devastating if you back away too much. I hope he makes it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Death of a guild - rather disappointed

Actually - "rather disappointed" is definitely a huge understatement.

The following is cut from what's left of the Mercs forums (full text on link)

So no-one came forward to take on the mantle and continue the traditions of the Mercenaries and people instead looked for other homes. I suppose I can't blame you, we had enough troubles trying to maintain progress and losing a large number of people meant if you wanted to continue you were bound to look elsewhere.

Because of this I have finally closed down the Mercs. The guild still exists as a one character guild purely because I did not want the name to be used for someone elses guild. When I say closed down, I mean for now closed down unless the same players decide to restart it.
What makes me most angry about this statement (and the rest of it) is that for the last couple of months after a fair few people left Mercs, I'd been telling people on the now dead forum that they could retire their characters (as I have done with Iceangel) and they'd retain the treasured "Mercenaries of Darkness" guild tag. It would be their's, they'd earned it and had the right to keep it.

What I wasn't expecting was a GM who'd had a lot to do with the collapse of a guild/organisation that I started 3 years ago to rip up those promises and make them utterly worthless by effectively disbanding the guild. Maybe we made a mistake 2 and a half years ago by entrusting the GM job to this particular person ? A person who's main consistent trait has been to avoid management of the issues that arose within the guild, which eventually led to its collapse.

Very disappointed at seeing that message on the old Mercs site - especially as the author of it has continued his old pattern of not asking people before actually doing something rash. That's one sad thing about this - whenever action was taken by that GM, it was out of the blue because of how out of character it was for there to actually be any action.

Where am I now with Warcraft ? Apart from being rather disappointed and not a little bit angry about that Mercenaries Of Darkness tag being taken away, I'm quite happily playing away at my own pace on a new server. I'm in a small guild having been introduced by a very good friend from university. They're a good bunch and I'm enjoying being around them. It's a relaxed feeling and their leadership is active. Quite a contrast to the Mercs, who were dominated by progress fixated people who didn't actually want to organise anything.

I'm rapidly closing in on my rapid levelling record and should quite handily smash it. I'm not raiding with the new guild yet but that should add new interest and challenge when I get there. New character, new role, new people. Looking forward to it :-)

My Eve subs have been cancelled as it's still a highly boring game to actually play, plus it looks like the neighbourhood has gone downhill with an old name being invited into the alliance. Plus Eve's main draw is the player owned territory with the mechanics involved in that territory changing hands being broken due to the game hardware not being able to handle the numbers involved. Anything to do with The Maelstrom server in Warcraft just makes me angry, although I still keep an eye on VR cos they're a good bunch.

So I'm now on another server and I'm enjoying my time there. Enough to be crash levelling one character and most likely some more :-)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Fill-ins (and sidetracking into a little cricket theory)

Another Friday Fill-ins :-) I don't always get around to doing one of these and they're always fun to do. For more, have a peek at Janet's site here.

1. On my laziest day I like to put the music on and read, read, read !
2. Solving problems makes me feel like I'm being productive.
3. I love little waves and big smiles, especially when they're from someone pretty :-).
4. This summer I want to actually play in a game of cricket for a change !
5. Curiosity on whether I could maintain it and a need to talk a few things through made me start my blog.
6. Red cricket balls are what the game should be played with and orange swingypractice balls are just cheating.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to just plain chill out, tomorrow my plans include watching every single ball in the cricket and Sunday, I want to catch the baseball game cos I have Monday off !

The balls thing is a cricket practice thing - there's special ones made differently, in order to amplify whatever movement the ball might made through the air. Cricket balls can move when they bounce (because the seam makes them not round) but will also move left or right when going through the air. It needs the players looking after the ball in the right way - it's actually possible to change a ball that goes arrow straight into one that will curve inside about an hour's practice.

However, when coaches are trying to teach swing, they'll use these special practice balls which go all over the place. I don't like them because they actually swing too much, I don't think the person being taught learns the technique and control. They certainly don't learn how to look after the ball.

Anyway - that's me poking holes in coaches taking shortcuts that lead to incomplete knowledge transfer. Time to get back to chilling out with cricket watching, book, telly and marathon World of Warcraft sessions :-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hugging trees can lead to splinters

We had a day out of the office today, doing a bit of teambuilding.

The organisation I work for is going through quite a broad array of change at the moment, as we try and improve the way we do things. (Translation - doing more with less) For my area of interest, that means our team is both growing and shrinking. Slightly less people but more things to look after. Which, when you get past the "less people" thing, is kinda interesting because there are new toys in the sandpit. And I have a connecting interest in some of those toys.

I'm deliberately being vague there in saying exactly who I work for, as I have a few blogfriends who also work on the same site who don't want to make an issue of who they work for. So I just treat them here as Just Another Employer. Which is what they are :-) Even if the rules are a little different. But then - what company, department, partnership, army, surgery, trust, charity has the same rules as another.

Bah - digressing ...

Team building is one of those exercises where everyone disappears off to a meeting place, usually a hotel, for some serious brianstorming. (Yep - we have a couple of Brians and they do come up with good ideas). It's a good opportunity to get away from the phone and email distractions and see if we can figure out better ways of working. Most of the time that means poking at people outside the team but the best time is spent in figuring out what you could do better.

A key lesson in life is : "You are not perfect. You can always improve." I could probably Google that and attribute the quote to someone but it's so generic that if it is attributed to someone, then the person was probably trying to pass themself off as a Deep Thinker Guru ...

For the sportsperson, they can improve their skill.
The public speaker can understand their audience better.
The engineer can figure out ways to pass on their ideas more clearly.
The station announcer can speak more clearly.
The repairman can turn up on time.
Drivers can learn a little consideration for their fellow road users.
And someone upstairs can make the sun shine on Day 1 of the First Test.

(ok - maybe we're pushing it on that last one!)

I've rambled up top without really saying anything - Teambuilding is often greeted with "Groan - gonna be really boring." Which really translates to "Oo eck - I may have to think outside my comfort zone." Interesting day out of the office, although it distracts away from a highly essential piece of work we're having to do in an insanely short time scale.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cricket Season is Rainy Season

We've just had one of those typical English cliches with the weather ...

During the second half of April and early May, we got the sunshine. So much that the heating went off quickly, jumpers got consigned to the cupboard and eyeballs started popping out due to the much shorter outfits on display :-)

That was until Thursday that is ... Day 1 of the England v New Zealand Test Match at Lords in London.

Wednesday - bright sunshine
Day 1 Thursday - most of a days play, interrupted by various bad light.
Day 2 - not much play, bad light and rain.
Day 3 - we got about 30 minutes in before ... more rain.

Hoping for better from today and tomorrow, there's still a chance of a result but only in England's favour. There's simply not enough time left in the game for New Zealand to get a win. Lots of cricket will mean I can make more of a dent in Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds. It's not a bad book but hasn't really grabbed me the way a good Heinlein book would.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - cartoons

Thirteen Things about Cartoons

Not just cartoons, I'm just using that as a headline :-) Let's see what I can think of for things to check out.

1.... Outlaw Star. This was a manga series set in space with a motley collection of kids, assassins and innocent bystanders. Great humour, interesting scenarios for the episodes. Worth checking out if you get the chance.
2.... Samurai Jack. More manga, from the pen of Genndy Tartakovsky. More excellent humour, amongst its own quirkiness. Impressed George Lucas enough to have the same person do his Star Wars Clone Wars animation series.
3.... Tom And Jerry. The old classics are always the best.
4.... Transylvania Pet Shop. Easy going, fun and I want that dog.
5.... Thundercats. Can't have a collection of popular animations without including the Thundercats !
6.... Dogtanian and the Muskehounds. I grew up with this little guy ! Never missed an episode, rushed home from school to watch it. It's even almost educational with the historical background.
7.... Scooby Doo. Those damn meddling kids blackmailed me into adding this entry.
8.... Starship Troopers Roughnecks. This one is more like the book and is a separate storyline to the films. It still have Johnny Rico and Dizzy Flores in there. Worth checking out, it's just a shame the makers ran out of money before they could finish it properly.
9.... Danger Mouse. Another one I grew up with :-)
10.. Ulysses 31. Combine mythology, a space ship trapped far from home, a determined starship captain and some rather vengeful Greek Gods and you've got a classic.
11... Mysterious Cities of Gold. Storyline arcing is maturing in TV series with actors but it's in its infancy compared to what the animation people have been doing. MCOG is one of the original animations with a Huge Long Story running through it. This is definitely one I need now it's on DVD !
12.. Dragonball. Not so bothered about the later Dragonball Z, it lost some of the youthful innocence of Dragonball that makes it hilarious. Dragonball GT is somewhat of a return to form :-)
13.. Dungeons and Dragons. Just don't mention the film !

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Sun Power

Wordless Wednesday this time around is intended to show the power of the Sun. Here's the pic :

Apologies for the mankiness of the hat, it's been almost untouched since I broke my nose wearing it a few years ago. Anyway - Sun Power ! Spot the contrast between the inside (dark blue) and the outside (light purple bit folded over). That's what the sun will do to something after a few seasons of cricket ...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lotsa movies :-)

Been getting through the movies this weekend :-) As well as watching cricket and a bit more World of Warcraft (in moderation).

The big one of the weekend was :

Awesome film, they did a really good job with one of the more "real" seeming superhero types. Robert Downey Jr is outstanding in the lead role, with his Tony Stark being an eccentric oddball with quirky sense of humour. It was fun, which is what entertainment is supposed to be. Gwyneth Paltrow was up to her usual high standards too as Miss Pepper Potts.

What else have I watched ? Ok - long list time. There's Starship Troopers off dvd, ahead of watching Starship Troopers 2 which was on sci-fi channel yesterday. I like the first film, it's a decent interpretation of the book, while putting its own spin on things. It's got me wanting to read the original Heinlein book again :-) The second is a major letdown though, no surprise that it bombed. The black humour of the first just isn't there.

Also been watching Mission To Mars, which was better than I expected. However, I think the other Mars film that came out that year is better and not just because Red Planet had a shower scene with Carrie Ann Moss :-) Not seen Red Planet for a while, must do so to remind myself how they dealt with the spacecraft engineering. Space travel has always fascinated me and the near future sci-fi films set around space usually have a decent science/engineering background in how they set up their disaster situations.

It's now the latest adaptation of The Andromeda Strain, which so far is following the model of the first albeit with the characters switched around a little. The epileptic doctor is now Daniel Dae Kim, now playing geek mode. After seeing his stronger, athletic characters, the contrast will be interesting.

The dinner bell just went off, so I gotta retrieve the charcoal from the oven. If you're interested in sci-fi movies and haven't seen Iron Man yet, Go For It !!!!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Fill In #71

If you'd like to keep up with the Friday Fill In Meme run by Janet, check it out here :-) Here's mine for this week :

1. The cookie collection had an extra secret ingredient; it was laced with orange flavour ing and Smarties !
2. The wilderness outside means I daren't look through my window.
3. Right now, I need to catch up on sleep and take it easy on the shoulder.
4. Entrenched on the sofa watching cricket is where I went Thursday night; it was spectacular until interest got lost when the mystery of "who'll win ?" disappeared.
5. Why does getting hit in that place hurt so much?
6. All I can think of is the possibility of maybe getting pizza tomorrow :-).
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to chilling out in front of cricket on telly, tomorrow my plans include catching Ironman with the Crazies and Sunday, I want to watch as much sport as possible !

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bring me the thong of Lisa Cuddy

House comes out with some top lines ...

I'm watching House now after growing a new character for a D&D game starting Monday. This one is a sorceror called Molochas, who will hopefully last longer than my first sorceror :-) He was fun to play but I started making him go insane (in-character thing), so the fella didn't have much of a life expectancy after that.

I have two new characters lined up, with one being a fighter to replace Keela the cleric who got eaten by a troll last week ... At least it was a heroic end as she held up the troll for long enough for her buddies to get away. Except for the barbarian who also ended up as troll-food.

Badminton was a little bit of a struggle again last night. I've got two major things to sort out there :
1 - Psychological conditioning stopping me from pulling the trigger on smashes (more later)
2 - I need to build a new serve action from scratch

I've always used the simple learner serve, as it allows me to send the shuttle to the back of the court but also to the front as a surprise with little or no change in the action. Trouble is, it isn't that useful against better players because the long ones feed their smashes, quickly leading to end of rally. I'm needing to learn the serve type you'll see if you catch the rare sight of badminton on telly. However, I may be limited there if it puts too much strain on the shoulder. I'll work something out :-)

The first one (psychological conditioning) got beat on the night. Unfortunately ;-) I managed to nearly do a jump smash early on, I almost got it through but didn't commit fully. Missed opportunity on that one but I did get the chance to go for one again later. Result ? OW ! My shoulder seems mechanically sound for 95% of what I want to do with it but when I go for the more violent stuff (like jump smashes!), it tells me it was a bad idea.

I thought it could be bad last night in the aftermath of a shoulder going crunch, with pain coming when I went for overheads. Things seem to have settled down overnight though, so I just have the soreness of muscles that have got a shock due to change from not doing very much. So - very low point last night but doing better today.

The other symptom that comes out from a bad, chronic injury is that the sufferer tends to develop a complex about it. Like me with the shoulder, I go tentative when using it or back off completely from certain activities. Some of the reasons for the backing off are good, like being concerned for the safety of the person I'm bowling to. Some are bad, like not pulling the trigger on smashes because you think you're going to break something. Another symptom is that when you get a little setback you immediately think the worst. Things like believing that you're not going to get any cricket at all in this year because you reckon that one bad smash has caused 1-2 months of forced inactivity on the shoulder.

I'll be taking it easy on my right arm for a few days but I don't think it's as bad as the knee jerk complex makes one think it could have been. Looking forward to next week's game again :-)

PS I'm actually more worried about my knee than my shoulder at present. That's another long term thing I struggle with - there's a big list !

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Cinematography improvements

I wanted to watch something with decent sound tonight as something easy before I hit the road tomorrow (daytrip), it ended up being Conan the Barbarian. One thing that struck me midway through was the cinematography ... Things seem to have improved rather since Conan was made in terms of keeping the focus consistent across the frame of what's on screen.

In Conan, the sharp focus is very definitely restricted to what the director and camera is most interested in showing. The rest of the scene tends to diminish into somewhat of a blur. More modern films don't really seem to suffer from this, the image is sharp all the way across the scene. Here's an example :

(copyright 2002 Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment Ltd)

This is the one that set me off - Conan is sharp, Princess in the background is rather fuzzy. Compare that to :

(copyright 2005 Lucasarts Ltd)

This is actually one of the few images up to halfway in Revenge of the Sith where the animators at Lucasarts didn't finish the job. This is a nearfield object dominated shot, yet the robots in the medium field are a little blurry with the far background sharp.

Maybe it's a symptom of Green Screening becoming more common ? The image we see on the dvd or blu-ray is not actually what's being caught by the camera ? CGI doesn't suffer from the limitations of the conventional optical camera lens, with things like focal lengths and chemical based film. However, the animators do try to build in imperfections like lens flare and bloom to make the image look more real. The cameras will be catching the actors, with the visual effects people placing those actors in a visually perfect backdrop.

(copyright 2005 Lucasarts Ltd)

Looks like the camera limits are still there when they're taking shots of actors against a background far away, here's a shot of Angelina Jolie after having far too much with guns in the first Tomb Raider film :

(copyright 2001 Paramount Pictures Corp)

Hey ! I needed a relatively modern film that might have some real backgrounds in it ! Sexy lead actress has nothing to do with it. Oh - back to the point, sharp actress in foreground, blurry walls in the background. The animators try to replicate this in the CGI pictures and it's rampant throughout Revenge of the Sith. Apart from the in space shots, where you can see close ups of Obi-wan in his fighter with as sharp a picture of a cruiser behind him as dvd can produce. Perhaps one of the reasons people criticised Final Fantasy was that it got things too "perfect", maybe we need a little blurriness to keep our eyes and brain happy with what we're seeing.

Here's another where the Lucasarts people got it a little too good :

(copyright 2005 Lucasarts Ltd)

Yoda's got the focus in the foreground, yet it's easy to make out those details in the far field. One last picture, again from Revenge of the Sith, this shows the animators compensating for that nearfield/far field blurriness :

(copyright 2005 Lucasarts Ltd)

I'm supposed to be on the road in 7 hours and have to get some sleep before then, will try to "acquire" (aka screen grab from dvds!) some piccys to show what I mean when I get home tomorrow. Screen grabs done :-)

PS I reckon the screens at the local Mall are worn out ... The picture seems far less fuzzy when I watch films like Transformers and the Bournes than I remember it being on the big screen.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Wake up call number 1

Long Post Warning - apologies in advance and get the Page Down key warmed up!

I've written in various places mentioning the long standing problem I have in my shoulder but never actually got round to saying exactly what happened with it ... Time to fix that :-)

In my 3rd year at uni, I was playing badminton with friends. I can be a bit of a nutter with badminton, I can usually see at least 3 possible shots and typically choose the most spectacular. This time, I went for a jump smash but missed it. While I was still in the air, instinct and reflexes made me go for an underarm recovery which I actually got to. By forcing my right arm through a path it was not supposed to follow.

Ouch !

I didn't think it was too bad at the time, kinda like only wrenching it a bit. However, it was still sore 3 weeks later when I next saw my mum so I asked her to take a peek at it. She took the arm through a series of movements (she's a nurse my mum) which just happened to reduce a very slight dislocation. I'd actually been walking around for 3 weeks with my shoulder out of its socket by about 1cm.

So how come I didn't get the sports centre to look at the injury ? Turns out the physio that was supposed to be on call wasn't and they had no medical cover in. A litigious person could get excited about the possibility for claiming off them but that's not me. Plus the "No Sense, No Feeling" part had taken over :-)

This happened at the start of summer, so guess who then played through most of a cricket season with a poorly shoulder ? Doh ! I've never been able to throw that far but with the dislocation I was able to throw in right from the boundary. That's like a 50% improvement. (I also gained 50 yards on my golf drive) Trouble is, I couldn't do much more than about 4 throws before the pain kicked in. This is where I left my original village team, keeping a player with a poorly shoulder on the boundary is vindictive. I'd had enough of driving 150 miles on a weekend to get to them from uni.

So I'd stopped playing cricket by the end of the summer but the problem was still there. My left arm was fine but if needing to pick up anything heavier than a shopping basket with my right, it felt like my arm was coming off. I saw the doctor at uni about it in the start of my fourth year and they diagnosed a Rotator Cuff Tear. (Nice page - good extra info there!)

I got given a physio session (ultrasound to heat up the muscles improving blood flow to fix it) and anti-inflammatory drugs. The drugs worked better than I thought, one of the things that had prevented healing taking place over the summer was the tenseness in the shoulder muscles from low level pain. That tenseness and the inability to relax the shoulder was nibbling away and not improving the situation at all. The drugs relieved some of that tenseness, allowing the shoulder to get on with repairing itself. I don't normally trust drugs of any kind but they helped a lot here.

Me being young a daft didn't really take in all the implications of all this at the time, my Indestructible mindset took a few more weeks and one televised baseball game to adjust. I'd been watching the Florida Marlins especially in the first year we had live baseball over here and one excellent pitcher called Alex Fernandez. The televised game was the one we had after he suffered a potentially career ending injury, it would be at least 18 months before they allowed him to throw again. What did he break ? He'd picked up a rotator cuff tear, just like me. The lights started to go on at this point and I started taking my injury a lot more seriously.

I'd been prescribed resting of the shoulder and as little work as possible on it, which suited me just fine :-) I was back into 4th year uni at this point and "heavy lifting" and "student" are not usually found in the same sentence together. I was able to keep playing cricket as I bat and keep wicket as well as bowl, just I was banned from bowling for a while. Plus I had no team to play for.

Right - I've been going on for a while, time to stop rambling, get my breakfast (1pm here!) and get down to some cricket watching. How is the shoulder now ?

A few years after I got the injury, I had another team and was bowling again :-) And helped my adopted team raise themselves to win a cup competition. I got some rather critical wickets in the final :-) I've bowled occasionally for the outdoor team at work but am now pretty much restricted to batting and fielding for them now. I can carry things in my right hand without thinking my arm will fall off. I need occasional 'maintenance' on it because the shoulder moves enough to restrict blood flow to my right arm making my arm feel cold. I was captain of the indoor cricket team that we had going in my team at work and bowled well enough to get respect of batsmen facing me (which isn't actually a good thing as it meant less liberties taken and less wickets!).

I'm not a cripple, I have about 95% use of the shoulder and it's mostly pain free. I think the pain I get from my right arm area now is a new injury that I can't trace ... it's lower down and in my side. There's a "hitch" in there that happens when I'm bowling, which has destroyed my slow bowling motion and affected my quicker bowling. To get around it, I have to try bowling quicker which makes it more dangerous when the hitch occurs and makes the ball come down head high. Maybe I have one of those bone spurs that are mentioned in the article I linked above.

Why is this Wake Up Call Number 1 ? Before this happened, I'd had a few major(ish) injuries before. I regularly suffered from soreshins (shinsplints) and troublesome knees due to having leg muscles that are larger than average. I also wrenched something in the lumbar area of my back getting my best ever bowling figures. All three of those come back to haunt me occasionally. But none of them really pierced the belief in my own Indestructibility.

Wake Up Call Number 1 - the shoulder injury wasn't going to fix easily and broke the youthful feelings of being Indestructible.
Wake Up Call Number 2 (addon - see link for Head vs Cricketball!) - was potentially life threatening.

I've gotten rid of the psychological effects of the head injury but I'm still struggling to break the after effects of the shoulder problem. I'm half convinced that the "hitch" I mentioned above is me unconsciously protecting the shoulder and I catch myself doing the same with badminton. I can get into position to do big smash shots but I've not actually pulled the trigger yet. Which can be more awkward to handle as the person on the other side is expecting something coming with flames following it instead of an innocent little drop shot :-)

It's structurally sound again, which means the long term treatment is sensible exercise and use. I don't bowl due to the risk to the person at the other end but that's about the only conscious limitation I'm putting in. More "hair of the dog" on Wednesday with badminton and my knees seem to be a little more interested in cooperating :-)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - myths

Thirteen Things about Myths

All of these are myths. Or are they ???

1.... Electronic gadgets are powered by Smoke. If the Smoke escapes, the gadget doesn't work any more.
2.... Cars do have indicators.
3.... Spending time in online games can lead to a successful life.
4.... Computer processors are actually miniature hamsters. If the system crashes, his wheel needs oiling. If it does something strange, someone fed him a mickey.
5.... Governments are there to help.
6.... Newspapers always tell the truth.
7.... Chocolate can be part of a calorie controlled diet.
8.... A road sign with numbers surrounded by a red circle (UK) is telling you the Minimum expected speed.
9.... Jason Bourne is still out there trying to get the CIA to stop hunting him.
(Guess what film I just watched !)
10.. The Ark of the Covenant is an alien power source and is being guarded somewhere by a secretive cult. (I actually read that somewhere - the guardians don't last too long because of radiation from the Ark)
11... Aircraft are powered by Lift Demons. See Smoke Theory for more evidence that the power and oil companies are trying desperately to keep us under their thumb.
12... Dragons, faeries, sprites and other mythical creatures are out there. Keep a special watch out for pickpocketing leprechauns.
13... Donuts are non-fattening.

Don't believe everything you read !

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1. The Bluest Butterfly