Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - Moar Music !

Yey - Thursday Thirteen time. The Cardigans made me do it :-) But first, quick summary of game last night :

Batted first. Opened innings with workmate. Ran him out first ball - MUAHAHA (gotta admit, I was shouting NO NO NO as he set off for a crazy one). Got 14 runs first time with new bat. Twisted my knee, aggravated hip problem. Near drowning in the rain when we fielded. Gave up early due to that rain, thoroughly enjoyed it.

On with the Thirteen ! First a link to the new home of Thursday Thirteens. Music again this time, with Youtube links where I can find them. What have I been listening to lately ?

1 - Cardigans. Thinking of Cardigans doesn't make you feel warmer but it does help when you're trying to remove irritating tunes from your head. Here's In The Round, the guitar combining with Nina Persson's vocals makes it my favourite game at the moment.

2 - Goldfrapp. Next album coming up on iTunes is Head First. It's not quite as good as Seventh Tree or Supernature but those are exceptional albums. They definitely have a Believer in me :-)

3 - Garbage. One from a little while ago. Topical too, when I'm slowed down by the injuries, I Push It even more. (Note - Really surreal video ...)

4 - Mansun. More cricket inspiration. I kinda missed the Wide Open Space that you get on a cricket field.

5 - Lene Marlin. Not too well known this lady from Norway but those who haven't heard of her have missed out. Here's You Could Have.

6 - Lisa Miskovsky. New one to me, I owe Amazon a little thanks here as I got my first track on a freebie. And then I bought the album ... Here's A Brand New Day and I'm wondering why I only have one of her albums ...

7 - Stranglers. Completely random track alert ! Not keen on most of what the Stranglers have done but Always The Sun is one of those all time classic songs. Definitely wasn't Always The Sun at last night's cricket ...

8 - B*witched. If it rains (like last night), you can always Blame It On The Weatherman.

9 - Lily Allen. While hoping Mr Blue Sky pays a visit. This is a bonus track from the It's Not Me, It's You special edition.

10 - Iron Maiden. Heavy metal groups often get a bad rap for being loud. That's wrong, the better ones just use more range, both quiet and loud. Here's Infinite Dreams off their Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album.

11 - Pink Floyd. Listened to The Wall again the other night, "We don't need no Thought Control, all in all you're just Another Brick In The Wall".

12 - Talking Heads. Last one of their albums I played was the Stop Making Sense life compilation but iTunes has decided it's time for a Wild Wild Life. (give the link a minute, the track starts at 2mins40) Live life to the full !

13 - Cardigans again. This one's from the Long Gone Before Daylight album and it's one of those songs that stopped me in my multitasking tracks when I heard it. Beautiful 03.45: No Sleep. I have a feeling that with the tiredness I'm feeling right now, at 03.45 I'll not have a No Sleep problem !

Right - I've run out of numbers, if you're a Thursday Thirteener and would like me to leave a link to your's, drop a link into the comments :-) Don't worry about putting in those html codes, I'll copy the link out below.

Linkbacks -
1 - Hootin' Anni on the gems of the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Oops - did it again

Been spending the cash again ...

Confidence is key for most sporting people and I'm no exception. I feel much more confident about taking on the opposition if I have good kit to back me up and cricket is a prime example there. Things like a nice hard ball to bowl with, spikes that let me use the full power of my legs or protective stuff that you know is there but you don't actually feel it getting in the way.

Bats too - for a while (lol - broken by a break of a few seasons) I've felt my bat getting a bit tired. The ball doesn't fly off it as quickly as it did when new. Heh heh heh - Sky commentators haven't helped, they keep talking about modern bats being so much more powerful than the old ones. So I've gotten myself seduced by thoughts of MORE POWER !

So what did I get ?

(size difference is down to the angle of the camera)

From top to bottom there it's : New bat, last bat, old bat. Comparing the middle one to the bottom one really shows up how much the bat protection stuff helps, as the bottom one looks like it should be in a museum. I don't even believe it's that old, although I can't find the bat I had before it. I'd definitely been using the middle one for a couple of years before the Nose Job Game.

Anyway, lots of linseen oil, a bit of light grade sandpaper and rather too much bat repair tape have made the bottom one look a bit aged. The middle one was protected by a plastic armour sheet bonded to it. Clicking on the piccy to view it full size will show tracks of little parallel dots, which is the imprint left by the cricket ball seam when you whack it.

That's the other side, showing who made that first bat ... I took the stickers off originally so I could oil it properly. (Linseed oil keeps bats springy) I seem to be showing loyalty to Slazenger for some reason ... The original intention was to buy one by Gray Nicolls but when I picked up the Slazenger and held it, something whispered "PICK ME !"

And now I've got it home and have run a hand down its face, I have this weird urge to say "smoooooth" in a funny voice.

Weird. And a little disturbing.

Oh - the wooden hammer widget is used for "Knocking In", where you hit your bat repeatedly with the wooden hammer to get revenge on your neighbours (not CK! The other one!) for playing music too loudly. This one also unscrews to leave a cone that's used for adding new rubber grips to the handle. Some people prefer something bigger to get their hands around. I go for two and a half rubbers*.

Ok, who's that raising an eyebrow in the back there ? If you're not careful, we'll tie you up and give you thirty lashes later. Wait ... they'd probably enjoy that. Ho hum - can't win sometimes.

(*the ooold bat got raided for its half a grip, which is why there's a red and black thing going on there)

First game with the new bat is Wednesday (assuming I'm picked!). Hopefully we'll get good conditions for it :-)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Steamy Interlude

Hmm. With a title like that, I wonder what people's first thought was regarding the subject of this post :-)

It's actually the change in weather ... Honest guv :-) From a comfy temperature, it's got a lot warmer over the second half of the week. I don't do too well in heat, I tend to go over temperature very easily. Not usually a problem in England ;-)

So this weekend has been spent doing stuff with as little energy output as possible so I don't overheat. A quiet weekend is the best weekend :-). I was anticipating not doing much anyway cos of cricket on Thursday but had the pleasant surprise of not actually being too stiff the morning after. That's weird ... I seem to be blessed with a form of natural fitness, where I maintain a certain level of muscle capability despite not doing much to earn it.

That's not the same as saying that I'm an athlete with a perfect figure who can run a marathon a day. Muahaha. It just means I can recover reasonably quickly and have the ability to ignore most of the niggles. Like being down to just one good leg within a ball or two of the match starting.

Doh !

One of the hidden things about cricket is a "Show No Pain" that runs through the core of the game. If I'd shown any hint of the groin muscle troubles, batsmen would have thought about taking on my fielding. So by showing no pain, it adds to a kind of intimidation factor. Bit like me looking to avoid throwing long distance. It's not so much the twinginess I'll get from the bad shoulder, it's to not give the batsmen any hint that my throwing arm is weak. It's actually not that bad, I actually gained some throwing power when I dislocated my shoulder.

Also added 50 yards to my golf drive :-)

How'd the game actually go ? We pasted 'em. Some good bowling backed up by decent fielding restricted the opposition to a low score that we knocked off quite easily. I opened the batting, although I only got 2 runs before getting caught trying to push along the scoring. My fielding was ok, I need more practice and 2 good legs. I ended up having to dive to stop the ball due to not having as much reach as I'd like, which looked good but leaked runs.

Ho Hum. Will do better next time. And quite possibly with a new bat too, although that depends on having time to get one.

And surprisingly, I only got a morning's worth of stiffness this time :-) Plus my breathing and heart rate stayed stable during the game. I was having a fair bit of trouble keeping those under control in the first.

The conditions were interesting ... A good swing bowler with a decent ball would have been devastating. Cricket balls are strange things, a skilled player can make the ball move left or right as it's going through the air. At my best, I was able to move it left to right by at least a foot on its way down to the batsman and then when it lands, the seam takes over and moves it the other way. Unplayable when it works :-)

It takes a good ball and cooperative conditions. The ball needs to be hard, with enough leather left to take a shine. You shine up one side and let the other roughen up on the ground. You then hold the ball such that the seam stays upright after releasing. The angle of release and which side is shiny then determines which way it will move. There's lots of theories around this but that's the essential part ... Conditions need to be good too, warm and humid heavy air is the best. We had that on Thursday, which almost had me tempted to think about bowling ...

Bad idea that ... Whereas I can get away on muscle memory and reflex for the batting, bowling takes a lot more work. It needs conditioning to prepare the body plus practice to hone the technique. A shoulder in good shape helps too, there's just too much of a question over whether mine will cooperate. And when it doesn't ... Head high full toss that swings in and follows the ducking batsman's head.

Oh - I've also had to rearrange my Airport Express stuff ... I've had interference on it before, where the music stream breaks up and disappears. I fixed that before by changing network ID, same fix this time. What's disappointing though is that there's currently 3x unsecured networks in range out there. I'm not planning to check 'em out to see what's there but it's a bit sad that people aren't aware of basic security. I suspect my broken music stream issue is linked to this, as rogue computers attempt to brute force hack it.

Changing network ID and passwords regularly can be a good idea anyway ...

Anyway - that conditions thing brought me back to the heat ... It's not as hot as it will be but this house is a bit of a heat trap. Can't open the downstairs window as I'll have a cat inside looking for food !

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Robin Hood and Hollywood Atrocities

Had a rapid change of plan yesterday ...

Monday night is usually gaming night. However, of late the "yep, we're gaming" or "no gaming tonight" messages have been coming through extremely late. Which has gotten me annoyed as it usually comes through while I'm at work on the Monday, via messages over Facebook. I can't actually get to Facebook at work (wouldn't even if I could, it would expose a password to the admins, not to mention the "work" thing) so I don't know whether or not gaming is on until I get home.

That has started to grate ...

Belligerance hit yesterday, with an impromptu trip over to see the new Robin Hood film. I think I'd have gone anyway, even if gaming had been on as :
Tuesday - one of our number isn't in the country, plus another is in a birthday celebration
Wednesday - business trip guy again, me watching football
(yes, you read that right ... more on that late tomorrow !)
Thursday - cricket

So Monday was the only option for this week, even before irritation at an inability to plan properly crept in. I suspect this irritation has come about partly due to my latest job being more involved in planning. I'm finding myself making Backup Plans upon Backup Plans, with the aim of being able to react instantly to changing circumstances and information.

Meh - that's enough about irritation about not knowing what I'm doing on the Monday evening until typically 30 minutes before I head out, what about the film ?

I have to admit (grudgingly) that I actually enjoyed the latest Robin Hood attempt. That is, I found it entertaining in a guilty hidden secret kind of way. You know the way people say "that was awful!" while hiding a smile they can't help show ? That's it.

It has its Hollywood Atrocities, as all blockbusters these days do, it has actors who can't decide if they're English, Welsh, Scottish or dare I say it Australian and it's another in a long line of Re Imaginings. But for all that, it's mildly entertaining.

Hollywood Atrocities ? It has an extended scene where there's a bunch of guys in boats heading to the shore. Ok, fair enough. We saw that done well in Troy. The issue is the boats they were in ... The people behind this movie were obviously impressed with the Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan, as the boats bore a huge resemblance to WW2 landing craft made of wood. Would they have floated ? Nope. Would they have made it across the Channel ? Definitely not.

Almost as bad as the HERETICAL Ship On Ground scene in Star Trek. But not nearly as bad as what anyone who has seen an Uwe Boll film has been exposed to.

There's a narrative leading bit with a map too. Some old towns appear there, including Peterborough. Have to admit, I was a bit wrong on this one as I thought Peterborough was a New Town made this century. It did exist back then though (brief but decent article) but after seeing Peterborough listed, I did start expecting to see Milton Keynes up on that map too.

I thought that in Robin Hood's time, the Normans were firmly in charge. This jars with one of the central themes of the movie, which I will not reveal here even though it becomes obvious very early. Hollywood stuff has always included a fair bit of artistic licence ...

Yeah, mildly entertaining. William Hurt and the bit part players add some much needed character to this film. Plus, as they ignore the typical Robin Hood legend backstory, it's a fresh take on the myth.

Worth seeing ? Yes. But only if you haven't seen Iron Man 2 yet.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Exercise is unhealthy

Really !

Don't believe what the fitness nuts tell you. They lie !

I'm currently trying to persuade my legs to work properly after last night's game. How did it go ? Here's the status update from Facebook last night :

" first game of season, enjoyed it - found the motormouth tendency again while fielding, too knackered to lift bat properly. Didn't get zero. Team hammered, don't care - enjoyed the running around too much."

Pretty much sums it up :-) I can get quite vocal when on a cricket field. I don't sledge, I really dislike that sledging has become part of the game. I try to keep the noise to encouraging the teams I play for. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way and I like to think that by giving a little I'll get a little back when I need it. It gives a good feeling too when you say the right few words to a tiring bowler and get rewarded with them taking a wicket.

We fielded first, which was good cos it let me feel my way back into playing. I can't remember when I last played a match, so it must be a good few years ago. The main reason for not playing was the shoulder and back but there were some pretty major personality issues at work too. The shoulder and back issues haven't gone away, I've just decided to ignore them. The personality issues seem to have resolved though, as there is a different person picking the teams now. The Small World Syndrome hit there, as someone I know unconnected with cricket also knew the fella with the problem and she thought he was an ass too.

But it looks like he's not involved with the cricket now, so it's well past time to move on.

The team seems to have evolved a fair bit as well. Another minor reason for me giving the cricket a rest was that the standard and, as a consequence, the expectation had gone through the roof. I've always been a reasonable player but not an excellent one, so I was feeling like a spare part in the team, especially as my bowling was no longer viable. Things go in cycles with the work team as people join and move on. Yep, things had gotten a bit too serious and I have a feeling it's stepped back to being Fun.

As it should be !

"Too knackered to lift bat" ? Yep. I don't have the strongest arms out there. Definitely not a PopEye. I've always had reasonable technique, except when I try to hit the cover off the ball which is when the technique disappears. I was fairly pleased with how I batted yesterday, I remembered some good technique, scoring 9 in our lowish total. I'd have liked to bat through but got bowled by a straight one that I missed because it bounced lower than I expected. That "try to hit cover off ball" thing striking ...

Yep - got hammered but I enjoyed it. Yesterday I was glad I came out of retirement to play. Now, I'm not too sure ... The catalogue is :

Screaming leg muscles that have had a concrete infusion
Bruised left leg (dunno how)
Bruised knuckles (from muppet catching)
Groin strain

Not worried about the first three, hopefully the groin strain I picked up while batting will settle down quickly. I don't think anything in there is torn but it feels more strain-ish.

And there we come back to the title : Exercise is unhealthy.

If I hadn't played last night, my legs would be fine and I wouldn't have the groin strain. So there.

And it's not just me ! There's a bloke in the office who goes to the gym most lunchtimes. And he ALWAYS comes back with a limp. I'm telling you : Exercise equals pain. If we didn't put ourselves through this torture, we'd have a lot more time for fun stuff like gaming.

Mind you, that's when you come to the last part of that Facebook update : "Team hammered, don't care - enjoyed the running around too much."

Yes it hurts now but it was worth it. And getting a confidence boost all last week when thinking "last weekend, I climbed a mountain" is just part of what makes the exercise worth it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Election ... and cricket season !

Well, big election day was last week and we still don't really know who will be running the country for the next few months.

Bit of an anti-climax but to be honest, heavily expected. It's been a bit of a turn off for me really, I can't see that much difference between the parties. They'll all pick and choose which policies they want to actually try to implement out of what they promised. The way I try and go is to attempt to ignore them as much as possible and get on with what I want to do. I'll try not to upset the lawmakers too much though as they then get in the way of having fun.

That's not why it's a turn off though, although a loss of faith in the whole political scene is a big contributor. No. It's the people.

It's been curious watching how various people have been behaving over the past week or so. Most people keep their politics to themselves. It's a personal decision and they leave it to the parties to convince others as to how they should vote. Not so with these people, they'll really go for the irrational bigot way of telling people they shouldn't vote for this person or that. It can get rather vicious as well.

That's so negative.

You can't have a sensible conversation with such people (like with Mac Evangelists !) because their preconceived ideas and ironclad prejudices get in the way of anything resembling sanity. They'll vote the way they always do, without questioning whether what they're voting for fits what they believe. And they'll also make up excuses as to why they shouldn't vote for the other guys. I know why I voted the way I did, it was based on the track records of how the various parties have misbehaved themselves. And the comment on Negativity probably gives away who I chose.

I guess I prefer election periods to be over and done with quickly so they're out of the way and we can manage our political bosses until the next period. We'll be lucky to get 6 months though before the next election and then the prejudices will come out again.

(CK, if you read the stuff above and thought I meant you with the stuff above, definitely not ! But there are one or two other people in the close friend group who do fit the politics bigot tag)

On to better things - summer is coming and that means CRICKET :-)

I enjoyed watching a very strong England side beat New Zealand earlier. It's weird to see an England side currently dominate the rest of the world in cricket. It doesn't happen often. We've got thumping batsmen, good fielding and smart bowling and we're currently leading the way.

It's good to see.

I'm back in cricket as well now, having given up on my shoulder recovering fully. It's about the same now as it was a couple of years ago. That is it's 95% capable but that 5% stops my bowling from being usable. There's a hitch in there that destroys my ability to control the length I bowl and when you mainly bowl inswingers, it means No Match Bowling. When it goes wrong, the ball goes flat at head height with the inswing making it follow a batsman who is attempting to duck out of the way.

That's insanely dangerous, even with helmets.

I think I prefer not bowling anyway. In my best days I was a genuine allrounder, able to open the batting and the bowling, I always enjoyed batting more. When batting, you can give an honest shrug when being gotten out by a good ball. With bowling, I felt the pressure much more as if it was up to me to make something happen to get the wicket. And at the same time, I'd need to concentrate on consistency to avoid mistakes. So, less pressure when batting as I could usually score at an acceptable rate.

So for tomorrow, I'll be attempting to impersonate a batsman and depending on who we have, I'll be keeping wicket or fielding. Should be fun, although I've had no practice for years. Hope the muscle memory remembers what to do. I'm in reasonable shape, albeit a stone or two overweight. I seem to have gotten lucky with a certain amount of natural fitness and an ability to recover quickly that makes cricket my ideal game. Most of my niggles are actually due to muscles not being used enough.

We'll see how it goes tomorrow, although the weather prediction says rain. Heh heh heh, it said rain today and we had bright sunshine all day.

Meanwhile, Evanescence is on iTunes and I have books to read and gear to pack :-) And relief that my cricket whites are still white.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Some people go a long way to get an avatar ...

Had another Volition Cult meet up this weekend, objective : Climb Mt Snowdon.

Not many of us this time around, just me, Luth Curmal and Agent Stone making the trip up from Bristol and Bath, to join up with an old Eve player. We travelled up to Manchester on Friday, hitting typical Bank Holiday Friday traffic - translation : 2.5 hour trip took 4.5. Wasn't too bad, could have been a lot worse :-)

Snowdon was Saturday. We started off at about 7.30, reaching Snowdon car park at 10.30. We took the Rhydd Ddu track, which had us approaching the summit from the south. Through the miracles of modern technology, I can publish the route of the way up (linky). Clicking on the "terrain" option will show some fairly daunting contour lines showing the elevations we were going up.

There were 8 of us doing the climb, we took a total of 2 hours 51 minutes. I miscalculated a bit by guzzling all my water on the way up, expecting to be able to refill before starting down. I didn't fancy taking water from the toilets though, so I was dry on the way down. We all survived :-)

I have a new avatar :-)

We got to the top and because I was feeling an impending injury*, were checking out the train option for getting back down the mountain. I spotted the little fella in the gift shop and thought : "ME WANT"

Yes, Snowdon has a gift shop and a train station at the top ...

Injuries ? I can keep going most times but I'd really hate it to lumber the people I'm around with a person who isn't going to be able to walk ... I felt my left calf muscle start to violently protest on the last little stretch (crags needing climbing), which is the usual sign that it's going to go bang. If that happens, it's at least 15 minutes until it stops tending to cramp, plus a few days for the muscle tears to repair. Comical if you're at ground level, not so if you're going to need help off a mountain.

We came back down the mountain using the Snowdon Ranger trail (see Rhydd Ddu link above), following the Android track linked here. The initial plan was to get to the bottom a little way around the mountain and then take a train back to where we parked. We modified that by going for a "short cut" ;-). It took us 3 hours to get back, which included a bit more adventure than the way up (translation - one or two of us got wet !)

For me, it worked pretty well, the way down was initially a lot gentler which allowed me to mostly walk off that unhappy calf muscle. I think it would have popped if we'd gone the scarier way down. We all ended up very sore though, I'd forgotten about the calf by the end cos everything else was complaining !

Gear :

When you're trail walking, gear is very important. Not just having the gear but knowing what to bring along. Weather reports were suggesting it would be clear, so I didn't get a waterproof top. Even though it did start chucking it down, I don't regret skipping that. Boots were very important, you don't want to go up a mountain in trainers because you'll be carried off with broken ankles.

I went up in running trousers, t shirt and sun hat, with a fleecy top and my normal leather jacket being put in the bag very quickly. Top marks for the Karrimor boots, Luth and I were sporting these and neither of us came away with blisters. They kept our grip on the loose path stones pretty well too.

Sun hat ? Keeps the rain off ! I kick out a lot of heat when I'm moving, so I'd overheat badly if wearing full waterproofs. There is such a thing as being overprepared, although I'd have wanted those waterproofs if I was camping overnight. Anyway, sun hat kept the rain off (no drips on glasses at all) and the trousers and boots kept my legs dry. The rain on my arms helped keep me cool.

Result ! But the same thing doesn't work for everyone, one of our people needed to borrow my gloves due to circulation problems in fingers (she was ok by halfway down). It was pretty darn cold up the top of that mountain. If I was fitter, I wouldn't kick out so much heat so I'd have needed subtly different gear.

Don't underestimate the challenge ! It's better to have gear and not need it than need gear and not have it.

Back home now, chilling out in front of cricket (although Aussie are winning) and looking forward to a very quiet bank holiday monday.