Saturday, 26 November 2016

A visit to Micky

We went to visit Micky today, as we do rather less frequently than we probably ought. She had just come out of a spell in hospital with a chest infection, that should have been one week but turned into two due to complications of getting an extra NHS-type carer for her, to visit sometimes. Luckily for us M+J handle most of this stuff, and indeed they had been to visit yesterday.

We found her ostensibly fairly well, except for a rather nasty-sounding cough that was presumably a hangover of her chest infection. We had the usual format of visit: come in, talk for a bit; have lunch; play a round of scrabble until Micky grows tired and/or sleepy; and go.

Here's a photo from just after lunch, with the afternoon light streaming in from the window. Later, Miranda and I sat looking out at the Jewish folk going about their Sabbath business, comparing hat types. I was amused to see that from above the shtreimel is hollow inside.


Alas, Micky was only superficially well. Her hearing appeared weaker, it was hard to hear what she said, and... Well: we tried a game of Scrabble but never really got started. Later, Miriam tried her on just the basics: recognising letters. Micky could do some, but not all. We tried a jigsaw - one made with Escher pieces, perhaps not the wisest of choicest no matter how interesting the shapes might be. But, she would pick up the pieces and not seem to distinguish front from back. In conversation, more than ever before, she would apparently lose the thread and start random new topics.

Disabling the stupid EU cookies notice

I discover that you can turn off that stupid irritating waste of everyone's time EU-inspired cookies notification in blogger. Instructions are here but were non-trivial for me to follow, and I'm supposed to know this kind of stuff. So to be more explicit...

Actually, just look at the picture. You need to add the line

<script>cookieChoices = {};</script>

About where I've shown it.


Saturday, 29 October 2016

Outing analysis, 2016-Oct-29

This was the 10 am outing, which I stroked, not the 8 am outing, which I coxed. Note: four of us had rowed already in 8 am outings and so might be considered slightly tired: Dan had rowed in the IV, and Brian, Lewis and Steve in the VIII.

Crew: me, Chris W, Andy S, Dan M, Brian S, Lews G, Steve O, Keith L. Cox: Mr T.

General: a good outing. Lock-n-reach. GPS trace here. Fragments of video by Dawn here, which is what I'll talk about. Pieces: 900 m down the Reach, spin and return, followed by 800 m down the Reach; unfortunately no video of those. We were somewhat tired for the second piece. The video is: us coming back towards the A14 bridge (steering hard on due to passing a IV); and (starts at 0:20) coming back up the Reach at steady state. I'll assume you've watched it, best at normal speed and then at 1/4 speed; before reading on.

Note: there aren't enough strokes captured in the first segment to be sure that what I'm seeing is "typical" but experience tells me that people do the same things wrong stroke after stroke.

First segment (0 - 0:20)

Recall there's some steering going on here so this isn't an ideal sequence to analyse.

Minor: Brian squares up massively early, before there's even a twitch from Andy, who is earlier than me. This doesn't appear to happen in the second segment.
Minor: I'm squaring just-in-time; or Andy's squaring a fraction early; take your pick. I don't think it matters greatly because we're perfectly square at the catch.


More obviously, 2 is not even square by the time I'm (partly) in. 4 is just a little behind. What you should do, though, is to watch the catch at 1/4 speed on youtube; the timing is clearer there. I rather like my nice backsplash but that may be personal preference or as I'd put it, "style". Harder to see (but its there) 5 and 3 are a fraction late on 7 and 8.


If you have any sense you should be suspicious of analysing a single stroke, so here's the next one, and the pattern is similar.

Second segment (0:20 - end)

On this one we're straight, so there's no steering to discount. You can't see my blade, which makes it less interesting for me, but based on the above I'll assume Chris is bang on time.


So, as before, late square from 2 hence late in; fractionally late at 4. The other thing noticable is the angle of 3's blade, which isn't parallel to the others (this is slightly more obvious on the next stroke). This may be slightly due to lack of compression - which can only be beaten out of people by extensive flexibility training - but more importantly it is due to "rowing in", which we do very much want to beat out of people. But it was too hard to see from stills, so you'll have to watch the video to see.

The other thing I see is that 5 has a minor line in skying towards the catch. In that after a nice consensual tap-down, as he starts to square his hands dip and his blade therefore rises. 5 will defend himself by saying his catch is in time with 7 and that is a partial mitigation.

While we're on such issues, I'll note 7's to-me-horrible "swoosh" style with the blade low to the water. However, that's a known issue and what I'm trying to point out here are "errors" that people may not know about and want to fix.

I'm probably over-reaching at that catch; but that's another known fault.

Questions, comments, complaints? Want to point out the obvious things I've missed? Just add a comment to the blog, or to fb.

Monday, 17 October 2016

The Lions of Al-Rassan

TL;DR: I enjoyed it, but it is poisonous when considered carefully. As are so many others. But as a fine exemplar of this-kind-of-novel, its also a fine exemplar of poisonousness.

The Goodreads people liked it. And wiki has an example, from which I'll quote a bit that annoyed me:
The Lions of Al-Rassan is a work of historical fantasy by Guy Gavriel Kay... based upon Moorish Spain... the relationships between the three peoples: the Kindath (analogous to the Jews), the Asharites (analogous to the Muslims), and the Jaddites (analogous to the Christians), although the religions of the Kindath, Asharites, and Jaddites, as described in the novel, bear no relation to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
What annoyed me is that it is like Moorish Spain, and contains peoples, as wiki says, analogous to historical peoples, and yet their bloody names bear no relationship. So at the start of the book, when you're trying to work out who is who, you're constantly flipping back and forth, to the "index of characters", to the map, and so on; trying to remember who is who. I'm not asking for the bloody "Kindrath" to be called the Jews - that would tie them too closely - but couldn't they be something that would help you remember? And so on with the others. It isn't even done consistently. The Spain bit is "Esperana" and the old Jew is Ishak; the A-rabs are all "bin" and the Jews are all "ben" and the Spaniards all have those funny accents above their "n"s, the Frogs have "de" and so on.

Here's a review that I agree with quite a lot, except I actually enjoyed the book.

Why is the world-map clearly a map of Europe, except somewhat blurred? Why does the Tagus river basin become the wasteland of the Tagra? Though that I can kind of excuse, since it provides some convenience to the narrative.

And why do the peoples "bear no relation to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity"? (Although it isn't true: they do bear a relationship: just not a close one). The book would work just as well if they did indeed bear a close relationship. Come to that (spoiler alert!) what about Diego and his gift. It jars. It isn't needed. It is a complete outlier in the world of the book; an anomaly.

Let's take a brief break from the whinging to say what I liked about it. After all, after being offered this as "read this instead of Game of Thrones" I did; and I enjoyed it. Anyone vaguely familiar - as I am - with the history of Spain will be pleased to be reminded of it; perhaps more so if - like me - you don't know enough to be jarred. The settings are interesting, the characters are all noble, heroic, and beautiful. And they have lots of sex and its always wonderful and they're always beautiful; and never get pregnant except when they want to. There's a complex plot that interlocks nicely - perhaps a little too nicely, ah, Carruthers, it makes me suspicious that this isn't perhaps actual real life.

Enough niceness. What of the poison? It is of two kinds. The first is pervasive in books like this, so in a way hardly deserves mention: only the main characters matter. Everyone else can die in huge numbers in hideous ways unmourned. By which I mean that the author is happy to slaughter these (admittedly fictional) people merely to move the story along or to elict our sympathy. Example: after the raid in which Diego gets his head bashed in, the book needs - well, actually, it doesn't need at all; it just wants, for reasons perhaps simply of emotional manipulation - Ishak to save him dramatically, whilst Jehane looks on in awe. So everyone else there has to have died. Had they been badly wounded, she'd have to have been off helping them, and that would have been dramatically inconvenient.

And the second is the way... I find this hard to say accurately or comprehensibly. The way the characters put honour above common sense. The way their fine sensibilities are more important than anything else. That probably makes no sense, or is unconvincing. The main example is Ammar. He is forced to choose between serving Ramiro, or helping "his own people". He makes the wrong - but setup as "honourable" - choice; and by his actions he prolongs the war of reconquest from a few years to decades. The worst possible war is a well balanced one; anyone with any kind of sympathy for the people is obliged to choose the stronger side (with qualifications, of course) so it can win quickly. There is not the least hint of that as a problem in the book; instead, the death of millions and the sacking of cities gets a few words, but chiefly so the main characters can look sorrowful.

As a minor niggle, the astonishing skill of the old physician Ishak is implausible in the terms it is described, within its world. And in its relation to our world, well, trepanning is commonplace, not unknown. Didn't the author think of that?

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Refuge du Glacier Blanc, 2542

The Refuge du Glacier Blanc has it's own website, so this brief page is just my own observations and photos.

As the website will tell you, there is no Wifi and no mobile coverage, not even enough to get texts. Indeed that might have been true in Ailefroide too, I forget. There are no showers, which I found particularly annoying, since the French-style "squat toilets" could so easily be converted to double up as showers.

Most used, I'd guess, as a way station to the Refuge des Ecrins. Also suitable for Les Agneaux. For views and notes on the way up, see "my arrival". Here's the hut as you see it from the little plateau below.


And here it is in the early morning before the sun has got onto it.


Like the other refuges in the Ecrins, it is primarily for climbers and the facilities are spartan, though the evening food was decent. You can book online. The contrast with Austrian huts with their near-hotel levels of service and "gemutlich" charm is striking. The only clear advantage over Austrian huts is the "plastic crate" system, where you just select on of the empty crates and stick your "common room stuff" in it. This is more like a provincial French cafe used to serving only locals; though I should adds that the Guardian(ne) were friendly. Well, take a look inside.



I assume the benches were up on the tables because the end of the season was approaching.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

A quiet week in north Devon

Miriam organised us a week in Peppercombe. It was a deliberately quiet trip. During the day, spent in silence, M was mostly meditating, and I was mostly running. In the evening we talked.

14390674_10154549429157350_1233257755501537732_n The 1920's wooden bungalow is all wood inside and out and rather lovely. With only two of us there was plenty of space. Most days it rained, more at the start of the week perhaps; fortunately this didn't much matter. It is down at the end of a track / road which is steep and a little potholed but easily driveable if taken slowly. Peppercombe itself (map) is a steep wooded valley off the A39.

We ended up getting up quite early. Several days, after I'd finished breakfast and pottering, I was surprised by how early it still was. And to bed early too.

Friday: arrive, 6 ish. Go to "Atlantic village" for the thrill of Aldi for the week's food (and a bottle of Romanian Nonius wine) before returning to the Coach and Horses at Horn's Cross for a drink and dinner. Reading "Full of myself" by Jonny Dawes.

Saturday: morning: 6k run west along the stony beach (hard work!) to Buck's Mills, then back along the coastal path along the cliffs; also hard work. Afternoon: 24k run (ahem, and walk) along the road to Bideford, then back via Yeo Vale (my watch ran out at 15k). Would have cut off some of the loop to Bideford if I'd realised how long it was. Began raining at about 10k. Pic: the stony beach.

Sunday: run 6k NE along the coastal path and back. After this I realised that I wasn't going to get the kind of distance running I wanted (I have the Amsterdam marathon on the 16th of October) from the coast. Ironically (perhaps) I think the Barnstaple marathon and half was on today. I'd have joined if I'd known.

Monday: drive into Bideford - it isn't far and do 21k along the "Tarka Trail" which is a bike path along the old railway line. 1:52, tolerable for marathon pace and after the last few days work. Preceeded by sitting in a cafe for a couple of hours catching up on the internet and drinking coffee and eating soup.

Tuesday: back to Bideford, same cafe, less rain, do 15k in the other direction "inland". Quite different: the Barnstaple / estuary direction is quite open, this is often in a tunnel of trees. Starts off crossing the river on the old bridge as before, then after a few k comes swooping back over the railway bridge. Evening, use the wood burner with what I've gleaned from the beach and the surrounding woods, and it works.

Wednesday: tried Barnstaple this time - really didn't get on with the parking - do the Tarka Trail back towards Bideford. Decided - during the run - that 26k would be good, so turned round a few k out of Bideford. 2:22, again a reasonable pace for a marathon training run. Evening: fire again.

Thursday: enough running, it was time to walk to Clovelly, which turned out to be 7 k  away, a bit further than I thought. M joined me, we walked there along the beach, this was hard work due to the aforementioned stonyness. Lunch at the Red Lion which didn't have wifi though it claimed to. Soir: meal up at the Coach and Horses. Walk back along the coastal path is longer - 18k round trip - though it starts off level on Hobby Drive it soon goes up and down. 6 hours round trip.

Friday: pack and leave by our appointed hour of 10.