Monday 20 December 2010

Broccoli Soup

Source: Mother. Daniel's favourite.
  • Chop 1 onion and cook in 25g butter in a saucepan until soft - about 3-4 minutes.
  • Dice 1 large potato and roughly chop 450g broccoli and add to onion, cook, stirring for a few more minutes.
  • Add 1 pint of stock (chicken or veg) and bring to boil.
  • Cover and simmer for approx 30 mins.
  • Blend in liquidiser.
  • Return to pan and add half pint of milk.
  • Heat and season to taste.
Can be served with 100g crumbled Cheshire cheese sprinkled on top.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Snowy again

DSCN1571-snowy-table-marcham Cold again refers. Warning: photo blog. No interesting content.

Yes, it is snowing. In England that is big news. The last couple of times this winter it has been Elsewhere, this time it is With Us so I care a bit more. We tried to drive into Oxford this morning only for my brother to phone and say that he'd turned round from Cotswolds, and two skids later, the second of which being rather long and looking for several looong seconds as though it was going to end in a parked car, we turned round too. Fortunately we have a plentiful supply of coffee, a warm house and (here) a TV to entertain the infants.

On a token climatological note, I think it has got snowier the past 3-4 winters. We had a long patch - maybe a decade, maybe two - when (or so my fragile memory asserts) any snow at all was notable. Now we've had several winters in a row with enough snow to build an igloo, if only briefly. And now we've had enough snow that my children are bored of it (update: I may have lied about that. Daniel says the former snow was boring, because it was wrong. This however is Good Snow).
DSCN1550-paul-the-viking DSCN1566-iron-chicken-cold Incidentally, best wishes to Mr Paul Holland and Miss Sarah Coates who are probably Man and Wife by now - the Stag Row refers. And it only seems fair to honour the event by including this photo of Paul. Paul is the one on the right; to the left is the Iron Chicken feeling a touch parky, on saturday, the day before the Great Snow when it was merely cold.
And now a pic that I like from Saturday: Coton sign in the last of the light. Coton doesn't really have a heart, since it is a sort of stringy Y-shape, but if it did have a heart it would probably be the little green by the church (near where the shop used to be :-() where the village sign is.


DSCN1560-from-wstones-window And lastly... I wonder if you appreciate the view shown right. Quite possibly you don't. I admit that as a photo it doesn't work as well as seeing it. It is the view from Waterstones cafe on Saturday morning where I was reading Surface detail. But the context of the photo is from Descartes:

Thus it is observable that the buildings which a single architect has planned and executed, are generally more elegant and commodious than those which several have attempted to improve, by making old walls serve for purposes for which they were not originally built. Thus also, those ancient cities which, from being at first only villages, have become, in course of time, large towns, are usually but ill laid out compared with the regularity constructed towns which a professional architect has freely planned on an open plain; so that although the several buildings of the former may often equal or surpass in beauty those of the latter, yet when one observes their indiscriminate juxtaposition, there a large one and here a small, and the consequent crookedness and irregularity of the streets, one is disposed to allege that chance rather than any human will guided by reason must have led to such an arrangement.

DSCN7448-kings That seems a rather French or perhaps Continental sentiment. Compare that lovely scene to the rather tedious uniformity of Kings College Chapel shown here.

But on re-reading Descartes perhaps he isn't saying quite what I thought. He does seem prepared to admit the greater beauty of chance-wrought building, and merely notes the greater elegance and commodiousness of planning, which is quite likely fair.

[Yes, I know the photos don't match each other or even line up terribly well on a wide monitor. Ah well]

Goodness: where from?

Paul introduced me to the Euthyphro dilemma: if you're a theist, a Christian say, then you believe that certain things are good. But are they good intrinsically - and therefore approved of by God, the Church, and all Right Thinking Persons - or are they approved of by God and therefore good, and so approved by the Church?

You see the problem, of course: we seem to have two choices:

(i) if things are good intrinsically, then (a) we've limited God's power and (b) it then becomes rather hard to see why they are good. Perhaps their good is only a social construct. There is also (c): we no longer need a God to determine morality (you might not see that as a problem, of course).

Or conversely

(ii) if things are good because God so wills them, then it would appear that God merely has to will some Bad thing as Good for it to become good. That would be rather confusing. Also, the statement "God is good" becomes meaningless, equivalent to "God is God".

Ralph Cudworth, who apparently didn't much like Hobbes's philosophy, apparently

In a concerted attack on Hobbesian moral relativism, Cudworth, argues that the criteria of right and wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice are not a matter of convention, but are founded in the goodness and justice of God. Like Plato in the Euthyphro, Cudworth argues that it is not God's will that determines goodness, but that God wills things because they are good.

So, lets unpack that:

  • good not relative, but absolute [OK, fairly common idea]
  • absolute, founded on goodness of God [OK, so good is founded on god. We're in part (ii)]
  • God wills things because they are good [Oops: suddenly we've switched over to part (i)]

So it looks like Cudworth can't cope with the consequences of (i) or (ii) and is obliged to switch back and forth in an effort to confuse us, and quite likely himself too. To be fair, Wiki on the ED quotes Cudworth as saying nothing can be imagined so grossly wicked, or so foully unjust or dishonest, but if it were supposed to be commanded by this omnipotent Deity, must needs upon that hypothesis forthwith become holy, just, and righteous and presumably that should be taken as an argument against option (ii).

The obvious answer to the problem, of course, is There Is No God, whereupon you are free to look for an origin to Morality free from these problems. But it may lead to others.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Time considered as a helix of semi precious stoats

Well, I've already done Time considered as a helix of semi precious stones (ooh lookee, that is google hit #4); really I meant to say "injuries" but couldn't resist. Now I've sucked you in under false pretences, it is time to confess that this post is about my various sporting injuries: anyone who isn't me may tune out now.

The interesting thing (I think) is the way when I rowed, and row, I get no injuries at all (bar the odd blister) but when I run I'm semi-permanently crippled.

The worst injuries I've had in my approx-1-year-and-growing running career were to my right hip, where something got badly wrenched/stretched in a way that I now can't remember; and my left achilles tendon which got stretched in an over-enthusiastic river run. Both of those lasted for ~2 months before I was fully recovered. Again, interestingly, I could row or cycle entirely happily with injuries that stopped me from running.

To some extent this is a matter of getting used to running, which takes a while. See here for some initial thoughts - before I even had The Watch. My conceit is that my body is slowly transforming itself into something better fitted for running. Part of that is the obvious I hope - slimmer, fitter. But some is less obvious: just general reconfigurations of muscles and tendons to support different activities. And maybe some of the the injuries just my body adapting - I can hope so, and pretend that explains why they are travelling all over my body: they are equalising things.

One thing I must learn to do is to warm up / stretch properly before running. And not to shoot off too fast, but rather to start slow.

Other exciting posts wherein I am damaged:

* Not Norwich Man - tore right calf 2k from the line.
* Running: 10k: lunchtime river run - general malaise
* Peterborough Man - more general malaise, but for longer

Sunday 12 December 2010

Christmas head

Saturday dawned bright and clear and warm, which was rather a change from the cold of recent days. A splendid day for the Christmas Head.

DSCN1510-rainbow-cr DSCN1534-santas-cr DSCN1515-cr DSCN1522-pair-o-santas-cr

Those are some of the crews, mostly from the second division. The first division was perhaps a bit more serious - certainly we put our best VIII into that, "Rage against the Machine" (had a Christmas #1, apparently). Crew: Steven A, Andy S, Tom W, James H, William D, William C, Chris W, Ralph H. We were to have been coxed by James T but alas he has been struck by the Lurgi and it was agreed that whilst we could cope with vomiting, the diarrhea wouldn't be much fun. But Freya stepped in and did a good job for us, and stroked our egos by telling us how fast we were.

DSCN1523-reindeer-cr DSCN1526-cowboys-cr

And - hurrah - we won the IM3 category (jointly with Champs, in 7:02); Petr's IM2 folk won overall in 6:35. So I now have a rather low-quality medal to wear (alongside the one I got for last year's race - but we were humble novices that year; we're IM3 this year due to Andy S, who is the proud possessor of the Club Point. I think I should make a trophy for that) but no pot yet - I still haven't won a proper pot on the Cam.

DSCN1531-more-robbers-cr DSCN1527-nativity-cr

My favourite crew - alas I don't have a pic of them, but (as you'll see) the pic wouldn't really have done them justice - was a lovely Ladies Nativity scene, complete with the cox clutching a fluffy sheep, all singing carols as they rowed quietly down the Reach - we'd both made the effort for get out early to get a chance for a bit of practice before the race, and so had the Reach to ourselves.

DSCN1539-robbers DSCN1540-cops For division 2 we put in two mixed VIII's, the Cops and the Robbers. I was a Robber, obviously. The Rozzers didn't catch us, and we nicked their blue light in mid-stream. However they did get a marginally better time than us - 8:08 against out 8:29 - thereby winning the Novice MX VIII category. Completing the line-up, Andy and Tom won IM3 2- in 8:10 (well, they were the only entry); Steven and James were pipped by Downing for the Novice 2-.

And then on to the rest of the day, which ended up in the Spring drinking rather more beer than I'm used to.

In other news: being crippled again (I've done my right calf this time) and having the Head to do meant I missed Parkrun again but Maz was there holding up the honour of CSR with a 1-second loss to Dave Bettinson (results here) though in a time that would have won it the previous week (Maz is "unknown" at #2).

Thanks to: James T, for organising of crews; and Simon for same of costumes.

And as a special gift for those of you who have had the patience to read to the end: v DSCN1542-us-inc-me-crop-rebal

Yes, I was carefully selected to stroke the Robbers, which was good - I enjoyed it. Probably my first race as stroke. We rated a fairly constant 29 all the way and were, I think, fairly good for the first 2/3 before getting a bit ragged towards the end.


DSCN1550-paul-the-viking Sunday saw Paul and Sarah's stag row, about which the less said the better I suspect (heia-heia). But Paul and his little tuft of hair will remain in our memories forever.

Monday 6 December 2010

Henry and Joan

Family stories.

Henry is my uncle; my father (William Peter, known as Peter)'s younger brother. They both grew up in Jamaica, with visits to England, in the days of Empire. My father I think was never intellectual: his books were Hans Hass and the like. And one childhood memory is me asking my parents something about graphs and axes, and them both saying "wait until Henry visits". Henry worked for Tate and Lyle for years as a sugar engineer or somesuch, and after he early-retired from them worked as a consultant for years. He married a woman called Mickey who had children (by a previous marriage I assume). When I knew them (Knew. Ha. I mean, on the few occasions when we visited with our parents) they lived somewhere in London - Bromley I think. I don't remember her at all; but then I don't really remember him either. After she died, and he more-retired, he moved into a flat in a retirement complex in Princes Risborough and was forgotten. And maybe 5 years ago Mother said he had given up driving. And very rarely we would meet, but he got to be terribly boring - he talked only of the trips he had made to South America, or New Zealand, but somehow managed to do so in a deeply tedious way: despite having been there, he somehow only knew things you would find in reference books: the Amazon is very wide; the flow rate is X; and so on. And he would tell you about the car he had driven round in, and the food in the motels; and so on. And of course, as a self-centered little brat, I had no interest.

Joan, by contrast, is far more interesting. She still is. She is also utterly unsentimental, for which I greatly admire her. She grew up in a big house on the end of the Stoke Road at the edge of Leighton Buzzard, and lived there all her life, apart from a few brief absences, as far as I know. She worked in hut 6 in Bletchley Park during WWII. She kept a collection of Procter family tree stuff until she moved recently. When her sister Jesse died, she determined to sell up the big house in which they had lived alone, and move into a small flat. And so she did. I was a bit distressed not to acquire any of her Stuff - an elephant-headed footstool I'd known since childhood for example. I didn't realise I could have had it just for the asking, and she never knew I wanted it. Alas; the perils of non-communication. We're both too shy really.

[This I once intended to be continued]


Francis Henry Connolley

Sunday 28 November 2010

Not Norwich Man

Today was the long-awaited day of the Norwich half marathon but! They cancelled it. Or rather, postponed it. On account of the cold weather probably: it has been bitterly cold these past few days, with very thin snow underfoot and the ground hard frozen. And, as I discovered, ice on the river, though thin. Yesterday, James phoned to say it was postponed, and indeed the website confirmed that, so I was left to ponder what to do.

And the result was: go running anyway, since it was a glorious (if cold) day. Miriam took D and E to see "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" so this was either my excuse for avoiding it, or a hard-made choice to run instead, depending on what you believe.

My plan (if I had one) was to tun out to Baits Bite lock, which is about 10 km from Coton at about 5 min-per-km and then back at 5:15. Which would put me under my previous best of 1:51:38 at Grunty Fen. Jogging to my warm-up I met Ross and Fizz, who had just done a 1/4 I think; and on the towpath I think I passed James, who must have been doing the full half, so to speak.

I gave some though to what to wear - it is so difficult, you know, what colour? And settled on tracksters, a long-sleeved but thin top (the Grunty Fen one is good) and thin gloves. This was about right; and more and I'd have been hot. While running it was fine; when I walked back through the village I got rather cold and was grateful for M arriving to give me a lift.

I wasn't really feeling fast today, somehow. Maybe not enough warm-up; maybe just chance. Not flowing, as the run last wednesday had been. Nonetheless I got to Baits Bite (exactly 10 k, having started at the Footpath) in 49:51, which was the plan, and then continued up, getting to 11k just as the last house. But I'd slowed down. I pushed it somewhat on the towpath back and got my time down again, but was feeling tired as I went through town, looking forward to just having a few k left. Then with about 2 k to go I pushed too hard and hurt my right calf to the point where I stopped to walk for 100 m; eventually I realised I might just as well limp to the line and did so, missing my Grunty Fen time by 40 secs. Ah well, today it was not to be. Still it was an awful lot better than Peterborough; and perhaps with a race to pull me along in the second half I'd have done better. Looking at my heart rate I see I was around 170, which I think is a fraction low for a really good run - needs to be up around 180 I think. But it wasn't there today.

2010-11-weight Oh *and*, when I got back, I was 72 kg. Hurrah, another new record. Look at that line: when I get to work I'll fit a regression to it and find out when I hit zero. See those 3 minima in the line? Those are Gunty Fen, Peterbough, and now. Running is good for you :-)

Saturday 27 November 2010

On meeting a chap called Adrian

After this week's 10k with Andy and James we walked along the river from Sepura to Chesteron to the Green Dragon which is quite close to Andrew and Sarah but (a) I know they don't go there and (b) I'm not one for trying to merge groups of friends. Though maybe I should one day. Anyway, we were just getting our pints (Valiant, which seems to be Batemans; I thought it only so-so) when we saw Emma (who used to run with Andy quite a bit but I think is off running at the moment; andway, she had just had her nails done) who waved us over and we sat down with her and an old bloke, who turned out to be (a) Adrian and (b) unknown to all of us including Emma.

So instead of the expected quiet evening of the three of us intensively discussing running, rowing, and the like we ended up with a slightly odd conversation including this new bloke. Which I wouldn't be bothering to write about if it hadn't been interesting, in an odd sort of expecting-one-thing-and-getting-something-totally-different way. But not in the way that Daniel, this evening, was expecting an olive in his bread and instead, due to M, got an olive soaked in Jalapeno essence. It wasn't as relaxing as it otherwise would have been, but both I and James and perhaps Andy too talked a little of things we would not otherwise have done: explaining background to a stranger that we didn't know was missing to friends.

The Green Dragon itself is OK, no more and no less. In the summer it is nice to drink by the river, though the beer garden is actually tucked away in a rather awkward corner on the bend that means you don't see the river very well. Sometimes it gets used as a CSR lunchtime pub. That night, there was only one totally off-his-face customer, who might well have been de-skulled by drugs; but he was under control. The rest of the place was fine; the beer was what I had, or IPA, or Abbot, which isn't quite the range of choice you'd get in the Castle.

Other life, since I'm here: it has been cold recently. A few people off work with related sniffles; cycling to work (or back in the dark) has not been something I look forward to. This morning even a light dusting of snow, though only light. Tomorrow's Norwich half marathon is postponed into the New Year - I was wondering how running in freezing temperatures would work out; how much to wear, etc. But I'll probably find out anyway, as unless it is horrible I'm planning on running the distance along the towpath. Maybe I'll even cycle into Cambridge so I can start along the towpath - there's a thought - thus avoiding the tedious bit along the footpath from Coton and instead seeing interesting new ground out to Bottisham. Though I'm not sure it remains as runnable. Well, I'll let you know if I do anything interesting.

On thursday, to the Junction (which is a bit of a dump next to an echoing windy square) to hear Bellowhead. Who were excellent. I still think that Hedonism is them losing their way a bit - eh, when I were a lad, I remember hearing Spiers and Boden perform "Rambling sailor" at the folk festival and they were utterly mesmerisingly brilliant. By comparison, Bellowhead are merely the best live band, 2010. But on thursday they didn't just (or even I think mostly) play Hedonism.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Winter Head

A misty late-autumn day. Cold. Boat house at 10:30, misc chatter: I'm a bit late but not the latest; some of the Peterhouse ladies are also boating. This is the second crew, mostly (except me maybe :-)) and William D is rowing twice: M1 were meeting at 7:30 (ugh) and got 9:06 (we discover later; our time turned out to be 10:11). We were: James T (cox); Gary Dadd (stroke); me; William D; Will W; Dave B; Michael S; Andi R; Simon (bow).

Overall not a strong crew and the weaknesses were obvious as we rowed up to the start (since James T was coxing we rowed up faster than most, weaving through gaps that others dared not use, but I don't think he did anything unreasonable and indeed he probably helped the flow): the balance was iffy and we were short; I think those were the main flaws. However by the time of the actual race we'd managed to cohere enough to put in a decent performance.

There was some hope of us winning the novice category, but our true objective was to avoid being run down by the Churchill ladies behind us; this we achieved with ease (they got 10:25). Novice winners were champs in 9:37, so we were a way adrift from them; but M1 could have won it by dropping Southgate.

As we rowed up past Stourbridge common I was surprised to see the number of off-Cam crews boating; but I think I remember this from last year. Not quite sure why this particular event attracts so much off-Cam interest. UEA, Norwich, Merton, a forces crew, Imperial, etc. We were marshalled just above the motorway bridge, and we got the non-towpath side, which made going for a pee tricky. I found that I could just roll enough to wee discretely over the side. We sat around for ages, it was grey overhead and cold. Then they send the first 12 crews up to spin and race; so we had a great vantage point for watching their starts. And a mixed bag they were too. Then our turn; we span, backed down a bit to give ourselves a run-up, and were off. City, ahead of us, managed to clip Grassy and we had the pleasure of overtaking them down the reach. Even better, we didn't fall apart whilst doing so.

Overall I'd rate the row "uneventful", which isn't intended as a compliment. Whilst it was fair enough, and we didn't slow ourselves down, we didn't do quite enough to speed ourselves up. Good points were a decent rating ~30-32 and a fairly consistent pace (starting at 1:50 I think, and dropping to around 2:00, but I lost the GPS track due to the watch being silly, argh) which says something for our fitness I think. And, though the balance wasn't fine, it was easily rowable. Bad points were shortness of strokes and a lack of ooph. However, for a second crew at this time of year it was pretty good.

Afterwards: breakfast in Tischka's, coffee in W'stones; meet MED in ex-Heffers artshop where we buy candlemaking stuff and Fimo (E is inspired by a lady there demonstrating swirly-pattern making on pencils). Then back to W'stones for coffee and more Surface Detail. Lose D's gloves, buy him and me some more.

Soir: to River Bar for Paul's Stag do. Which was good; but the less said the better.

Friday 19 November 2010

Fun running

Tis the annual science park fun run. Last year I managed 7:40 but was somewhat injured (before, not by). This year (not to keep you in suspense) I got 7:06, which is rather better. James Timmins got 6:59 though, good for him. Full results here.

The pic is me (behind, in orange) handing over the baton at the end of lap one to James. James was a late sub in for us: on the morning of the run Stephen "quitter" Bennett wimped out with some feeble excuse about a cough, but he did rope James in for us. Kevin bravely ran through his shin splints for lap 3 in 7:40, and Ian the Jones brought up our rear in lap 4 with just-under-10: 9:52. Had Ian come in with 7:52 our team time would have been 29:37 (instead of 31:37) we'd have been about 1/4 of the way down the teams; as it was we were 1/2 way down.

Weather: lovely if cool.

CSR won overall (again). Here are Maz, Jerome, Dan and Neil Sunderland.

3:57 pace over 1.84 km. Good!

End note: I just realised ( that I was faster than all but 5 women, and was 105 out of 560-odd overall.

Damien at CSR took this:


which is rather good and (coincidentally I think) of me. One orange in a sea of white.

Tom C took this:


We really need to learn how to be photographed.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Goring: walk by the river

Not our river, of course, but the mighty Thames. Although on such a warm still late-autumn day the Thames was looking rather placid - we could look down and see a diving bird underneath the water.


That's Miranda by Goring lock - unfortunately the lock is a bit boring, because you can't actually go onto it, boo hiss, the Cam is better from that viewpoint. We were visiting Phil+Sarah and Helen+David. Though I saw little of David - he (and Sarah) didn't come for the walk, and when we were chez Moody David was in the other room. Helen however is practising to be a young lady and sat with us adults and talked politely.


And here are M and E just before we left. That is E's flowery dress from a few years back - here she was, then:


It is odd how time passes. Phil has been with Smiths / Detica for 15 years now - almost as long as I was at BAS. And Sarah is doing misc. We lose our connection, inevitably.

From Goring, MED went back to Marcham and I took the train home. It was a remarkably squalid experience, and expensive too: ~£40 for an off-peak journey. Why squalid? Goring waiting room was shut, of course. The little ticket booth there couldn't sell me the ticket I needed, so I had to get the continuation from Reading. At London, the crush at Waterloo and the traditional need to change at dirty Edgeware road. Some accident at Kings Cross meant no tubes there, so I had to walk from Euston. Coming into Cambridge no platforms were free, so we were shunted around for 10 mins. I'm all in favour of public transport, but it is all too obvious why the vast majority who can flee it do so.

And then, disliking taxis, and wanting to give myself some exercise and maybe try my knee out, I decided to walk home. It was a lovely crisp clear moonlit night, and only took 1:15.