Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Music

From a French band called Dionysos is this great song Tais Toi Mon Coeur along with a wonderful Tim Burton-esque video. Big hat tip to Steampunk blog Brass Goggles.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Attack of the Killer Trees

Oh brother, this is beyond ridiculous!

For 150 years, it has stood in splendid serenity on the village green, harming no one and pleasing many.

Over the decades, the monkey puzzle tree at West Cross, near Swansea, became a much-loved local landmark.

But now it is facing the chop … because, in modern Britain, the needle-like points of its leaves are deemed a danger to health and safety.

How many deaths has it been responsible for in that time? None, but still....

One expert likened the effect of the needles to being pricked by a hypodermic syringe.

‘Every effort is made in this day and age to prevent children playing with discarded syringe needles,’ a report stated.

‘Every effort must be made to prevent children coming into contact with these potentially, equally sharp needles.’

An expert in what, one wonders? Over-reacting to non-existent threats perhaps.

What happened to Britain?

It's Alive!

I finally broke and replaced my Vista-incompatible wireless router with a new Belkin model. A bit of muttering and swearing at the blasted thing when it refused to connect to the internet revealed that I'd typed in my username wrong and after that it was all plain sailing. My old XP box also hooked up to the new router problem free.

Surprisingly the new connectivity hasn't had too much impact on my writing routine- I guess that period of enforced no-internet-access has given me some good habits. Hopefully the new home network will allow me to get back to doing the occasional blog post.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Blame The Weather

Good grief- this feels like the longest break I've ever had from blogging. It all began with some mind-melting pain and then spiraled off into a school break for my girls, followed by a period of some very unfamiliar hot, sunny weather. Tapping away at the laptop has thus been confined to evenings when I've been doing a bit of research and writing a few different stories, trying to find one to run with.

All winter I've been blaming my increased back pain on the wet, cold weather- I guess that needs re-evaluating to some extend now; even with the unseasonably pleasant sunshine I've still been waking up feeling like an elephant trod on me. Having said that, when I take my usual meds and have a restful morning by the time lunch time rolls around I'm generally feeling human enough to move around the way regular people do. In fact, for a few hours each day as the temperatures top out I've been feeling pretty darn mobile. So much so that I've even taken up the kettlebell again.

The past winter my exercise has been confined to making the "bridge" (think an upright press-up position) for a minute at a time, some actual press ups and a few dips. Pretty pathetic really but it's kept me ticking over. Anyway, I grabbed my 16kg kettlebell and did a couple of days of swings- sets of 10 for each arm, walking around the house in between and mixing it up with a few dips and some very awful pull-ups. The swing is the number one exercise for beginners- builds you up all over and is fairly gentle.

So far, so easy. This past week I stepped it up a bit- a 100 swings per arm, sets of 10 each side and a shorter walk around in between. The next day I switched over to the snatch- first time out I did a few sets of swings and then about 50 snatches each arm, sets of 10 again. Day after that I was feeling a little tender (not sore exactly but I could tell I'd been working) in my front delts and lats so I concentrated on swings. Low and behold I was able to do 40 at a time, switching hands at the top of each set of 10 throws without pause. I did about four sets of forty before my back began to complain so I finished up with grinding out some military presses.

I've always sworn by the tremendous benefit of the swing but if you're feeling up to it, it looks like the snatch delivers much faster results. The day after the swings I went back to the snatch and did a hundred for each arm, sets of ten, a few seconds walk in between.

A week of not too tough training and I've noticed my waist getting narrower and muscle development all over my upper body and my thighs. And all without the awful aching I-can-barely-move soreness of weight lifting. Another weird thing is a kind of looseness in my lower back- after a KB session there's a definite tendency to walk with your belly forward as if your pelvis is freer. I seem to recall reading something about that in Pavel's excellent Enter The Kettlebell.

The good weather hasn't stopped my usual early evening appointment with excruciating pain but at least I'm getting a bit of relief from the usual all-day-long affair of the winter. If you're interested in the number one exercise tool in the known universe, pop on over to Pavel's page for more details. Fast results, improved cardio fitness, build muscle and real strength all in one compact package; what's not to like?