Friday, 12 August 2011

flat line

No change in my weight last week.

This was a little disappointing, but then I'd forgotten I was expecting to go out for a meal, so that was a load of calories I wasn't otherwise compensating for, but also I... well, I was going to say cocked up, but that's not the right phrase. I did actually make the error I made deliberately, it's just I didn't think it was an error at the time.

Basically, I decided to try to mix my eating schedule and plans up a little bit. In particular, I wanted to try doing things on different days, as I've grown bored of my eating patterns. Unfortunately I made some poor choices and, in particular, ended up buying/making more bread than I needed.

As such, I basically had to eat some higher calorie meals more often than I should have done, so what I'm saying is the disappointment in a lack of weight change really stems from poor planning.

This week, I'll probably blame it on the fact that several people at work brought in cakes, but the real reason is I seem to have lost any real impetus. I'm still walking and so I'm continuing with the exercise, it's just that the good diet days seem to keep being balanced by days where I go off the rails a bit.

This became very apparent the other week when I started looking at the plans for the next chunk of the diet, which will take me up to the end of the year. Basically across this whole last period of about 4 months I've basically only lost about a stone. Now that's not a thing to be sniffed at, it's just that if you look at the graph of my weight, it went down at the beginning, but then has bimbled around the same sort of value for a while.

I think a big part of the problem has been my trips to Sainsbury's mid-week. When it came summer I decided to try varying my diet by eating things like strawberries and melon instead, but the problem has been I've then also almost always bought something really bad too. My particular Achilles heal being things from the bakery section. What I've effectively been doing is turning the mid-week thing into something like I used to do before I went on the diet.

The 'saving grace' is that otherwise my diet has been relatively good, so I'm not back to the old days where I gain weight, but these naughty things I buy have basically cancelled the good days out.

What makes it slightly more annoying (and slightly perverse) is that I've gone right off salad. Salad was a godsend previously as I could use it at the weekend to bulk out meals a bit without hugely increasing the calories. Also, I could snack on carrots and things like that.

But I think I've grown really bored of it, so there's even more impetus for me to find something different to eat, and there's not much you can replace it with. As I say, that's particularly weird because of course summer is when you traditionally eat salad, and I've grown bored of it because I've eaten it all through winter!

Which feeds into what I was saying above - my trying to mix up the eating schedule a bit, which resulted in me buying a bunch of baked potatoes (they were on special). My theory was to have 1 potato and half a tin of beans/chilli. Calories this was okay and would work quite well. Trouble was, because they were on special I ended up with what turned out to be loads and so had to have them during the week, and the only way I could do that and not end up throwing them away was double up (2 spuds and a full tin) which was therefore a whole load of calories.

As the 7 Ps would have it - Proper Prior Planning and Preparation Prevent Piss Poor Performance.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

broke my scanner

The other week I mentioned about how F1 is on its summer break.

A particular hope I had is/was that I would be able to use this increase in spare time to get a bit of scanning done. As an added 'bonus' I actually dropped a couple of TV shows that hadn't really turned out to be as interesting as I'd hoped.

These were "The Hour" which I'd thought was going to be about the founding of a TV show back in the 50s at the BBC, but seemed to be intent on becoming a conspiracy thriller. This might have been okay, but didn't really appeal, to be frank.

The other was The Killing, which was also okay, but didn't really grab me. It was a murder mystery thing, but was taking the approach of having the one murder that was heavily investigated across the whole length of the show. This would probably be okay, but I have so say it did seem to be trying overly hard to throw lots of red herrings at you. Also, the surrounding elements felt a bit tired to me - political campaign and cop obsessed with their job over their life... yawn.

Anyway, I dutifully sat down to do a bit of scanning last week... and promptly broke my scanner :/.

Id' actually broken it a while back - basically, I'd put a crack in the hinge that you use to lift up the lid for the scanner. The lid had been listing badly as a result for ages, and I guess it chose that day to finally make its way all the way through and break off.

The bit that had broken off was itself not too bad a problem, but, and this is a bit difficult to explain, with it missing it made the whole process of scanning really difficult.

Basically, I was having to slot the lid back into place every time I put the lid down, which was difficult to get right. Also, it made the pages prone to slipping around once I'd put it on, meaning I was missing bits of the pages and having to re-adjust.

You may think why not scan without it, well I tried that too. The real problem is you need some way of evenly applying pressure to the page so it all sits totally flat on the bed of the scanner. If it doesn't you get bits out of focus and distortion effects. The scanner lid generally has a nice, flat, padded surface designed for the job.

Eventually I tried to break the other bit of the hinge off so I could use it and this worked better, but I also ordered a new scanner as it's still not very efficient.

This was particularly annoying, given the point I made the other day about how efficient I was at the weekend - I could have gotten loads down, but it was only possible to do a little bit.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

the green hornet

I have to confess I know next to nothing about the Green Hornet.

I've seen Dragon - the Bruce Lee story, so I know there was a TV series and that Lee played Kato, the martial artist that kicked bad guy ass, but apart from that, nothing. Oh, and it was obviously set in the 60s.

I'm also vaguely aware of Seth Rogan as a comedy actor. He was in the somewhat underrated Zac and Miri Make a Porno, but I can't say I've followed his career with any particular interest.

However, despite knowing nothing and seeing some non-to-positive reviews, I quite enjoyed the film. I think, however, that it could have been a lot smoother.

Mainly, I think the problem was that the original wasn't as obviously comedic as they'd intended it to be. I think they managed to hit the right level of action and they managed to get the more subtle/thematic gags down well, but what they didn't get was the more instantaneous humour.

Basically, as a bit of a film nerd I'm reasonably good at spotting ADR. ADR stands for Automated Dialogue Replacement, and is basically intended for overdubbing replacement lines onto a film, usually because the sound was rubbish due to equipment failures or because, say, there's a wind machine drowning everything out.

However, you can also use it to add lines (which is why it's also known as Additional Dialogue Recording) and the film is absolutely crammed with it. Now to be fair, it wasn't until watching the commentary that it was confirmed that the ADR was deliberate and was used to insert more gags, where they basically describe it as a god send. But the point is that has to be a worrying sign, if you're sticking gags over the top of loads things in order to boost the laughs.

As I say, the problem, I think, was they made an action movie with some humorous ideas and themes, but then realised that people don't tend to laugh out loud at humorous themes - they laugh at jokes.

And the jokes they've added are generally good; the action movie with humorous themes they made was quite good, it's just the way the first has been layered onto the second makes things clumsy and in a quite jarring way, though as I say, that may be because I'm a bit of a cinefile.

It also didn't help that some of the thematic humour they're going for undermines the film. For example, they try to flip on the head the idea of having a charismatic and memorable villain (your hero is only as good as your villain) - here he's a bit non-descript and while they do make mileage of that, it still fundamentally undermines the film. They also make a good fist of flipping the idea that the women is just eye-candy / a love interest for the hero, yet she still appears wrapped in a towel after a bath and dressed in her skimpys.

I dunno - it all just felt like it was a collection of some good ideas and some good action scenes (There's an odd tendency to really focus on the deaths of the villains, given the rating. Not in a gory way, the camera just seems to try to make sure to get the deaths full screen with a little pause. I think it's trying to make a point, but it just across as odd - especially when some of the deaths are a bit random/forced.) but the rest of the script could have done with going through a few more drafts.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

way too efficient

I thought about including this in the smaller posts, but I think I need to explain in more depths.

Basically, last week I made a decision to start washing my own clothes. One of the big problems of my flat is, due to the size, I don't have a washing machine. Even if I did have a washing machine, I don't have any space to hang wet clothes up and a tumble dryer would be even less practical than a washing machine.

You can actually get washing machines that do dry as well, but that's beside the point - there's not the room to put it in and it's a rented places so it's not really my decision.

Now there is actually a laundrette at the end of the road, but the problem I had when I first moved in was find the combination of time and quietness of the laundrette to be able to use it. As with most laundrettes, the problem is available drying space.

A cycle in the medium sized washing machine takes about twenty minutes, but drying those clothes takes at least half an hour. This means clothes are finished quicker, but there are also lots more washing machines than there are dryers - by my reckoning 12 washing machines of varying capacity and 6 tumble dryers.

That obviously creates a bottle neck, which, as I say makes finding the ideal slot difficult - you can turn up and while it doesn't appear there are that many people, all the tumble dryers are in use and there's clearly a queue of people waiting to use them. A queue which is exacerbated by the fact people will have left the tumble dryers going while they go and do stuff, so their clothes may have dried, but you're hardly in a position to take some else's clothes out of the dryer.

I therefore started using the laundrette in the town where I work and getting them to do a service wash for me.

This would only cost me a couple of extra quid on top of the machine cost and had the obvious advantage that I wouldn't have to spend the time doing it myself or worrying about finding a slot, etc.

However, just recently I've noticed that the charges seemed to be creeping ever upwards.

When I first started using it I seem to recall it was only about £6 for a load, but recently I've been charged nearly £10 for a load. Clearly a part of this reflects thing like inflation - the charges for the use of the washing machine and dryer have gone up. Also, the service charge has obviously gone up - it started out as being £2 but is now more like £3.50.

Fundamentally I wouldn't have minded these, my real problem is they seem to operate the process in a way that maximises the cost.

As I mentioned above, most laundrettes have differently sized washing machines. The ones that are broadly equivalent to your machine at home are the smallest and cheapest, then the next largest, which tend to hold the equivalent of those upright machines you used to get are a little more expensive, then there's the huge ones that are quite expensive, but do take a huge load.

Basically I always give them my washing in a black bin bag and they clearly use the medium machine irrespective of how much I put in there. They also do exactly the same amount of drying, irrespective of load size.

I can tell this because if I give them two bags then the price only goes up by a relatively small amount and it's always the same amount - an amount that corresponds to switching to the big machine instead of the medium sized one.

Now while I wouldn't say they're ripping me off, clearly using a medium sized machine for a small load represents an un-necessary cost. Also, as I say, with all the prices going up, it's now regularly costing me about £10 and with the occasional double load I must spend the best part f £50 on washing a month!

Which is way too much, so I've decided to start to try to use the laundrette at the end of the road. My plan is to use it on alternate weeks (well, fitting in with the Grand Prix's), which means I'll probably always be using the big washing machines and spending a lot on drying as I'll always be doing big loads, but there is a hidden advantage.

Using the service wash it effectively means my clothes have a two week cycle, since they sit at the laundrette for a week. Well, now I'll get them instantly, so I may be able to cope with a smaller wardrobe, which is useful as I loose weight.

Also, because I now get up at stupid times in the morning, which I didn't used to do back then, I can go when the laundrette has only just opened, meaning I should be pretty much guaranteed access to the dryers.

You know I've just realised that this whole huge post has nothing to do with the title. What I was going to say was that I did the whole washing and drying thing and was therefore trying out my new schedule (it was also a flat cleaning weekend) and it got to mid afternoon and I realised I'd done everything on my to do list and was at a bit of a loss for something to do - I'd been way too efficient, where I'd been allowing plenty of time to get things done.

It's like with the washing from leaving my flat to getting back it was only 1h15mins where I'd been worried it might take the best part of two hours.

Monday, 8 August 2011

odds and bobs

Thought I'd continue the smaller thoughts from last Friday.

Phone Hacking

The big news while we were away at Silverstone was the shit really hitting the fan at the News of the World over phone hacking. It's something that's been bubbling away for months, with several papers - the guardian and evening standard are the ones I know of - really rootling around trying to expose practices at several of the tabloid papers.

If you follow the news and current affairs you'll know all about it, but I have to say I'm in two minds about it.

Clearly the hacking of mobile phones was a practice that was endemic to, if not all of the British press, then certainly the News of the World journalists. And the real thing they've done wrong, to me, is deploying that technique on a routine basis and for everyone they ever came into contact with - good or bad.

Now clearly they were breaking the law and clearly hacking the phones of people like 7/7 victims is appalling. And I personally find the whole tabloid obsession with celebrity that means they also go around hacking and papping celebs appalling. Also the PCC was clearly a load of old pish.

The trouble is, if you neuter the press and make them always play by the law then you also remove their power to uncover real matters of public interest. With a free press and real investigative journalism you have the ability to hold those in power (be it politicians or heads of company) to account. So while I find a lot of what they did (and do) tasteless, I hope the baby doesn't get thrown out with the bathwater.


Work has been horribly busy just recently.

I seem to have wound up in the situation where I'm processing more bids, yet also having to run projects and do other stuff besides. It doesn't help in particular that a key member of staff has been sent to do a contract down in the South West. Also while they've taken on some new staff, they're mostly part-time and the maternity cover for a work colleague has effectively been done away with before she's come back.

To be frank, what would really help would be a pay raise. that's kinda mercenary of me, but it's been years since I had a raise and while we've had a few additional benefits, none of them are of particular use or interest to me.


Now here is a completely random one - I've decided to start shaving every day.

Okay, not every day, but every day for work. Previously I used to shave every other day - specifically on Sunday's Tuesday's and Thursday's. Now for reasons I can't be arsed to explain, I actually shave in the evenings, so I'd therefore be clean shaven on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Part of my reason for doing this was because good razor blades are expensive. I also have a very tough beard that blunts most blades quite quickly. So, by shaving alternate days I'd save money, as well as the more obvious time and effort.

However, recently I've noticed that my beard grows quicker and is also darker and stronger. I've always had a heavy beard, but now on those days I didn't shave it looks live I've not shaved in days.

I therefore decided to start shaving for every work day and it's been working out okay. I sometimes suffer from shaving rash, and to avoid this I have to use quite a light technique and so the slight irony is that where I used to go alternate days of very cleanly shaven then clearly unshaven, now it's like I'm permanently stubbly.

I think, on balance, it's better though, as the stubbly days were getting quite bad.