Friday, 7 September 2012


Well, Monza this weekend.

It's in quick succession with Belgium as one of these double headers.  We've a few of these now until the end of the season.

I have to confess Monza is not usually a great race.  I guess in its favour it is usually one of the shortest!  The circuit is basically quite simple, and they get very high speeds on the long straights (though a few chicanes have been introduced to slow them down over the years).  It's quite Italian in that sense, I suppose.

However, it does mean that there isn't much in the way of opportunities for overtaking and so it can be quite processional, but as I say not too long winded.

The highlight of Monza is usually the tiffosi who are basically the Italian fans.  They're rather partisan, being biased in favour of Ferrari.  I can recall quite a few races where good chunks of the crowd upped and left after both of the Ferraris crashed out!

I'm hoping Lewis does quite well.  He started the season well with lots of consistency, but just recently he's been in a few incidents that have cost him quite a few points.  I'm still of the opinion that Alonso is probably going to win, but if there is to be a proper battle for the championship I would rather it was between him and Alonso.

I've actually got a feeling that what will happen is that the others will essentially end up taking lots of points off of each other, a bit like last year.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

ruined shoes?

One of the things I was going to blog about last week but didn't was the weather and walking.

On the bank holiday weekend we got some horrible weather on the Saturday afternoon.  I'd seen the forecasts, but they were quite vague and the weather in the morning was okay.  As I mentioned I worked very late on the Friday so I ended up quite delayed on the Saturday and it was a bit later in the afternoon before I went for my walk.

I had to go down to Sainsbury's to pick up some bits and as I was walking down it was still okay, though you could see the clouds building for a bit of a storm.  Well, as I got to Sainsbury's (it's about two miles away) the heavens opened and I got a bit wet but then headed inside and bought the bits I needed.

When I came out it was still pretty heavy, but I hung around and waited for it to dry up.  There was then a bit of a break and so I thought I would give it a go at getting back.  My route was also quite tree-lined so I was hoping I'd stay fairly sheltered.

Well the first thing was that when the rain came back it was a full-on thunderstorm.  I'm not fundamentally afraid of thunderstorms like some are, but I get a bit nervous when I'm out in one.  Not from a point of view of being hit by lightning, but if it hits a tree or something nearby.  So my route being tree-lined made me quite nervous, especially since my plan to try to avoid getting wet was to shelter under trees.

Now initially the rain wasn't too bad - I've walked in worse and not been fussed.  However, it wasn't long before it was absolutely hammering it down.  I mean, it was monsoon-like stuff with gobbets of rain hammering down.  It was that level of rain where even if you stand under a tree it offers no protection at all as the rain just blasts through.

This step up happened about half-way home and initially I tried to shelter, but it quickly became obvious that I was getting just as wet as if I was still moving.  I therefore set off home and got extremely wet.

I was oddly reminiscent of last year, actually, when I also got stuck in a thunderstorm and got soaked.  At that time I bought a cheap poncho with the idea of carrying it with me if rain was threatened, but obviously I'd left it at home.

I also doubt if it would have sorted the real issue I had and that was that my relatively new walking shoes filled up with water.  The real problem here is that the shoes are too big and I have to wear an extra pair of walking socks (weirdly my shoe size seems to have shrunk with the weight I've lost - I think it may be due to my feet being less wide due to a smaller load being pushed down on them: they're certainly not shorter.  However, I think this means there was a route for the water to seep in having run down my legs.

That might seem extreme, but as I say it was a hell of a lot of rain that fell - it was streaming down me and every single part of me was soaked.

Now these shoes are Gore-Tex, which is kinda waterproof, and they obviously have a rubber soul, and these two things meant that the boots actually ended up acting like buckets - I could feel water squishing about in them and when I took them off they were full of water on top of my socks being wringing wet.

I was so wet it took tree full days for everything to dry out having hung it up with the dehumidifier going fairly constantly.

I was therefore rather worried that I might have destroyed this almost new and very expensive boots, but I tried them out this weekend and they seem totally fine.  I guess because I dried them out thoroughly they're okay.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

captain america

Captain America has never really been my thing.

It's obviously quite a jingo-istic thing - I mean, he's not Captain Humanity or Captain United Nations, is he?  He's Captain America.  And that's always made him very "truth, justice and the American way."

All of which of course works under the assumption that "the American way" is on the same level as truth and justice, and, indeed, that they're somehow synonymous: that truth and justice equal the American way.  I was never really convinced that was entirely the case and of course Cap represents those things.

Of course, being the first movie (well, excluding the other adaptation) this one tells Cap's origin story and that revolves around World War 2 and the Red Skull.  In this case it also involves HYDRA and a bit of Norse technology.  The later obviously ties it to the Thor franchise but the former is interesting.

In the comics HYDRA has always been a fascist organisation, but it never really originated in Nazi Germany.  Here it's basically the Red Skull's pet scientific organisation.  This works fine enough, especially as they ditch the silly bright costumes and properly retool them as Nazis.

In fact overall I have to say I quite enjoyed the film, despite my reservations.  It's just nuanced enough, particularly in regards the whole "representing America" thing that it works.  It actually manages to make something of a point in this regard and plays out how you might expect a Captain America to actually be used by the government.

The goodness comes through as being entirely down to him as a person, rather than any sort of jingo-istic thing.  However, there is a weird element to it in that it basically has the message that if you're a weakling you can't fight, which seems odd - anyone can be trained up.  Also, he seems smart enough, so could he not go into the engineering corps or something?

There is also a weird element that results from this aspect of the film.  Clearly they needed both a small version and a big version and it makes more sense that the guy they employ is bigger and they just use digital trickery and other effects to make him look smaller for the first part.  This works brilliantly - he really looks good.

What doesn't work is the voice.  A bigger person will generally have a deeper voice simply because of how the resonance works.  But they didn't adjust his voice at all when he's small, so you have this big deep, manly voice, coming from this little pip-squeak dude and I found it very disconcerting.

But apart from that I actually really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

getting what's due

I've obviously been blogging about my job hunt and its conclusion (staying where I am) so I thought I might give a little update.

The stuff I mentioned last week as to why I hadn't blogged is actually part of the same thing - the stuff I was working on is part of the new arrangement.

This new job (or tweaked job) actually started at the beginning of August but it was only really last week that I was able to start work on it.  It went okay for an initial stab, but it really emphasised to me how much there is to be done.

The other thing I wanted to briefly mention about it was that my salary took a big step up (though not as big as if I'd have moved, though as I mentioned there's the possibility of a big slice of cake later).  However, I did not receive all I was due when pay came around.

The issue seems to revolve around a part of my salary that's really intended for me to get a company car.  At the time we were discussing it I said I liked the idea but I've only just paid off my current car so I'd want a little time before getting a new one.  However, in the other job offer this was covered by having a car allowance that is given as part of salary or a car as I saw fit and then adjusted as the circumstances required.

My current company agreed to the same thing, though at a much lower value (but then the other job was in London so I would have had a fair old cost of travel); however, when my pay packet turned up it was short by this exact amount.  Now while we're not talking life-changing sums of money, it's not a lump of cash I would want to be without!

I've flagged the issue, but so far it's not been resolved.  I guess sometimes these things happen, but I did make it clear when we were in discussions that salary was a big concern, since I'd not had a pay rise in more than 5 years.

The whole thing of capitalism is we're supposed to get money in exchange for out labour.

Monday, 3 September 2012

crash, bang wallop

It was the Belgium grand prix this weekend, from the famous Spa Francorchamps circuit.

And it was an incident packed race.  I think a route of this was Friday, when it basically rained really hard all day.  However, the forecasts also said it was going to be dry for Saturday and Sunday.  This meant that the teams had no real motive for doing any running.

Using the Friday practice sessions for testing was basically pointless since they would tend not to get representative results, there was no point setting the car up for a wet race, the drivers weren't going to need any practice for wet driving and being wet meant there was a good chance they'd have an accident which would cause them real headaches.

All of this meant that they really only had the one hour practice session on Saturday morning to set their cars up.  This in turn meant that the qualifying session was a bit on the random side - most of the cars you'd expect to be up the front weren't.  For example, Vettel and Webber both finished ended up outside the top ten but Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber was second on the grid.

Not to take anything away from anyone - this year with the stable rules that only really removed the blown diffuser has meant that everyone has been a lot closer - add in the difficult tyres and you have this championship.

The race itself was therefore set up for a lot of battles, since many cars were 'out of position' and Spa is somewhere you can overtake (and not just in the DRS zone).  However, unfortunately Romain Grosgean also caused a big accident on the trace down to the first corner.

He's actually a bit of a one for getting into accidents at the start.  I think he's actually said that he gets a bit too excited and tends to act a bit rashly.  Certainly he was clearly in error on Sunday, as he moved over so far that an accident was almost inevitable.

It was a particular pity on Sunday since he took several of the championship contenders out.  It was quite a scary accident actually, as Grosjean's car was lifted into the air (often a consequence of wheels clashing, as here) but because it was a rear wheel he was also spun in the air and of course the cars are a lot longer than they are wide.

You could actually see wheel marks on Alonso's car that were close to where his head is.  It's one of the difficulties of open cockpit racing, but then there are always issues over them getting trapped in the cockpit if it's covered - being a close-fitting cockpit, rather than an open space inside a car can cause problems.  Especially where fire is always a risk - that's how a lot of drivers used to die in the bad old days.

Anyway, race itself was good and I guess the up-side with Alonso being knocked out is that it closes the championship up a bit.

And we go again this next weekend - there are actually a lot of double-headers until the end of the year, which is going to play havoc with my schedule, but there you go.