Tuesday, 30 September 2008

stepping up

My first charity bike ride this year was 35km, and I finished it regretting that I didn't try the longer option. My second was 50km, and I finished it tired but happy with my time. (Regrettably, I can't find exactly how much I raised for each of these - something around $250 for the second one).

My next ride is 100km. And it's scaring me a bit.

The ride is the Wilson HTM Brisbane to the Gold Coast Cycle Challenge. It's on October 4, just under 2 weeks away and, contrary to what the name suggests, we (5600+ of us at last count) are actually going to be riding from Brisbane to the Gold Coast.

My preparation has been less than ideal. I've had varying degrees of the flu for 4 or 5 weeks now, and am only getting back into cycling to work in the last week or so. I haven't ridden more than 15km since the 50km ride in August, and I'm a little afraid that my aerobic and muscular endurance might not be quite ready for 4-5 hours on the bike.

However, I've paid my entry fee, and received my first donations, so there's no backing out.

Here's where you come in! The ride is in aid of the Heart Foundation, who do great work in helping people suffering from cardiovascular diseases, which at 1 death every 10 minutes, is Australia's leading killer. If you can help out with a dollar, 10 dollars or any amount you can spare, head on over to my fundraising page and sponsor me for the race. The money will help the Heart Foundation, and the good vibes will help me push my wearying legs down to the Gold Coast. I don't want to be found dead on the side of the road near Beenleigh. I hate Beenleigh.

adding some more physical activity

(quick weekend recap: Saturday grand final BBQ at Neil's, Sunday saw M&D off to Europe)

I'm quite the health nut today. I rode into work (continuing my attempt to get enough cycling into the next 2 weeks to not collapse on the gold coast ride - details to follow). I brought a cut lunch, including Mum's homegrown tomatoes and my homegrown spinach. And, for the first time this year, I went for a swim at lunch.

I have no excuse for not having gone before this; a well-thrown stone could quite conceivably reach the pool from my office (although the risk of incapacitating an otherwise innocent swimmer, and of being brought up on charges for it, would make that inadvisable). Near the end of my time in France, I actually started going swimming with Franck Chauvel on an almost-regular basis (the archives don't reveal whether this was before or after my surgery, strangely), and although I'm not much of a swimmer, I did enjoy it.

I think the coming 24-48 hours will see me pay the price for not having swum laps for a long time. I only swam 30 laps (750m), but my arms are already sore, and I expect that will continue. Probably a better day to start would have been a day where I'm not playing volleyball in the evening.

I'm contemplating adding a very late objective to my new year's physical activity resolutions - something like 10km or so of swimming. Perhaps I'll wait and see if my enthusiasm lasts for more than a hour after leaving the pool.

Friday, 26 September 2008

another hit of golf

I was up at the Sunshine Coast for a workshop the last couple of days, and yesterday afternoon, one of the med.eng. researchers and I snuck out for a quick 18 holes. Holding a workshop at a resort course hotel and not allocating time for a round seemed like cruel and unusual punishment, and we would have been disappointed to have not gotten out for a hit.

I played pretty poorly. I shot a scratchy 52 on the front 9, and on the back 9 my swing really fell apart and I shot 61. My hands weren't coming through, I was swinging outside-in, and something weird was going on at the top of my swing, with the end result being that I lost all confidence in first my driving and then my irons. There are a few excuses, I guess. I was playing with a mixed set of rental clubs, having played exclusively with my own clubs for many years now. The course is a difficult one, with a fair bit of water and lots of well-placed bunkers. I haven't played many bunker shots over recent years, and although I used to be quite good at it (had a great day at Royal Melbourne at one point). Anyway, I had my moments, but there were a few 10s and 9s in there, which was unfortunate.

The course was in great nick. The fairways were really tightly cut, but cushiony, and I didn't have a bad lie all day. Even the rough posed little problem (which is nice, but not "proper"). The greens were fast but basically true. The sand was soft, although I did "bottom out" a couple of times, so they might have been a bit shallow.

My partner, who is probably slightly better than me, but comparable (were we both to play well), played well, particularly with his short-mid irons, and shot 97. That was 1 shot under his handicap, which is really good going for playing a tough course for the first time.

I reckon I can now say I've met my resolution of 12 games of golf for the year. I was never sure how to count 9 hole outings, but I reckon around 10 of the dozen were 18 holes in any case, and I probably played 9 holes 5 or 6 times.

Monday, 22 September 2008

up to t'ba, a little golf

I headed up to T'ba for the weekend past to spend some time with my folks before they head off to Europe next week.

On Saturday, Dad and I played 18 holes at Borneo Barracks. I shot 94 (+22) for 18, which is a little outside what I hope for these days (+18), but about what I expect. There were 3 or 4 magpies dive-bombing, which was pretty distracting. I had a 4-putt on one hole which I put down a little bit to watching for attacks, and on another hole I hit an 8-iron that should have been just off the green, but which we couldn't find - a search made more difficult by having to watch for birds.

On Sunday we played 9 holes at Eustondale. There was no wind this time, which made it a very different course. I had a weird round. I started par-par-birdie, and was in good shape on the 4th, but my second shot trickled over the back and down a bank, and I took a triple-bogey. After a par on the next (a short uphill par 4 where I nearly drove onto the green), I did everything wrong (out of bounds, failed to get out of the bunker, 3-putt) and took 8 on the par-3 7th. I finished bogey-par for a +10 43. I was +8 on the 3 par 3s, and +2 on the 6 par 4s, which I suppose makes some sense since the par 4s are mostly very short.

While I was home, I also got to look around the garden, which was in really good nick. There were lots of flowers out, and lots of the trees and shrubs were shooting and looking vibrant. I also got to see the new tank, which is fairly subtle for its size, and sample the self-supplied water, which is really good.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

wow, he's right

Over at AGB, and citing the Wire as one example, Tone observes:
TV has been better than film since, oooh, around about the most recent fin de siècle.
You know, he might be right. Over the last 10 years, the TV series as a genre has really started to get to grips with the arc of a series, as opposed to the arc of an episode. I'd probably add shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under to The Wire, as highlights.

If you had to point at notable trends in film over the same period, you'd probably look at the success of effects-based films, particularly the big-budget fantasy adaptations (LOTR, Harry Potter, new Star Wars), and the return of the superhero genre (Spidey, X-men, Batman). I can't think of many notable other dramatic developments - renewed interest in epics, perhaps?

Quis legit ipsos custodes?

Back around the time of my birthday, I made a big impulse purchase from Amazon. Among the items I bought was a copy of The Watchmen, a graphic novel I'd seen commended on Ctrl-Alt-Del, amongst other places, as one of the best graphic novels one could find. I figured I'd give the genre a try.

Its a good read. The plot, which is something of a MacGuffin, revolves around a series of deaths of current of former suited adventurers (not necessarily superheros, in the fantastical superpowers sense). The more interesting aspects, though, are the portrayals of the masked characters - the reasons they got into it, the reasons they got out of it, and the psychological consequences of both. The form of the book, mostly comic strip but interspersed with "found" prose, is a very natural fit for the story and themes that are recounted, and I doubt whether a novel could have done so quite as well.

For all that, though, I don't see myself becoming a regular reader of graphic novels. For all that I enjoyed this story, I get more enjoyment out of a good novel, and much more out of a great novel.

For the record, I've moved onto reading His Master's Voice, by Stanisław Lem. I had made a tentative start on Thus Spake Zarathustra, but I've put it down for now - very intimidating.

Ed: I think that the title of this post might be my first real attempt at Latin, and certainly my first attempt at latin jeu de mot (wordplay).

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


I've been a bit sick with a cold the last few weeks, and one of the consequences is that I've stopped riding my bike to work, in favour of taking the bus. One of the benefits of, and perhaps even reasons for, taking the bus is that it affords me 2x20 minutes a day to read, which offers a great boost to the momentum I have getting through something.

So, having finished Possession and Cat's Cradle, I picked up a copy of Joyce's Dubliners, a collection of character-piece short stories which I figured would be , and which turned out to be, a convenient format for reading on a bus.

Unlike my memory of Ulysses, the Dubliners stories are told in a very even and objective style, which makes the stories more readable and forces the reader to assess the characters, rather than having them come pre-assessed by the author. The stories varied to the extent that they struck a chord with me - some, like Eveline, Counterparts, and A Mother, rang true, others less so. On the whole, though, I enjoyed the stories, and liked that they made me think about the characters.

Joyce confuses me. Two of his books that I've now read have been quite accessible, but Ulysses not at all (and from what I've heard, I can expect difficulty should I attempt Finnegan's Wake).


I posted a couple of times on the Olympics, so its probably only fair that I comment on the Paralympics.

I haven't been watching an awful lot, although I did see quite a bit on Saturday. The ABC coverage gets 10 for effort, but to be honest, some of the commentators are pretty crap. I was watching a close wheelchair basketball game, and the team that was down was fouling as soon as the other team inbounded, which is simply what you do in that situation, in any form of basketball, but the commentators seemed to have no idea why it was happening, which is just weird.

Unlike the Olympics, all of the sports I've seen in the paralympics are objective - no diving, dressage, gymnastics or judo. I am a little uneasy about the classification systems, but its an inevitable problem - the disabilities that people have are different, and although they have lots of categories (and hence LOTS AND LOTS of events), you still get people with wildly different disabilities competing against each other - someone with cystic fibrosis swimming against someone with no arms, against someone with one arm and one leg. This makes it interesting, but in some respects its a bit less even. What is incontestable, though, is just how impressive the individual performances are. Seeing someone with no arms swim 100m of I-guess-you'd-call-it-butterfly is just super-impressive (although banging into the wall with their head makes me giggle, I confess), and the number of personal bests is just amazing. I saw a swimming relay last night where the Australian team took the world record from 4:22 to 4:11, which is just crazy. There have been similar big records elsewhere in swimming and in track - one Kenyan arm-amputee runner broke the 5000m world record by 19 seconds (he earlier broke the 1500m record by 6 seconds).

The team sports are the best of all. Wheelchair basketball is impressive, and seems to be the marquee event. Australia won bronze last night, beating Japan, having taken out the world-champion Canadians in the quarter-finals (the Australians might be the second-best team in the tournament, after the Americans). The men are playing for gold tonight against the Canadians.

My favourite, though, is the wheelchair rugby. The Australians have this guy, Ryley Batt, who is just a superstar. He's a big bloke, built like a prop, which superficially might seem an advantage in a sport called rugby, but it really makes little difference. What sets him apart is his speed in the chair and particularly his acceleration. More than any other player he's a nightmare in terms of blocking the runs of one or more players on defense, and of quick spins and acceleration to get out of traps in attack. He beat the New Zealanders scoring with 0.2 seconds earlier in the tournament, and last night he was key in beating the Canadians in overtime (the Canadians had a great chance to send it to a second overtime but had a skill error on the last play).

Saturday, 6 September 2008

little golf

Neil, Dave and I went for a hit of golf this morning at St Lucia. After a rough start (+5 through 2), I steadied and was at +9 through 9. I had some troubles on the back 9, and finished with a 92 (+22). The wind was blowing very hard all day, and swirling around considerably. On the 375m 10th, I hit a huge drive and a sand wedge into the green, yet a couple of holes later I was hitting a 7-iron to pin high from only 115m out. I hit some really good drives, on a day where getting the ball in the fairway really was tough, which was really pleasing.