Couch-to-5K: week 2, day 2

In the bag. That is all.

(Heading to Falmouth this weekend to see Cariadys, so I’ll have to take my shoes n ting with me I suppose…)

Couch-to-5K: week 2, day 1

Week 2 begins! I was anticipating (not with pleasure) going to the gym this morning, given yesterday’s/last night’s rain, but the morning was grey, mild, and dry so another outdoor run — how long can this luck last?

This week we alternate 90s of running with 120s of walking (with 5 mins warm-up top and tail again). I was fairly out of breath by the end of the first burst of running and worried I was going to find the whole workout hard, but the 2 mins walking compensated nicely and after that, it was fine. Just at that sweet spot of hard-ish but definitely doable.

Shins felt good; I followed Jo and Bash’s advice from Friday, and also re-inserted my meta-warmup (before stretching).

I didn’t run yesterday because I was bloody knackered from an extremely awesome weekend of climbing in the Peak District. Aches in all the right places. :-) Next run should be Thursday morning.

Couch-to-5K: week 1, day 3

Week 1 complete! Grey clouds but no rain today so another outdoor run, happily.

I shortened my warm-up for this and the previous run; instead of walking through the park, stretching, then starting the 5 minute warm-up “proper”, I called the walk through the park the warm-up, but interrupted it at the end for stretching before starting to run. Now I’m thinking I should go back to the old way, as my shins were definitely grumbling by the end of this run, and — as may be becoming clear — I am quite anxious about shin splints. One running friend told me, when asked about them, “of course I get them – I just run anyway”, but I don’t want to be running in pain, nor do I think I should be. So next week, back to what is effectively a 10 minute warm-up walk with stretches in the middle. Next week it’s 90s of running alternating with 120s of walking (up from 60s/90s this week).

On that note, can anyone recommend good stretches for holding off shin splints?

Couch-to-5K: week 1, day 2, take 2

No rain today, so I got out and did week 1, day 2 again. Some twinges in my shins towards the end, which worries me rather. And for some reason I wasn’t much enjoying the music being served up by my Shiny Device… Just one of those days, I guess.

I’m really enjoying being up and out the house early. I love being up in the morning, especially outside, but like many people, unless I have a compelling reason to leave the Warm Coccoon Of Perfect Relaxation, I won’t.

I rang the uni gym on Monday to ask about coming in for the necessary induction before being able to use it; I was told to come in any time on Tuesday. Naturally, when I turned up at 4:30 on Tuesday I was told: “Obviously, because we’re short-staffed, we can’t do it today, sorry. Come back tomorrow.” Sigh.

I’m planning to run again on Friday morning. On Friday evening I’ll be off to the Peak District with the climbing club for the weekend. I’m rather looking forward to it, particularly as I’ve never been there before. Stanage on Saturday, Castle Naze on Sunday, weather permitting.

Couch-to-5K reboot: week 1, day 1, take 2

I really hope it wasn’t caused by the cold morning run on Wednesday. I’ve been telling myself it’s just the usual October Cold which anyone working at the university gets thanks to all the filthy students coming back. Either way, by Wednesday evening I was feeling unpleasantly coldy, and after a night of exciting mucus adventures, I took Thursday and Friday off work and mainly sat in bed saying “ugh”. I watched Munich and Lord of War, both of which I enjoyed and would recommend.

According to schedule, I should have been running on Friday, but that was obviously not a good idea. I went to Cornwall for the weekend, to see my family and celebrate my brother’s imminent birthday (and to see him in the local am-dram company‘s production of ‘Allo ‘Allo!, as Officer Crabtree — hilarity ensues), and didn’t take my shoes (or much fancy the hilly terrain just yet), so that was week 1 out the window.

By last night I was pretty much feeling better, happily. Today is another beautiful cold clear day, so off I went for week 1, day 1, take 2. It felt good, and I was wrapped up warm, but now I’m feeling a bit coldy again… Was it too soon? We shall see. The plan is to run again on Wednesday morning. The weather might be turning wet by then, so I should probably check out the gym tomorrow if possible. The gym. Me. What is the world coming to…?

Couch-to-5K: week 1, day 2

Easier than last time!

Same route and schedule as before, but today I went before breakfast, rather than in the late afternoon. I’d planned to do day 2 yesterday, but I went climbing for the first time in years on Monday evening (which was awesome, by the way), and yesterday my legs were still rather twingey so I decided to rest another day, properly.

Unlike milk, that was a good choice: it’s a beautiful autumn day today: clear, crisp, cold, ionic. I ditched the rucksack and wore surfy shorts with pockets (I need something to hold my iPhone, and none of my Actual Running Clothes have pockets). I didn’t get too hot. I didn’t get stitch. My left shin was slightly grumbly initially but nothing came of it. I was out of breath, but it was definitely easier than Sunday, for whatever reason. In summary: felt good, and felt great afterwards.

If only every day’s weather was going to be like this…

Couch-to-5K: week 1, day 1

I’ve just got back into the house after doing week 1/day 1 of couch-to-5k, an interval training program designed to take you from “not running at all” to your first 5Km run in gentle controlled increments. I was surprised at how hard I found it, to be honest. Day 1 is ridiculously low impact — alternating 60 seconds running with 90 seconds of walking from 20 minutes, with 5 minutes’ warm-up walking at start and end — but after a couple of cycles I was getting quite out of breath, and by the by the half way point I was getting a stitch, and very happy each time the nice lady in my iPhone said “walk” not “run”. But I did it, and actually rather enjoyed it, and I certainly feel good now, afterwards — sense of satisfaction coupled with glowy-body-feeling. :-)

It’s a nine-week program, so the trick now is to keep it up; writing about it here is part of the mechanism for that, so unless I fail utterly, this ought to turn into a bit of a running blog for the next couple of months, and maybe beyond. I’ve cunningly chosen to start in mid-October, so darkness, cold, wind and rain will be my main enemies, I expect – particularly rain as I’d like to run with headphones (not earbuds as I don’t have any which stay in) but they probably shouldn’t get too wet, thus: quandry. On the subject of cold, the other thing which surprised me today was how much heat I produced; I had three (thin, technical) layers on, and my coat in my rucksack, and on the warm-up walk I was quite cold, but once I started running, whammo. So that’s good.

Route: I walked from my house down through Singleton Park to the sea front (just over 5 minutes) where I did some cursory, confused and no-doubt sloppy stretches (one of the main things worrying me has been shin splints, which I always seem to get if I run for a bus, etc.; so far, so good!) before starting the work-out proper. 5 minutes walking took me to opposite the Pub On The Pond, when I started running/walking; the half-way point was the Texaco garage at Blackpill, and the return journey had the same way-marks, so my pace must have been reasonably consistent. Because I was using Bluefin’s iPhone c25k app, I couldn’t use runkeeper to track my pace, etc., sadly: runkeeper doesn’t seem to run in the background… The Bluefin app seemed to work quite well, though.

Mastery will soon be mine!

I had my MPhil viva last Wednesday, and I’m happy to report that I have been recommended for the degree, subject to performing some minor corrections to my thesis. That’s pretty much the best you can hope for — it’s unheard of to “just pass”; I now have four weeks (well, three now!) to complete and submit my corrections, most of which are minor things like typos. In fact, I did all the really minor corrections on the same day… I just have a couple more background paragraphs to write and then I’ll submit it for final rubber stamping, after which I have to get some copies hardback-bound, and when they’re submitted to the university I can write MPhil after my name.

It’s been a long, hard road — mainly because I was trying to do the work part time, on top of my teaching load which tended to grow a bit faster than I could keep up, but woo, it’s done. I am now, apparently, the official world expert on the syntax and static semantics of the specification language CSP-CASL. Lucky me.

The viva itself was no picnic… My examiners were David Aspinall (Edingburgh) and Gerald Luettgen (York) — two external examiners because I’m a member of staff. I started with a 20-minute-or-so presentation on my work, which I think answered some of their questions off the bat, and then we got into the dialogue part. Apparently my thesis was very well polished and as a result there weren’t too many questions on its contents, and I could (I think) deal with them quite well. The harder parts went along the lines of “so, how does such-and-such aspect of your work relate to THIS OTHER THING YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT?”. :-) This happened several times, and I think it belied a certain lack of breadth in my research: I’d focused on doing what I needed to do, in the way it had to be done given the external constraints on the project, but that meant I didn’t know enough as perhaps I should on how my work fitted into the rest of its milieu. Gladly, while an instructive lesson, that doesn’t prevent me getting the degree.

I’ll publish my thesis online, and say a bit more about its contents, when the corrections are complete and the final version is bound.

Sadly, I have to wait until next July to graduate (or rather, to celebrate my achievement, as they say – I get the degree before then), because last week also happened to be graduation week in Swansea. ‘Twas lovely to see all the students milling around in their batman gear, especially the ones I’d taught and/or been friends with. I even got to go to the Faculty of Arts ceremony on Monday, and see Alexa graduate, which was lovely.

A weekend of shenanigans

My my, I’ve had a busy (by which I mean fun and not working at all) and sociable (by which I mean much ale and good food, including bananas, was quaffed with silly people) weekend.

It started on Thursday evening, when a whole bunch of us went out to celebrate my birthday at Wasabi, my most beloved local eatery. I mean we celebrated at Wasabi, not it was my “Wasabi birthday” or something. Anyway. Through a combination of the magic of Facebook and the strong appeal of sushi, some forty people chose to celebrate Gimboday with me. I actually turned up a few minutes late, having gone for a quiet pre-meal beer at the Uplands Tavern, and was a) gobsmacked at this crowd of people waiting for me, and b) without somewhere to sit. Oh, it was great. The food was super, although Wasabi really doesn’t seem able to handle large groups: we were split across two tables, and it’s not a gross overstatement to say that everyone on table 2 (which I was on) had received all of their food before anyone on table 1 had received any. Given that by its nature Japanese food tends to come in many small portions (just like Arnold J Rimmer’s love), that really doesn’t make any sense, and must have been hugely frustrating for the denizens of table 1. Anyway, everyone was lovely and I really must log on to Facebook and thank them all for coming more coherently than I managed to in the speech I vaguely remember making. If I tell you I got everyone’s attention for the speech by clanging together my (empty) sake flask and (empty) sake cup, you’ll get the idea. A few of us topped the night off at Mozart’s for good measure. Apparently. Photos here.

Alien Bash Behold my awesome... er... Ladleface! Alexa and Ladleface Hannah and A Mysterious Mustachioed Stranger Emily Seran and Steve

Friday was, by comparison, very quiet. I tried not to make too much noise, or be anywhere too noisy, all day. I’d like to say I enjoyed two episodes of BSG with Bash on the sofa in the evening, but in truth only one could be enjoyed, the other being an insult to all intelligent beings. Tedious predictable cliched crud, alas.

Saturday was banana day. There’s a photo of me on the cover of Mondays’ Evening Post, next to the headline “WORST CHILD PORN EVER”, so that’s nice.

Saturday night was the annual SUCS beach party, and it was the biggest yet. Despite thunder and heavy showers (and even a spot of hail) earlier in the day, it was a fine fine evening, and a beautiful morning when the sun arose “sticking her rays all over the place” as Dave delightfully put it. I may possibly have had a few ales as the night progressed, it’s really impossible to say. I certainly laughed a lot.

The highlight of the night was noticing a bunch of third years playing a drinking game based on my name. Well, to be fair I think they’d adapted a “bingo” drinking game, but anyway. The object of the game was to spell the word “GIMBO” by shouting out its letters one at a time, but if two or more people shout the same letter simultaneously, they have to take a drink. I noticed them shouting “G! I! M!M! Fuck! G! I!I! Fuck! G! I! M!” at which point I jumped in (literally, splatto on the sand) and shouted “B! O!” to cheers and a rousing cry of “And Gimbo was his name-oh!”. Probably one of the happiest moments of my life.

If anyone can remind of the context which gave rise to the following 8AM tweet, I’d be grateful:

Wondering why no-one calls their firstborn “Gimbowang”. Why do you all continue to defy me?

Update: camp-fire singalong video, rofl, etc. [via welti]

The weekend was rounded off beautifully by spending Sunday with my new friend Sioned, a fellow drummer, ending with a visit to Arthur’s Stone and The Greyhound for dinner. Awesome X.

At King Arthur’s Stone, seeing for miles, hearing nothing but tweets and bleats – lush. Next stop: The Greyhound!

another tweet, 7:20pm

Gimbo gets to vote twice ‘cos he’s fab.

Local elections take place in much of England and all of Wales today, so it’s time to vote.

Interestingly, I’ve just realised that I’ve been given two votes this time round, which shouldn’t really happen. In other words, I occur on the electoral register twice. Naturally I won’t exploit this, but I wonder how they’ll react when I show up at the polling station and point this out to them. Will it be a big thing, or just run of the mill? I’d prefer the former; I suspect the latter.

How’s this possible? 2-3 years ago I lived at address X in Mumbles; last year I moved to address Y, also in Mumbles (I was at address Z in between, but that doesn’t feature in our story). I’ve now received, through the post, two polling cards: one for “Andy Martin Gimblett” at address X, and one for “Andrew Gimbleh” at address Y. When I moved in to address Y, I will have filled a form at some point stating that I live here, and somebody in City Hall has obviously bungled the transcription, reading TT as H somehow. Meanwhile, address X presumably lies empty (the landlords were, not to put too fine a point on it, twats) so nobody’s filled in a form telling the world I no longer live there.

The best bit is that, despite X and Y being within 500m or so of each other, they have different polling stations, so I really could vote twice. Even if they ask for ID, I’m sure I could argue convincingly that “Andrew Gimbleh”‘s vote belongs to me, particularly to people who haven’t just seen me vote using a different card. :-)

Thoughtful students of protocol will now be asking the question: Why have I received the card addressed to X? Because I used to have a forward in place, and the postman has apparently learnt my new address. There’s no official forwarding sticker on the card (or on any of my forwarded mail, even the stuff to address Z, where the forward is still in place) – the postie is just being helpful. That’s great, but in this instance is probably not the right thing to do. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that polling cards are, legally, not supposed to be forwarded — that would go some way to preventing this bug, I guess; however, there’s nothing on the card indicating this.

Security: it’s hard.

5 glorious years of, er, rambling and mumbling and getting paid to do it

I started working in Swansea University’s Computer Science department five years ago today. Here’s the evidence. It’s been a blast, and the executive summary still holds true, somewhat amazingly. That is all.

Circles of Sound

Circles of Sound: African drumming (4 bands), dancers, DJ; Railwaymens Club, Wind St, Swansea; 8pm, Sat Nov 24th 2007

Woo. Come! Map.

Waves of happiness

Lots of things have been happening to me outside of computers lately, which is one of the main reasons I haven’t written anything here. I suppose Facebook has also been pressing my online contact buttons. Anyway, here’s one of those things.

Yesterday, I had my first experience of something called Five Rhythms dance. It’s hard to describe, but in short, you might say it’s moving meditation, set to music (ordinary, popular music, though thoughtfully chosen and sequenced), journeying through five phases called flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. A complete sequence through all five is called a wave. Well, yesterday I was at an all-day workshop here in Swansea, with a theme of male/female balance, in which we went through three waves: two before lunch, flowing together seamlessly (or was it just one? it feels like it was two, but it is a blur, I admit!), and then another, slower (deeper?) wave in the afternoon.

I’m finding it quite hard to write about, because what I want to express, I can’t, really. I suppose I could say it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, but that somehow sounds throwaway and doesn’t really capture it. It certainly feels like it’s going to have been a very significant experience – it’s definitely opened up some doors.

As someone who loves anyway to dance, and in particular rejoices at the moments when the music and the dance take you out of yourself, out of caring who’s watching, out of thought and out of the moment, well, I just loved it. It was easy and challenging, and familiar and surprising, hot and cold, fast and slow, I could go on…

I’d worried, in hearing about the process, that the music would be some half-baked new agey nonsense incapable of moving me. I was completely wrong – it was singularly excellent, including a number of pieces I recognised (Massive Attack’s Protection and Art Of Noise’s Close To the Edit are two staccato pieces I particularly remember), and much else new. The James Holden Remix of The Sky Was Pink by Nathan Fake (as I found out afterwards) was where it hit the peak to me, at the start of chaos in the final wave. You can hear it on Youtube, but you’ll have to imagine satisfactory bass and a transcendent mental state, I feel. (I’ve just bought it on Juno — my first paid-for music download evah!)

I’m feeling very different after yesterday, about a number of things. If I had to pick one word it would be “calmer”, but it’s also a sense of being more centred, more accepting, more flowing, more connected and (frankly) more alive. A reinvigorated sense of connection with everyone and everything else – for which I’m sure I can largely thank the group, which was (trying not to sound too much of a hippy, if that’s not too late) just utterly welcoming, safe, nurturing, open, opening. If the purpose of the day was the explore male/female balance, it certainly worked for me. Gah, incredible and indescribable!

Though I have written many, words fail me. There we are.

If you want to find out more, and in particular if you’re in Wales and want to try it, here’s Alan Withers, the teacher (workshop dates here, and there are weekly classes in Swansea (clashes with Shiko, alas) and Cardiff). If it sounds at all interesting, I’d say go for it – only good things can happen.

Oh, PS: Shiko should be busking somewhere in Swansea town centre this Saturday, hopefully, as part of Oxjam. More details when I know them. Come gives us your ears and money!

Salsa dancing from Paviland Cave to Rhossili

The Venn diagram of my friends includes a number of sets. “Computer Scientists” is an obvious one. Less obvious is “German”: since coming to Swansea I’ve made a lot of friends who are either German, work in the German department, or are buddies with people who work in the German department. This is probably mainly due to house-sharing with a lovely German, Barbara, for the first year I was here. Well, of late it’s become clear that many people in or close to that set are also in “Salsa dancers”. I recently realised that my colleagues Ben & Parisa form the intersection of “Computer Scientists” and “Salsa dancers”. There was even a rumour that Markus might conjoin all three sets – alas, not yet.

Still, it became increasingly clear that some kind of cosmic conjunction was underway, and Something Had To Be Done. So we’ve done two things.

First, a couple of weeks ago, sixteen of us went for a big walk on the Gower, which proved to be something of a Meeting Of Sets. Bash & I had planned to go check out Paviland Cave with our friend John since last autumn, and finally managed to set a date. Somehow, over the fortnight leading up to the day, we managed to invite a further thirteen people between us – a lovely mish mash of computery types, visitors from other shores, and sexy salsa dancing girls – with at least one person in all three categories.

It was a great day – a really gorgeous walk with some great people, blessed with superfine weather, a taste of adventure, and a nice pub meal at the end. I made a map of the route we took via google maps (with some notes). Parisa took some great photos, including one of me climbing the rocks towards the cave (another), though at times I wished I’d bowed out gracefully at this point. I did make it to the cave in the end, one of the six of us who did, where I took these photos:

The mouth of Paviland Cave Inside Paviland Cave, looking out The view from Paviland Cave

So, yeah, all in all, a great day, and a highly recommended excursion.

The second thing we’ve had to do is, of course, give this salsa dancing lark a try. I was resistant to this for quite a while, on the grounds that I had the prejudice that it’s something thirty-something yuppies do as a substitute for actually having fun. However, at a recent night at the Monkey I got dragged onto the dancefloor by a recently-returned-from-Mexico drumming compadre, and realised the point of salsa: dancing close to girls. Aha. Not actually a substitute then, but the genuine article – even if I am a thirty-something (I don’t think I’m upwardly mobile enough to count as a yuppie).

So we went to a beginner’s class at Mambo last Friday and Had Lots Of Fun. It was easy enough to get, but new and difficult enough to not do well, and very hot and sweaty, and full of a big mix of interesting looking people. A good way to spend a Friday night, for sure. Thus, watch this space for more salsa musings as I learn my steps. One thing I’ll say: I think the drumming has definitely improved my sense of rhythm, and my ability to learn/remember sequences of actions to perform with my limbs. Ain’t brains wonderful?

Shiko live! This Saturday and next Saturday!

Gig-tastic… Shiko will be drumming at 5pm this Saturday (19th May 2007), at Coffee Cesso, next to the Waterfront Museum in Swansea Marina. We’ll be playing as part of a charity fundraiser for wells in Africa, so come along, listen to some good music, and give generously! It looks like a good event – from 12 noon until 7pm it’s free (fingers crossed for good weather so we can play outside), then from 7pm to midnight it’s ticketed (a tenner each) but with some pretty good local bands, I’d say. More details here. While Shiko gigs are usually “unpredictable” in terms of timing, we’re assured that 5pm really is our slot, and it really will be 5pm not, say, 5:30. So don’t be late!

Then, the following Saturday (26th May 2007), we’ll be playing again, at the Monkey, on the wonderful Mondo world music night. Woo! Heaven only knows what time we’ll be playing at this one. :-)

Come!

A chilled night of African drumming at the Monkey

Oh, hey, the Shiko gig at the Monkey on Monday was fun. It was reeeeaaalllly quiet: probably a quarter of the people there were Shiko people, I’d say. Monday night in Swansea’s bound to be fairly quiet, I suppose, particularly outside term time, plus it was the first night of the new Wales-wide smoking-inside ban. The latter may or may not have been a factor, but it certainly made for strangely smoke-free Monkey experience.

We were there as part of an “African Rhythms” night – basically a couple of guys DJ’ing African music (not the usual Mondo boys, one of whom, Eddie, is also a Shiko’er), and us! As I said, it wasn’t massively well-attended, but that was kinda cool, because it ended up feeling less like a gig, and more like just going and playing together somewhere, but with people dancing. :-) Two people in particular: two girls who do African dancing (they were in the carnival, I remember). We’d prepared three pieces, but in the end only did two of them, and that seemed enough. Later, some random jamming occurred, which was sweet. So, all in all, very chilled, very cool, very much fun.

Wasabi — sushi/noodle bar in Swansea

You can now get sushi in Swansea – at last!

A place called Wasabi opened in Uplands a few weeks ago (phone no/address here); we’ve eaten there twice: it did not disappoint on either occasion. Great food, nice decor/atmosphere, loads of cute asian waitresses, plum wine, sake, green tea ice cream (deep fried and not), etc. The first time, I had gyoza, california rolls, and shoyu ramen, which last dish would have sufficed perfectly well alone – huge and delicious, with a soup spoon more like a gently dimpled spatula. The second time, the irresistable gyoza again, and another ramen, this time with spicy beef. My only disappointment here was that it wasn’t spicy enough: I’d hoped for something reminiscent of a spicy beef soup I’d had for breakfast on my last day in Beijing, nearly two years ago. Life continues to attempt to teach me the lesson that things anticipated are rarely as sweet as the anticipation, and I continue to put my fingers in my ears and sing la-la-la.

Anyway, all in all, highly recommended, long overdue, and very welcome.

Weirdly, they seem to have done a really bad job of sorting out an internet presence. On Friday they didn’t even have a Yell listing, though they’ve sorted that out now. (It clearly did no harm to their sales – word of mouth, I assume, assured that the place was packed both times we went.) Furthermore, and quite curiously, the menu sports the address www.wasabi.com, which is (currently) just a placeholder page, and the domain is registered to a PO box in Hong Kong. I guess it could be the people behind the restaurant, but my first thought was that it was just a domain squatter, and that the restauranteurs had made a big blunder, somehow. :-) The email address info@wasabi.com is also on the menu, though, so they really do seem to mean it. It all seems a bit weird, to me — can it really be that the (surely highly desirable) wasabi.com domain is owned by a restaurant in humble Swansea? I could understand it being owned by a chain, but then I’d expect the website to have more than a holding page.

Ah, in true geek fashion, I’ve spent as much of this post discussing domain issues as I did on the food (and the waitresses). Somebody save me, please.

Oooh! In related news, congratulations to Jo, who had her PhD viva on Friday and got through it without needing rescue or anybody getting poisoned. Hurrah for Jo! (And thanks for the spicy beef ramen.)

Surprise Shiko gig: Monday 2nd April, Monkey Bar

Woo. In a surprise move, Shiko will be drumming at the Monkey Bar, Swansea, on the evening of Monday 2nd April 2007. There is, apparently, some sort of African night going on, and since our beats are west African, our beats are invited. :-) Come!