Archives for category: Life

Admittedly I can already swim, but only really the breast stroke. Which is arguably the easiest stroke available, with the possible exception of doggy paddle. Swimming the crawl is something that I’ve never been good at, last time I tried I got about 10m down the pool before I had to stop and go back to breast stroke. This was until last Thursday.
I had seen Tim Ferris talking about how to swim (among other things) in his TED talk. More specifically he was making the point that teachers generally don’t break down the stoke into the simple and important bits. Later I discovered that this technique is called ‘Total immersion‘ swimming. Tim also has a blog post about it here with videos.
I’ve only done one half hour session, under my own tuition (yes that’s right, I’m teaching myself) but already I can do a few lengths quite easily. The art of breathing without slightly drowning isn’t one that I’ve perfected yet, giving me quite a few lengths that end half way across the pool with me coughing and spluttering – however I feel I’ve already made some pretty good progress. Even though I am mainly focused on getting my stroke right and breathing without water-in-lung I have completed a length or two with a surprising and satisfying head of speed.

Slowly and surely we are sinking into the darkness of a British winter. This will be my first in two years, not that I’m boasting or anything.
Having spent last winter in New Zealand where it was summer I am really feeling the cold as the days shorten here in Plymouth. How I’m going to deal with things when the temperature actually gets down into single figures I have no idea, it’s entirely possible that I’ll try and hibernate until spring. Bears do it and have you ever seen an unhappy wild bear? Exactly.
I hear that this winter, so far, has been very mild compared to last year. I admit that although I’m not a massive fan of the cold I do rather enjoy snuggling in my nice thick duvet. Sure that undermines the undoubtedly manly demeanor that I project into the world but it’s a hit I’m willing to take. It would be great to see some crazy snow – that was the only bad thing about missing last winter!

How many people do you think enter the lottery with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6? Zero, nill, nothing. Surely no-one would enter the lottery with these numbers, or any consecutive numbers because they’ll never come up. Statistically though a consecutive run of numbers like this has the same probability of occurring so why do we instinctively mistrust it? Instinct is the nub of the problem, we have not evolved to have any natural understanding of odds. So we go on what we’ve experienced instead – this is actually why people enter the lottery in the first place. Saying that there is a one in fourteen million chance of winning the lottery doesn’t help anyone, we can’t imagine what this actually means. Our experience of the lottery however is that most weeks someone wins, and every week the numbers are ‘random’ i.e. something like 3, 5, 17, 20, 35, 47.
To some extent the media coverage skews our judgment, you never hear a news report saying ‘and last week 7 million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand people didn’t win anything in the lottery’.
Or to put it another way lets assume that eight million people play on a weekly basis. To give equal coverage of winners to losers with a ten second skit on each the news would need to be two and a half years long, every week. Even a one second clip of the winner with a thumbs up and every other entrant just looking bored or morose the full coverage would still last for ninety-two days.
So going back to a consecutive string of numbers. I think this is actually one of the few times that everyone has an instinctual understanding of the odds, but they are not just the odds of a straight coming out of the lottery machines, they are actually the odds of any combination of numbers coming out. Essentially what I’m saying is that if you’re unwilling to play the lottery with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 then you shouldn’t play because that bad feeling you get about the chances of those numbers winning are actually your chances of winning regardless of which numbers you choose.

A man cooking is a sight to behold, as is the mess left after. I’m not talking about chefs, I’m talking about normal men trying to cook proper food. You know from cook books and stuff.
I’ve always thought that following the instructions in a cook book is an easy task and was mystified by some people’s apparent inability to cook. But now I’ve had a flash of understanding. When a man uses a cook book there is a paradox created, all men generally want to get things done without reading an instruction manual.
In situations where a man has a natural and innate understanding of the task this isn’t such a big deal. Digging a hole, throwing a rock or taking things apart are all tasks that are well undertaken by a standard man. Cooking, cleaning and showing emotion however have typically remained the domain of women. I’m not being sexist, just stereotyping.
In an attempt to navigate this naturally occurring paradox men will try and get through by roughly following the recipe.
Case in point, I was cooking a lasagna. My parents have some very old scales – proper mechanical ones, weights on one side and ingredients on the other. Being largely ignorant of empirical weights (whereas feet and miles I don’t have a problem with) I occasionally quizzed my parents on conversion as they were doing the crossword. I had just come to the sauce making section of the recipe and was getting slightly flustered to try and get it done and in the oven so that everything would be ready together.
‘How much is 40g?’ I demanded
‘About one and a half ounces’ Replied my dad.
That is not a lot of weight, picking up the one ounce weight I was disgusted – this barely weighs anything. It certainly didn’t seem like enough weight to warrant getting the scales out of the cupboard and muddling about with them. But I did have to get roughly the right amount of butter to start the sauce.
In the end a resolve was reached with a rather ridiculous image of me with a one ounce weight in one hand a a spoon of butter in the other, literally weighing them up to guess how much to put in.
To this day I have no idea if I was even close, but I do know that I made a cracking cheese sauce and the lasagna was rather nice. Even if I only used half of the recommended amount of pasta. As is the case when any man tries ‘real’ cooking, there was a heck of a mess to clean up after. It was worth it in my opinion.

It seems that as life goes on it becomes easier and easier to convince oneself that there was a point in the past where one was fitter, stronger, and more flexible than one is now. I’m going through this right now. I know for a fact that I’m not as flexible as I was when I left, which is something that I want to fix. Also when I came back I’d been spending about six months essentially bumming around not doing much excercise. So I’ve been going running in the mornings. Not all mornings I hasten to add but definately in the morning.
I’ve been doing the same route and timing it. Rather satisfyingly my time as been going down quite a lot: First run 16:00, second run: 14:45, this mornings run: 13:35. Interestingly my improvement this morning I put down almost entirely to social pressure. I was running past the local school and I felt a bit like stopping. Well for one thing stopping red faced and wheezing like and over-excited asthmatic outside a primary school these days is probably grounds for arrest under the terrorism act.
Secondly, for whatever reason, there were a lot of people about – Mums and such. The social embarressment of slowing from ‘runner-guy’ to ‘unfit-walking-guy’ was too high – I just had to keep going.

Also in my bid to become less terribly unfit I’m half way through the second week of one hunderd push-ups. I’m also recording this in my ‘special exercise book’ and although I’ve yet to meet all the targets set on the website there is a gratifying increase in strenth day by day.
This all brings me back to the question, ‘how fit was I?’. Perhaps as long as the impression that I need to do more to ‘get back to where I was’ is keeping me motivated then it doesn’t really matter.

Part of the preparing, packing and tiding that I’ve been doing in preparation for my travels has included a level of digital tiding. When sorting out some of my data I stumbled across a rather philosophical blog post that is yet to be finished. A first draft if you will.
Recently I’ve not seemed to be having these kind of philosophical life ponderings as much as I used to. I wonder if it’s because I’ve had less free time – a possibility that excites me as travelling is definitely going to have it’s slow points. I could be the process of a younger mind looking for answers to the eternal questions. Bearing in mind that this was written a few years ago and is not actually finished (there are some bits that don’t seem to quite make sense) while you enjoy the ponderings of a younger Rob: Read the rest of this entry »

So as I settle into my penultimate day at work I can’t help but feel that tomorrow will be an emotional day.
The last jobs that I left were either because I didn’t like it (temping) or I couldn’t actually do the job I was being paid to do. You can imagine how demoralizing it is to go to work and not actually be able to do anything useful in an autonomous way. Here however I can do my job, quite well I like to think too. And I enjoy it (most of the time). In fact the only reason I’m leaving is because it felt like time for a change.
Admittedly that change has turned out to be a kick-ass trip around the world but still, it’ll be a sad day.

Well, I’ve been circumcised. Under local anaesthetic I may add, which means that there’s random and slightly uncomfortable small talk during the procedure – mainly mocking ‘Britain’s got talent’.
This all happened about six weeks ago now and everything’s healed up, which is a relief! I have been slow to blog about it as I’ve been contemplating about how much information to go into. I’ve got no real problem with telling people that I’ve had the operation, as long as it’s not a group of people for some reason, but I don’t want to give people too many nasty mental images…
I can tell you this though, your idea of modesty can be sharply re-aligned (if only for a short time) by having to lie on an operating table in a room of about six or seven people in and your most private jewels out and on display. It was pretty cold in there too… honest.
In some respects it was a poorly timed operation, I was just getting into an exercise routine that would have made me limber as a dancer, strong as an ox and as focused as a monk (really) by the time I left for my crazy training in China. As it happens I’m going to go to the gym tomorrow…. we’ll see how that goes.
On the other hand of course I’m glad to have it all sorted before I leave for a years worth of travelling.
I did find a rather interesting side effect of having to sit very still while recovering. I’m not talking about the large number of DVD’s that I got through, but rather the fact that I found my creative spark rekindled – so to speak. It happened right at the end of my two weeks off work, while I was visiting my lovely friends in Loughborough. Now I don’t know if the extended period of mental rest was the cause, or if it was the quite mornings with a thought provoking book that did it. Either way I’m quite happy about it. Now I have some notes on musing about the world and curiosities that I hope to explore and eventually share with you :)

I’ve done it. I’ve completely committed to this traveling malarkey. You could argue that spending just over seven grand (so far) is quite a commitment, but that is only money and can be earned back… admittedly it would take me about five years to save that much up again but it’s still just money.
Now however I’ve handed in my notice, definitely going now! Not that I was having second thoughts, I can’t imagine the amount of regret that I would feel, for the rest of my life if I didn’t go through with it after being so excited and getting everything so nicely organized.
So my last official day at work will be 25th July, not long now!

So last week, on Thursday I went to visit my Granddad. This may not sound like anything special, but it’s something that hasn’t really happened in the past. I think there were only one or two occations when I’d visit without there being some kind of family event. So this was just me and my Granddad, one-on-one so to speak.

I’ll tell you what, I had a great time! It was really nice, not just from the point of view of having a good old chinwag. But also seeing him light up as he told me about his college days and some of his experiences during the war. It is something that I hope to make a weekly thing. So that I have to good memories of him (he’s 90, unfortunately you have to be realistic). This was one of the things that I felt was missing, to an extent, with my Grandma, at her funeral I had a hard time thinking of her when she was happy and before she went into a home and all that kind of unfavorable. So I’m not going to make the same mistake twice!


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