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.

Yesterday I went for a run in the morning. ‘So what’ you may ask. Well for the last three months my level of physical activity has been embarrassingly low. I’m not kidding, if I had to total the number of miles traveled under my own steam I very much doubt they’d exceed ten.
In. Three. Months!
As you may imagine it wasn’t the best run I’ve ever done. In fact I’d go so far as to say that it averaged out to more of a brisk walk. This is slightly disheartening because it implies that my base fitness is very low.
On the plus side though it means I’ll see a heck of a lot of improvement over the next few week!
I’ve started on the 100-pressup routine again. Again again. Started at week three this time after doing the obligatory test and finding that was appropriate. With luck this will be another area where I’ll see fairly rapid improvements as I get back to where I was several months ago.
All this makes me rather glad that I’ve been doing a bit of coding in my oceans of spare time at the moment. Although I have to say that this seems to have come back, or perhaps been preserved, much better and easier than the physical stuff!
I’ll keep you posted.

A Russian lieutenant colonel who’s cool head prevented World war three: Stanislav Petrov. Makes me wonder how many other unsung heroes there are around the world!

I’ve just finished watching ‘The Cell’ on BBC iplayer. Not the rather dodgy film with J.Lo in but a three part documentary originally aired on BBC4 about the scientific process that led to the current understanding of the cell and life on earth. It is totally mind blowing how far science has come in just four centuries, and to be honest I wish I’d seen it sooner so I could recommend it before it expires on the iplayer site (runs out this evening). It served – for me – to highlight how much of what we take for granted took massive intuitive leaps for scientist of the day. For example, when the cell was first discovered by a linen maker in Denmark it was well understood that new life just appeared. Literally just popped into existence. There was even a written method for ‘appearing’ mice. Leave some grain in a jar along with some sweaty rags and ‘pop’ – one week later you had mice.
Then from seeing the cell for the first time there was a long time and lots of experimentation to find some ‘well known’ facts. e.g. All life is made of cells, cells have a nucleus, the nucleus contains chromosomes, cells with-out a nucleus or with more than one don’t work. Chromosomes are DNA, DNA is the code of life etc.
In the last episode the current state of the art research was outlined. In Harvard scientists are on the brink of making life.

Making life. I don’t think there is any way in written words to express how completely ground-breaking, history making and philosophically challenging this is. As soon as the human race has made life then we can essentially act like gods in our own playground. A scary thought at the best of times – but it’s actually happening. The next ten years have the potential to be very very interesting time to live in!!

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’s been quite a while since my last blog so I could have a lot to say. I don’t really. I’ve been enjoying relaxing at home with my parents. I’ve also had a mad week and a half travelling round the UK visiting and catching up with friends. Which has been great fun!
Progress on ’100 push-ups’? I got to the end of week three – so half way through before interrupting myself with my friend-trip. I have yet to get back into the habbit, and when I do I think I’ll either have to repeat the first day of week 4 a few times or go from the middle of week three to get back upto speed.
Having said that the improvement from start to now is still very pleasing :)

Last weekend I did a day trip to London. A but mad I know but it was a chance to meet with a friend from Guildford who has since moved to scotland (ie damn far away) and earn a bit of money helping him out with some wedding photography. This was great not only for the chance to see him and all that but also as an opporunity to get the most out of my new phone. Google maps, tube status and tube maps – along with my car GPS were all used to full effect to get me there and get me back.
Technology used well methinks. Also makes it seem like the expense of said technology was actually worth it. At least to some extent anyway :)

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.

I’ve been back for well over a week now, and it’s still good to be back!! Lots of people seem surprised to hear that I’m glad to be back in the UK it really makes me wonder why so many people live here.
I’m definately over the jet lag now. I thought I’d managed to miss it all together, in some kind of miraculous time shifting event. I got in on Monday (last week) and I felt fine, tuesday – fine, wednesday – no problems. But then thursday and friday, knackerd, as in bed at 9, 11 hours of sleep seems about right knackered.
I’ve met up with everyone in the South West (by everyone I mean all my friends) so I’m slowly coming up with a plan to visit everyone else in the country – also just talking about friends again. As for working… haven’t done any of that yet, living with my parents gives me a ‘no spend living option’ so even though I’m a bit on the skint side there isn’t really any massive rush to get things sorted out. Or at least I don’t have to take a job that I don’t want. I’ve set myself the task of calling an accountant today to try and start my own company… so we’ll see how that goes. Still not too sure about what to call my company which has been the first stumbling block all along to be honest!

So, after nine months of travelling, what have I learned?
Well this is a very difficult question to answer, much to the annoyance of my friends. I’ll have a go – even though I think that the true essance of it can’t really be put into words.
I’d say that about five to six months into my travels I had risen to a higher level of spiritual awareness. I was a better person – I liked being that person. However as with so many things in life I didn’t really realise what I had until it had passed. I’ve dropped back down the hill – so to speak. It’s left me in a situation where I have a feeling of drive to get back to that state, but it’s a rudderless drive – I’m not entirely sure where I should be putting my energy.
Or perhaps to be more accurate I have a pretty good idea of where to direct my energy but it would take a lot of old habits to be broken and new ones to be solidified and the task seems quite daunting.
I’m taking it a small step at a time so hopefully I’ll get there. A random goal that I set myself was to be back to and hopefully passed this state of ‘better me’ by the year 2012. Wish me luck!

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