Saturday, January 15, 2011


Jeez this is late.

The snow came extra early to the UK this year, prompting the usual calls of "why weren't we told?" and "what is the government doing about it?". Clearly what we need is a better global warming policy. Something along the lines of "If we made everything hot all the time it wouldn't snow."

I think I'll stand for PM on that platform. I reckon I'll get a few votes as long as the election is in winter.

Snow does mess up the general flow of things but it's not the end of the world. What is poor is that things like airports get closed for longer periods than is necessary. Heathrow got down to one runway for a few days, which surprises me because if they can figure out how to clear one runway then two shouldn't be a big problem. But there's probably something else, like the planes being frozen to the spot.

All countries in the Northern hemisphere suffer, it's just that some are better at dealing with it than others.

I consider myself a bit lucky that I got out of the UK to sunnier climes down under. The word was "only turn up for your flight if it's been confirmed". Mine was, but still I had to queue outside terminal 3 before being allowed to go and check in. Even after boarding I was still nervous, as we were sitting on the tarmac for quite some time while they de-iced the plane and crammed a few more passengers on. Big sigh of relief when we took off, I tells ya.

Sydney was warm and wet but it beat snow and -5 degrees. I was there for three weeks and caught up with most of my rellos (sorry to those who I missed!) and some of my friends (ditto). This was in between training and trying to sort things out for ma and pa's retirement move. Our attic is full of stuff that we've all dumped there over the years and it was time to do a mega-sift through and turf out anything that didn't have intrinsic value. That was about half of my worldly belongings. But it was nice to rediscover some gems from the past, including my sketchbooks featuring original drawings of the morbid but generally well received grim reaper Christmas cards.

The other things that was interesting to dig up were my old training diaries. I can't believe how many kilometres I used to do! In '99 and '04 I cracked 30,000km for the year and in several other years I got pretty close to that number. In recent years I haven't managed over 20,000km and even that's considered a lot by amateur standards.

I concede it probably wasn't the most effective way of training back then. Alex Simmons, coach and para-cyclist, who runs the excellent Turbo Studio in Randwick among other things, said that even if it wasn't ideal back then, your body doesn't forget all those miles and they've probably helped in recent years.

Training wise, I did do a fair bit more riding in Oz than last year, but not silly miles. Just three weeks of solid riding. I'm paying for it now unfortunately as I seemed to have picked up a virus on the plane. Blurgh.


I saw a number of movies courtesy of Virgin's in-flight entertainment. Here is my executive summary:

On the way out I went for action movies, starting with Salt (starring a certain Angelina Jolie). It's a spy movie and I can't remember much of it now, but at the time it was worth watching. I then moved onto The Expendables, which featured every 50yr+ action hero you could think of and was directed by Sly Stallone. Utter shite.

The A-Team promised more and almost delivered. I was never a fan of the original so I didn't get into it. It needed a big screen too. I saw something else that was also poor. So I'll give the flight over a 1/4 for movies.

Coming back was better. I started with The Social Network, which was a lot better than you might think. It's based on a book called Accidental Billionaires (thanks Piers - I also read this on the plane) which tracks the creation of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg and his mates at Harvard in 2004. Although it's reportedly not close to being 100% accurate (especially as far as the characterisation is concerned), it does give you an insight into how this site came into being and its incredible growth. Almost 10% of the world's population is now on Facebook and it continues to grow.

One of the reasons it works is that to set up a profile and connect with people you already know, you need to use your own name. No it doesn't force you to do this but few of your friends will recognise you if you don't. So many other social network sites missed this rather crucial element, and turn into cesspools of anonymous hate and stupidity quite quickly.

What it does is retain some of the human element, even if it is just a profile, and that means people aren't afraid of using it. Add a clean, easy to use interface and bang, it's a goer. The fact that Zuckerberg studied both psychology and computer science probably had a lot to do with its success. He understands people a lot better than most programmers - sorry for the stereotype - and realised what they wanted.

Movie number 2 was Scott Pilgrim vs the World. It's based on a series of graphic novels about Scott Pilgrim, a bass player in a band, and his attempts to woo a girl. He gets her and then has to defeat her "seven evil exes" which he does in computer game style. It's Canadian so the humour is offbeat. It also moves very quickly so you'd better be paying attention.

Then I saw The American. This doesn't move quickly. It's got George Clooney in it as an assassin who's trying to get away from it all. He moves to Italy and doesn't manage to get away from it all. It's nicely shot and there's plenty of style but no substance. I kept waiting for something to happen and it didn't, it sort of petered out in a predictable way.

Finally I saw Iron Man 2. Another comic based flick and pretty good. It would be great on a big screen but it still worked on a tiny one. Premise is: Tony Stark (Iron Man) is looking for a cure to his terminal illness at the same time trying to prevent the Baddies and the US Govt from taking over his privately run vigilante operation and its associated weapons. They do and a shootout ensues. I won't give away the winner.

No comments: