1. I fell off my bike like an idiot but at least I can run again

    Posted July 23, 2019 in ephemera, running  |  1 Comment so far

    Yesterday I was cycling home. I’ve been doing a lot of cycling since a bad injury stopped me from running nearly two months ago.

    It’s been a curious experience to become faster at cycling. I ride my bike quite often but, with running out of the question, it’s only in these last couple of months that I’ve approached cycling as a primary form of exercise rather than just a way to get from A to B. Previously undeveloped muscle groups have become developed and I’ve become able to maintain speed for longer distances or while going up hills that would, in the past, have slowed me down a lot.

    Anyway all this progress was rendered meaningless yesterday when I had the very humbling experience of falling off my bike. It wasn’t a crash or anything and nobody else can be blamed for it. I was going through a gate when leaving Victoria Park but my positioning was off and one of my handlebars clipped it as I went past. The handlebars immediately turned 90 degrees to the right, the bike decelerated rapidly and I think I went flying over the front wheel.

    When I say “I think” it’s not because I was concussed or unconscious – the whole theme of this incident is closer to farce than drama – but just because it happened so quickly I don’t really remember exactly how I left my bike or how I landed. But land I did, and as I hit the ground I was already blushing with embarrassment.

    My phone (a new smartphone!) had flown out of my backpack and hit the concrete, but was completely unscathed. I had a cut on my hand on on my knee but nothing too serious. The bike was OK, just a bit flustered. I looked around; did anyone see?? Thankfully not. I stood up and dusted myself down, while a few other people came past, and soon rode off after them. This was probably the first time I’ve fallen off a bike since I was a child and it didn’t hurt that much but was a very humbling experience nonetheless.

    In other news, I was finally able this morning to go for a short run. This is the first time I’ve ran (away from a treadmill) since my inexcusable jaunt in Cornwall in late May wrecked my lower back. The many small rituals of running – where to put keys, how to warm up, what kind of speed to go initially, what to do with the GPS watch to get it to show the right information – didn’t flow instinctually in the way they do when I’m running regularly, so I had to make an effort to remember what to do. But it was a great feeling to be running again, even if it was for only 1.8 miles on fairly flat ground.


  2. I badly injured myself running and I rode one of the Uber “Jump” bikes

    Posted June 5, 2019 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    At the moment I’ve got a bad injury from running. I made a number of stupid mistakes which included transitioning to new running shoes too quickly, ramping up my speed and mileage at the same time, and then — the pièce de résistance — the decision to run 10k around Fowey in Cornwall, which is just a ridiculously hilly place. In a typical 14k run in London I might have an elevation of around 20 metres, but this Cornish run involved an elevation of over 10 times that much. At the end of the run I could tell I’d done some damage to myself and now, nine days later, I’m still limping around and can’t even imagine myself running. 

    Because I’m worried about this enforced running hiatus reducing my general fitness levels, I’ve tried to cycle a bit more. It’s not very painful to cycle although I’m not sure if it’s really helping the injury get any better. This morning I used one of Uber’s new Jump bikes for the first time, to ride from Walthamstow to Clapton, as my regular bike was at my office.

    I really dislike Uber but wanted to give this a go as I’ve never ridden an e-assist bike before. It’s such a weird experience, good in some ways but bad in others. Going from stationary to a normal riding speed is so quick as the e-assistance kicks in – as the bike accelerates it’s almost a little scary, feeling the bike rocketing forward at a pace that’s very disproportionate to the level of effort being put into pedalling. But for safety reasons the bike has a maximum speed limit, and that’s what can make it a bit frustrating when going downhill. It’s just not possible to go all that fast, and I found myself wasting energy trying to overcome this limitation before finally accepting that I couldn’t beat the system.

    The main benefit of the e-assist thing is felt when going uphill, where you don’t really feel like you’re making an effort but are still sailing past “normal” bikes with ease. It’s also useful to be able to cycle long distances without breaking a sweat. The Walthamstow/Clapton route I rode this morning is probably one I could do on my usual bike in the same sort of time as I did it this morning, but I would be a lot more tired when I got there and would certainly need to have a shower before work.

    Would I buy an e-assist bike? Probably not, because I don’t just cycle for convenience reasons: I want to get a bit of a workout too. I can really see the appeal for people who don’t care as much about fitness, though, or who work at places that don’t have any shower facilities so can’t turn up at the office dripping in sweat.


  3. I managed to find the skate park in Victoria Park but it was too wet to skate, plus my left knee is done for

    Posted September 5, 2018 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    Yesterday at lunch I went to get out from behind our table and my left knee smashed into the table leg. A mundane event. But as the pain from the impact exploded within me I realised that I would probably be remembering it for some time.

    Fast forward to this morning and I had a plan to cycle into work via Victoria Park with my skateboard and do some skating on the skate park there. I’ve never been to that skate park, I’ve only seen photos of it. But the injury in my left knee, which had stayed with me through the night, left me doubtful that I could either cycle or skate.

    When I left the house I saw a bit of dampness on the ground which gave me pause for thought. I just don’t want to skateboard on damp ground, and certainly not on smooth, wet concrete. But maybe it was just morning dew? I set off with the skateboard on my back, hopeful that the skate park would be dry.

    Immediately my left knee had something to say. It didn’t like this bending and unbending business that cycling seemed to involve and it let me know its thoughts on this matter at some length. I considered going home and just walking to the train station instead, but the more I rode the less painful my knee became (although it was still pretty painful).

    Got to Victoria Park and by then it had become clear from the overall dampness of the ground that the skate park was going to be a write-off. But I still wanted to actually see it.

    It turned out that I was completely wrong about where the skate park was so I had to stop and look at my iPad to find out. It’s right in the middle of the park, and when I run or ride through there I’m always going around the main perimeter path. So I cycled to the skate park and, as expected, it was very damp, with puddles at the bottom. No way would anyone want to skate on that. But at least now I know where it is and what it looks like (not as big as I’d been expecting from the photos, to be honest).

    Then I rode into work along CS2 which is always fun, in its way.


  4. Yes, puritanical societies in the past were renowned for their condemnation of homophobia

    Posted January 19, 2018 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    I can’t get over how dumb this is. Kemi Badenoch, a Conservative MP, is complaining that young people have “puritanical” attitudes to sexual harassment and homophobia:

    Young people are becoming puritanical about sexual harassment and what constitutes a sexual advance, according to Kemi Badenoch, the new Conservative vice-chair in charge of candidate selection.

    The MP, who was elected last year, cited those who think Friends, the 1990s US television series, is transphobic and homophobic as examples of such attitudes, saying “something has gone wrong somewhere”.

    [She] said she thought the younger generation’s view of appropriate sexual behaviour was conservative rather than liberal.

    “In the papers, they were talking about how Friends is now sort of really homophobic, transphobic and so on. That, for me, is a very, very – it’s actually a puritanical position, which I think of as conservative.

    In what parallel universe was it “puritanical” to condemn homophobia and transphobia? A quick look at any conservative or puritanical society, either contemporary or historical, will find that homophobia and transphobia tend to be wholeheartedly embraced, often to the point of people being persecuted and killed over it.

    But here comes this staggeringly ignorant Conservative MP with a new take: namely that these harsh, dogmatic puritans were characterised by a rigid and unwavering condemnation of homophobes, and a draconian insistence on a woman’s right to conduct her life without being pawed and objectified by drooling men. It betrays a complete lack of understanding not only of history but of the contemporary attitudes she’s set out to condemn. What a joke.


  5. The Man Who Forgot He Was A Rap Legend

    Posted October 18, 2017 in ephemera, music  |  No Comments so far

    This article about T La Rock (in GQ, natch) is worth a read.

    T La Rock was attacked on the street in 1994, leaving him with a severe brain injury and near-total memory loss. He had to rebuild an identity for himself in a convalescent home in Coney Island, while at the same time finding out about his past.

    I love how the piece interweaves three key periods in T’s life: his involvement in the explosive dawning of hip hop, the time of his assault, and his rebirth in the Coney Island convalescent home.

    [His mother] brought in a boom box so T could listen to records, including his own music. When T first heard those songs again, it felt like a discovery. “You know what?” he thought. “This is pretty good!” But then he had the strange sensation of hearing himself but not knowing the song. It sounded like someone else was using his voice.

    Read it on GQ.com

     


  6. What Magna Carta symbolises

    Posted June 17, 2015 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    An informative, combative post from Jack of Kent about the Magna Carta, which is supposed to have celebrated its 800th birthday a couple of days ago. Magna Carta plays more of a symbolic than a functional role in English law. But what does it symbolise?

    [It symbolises] not a great English constitutional principle, but the lack of one.  It symbolises the capacity of people to nod-along at being told they have fictional and non-existent rights instead of having rights which can actually be enforced.  It symbolises that people are content with believing in fairy tales.

    Those with political and legal power know this.  It is safe for the government to want you to celebrate Magna Carta, which you cannot rely on in court, whilst it – for example – seeks to repeal the Human Rights Act, which you can.

    Read the whole thing here.


  7. An interview with the actor who played Ziggy in The Wire

    Posted January 21, 2015 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    I enjoyed this interview with James Ransone, who played Ziggy in Season 2 of The Wire.

    As every fan of The Wire knows, the second season was the show’s apogee. It put the larger-than-life characters (Omar, Stringer) to one side and focused instead on the struggles of the working class community around the Baltimore dockyards. But although those struggles might initially seem dull compared with the high-stakes gangland drama of Season 1, the second outing of The Wire is the clear winner in terms of high Shakespearean tragedy.

    The only people who really dislike the second season are white people. People got mad that they moved it out of the hood. And look, there might be an element that the character is annoying, but there’s that feeling of familiarity too. That the blue collar worker might hit a little close to home rather than the projects of East Baltimore. Ziggy is more like a family member you might have; there’s not this cognitive dissonance. You’re much more likely to know someone like Ziggy than to know someone like Omar.

    Ziggy might well be the Jar Jar Binks of The Wire, but he’s a deeply tragic character, and it must have been weird for the actor who played him to only start being recognised on the streets 6 years after the show originally aired.


  8. Trial by PowerPoint

    Posted January 1, 2015 in ephemera, visualisation  |  No Comments so far

    John Naughton linked to this fascinating piece about the use of PowerPoint in American courtrooms.

    Just like Naughton, I didn’t know that American prosecutors were allowed to deliver rebuttals with accompanying PowerPoint decks. Nor did I know that they resort to such manipulative, tabloid-esque techniques in the slides they create – techniques that can, in some cases, result in mistrials.

    The prosecutor had dressed up her closing argument to the jury with a series of slides, complete with “sound effects and animation,” the appellate court wrote. On one slide, footprints materialized across the bottom of the screen. Other slides exhibited “concentric rings of a target,” with each ring corresponding to an item of evidence; the defendant’s name, Sergey Fedoruk, was in the bull’s-eye. The prosecution’s final slide, the pièce de résistance, opened with a header that said “Murder 2.” Then, under the header, a single word flashed, in all capital letters, in 96-point red type: GUILTY

    Defendants are not forced to attend court wearing prison garb, because this would create an association of guilt in the minds of the jury and taint the trial. Prosecutors often use PowerPoint to get around this by using mugshots and shifty-looking CCTV footage of defendants and then plastering the word “GUILTY”, in red text, all over their faces. Very subtle.

    Read the full piece over at the Marshall Project.


  9. “If Everyone Jumped Off a Cliff…” — A New Perspective

    Posted October 3, 2014 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    In late 2012 I appeared on one of those comedy-panel quiz TV programmes. It didn’t get commissioned, thank god, so you won’t have heard of it. In front of the studio audience, Sara Cox cracked a joke about the graphics I’d made for my tube seat strategy post of 2011. The good news, dear reader, is that I managed to come up with a witty and suitably risqué retort. But the bad news is that it only came to me in the summer of 2014, approximately eighteen months too late.

    In the early 1980s I was in junior school. Something happened—I forget what it was—which prompted a teacher to say to me, “if everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you?”

    She didn’t expect an answer, of course, and I didn’t offer one. But last night, fully thirty years after she posed this rhetorical question to me, I finally thought of a retort. Here it is.

    “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, and I decided not to, what kind of world would be left for me, an eight-year-old child, to live in? After all, everyone else would have jumped off a cliff: my loved ones, my friends, the adults I rely on for food, wisdom and emotional support—not to mention all those others who keep society’s wheels turning.

    Yes, I might go home and, for a time, enjoy the unbounded access to toys and property offered by a landscape newly bereft of a human civilisation which had recently chosen to jump, en masse, off a cliff. But before long starvation, depression and insanity would surely begin to take their toll. How long would I last? And how lonely and drawn-out would the end be for me, when it finally came? Perhaps, then, to have jumped off that cliff, along with everyone else, might have been the best thing after all.”

    I’m sure you’ll agree that my teacher would have struggled for a comeback if my eight-year-old self had come up with that. It’s a shame it took so long to think of though. Compared to that, my Sara Cox retort was lightning fast.


  10. Possibly the most enigmatic wayfinding device ever

    Posted September 28, 2014 in ephemera  |  1 Comment so far

    While walking around my new office the other day I came across this mysterious wayfinding device.

    "You can go in one of two directions"

    “You can go in one of two directions”

    You can go left and you can also go right. But what will you find?

    Ah, now that would ruin the surprise.