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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 11:02pm on 02/09/2013
So, what do we know at the finish line?

I enjoy these sort of things. It was a hugely fun day.

My good luck with the weather this summer continues to hold. It was a pretty much perfect day for it - sunny, bright blue skies, if anything a tiny bit too hot, but that was much better than the alternative, and made the 'run into this giant pile of icy mud' bits seem very appealing

Everything is more fun if you take someone with an excellent camera along. Particularly if they're good company.

Map reading by committee doesn't really work. If you're driving the car, know where you're going, or delegate this to a navigator in advance, and make sure you trust them.

On the other hand, if you take the back route, and end up with a left turn right in front of a giant queue of traffic waiting to turn right into the carpark, you can never ever ever criticise your navigators at all, because it was Absolutely Priceless.

Some obstacles are genuinely good fun. This list includes, but is not limited to: climbing over walls, crawling under walls, climbing over nets, leaping over haybails, walking through deep muddy water, running along narrow twisting trails up and down hills, leaping over logs, leaping through fire.

Some obstacles give me a huge sense of smug achievement. This list is probably headed by Climbing the Very High Rope and ringing a bell at the top, but doing the monkey bars gives it a good run for its money (I have never been able to do monkey bars, and wanted to ever since I was small)

I am still a wuss, and obstacles involving any upper body strength are hard work. This includes carrying boxes of ammo, carrying buckets of water, dragging tires, and lifting buckets of concrete into the air by pulling on a rope. The worst obstacle on the whole thing was the walk-along-parallel-bars-on-your-hands-with-your-feet-off-the-ground one, which I failed completely at. [And we'd _practised_ it on the trim trail, and I knew I couldn't do it, and I could have practiced, but didn't, so really, my failure was my own fault]

There was a lot of trust involved in the system. I failed at the walk-along-parallel-bars one, but quite a few other women were falling down and getting back on at the same point and keeping going. And no-one was counting how many burpees you did or whether you did them properly. Also, there was a bit where you had to pick up a rock, and there was huge variation in the size of the rocks, and I did not pick a very large one. In fact, I picked quite a small one and then felt guilty about it. I guess at the end of the day you're only racing yourself so you're only cheating yourself...

There was probably actual genuine Mild Peril involved. Cat fell off the monkey bars when training and broke her elbow. Vivek sprained his ankle during the race. There was a bit where we were crawling under barbed wire and it pinged down and I was petrified it had gone in Naath's eye, but it hadn't (I'm not sure if it was special safety barbed wire, but it looked real to my out-of-it racing state) Naath fell off the evil-parallel-bars and gave herself a bad jolt. When I was at the top of the rope I had a sudden 'hmm, I can see how far away the bottom of the rope is from here' moment. There were less dramatic but probably also present risks like small cuts and lots of runners and lots of mud.

Races with groups are differently fun from just going on your own. The Team Thing! is fun, with matching t-shirts and people to cheer for, and people who you recognise running past you. But the faff factor is greatly increased - if you're on your own you can decide you're going to just go to the bag drop, or go and watch people finish, whereas with a team there's the 'what are we doing now' and the co-ordinating lifts, etc etc. I don't think I quite understand the ettiquette yet either. There was definitely a bit where Neil was Waiting For People, but I wanted to know how fast I could do it and Race. On the other hand, Naath and I were pretty evenly matched, and so ended up keeping each other company round. She definitely waited for me at the tire drag, and I definitely waited for her at the parallel-bars-of-pain so maybe that was more like Teamwork and less like racing. But maybe if we were doing that I should have waited for her at the end so we could cross the line together, rather than sprinting off after the last obstacle. There is a 'me' in team, but it's a bit backwards and broken ;-)

For a course trying to get hundreds and hundreds of people through it, I thought the organisation was pretty good. The course layout was nice, with the racers coming in to the spectators at the start, about a third of the way through, about two thirds of the way through, and at the end, always with some fairly interesting obstacles to watch. Obstacles that needed a mcguffin were designed to flow really well, with people finishing with the mcguffin leaving it at the place the next people picked it up from. There were definitely bottlenecks though. Quite a few of the running bits were very narrow (top of a ridge, or through a wood) which limited overtaking (not a problem for me, but a problem for the people behind me ;-) ) There were a few obstacles where you had to wait for your mcguffin (a bit of a queue for the buckets-on-ropes, for example) And the worst bit was the rock carrying, where there was really no way to overtake, so everyone inched round at the speed of the slowest person with a rock. So I think if I'd been time obsessed to the second, I might have found odd patches briefly frustrating, but I thought it all flowed really well.

There was clearly Big Money to be made out of us all. It was expensive (my 10K last summer had been 15 quid, whereas this was 45). Some of that is justified by the complexity of the course - a 10K needs a few signs and a waterstop, whereas setting up fire pits, monkey bars, ropes, ammo boxes etc etc must add to the costs - but with 5000 entrants there must have been a quarter of a million pounds worth of entry fees sloshing around in that field.

There was excellent people watching on the field. The two most common groups were charity teams, and single men racing (usually with a support team of wife and kids enjoying the spectacle). The race itself was definitely male dominated - I'd estimate 80/20, but it'll be easier to count once the results are up. They didn't look vastly different from your typical parkrun, but I think tended to snip off the bottom end of the bell curve a bit - there were a few people looking as though it was part of their 'get fit' plan, but most people looked like they had gotten fit already and were now showing off and enjoying it.

The one thing that really surprised me was the get outs in the course for women. The weaker sex had a shorter wall with better footholds to climb, a lighter bucket-onna-rope, a lighter sandbag, and a lighter tire. Now, on one hand this filled me with joy, because usually when I approached one of these obstacles I would be in pain and tired, and my brain would relish the relief. But it felt _wrong_, somehow. If I run 5k, I run the same 5k as the men, just slower. If I sit a maths exam, I answer the same questions as the men. Discussing this later, it's interesting that I probably wouldn't have noticed this as an 'unfairness' quite so much if the weight had been done, eg, proportional to height or bodyweight (of course, that would be a logistical impossibility). I almost wish I could go back and do the Slowest Spartan Race Ever, just using the Man Stuff. However, it is worth noting that I accidently started dragging a Man Tire rather than a Lady Tire at the tire drag. I could barely move it, and Naath (with her ladytire) vanished off into the distance. About half way round I found a Man dragging a Lady tire, and managed to persuade him to swap - and oh, it was a blessed relief! [Also, it was an interesting reminder of how 'man' doesn't have any of the connotations that 'lady' has, when they were divvying us up into 'manbags' and 'ladybags']

There was a big warm up speal at the start of the race. [There's a similar one on Youtube here] A man yelled at you lots of things like 'You will face things no-one has ever faced before' 'You have trained your mind and your body, failure is not an option' 'History will remember you, today is your day' and we all shouted back in chorus 'I AM A SPARTAN!' It turns out I am cynical enough that I don't switch my brain off entirely during these things, and sort of notice the pretention and the religion-alike and the mass-histeria side of it, while, err, also getting quite hyped up by it. I wonder if these sort of things do fill a religion gap, in a weird way?

My attitude to the spartan race was, err, not very spartan. I packed - two books, a water bottle, a flask of coffee, a change of clothes, a change of shoes, two towels, a chocolate bar, dried mango, and nuts. All of these I promptly dropped at the bag drop and forgot about, but sheesh, you'd think I was going on a three week expedition, not a 60 minute race.

At the end they gave you three things. Today, the t-shirt seems like the most useful, as it's a nice technical t-shirt and I can wear it to other running things. Yesterday afternoon I was best pleased by the Totally Gratuitous Medal, which I doubt I will ever wear again. But in the first 10 seconds after the race the most amazing thing they had given me was a plastic cup of cold, clear, delightful water. Ah, water after exercise, one of the most joyous things in the world.

I am still confused about sponsorship, but we are Very Near the Target, and I Leapt Through Fire, so your chance to give money to Epilepsy Research UK remains open here
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 11:19pm on 12/11/2012
Last night, on the coach back from Luton, I read squid314's post about a guy asking him for money for train tickets. It's a nice discussion of 'is this a scam, did he really want train tickets, did I do the right thing / wrong thing, it's all a bit finely balenced, I'll never really know'

On my way back from hashing tonight, a homeless person came up to me and said 'please can you help, I need some money for somewhere to stay tonight'. Now (embarressingly) probably only because I was with someone I wanted to impress and who I wanted to think I was nice, I didn't mumble-and-dash-off fast enough, and Scot's post was fresh in my mind, and so I said 'err, I don't give money, sorry, do you want me to walk down to Wintercomfort with you and pay'. And they said 'oh, Wintercomfort is full, I was going to get money for a B&B', and me, embarressed and drawn in now, said (with sinking heart) 'oh, what B&B were you thinking of', and the story was vague and unconvincing and not like someone who wanted to be in a B&B, and so I briskly said 'I'm sorry I can't help' and walked off. And, again, am left with that niggle of 'if I was homeless, I probably wouldn't be able to rattle off a tourist board list of B&Bs'. And that interesting niggle of how much is this nice, middle class, 'I won't give money if you say you want it for X, but I will buy you the X' get out of jail free card really just the same patronising and humiliating 'I won't give you benefits, but I will give you food stamps and pay your housing costs' that so many people on my fiends list are so against?

Anyway, then I got home, and found out that pavanne had posted yet another similar story, in which she had actually been able to help the person in question out by buying the X.

Not sure what the point is. Things happen in threes, or people over pattern spot, or life is full of choices where the only choice is be taken advantage of or be heartless.
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 10:19am on 06/06/2012 under
This is starting to happen a bit more, so I thought it might be useful to jot down a FAQ. On the other hand, I tend to be a bit conflicted, so this FAQ might not make a lot of sense.

Sally rambles about ceilidh calling )
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 03:53pm on 21/03/2012
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 05:41pm on 01/02/2012
I broke a Billy bookcase a long time ago, and kept the shelves, because I thought spare Billy shelves would be useful. I don't know, maybe I thought I'd fill an entire Billy with paperbacks, and so want the extra shelves, or maybe I thought I'd saw the shelves in half longways, and make cute minishelves so the books behind the books in front could peep over their heads.

But I clearly haven't done any of that. So I think I'm going to throw them away. Before I do, do any of you want them? It was a dark grey Billy if that makes a difference.
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This article claims the sleeper train is subsidised by £17,000 per departure. This is a ludicrous sum of money. [I did a quick google, and can't actually find out where they got the figure from]. As far as I can tell, the sleeper is already generally more expensive than flying, and is mostly used by people wanting to go on holiday, visit family, or commuting for work. These are all things I don't disapprove of, but I'm not sure they're worth 17,000 per train.

In other news, the RSPB are running this strange campaign. It turns out there is the Landfill Communities Fund, where landfill companies give money to Good Environmental Charities, like the RSPB, and get 90% of it back as tax relief. Obviously, this results in landfill companies losing out to the tune of 10%, so there is a clause that an independent 3rd party can make up the 10% they've lost, presumably to encourage landfill companies to do this 'good thing'. So the RSPB are encouraging people to donate money to the Nature Trust (Sandy). This is a charity that is, in the words of the RSPB, "an independent charity set up to help unlock money from the Landfill Communities Fund for RSPB conservation projects". Sigh. I'm sure most of you know that I don't like gift aid and other tax-back schemes at the best of times, but this just feels like the ikkiest sort of playing the system...
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 10:27pm on 12/10/2011
I have a set of 11 pretty old Dickens's I'm trying to ebay at the moment. Thought I'd blog about them here just in case anyone was interested...

[For the avoidance of doubt, they are pretty, and pretty old]
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 07:04pm on 02/10/2011
Who should I vote for? There are four candidates:

I am mostly ignoring Abdul Arain, because while I fully respect his right as a small business man to protest about big businessmen, I'm not sure 'supermarket chains are evil' is the key priority I wish the chancellor of the university to be focussing on.

I am quite divided on Michael Mansfield. On the one side, he is highly educated and highly lefty, both things I should approve of. His election statement makes all the right noises about being anti-fees and anti-privatisation, and in favour of access to education and free education. He marched in March, he's anti-cuts, he's pro-AV, and what's not to like about someone who gets Legal Aid lawyer of the year? He keeps a blog, and I agree with him on things like the punitive sentences against the riots. Then again, while I'm very much in favour of improved animal rights, I'm not sure whether overly rhetorical quotes like 'This is massacre, this is genocide', really move the debate forwards... and I would see the election of a raving right-winder to the chancellorship as a divisive and political statement, so it might be a bit hypocritical to vote for a raving left-winger.

Everybody loves Brian Blessed. Not only does he have a great sense of showmanship, his entire response to 'wouldn't it be cool if Brian Blessed was chancellor' has been warm and engaged, yet wise and professional. Stephen Fry thinks it's a good idea. And he's a coal minor's boy from Yorkshire, the romance and rags-to-riches aspect is adorable. His video is very convincingly full of the sort of love for Cambridge that I have and think the chancellor should have. It's quite rambly and name-dropping though. He has climbed Everest and been to the North Pole, which is Cool. And he is running on an Better Access card, which I approve of. Still, I'm not sure I think the 'we are all unique' and 'there is nothing in the world we can't achieve if you set your mind to it' rhetoric is actually true, although it's gloriously uplifting. Although anyone who puts 'don't let the bastards grind you down', and reads poetry in their election speech has style. And my husband and lots of my friends nominated him.

[Oddly, he finished his speech with what I thought was a pretty good rousing cry of 'The chancellor should be a guy with huge vision, a love of life, and a love of people, and a deep appreciation of people. He must sweat blood to help people who are under-privileged.' Sadly, I thought it was a better description of Michael Mansfield and what he has chosen to do with his life than Brian Blessed...]

And where does that leave us? David Sainsbury. If you had said to my 15 year old self 'there's a guy with lots of money who wants to be the chancellor of Cambridge, should we give it to him' I'd have been outraged. Also, it is quite telling that of all the candidates, he seems to have hidden the 'why I want to be chancellor' and 'what I would do if I was chancellor' page quite deep on his website, and even then it's a bit content free - 'I would stay out of policy and champion Cambridge at home and abroad' is really a rather weak statement. On the other hand, he is the only one of the candidates who actually went to Cambridge, which while it shouldn't be a prerequisite for the post at least suggests a meaningful connection with the place. And... this is a very embarrassing thing to write, but now I am old and reactionary, I actually find myself trusting the establishment. Things are hard for universities at the moment, and they convened a panel of very educated and thoughtful people to try and work out who to nominate as chancellor. The panel even had Dr Cowley on it, and while I do not always agree with him, I think he is thoughtful and wise and principled, and entirely not the sort of person who would go along with nominating a rich useless person just because we want their money. I think if you're going to select some very clever people to think very hard about a problem, you have to be really careful before just disagreeing with them because you've thought of something cooler[1]

So, I think my gut feeling is that I will vote Sainsbury, Mansfield, Blessed, Arain, in that order. But I'm very keen to be told why I'm wrong in the comments

Cut for poll! )
[1] The rant about government advisory bodies has been elided ;-)
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 07:48pm on 17/07/2011
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 02:03pm on 04/06/2011
I've lost my copies of Only You Can Save Mankind and Johnny and the Dead. Anyone borrowed them from me years ago?

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