One of my photos

Olympics do it again

August 17th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Right up to the eve of the opening ceremony Rio 2016 was shaping up to be the disaster that we thought London would be 4 years ago but, like in 2012, it all seems to be working out fine. In truth, it probably isn’t going as smoothly as London, and even the weather isn’t as good as we had, but the sport has eclipsed any logistical problems or little things like forest fires next to the hockey pitch or the diving pool turning green.

I don’t see how it can get any more exciting than tonight’s events in the velodrome, but who knows.

Yet again I have been enjoying sports that aren’t really sports, to the extent of forgetting that they shouldn’t belong in the Olympics. Let’s remember that the Olympic motto is “Faster, higher, stronger” and not “Faster, higher, stronger or better executed according to the subjective opinions of a panel of fallible judges” (And judges don’t much more fallible than the boxing judges today!)

Basically, if it can’t be measured then it shouldn’t count. I am not saying that gymnastics or diving is easy, because they are not. It is just that you might as well have trapeze, breakdancing, skateboarding or painting in the games, which are also not easy. And don’t get me started on dressage and synchromised swimming!

I’m also not sure about the inclusion of team games like football, though I have been enjoying the hockey and rugby sevens, and can’t see why there are quite so many different swimming events.

Mind you, didn’t the various original Greek games include poetry and philosophy?

But who cares really? I have been enjoying the kayak races, hockey, tennis and track cycling and this week I will probably enjoy the Taekwondo, badminton and mountain biking – anything to take my mind off West Ham’s disastrous start to the season.

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Favourite films

August 16th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

The current trend on Twitter is for people to list their seven favourite films using the hashtag #fav7films. I wonder if anybody has yet posted this:

  • Police Academy
  • Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment
  • Police Academy 3: Back in Training
  • Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol
  • Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach
  • Police Academy 6: City Under Seige
  • Police Academy: Mission to Moscow

I haven’t joined in because I really couldn’t single out seven films. On any given day I would probably give a different answer though Fight Club, Apocalypse Now and the Blues Brothers would be in there nearly every time.

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August 16th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Music

I came across a track by a band called Truckfighters on Spotify this evening. I was quite taken with the the sound of it, which was sort of ragged psychedelia, so I looked them up on Wikipedia and was a little surprised to find that they are Swedish.

I was quite amused to see the list of band personnel though. Current members are Ozo, Dango and Enzo. Past members are Fredo, Paco, Franco, Frongo, Pedro, Pezo and Poncho. It can only be a matter of time before they end up with Bilbo, Frodo and Groucho. As if in homage to Spinal Tap, most of the ex-members seem to be drummers, though there is no mention of freak gardening accidents.

All good stuff though. Spotify has a half-dozen of their albums available to stream which I recommend doing.

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The Monty Hall spreadheet

August 12th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Somebody at work recently discovered the Monty Hall problem and got into an argument with a colleague about it, which led to him writing a VB program to demonstrate the solution. I suggested that you could probably knock up a decent simulation of the solution in Excel, using only in-cell formulas and not resorting to VBA macros at all.

It turns out that not only can it be done, but it can be done really quickly and easily, thanks to the brilliant RANDBETWEEN function and some multiple nested IF statements.

I can thoroughly recommend that Wikipedia page about the Monty Hall problem, even if you are not normally interested in maths, statistics and probabilities. By the end of it you might even find that you are a bit interested in statistics after all.

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Some more useful prejudices

August 11th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

A little while ago I wrote about some of my favourite prejudices, but it was far from an exhaustive list, and I have a few more things to add to it.

Obviously these are just pedantic pet peeves, and I am not going to stop paying attention completely to somebody who, for example, writes”shouldn’t of”, but they are going to have to work a lot harder to get me to take them seriously.

Today’s additions to the list are:

Starting a sentence with “So”, or to be more specific starting every answer to a question with “so”. I know I have written about this before, but it has become even more prevalent since then and has spread from its origins in American economists and now just about every graduate does it. Just say “um” or “er” like a normal person.

Another thing that winds me up is in this quote from Henry Smith, but it not confined to Tories or even to politicians. It is tediously common in business and I would be astonished if I have not banged on about this before.

While myself and MPs from all parties continue to raise this issue in Parliament and with the Government, rail operator and trade unions, I believe it’s important that GTR management hear directly from the people their service is inconveniencing.

It is, of course, the use of “myself” when “me” is perfectly adequate and grammatically better. Gowers wrote in The Complete Plain Words that “myself should only be used for emphasis or as the reflexive form of the personal pronoun” and Partridge and Fowler both agree, although later editions of Fowler’s Modern English Usage (not edited by Fowler) seem to be relaxing a bit, but even then it doesn’t more or less says it is only just OK as long as the ‘myself’ comes at the end of a list rather than the beginning.

And yes, I do realise how fortunate I am that my life is so good I can afford to get wound up by such trivia.

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Linking to Twitter

August 11th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Technology

This is a bit of a test. I recently dumped Facebook and may well go back to writing more on here, so I thought I would look into a WordPress plugin to cross-publish posts to Twitter. I used to have that ages ago but when it stopped working after something somewhere changed I just dropped it.

As with so much else to do with WordPress, while I updating and activating the plugin, creating the custom Twitter app and copying across API keys I realised that the phrase “I have forgotten more than you know about xxxx” is not just a platitude, because I really have forgotten a lot to do with all this.

Anyway, there is no real point to this post other than to see if it gets tweeted.

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Robert Nye

August 8th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Today I came across an obituary of the writer Robert Nye, who died last month. I wasn’t aware that he had died and if I am honest I hadn’t realised he was still alive because, although he is described as a ‘poet and author’, I only knew of him through his novels, and the last novel he had published was back in 1998.

During the 1980′s I would probably have said he was one of my favourite authors, along with David Lodge, Tom Sharpe, Howard Jacobson and James Herbert. He sort of specialised in historical novels even if the main character was sometimes a fictional character like Falstaff or Merlin.

Despite having read all his novels that I was aware of I did not realise until reading the obituaries, that Robert Nye went to school in Southend and that one of his first jobs involved writing for a local newspaper based in Laindon, where my family lived. There is a good chance that he may have written about events that my parents or grandparents were involved in.

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Extreme Gardening

August 7th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I have never really got on with gardening. I know that a lot of people love it and see it as either a hobby, an artform, therapy, exercise, or some mixture of all that. I see it as more like warfare. I know that some gardeners are in a state of constant warfare against insects and weeds but for me it more of a constant state of warfare against plants.

Since we moved to this place I have never planted anything. I just pluck weeds out from between paving stones and hack back the hedge, which sounds easy enough but those weeds and hedges are relentless. One of our hedges in the front garden had reached a height of about two metres and today I decided that rather than trim it a bit I would cut it down to about one metre. After filling 6 green sacks with cuttings I am not even halfway through.

I suspect that there will not be much green left by the time I finish, and we may have quite a wait before any leaves grow on it again, but even that will be far too soon for my liking. My long-term plan is to remove the hedge completely and put up a nice little fence to replace it and when that day comes a one-metre hedge will be a lot easier to remove than a two-metre hedge.

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August 6th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

The other day Jayne and I went down to visit the kids and help them sort out some stuff in their new flat.

The main part of this was sorting out a large delivery of furniture from World of Oak Furnitureland, or something like that. The furniture was all pre-assembled. All that needed doing was putting the legs on tables and the seats on chairs, which should have been a doddle, but these things were over-packaged to an unfeasible degree. Everything was wrapped in heavy-duty clingfilm, with a variety of plastic sheets, polystyrene and cardboard, and all in sturdy cardboard boxes.

I think that just unpacking these things was more hassle than assembling furniture from Ikea or Argos,and afterwards it took three trips to the tip to get rid of all the packing material.

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On the road again

July 26th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

As it was a nice day, dry but not too not, and as the training centre is only a mile or so away, I decided to go by bicycle. It wasn’t too bad. I only had to resort to foul language and Italian-style arm gestures once on the way back when a silver hatchback carved me up on the Gatwick Road roundabout.

There really are some dangerous drivers out there. It almost makes me tempted to start using the cycle paths instead of the road.

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