World Aids Day tomorrow

Support World AIDS Day

Thank goodness someone was selling the ribbons today! It is better than last year when i couldn’t find a ribbon anywhere! This morning i remembered that it is World Aids Day tomorrow, and at lunch time i saw people out selling the ribbons. I also saw a lot of people wearing them, which made me happy.

AIDS is serious. World Aids Day matters.

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LJ have done it again!

And it’s all kicked off again over in LJ-land, reminding me strongly of the climate in which i left LiveJournal, and making me all the more glad that i did. Now i can just sit back from a distance and watch everyone battle it all out, point out the many inconsistencies and shortfalls of this new censoring system.

I think the most telling comment i have read is this one:

I’m a mom, and as a parent I’m offended that LJ and other institutions/companies are usurping my parental rights, responsibilities, and obligations in order to “protect” children of parents whose sole purpose in life is to tell other people how to parent their children while not parenting their own.

Yup, even parents are annoyed about this! In fact, i don’t think i’ve yet found somebody who is pleased about all this. A few people say it’s a good idea in theory, but that’s as far as it goes. It’s way too open to misuse.

Well done, LJ, for your TRIUMPHANT FAIL!!!

Stargazing – i saw Pegasus!

It is a beautiful clear night, perfect for seeing the stars. During my run i went along the road out of town, and i saw LOADS of stars as soon as i got out of the street lights. Unfortunately it was too dark to see the pavement, so i had to turn back. But just inside the street lights you can still see a lot of stars, out of the glare of the city centre.

Anyway, when i got home i had a look from the balcony (which conveniently points due South) and to my gasp of surprise i saw the square of Pegasus! My immediate reaction was “Oh wow, so it’s true then! There really are shapes in the stars!” I ran to get the little pocket guide, and managed to trace the whole of Pegasus, up to Andromeda and, though i couldn’t see it, i knew that just above there must be the Andromeda (M31) Galaxy! Who knew astronomy could be so thrilling!

I came back to Pegasus and looked just below to find the pentagon of stars that make up the head of Pisces but i could not make out the tail. Still, now i know it’s just a short walk away to a place where i will be able to see the stars so much more clearly … and if i just get a pair of binoculars … wow … who knows what i might see! I read that the night sky can become a lifelong friend, and you feel a joy at seeing favourite constellations return year after year. I can truly believe it! :)

So this week i have discovered two new hobbies that i could grow to love: running and astronomy. Thanks to Nye for the former, and to the planet Venus for the latter! :D

ct5k – day two

I bought some running shoes today! Yes, i’m actually serious about this, lol!

I went to a proper sports shop along with a colleague from work (for moral support) and they had this treadmill and a video at my feet. I had to take off my shoes and socks, and they filmed me running! Then they slowed it down and used it to prove that i tend to roll my left foot inwards, so they found some shoes to counteract that tendency. I tried one pair but they weren’t enough support, but then i tried another pair and they were perfect! I even managed to bargain a 15% discount because i’d already told them how much i wanted to spend! :)

So naturally i had to go running again tonight to try out my new shoes! I did much better today: i didn’t die quite so much as yesterday. The dead-legs phenomenon didn’t hit until the last run, whereas it came in the 5th run yesterday. It was a completely different experience tonight. Yesterday i felt the 60-second runs were too long (“Surely that’s longer than 60 seconds!!”) but today i thought the walking periods were too long (“Isn’t it time to start running again now?!”)

I felt stiff today, but not sore. It was my inner thighs most of the day, but after my run tonight i feel the strain in my calf muscles. It’s great though because i know the exercise is having an effect! :) I also wasn’t nearly so puffed out tonight as i was last night.

I will run again on Saturday, and then i will be ready to begin Week 2 on Monday! Excellent! :D

Off the couch!

I am now officially a ‘runner’! I just went for my first run on the Couch-to-5k programme! Found by Nye yesterday, it is a real motivator, a plan that i can realistically follow.

For a few months i have been feeling guilty about my lack of exercise, but whenever i have tried running before i get out of breath ever so quickly and feel de-motivated by it. That’s because i was doing it wrong! It is unrealistic to go straight from nothing to running. The plan gave me 5 minutes of brisk walk to warm up, followed by 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking, repeated eight times, and a 5-minute warm-down walk at the end. It was tough, very tough, but i feel absolutely great for managing it! Over the next 9 weeks i will follow the plan, 3 times a week, for 30 minutes at a time, building up gradually until i can run 3 miles (that is, 5km) at a time!

The immediate problem i foresaw was having to time the running and walking. So i went poked the Internet for something i could put on my ipod that would count for me. I figured if i didn’t find anything i’d make my own. What i found was way better than i imagined …

Robert Ullrey’s Assisted Workout and Training Mixes for your iPod

It follows the Couch-to-5k plan and puts it to some awesome house/dance music!! Just the kind of music i love!! What a motivator! I am really going to enjoy running with this to listen to! What’s more, a voice tells you when it’s time to run and when to slow down, along with little comments like, “You’re doing really great!” – “Remember to keep your arms loose!” – “It’s only 60 seconds – you can do it!”

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Sleepwalking

I think i had about four sleepwalks last night. Not particularly scary ones; sort of adventurous ones. I kept seeing little letters in envelopes, and when i opened them they contained a little task. Like move something from one side of the room to the other. I dread to think the state i might have left the bedroom in!

There was one where i saw a letter over my partner’s side of the bed. So i got up to fetch it and then i couldn’t find it. I got my phone because it has a light-up screen, and i was shining it around the bed, looking for this stupid letter. Arrgh. It’s so annoying. I think i might have to get some sleeping tablets or something to stop me from doing it. I have suffered from sleepwalks and nightmares my whole life, but it is particularly bad at the moment for some reason.

In other news, somebody from MyChores asked if i want to do a bit of professional programming work for their company. I turned them down. I said i don’t have enough time and i just do MyChores for fun, like a hobby. It’s a shame though, because i kind of like the idea of going self-employed and doing freelance programming work. But the process of turning that idea into reality is too big for me to contemplate at the moment.

Meeting my inner astronomy geek

It is a well known fact that i am all kinds of geeky. I enjoy programming, i have a slightly suspicious interest in busses and trains, and i have recently become very interested in cosmology, quantum physics, parallel universes, string theory and a ten-dimensional universe! Well i think i have just discovered another geeky interest: astronomy!

It all started when i saw that planet on Friday morning, which as it happens was Venus, not Mercury. In actual fact, it probably started before then, when i read “The Whole Shebang” by Timothy Ferris. No, in actual fact i have been interested in the Moon and eclipses my whole life, in the same way as many people have a vague interest.

Anyway, i have a new test team leader now, who has moved to sit next to me, and turns out to be a total stargazer! I mentioned seeing the planet, and was immediately pointed to heavens-above.com where you can enter your latitude and longitude, and it tells you exactly what to look for, at what times of the year/month/night – all the stars, planets and satellites you may see!

You can even calculate a map of the stars for any given time, which is how i know that the planet i saw was Venus. Here is the map on Saturday morning at 7am, and there was Venus, in the South-East, exactly where i saw it:

Sky chart for 24th November 2007 at 7am

Of course, there was Mercury, close to the Sun. That’s the position where the Sun rose on Saturday morning! It’s all starting to make sense! Oh, this is all kinds of awesome!!!

Apparently some kids take Astronomy GCSE!! Just like at Hogwarts!! Maybe that’s what i should do – join an evening class and study astronomy. I certainly find it fascinating, especially as you can even look out and see Andromeda, our nearest galaxy, who is like a twin to our Milky Way. But we see it as it was 3000 years ago. It’s exciting to think of intelligent life somewhere in Andromeda, who scan the heavens and look out to our galaxy, seeing the light that left us 3000 years ago! Quite amazing, in fact!

A telescope would be a pretty fantastic Christmas present! Or even a pair of binoculars would do well! :D

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

We had a fantastic day out with my grandparents in Portsmouth today. I am so glad we put it off last week and decided to go this week instead. The weather could not have been more different! Last week we would have got soaked and miserable. Today we had clear skies and sunshine! We even went up Spinnaker Tower and got a wonderful view!

The most impressive thing for me was the Mary Rose restoration. I remember going to see the Mary Rose on a school trip; it must have been in the early nineties. All i remember then was a bunch of wood which didn’t even look much like a ship, and i remember water being poured all over it. But today we saw it all put back together so that you can really tell how it originally looked, and from the back angle you can see a clear line showing where the silt preserved it whilst the rest eroded away. These days they spray it with wax, but they said that eventually they will be able to dry it out and make a permanent exhibition, along with all the artifacts they found from diving to it. We saw some of these in a separate museum, but they say there is plenty more to show. Here are some videos of the Mary Rose recovery operation.

I was also impressed with the HMS Warrior … what a huge ship, made of iron and driven by steam. We went down to the engine to see the huge pistons driving the propeller. Absolutely incredible. It looked a lot friendlier than the HMS Victory that we went on last year.

We also had a boat tour around the whole dockyard, seeing all the naval ships that are in at the moment. It was great to go up Spinnaker Tower later on and get another perspective of the dockyard.

We had a nice lunch in a café and we looked around the shops at Gunwharf Quay. All in all it was a wonderful day! :D

Pictures of Mercury

UPDATE: I have since discovered that this planet is Venus, not Mercury!!

I’m no photographer, but i managed to capture a few nice images of Mercury this morning. I am pretty pleased with these – even my very average camera couldn’t miss Mercury today, it was so bright! Click on any picture for the full-size image.

Mercury Mercury Mercury Mercury Mercury Mercury

Shame i can’t upload them to flickr. It hasn’t been working for me for the last couple of weeks – it just times out.