Friday, September 21, 2007

The War Tapes

It's been a little while since I caught up with TED but I had a little time over lunch today and came across a talk by Deborah Scranton, a film maker that has made a film about the lives of soldiers in Iraq (The War Tapes). What is unique about the film is that it was shot be a group of soldiers within the New Hampshire National Guard with the permission of their officers. By embedding the filming within the unit they seem to have captured an entirely different perspective on the war in Iraq. The film maker describes it best when she describes the difference between telling a story from the inside/out rather than the outside/in. Almost all the media that we are exposed to is produced from the outside/in. The consequence of this difference is a authenticity and emotional engagement that is difficult to experience unless you have been there. I have never been there, and can't see a way in which I would ever be able to experience what they are experiencing, but it feels like this is the next best thing.
Given the clips that are shown, I would love to see the full film. Hopefully the Little Theatre will show it...maybe I should send them an email with the video.

The last week has been fairly hectic at work with lots of trips up to London. Unfortunately there are no updates on the running front as I seem to have pulled a muscle in my lower back whilst cycling with Rob on Saturday morning. I'll wait until it feels strong again before trying to crack on with the training. It's very frustrating and I am itching to get back out but I don't want one week out to turn into two or three.

More interesting news on the traveling front though. A concerted effort on the planning front lead us sorting out an itinerary for the first month or so. Normally I wouldn't like to constrain ourselves that much but in this case there are some things that needed to be booked in advance and therefore linking logistics became more important. I can't see the period after the Inca Trail being anything like as heavily planned. More news on the plans soon...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Racking up the miles...

After a painful couple of weeks getting back into the swing of regular running and riding I seem to be back in the groove. Yesterday evening Rob and I put in a loop of our standard road ride up to Badminton and back. We went early evening to make the most of the light evenings whilst they last. Without any wind to speak of and several rides in my legs I could certainly feel the difference. We averaged around 25km/h for the loop. The short climbs were all taken out of the saddle and the sustained climbs were managed at a decent pace. It looks like we may try and up the mileage now to around a couple of hours...starting tomorrow.

The same is true of the running. Today I increased the distance to 7km and it wasn't unduly difficult. I normally find that 10% per week is the maximum increase in distance I can manage without getting tendinitis.

The Giles household are looking forward to the first big England game of the World Cup (although on England's form every game is a big ask). I'm thinking that a narrow loss is in order...I hope the surprise everyone. Whilst on the rugby theme, it is the first Bath match of the season tomorrow. Worcester have recruited heavily over the summer but most of the big names don't arrive until after the World Cup. Now is the right time to win...although Bath's opening game record is appalling if my memory serves me correctly.

One final bit of news before I check out...went to see about vaccinations this morning for the trip. Looks like Sarah and I will be pin cushions over the next month or so. Hep B, Rabies and Yellowfever are all needed. The first two are programs of three jabs over three weeks...still...worth the initial pain to avoid Hep B! Only 12 weeks to go till we fly to Ecuador...heck, better start planning...and saving come to think of it!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

AC Grayling Talk

Last night, Sarah and I went to a fantastic event organised by Mr. B's Book Emporium (probably the best independent bookshop in Bath). AC Grayling the renowned Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College came to discuss his new book (Towards the Light: The story and struggles for Liberty & Rights that made the modern West). Having not heard or seen him before I was expecting a rather dry and academic treatise. As it happened he was hugely engaging and incredibly impressive. He interspersed the context and content of the book with amazing anecdotes from discussions that he has had with the great and the good at the World Economic Forum and invectives of the struggle for protection of individual liberties in the face of an increasingly draconian state security apparatus.

The one area that struck home for me was the discussion of the tension between Western Liberal Democracy and increasingly orthodox hegemony in the Islamic world. He discussed how the increasing orthodoxy and violence of the Spanish inquisition in the late 15th century led to the backlash of the Renaissance and the Reformation. It led me to wonder where this increasing cycle of violent, militant orthodoxy in the Islamic world will lead and at what point the more liberal majority in the Islamic world will react to it and defuse it with another Islamic Renaissance. It strikes me that Western Liberal Democracy and Islam are not mutually exclusive. However, a shift in the balance of power within the Muslim world would need to take place to enable a political liberal democracy to co-exist with Islamic cultural norms and behaviours. However, the recent evangelical nature of the Bush Doctrine and Christian neo-conservatism are reinforcing the shift towards militant and orthodox Islam as a protective measure. As it stands, the is little public recognition of fact the militant orthodox Islam is a minority within the Muslim world. The combination of globalised mass media and facilitated access to arms enables the minority to amplify their message and dominate the public consciousness of Islam. A greater emphasis on all the good that is done elsewhere in the Muslim majority could help to balance out the picture and provide an impetus to the more liberal majority whilst marginalising the dangerous minority.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A productive weekend

It would seem from the lack of updates on the training front that the weekend was written off from an exercise perspective. Actually, the opposite is true. The anomaly is caused by my inability to measure and reference my rides efficiently. In the end I spent an hour on the road bike on Friday night (at a surprisingly decent clip given the previous outing was dire).
Then on Saturday I headed out with Rob on the mountain bikes around the Bridleways near home. The MTB ride was surprisingly more testing than the road ride (probably not helped by the hard ride the day before). I also became the victim of an overgrown Bridleway as I hit a hidden boulder on the side of a path and took a face first dive into a bank of stinging nettles. Other than the painful stings on my face and arms (I had taken adequate precautions on my legs) I received a couple of painful bruises on my inner thigh from the saddle.
In addition to the rides on Friday and Saturday I spent the weekend double digging the front garden and hauling Cotswold stone to the tip (I think we could have built another small building with what I extracted from the bed). The garden is now re-planted as a rose will take a season to bed in but it should look great when it reaches maturity. Now I only have the other side at the front and the back garden to do...yippeee.
Friday night we saw the last pre-season game at Bath. They took on an understrength Leinster team and came out with a win. All-in-all it was a pretty unconvincing display. They still don't look like they are going to unlock the Premiership defences and the back row is starting to look a bit ponderous with Zak and Beattie trundling around the park. Hopefully the post-World Cup team will be boosted by the presence of Olly B and Butch James. One silver lining is that Alex Crockett is looking sharp and Claasens (the new scrum half) looks like he is the real deal...Banahan is a monster on the wing as well...could do with another yard or two of pace though.
The running is certainly paying dividends...trying to up the distance by 10% a week...and the pace is coming on too.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back on the running machine

Last night I got to the Lowry Hotel in Manchester quite late after spending the day in Warwick. As a consequence I didn't get to go running until 9pm. Not knowing Manchester that well I decided to jump on the treadmill in the gym rather than getting lost. This gave me the chance to calibrate the Nike +. In retrospect, it looks like I have been underestimating the distance I have been running by around 15%. The newly machine calibrated system should allow me to set a new 5k benchmark when I am feeling fresher.

The aftermath....

I returned from a trip up to Warrington to the latest scene of devestation. Sarah and I have been hard at work over the last week or so laying waste to the front garden. The overgrown Hazel was out of control, the creeping ivy was enveloping the dry stone wall and the Ceonothus in front of the lounge was casting a nuclear winter over the front of the house. Cue the apocolypse...

Think Francis For Coppola and double it and you will be somewhere near...

We are now beyond the devestation and into reconstruction...more work to be done over the weekend but we are through the toughest section. Pictures to follow.

In the meantime...the running progresses...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Run downloads from Nike +

I've only just found out that you can download run data from Nike +...given that I'm just starting to get back into the swing of things it seems like a good way to track progress. After a slow start I am now starting to get back into the swing of things and the times and distances are becoming more respectable. I'll try and keep up to date...