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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Andy Gates' LiveJournal:

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Thursday, July 19th, 2012
7:21 pm
Badger cull numbers - just not worth it
I've been trying to get my head around the numbers involved in the bovine TB drama.  The take-home number from the Government's Randomised Badger Cull Trial (the Krebs trial) is a reduction of up to 16% in bovine TB after nine years of culling.

Let's say you've got a medium-large dairy herd, 200 cattle.  Let's say you have really bad TB, and 10% a year are culled as TB "reactors" (cattle that react to the test).  20 cattle per year.  At the end of a decade of culling badgers across your land by the Krebs method, you have 17 reactors: 16% is really lost in the rounding on such small numbers.  So you spend nine years culling on your land, hiring people to do it, faffing with paperwork, dealing with saboteurs, and after all that you've saved three cows a year? 

That can't be worth the effort. 

It gets worse.  The cull method that DEFRA propose isn't the Krebs method: it's widely agreed to be less effective.  It's not been tested, but instead of trapping it goes for wild shooting with ample chance of perturbing the local badger population.  Perturbing the population - stirring 'em up - spreads disease and makes things worse for cattle and badgers both.

The rational response is to abandon the cull and pour effort into the ongoing badger TB vaccines being trialled at, for example, Killerton in Devon.  That's what the Welsh farming office are doing.  That's what the English should be doing too.

Current Mood: determined
Saturday, June 2nd, 2012
11:38 am
Monday, February 6th, 2012
6:42 pm
Staying Alive [cycling rant]
This is going to be a bit of a rant, following on from the building hand-wringing about getting all minced up on the roads.  Apologies for offence caused, but, fuckit.

The sides of lorries are FUCKING DEATH ZONES.  AVOID THEM.

That is all.


Does this need a "You wouldn't jump into a woodchipper?  You wouldn't dangle your legs in lava?" public service advert?  ARE PEOPLE REALLY SO FUCKING THICK?

Yes, I know they are, or in a hurry, and yes the road shouldn't be a mindless grinding machine lubricated with the blood of Our Tribe but by FUCK on a HOLY FUCKING FUCKDAY the stories I read are all - to my jaded eye - avoidable.  

I'd bet a fat pot that these are the same people who wear a fluo vest and a helmet on backwards and then jump red lights having ticked the boxes and thinking they're safe but with THE ROAD SENSE OF A BLOODY BADGER.


STOP DYING LIKE IDIOTS! You're making me look bad.  

"But how," I hear them ask, "How do we learn this, that you so-smug on your ivory seatpost claim to be Great Wisdom?  Evil Government doesn't train us!  Waily waily!"

You can just fuck off, you spineless whining pussies. I learned the way you bloody should: I acted like a dick and got scared by a near miss.  The difference is I PAID FUCKING ATTENTION.  Get out of your bubble of false safety, get that stupid plastic hat off SO YOU FEEL AS VULNERABLE AS YOU ARE and get a few scares.  That'll teach you. 

And if scares aren't your type, get the fucking bus or grow a pair.  (Ovaries will do fine; it's the weirdly prepubescent indolence of the permanent manchild that irks me here: just take control of your own bastarding safety)  There are some adult training courses and they are good, but this isn't rocket science. 

Victim blaming?  You fucking bet I am.  I'm fed up biting my tongue.

Current Mood: aggravated
Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
9:57 pm
3D printing bones, redux
All that muttering?  Meanwhile, random Scottish surgeon is just doing it.  Details and howto :  http://twitter.com/#!/3DBONES

It looks like 3D-printing bones is headed toward the mainstream, for the previsualisation it offers surgeons.
Sunday, October 16th, 2011
4:19 pm
Day two in the Big Ballsup house, and more random Irishmen are dialling in and poking progressively lower-level things with progressively lower-level sticks.  This is all to do the first part of the preamble; the actual work hasn't even come up on the radar yet.  Had the local cell mast not abandoned me, I would be tweeting colourfully right about now. 

Current Mood: trollface
Friday, September 23rd, 2011
9:15 pm
Gridthruster... archive retrieval run commence
Just trying to recall the rules for Gridthruster, the imaginatively named spaceship build-n-shoot game we came up with at middle school.  I'm a bit horrified that I can remember the detail so clearly.  We used to play this with graph paper and blu-tacked pieces. 

How the hell did I remember this?Collapse )

Damn, this makes me want a tablet and a coding kit.  Board games with the faff taken out are just what tablets are good at.  Faff?  Faff was moving a thirty-piece megaship and not missing any bits...

With computers, of course, you could sort the initial random scatter, introduce drift, make it realtime and introduce rudimentary physics.  And add a third dimension.  Make it a bit more buildy and a bit less Scrapheap Challenge IN SPAAACE.  And then you're damn close to the deep-alpha voxel game Blockade Runner.  :)

Current Mood: geeky
Sunday, September 18th, 2011
8:51 pm
Strongifts 5x5 - 12 weeks later [training]
At the end of my 12-week SL5x5 routine, I did a strength test, in the form of a mock powerlifting meet. 

Excruciating Mongo-Smash detail...Collapse )

Where next?  Well, I'm still on for the thousand and more: this is working for me, and working nicely.  I'm going to give Madcow 5x5 a go.  I respond well to pushing this 5-rep point -- much better than I respond to training to failure or repping out. 

And perhaps more importantly: those lifts are handy enough that I'll look out for a novice/masters powerlifting meet next year and try my hand in competition.  Yay!
Friday, September 9th, 2011
2:02 pm
Geoengineering and bad analogies
There's a proof-of-concept test being started in which a big balloon will be used to tether the high end of a hosepipe, and water will be pumped up to be dispersed in a spray. It's a fair old engineering challenge, and the water is just a placeholder for speculative future compounds to cool the atmosphere.  I have a problem with the whole notion of geoengineering: we're already doing it.  We're very successfully engineering the atmosphere to be hotter and wetter, right now. 

There's an analogy with driving towards a precipice: our carbon emmissions are the accelerator; the cliff is, say, 4 degrees of warming (=catastrophe).  What do you do when you are driving towards a bad thing?  You let go the accelerator.  You do not really apply the brake as well... and you sure as hell don't apply a pedal labeled "probably a brake: untested".  There's a reason that the brake and accelerator are worked with the same foot.

I have yet to be swayed by geoengineering.  It strikes me that adding more inputs to a chaotic system in a transitional state is just asking for trouble.  I worry that the gee-whizz relief of being able to "do something" will make it attractive to the people who make such decisions.

Current Mood: cynical
Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
9:47 pm
Smash Redux [training]
Coming to the end of the 12-week Stronglifts 5x5 program and it's been ace. Challenging and rewarding - and I'll get some test numbers out in a couple of weeks when it's done. For now, I'm looking at the future.

I've got a couple of programs in sight for the next quarter: Madcow 5x5, and Wendler 5/3/1. Madcow's a continuation of the 5x5 exercises with pyramid sets and a heavy-light-medium staging; Wendler has other exercises and heavy singles and a powerlifting-dedicated plan. I enjoy heavy singles. I enjoy 5x5 simplicity. I'm not sure I'm advanced enough for Wendler, but then I wasn't sure I'd survive squats every session with 5x5, either. A dilemma I'm sure will resolve itself by the time I get around to choosing.

Does anyone have any other recommendations? Strength program for an intermediate lifter.

Current Mood: cheerful
Monday, August 22nd, 2011
8:57 pm
I've been wondering about how good you need to be before attending a powerlifting meet, so I had a look at the GB Powerlifting Federation's local results page.  Not so much looking at the front of the pack where the barbells bend like Dali noodles and Very Big Men With Legs Like Trees* rule, so much as seeing what sort of level a dabbler should be without embarassing themselves. 

I remember doing this with triathlons too, looking at the results to see if I could expect to come in at the back or two sigmas off the back.  So: this link is a recent master's, junior and novice meet -- noobs like me. Looking at the athletes who are close to my bodyweight... I'm not there yet, but damn, you know, I might well be there next year. That's invigorating!

Just gotta unsuck this bench press... :)

* Dale Clark, The Squat.

Classic gym poetry :)Collapse )

Current Mood: contemplative
Monday, August 15th, 2011
10:35 pm
Stronglifts musings [training]
I'm in week 9 of this 12-week Stronglifts 5x5 programme, and things are starting to stall out a bit.  It's taking several goes to make a weight, and the progression is losing its relentless linearity. According to my stats, I'm as strong as I've ever been, and all at once. 

The 5x5 rep/set structure and big compound lifts have, very effectively, taken up all the muscle memory I laid down in the past.  This is awesome for a re-starter, but I think it means SL5x5 isn't a lifetime plan.  Well, it was never meant to be: I'm looking now at cutting the number of sets to 3x5 in the monster lifts, where the volume (weight x reps) gets absurdly huge and hard to recover from.  The warmup weight starts to be considerable, big enough to factor into recovery, so it's not "air squats then 5 x 60kg" (which is how my SL started, cripes!) so much as "60, 100, and then 3x 127.5" (this evening's bar-bending fun).

Itching to do some heavy singles, too, but that's for week 13, which is "Let's Pretend: Powerlifter" week, chasing PRs.  Chasing that thousand.

What comes after that?  I'm considering an actual (gasp) intermediate strength program -- something like 3 full body workouts with Heavy, Light, Medium instead of linear progression, sawtoothing the max up once a week).

I'll call SL5x5 a huge success for what it is: a beginner-to-intermediate strength program that's really hard to screw up, and well suited for restarters who can gorge on muscle-memory newbie gains for a couple of months. 
Friday, July 1st, 2011
8:43 pm
Scan-to-3D Print Redux
A while back I mused about the toolchain you'd need to print CT scans in a 3D printer, for autogothic drinking skulls.  Well, nobody's done exactly that, but there's a chap featured on BoingBoing who has a nice detailed post on doing the same thing for crocodile skulls

You know, I'm sure there's a qualifier to the Singularity that reads, "future shock is when whatever you can think of, somebody's already doing it". 

Current Mood: impressed
Friday, June 24th, 2011
10:38 pm
Post-LEJOG touring mutterings: The Prime Directive
Just want to get this down before I forget; thinking about LEJOG compared to other adventure holidays, where the natural tendency is to go all-out at the start (Crossfit WOD for breakfast?) and only the hardcore (Nastia!) are still going by the end with the rest subsiding into beer and Wii Bowling.

LEJOG was quantitatively different because it had an un-blaggable endpoint.  Even if, say, a tri-themed camp training camp were to have an actual proper race at the end, it's still blaggable.  A sightseeing tour would be, too; by the end of it, bad weather would tick the tearoom box more than the clifftop one.  But a point-to-point tour can't be blagged: you allow a degree of slack because it's not a route march, but the only way to get where you want to go is to keep on riding, every day, munching up that mandatory itinerary. 

In fact, the itinerary becomes the Prime Directive.  Do what you like to have fun along the way, but you have to make the miles.  Pretty soon I learned that an early start was essential unless I wanted to finish very late; no lie-ins on this holiday!  Shopping, pubs, bike parts, food all change their priority from "best choice" to "first acceptable choice" because there's just no time to mither around all day comparing the titanium to the carbon widget or looking for organic hand-rolled dolmades when there's a can of Sutherland chilli in the Spar.  This sounds grim, but actually, it was kind of okay; in fact it was liberating: buy food, get wheel, find campsite.  The option-paralysis that sometimes hits me ("this pub has better beer" "its a bit crowded" "how about this one" "dingy" "lets go back to the first one" "argh!") isn't allowed: it breaches the Prime Directive: Get the miles in.

I'm wondering whether it is applicable elsewhere, because I rather enjoyed it. 

Mind you, I enjoy the slack adventure stuff too: there the Prime Directive is to have fun; the adventuring is the secondary objective, the vector for the fun to be had, and as such it is changeable (and since hanging out with a beer and a bad movie is fun too, easily changed).
Saturday, June 11th, 2011
1:17 am
Mongo Clank Redux
I've been wanting to get back in the gym for ages; just as I was getting set up for it, LEJOG prep and now a triathlon have got me with their beams of shiny.  Once Burnham is done and dusted...

A shift all-out to some focused lifting.  I looked at a strength assessment a while back and it reminded me (bigtime) that I'm a fair squatter, a really rather good deadlifter, but a novice bench-presser.  It's been an avoid-training-weaknesses-because-they-suck thing.  Well, balls to that.  I'm going to go with 12 weeks of the 5x5 programme, which has a good reputation and satisfies my urge to pick up heavy things and put them down again.   

One thing I got from LEJOG was a grok of the idea that repeat small stuff makes big results.  I think that reflecting that on the winter's deadlift goal -- where it was less structured but still solid -- I have a mental toolkit for plugging away at this and not letting myself get derailed.  Bored, distracted, or whatever, yes, but almost a degree of detachment that should keep me on track.  Less "this sucks" because there's always an hour of suck, so just ignore it; less "ooh shiny" because shiny isn't going to get the miles in.

Also: that 74-year-old gymrat grannyAwesome.  My inner transhumanist wants to see Aubrey de Grey all buffed up and greybearded, so it does.  Between her and Jack laLanne and the inevitable wonderful old gimmer plugging round every club tri circuit, I think Yoda needs updating: "When this old you are, look this good you may well."
Monday, May 30th, 2011
12:21 pm
Blagging Burnham
This year's go at Burnham Triathlon in two weeks' time is going to be a spectacular ass-pull.  I haven't run since winter, haven't swum all year, and all my cycling has been of an entirely different character (super low effort, super long duration); my high-effort cardio fitness is somewhere back with the autumn leaves, I think.  The Auld Knee is another factor: it hates torque, and TT riding is torquey spin. 

So, some tests before actually racing:

Swim: Can I actually remember how to swim crawl at all?    If I can, can I get back to the required 20 lengths without puking up a lung?  Get in the pool and JFDI.

Bike: Does riding hard hurt?  And more importantly, does the hurt matter?  Through LEJOG there was plenty of hurt, but ample ibuprofen meant it shut up an went away; also the first ten miles hurt worst, so a warmup may be indicated. Torque hurts more but if it's just a rubbish signal from complaining gristle, I can pill and tune it out to a degree.  Get the road bike fettled and hammer some commutes.  Do Science on it.

Run: Can I actually run?  Apparently yes I can -- if I can do 20 minutes now, I can do the 30-35 that Burhnam's sandy 5k offers, on race-day when the gumption is high.  Cardio effort is extreme though, and my feet and calves are like "wat?".  Test passed, though it's going to be ugly. 

Current Mood: nervous
Thursday, May 26th, 2011
7:38 pm
One Thousand Miles of OSM

Earlier this month, I rode the End-to-End* using OSM on my Garmin as my primary navigation resource.

In a nutshell: it was great. 1104 miles covered in three weeks. All the way through, either using routing or moving-map display, it was reliable and accurate and just right. There was one dumb-routing moment (that farm track was not rideable!) and only a couple of ways absent from the map.

I had a couple of moments of drama that gave me warm fuzzy feelings toward the OSM community: one incredibly mundane - I was *desperate* for a loo and the tourist signs had me muddled; and one utterly critical - my old rear wheel collapsed and I needed a bike shop, urgently!

At this point, Bike Hub came to the rescue. Bike Hub is an app that uses OSM data so I was able to hit the "Bike Shops Near Me" button and -- joy! Dryburgh Cycles, seven miles away. A short taxi ride and I was repaired and rolling again.

I have, as the saying goes, eaten my own dogfood, and it was delicious and nutritious.

* Writeup to follow, honest.
Thursday, April 28th, 2011
9:07 pm
Home for the next three weeks
Well, here goes nothing. Lots of lovely bags, loaded with stuff for conditions from St Ives to Cape Wrath.

For the gear nerds, that's sleeping gear (summer-weight bag, thermarest, pack pillow and lantern) in one rear bag and clothes (2 of everything, waterproof, VFF's and bike shoes) in the other. Front bags are roughly kitchen and bathroom, with the handlebar bag serving as bento and dashboard and wallet. Tent is a Terra Nova Explorer, more than I need, but big enough to fit all the bags inside for storm/security reasons and able to take anything that'll be thrown at it.

Bike mods are basic: fat comfy slick Schwalbe Marathon Superbes and a set of bolt-on front lowrider racks.

I have a spork, and I'm not afraid to use it.
Thursday, April 21st, 2011
7:06 pm
Did a fandom finally get me?
Or am I making hotroot and shrimp soup, a la Redwall's otters, out of coincidence? 
Friday, April 15th, 2011
8:53 pm
Death by Dangerous Cycling
People have been asking me what I think about this.  I think it's rubbish, and here is why:

The death rate is so vanishingly low that a law specializing in death by dangerous trousers is more urgently needed.  Seriously, we have an accident category for them in A&E and everything.  

The crime is already covered by manslaughter. Only a petrolhead would fail to spot that, because they have special super-lax and weakly applied laws to make them feel better about screwing up.  Or maybe they have spotted it and are keeping stum in case they feel "the full force of the law" themselves.  Imagine how people would drive if they expected a manslaughter charge for killing people? 

It's a tribal sop to Clarkson Man, who feels aggrieved by fuel prices and such, and who likes to see those naughty cyclists kicked.  This fits in with the current Hammond transport vibe, which is so petrolheaded that it looks like he wants to replace Hamster Hammond.  That would make Cameron into Captain Slow, which is a pity because I like Captain Slow, but he is posh and they are all mates.  Yes, your transport policy is being run by Top Gear. 

Note that every discussion you have with anyone about this proposed law changes within a couple of sentences from death to red lights and chavs on the pavement. It's nothing to do with the issue. It's pure vacuous politics and it stinketh.
Thursday, April 14th, 2011
7:55 pm
LEJOG: The Route!
I've had Land's End - John O'Groats on my list since I was about fourteen and first heard of it.  Forty is a good time to do a bucket-list ride, and this three-week trip (some camping, some hostelling, some couch-surfing) is how I'm hoping to do it.  Days are around 60 miles, with nothing centuriffic and a few shorties.  There are rest days in there too, though "rest" and "beer" may be cognate in this context.  The deviations from the CTC's standard route make for a total of about a thousand miles.
  1. Land's End - Wadebridge (up the north coast - gorgeous but tough - with chuffy, baggy and cider)
  2. Wadebridge - Crediton (coastal to Bude, then pause via home)
  3. Crediton - Glastonbury (you can't keep a good hippy down; the chuffbag sabot is fired off home now)
  4. Glastonbury - Bristol (a short day, and hopefully a hookup and some ales)
  5. Bristol - Cinderford (I've always wanted to ride the Severn Bridge; hope to avoid Monmouth)
  6. Cinderford - Clun (if I can get away from being Mum-fed)
  7. Clun - Chester (possibly with forum rider types)
  8. Chester - Preston (goin' north)
  9. Preston - Kendal (lumps!)
  10. Kendal - Keswick (short detour to the Lakes; rest day and a paddle)
  11. Keswick - Kielder Water (water is a theme, isn't it?)
  12. Kielder Water - Edinburgh (this and yesterday could be quite the hack; pick up ravenbait , frood and ales)
  13. Edinburgh - Crainlairach (picking up the CTC bikepacker route)
  14. Crainlarach - Glencoe (Scotland is big. Really big. )
  15. Glencoe - Loch Ness (More lakeside camping, plus monster. ME!   )
  16. Loch Ness - Carbisdale Castle (they'll probably repel the English)
  17. Carbisdale Castle - Tongue (made up name, surely?)
  18. Tongue - John O'Groats (groaty john got groats on his head!)
I'm fizzing with apprehension and excitement in equal proportion, which is probably about right. 

Current Mood: keen
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