In the park, with dog, good book and sunshine. That will do :-)

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On the West Highland Line train - getting off at Arrochar and cycling home. Happy.

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85 with two 7s on my card. Way to go me

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85 with two 7s on my card. Way to go me

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14/15 in today's Guardian quiz. Annoyed, because it should have been 15!

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October morning, suddenly surprised by the clouds I make,
Wondering at my breath like a shivering boy,
Off a train from the Punjab.

The eastern sky hosts an accidental contrail
Back-lit, pink, pointing through the moon to Venus
In the shadowed west, windmills wait, dream catchers.

Between east and west
Night and day
Sleeping and waking
Being, not being.

That’s enough.

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Snath is now officially my favourite word.

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Wha I missed by being out of Glasgow this weekend (warning - burning gods).

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I might not have mentioned it, but I’m back at the gym. The weight I lost earlier this year has mostly stayed off, but I’ve got a hankering to get back down to where I was two years ago, which was 8 kilos less than I am now, and first step towards that is to try to break the 15 stone barrier.

So three visits to the gym last week, and porridge for breakfast (and no morning snacks).

On my normal diet I gain weight pretty slowly – probably less than a kilo a month. Assuming I don’t change that diet too much (and that’s a good assumption) and that my calorie intake remains roughly the same, then I need to burn more of those calories to lose weight. My metabolism seems to be set up that I lose around a pound for every extra 1,000 calories of exercise I do, and my weight loss target is 1-2 pounds a week. When I was last going regularly to the gym, earlier this year, my 30 minutes on the cross trainer was burning around 440 calories. I think I broke 460 on the odd occasion, and I was heading towards 500 (one of the upsides about weighing 102kg is that moving it any distance burns a lot of calories. The downside, of course, is that it takes a lot of work). Three times 440 gives me about 1300 bonus calories a week. Experimental results confirm the thesis – last week I went to the gym three times, and burnt 340, 350 and 360 calories, I’m about 2 pounds lighter than I was last Tuesday.

So, minimum three days, aspiration of five days for the gym, and top up with tennis, badminton, and, weather permitting, cycling.

This morning’s tally:
30 minutes, 410 calories.

Music: iTunes Genius Playlist, seeded from Black Betty

Black Betty: Ram Jam
The Boys Are Back In Town: Thin Lizzy
Gimme Three Steps: Lynrd Skynyrd
Don’t Brink Me Down: ELO
Burning Down The House: Talking Heads
Whip It: Devo
Jumping Jack Flash: The Rolling Stones
Once In A Lifetime: Talking Heads

Good 70s/80s stompers. Who needs Take That when you’ve got ELO?

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Had a wonderful night's sleep. The Marrakesh Express may be one of the great train journies of the world, all 10 hours of it, but it's also hotba d sweaty, even in the first class 4 berth couchettes. We only had one cabin mate, a heavily muscled skinhead with "Islam" tatooed across his shoulders. He looked at the cabin, shrugged, swung himself onto a top bunk without using the ladder, sighed "just like prison" and that was the last we heard from him.
Marrakech has been a mixture of Arabian Nights and the Barras. Last night we got chased out of the square by a massive lightning storm, and waded our way back to the riad. Today we shopped in the souks. Mikey picked up a pair of harem pants and a somewhat geographicLly challenged palistinian shawl. I got the djebella and slippers I had promised myself. We both felt ok about the prices , which is the main thing when haggling. Mikey wanted to buy a blanket for what he thought was a fair price, but I told him to put it off until we get out of Marrakech.
Our plans are shaping up to be two more nights in Marrakech and then hire a car and do the trip through the high Atlas to the edge of the desert, then to the coast.
That's subject to finding somewhere to stay tomorrow night, and getting a good deal on car hire...

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Must remember that much as I love Twitter, entries don't stay around for long, and not all of my flist are on it... Can't believe I'm only on day two of the holiday. I'm now in Bilbao, in the heart of the basque country. No sniggering at the back there. Yesterday both S&H (son and heir) and I made our flights to paris, though not without some drama in my case (see unblinkered's entry for the case of the crap rucksack).  We spent a pleasant afternoon tramping along the champs élysées, and then had a perfectly acceptable steak frites on the left bank. We then hopped on the 2300 sleeper from Paris to irun. We slept reasonably well (me) and like a dead thing (S&H, who hadn't slept at all on Friday night). From irun we took a bus to Bilbao. We had intended to go by train, and maybe stop off at San sebastian, but we didn't realy have time, since the bus takes 2 and a half hours. This worked out well. The ride was fantastic, giving me a real feel for the hilliness of the Basque Country - I won't warn you again, Molesworth - and putting us in Bilbao in perfect time to check in. Bilbao is having Festival this week, and the hotel is right at the entrance to the old town. S&h headed off to investigate, and I went to look at the Guggenheim. It's a fantastic building, but it very much is what it is - it's a meant space, very mindful and thus very limited. Once seen, it will never surprise you again, which is a shame. Some of the exhibits, though, moved me incredibly. More when I get back.  Festival was getting into swing when we met up back at the hotel, so we wandered the streets, picked up some delicious pinxtos (tapas) and watched fireworks from a bridge.   Tomorrow is 11 hours on a train, and might not live up to today, but it will put us at the other end of Spain, 11 or so miles from Tangiers, where we make landfall on Tuesday.  
To Coughingbear!

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In case...

Jul. 20th, 2009 09:54 am
... anyone in the world is wondering what kept me busy this weekend,

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Back. Busy. Will catch up, I promise!

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Jul. 16th, 2009 05:05 pm
The tips of my ears are burning. I can't see this as a good sign.

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Watched a couple of episodes of The Wire last night. I can’t believe I’ve gone two and a half seasons before realising that they’ve set up the comparison between abuse of legal and illegal drugs, and the consequences of that abuse. Without being too spoilery it was the scene featuring a wake for a detective, who died in the gym, not in the line of duty. There’s a wonderful speech by the Chief, and then the ritual sing along (to the Pogues “Body of an American”, weirdly and appropriately enough) and then everyone drinks to puking collapse. Jimmy, who has been shown writing off his car drunk-driving in the past, is one of the worst offenders, trashing relationships as easily as cars when he’s drunk.


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This started out as a comment response, and sort of got out of control… apologies for length - I can't make lj cuts work on my iPhone.

I was born into a Communist family some 45 years ago.

Shortly after I was born, my parents took me to be registered as a Communist. They were accompanied by two friends, who each swore that if I died they would take on the responsibility of bringing me up as a Communist.

When I was five, I started my education at the local Communist school. You could tell it was a Communist school from the name (all Communist schools are named after important Communists of the past) and the Communist symbols hung in the halls and in every classroom.

There were other schools nearby, all of them Socialist, but it was never in doubt that I (and my sister, and later my brother) would go to the Communist school.

Along with classes in reading, writing and arithmetic, there were daily classes in the Communist life. Partly these consisted of learning by rote the answers to a book full of pictures from the life of Marx and questions about communism. There was a correct Communist response to any situation, and we learned it. As each year passed, there would be a new, slightly more sophisticated book of questions, with fewer pictures and more questions.

If we got the answers wrong we would be punished by being made to write the correct responses out hundreds of times, or occasionally we would be beaten (beatings were common for any infraction of the rules). Good students were rewarded with gold stars, or special junior versions of Communist writers to keep (I still remember the prize I got when I was 9. It was far and away the best made book I’d own until I was 17 and at University).

Also every day there would be meetings where our teacher would read out loud various passages from Das Kapital, and we would make rote responses. Once a week we would be taken to larger meetings where a full time Party functionary would also read aloud from the works of 20th Century socialists, as well as a passage from Kapital. There were also special holidays to honour particular great Communists from the past, and once a year everyone would be given a day off work to celebrate Marx’s birthday (I remember being irked that non-Communist Socialists, and even people of no Socialist leaning at all, celebrated the holiday and got the day off).

When I was 7 my classmates and I were prepared by extra readings and questioning for a group induction into being full members of the Party. We were each given a copy of Kapital and had a special Party breakfast. We were all dressed up as if we were adults. The girls all wore wedding dresses, to symbolise the fact that they were being married to Karl Marx. The girls’ parents put a lot of work and money into those dresses – even the poor ones.

At the age of 10 we all renewed the pledges to the Party that our parents had made for us when we were born. To help us feel closer to the Party, we were all allowed to choose a new name for ourselves from the list of great Communists of the past.

Not long after that, I was allowed access to the original Communist texts for myself. Partly this was because I’d shown an aptitude for learning my lists of answers, partly because I’d volunteered to help out at the local Party office. This office, like all the others, had special roles for Young Patriots up till the age of about 14 to assist in Party meetings. Obviously there were a lot of ribald comments about what the officials would get up to with pre-pubescent boys, but I never saw any of that sort of thing going on. It was, however, the first time I tasted wine, when I had a swig from the special stocks the functionaries kept for their meetings.

I suppose my disenchantment with the Party set in round about then. Partly through my “behind the scenes” views of what happened when ordinary Party members weren’t around, partly because of some obvious differences I was spotting in the works of Marx and Engels. Another influence would be my father – although he paid lip service to the Party line, he didn’t attend the weekly meetings, and he even had some non-Communist friends. I don’t think that contributed to my parents’ divorce, but our local part functionary did. My sister had a pretty serious accident at the time. She was run over by a motor-cycle, and for a while there was a possibility that she would lose her leg. The Party official visited her in hospital, and told my mother, over her daughter’s sick bed, that the accident was a punishment for her getting divorced.

I guess that’s the day I stopped being a Catholic.

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Just had a very enjoyable time finding out about Erdos numbers on wikipedia. Back to work, I guess.

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12.5/15, and off to the Kilberry Inn for lunch.

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Happy Birthdays to psychochicken and parthenia14 - the Pisceans March on...

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