Blade Runner

They’ve finally remastered and re-released Blade Runner on DVD, on which I’ve spent some of my Christmas HMV vouchers. This is long overdue and the difference between it and the original DVD release is nothing short of remarkable. They’ve remastered the film, added a full 5.1 surround sound track and recut the film itself into “The Final Cut”, adding deleted scenes and reworking some of the special effects.

The result is truly amazing and if you already have Blade Runner on DVD then I promise you that it will be £22 very well spent. The box set also contains the Director’s Cut (as seen on the original DVD release) and the abominable United States theatrical release (the one with the narration deemed necessary to spoon-feed stupid Americans through the film), not that anyone would be interested watching that.


The Amazing Eat Properly and Exercise Diet Plan

As regular readers and pretty much anyone who’s seen me in the flesh at any point over the past year will know, I’ve lost an incredible amount of weight in the thirteen months from the middle of November 2006 until now. I’m delighted to announce that in that time I have lost 3st 12lbs (54lbs total, 24.5kg), so just short of 4 stone. I’m really very happy about this; I look very different to how I looked last Christmas and I feel as good as I look.

Observe the following chart by way of illustration. Note that I only started to keep daily weight and body fat records in April, so the first half of the chart is very linear. I knew what I weighed in the middle of November 2006 but have no intermediate data between then and April.

Weight loss since November 2006

Weight loss since November 2006

As you can see I am now very comfortably within healthy ranges for both weight and body fat after previously suffering dramatic excess in both regards. So what’s the secret? As I’ve said before, there really is no rocket science or witchcraft involved. It’s a simple question of eating properly (not “dieting”, as such) and getting regular and effective exercise. It really does work!

My diet is low carbohydrate, low fat, low sugar and high protein. My metabolic type dictates this and it transpires that it’s not actually that necessary for my diet to be low fat, it just so happens that I don’t particularly like fatty foods. The important aspects are that it must be low-carb and that the number of calories ingested in a daily basis must not exceed the resting metabolic rate plus whatever exercise I may do. I avoid foods such as bread, rice, pasta and cereals as these all have high amounts of carbohydrates.

I eat lots of fruit (apples and bananas in particular), meat, eggs, some vegetables (because although I know they’re good for me I’ve never been that mad on them) and I stick to calorie free versions of fizzy drinks (Diet Coke and Coke Zero in particular) when I’m not drinking water. I’ve also cut back on the alcohol, usually restricting it only to weekends and never binge drinking or getting drunk.

My anal attention to detail regarding the gathering, storage and processing of statistics has allowed me to conduct reasonable calculations relating to how I have lost the weight. I keep an accurate record of physical activity, including gym activity and walking. I do a lot of walking since I have no car, live in a city and make extensive use of public transport, so its impact on my fitness is considerable.

I record my physical activities in terms of the estimated number of calories used, which can be reasonably accurately calculated. When doing cardio work in the gym the cardio machines actually tell you how many calories you burn, so that’s easy. For weights and resistance work I use a rough estimate of 2 calories per repetition, which averages out over light reps and heavy reps. Then for walking I calculate the calories based on a reasonable estimation of 300 calories per hour at a normal pace. Research on the Internet suggests that all these estimations are reasonable.

So, during the period in question I have used a total of 62,455 calories through exercise. I also know that I have lost 54lbs in weight. It’s an established fact that 1lb of fat equates to approximately 3,500 calories (that is, to lose 1lb of body fat, one’s body must burn 3,500 calories). 54lbs therefore equates to 189,000 calories, that is, I have created a calorie deficiency of 189,000 over 13 months in order to lose 54lbs of weight.

If I’ve burnt 62,455 calories through exercise then that leaves 126,545 calories lost through eating properly (because “dieting” really is the wrong term). From these figures I’m therefore able to extrapolate the following chart, showing the proportionate methods of weight loss and the number of pounds lost through each method:

Lb loss per activity

Lb loss per activity

My plans for the new year is to not lose any more weight but to concentrate fully on reducing my body fat. I need to maintain my weight, and even put some back on, but keep reducing my body fat by concentrating more on the resistance training and less on the cardio. The eating habits will stay pretty much the same although I will likely have to eat even more protein than I already am.

Yay me, frankly. I’ve worked hard for this an I deserve it. I look good and I feel good and I seem to get a lot more attention these days because of it!


Parenthood is a lifestyle choice

There was this bloke who wrote into Metro the other week recounting a tale of how he, a disabled person (the exact nature of his disabilities were not divulged), had bought a first class train ticket. He didn’t absolutely have to travel in first class, it was possible for him to travel in standard class, but he choses to do so because it’s easier for him to get around the first class cabin than it is the standard class cabin. First class rail tickets cost a fortune, but to him the benefits of such a ticket were worth it.

On a recent train journey he shared the first class cabin with a young mother with a child in a push-chair, who was boasting to an apparently unrelated fellow passenger about how she had received a free upgrade from the train staff because she had a child in a push-chair. This enraged the author of the letter, because this woman had received a free upgrade to first class due to self-inflicted inconvenience brought about by her decision to have a child, whereas his disability was most certainly not acquired by choice and yet no such preferential treatment was extended to him.

Frankly, he had every right to be enraged. It’s rapidly becoming a common perception that parents are somehow “disabled” because of their offspring and are thus being afforded luxuries such as “parent and child” parking spaces outside the entrance to supermarkets, fast-track priority boarding on aircraft (presumably so the child can practice the crying that it intends on doing for the whole flight) and now, apparently, free first class rail ticket upgrades.

Let’s make no mistake here, with very very few exceptions, the decision to have a chid is entirely voluntary. It is something that you inflict upon yourself, you’re making a rod for your own back, both financially and practically, and your offspring should be nobody else’s responsibility but your own. You should not be entitled to special treatment at the expense of others, especially those who’ve chosen NOT to contribute to the planet’s vastly unsustainable population growth. It was your choice and if you’re not up to dealing with the consequences of your decision then you perhaps should have not procreated in the first place.

Having to support other peoples’ kids through funding child benefit is galling enough, but to be told of by some busybody in a supermarket car park for parking in a parent and child parking space when no other spaces are available is a step over the line, in my opinion. Also, is it really that unreasonable to park in such spaces after 9.00pm when all children of the age that would possibly benefit from the extra space either side of their mothers’ Renault Scenics should be in bed? I don’t think so.

My mother fared perfectly well when myself and my younger brother were young without parent and child parking spaces or any other concession. This was also in the days before large, out of town supermarkets with giant car parks; my mother had to go to the Sainsbury’s in Woking town centre and park in the multi-storey car park, where the lifts rarely worked and when they did they were always jammed full of people. Did she complain? No, because she was thankful that she could do the weekly shop in just one store. To hell with the parking arrangements.

It seems that modern parents these days think that they have it hard, as if they’re the first generation of humans that’s had to procreate, and that everyone should lend them a hand to help cope with their insurmountable, self-matyring task that they feel has been forced upon them. The truth is, quite like their pampered, ignorant offspring, they don’t know they’re fucking born. Having children is a lifestyle choice, and just like every lifestyle choice it comes with its costs and disadvantages. I was going to ask if there were special parking spaces for fat people, but since most fat people consider themselves disabled these days one might argue that there actually are, but that’s a whole different, yet strikingly similar, argument.

If I had my way then parents would be made to bear the full cost of their children. There would be no child benefit; indeed it would be replaced by a tax on third and subsequent children. The planet’s population growth is unsustainable in almost every country and yet governments absolutely depend on it in order for their economies to work, since most welfare states are essentially giant, long-term pyramid schemes, which require ever increasing numbers contributing at the lower levels in order to work. One day that’s going to come to a cataclysmic, apocalyptic end, at which point the availability of parent and child parking spaces will be the least of anyone’s worries.

So shut the hell up when I park in your sacred car parking spaces, and stop blocking up the aisles of Sainsbury’s Local with your fucking 4-wheel-drive push-chair containing what is quite obviously an able-bodied but fucking lazy five year old. Don’t take your kids to a restaurant of any standard above McDonalds until they’ve learnt to behave themselves in public and not sit in their chair and scream through their meal. Stop spending your child benefit on lottery tickets, I worked hard to give you that money that you perceive to be free; and don’t let your fucking uncontrollable kids sit on the escalator in front of me, blocking my path while you coo and fawn over them and tell them how cute they look together “like that”. I’ll wager that you let your kids go out on October 31st and bang on strangers’ doors demanding money and sweets too, whilst the rest of the year round engaging in precautions bordering on paranoia concerning their health and safety, most likely causing great inconvenience of some description to everybody else.

Think of the children!? No, that’s your job. Deal with it yourself. I make my bed a different way, you don’t get to lie in it just because you don’t like the way you’ve made yours. Not my problem. I didn’t ask you to have children.


An easier way to pay!

What is it with organisations to which the general public are forced against their will to pay money and their apparent belief that to win the hearts of their reluctant “customers” all they have to do is to make it easier for them to make their embittered remittance, instead of doing what they actually would like to see and make such remittance smaller and more affordable in the first place?

I am of course speaking about organisations such as H. M. Revenue and Customs, local councils, train operating companies, energy firms and indeed any entity to whom paying money is virtually unavoidable. Nobody likes giving money to any of these organisations and almost all of them charge over the odds for whatever it is they purport to provide, whether it’s tax or a train ticket, and giving money to these extortionists is a bitter and resentful process.

Making it “easier” (through exotic and modern payment methods) to pay the extortion demanded is not what people want. Making it more affordable to do so is. So don’t try to tell me that you’re doing me a favour and making my life easier by allowing me to pay my taxes online using my fucking Oyster card or whatever, it won’t fucking wash.


New Labour lose benefit records in the post

There’s no need to post BBC News links about this, everyone already knows about it. This “data protection” government have lost the benefit records of 25,000,000 people (nearly half the population) in the post, because someone at HMRC burnt them onto a CD-ROM and sent them in the mail, unrecorded and unregistered. They’ve now gone missing and could be absolutely anywhere.

Despite the obvious stupidity of this “blunder”, Alistair Darling has made some fucking stupid statements that, in my opinion, further highlight just how much he’s in over his head with his job:

“The police tell me that they have no reason to believe that this data has found its way into the wrong hands.”

Yes, Darling, but you (they) also conversely do not have a shred of evidence to suggest that they haven’t fallen into “the wrong hands” (an ironic term when used by the government that lost the records in the first place), due to their quite obvious and undeniable “lost” status. You can’t hope that people will find that reassuring when you still don’t know where they fucking are.

Mr Darling said people should monitor their accounts “for any unusual activity”.

What, that’s your official fraud prevention measure following on from this monumental, awesome fuckup? Keep an eye on our bank statements? I’m sure glad we’ve got someone as sensible and as clued up as you in charge of our economy! Still I don’t suppose you can be any worse than your wretched fucking predecessor.

As it’s been pointed out over and over again over the past couple of days, this is the same government that wants to introduce super secure ID cards for everyone to protect us from the nasty terrorists. Who apparently will be able to just download our information off Bittorrent.

More people need to lose their jobs over this. Having some no-name in HMRC resign simply isn’t enough, no matter how senior he is. The government also need to put their house in order regarding data protection laws. The private sector face very stiff penalties if they violate the Data Protection Act, with the most serious offences potentially leading to company directors being imprisoned. I don’t imagine Alistair Darling or any of his wretched New Labour cronies visiting Strangeways any time soon. One rule for them, another for the rest of us.

I’m just glad I don’t claim any benefit (for once).


Mac Mini Memory Mayhem

I’ve just spent the last hour and a half attempting to upgrade the memory in my Mac Mini from 1280Mb to 2Gb by replacing the remaining 256Mb module with a second 1Gb module. The new 1Gb module works fine, but in the process of upgrading I’ve somehow managed the fry the first 1Gb module; it no longer functions. If you didn’t know, taking the Mac Mini apart to upgrade the RAM is not for the faint hearted, requiring an odd assortment of tools including a putty knife, a 1p coin and some post-it notes, so having a net end result of zero is not really what I wanted!

The bust DIMM is still in warranty, in that I bought it less than 12 months ago, so I shall see if they’ll replace it. It would be easier in this situation if it was the new one that had broken, but they might find it a little suspect that the old one stopped working during the upgrade procedure that put the new one in. At the end of the day it would only be another £15 to replace, but still, it’d be a waste.

I’ve also Leopardized the five Macs that Chris and I use between us using the stonking “family pack” that Apple offer, whereby if you want to install Leopard on five computers then you only pay £130 instead of £80 x 5 = £400, which is what Microsoft would make you do, except the £80 would be £240 in their case. I don’t mind paying for software if it’s reasonably priced, but £240 for Microsoft Windows is just fucking ridiculous and I’m glad that I’m no longer subjected to the Microsoft upgrade path.


Zurückgegangen VON Boston

Yeah, so I spent exactly four days and four hours traveling to Boston, being in Boston and travelling back from Boston this week. It’s kind of a surreal feeling; I feel as if I should be totally overwhelmed by such an intense trip but I’m not, I’m really chilled out about it and it feels like Boston is no further away than London rather than being five timezones away over the Atlantic. Each journey and each day went off without a hitch; never before have I had such a relaxed and straightforward trip abroad. Would that all our holidays were the same!

The conference itself, Fall VON, was very interesting and I truly immersed myself in the IP communications world for two whole days, meeting some very clever people and some notable industry names. I’ve gathered a wealth of information that will prove to be very useful for my current project at work and so the trip was well worth it from a commercial point of view. A couple of the talks were by people who had used the technology with which I specialise in specific applications and while these applications were reasonable clever they weren’t on the sort of scale that my current project is going to be, so I’m going to see if it’s reasonable and feasible for me to do a talk myself at next year’s event once my project is finished.

Boston is a marvellous place. My favourite city in the United States is of course New York, but Boston comes a very close second. Its relative age combined with its New England environs, cleanliness, friendly inhabitants and functional transportation systems make it a pleasure to be in. Manchester, Boston and New York are the three places in the world where I really feel at home, more-so even than my birthplace. The only thing it’s really lacking is the sort of gay scene that I’m used to in Manchester, but then I’m willing to admit that my standards have been set pretty high in that regard. Not even New York comes close to Manchester, mostly thanks to the Republican Party, but that’s a different story.

The local baseball team, the Red Sox, apparently won the “world” series last week, although unclear how much of the rest of the world beyond the United States were invited to participate in this tournament. There was a giant parade through Boston on Tuesday which lasted practically all day. I didn’t see it because I was at the convention centre, but it was apparently enourmous.


Pendolino Farraday cages

I’m writing this aboard the 22.05 Virgin Pendolino service from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly, so I’ll be actually publishing this when I get back to Manchester. The reason why I can’t publish it straight away is ironically enough the subject of this post.

Virgin’s marvelous new Class 390 “Pendolino” electric multiple units which they use for many of their inter-city services, replacing the HST and Mark 3 hauled stock trains which were perfectly good and had many years of service left in them given a refurbishment programme, have several annoying design flaws which directly affect passengers.

You would be forgiven for assuming that modern rail vehicles such as these would have been designed with the modern rail traveler in mind, given that they were designed since the turn of the century. The modern rail traveler likes to be able to use his mobile phone on the train and, if possible, their laptop connected to the Internet using a wireless Internet connection. But this is not to be.

In order to cut costs and enable them to install cheaper air conditioning systems, the manufacturers of the Pendolino opted to use a special metallic sunscreen on the windows in order to reduce the heat inside the train produced by the sun. However, a side-effect of this sunscreen is that it effectively turns each coach into a Farraday cage when combined with the metal shell of the coach itself, making it impossible for mobile phones inside each coach to connect to their respective networks in any useful way. Genius.

Signal can be obtained in the vestibules at each end of each coach, because the metallic sunscreen has not been applied to the train door windows. This is great, until the train applies its brakes. Then it all goes wrong again.

The Class 390 Pendolino has “regenerative braking“, a technology widely publicised by Virgin, which, when applied, actually returns electricity back to the National Grid. Each Pendolino multiple unit apparently returns enough power each year to supply Birmingham with electricity for a day or something like that, the details aren’t really relevant, but it’s something along the lines of the claim that if everyone gave up toast the electricity saved each day would power Birmingham for a week. Of course, if we just unplugged Birmingham, the rest of us could all have as much fucking toast as we like, but I digress.

So yes, regenerative braking sounds like it’s a good idea, returning power to the National Grid and helping to reduce the rail vehicle’s carbon footprint, all very grand and noble. Except, when applied, these regenerative braking systems create an enormously powerful electromagnetic field which, you guessed it, knocks out your mobile signal, whether you’re in the vestibule or not. Genius.

The same problem has been flummoxing Virgin boffins charged with the design and deployment of wireless Internet connections aboard Virgin trains as successfully implemented by other train operators, namely GNER, on their East Coast Mainline services which use different types of trains (namely HST sets and Class 90 plus Mark 4 stock trains, neither of which have regenerative braking).

So I can’t publish this post right now. Not only is Virgin’s onboard wireless Internet service doomed, but I can’t even get a mobile signal to post it via GPRS. Were I on a train that was designed in the 1970s, as is the case with the HST, I might understand. But the irony is that it would actually work on the HST, in stark contrast to this soulless electric multiple unit designed thirty years later. The terrible locomotive irony.

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