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I never really knew either of my grandfathers, as they both died when I was very young. I’ve heard stories of course, but it wasn’t until this week that I realised the scope of some of them!

My maternal grandfather, Les Turner, was an engineer and I knew he was very talented. He built a number of guitars (two of which I own, that was the primary reason I learned to play) but among other things I had heard stories that back in the 1960s he had built and raced a dragster. I always assumed it was just a little hobby, but after speaking with my older sister and doing a little research I discovered that it was more than that – he took his racing very seriously, and was very successful – winning a number of events and setting new records. It seems he was a skilled engineer in his workshop, and a fearless and competitive racer on the track so I guess being an action geek runs in the family!

This is a photograph of him from 1966, next to his 1500cc Ford Slingshot which set the following records at Elvington:

International standing-start records at Elvington in 1967 in Class F:

1/4 mile in 11.06 sec. // 500m in 12.53 sec. // Kilo in 20.2 sec. // Mile in 29.62 sec.

He raced and tweaked it over several years, constantly trying to squeeze every last drop of power from it, and apparently getting a lot of respect from other builders and racers with one report stating it was “one of the best turned out cars of that era with green frame and alloy panels”.

The workmanship and build quality was so good in fact that though the car was broken up in the 1970s, the engine block was reused in another car which raced until the mid 1980s and the chassis was reused and raced well into the 1990s (and apparently is now in a collection in Denmark)

The following is an except I found on a site about classic british drag racing:

Jon Sewell purchased the car in the late 1970’s and was so impressed by Turner’s superb block work with its billet steel crank and rods, flywheel and sintered clutch in a Lotus alloy bellhousing, and an Lotus alloy diff. — that Jon realized this could be a terrific National Hot Rod motor, and it went into his #222 hot rod which he took the the Spedeworth wars racing against the likes of George Polley.

The Turner rail had been one of two dragsters being stored for a friend as a favour in Jon’s “garage”, until 1979 when Jon moved out. At this point his friend took away the blower [above] and cylinder head. The chassis, temporarily stored in Addlestone, Surrey, was bought by some enthusiasts who had a car but no trailer — so they pushed it by hand all five miles Woking

Jon says the dragster “was a work of art, even the bellhousing and diff were polished”. As for the engine, he bored it out to 1600cc and fitted the necessary cross-flow head and flat top pistons. “It was so oversquare it would rev as high as you wanted but had no torque.”

Here’s a shot of it in action:

Finally, here’s a photo of him riding his 750cc Triumph drag bike in 1969:

So nice to know that being an action geek is in my blood ;)


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9

Apr

2013

Tang Soo!

By ActionGeek. Posted in Martial Arts | No Comments »

It’s been a looooong time since I did any martial arts. Well over 15 years in fact, since the Taekwondo club I was training with closed their doors, and I decided not to look for an alternative. I’d become rather disillusioned with it, increasingly feeling like the instructors at that club were merely going through the motions and not taking it seriously. I remember on more than one occasion asking a question about the application of a technique, and being told that “I don’t need to know the answer to that for my grading” – as if passing the next grading was the only thing that mattered!

So when that club closed down, I decided not to join another but instead went to a Thai boxing gym with a friend who had trained under Master Sken in Manchester. Unfortunately I aggravated an old knee injury within a few weeks that stopped me being able to train and took many months to heal. Then I ended up going travelling, and then started my business… and so that was the end of my martial arts… until now!

I’ve often thought about getting back into martial arts, but always seemed to be too busy with other things to get out there and look for a suitable club. Then I went on our usual snowboarding trip in February, and met AJ – a friend of a friend who happens to be a second Dan in Tang Soo Do who trains at a local club. We got chatting, and very quickly I wanted to try it. That was a couple of months ago now, and I’ve not been disappointed. Tang Soo Do wasn’t an art I’d heard much about before, but I’m really glad to have found out about it, and specifically about ISK Martial Arts – not only is the club extremely friendly (and very well equipped – by far the best dojang I’ve ever been in!) but they take it seriously! They like to train hard, and take all aspects of the art seriously which s awesome. I’ve only been to a few sessions so far, but every time it’s ended sooner than I was expecting (time flies when you’re having fun I guess!) despite my body feeling battered the next day. In fact, I’ve only been going to one class a week because it’s been taking me a full 7 days to recover each time, but this week I intend to do 2 sessions because I’m absolutely loving it.

Feels so good to be learning a martial art again – can’t wait for the next session tomorrow night!


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19

Mar

2013

Self Publishing via Kickstarter

By ActionGeek. Posted in Books | No Comments »

Writing and publishing a book has been on my LIST for a long time, and now it’s time to tick that one off! Last year I entered, and won the inaugural World Pasty Championships, and this year I successfully defended my title. The amount of interest from the public and the media was massive so I figured there would be genuine interest in a book. I’ve written plenty of blog posts and articles over the years, on a wide range of topics from food to poker, game development to tarantulas and more, but I’ve actually written a book. Since I don’t have any contacts in the publishing industry I decided to go the self publishing route, and to try and part fund the publishing via a campaign on the crowd funding website Kickstarter.

The book is provisionally titled How To Make An Award Winning Cornish Pasty, and starts with a detailed history of the pasty before delving into ingredients and techniques, and of course sharing my award winning pasty recipes, and a collection of other pasty and pastry recipes. I’m seeking £1200 in funding, with pledges starting at just £1 and I have some great rewards for backers, ranging from digital and print copies of the book, T-shirts, advertising opportunities for businesses on www.ProperPasties.com and more

Please take a moment to view the Kickstarter Page and pledge your support – every single pledge really does count no matter how small.

Proper Pasties Kickstarter Campaign


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20

Jan

2013

Gamification FAIL (Zombies, Run!)

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action/Geek | No Comments »

OK let me first say that I love the concept, the interface is very nice, the way the app syncs to the website is smooth and effortless, there are loads of options and even the voice acting is pretty good… but unfortunately, for me at least, the app is broken due to a fundamental flaw. The problem is that the app is designed for “missions” of a very specific length – 30 minutes, or 1 hours. If your runs don’t fit with those 2 options then the app really doesn’t work as well as it should.

The first time I tried the app I stepped out the door and started running, and I was impressed. The “game” starts immediately and worked well. It didn’t work with my music, but turned out that I just needed to select a playlist so that was my fault (though they could have made that clearer) The problem though, was I did a quick loop and got home after 25 minutes with 5 minutes of “mission time” to spare. No problem, I figured that would just be added on to my next run.

So, next time I stepped out the door I clicked “continue” and it picked up from where it left off before – fantastic. This time I had set my music up, so in between game audio it played Green Day to me and I was a happy boy… until after 5 minutes of game time and 2 songs when it just stopped… no zombies, no music, just silence!

Got home, synced the app to the web site and turns out the app just plain quit after the first “mission” was ended. But there was no audio warning, no “would you like to start mission 2″, nothing.

That means the final 20 minutes of my second run were not tracked, no data at all. Now to me that’s just annoying. The game uses GPS so it knows when you get home, so why not just start mission 2, or at least keep tracking data (and playing music) until you get back to the start, or the user clicks a “end run” button?

So I’m afraid I won’t be using Zombies, Run again and I’ll be going back to Runtracker… I just hope that they either fix these annoying problems in a future update, or a sequel because like I say the idea is great, but the app is useless for someone like me who doesn’t run for exactly 30 or 60 minutes every time!


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3

Jan

2013

Beating arachnophoboa

By ActionGeek. Posted in Crazy/Weird, The List | No Comments »

Time to cross another item off my list, but this is a strange one… and while I’ve crossed it off, it’s technically still a work in progress and I suspect it will be for some time – beating my fear of spiders!

It’s something which has bugged me (pun intended) for a very long time. I’m not really afraid of anything else (nothing irrational anyway) and I know they are “just little spiders” and that (in general) they can’t hurt me – but I’be always had a profound and deep fear of them. The weird thing is, I’m still not 100% sure what it is about them that has always bothered me. They have lots of legs, but so do crabs and lobsters and I’m fine with them… they are small and fast, but so are crickets and I’m fine with them… they have big teeth, but do does my boa constrictor and my rottweiler!

Anyway, long story short I’ve been wanting to face and beat this fear for a long time, and last year I decided to make it happen – and bought a tarantula after lots of pleading from my wife (her argument was that if I was allowed snakes, she should be allowed a tarantula and I couldn’t really argue with that!)

Over time I became more and more desensitised, and more and more interested in tarantulas and spiders in general. I started reading books, and researching online, and soon one tarantula became two, and then three, and then four…

In fact I’ve become really fascinated by them. I still have that niggling arachnophobia in the back of my mind, but it’s getting less and less every day and now firmly under control. I’ve actually written an article about how I beat arachnophobia over at tarantula-care.com so anyone interested in the subject can head over there to ready the whole story. For now though, that’s one more item ticked on the list ;)


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30

Dec

2012

Zombies, Run! (half price)

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action/Geek | No Comments »

I first read about this app a while ago over at Lifehacker.com and it sounded awesome, but at the time I was in the middle of a non-running workout schedule so decided to put off buying it.  Well this morning I discovered that the app was currently half price (from the normal $7.99) and I’ve just decided to start a new running schedule over the coming weeks so it seemed perfect.

The app’s downloading right now (it’s a few hundred meg) so I’ll post again once I’ve had a try, but from the reviews I’ve read in the past I’m sure I’m going to love it.  Basically it’s a fitness app along the lines of Runtracker but gamified around the premise that you’re trying to escape from zombies… There are a bunch of “missions” to choose from, and you choose one before each run.  Then you run with your phone in your pocket and your headphones in, and you hear a story as you’re running where you get prompts and feedback.

The game uses your phone’s GPS and accelerometers to track your run just like most other fitness style apps showing your route, speed, calories burned etc. but also gives you the game elements.  It really looks right up my street, and as it apparently integrates well with your playlist it means I can listen to my regular podcasts or music while I’m running/playing.  I can’t wait to give it a try, which has to be good since getting out the door in this weather sometimes needs a little encouragement!  I’ll post back with a review in a day or two…

The app is currently half price (not sure for how long) for iPhone and Android.

Zombies, Run! Website


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21

Dec

2012

A rant about Macs…

By ActionGeek. Posted in Geek | 2 Comments »

Why, oh why are Macs selling so well?  is there some sort of subliminal messaging in Apple’s advertising that is hypnotising people?

I went into the local Apple store recently to look for an iPhone case and was amazed at how many people were in there, and especially looking at the iMacs, seemingly entranced by them.

I’m about to upgrade my computer myself so I decided to take a look at the new  iMac 27″ model, hoping that would be a suitable replacement for my main desktop PC and my aging MacBook Pro since I rarely take a laptop with me these days, just replying on my phone and iPad when I’m not in the office.

The problem is though, when I started looking at the specs I was amazed at how much was MISSING! I’m primarily a PC user, so I’m used to buying (or more usually building) a fairly high spec machine at a reasonable price. The iMac costs quite a bit more than I would normally spend on a desktop computer so I was stunned at these omissions:

No mic input (what?) Seriously, you can’t just plug a headset in for Skype, you need to invest an extra £35 in an “iMic” interface, for a feature that’s included in every £299 PC laptop!

No optical drive!?!?! Despite the iTunes web page stating that you can “import your CDs…” they decided not to allow you to do that, or watch DVDs, or install non-downloaded software, or burn backups, or mac mix CDs for the car…

All USB ports at the back where you can’t reach them! Because obviously that will be fun, fishing around the back for your USB stick which you need to keep using because you can’t use a DVD!

No Firewire – want to hookup a video camera, or a prosumer audio device… not on an iMac, not unless you want to pay an extra (£35) for the add on interface!

No DVI ports – because obviously everyone with a Mac wants to spent £1000 on an Apple branded external monitor rather than plugging in a couple of their existing monitors… and of course it’s £25 (per port!!) for Thunderbolt to DVI adapters!

No height adjustment… that’s right, the nice shiny polished aluminium stand is a fixed height because obviously all Apple users are the same height (and from the look of it, Apple users are several inches shorter than me or all get chronic neck pain pretty quickly!)

No VESA mounts… again obviously, because they wouldn’t want you getting around the lack of height adjustment by mounting it like you can with any budget monitor (unless you buy the £35 mount adapter kit, and even then that only works on the 27″ model – they don’t do one for the 21″ model!)

No numeric keypad… the default keyboard is one of those teeny, tiny ones with no tactical feedback (I guess Apple users don’t touch type?) and no numeric keypad (so I guess they don’t use 3D software, or do much maths either!)

And for the privilege of buying a computer with all these wonderful benefits/omissions… they only charge 3 times the price of an equivalent PC!

Seriously Apple, I’d like to be able to order a new iMac but there’s just no way I can justify it, time to build another PC I guess!


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10

Jul

2011

Space Shuttle (end of an era)

By ActionGeek. Posted in Geek | No Comments »

If you’re anything like me you’ve been glued to Ustream this week watching the final shuttle mission before NASA retires the oribter for good. Born in the late ’70s I grew up seeing the shuttle as the pinnacle of human endevour, and it’s rather sad to see it being retired without a replacement ready to launch.

I for one feel that MUCH more should be invested in space exploration. NASA’s entirely yearly budget is currently equal to what the US military spend in 23 days! Surely some of that money should be diverted to a cause slightly more positive than fighting over oil?

At least NASA do appear to be spending their meagre budget wisely though, and diverting a lot of the savings from ending the shuttle program into building a deep space probe. But in the meantime, maybe it falls on DIYers like the crazy geniuses at Copenhagen Suborbitals to push the envelope and further our reach to the stars!

Anyway, in the meantime I came across this great infographic on the shuttle and thought I’d share it… Let’s hope the orbiter’s eventual replacement is just as iconic!


A graphical representative of NASA’s space shuttle.

Source Space.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration


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17

Jun

2011

Long time, no update

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action/Geek | No Comments »

Yeah I know, it’s been a looong time since I posted here but I guess sometimes life just gets in the way!

There are a number of reasons for my absence but most of them relate to being too damn busy…

First off I’ve been extremely busy with my business, especially with Flash games development where I’ve been working on a number of projects for some big clients (inclduing Hasbro and Lucasarts!) but I can’t complain about that – I’ve rather be busy working on cool games than struggling to get work.

Secondly, I’ve made the decision to train as a yoga teacher.  I’ve been practicing yoga for around 8 years now, and for the past 6 months have been doing a British Wheel of Yoga foundation course.  I’m now registered for a 3 year yoga teacher training diploma with the BWY which is due to start at the end of the year.  Although it’s a three year course, it’s very much hands on and I’m expecting to start teaching classes next spring.

That lead me on to another project which has been keeping me busy – Yogaly.  With all the research I’ve been doing I found that there is a real lack of solid online yoga resources.  I found several large yoga teacher directories online but they were almost all out of date and full of dead links, or else so badly designed as to be virtually unusable.  So, I’ve been compiling what I expect to be the largest and best human edited yoga teacher directory online.  As you can imagine it’s taken up a huge amount of my time, but the data is now all finally compiled and I’m slowly adding the listings to the site day by day.

The full directory won’t be online until mid-summer (there are over 5000 entries to list and I’m manually checking each one!) but there is useful content on the site already and I expect it to grow pretty fast.

So, that’s what the Action Geek has been up to (well, a little bit of it anyway) for the past few months, but you can expect more regular updates from now on.


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24

Sep

2010

Big Ride, Old Men

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | No Comments »

If you’re a regular reader you may know from an earlier post that my father in law has been riding from John O’Groats to Land’s End for charity.  Since he is blind, he’s riding a tandem with his brother in law riding up front.  Well, after 11 days of rather bad British weather they finally completed the 930 mile trip and crossed the finish line at Land’s End.

For those readers not in the UK, John O’Groats is the very North-East tip of Britain, right up past the Scottish Highlands, while Land’s End is the very South-West tip down here in Cornwall, making it the longest route you can take across the country.  I did the trip solo myself back in 2003, and Steve and Pete took a fairly similar route to me and did it in just about the same time (11 days) despite having 2 “engines” on their tandem – but hey, they are a little older than me ;)

Pete’s son, Paul, joined them in Exeter for the last couple of days, and I joined them yesterday as they passed, to cycle the last 36 miles with them to Land’s End.  All my training recently has been running, swimming, weights and yoga and so I’m definitely not bike-fit at the moment.  Add to that the fact that I was on a mountain bike, trying to keep up with a tandem and Paul on his racer, and it turned out to be quite a challenge to try and keep up!

Luckily for me the route is pretty hilly, and while I couldn’t keep up on the flats or downhills, I was able to make up time and pass the tandem on the climbs!  The weather stayed bright, if rather windy, which made for a very pleasant ride (and made up for quite a bit of rain they had earlier on the trip!)

They have raised around £2000 so far for ABLe and Bowel Cancer UK, and that number should increase a fair bit over the next week or two as the final donations come in.  If you want to read up more about the trip, the charities, or to make a small donation head over to Big Ride Old Men.

The old men at the finish line in Land's End, with Pete's son Paul (left) and myself (right)


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