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11

Nov

2014

Revived…

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

I’ve decided to start blogging here again, after an unbelievably long break.

Why? Several reasons, but basically for the same reasons I started this blog in the first place – to focus on my personal goals, to get my thoughts straight, and as a record of where my life is and where it’s going. This time though I intend to do things a little differently.

Firstly, I started this blog for me and never really intended many people to read it. However, when I started reading about blogging and talking to other bloggers on social media I kept seeing the same “helpful” information everywhere. People told me to “write for an audience”, and focus on visitors, and most of all to add advertising like Google Adsense. Well, I’m just not interested in any of that so this time I’m doing it my way. I’ve removed all advertising from the site, and I’ll be writing what I want to write not what I think people want to read!

There are several reasons I want to do this now, but the biggest one is that my wife and I are expecting our first son in just 3 months time. I’m filled with a mixture of excitement and terror at the prospects of being responsible for another human being, bringing him into a scary and confusing world, and being a father. I know my life is going to change dramatically over the coming months and years, and I think that writing will be a great way to both get my thoughts in order and also to keep a record of our lives which I can later share with him.

I recently read an article about a concept called 750 words. The idea being that writing, every day, can be really beneficial. I already write, in fact I’ve written and published a book in the past, and over the years have written countless articles for web sites and magazines, but I’ve never really stuck to a structured schedule of writing every day.  I’ve looked into it, and there are countless books, web sites and articles saying basically the same thing – writing every day can bring a wealth of benefits, and the “magic number” for most people seems to be about 750 words (Stephen King apparently says he writes 1500 words every day and cites that as the secret to his success!). I’m not planning on writing on this blog every day. In fact, I’ve already been putting this idea into practice over the past couple of weeks, writing articles on a couple of other non-personal sites that I manage, and putting ideas down for a future book (about arachnophobia), but I think that adding some personal writing into the mix will be of benefit and also allow me to get my 750 words done on days when I don’t feel like writing on specific topics for those other projects.

I do have a bunch of ideas for things I want to talk about on here, from my hobbies and interests (martial arts, books, game design, cooking…) to the process of becoming a father, and things I learn about in my day to day life from reading books and sites, listening to podcasts, or simply living.

Will this blog dry up again in a few months, or will I still be posting here in 10 years? I have no idea, but for now I intend to post here regularly and see how things go.

Billy – The “now blogging again” Geek ;)

 

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 ;)

 

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!

 

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

 

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.

 

2

Jul

2010

Life gets in the way… again!

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

Well it’s been a rollercoaster of a few weeks, and unfortunately that has meant this blog has been sadly neglected. I’ve been ill, but after seeing the doctor I now know it’s nothing serious, have been given something for the pain and told to rest and that I should make a full recover in another 3 – 4 week… so much for running my first triathlon at the end of the summer then!

But I guess whatever plans and goals we make, life is going to get in the way and we just have to deal with it. Hopefully I’ll be well enough to start my swim coaching later this month, and I’ll just have to change my goals a little and run my first tri as early as possible next year. I still have the Eden Half Marathon in October to train for, and it means I’ll have a lot longer to get my swimming sorted before my first race.

Other than that, I was at the Glastonbury Festival last week which was awesome apart from missing quite a few bands I wanted to see due to being ill, and having to just rest in the tent while everyone else was out having fun! I still managed to have a great day on the Saturday though, and still some some amazing acts including Muse, The Lightning Seeds, Willie Nelson, Rolf Harris and Vampire Weekend to name a few. I’ll write a proper post about the festival over the weekend, and next week I’ll need to sit down and really re-evaluate my goals and training to see where I’m headed…

 

15

May

2010

Heart Rate Monitor For Ironman Training

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action/Geek | 1 Comment »

The more I’ve been looking at effective training for triathlons, and specifically iron distance, the more I’ve learned that using a heart rate monitor (HRM) is generally considered the best way to train.  The 30 week training schedules from Be Iron Fit which I’m planning on using as the basis for my training are totally reliant on using an HRM so I’ve been looking at the various models on the market this week, and it’s not an easy choice…

HRMs seem to come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide range of features, from very basic models to units with more processing power than the average netbook!  While most of them have the basic features like wireless chest straps, training zones, zone alarms and workout memories, some of the more expensive models have so much more – GPS with map and waypoint features, foot pods, bike speed/cadence sensors, usb or wireless connections allowing upload of training workouts to a PC or online training apps and more.

I’ve been reading reviews, comparing specs, and asking questions on Twitter and seem to have narrowed the choice down to a few options from 3 of the top brands – Polar, Garmin and Timex.

Polar have been making heart rate monitors for years, in fact I remember seeing adverts for them in the cycling magazines when I was a kid.  They offer a huge range for all budgets, but the RS300X has caught my eye as a mid-priced unit with basic but sold features and good reviews.

Garmin, being a GPS manufacturer, have GPS functionality in most of their HRMs but that comes at a price of bulk, weight and short battery life.  The Forerunner 205 looks very good (if a little bulky) but it only has a 10 hour battery life, which is too short for the Ironman (well, certainly for my first attempt at the distance anyway!)  I have found an interesting blog post about building an external PSU for the ForeRunner 205 for use on the bike.  That would certainly solve the problem, making the unit a very viable option.

The third option I’m looking at are the Timex Ironman range, which are offcially “Ironman” branded.  Apparently Timex have been making Ironman watches since 1986 so they should know what they’re doing by now.  Again they have quite a range from simple watches to fully loaded kits with all the bells and whistles.  The Timex Ironman Race Trainer Kit looks like the best solution from this brand, which is a fully featured HRM with digital 2.4 transmission to prevent cross-talk, wireless computer transfer and access to online training software.  The biggest advantage is that the Timex HRMs look like regular watches so could be used day to way – while the Polar and Garmin options are too big and bulky to be worn as a watch for day to day use.

So – if you have used any of the above models, or have any other suggestions I’d love to hear from you.  I’m after a decent HRM at a reasonable price, comfortable and easy to use, GPS would be nice but not essential as would the ability to upload workout data.  If you have any insights or suggestions then please leave a comment or Tweet me and I’ll continue reading reviews and hope to make a decision over the next couple of weeks…

 

27

Apr

2010

Hello world!

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

My name is Billy, and I am a geek.

Well OK, so there’s more to it than that, I’m not JUST a geek and that’s the point, that’s part of my reasoning for starting this blog.

The stereotypical geek is either very skinny, or rather plump, sits in front of their computer 16 hours a day, codes in C and Perl, plays roleplaying games and is obsessed with retro video games, eats pizza, drinks coffee and reads huge amounts of sci-fi…

…well, while some of those descriptions fit me pretty good, others are WAY off the mark.  I do spend an unhealthy amount of time sat in front of my computer(s), partly due to being a self employed web and games developer but also playing poker, I do code (but Actionscript, PHP and HTML/CSS not Perl!) and I do drink more than my fair share of coffee, and as for video games I have a dog called Atari, a gecko called Zelda and a tattoo of a space invader on my back!

That’s where the similarities end though – my other interests/past-times include running, cycling, travel, squash, motorcycles, extreme sports… not very geeky topics!

So at first glance this site will appear to be about expressing my 2 major interests – techie geekiness, computers, Internet, communications, science etc. and my love of action and adventure.

That’s not the reason for this blog though.  The reason for this blog is to help me focus, help me develop, and make me somewhat accountable to my goals and commitments.  You see, I used to strike a good action/geek balance in my life.  I would get up early in the morning and go for a long run, then head to the office to work on games or web development, then knock off early for a couple of hours kite boarding or mountain biking before staying up half the night playing video games with my mates… but times change, I got older, and life got in the way.

These days I spend far too much of my time in the office, working on building my business – too much geek and not enough action!

Well, I want that to change.  I’ve kept a list (The List) for many years of things I want to do and places I want to visit.  Whenever I hear or read about an interesting activity or place which grabs my attention I add it to the list, and when I’ve done/visited/accomplished that goal I scrub it off the list.  Problem is, these last few years I’ve been adding items to the list much faster than I’ve been ticking them off.

So my primary reason for starting this blog is to help me focus, help me train, push me forward and enable me to do more things on my list.  My hope is that some of my posts will give other people ideas and inspiration to try more activities, or visit more places themselves, but I’m afraid that the primary motivation for this blog is essentially selfish – I want more out of life, and I know that by making my goals, dreams and aspirations public there is more chance of me achieving them!

So stick around.  If you’re a geek who likes a little action, or an adventure seeker with a geeky side maybe you’ll find something here of interest.  I’m planning on posting as and when I feel the urge, on a range of topics related to my split action/geek personality.

As for The List – I’ve already picked one item to go for, and it’s a biggie!  In fact, it will take over 12 months of training and there’s no guarantee of success, but if I can pull it off I will truly be able to call myself an ACTION geek!  All I need to do now is pluck up the courage to publicly announce my plans here on the blog, and then there will be no turning back…