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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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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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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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I just found out that one of my favorite books of all time, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, has been make into a movie by Danny Boyle, one of my favorite directors!

Between a Rock and a Hard Place is an autobiographical account the life of Aaron Ralston leading up to an accident where he became trapped in a canyon in the Utah Desert.  He was canyoning alone when a boulder dislodged and trapped his lower right arm.  After five days and exhausting all possible ways of freeing himself, and knowing he would otherwise die of dehydration, he amputated his own arm with a multi-tool.  The book alternates between chapters telling the story of his ordeal, with stories of mountaineering adventures in Colorado.  It’s an amazing book, and a very inspirational story.

Well apparently the film has already been made, and is due for release in a couple of months.  The trailer looks pretty good, and at first glance looks like the movie could be just as powerful as the book.  But that is hardly surprising with Danny Boyle, director of films such as Train Spotting, Sunshine and 28 Days Later, at the helm.  Apparently, during the screenings at the Telluride Film Festival, two people required medical attention – one who felt faint and was carried out of the screening, and a second who suffered a panic attack, so I’m guessing it must be quite hard hitting.

Anyway, here’s the trailer, and if you’re at all interested in adventure, mountaineering, or just people overcoming any obstacle no matter what this is definitely worth checking out!

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Yoga Confusion – Cobra vs Upward Facing Dog

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | 3 Comments »

I’ve been doing more and more yoga recently and really noticing some real improvements. My balance in both handstand and forearm stand/scorpion is really getting better, my standing postures and forward bends are getting much deeper, and overall my confidence and knowledge are growing all the time. Having said that, there are still lots of things which I’m unsure of and one of those has been the difference between cobra and upward facing dog.

Superficially both asanas appear to be very similar, and I’ve spoken to a number of people who actually think they are the same thing, with the only difference being whether the thighs/knees are lifted off the floor.

Iyengar’s book Light On Yoga shows the difference quite clearly and I understood that the position of the hands was important, but it was while watching a video on YouTube this morning that I finally had a “eureaka moment” and finally understood the difference. If you practice yoga and are uncertain about the difference between up-dog and cobra, take a look at this…





The World’s Most Dangerous Sports

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | No Comments »

A headline like “The Most Dangerous Sports In The World” always catches my attention, so when I saw that in my RSS reader yesterday I clicked though to find yet another generic list of a dozen or so “extreme sports” with little or no real information about them.

Base jumping – check!

Cave diving – check!

Heli-Skiing – check!

Cheerleeding… wait, WTF?

Yes, according to ithing.com, cheerleading should be in anyone’s top ten list of danger sports, since “there are over 20,000 reported cheerleading injuries a year”.

Can you really compare a twisted ankle, or a broken wrist from cheerleading with a BASE accident?  I think not.

Anyway, a little later in the day and I see virtually the same headline over at totalsportspro.com and decided to check it out as a comparison.  This time the focus was very much on danger, as in liklihood of death or very serious injury, and needless to say that cheerleading didn’t make the list!

Anyway, for anyone interested there’s an infographic from the site below. Interesting to note that it’s obviously an American site, since the map of “Dangerous sports all over the place” shows only North America, even though the headline is “The World’s Most Dangerous Sports” but hey, they also have the World Series of Baseball and AFAIK only USA and Canada compete in that ;)

Most Dangerous Sports
Via: Term Life Insurance

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What do you get if you mix an extreme 50km foot race and the biggest annual experiment in community, self expression and self reliance?  The new Burning Man Ultramarathon of course!

Going to Burning Man has been on my list for many years now, and I’ve always wanted to run an ultramarathon too so could this be a match made in heaven?  Well you decide – it’s a 50km race which looks set to be one of the toughest and most unique ultramarathons (comparable to the Badwater).  It’s probably the only ultramarathon in the world where there’s a high liklihood of several runners attempting the event naked – though I think some parts are likely to chaff over such a distance!!!

The official FAQ states that each competitor must bring at least 1 gallon of water, sunglasses, a dust mask, goggles and a headlamp!

Their suggestions is to “run slow, eat potato chips, and have  blast!”

It looks like 12 people have signed up to the event so far.  Unfortunately there’s no way I can get to Nevada this yea, but if this becomes a regular event I think I’ll have to add it to my must do list!

Here’s a link to the official Burning Man Ultramarathon web site.

Image courtesy of Aleksander Soender

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Swimming is improving…

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | No Comments »

Half way though my swimming coaching and I’m seeing big improvements already. While I’ve still got a LONG way to go I already feel much more comfortable in the water. We’ve worked on a number of drills to help improve my head position, timing of my breathing, and syncing my arm and leg movements better.

My breathing was definitely my biggest problem with my crawl. It turns out that my head position was slightly wrong, I wasn’t rolling enough, and I was trying to breath slightly too late in the stroke. By starting to turn my head slightly earlier, and rolling more, I’m finding the breathing much easier which makes me more relaxed and less much more confident.

I have another lesson this evening, and then I’ll try and get to the pool two or three times during the week before my final lesson on Saturday. Hopefully after that I’ll have been given enough pointers to really get stuck into my training myself and progress over the next few months to a level where I can start my Ironman training in January confident that I’ll be capable of doing the swim!

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I came across this shocking statistic today – every year, disposable plastic water bottles are responsible for an incredible 1.5 MILLION TONS of waste plastic, using 47 million gallons of oil!

In 2011 the global sales of bottled water is predicted at 174.2 million liters, up 51% in five years.  We always keep a big bottle of water in the fridge which we simply refill from the tap, and I always take a sports bottle to a workout, rather than buy a bottle from a vending machine, but the bottled water industry has carefully marketed its product to make people think it’s a “purer” and “safer” alternative to tap water… but it’s just water!

There’s very little empirical evidence that suggests bottled water is any clearner or better for you than tap water

Here’s an info-graphic I found.  If you have a blog you can embed it yourself using the code at the bottom of this post to help spread the word, and do just a little bit to help reduce this massive burdon on our planet’s resources… [click to view full size]

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Swim coaching begins

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | 1 Comment »

It seems like an age ago that I booked my swim coaching, but the wait was finally over today when I had my first session.  I was only 30 minutes but even in that short time I have made real progress, and it’s given me a real confidence boost…

I have 3 more sessions booked over the next couple of weeks, and I’m pretty sure that if I can get in several practice sessions in between, then in a couple of weeks time I’ll have my basic front crawl stroke nailed, and be well on the way to developing my swimming to a level where I can train for the Ironman with confidence!

We started off briefly discussing my goals, and then my coach Jan, an ex competitive swimmer who trialed for the 1988 Olympics, and a triathlete herself, watched a few lengths of my normal stroke to see where I was starting from.  I was quite surprised when she said that my stroke wasn’t too bad, and that with a few small changes I could make big improvements.

The rest of the session was spent doing some basic drills, getting my breathing timing correct, and working on both my kick and arm stroke, and body/head position.  I was really impressed with how fast I seemed to progress – it makes SUCH a difference having an expert tell you exactly where to position your head, body and limbs and how to co-ordinate the stroke.

The biggest changes seemed to be my head position, the amount of roll on each stroke, and the timing of my breathing.  Just small changes to each of these has already made a big difference to my comfort, speed and confidence in the water, and I can’t wait to get to the pool in the morning and put what I’ve learned into practice!

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