Thursday, December 20, 2012

An Aunty, an Uncle and a food escape.

The second time I met my wife's parents was also the first time I met her auntie and uncle (who were on a rare trip to Blighty having escaped to South Africa many years earlier).

The wife and I were living on a £10 a week food budget at the time, a budget we shared with the other three people we shared a house with.

In a big show of 'welcome to the family' (me not her; they already knew my wife) the visiting relatives took us to a local hostelry and insisted on filling us till (what in retrospect) was probably far beyond the 'fill to here' line.

Spending an hour getting outside of more food than we'd seen in weeks and drinking with the foolish enthusiasm of youth inevitably led to an unscheduled food escape.  Being the classy lass she is my wife gently resolved her over-eating discreetly behind a dense hedge.  Being a dumb young punk I felt no such need to shield the public from my nihilistic personal horrors and dropped to my knees on the spot where my stomach's urge to spill overtook me, which unfortunately for some nearby children happened by the entrance to a bouncy castle.

I rolled onto my back looking like I'd be wrung dry of my essence - I was 10.5 stone and 6' 2" tall, in some ways this look was my default setting before I discovered my wife's astounding kitchen skills.

My mother in law did her best to hide my shame by ferrying handfuls of bark chippings from a nearby herbaceous border, looking the other way as she piled them onto my leavings, while parents of aforementioned small children comforted their audibly upset spawn.

Just as I was willing my body to devolve to a state where I could become one with the earth I saw my wife's aunt and uncle bimble over to give their assessment of the sorry situation.  The uncle looked me up and down as one might freshly dispatched road kill - with a look of gentle sympathy and an air of one who is not cheered by the grim inevitable outcome of natures struggle to survive in a world of motor cars, a world not of their making.

"Well Indroo..." (I apologise for the poor attempt at an Anglo-tinged South African accent),

"Well Indroo, it does a fella good to blow out once in a while.  Would you like a brandy?"

The aunt is a professional nurse of some standing and after giving me a quick visual assessment offered me her prescription for a swift recovery - a cigarette.

Their gently non-judgmental reaction to my culinary outburst warmed me to them, and I've had a soft spot for them ever since.  It now occurs to me that they might have decided not to make a scene in the hope that I was a temporary bump in the path until their lovely niece received a better offer.  18 years later I hope they've come to terms with the fact their niece has well and truly cast her lot in with mine.

All these years later I'm still glad I didn't actually manage to actually make it onto the bouncy castle...


The photo of me and the wife on this post was taken on that day, I don't recall if we're smiling at the prospect of cramming our pie holes or out of relief because we no longer felt like lard Zeppelins.



All these years later I'm still glad I didn't actually manage to actually make it onto the bouncy castle... 

The photo of me and the wife on this post was taken on that day, I don't recall if we're smiling at the prospect of cramming our pie holes or out of relief because we no longer felt like lard Zeppelins.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why you need to create Twitter lists.

Twitter isn't like most other social media in that it just sort of 'happens' whether you're looking at it or not. The stream of posts is constant, and the more people you follow the more posts there will be in your stream.

When you're new to Twitter the temptation is to follow everyone who looks interesting, and that's fine, it really is, but after a few days you'll notice that the dizzying number of tweets on your phone (because Twitter is best read on a smartphone) is a little bit much to take in. This is where Twitter lists come into play:

Why create a Twitter list?
Creating a list on Twitter allows you to place the folk you choose into one place, a group if you will, or if you really want to push the birdie analogy then a 'nest'. Big deal huh? Why would you want to do this?

Here's one of the ways I use Twitter lists.
My family and close friends Twitter list. I have placed my family members and a few close friends on a list, this means that when I view this list on my phone, ipad or whatever I only see the tweets made my the people on that list; tweets that would normally be lost in the onslaught of other Twitter twuffery*.   
Toms_Murder_Mystery_Birthday-November 20, 2010-_ASL6080-Edit
*twuffery might not be a real word

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

GIANT UK are looking for real riders!


So.. GIANT UK are looking for people to test their gear, each of these 'Real Riders' will receive a different bit of Giant kit each month in exchange for blogging a review and being featured on the Giant Facebook and Twitter streams.

I'm up for being one of the Real Riders - I cycle around 400 miles a month, mostly on the road (but I'm itching to get back off-road).  I currently ride a Road Bike, a Single Speed and own the remains of an MTB.  The majority of my miles are around the lovely Suffolk countryside with a friend or two, preferably in fine weather but invariably in foul weather.

I started chewing up the miles in earnest early in 2012, partly to loose weight and increase my fitness, but primarily because I like whizzing about on two wheels.

So why should GIANT UK choose me as a tester?  Well I've been writing and reviewing products (mostly music releases) for many years so I have some semi-literate experience and a proven track record of meeting writing deadlines.  I'm also quite verbose when I like something, which is a fancy pants way of saying if something gets me excited I'll tell the world about it.  Apart from anything else I really love writing about cycling on (my blog at lawsie.com gets around 4,500 page views a month) and the idea of reaching a wider audience is very appealing.

I'm 36 years old and have recently become a parent, so I am interested in exploring ways to include my daughter in my cycling adventures - the wee girl currently has a toddle bike and has 90% grasped the concept, and when she starts sitting on the saddle facing the correct way then there will be no stopping us!

Copenhagen_Denmark--_ASL8097_August 14, 2009
That's not me in this photo; I've never had a pony tail.
If you're interested in becoming a tester for GIANT UK wander over to their FaceBook page here - https://www.facebook.com/giantuk  or whip them a tweet at https://twitter.com/giantuk

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How to get stage times for the Shellac ATP onto your smartphone calendar / agenda

Some lovely person (possibly @capt_cornflake) has created a Google Calendar with all the Shellac curated ATP Nightmare Before Christmas stage times on it, here's how to get the times onto the calendar on your Android phone:
  1. Go to http://tinyurl.com/ShellacATP
  2. Click the cheerfully coloured +Google Calendar logo on the bottom right of your screen
  3. Say yes, fine, go for it buddy (or whatever confirmation is asked for)
  4. On your phone go to your calendar, go to settings then press 'calendars' and make sure there is a tick next to the 'ATP curated by Shellac' calendar.
  5. Wait a few moments while your phone syncs all the gorgeous data for this new calendar
  6. Sit in your chalet staring at your phone agonising over which bands to see
If you've got an iPhone the instructions are probably similar, but the process probably looks prettier.

This calendar has been put together very nicely indeed so it's well worth going through the steps above to get the info onto your phone.


P.S if you like bands like Mono or like the sound of 'post rock film noir' you might like my band These Are End Times

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fitting mudguards to a single speed bike

Single speed bikes are great for commuting to work, great for hill climbing and town riding.  Since building my single speed bike I have found I use it for all cycling barring long rides or rides when I know other cyclists will have gears.  My singlespeed cycle isn't slow either, at the time of writing I have 30 KOMs on Strava, the majority of which I have 'won' on my single speed bike.

My single speed bike was built using a frame I bought off ebay for fifty quid thinking it has carbon forks (which it doesn't) and a front crank and wheels that were being discarded by a friend who rides a fixie.  The bike was built by the very talented and always reasonable Kevin (Ipswich Bicycle Doctor).  The other bits and bobs that make up a bike came from the epic used parts stock that Kevin curates.

You'll notice my bike looks, well, a bit scrappy...  that's deliberate!  This bike is by no means valuable (in monetary terms anyway) but I still don't want it nicked, so a bit of gaffa tape here, a bit of electrical tape there and with any luck my steed will look less desirable to 'erberts wot nick stuff.  Possibly not I know, but I'm a lot more willing to leave this bike locked up in town than I am my nice geared road bike.


How to fit mudguards on a single speed bike.

These instructions will of course also work with fixies, geared road bikes (racers) and pretty much any other bike on earth!

The bike that my single speed once was wasn't really designed to take mudguards, but I got fed up of arriving at work looking like I'd slid down a dog dirt coated bannister rail so I set about asking the friendly folk over at CycleChat how I could go about fitting mudguards to a bike that wasn't designed to take them.  As is often the case at CycleChat a quick search of the forum revealed that someone else had asked the same question a while back and there was pages of useful information containing the answer I needed.

All answers pointed to buying a Crud Roadracer MK2 mudguard set.  Other mudguard sets for bikes with little or no clearance for mudguards are available, but the Crud Roadracer MK2 came recommended and are cheap!  In my case the cost was even lower because a friend had a spare set following a recent upgrade.  I've done pretty well out of these sort of opportunities, perhaps I'm a cycling Womble?

So sorry to disappoint but there are no list of instructions included with this blog post; just buy some Crud Roadracer mudguards and follow the fitting instructions!  Do be careful when fitting these mudguards though; when they're not made of the thickest plastic in the world so can snap if you're not careful, which is why in the photos below you might notice that there's a small plastic rivet holding the two pieces of my rear guard in place.


Before - wet bum in rain guaranteed

After - no more turning up at work feeling like I've had a bum wee
Just be careful you don't snap these mudguards when fitting them , or you'll have to  find a way of fixing them back together like I have with this plastic rivet

Monday, November 26, 2012

Suffolking windy bike ride



Today I went on an bike ride with @simonJKH and a trumpet playing fixie wrangling buddy friend called either Trumpet or Mark depending on what I remember to call him. Sadly some other attendees were unable to be in attendance due to lurgy or other totally reasonable excuses.

We met at the Giles the cartoonist statue in Ipswich town centre (or as Trumpet calls it 'that fat old woman') at the very lazy time of 8am, our rides tend to start much earlier due to attendees wishing to get home for lunch, shopping, posting on CycleChat or reluctant involvement in half-arsed DIY projects that end in matrimonial distemper.

To say the wind was 'up' would be like downplaying the Suffolk storms of '87 that turned most forests into heaths as a minor inconvenience to tree huggers; the Met Office declared that by 9am we had north easterlies of 29mph with north easterly gusts of up to 58mph.

I introduced Trumpet and Simon to each other and Simon expressed an interest in Trumpet's fixie.

We set off in a North Easterly direction out of town bipping along at a fair old rate until I encountered an unfortunate episode in which the air in my rear tyre decided to rejoin its kin outside the butyl confines of said tyre. I fitted a new inner tube and exiled the old one to inner tube Stalag - the forecourt garbage can of the BP garage on Spring Road in Ipswich. A few grunts into filling the new rubber Tarmac contact comrade with my never-used-before handpump the gauge on the pump (possibly encouraged by the sedition of my 'holey' inner tube) made a break for freedom, leaving behind a hole as useful as a hole in a dunkie.

I tskked and pschaared and made a noise like a leaky gas pipe and explained the reason for my imusucal noises to Trumpet and Simon - I have been considering buying a Co2 tyre inflater for months but hadn't quite gotten around to reaching hand in pocket and forking out the fiscal investment. Simon proved for the first and not last time today that he's a good chap to have about when he produced a Co2 canister with a subtle flourish and very kindly offered it to me with the minor caveat that he was yet to use it in anger on the front line of the battle between man and the puncture fairy. After an experimental prod of the device in which I nearly cryogenically preserved Trumpet's left arm I had a full tyre and another thing to add to my cyclists' shopping list. We set off again.

Through Kesgrave we had such a tailwind that we barely needed to pedal, well apart from Trumpet because he has a fixie. If you've ever visited Kesgrave you'll agree that the best possible way to experience it is with your head down focussing on the exit road. One of the highlights of any journey through Kesgrave is the long straight stretch at its exit that allows you to get a good lick of speed up on your way out.

Down through Old Martlesham the tailwind stayed kind, and through Woodbridge it became downright benevolent as I managed to take KOM on a Strava segment that the Tour of Britain ambled through earlier in the year, an event that sent many of my Strava rankings into freefall.

After Woodbridge we turned right and went on the small winding lanes through Lower Ufford. I had cycled this part of the route late at night a few days earlier when testing whether it was possible to use a cheap torch as a cycle light. So naturally until today I hadn't seen the condition of these lanes at all, and the 10cm deep of mud 'n' crud liberally pasted in the centre third of the road threw some considerable light on why I had arrived at my destination a few nights previous looking like I'd had an altercation with a referee at a mud wrestling club, and then not had the money to pay my bar tab and had to spend the night clearing out the mud pits. Simon appeared to appreciate the conditions, at least I assume that's what he meant by his comment about it being nice to experience a bit of cyclocross on today's jaunt.

Through Wickham Market (where I spent my formative years) we took a left turn and made for the ancient castle augmented town of Framlingham. We all knew that the tailwind treats would come to an end at some point and we expected this change of direction to be that turning of the wind tides. We were wrong; the tailwinds carried on for at least another 237 metres, which might sound like a short distance to you but on looking back once we had battled through annihilating headwinds by the time we reached Framlimgham 237 metres seemed like an epic 237 metes of near-nirvana.

Once at Framlingham Trumpet and I both touched the front door of the castle as some sort of half way point ritual that neither of us have ever done before, and will most likely never do again. Such is the transience of modern life.

Trumpet asked if were were going into the castle, I said no, and not only because the admission fee was more than the cost of a Co2 tyre inflator but also because I went to High School in Framlingham and thanks to the recessions on during my school years the annual school trip each year was a mirthless march to the castle. We did go to Pleasurewood hills theme park one year but there was no return visit; the rumour at the time was that we were no longer welcome because one of our number headbutted the mascot, a dead-eyed bearsuit number that smelt of stale urine and Rothmans that went by the name of Woody Bear. Anyway, I wander from the tale...

After a stock up of jelly babies we headed back to Wickham Market through Easton, and thanks to an even stronger headwind the experience was more like head butting than heading.

It might be worth mentioning at this point that while Simon and I cycle several times a week just to try and retain the ability to perambulate without popping off our mortal coils (actually that's just me) Trumpet has ridden his bike about three times since the Dunwich Dynamo, nearly six months ago. So when I now tell you that Trumpet was seriously suffering by this point in our adventure then you'll have some sympathy for his plight, although not too much as he is young, accidentally fit and skinny as a vegan on a hog roast holiday. I guess having no gears or freewheel didn't help the poor sod's cause either.

By the time we were forcing our way back to Ippo along the NEVER easy Clopton road the wind was pretty much blowing us to a standstill. I have never used the little front cog on my bike but if I hadn't used it today I would have had my first clipless moment. Even with the small cog I considered using my teeth to try and steady my handlebars. Both trumpet and I got blown onto the verge at least twice, although kudos to Trumpet for riding the metre high verge like he meant to; pure class.

By pure chance we saw a big van being driven by the lass who plays violin in the band that trumpet and I play in, we were so pleased and occupied by waving that Trumpet only realised afterwards that he could have begged her for a lift home.

We cut short the ride and decided to head home as quickly as possible, by which I mean Trumpet and I wussed out, Simon just goes and goes; no complaining, no fuss, just one man and his very pretty Triban 3. This is the second time I've ridden with Simon, the first time was remarkably genital-shrinkingly cold and not a murmur from the fella, just feet spinning, hill mounting, cadence killing cycling. He's also good at steering clear of the childlike arsing around that Trumpet and I get up to. Coming into Tuddenham Trumpet got cramp and I tried to get all Peleton about it and put my hand on his back to give him a shove, resulting in both of us wobbling like a jelly on wheels being shoved through a freak show.

There is a huge hill as you leave Tuddenham, Simon and I waited at the top for Trumpet. As we watched him reaching the top (running with his bike!?!!!?) Simon turned to me and informed me that he has changed his mind about wanting a fixie.

We made it home and parted ways in that way that always feels lacking in closure after a brutal ride, and I'm sticking with rule 9 - 'If you ride in bad weather you are badass'.

I asked my wife if we could call by the BP garage when we went shopping later in the day, I told her that I wanted to retrieve my discarded inner tube - I had been hasty, I had regrets, me and the tube had had time apart to figure out how we felt, and I wanted the tube back, I wanted to patch things up, start again... My wife pointed out that we were heading entirely the wrong direction.

I have now spent £30 on two new inner tubes, two co2 presta adapters and six co2 tubes.

Click here to view the route we took...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Diagram showing every ride I've done this year (so far!)

I'll admit right away that this blog post is most likely only really of interest to me, but hey, if bloggers pandered to their audience the world would be a pretty dull place!

So far this year I have cycled 2,536 miles* and being a total stat-geek and a self-confessed cartographile I was giddy with glee when I found a way to display all my bike rides on one map.  I've left a few bike rides I did while away from home off these maps as they caused the map to zoom out a bit far.

I live in Ipswich, so naturally my rides are all very Ippo-centric.  I grew up in Wickham Market, maybe that's why I tend to gravitate towards Wickham Market on my rides?
I have included this map because it shows my coverage of local rides in a bit more detail.
This is my favourite map; I'm all over the roads of Ipswich like a rash!  Maybe next year my target should be to ride every road in Ipswich?



*Tracked by a combination of my Holux GPS and Endomondo / Strava on a smartphone.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Easiest way to backup your documents

Work faster autofocus!
Picture is unrelated
If I wrote the word backup in mirror-image all over your face so that you saw the word 'backup' every time you passed a reflective surface I still wouldn't consider that a strong enough way of making you appreciate the importance of backing up your documents.

The importance of backups was first made clear to me waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back when I started working in IT - I nuked a hard drive in a computer I was repairing, which turned out to be the wrong hard drive to nuke.  It transpired that the customer hadn't backed up any of his documents and thanks to me he had lost fifteen years worth of work.  My boss at the time explained this to me via the medium of his hands around my throat, and he was squeezing just a little bit too hard...  At the time I was devastated, but since that day I have had fifteen years to build up cynical defences to accusations relating to customers' complaints about things that have their root cause in their own 'keyboard to seat interface error'.  In short the customer should have backed up, and then backed up again, and then done another couple of back ups to be on the safe side.

Back when I was in the position to idly destroy fifteen years of someone's professional life getting ones backups off-site was an expensive business, but now it is not.  When I started writing professionally (which admittedly might inspire a 'HA!' from any reader of this blog who is familiar with my shoddy prose) I gave some careful thought to how I could backup up my masterpieces with maximum resilience given minimal effort, and here's the plan I came up with:

Backing up using Email, Google Docs, friends and Dropbox

  1. Each time you finish a chapter, quit for the day, go to have a poo or get distracted by the cat save your work (if you're using Google Docs / Google Drive then you can ignore this point, your work is saved with almost every keystroke).  As a side note I am NOT a fan of auto-save.
  2. Write an email to yourself and copy in a willing friend, attach a copy of your work to said email (if you're using Google Docs you'll have to download a copy first).  Write the title of your masterpiece in the subject line followed by the date and time.  So a novel called 'Writing comedy is like strangling your own humour' would have the subject line 'Writing comedy is like strangling your own humour - 06/11/12 - 9.10pm'.  To be honest adding the date and time doesn't make a huge difference because all emails are timestamped as a matter of course, but I find it useful.  This takes seconds but saves meaty tears should something go wrong.
  3. At the end of the day upload your document to Google Docs, if you're really clever then you could use the marvellous 'revisions' facility in Google Docs.  If you created your masterpiece in Google Docs then you can skip this step and sit back with a smug smile, safe in the knowledge that you are a clever peanut.
  4. Get a Dropbox account and also upload your file / document to Dropbox.  Click this link to get a Dropbox account for free...
  5. Once every few days save all your work to a usb memory stick, just remember to never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever use a memory stick to store your only version of anything at all ever ever ever (you get the idea).
If you're a lazy sod then just email yourself a copy of your work each day; this really is the only important step here because it gives you the ability to go back to versions of your files created on specific dates and times.

Just before I go I have one more thing to add - BACK UP NOW!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How I found out that DIY tattoos are a bad idea.


I have long admired the art involved in getting a full sleeve tattoo but have no tattoos myself. I wanted to know if I could get used to an inked arm so I got a marker pen and drew myself a hearty Viking and a few other doodles and enjoyed the novelty, to be honest the novelty enjoyment might have been a little bit wine-fuelled because by the end of the evening every guest at our dinner party had added their uniqueness to the collective art piece that was my arm.

It was all a proper chuckle until the next morning when I awoke to find a perfect imprint of my Viking (and his variously obscenely drawn associates) nicely printed across my naked sleeping beauty (a.k.a the wife).  I was in a quandary; should I gently wake her and in a softly spoken voice explain that she now had a Viking helmet on her left nipple, or should I leave home and start a new life in the style of the Littlest Hobo.

I crept downstairs to knock up breakfast in bed (music may soothe the savage beast, but a bacon buttie made more sense that tootling a lute to break the news), and as it turned out I didn't have to worry too much about my wife's reaction upon waking up covered in my ink, because she was much more animated by the fact that my experimental arm art had vacated my flesh and taken up residence on our only set of bed sheets.

The moral of the story?  Vikings make damn cool tattoos.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This list will make you a better photographer

A friend recently got in touch to ask for advice on how to crack into the world of being a professional photographer, which is a world I left about a year ago.  I told my wife and her first reaction was 'tell him not to bother' but I decided that maybe there are a few helpful hints I could offer.  So this list of 'rules' is inspired by the few years I spent being paid to take photographs (as a part of a far broader business I was running).



Golden rules of professional photography

  • Getting good at photography is like learning any skill, just study what the folk at the top are doing and ignore any advice you don't like!
  • Less is more, seriously, get the photo correct, don't push your luck.
  • The clients probably a twat, but they are a twat prepared to give you money.
  • Make three backups of everything.
  • Never delete anything.
  • Composition is everything, learn the rule of thirds and stick with it.
  • Photography magazines are expensive, but the titles that are genuinely aimed at professionals are often a goldmine.
  • If anyone tells you that you can't take photos in public places they are wrong.
  • Cameras are tools, not jewellery.
  • Care for your gear but expect it to get damaged, broken, stolen and / wet.  If your camera dies getting you the shot then it was worth it.
  • Backup again.
  • NEVER apologise, ever.  I mean, don't be a wanker about it, but you have no reason to apologise about or for anything.  Unless you puke on the bride, in which case your time needs to be spent running, not apologising.
  • Shoot in RAW, no other format matters AT ALL.
  • Never show anyone bad photos, if you only have three photos from a shoot that you're utterly proud of then you only have three photos to show the world, this is not a problem.  The world is full of photographers who post 500 shit photos from every shoot they embark upon, saving the world from sifting through you mediocre crap makes your better photographer (at least in the eyes of the world.
  • Never show anyone bad photos, seriously, if you ignore everything else on this lift remember only that when people you don't know see your work for the first time you won't be there to make excuses, if they see cack photos then you are a cack photographer, at least in their eyes.
  • Breath at all times apart from when you hit the shutter button.
  • Photoshop is useful, Lightroom is essential.
  • If forced to make a choice always under-expose rather than over-expose; if you're shooting in RAW then you can fix darkness, you can't fix blown highlights.
  • Google 'blown highlights'.
  • The manual setting on your camera is your best friend... In ideal situations, otherwise rock the aperture-priority function till it bleeds.
  • Get into the habit of 'resetting' your camera before every shoot.  You cards should be empty, your batteries new, your ISO as low as it can go, your exposure compensation at zero, your metering on centre-weighted, your flash on single, your bracketing off etc etc.  Pro cameras tend to come with almost no fancy functions and a two button reset, there's a very good reason for this, a reason you'll find out the first time you complete a shoot only to find out that you've shot everything on ISO 6400.


Please use the comments box to add more rules of your own!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I think I hate my bicycle pannier

Gah, even the photo of the pannier is awful!
I've been cycling to work for quite a while now and over time the amount of crap I carry has changed quite a bit, not least because I now eat food each day than I ever have before.  A large part of the enjoyment of cycling to work is the chance to 'give it some beans' if I fancy getting a bit of extra exercise, and thanks to the increasing number of Strava segments en-route both the opportunity and motivation to push a little harder first thing in the morning is growing.

The downside of expending this early morning energy while wearing a rucksack is that a unreasonable amount of water defects from my body to seek asylum in the borderlands of my rucksack.  Put simply I arrive at work looking like I've been smuggling an incontinent medium-sized mammal on my back.

So I fitted a pannier rack that I found in the back of the shed to my single speed bike and fetched a second hand pannier bag from ebay.  The first day I cycled to work the experience of arriving dry was certainly novel, but on every day since I've had a growing feeling that I might hate the bicycle pannier system.  Here are a few reasons why I'll most likely be going back to using my rucksack (albeit with a fresh tee-shirt in it every day).

Reasonable ratiocination for pannier rancor:

  1. Annoyingly it takes me about five minutes to either put on or take off the pannier bag, whereas with a rucksack I step off the bike and the bag is still with me
  2. Because the pannier sits above the back wheel removing or fitting it makes my hands filthy
  3. Cold weather makes condensation form in the lid of my coffee flask, so when I get to work I have to wipe clean everything in the bag
  4. Despite the fact all the fixing bolts are tight the pannier rack still rattles like false teeth on a faulty fairground ride; I spend inordinate amounts of time troubleshooting rattles and creaks on my bikes, so having a metal rack that is seemingly impossible to silence crazes me
  5. Every sodding stone, tarmac pimple and crappy crevice in the road makes everything in the bag jump up and down
  6. Fitting a pannier rack and bag has ruined the 'lines' of my nice, simple, svelte single-speed bike
  7. Getting everything I need for the day in the pannier back is a pain, packing my bag each morning is a game of tupperware box tetris, and even although the bag is big I tend to leave something behind because of lack of space
  8. Having a rack fitted makes my bike harder to hang up in the narrow alleyway beside my house where I store my bikes
  9. I like cycling fast, but having a fully loaded pannier bag makes me cautious, so instead of sprinting to work like Cavendish I'm meandering like Ms Marple.
  10. Jelly on a drumstick would feel better to handle than a heavy pannier on a skinny bike
  11. Keeping the contents of my pannier dry will be more of a challenge than it was in my waterproof rucksack; I know I can get a bag to cover it, but each of the waterproof covers I've seen folk cycling with makes the rider look like their towing a prolapse
  12. Let's think about lag - surely a square(ish) bag on the bag of your bike creates more lag than a rucksack shielded by my generously proportioned body?  I'm not terribly fast on my bike, but every little bit of reduction in wind resistance helps!
  13. My thighs rub on the pannier bag, and they're hardly hefty as Hoy's!
  14. Now that I think about it, I think my back is colder without a rucksack on it...
  15. Originally I think I might have through panniers were a good idea because the models in the photos in the catalogues looked so happy to be carrying their bicycle bound burdens
  16. P-clips are ugly, and I had to use p-clips to fit the pannier rack to my bike
  17. Quickly popping into a shop becomes quickly locking up my bike and then slowly detaching the pannier back from the rack
  18. Racing for Strava segments when travelling too or from work didn't seem a problem with my rucksack, but now I have a rattling, clanking bag on the back of my bike sprinting up hills seems a bit pointless; I know I carry the same weight if I use a rucksack but it doesn't feel like it holds be back when it's on my, er, back.
  19. Shaking about old tupperware in my pannier bag has been a bad idea - the seals aren't great so this morning the habanero sauce from my boiled eggs leaked into my coffee mug. Didn't taste too bad actually...
  20. Three times now I've nearly dropped my bike when dismounting because of the extra weight sitting on the back of my bike
  21. Ugly, ugly, ugly.  Not all of them admittedly, just the ones in my sub-tenner price range
  22. Violent lurching when cornering
  23. When the rain is really hammering down my precious cargo (by which I mean my lunch) will be nearer the ground, which means it's nearer puddles, and therefore in direct line of fire for the bow wave when motorists overtake me while going through puddles
  24. X is always a tricky letter to deal with in alphabetical lists
  25. You still reading this list?
  26. Z was my favourite character in Police Academy, which has nothing to do with panniers but does neatly conclude this silly list.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Bands and promoters - make a bleedin’ effort!

This article originally appeared in 'Issue Punk Zine' number 62.

Whenever I sit down to write a column I’m wary of coming across as some old bugger having a bit of a moan, which can be a bit of a challenge as it’s reasonably hard to disguise the fact that sometimes I am an old bugger having a bit of a moan.  Before I get fully into my flow I also need to make it clear that there has NEVER been a golden age for live music in any town; the best time for live music is always tomorrow, next week, next month, it has to be because otherwise why bother?  There is no such thing as the best band in the world or the best show you’ve ever been to, because that will happen just around the corner.  Your band hasn’t yet played their best show...

Last night I went to a gig in the back of the local Labour club, and past the rows of cheerful codgers playing whist and cribbage was a little door that led into a stubby little hall that used to be part of an old World War 1 barracks that were moved from a nearby town to the back of this labour club between the wars.  This might seem like a little bit too much detail to impart, but it’s relevant to the point I’m going to get around to making.  Nobody I know had ever hired this venue (it was free!) before, and as far as the management of the Labour club knew nobody had ever approached them about hiring (for free!) their hall.  The management were keen to see last night’s gig happen, and partially due to the fact that most beers were under £2 a pint the gig promoters had a fair idea that their punters would be keen on attending.

The promoters had covered the inside of the hall with thousands of fairy lights and drawn all the curtains, giving the hall a very dreamy appearance.  The two acts who performed (Nathaniel Robin Mann and The Sons of Joy) both put on a very inventive show, the former using some instruments I’d never seen before in my whole life, and the later playing (and yelling) 1920’s American folk-gospel songs.  Everyone came away from the show totally mesmerised, and I’d say the effort put in by the promoters played a very large part in that.
Sons of Joy
Sons of Joy playing the bowels of a lightship, point in case...

So if you’re putting on shows and deign to make the effort to create something a bit more special than blokes in jeans strumming guitars I’m sure the cosmos will smile kindly on you for making the effort.  In one of my bands (ZEEB?) we always made a huge effort to decorate any venue we were playing, to have small parts of costume given to every person through the door to wear and we even had ‘gifts’ to give to members of the audience who caught our eye.  People remembered us, and people chose to come and see us because in these cash-poor times they knew they’d get a proper show.  Now I’m by no means claiming that ZEEB? are the example to follow (especially not our ‘stuffed lycra’ phase) but don’t take your audience for granted, give them something special.  Gimmicks are only gimmicky if you’re doing them wrong.

Monday, October 01, 2012

I'm not the sheet slitter I'm the sheet slitter's son, but I'll slit your sheets till the sheet slitter comes.

Following on from my strange and rambling blog post about the bewildering emergence of the slitter machine in the bewildering world of Interwebs meme tongue-twisters a new slitter based tongue-twister has emerged.

"I'm not the sheet slitter I'm the sheet slitter's son, but I'll slit your sheets till the sheet slitter comes."

I can't be jiggered to rant and rave about how silly this tongue-twister is, because pedantry isn't sexy, and I need to avoid any activity that lowers my appeal as I'm working with a limited tool set as it is.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

GPS Comparison - Samsung Galaxy S Android Smartphone Vs Holux GPSport 245

Android smartphones and iPhones are increasingly being used by cyclists and and runners to track their rides and workouts, so you might be wondering why owners of GPS enabled cellphones go to the trouble of using a secondary dedicated GPS device.  One advantage (and I can only give the cyclists' perspective here) is that a dedicated GPS device can be handlebar mounted, making it easy to watch your speed and progress, of course you can mount your phone on your handlebars but do you really want to?  Honestly?  Really?  But there's an even bigger advantage to investing in a dedicated GPS tracker device.

So I had this big long detailed blog post planned out, but when I ran the comparison test and saw the map data (below) I figure that the results speak for themselves.  The two devices used were a Samsung Galaxy S Android smartphone (so very expensive when new) and a Holux GPSport 245 (which was the cheapest GPS device on the market when new).  As a caveat I should add that GPS tracking on smartphones has improved a bit, but I think we've got some way to go until they're as accurate as devices designed for solely tracking our movements.

Why does GPS accuracy matter?
Accurate tracking is crucial to generating useful and reliable training data... is what I'd say if I was actually fit or in training, but in reality I want my bike rides to be accurately tracked so that I can compare my cycling abilities to my friends on Strava.com and Strava companion Veloviewer.com  My phone GPS is sometimes so ropey that I don't even show up as being on the same roads as other Strava users - more often than not I show up as not being on any roads at all!

GPS comparison
The tracking maps below were generated on a single bike ride; so the same bike, the same rider, the same distance, the same route, the same day, hour, minute (you get the idea).  The red line denotes the path I took according to the device tracking it.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Phone call from Windows Online Support


[phone call from distant sounding Indian gentleman]

Is this a business number?
- why?

Because your windows have serious troubles.
- I've shut the window now, so I can hear you.

I am calling from Windows online support, we need to help you fix the serious troubles with widows
- like Scottish Widows?

I am calling to fix very serious problems with your Microsoft windows
- which version?

All versions
- really? From 3.1 through NT to Win7 and even server 2008?

Yes, why are you smiling? This is a serious problem.
- you can't see me can you?

This is a very serious problem, your computers are downloading very bad viruses.
- what do you want me to do?

We need to fix your computers
- what's wrong with them? TCP-IP issues? Are there packet buffer overflow issues?

... mumbling...
- I can continue to speak to you but I will have to report what we do to my friends at the Metropoliton Police central e-crime unit

Can I speak to your boss please?
- I am the IT manager, you can speak to me.

You are IT manager? Then you know you have problems.
- how do you know what computers we have if you didn't know if this was a business number?

We only get given numbers
- I can't be bothered with this any more

[call terminated]

Thursday, August 30, 2012

PunkNews.co.uk


PunkNews.co.uk was originally started way back in 2001 by someone called Tom, then it was taken over by Ellis, and then Colin, then it changed its name to PunkNews.org.uk for a bit, and then back to PunkNews.co.uk, but nobody really gives a fup about that do they?  We’ve probably got our own history wrong anyway…

PunkNews.co.uk became the place for misfits, braggarts, liars and fools to hang out and irritate the dripping shite out of each other.  Relationships were formed and destroyed on the forums and frequent raiding parties made their way over to rival site’s forums to spread filth and cast pointless aspersions.  We were all dickheads, but we knew we were dickheads and in fact we quite enjoyed being dickheads.   We were happy.

Then something called ‘social networking’ came along and blew our little world all to shit.  At the time we continued sticking two fingers up to ‘the man’, and sticking our fingers in our ears and going ‘la la la, can’t hear you’ but little by little our cute community dwindled until it became a small collection of freaks, and eventually PunkNews.co.uk was like a deserted borstal classroom.

So in 2009 we took a last shit in the toilet (leaving it un-flushed of course), tipped the full ashtray down the back of the tatty settee in the corner (where a certain user once clearly marked his territory) and left the
front door unlocked for the last time.

We still have the data from the old site and forum and we'd like to bring the old posts back into the cold indifference of a world that has significantly changed since we started, but we probably never will...

There is a PunkNews.co.uk group on FaceBook, which of course nobody cares about, but if you're feeling nostalgic for a good time that never existed then see here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/2364426978/


P.S The Punk News UK Twitter account lives on, a bit like a Zombie, but with good taste...

It’s not the story that’s the thing; it’s the telling.

I’d love to be able to take credit for that quote, but as you probably already know it was said long ago by someone who isn’t me.  I like it though, and the theory runs as a persistent thread throughout all my writing.  After years of writing for zines and musical folk I’ve taken a bit of a swerve, and am currently developing my skills as a novelist, and if that’s the sort of thing that interests you then you taste a few samples littered about this blog.

As well as being a writer I have also worked as a photographer and herder of words for marketing purposes.  Oh, and I’m also a musician – I play bass in These Are End Times and ZEEB?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In August 2012 I cycled 500 miles - I'm as surprised as everyone else!

I've always loved cycling and (in my mind at least) my childhood was spent almost entirely in the saddle roaming the countryside of Suffolk in search of Famous Five style adventure (that we never found), but other than a few minor injuries cycling never had much of an impact on my body, until now...

When I first met my wife I was a ten stone waif, but a fondness for ale and a decade and a half working in the IT / Interwebs field added an additional six stone to my frame.  My wife assured me that being twice the man I was when she met me wasn't an issue for her, and I'd like to think that I'm not the sort of fellow who is obsessed with my body image, but over the years the weight related jibes from friends started to annoy me.  Some folk weren't quite so subtle; my doctor said something along the lines of 'you've gotten huge' and my mum (upon hearing that I weighed nearly 16 stone) said in a quite matter of fact way that I was much too heavy.

My year so far.
Until August 2011 I worked for myself, and worked at home, which somewhat narrowed the opportunities to cycle my morning commute.  Over the years I enjoyed the occasional tootle around on my shit-heap mountain bike, and I even managed a few long bike rides, but in May 2011 I bought my first 'road bike' (an old Claud Butler Dalesman) and everything changed.  To be fair by May 2011 my wife was very heavily pregnant with our first child, so my life had already changed a great deal, but finding out that I could actually cycle up hills on this road bike was also a revelation.  The other big change that happened was that I got an actual proper grown up job, and a job meant a commute - huzzah!

I didn't commute at first, in fact borrowing my mate's van seemed like a reasonable cop out for travelling the three miles from my house to work, but in March 2012 I decided I'd had enough of paying silly money for diesel and got back on my bike.... and here I am six months later three stone lighter and much fitter and happier.  The commute is now often much more than three miles and the weekend rides are getting faster and longer.

To be honest there's not that much of a story to tell, I have always eaten well so I guess lack of exercise was the missing part of my lardy puzzle.  I've had a LOT of advice from the good folk of http://www.cyclechat.net/ and fallen off a few times, but on the whole commuting to work and getting out on Sunday mornings has been a total joy.  I guess if you view weightloss as painful and daunting then the chances are you'll find it painful and daunting, I appreciate that I already loved cycling so I've been very fortunate to be able to shift the flubber doing something I love.

500 miles in a month!
Targets are useful, if nothing else they stop exercise being mundane, so at the start of this month I decided to set myself an unreasonably high mileage target - 500 miles!  I'm quite shocked that I've managed to achieve this seemingly insane goal!  The charts below show some of the geeky stat data from the last month - I track all my rides using Strava and Endomondo on my phone and using my Holux bike GPS.



P.S This is my Endomondo profile - http://www.endomondo.com/profile/4626205

P.P.S This is my Strava profile - http://app.strava.com/athletes/596232

P.P.P.S  August 2012 isn't over yet...


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to set how many days worth of emails are synchronized between your Gmail and your android device / phone

Android phones sometimes get clogged up with a lot of mail, especially if users are new to Gmail and have just transferred all their mail from another email program, here's how to minimise this issue.  For the purposes of this tutorial the blocky red bits are my attempt to hide my personal email address from you.

NOTE - all version of Android are slightly different, so your screens might look a little different and your options might be in a slightly different place.

Go into the Gmail app, press your menu button, then 'more' then  'settings' then click on the account you want to change.

Scroll down until you see the 'Sync inboxes and labels' button

Using this screen you can click to set the amount of mail you want to sync for each part of your Gmail account.   I recommend just changing the top option to keep things simple

Here's what the box for setting the number of days to sync looks like.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Alefeed (R.I.P)

Alefeed.com was a real ale, homebrew and craft brewery news website that I ran for most of 2012, but for various reasons too dull to impart I shut it down on Wednesday 22nd August 2012.

If you came here looking for homebrew information please visit the very excellent Brewers Barn website at http://www.brewersbarn.co.uk/



161211 - Bike News for Bike Punx - (R.I.P)

161211.com was a cycling news website that I set up for kicks at the start of 2012.  The name (and domain name) was used simply because I had it left over from a promotional project for my old band, and I thought the numbers looked cool.

After nearly a year of running the site I decided that it wasn't really adding much to the Interwebs, and became fed up with constantly trying to fight off bastard hackers who were constantly trying to break, enter and shit on the metaphorical bed.

So 9,102 news posts later it's bye bye to 161211.com - you were fun for a while, sort of.


P.S. If you've found this page after following a link to 161211.com and you're in need of cycling info I can heartily recommend you check out www.cyclechat.net (which is where I hang out these days).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

FOR SALE - Claud Butler Dalesman road / touring bike.


I love this bike, in fact it was the first bike I truly loved, but needs must and  I have to sell it.  My wife thinks I have too many bikes, and as I've just built a single speed beast the 'one in, one out' rule is coming into affect.

I think this bike was built mid-70s, and I know the Claud Butler 'Dalesman' model is still made and costs over £1000 new.

The distance between the centre of the crank to the top of the seat tube is 60cm, but I think the frame size is more likely described as 23".  I'm 6 foot(ish) tall and there is plenty of adjustment to be had for shorter or taller riders.

This was the bike that got me into road cycling after years of panting and sweating around on a heavy old mountain bike, incidentally this bike only weight 11.5kgs, which is is very light!  I regularly hammer past people far younger than I am who are riding very expensive carbon bikes!

If you're wondering what a touring bike is, then think of a classic racer, add slightly wider tyres and fixings for panniers and mudguards and you've got a touring bike.  The geometry is also designed for comfort - I've done 100 mile rides on this bike and still been able to make my way comfortably around a pub at the end of it.



The tyres are very high quality Schwalbe Marathons, one is very new and the other has years left on it.

There are a few scrapes, but nothing more than any other bike that is over thirty years old.  When it comes down to it this is a well maintained, surprisingly fast comfortable high quality bicycle.  I will warn you though, if this is going to be your first foray into road cycling you WILL get hooked!

This bike has been lovingly maintained and the chain / gears have been cleaned and lubricated every week for a very long time indeed.

I have recently added a very nice Charge Spoon saddle to this bike, but if you're after something comfier I still have the old padded seat!

There are a LOT more photos of this bike over on THIS BLOG POST  (I took these photos after a long bike ride, so you're see the bike uncleaned).

The price is £175, please contact me through http://www.andrewlaws.com/contact-me

P.S if you're into vintage fixies then this bike is ripe for conversion!

P.P.S this bike is SOLD


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Slitter? What? Don't sell with product photos!


The company for which I am Sales and Marketing Manager builds slitter machines.  This is a statement I make fully aware of the fact that almost all people reading this blog post won’t know what a slitter rewinder is, which is a fact that goes someway to illustrating the point I am about to make...

Good stock images are at their most useful when used to market a product that people don’t understand.  Here at Universal Converting Equipment we make large and complex machinery that some customers might not know they need until they fully understand the role the machines perform.  Therefore (for me particularly) the challenge is to start a dialog with a customer that will hopefully end in them buying one of our machines.  To gain this initial interest showing the potential customer a photo of one of the machines might not be the most beneficial way forward, instead I have to find a way of assuring the customer that we are the correct people to help them through the complex issue they wish to solve... and that’s where choosing good stock images comes into play.

By choosing a striking image that expresses a concept we can raise our brand above competitors who still focus their marketing on product photography alone.

It goes deeper than this; because if you’re selling a product that people are already familiar with - let’s use spoons as an example - then showing them an image of a spoon might not convince them that your spoon is the best for their needs; instead show an image that explains why your product will revolutionise their daily spooning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Claud Butler Dalesman - weight

My Claud Butler Dalesman weighs 11.5kg / 25lb - I'm making a record of current weight as services like Strava ask for it to help work out how much effort is put into bike rides, and extensive Googling didn't manage to answer my question 'how much does a Claud Butler Dalesman weigh'.

Bear in mind that my Claud Butler Dalesman touring bicycle is quite old, and I have no idea how many of the parts are original, so if you have a newer Dalesman (or if your bike looks significantly different to the photo of mine shown on this post) it probably has a different weight.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Claud Butler Dalesman

My Claud Butler Dalesman is the first bike I ever truly loved.
I've been a saddle-fan since I was very young, and I've enjoyed every bike I've ever owned (or restored) but this Claud Butler Dalesman is the first bike that truly won my heart.  I bought this Dalesman from The Bike Doctor in Ipswich for what I considered to be a very reasonable price, considering that The Bike Doctor appeared to have restored the bike and checked / fixed it mechanically.

Before becoming the new custodian of this lovely old Claud Butler I had never ridden a 'proper' road bike, preferring (like all kids who grew up in the late 80s / early 90s) rough and tumble mountain bikes.  After a few years break from regular cycling I got back into cycling in a big way and committed to a 100 mile charity  ride.  When 'training' for this ride it became clear that if I attempted to cycle 100 miles on my current mountain bike my knees, hips and thighs would likely explode.  The test ride was a total revelation, apart from anything else I was now able to cycle up hills!

I now cycle to work every day, and am fairly sure this Dalesman will be a gateway drug leading to a road bike / racer, or at least it will when I get some cash together.  My brother in law recently had his Claud Butler Explorer stolen so I thought I ought to make a note somewhere of the serial number of my own bike, and make a photographic record, just in case, so this blog seemed like as good a place as any to do just that.