Monthly Archives: December 2004

And finally….

I’ve set myself some personal targets to achieve in 2005. Some of them are specific, others are more general. These aren’t really New Year’s Resolutions, because we all know that those things rarely survive past lunchtime on January 1. But they are things I want to do, achieve or, err, be in the future.

Some I’m confident of managing. Others are perhaps less likely.

And no, I’m not publishing them here. But I might mention it when I cross any off the list…

That’s all.

See you in 2005 :grin:

Farewell, VCR

I’ve been looking at DVD recorders for a while now. Until quite recently, they’ve been horribly expensive, and had issues with disc compatibility. There was also the little matter that the blank discs were quite expensive. What I wanted was something that would be a drop-in replacement for my old video recorder, which occasionally eats tapes. Until recently, this wasn’t possible. But now, things have changed. DVD recorders are getting much cheaper (well under £200 in some cases), the disks are getting a lot cheaper, and the quality of the machines seems to be a lot higher.

For me, the best machines are those which include a hard disk as well as a DVD drive. This is great – if you’re just recording things to watch later, you don’t have to worry about having a disk with enough free space, you can just record to the hard disk. You can play your recordings from there, or copy them to a blank DVD if you want to keep them. Nice.

There’s only one place I buy this kind of thing – Richer Sounds. Good service, helpful advice, and they’ll beat anybody’s price. They sell online, but actively encourage customers to visit their chain of busy stores. And if you see the price on their website is lower than the price in the shop, mention the website and you’ll pay the lower price,

So, yesterday, I wandered in, and was soon talking to a salesman. Oddly enough, this was the same one who sold me my DVD player, amplifier and surround speakers nearly two years ago. I was impressed at the time, as he took the time and trouble to steer me away from what I thought I wanted[1] and sold me something a lot better for the same money[2]. Once again, he was very helpful. I had though of buying a Panasonic recorder, but he pointed out that it had one defect – the discs it records can’t be played in most standard DVD players. Oooooh. Good one. So, I reverted to plan B, the Pioneer DVR-420H. This has a suitably large 80GB hard disk, which holds something like 35 hours in good quality recording (that’s better than you’d get from VHS tape). It’s much more suitable as a VCR replacement than some machines, as it uses the industry standard Video Plus system for programming recordings.

Setting it up was simple enough – I had to manually tune some of the channels, but once I’d done that, everything was fine. A test recording worked perfectly, and playback quality was excellent. Unlike my now retired VCR, freeze frame really works, just like on a DVD.

It gets better, of course. The editing feature is really nice. Let’s say you record a programme, and you want to lose the few minutes you recorded before and after the actual running time. This is very easy to do, and can be done to the exact frame. You have the option to give each recording a title, making it much easier to identify in the on-screen index. Another nice touch is the ability to choose the frame that’s used as the thumbnail for the recording in the index – so it can show the title or a suitably unique image to help you identify the recording you want.

Copying to DVD is also quite simple. There is a high-speed option, but this only seems to work for high-quality recordings, which limits you to two hours on a disk. I need to study the huge manual to get to grips with that, I suspect…

So far, I’m impressed. I’m going to have to have a look at all my cabling so I can use the digital sound output into my surround amplifer, and probably rearrange the connectors to the TV, but for now, I have a working recorder that is much, much better than the old VCR.

Nice toy.

[1] A pretty, but not really all that good, all-in-one “lifestyle” system
[2] Cambridge Audio DVD player, which also functions as my CD player, Sony amplifier, Yamaha speakers. Had it nearly two years and still love it.

If I can be serious for a moment

This site is generally just for fun. It’s not my usual thing to express my political, social, philosophical or whatever views here.

However, to not mention the appalling disaster of the Asian Tsunami would be wrong, somehow.

I’m not going to dwell on the details – refer to any good news site such as BBC News for the latest developments. But if you haven’t already done so, or for that matter if you have already done so but can afford to give more, please give what you can to help the huge number of people affected by this catastrophe.

In the UK, you can donate to DEC – Disasters Emergency Committee, or direct to organisations like the British Red Cross and many others. Donations can be made online, by phone, or over the counter in many banks.

In other countries, please check with your local news media for ways to help.

Give what you can.

That concludes the serious bit of the site.

Looking back…and forward

I’d intended to post something like this back in November, to mark one year of trying to be less of a flab monster, but what with one thing and another, I didn’t quite get round to it.[1]

Well, it’s the end of the year, and that’s as good a time as any for a look back and indeed forward.

At the beginning of November 2003, I weighed rather more than was healthy[2]. My waist measurement was 40 inches[3], which is more appropriate for a chest size. I hadn’t had any exercise to speak of in years, I would get out of breath and drip with sweat at the slightest exertion. In short, I was a physical wreck. Now, I’d been aware of that to some extent, but couldn’t make myself do anything about it. I’d tried going to the gym a couple of times, but felt far too self-concious to keep it up. [4]

Then somehow, something changed. I tend to think that there are some things you can only do when the time is right, and November 2003 was apparently the right time for me. I decided to start doing something I hadn’t done for years: walking to work. I’d done this for a few short periods in the past, mostly during good summers or the occasional bus strike, but I’d never really made a habit out of it. So, I gave it a try. At first, I’d get out of breath walking uphill to the end of my street, but this soon improved. I also cut back on the amount of food I eat at lunchtime.

After a while, I dug out the old exercise bike, then over the Christmas period last year, I found my old Bullworker, and started to use that. Then came the rowing machine, the aboninable abdominal exerciser and the new exercise bike and even the dumbells.

There have been a few periods where I’ve stopped most of the serious exercise for weeks or even months, but I’ve managed to keep walking to and from work almost every day. My weight has fallen from its hideous height, and my waist size has reduced to a more sensible 34 inches.

And I’ve got muscles. I’ve got actual, noticeable muscles in places where I never had them before. And I still feel I have some way to go. There’s still some flab to remove, and maybe some of those muscle thingies could get a bit bigger….

Apart from the obvious physical benefits of all this, I seem to have gained in other ways. I feel a little more confident and I’m more inclined to be social than I used to[6]. All good stuff.

So, where does it go from here? Dunno really. I aim to carry on in much the same way. Keep up the exercise, carry on walking to and from work[7], eat sensibly (more or less) and generally try to take better care of myself.

I also aim to keep Losing it[1] going. I’ll carry on with the daily weight reports, and try to post more material on other subjects – more reviews, more pictures, more, well, stuff.

[1] A recurring pattern in my life :grin:
[2] 235.0 pounds, or 16 stone 11 pounds, or even 106.6kg was the figure I recorded…
[3] Well, that was the size trousers I had to buy when I bought a suit a few months before then
[4] People tried telling me that there were fatter people than me there[5], but that had nothing to do with it….
[5] There were, too!
[6] It’s not entirely true to say that I used to be a hermit, but I was working on it
[7] Saving loads of money on bus fares!

And as the year ends….

This morning’s weight is a smidgen down at 206.8 pounds (14 stone 10.8 pounds, 93.8kg).

I started keeping a daily record of my weight on January 6, when I was a somewhat heavier 223 pounds (15 stone 13 pounds, 101.2kg). That’s a fairly substantial wieght loss over the year, even if I am now about 7 pounds heavier than the lowest wieght I reached earlier in the year.

And of course, I haven’t just been losing flab, I’ve been building some muscles too, so the actual weight of fat lost is probably quite a lot more….

My aim for 2005 is to continue with the exercise and more sensible eating, and to drink more moderately too. No specific weight target as such, just to carry on and see where it leads me…..

No surprise there!

Well, that nice Mexican meal had its effects. Up again today at 207.0 pounds (14 stone 11 pounds, 93.9kg).

Went into Newcastle today and bought myself a nice new toy :grin:

I’m now the proud owner of a Pioneer DVD recorder with 80GB hard disk. I’ll probably do a proper report on that once I’ve used more of its features….

That’ll change….

Surprisingly low weight today.

Today’s activity: walked into Gateshead, bus to the MetroCentre for my hair appointment at Sherlocks.

Alarming hair

After that, met Aaron for a brief wander and then a meal at Chiquito’s. Mmmmmmmexcian :grin:

I blame the cheese

Somewhat up today at 208.6 pounds (14 stone 12.6 pounds, 94.6kg).

Must have been all that nice cheese I was eating yesterday….

I decided it was time I went out of the house, having been in since coming back from Tesco’s on the morning of Christmas Eve. Walked down to Retail World, the retail park on the Team Valley Trading Estate here in Gateshead. It was a bit chilly, but a bright sunny day, so the walk was a good one. I went through Saltwell Park, which is always a nice route to take. It took about half an hour to get to the shops. Had a generaly wander around, had a laugh at PC World[1] and bought a new desk lamp in Homebase.
While I was in Homebase, it had rained a bit, but it stopped in time for me to walk home[2].

[1] Bravely resisting the temptation to shout “No!!! You fools!!!” to the people queueing for “help” with their computers
[2] Quicker than the bus!

Down a bit? At this time of year?

Hmmm. Ever so slightly down today at 207.2 pounds (14 stone 11.2 pounds, 94.0kg).

Being in full holiday geek mode, I watched the extra features discs from Return of the King. Over six hours of excellent behind the scenes stuff.

What’s in the box?

Yes, it’s Boxing Day, and I’m ever-so-slightly heavier at 207.6 pounds (14 stone 11.6 pounds, 94.2kg).

Another quiet day. Watched the extended verison of The Return of the King[1]

[1] A review or report or something may appear in due course….