Daily Archives: Sunday, 7th Aug 2011

Weight and Stuff Report – 7 August 2011

Well, I wasn’t expecting that – down another pound today.

I got a few things done today – a bit of furniture wrangling in my bedroom, some cleaning, watched another Doctor Who DVD, and I’ve just done twenty minutes on the exercise bike. The exciting chart can be seen on the Garmin Connect page if anyone’s interested in my heart rate.

Today’s picture seemed appropriate:

I am, I am!

I am, I am!

The lack of sharpness is due to it being taken from a moving car…

Holiday 2011, Day 3 – Portmeirion on July 8

After our train ride, we decided to pay a visit to Portmeirion. This is a privately owned Italian style village, created by architect William Clough-Ellis. It operates as a hotel, so you can stay in some of the quite bonkers buildings should you wish. It’s also open as a tourist attraction, with shops, cafes and the general ambience to enjoy. I suspect a significant numbers of visitors will be there because they know Portmeirion as “The Village” in the classic TV series The Prisoner[1], which I mentioned a few years ago. Indeed, I had a strange feeling of familiarity as we wandered around. I was mildly disappointed that the official vehicles moving around the place turned out not to be Mini Mokes. I was more relieved not to see a large white ball bouncing along the beach…

It wasn’t the best time to have gone – the buildings would have looked a lot better in the sunshine, and the shops and cafes had all closed, which was a shame, as we had planned to eat there. On the other hand, admission is cheaper later in the day…

Anyway, here are the pictures, and if you’re not familiar with the Prisoner, you’re probably better off ignoring the captions.

[1] Beware of recent imitations

Holiday 2011, Day 3 – Porthmadog to Caernarfon on July 8

Another day, another train ride. This time, we headed to Porthmadog, where after looking at the boats in the harbour, which despite the rain were high and dry, what with the tide being out, we went to the station. We had a bit of a wait for our train, but that gave us time to watch one of the Ffestiniog Railway trains head off to Bleanau Ffestiniog, at which point I had to head under cover to protect the camera. Soon enough, we boarded our train and enjoyed the ride to Caernarfon, where we saw the castle, some walls, a nifty swing bridge, a slightly silly sign and a curiously misplaced car. Here are the pictures:

Garmin FR60 with Heart Rate Monitor and Footpod

I mentioned the other day that I’d got this thing, so I thought I’d do a quick report on what it is, what it does, and why I got it, though possibly not in that order.

It started with using Runkeeper to track my walking distance and speed. They should probably do a version called Walkkeeper for me, but the standard one will do for now. I noticed that it was possible to get a dongle that plugs into the iPhone and receives data from a heart rate monitor that was compatible with the ANT+ standard, which is apparently widely supported. I thought that this might be at least moderately interesting, so I started looking into it. Getting the dongle was easy enough – I found it here:


But the next thing to consider was the heart rate monitor. I could have just got a sensor strap, but I thought getting the usual watch thingy as well would be a bit more flexible, and would allow me to check my heart rate while I’m on the exercise bike. Now in the past, the name I’ve always thought of for heart rate thingies is Polar – they make a wide range of devices at various levels of cleverness. But it seems that this matter of transmitting data in a compatible way is one of those kind of standards, best summarised by the line I stole from somewhere or other:

Standards are like toothbrushes. Everybody agrees they’re important, but nobody wants to use someone else’s.

Polar have their own standard to allow various sensors to talk to their watches and devices. This ANT+ standard, is apparently managed by a company owned by Garmin, best known for their GPS kit, but who also do fitness monitoring stuff, and so Polar are not all that keen on adopting it. So, I looked a bit further. The Garmin range includes a good selection at a wide range of prices. At the higher end, there are watches with full GPS tracking, which is cool, but they generally need to be recharged rather frequently, which is not something I really need from a watch, and as the iPhone already tracks where I’m going, I don’t really need the feature anyway. So, after some dithering, I decided that the FR60 was the best bet for me. It comes with a USB dongle that allows the data from the watch to be wirelessly transmitted to your computer – both Windows and Mac OS are supported. That data can then be viewed in their software, or uploaded to their web service for all the world (or as much of it as you want to allow) to see.

There’s an optional foot pod thing to go with the watch and usual chest strap heart rate sensor. This has a clip that you fit under a shoelace, and the actual sensor fits very securely into that. With this in place, the watch is able to record how far you’ve walked, run, strolled, or whatever. While I didn’t really need this, I ended up getting the bundle that includes it, and it does seem to work quite well. It’s not as precise as GPS tracking[2], but it does give a good indication of what you’re doing and how fast you’re moving.

Getting it all working was interesting – you need to download the software from Garmin first, as they don’t bother to put an out of date CD in the box. Install that, then connect the dongle and bring your watch within three metres. Then wait. And wait. Pairing took so long that I thought it wasn’t going to work at first, but when I came back to check later, it had sorted itself out. Once the watch has paired with the dongle, it will automatically transfer its data as soon as its within range.

So far, it all seems to work quite well. The strap is comfortable enough to wear under my shirt when I walk to work, though I remove it as soon as I arrive. The footpod does its thing, the watch displays useful information, and getting the data onto my computer is simple – I once had one that used infrared to do the data transfer, and that was a wee bit flaky.

[1] Note: if you’re using AdBlock, you probably won’t be seeing the pictures of books, DVDs and other stuff that I witter about. They’re all associate links to Amazon, which occasionally earn me a few pennies, and they’re the only advertising I run on this site. They’re mostly harmless.

The Day Aberystwyth Stood Still – Malcolm Pryce

Now this was something I’d been looking forward to. The sixth in Malcolm Pryce’s delightfully twisted Welsh Noir novels set in a delightfully twisted parallel world version of Aberystwyth.  :tigger:

Things are getting even weirder than usual for Louie Knight, down at heel private detective, and his sidekick Calamity. After having his desk destroyed by the Mayor’s brother as a hint to not get involved in a certain matter, a client arrives and involves him in just that matter. Louie’s job is to find a man who was hanged for his part in a notorious raid on the Coliseum cinema back in 1965. Despite having been hanged by the neck until dead, it seems Iestyn Probert has been seen recently.

And so it begins. Louie gets knocked on the head, encounters Men In Black, gets knocked on the head, falls in love, has a strange ice-cream related experience, and quite unexpectedly finds himself with a new employment opportunity.

It’s the same old crazy thing as always, with some lovely dialogue:

‘Your mind is closed,’ said Calamity with amusing pomposity.

‘It’s not closed, it just has a strict door policy. I don’t admit riff-raff.’

And much more.

Note: the actual Aberystwyth seems a much friendlier place to be than Louie’s.

Doctor Who – Frontios

Quite shockingly, I only found time to watch one of my pile of classic Doctor Who DVDs in the last week, and it’s only now that I’ve got it together to mutter about it. First shown in January and February 1984, Frontios was written by the ever-opinionated Christopher H Bidmead, and stars Peter Davison as the Doctor, Janet Fielding as Tegan and Mark Strickson as Turlough. Guest stars include a remarkably young-looking Jeff (Drop the Dead Donkey) Rawle.

The story follows on from The Awakening, which I mentioned recently. The TARDIS is yet again having control problems, and is dragged down to the surface of the planet Frontios, occupied by some of the last surviving human colonists, in a time period rather more in the future than the Time Lords generally get involved in. And the colony has a problem. It’s being bombarded with meteors, apparently as an attack by an unknown enemy.

Naturally, it turns out that the enemy is within. Within the planet, that is – it’s infested by Tractators, large insecty things that, with their intelligent leader known as the Gravis, are using their powers of gravitational manipulation to smash the colony. That’s also how the TARDIS came to crash, and the forces being used are so great, that in defiance of all previous knowledge, the TARDIS is broken into fragments – utterly destroyed.

Lots of the usual running around and confusion follows, but it’s Turlough who, thanks to some suppressed racial memory from the history of his own planet, reveals the important detail that saves everyone[1]. If the Gravis is removed, the Tractators revert to being harmless burrowing monsters. Err, well something like that. So the Doctor manages to get the Gravis into the fragment of the TARDIS containing the console room, and tricks him into using his gravitational power to pull all the bits together, which made even less sense than the bit about the TARDIS being pulled apart, but never mind, it was all good fun, or something.

And in a final bit of making no sense, the Doctor decided that as the Tractators were harmless without the Gravis, then the Gravis, despite his enormous powers of gravitational manipulation, would be harmless without them, and dropped him off on a convenient empty planet…

Silly stuff, but nicely watchable, especially for Mark Strickson’s lovely over the top bit of recovering his memory of the Tractators.

Not a lot on the extras side this time. Apart from the usual commentary, production subtitles and the like, there’s just a making of documentary with members of the cast and crew.

[1] Apart from all the people killed by meteorites, being dragged into the ground, etc, etc