Monthly Archives: August 2017

August 2017 Round-up

So, that’s August done with. Two thirds of 2017 drifting into the past, and err, various other profound comments about time passing. But enough of that, this is what you’re after: the monthly summary.

Weight

Yet more fluctuations, with more exciting new lows for the year

August 1: 237 pounds (16 stone 13 pounds, 107.5 kg)
August 31: 233.2 pounds (16 stone 9.2 pounds, 105.8 kg)

That’s a quite respectable drop of 3.8 pounds (1.7kg). And if the month had ended a couple of days early, it would have been and even more respectable drop of 5.2 pounds (2.4kg). The campaign for shorter months starts here!

Eating

Yes, still doing that.

Exercise

I managed at least one moderate walk each weekend this month, and loads more over my extended break last weekend, including a moderately epic one at Gibside.

Posting

Just 35 posts this month.

Stuff

I had a good long weekend off! Just need more weekends like that…

 

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O – Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

Neal Stephenson is one of those writers I find a bit, well, I think variable is the word I’m looking for. I loved Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle was wonderful (though I’ve never managed to put enough coherent thoughts together to write about it), but I struggled to finish Reamde, and others I’ve struggled to start.

But this is something different – for a start, it’s yer gold old-fashioned epistolary novel[1] – told largely through a document written in 1851 by marooned time traveller Melisande Stokes (Mel), backed up by official documents, memos and diaries. It’s largely a “how I got here” story, related with wit, fun and a fair dose of silliness. And it’s great fun.

The initial problem is that magic (actual magic, done by witches[2]) stopped working in 1851, and various people would like to make it work again, principally the US Government and other, unspecified nations. And so, people are recruited – initially into something that looks like a tech start-up, but is actually a covert agency. And thanks to the use of a device that I’m going to call Schrödinger’s Catbox, because that’s the kind of thing I say, and I was mildly disappointed that the characters didn’t, magic is indeed done. The kind of magic is Sending –  a witch can send a person (and just the person, no equipment, clothes, dental fillings…) to another point in time and space, requiring another witch to return them, so it’s important to be very careful where and when you get sent.

Much fun follows, as attempts are made to manipulate history, and it turns out that not only are there are, as you might expect, multiple possible branches of time in the future relative to any point, but there are also multiple pasts, so it’s necessary to go back multiple times to influence anything.

As the organisation grows, and things become more complicated, things go Horribly Wrong, which readers will have expected, what with Mel being trapped in the apparently post-magic 1851 with no way back.

Fro a long book, it’s a fast, page-turning read, which is set up nicely for a sequel, or indeed a series, which I’d be happy to see.

Good stuff, recommended.

[1] Now there’s an expression you don’t see me use a lot
[2] You may think this is a load of warlocks, but bear with me

 

Weight and Stuff Report – 29 August 2017

Weight: 233.1 pounds (16 stone 9.1 pounds, 105.7 kg)
Steps: 9,228
If you’re reading this on Facebook, make sure to click through, or you might miss some photos.

Up again after yesterday’s extra-low figure, but still nicely down…

Before I crawl back to work tomorrow, I had one last day out. I took the train to Darlington, walked to a bus stop and caught a bus to Barnard Castle, which I visited last November (was it really that long ago?). This time, I’d arrived early enough in the day for a visit to the Bowes Museum, located a short walk from the town centre.  Now Barnard Castle is an unremarkable market town, albeit one with an impressive castle, so it might come as a surprise to see this:

Bowes Museum

Bowes Museum

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/10
Shutter speed: 1/170s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 29 August, 2017
Location: 54° 32.4785′ 0″ N 1° 55.0304′ 0″ W

The Bowes Museum is indeed a misplaced French chateau, which probably wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in France, but is a remarkable thing to see in Northern England. It contains an impressive collection of paintings, ceramics, textiles, silver and this remarkable object:

Silver Swan

Silver Swan

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/6.4
Shutter speed: 1/35s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 3200
Taken: 29 August, 2017
Location: 54° 32.5135′ 0″ N 1° 54.9325′ 0″ W

This is the actually quite famous Silver Swan – it would be impressive enough as a lovely piece of crafted silverwork, but it’s more than that – it’s an automaton built in 1773, which thanks to careful conservation, still works. Though it’s only run once per day (at 2pm, get there early as everyone want to see it). The performance is introduced by a curator, who talks about the history of the Swan and winds it up (as well as winding up any American visitors when he points out that the automaton is slightly older than their country!).

As I only had the X70 with me, I didn’t get any really good shots of it in action, but here’s a rough idea:

Swan in action

Swan in action

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed: 1/10s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 3200
Taken: 29 August, 2017
Location: 54° 32.5265′ 0″ N 1° 54.9184′ 0″ W

It’s a beautiful thing, and well worth seeing. Tickets are now valid for a year, making a visit much better value – I only had time for a quick look around, and I’ll have to go back for more.

Weight and Stuff Report – 28 August 2017

Weight: 231.8 pounds (16 stone 7.8 pounds, 105.1 kg)
Steps: 15,319

Today’s weight will be another one of those temporary wossnames, but it’s still a new low for the year (exactly one pound less than Friday’s temporary wossname), so yay, etc.

Having got up moderately early for a bank holiday, I decided it was well past time I took myself and a camera to Gibside, a large estate in the care of the National Trust.  As with a lot of places I’ve been to recently, I’d never managed to get around to a visit, and I really should have. Getting there is easy enough – you can get a bus from Newcastle or the Metrocentre (services 45, 46, 47 mostly), and if you’ve got a Tyne & Wear all zones pass, then you’re in luck, as the bus stop you’ll need is just inside the county boundary. From there it’s a short walk (maybe half a mile) to the entrance. If you don’t have a National Trust card, be prepared to pay – currently £11.60 for an adult. Once inside, you’re free to wander around the large site – though the free map helpfully suggests a few walking routes which take you to key parts of the site, with marker posts at sensible places to make sure you don’t get lost. I followed one of the routes, which took me past the Orangery (ruined posh greenhouse), the Hall (ruined house), the Stables (not ruined, and from the front looks more like a fancy house), the Column to Liberty (really impressive monument) and through lots of woodland before ending up at the Chapel.

At that point, a break seemed like a good idea, and I managed to get to the cafe just before a load more people. I had a cheese and onion relish sandwich (nice but expensive, but that’s about normal for National Trust properties) and, welllllll, a pint of Red Kite ale from the Wylam Brewery. Look, it was on draught, right in front of me, and it’s so important to support local business…

While I enjoyed that, I had another look at the map, and decided to take a detour from one of the planned walks to see a bit that wasn’t on the one I went on earlier. This ended up being quite a long one, but it did take my along the riverside, which was very pleasant. Though some of the uphill bits were hard work.

At this point, I knew I’d reached my walking limit, so I was happy to leave. I then had to walk that half mile back to Rowlands Gill for the bus back to Newcastle.

I’ve got a load of photos to sort through, but for now here’s one of the hall:

Who lives in a house like this?

Who lives in a house like this?

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/10
Shutter speed: 1/60s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 250
Taken: 28 August, 2017

 

Weight and Stuff Report – 27 August 2017

Weight: 233.9 pounds (16 stone 9.9 pounds, 106.1 kg)
Steps: Very few.

Up  a bit today. After all the walking around of the last few days, it was time for a bit of a rest, so apart from getting the washing done, it’s been a relaxed day.

This is Washington Old Hall:

Washington Old Hall

Washington Old Hall

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/9
Shutter speed: 1/75s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 26 August, 2017
Location: 54° 54.1478′ 0″ N 1° 30.9764′ 0″ W

 

Weight and Stuff Report – 26 August 2017

Weight: 233.4 pounds (16 stone 9.4 pounds, 105.9 kg)
Steps: 6,451

Up again after yesterday’s extra-low figure, but not by that much.

Today, I went to Washington Old Hall, yet another of those places I’ve never got around to visiting – it’s a nicely preserved old house with well-laid out gardens, in the the original Washington Village. Pictures to follow…

From there, I took an indirect route (bus, Metro, bus) for a return visit to Hylton Castle, and from there I came home.

I took the X70 with me again, once again reminding myself what a lovely little camera it is. For instance, here’s a close view:

What about the workers?

What about the workers?

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/3.2
Shutter speed: 1/280s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 26 August, 2017
Location: 54° 54.1551′ 0″ N 1° 30.992′ 0″ W

Weight and Stuff Report – 25 August 2017

Weight: 232.8 pounds (16 stone 8.8 pounds, 105.6 kg)
Steps: 11,021

OK, today’s weight is going to be one of those anomalous wossnames, as it’s a “just got in after doing a lot of walking” figure, but hey, it’s another new low for the year, so woo, hoo.

I took myself and my little X70 to Durham today – my main targets were the new Treasures of St Cuthbert and Magna Carta exhibitions in the Cathedral, but I also had what ended up being a long walk, including along the riverside:

Durham

Durham

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/6.4
Shutter speed: 1/110s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 25 August, 2017
Location: 54° 46.3751′ 0″ N 1° 34.7722′ 0″ W

And eventually, I found my way back to the station and came home.

 

 

Weight and Stuff Report – 24 August 2017

Weight: 235.6 pounds (16 stone 11.6 pounds, 106.9 kg)
Steps: 6,860

Down a wee bit today. I’m taking a few days off work  :tigger: , so today has been a bit of a relaxed one. After catching up with odd bits of paperwork, I took the bus into Newcastle for a visit to the Dino Jaws exhibition at the Centre for Life. This was good – some animatronic dinosaur heads, some static displays, good information on evidence of what some dinosaurs ate, and more. These guys seemed to be enjoying an early lunch, though:

Lunchtime?

Lunchtime?

Camera: iPhone 6s
Aperture: ƒ/2.2
Shutter speed: 1/17s
Focal length: 4.15mm
ISO: 250
Taken: 24 August, 2017
Location: 54° 58.0338′ 0″ N 1° 37.2245′ 0″ W

After that, I had a bit of a random wander, popped into the Hancock museum (sorry, still can’t do that Great Auk North Museum thing) to look at some Roman thingies, then came home.