Sopranos and parkuns

I finished The Sopranos. For a program I’m not even sure I enjoyed watching, I certainly watched a lot of episodes in a short space of time. I thought the ending was very creative. It’s unexpected and confusing and definitely a bit frustrating when first experienced, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s the best possible way it could have ended. All the other options would have been anticlimactic, which is probably why they did what they did.

I have to say I didn’t feel impressed by it to start with because the characters were quite dislikeable, but as you go on you realise it doesn’t matter. The characters are presented as being believable members of the mafia, largely without judgement. It’s just who they are and what they do, and the program doesn’t seek to moralise the viewer about it because the viewer is perfectly capable of forming their own opinions.

In other news, I was pleased to get my fastest Parkrun time for a while this weekend. I started off a bit (too) conservatively so I could probably have knocked a few seconds off quite easily, but I didn’t. My splits looked like this:

The third kilometre is always a struggle because the initial freshness has worn off and it’s mostly uphill. The 10m climb isn’t massive but it’s not insignificant either. The last km is the same but by that point you aren’t trying to conserve energy. I was very pleased with doing the last km in sub 4 minutes. Apparently, I increased my cadence from 181 to 185 steps per minute in the last kilometre while also keeping my stride length the same at 1.35m. Pretty good! Now if I could just do that for the first four kilometres too.

I think the speed workouts are finally paying off.

Running

I tried a change of tactic with my running, which was to really slow down the easy runs and try to push more on the hard runs. Or in other words, do the easy runs easier and the hard runs harder. The idea of easy runs is to train your body to better use the oxygen you breathe and not dig into your body’s fuel reserves (glycogen), which in theory means you will be able run at a faster pace on just oxygen alone before you start using glycogen. But it’s a bit of a mind game because if you do say an 8k run at a very easy pace, you don’t really feel like you’ve had much of a workout.

It seems to be working in a sense, because my heart rate has really come down. The other day I ran 10km in about 54 minutes with an average heart rate of 135 bpm, or about 72% of maximum, which I was very pleased with. That’s a very easy effort run and the pace is still respectable.

For the hard runs I’ve been doing intervals and threshold runs. Intervals range from about 1600m down to 200m, usually descending distances in the same session, or straightforward repeats of 800m or 1000m, with long standing recoveries, covering about 6km in total in the session. Threshold runs are for example 3×10 minutes at threshold pace with two minutes of easy running in between. Threshold pace is supposed to be a pace you could keep up for up to an hour (your anaerobic threshold, i.e. not quite anaerobic but depleting your glycogen), but it’d be a serious, hard effort.

I’d like to say it’s improving my Parkrun times but actually they’ve been terrible lately. The last three weeks have not been strong performances for various reasons. Maybe this week…

Rain 🌧️

I’m currently lying in bed listening to some very heavy rain hitting the windows. Monty has decided he doesn’t like heavy rain now. It never used to bother him but now he’s older he’s getting more sensible. This will present a challenge with his morning toileting.

I’m most of the way through the Sopranos S4 now. I am still conflicted about it. It’s mostly a series about people eating. In between meals there are occasional bouts of extremely violent crime. I mostly see it as a bizarre sitcom which lets me mostly overlook the fact that all the characters are horrible and dysfunctional. Also, the product placement is a form of comedy in itself.

In other news, politics! Well I’m not going to vote Tory either way so it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me, but my thoughts are: If Rishi Sunak actually runs then he’s inept. He has a much brighter future in two years time as opposition leader than spending two years now being PM on somebody else’s mandate with a trashed party reputation and a worsening economy. But actually I do think he’s inept so I think he’ll go for it now. 🤷‍♂️

Monty!

We’ve had Monty for just over a year now. How time flies. He’s about 15 months old and, maybe I will jinx it by saying so, he’s calmed down a little bit recently and he’s slowly turning into a lovely and well behaved dog. Well, he was always lovely, but now he’s a bit easier.

I mean, he’s not well behaved, he’s just not as bad as he used to be. People say that cockapoos (via the poodle genes) are easy to train because they’re intelligent. I think they’re wrong. I think they learn quickly, because they’re intelligent, but also, because they’re intelligent, they’ll just decide not to listen to you sometimes when they know the alternative is more interesting.

Bad behaviours we still haven’t managed to stop include: nipping when he gets excited (though he is getting better!), being possessive of his toys (and sometimes other dog’s toys when he steals them in the park 🤦‍♂️) and eating/picking things up off the ground. It’s acorn season at the moment and he LOVES putting them in his mouth despite the fact they are poisonous to dogs (though I don’t think he’s ever eaten one). He does drop quite reliably in exchange for chicken (unless it’s a new and exciting object), but some walks it’s just a continual “leave it… leave it… drop…”. I’m still hoping he’ll grow out of this… There are signs he will, but when he’s tired or excited he just seems obsessed with finding things to put in his mouth.

Because of that we only let him off the lead in a few places where we’re not expecting to come across much litter. Though you’d be surprised how much junk he eats that seems to not affect him the slightest. Sheep poo, for example. I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to eat sheep poo, but he doesn’t care and apparently neither does his digestive system. He also loves tissues, receipts and other bits of paper which his stomach seems to break down just fine.

Anyway, the other point is that having him has been really good for me. It used to be that work was the biggest thing in my life just by virtue of it taking up so much time and attention. Now it’s not the most important thing. Looking after this crazy little guy is the most important thing.

Decks and Sopranos

I got my Steam Deck last Thursday, exactly a week after I paid for it. I’ve tinkered a bit. It’s a little complicated. I think that if you stay within the Steam ecosystem it’s quite easy to use, but I also have for example Factorio on GOG and Civilization VI on Epic (and GTA V, which I got free and never played), which I’d quite like to try on the Deck. Going outside of Steam gets you into ‘desktop mode’ which is actually a desktop Linux installation. I’m happy with this as I’ve used Linux a lot in the past (and, dare I say it… Linux is fun!), but it’s not exactly easy to use for non technical people. You only really need to do this to configure things though, I think after you’ve got everything set up then normal everyday usage will stay within Steam.

I will post more when I get around to using it for its intended purpose rather than just fiddling…

In other news, I started watching The Sopranos. I don’t really know what to think about this program. It’s well written and well made and I want to keep watching to find out what happens, but am I actually enjoying it? Ehhhh I’m not sure. The problem is that they are horrible people. Really bad people! Even the priest is slimy! But I still look forward to seeing the next episode, so it must be doing something right. 🤷‍♂️

Excitement!

I’m very excited because my Steam Deck has shipped. I got the email to say it was ready on Thursday evening, paid a few hours later and then Monday got the email with a tracking code. At the moment it is still in the Netherlands, or at least that’s what the tracking says. It probably isn’t really. I probably won’t get another update until it’s through customs. Hopefully it will come by the weekend.

I don’t know what I’ll play on it though. 🤔

Dream from last night: I was at Parkrun having a terrible run because there was a very congested start and I got stuck to another runner. Literally stuck, like with glue. It took us a few minutes to peel ourselves off each other. Later on (still during Parkrun), the car I was in (????) got turned upside down so I had to get out of it. Then there was a queue going into the finish funnel so I was waiting a few minute before I officially finished. My finish time was around 25 minutes, which sounds pretty good considering everything that had happened, but I was so annoyed I squirted the marshal responsible for the queue in the face with a bottle of ketchup that I must have been carrying with me, which I regretted immediately (even though he deserved it). I woke up stressed that I was going to get banned from Parkrun.

Games and whatnot

Long roundabout post warning…

A while back I started playing old games on my phone via emulation. It’s good because they tend to be things you can just pick up and put down whenever is convenient. Currently I am playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories on a Playstation Portable emulator (PPSSPP). And it’s fun. Ridiculous too but very well made and enjoyable.

Anyway, somewhere along the way, I put down a reservation on a Steam Deck. I like the idea of just being able to pick up something, play a game, then put it down. This fits into my life much better now. I used to keep eyeing up the Nintendo Switch but I always decided that it’s a lot of money for what it is especially when you consider how expensive the games are. The Steam Deck is more money (£459 for the middle model) but it’s also a lot more – you can plug it into a dock with keyboard, mouse and monitor and it’s a fully functional PC. I probably won’t do that, but that’s what it is. It’s not just a proprietary gaming console like the Switch. So it makes sense to me. Currently, a website which tries to track order statuses of the Steam Deck thinks I’m about 75% of the way through the queue. Or in other words, a few more weeks…

I used to play a lot of Counter-Strike on Steam. For reasons best known to those who do so, some people will pay lots of money onthe Steam marketplace to make their guns in Counter-Strike look different. I’ve been selling off my old inventory and my Steam Wallet balance is now at almost £200. I had one, to me, completely unremarkable item sell for £55 (could maybe understand if it was an AK-47 but it was an MP9… huh?). So I am going to get a £200 discount off the Steam Deck? That’s pretty good!

Since getting into GTA:Vice City Stories I decided to watch Scarface, since apparently GTA is highly inspired by it. I was a bit surprised by how two dimensional Scarface is, given that it’s a highly regarded cult movie. It’s a functional story but if you look too closely you notice that a lot of details don’t really make sense. The ending sequence is very silly and not really in keeping with the style of the rest of the film. My favourite thing is that the serious assassin who turns up at the end decides to attack at night while wearing sunglasses.

Then I watched Carlito’s Way, which is sort of regarded as a spiritual successor. Carlito’s Way, in my opinion, is the opposite and really very good. It’s grim and depressing, but it’s a well written and well told story with believable characters and I am pleased I watched it. You know what’s going to happen at the end of the film because it’s shown at the very start and then done in a “how did we get here?” long flashback, but it’s still a surprise when it finally happens (again). I hadn’t realised until now how great of an actor Al Pacino is. If I didn’t know, I’m not sure I’d have realised it was the same actor in both films. And if you throw in The Godfather, you have him playing another gangster in another gangster film, and he’s completely unrecognisable between all three of them.

So in conclusion… I’m quite excited about the Steam Deck and hopefully I only have a few more weeks to wait.

False starts

A couple of weeks ago my boss casually mentioned he was thinking of getting everyone into the office for a day later this month. Apparently this hasn’t happened, but it made me speed up my new job plans, which then promptly petered out when no more was said. I’ve had well over 100 messages from recruiters, but it’s hard to read through any of them and think “yes, I want that job in particular!”. And that’s assuming they tell you anything; about half of them are just “Hi, I’ve got a great opportunity, what’s your phone number?”. I still can’t believe how annoying it is to deal with recruiters and potential employers. They make it such a hassle. I’m busy, I’m tired and I already have a job… make it easy for me or I’m not going to bother.

One of the other things that puts me off slightly at the moment is that inflation is such a moving target. Various places are predicting that it will reach about 20%. I keep seeing comments online of people who thought they were clever accepting a new job for a 10% pay rise, and then seeing that inflation has already outpaced that. Hmm.

In other news! It appears Liz Truss is going to be our next prime minister. I struggle to feel emotionally invested in politics lately, but anyway… I stand by my initial assessment that Liz Truss comes across as a simpleton, but I still find her preferable to Rishi Sunak. With Rishi, you’re certain he’s going to be terrible, whereas with Liz, there’s just that little chance…

A half of two halves

The Solihull half marathon turned out to be horrendous. The weather was really unpleasant. I had no energy from the heat on the Friday and Saturday and I wasn’t sleeping much because of it, so by the time Sunday rolled around I wasn’t feeling my best. And of course, Sunday happened to be the hottest day of the heatwave.

I went out slower than my long training runs (huge achievement in itself) and I still imploded at 15km. I ran it last year too and remembered it being very hilly, but I put some of that down to being largely untrained at the time. Actually, it is very hilly. The first 12k is a downhill trend but with many sharp inclines along the way, and I was doing OK for that. Then a bit past the half way point there’s 2km of solid climbing and you’re still on an uphill trend for another 2km after that. So somewhere around 15km when I found myself at the bottom of yet another hill in 28 degrees and full sun baking the tarmac, I’d had enough and walked up the hill… And the next few hills.

The course is advertised as “PB potential”, which I can only describe as hilarious. Perhaps if all your other halves have been run scaling a mountain, yes…

I had tried to train for hills but the long uphill just past the half way point isn’t something I’ve had in training. I’m not aware of any routes accessible to me that replicate that kind of climb. Unless I head out onto country roads with low visibility and no footpaths then if I want to go up, I’m going to have to go down again shortly afterwards. E.g. here’s my regular Sunday morning medium run route, which I chose specifically because it has the most elevation change I could find around here. It’s very similar to the up and down of the first and last 6k, but no sustained climbs.

I can’t say I was very impressed by the organisation. Long stretches of the course were unmarshalled (not good during unusually hot weather), and there needed to be more water stations. There were three evenly spaced, but really it would have been better to have all three in the last half since that’s when the temperatures start to get you (though it would have been better still to just have more stations). Even then, the water bottles were tiny and pre-opened, so you couldn’t carry one with you because it would splash everywhere. I took water at the ~15km station, had a few glugs and threw the rest over my head… and then I was on my own for the next 6km. They gave out one bottle of water at the end, and people asking for more were told no! Supposedly they’d made adjustments for the weather but I’m at a loss as to what those were, other than sending an email reminding us to drink more the day before (very helpful, thanks).

Between that, the August date and the hills, I’m not sure I’d run this one again. I don’t really see the point of running such a hilly route over HM distance. It’s hard to train for and it’s not like you can run a good time on it anyway. I think I’d only do this one again as an easy effort training run for a flatter HM a bit later in the year.

I’m glad I didn’t push it though. A lady I don’t-know-but-recognise from Parkrun collapsed a few kilometres from the end (she’s OK now), and she’s a very strong and experienced runner.

Also, my ears blocked up about half way around. By the end I was largely deaf, apart from a very loud, bassy pounding in my ear every footstep… not ideal. It took a few hours for them to unblock. Not sure if that’s some kind of dehydration effect or hayfever or what. It’s never happened before…. (edit: Google says dehydration).

Urgh, heat

I can’t believe there is another heatwave! I have a half marathon on Sunday and the weather forecast is pretty grim, by which I mean glorious sunshine. A few weeks ago I was feeling very confident, now there’s a little part of me hoping they’ll cancel it (doubtful though, they’re not going to want to refund everyone). It’s not just the heat on the day, it’s the heat from now until the day as well. We have five consecutive days over 30 C, which is going to interfere with my sleep and generally fatigue me. It’s a bit frustrating because I think I’m in PB shape. Even so, the course is a bit hilly, so I wasn’t really expecting a PB. I think pushing for one given the heat could be quite dangerous, literally. So I won’t. You can get away with doing stupid things on a 5k and even a 10k but there’s a lot that can go wrong on a half marathon. I’ve done my long training runs at anywhere between a 4:45 and 5:00/km pace but I can’t really see me improving much if at all on that in the heat. The main thing is to start off conservatively and then speed up if possible, which is much more pleasant than the other way around.

In other news I had my salary review and my salary has been bumped up by a number that is quite big but less than inflation. I didn’t feel particularly strongly about this either way, but I think I am going to look for something else in the coming months. I’m not in a rush, I’m just a bit bored and a bit frustrated. In the last few days I’ve been annoyed by both my manager and the managing director. The MD has sent me some silly sarcastic emails that made me roll my eyes, and the reason he resorted to sarcasm was because he doesn’t know much about the concepts we were discussing. My manager annoys me because he goes poking around in databases and editing data here and there and then getting surprised when things don’t work properly. I don’t know what he’s expecting 🤷‍♂️ In November I will have been here for three years, so that’s probably a good time to think about broadening my experience.

Update: I’ve now just had another call with my manager, because the customer is complaining that their data is missing… because he has been fiddling around in the database and deleted it 😳