Tuesday, October 31, 2006


You will notice, if you look to the right, that the number one thing that Alun dislikes is injury. Why? Becuase it stops me doing the vast majority of things that I enjoy doing, which result in me being grumpy. All work and no play makes Alun a dull boy.

At the moment, Alun is a dull boy, because he is injured. Shortly after Capoeira last week, my back started hurting, and became increasingly painful as the week progressed. Fortunately it is now improving but I suspect it will niggle for a few more weeks. I went to see a physio the other day and she reckons it's all to do with posture, both while sitting at work and just in general. So we talked about how to improve all that, and then beat seven shades of shit out of my back. Ow.

Anyway I'm doubly worried because Djanira and I are going to Barcelona on Friday and meeting up with my friends Rakel and Ferran, who I met while on the BMC International Meet in Wales in April. They are taking us climbing in Montserrat, which should be brilliant, but I don't want to be in pain the whole time! Hopefully I'll be well enough to do some easy stuff.

The recent good news is that my cousin Meilyr wrote to say that his wife Catrin has given birth to Brychan. Llongyfarchiadau mawr!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

E11 film review

Earlier this year, Dave Macleod, the Glasgow based professional rock climber, finally got to the top of what is now the hardest traditionally protected rock climb in the world, Rhapsody, grading it a mighty E11. The route takes pretty much the most direct line up smooth overhanging face of Dumbarton rock, a large basalt outcrop near Glasgow, and is undoubtedly the biggest thing that has happened in the British rock climbing scene for several years.

It is only right therefore, that there should be some sort of film record this effort - yet I wasn't expecting an entire flick dedicated to it! 41 minutes focusing on one climber and one route may not sound too exciting, but what the chaps at http://www.hotaches.com have done is not just document the story of how the route was conquered, but painted a picture of the determination and hard work required to reach this level. Most poingantly, we get to know Dave's wife, Claire, almost as well as we get to know Dave himself, and we see the strain that she is under - the strain that must affect the partners of all professional athletes who are completely obsessed with their goals.

As such this is a film that even non-climbers will appreciate - they won't even get bored during the section of actual climbing footage, due to the gut wrenching falls the Dave takes over and over again. They really are horrendous, if you don't believe me, go and download the trailer here.

So how does the film compare with other classic climbing movies, such as Hard Grit or Stone Monkey? Well it is different to both. Hard Grit is a classic becuase it defines not just a style of climbing, but also an era. Stone Monkey is a classic because it paints a portrait of one of the most influental British climbers of all time. E11 doesn't aim to do either of these things, yet it is undoubtedly utterly compelling viewing; it is the first film that really gives you some sort of inkling of what it must be like to be at the cutting edge of the rock climbing world - and in fact any 'small' sport (i.e. one that doesn't provide big bucks to it's participants). As such it deserves a place on the shelf of anybody who has more than a passing interest in climbing, and I suspect my copy (which has been watched twice already) will see plenty more repeat viewings as the years go by.

More reviews here, here and here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

DIRT - the classic MTB flick

A couple of days ago I bought Mountain Biking UK for the first time in several years. No, I haven't gone mad, nor have a I turned into a whining teenager. The reason I bought it was because it came with a free DVD which, apart from some awfully filmed 'modern' riding, has the first (and possibly only) digital copy of 'Dirt' on it, one of the original and best mountain bike flicks ever made.

It's basically Rob Warner, Scott Dommett, Dave Hemmings and the late, great, Jason McRoy pissing about on their bikes in the sunshine. With the exception of a guest appearance by 'Jumpin' Jez Avery, there is very little 'impressive' riding in it (and even Avery's section is ridiculously tame by modern standards, despite the orginal GT STS and green body-armour!), but then that's not the point. The point is that it perfectly encapsulates the spirit of going out and riding with your mates on a warm summers day. It harks back to a more innocent time (well, for me at least) when you didn't go 'downhilling' or 'XC' or 'street-riding'. You just went for a ride.

I still have a well-watched copy of the original tape somewhere but, given that I don't own a VHS and aren't likely to ever own one again, I though it was worth getting it on DVD, for posterity's sake.

The first six minutes of it are available to watch online at http://www.jasonmcroy.com/jmc/, go to the downloads section and press play. Classic stuff.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Burgher

As proof of my recent transformation from 'dossy student' to 'dossy professional', this week I went on my first ever 'business trip'. A major part of the project that I am working on right now involves speech recognition, and we are lucky enough to be working with an expert in the field, Mike Lincoln, who is a researcher at the University of Edinburgh. I am doubly lucky in that he is a sound bloke who has a very similar outlook on life/work/getting-things-done as I do, and we get on well. So on wednesday I took the train from Kings Cross up to the 'Burgher, with the intention of working with him on establishing a framework which we can use to work remotely in the future to help get things working.

The train from Kings Cross to the Burgher is wicked. It took four hours and 15 minutes, and was very pleasant and relaxing. If I'd caught a plane from, say, Luton, it would have taken me an hour to get there (from Kings X), an hour and half waiting at the terminal, and hour's flight, and half an hour's transfer from the airport to the middle of Edinburgh. That's four hours in total, and rather than sitting in one place as with the train, you can never settle for long, as every hour you have to move about and walk/queue. So not only is the train more comfortable, it is just as fast, and it satisfies my inner eco-warrior by being better for the environment.

I feel quite at home in Scotland, for three reasons. One, the countryside is beautiful; two, it is usually raining; and three, we share a dislike for the English! As an example, on Wednesday Scotland were playing Ukraine in football, and I walked into the pub at a bad time - Ukraine had just sealed their win by scoring their second goal, a penalty, in injury time. The atmosphere was very morose. At that moment, the teletext service flashed up on the TV screen, showing the result of England game that had been played simultaneously. Croatia 2, England 0. An enormous cheer rattled the very foundations of the building, and I couldn't help joining in - I felt right at home!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

David Cameron - all style, no substance

For several years now (in fact, almost a decade), one of the biggest complaints that the Tories have had about Blair is that there was too much spin, too much media focus, too much style. It is one of the few issues that they and I have ever agreed upon. Yet now that David Cameron is on the scene, they appear to forgotten all such criticisms, at least officially. www.webcameron.org.uk is possibly the most pathetic piece of 'politics' since Blair said "This isn't a time for cliches, but I feel the hand of destiny on my shoulder" or some such nonsense. It is a ridiculous site, trying to package 'Dave' to being a media-savvy, trendy, down-wid-da-kids hero.

Take, for example, his video blog that was recorded after his speech to conference. It is obviously set up. Everything that is said, from the 'summary' of his conference speech, the 'interview' with his web-tech geek, to his 'response' to the enormous amount of comments on the site, is so blatantly un-genuine it is laughable.

Fortunately, it appears I'm not the only one who's noticed the similarity between Cameron and Blair...of course, the irony in me linking to this video is that the chap who made this video is campaigning for UKIP!!