Quiz!

Aug. 20th, 2017 10:40 pm
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After going our separate ways for afternoon, we regrouped at the pub for our usual Sunday quiz. With A busy on a work call-out, we temporarily renamed our team, only reverting to our usual moniker when she rejoined us. The questions were a bit trick — we didn't do particularly well on the sport round — but we pulled it back at the very end, acing the final double-points round and getting all but one of the pictures correct, finishing a point or two clear of our nearest rivals!
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Wow but the Munich Boulder World Cup really delivered a fantastic end-of-season sensation. The semi-finals were pretty exciting, especially with Alex Megos making one of his rare competition appearances and then staying on to commentate on the men's finals.

The women's finals were a bit of a mixed bag — afterwards, Alex Puccio said she felt a little bit embarrassed that she couldn't even work out how to pull on to one of the problems — but it was fun to watch Stasa Gejo and Janja Gambret crushing problems no-one else was able to touch.

The men's finals, on the other hand, were absolutely fantastic, with Jan Hojer, the only European to make the last round — four members of Team Japan made it through — climbing in front of a German crowd. And it really seemed to help: he used a very sneaky beta to top the first boulder; flashed the second, where no-one else even picked up a bonus; and cleaned up on the third, leaving him with a one boulder lead going into the last round.

Climbing second after Yoshiyuki Ogata, Hojer came out looking distinctly nervous and, with everything to play for, powered his way up top to take the win. It was one of the best finishes of the season — up there with Coxey and Chon in Mumbai — and so well deserved, especially after his storming performance in the lead world cup in Villars.
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Out for an early run ahead of Sunday dog walking. The original plan had been to go to the dog show at the Double Locks, but the others were busy sorting out all sorts of domestic chores and we were too late. Instead, we all went for a walk down by the river and the dogs had fun chasing tennis balls.

The only minor problem turned out to be ensuring everyone got a chance to retrieve a ball. Because Martha won't fetch things if there are bigger dogs around — she's quite small and remembers having things taken off her when she was young — we had to engineer things so that someone threw one ball for the spaniels and, while they were distracted, someone else threw another one in the opposite direction for Martha.

This strategy worked successfully the first few times we tried it. It was only when Dasher, swimming back with her ball, noticed that the other one bobbing in the water that things started to go askew. She swam out towards to the other ball, putting Martha off, but couldn't actually bring it back because she already had a tennis ball in her mouth and couldn't fit both at the same time. Eventually, she brought her ball back — dropping it in a very muddy puddle in the process — leaving the other to float away. Fortunately, the crisis was averted by a passing labrador, who kindly retrieved the second ball for Martha.

Partway round the field, the others got talking about a fence post A had tried to climb a few days before. After making a decent attempt this time round — in her defence, she was wearing wellies — I reluctantly let myself get talked into it. Although it was a decent height — maybe 1.5m — it was probably 25cm in diameter and actually pretty easy to mantel, even if I did use a cheeky knee, rather than go for a proper hand-foot on the top.

After a couple of hours — the time flew by — we fetched up back at the quay. I'd originally planned to go for a climb, but my left knee was nagging slightly, so I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and went home to watch the finals of the bouldering from Munich.
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Something tells me Simon Rattle and the LSO's performance of Arnold Schoenberg's vast, late Romantic masterpiece Gurrelieder is going to be one of the highlights of this season's prom. The soloists were excellent — Simon O'Neill very clear heldentenor worked perfectly with the big orchestral sound — and the choir and the playing was first rate. Particularly astonishingly, the concert also marked Thomas Quasthoff's proms debut!

Rattle's comments before the concert were particularly striking. He described the piece as young man's music — Schoenberg was in his twenties — and a summation of 19th century music; he said it was almost as if Schoenberg was demonstrating his complete mastery of Romanticism in order to reject it in favour of the development of his twelve-tone method...
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Decentish run this morning, although conditions weren't ideal with an unpleasant headwind on the return leg. With D busy with errands this morning — a combination of family moving house and forthcoming wedding stuff — it was down to A and me to hold the fort. I managed a slow-but-acceptable 20:42 while A smashed something like 80 seconds off her time from last week.
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Powerful performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 from Sakari Oramo and the BBC SO. I liked both Elizabeth Watts and Elisabeth Kulman a great deal — the quiet opening to Urlicht was very fine indeed. I think, on balance, comparing tonight's performance with my benchmark — Rattle's excellent version from early in his tenure with the CBSO — I prefer Rattle's legato and the smoother sound of the CBSO chorus. Although, admittedly, it's unfair to compare a live performance with a recording especially in Mahler 2, where the choir have a long unaccompanied section at the start of the langsam that presents a real challenge for the singers...
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Reasonbly quick one this week, finishing 20th in a time of 20:08. There was a good turnout of 323 runners and A managed her first parkrun since having surgery a few months ago, finishing in a very creditable 28 minutes. Afterwards, I went and got myself well and truly chewed by Dasher — she made a determined effort to eat my ears! — and then it was home and out again for an afternoon climb.
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Off to the small village of Preston Bagot for a walk and lunch. We started at The Crabmill and set off along the Stratford-on-Avon canal. There were a couple of narrow boats passing through the first lock we came across:
The walking wasn't too strenous to begin with and the towpath was surprisingly dry — with all the rain, I'd've expected it to be thick with mud, but we were able to manage in ordinary shoes:
We left the canal at the Yarningale aquaduct and turned northwest to cross a meadow into a field. In theory, according to our fearless guide, all we needed to do was walk to the top of the field and we'd be able to cross through to the main road and loop back to the village; in practice, we were unable to find a gate and had to retrace our steps when the boys rebelled. At the bottom of the slope, we found a gate that took us onto Rookery Lane and we headed up the hill towards the church:
We divided at the top of the hill, with my nephew, my dad, and I walking over the top, while the others took the easier way round via the road. The churchyard featured a particularly noticeable gravestone for a former sexton who, according to the inscription, served his parish for 30 years:
After a pleasant walk, we arrived at the pub perfectly on time for our reservation and we settled in for a fine lunch to mark my uncle's 70th birthday:
Not quite a full complement: everyone thought it was best for my youngest nephew to go to his other grandparents; my neice and her boyfriend couldn't make it, so my great-nephew isn't there either; but everyone else was there.
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Ran at the Memorial Park this weekend and managed to finish in the low thirties but, thanks to a scanning glitch, I can't be precise about the time other than to say somewhere around 20:45. It was a nice run, although I haven't done it regularly enough to have a good feel for the hills, so I generally slow down more than I should on the downhill sections. My dad came to watch and I saw him at the entrance to the playing field on my first loop, but despite some enthusiastic waving, he didn't seem to see me. Then, only my second lap, I saw him come up the hill from Coat of Arms bridge towards the perimeter path and, despite yet more waving, he didn't seem to notice me. After finishing and getting scanned — or not, as it turns out! — I waited around for my dad to show up. I allowed him 15 minutes for the walk to the monument and, when he didn't arrive, I ran back home. Sure enough he was there, telling the others that I must've gone in for some last minute marshalling because he hadn't seen me on the way round. Typical! ETA: the Coventry parkrun office have now fixed my missing entry so I can now legitimately claim this as my 79th run.
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Kameron Hurley has written an excellent piece on the current ACA mess, probably best considered as a companion to her essay on suviving without healthcare, which contains the following sobering conversation:

If we save the ACA I keep my "in case I'm laid off/fired" healthcare safety net. If we save ACA I could be a full-time writer someday. If we don’t save ACA and I lose my job for any reason, I’ll probably die. Meds are $1500 a month to keep me alive (not counting premiums).

When I went to pick up my latest round of meds and the pharmacy tech asked if I knew the bill ($500) I said "Oh yes. But I’ll die without them. So they kind of have me over a barrel."

And she said, "I guess I would die, then. That’s more than I make in a week."

Makes you realise why socialised medical schemes like the NHS are worth fighting for; why they're as popular as they are once they're implemented; and just what we've got to lose if they disappear...

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Another victory for our team at in the Puerto Lounge quiz. Normally, I'm quite happy to let other people answer the questions and only chip in when no-one else has an idea (or when they're wrong!) This week there were a couple of obscure rounds, so I went ahead and crushed them — in some cases, I was able to write down the answer before the end of the question. Sadly, this rather did for my usual pretense of being a monkey of moderate intelligence — because if TV has taught us anything, it is that super-intelligent monkeys, with or without their electronium hats, inspire nothing but bad feeling! At one point, A said, "I don't know about the rest of you, but he's making me feel deeply inadequate..." And B, who I don't know terribly well said, "So, what do you do? Apart from being a professional quiz hustler..."
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The second of Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin's two proms, open with the UK premier of Harrison Birtwistle's Deep Time — an intriguing and engaging piece that shows Birtwistle at his best. Rather touchingly, the piece was dedicated to the memory of Birtwistle's old friend Peter Maxwell Davies, who died last year. The second half rounded out the programme started by Staatskapelle Berlin on Saturday, with a performance of Elgar's Symphony No. 2 — a piece I like more than the first — with Nimrod from the Enigma Variations as an encore. After a short, impassioned speech from Barenboim which talked about cross-cultural communication and which, very deliberately, didn't mention Brexit by name, the orchestra rounded off with another performance of Land of Hope and Glory; a pointed message from a man who has devoted a great deal energy to breaking down barriers.
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A classical opening to tonight's program, with Bernard Haitink and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe performing Mozart's Symphony No. 38 — the Prague — followed by an elegant performance of the Violin Concerto No. 3 with Isabelle Faust as soloist. The second half featured a engaging performance of Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 2, closing with Mendelssohn's sparky Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream as an encore.
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The first of two proms from Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin, and the start of their mini-series of Elgar symphonies. The program kicked off with Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto with Lisa Batiashvili as soloist; a solid and enjoyable performance. The performance of Elgar's Symphony No. 1 seemed fine, but I'm not greatly fussed on Elgar's symphonies, so I can't say that I was listening particularly deeply. The program closed with Sibelius' Valse Triste and Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 as an encore.
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A change to the course this week, following last week's kerfuffle, to take us down through the flood channel and back up before joining the main path, avoiding the worst of the narrowed section in the process. Having started a long way back, I put in a very slow first kilometre, a modest second one, and three very fast ones to finish, pulling back enough time to finish in 20:46. Not bad given that I stood around for a good 15 seconds after the whistle went, waiting for people to start moving. Rather than waiting around at the finish, I ran to the climbing centre, got myself scanned, ran back to the finish and then headed off along the footpath on the eastern side of the canal, and round to bridge over the river. On the other side, I met up with D, who was marshalling, around the same time as the tail runner was coming through. I helped to pick up the signs and we walked back to the start — the other volunteers thought it was pretty funny that I'd finished the 5K and then run the course again — where I got the inside story on the course alteration.
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Superb start to the 2017 season, kicking off with the world premier of Tom Coult's St John's Dance. Igor Levitt and Edward Gardner had a particularly nice dynamic in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3, and Levitt closed the first half with a pointed statement: Liszt's piano transcription of Beethoven's Ode to Joy. But the real standout piece of the evening was a stunning performance of John Adams' Harmonium. The rapid, rhythmic opening, a setting of John Donne's The Negative Love, featured supremely clear and beautifully articulated singing from the combined forces of the BBC SO Chorus and the Proms Youth Choir. The second movement, Emily Dickinson's Because I Could Not Stop for Death, was quiet and polished, blending smoothly in to the ecstatic setting of Wild Nights before dropping away to pianissimo finish. I don't think I've every heard Harmonium performed quite so well.
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I've been watching the lead climbing from Chamonix over the last couple of days — like everyone, I was a bit thrown by the mid-week schedule — and the results have been interesting. The general feeling seems to be that the qualifier routes were a bit odd, with lots of people falling at the same point. Some very strong climbers failed to make it through in the men's competition — I really feel for Sebastian Hallenke, who was distraught after slipping off a very chalky sloper fairly low down — and in the women's comp, only Janja Gambret topped the route. The men's final started slightly oddly, with the first climber out topping the route, followed by three more tops, with the competitors differentiated on time — I think they were drawn on count back to previous rounds. Likewise the women's route saw three tops, with Anak Verhoeven saying that she felt the route wasn't really hard enough to challenge the athletes — which, given her amazing performance in the European Championships, isn't much of a surprise...
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Today's featured book is Kameron Hurley's engaging essay collection The Geek Feminist Revolution. Originally a series of articles and blog posts, a number of which have taken on a life of their own, the collection draws them together and puts them alongside other pieces which address similar issues. The tone is impassioned and polemical, rather than dry, closely argued philosophy, Hurley focuses on the person and political, challenging the reader to examine their own preconceptions and privileges.

The book starts with an excellent overview of the nature of writing and eviscerates some of the most common myths — such as the notion that talent is a sufficient condition for success; hell, in some cases, it doesn't even seem to be a necessary one! The second part delves into culture — mostly geek culture — and skilfully takes it apart, often from a feminist perspective, to show its inbuilt assumptions and biases. Hurley's essay on the first series of True Detective, focusing not on the supernatural but on what makes the lead characters monsters, is particularly good — and particularly disturbing, given that much of the perspective comes from first hand experience.

The last two sections of the book deal with the wider world — the justifiably famous and deeply horrifying The Horror Novel You’ll Never Have to Live: Surviving Without Health Insurance should be required reading for politicians of every stripe. The final section, which focuses on revolution and change picks apart moments in history and, although the ideas may not be original — the notion that default views are not apolitical reminds me of, I think, Felix Holt where being a Tory is considered to be apolitical! — they're expressed with clarity and an enjoyable sense of brio.

If the collection has a weakness, it is that all the pieces were originally written as standalone articles. Thus they include slightly more throat-clearing than usual, with Hurley setting out various facts that we've just read about in the previous essay. But that's a minor quibble with a easy solution: simple spread out the essays rather than reading them in one sitting, or dip into them out of order.

(As an aside, I particularly like the llama on the cover which, amusingly, appears to be a slightly modified version of the one the cover Schwartz and Christiansen's Learning Perl. My copy, now 20+ years old, notes that this particular llama comes from a 19th century engraving in the Dover Pictorial Archive, perhaps explaining how it came feature on both covers)
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For the second week in a row, we have managed to win the Sunday night quiz at the Puerto Lounge. We performed well through out, greatly helped by the presence of two team members who knew a lot about tennis.

But what really clinched it was the final round, which featured two sets of four questions which link together to give answers to the fifth and tenth questions which count for six points each. Yesterday, we managed to get both sets of links, dropping only question in the second set. In general, I enjoy these sorts of connected rounds — last week there was a one where each question formed a chain, with the tail of the answer to the previous question starting the next — because they're very like crosswords, where you can work out the answers even if you're not sure what they mean.

I'm not sure we're going to compete next week — some of the other team members are doing a triathlon — but I'm sure we'll be back in the not too distant future...
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Pleasantly gentle run this morning coming in 25th and in 20:18 — not bad, considering the heat. But with the warm weather and with the path still narrowed due to the on-going flood defence work, there have been more problems than usual with contention on the shared pathway.

The section around the start is particularly problematic. Not do a large group of people start at the same time, but they funnel through a narrow section between two temporary chainlink barriers which connects the canal path to the start of the divided bike-and-pedestrian path that runs along the edge of the flood channel. The path is supposedly temporary, although it's been there for almost a year, and consequently it's made of packed but uneven unmetalled aggregate, giving it a worryingly undercertain feel under foot and tire.

Even at the best of times, the rights of way across the path are unclear — although D says it explicitly isn't part of the cycle path. It's always hard to navigate, with pedestrians walking on either side as if it were completely pedestrianised, some cyclists sticking to the left as though they were on the road, and others sticking to the side that matches the cycle part of the divided path that runs along the channel.

Usually people — both runners and cyclists — slow down and make their intentions clear when they approach, making collision avoidance easier. But every so often, as just after the start of this morning's parkrun, you get a someone — in this case a cyclist riding in north-west against the general flow — who just bowls on through.

You'd think common sense, along with the notions of self-preservation and of decency towards one's fellow path users, would suggest giving way but obviously not in some cases. And as for the person who, a few weeks ago, was trying to ride a motor scooter along a later section of what is clearly marked as a pedestrian path, the less said the better!

Granted it's annoying to have to give way to other people, but it's one of the most fundamental aspects of living a civilised existence that you cannot always do exactly what you want, when you want, and damn the consequences. As Robert Nozick says somewhere: your right to swing your fist ends where it intersects with my face.

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