Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming

I have been a keen swimmer for most of my life – although my mum does like to tell me tales of how it was difficult to get me in the water as a really young child. At some point, longer ago than I can remember, I must have decided that I did like to be in the water after all…

Through primary school I had weekly (term time) swimming lessons, although I’m not sure I ever got further than my 100m badge. Possibly I made it to 200m? 400m? (I wonder if those badges and swimming certificates are still around at my parents’ house…) Although I stopped those lessons when I reached a certain level, I still used to go swimming for fun with friends sometimes – most notably after violin classes on a Saturday morning. Violin I did not keep up, but swimming I did.

In my second year of university, after only swimming sporadically in the first year, I had an annual membership to use a hotel’s gym and pool facilities. I only used the gym a handful of times but often I would swim maybe 3 or 4 times a week. The hotel was less than five minutes walk from where I lived so that helped – and being a student, apparently, meant lots of free time! Unfortunately the pool was tiny – only 12 metres in length, at the longest point (it wasn’t rectangular either) – so I’m not sure how much distance I actually covered.

PHOTO: Alice Douglas-Deane, fellow graphic designer and sea swimmer. (I’m second from the left.)

Then there was sea swimming. I didn’t start properly swimming in the sea until the end of second year – when I presumed the water to have warmed up a bit. By third year, I was an avid sea swimmer. I swam every Sunday without hesitation as part of the CSM Sea Swimming Club. But it was more of a social thing and an invigorating ‘makes you feel good about yourself for running into the freezing cold water on a Sunday lunchtime like a crazy person’ kind of thing. I’m going back to Falmouth in just over a week (I can’t wait!) and I’m planning on fitting in at least one dip in the sea. My body will need to do some serious re-acclimatising to the cold.

Before I moved from Milton Keynes, I used to swim at Middleton Pool in Newport Pagnell. It was conveniently on my way home from work and I used to try to go once a week – although more often than not, that didn’t work out. That’s when I started using an app on my iPhone called Splash Path so that I could keep track of how much I was swimming each time (yes, I count lengths as I swim) and try to consistently improve.

It’s only now that I’ve moved to Bedford, properly signed up for a gym/swimming pool (Robinson Pool – also 33.3m in length, like Middleton, which is handy) and have been going consistently once or twice a week, that I am starting to really appreciate being able to visualise my swims. It’s encouraging to see my swim streak weeks figure going up, as well as my general distance improving. I started swimming in Bedford doing a measly 20 lengths, or 666m, but now…

My swim this evening – 40 lengths of 33m.

Splash Path – now known as Speedo Fit (I assume because Speedo give them funding to make the app) but I still think of it as Splash Path anyway – at its most basic level gives you the function to record how many lengths you swim at a certain pool, at a certain time and therefore how far that is. But it does other things too:
  • Set your goals, track your swims and keep motivated with virtual swim challenges.

  • Track every swim, monitor your progress and personal statistics.
  • Keep motivated by setting yourself a virtual challenge like Escape from Alcatraz.
  • Join the swimming community – share and compare your progress with friends or swimmers at your local pool.
  • Find pools wherever you are with the UK’s most comprehensive source of local swimming pools (including Ireland).
  • Check pool opening hours, swim timetables.

I’m currently ‘swimming’ across the Irish sea. It is a long way but I have completed all the short challenges.

Hopefully I’ll be upping my days swim streak from 1 to 2 tomorrow, by going two days in a row. I usually tend to go Mondays and Thursday but the bank holiday threw me off this week. Plus I didn’t go until Sunday last week (my one and only swim of the week, but it was a good one) due to not wanting my freshly henna’d hair to turn the pool water green prior to that.

You can get Speedo Fit from the Apple app store here, for free.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Don Kenn’s Post-it Monsters

After a productive day – eye test and purchasing new glasses, catching up with a friend over coffee, cleaning almost the whole flat and doing something a little crafty – I have spent a well-earned late-afternoon/evening browsing through blogs. I say blogs but really it was mostly Bored Panda. There are some great posts on there and I found that I was looking through most of the recent once quite in-depth, but just this one I felt I wanted to share myself.

‘Danish artist John Kenn Mortensen (who goes by Don Kenn on Tumblr and other sites) taps into the terror of our childhood nightmares with brilliant and terrifying monster drawings that he does on sticky notes.’Bored Panda

Friday, 22 August 2014

The hidden treasures of language

My friend and colleague, Kat shared this Brain Pickings link with us at work today. As a lover of language and admirer of fine illustration, I just had to share this myself. These visual interpretations of unusual words, created by Project Twins, were originally exhibited at the MadArt Gallery in Dublin, 2011, and they are absolutely marvellous.

‘Bold graphics and visual wit are used to interpret and represent a collection of strange, unusual and lost words. These images explore the meaning behind the words, which are sometimes even more strange or unusual.’ – Project Twins

There is a whole alphabet to feast your eyes upon, viewable here, but these are my favourite illustrations along with their words and meanings.

B is for Biblioclasm
The practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material.

F is for Fanfaronade
Swaggering; empty boasting; blustering manner or behavior; ostentatious display.

H is for Hamartia
The character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall.

J is for Jettatura
The casting of an evil eye.

L is for Leptosome
A person with a slender, thin, or frail body.

M is for Montivagant
Wandering over hills and mountains.

O is for Ostentiferous
Bringing omens or unnatural or supernatural manifestations

S is for Scripturient
Possessing a violent desire to write.

W is for Welter
A confused mass; a jumble; turmoil or confusion.

Z is for Zugzwang
A position in which any decision or move will result in problems.

Friday, 8 August 2014

World Cat Day

A lunchtime spent browsing through my Twitter-stream told me that today is, apparently, World Cat Day! How did I not know?!

I had a read/look at this Best Cats on the Internet post by i100 – a website I keep finding myself linked to (via Twitter) lately. The website seems, to me, to be a more respectable version of Buzzfeed – from The Independent newspaper – with lots of Top 10 articles and weird/interesting news stories.

And so I read the article, featuring their Top 13 cats on the Internet, but found myself disagreeing with the list. Some of the cats I haven’t even heard of or seen before – Snoopy? Brother Cream? And Maru should definitely be a lot higher up the list!

I decided, as the crazy-cat-lady that I am, I should make my own list! Not just Internet cats, however. Because all cats are awesome whether they are of Internet fame, fictional or just a random kitty you see walking down the street.

(because 9 lives, y’know.)

9 Tara the heroine
The cat that saved her young human from a dog attack.

8 Nyan cat
The rainbow-pop tart cat with an incredibly catchy soundtrack.

7 Pusheen
The adorably animated fat cat.

6 Street Cat Bob
The ex-stray cat who found his human busking on the streets of London.

5 Keyboard cat
The most talented of musical cats.

(Also, seen in the cinema last night… this is amazing!!)

4 The Bear
The world’s most melancholic cat, literary and Twitter star.

Everyone’s favourite animal/vehicle, from Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro.

The box-loving cat from Japan.

The [cat] love of my life and feature of many-a-Instagram post, my tailless-tabby-cat.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Rail Transport in Westeros

I’m a big fan of transport maps, I’m a big fan of maps of fictional places and, of course, I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones. So this map of Westeros based on US Subway systems (would have been nice if it was the London Underground instead, but oh well) is incredible. The level of detail and accuracy that its creator, Michael Tyznik, has put into it is crazy.

The map, and an extended map of all known lands in the books, are available to buy as prints. I need one for my flat.