Thursday, 28 May 2015

WORKOUT [punk-style]

I’m not particularly good at making playlists. Sure I can cobble together a selection of songs and bands that I like… but that normally involves whole albums rather than individual and carefully selected songs – by which I mean one by each artist and maybe even in a specific order.

So, I am quite please with my ‘workout’ playlist that I have put together for myself. (Read my recent post about the fitness bug I’ve caught.) Pleased enough that I felt the need to share it with the world. Particularly because it’s a workout playlist with a twist – all of the songs are punk rock or folk punk based. A lot of the songs are loud, short and fast which, of course, is great for exercising to!

I’m not saying I’m the first person to put together a playlist of this kind and I’m sure there’s lots of other people out there who exercise to punk music. But I couldn’t find anything half as good as this on Spotify! Perhaps I’m being a little biased, please judge for yourself…

The playlist currently has 42 tracks and I am adding to it as and when I come across something suitable. I’m open to suggestions!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Cats & Japan

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Japan’s love for cats was a fairly new thing, with cat caf├ęs and Internet cat sensations such as Maru (the adorable chubby cat who likes to get into cardboard boxes) and Nyan cat (the animated cat whose song you won’t be able to get out of your head – plus ‘nyan’ means ‘meow’, by the way). But Japan has been a cat-loving nation (mostly) since the animal was first introduced to the country, from China, in the 6th century. One place where cats have had a significant impact on Japanese culture and lifestyle is in art – from pre- ukiyo-e to the modern day.

Tofugu (a wonky Japanese language and culture website) blogger Linda Lombardi has written a great piece on this very subject entitled ‘Printed, Painted, and Sculpted Kitties – Cats in Japanese Art’:

Cats are an obsession in modern Japan. Most people have heard of cat cafes by now, but did you know there are cat shrines and even cat tourism?  Tama the cat was appointed stationmaster of a Wakayama train station and revived the local economy by attracting tens of thousands of tourists a year. There’s a tourist-magnet island overrun with kitties. February 22 is unofficially Cat Day because nyan-nyan (the Japanese “mew-mew”) can also mean “two-two.” 

This may all seem like particularly modern craziness, but in reality it’s just the 21st-century version of something that goes way back, as we can see by looking at the history of Japanese art. Whether ink on paper or pixels on a screen, depictions of cats have been popular for as long as cats have been in Japan.

Read the full article here.

Monday, 25 May 2015

8-Bit Spirited Away

I posted about ‘8-Bit Cinema’ last summer, when I first came across their amazing videos. But until recently there hadn’t been any 8-bit-style Studio Ghibli videos. Strange really as anything Japanese seems greatly suited to the classic 8-bit style to me! (The Japanese being at the forefront of the 8-bit gaming era in the 1980s.)

The Spirited Away 8-bit video was posted online at the end of April, this year, but, as is the way with me and popular things on the Internet, I have only just seen it. And it is brilliant. It did make me realise, however, that I haven’t watched the actual film for quite some time. I must re-watch it soon…

CineFix presents Spirited Away retold via old-school 8-bit (and a little 16 bit) game tech. No quarters or controllers required! (Just some imagination and magic.) 8-bit a.k.a. the third generation of gaming started in 1983 with the Japanese release of the Nintendo Family Computer and Sega. Can you guess what games inspired our 8-bit version of Spirited Away?

Saturday, 23 May 2015


I have a Snufkin [from the Moomins] ‘page’ on Facebook and it is surprisingly popular – especially considering I rarely post anything. It currently has over 700 likes and is gaining more every week!

I originally created the page way back in 2011, I think just so that I could list Snufkin as an ‘inspirational figure’ on my own Facebook profile – a feature that doesn’t seem to exist any longer. Since then I’ve occasionally posted the odd image or quote but there is usually a gap of several months where I don’t do anything with the page. I rarely post to Facebook on my own private profile either.

Yet, all the same, the page is continuing to gain more followers… or likers – is that what they would be called on Facebook? So, I’ve been having a look at the ‘insights’ feature for the page and there’s some quite interesting stats.

Lots of fans in Mexico!

Just think how popular the page could be if I actually dedicated some time to it…
Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. You could maybe like the page anyway?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015


I think someone has taken a leaf out of Frank Turner’s book for their new lyric video. I’ll let him off though, because he’s CHUCK RAGAN. Plus, this is my favourite song from his last album and it’s a features neat little doodles as well as the lyrics. And it is a re-recorded version with guest vocals… although I still prefer the original anyway.

Chuck Ragan. Donor of shoes, father-to-be, all-around nice guy. Last year, he released a solo album called Till Midnight that kept him strummin’ across the country. Now, he’s working on a split with fellow Revival Tourer Rocky Votolato called Kindred Spirit and re-recorded Till Midnight’s ‘Vagabond’, but this time with the help of Ben Nichols of Lucero as well as Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price. Enjoy the gravelly rustic sounds of the song’s collaboration while you train your chocolate lab to build a shed or carve an outhouse out of a single block of wood. Noisey

Sunday, 17 May 2015

A spot of punting in Cambridge

I live only around 30 miles away from Cambridge. I love the city for its beautiful historical architecture, parks, river, bridges and shopping streets, yet I don’t visit Cambridge nearly enough – only really once or twice a year.

It’s become a tradition for Ruby, who lives just north of Cambridge near Ely, and I to meet up, in Cambridge, in November every year for Christmas shopping. This is something we’ve done for the last three years (and before that we were both at uni, anyway!). But for some reason we hadn’t met up in Cambridge to enjoy the warmer weather of Spring or Summer until yesterday. Although of course we do see each other more than once a year in other places!

It was a beautiful verging-on-Summer’s-day yesterday and we didn’t really have any plans. So, after catching up over coffee and a little bit of [window] shopping, we wandered to the river Cam and decided to go on a ‘chauffeured punt’ (how pretentiously posh does that sound?!).

Punting selfie!

A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water. Punting refers to boating in a punt. The punter generally propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole. A punt should not be confused with a gondola, which is propelled by an oar rather than a pole.

The most photographed building in Cambridge – King’s College.
Plus, on the right, the building that the original White House was based on! 
The ‘mathematical bridge’, built by a student of Isaac Newton.
Pub where Pink Floyd played their first ever gig together!
Charles Darwin’s house (also where he died).
The iconic Round Church.

Also, before all of that, we happened to walk past the Cambridge University Press book shop and a spotted some strangely familiar book covers in the window! Eyes Open and Empower are English Language Teaching book series designed by emc design. Eyes Open in particular is a series that I’ve worked extensively on, from start to finish (and there’re still a few bits to be finished off/wrapped up) over the last couple of years. Nice to not only see the books ‘in the flesh’ but also in a shop window!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


I’m trying to make sure that, as well as going to the gym, yoga classes and swimming, I fit a decent amount of walking into my week – with or without walking companions.

I have my new iPhone 5S and the pedometer feature (plus this pedometer app) to blame/thank for enlightening me as to just how little I walk on weekdays – due to spending most of the day sat at a desk! Anyway, it’s also been quite nice and sunny these last few days so I ought to make the most of it. The sun is setting later so who’s to say that I can’t go for a post-work, post-gym, post-dinner stroll along the Embankment?! Which is what I did last night…

Today I popped out for a brief explorative walk in Oakley – the Bedfordshire village where I work – on my lunch break. Since we moved offices from Stevington, a year ago, I confess I haven’t been on many lunchtime wanders. I miss the windmill! I will try to get out more. Today I discovered a public footpath/bridleway which lead me here…

I really do live and work in lovely places. Bedfordshire is lovely.

Sunday, 3 May 2015


I have been a member of the gym in Bedford almost as long as I’ve lived here – since last July. But when I say ‘gym’, I mean that for the last year I have used the swimming pool regularly (2–3 times a week) and been to yoga and pilates classes (1 or 2 yoga classes a week and pilates on a Sunday morning, when I can). At least, that was the case up until a few weeks ago…

I’ve now used the actual gym facilities about 4 or 5 times. I had never properly been to a gym in my life so this is all very new for me and, so far, I’ve only tried out the the bike and cross trainer. I was pretty pleased that I managed to do 8km/20mins for my first time on the bike – not at a particularly difficult level, mind you, but hey.

I use a couple of fitness apps on my iPhone to track my exercise sessions. I find that it keeps me motivated to exercise regularly and to either remain consistent in each ‘session’ I do or to exceed my averages. Plus, it’s good to be able to look at a whole week, month or longer period of time and see how I’ve improved.

I blogged about Splash Path/Speedo Fit, in a fair amount of detail, last summer but since then they’ve had quite a major re-design. In fact, I think it happened not long after I wrote that blog post! Also, I treated myself to a new iPhone yesterday – I upgraded from a 4S to a 5S – so now I have a larger screen with which to use the app.

My longest swim of 1,798m was last Thursday!

I’ve been using the Speedo Fit app for well over a year now and so my overall distance (144,250m) sounds quite impressive, I think! So now that I’ve started to expand my weekly exercise beyond swimming, I have also started using another exercise app: Fitlist.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’m using it properly at all but I just wanted to be able to have something calendar-based to record distances and times for each of my sessions in the gym. I haven’t been using the app for very long but it’s great to see that I’ve exercised far more days than not. Yoga and pilates classes go down in this app, as well as swims and gym sessions!

A lot of the figures generated by that app, calories for example, won’t be very accurate as I have no idea how many calories I burn in a pilates class! The bike, cross trainer and no doubt other gym equipment will tell me how many calories I’ve burnt though.

Now that I have an iPhone 5S, I should be able to make proper use of the iOS8 Health app and the built-in pedometer. Again, I have no idea how the Health app fully works but apparently it takes its data from other third-party health and fitness apps – Speedo Fit and Fitlist, for example. But as I only got the phone yesterday, I have yet to experience these feature properly.