Thursday, April 30, 2009

Steppin' Out (not with Joe Jackson)

Although it is generally recommended, there is some debate in medical circles about the benefits or not of walking 10,000 steps a day. Whatever the truth, it is at least a target to aim for. And we all like those, don't we?

I have only managed 10k a handful of times so far in 2009 but I hit my new high point for the year so far yesterday, with 14,644 clocked up on the pedometer built into my phone. And as that only records distances of 8 steps or more, and it was on charge during the evening, I'm guessing I actually beat the 15,000 mark. The 8 step thing is a problem when going for a big target as it means a lot of steps just don't get counted. Mooching slowly round shops or museums, only moving a few steps from shelf to shelf or between paintings doesn't add to the total even though the steps themselves are still taken. Still, they say you should only really count brisk walking when counting for health reasons.

We have been measuring our steps here for a good four or five years now, on and off. I have had free pedometers from Kellogs cereals and also a work and local paper-sponsored plan to collect enough steps to walk to the moon (which I don't think got more than halfway there before the colective will vanished). Neither of those lasted more than a few months of active use before being conveniently forgotten about. Plus the clicking used to drive me up the wall.

For the last year though, I have had this mobile phone with pedometer software that doesn't click for every step I take. It has certainly kept me motivated to try and aim for the 10k as being a proper mobile I do actually have it with me all the time. I confess I do get a bit fed-up sometimes when I can't get close to my target though. When the weather conspires agianst me, or meetings run into the lunchtime period I will be lucky to make 4,000 on a work day and most of those come from the walk to and from the bus stop. A wet weekend can be even worse at maybe only 2 or 3,000.

Since Christmas (when it went away for a replacement screen due to an unfortunate car park incident) the phone reckons my average daily wandering is 7131 but as it only retains the daily totals for four weeks I am not sure if that is an overall or rolling average. Mind you, the "advanced" results page gives me a total of 414,401 steps and a daily average of 6578 so I'm more than happy to stick with the higher figure to boost my ego! Hopefully I can get to the million step mark without breaking another handset.

And you never know, I might eveb manage to lose a few pounds into the bargain.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fangs a lot!

Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.
Anyway, what we have here is my first book blog since the resurrection, so it seems appropriate to delve into the world of the undead. Sundays With Vlad by Paul Bibeau is an entertaining look at how Dracula, his real life counterpart and vampire culture in general has entered into the world we inhabit.
To get the negative vibes out of the way first, I was disappointed that in a book marketed as Travel we don't get to visit either London or Whitby, where several of the major plot points of Stoker's novel take place. I can forgive Bibeau for not venturing to Exeter, home of the Harkers, but it would have been interesting to compare the church at Whitby with the castles of Transylvania. And there are still plenty of dark and forbidding alleys in London which evoke the feel of the period and can indeed have you imagining vampires lurking around the corner amongst men in stovepipe hats and ragamuffin urchins.

The places we do get to see, however are vividly described and Bibeau gives a very good sense of the history which pervades into modern attitudes, even given the inevitable changes wrought to the scene over the centuries. I was particularly taken with the section looking at carnival attractions, haunted houses and the like in a decaying American seaside resort. So much of that could equally apply to much of the British coast.

Delving into the sub-cultures who have adopted the traits of the vampire (from role playing games to political hopefuls to the inevitable goths) we see a bunch of people who fervently believe in the powers or attributes of the creature of the night and yet try to integrate with society at large rather than just walling themselves off in a crypt or hiding in the darkness. We also get lots of small asides and vignettes such as the fancy dress store trying to keep up with demand for vampire costumes in the run-up to Halloween and the reactions of "normal" guests sharing a hotel with a vampire convention.

I came away thoroughly entranced by the subject, and with knowledge on facets of Vampire lore I'f never considered before. Recommended.