mhoulden: (Default)
2011-02-05 12:34 am
Entry tags:

Bored, LS18

First unflocked post for ages. So what's been going on in the somewhat diminished house of Houlden? I'm still waiting to get grant of representation that will allow me to get my dad's affairs sorted out but the intestacy rules have some serious shortcomings about situations that weren't envisaged in the 1920s when they were drawn up, so it isn't that easy to sort out. Losing a parent is a big thing to deal with, especially when he was only 62, but I think winding up his estate is a good practical thing I can do for coping with it. It surprises me that organisations still act as if they don't have processes in place for dealing with deceased customers or clients. As I wrote in a letter to E.ON:
I write with reference to your letter of 12th January 2011 from XXX regarding my late father’s account. Frankly I was appalled by its condescending tone and the discourteous approach that EON has taken in this case so far. Domestic residences have been entitled to electricity supplies since at least the Electric Lighting Act of 1882 and I would hope that by now EON or its predecessors would have developed effective and sensitive procedures for closing the accounts of deceased customers.

There's a fair bit else going on that I may describe in a flocked post, but not in a public one.

Workwise I'm a redeployee (again) so I'm looking for a new job at the company. There are a couple of developer roles there but I'm also being asked to consider other stuff that I've tried before. Job searching doesn't take a lot of time so things are otherwise pretty quiet. At least I'm still working from home.

Gym-wise, after something of a hiatus over xmas I'm getting back into it. There's a BJJ seminar this Sunday and then I've put my name down to do another Thai interclub a week on Sunday. My weight did go up a bit over xmas and it's being tricky to shift, but I've definitely changed my lifestyle so much that there's no way I'm going back to the old ways. Now I'm getting back to normal and the weather's improving I can concentrate a bit more on bringing it down.

Something I'm after now is some kind of challenge. Not probate, or the gym, or work, or computer related, but something else. One idea is writing, but what? I've got quite a verbose style with influences from Bill Bryson and Charlie Brooker. My Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets are obviously one form but they're short and there's a lot I leave out, partly to avoid too much detail and partly because I don't like to mention everything about my life. Fiction is one idea: if music can have soundscapes it should be possible to do the same sort of thing with words, and I'm particularly interested in dystopian environments and the feeling of being "outside the system". Fiction would also give me the chance to describe situations without getting personally involved. If you know it's fiction you can change all sorts of details because it's made up.

Another idea is commentary, but on what subject? The minutiae of life can be pretty boring to read. I'm interested in politics and current affairs but I find writing something coherent can take a lot of effort because I want to check facts are correct and more reliable than Wikipedia. Same with covering the rituals and superstitions that infest sport. The other thing is getting people to read what I write. Publishing online is easy but there are zillions of blogs out there with no readers. There's the notes on Facebook as well but I find my friends list tends to shorten when I go into any sort of detail. For some reason being politically left wing and a sceptic when it comes to things like quack nutritionists and pseudo-scientific ideas doesn't go down too well in certain circles.
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-11-28 08:15 pm
Entry tags:

Frozen Penguin


frozen penguin
Originally uploaded by mhoulden
There's been plenty of photos of snow in Leeds, but how many are of penguins? This one was seen in the playground at Featherbank School and was looking distinctly chilly.
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-11-02 10:45 pm

Leeds Hack Day and FindMe (#hhhLeeds)

It sounded interesting so I thought I'd give it a go. As the event details at http://hackdayleeds.eventbrite.com/ say, "The aim was to show journalists how to use programming and design techniques to create online news stories and features; and vice versa, to show programmers how to find, develop, and polish stories and features." Also, given that one of the sponsors of the day was Scraperwiki, I think there was also an element of advertising their software. The day was interesting, even if I ended up working on my own. Also finally got to meet [livejournal.com profile] nalsa in person as well.

A few weeks before the event I thought it would be interesting to investigate geolocation as a possible project. Doesn't get more local than a map with a big arrow saying "you are here" after all. I have a phone with GPS and I've seen various sites such as Twitter, Facebook and indeed Livejournal use some form of it to get someone's address. While it might be interesting to know that a tweet was made from the financial quarter, it isn't particularly useful, especially if you're the person there. Of course there are services like Google Maps and Orange Local, but these tend to use a lot of data and are more a means of location based advertising. What I thought would be useful would be a basic "find me" page that displayed a few bits of information such as the nearest street and postcode, possibly a small map and perhaps links to the nearest bus stops and railway stations. Sounds reasonably straightforward but getting hold of the data certainly is not. The official source of postcode data is the Postcode Address File which is published by the Royal Mail but which costs money. The Ordnance Survey has street and postcode data available free of charge but these are in separate tables. This data has coordinates in OS Easting and Northing format but the geolocation support built into web browsers is in Longitude and Latitude format and converting from one to the other requires some hideous maths. Thankfully the OS also provide details of an app that will do this.

The details of what I did to get all this data in a usable format are too boring to go into, but what I eventually ended up with something that looks like this:
Screenshot of the #hhhLeeds FindMe app. With geolocation as w... on Twitpic
The example here has a postcode embedded in the URL but it uses geolocation as well. I also gave a presentation about it, as below:

Quite impressed with how I did there given I was speaking without notes to an audience I'd only just met and it was being videoed as well.

At the moment the FindMe app isn't for public use as it's running behind a plethora of firewalls on one of my home machines, but I'm working on getting it converted from ASP.Net and SQL Server to PHP and MySQL and putting it on my website somewhere at www.nukesoft.co.uk.
mhoulden: (bnp)
2010-10-21 01:05 am

My Mate

Crossposted and originally mentioned by [livejournal.com profile] gothick_matt on Twitter, the BNP rather unwisely tried to do a parody of a Marmite advert as a party political broadcast. Unfortunately for them Unilever have rather better lawyers and they've just agreed to pay somewhere between £70K - £170K for copyright infringement. Because of the BNP's parlous finances it means the party is likely to go bust. Oopsie.

Don't spend a lot of time blogging on LJ because of the time it takes to sit down and write stuff, but I entered my first grappling tournament a few weeks ago where these kind of things happened:
P1000482
and
P1000491
and
P1000489
I was just behind on points until I got submitted like this:
P1000499
(I'm in the white shorts and black rash guard)
I'm doing another one on Sunday. Because I've been doing BJJ and grappling for a while I entered the first at intermediate level and I'll be doing the next one at advanced level. Now I've got a bit of experience I find I like the competitive nature of trying to get your opponent to submit before you do.

Also coming up is the Leeds Hacks & Hackers day. For preparation I've been playing about with some location data from the Ordnance Survey including coordinates for streets and postcodes. These have to be in separate tables as the main source for having them combined is the Postcode Access File available from the Post Office and which costs money. What I do have now is something that uses geolocation (usually a mobile phone GPS but Wifi with Google Gears works as well) to display a small Google map with your location along with the top 5 nearest streets and postcodes and links to find the nearest bus stop on the Metro next bus service. I've got postcodes for the BD, HD, HX, LS, M, OL, S, and WF areas, and SYPTE and Metro use the same service so it should be pretty easy to do one for them. GMPTE uses a different system that needs further investigation. I do have other postcodes as well but they need a bit of processing before they're usable. I've done this in C#, ASP.Net and SQL Server but it should be pretty straightforward to do it in PHP and MySQL for something that works on most Linux hosting services.

Some of the other people signed up to the hack day should be familiar about these parts, including [livejournal.com profile] myfirstkitchen, John Eland from Exposure Leeds and Neil Owen from Test Space. Apart from the web content manager from Leeds City Council it looks like I'm the most "corporate" person there but I daresay I'm probably not the most conventional person around. Should be a good day for networking and doing things with people that doesn't involve punching or strangling them, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if we decamp off to the pub afterwards.
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-09-15 11:19 pm

Leeds Hack Day

Decided that I will give it a go after all. It's a day where "hacks" (journalists and such like) get together with "hackers" (web developers and designers) to make interesting stuff. I know I spend most of my free time training but I know there's a lot of other things going on in Leeds. Got to admit I'm a little jealous of some of the things [livejournal.com profile] nalsa does as well and I'd like to try something similar for myself. The nature of the techy work I do means the kind of projects I work on tend to be pretty functional but they are designed to be robust and with the right kind of back end it's relatively straightforward to put a pretty user interface on it. Now I've got to come up with a few ideas for the kind of stuff we could do there. Because I use public transport a lot and sometimes grumble at First Group and Metro on Twitter that could be one starting point. An idea I've kind of been playing with is a "find me" web application that gets your postcode from a mobile phone's GPS coordinates and then passes it on to information services such as the Metro next bus system. As well as trying something different it'll also be good to meet a different group of people. Somehow I have a feeling that once the day comes to an end we'll be decamping to the pub across the road......
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-08-30 11:02 pm
Entry tags:

The fight

Right, so, had a fight just over a month ago. I keep meaning to write about it, after all even though I don't blog anywhere as much as I used to, it's still quite a major thing to do.

Had a meeting with my boss on the 22nd of July and when I got back home I checked my usual forums and social networking sites. There was a request for someone to take a fight at 86 kg on a Thai boxing show in Leeds on the 31st of July. I asked my instructor if I could do it, albeit at 88 kg because of the short notice. On the Thursday morning I got it confirmed and had just over a week to prepare. A few sessions of tough training later and it was time. I'd actually fought my opponent before at an interclub so I remembered he was at least 6'6" and as tough to fight as most Polish people I know are. My fight was the last of the day which meant I was waiting around for ages and already there was little chance of having a beer afterwards and certainly no chance of having one before. It was C class Thai boxing rules with shinpads, so full contact over 3 x 2 minute rounds. Being proper Thai rules meant I got to wear the traditional robe, mongkol and flower garland:

We could also do the traditional fighter's dance called the Ram Muay but because I hadn't done one before it was best not to try to do one badly but just do a simplified version where you bow in each corner in a procedure called sealing the ring:
DSC_1959_1
There was a bit of a height difference between me and my opponent. The camera wasn't tilted for this shot:
DSC_1963

As far as the fight went, I decided to start by coming out aggressively with a punch and kick, only to fall over. A few seconds in I got kicked in the face which raised a lump on my cheek. I said "ow" and could see it but thought it was just a bit of vaseline that had slipped. The ref asked if I was OK, which I was more or less and carried on fighting. I managed to get some good techniques in and threw him to the ground a couple of times. I also managed to use the BJJ/MMA technique known as underhooks when we were clinching which shut down the distance between us and meant I was in control. After 2 minutes the bell went and I went back to my corner for the usual rest and advice. The ref had a look at me and called the ringside nurse over to have a look at my face injury because he wasn't happy with it:
Between rounds
She decided I couldn't continue and told me to go to hospital because it might be fractured, so I lost by medical stoppage. I was still smiling afterwards though:
DSC_1987
In the back room I got changed and had to tell people to stop prodding my facing and speculating what it might be. Downright irritating and for obvious reasons I wanted to get it checked out properly.
I got a lift down to the Leeds General Infirmary, got there about 17.15 and spent most of the time waiting around for things to happen. At various points I saw a nurse who did the initial assessment, a nurse practitioner, a doctor, went for an x-ray, and then finally the nurse practitioner told me that it was just a bruise and I could go home, put ice on it and return to training when I felt happy. The next morning the lump had gone completely and was just a black eye:
The morning after

I was back training on the Wednesday but I took it easy for a few days. I found out later that my opponent broke his toes during the fight and had to miss training for a few weeks. Full contact Thai boxing is definitely a tough sport and I'd say tougher than Western style boxing. I know a few people found it difficult to cope with me doing it, not just because I ended up in hospital but I think also because I could have put someone there. In this kind of thing both fighters are usually reasonably evenly matched and I can understand why people might be uneasy with the idea of me as a fighter at this kind of level.

Would I do it again? Yes. However what I've got in mind for my next fight is something completely different and going for the BJJ no gi British Opens at the end of September. After I got my blue belt at the end of April I decided that I may as well do something with it. This will be submission grappling, so I'll be throwing people around, bending their limbs the wrong way and trying to strangle them. No punching or kicking though. I'd like to do it for the experience even if I get submitted within the first few seconds.
mhoulden: (punch)
2010-07-29 10:21 am
Entry tags:

Weekend Plans

I think this says it all:
Pegasus Show Poster

Someone dropped out of a fight on this show last Wednesday so I asked if I could take it over. My instructor and the show promoter agreed and last Thursday I got it confirmed that I would be fighting with just over a week's notice. A week's intense training later and I fight in two day's time. This will be tougher than the fight I had in Leigh last year: it's over 3 x 2 minute rounds, full C class Thai rules (punches, kicks, knees and full clinching allowed, but no elbows or knees to the head), and the only protection I'll have will be shin pads (as well as obviously a box and gum shield). No head protection and no chest pad. For comparison, an amateur or white collar boxing match is either 3 x 3 or 4 x 2 minute rounds and with head protection. All I know about my opponent is which gym he's from, that he's 85 kg and has one fight with one win. I'm a bit heavier because of the short notice but they do give you a bit of leeway at this level. I'm not going to go into all the preparations I've been doing, but I do think there's a serious chance I could win on Saturday. Some people only train when they know they've got a fight coming up, but because I train pretty much all the time it meant I was in a position to be put forward at short notice. I didn't put my name down for this show at first because I thought I might be busy that weekend, but that's now been postponed to September.

Finished my last training session last night and now I've got 2 days to rest and complete the final preparations before Saturday. This will be a home town fight so there'll be lots of people I know there to watch, both from my own gym and from other local ones. I'm also taking tomorrow off work so I don't have to think about that. Because of the nature of my day job I've decided my fight nickname will be The Administrator. I daresay you don't get many Thai boxers with 9 years professional software development experience and I wanted something suitably techy but also dominating. With my last fight over a year ago this one has been a long time coming and I'm looking forward to it.
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-07-13 07:58 pm

2nd time lucky


I write like
Isaac Asimov

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




First time I tried this with a different post it suggested I wrote like Dan Brown. The Da Vinci Code bloke? I don't think so.
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-06-20 11:12 pm

Interclub #5

Last Sunday was my first time in the ring since my fight in May last year. It was a long time coming after fights in October and March, and another interclub in May this year fell through, so it was good to be back. The show started at 11.30 and my fight was at 3 so it was a very long time to wait. They changed it from 5 rounds to 3 but it was still quite long enough. We both do MMA and grappling (he had 4 MMA fights) so there was a lot of clinching and kicking involved. With the adrenaline involved as well it was absolutely exhausting. There's various things I picked up from it that I need to work on, but that's part of the point. I'd say he probably had the edge over me this time. As far as terminology goes, someone complained when I described an earlier interclub as a fight, but this time the organizer described them as fights so that's good enough for me.

At this one they had a professional photographer so I got loads of photos, which are on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mhoulden/sets/72157624271646904/. Some of my favourites behind the cut (on LJ). What surprised me is just how aggressive I look in them. Obviously this is full contact martial arts and I've seen other people pulling similar faces, but it's very different when it's you.
Read more... )
And of course the "after" ones:
IMG_2562
That was right after they'd called time. I was also trying to deal with a temperamental gum shield so I knew I had my trophy the wrong way round but I didn't care. I had just had a fight after all.

P1000367
Pretty much immediately after this was taken I did the only sensible thing and went to the bar to get a pint.
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-06-13 08:48 pm

Afterwards


Afterwards
Originally uploaded by mhoulden
I'm back, I survived and I'm absolutely shattered. More photos to come later, but that's all for now.
mhoulden: (fight1)
2010-06-12 12:53 am
Entry tags:

Fight!

Or at least Interclub!

Looks like I've been matched, so I should be doing a Thai interclub on Sunday. It's the first time in over a year I've been in the ring, the last time being my fight on the 30th of May last year. There's no decision with interclubs so there's no win or lose, but there's still the pressure of being in a boxing ring with someone you don't know and a referee, and loads of people watching. My last interclub was on my mum's birthday and I presented her with a nice box of chocolates and a black eye.

This one's 5 x 1 minute rounds with controlled contact, but punches, kicks, knees and clinching (but no elbows) will be allowed. I will be wearing shin pads and 16 oz gloves but I'm not sure if I'll also have to wear a chest pad and head guard. Given a choice, I'd prefer not to. All I've done in the past has been over three rounds of a minute and a half so allowing for a short break between each one it's almost twice as long as what I've done before. The same place organizing this interclub has a show on the 24th of July and I'm hoping that if I put a good show on on Sunday then they'll find a place for me on it. I'm about 89 - 90 kg for this interclub but I'd be fighting properly at 86 kg.

After training with a few kick boxers I've got to say I'm very definitely a Thai boxer. One of the biggest differences (apart from the addition of clinching and knees) is that kick boxers step in, do something and then step out again whereas Thai boxers keep moving forwards and don't tend to duck and weave the way boxers do.

Just for old time's sake, here's the opening bit of my first ever interclub in Feb 2007. At this one I weighed in at 127 kg. How long ago that feels now.
Bad Company Interclub

I will of course be taking a camera and be putting the best shots up here. Wish me luck.
mhoulden: (bnp)
2010-05-10 10:34 pm

Iconic

Quite impressed how many people have looked at my photo of Nick Griffin on Flickr. 430 so far with one person adding it as a favourite and someone else inviting me to add it to an anti-Nazi group. The only sensible thing to do is to turn it into an LJ icon, hence <----. I've Creative Commonsed the original photo so feel free to pinch it

It's quite nice to have a period where politicians are trying to say as little as possible. If only it was always like that. I think Rupert Murdoch might be getting a shock that people don't actually like what he wants and they're harder to control than his newspapers and TV stations. Of course he could apply for British citizenship and vote like the rest of us.
mhoulden: (politics)
2010-05-07 12:51 am

(no subject)

*snigger*

Barking Nick
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-05-01 11:51 pm
Entry tags:

Joining the 4th estate

In case people haven't already seen it on Facebook, my letter about dyspraxia made today's Guardian. So that's what it's like having an editor. I don't usually bother writing to newspapers about anything but this was different. My own dyspraxia may not be particularly bad but I know what its effects are and I know a lot of people would like my combination of a good job and a very active life, even if they don't have any kind of disability. I've done the crappy jobs in my time, including working in a mail room opening letters, night shifts packing shampoo bottles, sorting partly cured cow hides in a shoe factory, and sticking sanitary towels to leaflets for some kind of mail out for women to pour blue water over like in the adverts. Helps to keep you grounded knowing those kind of things exist but I'm in no hurry to do them again.

I suppose it takes a certain amount of confidence to write to a national newspaper and say you've got a disability. I noticed the introduction to my letter mentioned that they'd had a few other letters but they weren't suitable for publication. Because of what I've been through and where I am now it feels a bit like I've got a responsibility to make people aware of dyspraxia and that having it doesn't necessarily stop you from trying things. There's a fair amount of information for kids with dyspraxia and for employees and employers at lower levels but not so much for higher level professional jobs such as mine. For example I wonder how many people realise that one good way of tracking tasks and remembering things is simply to use the features built into Microsoft Outlook. Most companies use it for email anyway so it's not as if it's difficult to get hold of.
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-04-25 06:39 pm
Entry tags:

Dyspraxia

There was a letter in the jobs section of yesterday's Guardian about someone with dyspraxia and dyslexia so I thought I'd stick my oar in and send them a reply about my own experiences. I was diagnosed with dyspraxia in the late 80s when I was at junior school and when hardly anyone had heard of it, with the classic symptoms of messy handwriting, clumsiness and poor coordination and balance. Of course I still have it now but a lot of people are surprised when I tell them, particularly given the progress I've made with my martial arts. 2 years seems to be about the average time it takes to get a BJJ blue belt for someone who does trains hard a couple of times a week and who doesn't have a disability, and I was told that last year's Thai fight was quite reasonable for a first time.

So how do I do it? First of all, even if I say so myself, I'm pretty damn good at what I do. I learn quickly, don't give up easily and am prepared to work hard and put the time in. I know what my limitations are and I work round them. Having a disability means there are some things I know I can't do but I'm not afraid to try to see if I can. I've never been able to do cartwheels or handstands but then I've never had a particular need to do so. My spacial awareness could be better which is why I tend to get a bit grumpy if someone's hovering near me or if I'm sparring and there's people getting too close. Although it goes against one of the central tenets of the motivational speaking industry, there is such a word as "can't": that's why it's a disability. It's a bit like a person with one hand trying to provide a full set of 10 fingerprints.

An important bit of this is attitude. I may have dyspraxia but I don't suffer from it and it's certainly not one of my defining characteristics. I'll mention it if it is or becomes an issue but otherwise I tend to keep it to myself. I'm also more interested in what I can do than what I cannot. For people following this blog on Live Journal or my status updates on Facebook it should be quite apparent that this is quite a lot.

Extracts from my email will probably appear in next week's Graun, but there's the full version:
Hi Jeremy. I was interested to read the letter from someone with dyspraxia and dyslexia who was having problems finding a fulfilling job. I have dyspraxia myself and some of the issues this person mentions sound quite familiar. First of all, from a legal point of view these conditions are classed as disabilities and employers are required to make reasonable adjustments. These can include giving instructions in writing instead of verbally, breaking complex tasks down into steps, allowing short breaks to allow information to be processed and allowing the use of a computer with a spell checker instead of handwriting. Depending on the size of the employer they may also provide training in time and project management or specialist multi sensory tuition through organizations such as the Dyslexia Institute and the Dyspraxia Foundation. However you do need to make your employer aware of these conditions. The university will probably have carried out some sort of assessment and a written report that they may have provided would be a good starting point for explaining the effects. Employment law relating to developmental disorders is still very sketchy. However the Employment Appeals Tribunal decided in a case of disability discrimination for dyslexia that employers are required to consider what a particular person could do if they were not disabled, not how they compare to people who are not. The case was Paterson v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.

It also sounds like the writer is suffering from a lack of confidence. Going through a series of low grade jobs will not be helping with this. However, even though the university and college will have provided a certain amount of help, they will have had to carry out certain tasks by themselves that require advanced skills such as research, summarizing articles, and of course the usual social interactions with classmates and tutors. The course may have also included having to stand up and give presentations. One effect of dyspraxia can be social awkwardness and jobs such as working in shops, with children or office admin require interaction with a large number of people who may at times be hostile or impatient. I think it would be a good idea to look for a job that’s less public-facing and more about working in a small team where you get to know each other quite well. This person will have some good skills: you don’t get an honours degree for nothing. Rather than applying for any job going I’d suggest looking for something where you can use those skills. Even if it’s a relatively low level job it will help you to build confidence if you’re doing something that you’re good at. I’ve been working as a software developer since I graduated 9 years ago (coincidentally with a 2:2 as well, although mine was in software engineering) and performance reviews over the last couple of years have commented on how my technical skills are as good as some of the best developers they’ve worked with. Low self confidence and stress can also exacerbate the effects of these conditions and improving confidence will mean they have less of an impact.

These conditions can be extremely tedious and they last for life. One of the ways I deal with dyspraxia is remembering that it is as much a disability as hearing loss or missing limbs and that some things will be difficult or impossible. This is not your fault and there’s no point blaming yourself for it. Concentrating on what you can do instead makes a difference. Despite being classed as disabled I have a good job with plenty of prospects. Dyspraxia also has physical effects such as problems with coordination, spacial awareness and balance, and one way I deal with that is by taking up martial arts. The effects aren’t going to go away but my instructors are aware I have it and getting plenty of practice can help. I’ve been doing Thai boxing for 5 years and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 2, and was very pleased to be awarded my blue belt a couple of weeks ago. At work I find using the calendar and task list in Microsoft Outlook can be a good way to remember things. To avoid stumbling over words on the phone I sometimes write down what I’m going to say (and find writing down the answers to questions can provide a useful record). Speaking slowly and trying not to gabble can help as well.

The three main charities that support these conditions are DANDA, the Dyslexia Institute and the Dyspraxia Foundation. These have a network of support groups for adults and children. I used to be involved with the West Yorkshire group and try to keep in touch with the local coordinator when I can. I’ve also spoken to Mary Colley who helped to set up the Dyspraxia Foundation and DANDA and found her to be very helpful.

Feel free to pass on my email. Managing these conditions can be hard work but it is possible.
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-04-22 11:00 pm
Entry tags:

Belt Up

Busy weekend (as the fact that I'm posting this on Thursday shows). On Sunday morning I went to a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu seminar. 3.5 hours of wearing pyjamas and trying to strangle people and bend their limbs the wrong way. At the end people were awarded stripes and belts by Victor Estima, our head instructor. I was one of them:
P1000132

The BJJ grading structure goes white -> blue -> purple -> brown -> black -> red with 4 stripes in between and I got my blue belt. There's no set criteria for getting a belt in BJJ: they look at things like progress, technique and how you get on with people. I was trying hard to do what I could and I think the main stand out bits were taking the time to show a beginner the correct way to tie his belt at the start of the seminar, and later during sparring tapping out (beating) a purple belt via a particularly technical submission called a clock choke. You don't expect belts and at the end a few people got blues and purples but not me. I was thinking "Fair enough. Maybe I need to work on a few things". Then we stood up and someone said "Actually, there is someone else who's worked hard. Marcus, step forwards." Just over 2 years since I started in this game with virtually no experience and the incredibly tedious affliction of Dyspraxia which affects balance, coordination and spacial awareness.

After the seminar there's a belt whipping ceremony where everyone who's been promoted gets whipped on the back:
P1000116

It stings a bit but it's not too bad. I've done it to other people but now it was my turn. Afterwards my back looked like this (behind the cut):
Read more... )

Not a bad weekend's work.

On the hitting and kicking side of things my next fight will be a Thai boxing interclub on the 8th of May. I said I was hoping to fight in some form or another in May. Bit short notice (I found out yesterday) but if you train as if you might have a fight in the next week or so anyway it makes it easier when you do.
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-04-06 07:15 pm

Too sinister?


Too sinister?
Originally uploaded by mhoulden
Inspired by the Guardian's Step Outside Posh Boy April Fool and the Flickr group I thought I'd have a go at doing one myself. Let's just say I'm not a big fan of ID cards...
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-03-20 10:52 pm
Entry tags:

Give us this day....

Home baked bread

Finally got round to firing up the oven. The one on the left is a mix for Morrisons Sundried Tomato and Basil Focaccia and the one on the right is Sainsburys Multigrain. Both are topped with a mix of grated Emmenthal and red onion, and did quite nicely served with a Caesar salad for my dinner. The top of the multigrain was starting to burn so I reduced the temperature from 230 to 200 C. Although I have an electric fan oven it has a no fan setting which is useful for baking.

Just realised how appropriate my Now Playing is.
mhoulden: (Default)
2010-03-17 12:15 am

5 years on

So, the 16th of March. Back in 2005 I'd fallen into bad habits. I was seriously overweight and spent most of my time watching TV, playing computer games and eating takeaways. Although I had a bike it only got used once or twice a month. However change was in the air. In January 2005 I bought a Sony PS2 and GTA San Andreas. As part of the game you can train at 3 martial arts gyms, one boxing, one kung fu and one kick boxing. I was kind of curious about the boxing so I bought some cheap shorts and gloves and decided to see if I could find somewhere to give it a go. After a bit of Googling I found a few boxing and kick boxing places that looked promising. Some had web sites while others just had email addresses. I left it for a few weeks but then in March 2005 I had to do some work in Cardiff so I called into a martial arts shop there and bought some Thai boxing shorts because the boxing shorts I had didn't fit, with the proviso that if I was going to spend that kind of money I'd better use them. After watching a couple of old fights on the C5 show Now is the Time I finally got round to doing things and sent the following email to Richard Smith, the main instructor at Bad Company on the 8th of March:

I'm interested in joining the gym and coming to classes. Before I do, I was wondering if you had any requirements regarding health or level of fitness as it would be fair to say I'm somewhat unfit and overweight. In the past when I've spoken to my doctor he's suggested that the best way for me to overcome this is to get more exercise, such as joining a gym. I'd also be interested to know if there is any particular equipment or clothing I should bring when I do come. 
If you'd like to contact me over the phone, my number is xxx.
Thanks.
mh. 

By the time I got a reply the next available open session was Wednesday the 16th. I was very nervous when I got there but I decided the best plan was to go with the flow and see what they could teach me. During the warmup Richard came over to me and told me to just do what I could, possibly the first and last time he'd not told me to try harder. Can't remember much about that session but I do remember trying to do a push kick and falling backwards. I was pretty achy afterwards but I decided I was going to try doing six weeks and then decide whether to continue. Unfortunately after that I got mumps and had to miss the next couple of sessions. Certainly wouldn't be the last time I was disappointed that illness or an injury meant I'd miss training.

In April was Linz & Dave's wedding where I shocked a few people with the state I was in:
Me in April 2005

However plans were already in place to do something about it.

Read more... )

From looking like the Michelin man's less well toned brother I've become this after 5 years:
New gi

Final weight at the end of the year was 84 kg, a total loss of 49 kg. I also got my waist down from 48" to 33". My chest went down from 48" to 40" but now it's more like 42" now I'm doing weights and muscling up.

From here I'm planning on continuing as long as I can. My strategy is making hay while the sun shines: at some point I won't be able to train at this level and I may have to stop but that isn't any time soon. Since the October fight fell through I've been wanting to fight again and I'd really like to get something organized, Thai boxing or MMA.

I've got various thoughts on the atrocious pseudoscience that infests areas such as sport and nutrition but I've written about them elsewhere. I've also got various thoughts the banal platitudes that some people use as motivational "systems". I think the problem is that people will try anything that might give them an edge regardless of how ludicrous it is which opens the door to snake oil merchants. Let's just say that the proper scientific method works for nutrition and I've never been particularly keen on proprietary techniques such as NLP. The real test of a motivational technique is not when you're sitting in a comfortable room while a charismatic person whispers warm sounding platitudes at you, but when you're lying badly injured in a hospital bed or if you've suffered some other misfortune. I knew losing weight and getting up to fighting standard would be a long hard slog but I think it should be obvious from all this that I don't give up easily and I'm pretty resilient.

Enough rambling. After 5 years in this game I had to write something just to mark the passing of time.

mhoulden: (Default)
2010-03-03 04:04 pm
Entry tags:

July 1955 Reader's Digest


July 1955 Reader's Digest
Originally uploaded by mhoulden
With the UK arm of Reader's Digest going into administration I remembered I had a copy of the July 1955 edition. It's a strange mix of of Cold War paranoia (articles such as "How Dangerous is A-bomb Fallout?" and "Communists are not Eight Feet Tall"), "educational" pieces on things like the Universal Postal Union and the Mormons, and the usual RD columns such as "It Pays to Increase Your Word Power" and "Life's Like That". The Drama in Real Life article is about a couple who picked up the wrong baby from a maternity ward. There's also timewarp adverts from 1955 for things like electricity showrooms, correspondence courses and strange medicinal ointments and salts.

If anyone wants scans of the inside pages, comment below.