Thursday, November 18, 2010

Exercise is good for you, laziness is not

Near the end of July I got off my backside and started using my pushbike to run local errands - shopping, post, banking, whatever. After a few days I realised I was riding up to 20km on some trips, and right there I made a mid-year resolution to ride at least 20km every single day. It's fun to pull up Google Earth and map cycling routes, there are no parking or traffic worries, life seems more leisurely and you get more time to think than you do in a car.

So, back in July my character sheet read something like this:

Weight: 92kg (202lb)
Height: 190cm or 6'3"
BMI: just under 25
Avg blood pressure: 160/90 (mild hypertension)
Resting heart rate: mid-70's.
Wii Fit age: about 64 (imparted with unseemly good cheer)
Armour Class: 1*

That's what 5 years working from home at the computer screen does to you, even if you watch what you eat.

When I started I couldn't ride 3km without getting out of breath, feeling like my legs were falling off, and panting like a dog in the midday sun.

Since July I've ridden 2600km/1600 miles, or 22km/14miles per day. My longest trip was 65km (40 miles), and last weekend I did 130km or 80 miles across both days.

Bearing in mind it can take three years to develop the right cycling legs, what's the new improved Simon like?

Nowadays it takes 5km before I'm even warmed up, and I can ride for at least three hours non-stop at a decent pace. I can still sprint at 40-45km/h by the end of it too.

Weight: 82kg (180lb) - down 10kg/22lb
Height: 190cm or 6'3" (surprise!)
BMI: just over 22
Avg blood pressure: 119/79 (Optimum!)
Resting heart rate: 59-60
Wii Fit age: 33 years old!
Armour Class: 8*

The results have been so great my new target is 80kg and I'm definitely going to continue riding at least 20km per day. I'm also saving a lot of fuel: I now use about one tank of fuel in my car every three months.

So, if you have fond memories of childhood cycling and your fitness is getting a bit iffy, why not have yourself measured for a bike (2nd hand is fine) and get out there? Take care, obviously, and I suggest a refresher course on your local rules of the road, because they vary a lot from state to state and from one country to the next.

PS the title of this post comes from a song on a Wombles album.

* Just checking you're awake.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Short intermission

October 2009 - I decided against participating in NanoWrimo 2009 because I needed to finish editing Hal 5 into shape.

October 2010 - Same, only one year later. (And believe me, I put a lot of work into Hal 5 during that time.)

The problem is I really, really liked Hal 4 and yet it's important the next book be even better. That's a hell of a challenge when you're working on an early draft of what is supposed to be your most amazing work ever - it's unpolished, it's incomplete, there's very little humour and it feels like you have a mountain to climb.

So, three days before November 1 I had a brainwave. Why NOT do Nanowrimo 2010? For some time now I've wanted to write one or more Hal Spacejock Junior novels featuring my character as a ten-year-old. My wife has been advising me to do this for ages, and over the past five years I've probably done ten author visits to primary schools for every one appearance for adult readers, despite the fact Hal Spacejock was written for the teen/adult market. (E.g. Hitchhiker's Guide)

In the end I decided Nano is just one month - and Hal 5 is already a year late anyway. I figured I'd knock off two 25,000 word junior novels (let's call them parts 1 and 2 of the same book to satisfy the nano nitpicks) and then go back to Hal 5 on the 1st December.

So, what progress? I'll tell you what progress .. it's day 14 and I've just capped off the completed first draft of Hal Junior book one (26,000 words) by writing a killer ending. It's so refreshing to have one viewpoint character and no subplots.

In a few minutes I'll make a start on book two, which is like ... wow.

Only problem is, now I have to top book one ;-)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Simon Says ...

I'm on Twitter these days.

I'm also doing a lot of bike riding, and I've been taking snaps around Perth to show that Western Australia isn't all red dust, mining and desert:

Near the Leach Hwy/Kwinana freeway intersection:

Near the Riverton shops/library:

Bike path near the library:

Bike path near Riverton bridge:

Kent St weir:

Boardwalk in Applecross:

Bike path suspended below the freeway bridge:

Bike path suspended below the freeway bridge:

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Kindle - first impressions

I ordered a Kindle from Amazon recently, using a bit of store credit and a bit of my own hard-earned. I've been tempted by the Sony Reader in the past but there have been so many different models and revisions I never knew which to look for. Sometimes you can have too much choice.

First things first: I don't like the gleaming white plastic frame around the Kindle screen. In a well-lit environment it just makes the 'e-paper' screen look dull grey. What they should have done is make the frame a duller grey than the paper, so the paper looked crisp and white. (When this thing's out of warranty I'm going to investigate taking it apart and applying a coat of grey to the case.)

Once your eyes filter out the crisp white border it's easy to forget you're reading an ebook. I've had great success converting text and html files using the free version of the Mobipocket reader (runs on Windows, don't know about others) and the Kindle shows up as a removable drive when you connect it using the supplied USB cable, which makes tranferring ebooks a snip.

The text display is excellent, by the way. I believe it uses 16 shades of grey, which means anti-aliased fonts, and I had no trouble reading at the default font size. If you need larger fonts you just hit the text button and use the four-way control to navigate the menu. Easy!

There's a brief flicker when you change pages, but if you time it right you can blink at the same time. Refresh eyes & screen together - works for me.

The device comes with wireless networking which apparently uses the mobile phone network, and it also includes a basic web browser. Nowhere on Amazon (or repeated web searches) could I find any reference to data charges, but I can't believe it's a free-for-all. I do know the Kindle was already linked to my Amazon account when I unpacked it, so I've disabled all wireless features on the thing until I know for sure. (I downloaded a few pages, and will wait a few weeks to see whether my Amazon account shows any new charges.)

The storage space is around two gigs, which translates to a humongous mountain of reading material. Get onto Project Gutenberg, download a selection of ebooks, put them through yBook2 to reformat them, then export to plain text with the paragraphs all sorted. What a way to catch up on a few thousand classics - starting with Three Men in a Boat.

I found the Kindle comfortable to hold and use, so no problems there. It's a solid device, well-made and sleek but not too heavy.

Unfortunately the Kindle has a very slim USB connector which doesn't match any of my other gadgets, which means when I'm out and about with the laptop I can't use the single cable I carry for my digital camera, TV tuner dongle, backup drive, etc. Not a major issue, just a minor irritant. Plus the Kindle cable is very long, whereas you only need a short one if you just want to apply a quick charge from the laptop. (The US version comes with a wall wart, but overseas editions have to make do with USB only.)

In summary, I'm very happy with my Kindle. I have over 3000 paperbacks stuffed into my house, and I can see myself replacing many of them over the next few years. Obviously I'll always keep hold of treasured books, because it's not all about the words. For example, I have a complete set of Famous Five novels in hardback, some of them first editions, and my 1955 copy of 'Martin Magnus on Mars' took me almost 20 years to find. But there are many other books in my collection which don't have that sort of history, and I'd be happy to store those as electronic files in case I ever wanted to read them again.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

First pic of the Apple Tablet?

I know everyone's going crazy about this thing, so I decided to post an exclusive pic:

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)