John C. Kirk (johnckirk) wrote,
John C. Kirk

2013/2014 in review

I didn't get round to doing a review post last year, so here's a bumper double-edition. (Hey, if it's good enough for TV guides then it's good enough for me.)

Starting with a few stats (and using 2012 as a baseline for comparison):

SJA hours655342235
Distance swum (m)66294611025
Distance cycled (km)367835603209
Eddington number293232
BCQ checkpoints800
Books reviewed954035
Cinema trips834
Theatre trips235
LARP events056

I officially joined St John Ambulance in April 2005 (just before the London Marathon), so my first "year" was only 7 months long. After that, I did at least 500 hours each year from 2006-2012, peaking at 785 in 2010. However, this took a toll on my social life. 2012 was another busy year, since we were involved with the Olympics, but after that I wanted to adjust my work/life balance (bearing in mind that I also have a full-time job).

The most obvious result is that I tried out LARP as a new hobby, and I can honestly say that it's changed my life; I now plan my year around the calendar of events. As well as the events themselves, I've made a lot of new friends: it's been good to meet like-minded people, who overlap the "geeky" and "physically active" groups. As an example of that, a dozen of us met up yesterday to watch one of our faction perform on stage (in The Three Musketeers), then spent the rest of the day together.

Similarly, I've done a lot more swimming over the last couple of years, mostly with the South London Swimming Club at Tooting Bec Lido. In 2012, I just had a short dip in the sea after the Brighton WNBR, then I did the OSS December Dip (2 widths of Parliament Hill Lido). In 2013, I went more frequently, so it was about 3 km altogether, then in 2014 I did about 11 km. This included a trip to Lapland in March 2014 for the Winter Swimming World Championships. I also helped out with handicapping during the summer season of races; that was a good way to get to know people, when I ticked their names off the register. However, I couldn't be there every week because of other commitments (e.g. LARP events) and in turn I had to refuse some SJA duties because I was busy at the lido, so I'm not sure whether I'll do that again this year. I went down to Eastbourne in September for a full moon swim: that went well, but I think I'll try Brighton instead this year, now that I've met a swimming group down there.

Related to swimming, the SLSC put on a panto in early 2014: "Swimderella". As you might guess, this was based on the story of Cinderella, but it was set at the lido against the backdrop of the Cold Water Swimming Championships. (Incidentally, this year's CWSC will take place next Saturday, i.e. 24th January.) When I was at school, I performed in various plays, but I had a backstage role in this production. Initially I just got in touch to offer some advice on the slosh scene, but I wound up being promoted to Stage Manager (i.e. I was responsible for keeping track of the props and making sure that people were ready to go on stage at the right time).

I still cycle regularly, including using my bike/trailer to haul all my gear to LARP events. However, I haven't done much long distance cycle touring recently, partly because I've been using my annual leave for other things (e.g. it took me 10 days for the round trip to Lapland and I need a day's rest to recover from each LARP event). In July 2013, I set off with some friends to cycle from London to Paris. The first leg of the journey went well (up to the Channel), but then I had a catastrophic mechanical failure in France which left the bike pretty much unrideable. So, I had to jump ahead on the train to meet the others in Paris. Back in London, I got my bike fixed, and then I tried to do the Dunwich Dynamo a couple of weeks later, but that didn't go well and I gave up when I was just outside the M25. After that, some of my friends started referring to my "bike curse"!

The BCQ (British Cycle Quest) is effectively a scavenger hunt: you need to get to a particular location, then answer a question to prove that you've been there (e.g. writing down a date from a particular statue). There are 402 checkpoints altogether, and I visited 9 in 2011 then another 8 in 2012. I was hoping to visit at least 3 more in 2013, because I submit my answers in batches of 10, and then that would push me up the leaderboard. As it turned out, I didn't get to any of them in 2013 or 2014, so I'll try that again this year.

I increased my Eddington number in 2013, but not in 2014. To be fair, this is the nature of the number: it's a lot easier to do 10 journeys of 10 miles than 100 journeys of 100 miles! So, I think that people will naturally reach a plateau. In my case, I did do an extra "qualifying journey" in 2014 (33 miles in a single day), but it wasn't enough to hit the next threshold (I've only done 31 of those journeys so far rather than the 33 that I need). I am close, though, so I'm confident that I'll increase my number this year.

I took part in the Brompton World Championship in 2013; I previously did that in 2011 and 2012, but in 2013 I went for the "Brompton Triple": the main race, the sprint, and the eliminator. I will (eventually) get round to writing a separate post about that, once I've edited my video from the eliminator race. I was planning to take part in 2014 too, but I dropped out because I was having some mechanical problems.

That links in to one of the anti-highlights of the past 2 years: a couple of RTCs (Road Traffic Collisions). In January 2013, I was going down a steep hill and then I crashed into the back of a lorry: more detail here and here. This was my own fault, because I didn't stop in time; more precisely, it was related to the dropped handlebars on my touring bike. I can put my hands in different positions, either on the flat bit or "on the drops" (the curved bit underneath), and I can operate the brakes from both positions. However, I can't fully apply the brakes from the top position. It feels as if they're on, and it's good enough at low speed, but at high speed it increases my stopping distance. So, lesson learned there.

In April 2014, I was going downhill in a cycle lane with a long queue of vehicles in the main traffic lane. A motorbike then pulled into the cycle lane in front of me, when I didn't have time to stop, so I ricocheted off him and hit the ground, injuring my left wrist. I went to hospital, and they put it in plaster for a week (suspected scaphoid fracture). Fortunately it's pretty much back to normal now. The motorbike rider gave me his phone number at the scene, but that turned out to be fake. I recorded the whole thing on my helmet camera and gave the video to the police, but the registered keeper of the vehicle hasn't replied to any of their attempts to contact him. The registered keeper was due in court in December for failing to provide details of the person who was riding the bike that day (rather than for the collision itself), but I haven't heard any news on that, e.g. the verdict.

Moving on, this Cracked article is worth reading: 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. Quoting from the end:

So how about this: one year. The end of 2013, that's our deadline. Or a year from whenever you read this. While other people are telling you "Let's make a New Year's resolution to lose 15 pounds this year!" I'm going to say let's pledge to do fucking anything -- add any skill, any improvement to your human tool set, and get good enough at it to impress people.

Based on that, my original plan for 2013 was to learn to ride a unicycle. I've bought one, and I can balance on it briefly, but I'm not at a competent level yet. However, I did learn to make chainmail: my relatives were surprised when they heard that I'd made that shirt myself rather than buying it, so I think that qualifies to meet the goal. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything relevant from 2014. So, for 2015 I'm going to have another go at the unicycle.

According to Goodreads, I read fewer books in 2013 and 2014. However, that doesn't include comics, and it's based on reviews so re-reading the same book doesn't get counted. Also, I've been reading some "doorstop" technical books which take a bit longer to wade through than a novel. Looking at my favourite books of each year, I'd pick Pulling Up Stakes for 2013 and San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats for 2014.

In other news, I've launched a tech blog: Kirkian Computing. So far I've just "seeded" it by copying across relevant posts from here, but I'll put new content over there instead. On a related note, my LARP and techie friends may be amused to hear that I earned a "necromancer" badge on the Super User website (part of the Stack Exchange network).
Tags: cycling, larp, new year, sja, swimming, theatre

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