Review: Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones audiobook

Just like the Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the book is done well with the audio effects and music and the voices and general content. Battles are described, but they’re not described in every single detail and they didn’t mess up any of the pronunciations this time!

The book greatly expands on the Lars family pre Shmi’s abduction and they’re incredibly boring. It also describes the gruesome ambush of the raiders during which almost all settlers died which goes to show why no one else went after them. I’d always questioned this in the films seeing it’s only a small settlement that Anakin destroys, but the Tuskens are incredibly crafty.

The book also expands and describes the Jango/Boba relationship which is quite loving and Boba finding the [inexplicably described as empty??] helmet was heartbreaking. He really adored his father. But also he’s yet another Star Wars wunderkind and has annoying tendencies like Anakin where they’re too self-confident.

Anakin and Padme’s relationship is elaborated on, particularly Anakin’s intensity and Padme feeling uncomfortable.

However, I didn’t quite enjoy it as much which probably is in part due to the actual plot itself. Personally, I’d have loved to see more of the senate and the politics rather than what we got. It felt artificially lengthened, as opposed to a director’s cut feel. I’m curious if there’ll be more of that in the third one, seeing there are filmed scenes around the senate which were ultimately cut. I’ve also realised just how little there is in actual content of the book/film! They pursue an assassin, Obi-Wan travels playing cop, Anakin and Padme become a couple, and there’s a fight in the end. It’s a bridge between two other films and needed for setup, but especially as a book it’s clear the story’s bare.

Random observations:

  • My favourite phrase [Around the survivors, a perimeter create] isn’t mentioned!
  • Some soundeffects are almost distasteful. During the pursuit of the Tuskens a lot of settlers are decapitated by strings across the speeder route and there’s a ‘splat’ sound.
  • Obi-Wan and Mace Windu are concerned about Anakin and Padme at the end, but don’t even discuss it!

3/5 – It’s perfectly good, but it’s nothing special.

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Hamburg HafenCity

Last week I went to Hamburg for a day and had an hour to spare during which I went to explore the HafenCity [harbour city], especially as the Elbphilharmonie – the new Hamburg concert hall – recently completed its build.

It was a very windy yet dry day with occasional bits of sunshine and was perfect to walk around there.

I really liked the mix of modern architecture and innovative flood protection coupled with some old boats next to offices and flats and the Elbphilharmonie which is huge! I knew it would be over a 100 metres high, but its imposing size was something else. It has its official opening this week and it’s already possible for visitors to get admission to the plaza which is the section underneath the metal top. I was planning to go up there, too, but the queue was several hundred people long and I didn’t have much time.

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December 2016 Fitbit data

hameln-weser-winterIn my November stats post I said:

For December I would like to have a minimum of 20 days at over 10k steps and also more than 5 15k steps days.

That didn’t happen. December was very disappointing.

foggy-path-to-nowhereThere are a few excuses I can come up with from a minor pulled muscle injury [heavy emphasis on the minor] to other health issues to weather to Christmas to whatever else, but it comes down to not pushing myself enough. I had seen such improvements during the previous couple of months that I allowed myself to rest on my laurels. I even remember the day I first stopped taking it seriously – Thursday the 1st of December. ‘Oh, I’ll just stop for a day’ and ‘I have lots of stuff to get on with’ and ‘One day won’t make a difference’.

Now I know that it shifted the way I was thinking about it and I know that I need to take this seriously and make an effort. If I want to get fit I need to dedicate the time to it and really treat it as something I want to do rather than just a way to get from A to B. I also need to make sure that I have audiobooks I actually want to listen to as I hit a bit of a snag with LotR The Two Towers and lost interest in that for the time being which is yet another excuse I wasn’t too eager to go for a walk, especially as I read a lot of books on my Kindle this month which is still my preferred format.

wehler-marshThat all being said, I did do two days of over 20k steps and I also managed to get up to 100km distance so it’s not all bad and I still managed something.

For January I’m aiming to beat November’s 145km and generally get back into a swing. Four days or more above 20k steps would be quite nice, too.

Totals: Month Daily average Month before
Steps: 149972 4838
Distance: 100.82 3.25
Total active mins 44544 1437 +
Minutes Lightly Active 40419 1304 +
Minutes Fairly Active 3543 114
Minutes Very Active 582 19
Avg steps per km 1488   +
Days exceeded 5k steps 10  
Days exceeded 10k steps 8  
Days exceeded 15k steps 3  
Days exceeded 20k steps 2   +
Days exceeded 25k steps 0   +
Days exceeded 7km 6  
Days exceeded 10km 3  
Days exceeded 15km 0  

Do you use Fitbit? Let’s be friends!

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Review: Any Means Necessary (Luke Stone #1) by Jack Mars

Barely starting into the second week of the year seems too early to declare something as a ‘book of the year’, but I have really enjoyed this book.

Free on Kindle UK, I didn’t think to expect too much despite the high star rating for it and the other books in the series, but I was hooked within the first two pages. In fact, I could have finished this book days ago, but instead chose to read it in small batches to drag it out until finally succumbing to it earlier and reading 65% in one go! Spoilers follow.

This book would be perfect for a mini-series or a film – if the political climate wasn’t what it is currently. Having Muslim terrorists – even if revealed to be paid by US sources and interests – doesn’t seem wise. The book doesn’t redefine nor reinvent a genre, but it does a fantastic job within the existing genres. It’s like 24, Homeland, Jack Reacher, a Baldacci, it borrows from them but doesn’t feel boring. It has more shocking revelations than I saw coming from actually killing the President to blowing up the White House to casually dropping the fact that the informant is the main character’s father!

Above all, the writing is solid and it’s funny! In between the moments of terror, such as killing almost all of the civilian government, I couldn’t help laughing out loud at some of the quips or descriptions or the sarcasm dripping through the dialogue. It also shies away from infodumps and there is only one instance regarding Presidential succession where it felt over the top, but it’s essential for a reader with no existing knowledge to know.

Some of my favourite quotes:

About the Vice President:

Her issues were breast cancer awareness (as if somehow people were not already aware of breast cancer).

About monitoring a foreign embassy:

“CIA has managed to plant more than two hundred listening devices in that building over the years. Eleven of them are still active.”

A scary image of technological capabilities:

It was a holdover from the days when drones could use the satellite uplink signal to lock on ground targets. In those days, a man with a satellite phone was holding a big red bull’s-eye. But now, it hardly mattered. The newest drones could lock on to cell phones, laptops, GPS units, almost anything.

During a helicopter chase/ambush:

“What are you going to do?” Luke smiled. “I’m the head cheerleader. Keep the intercom wide open and listen for my screams.”
“Hey, Luke,” Rachel shouted. “When I was leaving SOAR, my C.O. asked me what I was going to do with the rest of my life. You know what I said? I told him I was gonna go work for the SRT. You know why? Because Luke Stone was there. All these years of flying choppers, and I never got the chance to die in one. I’m hoping Luke can fix that for me.”
“You’re my kind of girl,” Luke said.

The only issue I have with the book is its ending. I don’t mind the cliffhanger quite so much as I’m sure it’ll be resolved in the next one, but for a plan so meticulously planned for what I’m assuming to be years if not decades, I’m disappointed just how easily the Speaker was dispatched at the end. I was expecting there to be much more resistance though perhaps this is also something explored in the rest of the series.

5/5 – I can’t wait to read the other books in the series though will need to slow down in order to savour them. I like the new reality created here and am curious what will happen with the world being at brink of war.

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Review: The Risk by S.T.Abby

I have only just realised – thanks to another review on Goodreads – that this author’s pseudonym [unless it’s the real name which would also be awesome] reads Stabby! Brilliant!

The description and title don’t sound great, but it was free on Kindle UK, had phenomenally star ratings both Goodreads and Amazon, and I figured I had nothing to lose. I wasn’t sure what to expect, particularly as the author warns about the content in the description and book intro and yeah, whilst it’s not graphic per se, it deals with difficult stuff and I’m really glad that none of that is being described. [Spoilers follow]

The book is told from different angles: the FBI profiler on the hunt for serial killers and a serial killer who meet and become a couple. Throughout it’s hinted he investigates her killings, but I don’t think he does yet. There are trickled down bits of information about her past and the reasons for her killings and some way too convenient [read: only reason this would ever happen is for a writer to add fake suspense which the book honestly didn’t need] close encounters.

The story felt different and fresh, particularly through divulging the past without info dumps or artificially prolonging it; it felt natural.

The book ends on two cliffhangers which I’ve hated.

4/5 – This would have been a 5/5 if it hadn’t been for:
– The near meets
– The cliffhangers
– Her killings of random people, like in the alley.

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Review: The Girl on the Train

I actually finished this book over two months ago, but felt I had to think it over before I could review it and then suddenly it’s two months later and I haven’t done so.. Full spoilers follow.

I didn’t know anything about the book before I started reading it – except that it had been likened to Hitchcock’s works and involved a commuter looking at her fellow commuters on a daily basis. I was wrong about one of those! I listened to the audio version of it which may also have had parts of the appeal to me: the actor narrating the majority of it had the perfect voice at times making it feel like a hug and at other times giving it the necessary harshness. The other two voices fell a bit flat compared to that.

I think not knowing anything about it massively increased my enjoyment of it. Had I known the ex or people she knew were involved I may have approached it differently, assuming it was one of them for example rather than assuming they were just characters in the book. I fell for the red haired guy herring hook line and sinker. I thought the doctor was the one. I also then thought the dead woman’s ex was the one. Obviously for a very large part I suspected the dead woman’s partner, too.

Guessing the plot and also genre was what kept me obsessed with it for a few days. Was this a love story with a murder twist? Was it a detective story? Was it all in her head? Did any of these people even exist? The last part was at the back of my mind frequently partially due to her initially giving the other people different names but a large reason was because of the differently narrated voice for the doctor. The dead woman’s doctor is smooth with an accent, Rachel’s doesn’t have the warmth. Seeing the voice actor is certainly able to add warmth and other feelings to her voice, I wondered if this was a specific decision to highlight that this was just in Rachel’s head maybe with info taken from the newspapers.

Peeling away layers of Rachel throughout the story made me feel sorry for her – she was isolated no thanks to her ex, and people took pity on her frequently. Obviously I realise that me feeling sorry for her is part of the problem. I remember gasping in shock the moment she overheard the boyfriend of her housemate saying none of his friends would be this desperate. Then the stuff Tom would say to her, the harshness of his treatment.

The other women in this story weren’t as fleshed out or even likeable. Anna’s obsession for appearance with frequent descriptions of describing their ‘perfect family’ while out, was tiring. With Meghan I’m struggling to find anything positive about her: she murdered her child, she had two affairs [that we know of] and treats people, such as the friend covering for her, with contempt. I wouldn’t want to wish death on anyone, but she wasn’t a nice person.

All that being said – I didn’t like Tom, but I didn’t think it would be him! His ways to shape Rachel and the other women in his life is terrifying and the author did really well to not make actions of his seem alarming at the time. I went back to a few key scenes and realised they could be seen very differently with the knowledge from the end of the book! Through years of training [aka reading and watching crime/thrillers] I can usually spot motives and murderers, however I suspected anyone but him – at several points even Rachel herself! The only one I didn’t suspect was the baby on account of, well, being a baby!

The only slight criticisms I have involve Anna’s change at the end – whilst I buy her helping Rachel, I don’t buy the extreme way she took it – and the rather short end. I would’ve liked there to be a bit more and it felt a bit too rapid.

5/5 – I really enjoyed this book and it’s potentially my book of the year.

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O Christmas Tree… 🎄

christmas-tree-6I love a good Christmas tree and even though there isn’t one here, there’s a surprising amount of decoration shaped like a Christmas tree around the flat. There’s probably more in other places, too.

Also, as a sidenote: did you know that the melody for the German song O Tannenbaum is not only used in the official state songs of two US states but also a chant for the football club Chelsea? Please let me know if this rather useless tidbit ever wins you any pub quizzes!

Merry Christmas.

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Irresponsible newspaper front pages

It’s rarely so obvious which newspapers are artificially stoking fears for reasons unknown and which feel they have a duty to report facts and not further their own agenda as yesterday’s German papers following the terrorist attack on a Berlin Christmas market.


Fear, carnage, ISIS confirmation, heightened attack risk. – Don’t be afraid.

Two very different messages playing with different emotions.

Media should have a responsibility and the Bild is creating more unrest than is needed. Disgusting.

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Cuxhaven Kugelbake cross stitch pattern


My grandparents used to go to Cuxhaven – a seaside town in northern Germany at the tip of Lower Saxony – each summer for two weeks. They did this for decades and met a bunch of couples doing a similar thing. I used to go with them when I was a small child so I also know the town, its beaches, the certain type of wicker beach chairs, and of course the Kugelbake landmark very well.

As part of small Christmas favours for the other couples they used to meet there regularly, my grandma was thinking of cross stitching a small Kugelbake, however, finding a pattern proved tricky. There are countless patterns of lighthouses and fish and other maritime items, but only one Kugelbake which was too big. Despite being a complete novice as this, I thought I’d give creating a pattern in Excel a shot. I remember thinking the classic ‘how hard can it be’. Well, it’s not hard, but time-consuming. Overall I spent probably about ten hours on it basing it on an embroidered picture she had and several pictures on the internet.

It all seems to have worked out though and the final versions are now done and looking fantastic though I personally can’t look at it any more without seeing some sassy landmark with its hands on the hip looking back at me – doubly so with the string looking like hair blowing in the wind!

To save others the hassle of having to muddle something up themselves, here is the final version used as pdf and if you do decide to make something of it, I’d love to see a picture via comment/tweet!

Rightclick/save Cuxhaven Kugelbake cross stitch pattern/muster

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Review: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics

I don’t think I’d ever read a comic except a few books of Disney’s Das Lustige Taschenbuch when I was young. I’d never ruled it out, but it’s kind of hard to know where to start when you’ve never really read them before and my head was already swimming hearing about changes to character origin stories, superhero gender changes, and all the other things that I see mentioned every few months. However, when the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics were announced and then came out I knew I’d finally found the right ones to give it a go. After all, I love Knights of the Old Republic and more stories of that universe would be great.

However, it still took me almost six years until I actually got around to it and finished the whole 50 editions run. on to the good. I loved the depiction of Taris and seeing the galaxy before the Mandalorian war created the chaos and the Sith were apparent. The initial storyline of the Jedi killing the younglings was intriguing and I enjoyed the discovery, though I was a bit dismayed that a whole group of Jedi masters couldn’t hunt down one padawan and his motley crew, despite the luck he was obviously having. It was also great to see some familiar faces, such as a very young Mission Vao and the underground swoop gangs. Mainly though I was happy to see more of Carth – he was my favourite character in the first game and to see how the relationship with Saul Karath would break apart. I am really happy with how much ‘airtime’ he got and would love to see some spin-off stories starring him at some point.

On to the good. I loved the depiction of Taris and seeing the galaxy before the Mandalorian war created the chaos and the Sith were apparent. The initial storyline of the Jedi killing the younglings was intriguing and I enjoyed the discovery, though I was a bit dismayed that a whole group of Jedi masters couldn’t hunt down one padawan and his motley crew, despite the luck he was obviously having. It was also great to see some familiar faces, such as a very young Mission Vao and the underground swoop gangs. Mainly though I was happy to see more of Carth – he was my favourite character in the first game and to see how the relationship with Saul Karath would break apart. I am really happy with how much ‘airtime’ he got and would love to see some spin-off stories starring him at some point.

The negative is much longer and this is where I’m not sure whether it’s me or the comics. I had tried to read them several times over the years [my copies are all digital] and always faltered maybe five editions in. I would lose interest or just had enough of it because the drawing style wouldn’t appeal to me and/or it was just too much hard work to follow. To be clear, I stayed with it because I wanted to follow the story, but at no point did I actually enjoy reading it. Through the changing artists and also at times confusing drawing some aspects didn’t really make sense at first and I found myself having to supplement info from Wookiepedia. The story itself turned into a mess with time jumps here and there and threads were started and not finished or whatever happened was highly improbable. The main characters changed their motivations and pretty much all were unlikable. Except Carth, of course. Never Carth.

I would have loved to have read this as an actual book.

2/5 – Confusing story and unlikable characters plus art styles I didn’t like only redeemed by my interest in the setting and the return of characters I’ve always loved.

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Review: Star Wars The Phantom Menace audiobook

I was surprised when I first listened to it that not only it contains sound effects and music but also added bits that aren’t in the films. As such the motivations of some of the characters are flashed out a bit from the films and some of the order of the scenes means they’re in a slightly different order.

Some examples:

  • Anakin’s first race – the one where he crashes the pod – is described. As is him working on his own pod and Watto sending him off to the Jawas to barter for droids including I believe the droid Jar Jar sets off in the shop “hit him on the nose”. To barter he takes C-3PO along with him to advise which is nice to see for a boy who knows everything.
  • Anakin’s motivations: He is obsessed with Padme stating after their first meet that he’ll marry her – a thought he has again a few times. He dreams of her [leading forces into the battle] and admires her when she fights to retake Naboo.
  • Anakin’s motivations of a tough guy surviving slavery and fighting his way through. Anakin’s portrayal in the films isn’t that bad for what we’d think of a slave. He gets to leave early, has a fairly good home, free time. He’s certainly not a kid working 16 hours in a factory doing manual labour. The book hints that life isn’t quite so easy.
  • Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The book talks a bit more about the rift between them following the meeting of the council. QGJ knows him suggesting he’ll train the boy was a sign of rejection to Obi-Wan and they then don’t talk unless about other things for days until they return to Naboo. In the film there’s just a brief scene where Obi-Wan asks if QGJ is sure he’s ready for the trials.

The audiobook was done wonderfully. The occasional sound effects work really well and aren’t too frequent, loud, or overdone. For example R2-D2 doesn’t always make his sounds. Ships make a sound taking off but not continuously. Surrounded by droids the marching sounds is heard by a couple of seconds, but not the entire time. The Duel of the Fates is played at the first appearance, not throughout the entire battle.

Terry Brook’s voices are spot on and so similar to the film. Some of my favourites were the “vote of no confidence” scene in the senate, Obi-Wan and QGJ, Boss Nass, and even Yoda is pretty good. I’d have liked to hear a bit more of the harsh flat voice of Padme, but suppose that’s quite hard to replicate. A major criticism of mine is the pronounciation of Palpatine who is pronounced as Palpa-thai-n rather than Palpa-tee-n. With all the odd sounding names of people and locations, I am surprised that this could have gotten so wrong and really killed immersion for me, especially during the senate part where he’s obviously mentioned a lot.

4/5 – The audiobook and novel don’t change the world, but they supplement well. The extra sections work, similar to the Force Awakens audiobook, and it has the feel of an extended cut. If it wasn’t for the immersion killer of the Palpatine pronounciation it probably would have been a 5/5.

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Review: A Time to Kill by John Grisham

I first read this book in my teenage years. I must have been around 14 and had picked it up after racing through The Firm and The Pelican Brief. I remember loving all of them at the time. This year I’ve slowly been making my way through the audiobooks of John Grisham’s books and they don’t hold up too well either because it’s a reread or because I am more grown up.

AttK was the first book I remembered reading which described a rape. The other books I had read would maybe mention it in a throwaway sentence ‘character was raped’ or ‘he raped her’ or it was implied. This book straight from the first word dumps into a graphic and horrific rape scene. The rape isn’t the focus of the book, but a catalyst to the rest of the events and a key aspect of the trial. The book shocks and makes the reader uncomfortable throughout, such as the constant uses of the word ‘nigger’ and how naturally it’s used in conversation.

In the author notes, John Grisham says that he got the inspiration for the book – the first one printed with fewer than 10k copies – from a rape trial he read about and then wondered the effect the testimonial and trial would have on the family.

Carl Lee Hailey is an irresponsible vigilante murderer who should be sitting in jail for the rest of his life. He meticulously planned the murders over several days, driving a fair few miles to get a gun and staking out the exact route they’d take before hiding in a cupboard and jumping out to kill them and badly injure a deputy. He feels no remorse and instead – when thinking back to the crime – smiles to himself and is satisfied with the action he’s taken. I understand that it’s a very difficult situation and that he doesn’t want to put his daughter through the pain of a trial, however, as several characters in the book, such as the waitress, state, you can’t have people just picking up guns. He needs to be in jail.

He is also a not very nice man, from controlling his wife to shirking responsibilities, such as not telling his attorney that he’s got another one, to not really being that concerned with how his family realistically is meant to have money coming in. I could understand this kind of lack of foresight if this had been a spur of the moment attack, however, he planned it over days and fully knew the consequences.

Jake is also quite unlikable and incredibly arrogant. He pursues the case and sabotages several other attorneys, because he wants the fame and glory the case will bring though he’s not really that dedicated to it, what with getting drunk the night before jury selection and thinking himself over-prepared when in reality he barely did enough for it and only managed to blunder through due to the excellent free clerk and the many mistakes of the prosecution. His treatment of women from the secretary through to his own wife are disgusting. There aren’t really any redeeming features to him.

The plot moves sluggishly forward, a trying to create a slow build up to the Klan vs the African American inhabitants stoked by outside forces yet no one seems to do anything constructive about it! Yeah, sure, deep South small town and all that, but it’s ridiculous that the Klan can put up 20 crosses or access the sequestered jury or kidnap people or burn houses or whatever without anyone going ‘oh, we probably should bring in more security’. It feels about as unorganised as ‘The Client’.

3/5 – All this being said about the content of the book and the flawed characters, it is a captivating book and hard to put down.

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Review: The Martian audiobook

Earlier this year I watched ‘The Martian’.

@noirem then suggested I ought to read the book which I hadn’t even realised existed.

I finally got around to the audiobook and it’s been wonderful. Essentially it’s Castaway in space filled with maths and sarcasm. There are quite a few moments which had me laugh out loud and I found some of his comments, including the swearing, refreshing. I mean he’s stuck on Mars so obviously there’d be some swearing.

I felt his character was so well done that at times I had to remind myself that he’s not real and that I’m not reading some real life publishing of his rescue. Having the vast majority of the book in diary form actually really worked and I found myself missing his diary voice when it came to the end bit of the book where it switched away. The other characters didn’t feel very fleshed out, but at least the ones on Ares III did. It may well be that I used the film characterisations and looks to supplement them though either way it works.

The only slight criticism is the really abrupt ending, I think I’d have liked a few more lines after that.

Overall both book and film were far better than expected – the book certainly ranks in my top books this year and it’s a stong contender for my book of the year.

5/5 – I couldn’t stop listening to it and Mark Watney’s character and ingenuity is brilliant.

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November 2016 Fitbit data

abandoned-building-wehrbergenWell this month didn’t quite go as planned – I started with a very early high [25k steps, 15km on day 1], but got a blister which turned badly very quickly. I won’t go into details, but it’s still not fully healed.

As such for two thirds of the month I’ve had just four days above 10k steps, eight days above 5k steps, and overall just covered 64km [keep in mind that includes the great 15km of the first day]. However, that all changed on the 20th, last Monday. For ten days I got over 10k steps each day which is 55% of the month’s total steps and 80km distance.


autumn-weserI didn’t really have any particular goals set except the one I had already set last month of ‘do better than October [October stats here]’ which I did with flying colours thanks to the last third of the month. The biggest increases are perhaps the days exceeding 10k steps [13 up from 5] and that one day where I exceeded 20k steps! I am not fussed having a lower number of active minutes as I still don’t get how Fitbit calculates that and differentiates between the different stages. I might stop tracking those soon.

wehler-marshMost of this distance came from everyday errands though I have started walking even further detours. This time last month I was feeling the strain slightly if I exceeded 10k steps without a break and that’s no longer the case thus freeing me up to even further detours and allowing me to plan differently. I went for a walk ‘for pleasure’ twice, both around 10km and amidst beautiful countryside.

In a curious coincidence I started listening to the LotR audiobook on the morning of the first and finished it on the evening of the 30th. This means I have spent over 20 hours walking longer distances as I would listen to something else on shorter ones or ones where I would be inside a shop or something. I might listen to a few shorter books for the next few weeks though, especially as I am still shy of a fair few books to reach my arbitrarily decided reading goal for the year.

weserSo I make it sound all great and wonderful, but it’s still hard work, as I said a few days ago when I was excited about having walked 56km in a week. I am finding the motivation easier at the moment as I’m breaking personal records all the time, but ultimately that will stagnate and I won’t be able to dedicate quite as much time to it as I currently do, as walking takes up a lot of time and running isn’t really feasible for me nor something I’m interested in. Ultimately I’ll probably have to look at planning days with long walks every now and then to ensure I reach high overall totals rather than each day.

For December I would like to have a minimum of 20 days at over 10k steps and also more than 5 15k steps days.

Totals: Month Daily average Month before
Steps: 215423 7181 +
Distance: 144.92 4.83 +
Total active mins 43134 1438
Minutes Lightly Active 37805 1260
Minutes Fairly Active 4537 151 +
Minutes Very Active 792 26 +
Avg steps per km 1486  
Days exceeded 5k steps 18   +
Days exceeded 10k steps 14   +
Days exceeded 15k steps 3   +
Days exceeded 20k steps 1   +
Days exceeded 7km 8   +
Days exceeded 10km 3   +
Days exceeded 15km 1   +

Add me on Fitbit.


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Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens audiobook

The other day I came across a couple of articles I’d saved a long time ago to read later. 27 ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ questions answered by the novel and 45 ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ plot details explained by the novelization. Reading through them I got intrigued and figured I should read it for myself, and, having recently started listening to the Star Wars Episode I audiobook, I quite liked the concept of adding in additional sound effects and music. It doesn’t work for each book – I certainly wouldn’t want to listen to the LotR audiobooks with it or even Harry Potter – but in this case it does.

Both of the articles are already talking about some reveals or additional bits of information, but they don’t talk about the book as a whole. It works. It feels like reading an extended edition or a director’s cut and the added in sections mesh well. They also go a long way in exploring the characters – for example Rey is not quite as nice as the film shows, she was about to complete the transaction to sell BB-8. General Hux’s speech spouts more idealistic nonsense and having Unkar Plutt track her to the cantina shows that there’s a lot more we don’t know.

Some choppy writing asides – mostly around Leia or scenes intended to be filled with desperation – the book is good and the audiobook with the differently done voices is brilliant if a tad over-acted at times. Bala-Tik sounds amazingly Scottish, Phasma and C-3PO sound metallic, and most are spot on except perhaps Finn who comes across a little flat. The sound effects are timed well though the music a little heavy handed at times.

4/5 – I enjoyed it!

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I walked a marathon and then some! [In a week]

In the past seven days I have walked 56km. That’s about 84k steps and I’m so far on a seven day streak of at least 10k steps a day.

A bit over two months ago I was so unfit that I struggled even walking 2km. I remember having to take a break and was exhausted when I got there. Granted it was over 30°C and I was still mostly unused to it, but I remember that day. And I remember thinking I really needed to do something about it and started walking more. Even a few days later I could already tell there was an improvement and last month I walked 107km.

I set myself the marathon distance within a week as a loose goal two months ago in a state of madness, but knew it wasn’t achievable as I was doing too much and could’ve caused injury. Then both October and this month saw some days/weeks where I didn’t really get out which is why it’s taken this long. As a goal this doesn’t matter – it’s a thing I have achieved, but I am not doing this to hit milestones though it’s nice to do that every now and then. Rather I am walking more to be more fit to be able to have a life change and to be able to do more.

Not being fit is inhibiting to the point where simple tasks seem daunting and you don’t go somewhere with friends or to events because you’d know that your lack of fitness would cause other people to not being able to do what they want. In my head I would see distances stretch out in my head, like they do in some films or games, because a hundred metres to someone else would be several times that distance to me. It’s incredibly hard to explain this to someone fitter as even I am starting to gloss over the early days, similar to how people forget how awful a cold is and the sympathy for others goes down until they themselves experience another cold. I have a piece of paper with some memories of how hard some early walks were to fall back on, but ultimately that also won’t fully remind me.

me-walk-27-11-2016-smallA thought that occurred to me yesterday [at the end of my 9km walk] was that I was walking along a stretch of road which even a couple months ago would leave me feeling dread at the distance and also leave me slightly breathless at the end of it, yet here I was at the end of a walk at least twenty times the length and I was still energised and happy. Here’s why:

  • I had just walked 9km
  • It was unbelievably sunny [but I was never walking directly towards the sun so had full visibility] and blue skies with pretty clouds
  • It was cold enough that the heat didn’t cause issues
  • I had made significant progress in my Lord of the Rings audiobook [the fellowship made it from Rivendell to Lothlorien]
  • The walk didn’t leave me feeling like I’d overdone it
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Review: Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

I’ve never been a huge Gilmore Girls fan. When I first attempted to watch the lot a few years back I only got a few episodes into season two before getting sidetracked with something else to not return until a few months ago when I watched the entire series. The series is great on the surface – a beautiful little town with an eccentric cast of characters who are delightful if overbearing in the ‘fake TV character’ kind of way. However, within the main cast there are quite a few issues with their choices and characterisation. For example I disliked Sookie [not the actress!] and hated her forcing her husband into getting a vasectomy – that’s something which needs discussing! Likewise Luke’s hiding of his daughter [the daughter storyline could have been great if handled better, but it’s still being handled terribly in the revival] and Lorelai’s obnoxious frequent railroading of anyone and everyone. I also will never agree with Rory’s decision to sleep with Dean when he was already married.

Despite all this I liked where the show ultimately got to in the past few seasons and I was looking forward to the Gilmore Girls Revival to see how it panned out. [Spoilers after here, obviously]

I was glad to return to Stars Hollow and to see the town which hasn’t changed at all and I think that was a bit of a problem for me. I was glad that things felt organic, such as the friendship between Lane and Rory, but by focussing so heavily on the main four, Lane’s appearance [and that of the band’s] felt like complete fan service. Yes, taking them out would have probably shown a gap, but I feel pretty cheated we didn’t get more of her. SImilarly with Dean, Jess, Paris, and Doyle. I was particularly surprised to not see Paris in the later episodes [I did like her empty briefcase and general demeanor whilst at Chiltern though] especially seeing that she surely would have been able to help Rory perhaps? Talking of fan services – I am still not sure if I liked to finally seeing Mr Kim in the flesh!

Tying the whole revival together through the grief of Richard’s passing was brilliant as I didn’t quite see how lost Lorelai was until her epiphany on the non-hike. Yes, Emily’s grief was in your face, as was her change to being more harsh [this is something I can exactly see with grandma, too] and ultimatly telling the DAR how ridiculous they were being, but Lorelai’s was more her being lost and ambling through life without realising. With the epiphany it suddenly clicked and was obvious and I’m glad that as a result things worked out between her and Luke and that they became in sync again. This reminded me of an article I read recently about the sychronicity of couples that it doesn’t matter how much time is being spent together, but on the connection between the two and it was quite nice to see how that was portrayed here.

On to the things I didn’t like – I hated most of episode three. The musical part was way too long and I was even debating skipping ahead. I still don’t see why it would have needed to have that much time devoted to it. Rory’s attitude in the episode was also awful from having Jess yet again come to guide her and then deciding that this one single book idea which wasn’t her own and happened fewer than 24 hours prior was to be her life’s one and only mission felt wrong and I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with her quite as much as there. The lies between Lorelai and Luke didn’t help the episode either. Lorelai’s aprupt firing of the chef was awful. Rory’s relationship wiht Logan was uncomfortable to watch because no matter the chemistry between them, they were still cheating. I wondered during the conversation with her father whether Rory was asking him these questions to find out if Logan wasn’t pursuing her and settling with his fiance because there wasn’t a point with Rory seeing she had previously turned him down though I suspect now it was because she was facing the same choice as her mum did with bringing up her child. Having it be Logan’s would be bringing it all full circle and I hope it won’t be the Wookie’s though that’s too far in the past time wise, I think.

Overall it was enjoyable to watch, but – just as with the many seasons before – there were quite a few parts I didn’t like. I would love to see another revival or a more regular show of this again though, I think the Gilmore Girls is a show which fits into a gap with not another show like it and Stars Hollow is wonderful escapism.

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Review: My Scientology Movie by Louis Theroux

My first experience of Scientology was as a very young teenager at one of their seminars aimed at recruiting new members. I was impressed and remember trying to convince my parents during the break that we should go on all these other seminars. We didn’t go back after the break.

We had been invited by a family friend who I believe had recently joined Scientology and was trying to recruit us – in Louis’ documentary there’s a mention of a 10% cut for any member who recruits new members. Whether we left because my parents were concerned about me becoming indoctrinated, or because they had been conned into the event and thought it was just a gathering, or whatever other reason I don’t know. I do know that my mum later went to a meeting about the church where church members overly took down license plates of those in attendance and – when I asked about that family friend some months later – that he was no l longer allowed to see us.

We had a bunch of Scientology and anti-Scientology literature [predominantly books of people who managed to escape] in the house which I read over time. The former was confusing and didn’t appeal to me, whereas the latter horrified me. Former members talked of harassment and intimidation tactics denied by the sect – yet it is exactly the kind of stuff that’s shown time and time again in documentaries such as John Sweeney’s and Louis Theroux’s.

Growing up my family boycotted films starring known Scientology members, such as Tom Cruise or John Travolta, to not further the church through cinema tickets or increased viewing figures on TV. I didn’t see Mission Impossible or The Firm until many years later for example.

So all in all I’m not a complete newcomer to Scientology and as such this documentary, while sobering, wasn’t groundbreaking for me. I’d seen the intimidation tactics before and the documentary didn’t have much new information for me. However, thanks to Louis picking this up, it reaches a whole new audience of people who may have been unfamiliar with the subject matter before. By releasing the film in the cinema it may have again reached people who wouldn’t have otherwise. All of this is a distinct positive.

I never learned even a snippet about Scientology at school and only became exposed to it due to my parents’ interest in it. There needs to be more education around it and Louis’ documentary should be a part of that alongside more traditional documentaries.

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