Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Me and my amazing wife watched the film adaptation of The Martian, staring Matt Damon, and loved it. Despite it being full on sci-fi there was plenty of humour. Last year I read Artemis also by Andy Weir (read the review here), so when the Free Little Library on the next street had a copy of The Martian I was quick to snaffle it.

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Andy is unashamedly geeky, and isn’t afraid to write some quite technical science passages. Don’t let this put you off, because as well as being ‘nail-biting’, it’s also very funny.

The premise is quite simple. Mark Watney, the main character, is stranded on Mars. The rest of the crew make a quick and sudden escape from the planet, and believing that he is dead, they go without him. The book is therefore about his survival, and will he be able to survive until the next scheduled Mars mission in four years time. He has food rations for six people, which at a push will last for six months, not four years and with no way to contact Earth. Will he survive?

This was easily one of the best books that I’ve read this year, and in the next few minutes I will return it to the Free Little Library on the next street.

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Salford Triathlon 2019

The company I work for, Wardell-Armstrong, are one of the main sponsors of the Salford Triathlon, and because of this we are given four free entries. These are always used as relay entries so that as many people from the company can take part, if they wish. This is the third time that I’ve been a part. In 2017 I did the swim (read about it here) and last year I did the whole thing in horrendously wet conditions (read about it here). This year I was doing just the swim once again, but at least there was no way that the weather could be as bad as last year. This is Manchester, cue massive downpour just before the start, however it has just about stopped by the time the relay swimmers were off.

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Nice pink hat!

Whenever I’ve mentioned to people about swimming in Salford Quay they make a face, but the water is some of the cleanest you could swim in. It was also lovely and warm. Definitely warm enough to go without a wetsuit. I’m not quick enough without one.

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Who’s that walrus? Photos were courtesy of the regional director!

I managed to mess up with my Garmin, but my official time was 25:39, which can only mean that the course was a little short. Out of the water I still had to run to transition to hand over my timing chip to my immediate boss, who was once again doing the cycle leg. He managed a very respectful time, especially as there were quite a few ‘offs’. The runner in our team was a client of the firm and someone that I had never met before the event. He wasn’t a ‘pure’ runner, but he did well and our team was nearer the top than the bottom.

Next year I might opt for the whole thing once again, or I might offer my services as a runner. A great day and four relay teams organised by one of the associate directors from the central Manchester office, with plenty of support from everyone. I definitely enjoy working for this firm.

Book Review: John Dies @ the End by David Wong

This was another book recommended by the increasingly wrongly named Manchester Post Apocalypse Book Club. Possible the book could be described as Pre-Apocalypse. In the end it doesn’t really where or who recommended the book.

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The book itself is a strange one, as it doesn’t really fall into any specific genre, although horror is probably the most apt. The start is amazing and had me hooked, although I absolutely didn’t have a clue what was going on. Towards the middle of the book it loses itself, with new characters that don’t stay around for long, and trying to be too weird. It feels like the book was written over a number of years while the author worked for living, which is exactly how it was written. The ending does mostly redeem the book.

The premise of the book is similar to Stephen King’s The Dome. Imagine a virus on a petri dish, the virus cannot see beyond the dish. In both cases, we are the virus on a petri dish, not able to see beyond our own dimension.

One measure of how much I enjoyed a book, is would I buy the sequel. A second volume has recently been published, This book is full of spiders – seriously dude don’t touch it, which is a great title for a book. However, unless I find a copy in the local Free Little Library, I probably won’t buy it. Additionally, even though I book this book new, I will be leaving it at the Free Little Library.

 

Matterdale and Ullswater Ride

A couple of months ago I stuffed my Trek 920 into the car and drove up to Pooley Bridge for a bit of a mixed ride. Plenty of hills and a few off road sections, hopefully nothing that the old beast couldn’t manage. Obviously much of the ride was dictated by the need for more tiles (it’s a Veloviewer thing).

Setting off and the weather was great and the hills were immediate. Matterdale was a bit of a shock that early, but at least I was riding on some lovely quiet roads. A couple of deadends followed, deliberate, one on road and the other off, before a small section of illicit or illegal riding.

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I crossed over the A66 and rode down a small track to the edge of Troutbeck Forest. As the sign said ‘no public right of way’ I continued. A lifted my bike over a padlocked fence and rode down a very pleasant track, completely devoid of anyone.

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I got slightly annoyed by this. Who are the land owners and what gives them the right to fence off such a large and beautiful area of the countryside. See also much of the land south of Lancaster and in the Trough of Bowland which has been set aside for shooting. What harm would a few bicycles actually do to your precious fenced off land. (Rant over).

Back on the road and I did a shoot loop up to Mungrisdale before dropping down into Threkeld. This next section I was a little unsure whether I would be up for it as it was a long off-road bit on the Old Coach Road.

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It was a bit rough and steep in places but I managed to ride most of it. I also saw an older couple riding on e-bikes in the other direction. Once I made it safely back onto tarmac I rode along the lakeside road back to Pooley Bridge. Not the best road as it’s narrow and fairly busy.

Not being in any rush I decided to throw in one last long dead end on the other side of Ullswater. This was a brilliant road; hardly any traffic and a monster of a switchback climb near the end.

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If you love obscure climbs this is a classic, and although it wasn’t too long my legs were feeling it. Another great little ride on roads and tracks that I’d never ridden before.

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Recommendation of the day – ride somewhere new.

Book Review: Kiss and Die by Lee Weeks

This was another book that I picked up from the Little Free Library on the next street (read about it here). I picked it up as I thought that it might interest my wife, but I started to read it and quickly realised that it would be too gruesome for Helen.

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The back cover advertises the book as being about a female serial killer who only goes after cheating men. This is actually a small part of the book, and the more interesting character is the Hong Kong detective Johnny Mann and his backstory. He has recently found out that his father was a high ranking Triad worth millions, and detective Mann’s superior wants him to use this to try to infiltrate the Triads in Hong Kong.

After finishing the book I found out that it is actually the fourth Johnny Mann book by Lee Weeks. However, it is a very good stand alone thriller and you definitely don’t need to have read the others. A good gauge on how good a book is, is would you want to read more about the characters. In this instance I will be looking out for the other books in the series.

Overall an above average crime thriller that might be a little gory for some.

Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

My wife read this and really enjoyed it, so when she’d finished I picked it up. She mentioned that it wasn’t my usual sort of read, but I would like to think that I don’t have a ‘usual’ read, and that I’ll read anything if it’s good.

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Set in the outback of Australia, a family has been murdered. Who did it?

Helping the local police is someone who used to live in the town when he was young, but was run out after being suspected of a different murder. He’s now a policeman in a big city and returned for the funerals, but ends up ruffling more than a few feathers.

The plot slowly evolves as facts are teased out. The characters are well written and come to life in the pages. I was gripped throughout and although I guessed who committed the murders, it didn’t really matter, especially as I only guessed it a couple of pages before it was revealed.

This is the debut book from Jane Harper, and I would like to think that she has a long and exciting career ahead. Hopefully she won’t be a flash in the pan and her next book (which I will keep and eye out for) is just as good.

 

Run For The World

I blogged about virtual challenges a while ago (read it here), but Run For The World is a new addition to the market. I recently signed up for a couple of challenges with Awesome Virtual Running, and while the medals are too bad, and they aren’t too expensive, the challenges lack a certain amount of ‘challenge’, as you can obtain the medal as part of a world wide team, no matter how little you ran that month.

Since December last year I’ve signed up each month with Swim The Distance virtual challenges, but last month for various reasons I failed to reach my target, and as a result I don’t get the medal, which is a shame as the June medal was quite nice.

Run For The World work on the same principle, if you don’t reach the target, you don’t get your medal. The USP (Unique Selling Point) with RFTW is that when you sign up the webpage links with your Strava page, so as you log your runs on Strava, your distance is immediately updated.

Lots of the challenges are themed, with the most recent one based on the Women’s World Cup. Another one is Wimbledon themed, although I haven’t signed up for that one as I didn’t like the medal. They are also running many of the challenges at half price as an introductory offer, as well as a few free ones. If that’s not enough, there are prize boxes available randomly, which I was lucky enough to win last week (see the photo below).

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Along with me medal I received a headband (my wife won’t let me wear it), a wristband with pocket ideal for a parkrun barcode, a pound coin style locker token, a phone holder for running, a coaster, some stickers and a 10% discount for my next challenge.

I’m impressed with them so far and I hope that they succeed in a crowded market. If you like the look of them the link to their webpage is below. Tell them I sent you.

https://runfortheworld.org/