22 November 2007

Train in G Major

The only time a train will run impossibly late, or suffer cancellation, is when you have narrowly missed the one before it. When I realised that there were about half a dozen 0707 regulars on the platform as that train disappeared in the direction of London, the omens for the 0717 were clearly very bad, and inevitably it expired the other side of Swindon.
"I couldn't get the lock on my bike," claimed one passenger, explaining that his glasses had been too steamed up. He'd missed it only by seconds, and thought that maybe he'd have been able to jump on but the station staff were shouting warnings to stand clear and he feared that if he got on he'd have been pulled off again. "A demarcation dispute", explained another of the company, delayed this morning by a nose bleed: "You mustn't make the train late - that's our job."
The train operator's man on the platform, challenged by a disenchanted customer who complained that the trains broke down too often, was explaining that this was the maintenance division's responsibility and seemed unimpressed by the customer's argument that they were all the same company.
The 0730 pulls in ahead of time, perhaps helped on its way by the lack of other traffic on the line, and as the coaches making it up file past it is clear that its status is "full and standing". At least, that's the case with coached E, D, C and B (disregard H, G and F, in which you can only even stand with a first class ticket: the occupancy rate there is about 60 per cent). Coach D is a re-labelled first class coach, so it has about half as many seats as a normal standard coach - and the newly refurbished standard coaches that are now appearing have even more seats, and fewer (and narrower) tables crammed in. So when we file in to Coach A we have no expectation of sitting, except perhaps on the floor, but it seems that all the regulars find seats. Mine is next to a man who has disregarded the rule not to use a personal stereo (perhaps he would argue that his headphones are plugged into his computer) but the noise is not unacceptable. Perhaps the fact that he has indulged himself in Bang & Olufsen earphones assists.

14 November 2007

Burning Bridges

The second Wednesday of the month, so after a morning's work I popped out to run the Bridges Race - which I discovered yesterday even has a Wikipedia entry devoted to it, though it's not a very extensive one yet. Only me from the firm this month, though there was a big entry (by the standards of this event - 32 in the results, including several new faces among whom was Rachael. A cold day, breezy and without sunshine, but not raining and few pedestrians about to get in the way. I managed a respectable 15:43, though it's still well off my first and fastest run in this event - 55 seconds off, in fact, though over 2.3 miles at 2 seconds per mile per pound my excess weight compared with what it was on that day almost completely accounts for the difference (and age no doubt accounts for the rest!).

The notion came to me today that running is not all, but certainly a very large part, of what keeps me going. Not what I live for, but something pretty big. I'm not getting up to run in the dark before leaving for work, nor am I covering tens of miles every weekend, but I certainly feel at my most fulfilled when I am taking part in a race like today's, or even just training, and the regular fixtures in my diary - the Bridges and the Last Friday - are keenly anticipated. Up to a point, this must be good: but how, as I have wondered before, can I transfer my enthusiasm and commitment to this activity to the more mundane but more crucial domain of work?

13 November 2007

Hedgehogs and Foxes

Winter might not be here yet, but autumn arrived quite suddenly not long ago and now there's a frost some mornings. My bike is in the garage for the winter, and the car displays a season ticket for the station car park. I even have my overcoat out for daily use, and commute in my working clothes.
I spent an hour and a half this evening (leaving, regretfully, early) at the Stephen Stewart Memorial Lecture given by Bill Patry, Google's top copyright lawyer. I didn't feel I was in the presence of a top copyright scholar, unfortunately, though the talk was entertaining enough. It will be interesting to read what the IPKat has to say - Jeremy was in the row in front of me, typing - perhaps blogging on the hoof?
My gripe was that Patry, whose subject was metaphor - a useful tool in describing, criticising or seeking changes in the copyright world, from Lord Hoffmann's hedgehogs and foxes (actually, if I remember correctly, Isaiah Berlin's hedgehogs and foxes, and before him which Greek philospher's? Archilochus, it seems - no dishonour in not remembering that, I guess) to Jack Volenti's efforts on behalf of the MPAA - seemed somewhat intolerant of others' viewpoints: no, not intolerant, he just seemed to overlook that they existed. A discussion of the merits and demerits of Google's scanning books and letting people see bits of them would have been more edifying than the laboured lack-of-a-joke at the start, or the Shaun the Sheep clip (from YouTube, of course). But the role of metaphor in copyright law, like legal story-telling, is an intriguing area for further study.
At least I stayed awake throughout. An interesting morning pondering the meaning of "property" and "chose in action" - is a licence to use copyright one? - was followed by a very brisk run with Rachael, who kindly moderated her pace to a level I could manage. A loop over the Serpentine Bridge, with intervals between the lampposts along the north side, was quite a workout (despite the cool weather, I returned to the office pouring with sweat). I decided against repeating the innovation of yesterday, the "50 Broadway Run-Up", inspired by the Empire State Run-Up but a more manageable nine floors (ten, if I descned to the basement first - must try that). Yesterday I made it to the top at a run,two at a time, though labouring over the last two flights: I'd thought there were only eight floors. The view from the top was good, but looking away from the great fire that was raging at the Olympic site. And it will improve my hills enormously, in time.
On the train home, great excitement as we pull out of Reading: whistles blow and the train halts again, then moves on a few minutes later. Raised voices down the train, but I am trying to listen to the curious selection of music on my MP3 player - it's not clever, so when I loaded three classical CDs on it I found myself listening to a movement of a Bach orchestral suite, followed by the Prince Igor overture, then En Saga, and then the second movement of the Bach, some Glazunov, a Sibelius symphony - you get the picture. It took a lot of concentration. At Didcot, I asked the guard what had happened: "A gentleman decided to get off a moving train" he explained. Through the window? "Yes, straight into the arms of the British Transport Police."
"You wouldn't think anyone could want to be in Reading that badly!" I said, wittily (at least, I thought so).
How did the guard know it was a gentleman? Doesn't sound like very gentlemanly behaviour to me. But these Welsh "train managers" are polite to a fault.

04 November 2007

Marlow half marathon

I didn't think there could be a worse half-marathon course for hills than Henley, but in fact there is at least one and only a few miles away ... But Marlow doesn't have one long hill at eight miles, it starts with a hill, followed by a breakneck descent and another hill and descent, and perhaps a few more too, then you get to eight miles and just like Henley that's where the serious one is.

Struggling up it, I was delighted to find myself in the company of the same young lady who had encouraged me to keep going at Henley, this time running with half her family and several friends (all, she thought, behind her). So she helped me along again, although once past 11 miles the course is (as a family group at the side of the route chanted for our benefit) "all downhill!" and I left her a little behind. When I heard them chanting I was amazed that they should have been so well-acquainted with my life story, but when I pointed out how apposite the slogan was the (presumably) mother of the group was kind enough to demur. That sort of thing can mean a great deal.

An unspectacular 1:50:58 and 415th place out of 1300, but at least I made it - the old IDK did make me wonder whether I'd be stopping for good at a drinks station. And I don't feel bad for it, though that was just as well as I followed it up with a skiing lesson this afternoon, which was more hilarious than arduous. Skiing might help sort out my knee - it should certainly strengthen it - but I have some doubts about running more than perhaps 10K in future. I'd be hugely disappointed if I couldn't run another Marathon when there are so many great ones to be run!