Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Network down. Is life ending as we know it?

So one of our mobile communications networks suffered a few problems over the weekend and the network wasn't available to everyone for some part of a day. Calls for compensation and shouts of annoyance at the outrageous suggestion that turning one's mobile device off and on again might solve the problem were amongst the angst ridden cries of the mobile masses. Well at least some of them.

So how did we actually manage before we bought into the mobile culture? How did we get from one place to another, find an address, arrange to meet someone or communicate with out friends in the dark days before wireless communication became the norm? Well, we bought maps, asked for directions, prearranged times and made the effort to turn up on time.

Of course mobile 'phones are great. They enable us to stay in touch and check in with each other easily and helpfully. I went to visit a family recently about a funeral and when I arrived in the correct street discovered I didn't have the house number. My synchronised diaries across 'phone, Mac and iPad hadn't actually synchronised (turning my MacBook off and on fixes this problem every time!), and it was great to be able to call the Funeral directors and ask for the house number. So I'm not arguing against the mobile world.

On the other hand, life isn't going to fall into some sort of dark, scary abyss just because O2 or EE or Three isn't working for a while. Living without your 'phone isn't going to make all your friends and family forget who you are just because your Facebook status hasn't been updated in the last two hours.

We need some perspective. We need a more rational response. We need to turn our devices off and on again or just off, at least for a little while. If that doesn't fix things, then the problem might be a bit more serious. Perhaps the world has ended, perhaps the sky has fallen in. If that has happened, a lack of mobile reception might be the least of your worries!

Ooh, I've just heard my 'phone ping. A text message, must dash and check who's trying to get my attention!!

Thursday, May 21, 2015


No, it's not a typing error it's a new application I've recently come across on the internet. IFTTT is a simple way to make connections, perform actions, post notes, control lights, sense messages and a whole host of other things you never knew you wanted to be able to do!

You create recipes of logical IF's to perform a task (If This Then That). For example, I've created a Twitter account for South Ockendon Sports (@socksports) and I've created a recipe that posts a daily weather update at 7:00am to Twitter. I've also created a recipe that puts a status update on my LinkedIn account when I create a new blog post about therapy related stuff on my other blog In2Motion.

Each If starts with a trigger form a channel. You can choose from a wide range of channels but not everything you might want to do is available. Once you've got a trigger you simply work through the steps as you are prompted and build your recipe. I'd really like to be able to include more than one blog in the recipe, but I can't see a way to do that at the moment, and I'd like to be able to link my Polar Loop daily activity data to Twitter or Facebook. You can do some editing of the logic, but I can't see a way of doing either of these things yet.

What looks good about IFTTT is the way it reduces the number of websites you need to visit in order to update something. It might just be a toy for some, but for others it could be a really useful tool to streamline social media. Of course, if you have some of the more interesting tech around the home you can even control the heating and the lights. For example, you could use location data from your 'phone to turn on the heating when you're within 30 minutes of home, or to turn on the lights at dusk.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

EAB, ZO, Tan & Sock!

Ok, so did you instantly recognise these as types of tape used in sport? Over the course of a season you get through a lot of tape. At our level, where money is tight, every metre of tape matters in the budget. I've been very lucky that the team for whom I've been working for this last year have supported the cost of buying the tape we've used.

We've been quite frugal in our use of tape, but we've not skimped either. I was wondering the other day how much tape we'd actually used and I did a bit of maths. Overall we used around 1.8Km of tape. That would go the length of the pitch 18 times and it would cover an area of around 110 sqm.

I suspect that a Premiership club uses 4 or 5 times that amount of tape!

This year we introduced lifting blocks for the line-out jumpers. These are small foam blocks taped to the thigh just above the knee. They are single use normally because the tape sticks to the foam and you can't separate them without tearing lumps out of the blocks. They're only £1 a pair, but that would cost £25 per player each year on average. With at least three jumpers, £75 is a lot to spend on bits of foam! I discovered that if I covered the blocks in ZO (zinc oxide) tape before taping them to the players, then they've lasted the season saving us £65! At first I wrapped them in cling film, which worked well but needed doing every week. I tried sock tape (electrical tape) but I think that made the blocks too stiff, so ZO tape did the job.

I've really enjoyed my season and I'm looking forward to next season. Part of me wishes I could go back and study either sports therapy or physiotherapy in more detail. But time travel isn't an option and I'm not sure I have the energy to embark on yet another degree now! So I'll keep reading, going to CPD courses and do my best. I just hope there's a special offer on tape before the season seats and we can stock up!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Great Final Day to the Premiership Season

So, the Aviva Premiership's final round of matches have been completed and now we know who will contest the play-offs. Exeter were this year's unlucky losers, missing out on points difference to Saracens in a dramatic final day's action.

Some will naturally question Northampton's selection of a "weakened" team as some have described it, and who can argue with that given the line up of players that were rested on Saturday. Some might even want to question the whole play-off system in light of it. It's very possible that a full strength Northampton would have pushed Leicester harder, even winning the game and so allowing Exeter into the play-offs at Leicester's expense.

In the end, when you take into account the international's and the impact they have on some of the sides, then not only do Northampton have the right to rest players as they did, but I don't think you'll hear too much complaining about the way things have turned out.

One of the great joys was that no side already knew what they needed to do except perhaps Leicester. They needed to win to get into the play-offs, nothing else would do. And you could argue that Bath and Northampton knew that win or lose they had already qualified. But who wants to lose?

There's no absolutely fair way to work these things out. Take the IPL's approach where they have some sort of tiered approach to the decide who is on the final. There's an eliminator where the 3rd and 4th place teams play and two qualifiers. In the first qualifier the top two teams play each other. The winner goes straight to the final, the loser plays the winner of the eliminator! Simply put, finishing first or second gives you two chances to reach the final.

In rugby terms, this year that would mean Northampton would play Bath for the right to go straight to the final, while the loser of that game would play the winner of the Leicester/Saracens game to decide the other finalist. Simple really! If such a system were adopted I'm sure there would be cries of unfairness for the team that had to play twice to reach the final. You can't really win with any of the formats.

Anyway, we'll be there at Twickenham enjoying our day whoever plays.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What do you air in public?

The recent UKIP airing of opinions about Nigel Farage and the decision to allow the publication of private letters from Prince Charles both make me wonder about our tendency to say in public what might be better said in private and the odd interest we have in private communication. Unguarded comments in the backs of cars have lost politicians the public vote and maybe it's reduced public debate to some sanitised exchange of broadly similar views that have all been checked by spin doctors and focus groups. Now I'm not suggesting some sort of free for all in the name of freedom of speech or something, but I'm just wondering what impact publication of such things has and what value there is in so doing.

Then there are the articles written in newspapers by the likes of Patrick O'Flynn. Open letters are one thing, but why would you put that in a newspaper? Why wouldn't you sit down in a room and talk it through, sharing your concerns in a constructive way rather than making a public issue of it? Surely there are better ways of airing these things than through column inches. Same goes for Kevin Pietersen and other autobiographers who seem to want to "put their side of the story" before anything else. There's a time to let it go.

Yesterday I was in the queue in my local convenience shop and I overheard the person in front saying some amazingly horrible things about another person. Their shooping partner did nothing to suggest that it was time to turn down  the volume and take a breath. Not overhearing was not an option given the volume at which things were being said. Not shouted, but loud enough to make sure anyone nearby got a clear picture of what she thought of her step-mother! The thing is, I didn't need to know these things. That she didn't like her is okay, telling the world is, in my opinion, not.

It's a difficult balance, but stopping, engaging brain, asking yourself if this really needs to become public knowledge, might stop a few bridges going up in flames.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Nearly time for the Aviva Premiership Final!

I know that not everyone is a rugby fan, or even a sports fan, and I know many a football fan probably wonders what the point is of a team finishing top of the Aviva Premiership if they can go on to lose the title in a play-off. Just ask Gloucester who finished top a number of times but failed to win the championship title. Even rugby enthusiasts wondered about the plan when the system was first introduced.

But when you realise that Rugby Union has an international tournament every year (The 6 Nations), and a series of high-profile international fixtures in the Autumn, you will understand why it turns out to be a good way of settling the outcome of the season's endeavours. Top teams can lose a lot of players to the international fixtures. The play-off system gives smaller clubs the opportunity to make headway in the league competition and we don't get the club or country debate that other sports seem to suffer from. It opens the whole thing up.

This year we're off to the final at Twickenham again at the end of May. It is a great day out and last year's final was certainly an exciting affair with the winning points scored with the final move of the match. It wasn't even that clear whether the decisive try had actually been scored and it took the TMO (third match official) a little while to sort it out.

Northampton won the title and are in with a good chance of retaining it this year having finished at the top for the first time as far as I recall. What makes it all exciting is that there are three team looking to get into the last two play-off places and all the games are important. Leicester, Exeter and Saracens are all in the mix.

Sarries are almost certain to beat London Welsh with a bonus point win. The promoted exiles haven't won a game and have only one losing bonus point all season. That would put Saracens in front of Exeter for fourth place even if they beat Sale unless they too get a bonus point win. But possibly the biggest game of all will be Leicester against Northampton. A Leicester win is a must if they want to be in the play-offs. If they lose then everything depends on the Exeter-Sale result. It is actually possible that Leicester, Saracens and Exeter could all finish with the same number of points!

The final round of matches take place this weekend and they all kick-off at the same time. A good old-fashioned final day of the season! No team will have the advantage of knowing the result of another match.

I wonder if the football premiership would look any different if it tried a new system. With 38 matches to play in a season compared to Rugby's 22 it's hard to imagine that there would be much appetite for such a play-off style deciding end to the season. Reducing the number of teams would cause an outcry no doubt and the very idea of introducing bonus points for scoring 3 or more goals or a losing bonus point for losing by only a one goal margin might seem ridiculous. But what if it meant a more meaningful international fixture list with more competitive international football to develop the national team without that club or country debate? Would fans buy into that? Probably not.

I could start rambling on about the use of technology and the the TMO and speculate how that could be used in football too. No one seems to worry about referrals slowing down a rugby game. The clock stops, the decision is reviewed, everyone gets on with the game. Imagine if the referee could ask a TMO to check for off-side or for a dive, review a possible handball or tackle before deciding on a yellow card. We can only wonder!

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Post Election

Well the election is over and between the gnashing of teeth on one side and the smiling faces on the other we find ourselves facing a return to one party government after all the speculation about who might work with whom on the roundabout of coalition politics. It always struck me as an odd thing that no one was suggesting that one of the lessons learnt over the last five years was that it is possible for  coalition to work, and that coalition politics are not as scary as some would have us believe. I wonder whether David Cameron is actually quite pleased about the whole coalition thing because his party seems to have got off scott-free whilst the Lib Dems have taken the blame! Only time and history will show us what affect the Lib Dems had in shaping the polices and practices of the last five years. I hope history is kinder to Nick Clegg et al than the electorate appears to have been.

I then wonder about the rash of resignations. I worry that this feeds the mentality that General Elections are primarily about electing a Prime Minister. All those questions in the media about who looked and sounded "prime-ministerial" always made me feel uncomfortable at some level. We do not yet have a president. We do not directly elect a Prime Minister. 

And then there were the polls. Apparently the pollsters were humiliated as one newspaper headline put it and now there is even a call for an inquiry about why they got their predictions so wrong. Let's hope that isn't publicly funded. I can think of very few greater wastes of money. Polls are polls. People change their minds. They've got it wrong before, they will get it wrong again. It's a glorified guessing game, let's not worry too much about it. Remember, an election is a secret ballot, there is no rule that says you have to tell anyone how you will vote or have voted.

It will be interesting to see whether this government goes a full five years or whether they revert to calling an election when it best suits them. There's also the question of redrawing constituency boundaries, something that happens all the time, but the worrying headline over the last two days was that from the Telegraph that suggested the primary goal of the process will be to keep Labour out of power for decades, New Commons boundaries top Conservative government agenda. The map is scary to say the least, but the numbers and percentages seem to imply that even with the changes there would be little difference in the majority. The worry is the intention, if it's true, to use boundary changes to secure winning an election. What does that say about democracy?

And finally, electoral reform. Could it be that the only sensible thing heard from a UKIP candidate was the raising of the question of electoral reform? It's doubtful that such a thing will ever happen, but at least it made me smile. What would be interesting would be to find a way of allowing people to express their party preference as well as their local choice. There is always talk about tactical voting, so we never get a true picture of public opinion. Perhaps that is what the polls actually tell us. They tell us what people generally think more than how they will vote once they enter the polling booth. Ooh look, I might just have saved someone a lot of money. No need for an inquiry anymore. Any know where I should send the invoice?