A little album artwork game

When working at home I invariably end up sitting at my desk working on the Thinkpad whilst my iMac plays music to me or tunes me into BBC Radio 5 (especially PMQs on a Wednesday)

I’ve recently set the iMac to display the iTunes artwork screensaver, and have found myself entranced by it. For those that haven’t seen it, the screensaver shows a mosaic of album covers (40 at a time on my 24″ iMac) and flips one over every couple of seconds to reveal another. My main fixation has been a desire to see a screen full of artwork from what I consider to be good music. Like any music collection, there are a few black sheep in amongst the 830 albums and singles that live in my library. That Simply Red CD seemed like a good idea at the time…

One Hit Wonders

It is quite distracting to sit there and stare at the Gabriel album, willing the screensaver to choose that one to flip over next. The bad ones seem to stay the longest, and Apple plays with your mind by always seeming to make sure there is a bad egg on the screen at all times. It’s not even like I rate my music, how does it know??

A little while ago I reached breaking point and had to just put everything else on hold and wait for that perfect moment:

Good taste

(Large version on flickr)

I can’t say I’m completely happy with it. Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance are dodgy to say the least, whilst The Darkness and Catatonia are both albums I’d probably not want to be seen listening to nowadays.

However, the more interesting game is to try and spot serendipitous arrangements of albums. This is highlighted nicely in the above screenshot by this example:

The Crescent and Ed Harcourt

If defunct mid-ninetines Bristolians The Crescent and erstwhile singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt ever got together to release a gatefold double vinyl album this must surely be the artwork!

Incidentally, you may wonder how you capture a screenshot of a screen saver? Well on OS X it turns out that if you press Cmd-Shift before starting the screen saver by pressing “Test” in the preferences panel, you can then take as many shots of the screen saver in action by keeping Cmd-Shift held down and pressing 3 for each shot. Nice. And yes, it did mean that I kept my fingers down on those buttons for about 20 minutes in the production of this blog post…

Tracking my health and fitness

Since I edged into my 30’s (I’m currently 32) I’ve been aware that I’ve started to put on a bit of a paunch, and my double chin is definitely more pronounced than I would like. Evidence is clear in this photo taken in January:

Me and Luis

So the time has come to do something about it. I’ve thought this before, and excuses for not keeping a good diet and exercise regime come thick and fast. So this time I’m going to be open about how things are going on this blog. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t be getting a daily weigh in and pedometer count, but I will be making a concerted effort to provide regular updates.

So, let’s set a baseline. As of Saturday 8th March I weighed in at 13 Stone, 7 pounds (189 pounds, 85.72 kgs) I am 5′ 10″ (178cm) so that gives me a Body Mass Index of 27.16 (according to the BBC calculator)

Now, all good plans need to have a goal, so my goal is to get my weight down to 11 1/2 stone (161 pounds, 73 kgs) though I’ll be happy anywhere between that and 12 stone. Why? Well the last time I felt really fit I was around that weight. So that’s looking to lose two stone (28 pounds, 12.7 kgs) which would give me a BMI of around 23.

Another motivation for doing this is the fact that I just don’t feel as fit as I used to. This is most evident when I play football. My stamina levels are nowhere near where they used to be. To this end I am making a concerted effort to do more exercise. Generally I hate gyms, however one thing I do like is swimming. To that end we have just joined a local gym which also has a 25m pool. When I was a kid I swam for a local club, training three times a week and competing most Saturdays and Sundays. Even into my early 20’s I swam fairly regularly, twice doing the BT Swimathon – a 5000 metre (3.1 mile or 200 lengths of a 25m pool) charity swim. Whilst a lot of people find lane swimming boring and repetitive, I love it, and due to my competitive history in the sport I push myself further than I would on a treadmill or rowing machine. On Saturday I went for the first time. At the outset I set myself a goal of doing 50 lengths, or 1250m in 100m sets with a minute recovery between each one. I alternated between front crawl and breast stroke for each 100m. I have never been able to swim crawl slowly (I used to be a sprinter specialising in 50m or 100m races) so there’s currently no way I could do it all with crawl. After the first few sets I was really suffering both with my lungs and muscles. However I broke through and managed to complete my programme. I even did the last 100 as a medley. However 1 minute recovery time for every 100m is tooo long. When I was a kid we’d normally do 200 or 400m sets at 75% effort with 30 second recovery!

The aim over the next few weeks is to keep this up, reducing the recovery intervals between the sets and working towards doing more of it using crawl and actually measuring my 100m times so I can control the intensity of the sets. At the moment I’d say I was swimming the crawl at about 75% but the breast stroke sets at considerably less. The ultimate goal is to get myself to the point where I can start going along to the masters training sessions held every Wednesday night and actually take part in some proper training, but I am a long way from that.

So whilst swimming is my main exercise of course the other side is getting my diet in order. Swiming isn’t the best exercise for pure weight loss as it tends to do more to tone you up. If I don’t reduce calorie intake then I’m not going to go anywhere. I’ve already been modifying my diet for a couple of weeks with mixed success. My weight has come down by a good few pounds so I’m on the right track, but the whole point of blogging about it is to make sure I keep going. If you don’t see an update be sure to hassle me 😉