Boston to NYC day 3

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Goodbye to Danele at the Keepers Inn

If you want to track Simon, his progress and support his chosen charity then please click here

Still unable to get used to the time difference I woke up at 4.30. Conscious that Danele had children I stayed in bed till I heard people moving about. Simon Richard and I came downstairs and sat in the lounge talking. One of Danele’s children came in and asked if we wanted some coffee. Before you knew it there was a little bit of a competition as to which of the kids was trying to impress us the most. Their parents tried to reign them back in and calm them down so they could get them ready for school. We felt a bit guilty for distracting them from this but at the same time they were so sweet we wanted to spend time with them.

The children went to school and Danele had offered to make us pumpkin Pancakes for breakfast, how could we say no. Danele was a fantastic host and chatted to us while serving up more coffee, OJ, pumpkin Pancakes, sausage and syrup. It was a breakfast of champions. Danele was in her running gear and ready to go so after a chat and letting our breakfast settle we headed out. This run was nowhere near as hilly as the previous run which was great. Danele, Simon and I ran down Danele’s Street which was really long, straight and quiet. It was perfect for a run, we chatted along the way and we’re running for fun not pace. When we got back to the Keepers Inn we got Richard and took a host photo with Danele.

After showers we ended up sitting and talking to Danele some more. A big part of this trip so far has been sharing stories. People are fascinated by what Simon is doing but we have been equally interested in their stories. Danele offered to make some lunch so we had a Grilled Cheese and soup and continued to chat. The problem with talking to interesting people is we end up setting off later than we want to. Eventually we had to say our goodbyes and headed out.

Richard drove to Cambridge, most of the journey was on a toll road. We were freaking out a bit about how much it would cost as we would be on it for over 50 miles. When we reached the toll booth we were ready to hear a real high number, the lady on the booth told us on was $2.90. Not quite the crazy expense we were expecting so we all had a chuckle as we drove off.

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Hello to Kimberley and Kevin

We arrived and met our new hosts Kimberley and Kevin who were really friendly and told us they had watched some YouTube videos about Simon. Their apartment is gorgeous and we have the entire thing to ourselves as they were staying elsewhere. Despite being here for 3 days we may not see the again so we made sure to get a host photo with them before they left us. Simon had been booked in for a haircut with a local barber so Richard went to whole foods to get groceries and Simon and I went to the barbers which was only about 3 minutes away on foot.

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Airbnb logo by Sly

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Sly and Simon

Sly was expecting us and greeted us warmly to his barber shop. Simon had the idea to shave the airbnb logo into the back of his head before then clean shaving his head. Sly was up for this and did a great job. After Sly gave Simon the cleanest shave of his life we headed back to the apartment where Richard was making chilli. After a load of laundry was put on We settled in for some food and football. It’s been really nice having hosts to entertain us and we have thoroughly enjoyed talking to everybody we have met but it was really nice to just slob out on the sofa and chill.

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Boston to NYC day 2

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Goodbye Pete and Carin

If you want to donate to Simon’s chosen charity for this adventure then please click here

Sleep was a luxury none of us could afford. Richard and Simon woke up at around 4am and inadvertently woke me up. I attempted to get back to sleep but they went downstairs. I followed suit at about 6am to find Richard had made a pot of coffee, sweet.

After some granola and a chat with the hosts Pete and Carin, Simon and I went for a run. We had discussed possible routes with Pete and Carin but hadn’t anticipated how hilly it was in their neighbourhood, nevertheless it was a good run and I saw lots of Halloween displays in front gardens.

After the run and getting cleaned up we got in the car and found a store and bought some things and Richard made some omelettes back at the house. We packed up and chilled for a bit as Pete and Carin had gone out and we wanted to see them again before we left. We had another nice long chat with them before saying our goodbyes. It was sad to leave them because they really had been so welcoming and nice to us.

Back in the car and on the road again. The trip took a little longer than anticipated due to getting lost a little bit, but not too much. When we pulled up on the driveway of the Keepers Inn, our next destination, we were greeted by Danele our next host and her son. We chatted with Danele for some time and were entertained by her three adorable and incredibly friendly kids. Danele told us that she runs a little and we arranged to go out for a run with her the following day. We asked where we could eat and got directions to a local bar.

We sat in a booth and looked at the expansive and really cheap looking menu. The staff were really friendly and nice and when the food came it was proof that quantity plus quality does not necessarily equal costly. The food was great and the bar had a really good atmosphere. Having never been to America before I remember thinking that sitting in a booth, eating a burger while watching American football and listening to Bob Dylan was definately the most American thing I had ever experienced.

We returned back to our lodgings sorted out who was sleeping where and spoke about staying awake for a few more hours to beat the timezone differential. Before long I was nodding off earlier than I wanted with a full belly and a smile on my face. Everybody we have met so far has been really friendly and nice and we’ve barely started. It can only get even better.

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Boston to NYC day 1

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Pete and Carin's place


After traveling to London on Friday to meet Simon and Richard, Saturday was an early start. Up at 6, quick shower and off to the tube dodging people who appeared to be just leaving the night clubs. The tube journey was exactly that, we were on for around 20 stops. We were all in good spirits and the journey didn’t seem to take as long as it probably did. Heathrow is a pretty big place but it’s laid out well so we found stuff really easily. Again my experience of airports is boredom and waiting. We did our fair share of waiting but it seemed to pass quickly. We flew Delta, being 6’7″ i was expecting an 8 hour flight to be uncomfortable but it was actually pretty good. The only problem was by hour 6 it was getting a bit much (this may have been the fault of my movie choice however).

We’ve arrived, America. We thought Heathrow was big. JFK airport is enormous. Simon and Richard have been to America before but I haven’t. This means that they got the really cute, tiny little immigration line and I got the enormous dormant snake that is for first timers. I didn’t keep track of time for how long I was in line, I’m pretty glad about that because it was a long time.

Rental mini Van paper work done and off we drive. It’s a real strange experience driving on the opposite side of the road. It feels so unnatural but I think I basically got the hang. Driving to our first airbnb destination, zip code in Google maps and off we go… to totally the wrong place. A few readjustment and 15 minutes later we are in the right place. The house is stunning. We were met by Samson the dog who was lovely, his owners are pretty nice too. They made us feel so welcome after around 15 hours of travelling. To sit down with tea and cake and chat was really great. They directed us into town so we could go and get food. We stumbled across a Barbecue place that had ridiculous portions for not a lot of money and I wolfed it down. All three of us figured we would stay up till 11pm-midnight local time to adjust time zones. At 9pm I was crashing badly and we all went to. Bed.

Day 1 done. It was a massive day, it’s starting to sink in where we are and what Simon is going to do. It’s really exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens to us all along the way.

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Boston to NYC Adventure

http://bostontonyc.runkeeper.com/

I’m staring down the barrel of nearly 3 weeks off work and away from my family. I still can’t fully contemplate what is going to happen after my shift finishes on Friday but it’s going to be one hell of an experience. It’s not a holiday, it’s barely definable to be honest, but it’s really exciting. I’m lucky enough to have been friends with Simon for knocking on 15 years now, it’s all been an adventure in it’s own way but this, this is the traditional definition of an adventure.

When i finish work on Friday afternoon i will be getting on a train to London. This will be the first leg of a trip to America, New York and Boston to be more specific. Simon is going to run from Boston to New York culminating in competing in the New York Marathon. Running a Marathon alone would be an achievement in itself for most people. Simon isn’t most people, he never has been, that’s why he is going to run in The New York Marathon AFTER running over 200 miles in the preceding days. It’s like one of those things that you hear about on the internet, pretty much like you’re doing right now. I’m lucky enough to be one of the people supporting him in this endeavour and travelling to America with him.

Over the next few weeks i’m going to try and keep a daily blog of what’s happening along the way and also tweeting and finding other ways of keeping people updated through Social Media as to Simon’s progress. There is an official website hosted by Runkeeper, a product Simon is an ambassador for and uses on all of his runs. Its a big part of what has enabled him to achieve so much. Please visit the site here as you can learn more about Simon and his story.

As it says in the video, if you live between Boston and New York and want to host Simon during his run then airbnb want to hear from you.

If you have any cool ideas of ways that we can update people on social media or utilise apps (Android and iOS) to track where we are and what we are doing or update people to Simon’s progress let me know and we will consider them at the very least.

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Regularly Consumed: The Giant Bombcast

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Bombcast

Bombcast is the official weekly podcast for the gaming site Giant Bomb. It’s quite the beast of a podcast and can be over 3 hours in length making it a real time sink, however it is well worth it, not only because of the news and reviews aspect of the podcast itself but also cos its damn funny. The emails section at the end specifically is a window in to the world of bizarre that is both the Giant Bomb staff themselves and the listener/ reader/ viewership to.

Bombcast regulars Jeff Gerstman, Brad Shoemaker and Drew Scanlon have recently been joined by new staff member Dan Rychert who helps turn the crazy up to 11 with revelations such as he had not tried a salad until he was 25 years old and my recent favourite comment “I’m smart enough to know how stupid I am” in relation to his attitudes towards food. As it may be apparent, video games are the focus of this podcast but the meandering fun nature of the show (can podcasts be referred to as shows in the same way TV and radio “shows” can?) makes it an enjoyable listen.

Just like the weekly podcast the website itself is bulging with content. In addition to the reviews and quick look videos premium members to the site can access tons of other content like Alt F1 a podcast about formula 1 motor racing, Unprofessional Fridays and Metal Gear Scanlon which is Drew Scanlon playing through Metal Gear Solid from the beginning for the first time ever with commentary. The quick look videos tend to be peoples first look at a game or them showing the game to somebody for the first time. As a result the reactions seem very natural and a lot of humour comes out of it. While these videos are informative, well produced and professional they are also daft mates dicking about and making each other laugh. Its a great balance.

If you like video games and laughing then Bombcast comes highly recommended. Enjoyable and generally weird while still being informative.

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Technically New: garmin Vivofit

Vivofit

My weight has fluctuated quite a lot over the years. From being a very skinny and very tall teen to being 6’7″ tall and 23 stone in my mid twenties. I managed to sort out what I affectionately refer to as my fat ass period and now sit at a weight I’m not entirely comfortable with but don’t really have the time to do anything about. At least that’s my excuse.

Due to my lack of time (and even further lack of effort) I liked the idea of activity trackers to try and increase my regular everyday movement in order to try and keep a bit fitter and burn a few extra calories. Overall I think they work and have usually encouraged me to do more than the needed extra 20 minutes or so of walking a day needed to hit my goal.

I had a fitbit which I really liked until it met an untimely death in the washing machine. I then went wrist mounted with the Nike Fuelband. I loved this but had 3 die for no good reason in 18 months. Thankfully Nike replaced them all, their customer support was excellent but I couldn’t face replacing another. I took the advice of The Wirecutter which had positives to say about all the market leaders but the most convincing argument was a battery that lasts a year.

I’ve been wearing the Garmin Vivofit for a few weeks now. It’s comfortable and actually useful as a watch due to having an always on display. It gets around the trappings of other fitness bands poor battery life by not having a back light. This means that where I could squeeze a maximum 5-7 days out of the Fuelband I’m never worrying about whether I’ve charged it or not. The other thing being that when your not wearing your tracker because it’s charging your not tracking your activity, this is not a problem with the Vivofit. Having said this I don’t know what type of battery the Vivofit takes, how to change it or if there is a low battery indicator. But I’ve got a year to figure those things out.

Due to not needing a way of charging the Vivofit it is a sealed unit making it far more water resistant than any of its competitors, the actual device itself is a small pendant size and the rest is a removable and interchangeable plastic strap available in many colours. Mines purple.

Like the other devices on the market today you can sync your data by Bluetooth to your phone or tablet. I have an LG G3 and after 2 days of trying gave up on trying to get the Vivofit to sync with my phone. I tried with my iPad mini and it works perfectly. There is something to be said for the unified hardware/ software of the iOS environment. It also comes with a small USB nub to plug into your PC to sync that way.

The Vivofit has a red bar that fills up when your not being very active and it acts as a very visible reminder that you’ve been on your fat ass too long. It also tracks sleep and gives you a nice graph of your sleep patterns.

Overall I think my favourite fitness tracker would be the Fuelband but that decision is largely down to the ecosystem and style. The Vivofit does everything I need it to and looks pretty good to boot. A more expensive package is available, the only difference being it comes with a separate heart rate monitor strap. I would definitely recommend the Vivofit to anybody who purely wants to track steps. It is supported by myfitnesspal to inorporate calories consumed vs calories burned though which is really useful.

The only draw back I have noted thus far is occasionally (and it is only occasionally) the lack of a backlight is inconvenient, but I can live with the trade off.

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Technically New: LG G3 Smart Phone

LG G3

In 2007 I got a Nokia N95. I thought it was amazing. It had a 5 megapixel camera and GPS. My aim with buying phones back then was to have the most exciting phone I could find. That’s exactly what I had, I was ahead of the curve in a big way! Then the iPhone was announced.

It was clear from the get go that buttons were pretty much a thing of the past immediately. I waited out my contract (back then you could still get 12 month contracts) and got an iPhone. I never looked back, I barely looked sideways. This was the future and I was excited.

Several years later and other phone companies are catching up. Android is going from strength to strength and I’m getting a bit bored. I’m not excited by the iPhone or its OS anymore. The openness of Android appeals to me and my contract is due up. It’s not the first time I’ve considered jumping ship, when my contract was up in 2012 I considered it but with a lack of knowledge about Android and the iPhone increasing its screen size I stuck with what I knew. All this changed this year. Now I have an LG G3, I’ve been using it for a few months and these are my thoughts on it.

The G3 has 5.5 inch screen, a 13 megapixel camera and is running Android 4.4.2 Kitkat. It’s a nice piece of kit in general. I’m loving having a larger screen. My one big complaint about the iPhone for years has been the piddling little screen. A big screen isn’t the best for everybody but it suits me perfectly. The screen is really clear and colours look great on it as they should with a 1440 x 2560 better than HD resolution. Personally I would have preferred a standard HD screen to save on battery but then I’d prefer companies use the Street Fighter naming method for resolutions beyond HD (Super HD + Turbo Championship Edition for example) so what do I know.

Android is great. My only experiences of android previously were quite some time ago or when briefly using my wife’s phone. I’d never had the opportunity to sit down with it properly. Kitkat seems to be a solid OS and I’m loving it. The openness of the platform and the way it lets everything talk to each other really highlighted how hampered the iPhone is.

There are some less positive aspects to it however. The LG software on the phone is in the main, bloody dreadful. Luckily I can avoid seeing it for the most part but it does pop up and irritate from time to time. Battery performance is terrible. You can watch the battery draining its so bad. This is apparently an issue with battery management software. I use a battery management app to close down unnecessarily running apps and set profiles for certain times of day to try and optimise. It works pretty well but it would be better if every time i switched the phone on I didn’t have to close 20 apps in fear of battery death.

LG put the volume and on/off buttons on the back of the phone which is a bit weird. You kinda get used to it but when operating the phone on my desk at work it means I can’t put the phone in standby without picking the phone up. A double tap of the screen brings it to life but this causes problems when it’s in my pocket. I usually turn the screen in towards my leg to protect it but when the screen rubs against my leg it comes to life, opens apps, skips tracks etc. I don’t want to turn the screen out wards as this feels a touch unsafe but I’m having to.

These are in the main niggles but what the G3 has shown me is that I don’t really want to go back to iPhones. With the iPhone announcement imminent of course this may change but I’m pretty happy with android at the moment. It’s a good job too being locked into a contract for the next 20 months or so.

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Game Over: Bioshock Infinite

Elizabeth and Booker


 
In yet another example of me being late to the party I have just finished Bioshock Infinite. I played on the XBOX 360. I’d known about it for some time but two things were putting me off.

A. It’s FPS. It may well be one of the biggest and most popular gaming genre’s on the planet (with the probable exceptions of MMORPG & MOBA’s) but I generally don’t play FPS. I don’t like em and therefore I suck real bad at em.

B. I can be (less so these days) a bit of a completionist and as a result was reluctant to play without having first played Bioshock’s 1 & 2.

In the end I figured that I knew enough about the Bioshock Universe, (including things some may consider spoilers for Infinite) to be able to play the game and “get” the story. The plan was to knuckle down and power through and hope the FPSishness wouldn’t ruin it for me.

I struggled. I found it really hard going. The combination of my lack of FPS ability and being used to playing games with the volume low due to the kids meant that I was dying all the time and not picking up on essential story based dialogue. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t enjoying it but the experience was hampered by these factors for sure. Pride was also an issue as I was determined to complete the game on normal difficulty. I reached a point where I had to cave on this point as the frequency of my death was too much to bear. At one point a prompt appeared on screen to remind me that bullets were not my only weapon. I constantly forgot about vigors and doubt I used them to their best effect when I did. It was clear that I suck at this game.

After changing to easy, turning the volume up and putting subtitles on I became more engaged in the world and the story of Colombia and it’s main players. I hadn’t hated the game prior to this, it had some real exciting moments. I actually held my breath in one of the games early scenes. It was after making these changes that the game really came together for me. I enjoyed the build up, the slow reveal of seemingly unrelated facts and pieces of information. Making the pay off at the end all the better.

Despite not playing Bioshock 1 or 2 I know how this game really opens up the universe and cements rules within it, rules that were not apparent in the first games. The issue with that being that any further games could appear formulaic. Although it appears that there may not be any further games. I’m happy with that though, TV is realising that shorter and fewer seasons can make for a better experience. Maybe gaming can do the same.

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Regularly consumed: Hollywood Babble On

HBO Podcast

Since getting a demanding serious grown up job and a family my opportunities for consuming media have been dramatically decreased. I like to keep fairly current though and if I haven’t seen or played something I like to try and at least know what’s out there. One way I do this is by using my commute listening to podcasts.

Regularly Consumed will build up a list of what I listen to and why. I will also add other sources of information such as websites that I regularly visit, use or have on RSS (yeah I still use RSS)

Hollywood Babble On

My week begins by listening to Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mall Rats, Red State) and Ralph Garman (Kevin & Bean, Family Guy) rip on celebrities. Being a cantankerous old git these days I find the exploits of young dumb famous people reprehensible and annoying. The act of judging them from a point of superiority as if I was never young and dumb makes me feel good inside.

Babble On is a funny podcast and is kinda balanced by Garman’s angry old man persona against that of Smith’s “screw it maybe a Turtles remake could be good ” mentality. Well worth a listen, and it keeps me current… ish with what’s going on in the world of inconsequential nonsense. I find the vast majority of this podcast both entertaining and occasionally informative. Some bits don’t sit so well but I think that is mainly a difference between UK and US sensibilities, for example the use of the word retarded. If you can get past that though (as I do) HBO (Hollywood Babble On) can make the usual Monday commute of doom an entertaining and generally silly drive to work.

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