Gingerbread house

It’s well known that Kim is a master baker and crafting ninja but the gingerbread house is becoming a Christmas tradition. The kids eat more sweets than they stick (I did some of the roofing) and I think I eat more of it than anyone else.

Happy Christmas!

RB Sports

I’ve been building a website, or rather, a web page, for a mate’s swim coaching business. It’s a bit orange. It’s using a WordPress installation so he can update the news items himself from his iPad. Other than that it’s very simple. It still took long enough to pull all the parts together though. Building a multi-page site is barely harder than a single page as the design is just reflected across pages. The only extra bit needed is a navigation tool (menus & whatnot).


The shortest day is done! Although the day after was worse – it was so dark and wet all day that it felt like the sun never came up. I’m glad I swapped my run and swim around and avoided the weather. It really was that bad. All the fields I passed on my bike were flooded today. A group of ponds beside the Llanelli cycle path had become one large pond, with the rescue rings on posts just visible above the water.

I finished a 3 month block of increasing run and swim volume to nice, high TSS levels. I was surprised to see my training stress score almost reach the 2012 peak from mid-summer just from swimming and running. That’s a lot of swimming for me! (And my body told me so too). I’m now finishing a recovery week before starting a couple of transitioning weeks in which I’ll be working the cycling back in. It’s great to be getting back on the bike, and great to be so mentally fresh for it too. I’m now feeling very robust running-wise and very comfortable with much longer swim sessions that I’ve done before. If it all works out this should be great preparation for 2013, but I’ll just keep plugging along and we’ll see what happens.

I ran a local cross country race in Merthyr Mawr last weekend so I could get a Christmas pudding. Great fun and my form seems ok. I didn’t hammer it but the hills were easy and metrics were good. It’s nice to get out and muddy, but maybe I should have tied my shoes on instead of relying on my summer elastic laces that I left in from the Gower triathlon. The best bit was the rapid recovery – I felt fine over the next couple of days. A sign of some consistent, effective mileage.

I’m trying to chill out over Christmas and drop both my training stress and other stress levels. They’ll be rising again in the new year so it’ll be good if they both start off a bit lower. Lots of gaming is helping and I’ve had a week off work already (not that it stopped the hassle and the emails entirely) while the kids have been at school. When the only thing you really have to do every day is train and recover life is simplified incredibly. Very nice. That must be quite a life to lead. A bit of golf has been nice too, and I was happy to find that I could still make the ball go forward as this was the first week that I’ve hit a ball since before breaking my shoulder. I did thin it off the tee a bit so I’m blaming a shorter right shoulder. I’ll get a few more games in before I have to go back to work.

I’m hoping for some nice warm winter cycling kit from Father Christmas to get me through January and February. I think I’ve been good.

Have a good Christmas and New Year break!


Oh dear. The art of bicycle maintenance and all that. I knew this wheel was overdue for replacement and has been for some time. I folded the front wheel of the pair when I crashed and broke my shoulder, and the rim of this rear wheel was worn way too thin. I’m not riding much at the moment though so left it. And left it. And left it.

Last weekend the rim started to rub. Uh oh. That was a particularly terrifying ride. I had been planning to replace these wheels with some PowerTaps but I’m too skint (and is probably part of the reason for delaying replacing) but I grabbed another pair of Campagnolos for my training bike as these things have been so damned tough.

I went into the garage to stick the new wheels on and found this. Some time in the week the tube and tyre exploded, the lip of the rim burst and green slime had splattered everywhere. (The slime helps repair punctures when I’m riding).

I guess the slime wasn’t going to fix this one. These wheels must have easily ridden over 20,000 miles and braking wears away the aluminium, especially if you like riding in mucky lanes. I should have replaced these wheels a few thousand miles ago.

I’m very glad this didn’t happen when I was riding. If I managed to stay upright I would have struggled to get home! It was hard enough getting the wheel out of the bike in the garage.

So there’s a lesson for you! Check and replace your wheels before this happens!

Skull Osteology iPad app

Skull Osteology Icon
Being busy is a poor excuse for not blogging. if you’re busy then hopefully you’ve got a lot to blog about, but I guess, like me recently, you’re busy with the mundane and there isn’t a lot to talk about. Twitter and the blog get ignored, and you’re only as good as you’re last update these days.

To make up for this I’ve finally got to the point where my first mobile app is about to be released to the world! Much of this I’ve had to do in my own time (like most of my elearning these days), and it’s a very simple app but I feel much more confident and clearer about the process of creating apps for multiple platforms and hopefully this will help others in the College of Medicine. It will certainly knock forward the other apps I’ve been working on, if I can find some time to invest in them.

This first app is only for the iPad right now and will be available tomorrow (1st December) from the Apple App Store. I’ll have to grab some of the official logos for some links and bits. It’s a collection of interactive images of the skull that you can touch to label bones, sutures, and foramina. There’s a web version of it on the medicine page of this blog. Because of the size of the text I’d rendered on the images it doesn’t work well on smaller screens, but I’m thinking of ways to create a smartphone version.

I’d also created an Android tablet version and got it to work fine on the emulator but when I tested it on a physical Android tablet the layout of the image slices was screwed up. I have to spend some time figuring out how to fix this (groan) but I didn’t want to delay the iOS release any more. I recently got hold of a Microsoft Surface tablet running Windows (8) RT so I’m planning to release a version for that platform too, which will also work for the full Windows 8. Life would be easier if I just produced things for a single platform but it seems infair to dictate to students what device they should buy and bring to university. I also get more things to play with, I guess (I’m writing this entry on the Surface).

So I’m hoping that this will be a useful tool for students to use, maybe in the lab alongside a skull, to help learn about the parts of the skull. There’s a lot of detail in there and it’s a thing of beauty that I hope my photos have captured. If you touch a foramen you’ll get a list of everything that goes through it. I’ve only labelled stuff on the left side of most of the symmetrical images but I plan to improve the resolution of the text I’ve used and tidy a few things up in future versions.

I’ll post a link to the app store tomorrow, and it will be free.

Easy week

Autumn Cyclepath
I’m in an easy week at the moment. That’s an easy week of training anyway, not so much everything else. In almost all of my training phases I have an easier week every fourth week. Three weeks of increasing load, one week easy. I aim to ditch as much fatigue as possible, to freshen up physically and mentally. Many of the physiological adaptations I’m trying to develop kick on during the early part of this week, making each subsequent 4 week block larger and faster.
There are downsides to an easy week. When races have been entered and are coming up soon easy weeks are also weeks for testing; measuring how much improvement has been gained over this training block. Motivation is easy to come by. The world is warming up and the days are lengthening. Right now, in the autumn, this isn’t the case. My mornings are getting darker (but you have to run in the dark to see the dawn) and the triathlon race season is a long way away.
After squeezing multiple training sessions in each day (although cheating by running or cycling to work and back is helpful) and compressing your time an easy week shows you how much time you *could* have. Wow, sleeping in until 7.30am. Having breakfast with the kids. A whole day in my office without disappearing off to swim in the afternoon. Staying up late to play World of Warcraft. I could get used to this. Why on earth do I train so much? Do I really have to get up for a short run tomorrow morning?
But when you do get up and go for that run you remember. This feels good. Aha, my pace is coming back after all those miles and a few easy days. My heart rate is much lower than it was 4 weeks ago. It’s a nice quiet morning and the sun is about to come up. It’s chilly and there’s some light rain but I’m not cold. Nothing hurts, this is easy.
And when I sit in my office all day with plenty of time there’s no rush. I don’t have to leave at 12.30 for the pool so I don’t need to hurry up and get this finished. I procrastinate. And my back hurts. Sitting down all day is terrible. I still don’t get home any earlier.
Next week the mileage goes up again. I’m working on my running and swimming through until Christmas as my weaker areas and have some hefty volume targets to hit. My run mileage has been poor for the last couple of years as I haven’t been very robust. So next week and the week after and the week after that will be tough, and the fourth week will be easier. Even rewarding, maybe. My runs are getting longer, I need to get up earlier, and the mornings are getting darker. At least the clocks go back this weekend!

Boys vs Girls

I’ve started a new series of embryology lectures that will run over 2 years for each group of students. As I’ve got the whole series to myself, and as I like to run quizzes in the lectures to see how much the students take in (and for fun, and for the students themselves to see what they do and don’t understand) I thought I’d go back to the boys vs girls format that I used to run some years ago before we began this new curriculum.
The quizzes use remote “clickers” handed out anonymously so students can answer the questions I put up at the end of the lecture without worrying that anyone will expect anything of them or know how they performed. I get a general view of how the whole class did, but by gaming it and splitting the class into two teams I also see how boys and girls perform. This is particularly untrustworthy data though as previous experiences suggest that boys, er, cheat the system. Comparing boys and girls is unintentional, it’s just a way of creating teams easily.
Yesterday I gave a pair of lectures. The first was an introduction to embryology in general and the second covered the first 18 days (ish) of development from the zygote to neurulation. Each lecture had a quiz. How did you do?
An Introduction to Embryology:
Boys – 437 points
Girls – 420 points

The First 18 Days of Development:
Boys – 412 points
Girls – 363 points

I noticed in the data from the second lecture that there were a few zero scores in the girls’ team, which would be unexpected. I hope the boys are not signing on to the girls team and inputting the wrong answers because that would be unfair…
There are 5 questions in each quiz, and if you get the question right you win 100 points. The scores for the whole team are averaged to give the final score out of 500 points (so it doesn’t matter too much if one team is larger).
Right now the boys are winning the series by 2 lectures to 0. There’s a neuroembryology session coming up in a couple of weeks (within anatomy) so I’ll try to stick a quick quiz into that too.

Embryology at a Glance

From our embryology podcast series Rhiannon and I wrote a book. A book! Wiley Blackwell have added embryology to their At A Glance series, and they asked us to write it. It has taken us a couple of years but right now it’s available to buy from book shop shelves, online book shops, in ebook and iBook formats, and it’s in libraries to borrow.
We wrote this book as an introduction and revision source for anyone trying to get started or to grips with the essentials of embryology. We tried to write in an engaging and accessible way, hopefully matching what we try to do with the podcasts. There should be more than enough in there for most medicine and health profession students.
Embryology at a Glance introduces the basic principles of human development, from mitosis and meiosis, and walks you through the primary formation of each body system, with coverage of the continued development of the respiratory and vascular systems during the foetal and neonatal periods.
Fully geared towards the medical school curriculum, the coverage of major steps in human development allows a better understanding of adult anatomy, development-associated conditions, congenital abnormalities and their treatments.
You can buy copies of Embryology at a Glance in different formats:
Embryology at a Glance – paperback from Amazon
Embryology at a Glance – Kindle from Amazon
Embryology at a Glance – iBook from Apple (iPad, iPhone)
And it’s available from many other sources too.
Rhiannon and I are still talking about continuing the podcasts (we spent so much time on the book and having children (not together, separately) that the podcast series has paused). I’ve started writing a second book with some clinical colleagues that will be a little bigger, covering early development such as fertilisation, reproduction, anatomy and embryology but also obstetrics, gynaecology, neonatology and child health. That should keep me busy for another couple of years.
If you read the book I really hope that it’s helpful. Good luck!