Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sports Memorabilia Notes

So the ball that Barry Bonds broke the all-time Home Run record with is going to be put up for auction. If you have £250,000 or so to spare you can bid for the next couple of weeks on

For my part I had the chance to roundly ‘boo’ Barry Bonds when Cath and I went to see the San Francisco Giants back in May.

My memorabilia collection used to consist of an enormous set of Ebbw Vale rugby programmes dating back to the 1970s. I got rid of them when I moved, but they went to a good home - Graham Davies who runs this site.

My collection nowadays consist of baseballs and ice hockey pucks collected on my travels in the USA and elsewhere in the past 10 years or so. Oh, and a Carl Crawford bobblehead doll from a giveaway at a Tampa Bay Devil Rays game and a Tom Brady bobblehead bought on ebay a couple of years ago.

Heritage Open Doors

Over the first three weekends in September, the Open Doors programme offers free access to buildings and sites of architectural and historical interest in Wales. The event is supported by Cadw, the Welsh Assembly Government’s historic environment division, and organised by the Civic Trust for Wales.

Almost 200 sites across Wales are opening their doors to the public as part of a Europe-wide celebration of the heritage. These sites – many of which usually charge for admission or are not generally open to the public – range from public buildings, houses, castles and churches to archaeological or industrial sites, museums and gardens. In some areas there are also town trails and guided walks, exhibitions and talks.

A detailed programme of the sites across Wales participating in this event is available from the Civic Trust for Wales.

Rugby Notes

Ebbw Vale lost in its pre-season friendly at Coventry on Saturday, 33-11. One serious injury occurred – Dai Langdon was stretchered off with a dislocated knee. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. There’s a report here and of course on the Ebbw Vale RFC website.

Another signing worthy of mention. Ebbw Vale have signed an Aussie. They have secured the services of ACT Academy utility back John Williams.

The clock is ticking towards the home opener this coming Saturday when Ebbw Vale entertain Swansea, 2:30 kick-off. See you there.

Its a dog's life

Website of the week

For any of you who have tried Google Earth, here's a new add-on. Google Sky is a new a feature which does for stargazing what Google Earth did for looking at Earth (natch).

If my astronomising course was still running at the University of Glamorgan it would be essential usage, but anyway its lots of fun with some amazing pictures from the Hubble Telescope thrown it to boot.

Old Jokes Home

Patient: “Doctor, doctor, I’ve got problems with my hearing.
Dr “What are the symptoms?”
Patient: “They’re those yellow people on TV.”

“I got stung by a bee yesterday.
£20 for a jar of honey? Outrageous.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ebbw Vale trains

Pat Chay, an Aussie blogger, has written about a train ride through the suburbs of Brisbane. During the trip he travelled through Ebbw Vale train station.

Let’s hope that trains will finally be running at our Ebbw Vale station some time soon. Worryingly, this official Blaenau Gwent Council hasn’t been updated since January, and despite this Assembly statement last year that says that the project will be complete by summer 2007, signs now point to the line not being used by passengers until December at the earliest.

Rugby Notes

With the start of the season almost upon us, Ebbw Vale has released its playing squad for 2007-08. Details are on the official website, as well as details of season tickets and the new online shop. Well, go on, check it out.

The WRU has published its promotion and relegation rules for the Premiership for the coming season. Of course, that doesn’t mean to say that they won’t try to change the rules half way through the year.

"The 14th placed Premier Division club will be relegated if the winner of the play-off between the Division 1 East and West champions had satisfied the Premier Division Criteria by 31 January, 2008. If only one of the Division 1 champions met the criteria by the deadline, the 14th Premier Division club will be relegated and only the Division 1 champion who met the criteria will be promoted. If any club in the Premier Division fails to meet the criteria by 31 January, 2008, they will drop to the bottom of the table for the final league placings for season 2007–2008."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sunny Tresaith

Another beautiful weekend was had down our caravan in West Wales. The sun shone almost the whole weekend, which was good for the Tresaith Regatta.

Lots of yachts mingled with surfers and kids playing in the sea. Marvin had a great time frolicking in the rock pools and playing with/attacking other dogs.

Ice Cream Notes

It’s worth the traffic and parking nightmare to get to picturesque Llangrannog. The village is chocolate box pretty with a beautiful sheltered beach.

And the other great thing that Llangrannog has going for it is the Patio CafĂ© right on the beachfront. Its ice cream is homemade and features in Rick Steins’ Food Heroes. I had banana toffee, and it was brilliant.

This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse

A letter in last week’s Times:

“They have cut down all the street lampposts along the A40(M) Westway and have erected a series of signs along the road which read ‘no street lighting’. These road signs are pointless during daylight hours and cannot be seen at night, because there is no street lighting.”

Astronomy Notes

As I blogged last year, this time of year is shooting star season. (OK, they are meteor showers not shooting stars, but that doesn’t sound so mystical.)

A beautifully clear Sunday night in Tresaith gave Cath and I the chance to star gaze. It’s the perfect time of year to see the Perseids meteor shower. No moon and very little light pollution meant that we had a great view of dozens of “shooting stars”. Its probably the only time I’ve been able to see the Milky Way with the naked eye.

Nature Notes

Cath’s mum and dad have got a new pet. As well as Alfie the dog (their word, not mine), a parakeet and a rabbit, they now have a pet sparrow.

The sparrow has made its adopted home in the outside shed that has been converted into the rabbit’s hutch. Each morning the sparrow waits patiently for the door to be opened before flying off, but he returns every evening to his nest in the shed and gets locked in for the night.

A very sensible sparrow; the shed must be a whole lot warmer and drier than a nest up in the trees.

TV Notes

My head hurts. We’ve been watching Atom on BBC4. There’s enough physics in the three programme series to last for months. The show started with Einstein and then got more and more complicated, but really well told. Catch the repeats (times on the weblink).

Mind-boggling fact from the show: There are more atoms in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in all the oceans of the world.

In lighter TV, House (five) still gets top billing in the Veale/Janes household. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (More 4) and Heroes (BBC2) are new on the block but have made promising starts.

Friday, August 10, 2007

On probation?

As well as my regular daytime gig at the Welsh Assembly Government, I’m also a Board member of South Wales Probation Service. We’re currently in the midst of bidding to win Trust status, so it a very nervous time. I guess they wanted to use my experience of going through the move to trust status during my time at North Glamorgan NHS Trust. I’m on their Audit and Finance sub-committees too.

Just to prove that change is a constant, it’s been announced that North Glamorgan is to merge with Pontypridd and Rhondda to form Cwm Taff NHS Trust from 1 April 2008.

Running Notes

First serious run in ages this week, and ached for a couple of days as a reminder to not let this stuff slide. In previous years the target has been the Swansea Bay 10k. But this year it doesn’t look as though I’m going to be able to attend, there’s the small matter of Lou’s 40th birthday party up Stourbridge way.

So my sights are now set on the Weston Christmas Cracker 10k race, which starts and finishes on the beach. I know, when the tide is out a 10k race could be held from the top of the beach to the waters edge. Anyway, it’s tentatively in the diary for Sunday 9 December.

I always hate filling in the form to enter these races though, because once you’re past 40 you’re a veteran!

Associated to the running is the pedometer challenge which I’m currently taking part in. The aim is to wear a pedometer and record the number of steps you take each day. Most of this week has been over 10,000 a day, which I’m told should be the daily target.

This website gives the step equivalents of a whole range of activities.

Fantasy Baseball Notes

My team, the Ponty Red Sox are in third place in the league, with a chance of pinching second place as the season goes into the last couple of months. This is a miracle really, since I’ve had no pitching whatsoever for the whole season. My batting line up would take on any team in the world, but my pitching staff has been dismal.

A few nifty trades may perk up the team as we enter the home straight.

Fantasy Football Notes

No, not soccer, NFL. Just drafted my team Joey’s Steelman. The team looks pretty strong at quarterback (Carson Palmer) and running back (2 from 3 of Larry Johnson – if he stays healthy, Jamal Lewis and Maurice Jones-Drew). This year though, I might be OK at wide receiver too (Lee Evans, Donald Driver and Terry Glenn).

TV coverage has started already on Sky Sports with a preview show from the NFL Network. Clearly they have reacted to the pressure that NASN has brought to improve their coverage here. The problem is that we here in the UK still get the inane musings of Nick Halling and Kevin Cadle rather than shows like Chris Berman’s PrimeTime from ESPN.

But I guess we really shouldn’t complain when Sky is set to show three games each Sunday as well as the Monday Night Football game.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Notes from sunny Tresaith

Got a chance to catch up with some notes for the blog this past weekend whilst enjoying the sunshine at our caravan down west at Gwalia Falls. Spent the weekend just chilling out on the decking and trying not to fall over the dog-shaped speedbump.

Its just two hours but a million miles from Pontypridd.

Baby Notes

Cath went to the GP surgery this week and we got to listen to the baby-to-be’s heartbeat for the first time. Cath’s now 16 weeks in, and so far, so good.

Rugby Notes

Oh dear. I managed to see the highlights of the England v Wales ‘World Cup warm-up’.

Wales were a complete shambles, going down 62-5, and from what I saw I’m not sure they deserved their 5. A complete lack of ball, stemming from an inability to win any line-outs, meant that much of the 80 minutes was spent defending. And the enormous English pack did the rest. It consistently looked like men against boys.

Worryingly, if James Hook or Stephen Jones had been playing, the outcome would not have been any different. It’s well understood that Wales can’t take on some of the bigger nations up front, but we have to be able to win some of our own ball. Ruddock’s team knew this; it’s a shame that Gareth Jenkins can’t understand it.

It looks like its going to be a short World Cup. That said, expectations have been managed downwards to such an extent that getting to the quarter-finals is now being seen as a great achievement. That means that they have to beat Canada, Fiji and Japan and lose to Australia and either England or South Africa. Sounds about right.

Anyway, the Rugby World Cup kicks off on 7 September with the final on 20 October. All the details can be found here.

Soccer Notes

Elano, Garrido, Corluka, Bojinov, Bianchi, Petrov, Geovanni and Fernandes. What do these names have in common? Yes, they’re the close season (i.e. last week’s) signings by Manchester City. Basically, soccer is full of players you’re never heard of making up the numbers whilst Manchester United and Chelsea win all the silverware again.

It’s the first week of August and summer is just about starting, so that means that its time for the return of the winter game. Just a bit ‘early doors’ if you ask me.

Website of the week

Separated by a Common Language is a blog which points out some of the differences between American English and British English. I’ll need to read up in preparation for my trip to our brother’s in Massachusetts next month.

On by first trip to Boston, I was in the crowd at a Boston Celtics and fell into conversation with the guy next to me. “Some how long are you in town?” he asked. “A fortnight” I replied. There was a pause… “And how long is that?” After I explained he commented “I’d better brush up on my Shakespeare!”