Running Man

I’ve done a number of park runs now, and they are kind enough to give you various bits of data surrounding how you’ve done, and I thought it would be cool to see how this data looks visually.

I have used age grade rather than time because a high age grade is faster and it makes more sense to say higher is better (age grade is a measure park run uses to see how good your time is compared to other people of your age and gender, and is measured as a percentage. 25 minutes for a 21 year old man will have a lower age grade percentage than 25 minutes for a 55 year old woman).

Much as I tried to change it, I could not work out how to get Google Sheets to use a sensible date format, so 7/1 here means 1st of July. Anyway, here is how my park run results have changed over time.

The blue dots are the actual times, while the red dots are the median times from the previous 8 results on and before the date in question. The median is simply the middle value in a set of data (for example, the median of the set of numbers 1-9 is 5). I am plotting the median as well because it means that very fast or very slow runs will still increase or decrease the value, but not in a way that causes the trend to be particularly spiky.

screen-shot-2018-04-12-at-21-28-29.png

My first run was on New Year’s Eve 2016. 2017 seemed to show a general downward trend, which is not so easily explained. In April of that year, I was challenged to run 5k every day (except Sundays), during which time I got my (then) worst time at Portobello, and the following week, got my (then) best time at Cramond, an agonising 3 seconds away from my goal of getting under 25 minutes. I don’t know if another near-miss the following week disheartened me, because after that my times seemed to go down the rest of the year (with a mini-revival in the summer), hitting a low on 28th October (an interesting park run, which was Halloween themed, and being chased by death did not seem to make me go any quicker).

I’ve been getting steadily quicker since then, I think because of deliberately making an effort to do longer distances during the week. In February, I signed up to do the Edinburgh Half Marathon, and have been doing at least one 10k+ run per week; since then I have not gone over 27 minutes.

The R^2 of 0.348 means that it looks like the trendline is an ok estimate of how I’ve been doing, but that it could be a lot better (i.e. it might be a bit much to say definitively that my performance got better, worse, then better again, but it’s a decent-ish estimate for what we have). The R^2 for the median is 0.995, meaning it’s an excellent estimate,

I thought it would be worth breaking it down by location, as below.

screen-shot-2018-04-12-at-21-28-56.png

Annoyingly, the legend has been cut off, but blue represents my Cramond times, red Portobello, and yellow others (twice in Belfast, once in Livingston).

I haven’t included a trendline here because it had an R^2 of zero (which basically means there is no trend in individual courses, which is quite revealing in itself). I frequently describe Portobello as being harder than Cramond, but this doesn’t seem to bear out too much in the data (though there’s a caveat that maybe if I was putting as much effort in at Cramond as I was at Portobello in 2018, then maybe those times would be even better). Portobello is narrower, has a few minor hills, is more cramped at the start, and has about 10 times as many tight turns as Cramond does (indeed, Cramond only has two turns worth talking about).

The more I do, the better the estimates will get, so there’s an incentive.

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Practice

I’ve been struggling to write for a while, and I thought it would be good to kill to birds with one stone and practice writing french again. There will be spelling and grammar mistakes, but hopefully it reads ok. I hope to write a more detailed English version of this soon, but here’s my account of the World Cup in 1998. Feel free to use google translate (which may expose many of my grammar flaws…)

J’avais 13 ans, et quand on est un garçon, la Coupe du Monde a beaucoup de  l’enchantement. Et le tournoi ne m’a pas déçu. La première journée, le Brésil opposait l’Ecosse, et l’Ecosse avait mal de chance- le but décisif, c’était un but contre son camp de Tommy Boyd. Le dernier match du groupe A, le Maroc a écrasé l’Ecosse 3 à 0 , mais la Norvège a obtenu une victoire improbable contre le Brésil, laissant les pauvres marocains en larmes.

Pendant le phase de groupe, il y avait aussi la élimination surprise de l’Espagne après une défaite à cause du gardien Zubizaretta contre le Nigeria et un match nul contre une équipe Paraguayen très ennuyeuse. La France pouvait dormir en battant l’Arabie Saoudite et l’Afrique du Sud (dont Pierre Issa a marqué 2 buts contre son camp), l’Angleterre a avancé malgreé sa défaite contre la Roumanie, la deuxième équipe favorite de tout le monde, la Jamaïque marquait son premier but de la Coupe du Monde, contre la Croatie, et finalement, l’Iran a gagné le match de rancune contre les Etats-Unis.

La dernière semaine de Juin était aussi la dernière semaine de l’école avant les vacances de l’été, et donc nos professeurs nous ont permis de regarder les matchs du tour à 16 équipes.

Il n’y avait peut-être qu’une surprise, que la Roumanie s’est inclinée contre la Croatie, grâce à un penalty de Davor Suker. Le Danemark à écrasé le Nigeria 4 à 1, et la Yougoslavie jouait son dernier match de la Coupe du Monde (avec le nom Yougoslavie) en perdante face aux Pays-bas. Le match le plus plein d’incidents aurait lieu à St-Etienne, où l’Argentine a opposé l’Angleterre. Les deux équipes ont échangé des penaltys (Batistuta suivi par Shearer), avant Michael Owen a tiré l’un des plus beaux buts dont je me souvienne. Zanetti a fait de l’égalisation après un coup franc intelligent, et il n’a eu plus de buts. Après mi-temps, l’arbitre danois a explusé David Beckham après il avait donneé un coup de pied à Diego Simeone. L’arbitre a aussi annulé un but de Sol Campbell à cause d’une faute par Shearer sur Roa.

L’Angleterre a survécu la prolongation, mais, hélas, a perdu aux tirs au bit après les manques de Paul Ince et David Batty.

Quarts de finales, et nouse étions en vacances en Angleterre. France-Italie était un petit peu ennuyeux, et les français ont gagné aux tirs au but, et cette fois, Luigi di Biagio était culpable. Les trois autres matchs, d’autre part, le Danemark jouait sans peur contre le Brésil et a mené deux fois avant Rivaldo a marqué le but décisif. L’Argentine s’est inclinée contre les Pays-bas après un beau but de Bergkamp et une expulsion bizarre d’Ariel Ortega. Finalement, la Croatie a gagné encore, en écrasante l’Allemagne de Klinsmann et al. 3 à 0.

En Demi-finales, grâce a Kluivert, les Pays-bas ont forceé prolongation et tirs au but contre le Brésil mais Cocu et Ronald de Boer ont manqueé leurs penaltys. Le Brésil a donc atteint leur deuxième finale d’affilé. Pendant ce temps, après avoir été menée par la Croatie (Davor Suker), Lilian Thuram a tiré ses seuls deux buts pour l’équipe nationale pour envoyer les blues en finale.

La Finale a eu lieu le jour de mes 14 ans. J’ai reçu un rasoir électrique et nous avons regardé le Grand Prix de Grande-Bretagne (gagné par Michael Schumacher) pendant l’après-midi. Nous avons entendu des nouvelles étranges: Ronaldo ne jouerait pas en finale. La veille du match, il avait perdu connaissance: mais, quand on a annoncé l’équipe finale, son nom est apparu en feuille du match. Bizarre.

Il était plus or moins anonyme pendant le match, que la France a dominé, malgré la suspension de Blanc (expulsé contre la Croatie suite d’une simulation de Slaven Bilic). Après 27 minutes, Zidane a tiré avec son tête d’un corner de petit; et sur le coup de mi-temps, la même chose, sauf, cette fois, du coté opposé. 2 à 0. L’arbitre Marocain a donné deux cartes jaunes à Desailly, mais malgré jouant avec 10 hommes, Petit a marqué le troisième but français et les Champs Elysées ont éclaté de joie. Coup de sifflet final.

Le monde était français.

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Psalm 63

A Psalm of David. When he was in the wilderness of Judah

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.

 

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

 

But those who seek to destroy my life
    shall go down into the depths of the earth;
they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
    they shall be a portion for jackals.
But the king shall rejoice in God;
    all who swear by him shall exult,
    for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

David’s in trouble (probably being pursued by Saul or his son Absalom, who are both out to kill him). But what does he do? He prays, yes, but he doesn’t start by telling God about his situation.

He tells God who He is, that he is seeking Him, and mentions how he has praised Him in the past, and imagines praising Him again. This is a common theme in the Psalms, where the Psalmist remembers times in the past that God has helped them (eg Psalm 126) and the certain hope of praising Him again in the future (eg Psalm 42).

I think it’s important to remember this adoration aspect of prayer, because it helps guide you as to who God is, and that shapes then how you approach your requests.

In light of this truth about God and His promises, David is able to then confidently say that those pursuing him will be defeated. This did not happen quickly, but David, knowing God’s character, was able to confidently say that he would be delivered.

This does not mean that if God gave you something in the past, He will give you exactly the same thing again, rather, I think the principle is that David knows that God’s purposes will be fulfilled, and that they work for God’s glory.

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Space

This is the first of two parts in a series where I talk about some trials I had when I was a student.

Halls are great, but at the end of that first year, you have to move out, usually into a flat with flatmates.

I kind of assumed that I would end up living with these guys, given all the time we spent together. I should have at least asked, because that’s not how it turned out. I guess I didn’t count on the fact I was kind of annoying.

I guess they must have debated who was going to tell me this, but one morning, one of the guys told me that the three of them were moving in with another guy who they hung out with (who I quite liked, for what it’s worth). To say I was hurt was a huge understatement. I declined the offer of lunch that day and didn’t eat.

Later that day, I got one of those texts you just don’t forget.

You’re annoyed with us, and I guess it’s about houses. I know you’re disappointed, but this is all on you. We never suggested that path.

Indeed they had not, and I was naive to make any assumptions about it.

On the Sunday, I got a text from the same guy who sent me the above text saying

Do you want to watch Enemy of the State? Good film.

Justified or not, I was still hurting from the whole thing and really considered not going, but I felt it was important for the healing process to not burn any bridges. So I went. We ordered a pizza and it was a nice Sunday evening in the end.

It felt good to still be on good terms, but I still had a problem, that I needed somewhere to live the next year, in the next couple of months.  I began asking everyone I could if they knew of something, a space in their group, or somewhere else. I got a couple of what I call “Suggestion loops” (a phenomenon when you ask multiple people for information, a favour, or some such, where person A suggests person B, person B suggests person C, and person C suggests person A, in a none-too-satisfying loop- this happens a lot at work when I need to source some data. Suggestions for a better name for this was welcome), which were no help. People did offer to pray, and while I was grateful, it did little to help with the immediate problem. Jesus said not to worry in Matthew 6, but it was hard not to.

Living on my own at that point didn’t appeal. For one thing it was expensive, and for another, I had come to Edinburgh struggling to relate to people my own age and hoping that maybe some would accept me.  Despite having a few friends after first year, living on my own would, in my mind, have represented a colossal failure on that front and I was genuinely worried about the possibility of going days on end without contact outside of lectures. I still couldn’t be sure that people liked me and weren’t just tolerating me, a hangover from my school days where I didn’t get any invitations to hang out outside of school (though much of that was on me). Was I guilty of pride? Maybe, but I feel that this was more of an issue surrounding not feeling normal rather than wanting to be well thought of.

There was also the possibility of moving in with “randoms”. I was cautious about that as well, especially if they weren’t Christians. If the people I knew didn’t want to live with me, I wasn’t sure it would be good for me to live with people I didn’t know and annoy them as well, but my options were becoming limited and I had to consider it. I did see some openings but I was far too unconfident to follow up on it.

Despite not having a full understanding of what the gospel entailed in those days, I prayed and prayed and prayed that something would come up. I continued asking my friends but no one had an opening.

Finally, in April, a month before the lease on Pollock was up, my halls small group leader told me that two guys from the small group his girlfriend was leading (plus a friend of theirs) needed a fourth person to move in to a flat on the Dalkeith Road. It was a good flat in a decent location (not far from King’s Buildings where we’d all be studying). While it was disappointing that it wasn’t in Marchmont, where everyone else seemed to be, beggars couldn’t be choosers and so I jumped at this chance.

I ended up living with one of the guys for two years and the others for four in that flat, and I’ll talk about that in the follow-up to this (which I am going to be calling Time).

I hadn’t until recently pondered what God was doing in this time. I probably won’t know the full story until I ask him face-to-face, but while it was painful being repeatedly rejected and going through months of self-doubt, these are sometimes necessary things to happen to grow in righteousness, more like his son. I think that I learned much about being a better neighbour (and by that I mean just being someone that is aware of the needs of others in terms of how they want to be interacted with) as well as patience, trust, and not thinking so much of myself. And I praise God for it.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11

But, as we’ll see, though, it got worse before it got better.

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Blog posts from 2008: So far, off to a bad start

Since 2008 was ten years ago, I thought it might be worth revisiting my past blog posts from that year, when I was a lot less articulate, lived in a pokey bedroom in Marchmont, and struggled with working out what I was supposed to be doing to earn my PhD. In January that year, I came back from the Christmas holiday to learn that my work had been ruined. I didn’t take it well. My faith was still very weak in those days, and I said a couple of things which don’t square well with it (I don’t know if I was being sarcastic, but saying that God took offence to my work was a bit off). In hindsight, I think that God used this incident to teach me some lessons about trusting not in my own works and that prayer is vital- something I did not learn for a while, to my regret as 2008 did not pan out well for me.

It’s easy for me to say this in hindsight though. Faithful prayer is so vital, whatever the circumstances and I would encourage you to bring anything that is worrying you to God. He listens.

I have not edited this, even the typos.

3rd January 2008: Unnatural Disaster

Last night I was happy that 2008 was going well. This morning that all changed.

I got an email from one of the maths secretaries telling me the roof in my office had collapsed over the holidays and that there had been a leak. Unfortunately, the leak had concentrated itself over my desk, thus ruining all the paper and whatever else happened to be on it (including the calculator that had so faithfully served me since GCSE days).

Effectively, months of work down the drain then. They are relocating us to the office upstairs but it is scant consolation. Mine was the only desk affected in the office, thus making this particular “Act of God” seem like something of a personal attack. I’m trying not to think of it like that though.

So the question is, where do I go from here? I have been unhappy with things for a while and this might be a good opportunity to “get out” as it were, but I don’t just want to quit because it’s a convenient time to do so.

So it’s that or stick with it, and try to overcome the setback. That’s actually a better option, since much of my discontent was due to “Other” issues and when I think about it, yes I’ve lost a lot of work, but most of it is firmly lodged in my brain or on the servers.

What I will do is take some positive action- clearly God took some major offence at what I was writing so perhaps it’s time to move in a new direction, which is what I was planning for this semester anyway.

Not so bad then, but I’d rather I didn’t have to worry about this.

I’m being encouraged to seek compensation for the problem. Yes, I lost some work, but as I said, it was nothing that I couldn’t reproduce with a bit of effort, and to be honest I was ready to move on anyway. The most precious things in my desk remained intact and when I think about it I haven’ t really lost that much. Trying to get some money from this would be crass opportunism, which is not something I want to get started in.

I’m just glad I’m not in Edinburgh just now, as i don’t know how I would react to seeing all my work up in smoke. Since I’m not there I might as well look at it positively. Trust me though, it’s hard….

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