Category Archives: Hobbies

Scenes on Sunday ~ Road Trip

Personally, I like a car with real character.

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

 

 

 

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Being Overweight

It’s simple, if it jiggles, it’s fat.

These past few weeks, I have been lacking a little in energy and bounce, and I decided that one reason for my lack of ‘get-up-and-go’ was that I’ve been putting on weight.  So, I decided to look into what being overweight really was, and if I was actually overweight, what it was doing to me.  Quite frankly, I was horrified at what I discovered.

I hate overweight, because it implies there is a weight standard I should be adhering to.  ~  Camryn Manheim.

You know what?  There is a weight standard, and we should all be adhering to it.

There are lots of health and fitness problems attached to being overweight ~ and the older you get the worse the health problems of being overweight become.

To begin with, are you overweight?  How does one know the difference between a little curvier and softer than we used to be, and truly overweight?  What is the difference between being overweight, obese, or morbidly obese.  Well, the chances are you’re overweight or obese ~ in the UK 68% of men and 58% of women are overweight or obese.  In the USA more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.

One easy way to tell if we’re overweight is to forget the scales and just grab a tape-measure.  Measure you height, and your waist at your belly button, (without sucking in your gut).  Your waist should not be more than half your height.  If your waist measurement is more than half your height you’re overweight with the worst kind of fat ~ visceral fat, (which will kill you).  More scientifically you can calculate your Body Mass Index, (BMI), but that won’t tell you as much about visceral fat as will a tape-measure.

There’s also a cut-off point to assess the overall risks to health just by waist measurement.  In men it’s 40 inches, and in women it’s 35 inches.  So if your waist is bigger than that, you’re officially overweight / obese and in danger of suffering serious health and fitness problems.  Having love handles is another bad sign, presaging heart and liver disease in your future.

Medically defined, a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9,  overweight is having a BMI of more than 25, obese is having a BMI of more than 30, while morbidly obese is having a BMI of more than 40, (or 35 if you also have something like diabetes or high blood pressure).  There are plenty of online BMI calculators.

There are a myriad of downsides to being overweight, and even more downsides to being obese.  Some of these are;

We know a great deal more about the causes of physical disease than we do about the causes of physical health.  ~  M. Scott Peck.

The above are the worst of the medical problems.  But look at it another way ~ just how fit are you?  Can you walk up three flights of stairs without getting out of breath?  Can you run for a bus?  Can you walk five miles without collapsing?  Can you easily find clothes that fit, or do you have to buy plus size?  Can you still play sports, or are you limited to gentler activities?  What’s your performance in bed like?  The chances are if you’re overweight, then you’re not happy with your honest answers to any of those questions, because you know you’re not as fit as you would like to be.  Maybe you should take an online test?

It turns out my BMI today, as I write this, is 25.7.  However, according to another set of criteria I’m quite fit ~ much fitter than my chronological age, by 25 years or so.  But do you know what?  I’m going to lose some weight, starting right now.

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

I can do that yoga position, but I don’t look as good as that.

 

Marmaduke makes a Christmas present

Christmas Carpenter Bear

My little teddy bear likes to do a bit of woodwork.  And, like me, he’d rather make a Christmas present than buy one.  There’s more love and care in something one has made, as opposed to something you’ve bought at the store.

So he’s been making me a coffee table for Christmas.  Marmaduke may have an ulterior motive in making this little table ~ it’s just the right size for him to have a clandestine teddy bears’ picnic.

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christmas-cardsMerry Christmas Marmaduke

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Marmaduke’s Christmas Bird House

Marmaduke the Teddy Bear Carpenter

He’s very skilled for a little teddy bear, and Marmaduke also loves nature, so he’s been making a rustic bird house to keep the little robin redbreasts safe over the cold winter.  And, like a good little bear, he’s finished the work well in time for Christmas.

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The snag was, when he’d finished the thing, he wanted to keep it for himself, and moved in with all his possessions, even his marmalade.

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Eventually he realised that the little birds needed it more than he does, so now it’s gone.  Marmaduke loves robyns especially.

All cool guys should be able to do a little woodwork, it’s an urban survival skill.

WAF Landscape Christmas Cards.qxdjack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Save Money ~ Have a Budget

Most People Don’t Really Manage Their Money.

shylockAfter more years in Banking and Finance than I care to admit, I can remember very few people who took responsibility for, and properly managed, their personal finances.  In my bitter experience, most people lived from one month to another without knowing where their money was going, or what they could really afford, or what was totally outside their budget.

If it comes to that, very few people have a proper, written, up to date, personal and household budget.  If you can put your hand up and say that you do, and that it is actually written down, (or on a spreadsheet, or otherwise on your computer), then you can skip the rest of this post and award yourself a gold star.

The point of having a budget is that it stops you being caught out by unpleasant financial surprises.  A budget also lets you plan ahead, for the rest of this year, next year, for the next two or three years, for a wedding, your kid’s college, for your retirement…

These are the steps you need to follow if you are going to create or revise your budget.

  1. Make a list of all the money you owe.  Before you save anything, before you make any investments, you should work towards paying off any and all loans and credit cards balances you have.  And, you can’t plan to pay off your loans early if you don’t have a proper budget.
  2. Make a list of all the regular payments you have to make.  These will range from your mortgage, property taxes, utilities bills, right through to charitable donations, cable TV, and gym membership…
  3. Make a list of your usual necessary expenses that you pay as you go along.  How much petrol do you put in your car each month?  How much do you spend on groceries, clothes, shoes…
  4. Make a list of how much your usual discretionary purchases are costing you.  These are things you don’t actually need.  How much do you spend at your local bar or any bars.  How much does eating out cost you each month?  What do you pay for cigarettes / vaping supplies each month.  How much do you waste on gambling and booze.
  5. Write down anything else that you buy on a regular basis, and how much it costs you.  Add in an amount for contingencies; all that stuff you can’t remember buying, and those weird impulse purchases.
  6. Put all these lists of the money you spend into order of importance.
  7. Turn all these lists into a monthly budget, which might look something like this;

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Obviously your numbers will be totally different, and you may have some different categories, for example; health insurance, pet care insurance, cigarettes, booze, sports club membership….  (And as it goes, the example I’ve shown is poorly ordered, for example Transportation should be above toiletries and grooming.)

This kind of budget lets you begin to do some real financial planning.

Maslow_Triangle_1Look at your budget, the most vital things should be at the top, and the things you could really get by without should be at the bottom.  It should fit with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  (albeit turned on its head)

If your monthly total is less than you earn, all well and good.  Don’t save or invest your spare cash, use it to pay off some of the money you owe, like your mortgage.  Saving or investing while you owe money elsewhere is stupid money management.

If your monthly total is more than you earn, you’re in trouble.  You need to cut your spending, and you start by cutting at the bottom of your budget, not at the top.  Spend less money in bars, buying cigarettes, eating out, gambling, buying booze, being the member of a gym…

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds, nineteen shillings and sixpence, result happiness.  Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds and six pence, result misery.  ~  Mr Mcawber, by Charles Dickens

Don’t even think about saving, investing, buying a new car, or building your pension fund, if you don’t have a proper realistic and honest written budget, one that you can stick to.  You know it’s good advice, the kind of advice George Bailey would give you.

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1x-1these opinions are mine and mine alone

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

 

 

Marmaduke’s Wildlife Woodwork

p1050273After the success he had making a traditional North of England wooden stool, (a cracket), Marmaduke has been looking around for his next project.  He and I had a few words of disagreement about making a mess in the garret, but as usual he has got his way.

So now he’s got lots of board-feet of treated timber, and he’s going to make a bird table.  (For the life of me I can’t remember what bird tables are called in the USA.)

The garret is full of pressure treated out-doors type wood.

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And Marmaduke says that he’s going to make something like this.

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I said he should hurry up and get it done.  For; the north wind doth blow, and we shall have snow, and what will poor Robyn do then, poor thing?

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dscf0011jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

Woodwork at Advent

There is something very therapeutic about working with wood.

Marmaduke and I made a stool as a Christmas gift for a close friend.  A cool guy should be able to do some carpentry.

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By a Carpenter mankind was made, and only by that Carpenter can mankind be remade.  ~  Desiderius Erasmus

I seem to have really caught the carpentry bug again.  So, what’s next?  Build a boat in the basement?

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p1050279no little teddy bears were hurt during the making of this little cracket

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Triumph Stag

Reliabilty is Not One of its Good Qualities

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At its launch in 1970 the Triumph Stag was a big sports car aimed at the luxury end of the market.  At a stretch it could accommodate 4 smallish adults in considerable comfort, but realistically it’s more of a 2+2.  Sharing the pretty Giovanni Michelotti styling of rest of Triumph’s range at the time, the Stag was unusual for a sports car in that it had an integral roll-0ver bar joined to the windscreen frame by a T-bar.  This was to meet Californian regulations, but it also gave the monocoque  bodyshell considerable extra stiffness.

The Stag was supposed to compete with the Mercedes-Benz sports-touring range, but that was always a very forlorn hope.  Back then a Mercedes-Benz built by proper German engineers didn’t break down so often.

stag-06Powered by a new Triumph 3 litre overhead cam (OHC) V8 giving an alleged 145 bhp and 170 foot pounds of torque, driving the rear wheels through a Borg-Warner three speed automatic transmission, the good looking Stag should have been a great car.  In fact it was a disaster, and only 25,939 were ever built with just 2,871 going to the United States.  One look at an engine dwarfed by the engine bay, and the tiny  Stromberg carburettors tells you most of what you need to know.

stelvio-pass-in-italyThere were some obvious issues.  Although the basic Stag weighed in at just a ton and a quarter, (2,800 lbs), by the time you added a couple of adults and their luggage it was underpowered and sluggish for a sports car.  The benchmark 0 to 60 mph time was a pedestrian 9.5 seconds and the top speed about 120 mph.  The three speed auto transmission did not help at all.  The brakes were a mixture of discs at the front with rear drums, and if you took a Stag over the Alpine passes you’d cook the brakes on the way down. Remember with that auto-box there is no engine braking, so you’re riding the brake pedal all the way.  Suspension is by very conventional MacPherson struts at the front with semi-trailing arms at the rear, and it’s pretty good for a sports-touring car, which is what the Stag really is.  I’ve never heard of any problems with the power-assisted rack and pinion steering.

But, the biggest problem with the Stag is right at its beating heart.  The engine was utter crap.  From day one Stags broke down, and went on breaking down, again and again.  Usually, by the time it had done 25,000 miles the Stag’s V8 engine was a pile of junk, needing a total rebuild or only fit for the scrap yard.  Problems started with cooling, and included issues with the oil system, ignition, carburettors, crankshaft, timing chain, galvanic corrosion…  I don’t know how any company could get something so badly wrong.  And yet, SAAB, a brilliant company in engineering terms, took the left half of that V8 engine, enlarged that half to two litres, and successfully used it to power their entire range of quirky cars.

Many Stags are now bastardised and powered by the Rover V8 engine, which gives brilliant power and reliability, but renders the resultant abberation almost worthless in terms of originality and desirability.  I wouldn’t touch a hybrid Stag / Rover with your ten-foot pole, let alone mine.

You can buy a very decent Stag for £7,500 ~ or less if you’re willing to take on something that is much less than perfect.  At the top of the market you could be looking at paying £15,000, which is stupid money for one of these scions of unreliability. If you are thinking of buying a Stag, join the owners’ club before you do anything else.

The burning question is, should I buy a Triumph Stag?  Well yes, given a huge budget to spend with parts companies like Rimmer Bros. to completely rebuild the engine and drivetrain.  The Stag is still a brilliant concept and would make a great sports-touring car for transcontinental road trips.  Would I recommend the Triumph Stag to a friend?  Not a chance.  And to be honest, I think the much maligned Triumph TR7 is the better car, and that also uses the left half of the Triumph V8 engine.  Either would be good for a long road trip, and as a full-time hobby getting it ready for a long road trip.

(The Avro Vulcan is to the B52 what a Lotus is to a Ford.)

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t-barthese opinions are  mine and mine alone

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Carpentry for Chistmas

As men will do, I asked a female friend what she would like for Christmas.  Now, this woman is the only female who has ever been allowed in the garret, (apart from a policewoman).  And, she has seen that I can make things, fix stuff, do amazing things with my hands…

What she has asked Santa to bring her this Christmas is a stool a little like mine.  Around this part of Northern England it’s called a cracket.

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I made this cracket back when I was in school, so despite all the abuse I could throw at it, this little wooden stool has lasted for 40 years or so.  All I’m going to need a length of plank, a few bits and pieces, and a little time.

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dscf0005For 40 years old it doesn’t look to bad at all.  And, it’s an amazing useful piece of furniture.  Standing on, resting stuff on, using as a saw horse…  So, that’s what I’ll be making her for Christmas.

Doesn’t the real spirit of Christmas have something to do with a carpenter?

I’ll do another post nearer to Christmas showing you how Marmaduke and I progress.  For a little bear, he’s a pretty good apprentice carpenter.

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dscf0007Jack Collier, jobbing joiner.

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

 

Food on Friday # 50

The sweet potato, also known as the yam in some parts of the world, is yet another thing we English have imported from the Americas.  I cannot say that this root vegetable is one of my favourite foods, but it seems to a Thanksgiving staple.  Thank goodness we English haven’t imported the Thanksgiving tradition from the Americas!

The sweet potato is supposed to be another of those superfoods, so I guess I should make more of an effort with this useful vegetable.  These recipes should be enough to tempt anyone to add sweet potatoes to their menu.

First up this week, something with a distinctly USA flavour, sweet potato and pumpkin soup, from the Flourishing Foodie.  If you want to make this it should take you about an hour and a half.

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Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Soup

This is such a gorgeous looking dish from Jessica Merchant at How Sweet it is, and it’s a snack / finger food / party food / side dish…  At least I think so.  And, Jesicca’s sweet potato galette with caramelised shallots looks so good that one can forgive the couple of hours it will take you to make one.

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Sweet Potato Galette with Caramelised Shallots

This loaded sweet potato dish from Chungah at Damn Delicious strikes me as being very American.  It’s ‘loaded’ with mini marshmallows, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla ~ is this a desert, finger food, or a side dish to go with the turkey?  This Englishman is confused by everything to do with Thanksgiving.

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Loaded Sweet Potato

From the lovely Averie Sunshine at Averie Cooks we have this sweet potato casserole with butter pecan crumble topping.  Allegedly perfect for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This is about a 90 minute dish, but a lot of it can be preassembled ready for final cooking on whichever holiday you like.

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Sweet Potato Casserole with Butter Pecan Crumble Topping

Here’s a dish I really want to try; crispy roasted sweet potatoes with bourbon maple butter, from Half Baked Harvest.  Tiegan Gerard says this recipe should be ready in an hour.  Looks great.

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Crispy Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon Maple Butter

If you want sweet potatoes as a side dish you couldn’t do much better than these caramelized onion whipped sweet potatoes from Heather Christo.  This vegan recipe should take you about 45 minutes all told, which isn’t bed for something as interesting as this dish.

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Caramelized Onion Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Finally for this week, from Country Living we have 32 delicious new ways to prepare sweet potatoes, including these loaded sweet potato skins courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction.  Sally uses grated cheese and bacon, and says these are great as a side dish or as a snack on game day.  I think I agree.

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Loaded Sweet Potato Skins

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dscf0002A great big thank you to all the great cooks featured in this week’s Food on Friday.

Jack Collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

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