dalliard.net

He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

No, He Bloody Doesn't

This is Oz. He's my little Indian Ringneck Parrokeet and he's eighteen years old.

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If you look back through the dusty cobwebs of my site, you'll no doubt find a picture of Oz in his younger days. Despite his age he still looks as wonderfully green as he ever did - and I think he's still got a good few years in him yet. This is the joy of having a parrot. As life companions, he's already outlived most cats and dogs. Many ringnecks make 25. Whichever way you look at it, he's been my feathered friend for nearly half of my life.

Having a parrot isn't like having a dog or cat, for many reasons. One reason is that invariably, when I tell someone that I have a parrot, their first question is always the same:

"Does he talk?"

When posed this question, I politely respond that he doesn't.

All parrots talk is one of the great misconceptions of the animal world. Most don't. Why should they? This follows roughly the same line of logic that all humans are astronauts. Some humans aren't capable of being astronauts. Some humans don't want to be astronauts. There are also more male astronauts than female, although that's an entirely different discussion.

My parrot is a capable astronaut. He just doesn't want to be, so he makes a variety of suitable alternative noises instead. Sometimes he grumbles like an old man (no idea where he gets that from). Sometimes he makes noises that sound like flatulence (definitely don't know where he gets that from) and sometimes he just happily observes the world going by, like in this picture. Parrots, like you, have a personality and you can't force someone or something to do something it doesn't want to do. Putting a helmet on a bird doesn't make it an astronaut.

Bear in mind that should you ever want a parrot, you're making an exceedingly long-term commitment. Larger birds live longer - we're talking forty, eighty or more years in some cases. Unlike many other animals, they've not had generations of domestication and as a result the relationship you build with the bird is on an entirely different level. You're not going to train a bird to sit, stay or whatever in a few days. In fact, most things seem to take years. That's not because they're stupid and have a bird brain (another entirely different misconception), it's because that wild animal you have in your house is going to have to trust you first. Oz still surprises me by doing new things every so often. In the last six months, he thinks he's doing me a favour by pulling the stubble out of my face (ouch).

In summary, don't think of parrots as birds that talk, think of them doing a whole variety of other things. They whistle Star Wars tunes, chew your CD collection, hang upside-down from the ceiling, play football and drive buggies. Think of them as toddlers with a pair of pliers welded to their face or clowns with wings. How does that sound? Great?

If you'd like a friend with wings in your life, do your homework and find a breeder who really knows their stuff. The UK Parrot Society can help you. Or alternatively, adopt a rescued bird. Please don't go to a pet-shop.
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RavensPi Update

Remember RavensPi, the Raspberry Pi-based car-audio-thing I did a while back? Of course you do. Well, now it's been updated! (The new version is on the right)

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When the Pi Zero was released, it presented an ideal opportunity to transfer the project to a smaller unit - with the only caveat being that the Pi Zero doesn't have a headphone socket. To get around this, I've used Pimoroni's pHAT-DAC to provide the audio. It's a dedicated audio-processing unit that delivers higher-quality, punchier audio in comparison to the original Raspberry Pi. If like me you're absolutely useless at soldering, you can also use their GPIO Hammer-Header to connect the boards together.

You can download the updated image that's been configured for the Pi Zero and the pHAT-DAC here (319MB download). Once downloaded, you'll need to write it to a Micro-SD card, just like before. Many tools exist, but if you use a Mac I can totally recommend ApplePi-Baker if you don't want to get your hands dirty on the command-line. Once on an SD card, just expand the image to fill the card, fill with music and add the tracks to the default playlist in MoC. Enjoy!
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Where Did The Time Go?

Oh hell, it's August. Doesn't the time pass quickly? Read More...
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M.I.N.D. Over Matter

Well, I'm pleased to say that January is finally over. My total running milage for January was:

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As you can see, I managed to reach my target of 100 miles. Am I chuffed? Definitely - and despite my legs feeling a bit tired, I could've carried on for a few more days. As the end of the month approached, I started to get faster again. My resting pulse is now insanely low. Nonetheless, some sports physio to soften up my calfs of steel before my next "thing" would certainly be a good idea. If there's something I've learned during the last month, it's that a normal training regime needs rest days. REDJanuary ended up not being tough because of the distance, but because I had to go out every day, irrespective of the shitty January weather.

It's at this point that I'd like to thank anyone who's pledged sponsorship to MIND (click the link, there's still time) and gave encouragement and support, especially my virtual-running chum @LeoLasagne. He kept the motivation coming and really made me feel like he was running with me, despite living many miles away. Well done to everyone else who took part too. At the time of writing it looks like MIND have raised over half a million pounds, which is amazing.

I'm now going to take a break for a couple of days and then start gearing up for my first half-marathon of the year. Thanks for your support!
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Chasing Unicorns

On this day five years ago, I started running.

Why did I start? Well, the answer is simple. For the previous ten years, I'd been clawing my way through the grades in ju-jitsu and my second-dan grading loomed on the horizon. What harm could a bit of extra cardiovascular work do? I wanted to smash it and feel more in control.

Little did I know what I'd started and how it would snowball in to something bigger.

As the months went by, my fitness improved. My legs, stumpy as they were, started to bulk up. My calf muscles expanded such that I struggled to fit in my usual size of trousers. The infamous "loose-fit" was required to accommodate them. Undeterred, my distances got longer and in the October of 2013, I ran my first half-marathon in Cardiff.

I passed my grading and felt pretty damn good at the time. But why stop running now? Why let all that progress go to waste?

Whatever you've run, whether that be a 5K, 10K, half or full-marathon, you've thrown down a gauntlet to yourself. Can I run faster? Could I run for longer? Should I start raising money? You keep pushing yourself to see what you can do. Running can be a seriously competitive affair, but the competition is in your head.

Covering over 3,000 miles during that five years hasn't stopped me looking for new challenges.

During the course of January, I shall be running every day as part of MIND's RED (Run Every Day) challenge. My distances won't be huge, but that's not the point. As you'll have seen in some of my previous posts, I've mentioned how good running is for boosting one's mental health. When I took my first steps in the park five years ago, little did I know that I'd inadvertently discovered something that was a form of natural medication, but without all those nasty side-effects.

Note: I still believe the "runner's high" is bollocks and about as real as unicorns.

Running every day is a challenge and the barriers are many. Bits of you ache on a regular basis. The great British weather will be bobbins. You keep smelling like a dead horse. However, if you can get over the obstacles in your mind, you've already done the hard bit.

During the course of January, I'm aiming to run 160KM/100 Miles. I completed day 5 today and am feeling quite positive so far, despite how tired my legs already feel. Whilst something of a personal challenge, I urge you to donate to MIND. There are many other idiots like me around the world, doing this and generally getting achey, wet and smelly. Mental health is woefully under-supported in this country and is a cause close to my heart. If you can manage a donation of any sort, I'm sure many people will thank you, albeit indirectly.

I'll let you know whether I break my 100 mile target at the end of the month.
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