Friday 7 January 2022
Not a scientific study, I realise, but the consistency of my experience leads me to believe that I cannot (or should not) treat any news report as gospel truth. It's just way too unlikely to be right.
Enter the "new" news. Social media has spawned myriad dot-com news pages that the cynical and the conspiracy theorists love to share, because they appear to be the antidote to the dry, old and reputedly biased trad media. These pages, according to popular belief, are a breath of fresh air, telling us the truth behind the lies and blowing away the smoke and mirrors of the bastard political elite.
I'm not talking about stupid memes that people share because they reflect their own political agenda. Those are all bollocks, but no. I mean serious sounding websites, usually with "art", "science" or "health" in the title, which purport to educate and inform. I have bad news for you...
Many, if not all of those articles are written by pillocks like me. For next to no money. With little or no regard for fact-checking or in fact anything except hitting the word count in the shortest possible time.
Back in the day when I was a bit desperate for cash, I would take any writing gig I could get, so I stumbled across these "agencies" that provide writing work to freelancers. You have to pass an infantile writing test and then, boom! The editor emails me a list of subjects:
Deodorant - 800wds
Space Exploration - 700wds
Is the taxpayer footing the bill for the Royal Wedding? - 1000wds
The Large Hadron Collider turns up another new particle - 500wds
The world's banks are really run by the Rothschilds - 700wds
I made these up, but you get the picture...
You have about two days to write ten to twenty articles and you get paid a set amount for the lot, if and only if they all conform to a set of guidelines, which was a bigger document than the contracts for any of the books I've written! The point is that I know nothing about these subjects and just Google quickly and write them quicker still; I worked out that if I wrote as fast as I can I could earn about £3 per hour. The editor pastes the words in and the content goes out as informative material. But, with the best will in the world, it's crap.
The purpose of these articles is only to get you to the site and expose you to advertising. That is almost exactly the same business model as a newspaper, but the perpetrators do not care at all about accuracy when it comes to social media. If a few people rubbish the claims and start an argument that just means more exposure and more ad clicks.
If I was writing for The Independent or something, they'd only use me for work that I knew something about. Like kayaking. Or snow. These "agencies" would just send a list of seemingly random subjects to me and say "Do it."
I realised pretty quickly that I didn't want to do this work, but there are a lot of unemployed, stay-at-home parents, wannabe writers, or just desperate people who are still doing it. I suppose that by not sharing this nonsense on social media, we are potentially depriving people of their income, but for the greater good I suspect that perhaps we shouldn't.
Monday 1 November 2021
Here is the NEW Wizard Stick paddle from Mega:
Disclosure: I am a Mega Team Rider, and I was given this paddle to review. However, like the magical sitar from the movie Moulin Rouge, I only speak the truth. The words in italics below are the official Mega claims. The rest is me.
Mega are renowned designers and laminators of sexy composite boats, most famous for their surf kayaks (market leaders since 1991), but also sea kayaks, open canoes and even a playboat! Now they are trying their hands at the magic of paddles. Weighing in at just 850g, the new Wizard Stick is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Mine is carbon blade with sky shaft (history lesson about pole-vault poles, Google it), and I've gone for a length that I can use for surfing (but it's a bit long) or sea kayaking (but it's a bit short) or whitewater, for which as you might guess it's perfect! Medium blade (745cm/sq).
I've snapped paddle shafts before, including a sky pole; one over the deck of the boat 'cos I landed flat from 40', and another by jumping on it. But unless the shaft is damaged already, a more likely outcome is a catastrophic failure of the blade or joint.
"The carbon paddles are made from carbon fibre multi-directional prepreg laminate."
"The shafts are 30mm and inserted into a 70mm long sleeve in the neck of the blade for extra strength."
I can't tell if they're strong, but they look strong. The joint is a bit bulky because the designers have erred on the side of Mega-strong, and the blade looks as if an inch-thick pile of carbon fabric has been put in an autoclave and squashed paper-thin under Mega-tons of pressure. Which it probably has! (See what I did there?)
Hmm, no dihedral... Is this even gonna work? Dihedral is the principle of shaping the drive face like the convex side of a spoon rather than the side you eat from. The slight loss of power stabilises the blade and prevents flutter. The only paddles that don't have dihedral are usually in slalom or other power-hungry applications, and the immense forearm strength of the athletes is relied upon to control the flutter. Until they retire with wrist and elbow injuries. No... we like dihedral.
"The blades are spoon shape tip to tail and flat across the middle plane with a thin profile to bite the water efficiently with no flutter."
Are they now? This doesn't sound right. So I took 'em paddling. The only way to be sure...
I have many sea kayak paddles, from G-stick to long touring Euro blades, but I like to go out fitness training in my Inuk (fast sea kayak) with short slalom style paddles just for the workout it gives me. Enter the Wizard Stick. I put a few miles in on the Tamar estuary where I live. There's no flutter. There's less splash and more power than with my slalom paddle. What is this witchcraft? Damn...
"Very light - almost all flex has been eliminated from the blade, so the power output is immense."
This is true. There is flex in the shaft, though, just the right amount to give the paddle that "living thing" feeling like a wooden paddle and protect my ageing joints! I love sky shafts and have done since Werner first used 'em way back when. They're incredibly strong with just the right (minimal) amount of flex, and the ovals for the hands are much nicer than most. Speaking of ovals, the Mega paddle seems to have less than usual, which worried me until I used them and it felt great!
One problem I've had in the past is with the Skypole having a greasy feel so that I had to use surfboard wax to give me a confident grip. The Mega one is slightly different, with a matt finish almost as if it's been sintered. No grip problems here.
OK, so it's my new favourite paddle. But I haven't exactly tried it in its element. I put the paddle away and kept checking the surf forecast for a day I could a) surf and b) take decent photos, but another opportunity came up first; a massive rainfall on Dartmoor brought the rivers up big, notably the Dart. I was pencilled in to do a boat test, so after the school run, I found myself bowling across the moor with whitewater boats and the new fave stick.
In my head, I was going to get some photos of the boat doing its thing and some of the paddle for this review. With snapper Kate on the bank with a DSLR, I seal launched into the pumping river, painfully aware that I hadn't been on whitewater for a year (or in this boat ever), and a strange thing happened. I forgot about the paddle. Completely. I was thinking about the somewhat general-purpose boat, how to use it, how to get it to surf a wave that most people can't surf even in playboats, and I forgot I had a new paddle. I think this is the best accolade possible. It just works. And I did paddle the surging floodwaters, and I did surf the difficult wave, and the paddle didn't make me adapt or think or anything.
So, perhaps I'm biased or just lucky (probably), but I think it's perfect.
It's also available with glass blades, carbon shafts, bent shafts, bla bla... But mine is the best. End of story.
I will use it for surfing when the right day comes. But in the meantime, I'll use it for everything I can!
Friday 23 October 2020
Now, onwards. I'm writing some PT and personal development stuff; it's very progressive and closely aligned with my philosophy, one that regular readers are probably familiar with. If you're new to my ramblings, it may or may not be for you. The next post might be called something like "Your goals are not the answer".
Watch this space, and in the meantime, don't forget to breathe...
Wednesday 27 May 2020
Other brands are available. They just don't make boats for toddlers.
Monday 5 November 2018
If you'd like to join me, just go for it! Film each set on your phone or action-cam (with or without toddler hindrance) join 'em together and speed it up - tag me @itsmattos on Instagram, Twitter, FB or whatever you have! Looking forward to seeing other people's sets. Any type of press-up - you might be a minor deity doing one-arm push-ups on a TRX strap or a starter for ten doing them on your knees. I'm going for a mix of wide, narrow, assymetric, incline and decline - doing about twenty on the hour through the day. It works wonders for my mental health and it can't hurt on the fitness front, either!
Thursday 22 March 2018
Still, people need to be disabused of their delusions sometimes, so here we go.
Winter tyres are for winter. They aren't special magic tyres for Arctic conditions. They are for winter - anytime the temperature is 7ºC or less, even on a dry road, you'll be much better off on winters. The tyres most Brits have on their cars are called "summer tyres". They aren't "normal tyres" or "road tyres", they are for summer, to maximise grip on warm road surfaces. And that means warm like Europe. I looked at the average max/min temperatures for Birmingham and conclude that we are better off on winter tyres October through May (inc) so if I could only afford one set of tyres, I'd be on winters year round.
Now, that ice thing. Here's a video:
By the way, by winters I mean, actual winter tyres. As per the video, all-season tyres don't even come close. Neither do M+S (mud and snow) tyres, or the big chunky tyres that came with your 4x4. The latter two are strong in some conditions, but do not have the general cold-weather stopping and steering performance of winter compounds.
So, four wheel drive. We need to talk about this. Four wheel drive can be a massive advantage in slippery conditions, or it can be a f*cking liability. If you're driving a Land Rover or 4x4 jeep or pickup truck like a Hilux then you are probably going to be doing better than most, even on shonky tyres. Same goes for a 4x4 car designed for rallying like the original Audi Quattro, the Mitzi Evo or Subaru Impreza, Lancia Delta Integrale, Sierra/Escort Cosworth, etc. Other 4x4's, not so much. Most of the other luxury 4x4's, the 4x4 SUV's and other random things, they don't have the right kind of technology for really slippy conditions. Basically if your 4x4 doesn't have the ability to lock (or seriously lim-slip) its diffs, including front to back, you're just going to get stuck the moment one wheel loses traction. Which is kind of worse than a two-wheel drive car.
|A soft-roader, faux-by-four, or as a friend put it, "Four by f*uck-all"|
If you don't understand what the hell I'm talking about above then you probably don't have the right kind of 4x4 for the snow and ice.
Having said all that, here's a disclaimer: winter tyres mean more grip in cold dry weather, in cool damp conditions and in the snow, and on ice. They are not a brain transplant or a cloak of invincibility. Do not drive like a tw*t.
To recap, here's a short list of things that don't seem to work terribly well in the winter:
and the brains of non-snow-dwellers, apparently.
Saturday 23 December 2017
|Canoe & Kayak UK - photo © Pierre Mellows|