Tuesday, October 31, 2006

You could say I've undergone a re-boot.

This afternoon, Richard Hirons from Ossur fitted me with the new Proprio, making me only the second person in the UK to be given the foot.

I've only been walking with it for a few hours, so it's still far too early to assess the pros and cons properly.

But the early indications are extremely positive.

It was disconcerting at first to have a computer with a mind of its own attached to my body but I'm quickly getting used to the occasional whirring sound the foot makes as the sensors respond to the changes in terrain. I just need to remember to plug my leg into the mains before I go to bed to charge up the battery!

(There's more about the Proprio here.)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Has it really been nine months?

It must be, because Hughes Jr is due exactly a week from today.

Although if he's anything like his father, he'll be running late.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Every sensible person knows the only way to get around central London is on two wheels.

So bike chain Halfords came up with a cute PR idea.

Leave 10 brightly coloured bikes unlocked around central London so that commuters in a hurry can jump on, pedal to their destination, and leave them for someone else to ride.

The scheme's called Borrow the Bike.

It should have been called "Pinch the Bike" because the outcome was all too predictable.

In a city where even a bicycle chained up by Harry Houdini is likely to go walkabout, the Evening Standard reports that all 10 have been nicked (article not available online).

Halfords are now offering a free replacement to anyone who returns one of the stolen steeds.

What do Halfords think this city is? Copenhagen?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Congratulations to Jack Straw for standing up in the Commons to defend my colleague David Loyn, who risked his life using contacts built up over years of reporting in some of the most dangerous countries in the world to produce an exclusive report from Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

David's report was the very embodiment of what ITN boss David Mannion said following Terry Lloyd's inquest:

"Independent, unilateral reporting, free from official strictures, is crucial; not simply to us as journalists but to the role we play in a free and democratic society."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

I'm used to people staring curiously at my artificial leg when I'm out running, but a kid who saw me limbering up for the Great South Run yesterday had a novel explanation for the strange-looking piece of carbon fibre attached my leg.

"Daddy, is that man a robot?" she asked.

The weather for the GSR couldn't have been worse -- torrential rain from start to finish and stiff sea breezes. I thought my finishing time of 1:28:13 was fairly respectable given the conditions.

Friday, October 20, 2006

In my never-ending quest for the perfect prosthesis I spent the day with the R&D team at Blatchford in Basingstoke, trialling some of their latest products -- the Elite foot, the TT Pro shock absorber and the Brio heel device.

As always, I was amazed by the way metal and carbon fibre can be made to mimic the complex movements of the human body, and by the way the tinest adjustment to a prosthesis -- even just a few millimeters -- can completely change the way it performs.

The guys at Blatchford were crackling with ideas for lighter, smarter, stronger and better performing prosthetics. I got the sense that despite the massive advances made in recent years, improved technology and new materials will continue to revolutionize the industry.

Now, I don't know much about biomechanics or medical engineering -- but I certainly know a good prosthesis when I put one on.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Earlier this year I
wrote a story about Adaptive Action Sports, a non-profit in the US which helps people with disabilities get involved with "extreme" sports.

AAS have just launched a very cool skateboard deck emblazoned with the organisation's logo.

They're available in return for a modest $30 donation -- with the proceeds going towards the group's snow, skate and wake camps for people with disabilities.

I don't skate but if I did I'd be queueing up for a board.

Contact Daniel or Amy at Adaptive Action Sports or click here for more details.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Diane Sawyer of ABC News has ventured inside North Korea -- She travelled 7000 miles (gasp!) and flew...wait for it...overnight (no!) -- so what insights can she bring us from the heart of the Hermit Kingdom?

North Koreans don't have Blackberrys. Some of them get married. Some even respond when you wave at them.

It's straight-off-the-plane journalism at its most cringe-inducing.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The baby books and websites spend plenty of space listing the suggested contents of a hospital bag for a pregnant woman heading for the maternity ward.

But what about us dads?

With less than a month to go, I've taken matters into my own hands.

I've got a bag packed and ready in the hallway filled with Lucozade Sport, a couple of changes of clothes, iPod, camera, a good book and one of Havana's finest to light up when the little fella emerges (outside the hospital, of course).

Oh, and a pair of earplugs.
A new PB for me in this morning's Cabbage Patch 10 (or 10.16 according to my GPS) -- 1:27:44.

Dry, cool conditions and a flat, fast course meant I was able to knock 6 minutes off my previous best and give myself a great morale boost ahead of the Great South Run next weekend.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Justice for Terry Lloyd -- but will those responsible for his unlawful killing ever face charges?

I'd be very surprised if they did.

I paid a high price for working as a "unilateral" in the Iraq war.

I was seriously injured in Northern Iraq less than fortnight after Terry, Hussein Osman and Fred Nerac were killed down south.

Even so, I fully agree with Daniel Demoustier's statement to the inquest:

"Unilateral journalism is of the highest importance. We can't give this up and I am absolutely sure that both Terry and Fred would continue to do what they did."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm going bionic!

Yesterday, I met up with one of Ossur's technical supremos, Richard Hirons.

As a result, in the near future I'll become only the second person in the UK to try out the Proprio "intelligent" foot. I'll be putting the foot through its paces as part of a limited European trial before it goes on general sale.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Watch out for Scott Rigsby.

Scott is believed to be the first double amputee to complete a half ironman using what look like Ossur Flex Run feet.

Next, Scott is aiming for the Big One -- next year's Ironman Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

If he manages, it'll be one hell of an achievement.

In other prosthetic news, the New York Times recently featured the bionic Proprio foot.

I may have some of my own Proprio news next week. More to follow...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hurrah for Freecycle -- a simple, grassroots way of getting rid of unwanted stuff, reducing landfill and doing someone a favour all in one go.

I had a unwanted lawnmower in perfect working order that was set for a one-way trip to the dump.

Instead I put in on my local Freecycle list yesterday, offering it up to the first person who could come and collect it.

Within an hour of posting, a very nice chap called round the house and took it away, pleased as punch.

I got rid of my stuff, he got a free lawnmower and one less item ended up being buried in the ground for a thousand years. Everybody wins.

Now I just need to find a Freecycler with a Specialized S-Works Roubaix they're trying to offload.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


If I hear one more correspondent tell me that "a 19th century community has been dragged violently into the 21st century" I'm going to grow a beard, don a straw hat and move to Pennsylvania.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Back in February I decided to forego my place in the Great North Run and set other training goals for 2006 instead.

After reading the Runners World Ratings of the GNR I think I definitely made the right decision.

My chosen "Big Races" for the year -- the Brussels 20k, the Reykjavik Half and the London Duathlon -- were all crackers.

Still, my mass start race hell still awaits -- the Great South Run is just a couple of weeks away.
Another weekend, another NCT ante-natal class.

Instead of drinking and fornicating, my Saturdays are now spent attaching labels to a Playmobil simulation of a caesarian section.

But thanks to the classes I'm now a whizz at changing a toy doll's nappy.