Book review: Starting research: An introduction to academic research and dissertation writing - Roy Preece

This book is written for any student undertaking research for the first time. Although the book seems to be written from the perspective of social sciences, there is good information for science and engineering students in it as well.

The first three chapters give an introduction into research itself:
Chapter 1: What is research?
Chapter 2: Elements of scientific method
Chapter 3: Te logic of scientific method

If you have never taken the opportunity to get a good understanding of the scientific method and the nature of research, this book provides an excellent description. Even though the writing style is rather academic, the text of these chapters shines a light on what research is and how science is undertaken.

The following chapters are fully oriented towards the social sciences:
Chapter 4: Information in research
Chapter 5: Methods of primary information collection
Chapter 6: Organization and analysis of surveys

Especially chapters 5 and 6, which deal with interviews and surveys, were too far away from my daily research practice and general understanding to benefit from this reading. In fact, I mainly skimmed through these chapters.

After a chapter about statistics (Chapter 7: You can understand statistics), to chapters which I found very valuable are:
Chapter 8: The research question
Chapter 9: The research dissertation

These chapters focus on writing your dissertation. Within chapter 8, the requirements for a dissertation are discussed, and attention is given to the research question and hypothesis. A few pages are dedicated to the literature review ("Background reading") and useful advice with respect to the use of libraries and recording information is given. In chapter 9, the dissertation writing itself is more deeply discussed: from writer's block and how to organize the dissertation to the format of a typical dissertation and how to use references properly.

In chapter 8, the link between research itself, its structure and the structure of the dissertation are made. I particularly liked this breakdown:

"A dissertation is a substantial and complex piece of writing but a good dissertation can be seen to be constructed from a few essential and distinct parts.

1. Justification - why the research question is important and should be investigated; limitations of the research due to constraints of time, resources or information.
2. Background (literature review) - what is known about the topic so far; in particular, what other relevant research has been carried out.
3. Introduction to the empirical work - why the particular experiments, surveys or case-studies have been identified as relevant to the topic.
4. Design of the empirical work - how the empirical work has been designed in detail to relate to the topic (for example, methods of measurement used).
5. Results of the empirical work - description, tabulation, analysis and critique of the empirical work.
6. Inferences - use of the results and other evidence to make rational conclusions about the topic.
7. Discussion - a review of methods, results and inferences; any limitations to the applicability of the results due to, for example, lack of resources or variables not investigated; some speculation about relationships involving the topic; possible future work.

Running through each stage, except stage 5, is the motif of the research question; it is the touchstone against which the relevance of every point and sentence of the dissertation is judged."

A great feature of this book is that every chapter is summarized in a set of conclusions (check list) at the end, and plenty of references are available at the end of every chapter to allow further reading.

To conclude, I must say that this book was not an easy reading for me. I had to get adjusted to the topic, it challenged me to take some distance from my research and judge my analytical procedures. Nevertheless, I absolutely value that this book gave me a better insight into the nature of research itself.

Farewell Christoph Stigler

Ross and Christoph

After leaving Dressage at Lexington so suddenly to go to Germany to be with my sick dad, he passed away last Wednesday. Boyd and I can not believe that after losing Ross on July 2, we are also losing my dad Christoph 18 days later.

My dad was an amazing person and amazing father to me and my two sisters, Nina and Laura, and my brother Julian. He also was my Mum's best friend and partner for many many years. I always thought how lucky my parents were to have found each other. There are not many people who have such a close bond and great relationship as my parents had. They respected each other in every way. It was so great and important for us children to be around; we learned so much good out of my parents marriage.

When my dad was diagnosed with Plasmacytoma in early 2006, we were devastated. We could not believe that my dad, who in our eyes lived the healthiest life that you
could possibly live. My dad ran marathons, did triathlons, did not eat meat or drink alcohol or smoke, and he out of all people had to be diagnosed with such a horrible cancer.

Not long before he was diagnosed, my dad, Ross and Boyd rode their bicycles through the middle of Australia for 7 days from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock. That was one of my dad's favorite trips. Ross and my dad were very much alike: very sporty and just great men. They became good friends on that trip.

My dad was the most positive and brave person I know. He started with a very aggressive chemotherapy right away and even through this horrible treatment with so much pain he stayed positive and kept telling us not to worry; that he has to go through this and he is not going to be beaten down by this.

Boyd and I got married in Australia in December 2006. Because my dad was in the middle of the therapy at that time my parents could not make the long trip to Australia. That was devastating for me and my parents not to be there when I got married. My dad put on his suit in our living room in Germany and my mum videoed his speech for our wedding. He could not walk me down the aisle but he was not going to miss his speech.We played his speech on a big screen at our reception and it was like he was there!

For the next five years my dad kept fighting this horrible illness. He had to go through terrible, painful treatments, but in between treatments my parents went on great trips together and spent as much time together as they could. On their last trip my parents came to help us move to our new farm. My parents moved our whole house by themselves.

My dad died on July 20, 2011.

We so wished for for more time! It was not enough time for him and not enough time for us. My dad still had so many plans.

We will miss him forever!!


Possible 25-man squad

Although the transfer window is still open I have seen a few potential 25-man squads being put out there. Of course players like Ade, RSC, Onuoha, Bellamy and Tevez may yet leave the club so are unlikely to be included in many people's provisional 25

First off here are the rules that need to be followed as I've seen some out there that have completely disregarded these and it makes the writer look a little stupid if they don't follow them.

  1. The Squad must be no larger than 25 players.
  2. No players that were under 21 on January 1st the year of the competition need to be included.
  3. There must be at least 8 'home grown' players within the 25-man squad.
  • A player is considered home grown if he has been registered with an English or Welsh club between the ages of 16 - 21.
Goal Keepers.
01 Joe Hart*
02 Stuart Taylor*
03 Gunnar Nielsen

04 Vincent Kompany
05 Joleon Lescott*
06 Kolo Toure
07 Nedum Onuoha*
08 Micah Richards*
09 Pablo Zabaleta
10 Gael Clichy*
11 Aleks Kolarov

12 Gareth Barry*
13 James Milner*
14 Nigel De Jong
15 Yaya Toure
16 Adam Johnson*
17 Vladimir Weiss*
18 Shaun Wright-Phillips*
19 David Silva

20 Sergio Aguero
21 Edin Dzeko

Players marked with an * are home grown.

One of the first things you'll notice is that there are only 21 places assigned and that there are 11 players classed as home grown in the squad. Then you'll realise that the likes of Mario Balotelli and newly signed Stefan Savic aren't in the list. That's simply because they don't have to be as they're both under 21.

Tevez, Adebayor, Santa Cruz and Bellamy aren't included as they all likely to be gone by the start of the season. The only player that hasn't featured in Mancini's plans that I've included is Nedum Onuoha. I'd still like to see Nedum reconciled with the club but it may possibly be too late for him that after 'that' interview on Soccer AM.

There are a number of players under 21 other than Balo and Savic who may (some definitely will) have game time this season. These may include Dedryck Boyata, John Guidetti, Reece Wabara, Juan Roman, Abdul Razak, Jeremy Helan, and Ryan McGivern.

With 4 places left to fill it also allows for new signings if there are any. It's likely City will sign another keeper as backup and possibly one or two other players before the transfer window closes according to reports.

There's no denying it, that is a ridiculously strong squad that for the most part is still quite young with only 2 players that have reached 30 years old so far. The backbone of the squad are all between 23-26 and are still improving as individuals as well as a team. If that doesn't get you excited nothing will.

Hated or adored but never ignored.

Yesterday was a big day for Manchester City, and as you would expect it produced a tremendous amount of bitter, jealous and hateful ramblings from certain journalists and opposition fans alike. It does seem that whenever City do something impressive there's someone else there to slate them or bring up some rumour in an attempt to put City back down a peg or two.

There's 3 in particular that have gone into print between yesterday and this morning that I'll pick out, and I don't normally do this but they need naming and shaming for the complete and utter tosh that they've produced. Araiz Baqi (SportPulse), Sami Mokbel (Mail Online) and Luke Edwards (The Telegraph), take a bow.

Lets start with the bitter nonce from SportPulse who went with "Manchester City sign Aguero - Football in desperate need of Financial fair play" as a headline. Now far be it from me to be the grammar police but you can figure the kind of intellect we're facing when someone starts to use random capitals in a sentence. You can also immediately feel the bitter hatred simply oozing from a headline like that.

Baqi kindly points out in bold letters that City have purchased Aguero for £38 million and is said to earn €225,000 per week. Thanks for that, I'm sure we wouldn't have been able to read those figures otherwise. And after the usual spiel about his scoring record and past clubs we get down to the good part.

The article goes on to mention the problem Mancini will have in choosing who plays as striker and then lists the players he believes to fill that role at City. "Mario Balotelli, Alex Nimely, Craig Bellamy, Carlos Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz, Adam Johnson, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Edin Dzeko are all players who will be competing" for the striker spot apparently.

Where do you start with that rubbish? Ah yes, I'm sure you've spotted one of the most glaring mistakes here, Adam Johnson is not a striker, never has been and never will be Baqi you fool. Next in line is Alex Nimely, yes he is a striker but the young lad is hardly a first team regular after making one appearance is he? Add to that RSC, Ade and Bellers who are all on their way out of the club and Tevez who is also heading for the exit and that leaves Edin and Mario left on the list to compete with and John Guidetti trying to break into the squad.

That's 3 'main' strikers with 2 young lads coming through the ranks once all the players have been sorted. Hardly excessive is it considering United had 4 'main' strikers in 1999 is it?

So where does he go now? The only natural progression is to list City's signings in bold print since Sheikh Mansour took over and jibe that this has only managed to 'buy' a solitary FA Cup. 

"All City could manage with these spendings was a single FA Cup" so gleefully stated before continuing "If such a huge amount of transfer budget was handed over to an intelligent mind, like that of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho..."

By Christ what is this idiot dribbling on about? The money spent took a side from being relegation fodder to joint 2nd in the league and ended a 35 year trophy drought. And City still haven't spent what certain other teams have, the only thing people don't like is how fast they've been able to spend it. I can guarantee that he wouldn't be complaining if his club (probably the rags) were given an open cheque book like City have. And of course he's conveniently leaving out the ridiculous transfer sums other clubs spent on players over the years. It's total hypocrisy with a massive dose of jealousy on top.

After banging on a little more about City being the footballing equivalent of the Antichrist he then urges FIFA to get control of the amount clubs (he means City of course) are spending because, and wait for it, "Football is about how a Club can achieve glory by team work, not by spending power." And I agree a football team has to show team work to achieve glory, but how many leagues or trophies are won by teams that aren't in the top 3-4 biggest spending clubs in any given league? At the end of the day you can buy as many players as you like but if they can't play together you wont get anywhere. He's obviously not thought this through.

The idiot them witters on about how many 'targets' City have because Mancini has mentioned them in passing at some point over the last 12 months as though we're actually looking at buying them all. Clearly not the case and appallingly misleading.

To end his pathetic tirade the buffoon then calls upon Platini and Blatter to implement the FFP rules immediately "before more damage can be done." Damage done to what? The status-quo that has been in place since the wide commercialisation of football meaning the rich get richer and the poor just look on in despair?

The funny thing about this is that almost every top team in Europe wouldn't be able to get a European licence to play football because very few of them actually meet the criteria in the FFP rules at this moment in time. The person that wrote this article is a total cretin.

Click here to let him know what you think.

Now we get to another Aguero induced piece of diatribe. The Mail Online (the internet version of the Daily Mail) greets you with "City rebellion! Stars seething over new boy Aguero's mega-money deal" using the usual excitable and sensationalist terms.

"Nigel De Jong, Vincent Kompany and Micah Richards are unhappy with the new deals offered them, especially after learning that City a paying a club record signing Aguero £200,000 per week" ... apparently. I wonder how they know that seeing as his signing was only confirmed yesterday evening? Have they spoke to any of these players? Do we have any new quotes from them? Errr no.

At least Sami Mokbel uses quotes from thep layers themselves to back up this nonsense so a little credit is due. Oh hang on, sorry, scrap that last part. They use a single word from and old quote to back up this utter tosh.

De Jong mentioned that contract talks had stopped for now (this was whilst he was on the American tour and the fellows that deal with contracts were already in talks with Atletico and Aguero) and he used the word 'frustrated' once. This is the only bit that has any solid links with a player being supposedly unhappy with this story. Although De Jong said he wasn't worried about the negotiations and he was enjoying playing for the club.  

The writer even states that Richards has dismissed talks he is unhappy with contract negotiations (which he did on Twitter) but that hasn't stopped him being included in the article of players on the cusp of revolting against the Club. And god knows why Kompany is mentioned there's nothing even linking him with the article at all!

And it wouldn't be complete without the trusted old 'source' at the club spilling the beans would it? The good old Daily Fail doesn't disappoint us; "While efforts to bring the club's wage bill into line are commendable, it doesn't wash with the key members of the squad being offered less than half of what some of the top earners...will earn."

Honestly the guy who cleans the windows could have come out with a statement like that. There's nothing revealing, there's no exclusives, there's nothing of any note in what is said. They don't call it the Daily Fail for nothing you know.

Again, here's the link if you'd like to let them know what you think:

And finally we come to the third piece, and I'm not sure if this fellow has actually seen a game of football in his life and just got his information off a Liverpool fan.

"Adam Johnson's move to Manchester City has gone badly for him and England" says Luke Edwards in the Telegraph.

Right from the get go you just know this is going to be one ugly article and hopelessly anti-City when he mentions competition for places at "the Etihad Stadium. Or, as it is known elsewhere, the-most-ludicrously-generous-sponsorship-deal-anywhere-in-the-world-in-the-history-of-the-game-ever."

Dear oh dear, jealous much? This guy clearly has an agenda and is of the opinion that Johnson, "once considered a modern day Sir Stanley Matthews" but who's career "has not progressed at Manchester City."

How many England caps did "the new Stanley Matthews" have before moving to City at 22 years old? None. Hardly a glowing record is it? But since joining City in January 2010 he has featured 6 times for England's full international side and become an established Premier League player. He would have featured more for England had it not been for Capello's quite frankly worrying selection process. How is that not a progression for a player? 

Although Luke acknowledges that City fans (rightly) point out that AJ makes more of an impact from the bench he fails to acknowledge how much game time Johnson has actually had, instead making it sound like he is almost forgotten about.

Johnson was missing for a good portion of the latter stages in the season through injury and Mancini openly stated that City missed him. That's hardly anything like being forgotten about is it? In fact AJ featured 39 times last season, around half as a sub, scoring 8 goals in the process. It is no secret that Adam needed to work on his stamina to warrant a regular starting place and that was the only reason why he didn't start more games.

There is no doubt that Johnson has talent but it's hardly City's fault if he was more  interested in going clubbing in the first half of last season prompting Mancini to publicly address the young wingers behaviour (amongst others in the squad). It's blindingly obvious Mancini wants Johnson to become the best he can be, it's up to Johnson to work at it now.

Once again here's the link:

It truly is astonishing the lengths some journalists are going to to discredit City at the moment, and it's not getting any better. The higher up the league City go, the more they seem to revel in taking wildly inaccurate swipes at the Club. All this is without mentioning people within the sport (usually other managers who either see City as a threat to their status or ones jealous they don't have the same transfer funds) who contribute to the ever mounting pile of turd-like objections to what City are doing.

City Slickers Seal Sergio's Saughtafter Signature.

Today saw Manchester City finally announce the signing of Sergio 'Kun' Aguero from Atletico Madrid. Although Aguero actually confirmed it himself via Twitter last night that he was "already a City player." The highly rated 23 year old Argentinian forward was one of City's main summer transfer targets with Carlos Tevez desperate to head out of the door.

Initially City were wanting to sell Tevez before signing Aguero but with the transfer to Brazilian side Corinthians falling through and no other offers coming in, City weren't willing to take the chance of someone else signing Kun. The deal is thought to be worth in the region of £38m which will be the highest fee paid for a single player at the club to date.

Aguero, who started his career at Independiente, holds the record for the youngest player to feature in the Argentine First Division, a record previously held by his father in-law Diego Maradona. He also won the Golden Boot (scoring 6 in 7 games) and the Golden Ball in the 2007 U20 World Cup.

Sergio apparently got the nickname Kun from his grandparents who believed he looked like Kum Kum, the Japanese anime character. Personally I think he looks more like the original Karate Kid. Any other shouts?

It was reported that Kun had been speaking to one of his countrymen during the Copa America about life in Manchester before deciding on joining the club. Thankfully it was Pablo Zabaleta and not Carlos Tevez. Zabaleta, unlike Tevez, has embraced life in Manchester since his move from Espanyol and is not only now fluent in English but is also picking up a Mancunian twang to his accent. City fans would hope that Aguero shows the same attitude that has seen Zabman become one of the Manchester City's firm favourites, especially last season (2010-11)
Can you imagine what Tevez would have said to him? "Well Manchester, it only has two restaurants for a start. It rains too often too and there's no beaches. There's nothing to do at all. Oh and don't even bother going to the cinema or even trying to talk to anyone because guess what? They talk English! You don't want to have the bother of learning another language now do you?"

Just how the signing will impact on the Tevez transfer saga is yet to be seen but as it stands now City have Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, and Carlos Tevez who are likely to play. Adding to this, Emmanuel Adebayor and Craig Bellamy are also still on the wage bill, so City may want to reduce the asking price for those two in order to reduce their outgoings.

It will be interesting to see how Mancini goes about picking who starts as Aguero has recently been keeping Tevez out of and performing better than him in the Argentina squad. Even in the Copa America when Tevez was being chosen ahead of him that appeared to be a mistake as Aguero outperformed him when he came on to the pitch.

The domestic league stats for the two are also very similar for the 2010-11 season.
Carlos Tevez                                 Sergio Aquero
31                            Games                                32
2532               Minutes Played                   2676
20                            Goals                                20
127                 Minutes Per Goal                  134
45                    Shots On Target                     55
41                    Shots Off Target                     49
6                             Assists                                 2
83                  Pass Completion %                 77

Of course Sergio is likely to take a bit of time to adjust to a new league and a new team, but the club's record signing certainly possesses all the neccesary attributes to be able to be a big success at Manchester City. He shouldn't have too much trouble settling in, there's plenty of Spanish speaking teammates to get along with while he finds his feet in England.

The signing also seems to have excited laughing boy Micah Richards as he tweeted "Aguero I pray! Tevez Balotelli Dzeko Ouch! City are back"

Aguero spoke exclusively to
WelKun to Manchester Sergio.

Boyd and Cold Harbor Named to Pan-Am Games Short List

Brant Gamma Photo

The USEF have announced the short list for the 2011 Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team for the Pan-American Games.
Boyd has been named to the list riding Cold Harbor, owned by Dana and Manny Diemer.



"What if there is a Reality behind the reality we know?"

Books and Culture, July/August 2011
The Aroma of the New by Makoto Fujimura

Fujimura reflects on the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder:

On the spare, dark stage, the famed story of a small New England town was brought to life. One scene in particular stood out to me. Young Emily, who died giving birth, is caught somewhere between life and death, fighting to recover her memory. She is given the opportunity to move back in time to her 12th birthday.

At this point, the stark colors of the small stage begin to change. And faintly, we in the audience begin to detect an aroma. At first, we think that it is a nearby restaurant cooking their dinner for customers. But the aroma of bacon and eggs continues to fill the theater. The producers have a surprise in store of us. The entire back stage opens up to reveal yet another stage, filled with color and light. Real bacon and real eggs are being cooked by Emily's mother. Emily's memory, though fading away, is depicted as more real than the "reality" of the main stage, or even of the gravesite where the other characters stoically sit. Before Emily returns from her vision to die, she is given, perhaps for the first time, a full experience of Reality - fully engaging our senses in the process.

What if there is a Reality behind the reality we know? What if there is a Stage behind the stage of our life? What if our "memory and desire" point to a greater Reality?

Find the rest here:  The Aroma of the New

What's next for Vladi?

At the end of the 2010-11 season Vladimir Weiss (21) stated that he had spoken to Mancini and was given the impression he would spend another year on loan to hone his talent playing on a regular basis.

He had a mixed time in his season-long loan with Rangers (both on and off the pitch), ultimately lacking the consistency that hampered his inclusion in City's 1st team. The early indication was that a team in Spain, possibly Espanyol, would be the Slovak's next destination. But would being sent to Spain really be of any help to him at the level he's at when it comes to playing in England?

There would be definite benefits to it as Spanish teams focus much more on technique than English clubs tend to do, and the pace of the Spanish league would mean he would get more time on the ball than he would in England enabling him to develop that side of his game.

But here's my point, Vladi is already technically adept. If you've followed City for a while you will know that this lad has always been very good on the ball but has always lacked the end product, that final ball into the box on a regular basis.

In the first game of pre-season against Club America it looked like we had the same old Vladi (albeit with a few more tattoos), bags of pace and dribbling ability that ran down a blind ally and got tackled before delivering a ball into the box. But in the second half he slowed his game down a little, took a second or two to look up and did make quite a few outstanding passes. He also did this against Vancouver, showing that when he holds back from just belting down the wing he does possess a good range of passing prompting me to even consider he could play a similar role to David Silva given a little time.

Weiss was certainly one of the stand-out players of the US tour for City with his pace and energy. We still have the Dublin Super Cup to play in yet so if he is involved he may impress enough to stay with City this season. But if not and the loan option is explored, where would offer Weiss regular and competitive game time needed for his further development?

Firstly I would prefer him to stay in England. He not only has pace but he has acquired a good deal of strength over the last year or two so he has the attributes to be able to cope with the physicality of the English game. That being the case I would have chosen a club in the Premier League, but which one?

Bolton Wanderers would be high on the list of preferred suitors. The last two seasons have seen Owen Coyle's side play some attractive football whilst utilizing a couple of young players from other Premiership clubs (Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge). Coyle does seem to have a knack of getting his players to up their game and before becoming Manager of Bolton he won promotion from the Championship with Burnley which in itself was a fantastic achievement.

This will most likely not happen now as it appears as though Coyle is set to sign Chris Eagles (a player who greatly improved under Coyle's management) from his former employers at Burnley. So who else is there?

How about Aston Villa? They've just lost Ashley Young to Manchester United and Stuart Downing to Liverpool and although they look to be in line to sign N'Zogbia from Wigan that still leaves them short of one wide man. My only problem with this move though is that I don't think McLeish would be the right man to improve Vladi's game any more than it has done and give him the confidence to push on.

I know I've said I'd prefer him to go to a team in the Premiership if he was to be loaned out, but there's another team in the North West I think would be good for him. Burnley. No stop laughing, bare with me on this. Burnley are almost certainly going to lose Chris Eagles, possibly the most creative player in the squad and he will be a big miss for them this coming season.

Vladi can play the exact same positions as Eagles, but is quicker and I'd say he's also stronger then the 25 year old. I'd hazard a guess at him being a sure fire starter for almost every game and although it's not the Premiership I'll stick my neck out and say it's better overall than what he was playing against in Scotland.

Then there's the factor of Eddie Howe being the manager there. Howe is touted as one of the best young managers in the football league at this moment in time after gaining promotion with AFC Bournemouth in 2010. Although Howe's ability to nurture young and aspiring talent has yet to be really tested, Vladi has the necessary talent already and just needs regular competitive games and a manager with enthusiasm to boost and keep his confidence high and bring the best out of him. I believe Burnley and Howe can offer them both as they strive to get back into the Premiership.

Whether a move like this could happen is yet to be seen, but there has been a feint whisper that it could be a possibility. And lets look at the positives (as there are very few negatives); It's a short journey from Manchester, Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier (Vladi will know both very well from City's FA Youth Cup winning squad) are already there, the opportunity of plenty of games in a physically demanding environment with the responsibility of providing that creative spark, and an enthusiastic and talented young manager with designs on pushing the team forward. If Vladi does go out on loan, Burnley could well be the best place for him.

That Slow and Funny Day

Wincy thought my new glasses were cute so he convinces me to pose for him.
by the awesome Wincy Aquino Ong

Getting used to my glasses.


Boyd and Bru, GRC Photo

The bulk of Silva's and my business consists of training horses that are sent to us by owners. These people either wish us to compete their horses to a very high level, or wish to improve their horse, train it up, then send it back for them to compete. Without these wonderful people, we would not have a business.

A couple of weeks ago, we received a very impressive horse from Manny Diemer. Manny is a retired Army Special Forces colonel and spent 33 years on active duty. He has commanded at the team, company, battalion and group level and among his many awards and decorations arethe Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit.

He is an avid polocrosse player, a member of the 2010 C Grade national championship winning polocrosse team and serves as his wife's navigator during the marathon phase of combined driving events. He continues to serve his country, currently spending the summer in Baghdad assisting the Iraqi military leadership.
Dana and Manny liked the look of Bru and picked him up for a song from the racetrack. Manny decided to name him Bru, which incidentally is Afrikaaner slang for 'brother' or 'friend'.

The goal with this horse is to get him up and going for Manny, who is currently in Baghdad for three months on duty. Manny's long term goal is to eventually compete Bru at the training level in horse trials here in America. So far, Bru is coming along nicely, finishing 3rd in his first Novice last weekend at Maryland Horse Trials. I look forward to Manny returning from duty in a couple of months to an improved horse for him to compete.

I must say, it's an absolute honour training a horse for one of this country's heroes.


Photos of Manny Diemer taken in Iraq in 2007, while he was commanding the COIN (counterinsurgency) Center at Taji.
Last weekend, I realized how passionate I am about film. I’ll never be a film maker. I’m an admirer of films. I’m a fan and I’m proud to be one.

Horizon Structures Builds Barn for Boyd and Silva

Now that Silva and I are in our new training facility in Cochranville, PA, we had to come up with quality, safe, and economical barn structures to house our horses. After doing hours and hours of research, the absolute best option was to get Horizon Structures, the Amish-oriented construction company, to build our stable block.

Dave Zook and his team of builders specialize in the construction of run-in sheds, shedrow barns and modular barns. They are constructed in Atglen, PA, a few miles away from our facility. The barn structure was customized to Silva’s and my wants and needs with automatic waterers, ceiling fans, lights and big Dutch doors on both sides of each stall for the horses to have a great view of the new farm.

In a matter of a week or two, Horizon Structures constructed this barn in their warehouse, then loaded it onto a truck and placed it onto a gravel pad that we had prepared ahead of time.

I urge anyone out there in the equestrian community who needs quality, affordable structures for their horses' shelter, be it a barn or a run in shed, to get in touch with Dave. I have been thoroughly impressed with the look and quality of the building and most importantly, the service we received from the team down at Horizon Structures.


Check out the timelapse video of the complete construction of the barn:

Horizon Structures

Focus Booster

I've been experimenting with Focus Booster over the past days, and wanted to share some of my thoughts on this.

Focus Booster is a simple software tool to use with the Pomodoro Technique . You can start a Pomodoro with this, it runs for 25 minutes on your desktop (while gradually changing color from green to red), rings a bell and then times a 5 minute break for you. After this break, you can start a new Pomodoro time slot. Focus Booster also keeps track of the amount of Pomodoros you've accomplished over the day.

Previously, I was using the stopwatch on my cell phone to see if I can concentrate for 20 to 45 minutes before changing tasks (I was nicknaming this the "egg timer trick", but now that I am continuously with my eyes glued to my computer screen, I thought I could try a little app for this.

Here are some of my observations:
- I like how it "forces" me to take breaks. I've noticed that I can work the entire morning with only a few breaks, but then I feel really empty and unable to work in the afternoon and evening. Taking little breaks has helped me to be able to work more productively throughout the entire day, without burning all my energy in the morning.
- Having an app on your screen makes it very visible. It challenges me to start racing against the clock in the last five minutes of a 25-minutes slot. It also tells me that after 5 minutes of browsing the internet, I need to get back to my calculations.
- Whenever another thought crosses my mind, I just write it down on a piece of paper and get back to it later. And this "later" doesn't feel so far away, as every chunk of time is only 25 minutes.
- This method feel intuitively right for me. I used to work in time slots of 20 minutes, as this used to be the amount of time that I was spending on my homework in secondary school. When I went to university, I simply felt I could not really concentrate deeply for longer than 20 minutes, so I started to divide my time in sets of 20 minutes each (trying to study one proof at a time, for example).

Even though I'm not really familiar with the original Pomodoro Technique, I've been easily able to implement this software tool into my regular way of working, and by doing so, found a way to optimize my "egg timer trick" method.

If you are interested in the Pomodoro Technique itself, and how you could implement it into your work and benefit from it, I recommend the following blog posts as well:
Easily Stop Procrastination in its Tracks and Become a Productivity Machine: One Tomato at a Time
Productivity help with Pomodoro

Manchester City ruining gaming since 2011

Monday the 18th saw Manchester City  strike a multi-million pound partnership with the largest sports gaming company in the world, EA Sports. This is one hell of a smart move on City's part as it has opened up several opportunities both now and in the future.

The deal (much like the one with Etihad) has been described as "unprecedented in both scale and scope within the computer gaming industry." The deal will see exclusive FIFA12 content distributed through EA Sports and and will also include match simulations prior to the fixtures.

In addition to this EA have done 360 degree 3D captures of ALL of the first team squad which will be seen in the upcoming FIFA12 game coming out on 30th September 2011. EA will also invest in creating "experiential gaming areas" in and around the Etihad Stadium further improving the experience of the City Square and family zone.  

Not only all this but for the first time in EA's history they have produced a 'virtual kit launch for Manchester City's 2011-12 home kit (see below) which features several of City's star players and for the first time City's home ground, the newly renamed Etihad Stadium. And to top things off, there will be downloadable content for City fans when the game is relseased.

I do hope Arsene Wenger hasn't seen this video otherwise we'll be seeing another spittle spewing rant of his at how City's aren't playing fair. I mean how dare City not only take their players from them, beat them to automatic Champions League qualification, Sign a bigger sponsorship deal than them, and have Mancini publicly say that another of their players is good (because Wenger's never done that has he? Oh noooo), but now EA depict City beating the gooners 2-0 in a bespoke piece of footage meant for Manchester City and its fans! Oh how very dare they!

So what does this actually mean for City in real terms? It's fair to say that Manchester City are a rapidly expanding Club in terms of popularity. They're now the 8th most played side on FIFA11 which shows you the level or their popularity at the moment. This deal is set to see City's popularity soar even higher in the gaming community which will ultimately gain more fans for the club and more money through sales of merchandise.

It's a fact of life that the more something is portrayed in a positive way, more people are attracted to it. It's human nature. Young kids get hold of games like FIFA and see the likes of Rooney, Messi, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, and Kaka on the front cover and they think "yeah I'll follow them because they're the best." And who can blame them? They don't know any better. In fact Shrek has been on the front cover for as long as I can remember; and you wonder why so many kids seem to just automatically follow United?

So what if in the near future we had a front cover of FIFA that looked like this?

Or maybe this?

Ok I know it's highly unlikely we'll get a cover without Shrek any time soon unfortunately, but what if it did have a City player on, a World Cup winner like David Silva? I'm absolutely certain you would see the profile of the club sky rocket immediately. I don't hold out too much hope that we'll have a player on the front cover this time round but after this deal, anything is possible. Exciting times eh?

Should we buy a kit even if we don't like it?

I'll start by saying I don't like the new kit, didn't like it when I first saw it and even though it looks better now we have official pictures and it's now on sale, I still don't like it. This blog will divide opinions somewhat as there are fans that will buy the kit no matter how it looks and there are others who wont buy it if it's a dog. The 2011-12 Manchester City kit has definitely divided opinion amongst fans. Some like it, some absolutely hate it, others have yet to pass judgement on it either way.

Before I get into this I know there are varying factors in this but for the sake of the discussion I will assume the supporter is financially stable and able to purchase at least 1 kit a season as well as go to games and so on and so on.

When we first got a glimpse of the 2011-12 home kit there was almost a universal outcry of "oh my god, that's got to be a fake" as we were presented with two poorly lit pictures of two people of an undisclosed Asian origin (one who was sadly a little out of shape and would make an Armani suit look bad) donning the kit around a month before the reveal.

Then we saw more versions on the Internet of just the shirt and we could see it in better detail. Although the shade of blue now looked correct there was still plenty to be upset about for most fans. Admittedly when we got a glimpse of a leaked video it did again look a little better than the pictures we'd seen. But it was still not enough to convince the masses. Some vehemently ripped into it while others took a less aggressive approach and wanted to wait until they saw the players in it or saw it in person before making their mind up.

Here it is as shown on (see right). And  it still divides opinions even now. A recent poll suggested that only 1/10 said they liked it, 4/10 said they didn't like it and 5/10 said they were undecided about it. Out of those, around 2/10 said they'd buy it regardless of whether they liked it or not as long as it was official City merchandise. The remaining numbers said they were either going to wait until they had decided on whether they liked it, or said they were going to buy the away kit, 3rd kit or one of the training tops that are sold by the club. I bet that's not the kind of thing Umbro are wanting to hear after they have obviously spent a lot of time thinking about certain design aspects and how to incorporate that into the kit.

So that's how it stands at the moment, and it's clear that some will still buy the shirt no matter what and that's a good thing if they want to do it. But what of those that don't want to buy it? Should they? Does the buying of said shirt show you are more loyal to the club?

I personally wont be buying it. I honestly feel Umbro have had a nightmare with this kit. The idea behind it is fantastic if I'm honest, but the overall execution of the shirt as a whole is very poor in comparison to the last 2 seasons. Both the 2009-10 and the 2010-11 home kits were greeted with astounding praise by fans on the whole. Not only was the design simple and very classy the material used felt far superior to any of our previous kits.

But should I buy it anyway? Would buying it prove my loyalty to the club? Although some might say yes to both of those I completely disagree. I have no problem with people who want to buy it anyway, but to question a person's loyalty to the club because they don't want to buy it is ludicrous. I, along with many others, have proven our loyalty to the club by sticking with it through the hard times, enduring year upon year of underachievement, and in some cases relegation. That is true loyalty. 

Thankfully it is only a very small percentage of those who will buy it regardless who think that way. It's usually the same people who throw the line "I bet you don't have a season ticket" to others in an attempt to suggest that your opinions count more the longer you've had a season ticket (or card/membership as the case is now).

I actually fear that because of City's new-found following coupled with the wider availability of the shirt that it will sell in record numbers leaving the Umbro designers with a false sense of success. That's not saying those that do buy it regardless are wrong for doing so, I just hope Umbro seriously look at the feedback they've got from it instead of the numbers sold when designing the next kit, which will no doubt start relatively soon.

Am I wrong for not wanting to buy it? I'd say no, I'll just use that money and buy something else from the Club that I do like. It's not as though there's a shortage of things to buy is it? There's plenty of clothing on offer, the Umbro diamond range, sportswear, training kits, as well as the club's other fashion items. That's as well as the away kit and the third kit of course.

Before I leave I'm going to show you a few designs that were suggested by several fans and were developed by Paul 'Hartie' Hart. Let me know what you think of them.
If you want to check out Paul's other (professional) work go to 

Hapipaks Gig Poster

I miss watching gigs very very very much.

This is the another variation of my gig poster for Quark Henares’ film Rakenrol.
I’m really excited to watch the movie once again and watch the bands play after. It’s been a while since I’ve gone out and listened to bands live. I miss that.

WHAT a crazy weekend!


10:00 Sprint selection races to WOC in Folgosinho, 2.0km, (80m), 12'46. This year, due to the amount of study that I have to cope with, I'm only fighting for a place in the Sprint in this year's WOC. I won with a 1'20 advantage to the 2nd. 10th control wasn't in the right place, so I lost 20'' there.

18:00 Bitten by a snake. Transported by ambulance to Guarda hospital (30min, with horn included) and a venous line in my arm, just in case. Did some blood tests, everything was alright, not a poisonous one. Back to Gouveia at 23:00. There is more info about iberian poisonous snakes (click the first link - in portuguese) here. I freaked out when I noticed it; however, their poison isn't deathly so there isn't much to worry about... I like to know what I face so you won't see me competing again without gaiters during the hot months.


07:00 Woke up. Long journey by public transport back to Lisbon.

15:00 Arrived at Lisbon without having had lunch.

18:30 5000m race (Lisbon's regional champs). I wasn't in the mood to compete but my coach insisted. This day wasn't an exception to the last windy days as the following graph shows (at the track there was something between 4 and 5m/s):
The best guys did 14'45 (they usually do around 14'00). I caught a group that was too slow, didn't want to leave it because of the wind, misunderstood the "last lap signal" once we were passing slower runners and did 15'25 without suffering. This was my last chance this season to go under 15'. I love the feelings that track give. I wanted more when it ended... I want more for next season.

( are you sure that it has ended?)