Lessons from the lockdown Money

Returning to normal?

I did three things this week that I haven’t done for a long time.

Firstly, I went to the pub for the first time since 15th October. Secondly, I went to the barbers for the first time since 13th October (a 183-day wait for a haircut compared to the 166-day wait between January and July last year). And thirdly I had to get cash out from a cash machine.

This is the first time I’ve had to get any cash out since December. I’ve not had much reason to spend cash though as the only thing I’ve had to buy with cash recently has been the occasional takeaway place that doesn’t take card. However the barber only takes cash and it’s easier to split a group beers bill with cash.

I’ve found all the times I’ve taken out cash over the last couple of years and plotted it into a graph:

The orange dots show each date I’ve taken out cash, whilst the blue line shows the amount averaged by the number of days until I next took out money (I don’t always take out the same amount each time but averaging it should make it comparable). The massive spike in December 2019 is for Christmas meals, because as I said, it’s always easier to sort group events with cash. And that was the last time I had any great need for cash.

Since then, my cash usage has dropped off massively and has been practically non-existent over the last few months. Maybe the cash usage will pick up again as things start to open up again and we can be more social, but maybe the days of using cash are over (other than for occasional beers and haircuts).



I completed this new straight-out-of-the-box jigsaw at the weekend.

Van Gogh – Sunflower jigsaw

I say completed but it’s clearly missing three pieces. Either, it was already missing three pieces when I opened it, or I’ve managed to lose three pieces.

I’ve had a quick look on the floor but I’ve not been able to see any obvious pieces. My living room is a bit of a mess (I’ve not had any visitors for over a year), so they could easily be underneath something. But I would have thought I would have found at least one of them.

If I have dropped them, I’m sure they’ll turn up sometime. But this jigsaw is taking up valuable real estate on top of my table. How long do I leave this mostly assembled jigsaw in place, hoping that these three pieces will turn up?


Another challenge

This post is the second part to last week’s post, but you don’t have to have read that one first (or at all if you really don’t want to). It was just too long for one post.

But as a reminder from last week: “When lockdown came back in January, I started to think of ways that I could challenge myself and make things more interesting. I came across two physical challenges on the internet. I haven’t done either of them, but because this is the internet I’m still going to talk about them.”

What’s the challenge?

The challenge is the 4x4x48, or to run 4 miles, every 4 hours for 48 hours. Essentially it works out as 12 runs, covering a total of 48 miles over two days with very little sleep in between each. It seems to be popular with (some) ultra-marathon runners.

What did I do?

I’ve never run 48 miles before, in fact my longest run is about 14 miles. And I’ve never run overnight before either. My brother and I agreed to do a practice 24 hour session together (virtually). We debated how far we should run each time and eventually settled on a 3x4x24 (3 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours, for a total of 18 miles).

What did I learn?

The first thing I learnt was not to do this two days after having walked 25 miles. The first couple of runs were a bit sore but it got better after that – I’m not sure whether this was because I stretched more or because other factors outweighed it. Four hours felt like quite a long wait between runs when awake and waiting for the next run, but a very short length of time when trying to get some sleep. Finding the right time to eat was also a challenge – running on a full stomach isn’t great, but neither is being too hungry. I also got hungrier as the challenge went on, and I think I ended with one (smaller) meal between every run.

Starting in the evening was also the right choice, this meant that the overnight runs were done early and out of the way. It did however mean that I was already slightly tired at the start of the first run (as opposed to starting fresh first thing in the morning), but on balance that wasn’t a problem. Waking up at 2am to go for a run felt a bit novel, but the 6am run felt more like what I might have done anyway.

I chose to do a 1.5 mile loop, which meant running that loop twelve times throughout the whole challenge. It was quite interesting to see how the same stretch of road could vary between being completely dark and empty at 2am, sunny but quiet at 6am, and then getting busy at 10am and even busier at 2pm. The double lap was annoying though and I had to keep remembering whether I was on the first lap or the second which surprisingly gets quite hard to remember at 2am.

Could I do the full challenge?

I felt like I experienced some of the trials of the full challenge. The repetitiveness of having to keep going back out to run was hard and even though I only ran 3 miles instead of 4, I don’t think the extra mileage would have made much difference (not for each run, but it might do cumulatively).

I did experience some of the surrealism of running in the middle of the night and some of the tiredness, but I don’t feel like I felt the full sleep deprivation that I’ve read from other people’s experiences. I also think that 24 hours isn’t enough time to need to worry about a proper eating schedule, and the full 48 hours would definitely make it just that bit harder.

But I think the hardest struggle would be running the exact same route 12 times (or 24 times if done as double laps). Would a more varied route make it more interesting? Maybe something away from home? Be sure to come back in the future to find out how I’ve done.


A challenge

When lockdown came back in January, I started to think of ways that I could challenge myself and make things more interesting. I came across two physical challenges on the internet. I haven’t done either of them, but because this is the internet I’m still going to talk about them.

Because this post was so long, I’m going to do one today and will do the other next week.

What’s the challenge?

The challenge is to walk 100 miles in 48 hours (or the subset challenge of 50 miles in 24 hours). This is normally an organised event somewhere in the countryside, but given current events, it’s been made virtual so anyone can do it anywhere.

What did I do?

Since that seems like a lot of walking, and my previous longest walk is about 21 miles, I thought I would do a practice 25 mile walk (because then I could just repeat that loop four times for the 100 mile challenge).

What did I learn?

My main takeaway was that my 25 mile loop worked. It was fairly flat and I’ve now walked most of the route at least twice (on different adventures), so theoretically I should know where I’m going if it’s night-time and I’m tired. However, it’s not the most exciting walk (in places at least) and I’m not sure how I feel about doing the loop four times in a row. There’s a definite advantage of knowing where I’m supposed to be going which I would lose if I changed my route, plus I wouldn’t be able to resupply (and use the toilet) each time I passed my house.

There were a couple of bits that were far muddier than I was expecting and I did have to throw myself into a puddle towards the end (because that was easier than trying to get round it). It also rained for most of the day, which wasn’t what the weather forecast had predicted. Fortunately I had planned properly and had full waterproofs so a future wet walk would be perfectly manageable.

Fortunately this massive puddle from when I tested part of the route in January had now gone.

I did have to add an extra loop of the park before I got home to bring my distance up to the 25 mile target, but my phone GPS recorded half a mile more distance than my watch GPS so it may be that I was already at the right distance. I may have to tweak the route slightly, even if just to ensure that it gets to the right distance.

Could I do the full challenge?

I definitely felt like I could have gone on for another 10-15 miles if I had been prepared. But also my loop took me home, and I think that’s going to be one of the problems. Will I want to go back out for another loop when I’ve already done 25/50/75 miles? Should I just do a 100 mile straight walk? Be sure to come back in the future to find out how I’ve done.


100 posts!

Welcome to my 100th blog post!

They’ve not always been the most interesting reads, but this is a quantity milestone, not a quality milestone (not sure how that one would be measured anyway).

Although since this blog has been going for almost 11 years, maybe it’s surprising I’ve not got to this point sooner. This blog started strongly in March 2010 before dying away and being restarted in July 2014 (I did originally archive off the old blog and start again from scratch, but early last year I brought them all back into one place). And then early on in lockdown last year I started blogging every week which leads us to where we are today (with almost half of my posts having been in the last year).

My stats only go back to 2014 and won’t include people who only access via RSS, but unsurprisingly visitors are mostly from the UK and the USA. But I’ve also had visitors (I know there’s VPNs and so on, but this is what the stats tracker says) from Brazil, Canada, Italy, China, Germany, France, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, India, Australia, Argentina, Sweden, Ecuador, Greece, Netherlands, Colombia, Romania, Chile, Philippines, Peru, Switzerland, Israel, Poland, Norway, Malaysia, Nigeria, European Union, Thailand, Bermuda, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Algeria, Indonesia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, Trinidad & Tobago, Austria, Hong Kong, South Africa, Taiwan, Uruguay, Denmark, Estonia, Honduras, Georgia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Turkey, Kenya, El Salvador, Jamaica, Uganda, Ukraine, Angola, Cyprus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Egypt, Japan, Hungary, Pakistan, Iceland, Bangladesh, New Caledonia, Cape Verde, Morocco, Guyana, Macedonia, Moldova, Cambodia, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Mauritius, Qatar, Albania, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Puerto Rico, Gibraltar, Jordan, Luxembourg, Panama, Guatemala, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.

Visits from the Top 15 countries (since 2014)

I don’t know anyone from most of those countries so have no idea whether it’s a reporting error or whether people have deliberately (or just accidently) come across my blog. But you’re all very welcome. Please do say hello if you are reading.

I can’t promise the next 100 posts will be interesting, but for the moment I will keep trying to think of something new to write each week. Here’s to 200 posts!


One year on

Somehow it’s been a year. Not since that (although it is), but a year since I built my computer (yes, I know I only blogged about it in May).

Even between March and May, I had already added new components to it (the LED strips and an extra fan at the rear of the case). As a reminder, here’s what it looked like then:

And here’s what it looks like now:

Apart from realising that it photographs better with the side glass panel taken off, and that the colour scheme is different, there’s a few significant changes:

Cooling system

This week (yesterday in fact) I changed the CPU cooling system from the stock air cooler to an AIO water cooler. It does add two black tubes into the interior, but it’s generally more spacious inside now and I like the look of the three extra RGB fans at the top. It’s still too early to see what difference it will make – I think it is a couple of degrees cooler than it was, but it also does have a few extra fans that are venting the case now. I always wanted to get one of these, but for budgeting decisions I decided against it a year ago.


The graphics card is still the same, but I have rotated it 90 degrees into a vertical orientation. Again, I think it looks much better this way round, particularly with it’s coloured ring that is now visible, and this is how I always wanted it. The lights in the ring were spiralling before, but for some reason it doesn’t always. Don’t worry about the fan not spinning, it’s only supposed to do that when it gets hot.


You can’t actually see it in the picture, but in the last year I have added two new hard drives. I started off with an 8TB and a 4TB drive (as a combined virtual drive), but then I added an extra 12TB so I could mirror it. Earlier this year I realised I was running out of space and in order to avoid rebuilding the virtual drive, I would need to add an extra physical drive. I added a second 12TB drive, but because of the limitations of the original settings I had to rebuild the whole set-up anyway. It took a while, but eventually I got it how I wanted and it should now allow me to expand it again more easily.

Step 1: Originally. Step 2: Last year. Step 3: Currently. Step 4: Future arrangement?

I am also starting to run out of storage on my main SSD drive (thanks Microsoft Flight Simulator) so at some point this year I’ll have to add some more there (or move some applications to my secondary SSD drive).

But that’s for next year, and apart from that, I can’t think of anything else I need/want to add. I realise I’m now a generation behind on both processor and graphics card technology, but I’m fine with missing out for now. With the price and scarcity of components right now, I’m glad I bought my computer a year ago.

Addendum: I do need a new keyboard and mouse. Preferably wireless (at least for the mouse).

Film Review

The Truman Show

It’s been a while since I’ve done a full film review (in this format) but it’s time again now. It’s not that I’ve not seen any films, it’s just that very few have been worth blogging about. So this week’s entry is about The Truman Show.

Why did I watch this film?

This is a film that a few people have mentioned over the last couple of years, and mostly in a “this film is iconic, you must have seen it” kind of way. I had never even really heard of it so I assumed it was fairly recent and I had somehow just passed over it. Turns out it’s from 1998 (the computer screens definitely date it to around this period), so it’s not quite old enough to be a proper cult film, and not quite recent enough for me to have seen when it came out. Anyway, I came across it on Netflix at the weekend and decided it was worth a shot.

What did I think of this film?

When describing this film, people had always explained that it was about a guy who was constantly being filmed for reality TV, but that he had no idea that he was. I never quite understood the full premise behind this but it sounded like an interesting concept. So it wasn’t until I had seen it that I fully grasped how it worked. And I realise that I’ve not explained it the best way either so I would just recommend watching it for yourself.

It is generally a funny film but there are a few more serious moments too. It definitely made for some light-hearted Sunday evening viewing that didn’t require too much thinking about, whilst at the same time not being a complete switch-off film. The idea that reality may not be what it seems reminded me a lot of Inception (a film I do really like). Afterwards you start to wonder if your own life might actually be just for someone’s reality TV viewing and what the consequences of that would be. If that is the case and you’re watching me right now, I’d like to apologise for having to watch me write this post over the last half hour or so. (Don’t worry, I don’t actually think that is happening.)

Will I watch it again?

I did really enjoy this film and would probably put in my favourite films. It’s not quite in my best ever films yet, but I would definitely watch it again and I think it could only go up in my favourite rankings. In fact, I’m tempted by a second viewing just so I can take it all in again knowing what’s going to happen at the end. Highly recommended.


Abandoned blog posts

I was struggling to come up with some new content so I decided to look back at blog posts I had previously started, but never finished. Most of these were started during my various blog hiatuses, but never got published for various reasons. Here’s a few of the more interesting ones. Maybe one day I’ll finish them.

Beards (Last modified: Unknown)

This post was a follow up to “Mebbies Aye, Mebbies Naw”. I was going to incorporate it into the Revisited post, but it didn’t make the final cut and so never got expanded beyond a series of bullet points. I could share the list here, but then I can’t post it in the future.

Personalities (Revisited) (Last modified: 4 July 2014)

Arguably this one shouldn’t appear here, because it did eventually get published, although 6 years later than originally planned. It may have been interesting to have another data point to compare against though.

Quants and Quals (Last modified: 4 July 2014)

This was a post that never got written beyond the title. I can’t even remember exactly what a “Quant” or a “Qual” is, but I think it was something to do with personality types who focus on either quantity or quality (but of what I can’t remember). And I can’t remember which I would have been…

Car Troubles, Part 4 (Last modified: 12 December 2014)

This post would have been a follow-up to Car Troubles, Part 1 and Part 2, and also a Part 3 which I also never posted (or actually even started). I appear to have written half of a post about the time that my car’s fuel gauge needle got stuck on full. I can’t remember this event at all so it’s interesting to read it back (or at least the first half of the story). This would have been a different car to parts 1 and 2, but I have no idea what event part 3 would have referred to. I’m sure I could add a couple more parts to a “Car Troubles” series if I wanted to now.

Hey, I hope you loved it! (Last modified: 9 January 2015)

In January 2015, I wrote a post about the things I had got up to over the previous Christmas. I ended with the phrase “the adventures continue elsewhere…”. Well, this post would have been where that happened. This post would have been about my trip to Philadelphia to visit my brother and his family. The title of this post comes from a Pentatonix music video and was a regular catchphrase used by my niblings during that week. This post never got past the title so I can’t remember what would have been included.

I like warm hugs (Last modified: 9 January 2015)

The second follow-up post about my trip to the USA. The title is obviously taken from Frozen (and was also a popular catchphrase at that time), but again, I didn’t get any further than a title.

Gonna Fly Now (Last modified: 15 February 2015)

Of the three posts about that trip, this got the furthest with a whole three and a bit paragraphs (although I did note that “This article was a lot longer, but I’ve cut it down a lot.”). This post was about the logistics of travelling to the USA but it never got finished, mainly because the other two parts would have been more interesting and they weren’t going anywhere. It probably didn’t help that I started with “I was almost not going to post this, but I decided I had to. Mainly just so that I could use the title. [Bonus points for the first person to figure it out].” The bonus points are still available…


How I fixed my mobile data problem

I know nobody reads my posts about my mobile phone, but someone someday somewhere may find this useful (if that’s you, do say hi) so I thought I’d post this.

About a month ago, my Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite got the “One UI 3.0” update. At the same time, my phone stopped connecting to the mobile data network. It could still make phone calls and texts, but whenever it wasn’t connected to wi-fi I couldn’t access any internet data. Weirdly it did still sometimes connect to mobile data, but this was unpredictable and was somewhere between a few minutes or several hours later (if at all).

What my phone icons should have looked like (left) vs what it actually looked like (right)

I searched the internet but couldn’t find anyone else who had this problem. I tried turning the mobile data setting on and off, resetting the network connections and clearing the caches. I even wiped my whole phone and reinstalled everything, but still I couldn’t get it to connect to mobile data.

I phoned up the Three helpline and they just guided me through the steps I had already done. The one thing I hadn’t done was to try my SIM card in a different phone. In the meantime, they would send me out a new SIM card.

I duly tested my SIM card in an old phone and unsurprisingly it worked fine. I had a strong feeling that a replacement SIM card wouldn’t fix the problem but I waited for it to arrive.

It still didn’t work with the replacement SIM card, but I went into the SIM card manager and noticed that “Mobile data” was turned off at this point. And setting the option to “SIM 1” fixed my problem!

The Mobile data setting in the SIM card manager

I was going to blog about how this seemed to be a separate, hidden “Mobile data” switch at the SIM card level to the one at the system level, but I’ve not been able to replicate this at all. Every time I turn off one, the other turns off too and vice versa. Was this not happening before? I don’t know. Was the SIM card setting somehow stuck in the off position? I don’t know. Did the new SIM card help? Probably, even if only because it meant I looked in the SIM card manager settings. Does my phone mobile data work again now? Yes.

So if you have a problem with your mobile data, the SIM card manager may be the place to look. But it also may not be. Because I don’t even know if that was the problem, but after four weeks trying lots of different things it’s now working again.

Lazy post

Icy conditions

The snow and ice may all be gone now, but my leg still bears the mark of it (or rather the lamppost that I slid into)…