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Miscellaneous

Running along

After thinking about it for a long time, last week I finally got round to replacing my old running shoes (I had been waiting for shops to reopen, but I went online in the end).

In the fifteen months I had these shoes I ran just under 1200km*. That’s way, way over the recommendation of replacing running shoes after 500-800km. My usage averages out to about 2.3km per day. Obviously I didn’t run every day – some days I ran more and some days I didn’t run at all.

*I’m not sure this is quite right as there’s some activities which I wouldn’t have used these shoes for but are recorded with them. Conversely, not all my runs get recorded so it may balance out. Anyway, it still shows I went way over the recommended usage limits.

Distance (in km) against time

There’s a few interesting trends to pick out from this data:

  1. It’s possible to see where I had big races in my schedule. I ran half marathons (21km) in March 2019 (the Big Half), September 2019 (the Great North Run) and early March 2020 (the Big Half again). These all show as an increase in training over the proceeding weeks (more distance covered), a small step increase for the race and then a reduced mileage afterwards.
  2. I also ran a half marathon in August 2019 (the Thames Meander Half Marathon) which again shows as a small step increase, but this was part of my training for the Great North Run so doesn’t have it’s own associated training increase/decrease either side.
  3. I appear to have taken a fairly long break from running in March-April 2019. This was partly from resting after the previous race, but also mainly because I was out of the country. I had taken an older pair of shoes to save on weight (not because my older shoes were lighter, but because I could use them for non-running purposes too – something I wouldn’t do in my almost new shoes).
  4. I also ran less in December 2019-early January 2020. I had a cold/illness at this point (even if my family didn’t believe me) and I didn’t feel like running for most of the Christmas period.
  5. Since the most recent race at the beginning of March, and during the lockdown, there’s been a steady stream of runs, some slightly longer ones but balanced out by some extra rest days. Without any races planned, I guess that’s what my regular running pattern looks like (i.e. when not training for a race and not resting after one).

Anyway, after almost 1200km and four half marathons, it was definitely time for them to be replaced. Time to see how their replacements hold up…

Categories
Miscellaneous

Working From Home vs. Working in the Office

I mentioned last week that I’m no longer working from home, but am now back in the office all the time. Today I’m going to do a comparison of the two.

Commuting

The most obvious difference about working from home is not having to commute to work. My total commute is just over an hour each way, so I should be gaining an extra two hours a day. It’s not quite that simple in practice, but for the moment, working from home is the winner here.

Winner: Working from home

Working hours

Not having to commute meant that I could start work earlier. But conversely I was also in no rush to get home at the end of the day. And having access to email at all times meant that I was never really far away from work (when in the office, I don’t do anything work related after leaving the building). But I did make up for this by having much longer breaks. For example, the flexibility of being at home meant that I could just pop to the supermarket when it was less busy during the middle of the day, rather than at the end of the working day on the way home from work.

Whilst working from home is much more flexible, I much prefer the structured working hours of being in the office.

Winner: Working in the office

Exercise

Whilst I’ve been working from home, I’ve been doing PE with Joe most mornings. This has primarily been due to the early lockdown rules around not leaving the house unless essential. Whilst an indoor workout session is fun and probably worthwhile every now and then, I much more prefer going outside for a run. If I’m up and outside for going to work, I’m much more likely to go for a run either before work, after work or during lunch time. If I’m at home I’m much more likely to spend my lunch break watching TV, whereas at work I often take the time to go for a run which is much better for clearing the head during the working day. And occasionally, in order to use public transport less, I’ve even run all the way home from work (although not recommended when it’s hot).

Winner: Working in the office

Money

My normal commute to work costs between £8 and £11 per day depending on how I get to work. That’s quite a significant saving each week and makes working from home the all out winner here.

I also normally buy lunch from the canteen at work which costs around £5 to £5.50 per day. Working from home means having to buy more meals in my weekly shop. Financially that’s probably cheaper than buying lunch each day, but the benefits of paying for lunch include not having to cook it myself and not having to do as much washing up, both of which make a considerable time saving so I consider it to be worth the extra cost. But the saving from not commuting is a much more considerable saving.

Winner: Working from home

IT

I can’t access the work network from home, which limits what I can do. But I do have a much more powerful computer for the things I can do at home. I’m calling this one a draw.

Winner: Draw

Environment

My living room is south facing and gets ridiculously warm when the sun is shining in. Conversely my office is designed to be a workplace so it has air-conditioning and is kept at a constant temperature all the time. My office also has proper desks and office chairs, whereas at home I just have a dining room table and chair. I know which one my back prefers.

One of the advantages of being at home is being able to able to have music playing in the background which just isn’t possible in an office environment. Mainly because there are other people there. People to talk to. Real people. (Sorry Alexa.)

Winner: Working in the office

Conclusion: Working from the office wins by 4 to 3. Not a huge victory as both have their advantages. Working from home has a lot more flexibility, but the office is just a better environment for actual working. I think working in the office the majority of time with the occasional day at home would make for the best compromise. We’ll have to see how things shift when the lockdown fully ends and the “new normal” begins.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Under the keys

On Saturday I was cleaning my computer keyboard. Whilst doing so, I noticed there was a lot of fluff stuck underneath the keys. My engineering instinct kicked in and I immediately dismantled my entire keyboard to get to the parts underneath.

Once cleaned I then realised I hadn’t any idea which keys went where. There’s a few obvious ones, the F keys, QWERTY, the number pad. But then there’s a lot of random ones, mainly punctuation and features such as “sleep” and “wake up” which are fairly unique to my keyboard. And then there’s other keys such as the left ctrl key and the right ctrl key. Do they have a specific orientation? And what about the up/down and left/right arrow keys?

So I started off with doing all of the keys that were obvious or I could make a sensible guess at where they went and got surprisingly far:

Who really knows how the bottom row of letters goes? (I realised shortly after that the M key was in the wrong place)

But I actually know more keys than I thought I did. Not in my conscious mind, but in my subconscious and my finger muscle memory. When do I ever look at the keyboard when typing? All I had to do was pretend to type and see where my fingers were hitting and that’s where the keys had to be. And that’s how I got back up to a full complement of keys.

Note: There were initially a couple of minor mistakes. I had the [ ] and – = the wrong way round. And the ‘Scroll Lock’ / ‘Pause Break’ / ‘Print Screen SysRq’ keys in the wrong order (but who even uses those? – apart from when I accidently hit them because of the bad design of this keyboard). The * and / keys in the number pad were also the wrong way round but again they’re right in the periphery.

So that took up about an hour of my bank holiday and also gave me something to write about today. Want to challenge yourself to see if you know where all the keys on a keyboard are? All you need is a keyboard and a screwdriver.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Missed the boat

This week I’ve been back in the office.

On Monday morning I went to get the train to work. I missed the train by seconds. Whilst I waited for the next one, I thought about the sequence of events leading up to that moment and all the ways that I could have caught the train if only I had…

  1. Left the house earlier – This is the most obvious answer but without hindsight it’s hard to know the effect that later actions had. It normally takes 10-12 minutes to walk to the station (depending on traffic). I normally give myself 12-15 mins just in case. On Monday I was getting close to my cut-off point and still wasn’t quite ready to leave. I could have rushed and probably made it, but the trains are every 15 minutes, so I thought I’d relax at home for a bit longer and then get the next one. I actually left the house with 16 minutes to get to the station, because on the way I wanted to…
  2. Buy bananas – I mentioned the other week that I normally have a banana every day. I last went shopping on Friday morning and deliberately chose not to buy bananas because I knew they wouldn’t last until the end of this week when I next went shopping. I planned to buy bananas from the stall outside the station, but when I walked past M&S Food and saw there were no queues I decided to go there (this was actually a wise choice as the fruit stall only had green bananas). Whilst I was there, I remembered that I also needed to…
  3. Buy shower gel – I ran out of shower gel a couple of days prior (don’t worry, I always have hotel toiletries for such emergency situations). I was planning to head to Sainsbury’s specifically for shower gel after work, but since I was in a supermarket already, why shouldn’t I just buy it here? Time was tight I thought, but I should be ok as long as I find what I want quickly. But I don’t shop much at M&S Food so it took me slightly longer than anticipated to find what I needed. Not to worry, there was no queue for the…
  4. Automated checkout – I scanned the shower gel, tick. I selected ‘loose item’ and then ‘banana#, only for the machine to tell me “invalid item”. The assistant then pointed me to a separate scales where I had to weigh the bananas and print out a barcode for scanning. I then chose to pay, but the “invalid item” message popped up again, which the assistant then had to come back across to clear. That done, I still had about two minutes to get to the station, I just needed to…
  5. Cross the road – There are two main road junctions I need to cross between my house and the station. They both have pedestrian sequences but they both really depend on the amount of traffic and turning up at the right point of the sequence. The first one was no problem on Monday given the reduced traffic and a bus that was conveniently waiting to turn the corner. The second junction was busier and I arrived halfway through one sequence of cars before the next car sequence and then the pedestrians. I could have made a dash for it, but road safety is important. Also, I could see that the train hadn’t arrived yet which meant I still had time to walk across and…
  6. Touch in – I currently use contactless to pay for my journeys (I used to use oyster but that’s a topic for a future blog). Specifically I’ve been using Android Pay on my phone. I could hear the train coming in at this point, but the station entrance is towards the rear of the train and it would take time for the train to actually arrive at the platform. I hit my phone against the oyster pad and the contactless symbol showed up on my phone, but the oyster pad came up with an error message (I think it was error 67 “contactless payment not approved” but I didn’t really have to time to study it). I knew Android Pay worked because I had used it moments ago to pay for my bananas. I moved to the next oyster pad but the same error. The train had stopped by this point so I pulled out my wallet and tapped my actual contactless card. Success. Now all I had to do was…
  7. Board the train – About 2.7 million people use my local station every year. Normally this means trains are quite busy with people getting on and off every time and so the trains normally stop for a good while. Not at the moment. With fewer people travelling to work it doesn’t take as long for the few people to board or alight. On a normal day, people would still be waiting to get on the train when I arrived onto the platform. On Monday, the train doors closed seconds before I could get to the train.
Categories
Miscellaneous

Power up!

About two months ago, I was getting off a flight and noticed that my backpack (containing my laptop) felt rather warm. I didn’t pay too much attention to it, thinking that maybe my laptop had turned itself on for some reason, or I was just imagining it.

At the hotel, I noticed that my laptop casing was coming apart. I assumed the man in the row behind me had been careless putting my bag into the overhead locker.
img_20161106_2131237

I pretty much ignored it until last week when I decided to take a look inside. And this is what I found:

If it’s not that obvious, the battery had expanded to approx 150% of its normal size, and this is what had pushed the casing apart.

I contacted the manufacturer who put me touch with their UK authorised repairer. Unsurprisingly the warranty only lasts one year for the battery (my laptop is now over three years old), however they were willing to sell me a replacement.

Here’s a comparison of the old battery and the new:

And here it is fitted snugly into the laptop:

Oh, and I saved myself about £85 by fitting it myself.

(For the observant ones out there, yes, I did take the opportunity to clean out the fans too.)

Categories
Miscellaneous

Mebbies aye, Mebbies naw

Since today is Scottish independence referendum day, I thought I’d conduct some voting of my own.

A couple of months ago, I decided to see what it would be like to grow a beard. Here’s the current status:
IMG_1853_crop

Should I keep the beard?

View Results

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Leave a comment with any additional thoughts. Should it be longer? Shorter? Get rid of it all together?

Categories
Miscellaneous

Welcome (Back)

Hello again.

After a two year break I thought I would start blogging again. Here I’ll blog about all sorts of random thoughts and mundane events that take place in my life.

My previous blog had the tagline “The best blog I’ve ever written”. This time I’ve gone for “Better than the last blog I did”, and hopefully it will be.

If you want to visit the old blog, it’s still available here, although a lot of the links are currently broken (I may fix them at some point).

Leave me a comment if there’s anything you’d like to see/know, or just to let me know you’re reading.

Categories
Miscellaneous

That awkward question

Hi there. I’m back with another thought from my life (yes, they do seem to be few and far between).

Anyway, I get asked a lot of awkward questions but one always stands out. It’s not “What do I do for a job?” or even “Who do I work for?”. Nope, its “Where are you from?”. Sounds simple right, well what’s the answer? Here’s the possibilities:

A. The place I was born – Time since I lived there: about 22 years

B. The place where I grew up (and where my parents still live) – Time since I lived there: about 6 years (although on and off since)

C. The place where I went to university and where I’ve probably matured(?) the most – Time since I lived there: about 2 years

D. The place where I lived before my current job – Time since I lived there: about 6 months

E. Just around the corner – Time since I lived there: about 2 hours

But surely that’s not what they want to know.

So what is the answer? Does it actually even matter?

I don’t know, but today I got asked if I had gone home at the weekend. Don’t get me started.

Categories
Miscellaneous

My holiday in America: BlackBerry PlayBook

Since my last post was so disappointing and it’s now been over 3 weeks since I got back from America (it was fewer when I started writing this), it’s about time for the next post. This one is all about my BlackBerry PlayBook.


Personally I use it for light internet browsing and some games as well as some reading on the aeroplane. However my nieces (ages 2,4,5 and 7) loved it. In fact I was amazed at how quickly they picked it up and were finding all the apps they wanted and multi-tasking like pros in a few minutes. Some of the games they needed help with, especially in the later levels, but two of the most used apps were the Scrapbook and the camera. Well, these are the two that have pictures I can stick in this blog.


Scrapbook

Most of these don’t make sense, but I’m sure there might be some sort of story between them. Sorry for putting so many in, clicking them opens the full image. [Keep scrolling down, there’s more stuff below this multitude of images]


Camera

My niece Romilly (6yo) loved the camera the most (maybe the only one who used it), but here are some self portraits:

And some videos… [Warning: dodgy camera work]
Sorry I spent ages trying to embed it without success, they can however be found here

Categories
Miscellaneous

My holiday in America: A Conversation

I got back from a two week trip to the USA yesterday to visit my brother and sister-in-law and children. I intend to (possibly) write a few blog posts about what happened. This first one is kind of a summary.


Since I had just got back and had no food in the house I had to go to my local ASDA supermarket. The checkout people don’t normally say much to me (and vice versa) but Holly just didn’t stop talking (or asking questions). I’m sure she didn’t talk to anyone else as much and the people behind me were probably annoyed. Here’s how the conversation went:

Holly: Hi, Sorry about the wait [There was 1 person ahead of me in the queue]
Me: That’s fine
H: Do you need any help with packing?
Me: I’ll probably be fine
H: You could probably do with some bags though
Me: Would help [Smile]
H: So how was your day? [This is one step beyond any normal customer/checkout girl conversation]
Me: Not bad. First day back after a couple of weeks off
H: That’s always bad, and now you have to do your shopping. Got any plans for this evening?
Me: Nope, just the shopping… and catching up from jetlag
H: Ooh, jetlag. Where did you go to?
Me: America.
H: Ooh, that’s exciting. Whereabouts?
Me: Philadelphia.
H: Ooh, very nice. How long were you there for?
Me: Just two weeks.
H: Did you get the full six weeks holiday?
Me: Er no, just the two weeks.
H: Oh right… That’s £33.
Me: Ok [I put my card in the machine]
H: Would you like cash back?
Me: No thanks
H: What’s your postcode [This was for some sort of ASDA survey]
Me: It’s CF23…
[I enter my pin number]
[Pin number is accepted but nothing is happening. Awkward moment]
[After about 30 seconds:]
H: It doesn’t normally take this long
[More awkwardness]
[After another 15 seconds, my card is finally accepted]
H: That’s great. Have a nice evening.
Me: Thanks, bye


So it didn’t really have a huge amount to do with my holiday, but I liked this story anyway.