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Life event

Duvet Day

Two weeks ago was Duvet Day.

Duvet Day, noun. The day at which I switch from using a duvet and duvet cover to just using a duvet cover.

Duvet Day happens every year, normally towards the beginning of June. When it gets too hot overnight for a full duvet, I switch to just using the duvet cover by itself. There’s normally a delay between the temperature increasing and Duvet Day, mainly because removing a duvet from its cover is awkward, as everyone knows.

Yesterday was Re-Duvet Day.

Re-Duvet Day, noun. The day at which I switch from using just a duvet cover to using a duvet and duvet cover.

Re-Duvet Day happens every year, normally towards the beginning of September. When it gets too cool overnight for just a duvet cover, I return to using a duvet inside the cover. There’s normally a delay between the temperature dropping and Re-Duvet Day, mainly because inserting a duvet into its cover is awkward, as everyone knows.

But this year is one of those with an early Re-Duvet day as the temperature has dropped early. Here’s a graph showing the temperature this month:

(Taken from Accuweather)

The first half of this month (bar the 4 June) has been well above the average temperature for this time of year. However the last few days have been far below average, hence the return to a duvet. It does look like the temperature is rising again, and I’m sure there will be a second Duvet Day in the next few weeks. Until then though, it’s back to my trusty 4.5 Tog.

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Life event

Challenge (partially) complete!

I did it. Well, partially did it. Remember the challenge to walk 100 miles in 48 hours? Yeah, I didn’t completely do that. But I did walk 75 miles continuously and in doing so I did achieve the secondary target of walking 50 miles in 24 hours. At triple the distance of my previous longest walk (27 miles), I’m very happy with what I did achieve.

Here’s three things I learnt:

  1. 100 miles is a very long way to walk
  2. 75 miles is also a very long way to walk
  3. Eating a pot noodle without a t-shirt on isn’t the best idea (it’s quite splashy)

Here’s three things I’ve done since finishing the walk:

  1. Slept for 11 hours
  2. Washed all my walking clothes
  3. Realised I’d left my earphones in the pocket of my walking trousers (they’re actually fine)

Here’s three things I should have done since finishing the walk (but haven’t):

  1. Fully unpack my backpack
  2. Clean the mud off my walking poles
  3. Put some effort in to writing a blog post about it
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Life event

Self-isolation, epilogue

Last week I described how I was forced into self-isolation. Today I look back at the experience…

And really there’s actually not much to talk about. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, but I’m aware that I only had to do it for 8 and a bit days.

I did have a mild cough for a few days, but I got tested and that came back negative, so I definitely didn’t have COVID last Monday at 1pm. It’s possible I developed it at another point in the week but remained symptomless, or I just never caught anything in the first place. Either way, there was no reason to extend my self-isolation beyond the initial period.

If I had known it was coming I’d have stocked up on food beforehand, but I did already have enough for a few days. I did get some food (and a couple of other things) delivered during the week, so that all worked out for me not to have to leave my house.

And I’m probably introverted enough that I didn’t mind not seeing any real people for 9 days, although I did have various (work and personal) phone calls/text chats/video chats throughout the time so I wasn’t completely disconnected.

And I was planning to work from home all last week anyway, so it was actually quite fortuitous. If it had been this week, it would have been much more awkward to work from home. So that worked out.

The only thing I did miss was being able to go outside to exercise. I normally go running every couple of days, and this along with my walk to work normally brings me up to the target 10,000 steps. However, being stuck at home my step count rarely got above 500 (if I even bothered to wear my watch). And having not done any exercise, I found my body wasn’t tired at bedtime so it was harder to sleep (much to my brain’s annoyance).

But that was my only real issue with having to self-isolate. But I do hope that I don’t need to do it again.

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Life event

Self-isolation

I was travelling home from work last Thursday evening, when a notification from the NHS COVID-19 app alert popped up on my phone:

Self-isolate for 9 days
The app has detected that you have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus. Please stay at home and self-isolate to keep yourself and others safe.

According to the information, I had come into contact with someone who had coronavirus last Saturday (i.e. five days earlier) and now had to self-isolate for the next nine days. The app registers contact at either less than 2 metres distance for at least 15 minutes, or less than 1 metre distance for at least 1 minute. So it should be easy to work out?

Last Saturday, I was in the office (and was the only person there) so I definitely didn’t pick up anything there. It could have been in the pizza place that evening (but I was the only customer and wasn’t there for long). So it was most likely on my way into or back from the office.

The journey into the office on Saturday wasn’t very exciting, and it could have easily been then as my train journey is over the 15 minute criterion. The train wasn’t particularly busy, but I could have been sat within 2 metres of someone.

The way back home was more exciting (although of course that doesn’t make it more likely) as I had to go via London Bridge. I had timed it badly for the train from Charing Cross station, so decided to walk over to Waterloo East and catch the next train from there.

View from the Golden Jubilee Bridge on a cold foggy Saturday evening

That was possibly a mistake because the South Bank was crowded as it seemed to be the only central London location that was serving food or drink. There were hundreds of people stood around and definitely not social distancing. But I was just walking through, so even though I may have had to come fairly close to some people, it would have been for way less than the requisite 1 minute period.

Having also timed it really badly for Waterloo East station, I then decided I may as well just walk to London Bridge. I took the back streets for this which were much quieter. I would have easily been social distancing for this walk, so it’s unlikely I would have triggered the app in this part of the journey either.

The Shard on a cold foggy Saturday evening

I then had to wait around on the platform for about 5 minutes before the train. This would have met the 1 minute time period, but I was social distancing so that wouldn’t have been it. But then I was on the train for longer than 15 minutes. It wasn’t particularly busy, and I don’t think I was sat less than 2 metres from anyone. So I don’t think that was it either, but again, it could have been.

So I’m not sure at what point I broke the 1 metre 1 minute/2 metres 15 minute rule. But maybe at some point that day I did. At least the app thinks so anyway. Only another three days to go now anyway…

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Life event

Run Along

Towards the end of August, I felt like I was in a bit of a rut and wanted to do something different. Chatting to a friend, he had read about a challenge to run 5km every day in September and suggested we both do it. He obviously ended up not even starting the challenge, but I did. And I finished it. (And I roped in my two brothers too along the way.) Here’s my thoughts on it:

Variety – Even before I started I knew that I would want some variety – variety in when I ran, and variety in where I ran. In the end, this turned out to not be so much of a problem due to my changing work schedule over the month, including being away for two of the weeks.

Planning routes – The challenge was to run at least 5km per day. I was thinking of doing some significantly longer runs in there too, but in the end I decided against this. I generally aimed to have runs between 5.1 and 5.5km in length since the GPS sometimes cuts off bits so I wanted to make sure I definitely hit the 5km and target, but didn’t want to exceed it needlessly. Having decided I would do a different route each day, this meant a lot of time spent planning where to run. My ideal route would be a single loop, starting and ending at the same point. I reckon I spent about 1 minute of planning a route for every 5 minutes of actual running. This obviously depended on the route, but some routes were much more complex. I also needed to have backup sections that I could add on if I hadn’t reached the 5km target when I thought I would (which did happen a couple of times). Only twice did I do an “out-and-back” run when I ran for 2.5km and then turned around.

Distance – My total distance for the month was 156.77 km, which averages out at 5.23 km per day. My longest run was 5.66km whilst my shortest was 5.02km, but otherwise they mostly all fell into the 5.1-5.5km range.

Speed – My total running time for the month was 14 hours, 33 minutes and 10 seconds, with an average of 29 minutes and 6 seconds per run. But since the distances varied slightly, and the terrain and the routes varied every day it’s not possible to realistically compare them all. For example, one of the days I ran through a woodland at night time without a torch, so spent most of the run waving my arms in front of me to make sure I didn’t run into a tree. Knowing that I would have to run every day, I deliberately ran at a pace that was comfortable, rather than going full out (“marathon not a sprint”). Since none of my runs were races, there was also no incentive to actually run fast. My fastest run was one of the “out-and-backs” along a straight country road, which shows that turning corners and crossing other roads slows the pace down. My fastest run was on the final day, probably because I knew it was all over and I knew I didn’t have to run again the next day. [That’s what happens when you write a blog post with three days of activity left to do.]

Anyway, here’s it all plotted on a slightly complicated graph:

As can be seen, there’s not much of a trend across the month in terms of distance or time, other than a slightly above average length run is often followed by a slightly below average length run. The speed has also stayed fairly consistent across the month, although there is a potential increase towards the end of the month. This is probably because I knew what I was in for towards the end so I knew I could go a bit faster without having to pace myself for another 20-something days.

The hardest part wasn’t actually the running though. The hardest part wasn’t even finding the time to go for a run each day. The hardest part was probably actually having the motivation to go out running again each day. The weather was never particularly bad and the sunset/sunrise times were still reasonable, but it was sometimes a struggle to want to run again. Generally though, once I had started running it didn’t feel as bad.

Now that I’ve achieved this, am I pleased? Yes. Although I feel that I’m more pleased that I don’t have to run tomorrow. Was this the different thing in my life that I was looking for? Probably not, but it was fun to try. Will I do it again? No. Well, maybe. At least not until this is so far in the past that I’ve forgotten about how painful it was.

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Life event

Lightning Strikes Twice

I was planning to write the first part of this post at some point, but the second part is not what I wanted to write…


Back in January, I was out walking near Stonehenge in some fairly heavy rain. I had my waterproof jacket and trousers on and was feeling nice and dry. I stopped to took the occasional photo on my mobile, but otherwise it stayed in my trouser pocket, underneath my waterproof trousers.

When I got back to my hotel, I noticed the phone battery was low (not surprising since I’d had the GPS on all day), so I put it on to charge whilst I went off for a shower. When I returned, it had got itself stuck in a loop where it was turning on, coming up with some problem and then restarting again. It was also having problems charging and whatever I did, I couldn’t get it to start up again.

I do have mobile phone insurance which I have had to use once before. For a long time I was considering cancelling it as I hadn’t used it for so long, but fortunately I hadn’t gotten round to it yet. Unfortunately though, my BlackBerry Key2 wasn’t saveable, and even more unfortunately, as a non-mainstream phone, they couldn’t send me a direct replacement. I chose the cash replacement option and went off to get a more up to date Samsung S10 Lite.


Fast forward to this week, and on Monday I was heading home from work. Shortly before I got off the train, there was a very heavy downpour of rain which showed no signs of stopping (and didn’t for a couple of hours). Having learnt from my previous experience, I put my phone into the pocket of my waterproof jacket and didn’t think any further about it (although you can probably see where this is going…)

I was using my phone all evening, and it was only shortly before bed when I noticed that there was some condensation around the camera lenses. I turned the phone off and put it in a bag of rice to get the water out (as recommended on the internet).

The next morning I returned to my phone, and yes, it had worked and was now dried out. Unfortunately, it also wouldn’t turn back on again. I do wonder whether it would still work if I’d just left it on, or whether it would eventually have stopped working anyway as the insides dried out.

Either way, I’m glad that I still have the mobile phone insurance. After not needing it for over 5 years, I’ve now used it twice in eight months. Are mobile phones more susceptible to water damage now? Is the rain worse than it used to be? Am I just outside more? Whatever the answer, I’m back to the olden mobile phone-less days* until I find out whether my phone can be repaired or needs to be replaced again.

(*I am using an old phone temporarily, but I’m not planning to actually install any apps on it as it is, hopefully, just temporary.)

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Life event

Mebbies aye, Mebbies naw (Revisited)

I first started growing a beard/not shaving in mid-2014. How do I know this? Because I wrote a blog post about this at the time. I even ran a vote and 60% of people said I should keep the beard (there were only 5 votes though, possibly including myself).

At the weekend, after 6 years, I shaved off my beard. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Partly as I couldn’t remember what I looked like without it, but also because I had just let it grow for the whole of lockdown to see how long it could get, and it was getting slightly straggly and in need of some trimming. At the weekend I was also going to get my hair cut (after 6 months) so I decided it was the best time to try going beard-less.

The old days when I could do “fun” things with my beard vs. my current beard-less visage

Lots of people have commented on how different or much younger I look. I’m still slightly surprised myself when I see my reflection. I thought I would conduct another vote to see if consensus has changed in the last six years.

Should I grow the beard again?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

As before, leave a comment with any additional thoughts. Should I try to grow it even longer? Should I keep it shorter? Stay clean-shaven?

Categories
Life event Out and about

Solar Eclipse 2017

In my ongoing aim to photograph astronomical phenomena, I recently went to the USA to capture the 2017 solar eclipse. As with the super blood moon, it’s been described as a “once in a lifetime” event, however I saw the 1999 eclipse (in Romania) and I might go to the 2024 one too (also in the USA), so it’s probably just a “three times in a lifetime” event (which is probably more common than a lot of things).

Having bought a special filter for my camera to protect it from the sun, I connected my camera to my computer and set it up to take a photo every minute.

The first few shots were slightly out of focus but do show the moon gradually moving across the sun (or does the sun move behind the moon?).

The main issue was with the sun moving across the camera field of view and disappearing off the edge. The answer was to redirect the camera but sometimes it took time to re-find the sun (the viewfinder couldn’t be used because the filter wasn’t suitable for human use, and the electronic display doesn’t work when connected to the computer). Therefore I missed a few of the shots, but I still got enough to produce this awesome timelapse:

[ADDITION: This is over about a 3 hour period and each ‘sun’ is about 3-5 minutes apart]

And here’s a simpler linear version:

I also captured several images of the corona (after taking the filter off):

Following some post-processing in Photoshop, I produced a more detailed shot of the corona:

And here’s a shot of the sun without the moon blocking it:

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Life event

The Pizza Incident (aka Cheesegate)

Just over two weeks I was in a Surrey pub with some colleagues. It was a warm sunny afternoon so we were sat in the beer garden enjoying some drinks. I was getting hungry and the place had a special pizza oven so that seemed like the thing to go for. A few other people had already got one, so I ordered a pizza too.

As always, I ordered the spiciest pizza possible and waited for it to turn up. By the time it arrived, I was even hungrier and couldn’t wait to eat it. I grabbed a slice and took a bite…

Not only was it ridiculously spicy, but it was also almost 1000 degrees. In my shock and subsequent haste to put the slice down, I got some cheese down the front of my lip. It took me some time to notice since my mouth was literally on fire.

Anyway that bit of cheese burnt my lip and it later started to blister. A couple of days later, my lip was double its normal size and remained that way for a few days. It then started to scab over which made it look even worse.

Where I was going is this: during that time no-one asked me what had happened. Whether people assumed I had some horrible lip disease or had come across some terrible misadventure but were too afraid to ask, the actual reason was pizza related and probably less/more* exciting than you were hoping. Hopefully that clears it up…

*[delete as appropriate]

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Life event

Super Blood Moon

So this morning, was the Super Blood Moon 2015 (technically called a Supermoon Lunar Eclipse).

It was described as a once in a generation event since the next one isn’t until 2033. I have no idea what this actually means since that’s only 18 years time and I intend to still be around then.

Anyway, I set my alarm for 3am in order to see the red moon at its peak (3:47am). I had intended to climb a nearby hill, however I decided I was much more comfortable at home, plus the moon was visible straight out of my bedroom window so I decided to just stay in.

It was quite strange to see a red moon, but I was expecting it to be a bit bigger. I’m sure it was bigger than normal, but I’m sure I’ve seen it larger before.

It took a while to work out the settings for my camera and I ended up taking 10 completely black images before I discovered that increasing the ISO allowed the moon to be recorded (even though I could see it in the viewfinder). The internet suggests that a focal length of 1000mm is best for moon photos, but my maximum lens only goes up to 250mm so the moon is still quite small in my photos. The alternative is to have a reference object to show the size (e.g. a landmark) but there aren’t many of them outside my bedroom window. I’m sure the settings I used weren’t ideal, and it probably would have been better if I was outdoors, but here are some of the photos I took:


[Note: for some reason one of the photos doesn’t appear to be loading. If it’s still not loading by tomorrow, I’ll have another look]