life

The Morning Commute

Recently, a Buzzfeed list has done the rounds which has resonated well with my fellow commuters. It reminded me of this old, long-unfinished post that I actually started writing in early 2011 but never got round to finishing. Still, as it has a few points the Buzzfeed article missed, I decided it would be worth finally finishing it…

Let’s face it, the morning commute is, for just about everyone, pretty horrible. Even if you removed all of the people and had an entire train to yourself that wouldn’t leave the station unless you were on it, you’d still have the getting up, getting to the station, and the inevitable problem that all the free seats would be either broken, covered in chewing gum, or have a stain and odour about them that you wouldn’t find all that comforting.

Despite that, the worst thing about the morning commute is usually the people you’re travelling with. You share your journey with hundreds of other people on your train alone, and they all have to be somewhere quicker than you do for far more important reasons. You’d have thought that the free world wouldn’t be quite so dependent on so many people.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the most annoying things people can do to make your morning commute just that little bit more unpleasant.

 

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Dentistry

Yesterday was really quite a unusual day.

To frame the story, one important piece of information needs to be noted. I am truly phobic of dentists. For almost ten years – from the time my mum said ‘you’re eighteen, sort yourself out’ – I didn’t go to the dentist, even when one of my teeth mostly rotted away. Last year, however,my resolved to finally go to the dentist and get things sorted out, and hopefully remove an increasing mental burden I was carrying around with me. I finally got to the dentist last May, and with being bounced around a couple of hospitals to find one prepared to do all of the work under sedation, it was only yesterday when I eventually got any actual work done.

I was so scared going into it. The only way I was able to function for the days leading up to the treatment was by distracting myself, by ring fencing the idea that I was going to the dentist to have treatment for the first time in over a decade into a corner of my mind and shutting it out completely.

By the morning of the treatment, that shuttered corner of my mind took up a significant portion of my brain. I barely said anything to my wife on the journey to Guy’s Hospital.

After a brief pause in the waiting room, my name was called. I froze up completely, momentarily unsure what to do, in a stereotypical rabbit-in-the-headlights moment. After a few moments, I got up, and followed the nurse to my fate.

The mental ring fence grew. By this point it was having to occupy so much of my conscious mind in an attempt to try and hide from me what was going on I couldn’t actually talk.

“What did you have for breakfast?” the nurse asked, ensuring I’d followed their guidelines on the short walk.

“Uh…”

I genuinely couldn’t answer. I vaguely recalled what I had eaten, but the words to describe it – and the way to vocalise them – were gone, hidden away in the locked off part of my brain that was preoccupying itself with doing anything but thinking about the situation I was in. A few other questions followed, and each time I had to look to my wife to answer. I simply couldn’t speak.

I arrived at the dentist’s chair. Unlike my previous checkups, where I had initially refused to sit in the chair, this time I sat down without complaint, resigned to my fate.

The dentist and nurse talked to me a little more. I managed to recover a few words; I was able to tell the nurse I had “cooked bread” for breakfast as she swabbed my arm for the IV. They stuck a pulse meter in my finger, then got a bit annoyed when I started nervously tapping it on the arm of the chair. Looking at the IV inserted intoned my arm, I decided I wanted to take a picture of it. I don’t know why, despite the fear, I still wanted to take a photo. I got my phone from my pocket, but then decided it would be a silly idea and put it back.

Then they added the sedative. I remember saying my eyeballs felt funny – then the next thing I knew, I was sitting in a recovery station with a tissue in my mouth.

This is obviously where things get a bit hazy. What I went in for was conscious sedation, so I was awake the whole time, but I have no memory of it whatsoever. None at all.

So, then, it was naturally a surprise to find I had taken a couple of images of the catheter and the pulse monitor and had uploaded them to Facebook. I also also had a short, badly-spelt conversation with my dad via Facebook messenger, and apparently decided to wear one of those little puke bowls as a bowler hat whilst in the recovery room. I also managed to have enough failed attempts at unlocking my phone it got to the point where it had locked me out for five minutes, which was probably for the best.

Eventually the sedative had worn off enough for them to let me home. At this point I was pretty lucid; it was I that needed to guide my wife out of the building. That said, all this is really foggy at this point. I remember waking up with the tissue in my mouth, because I took a picture of it.

wpid-photo-28-feb-2013-1103

I don’t really remember leaving the building, but I remember being aware of it. I vaguely recall my wife getting a tiny bit lost at London Bridge Station. I also remember her falling asleep on the train home (I don’t, however, remember posting a picture of her asleep to Facebook, but apparently I did). But the few bits of the journey home I have any recollection of are like a dream, or that disjointed, automated journeying you do when heading home when very drunk. The first decent memory I have of the day is waking up with my cat on my legs having fallen asleep on the sofa.

I don’t, for instance, remember commenting repeatedly on the quality of the soap in the toilets. The weird thing is, a lot of what I did whilst ‘under’ was related to the few thoughts that were rattling around in my head before they dosed me.

It was a weird day. I have no recollection at all of the dental procedure, I wasn’t even aware of it happening, but I was aware of the rest of the day; it’s only in the intervening time that the memory has faded like waking from a dream. It was surreal.

What I’ve learnt for next time – which is worryingly next Friday – is to relinquish my phone to my wife before the sedative kicks in. Which will be less amusing for the people who follow me on Facebook, I guess, but at least I won’t then check my own Facebook the next day and go, what the fuck?

Finding A Place

Picture: unrelated. | Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As of late I’ve struggled a bit with this blog. Since last summer I’ve been concentrating mostly on Creative Splurges, which isn’t doing all that badly (it has over 300 followers). This blog, intended for the most part to contain personal rants, anecdotes and the odd amusing discovery, has slipped into the background quite significantly over the last few months.

This is partly because Creative Splurges is taking up a fair chunk of my spare time, in terms of processing images and writing posts, partly because the inspiration is lacking (this time last year almost anything turned into a blog post in my head; as of late this hasn’t been happening), and partly because some of what used to constitute content on this blog has become tweets and been left at that. Currently most of my stray observations end up expressed in 140 characters or less.

It’s not just rob-howard.com that has suffered. Outdated by Lunchtime, my fledgling technology blog, hasn’t had a post since January. It’s not like I haven’t been keeping track of technology news, far from it, but for some reason the urge to write about it has been lacking.

Something happened last October. I don’t know what that was, but most of my blogs fell largely silent around that time as I became distracted or unmotivated on the whole blogging front. It was late November before I managed to kick myself back into rhythm on Creative Splurges, but none of my other blogs really followed suit. Since the start of 2012 Creative Splurges has published 45 posts; here has posted six, and Outdated by Lunchtime only two. This should give an indication of where my priorities lie.

I want this to change. That said, I still see Creative Splurges as my priority. In many ways I have to, since it has approximately infinity more followers than this blog (this blog, technically, having none, and Splurges having over 300). I’ve managed to keep a post a month on this blog (which, I admit, is a big reason why this post exists), and I have over two dozen drafts in various stages of completion, of which some could still conceivably see the light of day. I’ve made a couple of half-hearted attempts at working on some of these over the last month or so, but these haven’t really gotten anywhere. I have some time off coming up; maybe I’ll be able to find the time to have another look.

Outdated by Lunchtime is a touch trickier. I could just return to what the blog was doing from time to time, and parrot breaking technology news, but that’s not particularly satisfying, even if it does drive hits to the site. What I would far rather do is comment more objectively on the technology rumours and stories. I’d done it from time to time – and contributed some to apparently-now-defunct tech blog GrindGadget – but if I get Lunchtime going again it will contain predominantly if not solely this sort of commentary. It won’t be quite as simple to revive the blog compared to rob-howard.com simply because the content on ObL is far more topical and the few drafts that I had been gradually working on are now mostly obsolete.

I’m not making any promises. Life is pretty busy at the minute, and I’m still enjoying working on Creative Splurges too much to consider dialling it back just yet. But never fear; its siblings are still on my radar.

Anyway, I’d better go. I took 360 photos yesterday and I want to try to get them processed, edited and posted on Creative Splurges before the week is out.

Ta ta
Rob

10 things I've learned from cooking for myself

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing a lot more cooking around the house. It stemmed from a discussion with Holly about how she tends to prepare the menu and do the majority of the cooking during a week, with me only stepping in for certain meals, mainly ones that involve chips, or easy things like making a pasta bake from a jar.

So, in the middle of April I decided to get more involved. I’m not sure why now has worked when all previous attempts to get me to cook have failed, but I’d say over the last couple of weeks I’ve probably cooked more than Holly, although I openly admit she has done a lot of ingredient preparing.

I’ve cooked a variety of things (as I type some stuffed peppers are in the oven for tonight’s dinner), and over the course of my baby steps in this culinary journey (jeez that is so clichéd. Pretend I didn’t type that) I’ve learnt various things about cooking and, by extension, myself.

  1. I get garlic and ginger confused in my mind, although not in my mouth or my nose, so hopefully I’ll avoid and disasters on that front.
  2. I use a lot of spoons when cooking.
  3. iPads may not randomly close and lose your page whilst your hands are full like a recipe book will, but the screen timeout will still always wait until the most inopportune moment.
  4. My lack of confidence in the kitchen manifests itself as striving for perfection. “It says 1cm chunks in the recipe. These are 1.2cm. I need to start again.”
  5. “The juice of one lemon” is a difficult amount to measure when coming out of one of those squirty bottles.
  6. Also, too much lemon juice can make food taste like washing up liquid.
  7. Saffron is not a yellow powdered spice, and apparently costs more per kilo than heroin, gold or bull semen. Despite this, these are not suitable substitutes.
  8. Cooking vegetarian food reduces the fear of food poisoning.
  9. Most foods are far less poisonous than you fear – not all vegetables or meats are blowfish-like with only a tiny, edible portion surrounded by sickness and death.
  10. Baking cakes from a packet mix is fun and easy, but makes you feel guilty when people start complimenting you for how nice they are.

I’m not sure yet if cooking for me is a passing fad, whether I’ll actually improve, or if I’ll just be capable of reading from a recipe book from the rest of my life. The ultimate test will come when I run out of recipes from the iPad ‘Good Food’ app I’m currently using.

Sex education

From the “it wasn’t like that in my day” files, I present a headline from the BBC News website:

When I was younger we just had to sit through a short video about willies and where to put them. It seems they’ve expanded the syllabus quite a bit since then. These days it probably even includes Scarlett Johansson and a section about how to tell real from faked celebrity nude shots.

Filters

I’m quite partial to shopping on Amazon. Not only because they have pretty good prices and really quick delivery, but because of the nifty corrections they’ve built up between products by monitoring people purchasing habits for more than a decade. It’s quite common to see a ‘people also often buy this’ or ‘people sometimes buy this instead’ link on a product page which can sometimes bag you a bargain or find a better product than what you were previously going to buy.

Where I find them hit-and-miss, however, is their product emails they sometimes send out. Not the standard advertising ones, but the ones that claim “as someone who has recently browsed our selection of [one type of product], we thought you’d like to know about our deals in this area, or some related items.”

My problem with those emails is twofold. Firstly, they’ll often do something like send an email headed  “as someone who recently browsed our selection of external hard drives, here’s our best deals in hard drives”, despite the fact that you actually bought a hard drive whilst browsing their store and as such no longer actually need a hard drive. Those emails also sometimes highlight a bargain you missed the first time round but it’s too late now because you’ve already bought something else.

They also sometimes have confusion when suggesting related products. For instance, the email I got this morning, headed “bestselling filters”. As you have recently browsed our selection of filters, it said, you might be interested in these bestsellers. It then went on to display an array of various filters of various prices. Fortunately, they were all compatible – these sort of emails also have the habit of saying ‘you’ve browsed some Canon lenses, have you considered these Nikon alternatives?’ as if my decision on lens manufacturer was decreed by features and price, instead of whether the thing will actually attach to my camera.

Well, I say all of the filters were compatible. There was one that didn’t quite sit amongst all of the others. I have no idea how I’m going to attach this to my camera:

Technical terminology

One of the good things about the job I do is you can learn a lot from working on educational projects. I can now probably outclass most medical students on my knowledge of the examination procedure for the cranial nerves and I’m more than aware how to not to do a technical presentation.

Of course, at the start of the project, I’m just about as clueless as anyone about whatever it is I’m working on. Take my current project, for instance. I’m working on a series of short podcasts for dentistry students, which involves a lot of shots of torture devices medical equipment with peculiar names.

This ultimately caused trouble when naming the clips in Final Cut Pro. Not knowing what the hell most of the stuff was, I had to resort to slightly less ‘official’ names:

It got worse when I then started reading the script in order to actually complete the edit, as I found that the script made use of the more traditional names. I had to just hope that the things in the script were the things on the screen. The client viewed the videos this morning without any complaints, however, so I guess I’m in the clear. Which also means that a ‘pokey stick’ is in fact an interdental brush.

I should also mention that working on these podcasts finally taught me the correct method for brushing my teeth. I guess you’re never too late to learn.