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Archive for the category “Thoughts”

Fitbit ChargeHR

Over the last year or so, I’ve been using the FitBit Flex wristband to keep track of my daily steps, sleep statistics and so on.  I’ve been generally impressed with its ease of use and so on, as well as the integration/communication with the FitBit App.

As it worked out, the only thing I wasn’t too impressed with was the strap itself – in that year-ish, I got through two straps, and had just ordered a replacement for the second. That’s not ideal, and is something of a design flaw. (I’ve let them know about it, so we’ll see what happens)

At the time I got it, I was a bit annoyed by a perceived lack of functionality within the Flex, so I was interested to see that they’ve released some more wearable things with more functionality – the Charge, ChargeHR and Surge (which is almost a smart-watch in its own right) – and I ended up getting a new ChargeHR.

Because I’m exercising more and so on, I was wanting a device to track heart-rate and so on as well, and the ChargeHR does that. I don’t need the full functionality of the Surge (plus I didn’t want to be taking myself up to that price point) but this one does pretty much what I want, particularly in combination with the phone.

The strap on this is a bit more obtrusive than that of the Flex – I can feel it as I’m typing this, for example – but all told I’m so far impressed with the device. And it has some of the extra things I wrote about a year back – and the Surge has built-in GPS as well, which was another.

It’s interesting seeing how these devices improve over time. It’d still be nice to see more innovation, but at least they’re doing more, and still maintaining a decent battery life and so on.

I’ve only had it a couple of days so far, but will probably write more about the ChargeHR in a couple of months’ time, as I’m more used to it.


At the moment, I’m doing regular drives on the Northbound M1, which is currently subject to no less than 15 miles (Fifteen Miles! For fuck’s sake!) of roadworks in one stretch replacing the central barrier, and another stretch installing ‘smart motorways’, in a similar way to how the Southbound M1 was screwed over a couple of years back.

Through both of these stretches, we’ve got the 50mph speed limit and ‘average speed cameras’, which seem to also contain some kind of mind-control that turns the majority of drivers into zombies who can’t see an empty lane, but can see a speed camera and slow down for it. (The phrase ‘average speed’ is utterly beyond them, of course)

It amazes me how bad the driving standards are in these roadworks zones – it’s as though people stick to the lane they were in when they entered the roadworks, and aren’t able to move from it. They don’t move in (or even pull out to overtake) despite any available space, or someone else driving even slower ahead.

I don’t know what can be done to change it – it’s just a human nature thing, I guess – but dear God, it’s bloody annoying to be surrounded by that many dickwhistles.

Night Will Fall

Over the weekend, as part of Holocaust Memorial Day, Channel4 showed a documentary called “Holocaust – Night Will Fall” about the films made by the allied forces as they discovered Nazi Germany’s various concentration and death-camps at the end of World War 2, and recorded what they saw and discovered.

While absolutely vile – despite descriptions, you never really see the true results of those camps – it was also essential viewing, and a fascinating story as well.  No modern film can truly show the effects of emaciation on bodies – no actor, regardless of dedication, would put themselves to that level – so you might see people being “very thin”, but the recordings on Night Will Fall put all of that into perspective. It’s not something you can look away from, but nor can you believe either the way the bodies are/were, or the sheer number of deaths. The piles of spectacles, the boxes of dentures, the sacks of human hair – they all show how many died, but you still can’t actually understand the sheer scale of the deaths.  I truly don’t think anyone can envision millions of bodies.

The other impressive thing about the programme was that Channel4 showed it without adverts. A ninety-minute film, straight through. I thought that said a lot about Channel4 (although the more cynical would say “who would actually buy advertising space in the middle of a holocaust documentary anyway?”) but it’s still a commitment on the part of C4, and I fully believe that should be acknowledged and respected, as they’re primarily a commercial channel.

The film/documentary itself, I just think everyone should see it, and that it should be shown in schools as part of a default history curriculum. That sort of thing just should never happen again. Ever.

Office Space

With the way work is going this year, I’m going to be looking again at renting some office space for the time being.

Last year I rented a desk in a shared space for a while, and that worked fairly well, but wasn’t perfect for a number of reasons. So while that’s still an option, I’m looking at stepping things up a bit this time round, and actually doing a proper office.

As with all large towns, there’s a number of options available in both Milton Keynes and Bedford, and I’m looking at my first one tomorrow.  It sounds promising – designed for small and start-up businesses, monthly contract, central Milton Keynes and so on – but I need to see it and figure out the necessities.  I’ll write more about it in the coming days, I’m sure.

Why do I need some space like this?

Well, I’ve got a lot of work coming up, and while working from home is OK, I find that it’s occasionally difficult to keep up motivation when there’s no real push to be “at work”. Also, I find it’s suddenly very easy to not actually interact with anyone for several days a week, and that’s not ideal either.  I know I could easily become very hermit-like and insular, and I don’t actually want to do so.

So renting an office space will at least give me back a commute, a journey to/from work, and because the building is shared with a number of others, it’ll probably allow me to make some connections and interactions along the way. Never a bad thing.

Renting a desk is OK – but limits me to the times the main office is open, which I found more restrictive than it could’ve been, and limited the available hours I had.  I’m hoping that a rented office will give me more flexibility, enabling me to do longer hours when necessary and so on.

Anyway, we’ll see what happens and how it all shakes out. I’ll know more by the end of Tuesday…


Financially, January for me is always a bit of an odd one – mainly through being slightly disorganised, but slightly through the whole ‘working as a contractor’ thing.

For a number of reasons, January has a number of extra expenses in it that are a pain in the arse. High among those extras is the car MOT/service, and car-tax/road-tax renewal, which come in as well as the usual monthly bills.  Additionally, a couple of utility bills come in within that time as well – quarterly billing being the shit-head bastard it is – which also adds to it.

And of course December is always a short month (i.e. I don’t work the full month, because it’s got a bundle of Bank Holidays and so on around the Festering Season) so unless I work the bit between Christmas and New Year, it all becomes a bit tight anyway.

All combines, it just makes January a bit interesting. Doable, but interesting.

The car MOT is booked in for this time next week. I’ve already had to buy two new tyres – I know they’re borderline OK, but that means it’s time to replace them, I’m not risking an MOT fail and having to buy them from the garage! – and also a new headlight bulb, as that went while I was driving last week.

So yeah, it’s all a bit interesting, but still fine and dandy. Life could be worse, frankly.

Health Figures

Back in December I got a number of blood tests as part of the whole “keeping track of things” when it comes to my health. It’s not hypochondria – my family history has a number of fun things including heart issues, diabetes and malfunctioning thyroid glands, so it’s worth getting checked every so often.

Annoyingly, the only information I had about the results was an insanely basic “don’t worry, your heart stuff’s OK” auto-letter from the GP. Nothing about the other figures which were of more interest and/or relevance.

I had made an appointment for last Monday to find out more. Also annoying, as it was something like three weeks between blood-results and appointment, but I figure that if there’s anything important they’d have let me know sooner.  And then I forgot the bloody appointment, and the phone’s “reminder” went off an hour after the appointment.

So on Friday I popped in to the GP surgery – they do an ‘open surgery’ a couple of times a week – and got to see a GP.

As it turns out, the figures are actually fine, which I’m pleased about.

My cholesterol level is 4, my blood-sugar 4.5. These are, apparently, great – and the cholesterol level has dropped significantly over the last year. Apparently my thyroid/thyroxin level is fine – although I do find that GPs don’t tend to explain any of this shit in ways that mean anyone can look at other information. I’ve got the actual figure, but I failed to get the reference values, so I don’t have any further information about where my figures sit in the general scale of things.

Apparently though, there is currently only a 4% chance of my developing heart-related issues in the next ten years. Now obviously I’m aware that Fate, Destiny and the Gods are capricious bastards at the best of times, but as these things go, I can live with that 4% chance.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m resting on those figures, or assuming that all’s good so I don’t have to worry. I’m still working on improving my health and so on, and intend to keep on doing so. But at least I’m starting from an OK position for the time being.

Job Envy

It’s not often that I get envious of someone else’s job – but over the last month there’s been one man on TV whose life I could envy deeply. That man is Giles Clark, a tiger expert based at the Australia Zoo in Queensland. (Which is the one founded by Steve Irwin, which explains a lot)

He’s been the subject – well, the human subject, at least – of the BBC series “Tigers about the House”, where he raised two Sumatran tiger cubs by hand in his own house.

The Australia Zoo’s tigers are all fully acclimatised to having humans around – which allows them to go for walks with their keepers and so on, as well as lots of enrichment and stimulus that simply doesn’t happen in most zoos around the world. It’s been quite a spectacular thing to see – particularly the tigers leaping into their huge pool (tigers love to swim) with the cameras right there with them – and yeah, decidedly envious.

Additionally, because they’re so acclimatised to people, it means the Zoo can also offer “Up-close experiences” with the tigers (and other animals) for a fee. All the money made from those experiences – as well as photo-opportunities and the like – goes towards tiger conservation projects, and the series included Clark’s trips out to Sumatra to see those projects as well, and be involved with them.

I’m not a great fan of zoos in general – I don’t like seeing animals in cages, regardless of the size of those cages – but recognise that they now have a massive use in keeping certain species from extinction. But if there’s got to be zoos, I’d far rather they were like this, providing so much more than just “animals in enclosures”.

But yes, definitely envious of that kind of job. It’s one of the very few times where I look and think “If I’d could go back now and re-do secondary school etc., knowing what I do now, that’s the kind of work I’d aim for”

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