Nearly there…

This winter feels like it’s been the coldest and longest for a number of years, yes there have been a couple of freaky weeks when we’ve had cold spells with lots of snow in previous years, but this winter has seen months of freezing cold winds, ice, heavy snow, then back to ice, more snow, heavy rain, flooding, fog, the works.  One could say that’s what winter used to be like, and it may be true, but we are living in a time of freaky weather; next winter could be very mild (which is better for cycling, so long as it isn’t raining all of the time).  On the plus side, I did get a chance to try out my mountain bike in a variety of snowy conditions on the roads and in the forest, the general result was ‘not really ridable and damn cold!’, there was also the sense that not many other people were out so if I did have a fall on my own then I could be stuck for a long time, not a very sensible thing to do unless you can go with a group.

The current forecast is for much warmer weather on its way, I really hope this will be the last of the cold weather as the mild spell we had a few weeks ago was followed by yet another freezing cold blast which resulted in ice and frost again, not good for the wildlife that may have just decided to come out of hibernation.

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Sainsbury’s Razor vs Gillette

For many years now I’ve been using Gillette razors, they work well and give a consistently satisfying result, but every time I need to buy new razor blades I wonder if there could be a cheaper alternative as even with the bulk-buy blade packs it doesn’t seem like I’m getting my money’s worth, and they always force me to buy a new handle in the packs too which feels like a waste, the Gillette handles are fairly bullet proof and could potentially last for years.

After reading a few comments and reviews online I decided to conduct my own tests, starting with the Sainsbury’s own-brand 6 blades ‘advance system razor with trimmer’ (do not be confused by this and think that it comes with six blades, it contains just one cartridge that has six blades in it), the comparison will always be with the Gillette Fusion ProGlide FlexBall which is what I normally use – the pack I buy is usually from my local Superdrug shop – https://www.superdrug.com/Gillette/Gillette-Fusion-ProGlide-FlexBall-Razor-Plus-9-Blades-Pack/

Side-by-side the razors look similar, with a rubber strip along the bottom and a moisturising strip across the top, and a metallic strip down each side; the main differences are six slightly thinner blades in the Sainsbury’s vs five slightly wider spaced blades in the Gillette, and the FlexBall in the Gillette.  Both have head tilt and a cartridge quick-release button.

Sainsbury's vs Gillette razors

Sainsbury’s advance system razor on the left, Gillette Fusion ProGlide FlexBall on the right.

Starting on a Monday morning from approximately three day’s beard growth, I used Morrisson’s Sensitive Shave Foam and shaved the right side with the Gillette then the left side with the Sainsbury’s, following my usual method.

Both razors did a fine job of clearing away the weekend’s growth, neither snagged or pulled my hairs, no cuts or scrapes, the beard trimmer on the Sainsbury’s worked well to get those tight hairs around the nostrils, by the end of the shave I really could not tell the difference in terms of closeness or finish.  My only observation would be that the Gillette was slightly easier to rinse than the Sainsbury’s, probably due to the wider spaced blades, but had I not had the Gillette for comparison I doubt I would have noticed or cared as the Sainsbury’s was still easy to rinse.

As for the FlexBall, I hardly noticed the difference in feel between the two razors, the Sainsbury’s did feel slightly more rigid but it didn’t seem to affect the shave experience or results.  A gimmick?  Perhaps.  Worth paying extra for?  Probably not.  At the end of the day it’s personal choice, the Gillette may suit some people far better than own-brand offerings, but from my results so far I’d say there’s definitely a good potential for saving a few quid by using the Sainsbury’s advance system razor.

I will now use the Sainsbury’s razor to see how long the cartridge lasts before it starts to rip my face off, then compare this to the Gillette cartridge which I will use after that.  Check back here in the comments for the results in a week or so!

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So much for the iMac SSD Project

When I first got my hands on a nice new 27″ i5 iMac I was amazed at it’s capabilities, I used it for everything from video editing and web browsing to games and emulation, however as the years passed things seemed slower and slower (or perhaps my expectations grew faster and faster), so I decided to try replacing the optical drive with a nice shiny new SSD.  I achieved this by following one of the readily available guides on the internet, purchasing a special optical drive bracket to hold the SSD (the same size as a laptop hard drive, so no doubt the bracket already existed for laptop owners to fit a second hard drive), the results were brilliant – instant speed boost beyond what the iMac was originally capable of in terms of system responsiveness, there was however a drawback… Due to the way the Mac (perhaps it is the hardware, perhaps MacOS, I can’t say) handles hard drives it would always wait for the internal hard drive to wake from sleep before it would do what was asked of it, as it seemed logical to allow the internal hard drive to sleep when not in use; this was also an annoyance when the iMac would wake to check for updates in the middle of the night, as I could hear the hard drive spin up and run (the iMac currently lives in my bedroom).

A few years of this, the trade-off between waiting for the internal hard drive to wake and the speed boost the SSD gave when loading and saving data, and I was happy, until one day the system suffered with a few successive brown-outs that my UPS didn’t manage to protect against!  After that moment the SSD started to behave erratically, the system would randomly pause for 30 seconds or more, I was rather concerned that I would lose everything at any moment so I quickly removed the SSD and put it in an external USB case, bracket and all, and ran as many tests as I could, even hooked it up directly to my PC to run low level tests, no faults were found.  I subsequently ran the iMac from the external USB SSD until I could find a place for almost 1TB of data that was filling the internal hard drive, so that I could clone the SSD back onto that internal hard drive and go back to how it was originally; that has just been completed (I had to bring a spare 1TB backup drive out of retirement for the purpose).

So far things have been calm, no random system pauses, the system still waits for the internal hard drive to spin up before it will do anything, but at least I don’t have an external SSD taking up space on my desk.  Once I am happy that I have everything off that SSD I will blitz it and see what tests I can run on it, I’m convinced there is a hardware fault but it may not be something that software tests can detect, only a burn-in test or regular use will reveal it as being there.

Next time I will fit just an SSD, no regular hard drive, but at the moment the price for large capacity SSDs is ridiculously inflated so it won’t be happening unless I can find a bargain.

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Bye Bye Photobucket

Question: Why would a photo hosting site disable embedding?

This is the only reason I think most people would use any photo hosting site, particularly one such as Photobucket.  Forums often don’t have the space to host photos uploaded by their users so they rely on embedding, for such a large site such as Photobucket to suddenly turn this feature off is utterly ludicrous.  By doing so they have effectively pushed away most of their users, I for one probably won’t be able to find all of the forum posts I’ve ever made and update the picture links to a different host, nor do I have the server space to host all of my own photos online (which would surely be the safest thing to do).

For now it’s going to be a slow background project for me to update as many image links as I can, as I have to get the photo, upload it to another host (currently I’m gambling on google not shafting us sometime down the line), get the link, then find the post and update it; each one can take several minutes, it’s going to take a while to do them all (and that’s just on my own hosted blogs).

I suppose it gives me something to do, it’s just annoying that I have to do it at all.

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Troy Lee Wrist Supports WS5205

I’ve been suffering from aching wrists for quite a while now, on and off for a few years at least since I started working with computers every day, after changing jobs last year I found myself sitting at a computer … Continue reading

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Catchphrase saved my life

Catchphrase, and a few other long-running gameshows that have stood the test of time, is one of those programmes that one can watch at just about any time and enjoy, which is very good for someone suffering with low mood or maybe just needs something to fill half an hour; it’s good light entertainment that anyone can get into and enjoy, even if they’re no good at getting the catch phrases.

Recently while learning how to cope with depression, I have been making good use of the on-demand services that are available these days, as well as YouTube clips; be it ‘Scenes We’d Like To See’ from Mock The Week or the entire back catalogue of Who’s Line Is It Anyway (surely the spiritual predecessor of Mock The Week), there are hours and hours of funny, light-hearted entertainment programmes available to watch at any time, great for filling those evening or late night times when sleeping is difficult and you just need a distraction from things that keep going through the mind.

That said, in this world of on-demand television programming where almost everything can be had straight away (sometimes for a price), it’s good to make a point of sitting down and watching something when it’s actually being aired, something to look forward to during the week and maybe gather the family or friends together, something to discuss the next day at the office (or school, if you’re younger).  Sometimes modern life seems so hectic and rushed, it’s good to make a regular appointment with yourself to do a certain thing or watch a certain programme, even if it’s just ‘sometime this week’, or even one episode a day.

When it comes to doing things, a list can really help; things to sell on eBay, crossing them off as they go, or working my way through my DVD collection, keeping track allows me to see progress, get a feeling that I’ve achieved something, making a daunting task smaller by breaking it down into manageable chunks.

 

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Chocolate review – Montezuma’s Sea Dog

First of all as this is my first review of the chocolate I eat let me say that I am a dark chocolate kinda guy, much prefer it over the usual milk chocolate we see a lot of on the supermarket shelves, I suppose it’s the more intense cocoa flavour as opposed to the very sweet taste of milk chocolate that I prefer, plus the idea that it’s better for me (less sugar and fat) and the more interesting flavour variations.

I first noticed Montezuma in a local scoop shop a few years ago, since then it’s been on my list of brands I know I will enjoy, along with Green & Blacks, Toblerone and Chocolate Orange.

Sea Dog – Dark Chocolate With Lime and Sea Salt

This is one of those combinations that one might initially have thought ‘No way!’ which is shortly followed by ‘Although… It could actually work…’ as the idea of those flavours mixing together go through the mind.

I’m not one to eat an entire bar of chocolate in one sitting, I tend to have a few chunks across a day, a single 100g bar might last me a week.

Having now finished this bar I can say it was better than it sounds, the taste combination could be considered entertaining as the subtle salty taste is followed shortly by a definite hint of lime, and don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all done with artificial flavours – the ingredients are 99% dark chocolate and then sea salt and lime oil, although it’s always a disappointment to read Soya Lecithin in there as an emulsifier (really not necessary, I’ve tasted plenty of great chocolate without it).

This bar is stated as vegan and free from gluten, colourings, preservatives & GM. More information available at the Montezuma website: https://www.montezumas.co.uk/

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Quick advice on low mood

Just a few things I have learned over the past few weeks and months while dealing with depression and my mood has been up and down…

Alcohol is a depressant.  It may seem like a good idea to drink to loosen up and forget about our woes for an hour or two, but ultimately unless we’re having a good time to start off with (e.g. out with friends) it will do more harm than good.  Best avoided if feeling a bit down, indeed on one occasion I started a glass of cider and just couldn’t bring myself to drink most of it, even the taste just seemed bitter to me, a disappointing waste of a perfectly good drink that I would have enjoyed under better circumstances.

Sugary foods can cause wild mood swings.  It may seem obvious, everyone probably knows that a lot of sugar will result in a sugar ‘high’, but then comes the ‘low’ and this is when things can turn bad.  A small amount of sugar should be OK, so one or two sweets after a meal, but a large slice of cake covered in icing sugar with a sugary filling is probably not OK; there are plenty of foods that contain high amounts of sugar too such as bread that can contribute to an unseen high intake of sugar.

Omega 3 is supposed to help improve mood, whether this is true or not doesn’t really matter that much, the idea that it helps may be enough for most people.  Oily fish is perhaps one of the best sources, such as fresh salmon from a fishmonger (poached or baked in tin foil) or nuts and seeds; having a selection of healthy snacks instead of sugary sweets while watching a film or evening TV is far better than sweets anyway, not least for our teeth.

On the subject of teeth, a little tip my dental hygienist told me was that it normally takes about 30 minutes for our mouth to ‘recover’ after eating, and it doesn’t normally matter whether it’s been sugary food or not, if we constantly snack or drink sugary / fizzy drinks then it’s like a constant barrage against our mouth and teeth; eating in one sitting and then only having neutral drinks (e.g. water) helps our teeth to remain strong; brushing should ideally be done at least 30 minutes after eating, as the harsh action will do harm when the mouth is still in ‘recovery’ mode.  So, if you’re going to have a snack in the evening it’s better to do it in one sitting, possibly finishing off with a slice of cheese which helps to neutralise mouth acid and also aids in the digestion of fat, then give your teeth a rest before brushing.

Finally, dark chocolate is a taste worth acquiring – much better than the cheap milk chocolate which is mostly just fat and sugar, a high cocoa content is said to actually help improve mood.  I certainly enjoy a good dark chocolate with a subtle flavour such as mint or orange, the taste alone helps to put a smile on my face, and the lower sugar and fat content means that it shouldn’t have too much negative impact health-wise (if eaten in moderation of course).  I find anything around 70% cocoa or higher is best, there are a few really interesting brands that I favour including Green & Blacks and Montezuma if you can find them, some supermarkets don’t stock the best ones, only the ones they think will sell the quickest.  Currently Sainsbury’s stock the Dark Chocolate Orange and Dark Toblerone which are also very nice.

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Facebook is a tricky customer

Facebook, the current favoured social interaction platform by most people.  I have a tendency to post silly things for my own amusement and in the hope that others will share my sense of humour, this doesn’t always work out well and has on more than one occasion caused major upset for the people involved; to cut a long story short, I need to be smarter about how I use Facebook, if I can’t be trusted to make sensible comments then I shouldn’t make them (as the old saying goes – if you haven’t got anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all), to remove temptation I have unfollowed several people, I will no longer see their posts in my Facebook news feed, however they are still on my friends list.  I don’t have a lot of people on my friends list to start off with, I don’t feel the need to friend someone just because they appear in the suggested list of ‘people I may know’.

The primary use for Facebook for me now is to find and interact with local interest groups, the idea being to try to find people to join in with in the real world, or also just to share photos and hints and tips for projects and hobbies.

One skill I need to learn is how to find like-minded people, potential real-world friends who share an interest or way of thinking with me; if I can make a few good friends in the process to share my interests with then it will help enormously to enrich my life and make those long working weeks worth while.  There is only so much one can learn and achieve alone with nobody to push us or inspire us, I need to be encouraged to go that bit further, to be that bit braver on the mountain bike trail, to create memories worth talking about.  I have been like this in the past, and I’m sure I can be again.

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A Bad Winter

Since my last post things have not been all that good, a family illness and family friends passing away / experiencing serious illness, not to mention all the doom and gloom in the news with uncertainty across the world at every corner and numerous famous people also passing away before their time, and the gloomy cold weather, all conspired against me (and I’m sure others).  I suffered ever lower moods until eventually I slipped into a depression, which manifested itself with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, that nothing could be done, nothing I could think of would make me feel better.  Through the strength and help of my family, friends, and the support of the NHS and a private therapist I am slowly regaining my strength of will, the spring weather has helped a lot with blossom, greenery, warm sunshine and a warm breeze at last.  My moods still swing up and down, my sensitivity to things being quite high still, not least being difficult social situations or bad news.  I remain optimistic that I will pull through but I do not expect things to ever be quite the same as they were before, indeed I wouldn’t want to return to that way as it was partly that which led me to my current situation; I must make changes to better my situation, make the most of the good points, try to minimise the effect of the less good things that I have less control over, and make opportunities for myself that I had previously dismissed as too difficult or unattainable.

There has been numerous stories in the news recently about the importance of mental health, wellbeing, and its role in overall fitness.  It is often overlooked or ignored, or worse still shunned as something to keep quiet about, however as I have learned first hand it is at least as important as physical health, and the two are very much linked in ways most of us probably don’t understand (or don’t want to think about).  Being physically unhealthy can lead to an unpleasant downward spiral of thinking it’s too difficult to become healthy, nobody will understand or be able to help, which leads to low mood and an unwillingness to do anything about it.  It’s not true though – there are people who can help, ways to help ourselves, it needn’t feel like a mountain to climb if the slopes can be turned into a series of easy steps.  I won’t go into the details here as it’s always best to get the help tailored to the individual’s specific needs, the first step should be to visit a healthcare professional for advice, preferably leading to a consultation with a specialist rather than relying on drugs alone (e.g. anti-depressants).

A few of the things that have helped me through the most difficult times have been watching comedy programmes, be it on TV, DVD, or online, a good action film to distract my mind for a couple of hours, going for long walks preferably with someone to talk with or just listen, and possibly most importantly trying to keep on doing the things that I would normally be doing – going to work, going out for a bike ride at least once a week (weather permitting), attending social events for interests or hobbies  (e.g. I am a member of the local astronomy group who hold monthly meetings), generally maintaining my appearance and hygiene.  All of these things are about being ‘mindful’ and staying in the present, it helps us to stop dwelling on our perceived problems be they real or hypothetical, and to just live in the moment.  One thing that I am repeatedly told is that what’s in the past is in the past, we cannot change that, the only thing we can do is learn from the past and use that to try to make the most of the present.

One of the most important things that I have learned through this experience is that we really are not alone, there are many people all across the world who suffer the same symptoms and go through the same feelings, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  The best starting point is to talk about it with someone, could be a friend, family member, a work colleague, or a doctor – just the action of talking about it often helps to relieve some of that unseen tension, then it’s a matter of taking it further to get the right help.

Looking back, I’ve now come to face what I’ve known I was doing wrong for many years but never wanted to admit it or do enough about it; in my case being a recluse really hasn’t worked for me, we are all social animals at heart and shying away from social interactions hasn’t been helpful.  I have been stupid, ignorant, and made plenty of mistakes that I didn’t learn from, I need to think smart and change my approach to certain situations.

This post is getting rather long so I will continue with specifics in future posts.

For anyone reading this who is feeling low or experiencing bad times, just remember that there is hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel even if you can’t see it right now, all you have to do is reach out and tell someone about it.

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