Step Away From The Computer

old hairdresser sleeping at work

old hairdresser sleeping at work (Photo credit: epSos.de)

No, not yet, read this first.

The reason I’m telling you this is that it’s good advice if you want a good night’s sleep.

I have read many times on Lifehacker that staring at devices that emit blue light before going to bed can disrupt your sleep patterns but had never tried it.  I have, however, been complaining for years that I often felt tired during the day no matter how much sleep I got.  Of course this can be a symptom of many other physical and psychological problems but having remembered the advice to switch off the computer, tablet, TV and so on and do something else like reading or listening to music I thought I’d give it a go.

The problem is that these bright light emitting devices cause the brain to stay alert and it is worse with computers which are typically close to your face, how close depends on what you’re looking at.

So far for me the results are encouraging and I feel significantly better.  If however you try this but don’t see any benefit and continue to suffer excessive tiredness then consult your doctor.

Night all, sleep well.

(Lifehacker)

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Bag Fiend: When is an iPhone Case Not an iPhone (Only) Case?

Neoprene Case

When it’s a generic neoprene pouch being sold specifically as a “Neoprene iPhone Case” but is useful for so much more.

The pouch isn’t in any way iPhone specific (I bought it to stow a  mobile mouse in my messenger bag) but is still marketed as such.  It’s a very good pouch though, by the way, for all you fellow bag collectors out there.  Really nice colour, well padded, velcro closure and available at 99p stores for just 99p, surprisingly.  (Tip – my local store has Fabulous Bakin’ Boys Lemon Cupcakes – box of 8 for 99p so grab some of those too).

The way it’s sold though is part of an interesting trend.  Products that are non-specific being sold as “for iPhone” including cases, car mounts, headphones, cleaning cloths.  Presumably this targeting happens because of iPhone being a very well-known brand name but it becomes self-perpetuating whereby people see all the accessories specifically for iPhone and decide that maybe they should get an iPhone rather than one of those other phones because of all the accessories.

Something to ponder in a later post I think.

The Dream Palais

Palais Idéal, Hauterives, Drôme, France.

Palais Idéal, Hauterives, Drôme, France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Built over thirty-five years by one man, The Palais idéal in the French town of Hauterives is an architectural wonder that is at the same time regarded by art critics as merely a folly and an example of so-called naive art.

Joseph-Ferdinand Cheval was born in 1836 and suffered an unsettled early life including the death of both his parents before he was 18, the deaths of two wives and several children, and many poorly paid jobs.  In 1867 he began work as a postman and the story of the Palais began.

As he walked on his rounds in the French countryside he began to construct in his mind what he called “a fairy palace of my dreams” in order to combat the boredom he had begun to feel.  His vision became so vivid as to be almost real in his mind but then he lost confidence in his internal vision and found himself simply wandering through the real world that had none of the wonders of his Palais and had only brought him pain in the past.

His spirit was awakened by tripping over a stone in his path that seemed to him to have been sculpted by nature and he realised that if creativity is inherent in nature then it could be within himself too and at that moment he found what he had been missing.  He realised that he could bring his dream castles into the real world and so he began to collect stones and build his Palais.

Once completed The Palais demonstrated his vision of creative reality, merging styles from across the world and across time.  Cheval said that creativity is life and in finding creativity he began a new life and was enriched by its energy.

The Palais was, from its unveiling, intended to be seen and was open to the public so that they too could be inspired to create and live rather than simply, passively be entertained.  Cheval hoped that his Palais would be part of a wider transformation of the world as people found their own creativity after seeing his work.  The Fortean Times article I read ended by talking about this aspect and its author said it was offered as a pebble for use in building that global palace and as I’d now come into contact with the Palais so I was inspired to discover my own kind of creativity and share it.  Today you don’t need stones and we can build a Palais online if we want, in some ways 21st Century Lunch is part of mine.

Fortean Times #286 p74-76 / Interesting Thing of The Day / Wikipedia

Global Community Spirit

Football (Soccer ball)

Football (Soccer ball) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our world was said to have become smaller when Jet travel arrived, and it has continued to shrink it seems thanks to modern communications.  This recent story of an epic journey, widely reported around the world shows a global equivalent of finding your neighbour’s football in your garden.  Literally.

David Baxter, an Alaskan radar technician found a signed football washed up on a beach and rather than just thinking “that’s a nice ball, I’ll keep it” he considered it may have been swept away during the Japanese tsunami.  His japanese wife, with the help of a reporter in Japan have managed to trace its owner and will soon be reuniting the ball with sixteen year old Misaki Murakami who is understandably delighted to be getting his prized possession back after losing everything in the devastating floods of last March.

(Guardian via Gizmodo UK)

Shadows in the Dusk

bats flying at dusk

bats flying at dusk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I sit here facing the window, with its little slice of countryside, I occasionally notice a black blur flash past outside.  It, or rather they are a reminder that here on the fringes of this large town nature still has a niche.

This is our neighbourhood’s nightly display of bat aerobatics.

I turn out the lights for a while and stand against the glass, watching them tear past just inches beyond.  As I watch them wheeling and twirling, speeding about against the darkening sky between our oddly shaped collection of buildings I can’t help but be in awe at the precision of their flight, and how they navigate, find and catch their dinner.

Quickly the sky turns inky blue and the bats are fleeting shadows against unnatural light from other windows and lamps.  I wish them goodnight and come back to my desk.

Bag Fiend – Confessions of a Bag Addict

Lowepro Terraclime 50

Ok, here and now I admit that I have a thing about portable storage.  There, I’ve said it.

I have over the years needed bags for carrying my lunch to work, computers, cameras and clothes but also many smaller bags and pouches to keep things organised and safe when in other bags or drawers.  Often though I’ve had a couple of bags before I’ve found The One for a particular task.  Sometimes I’ll get a new bag simply because I’m bored with the colour or style of the old one, or it’s becoming a bit tatty.

I do insist on quality of materials and construction and what does get my attention are good features such as  good internal storage and maybe some innovative pocket or pouch like the little slide-out memory card holder on my Lowepro compact camera and SLR holster cases.  The bag also has to look good too, colourful if possible.

The thing is though that I am patient and I generally only buy a new bag when I can get a good deal on it.  Like today’s new bag.  A local camping shop is closing down unfortunately but they were selling off lots of Lowepro Terraclime camera pouches for a couple of quid each.  I have a use for one so I added it to my collection and an excellent bag it is too.  Good looking, colourful and made from quality, sturdy, recycled materials and featuring a retainer that slides into a loop to hold it closed along with being designed so that the top opening folds over to close it fully and keep the elements out it’s a really nicely made bag.  The interior has a soft lining and pockets for memory cards and the like.

Now to find somewhere to store it.

(Lowepro)

I’ll Write It… Tomorrow!

A friend and colleague of mine is fond of saying “tomorrow never comes” whenever I say “I could do with that glass for tomorrow”.  I tend to just reply by saying “I could do with that glass for Thursday” or whatever day.

He’s right though and I’m writing this post as a prompt to myself, a call for less procrastination.  You see, I keep saying “I’ve not really got time to post anything today; that article needs more research; I can’t quite think how to put that…”  But it’s all just procrastination, and I get away with it because I can, there are no consequences except that my blog gets no views, oh and the little fact that I feel I’ve in some way let myself down, wasted time that I could have used productively in doing something else that I got no real benefit from.  It’s OK if I’m doing something worthwhile like watching a new TV show, seeing friends or family, decluttering or tidying, but mostly I’m not.

One technique to deal with this is to change routines so that you have no excuses, set a time to read a few news sites, make a few notes, link a few webpages, set a time to write something that is well in advance of when I’ll be feeling tired and would rather be watching something funny on Dave (which, for anyone reading this outside the UK, is a TV channel crammed with quality repeats of comedy shows and Top Gear, and is a tempting diversion).

So now comes the difficult part as changing ingrained routines (or lack of them) can be mentally exhausting but in the end the feeling of achievement, especially if it’s in doing something you enjoy, is all worth it.

I’ve put off going to sleep for too long now, by writing this, so goodnight.

A Syncing Feeling

Cloud Computing Image

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some may be forgiven for thinking that The Cloud was something Apple invented due to the high-profile launch of iCloud – it’s much touted system for sharing content seamlessly between iDevices and Macs – but it was a ‘thing’ long before it was an ‘iThing’.

The ubiquity of internet connectivity has enabled cloud computing to blossom in recent years.  Now there are the online file storage and sharing services like  Box, Microsoft’s Skydrive and others; cloud disk drives like that provided by Dropbox (and the upcoming file system integration of Windows Skydrive); and automatic content syncing systems like iCloud.

The ultimate goal of cloud computing is beyond such storage and syncing of files and moves all of your apps and data onto remote servers operating in a similar way to the thin-client terminals that those of us old enough remember fondly.  Google’s ChromeOS running on ChromeBook laptops are the first foray into this new world however they assume a mostly connected situation and online OSes and apps won’t be replacing Windows, MacOS and desktop apps anytime soon though their features and functionality are improving all the time.

The most useful aspect of the cloud for me so far has been syncing of data.  To be able to add an item to my to-do list on either my laptop, netbook, tablet or, using the webapp, my work laptop and know that it’ll be there when I fire up one of the other devices is a joy.  My app of choice for this is Wunderlist but others have similar functionality.  (I also use the similarly syncable Evernote for more in-depth notes).  The same is true of having files I use on the laptop synced via Microsoft’s servers to my netbook whilst being simultaneously backed-up in the cloud as well.

The future may not be entirely based in the cloud but in huge server farms cooled by Arctic fjords our data will be shuffled between our devices and shared with our friends, seamlessly and effortlessly.

And I won’t have any excuses for forgetting to do something on my to-do list.

Blog on the Landscape – 21st Century Windmills

English: Modern wind energy plant in rural sce...

English: Modern wind energy plant in rural scenery. Français : Une éolienne moderne dans un paysage rural. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In front of me is a window with  a view of a slice of countryside beyond the river.  At the right side of that slice, at the edge of a low hill appeared, last week, a white mast and eventually the three, apparently delicate feather-like blades of a compact wind turbine.

It’s one of three that have been put up locally this year and all are individual turbines, not wind-farms, and all appear to have the purpose of supplying farms with power in a modern analogue of the many windmills that farms had centuries ago to grind their corn and often power machinery.

I’m certain that there will be people around here who will have written angry letters to the council complaining about them being blots on the landscape and I wonder whether similar arguments happened when farmers started building windmills (despite their admitedly lower altitude).

While I admit that the larger wind-farms are not attractive and there are certain landscapes in this country that would be ruined by even a single blade sticking up into the view smaller individual turbines like the one I can see now are not ugly in my opinion and their gracefully turning blades can add a certain modernist beauty to relatively featureless landscapes, a blending of the old and the new to remind us that we do live in the 21st century and times move on as they did when the revolutionary new wind powered milling wheels ground their first corn.

Drinking for Science

Various spirits.

Various spirits. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not me personally but Gizmodo’s Brent Rose who has gone beyond the call of duty in order to research a number of myths about booze that everyone knows.

It seems that it’s true that drinking beer before spirits does make you more ill for reasons of how quickly alcohol enters your bloodstream and mixing spirits can make you drunker quicker – as demonstrated by his unedited conclusion near the end of the article.

(Gizmodo UK)