10th Anniversary of #mybrushwithdeath

I honestly can’t really believe its 10 years since my brush with death.

Its been a long time and something I will never ever forget, 10 years ago after the general election of 2010. Will never forget how different the world was after I woke up in hospital and someone (pretty sure it was my sister) told me the liberal democrats have gone into collation with the conservatives.

5 years ago I did a catch up of what happened 10 years ago.

Even closer to the time, I wrote a reflective blog with thank you posts (part 1) (part 2)

I still have the cards and plan to put them up again, so look out for them if you happen to be on a zoom with me.

As we are still in lockdown due to Covid-19, there won’t be a party. To be fair last years 3 birthday celebration was pretty epic. But I do have plans for a zoom call or something later in the month. Look out for the invite…

CRISPR: The First Truly Allergy-Free Cat

Cat face

The notion of a truly allergy-free cat, I won’t lie sounds amazing although there is a lot of questions I certainly have. This before even thinking about CRISPR concerns.

Although I found this sums it up…

If the new drug works and doesn’t have any major side effects for our feline friends, it could eliminate nearly all cat allergies. If you’re allergic to cats, however, you probably shouldn’t go out and get one now in the hopes that your allergies will be cured soon.

 

My favorite dark chocolates for a lockdown

Being locked down in our homes is everything from awful to a joy for people depending on individual circumstances. One thing I can recommend is a bit of chocolate heaven from Cocoarunners (I never take ads on my blog, just been impressed with their monthly delivery).

A lot of them are sold out but I did buy a bunch of the ones available for my friends, family and partner to give them while in lockdown. Hasn’t really thought about how to get it to them but regardless I will find a way…

If you love Dark Chocolate, you may enjoy my recommendations.

Not even an epidemic will stop the scammers

The other day I got a request to book my Airbnb spare room. I had completely forgot that I had blocked it out for my holiday to South Korean and Japan, which were cancelled. But hadn’t done anything after those dates, not really thinking my airbnb was still technically open.

The message was a mess…

Hello! Due to the situation in the country, I was sent from my company as a nurse to your city. I really liked your place, it seems really nice. It will be very suitable for me. I’m already waiting for this trip. But I have a couple questions. Please text me in Vhat is a * pp number + F0-ur, tvvo and z-еrrо, then sееve’ntys even, then goes tth_ree, 1’ 5” and 0ne, thre;e, ends with 98. See you soon!

Of course I could smell a scam from a mile away and responded, why don’t you ask the questions you have in Airbnb chat? Then added its lockdown in the UK and I won’t be taking any guests till things change with Covid19.

No reply of course and I rejected the request. But a week later airbnb contacted me.

Hi, Ian,

We’re reaching out because you were recently in contact with an account that was removed for violating the Airbnb Terms of Service.

Airbnb will never ask you to verify a listing or pay for anything outside of our site, through email, or through a third-party booker. If you sent money outside of Airbnb, you may have paid for a fraudulent reservation. Let us know what happened, and we’ll recommend next steps.

If someone asked you to communicate directly by email or through Facebook, or copy and paste a URL (http://www…) into a new browser window, or otherwise pay or communicate outside of the Airbnb website or app, we ask that you stop communication with them immediately.

If you did share personal information, like a password, please update your password immediately. If you use that same password for any other accounts (like your email), we recommend changing your password there too.

Of course I shared zero but I did find it interesting the scammer pulled on the strings with some urgency and being a nurse. Of course they had only signed up to be on Airbnb that same Month of April (meaning they had only signed up a few days before), had no vertifications, no reviews and the pretext of whatsapping them was straight from the airbnb scammers book.

I imagine there is a lot of desperate Airbnb hosts who might have sent a message to see whats possible?

Learning diabolo tricks during the Covid-19 lockdown in Manchester

One of the things I have been doing while in lockdown from the Covid-19 virus, is learning new tricks on the Diabolo. I’m lucky enough to have a nice large shared garden and green spaces around me. So in between working, walking, etc. I’ve been getting better at the Diabolo.

I decided to make use of my GoPro camera and throw together a number of tricks together with some music (Hit The Decks Volume 2 (htd2 A2) Nightfall at the edge of chaos (bonus mix)).

Here are the tricks with difficulty rating

  1. High throw (2x) – Easy
  2. Around the foot – Easy
  3. Over arm rubber arm to stick grind to whip catch – Tricky
  4. Over arm rubber arm to stick grinds to whip catch (3x angles) – Difficult
  5. Vertex – Very difficult
  6. Suicide – Tricky
  7. Stick grind to finger grind to whip catch – Tricky
  8. Duicide (2x) – Difficult
  9. Stick grind to finger grind to big whip catch (2x) – Tricky
  10. Handy grind drop to whip – Difficult

How Manchester’s Northern quarter on lock down looks

Believe these days will pass

I have been staying at home for the last 3-4 weeks but every 3-4 days I go shopping for fresh food. It also makes good exercise walking around. and decided as its my birthday soon, to get a very nice steak from the Northern Quarter butchers.

On the way back I had a wonder through the northern quarter and take some pictures of the usually busy streets in Manchester. Of course I’m not the first to do this… but with my social distancing of over 2 meters from others. I shot some quick pictures on my walk back.

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The public messages instead of adverts were interesting too because frankly advertising has falling through the floor. Nice culture jamming works.

Be kind lets look out for one another

What to do on a birthday during a lockdown?

Me with birthday ballons

I was lucky to have my big 40th birthday last year, I still have the cards up funny enough. I know others who had their 40th birthday in doors.

But one year later under Covid19 lockdown, I’m considering my options. My partner suggested a mass video call which I could cast to my TV. I could buy one of those going cheap cakes or get a nice takeaway from somewhere special. Also been thinking about ordering a very nice steak from the northern quarter butchers and having that with some lovely eggs. Talking of the northern quarter, I would pay some serious money to sit in a coffee shop right now. I’m not the only one…

Talking of coffee, I finally caved in and started having coffee at home after a nice Airbnb left me a bag a while back. Just in the mornings before work.

And the last leap Airbnb, made me a superhost again?!

Airbnb superhost

So weird, because no one is going anywhere right now. I don’t think I could accept anyone if they did actually book my spare room anyway. Maybe I should block out my calendar but theres little point right now.

Anyway back to the point, what to do on my birthday in lockdown.

I’m open to suggestions…?

Living in the age of Covid-19?

My partner asked me how I was doing on the phone. She remarked how I was managing with the changes well and I mentioned a quote I heard recently.

I won’t/can’t take credit but it speaks volume about right now… The quote came from the head of R&D which he was reminded of via the chief scientist.

“Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Be safe and stay connected…

#covid19 has affected the way I see TV & Films

 Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Where’s your social distancing guys?

It didn’t take long for the impact of Covid-19 to totally affect the way I see films and TVs. I can’t help but think every time a character touches another character or even comes within a couple of meters.

Where’s your physical distancing!!!

Government says stay in doors, how I make it work

Working from home
Me on my Dell XPS with that hinge camera

As the UK tonight goes into police lockdown, I reflect on staying in my flat.

I have been working at home since last week Tuesday, a few days after most of my colleagues at BBC R&D. Like most of the country/world who could work from home, we work from home in the middle of Covid-19 pandemic.

For a lot of people working from home is very challenging, for a number of reasons including having kids, job which requires access to specialist equipment, trying to separate work and personal life for a long time. Theres also the mental, social and physical health sides of this all.

So I thought I’d share how I’m managing with staying at home most of the time. Of course take from it what you think is useful.

Work wise

I now switched to my natural working time of 1030-11am till 7pm. I do get up and do all the things I usually do when going to work including getting dressed, having breakfast, playing podcasts, etc. Where usually I am in a rush for the door, I now relax playing a few podcasts in a row and across my flat.

Physically working I switch between using my standing desk in my bedroom and the sofa in the living room. I also have my dinner table but haven’t used that yet.

I take breaks when ever I want rather than a lunch break as such. It makes sense to me but I’m sure others will disagree

I’m using my Dell XPS 13 to the maximum memory wise (if I could add another 16gig to it I would, but it tops out at 16gig). Because of that I have to keep opening and closing the virtual windows 10 machine to check email. This is actually quite good because I’m answering emails then closing it while I do other things like writing gdocs, a lot of zoom calls.

Media beyond the news

Talking about media, I am currently playing podcasts as theres lots of podcasters recording from their homes, just like the mainstream media. At some point I will start listening to some of the audiobooks I have saved.

Been watching a lot of films and may start watching more TV shows but generally its audio in the morning and videos in the evening.

I have also ignoring most of the news media because I hate that news cycle and there is so much good stuff out there. For example Mydata just upload their videos, the Singularity University did a summit about Covid19, There was a activitypub conference with videos on peertube. This is just in the last few weeks.

I had also planned to do some training by watching and listening from Linkedin learning and other sources.

I’m very happy I opted for the 1gig bit hyperoptic fibre link, its paid for its self massively over the years and being able to share my media with friends is fantastic. I’m also considering using my icecast server to maybe put up a live web broadcast every weekend as its been a while since I did a mix.

The Manchester futurists which I’m a part of are considering podcasting while events are not allowed. So look out for those. I did float the idea of techgrumps again but no dice yet.

I’m also considering getting more into gaming as I’m not much of a gamer, but do have a Xbox 360 and Playstation one classic. I actually do have a steam account but never used it so theres something I might explore. I’m also looking for a good gaming site for casual gaming which can be played together with my partner or friends, but is respectful of my data? Any ideas do drop a comment…

Staying in shape

I’m lucky to have a communal garden so can sit outside with minimal risk to myself and others. Its also where I’m going to start doing the diabolo now its getting warmer (thankfully). I have been outside a few times, mainly to get food, post letters and go riding in the pennies on the scooter. I am planning to do some more serious walking for shopping and exercise.

Been wondering if now is a good time to order those Rollerblades to go with my skateboard?

Staying connected

I don’t live with my partner but we are talking everyday. Its good and we find new and good ways to do things together over the phone and videochat.

I have always been in regular contact with my parents but also connecting with my sister more. Been thinking about the massive family I have and I should reach out to them more too.

I’m also making a very conscious decision to everyday get in touch with people I haven’t spoken to in a long time. Think about it, everybody is at home and likely will be very happy to hear from an old friend. Its not like they are out or on holiday. So far its been great and I expect it brings delight to others too.

Keeping my mind in gear

I have a large task list of things to do, not only because of covid-19 but generally. So I can slowly work my way through that while at home. Some of it is computer based, some internet based, some hardware and some physical DIY type things. Been thinking I should physically take up the art of motorcycle maintenance with my scooter.

Taking a look at the list, there is always something I could be doing and I ordered that raspberry pi 4 before this became a pandemic.

I’m taking time out to practice self-care, relax and sleep longer than usual which is helping a lot with my mental health. I’m avoiding the news cycle as mentioned previously but also avoiding lots of the facebook nonsense as I don’t need to use it now volleyball is off for the foreseeable future.

Any interest in buying a HP Chromebook 14?

I finally got my Pixel reward, a HP Chromebook 14.

Its taken 4 months to reach me and I’m wondering if its worth it, but its going up on ebay pretty soon. It will be in its original box, untouched, unused and If anyone is interested do get in touch. Otherwise I’ll post the ebay link soon.

I have sold the untouched chromebook sorry…

Cancelling flights to South Korea and Japan

expedia accept changes or not

I recently was able to cancel my flights to South Korea and Japan answering the question I prompted about flying to the far east during the Cornoavirus outbreak. My parents will be happy as they were worried. They weren’t the only ones but myself and my partner talked about it a lot. A point she made stuck with me, will a lot of the attractions, places and experiences in South Korea and Japan be mainly shutdown? The idea of going to a mainly dead rollercoaster park in Japan sounds great but will it actually be open? I noticed a tweet from Brian Suda about the Japanese government stopping large public events to stop the spread of the virus.

Japan has banned large gatherings, so this Sumo Tournament is being played to an empty arena.
Japan has banned large gatherings, so this Sumo Tournament is being played to an empty arena.

We were still going up till the point when Lufthansa changed our flights out again. There was a big change and I got a email asking me to confirm the change. I needed to read through the changes so didn’t click ok I’m good with this still a day later. In between a while bunch of new deaths happened in Italy and Flybe went under. People started taking things a lot more seriously as it was clear the incubation period of the Cornoavirus was something of a nightmare with people not showing signs of infection for 3-7 days. I was keeping an eye on the British FCO site, but noticed Lufthansa changed their policy.

Once I saw this I was straight on the phone to Lufthansa who were very helpful saying I could get a complete refund, then directed me to Expedia where I had booked my flights. After 2hrs 20mins waiting on the line for Expedia. A couple of call backs I finally got the verbal confirmation that my whole holiday would be cancelled and I would get a full refund.

The next day my partner did similar and after long calls and having to call back the next day was told the same. However within a day she got a confirmation email and told the money will be refunded in 5-7 days.

Days later I still haven’t received my conformation email or any refund (expect that not to come quickly). So I called up again today, this time after getting cut off (but it taking only 50mins on hold) I got verbal conformation again. But even at the moment of writing this, there is still no email.

I did notice they now (in the last day) have a form to do it without calling up… I’ll be filling this one in too.

I’m sure its all fine but I’ll fill the form because 3 times is a charm?

Although we are keeping an eye on the worldmeter for the virus, as we may take advantage of one of those very cheap flights to somewhere with minimal infection?

Update 11/March at 22:17

Expedia refund

I finally got my email from Expedia… Took a long time but finally I can relax.

In light of the coronavirus, is a holiday in Korea and Japan a good idea?

Smuged Tokyo street

I booked a holiday to Korea and Japan last year. Thinking this would be a great idea and the flights were a decent price. Interestingly I was thinking about a stop over in Hong Kong for a week but it was getting expensive so decided against that.

Of course with the political tensions in Hong Kong with China last year, I was thinking that was lucky. But then the coronavirus suddenly made the holiday plans a lot less appealing.

I’m looking on the brightside of it all, ignoring the media hype engine. But the notion of a pandemic does make think its likely a bad time to go away on a flight, let alone to two super crowded places?

Everything is refundable except the flights; like many others I’m waiting watching the Foreign office site for South Korea and Japan to see if the advice changes and the airline will offer a refund?

I do think things will be ok but the risk of getting caught up in something which is developing fast doesn’t seem like a great holiday, especially if having to self quarantine in a hotel room for a week!. Add the potential health risk to myself, partner, family, friends and the general public.

Right now if the airline refunds the flight, then Korea and Japan can wait I think? What would you do?