The importance of cyberkudos!

In the last few weeks I have been struck by how important it is for people to have a high degree of cyberkudos, meaning that they must have a strong understanding of how IT – especially the Internet and Mobile devices – will affect their roles and and their work.

What is your cyberkudos?

Posted in Society, Technology Tagged |

The Summer 2013 Feel Good Factor is here!

Picture of a British Shorthair by Eric Isselee

It’s Great to be British in 2013

Feel good, people – feel good!

Posted in Fun!, Society Tagged , |

I’ve finally decided to come out and admit the truth.

For years I have struggled with an important personal issue that many of my family and friends have speculated about, and recent developments have convinced me that now is the time to come clean and finally admit it…

I’m vegetarian. And proud!

 

Vegetable Love

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had an unusual relationship with meat…

My mother often complained that the only meat I would eat was sausages or chicken breast – I’ve always found chicken wings and legs pretty distasteful, and the occasional KFC Chicken Burger was probably the only time that I ever enjoyed eating ‘chicken’.

My mother often had to ‘finish’ any chicken legs or wings that I found myself having to eat – and she would happily strip them down the bone while I watched in disgust wondering how anyone could enjoy chewing what had so obviously been part of a dead animal.

I always shunned fish too – with the exception of Fish Fingers or Prawn Cocktails – and often had quite a strong negative reaction even to the smell of fish.

I have struggled with this, though; my parents come from Jamaica, and an important part of Jamaican culture is the curried and spicy food, often based on curious pieces of meat like Oxtail and Goat and which I have always point-blank refused to try.

Picture of an oxtail dinner - traditional Jamaican meal.

Oxtail, rice and peas – a traditional Jamaican meal.

It has always been a source of friction, with my mother in particular wondering if it was a rejection of my Jamaican ‘roots’, whereas in reality it was more about me just not liking meat.

As I got older and no longer had to worry about pleasing others, I found that I was naturally avoiding meat; I never, ever bought meat (apart from one or two special dinners where I was buying it to be cooked immediately – and always thought hard about where it came from) and have always found the sight of raw meat unpleasant.

That said, I did enjoy frozen processed chicken such as ‘Crispy Chicken’ and ‘Southern Fried Chicken’, but a couple of years ago realised that I had stopped buying those too.

(Confession: Strangely, over the years I have enjoyed the occasional steak, but only when in a restaurant and I would never dream of cooking one myself).

My staple diet had become nuts and pulses, and more recently I’ve found my weekly shopping basket containing roughly 25% fresh vegetables, 50% nuts and pulses and 25% vegetarian classics like humous and tofu.

The recent scandal regarding horse-meat in the British food chain doesn’t surprise me, and when the stories about it broke, I actually felt quietly smug not to have been affected due to not eating the sort of cheap meat under suspicion.

Recently, however, when discussing the fact that I hadn’t eaten meat for nearly two months, a friend showed me this video about the meat industry in America and it was the final push that I needed to ditch meat entirely – and formally:

The appalling cruelty with which the animals that end up on our tables are treated, together with the fact that I can no longer stomach meat makes it easy for me to finally accept the reality – I’m just not a carnivore.

So here I am. I’m a Vegetarian, and I’m no longer afraid to say so.

I’m not weird and I’m not an environmentalist – I just don’t think that eating dead things is healthy, especially considering how little we know about where much of it comes from.

I don’t care what anyone else eats, and I don’t want anyone to be inconvenienced by my personal choice, but I’m delighted that I’m finally liberated to accept the reality!

Posted in Health, Nature, Random, Society Tagged , , , |

Defeated by my American breakfast!

I had pancakes and syrup for breakfast.

Pancakes & Syrup - All American Breakfast!

Pancakes & Syrup – All American Breakfast!

Correction. I attempted to have pancakes and syrup for breakfast, but was defeated by the ridiculous portion size and could only eat about half, which means that in the eyes of my American friends I’m now officially a ‘pussy’.

What I ate was probably my recommended calorific intake for the day.

However, I am soon going to lunch, where my stomach will be subjected to a burrito, thereby probably doubling my required daily calorific intake before 13:00 and I still have dinner ahead of me.

It’s impossible to stay slim here in Silicon Valley.

Posted in Fun!, Health Tagged , , |

Why British people are so obsessed with the weather!

 

I’m often asked by friends from all around the world why British people are so obsessed with the weather!?

The truth is, our weather in the UK is actually pretty good; it’s temperate, we don’t have the extremes of hot and cold that many other countries experience, but people still describe our weather as ‘terrible’.

Why is that?

Let’s use London as an example…

On average, London has weather comparable with New York – London being slightly cooler in summer and slightly warmer in winter, with less snow.

So why do people think that the weather is so much worse, and why do we talk about it all of the time?

The reason, I believe, is the unpredictability of the UK’s weather – it’s entirely possible for the weather to change from one day to the next in a way that just doesn’t happen in other cities.

British Weather Cartoon

Britain is unique in that it is a small land mass in the Atlantic Ocean buffeted by a number of global weather systems and their tributaries:

  • Arctic maritime winds from the north (cold)
  • Polar continental from the north-east (cold and dry)
  • Polar maritime winds from the north-west (cold and moist)
  • Tropical continental from the south-east (warm and dry)
  • Tropical maritime from the south-west (warm and moist)

This complicated system translates to a constant battle between warm and cold weather fronts in the atmosphere above the UK that prevents extremes (it’s rarely very cold and rarely very hot), but also means that the weather can vary enormously from day to day.

(It also explains why the north of the UK tends to be colder and wetter, whilst the south warmer and drier.)

More importantly it means that, depending on where you are in the country, the weather can switch dramatically from one hour to the next.

In London, I have experienced a day where there was a glorious bright sunny morning, followed by a drizzly afternoon and then snow in the evening.

There are not many cities where this could happen, and this helps to explain why British people think about and talk about the weather so much.

I think that climate change is having a profound effect on this too, in that the Gulf Stream and other components of our weather are changing in their complexity and scale, which further exacerbates the problem.

The summer of 2012 was just confirmed as our weirdest on record, and there is no reason to believe that this summer will be any less ‘exciting’:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19995084

I think that we’re now approaching a period where the level of unpredictability is getting greater than ever, and we could be living in a time where we simply will not be able the predict the weather for more than a few days ahead.

This is not necessarily bad – Britain’s obsession with the weather led to the invention of most of the equipment and technology used in meteorology too.

Whereas my Muscovite friends can happily go about their lives in the knowledge that it will be hot in summer (over 20 degrees) and cold in winter (below -5 degrees), we can’t, and I think that this is why British people are so obsessed with the weather!

Is it a problem? No! We just need to keep calm and carry on 😉

Posted in Fun!, Nature, Science, Society Tagged , , , , |

World War III: The war on Climate Change

Every day, we read about another weather event that is endangering life, whether it is Superstorm Sandy that affected the Caribbean and American East Coast, the Bangladesh floods of the summer of 2012, the unprecedented floods and high tides currently affecting the United Kingdom, or the incredibly high water levels in Venice that threaten to finally plunge it under the sea.

Picture of Flooding in Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy (Photo: AFP/Getty)

Picture of Flooding in Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy (Photo: AFP/Getty)

In 2012 we have seen extreme weather events affecting every part of the world, but yet still the great nations of Earth continue to spend their money on fighting wars and military campaigns rather than investing their resources in the one war that is certain to take an increasing number of human lives in the coming years: the war against Climate Change.

Survivors return to what’s left of Breezy Point, Queens after Superstorm Sandy, where 80-100 houses were destroyed in a fire caused by the storm.

In the UK, we have gone from the worst drought in living memory to some of the heaviest rain and worst flooding since records began; whether or not you believe that humans are responsible for it, there is no doubt that we are experiencing an unprecedented level of weather-related disaster.

Picture of a fisherman taking advantage of the rising floodwater from the River Ouse in York, November 2012

Picture of a fisherman taking advantage of the rising floodwater from the River Ouse in York, November 2012 (Press Association)

For those who don’t believe that this is the case, there are some interesting statistics regarding the significant increase the number of weather-related disasters affecting the USA:

Time series of billion dollar disasters in the U.S. Credit: NOAA/NCDC

Time series of billion dollar disasters in the U.S. Credit: NOAA/NCDC

This graph show that both the number and the scale of weather-related disasters has steadily increased over the last 30 years, and so even if we are not responsible for these changes, surely we should be doing everything that we can to protect ourselves from them?

Instead, we continue to fight futile wars based on weak ideological arguments, when we really should be investing in protecting against climate change.

By the end of 2012, the major powers have spent over a trillion on defence – $1.19tn in total:

  • USA: $695.7bn
  • China: $120.0bn
  • Japan: $60.0bn
  • UK: $59.0bn
  • France: $53.0bn
  • Russia: $52.7bn

These billions are spent to ‘protect’ our nations, but at the same time these governments are doing very little to protect against climate change – why not?

In comparison, in 2008, the US spent just $31.9bn on Natural Resources & the Environment!

Some experts suggest that we are rapidly approaching the tipping point past which it will not be possible to prevent a forecast rise in the average temperature on the planet and the melting of the ice caps.

If we don’t do anything about it, there is every possibility that instead of other nations and terrorists, the greatest threat to our continued existence as nations and as a species will be climate change.

Surely the next world war should be one against climate change, and not each other?

Posted in Nature, Politics, Science, Society Tagged , , , , , |

How long does a queen last? A graphic showing how many US presidents Queen Elizabeth II has seen come and go!

How Long Does a Queen Last?

How long does a queen Last? A graphic showing how many presidents have come and gone during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign!

How long does a queen last? A very long time!

This fascinating set of images shows how many presidents have come and gone during the 60 year reign of HRH Queen Elizabeth II!

God Save the Queen!

HRH Queen Elizabeth II

HRH Queen Elizabeth II

Posted in Fun!, Politics, Royal, Society Tagged , , , , |

Happy Monday, world!

Pictures of a baby Russian Lynx

A baby Russian Lynx on a tree

Apparently, looking at pictures of puppies and kittens can improve people’s productivity by as much as 10% – if that’s true, I think that this adorable baby Russian Lynx is worth at least a 20% boost on a cold Monday morning.

Enjoy!

Posted in Fun!, Nature Tagged , , , , |

I’ll never complain about my paying my taxes ever again; the NHS is worth every penny!

On Friday morning I woke up with mild stomach pain, which I simply put down to having earlier seen my pay slip and the fact that 50% of my salary had disappeared in taxes…

Picture of a Pound Coin

I headed for the office wondering if I should start finding ways to minimise my tax, but instead turned my thoughts to the important presentation that I was working on and the exciting day ahead in the office.

My stomach continued to feel funny, and by lunchtime I was experiencing a little dizziness – not something that has ever happened to me before; by the time I had my last meeting of day, I knew that I had to visit A&E.

I went to University College London Hospital on the Euston road and told the receptionist my symptoms before taking a seat.

Picture of University College London Hospital

A picture of University College London Hospital

She was cheerful and friendly despite the A&E room resembling a war zone (the people, not the facilities) and having to work late on a Friday night.

I was seen by the triage nurse a few minutes later, and she booked me in. After taking my pulse, she decided that something more serious than indigestion was afoot.

I sat for a couple of hours in A&E with an assortment of interesting characters; it was a busy Friday night in the West End!

First, was a friendly drunk who looked like he’d been in the wars and had dropped off by some anonymous teenagers who had found him nearby in the street. Dripping blood and reeking of alcohol, he had no idea where he was, but seemed quite happy to be there.

Next was a cheerful East European chap who had come in with heart palpitations, but he didn’t seem overly concerned, and the medics had got him an ECG pretty quick, establishing that he wasn’t about to keel over. Unfortunately, the heavy-set drunk chap took a liking to him and fell asleep in the seat next to him before slumping on to him, pinning him to his chair.

Third was an American financier who had fallen off his bike and basically destroyed his left wrist and busted his right elbow. He was in good spirits, partly because of the painkillers, I’m guessing – but he was coping well with the pain. Apparently, he had been thrown several feet into the air before crashing into the ground, his arms and wrists taking the brunt of his fall. Miraculously, his glasses survived and I helped him to put them on so that he could check his phone.

Shortly afterwards, it was my turn to get checked out by a young, tall, charming doctor (Dr. Charming – perhaps from the midlands?), who explained that he was a big fan of my company’s products while giving me a (very!) thorough examination. A delightful and extremely smiley, pretty south Asian nurse (Nurse Cheerful) helped me get into a medical gown and reassured me that I was in good hands while the doctor checked the results of my blood tests.

He quickly decided that my condition was potentially serious, got Nurse Cheerful to put me on a drip and I was asked to lie on the bed ready to be x-rayed and waited for a short time while the very masterful sister /senior nurse (Nurse Princess) managed the large number of people coming into A&E, preventing it from turning into chaos. She was very obviously in charge, whilst remaining cheerful, but not taking any nonsense – she was reminiscent of a princess in a medieval drama; beautiful, assertive, wielding more power than rank alone would confer and the most compassionate person in the room.

While waiting for my x-ray, Nurse Princess was keeping a watchful eye over me and decided that my condition was deteriorating sufficiently that she didn’t think that I should be going home.

“You’re not looking as good as when you came in,” she said, wiping some sweat from my forehead as I started to shake.

After my x-ray, I lay on my bed in Assessment Booth 11 just outside the Nurse Station, and listened with some fascination as that delicate interplay between the nurses and doctors played out… Nurse Princess was clear that I shouldn’t be going home, Dr. Charming wasn’t entirely sure, and she continued to press her point.

After an hour or so – and another couple of blood tests – it had been established that my HB count was down to 10.3 from the 12.0 it was when arrived, neither of which they considered consistent with my general level of health. Bad news.

After several telephone calls, Nurse Princess had convinced a Medical Fellow (a strapping chap who looked a little like Idris Elba), Dr. Bossman, to come and check me out me out properly. After another uncomfortable, thorough examination (the details of which I’ll spare you) he agreed with Nurse Princess that I should be admitted, which allowed her to lobby the hospital’s Bed Manager to find me a bed.

Dr Bossman had a commanding presence that reminded me a little of Stringer Bell in ‘The Wire” – strong and with a certain easy gravitas that meant no one questioned his authority – including me, when he said that he was going to take yet another blood sample!

Picture of a Syringe

I spent another hour or so being monitored by the doctors and nurses, who were not aware that my bat-like hearing allowed me to hear most of their conversation about me!

“I’m kind of worried about this chap,” whispered Dr. Charming.

“There’s no way he should be going home; I want him to monitored – you have to find him a bed!” demanded Nurse Princess.

“Why doesn’t he have a monitor on him? Get one in here, please.” commanded Dr Bossman.

Nurse Princess had identified a bed in ‘T6’ and must have placed five or six calls to ensure that it had my name on it; making it obvious that she wasn’t likely to give up easily.

Before long, Nurse Cheerful was escorting me out of A&E and to T6, with a wave and a smile from Nurse Princess as I thanked her for looking after me.

I felt kind of guilty upon arrival, because it was obvious that this immaculate ward was for people who were pretty seriously ill.

I had been allocated Bed 50, which was actually better-equipped than some airport hotels I have stayed in. Nurse Cheerful helped me to get comfortable before handing me over to a matronly Irish nurse who got me settled in the surprisingly comfortable bed.

For the next few hours I tried my best to get to sleep, but by 04:00 on Saturday morning, it was obvious that I wasn’t going to get any… not only were my arms sore from the cannulae in each of them, but the constant noise as the nurses and doctors fussed over the patients meant that peace and quiet was out of the question.

Picture of my left armPicture of my right arm

When I did eventually nod off, I was woken by a very well-spoken man saying my name:

“Mr East? Mr East. Good morning,” he said, a tall man, obviously the consultant, with several doctors in attendance, including Dr. Bossman.

Dr. Posh, as I will call him, had obviously read my notes carefully and quickly confirmed that Dr. Bossman was probably on the right lines, although I was not manifesting all of the symptoms that he had expected and was feeling better than the night before – with exception of being hungry as hell after not having drunk or eaten for over 18 hours.

He examined me gently, and quickly made some recommendations which another very enthusiastic young doctor (Dr. Bouncy) came to discuss with me, placing a reassuring hand on my arm as he explained the decisions that they had made and why I would be taking lots of pills for a few weeks.

Over the next few hours I was able to use my computer, had a particularly tasty lunch and had to give even more blood whilst monitored constantly, and attended to by a very bubbly student nurse (Nurse Bubbly) who is close to completing her degree and seemed to love her work – she is going to be a great nurse.

Unfortunately, my HB levels had dropped further, and so another doctor – an elegant, pretty and ever so slightly posh young lady (Dr. Butterfly) wanted to observe me a bit further before she would send me home, which gave me an opportunity to sample the hospital’s excellent Vegetable Moussaka!

After several more visits, Dr. Butterfly eventually decided that I could go home, but gave me clear instructions about the need for follow-up blood test at my GP and the invitation to return if I felt unwell, before departing with a beautiful smile.

In total, I spent 24 hours in the hospital, and I don’t think that I was left unmonitored for more than a few minute at any time – I felt well cared for and even a little pampered.

The staff were professional, friendly, warm, compassionate and clearly love what they do, despite the intense workload, long hours and often ungrateful patients.

We should all be grateful that they do the jobs that they do with so little complaint.

On Friday morning I had been questioning exactly where my taxes go, and by Saturday night I had received a powerful demonstration of why our NHS is so important, should be cherished and is rightly celebrated by so many in this country.

Today, I can tell you that I am proud to pay my taxes and I’ll never again question why – I love the NHS, and I’d happily paid higher taxes to protect it!

I do not believe that I could have received any better care, even if I were paying for it directly. The facilities were immaculate and beautifully designed, all of the personnel attentive and the atmosphere positive.

A sincere thanks to all of those staff who looked after me so well, and the thousands who do so for other people up and down the country every minute of the day. 🙂

NHS logo

NHS logo – an organisation that rightly generates pride and affection.

Posted in Politics, Society Tagged , , , , |

I’ve been hitting the gym hard recently… Today it hit back!

I’ve been going to the gym a lot recently – now that I’ve settled into my new job and that I’m getting into a new routine.

I love the buzz that one gets when working out and pushing oneself to the limit, and I put in a particularly heavy session on Thursday night, doing some extra work on my pecs that had me shaking with exertion…

It wasn’t until today that I experienced the consequences; my chest has been aching all day, and my arms burning, but it’s that nice kind of ache that says: “Working as intended!”

20121022-014704.jpg

20121022-014738.jpg

Posted in Fun!, Health Tagged , , , |