Under the keys

On Saturday I was cleaning my computer keyboard. Whilst doing so, I noticed there was a lot of fluff stuck underneath the keys. My engineering instinct kicked in and I immediately dismantled my entire keyboard to get to the parts underneath.

Once cleaned I then realised I hadn’t any idea which keys went where. There’s a few obvious ones, the F keys, QWERTY, the number pad. But then there’s a lot of random ones, mainly punctuation and features such as “sleep” and “wake up” which are fairly unique to my keyboard. And then there’s other keys such as the left ctrl key and the right ctrl key. Do they have a specific orientation? And what about the up/down and left/right arrow keys?

So I started off with doing all of the keys that were obvious or I could make a sensible guess at where they went and got surprisingly far:

Who really knows how the bottom row of letters goes? (I realised shortly after that the M key was in the wrong place)

But I actually know more keys than I thought I did. Not in my conscious mind, but in my subconscious and my finger muscle memory. When do I ever look at the keyboard when typing? All I had to do was pretend to type and see where my fingers were hitting and that’s where the keys had to be. And that’s how I got back up to a full complement of keys.

Note: There were initially a couple of minor mistakes. I had the [ ] and – = the wrong way round. And the ‘Scroll Lock’ / ‘Pause Break’ / ‘Print Screen SysRq’ keys in the wrong order (but who even uses those? – apart from when I accidently hit them because of the bad design of this keyboard). The * and / keys in the number pad were also the wrong way round but again they’re right in the periphery.

So that took up about an hour of my bank holiday and also gave me something to write about today. Want to challenge yourself to see if you know where all the keys on a keyboard are? All you need is a keyboard and a screwdriver.


Missed the boat

This week I’ve been back in the office.

On Monday morning I went to get the train to work. I missed the train by seconds. Whilst I waited for the next one, I thought about the sequence of events leading up to that moment and all the ways that I could have caught the train if only I had…

  1. Left the house earlier – This is the most obvious answer but without hindsight it’s hard to know the effect that later actions had. It normally takes 10-12 minutes to walk to the station (depending on traffic). I normally give myself 12-15 mins just in case. On Monday I was getting close to my cut-off point and still wasn’t quite ready to leave. I could have rushed and probably made it, but the trains are every 15 minutes, so I thought I’d relax at home for a bit longer and then get the next one. I actually left the house with 16 minutes to get to the station, because on the way I wanted to…
  2. Buy bananas – I mentioned the other week that I normally have a banana every day. I last went shopping on Friday morning and deliberately chose not to buy bananas because I knew they wouldn’t last until the end of this week when I next went shopping. I planned to buy bananas from the stall outside the station, but when I walked past M&S Food and saw there were no queues I decided to go there (this was actually a wise choice as the fruit stall only had green bananas). Whilst I was there, I remembered that I also needed to…
  3. Buy shower gel – I ran out of shower gel a couple of days prior (don’t worry, I always have hotel toiletries for such emergency situations). I was planning to head to Sainsbury’s specifically for shower gel after work, but since I was in a supermarket already, why shouldn’t I just buy it here? Time was tight I thought, but I should be ok as long as I find what I want quickly. But I don’t shop much at M&S Food so it took me slightly longer than anticipated to find what I needed. Not to worry, there was no queue for the…
  4. Automated checkout – I scanned the shower gel, tick. I selected ‘loose item’ and then ‘banana#, only for the machine to tell me “invalid item”. The assistant then pointed me to a separate scales where I had to weigh the bananas and print out a barcode for scanning. I then chose to pay, but the “invalid item” message popped up again, which the assistant then had to come back across to clear. That done, I still had about two minutes to get to the station, I just needed to…
  5. Cross the road – There are two main road junctions I need to cross between my house and the station. They both have pedestrian sequences but they both really depend on the amount of traffic and turning up at the right point of the sequence. The first one was no problem on Monday given the reduced traffic and a bus that was conveniently waiting to turn the corner. The second junction was busier and I arrived halfway through one sequence of cars before the next car sequence and then the pedestrians. I could have made a dash for it, but road safety is important. Also, I could see that the train hadn’t arrived yet which meant I still had time to walk across and…
  6. Touch in – I currently use contactless to pay for my journeys (I used to use oyster but that’s a topic for a future blog). Specifically I’ve been using Android Pay on my phone. I could hear the train coming in at this point, but the station entrance is towards the rear of the train and it would take time for the train to actually arrive at the platform. I hit my phone against the oyster pad and the contactless symbol showed up on my phone, but the oyster pad came up with an error message (I think it was error 67 “contactless payment not approved” but I didn’t really have to time to study it). I knew Android Pay worked because I had used it moments ago to pay for my bananas. I moved to the next oyster pad but the same error. The train had stopped by this point so I pulled out my wallet and tapped my actual contactless card. Success. Now all I had to do was…
  7. Board the train – About 2.7 million people use my local station every year. Normally this means trains are quite busy with people getting on and off every time and so the trains normally stop for a good while. Not at the moment. With fewer people travelling to work it doesn’t take as long for the few people to board or alight. On a normal day, people would still be waiting to get on the train when I arrived onto the platform. On Monday, the train doors closed seconds before I could get to the train.

Power up!

About two months ago, I was getting off a flight and noticed that my backpack (containing my laptop) felt rather warm. I didn’t pay too much attention to it, thinking that maybe my laptop had turned itself on for some reason, or I was just imagining it.

At the hotel, I noticed that my laptop casing was coming apart. I assumed the man in the row behind me had been careless putting my bag into the overhead locker.

I pretty much ignored it until last week when I decided to take a look inside. And this is what I found:

If it’s not that obvious, the battery had expanded to approx 150% of its normal size, and this is what had pushed the casing apart.

I contacted the manufacturer who put me touch with their UK authorised repairer. Unsurprisingly the warranty only lasts one year for the battery (my laptop is now over three years old), however they were willing to sell me a replacement.

Here’s a comparison of the old battery and the new:

And here it is fitted snugly into the laptop:

Oh, and I saved myself about £85 by fitting it myself.

(For the observant ones out there, yes, I did take the opportunity to clean out the fans too.)


Mebbies aye, Mebbies naw

Since today is Scottish independence referendum day, I thought I’d conduct some voting of my own.

A couple of months ago, I decided to see what it would be like to grow a beard. Here’s the current status:

Should I keep the beard?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Leave a comment with any additional thoughts. Should it be longer? Shorter? Get rid of it all together?


Welcome (Back)

Hello again.

After a two year break I thought I would start blogging again. Here I’ll blog about all sorts of random thoughts and mundane events that take place in my life.

My previous blog had the tagline “The best blog I’ve ever written”. This time I’ve gone for “Better than the last blog I did”, and hopefully it will be.

If you want to visit the old blog, it’s still available here, although a lot of the links are currently broken (I may fix them at some point).

Leave me a comment if there’s anything you’d like to see/know, or just to let me know you’re reading.


That awkward question

Hi there. I’m back with another thought from my life (yes, they do seem to be few and far between).

Anyway, I get asked a lot of awkward questions but one always stands out. It’s not “What do I do for a job?” or even “Who do I work for?”. Nope, its “Where are you from?”. Sounds simple right, well what’s the answer? Here’s the possibilities:

A. The place I was born – Time since I lived there: about 22 years

B. The place where I grew up (and where my parents still live) – Time since I lived there: about 6 years (although on and off since)

C. The place where I went to university and where I’ve probably matured(?) the most – Time since I lived there: about 2 years

D. The place where I lived before my current job – Time since I lived there: about 6 months

E. Just around the corner – Time since I lived there: about 2 hours

But surely that’s not what they want to know.

So what is the answer? Does it actually even matter?

I don’t know, but today I got asked if I had gone home at the weekend. Don’t get me started.


My holiday in America: BlackBerry PlayBook

Since my last post was so disappointing and it’s now been over 3 weeks since I got back from America (it was fewer when I started writing this), it’s about time for the next post. This one is all about my BlackBerry PlayBook.

Personally I use it for light internet browsing and some games as well as some reading on the aeroplane. However my nieces (ages 2,4,5 and 7) loved it. In fact I was amazed at how quickly they picked it up and were finding all the apps they wanted and multi-tasking like pros in a few minutes. Some of the games they needed help with, especially in the later levels, but two of the most used apps were the Scrapbook and the camera. Well, these are the two that have pictures I can stick in this blog.


Most of these don’t make sense, but I’m sure there might be some sort of story between them. Sorry for putting so many in, clicking them opens the full image. [Keep scrolling down, there’s more stuff below this multitude of images]


My niece Romilly (6yo) loved the camera the most (maybe the only one who used it), but here are some self portraits:

And some videos… [Warning: dodgy camera work]
Sorry I spent ages trying to embed it without success, they can however be found here


My holiday in America: A Conversation

I got back from a two week trip to the USA yesterday to visit my brother and sister-in-law and children. I intend to (possibly) write a few blog posts about what happened. This first one is kind of a summary.

Since I had just got back and had no food in the house I had to go to my local ASDA supermarket. The checkout people don’t normally say much to me (and vice versa) but Holly just didn’t stop talking (or asking questions). I’m sure she didn’t talk to anyone else as much and the people behind me were probably annoyed. Here’s how the conversation went:

Holly: Hi, Sorry about the wait [There was 1 person ahead of me in the queue]
Me: That’s fine
H: Do you need any help with packing?
Me: I’ll probably be fine
H: You could probably do with some bags though
Me: Would help [Smile]
H: So how was your day? [This is one step beyond any normal customer/checkout girl conversation]
Me: Not bad. First day back after a couple of weeks off
H: That’s always bad, and now you have to do your shopping. Got any plans for this evening?
Me: Nope, just the shopping… and catching up from jetlag
H: Ooh, jetlag. Where did you go to?
Me: America.
H: Ooh, that’s exciting. Whereabouts?
Me: Philadelphia.
H: Ooh, very nice. How long were you there for?
Me: Just two weeks.
H: Did you get the full six weeks holiday?
Me: Er no, just the two weeks.
H: Oh right… That’s £33.
Me: Ok [I put my card in the machine]
H: Would you like cash back?
Me: No thanks
H: What’s your postcode [This was for some sort of ASDA survey]
Me: It’s CF23…
[I enter my pin number]
[Pin number is accepted but nothing is happening. Awkward moment]
[After about 30 seconds:]
H: It doesn’t normally take this long
[More awkwardness]
[After another 15 seconds, my card is finally accepted]
H: That’s great. Have a nice evening.
Me: Thanks, bye

So it didn’t really have a huge amount to do with my holiday, but I liked this story anyway.


5 years on…

Last weekend was my school’s reunion for those who had left five years ago. It was strange to be back in a building which I had spent so much time in whilst growing up and not a lot had changed. Yes, the classrooms had got new tables and there were now TV screens in the corridors(?!), but it was still very recognisable.

I hadn’t seen many of the people though since leaving school so it was strange to see people again after so long. Most people hadn’t changed much and although I didn’t remember everyone at first I soon did.

Somehow though it all felt a bit disappointing. Here are a few possible reasons:

  • People hadn’t changed as much as I had expected them too
  • The £10 entry fee which wasn’t worth it for the one free drink and the limited buffet
  • The lack of a number of key people, there were about 40 people from a year of 160
  • Most people only cared if you had studied politics or economics / worked for one of the big graduate employeers / lived/worked in London [None of which are me]

Maybe its just that I’ve grown up and school was a long way in the past, after all it was almost a fifth of my life ago.

It could be worse though, my older brother reminded me that its ten years since he finished university.



Dear Family and Friends,

Today I fully intended to go Christmas shopping. However this is the view I have outside my window:

Therefore Christmas shopping will not be happening and no one will be getting any presents.

Thanks for understanding.

Lots of love,