Over the last few weeks, I’ve bought five things in addition to the usual and predictable regular shopping items. Each has been useful in some way or manner; collectively, life feels a bit better and easier than before (albeit, in one case, more painful). The five items totaled less than £150; four are pictured here:
1) New glasses, but bought online. Good grief! There was a really bad day a few years back when glasses were crushed underfoot, as they had cost more than £200. With these, a few days ago my current housemate did the same; my fault as I’d put them down to read while sitting on a step and didn’t see them on getting up (as I need to wear my glasses to see my glasses, if that makes sense). However, this time round there’s not even a fraction of the previous grief as the slightly bent glasses cost just £15 plus postage(!)
These were bought a few weeks back online after side-eyeing various glasses website with some suspicion for a long while, wondering if these were all scams and I would just get dunno an empty envelope in return. They aren’t. The glasses came through in about a week, they fit perfectly, and the vision is clear. Ordering was simple; just entering the most recent eye test readings, plus the measurement for the distance between pupils (you can do that one in a mirror using a ruler). Voila, glasses that look professional. And I’ve just ordered exactly the same pair again to replace the slightly crushed pair, which will in turn do fine as backup glasses for if/when the next accident happens.
Fifteen quid. For a great pair of glasses. We live in good times (if you ignore all the horrendously bad stuff).
2) The one thing that is not in the photo: an hour of hell. I’ve been going to the gym most days for a while, but this year so far it’s been increasingly boring. The gym had a special offer to entice you to get a personal trainer, so I signed up for the one hour of this.
About halfway through the session my serious question to him was: “Are you trying to kill me?”
His solution to my boredom was that I wasn’t doing machines at the right resistance, and he was probably right. As well as losing weight at a very gradual rate over the last three years (61 pounds gone, 20 to go), I’d been gradually building stamina and muscle without noticing but not altering the settings. So, one of the first things he did was to double the resistance on several items e.g. from 40 pounds to 80 pounds on one of the more evil bicep machines, and give me “sets of reps” to do.
This was not enjoyable. “No pain, no gain!” he grinned. “You think you’re funny, but you’re not.” I retorted. I begrudgingly accept that it’s useful, and there’s too much pain involved now to be bored in the gym, so there’s that as well.
3) Coffee pot, cup and cork coaster. I’ve been drinking instant coffee for several years out of a combination of convenience, laziness, and not having my own place for much of that time. And the adage that instant is 80% of the taste for only 20% of the effort of non-instant has some merit, though most instant coffee falls way below that 80% – after much experimentation, Sainsburys gold label was the only instant that was drinkable on a regular basis. The 20% of the effort thing as well is somewhat suspect if, like me, you require several cups or mugs of the caffeine wonder through the first half of the say.
A few weeks back saw me in Ikea as a new branch has opened in a very convenient location. As well as the increasingly frequent purchases of jams and crispy things, the cheapness of the cafetiere or French press or whatever you want to call it was prominently displayed, so what the heck, and la la la got the full works plus a few blocks of ground coffee. And it’s been enjoyable; a pot is made and it lasts several hours without a return to the kitchen. Additional bonuses is that a block of ground coffee lasts longer than a jar of instant, and milk purchases and consumption (instant coffee without milk to me tastes like congealed rust) are down. Another win.
4) Amazon Fire Tablet. I’d seen these around but thought that at fifty seashells, or whatever our currency is now, they were probably too basic or limited to be useful. Until I had a go on one and was surprised that it could run a whole bundle of apps, email, web browser (which is a little weird but okay) and other things at the same time with no slowdown. It’s very light, the screen is pretty good, and it’s robust enough to literally be thrown into a hiking bag. So one was purchased; even with the upgrades (no ads, and double the memory) it’s only 70 pounds – buying twenty of them would still cost less than a new MacBook Pro (obligatory EdTech economics observation).
Now I’m not claiming it’s perfect, or the thing that has revolutionised my life. It is, dispassionately, just a lump of tech like all other lumps of tech. And it comes with some annoyances, such as an awful speaker (do not set a critical morning alarm using this device) the need to do some configuring to minimise Amazon’s intrusiveness and to install the Google Play Store, and difficult to use native word processing and spreadsheet apps. But it’s quickly become my default device for online activities which do not require much typing, email checking, weather forecast and train time checking, and a whole bunch of other things. And, like my glasses, if it gets lost or broken there will be no wailing at destroying several hundred pounds worth of kit. Cheap? Yes. Practical? Yes; I’ve even been able to design, write and complete a small example of Interactive Fiction on it, which may become my benchmark for the usefulness of a lump of tech in the future.
5) EDGE magazine. As 2017 progresses, I’m doing less and less of faffing-around social media, and more work-oriented online stuff. For example, I rarely check my wordshore twitter anymore, but spend more time over on my solstraler one, or figuring out who is doing what through LinkedIn. There’s several reasons for this – social media outrage fatigue, for example – with a key factor being both the desire and need to focus on my core work interest more, namely collecting and collating the evidence for digital games in learning (and other domains).
EDGE is a difficult magazine to describe; the closest is probably saying it’s often-serious writing on aspects of digital games. This edition of EDGE was spotted being advertised in relation to the new Zelda game on the Switch (and after five hours play, yay); thusly many gold coins (it’s not cheap) were exchanged for said issue. EDGE I’d had on subscription back in the day, but the changes in lifestyle in the early part of this decade meant this was dropped and I just randomly bought the occasional copy. Getting this issue, and reading it cover to cover, was a reminder that games journalism executed properly can be really good journalism and writing. And, there was a lengthy article on games in science, research and learning inside which was a big bonus. This resulted in happily subscribing again; it’s good to have that regular expectation of the next issue again.
Anyway, that’s the end of this pointless post, and probably the last non-work one for a while. In summary: I spent a small amount of money and bought some things, writing a blog post about it for reasons I’ve forgotten now.