Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wimbledon 2014

A few pics from the first day of the tournament ... managed to get my paws on Court 1 tickets!




And here are some rapid fire stills of Tsonga serving and striking a clean back hand:



Monday, June 16, 2014

A few films recently watched on Netlfix

The Hola.org Firefox Add-on is still working a treat, providing access to the much wider Netflix US movie catalogue. Recent movies enjoyed include:

- Never Back Down 2 (featuring and directed by Michael Jai White) 4/5
- New Order (excellent South Korean cop/mafia movie along the lines of The Departed) 4.5/5
- Drug War (an over rated Hong Kong crime procedural) 3/5
- The Grandmaster (a good movie from Wong Kar-Wai, but perhaps a touch too much style over substance) 3.5/5

A nice quote from The Grandmaster: 'In life, ability isn't everything. Some thrive in light, others in shadows. The times make us who we are'.

- Jiro Dreams of Sushi (exquisite documentary about devotion and dedication to perfection) 4/5


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Annual hayfever update

The hayfever medicine cabinet contains an ever growing list of products. For those who don't suffer, trust me, it is a right pain in the ***. You feel all bunged up like you have a cold. You can't concentrate and are forever sneezing, rubbing your eyes, and blowing your nose. This is the plague of the modern era and it sucks.

This year my arsenal comprises:

- Cetrizine Hydrochloride - when I first developed hayfever, half of one of these tablets would clear up the itchy eye and sneezing symptoms almost immediately. However, their effectiveness has decreased each year and now they are only a modest help (they are at least off patent so are cheap to buy). These days the runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing must all be adressed individually.
- Eye drops containing that sodium cromoglicate - used as needed for itchy eyes. Good stuff.
- Pirinase nasal spray contains fluticasone propionate - used last night and I had a great sleep with no runny nose. Seems to be at least as good as Beconase.
- Sudafed Decongestant with Pseudoephedrine. These tablets are the manna from the gods for those days when the nose doesn't stop dripping like a tap. I used to end up blowing my nose so much that it would start bleeding. Last year, I couldn't get a hold of Sudafed with this active ingredient and really suffered as a result. Note, these tablets are only available from the pharmacist, no prescription required. The substance is quite potent and is banned in many sports and is also used a precursor in the production of crytsal meth. In some other countries, its sale is much more tightly regulated and requires identification etc. You know its good stuff when it's on a restricted substance list! 

If the meds don't solve the problem this year, I may have to perform the annual ritual of making my bedroom into a clean 'safe zone'. I'll avoid this if I can though, because it is nigh on impossible to keep the window closed in summer, and once it's opened, it's game over and all the effort is wasted.

Relegated for now:

- Prevalin - turned out to be a complete waste of money last year. The dispenser was ineffective and it didn't do much more than coat the nose with a protective layer, which a few sneezes or nose blows would render useless.
- Sudafed Blocked Nose Tablets containing Phenylephorine Hydrochloride - these looked very similar to the Sudafed Decongestant Tablets described above but the active ingredient is nowhere near as helpful. To date I would say they have only been about 25% effective, if that. Definitely a waste of money.
- Beconase containing Beclomatsone Dipropionate - this was clearly effective last year, but this year I wanted to try something different.


See the below graphic to figure know your enemy:

Pollen in the UK
The pollen season separates into three main sections:

  1. Tree pollen - late March to mid-May.
  2. Grass pollen - mid-May to July.
  3. Weed pollen - end of June to September
Source: metoffice.gov.uk

The old E-bay switcheroo


My sports locker undergone a modest transformation. I sold the above Ping Zings on E-bay for a touch under what than I paid for them last year, and have channelled the funds into a tennis racquet, also purchased on E-bay. I may have overpaid a little for the racket but it is a rare Wilson Hyper Hammer, a model I tend to love. My current racquet is the newer model Wilson K factor Bold, but new isn't always best. The feel is my racket is okay but it isn't quite on the money. I expect the Hammer to do wonders for my game ... cough, cough, focusing illusion, cough, good tradesman and his tools, cough.

Going back to the golfing situation, I forgot to mention that after scoring a 9-hole personal best at our home course (Bird Hills), I improved on the number (scored 42 vs par 35) shortly thereafter on a much tougher course (Wexham). I haven't been practicing at all this year and put the good scores down to either my new clubs - some rusty but trusty Calloway X-20s which I purchased last year - and the fact that I am now carrying the full spectrum of irons, instead of just the odd numbers. Consistency is still all over the place though and I still don't know whether Jekyll or Hyde has turned up until I tee-up the first shot of the day.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Return to Snap City: non-specfic neck pain


After adventures in 'busted triceps country' (the problem is now pretty much fixed, see here and here for more), I now find myself dealing with a case of what I think is muscle related, non-specific neck pain, which has put me out of action this weekend. My breakfast comprised two paracetamol and a nurofen, partnered with a liberal spaying of Deep Heat - me thinks something more substantial may be required. Sleeping is horrible: I woke up repeatedly through the night, feeling being pinned to the bed, and actually needed to use my hands to lift my head to more comfortable positions (and also to get out of bed) because the strain on the neck of simply getting up is too much for the useless, weakling neck to deal with in its current condition. I mean come on, it's not like I was involved in some kind of accident. I can't even recall straining it in anyway. It was just a case of waking up and there it was. Boom, bang, hello Snap City. It's like some kind of curse had landed upon me from a far away land. Causes can include bad posture such as being arched over at your desk at work, sleeping on thick pillows, or anxiety, none of which I would think are a problem for me. By process of elimination that only really leaves the gypsy black magic curse from lands afar. The problem is compounded many fold by peak hay fever, which brings with it north of 30 violent sneezes a day, each one acting like a mini pain injection (they're over in a second but the anticipation sucks). Also, working through the pain (e.g. playing a round of golf, which I did last night), is not recommended.

Before visiting the doctor, the treatment appears to be simple, and the NHS says that it is 'generally nothing to worry about', which is all to the good:

- Paracetamol/Ibuprofen, or both (I'm on both for now, the paracetamol seem ineffective so will be dropped).
- Gentle neck exercises, ranging from general shoulder rotations and arm movements to gentle directional head movements. Keeping your head stationary for too long isn't recommended. Another good one seems to be to use a foam roller or tennis ball to massage the sore spot, or sticking two tennis balls in a sock with a slight gap between them, and using the device to massage the base of the neck for relief.
- Heat treatments can help to reduce the pain - I'm using Deep Heat for immediate relief and may use heat packs if needed. A hot bath can also be helpful.
- Work at eye level as much as possible (out go all the active activities, in come surfing the web, blogging, and watching the French Open...it isn't all bad!)

Note to self, the neck pain subsided significantly after taking an Ibuprofen, increasing the pain-free circular range to approximately 50%, from around 10% first thing in the morning. But how much is simply due to starting the day and moving out of the uncomfortable lying position. Confound you, multiple variables!

I'm not wallowing in pity with these injuries by blogging about them, but am interested in logging them for future reference. The dilemma once faces with these things is that most issues heal themselves, so you may end up taking lots of non-helpful actions and you won't really know if they are helpful or not, but because the cost of taking the actions is low, they will become part of your self-treatment routine. No doubt some measures are nothing more than gypsy magic, but you'll never know. So, rational being, how do you like them apples?

Anyways, it looks like my hopes to get back in the gym need to be set back another week, which is roughly how long it takes for the problem to fix itself. 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Do not resuscitate - death with dignity (i.e. minimal suffering)

What better way to spend a Sunday morning than to research "Do Not Resuscitate" (or "Allow Natural Death") orders? I decided to look into this after listening to a Radiolab podcast about how CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is far less successful than we commonly believe. The distorted view is most likely due to fictional tv programmes, in which people are routinely saved from the brink of death, often going on to make a full recoveries. In reality, the technique is beset with risks, including irreversible brain damage, broken rib cages, etc. I will research this further but given that I have no fear of death in and of itself (it seems illogical as once I am dead, I am no longer around to worry about it), but I do have a fear of suffering, and given that many people instinctively think that lives are worth saving at any cost, I wouldn't mind having some say in when not to be resuscitated.

Not unsurprisingly, this topic can be quite controversial. The likes of AgeUK have been flagging up cases where doctors have issued DNRs (do not resuscitate) orders on patients without discussing the patients' wishes with the patient (they not be mentally competent) or even with their friends or family. My concern is on the other side - that a DNR order is not in place when I would wish it to be. Because of this concern, I have added 'death planning' to my to do list.

For the time being, let it be known that I do want to be resuscitated in temporary situations such as choking, anaphylaxis, and operations where there is a risk that that my heart will stop beating. I do not want to be resuscitated if it is only going to prolong my life for a few weeks or months, and there is a high risk that my consciousness/brain-state will be significantly impaired or/and that I will be in significant pain for a prolonged period. Scenarios might include extreme accidents or the final phases of terminal illnesses.

To all friends and family, if senior doctors/consultants ever decide that a DNR should be in place based on their assessment of the futility of further treatment and resuscitation, I would like this determination to be respected and not to be challenged (maybe even thank the good doctor for making this tough call).

Lastly, I would much prefer for my last moments to be at home versus being in a hospital, however, if this significantly reduces the probability of successful organ donation then the hospital is the best place.

And just in case anybody is worried, please rest assured, I am currently in good health.