the article that could save lives (or at least prevent some pain)

No, this is nothing to do with magic cure-alls, silver bullets or even preventative lifestyle advice. And it’s certainly not an article I wrote, but one I chanced upon.

One morning, a few weeks ago, I went into the staff tea room for my ten-minute morning tea break, and found a print-out copy of this article on the table: When Evidence Says No, but Doctors Say Yes (by David Epstein & Propublica, published by The Atlantic on February 22, 2017). I was intrigued, and started reading.

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it starts with 1

The other day, a friend of mine shared a photo of a large-scale sculpture of a couple of fish made mostly from plastic bottles. The sculptures are displayed on a beach (I think in Brazil somewhere) and were intended to draw attention to the amount of litter found on beaches and in oceans.

However, scrolling through the comments attached to the photo, I found out that the bottles were only glued on (with an apparently flimsy glue) and, over time, have begun falling off the sculpture. Kind of ironic, but I suppose the message was still getting through.

The photo was initially shared on FB by an organisation called “1 Million Women“, and came with the harrowing prediction that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. After browsing their FB page briefly, I followed the link to their official website, and actually ended up spending about an hour just reading articles there.

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baseline changes

After posting my self-judged report card for 2015, I remembered that I’d actually written a post at the start of the year that was meant to be my baseline for this assessment.

I already addressed things like reading, fitness and CPD, but there were a few other items that I didn’t assess in that other post.

First things first: my only kind of “official” resolution for 2015 was to bake more. I don’t even need to think about this to know that I completed it successfully. Alongside cakes and cookies, I also made scones and brownies and truffles – so many truffles! (To be fair, truffles aren’t baked, but I still brought them in to work, so I’m gonna let them count toward the total – not that I need them to, and not that I’m actually counting)

I also had paragraphs about drinks: both the caffeinated and alcoholic varieties. I feel like I’ve been drinking coffee more often in 2015. Still not a daily or even a weekly habit, but more often the thought occurs to me, and I think “why not”. I still only drink flat whites. Still full cream milk, no sugar. I don’t think this will ever change, but I can be fickle sometimes, so who knows…

As to the other drink, I feel like 2015 has been a year for beer. I know a few friends who brew their own beers, and I’ve been to a few “tasting” events to try craft beer, and the variety is sometimes quite impressive. I think I’ve moved on from pale ales to IPAs and amber ales, and I do like the occasional chocolate or coffee stout.

In my baseline post, I also mentioned cycling. In all of 2015, I think I went cycling maybe twice, so that certainly hasn’t improved from 2014. I don’t have high hopes of it changing for 2016 either, especially now that I’m more inspired to run (particularly after reading Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running). But I’ve decided that this doesn’t matter. As long as I don’t let my fitness slide, it doesn’t matter.

last year (#2)

Occasionally, I like to look back at old posts to see what sort of stuff I wrote “back then”, or to see how my writing has evolved, or just to reminisce about old times. The other night, I had a look at the posts I published in September last year, and I came across this one about hypothetically having one year left to live. It has a list of things that I would not change about my life, even if I knew that I was going to die in exactly one year’s time.

I thought it’d be good to do a follow-up post on that one, just to see what’s changed. But, actually, I’d probably keep all of those answers the same. Of course, now that I’m writing a novel (attempting to, at least), I’d probably include finishing the novel in my list. Well, I already had a dot-point for writing, so it’d probably just be included in that.

Something else that I probably wouldn’t change (and that wasn’t on the list) is the amount of travel I do, which is very minimal. Actually, maybe I would (?) It’s hard to say. I mean, initially, I thought I’d mostly stay put so that I could spend more time with family and friends, but then I thought that maybe I’d want to take said family and friends on holidays elsewhere just because I can, and it’d be a nice sort of thank-you to them. But then there’s also the consideration of whether or not it would be better to not squander all my money, so that I have more to leave behind for the people I’m leaving behind.

Gee.. I think I’m overthinking this a little bit…

Ok, how about an easy one: I’ve been baking more this year, and that’s another thing I probably wouldn’t change. In fact, I’d probably bake more. I made shortbread this morning, which I’m pairing with a peanut butter chocolate ganache. And maybe strawberries on top. I’d continue to bake because it makes me feel happy, and it makes others happy, and, really, what more can you ask for? (Ice-cream, maybe, but that can be arranged.) Also, if I only have one year left to live, I’m not going to be counting calories (I don’t even count calories now).

If I had just one year left to live, I’d still listen to lots of music, I’d still learn the lyrics to all the songs I like, and I’d still go to concerts. Again, I’d probably listen to music more often in this one year scenario than I do now. Hmm.. Let me put some music on…

Ok, that’s better.

Let’s delve into something deeper: What would I change? I think this is the harder question to answer because you have to confront the things that aren’t quite right with life, or that aren’t as good as they could be. Ok, here we go…

  1. I would probably share this blog more. Maybe. Currently, I don’t really tell anyone I know in real life that I have this blog (I think I was going to write a post about this, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Maybe I’ll write it next week …maybe after I’ve tried sharing this blog with more people.) It’s not really a big deal either way, I guess…?
  2. I wouldn’t worry so much about getting enough sleep. Considering all the reading, writing, running, baking, etc that I want to do, there’s just no way I’d have time to sleep in or over-sleep. I’d give myself 7 hours max. – ok, maybe 7.5 to 8 hours if I’m really tired. Maybe I’d just start drinking coffee more often. Hmm… I’m sure 7 hours is fine. I’m keeping my moments of stillness, though.
  3. I would give more hugs. I love a good hug as much as the next person but I don’t tend to initiate hugs. Most of my hugs happen on some sort of special occasion, or if I’m with someone who especially likes hugs. Sometimes I feel a bit awkward about hugs, sometimes I sense that the other person feels awkward about hugs. But, according to something I read somewhere some time ago, physical contact (in the form of hugs, etc not, like, violent contact) releases oxytocin, which makes people feel good toward each other, which can’t be a bad thing, right? (Well, it potentially could be, but let’s pretend it’s all good.)

I have this belief that you need at least three things to make a list, so that’s all I’m going to write. That was actually harder than I thought because when I planned this post (in my head), I was just going to write about not changing things again. It was only as I was actually writing this post that I randomly decided to write about making changes, and then I had to sit here and think of three things I would change.

And now the pressure’s on. Will I make these changes? Will I remember to write a follow-up post from this one in approximately one year’s time?

I’m actually curious to know what other people would change / not change, so if you decide to make your own list, and feel like sharing, I’d be interested in reading/hearing about it!

monkey-ing around

Ok, so I kind of thought that maybe a two-sentence post might not really cut it as a proper post for my post-per-week thing, so I’m writing another post…

Fortunately, I came across this rather interesting post on the very appropriately named site iwastesomuchtime.com

It’s a great site for wasting time, but you can also find funny and interesting things there. It’s also very useful for when you’re bored and/or have a few minutes spare that you need to get rid of.

I’m kind of hoping that that hyperlink will work forever, but in case it doesn’t, I’m going to quickly summarise the monkey experiment: Basically, you put five monkeys in a cage with a ladder and you hang a banana at the top of the ladder. When a monkey goes up the ladder and gets the banana, you spray the other four monkeys with cold water. Eventually the monkeys learn that it’s bad for another monkey to climb the ladder to get the banana, so if anyone attempts it, they attack them.

Next, you replace one of the monkeys with a new one. When the new monkey goes to climb the ladder to get the banana, the other monkeys attack it. The new monkey doesn’t know why, but it learns that this is just how things work in the cage. Replace another monkey, and the first new monkey joins in the attacking of the second one. Then you replace the original monkeys one by one until all five monkeys are new. These monkeys weren’t ever sprayed with cold water, but they attack any monkey who attempts to climb the ladder because that’s what they’ve learnt to do.

So, yeah, it’s pretty interesting in how it teaches people to not keep doing something just because “that’s how it’s always been done”. There was a line at the end making a comment about the Marine Corps, but I don’t really know what’s going on there, so I’m not going to comment on it. Besides, it’s a good general lesson, anyway.

I’m not really keen on (unnecessary/sudden) change, but I like knowing there’s a purpose/reason behind something. I think a friend or someone once wrote this quote-type thing along the lines of “I am good, but I can be better. I’ll work hard to become better. And if I become the best, I’ll keep working hard because I’ll know that I can still be better.” Something like that. Anyway, that’s kind of resonated with me, since I’ve graduated and passed my internship and seem to have reached the top of the mountain, so to speak.

But this isn’t the end of the road. I know that there are always improvements that can be made – for myself, my workplace, the people I work with, for my home and relationships. It just takes a bit of courage to help put some changes in motion.

the best laid schemes…

As regular readers of my blog would know (or even semi-regular or skim-readers would probably know), I don’t write about deep and meaningful stuff too often (if at all (?)) but tonight I’m sort of making an exception. I’m sorry if you’ve heard this story before, but I’m going to retell it anyway.

During high school, if you had asked me what I did not want to study at uni, Pharmacy would have been right up there on that list. I didn’t really know much about Pharmacy or pharmacists, but just had the impression that the profession was a bit boring.

Lo and behold, a day or two before QTAC applications closed, I did away with that list (although I was still pretty adamant that I would not study Law or Dentistry – no offence if you’re in either of those professions – it’s just a personal thing for me) and decided to put Pharmacy in top spot. And, surprise, surprise, in my first year of uni, I was a pharmacy student.

During uni, a friend once said that I’m the type of person who could study/do anything and still be enthusiastic and passionate about it. I agreed with them at the time (still do – to an extent) but I really couldn’t imagine what life would be like for me if I hadn’t chosen Pharmacy. (Well, yeah, I suppose I could imagine, technically, if I tried hard enough, but it’s a figure of speech, ok?)

What I’m really trying to say here is that whenever my mind wanders off down this stretch of Memory Lane, and I think about all the lovely people I’ve worked with and currently work with, I get this irrepressible feeling of being incredibly lucky.

I hope that things don’t change too much (although change can be a good thing, such as changing your QTAC preferences last minute), but I reckon that the moral of the story here is that you can plan all you want and set yourself on a certain path, but all that can change so quickly and unexpectedly, and how you run with it may be all that determines whether it was a change for the better or worse.