Monday, 19 January 2015

Where has Skippy been for the Last Week?

Bonjour my fellow internet dwellers. I'm really sorry I wasn't able to update my blog at all last week. Had a randomly busy week setting up various computers and other IT equipment at various locations.

Thankfully that very minor busy period is now over and I can get back to keeping you all informed with my latest offerings of advice and shenanigans.

Speak to you all soon, lots of exciting news to tell you all about.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Is David Phillips the Worst Commentator Ever?

David Phillips (on the right) continuously ruins my Football viewing
This is a question that every football fan can understand. You switch over to watch a match, the build up begins, the TV presenters make you believe it’s a game of life and death, final predictions are made by the studio guests...and then your passed over to the football commentators.

Needless to say the next 90 minutes of supposedly sporting pleasure are about to be ruined by voices that don't belong. I don't know what level of respect in the game football commentators have, but in my household they have, over the past few years, become some of the most annoying, borderline hated, people to grace my TV set.

I can't even see you, and yet you annoy the living daylights out of me.

But which commentator is the worst? This debate can go on for all eternity purely because of the sheer number of bad commentators. And do we really have to call them analysts? Ex professionals who get giving a microphone to explain to the viewing public what's just happened? No, you’re not a fancy analyst - anyone can do that - you are just a lesser commentator.

I'm going to throw one hat into the ring based on the performance I've literally just had to endure while a half decent game was going on. This performance was so bad that if you only listened to the commentary you would be hard pressed to realise an actual football match was going on.

David Phillips. Commentator for Sky Sport's Spanish Football coverage.

I've just finished watching Granada V Sevilla in the Copa Del Ray. Granted it was never going to be a classic, it finished 1-2 to Sevilla, and it was an OK game to watch. But listening to it was a different story all together.

Whenever something remotely uninteresting happens Mr Phillips has to analyse every single part of it in such fine detail that he completely missed the next 5 minutes of the game. It was made even worse in this match because the main commentator (your lucky I have forgotten your name) seemed to egg him on, filling in any gaps in David's knowledge and allowing him to continue to ramble on.

In the second half I watched the winger from Sevilla run through the channel, whip a ball in with pin-point accuracy, the striker had found space in the box and headed the ball on target. The Granada goalkeeper pulls off a great save and ball is cleared.

Every single part of this would have been great commentary...except all we got was David talking about a "19 year old who is still learning the game", only switching back to the live action unfolding before us as the goalkeeper saved the ball, completely disregarding the amazing run, cross and heading of the ball.

And there's more. Iago Aspas, on loan at Sevilla from Liverpool, came on and played the last 15 minutes. Cue the endless chat about how he didn't get his chance at Liverpool, went for big money, never fully justified his talent, ended up back in Spain on loan, is only really worth 5 million Euros....all this while a football match is going on is being completely ignored.

I'd like to say that this was a one off occurrence, but it isn't. Every time I hear his voice on Sky's otherwise great La Liga coverage a little part of me dies inside.

A commentator’s job is simple - tell me what is happening in the game, and maybe give me some quick interesting facts when there is a break in play. Mr Phillips, please do this and leave your lengthy monologues for after the match or Revista De La Liga (Sky Sports Review show for Spanish football).

Is it too much to ask to have a decent commentator who actually commentates?

If you need inspiration for a great commentator Sky Sports don't have to look far in their Spanish coverage. Gerry Armstrong gets it spot on every time, and is thankfully used on all the big Spanish games. He reads the game beautifully, comes to quick decisions in game (and isn't afraid to correct himself if the replay shows otherwise) and focus purely on the game.

But no, we end up with David Phillips, and the countless over commentators who don't actually commentate.

Who do you think is the worst football commentator?

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Happy Birthday to Sister Skippy!

Happy Birthday to my Amazing Sister!

The title of this says it all! Happy birthday to my awesome big sister, Melissa. She may be 2 years older then me, but I'm 2 foot taller haha.

Nothing I do would be possible without my sister. She is the Ying to my Yang, knows what I'm thinking before even I know, keeps me grounded when I get carried away with ideas, spoils me rotten when it comes to birthdays and Christmas, is always there to talk to, but more importantly tells it to me straight.

Without Mel I wouldn't have achieved anything with my life. She inspires me even to this day and makes me want to be a better person. Without her I still be stuck in a crappy job rather then fulfilling my dreams running my own business.

Thank you for being my Sister Mel, and a big massive happy birthday to you.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

UK Charities can get Amazing Discounts on Computer Software

TT-Exchange can provide software to Charities at discounted rates

I do a lot of fundraising and IT support for various charities, specifically in the Hartlepool area. It seems like a lot of their New Year resolutions has been to finally upgrade computers and software the organisations have used for a number of years. Some people where even using Windows XP in 2015, which, last time I checked, was a mortal sin!

Surprisingly a couple of charities weren’t aware that they could receive huge discounts on computer software. Various other charities exist solely just to supply other charities with such discounted software. Working in the charity sector hasn’t been great over the last few years due to the huge funding cuts currently taking effect in the UK, so it’s important that every last penny is spent wisely and efficiently.

The Technology Trust (www.tt-exchange.org) specifically offers a scheme for purchasing software to registered charities. They have partnered with various IT companies, including Microsoft and Cisco, to allow charities to gain access to products that may well be out of budget if purchased at the full retail price.

All a charity has to do is simply register on the Technology Trust website, wait for their charity status to be confirmed, and a great selection of software is readily available. VAT still needs to be factored into any purchases, but even with this savings of 90% - 95% can still be made.

Anyone working for a charity who is considering upgrading any existing tech or software should check out the Technology Trust website to see what they have available.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Why a Facebook 'Copyright' Wall Post is Pointless

I've logged on to Facebook today, as is the usual ritual, only to be bombarded with the same copy and paste privacy statement on my friends’ walls. Turns out not a lot of people are happy about the new rules that have come in to force on the 5th January 2015.

Regardless of what you think about the new procedures, adding a copyright statement to your Wall isn't going to change your relationship with Facebook. In fact, by posting on your Wall you’re probably agreeing to the new rules because you have continued to use Facebook after they have come into effect.

This whole 'privacy statement panic' has happened a couple of times over the last few years, each time being as pointless as the last. I refer you all back to an article published on the Forbes website in 2012 by Mr Dave Thier, who does a pretty good job of summing up the whole You-and-Facebook relationship. Even though the article is now a few years old it still holds true.

The original article can be found at www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2012/11/26/why-you-cant-protect-your-facebook-privacy-with-a-wall-post/, but the jist of it all is below:

"It’s wishful thinking on behalf of everyone that wishes Facebook didn’t own their online identities. The problem is that there is nothing legal about any single post you might put on your Facebook wall. The legal action that takes primacy in your relationship with Facebook is the user agreement, and no wall post is going to change that"

Regardless of what privacy statement you put on your Wall, it's not going to make any difference to what Facebook do with your inputted data. Simple rule of thumb with anything that you want to keep private is to simply not post it on a social network at all.

Hope that has cleared up a few things.

Keep Smilin'
Skippy

Saturday, 3 January 2015

A Life Without Caffeine

A Life Without Caffeine
Celebrating a year without migraines with a cup of hot lemon. Lovely

Happy New Year everyone, hope you all enjoyed the festive period. And what a beautiful year 2015 is already shaping up to be!

The 1st of January 2015 was quite a special occasion for me personally. It signalled the 1st anniversary of being migraine free and pain free. For 365 days I haven't even had a headache, let alone a migraine.

2014 didn't exactly start great for me. By 10am I was being rushed to hospital in excruciating pain. It felt like my head was about to explode, so much so that I was officially in a coma for 4 hours. Granted this isn't exactly the longest coma in history, but it was enough to scare my mother (and she's not really the type who gets scared often!).

The coma incident was the final straw in an 8 year battle which had now become somewhat out of control. For 8 years I'd suffered with migraines - flashing lights, pain in the head, being sick, and loss of body movement. They started off relatively manageable, but gradually got worse until they became unbearable. The coma episode was the 4th time I'd ended up in hospital in 3 years.

As with all my other hospital visits, tests were carried out, MRI scans happened, and I was giving a Lumbar Puncture, which gave me quite a bad headache for 5 days afterwards. Considering what I'd already been through though I was passed caring. Every day I was in pain and just carried on as best as I could. C'est La Vie!

Because of the severity of my latest migraine the doctors finally took notice and kept me in hospital a little bit longer. Normally I would be in for a day or 2, was giving time to recover and was sent on my merry way. This time a full lifestyle check and medical history was done. I stayed in hospital for 5 days.

In previous diagnosis' I was told to stay away from lights, computers and TV's. Somewhat difficult in my line of work as a Web Developer and IT Technician, but I managed to put in place my own rules to make sure I had a reasonable amount of time away from technology each day. I was prescribed Propranolol and was ordered to take them 2 times a day. This would be my life for the foreseeable future.

Sadly, none of this worked. A few months would pass without any problems, but then the pain would return and I'd be right back to square one.

Not this time though. The doctor spelt out the problem for me - straight to the point and designed to get my utmost attention. Those words would never be forgotten.

"Based on the progression and severity of your migraines, there is a very real possibility that your next migraine could kill you".

It was time to get this fixed once and for all.

After a couple of consultations, blood tests and more scans with various experts the conclusion was that my every day working life wasn't to blame. I'd taken time off before and I was still suffering from migraines. The focus switched to what I was eating. I was put on a special diet which removed all kinds of food from my life, all scientifically proven to be a cause of migraines and head pain.

No chocolate
No cheese
No caffeine
No wine
No alcohol

Talk about ripping a part of my life away! These were some of my main pleasure foods after a hard working week! Chocolate was a mainstay of my 'lets watch some football on the TV' ritual, cheese was a main part of my diet, a cup of tea would pass my lips about 8 times on any giving day. Wine I wasn't too fussed about because I wasn't a big drinker, similar to alcohol too - it wasn't really my thing.

For 3 months I was put on this diet. And the Mother, being the lovingly strict person she is, made sure I stuck to it. There were times when I craved some food, and I especially missed my cup of tea. Nevertheless I persevered for the matter of life or death.

The first 2-3 weeks were absolute torture. Caffeine in particular was the hardest to give up. I never realised how addicted to the stuff I was. Warmed up orange juice and blackcurrant where the replacements for tea, but never quite filled my urge for everyone's favourite pick me up.

Then after these initial few weeks, I suddenly felt fantastic! It was as if someone had lifted a weight off my chest and I could finally breathe again. I woke up one day and felt amazing! All of a sudden I was sleeping better, my mind felt sharper, and the parents even commented that the colour in my face had returned.

The rest of the 3 month diet was a doddle, and at the end I had one last set of tests, and an appointment was made to visit a specialist doctor to discuss my improvements and compare test results over the 3 month diet.

Almost immediately the doctor could see I looked well, and a few questions later he had come to the decision that I was fit and healthy once again. He even had the time to jokingly say that one of the original diagnosis', a possible bleed on the brain, was "utter bollocks", instead explaining that it was a mark on the equipment that had been used to give me an MRI scan, and that to an inexperienced operator it would look like a bleed.

The fact that this doctor was able to jokingly tell me one of my symptoms didn't actually exist, while reassuring me about the other symptoms where real and quite serious, made me feel great. It was poignant to me because I vividly remember the first time I ended up in hospital. One of the discussions the doctors had was that I was faking the level of pain I was in, stating that if I was saying my pain was a 9 out of 10 I "would be in a coma". If only I saw that doctor had seen me again 2 years later!

Even more incredibly, this specialist doctor was finally able to give my migraine suffering a name.

Leukoencephalopathy.

Don't ask me how to say it...

Basically neurons in the brain are protected by something called the Myelin Sheath (think of it as wire insulation). In my brain this Sheath was almost non existent, worn away by my own dietary choices over many years. A headache is nothing more then over-active neurons sending too many signals between each other, causing slight discomfort. The Myelin Sheath prevents these headaches developing into something more painful by acting as a barrier for these signals. If you have no Sheath you have nothing to protect you, and quite suddenly a headache can develop into a migraine and ultimately cause quite severe neurological symptoms.

This was the first time I was able to understand what was truly going on in my brain. It was amazing to hear, and offered me some kind of weird peace knowing that there was something actually wrong with me.

But there was good news to follow. The most recent tests I had done showed that my Myelin Sheath in the brain had begun the process of repairing itself during my 3 month special diet. There was a way to fix me, all I had to do was stick to my diet and I’ll be perfectly fine and be able to live a long, fruitful life.

It got even better though. The doctor was able to say, with some certainty, that the main culprit in all of this was caffeine. The purpose of the diet I was put on was to flush out all the caffeine from my body, hence the reason why the first few weeks were difficult but then suddenly became much easier after this initial period. I was massively addicted to caffeine, and you have to go through a 'cold turkey' state to get over it. This is what I had experienced.

All the other foods had such a small effect on me in comparison to caffeine. I was drinking so much of the stuff my body became dependant on it. As long as I stayed off caffeine I could gradually reintroduce the other foods and make sure I get some vitamin B12 often (basically eat fish every Friday, which I do anyway) because it helps the Sheath to repair itself.

This was the best news I'd heard in 8 years. For the first time in what seemed like a life time I had a battle plan, and I could carry on with my life. Other the next few months I slowly started eating other food originally banned. I was still slightly wary in case these other foods caused another migraine, but I stayed sensible and had small amounts until I felt confident I was OK.

Thankfully I still felt absolutely fine, and Macaroni Cheese had never tasted so good!

In September I finished taking the last of my Propranolol tablets, having gradually reduced my dosage and intake over the past few months to make sure I wasn't dependant on them. There was a certain satisfaction in throwing the last empty box in the bin.

It's now January 2015, exactly a year after my life came to a crossroad. I'm still off caffeine (no tea, coffee, energy drinks, Coca-Cola), I'm slightly obsessed with reading food labels to check for ingredients, and I've never felt healthier then I have ever been. Luckily too, I’ve found some awesome alternative drinks to keep me hydrated – juices, milkshakes, smoothies and herbal tea. Variety is the spice of life after all.

Headache or migraine suffers around the world - this blog post is dedicated to all of you. Reduce or stop your caffeine intake and I am absolutely certain you'll feel better. Yes the first few weeks will be absolute horrible, but get past it and you'll feel revitalised. It also helps to have someone who isn't afraid to boss you about during those hard times (thanks mum for being a total badass).

Keep Smilin' folks, and once again Happy New Year!


Skippy

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Starting 2015 with a Bang Playing The Last of Us

Time to play The Last of Us

What better way to bring in 2015 then by playing one of the finest games ever made - The Last of Us. I've personally never played it myself, so now seems as good a time as any to pop the disk in and see what magic I witness playing this game.

It's what bank holidays were made for. What is everyone else up to at the start of this exciting year?

I'll keep you all posted with how I get on. Wish me luck!