A Southern Rail nightmare: my story

After a particularly bad day on the trains, I felt compelled to share my story and ongoing woes with Southern Rail.

Generally speaking, I’m one of the luckier commuters. Whenever there’s trouble on my route, I usually miss it. Sometimes an issue affects a train that’s one or two timetable slots after mine – or mine is the last good train for a while. Sometimes I can get a different train with minimal disruption to my commute. Very occasionally, train problems occur on a night when I’m out with a friend – so when it’s time to go home, things are nowhere near as bad as they were during the evening rush hour.

However, every problem has a knock-on effect – even if I’m often lucky with how things line up. Delays add up. And I’m already choosing my trains purely based on which ones I expect will cause the least amount of pain – rather than the ones that would get me to and from work for my normal working hours.

First, let me tell you about my typical daily commute.

Continue reading “A Southern Rail nightmare: my story”

A week of back trouble

A few weeks ago, I woke up and felt a slight twinge in my back. It felt awkward and very slightly painful, but I put it down to sleeping “a bit funny” as it wasn’t all that bad.

Over the next couple of weeks, the pain didn’t go away. It stayed pretty much the same, never fully rearing its painful head (or back), but somehow, perpetually, just “there”.

Last Monday, it got a bit worse. I phoned the doctor in the afternoon – they said to phone back in the morning. On Tuesday I started noticing quite a bit of pain if I turned, stood up, or sat down a bit too quickly. I arranged an appointment with the doctor that afternoon.

The doctor suggested it was most likely muscular pain, and recommended taking ibuprofen three times a day for the next two weeks. Tuesday night was rough – I woke up at 3:30am in a lot of pain. As I’d taken the first painkillers at 6:30pm the night before, they’d probably worn off by this point.

I stayed home on Wednesday and Thursday, attempting to work from home – although it was tough. I could hardly move without being in pain. I came up with an idea for a makeshift standing desk – basically a small table on my regular desk. Luckily the table wasn’t too heavy, but I had to be careful lifting it. That got me through Wednesday. After that, I had a bit more luck sitting at my desk. I’d previously booked a day off on Friday, so was able to rest that day then through this weekend.

For those of us lucky enough to not deal with pain or physical difficulties on a daily basis, I quickly realised how much we do each day that uses your back. Things become a lot more difficult due to back pain or an injury. Showering, getting dressed, going up or down the stairs were all particularly tricky. Putting on socks – normally such a simple task – became something of a mission impossible.

I also noticed just how much we rely on computers. As I usually spend a lot of time talking to people in the office or on the phone, being at home is not ideal. I was able to schedule in a couple of phone calls while I was at home, but for the most part I was communicating via email and Skype IM. Cue lots of typing – and while the makeshift standing desk helped, I soon got backache from standing up for too long.

Thankfully, I’m mostly better now, but I’ll need to be more careful in future. Monday is my first commute in nearly a week – I’ll see how that goes…

12 Facebook pages I follow

There are so many sites , it’s hard to keep up with them all. But I like to know what’s going on – so which are the sites I try to keep up with for tech news, business tips and a bit of general interest?

(I use Facebook as my main news reader, which works better if you try my Facebook News Feed guide.)

  1. Ars Technica
  2. Re/code
  3. WIRED
  4. Inc. Magazine
  5. Kissmetrics
  6. The Register
  7. The Next Web
  8. VentureBeat
  9. Mashable – Tech
  10. Lifehacker
  11. NiemanLab
  12. Search Engine Land

Are long days turning us into substance-fuelled zombies?

I like working in London, and I like living in Sussex. For as long as that’s the case (which I’m sure it will be for a while yet), I have to get from A to B somehow. That means commuting.

For many of us, commuting is a drag. It’s expensive, crowded, and tiring. On a typical day, I leave the house at 6:15am and get home just over 12 hours later. That’s a pretty long day, especially five days a week.

I’m often tired, so I always have a coffee in the mornings. I also like a cup of tea in the evenings. Occasionally I’ll have a couple of drinks if I’m meeting up with a friend in the evening. I know people who have a lot more to drink in the evenings than I do. (I used to drink a lot more than I do now.)

If you’re being knocked out by alcohol, and kicked back into life by caffeine, how much quality sleep are you getting?

Recently, I’ve been feeling more tired than usual. I’ve had problems sleeping, problems staying awake on the train, and sometimes even problems staying awake in the afternoons. As an experiment, I’ve decided to switch to decaf tea and coffee.

The only coffee I’m having is made at home before I go to work, and carried in a flask. Now it’s decaf. And I’m trying decaf tea, too.

It’s early days – I started this on Friday 6th November. But already, I feel more alert, and less of a zombie.

Blogging procrastination: where no blog post is good enough

I’ve been wrestling with the potential ocean of topics I could cover here. Note “potential”. Where I’m probably overwhelmed by choices… and therefore unable to choose just one topic. Even though I could cover something totally different in the next post.

Blogging about blogging is something I’ve done before, and I don’t want to focus on it again – at least not as my main topic. I don’t want to be known as the guy who blogs about blogging. But here we are again.

Jumping from one topic to the next, I worry I won’t cover anything in enough depth to make an impact. But I get bored if I cover the same topic too often. So I can’t win.

The whole point of the miniblog was to throw out the rules, and throw anything on the page. Well, not quite anything. But at least something – and not feel crippled by indecision whenever I feel like writing.

Maybe that’s just it. I haven’t felt like writing. Then again, I also haven’t been all that busy. So I don’t really have any excuse.

I blame Super Mario Maker. Stupid addictive game.

How I’ll be using Medium to supplement my main blog

For some time, I’ve wanted to use Medium for blogging. The reason I haven’t done it is because running multiple blogs is a lot of work for one person – and because I can’t see a logical split between my WordPress.com (mini-)blog and a potential Medium blog.

I’ve found a way that I think works well. The miniblog can stay as my “anything goes” blog, with half-finished musings on a variety of topics. I can then use Medium to cross-post anything I thought was particularly good from over here, as a “best of” showcase.

The miniblog remains the place for my complete archive of posts. I think it’s a good opportunity to go back through the archives of my older blogs – some 630 posts in total – and salvage/rewrite anything I think is worth keeping. Anything particularly good will make an additional appearance on Medium.

Medium seems like a good place to share my best content, and give it an extra chance to reach new readers.

You can find my Medium blog here: Ben Barden – Medium

Here’s a better way to use the Facebook News Feed

I’ve noticed a few things about the way the News Feed works (or doesn’t work):

  • I really like the way the News Feed tries to show me content I might be interested in, rather than every last post. At least, I really like that for Facebook pages.
  • I’d prefer to see every update from my friends, in chronological order.
  • Mixing the two of these together doesn’t really work. There’s too much for a single News Feed.

You can partially solve this in a couple of ways:

Continue reading “Here’s a better way to use the Facebook News Feed”

Three things I’ve learned about money

Salary is a thorny topic.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the last couple of years:

  1. Money isn’t everything. I’ve heard about people moving jobs and substantially increasing their salary. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself with multiple job offers on the table and one offers a lot more money than the others, consider all the options – don’t just go with the highest bidder. A big pay rise may sweeten the deal, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best role for you.
  2. With great money comes great responsibility. If you’re given a pay rise or a promotion for lots of hard work, well done! But before you think about chasing the next promotion, consider why you’re being given more money. If you get a good raise, you’ll probably find that more is expected of you in future. (More here)
  3. Your pay should not be a problem. If you’re quite early on in your career or you’re feeling underpaid, you should aim to get to a place where salary is not a problem. If you’re constantly worrying about how to pay the bills, or you’re bothered by a coworker earning a few thousand more than you do, you’re not there yet. Money shouldn’t be something constantly on your mind. Once you’re happy with what you earn, it’s one less thing to distract you from doing a great job.

A month without Facebook: what I missed most

Today I reinstated my Facebook account after disabling it four weeks ago. I took a break because I was caught in an endless loop of reading status updates and playing games. For me, Facebook was a huge waste of time.

This week, I noticed what I missed the most: a decent way to keep up with the news without being totally overwhelmed with content. (And here’s a really good post about how the news feed works.)

Despite its inevitable flaws (how can it possibly work perfectly when you consider the staggering number of people using Facebook?) the News Feed is an invaluable method for keeping up with busy sites via Facebook pages. Twitter lists, or subscribing to big sites via a reader such as Feedly, move too quickly for me. This is because they pull in every post in the feed.

The risk of missing something is always there. But you’ll never be able to read everything. The News Feed is a pretty solid way to read content from the sites you enjoy.

If your News Feed is clogged up, why not clean it up by unfollowing any friends or pages that are flooding your feed?