What can YOU do in 10 minutes?

Gareth wearing a 24 hour blood pressure monitor.
Gareth sporting an attractive 24 hour blood pressure monitor.

I was all ready to return to work today and then yesterday I got hooked up to a 24 hour blood pressure monitor at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee and that scuppered all my plans for the next 1440 minutes.

The 24 hour blood pressure monitor is like a standard digital sphygmomanometer only this one is about the size of an old Sony Walkman and is attached to the belt. Every 15 minutes (30 minutes at night) it beeps twice, the cuff inflates, and your blood pressure is taken. If there is an error with the reading the machine waits for three minutes and then tries again.

I got about 45-60 minutes of sleep last night because every time I started to drop off the thing started again. And because I was restless it failed and tried again. On average during the last 86400 seconds I’ve had my blood pressure taken for 24 minutes of each hour. It really was quite unpleasant.

However…

However, as I lay awake last night thankful for the BBC World Service I was able to spend quite a while praying and giving thanks to the amazing things that God has afforded us.

  • I marvelled at the stars last night which were amazing above such a clear sky. I was looking up at Ursa Major and marvelling at just how small and seemingly insignificant we are here in this tiny planet, third from the Sun.
  • I gave thanks that I was only attached to a portable BP monitor for 0.14286 of a week and that I’m not attached to a kidney dialysis machine.
  • This week, and particularly these last two days I got to spend more time with the lovely Jane, whom I love more and more every day.

Like tapas…

From 15:30 yesterday to the same today I discovered just how many things I can do in 10 minutes. Today was like tapas, I told Jane: small portions of this and that, but nothing to really get my teeth into.

I discovered that I could shower and dress in less than 10 minutes; I could pull my trousers up without the BP monitor falling to the floor only if I held the end of my belt in my teeth (yes it was as uncomfortable and awkward as it sounds!), I could make myself breakfast and bring it back to bed and put it down just in time for my left arm to be squeezed to a pulp by the now-too-tight cuff.

At 15:30 today Jane drove me back to Dundee and I handed it back; I get the results on Wednesday 4 October.

What can you do in 10 minutes?

Last.fm for Windows

Last.fm for Windows

I’ve been using Last.fm for a little over a year now, having been introduced to it by my dear friend Steve Lawson, and it appears to have just got better with the introduction of a new application called Last.fm for Windows (or Linux, or Apple Mac OS X, or FreeBSD, etc.).

Last.fm — both the stand-alone program and the website — is one of those applications that could easily be grouped under that broad and enigmatic term: Web 2.0. It is online, it is about community, it is about sharing, it has gradients and rounded corners and thousands upon thousands of people are using it.

Here is what happens and why it is so cool. When you fire up your media player of choice (if you are a Windows user then this will most likely be either Windows Media Player, iTunes or WinAmp) then a special add on, called a plug-in, automatically sends details of what music you are listening to to the Last.fm website where it is registered on your account.

Tracks and trends

When you view your Last.fm account you can not only see what music you’ve been playing recently, but you can view your listening trends too. Here is my Last.fm account: www.last.fm/user/garethjms. I can see that my top ten list of most listened to artists are:

  1. Metallica
  2. Sepultura
  3. Queen
  4. Slayer
  5. Megadeth
  6. Anthrax
  7. Soulfly
  8. Marillion
  9. Iron Maiden
  10. System of a Down

which doesn’t surprise me too much; apart from the last one, I’d never have guessed that SOAD would be in my top 10. I also wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that my most played track is Metallica’s cover of the Motörhead classic Too Late Too Late. You learn something new every day.

Didn’t you mention something about a community?

As well as your own listening preferences, you can also see who your neighbours are. Who else is listening to the same sort of stuff as you? Why not listen in to it with the Neighbour Radio? You can blog and read other people’s blogs, and you can also connect with your friends (mine include jameswfrost, civroc, SoloBassSteve and calamateur). At one point a few weeks back civroc was also my neighbour and my friend. Isn’t that lovely.

Plugins out, Last.fm for Windows in

Having just reinstalled Windows on my PC gradually over the last two weeks, I was keen to get my WinAmp and iTunes back up and running and audioscrobbling (that is uploading listening data to Last.fm (formerly called Audioscrobbler). I installed the last version of WinAmp Pro 5.3 and discovered that when I setup the Audioscrobbler plugin it brought my system to a standstill. The CPU was reporting that it was working at 99% on WinAmp alone. Hmm… very odd.

So I uninstalled WinAmp Pro 5.3 and returned to WinAmp Pro 5.24 … which worked perfectly. Even odder.

It took me some digging around the Last.fm forums to discover that the separate plugins are like SOOOOO yesterday. They’re like SOOOOO Web 1.0 it’s unreal.

In their place is this lovely, shiny application called Last.fm for Windows which automatically scans your PC for your media players of choice and downloads and configures the appropriate plugins for you. Not only that but there is also a separate Last.fm desktop application that gives you more information about the track and artist that you’re currently listening to.

Last.fm for Windows screenshot

It’s not all one-way. As well as it shovelling out bucket-loads of information to you it will also allow you to interact with your account, assign tags to your music, tune in to your Personal Radio or Neighbour Radios, and if your memory is really bad: find out what you’ve just listened to.

Anyway, I thought I’d give it a mention because it confused me why the audioscrobbler plugin wasn’t working. Now I know, and so do you. I hope it helps somebody out there.

The only downside that I can see is that now you must have Last.fm for Windows running as well as WinAmp in order for any tracks to be audioscrobbled to your account. I don’t like running too many applications in the system tray / notification area if I can help it.

I’ll now sit back and wait for the “Why aren’t you using iTunes?!” onslaught. Or Foobar2000 if you’re called Mike!