Now anyone can bake?

Over the past few weeks I have become interested in advancing my baking and cookery skills. This introduces a number of obstacles as a blind individual, mainly there are a lot of tasks that have the potential to hurt you!

I have begun to break down these tasks and will be covering them in a series of posts. For today though I would like to focus on weighing.

This is a surprisingly difficult task, from measuring out liquids to weighing items for baking and cooking. There are a few speak kitchen scales out there, but as ever with products for the visually impaired they are grossly over priced for their limited and often lacklustre feature set.

So I was incredibly excited when I found the Drop scales, especially with their slogan “Now anyone can bake”. I certainly fit into the anyone category, so I popped down to the local Apple Store and made a purchase with the idea to test their accessibility. The Drop scale connects over bluetooth to an iPad and displays the weight on screen, it also has a large array of features that walk you through baking and cooking specific items as well as such features as auto scaling the weights of recipes.

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Boston to NYC – The Line

While running with a friend I had a little flashback to a moment from my Boston to NYC adventure. As my friend and I ran down a road I was using my usual trick of feeling the line underfoot, when I remembered a moment from the roads of Connecticut.

It was when I began to really think about running the line. My guide was off in front with the simple instruction, “follow the line Simon!”. Everyone in the group including myself readily accepted my ability to feel the line and stick to it, one foot wrong and I would be facing the enormity of the american traffic. For a single moment I realised just how high risk the belief in my ability was. But that was it, one single passing moment of “I cant see and I am just feeling this line!” and then it faded away. I quickly flicked back into the moment and carried on chatting to my guide out front.

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Dream to Reality

A few years ago I began to think of a few adventures I would love to embark on. I came up with three: The Pilgrimage, The Return and The Dream. Late last month I was fortunate enough for The Pilgramage to become a reality.

The basic premise of The Pilgrimage was to pay homage to RunKeeper and visit a city close to my heart – NYC. The dream was to run from the HQ of RunKeeper in Boston, to NYC then compete in the NYC marathon. The idea to visit the RunKeeper HQ was to thank them for where I am today. Their app enabled me to believe running solo was possible, the reason NYC? I spent a bit of time there, while I could still see. Therefore, the city remains close to my heart.

The adventure was made possible by a few select companies, namely Twitter, PayPal and AirBnB, Little did I know that partnering with AirBnB would elevate the adventure so greatly.

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A Call for A SmartTreadmill

I currently own a NordicTrack T14 treadmill. What makes this treadmill so special is its iFit Live system. The iFit live system allows a route to be plotted online through google maps that is then sent to the treadmill. So any inclines that appear on the plotted route are automatically changed by the treadmill. It basically allows you to practice running the inclines of any given route.

This really is a nice system, you can even hook up a TV and navigate to the iFit website and it will display the google street view of your current location. However after using this treadmill for a while I can see a number of areas it could be improved to make a truly great treadmill.

The Smart Treadmill as I envisage it would be controlled by an iPad this is for a number of reasons.

1. Reduced cost for developing the console. The consoles are usually terrible on low to mid level treadmills. With the high end treadmills simply gaining features such as television. Utilising an iPad for a console would give great access to technology.

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Technology frustration

A lot of what I consider my daily life is only possible thanks to particular pieces of technology. Therefore my reliance on these gadgets is incredibly high so when one fails or in this case failure after failure I get incredibly frustrated.

I decided to go and run a steady 15 miles this morning, so packed my plastic drop bag with the essentials; water and some Twix’s. It was already feeling like it would rain heavy so I warned my wife I might come back early as I didn’t want to run in the rain today.

I dropped my bag near my usual lamppost and opened up RunKeeper. “start activity” I placed it in my pocket “activity stopped” dammit. So I pulled it out and did it again, put it in my pocket and accidentally pressed the button for a distance update. “3.95 miles” well considering I had taken 2 steps that may be a little off. So after trying nearly 8 times and just not getting RunKeeper working through a combination of user input error and poor GPS signal I thought I might just run at home. So my wife circled back and picked me up (at least the iPhone worked to make a call!).

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A Rough Day

Today has just seemed like one of those days where everything seems to go slightly wrong.

The day started out pretty well, I had to make a few adjustments in travel arrangements today so I headed round to my sisters to get a lift in with my brother in law. I then ended up shooting my willing nephew repeatedly with a Nerf gun. This was certainly a fun morning activity!

Arriving in sheffield we missed my first lecture due to a few issues and I had decided my time would be better spent working on an essay. A quick call from the press association attempting to schedule filming for that day gave me an opportunity to bargain for a lift home! They didn’t go for it so we rearranged for another day and I had to figure out another way to get home.

Shortly after this is where it all started going wrong. I had to attend an afternoon lecture to get an opportunity to chat to the lecturer about an essay I am yet to begin.

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Marathon Sandwich

The first of this years challenges has been entitled the Marathon Sandwich. It will involve me running the Sheffield half marathon, then running a full marathon, with a half tacked on the end.

The halves make the break while the marathon is the filling, making for a marathon sandwich! It will be a steady 52.4 mile run that I am intending to use for training for the South Downs Way 100 which is 4 weeks later.

The event takes place on the 27th of may. In order for people to take part we have decided to run the majority of the distance doing circuits of Endcliffe Park in Sheffield. So we are inviting anyone who would like to attend to run a 1.3 mile loop of the park.

I am raising money for a local blind charity Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind (SRSB). It is a wonderful charity that offers many services to the visually impaired within the district. It is the only local charity for some distance to offer such services as I travel all the way from Doncaster in order to attend their meetings.

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Post Surgery and the Media

Around a month ago I finally had eye surgery on my left eye. While the surgery went well I arrived home in quite a lot of pain. After 3 hours I couldn’t take the pain any longer and had to return to the hospital, turned out my cornea had been scratched during the operation and was causing my a lot of pain. Thankfully nothing serious so I went home and waited out the pain.

However the past few weeks have been incredibly difficult, the imbalance the surgery has created is too great. I am really struggling. This has unfortunately caused a few issues with university and training.

I will have to defer some of my university exams and essays till the summer. I simply don’t have enough time to catch up on everything I have missed. This is a real shame as I didn’t want to have to resort to this, but I would rather get a result I am happy with and wait till summer.

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Once in a lifetime

Once in a lifetime is a saying that gets easily used. When my wife and I travelled America we lauded how it was once in a lifetime. In reality we will no doubt repeat that trip in a decades time. We often use the saying when the task in actuality is easily repeated.

For once though I believe I have a once in a lifetime opportunity. I have been giving a condition place to be a London 2012 Olympic Torchbearer. The condition being I pass the security and background checks, pretty sure I will pass this easy enough!

So I am truly honoured to have been chosen. It is without a doubt the greatest reward for the past year of hard training and running. I would even rank it higher than my TV commercial!

Like most things in life there was a long string of interwoven events that led to me being nominated.

Disregarding all the training for a while, the timeline went a little like this:

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Under The Knife

The majority of blind people are still have some level of vision. Only around 2% see total darkness. Luckily I fall within than 98%. For example I can still perceive light that in turn allows me to see shapes and movement as well as on good days make out a little detail. The sight I have lost is my peripheral vision, central vision, colour definition and I also have total night blindness.

To be able to utilise this small amount of vision I need to wear glasses. This is often frustrating as glasses and contact lenses cost me around £1000 a year. This is an enormous amount of money for frankly very little benefit. The cost has become far to prohibitive now I am a student and I simply cannot afford it.

Thankfully I have another issue with my eyes: cataracts. This may not at first seem like a lucky ailment to have, but it does mean I qualify for surgery. During surgery plastic lenses replace my natural biological ones, the great thing is these can be prescription lenses.

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