Saturday, February 09, 2019

Would you use an online GP appointment?

Your first thought might be like mine: It depends on what is wrong. If you have a shoulder problem then you really want the doctor to get his or her hands on it and test it rather than simply discussing symptoms over a live video chat. But for other things, well, it might be just the thing.

That's where I found myself this week.

Having been grounded by an attack of some sort of winter flu/cold virus, things developed and I began to have a few breathing problems reminiscent of a really bad incident 6 years ago. I checked online with our surgery and the earliest appointment I could get was 2 weeks away. Knowing what happened before I decided it was probably going to need a trip to the walk-in centre. But then I decided to try an online consultation service called Push Doctor.

This was my experience.

The first thing I had to do was create an account and answer a few questions. All very straightforward  and what you'd expect. You can choose whether to share the results of the consultation with your own GP or not and you need to add a Credit Card in order to pay for the service. The cost for a one-off appointment is £30 and there's an £8 fee for a prescription and you will need to pay for any medication prescribed when you collect them. You have to decide whether that represents good value for money for yourself. If, like me, the alternative is either a two week wait to see your own GP or pay around £60 for a private appointment, then £30 is good value. Especially considering how quickly I got to see a doctor.

Having signed up and verified my identity I booked my appointment. I went for 7:30am the next morning (Saturday). I downloaded the app to my 'phone but actually used my MacBook for the consultation. You can enter the virtual waiting room up to 30 minutes before your appointment and the system needs to check that your device is working, so don't leave it too late to get ready. You get a notification about where you are in the queue. As it was I got to see the doctor a few minutes early.

So, how did it go? Okay. We discussed my symptoms and the medic asked the kind of questions I expected. He was thorough and clear in explaining what he thought was the best course of action. Pretty much exactly what you'd expect if you were sitting in the consulting room.

A prescription was issued and the consultation ended. I suppose the only thing that might have been different at the local surgery would have been whether the doctor chose to listen to my breathing or not.

The process for the prescription was straightforward. The system checks local pharmacies for stock and then sends a fax (a bit old school, why not a pdf copied to the patient I wonder?). Once the collection point has been confirmed you get a text and off you go to pick up your drugs. I was prescribed an antibiotic and a steroid, total cost £10.

Overall it all worked really well. Rather than wait two weeks or visit the walk-in clinic, I spent a little over 10 minutes online sitting on my sofa. Even at £48 it felt like money well spent. Local GP surgeries are under ever increasing pressure and typically even when you get the surgery it can be 40 minutes past your allotted time before you get into the consulting room. Not great if you're feeling like death warmed up.

Would I use it again? Yes is the simple answer. There are obviously things where you actually need to sit in a room with a doctor, but not everything requires that. I know too that there have been some concerns about the online consultation service, but my experience is that it was great for me and my needs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Dust extractor cyclone

Having watched a number of videos about home-made cyclones I decided it was time to invest in one now I have a table saw. The amount of sawdust it produces and the frequency with which my shop vacuum filter clogs meant I needed to do something.

So I ordered some parts from Amazon and waited for delivery. Disappointingly the cyclone part of the kit isn't coming for a couple of weeks, so I'm still emptying and unclogging the vacuum.

Eventually I was looking around the garage and noticed two old buckets. One had tile adhesive in it and one I think was paint. I use them for rubbish but it's time to repurpose them. I also had a bit of waste pipe.Now to get all Heath-Robinson and see if these two old buckets would do the job. Neither had a lid so I cut a ring from 9mm mdf and used a few dabs of CA glue to stick it to the smaller bucket and then some silicone sealant to make sure it was airtight.

I used the middle of the ring to make the top hose connection, primarily because the first hole I cut was too big! The side connection was another bit of pipe secured with a small bit of wood screwed through the pipe and the wall of the bucket. Again lots of silicone to seal.

Because I didn't have a lid for the bottom bucket I just used some broad black insulating tape to the strap the two together. The tape round the top was to hold the mdf in place. An old hose from another vacuum cleaner and the thing was built.

To test it I emptied the contents of the cleaner on the floor. The filter was already clogging up although I'd cleaned it a few hours previously.

Amazingly it worked! I didn't think the buckets were big enough to create a separator but they did. When I opened the vacuum cleaner there wasn't a hint of sawdust in it at all. Because of the tape I can't open the cyclone, or rather can't be bothered to open it, but all the use must be in there.

It's all very exciting and possibly the most exciting thing I've ever made.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What a Native American Prayer taught me about my own spirituality

I did a funeral the other day for someone who was described as being very spiritual but not in a traditional Christian way. I often hear variations on this description, often accompanied with some sort of apology for some reason. The apology is probably because I'm an ordained minister and therefore represent orthodox spirituality to them (if only they knew me better!).

I also think that for many people they actually don't associate church with spirituality but rather religion, which is totally different in their eyes. To be honest, sometimes they might be right.

In the preparation for the service I'd been asked to look at finding a way to introduce a prayer I regularly use (God be in my head and in my understanding...) in a way that allowed the people their to express their own spirituality and that of the deceased person. For them kindness or goodness would be more appropriate than "God". In thinking about that I'd come up with a form of words that meant I could sill say the prayer as it is and yet make room for people to connect with it as they wished. I often do this with the Lord's Prayer by offering an invitation to join in saying it but not making it an obligation if someone is not comfortable doing so. It's a simple act of pastoral kindness in my view and not some sort of denial of my faith!

So, having sorted out the prayer I was taken a bit by surprise by the Native American prayer that was read by someone at the service. It's called "The Great Spirit Prayer" and here are the words:

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, whose breath gives life to all the world. Hear me; I need your strength and wisdom. Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset. Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice. Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people. Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me. Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock. Help me seek pure thoughts and act with the intention of helping others. Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me. I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy, Myself. Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes. So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.
What struck me most about this prayer is the humility it expresses. This isn't the kind of prayer you might hear most Christians utter as they plead for their finances or job prospects. It's not what you'll hear in some churches as calls for revival or heavenly interventions are made. But as Paul did with the monument to an unknown God, if you substitute "Lord our God", for "Great Spirit" it is a prayer that we can say. Yes there ay be odd elements that we might be careful about (lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock), but overall it expresses a simplicity of faith that I fear we have somehow lost.

Our problem is that we've disconnected ourselves and our faith from the world around us and reduced it to a form of words we must articulate and not a life we are called to live. The idea of living in harmony with our environment s not some New Age philosophy but surely an expression of our place in a created order for which we have responsibility.

And who wouldn't want to act from a pure heart and not with anger?

Our selfishness has robbed us of being able to walk humbly with our God. We'd rather agonise over the rights and wrongs of dropping £1 in the hand of a homeless person than simply doing it as an act of pure heart seeking to help others.

The downside of evangelicalism is that we've pursued an orthodoxy that protects the gospel from corruption, but in so doing we've limited its expression through the simplicity of a life lived in relationship with the God who loves us and misses us.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Rolling Tool Cabinet Completed

Barring a few adjustments (I managed to fit the drawer pulls unevenly because I didn't pay enough attention to making the jig properly), the rolling cabinet is finished.

The original top section was built some time ago. It might even have been 10 years ago! It has 5 drawers that lock when the tote drops in at the back. I haven't bothered building a locking mechanism for the bottom half. It just didn't seem worth there effort and I rarely bother with the closing up the top box anyway. It was in the original design I saw in a magazine so I built it that way.

I've since fixed the drawer pulls and it looks nice and functional. I'm in the process of making some drawer dividers to help organise stuff when I start filling it up. The whole point of making this thing was to try and get my tools sorted. I'm forever trying to remember which tool box/caddy/tote/box they are in. Hopefully this will bring many of them together and I'll only have to search through one box to find most things.

Quite what I'll do with the other tool boxes I don't know. I'm sure I'll find a use for them. Either that or give them away!

This is the first time I've used ball-bearing style drawer slides. Working out how to install them wasn't complicated. I might even change them for full-extension versions at some point. That's assuming there's enough space to do that. I don't fancy making new drawers just to accommodate new slides.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Context please! 1 Cor 15:33 is not about evangelism.

I was listening to a Christian Radio Station in the car as I do from time to time. I don't listen to any radio station a lot because they're all a bit repetitious and I get bored with the same play lists, ads, and in Christian broadcasting-appeals for support!

Anyway, I tuned in on a few days last week and one item frustrated me immensely. Not entirely the fault of the presenter I hasten to add, although he was guilty of nudging the responses in a particular direction and during the time I was listening no-one picked that up.

So here's the thing in question. He quoted 1Cor.15:33 "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character'". To a man, and woman, all the responses I heard assumed that the 'bad company' in question referred to those who do not share a Christian faith. But is that Paul's point?

Read the verse in its context and it would appear that Paul is a long way from talking about evangelism here. The argument is about the resurrection and those who deny it. As with much of the letter, Paul is writing to address issues within the church. Paul's 'bad company' would seem to be in the Christian community not outside of it.

All those who sent a text to point out the importance of sharing our faith are right, but that's not what they should have been reflecting upon. The real question we might want to address is: "Are we good or bad company in the church?"

That's the importance of context.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Mobilising the Table Saw Bench

This is not original to me. I saw it on the New Yankee Workshop, and Norm got it from some set-building place he visited. It works well.

Wheels in the "down" position
 The wheels are mounted on the rail that is hinged to the lower side rail.

A block is hinged to the leg. This block locks the wheels in the down position so that the bench can be wheeled around the workshop.

Wheels up!
In the second picture the wheels are unlocked and the bench sits on the floor. You can just see the wheel rail angled up under the block.

To move the bench you simply lift it at the side and the wheels drop down to the floor, the side blocks swing towards the leg and then the wheel rail comes up under the block and they lock in the down position.

To set the bench down on the floor you simply pull on the rope and that pulse the blocks inwards, allowing the wheels to flip up and the legs to sit on the floor.


I didn't follow Norm's plan exactly (mainly because I didn't remember all the details), so my version is maybe not quite as robust and I may decide later to revisit it and improve it. For now it seems to work okay.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Table Saw Bench

So, having taken the plunge and bought a table saw I set about building a workstation for it. I could have bought a stand, but I want to be able to wheel it around the garage so that I can put it out of the way when I'm not using it. It also gives me a chance to try out the saw and make something.

The saw I chose was a Bosch GTS10J2 for those who might be interested. I'd looked at quite a few cheaper machines, but in the end decided that spending more was probably a wise move and hopefully this machine will last a long time. It's one definite advantage over many of the cheaper ones I looked at is that the fence is full length and locks at both the front and the back of there table.

It's a really nice machine as far as I can tell and the cutting I've done so far has been as good as I hoped.

My bench design is quite simple. I wanted something that would allow me to use the side extension on the saw and offer a bit of extra surface to the left (the extension is on the right hand side). It would also offer some storage facility that can be developed later. Maybe I'll turn it into a place to keep power tools. Initially I thought I'd build it so that the table was proud of the left hand side surface, but after building it I think flush is better, so I'll need to shim the top. Not a big issue.

I started by ripping all the pieces for the legs and rails. As you can see I used some 18mm ply that I'd been using for my makeshift saw table (that's why there are some grooves in it). The legs are 75mm square and the rails are also 75mm. Each leg is made of two pieces glued and screwed together.

Having made up the legs I attached the rails and added a couple of cross braces for rigidity. I used a small block to position the lower rail and then the upper rail was square to the top of the short leg.

I then added the vertical supports of the side table and an 18mm ply shelf for the table saw to sit on. Using a left over piece of ply. I checked the level with the saw and a 5mm shim was all that was needed to level things up.

I'll make a proper side top and maybe add a shelf at the bottom later. I've also got an ingenious idea for the rolling base that I saw in an episode of the New Yankee Workshop.

As for now, I'm pretty pleased with how it's turned out. There's something immensely satisfying when things go well. I look forward to many a happy hour using this little machine and experimenting with what I can do now I've got it.

Next stop: a bigger workshop so I can have a lathe too!!

Woodwork projects: Rolling tool chest

I haven't done many woodwork projects for ages even though I've had several ideas of things I want to make. One of those things was a rolling base for the tool chest I built years ago from scrap ply left over from a blanket box I made.

I've finally got around  to making a start and I used my circular saw and saw board on a makeshift saw table to cut the main pieces to size. I mention this because I was still wondering about getting a table saw, but didn't think I could justify it. Well, cutting all the pieces for the cabinet and realising just how hard I was making it for myself pushed me over the edge and I bought a table saw. Too late for the cabinet project, but I got one and have been in the process of building a bench for it (more of that in another post).

I started off by making a simple cabinet. No. fancy joints, just simple rebates. The sides are 18mm ply and the back is 9mm.

The drawers are made from 12mm ply with 5mm ply bases. There are 7 in total, 3 deep and 4 shallow. The 12mm ply was a little bowed and it gave me all sorts of bother making the drawers. But I got there in the end. Each drawer will be fitted with slides that should make opening and closing the drawers nice and Smooth. They will be finished off with an 18mm face which hopefully will agrees some of the bowing in the 12mm ply fronts. I may have to add some fixed central dividers to pull int the backs too. We shall have to see.

I've also used some of the scrap material to make some trays, experimenting with different sizes. I'm also going to make an adjustable system for at least one of the smaller drawers.

The cabinet will be fitted with castors to make it mobile.

At the moment it's on hold, awaiting me buying some castors, a delivery of the fitting for the drawer slides and while I make a bench for my newly acquired table saw!