Wrapping up 2013

What happened to the year? It seems like no time at all since I was following around pathologists in Altnagelvin back in January, or on the wards in the city hospital, bothering patients. The summer flew by; undoubtedly because I spent most of it in the labs. Time is a funny thing. I can remember a time when a year felt like a lifetime. Stop me before I start reminiscing! I enjoy writing reflective pieces, particularly on such an eventful year, but it is not without its challenges. For one, remembering what the hell happened, and trying to remember why I didn’t remember. I fear this may be one of those posts I actually plan. I swear, I have the post around here somewhere, and I will get to it eventually. Consequently, if anyone knows where the post has hidden itself, please return it to me. Otherwise, I may be a long while getting to the point.

“But wait!” you cry! “You haven’t told us what keyboard you are typing on, Adam.”

IBM Model M
My Model M

How could I have been so remiss! I am sitting in my room typing on my IBM Model M, the clickiest keyboard around. That may seem like a strange thing to have brought up out of the blue, but it is not without reason. The most consistently viewed post on OrdinaryDecentGamer is a rather mundane article regarding my search for a new keyboard. It was written over two years ago, and is a clear reminder of my obsessive nature when it comes to almost everything I am interested in. That was shortly before my “epic keyboard quest”, which had me walking the length of Belfast in search of a mystery man. It was complete coincidence that I made his acquaintance. I had been contacted by a fellow selling a keyboard, in response to a post I made on Gumtree looking for a Model M. He was selling an old keyboard, but it was a fairly standard non-mechanical model. Another disappointment…or so I had thought. He mentioned a “Fred” in Belfast, who might be able to help me, and gave me a phone number. That was how I ended up on the far end of the Springfield road with an old tank of a keyboard under my arm, caked in about 15 years of dust and dirt, and a huge smile on my face like the happiest man on earth. £15 was all I paid. Considering I had just talked myself down from spending £70 plus shipping for another one, I was quite pleased.

And yet I am no closer to the point than I was at the beginning. Maybe I’m going about this all wrong. Maybe what I should actually do is split this into a few different posts, recounting my favourite games and movies, and the interesting stuff that has happened to me (by my own choice, or otherwise). This first post will be a general recollection of events, some of which may be interesting. These are in roughly chronological order.

Doctors with a deathly sense of humour

January 2013 seemed like it was already off to a bad start when I got my student selected component choices back. After a brief lab tour at the end of 2012, I was quite enamoured with the idea of pathology; that was until I started studying it. Then, lo and behold, I ended up spending three weeks with the pathologists up in Altnagelvin. It ended up being a fantastic experience though, as I had the chance to do lots of things, and learned a lot about pathology at the same time. I even saw a teratoma containing a perfectly formed human tooth with a piece of gum on it. If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is. And gross.

Companionship…the best ship I know (The HMS Defiance is a close second)

Yes, 2013 was a rather special year for me. It turns out all it took was a beetroot chocolate cake and a touch of bravery, but that is another story.

The Masters

Back in 2012 I had considered taking a year out of medicine to do a Bachelor’s degree (BSc), in an attempt to broaden my horizons and get more experience; I was on the fence about it, and consequently missed out on the opportunity. If I have learnt one thing from life so far, it is this: do not hesitate if an opportunity comes up. If you are seriously considering it, then throw yourself into it. I would rather face rejection than regret. Regret was what I felt when I saw others in my year take the chance I passed on. At that moment I made a vow to myself not to give up the next time I had that chance – 2013 was the time to follow through. My portfolio tutor is a professor of renal medicine, and since Kidney Research UK was offering sponsorship for an intercalated degree with a kidney-based project, he was the best person to contact. The nephrology research labs in the city hospital are fairly tight for space (you can only truly understand when you have been there), and he wasn’t sure if the office could accommodate another student. I will never forget his words, the words which really spurred me on: “We wouldn’t really be keen on taking a BSc student, but we might consider a Master’s student. I know if I was in your position I’d rather have a Masters than a Bachelor’s”. I hadn’t even considered it until that point; it seemed like pie in the sky. That settled it. I was going to do a Masters no matter what. The only issue was the money, but that one worked itself out nicely with a scholarship. I had no idea what it would be like, but I was going to do it anyway.

Fun with surgery

I had my general surgery attachment in Belfast City Hospital too, which was quite an enjoyable experience. Surgery has always been one of my main areas of interest in medicine, and having the opportunity to spend a lot more time in theatre was good, though there was a lot of waiting about. Add in the fact that most operations are performed using “keyhole” surgery, and it amounts to lots of standing around seeing fleeting glimpses of things. The main thing I picked up from it was that the inside of people often bears little similarity to the textbooks. If you want a laugh, and a vague education on anatomy, play Surgeon Simulator 2013.surgery-simulator-2013-shh-i-doctor-now

A decline in filmmaking

This is not something I was pleased about. I only made a few films this year, including “The Duel” and “Gratuitous Violence”, but I wrote several more. Through lack of organisation at times, and unfortunate circumstances, nothing else really was made. Except the old classic “An Evening in Strandiland”.


I stayed with Sarah over in Somerset for a week, which just so happened to be one of the warmest weeks I can remember. Getting out of the airport was more like stepping into France or Italy than Bristol. We got to the south coast, Cornwall, and even London for a day. It was my holiday before getting back into work again – my summer studentship.

And then the next stage of my travel adventures featured America! Or the United States of America, as some people would rather I say. I spent three weeks in Oregon City with my brother and his wife, but for more on this read my series of posts in the “Trips” category.

Copious amounts of baking

If you have been following my blog at all, you are probably quite aware that I bake a lot. But this year, I baked a lot. I breathed life into a sourdough starter back in October which is still going strong, and after some teething problems, it has yielded a lot of excellent bread. And pretzels. And waffles. If I recall correctly, I believe I also made a lot of brownies, and a kickass raspberry and white chocolate cake. If you don’t bake, you are really missing out on a whole other world.

My new lab

What more can I say? As part of my strategy to convince my supervisor to let me do a Masters, I offered to do a summer studentship too, half thinking she wouldn’t take me up on the offer. She did, and I’m glad, because it was a great experience and helped to provide me with the necessary skills so I wasn’t going into my project clueless. I have a shared office too, which is very handy.

Demijohns, taken with Nikon D70 and 50mm f/2.0
Demijohns, taken with Nikon D70 and 50mm f/2.0

The first attempts at vinifcation

I haven’t bottled my first wine yet, but it looks nice in the corner of the room so I’m in no hurry. My exploits in late 2013 have left me with two gallons of blackcurrant, and a gallon of mead (which I suspect may have gone the way of vinegar).

6 responses to “Wrapping up 2013”

  1. Richard Farquhar Avatar
    Richard Farquhar

    Very interesting roundup of the year and great to see you doing so well and enjoying the experience…all the best with your studies this year…Richard.

    1. Thanks Richard. I hope everything is well with you too.

  2. I very nearly bought Cherry G80, having read that they were the modern equivalent to the Model M. I’ll join the Mechanical Keyboard Club one day!

    1. I haven’t used a Cherry G80, but it may be a better choice depending on how much resistance you like in your key presses. The Model M uses buckling springs which are a heavier key press and more clicky than Cherry MX switches. If you’re looking for a Model M equivalent, Unicomp own the rights to produce buckling spring Model M keyboards, but they are pricey. I’ll let you know if something turns up! I have a US Dell AT101W keyboard with Alps switches if you’re interested.

  3. The AT101W looks like a fantastic keyboard, though I think I had better stick to the keyboard layout I know best. Thanks for the offer, though!

    1. I don’t blame you – I tried to use a US layout keyboard several times before but it just became a source of frustration. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, as I just stick to the Model M. The AT101W came all the way from Goodwill in Oregon.

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