The Number

When I was 12 I hit the number 64, a milestone frozen short by an attempt at the run you could only contemplate in year 7 cricket emboldened by thirty chaotic throws from the opposition on prior attempts.

My standard warm up prior to a concert used to a require a minimum of 2112 practice strokes as single, interchanging notes. Right hand then left hand with my 5A sticks.

When I finished Uni I knew exactly how many exams I’d stretched my brain through, contorting memory and recitation to suit an old tutor’s conception of physiology or best evidence. I forgot the number within eight days.

There are days when I have known the exact pacing of a room in a hospital, not all of them wearing the informal blues of the operating theatre in a manner of their own formality.

We measure all sorts of spots in space and time with numbers that are often not much in the here and now. Which I guess is why I mention that this is post number 100 on this pretty random site.

Where it Began

This thing started out mostly to set up a place to talk about the PhD research. I started with bold aims to share everything I could about it and let people know the inner workings of the process.

Then by about post number two I figured out that if I tried to write about my research journey on every post I’d pretty much just be writing “week 84, still not that great at research”. Except I would have started writing that at week 7 and just built from there.

So I can’t claim there’s been much discipline about it. As far as a research blog goes it’s a rambling mess. I guess it’s a little like the way pets end up resembling their owners. Or the other way around.

There has been a little bit of stuff that says I’ve learned about research along the way though. It’s certainly made me think about ways to get better at the other elements of trying to be more academic. So hidden amongst those 99 posts I can find a whole host of things that are actually about the PhD or fitting it in or thinking small or grants or Italy or doing stuff that might not work or presentations or conferences (and trying to think about them before and after) or more on grants or feedback or even another thing on grants stuff).

So it worked. It did the job. I guess.

But what do you get?

The biggest benefit from blogging has been the things it forces me to do: it makes me write and it makes me look up and around. Writing regularly has put a whole set of new skills at the tips of my hand sausages. All of it very transferrable to writing in other contexts.

I also work very much in niche areas but trying to think about writing for people outside that little club with the unmarked doors and access to controlled substances has also been very useful. Then of course there’s the other audience and inspiration you find. The blog itself has led me to a range of researchers and other clever people who have informed my thinking, made me laugh, taught me how to do lots of stuff better and ended up inviting me to work.

That’s a pretty good return on ranting.

The Bonuses

Along the way there have been a few bonuses. I’ve had the chance to write about charities, rant on other sites like Croakey here and here, and test out non-existent stage skills while learning media stuff.

I would probably not have looked much into surgery in space or how to convey consciousness to non-anaesthetists or unboiling eggs if it weren’t for this blog. I wouldn’t have had a spot to put up thoughts on ketamine and global health, which ended up being the most popular thing ever on this site.

It’s given me a spot to talk about aid trips to Rwanda (starting here for a few posts) and Tanzania.

And of course I got to write something that feels like it mattered, both here and in its Guardian version. This really, really mattered. To me at least.

Stuart Richards

I’m still trying to figure out what this is too.

Where now?

Well, actually I don’t know. There’s still a PhD and still the project. I’m still learning stuff on that. I’m also now working on two other sites that are more medical though, The Collective (for the prehospital and retrieval work) and Songs or Stories (for kids’ anaesthesia). That stuff gives me a chance to try and chip in usefully in those niches. It does take a little time though.

I’d also like to try and get better at writing. That might mean trying a different kind of writing challenge. Who knows what that might be? I’m not sure where this site fits in.

Still. It’s an OK century. Particularly when you remember I’m still not much good at research.



That image of the eagle probably wasn’t taken just before it ripped apart something meaty but was on Creative Commons and is unchanged from Stuart Richards’ effort.



6 thoughts on “The Number

  1. Thank you for your blog. I haven’t read all 100 posts, but the ones I have read have made me think about things I usually wouldn’t, and feel glad that there are folk tackling the stuff you are tackling. And sometimes laugh. Cheers!

  2. I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read – and I’d even go so far as to say I’ve learnt something from them.
    Everyone needs to take time to reflect, onwards and upwards Andy! 101 any day now… 😉

  3. Really love reading your thought bites. You come across as a very decent human. I am just a random bod with no specific interest or knowledge anywhere related to your area. I discovered your blog by accident well over a year ago so I have been to Rwanda with you and dwelt long on what you said about lethal injection. You refresh my thoughts. Thank you . I hope there will be a #200. Whatever – good luck with doctorate Doctor ☺

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