Ovulation calculator

Planning for pregnancy need not be tricky for those who are aware of their internal clock. Halfway through every woman’s menstrual cycle, a cycle starting from the first day of blood flow, occurs a period when the egg is released.

The days leading up to this period, specially the two days before ovulation are specially conducive for pregnancy. Many online calculators are available that give a range of roughly five days when the odds are most in favor.

For further assurance, one can try the ovulation kits that give accurate results based on saliva or urine tests. Hence couples can relax! Ovulation calculators are a great help in those seriously interested in conceiving.…

The Checklist Manifesto

I heard John Mullan once make an observation about the rafts of Austen books out there — there may well be material on Jane Austen and the navy, he said, but is there a book in it? Must any and every subject result in a monograph? Would that research not be equally well, or better, served by a lengthy article? (I do think there’s a book in that particular subject, but that’s another story.) Ever since he said this, I have seen nothing but “article” books in the areas of popular psychology/neuroscience/behavioural economics/happiness studies that I favour — books with useful messages which are diluted by padding out in order to meet the average book’s size.

This came to mind while reading Atul Gawande’s slim book: he takes one clear and valuable area of research, does it thoroughly but without padding, and so despatches the book in 200 readable pages. ”Readable”, indeed, is a disservice: it’s a page-turner, both in terms of style and in the enormity of the implications of its findings. Gawande’s subject is the humble checklist. In a setting such as surgery, where even everyday activities are now vastly more complicated and multifarious than they ever used to be, the checklist provides a reminder, a safety net, a means of keeping people honest. It’s also a measure that people routinely overlook or resist — perhaps because of its residual whiff of box-ticking bureaucracy — despite its incredible benefits. Gawande charts the inception and development of a checklist of his own, one he developed with a team to further the Safe Surgery WHO initiative. When they ran trials of their checklist in countries both rich and poor, they found that with the addition of the WHO checklist major complications fell by 36%, deaths by 47%. ”If someone discovered a new drug,” Gawande observes, “that could cut down surgical complications with anything remotely like the effectiveness of the checklist, we would have television ads with minor celebrities extolling its virtues” (158). It’s a deeply thought-provoking read, suggesting that the checklist demonstrates that even our very ideals of what heroism looks like are now outmoded: the Errol Flynn type, a seat-of-the-pants swashbuckler, is nice, sure, but he’s a liability in high-stakes and highly complex situations such as surgery, where an entire surgical team need to work in sync with each other in order to succeed — a synchronicity greatly helped by, even thoroughly dependent on, simple measures of accountability like the checklist.

It should perhaps be noted that this is not a book for the faint-hearted; I dove in expecting tips on helping me with my own to-do lists (I don’t question how you get your kicks, people, so don’t question mine) and was brought up short with graphic descriptions of some very full-on surgical situations — a chest is sawn into, that kind of thing. The imagery always serves a purpose, but be prepared for the fact that it may not be the fodder of most of the books you’ll find recommended on productivity blogs.…

Easy listening

I’ve been horsing through Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast, a show in which Herring interviews famous comedians (for the most part) in front of a live audience in a relaxed but informative manner. I have persevered not for Herring himself — he’s a good guy, but he spreads himself a bit thin these days — but because of the calibre of the people involved: Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton; Mark Thomas; Adam Buxton; Stephen Fry; unexpectedly, Mary Beard. I think my favourite has to be John Lloyd (comedy producer extraordinaire, responsible for things like Not the Nine O’Clock News, Blackadder and QI). This surprised me, as I thought Lloyd came off as unbelievably pleased with himself on his episode of Desert Island Discs, but faced with Herring he was far more likeable — admittedly, I liked him best when he annihilated Herring’s glib atheism. Lloyd pulled the rug from under Herring’s feet with a considered defence for polite agnosticism, observing that Herring doesn’t even know how many chemicals there are in a carrot, so how on earth could he make the call on the Almighty? Hurray!…

London in 1926

I know it’s doing the rounds of Twitter, and I know it’s a syrupy confection concocted for the benefit of foreigners, but I feel duty-bound to share a video which had me welling up by the end:

London in 1927 from Tim Sparke on Vimeo.…