Book Review: Happiness by Design (Paul Dolan)

HappinessByDesignHappiness is an interesting topic to think about. We all experience it (or lack of it sometimes) at some point in our lives. To me happiness is timeless, you can experience happiness now, in the present, but you also experience happiness over your lifetime – when you look back you have a sense of how happy you have been overall. If I ask you how happy you are you will probably be able to give me an answer, but can you explain why?

This very fact makes happiness hard to quantify, and Paul Dolan, who is a leading researcher in this field, has done a good job of attempting to help everyday people understand what the inputs to their happiness are, thereby allowing us to make changes to our lives that will impact happiness positively.

The book is an interesting read from cover to cover for someone who is interested in the concept of happiness like myself, but I would also recommend this book to anyone who is interested in how they can be happier – at a glance some of the suggestions seem overly simple, but for me the book taught me to understand how pleasurable and also purposeful activities make up my happiness and stepping back allows you to base your decision making on options that will make you happier.

A word of warning, this is not a self help book. Reading it will not enlighten you on how to go from miserable to happy if that is the case for you. It does however provide someone who is of average happiness the tools to think and be aware of their happiness, examine their lives through their experiential self whilst being aware of their conscious and unconscious attention habits, with the outcome of being able to make small changes to the design of their lives in order to be happier. That is happiness by design.

“What you attend to drives your behaviour and it determines your happiness. Attention is the glue that holds your life together.”

Recommended read.

Fixing Renault R-Link TomTom Incorrect Time

Over the weekend, myself and brother couldn’t help but notice that the ETA displayed on my Renault R-Link system with TomTom Live Maps was incorrect. It appeared to be displaying a time +1 hours ahead of current, even though the main clock was set correctly.

Having searched the internet for a solution to this and came up empty handed, I sat down with the system and went through the settings pages to try and find a fix. And eventually I did.

Turns out, I had deselected the “Set Time Automatically” option in the Time & Date options page of the R-Link system, when I changed the clock to adjust for the beginning of British Summer Time (BST). Once this is turned back on, the clock will go blank for a minute whilst I’m guessing it retrieves the time either from an FM traffic update or via TomTom Live over the internet. However, once this was complete the navigation ETA was fixed, so I’m guessing it’s a small time zone related issue!

Just thought I would share, of the off chance anyone else comes across it!

It’s almost Christmas

Had such a good day tooday! And it’s almost Christmas! And there is hope my favourite blog program Windows Live Writer will live on and get updated again! These are all YEY things! Open-mouthed smile 

The days at work go so much smoother when there is more work time and less meetings, so nice to be able to sit down over a coffee and have a proper software development chat today. It’s like being back at university!

This evening I kicked off the annual routine of Christmas shopping, just small things for the family. Going to put in some hard thinking over the next few days to come up with some awesome presents for them all. Might treat myself to something else, since the new car isn’t arriving for ages!

Yes, I have been busy since February! Time for a quick update/summary…

Hard to believe the last time I had a chance to update my own blog was way back in February! So much has happened since then, so old times sake I think it’s worth a quick summary! 🙂

First lets get some music on, Spotify’s new Discovery weekly is where its at:

Gadget Show Live

20150411_121719000_iOS 20150411_120311000_iOS

Thanks to my excellent friend Dave, I got to go to The Gadget Show Live this year. It’s an event that has been on my calendar for a long time, and it was a fantastic tech filled day! Safe to say I saw enough tech I wanted to empty my wages for at least the next year. Fingers crossed we can have a re-union trip next year too!

Finished University

20150419_113811000_iOS 20150717_093326634_iOS 20150521_153429171_iOS 20150715_091039023_iOS 20150717_130800000_iOS 20150919_192529626_iOS 20150717_180404000_iOS

After 4 great years in Bangor, university finally came to an end. The last few months in Bangor with my wonderful housemates was the perfect way to end things, I miss them all very much already. It was really nice to have the parents and RyRy at graduation, where I not only got my 1st class MEng (Hons) but I also scooped the prestigious Dr John Robert Jones prize for being the top non-welsh student across the entire university as well as the IET Prize for being the top engineering student! You can read all about me on Bangor’s website here.

Enjoyed a visit home

20150604_171721941_iOS 20150609_113224746_iOS 20150605_172037037_iOS 20150618_100409000_iOS 20150603_140242325_iOS

Spent a little time at home catching up with all of my family, and enjoying some rare Northern Ireland sunshine and a trip to the zoo!

Holiday to England and then Freiburg

20150701_055337660_iOS 20150702_103005751_iOS 20150703_110512642_iOS 20150708_171851687_iOS 20150708_174132639_iOS 20150708_174831524_iOS 20150708_140038291_iOS

Had a wonderful time exploring Cheshire with Jenny including a stop off at Beeston Castle and Jodrell Bank observatory (which is my kind of place!). Then a nice break out to Freiburg to see the wonderful Sophie with Jenny and Chris! 😀


20150813_142814701_iOS 20150813_094820564_iOS 20150813_095305680_iOS 20150813_124127799_iOS 20150813_102633386_iOS

One of my “must visit again” locations from my childhood, with 18,000 airmiles to burn and very little time to plan, it was the obvious choice of destination. The weather wasn’t fabulous, but it was still a great trip. It’s still one of my top 5 places in the world.

Spotify – Rock Star Jam 2015

104_0210 104_0225 104_0228 rockstar-jam-2015-139 rockstar-jam-2015-300 rockstar-jam-2015-372 rockstar-jam-2015-63 rockstar-jam-2015-91

Although my activity has taken a huge slide over recent months, the wonderful people over at Spotify where kind enough to still invite me to Rock Star Jam 2015. It was great to meet the new extended team and some familiar faces too! The 3 day trip included everything from Viking dining, to office tours, feedback sessions, demonstrations and competitive table tennis!

Old friends, new place & new job! 

20150911_205951000_iOS 1 20150823_155458000_iOS 20150918_145636000_iOS

So it’s official, I’ve moved to Coventry, the new flat is all sorted and moved into and I’ve started as a Graduate Research Engineer at Jaguar Land Rover based at Warwick University. And I’m a student again (kinda), through the JLR graduate scheme I’m signed up to take MSc modules to enhance my development eventually leading to an MSc (all paid for!). Last weekend, I got to spend some time with two of my favourite people too! 😀

And that is me up to date I think! I won’t leave it so long next time! 😀

Opinions, Knowledge & Understanding

I have always been a great believer in the ideology that everyone is entitled to their opinion. It is something you are taught as a child that you never forget. Opinions are great things, they give you an insight into people, their thoughts, other ways of thinking, things you missed or have never thought about before. Being able to have and present opinions is a powerful tool of the human species, ultimately having opinions allows us to make decisions.

My issue with opinions is when people are misinformed. One of my biggest hates is people who push opinions upon you when they themselves don’t fully understand what they are talking about. And let’s be clear, being misinformed and presenting an opinion doesn’t make you wrong, you could be right or wrong or neutral or “I don’t really care” but people should be aware that presenting an opinion is ultimately the beginning of a social interaction in which your point of view might be challenged, and that is where things tend to go sour. It wouldn’t be unknown of me to challenge an opinion in conversation I agree with, simply because how people justify an opinion is often more interesting and telling than the opinion itself.

Real opinions should come from knowledge of the subject, as data processing engines (brains) we should form opinions based upon interpretation of facts, knowledge and understanding. So please, for my sake and for others, do some research and try not to judge or exercise opinions about things before you understand them. I know it is difficult, and it’s a rule that everyone including myself has broken countless times. We are programmed to gather facts, process for patterns and make a decision quickly, breaking that process is a challenge. Also remember rule 9: Everybody Lies. This includes the Internet which is 85% spam, 10% lies and 5% useful things.

Next time you read something online, ask yourself this question: “Who wrote this?” And using that thought, think about how even though it may be factual, that person probably has an opinion/view on what they are writing about. There are exceptions of course, but often the interesting things are what you can read between the lines.

This is of course my opinion on opinions, feel free to disagree!

Why I think National Grid have got Anglesey right.

It was reported in the news yesterday the Welsh Government can’t intervene to stop National Grid building pylons across Anglesey to connect the new Wylfa nuclear power plant to the mainland grid at Bangor. It’s a story I have been following closely since it came to my attention a few years back. This news comes after feedback from the residents that they are still unhappy with the proposed plans, even though National Grid have now agreed they will bury the cables sub-sea in the Menai Straits which was one of the key areas outlined in their original report. Ultimately, as an Engineering student I feel that this is the correct decision overall (and I haven’t seen a lot of positive comments anywhere), even though it will be disappointing news for many, let me explain why.

National Grid is a business which exists to provide the connected energy grid for the United Kingdom. They maintain a large and complex network, which is under change due to energy sources and demands, the complexity of the task they perform goes beyond what many people imagine. They have a responsibility to provide a network, which is not only cost-effective, but reliable.

We all rely on energy, which means they ultimately touch everyone’s lives in some way (unless you live in a cave or something). As a business, they have social responsibility too, they must act in a way that is sustainable and take into account the areas in which they are present. However, in a world dominated by money, cost effectiveness will always outweigh other responsibilities as long as legal requirements are met. This is exactly the reason why in my opinion, asking them to build a HVDC link from Anglesey to Deeside is nothing more than a mad dream by someone who sees the world as nothing other than perfect, it will just never happen as for National Grid, the risks far outweigh the potential benefits, in fact for them there are ultimately no benefits in doing so if they have secured permission to build pylons. Such a link not only massively complicates the distribution network, but also adds millions in costs not only to build the link but maintain/repair it in the event of a failure. Ask your inner business person what would you do? I’m pretty sure I know what the answer would be.

I will come out and say now that I agree whole heartedly with people, pylons are ugly, they scar the landscape just like roads however being someone who has grown up in a world where we take stable energy for granted, I maybe don’t notice them as much. In my eyes, they are a necessary evil. I don’t want to look at them, I don’t think anyone does, but when I get home from a long day I want to flip the switch and my kettle to work, you can’t have one without the other which is a realisation which I have come to accept.

It’s funny, people oppose almost everything to do with energy, they object to wind farms, pylons, tidal lagoons, new power stations and who am I to tell them they are wrong, but to me, they are fighting for the view of a perfect world, and that world will never exist. If history has taught us anything, it will always be a little sacrifice for the benefit of the greater good, and in this case the greater good needs those pylons, it is the only sensible way.

Happy New Year!


It might be stating the obvious, but as the clock struck midnight last night a year was completed and a brand new one started. Many people see the new year as a new beginning, me not so much, beginning of a new journal book yes, but huge personal changes no. I mentioned in a previous blog post that 2015 is bringing big changes for me, and that is true but those are more related to my career path and finishing university. I am however very excited to see what this years future holds for me and the people closest to me!

Upon reflection, 2014 was a really great year for me, I’ve met so many new people, strengthened friendships with my good friends and learned a huge amount. As long as things can continue into 2015 I will be a very happy man.

With that, I want to wish anyone reading a happy new year. I hope 2015 can be everything you want it to be.