Friday, October 06, 2017

The Fall

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.”

Not here. Not now.

The wind whips leaves from the trees
In showers of red, orange, yellow.
They carpet the ground with softness, damp and yielding underfoot.

Horse chestnut trees scatter their spiky husks,
And here is a conker:
Round shiny treasure like polished mahogany
Sitting abandoned on the soggy leaves
But not for long.
Children will take it to its new home.

Now the rain comes
Sideways in the buffeting wind.
Head, neck, trousers cold and colder
As we run for home.

Later we look out through rain-flooded windows
Hot tea in hand
At the October storm that is stripping the trees

What else will fall?

Autumn is not a gentle season
In England

Friday, September 30, 2016

I just keep levelling up!

It might not look like much, but that little device takes sound direct from my phone or laptop, increases all the bits that I need louder, and puts it straight into my hearing aids by bluetooth!

In effect, it turns my hearing aids into headphones. Which is fantastic! Because normal headphones just aren't compatible with hearing aids.

I can watch YouTube, even if there is someone else in the room not wanting to watch it too!

I can't wait to ring up all my friends to see how the phone part works. The gizmo needs three hours charging before first use. Three hours is an awful long time.

Friday, June 10, 2016

How much to pay for bionic hearing?

I realised half-way through that I've written this post for myself, to help me sort out my thoughts, so please feel free to ignore it! Although if you have any thoughts I'd be very happy to hear them.

My hearing aids just aren't good enough and the NHS can't do any better for me, apparently.

My hearing is good for deep sounds but drops sharply for higher pitched sounds, especially in my right ear which suffered a disastrous hearing loss five years ago. The sample audiogram above gives you some idea, the differences between that and my own audiogram are that I have normal hearing in both ears up to 1,000 Hz, and that my right ear drops off more precipitously than on this graph.

The area between 2,000 - 4,000 Hz is the most important for understanding speech and this is the area where I have a rapid drop in hearing.

Digital hearing aids work by dividing the sound into chunks and turning them up individually. The level of fine tuning possible depends on the number of these chunks (called "channels"). A single channel would turn everything up and down; two channels would give you bass and treble.

Eight channels, which is what I have, gives you some ability to turn up the higher sounds selectively but the channels work across the whole frequency range, including the sounds that I don't need to be enhanced at all, so the fine tuning for speech isn't particularly fine. That means that I have to have some sounds too quiet because their neighbouring sounds would be too loud if that channel was turned up any more.

Sounds that you can barely hear take longer for your brain to process by about a second. This means you need people to speak more slowly. There are so many situations where I'm struggling.
  • on the phone
  • with children
  • with any background noise
  • anyone not facing me
  • anyone on my right side
  • most tv programs
  • can't wear headphones
The speaker for my aids is behind the ear, and the sounds travels by tube to my ear. This isn't great for feedback. It means that I can't have my right hearing aid as loud as I need even without the complications of the different channels. Private hearing aids can have the speaker in the ear.

I am looking at private hearing aids with 12, 16, and 20 channels. They are expensive. I mean really, very expensive. Like, six or seven bicycles, or a couple of foreign holidays.

The problem is that you're not just paying for a fantastic piece of kit but you're also paying for the service you get over the next three or four years. Which is bloody good service, I have to say, if the initial consultation is anything to go by.

The dearest aids cost 30% more than the cheaper ones. (Not the cheapest. They don't have enough channels to make a real difference to me.) I'm not sure how to decide what level I need.

At least I get over 60 days to try them out and if they don't help I can return them. I'd like to think I wouldn't need to. It would be so nice to hear properly again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Sphinx: a flash fiction morsel

You are standing on a vast sandy plain that extends in all directions. In front of you is a Sphinx on a stone pedestal. The Sphinx has huge claws and a smug smile on its face. It is looking directly at you.

You can not go East. You can not go West. You can not go South.

North is the Sphinx.

You approach the Sphinx.

"None shall pass," says the Sphinx.

"Hang on," you say. "I thought you were supposed to ask me a riddle and let me pass?"

The Sphinx sighs. "No one ever gets my riddles and I've got indigestion from the last traveller. Go away."

"That's not fair," you say. "Ask me the riddle and let me pass."

"What's brown and sticky," the Sphinx says.

"A stick," you reply.

"Wrong, it's toffee," the Sphinx says.

"How was I supposed to know that?" you say.

"You weren't. Come closer and let me eat you."

You can not go South. You can not go East. You can not go West. To the North is the Sphinx.

You are carrying:
a ball of wool
a bar of soap
a bar of chocolate
three cherries
a cloak

You use the ball of wool on the Sphinx. Nothing happens.

You use the bar of soap on the Sphinx. Nothing happens.

You use the bar of chocolate on the Sphinx. The Sphinx reaches out to take the chocolate but you pull back at the last moment.

"If I give you this bar of chocolate, will you let me pass?"

"What sort is it?"

"Hotel Chocolat 82% Ecuador single estate."

"Give it to me and you can pass."

You hand the chocolate to the Sphinx.

You go North.

The Sphinx speaks without looking up from the chocolate. "On your way back, bring us some antacid, will you? This is going to wreak havoc with my digestion."

Friday, March 04, 2016

Don't Ban the Hobbits!

Yesterday a friend of mine was thrown out of a pub. Not for being drunk and disorderly, or for starting a fight, or for peeing into a pot plant instead of the loo. No, he was slung out for having bare feet.

That hit a nerve so I started looking for a campaign for people to be able to wear whatever they like and found that Amazon Fashion is running one, or so it says. "Wear whatever you want" it proclaims, as long as it's stylish. Does anyone else see the contradiction right there?

There are so many unnecessary rules about what clothes are acceptable and where, starting but not finishing with our feet.

I wear men's wide leather trainers to keep the irritable nerve in my foot for acting up. In many schools trainers are banned. Mine are black and well-polished so I can get away with them under trousers if no one looks too hard but I really don't see what it matters to anyone what I have on my feet.

Not wearing a bra is also unacceptable, if you're a woman that is. Even young girls just coming into puberty have to wear "training bras" which suggests to me that many women wouldn't wear them unless they were "trained" to do so. Men with "man boobs" are exempt, because the rules are inherently sexist.

They're not just sexist against women. Men are expected to wear suits and a tie to an office job, although the tie seems to be more optional these days. Could my husband wear a skirt to work? I think HR would have a quiet word with him if his boss didn't get to him first. There are many places where a man wearing a dress or skirt risks insults at best and injury at worst.

I just don't understand why. Why can't we all wear whatever we want and leave other people's clothing choices to them?

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

A bit of fun

I read recently that keeping a picture journal can be good for your mood so I thought I'd give it a go. Anything to add a bit of colour when the days are dark and gloomy. I've got some felt tips and I thought I'd just write and doodle as the mood takes me, without worrying too much about what it turns out like; after all, with felt tips there's no rubbing out.

So far, I have "mud, mud, inglorious mud", followed the next day by "Ouch, ouch, ouchies" to remind me of the bike ride that convinced me that mountain bikes are evil. I've also got the tribute to the weather that you can see here.

It's a bit of a change from "write three things that went well every day" and I don't think I'll update it every day. It's just a bit of fun. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

I'm done

I completed the Nano challenge and I'm now the proud owner of 50,000 words that I wrote myself. Plus 2,500 words of out takes that I haven't counted in the final score.

This year crystallised for me how I need to work when I'm writing a longer story. I don't do well with tightly planning the whole story in advance, but I need an overall idea of what kind of story I'm writing, who it's about, and where it's going to end up. Then I think through the first section until I know what happens and write that down. At that point I have scenes in my mind's eye and I just need to get them down in words.

Whenever I complete that section, I need to stop the scene-writing and spend some time thinking and working out the next section. Some of my thinking I do when walking, cycling, or showering. Some of it I do by writing out the next part of the story in non-scene form. Planning, you might call it. I've never thought of myself as a planner but I think that's because I've assumed I knew what planning looked like and this wasn't it. Well, now I know.

Can I do it without the impetus of the Nano challenge? I really don't know but I'm going to have to find out. Because Nano is no longer what I need.

I didn't go to any meetups this year, the first year since 2006 when I haven't. I met up with some fantastic friends from past Nano years, but these weren't official meetups and most of the others have moved beyond Nano now. I don't get much use out of the Nano forums because they really aren't user-friendly; I use my own spreadsheet which keeps track of my words with better visuals than the Nano site; and Nano has changed almost beyond recognition since I first joined.

It used to be about the excitement of the challenge, now it's about being an educational charity that supports young people's writing. I don't think I got a single communication from Nano this year that didn't include begging for money. Even the winner's congratulation message includes a request to become a monthly donor.

So, Nano and I are done. It's been a great ten years. I've learned a lot and had lots of fun. Now it's time to step out on my own. I just don't know where the motivation is going to come from.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Week Three Blues

It's week 3 of Nano. How did the time go so quickly? And I'm at the usual point of wanting to give up and go fishing instead. I've never tried fishing and I think I'd hate it but could it be any worse than writing my novel? I don't think so.

For the real deal on just how bad Nano gets, I've got permission to quote from a friend. You can see the original here or here but in case you can't get into those, here is the text that marienbad/parallax has written:

The 4 Weeks of NanoWrimo
The week before: Ooh, so excited, but filled with trepidation - Can I/Will I be able to do this, will I make 50K. Gosh, this is daunting, I really shouldn't have signed up for this... No, wait, yes I should - I want to be a writer and this is my chance to have a shot a writing something long form. Ooh, so excited...
Week 1 - ooh so excited, here we go... writes 1667 words a day - oh my gosh this is amazing, the words are flooding out of me, and these characters seem to have taken on a life of their own. Every day is bringing new scenes and ideas, I love my story.
Week 2 - wtf? where did my writing ability go? I can just about make 1667 some days and man even that's a struggle. And my story is full of holes, everything is cliche and rubbish, my characters are always grinning/smirking/smiling - why? This isn't going to work, I'm never gonna make 50K.
Week 3 - jeez Louise, this is the suckiest first-draft in history. I know they are meant to be shitty but this is in a league of its own. Yeah I got a bunch of plot bunnies but they all seem to lead the story in the wrong way, not where I want it to go. I am hacking out 500 words a day sometimes and it's like pulling teeth without anaesthetic! I am never going to win Nano, I wish I had never started this now. God, I hate myself and want to die!
Week 4 - wait, what's happening? The sun has arisen, and I can see the light. All those plot bunnies have enabled me to build a decent backstory, my characters seem to have come back to life, and I am easily getting over 1667 words per day. The finish line is in sight, only 12K left to write, and I can do that now, come on fingers, type faster, keep up with my brain for crying out loud...
End of Week 4 - woo hooo !! I did it - 52,091 words! But wait, the word counter here gives a different figure than my Word Processor - Oh man, now I've got another 2K to write to win...hacks out 3.5K of crap just in case - validates woo hoo - I've won - only just, 50, 051 words, but it's enough. woo hoo, I've won Nano! Fantastic. breaks down and cries.
Week 5 - what, where's everyone gone? Man, I'm missing Nano already, I feel so down, I wish this went on all year. And what am I going to do with all that novel I wrote? I feel so blue, what now? Oh I know, maybe I can edit... looks at manuscript - jeez, Louise, what a pile of crap, it's so bad it's not worth editing!

My only caveat is that at the end I always think, "But it's just so long I could never edit it!"

But that's moot, because it's not written yet, so back to the coalface.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Windows 10 - Finding System Restore

The latest update of Windows 10 left me without a working keyboard. I couldn't find System Restore and needed the help of a Dell technician using remote control of my laptop to take my system back to before the update.

In case it happens again, I want to set down the steps needed to get into System Restore without using Search. (Because obviously search won't work without a keyboard!)

1. Right click on the Windows icon in the Start bar, click Control Panel.
2. On the drop down menu beside View By click to choose Small Icons (upper right part of the screen).
3. Click Recovery (icons are in alphabetical order).
4. You can now choose System Recovery as the second of three items.

Of course, next time it will probably be the mouse that goes. I should really look up the keyboard shortcuts to System Restore just in case.

Edited to Add:

To get to System Restore using only the keyboard:

Windows key + X
Arrow keys to select Control Panel, Enter
R key to select Restore, Enter
Tab key (several presses needed) to select System Restore, Enter

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