Posted in Life and Family, Music I Like, Political and Social Issues, Technology and Software, Videos

Tangle of Thoughts

One reason I’ve not been blogging lately is that themes run through my head and get tangled in a knot — I never know where to begin. Sometimes it seems easier to retreat to my chair and view the multicoloured twist of yarn from a safe distance. I feel satisfaction at how pretty it is, but really — it seems like too much work to untangle it and display each thread on its own.

Looking at that fuzzy mess, I forget what’s in there anyway. I’ll try pulling on a thread randomly and see what appears.

I’ve just been watching a YouTube video of Nigel Farage questioning Mark Zuckerberg. The two narratives (Farage and Zuckerberg) clash like grape and lime. You never imagine they’ll come into each other’s orbit, yet there they are.

I don’t like the extent to which internet companies keep and share data. Things really started turning sour when people were expected to download everything from the cloud and store files on a server somewhere instead of on their own hard drives. Laptops with almost no storage space appeared and we no longer received DVDs with the supporting operating system. We are nagged mercilessly to update everything despite losing access to expensive software and hardware that we still use every day. We’ve entered an era of apps and subscription software, and everything’s updated quite often — sometimes ruining applications we are in the middle of using. One app suddenly changed the way the drawing tools worked, and I was unable to finish the pictures I was working on. I liked the way they were coming along, so I’m still annoyed about that! None of this particular ‘progression’ ever struck me as a good idea… a lot of security, control and choice was (and is) leaving our hands.

Another thread from my tangle of experiences: I watched the Munk debate on political correctness.

There’s a bit where Stephen Fry talks about the growing climate of fear — people are afraid to say too much or be honest about their thoughts and ideas. He says it’s a real change, not imagined. It was interesting to see him on the same side as Jordan Peterson, but then they both have liberal views.

I’ve been finding out about the Danish Eurovision 2018 entry, Higher Ground by Rasmussen. I was wishing that was our song, as I felt absolutely no connection to the UK’s Eurovision entry.

But wait…

‘Higher Ground’, presented by Denmark, is a Swedish song about Norwegian Vikings who lived in Orkney and went raiding (on this occasion) to Anglesey in Wales. (My tangled knot pales in comparison to this). The Viking in the song was Magnus Erlendsson, who stayed in his ship and refused to go on the attack.

My mother thinks I take after Norwegians on her side of the family. Was she remembering old family photos I’ve never seen? I mentioned a family friend who came from Norway but was immediately corrected. She MARRIED a Norwegian but isn’t Norwegian herself. I had to chuckle… “for years I was thinking Kristin was the Norwegian, and all the time it was me!”

It’s like a twisted version of Blade Runner.

I would love to know more about my family history but haven’t a clue where to begin. Like subscribing to a gym, it’s the sort of thing you might pay for in a fit of enthusiasm then don’t do much about.

In any case, I have now adopted Denmark’s song. 😛 Not only was it about finding more peaceful ways of relating; it represents a thread from our history.

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Posted in Life and Family, Observations, Photographs, Technology and Software

What Comes Into Being When You Have No Access

Here in Scotland, drifts of powdery snow lie on the ground outside.

Certain things had to be done before the daylight waned… laundry, changing bedlinen, and bringing the ironing board back from the shed. Whilst pottering around happily in this manner, unaware of a chain of events thus set in motion, one of Mum’s friends turned up for a teatime visit and to sit in my place. 😒

I’m not annoyed… I would rather she sits there. The other chair is too far away and you’d have to yell down the length of the room at Mum. Trouble was, I had forgotten the visitor was coming, and left my iPad set up on the big footstool by my seat. I didn’t want to disturb them by retrieving it (as though to say “hey, you’re sitting in MY spot!”), and my offer of tea was rejected, so I abandoned the iPad and got on with preparing vegetables in the kitchen.

When the friend left, I brought tea and biscuits and settled down. At last I could get some rest! My shoulders and neck were aching as I hadn’t meant to spend so much time flitting around.

But no! The iPad refused to start up… its battery power had gone utterly flat. All that showed up on the screen was a black void featuring the spectre of an empty battery sitting in a little sliver of red. When the iPad’s power goes that low, it takes an age charging it up enough to let me back in.

Sigh…

While your phone or tablet is charging up, you have to find some other way of amusing yourself. Out in the gathering night, a snowstorm began whirling… a wall of white behind the skeletal trees. In the drama of the moment, while Mum and I stared out of the window instead of at the TV, wolves and other hungry raptors came to mind.

Abandoning my tea, I went upstairs to get my camera, opened the window, and leaned out. The trees stood swaying in gaunt silence; cold, sepia and white. I should have been taking photos of the snowstorm but somehow… this happened instead.

After the iPad powered up, I used it to take a photo of the back of my camera, being too lazy to go through the rigmarole of getting hold of the actual photo. If we got more snow here, I would probably be more practised at taking photos of it, but for now this is all you’re getting. 😛

Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family

Nearly Time for Tea

Your mother on a low sodium diet:

“I do need a little salt on things, otherwise I won’t eat them.”

“I don’t like Greek Philadelphia… too sharp for me. Prefer the usual Philadelphia.”

(When sister was waving a bag of dried banana chips): “I’m *tired* of things that are good for me.”

Only Earl Grey will do… Lady Grey is ‘too orangey’. Well, my sister’s not fond of it either, and I’ve never gone for any of these spicy teas, so that’s understandable. I would be peeved if I wanted PG Tips, Typhoo, Assam, Darjeeling or ‘Breakfast Tea’, only for somebody to bring me Earl Grey instead. To be fair, nobody turned up with Lady Grey tea; it was already in the cupboard and I asked why she was ignoring that and asking for a new box of Earl Grey.

We aren’t eating salad dressings, but I’ve never liked sharply flavoured dressings on salads, whereas I’m more likely than the others to take something with sharp lemon or lime in it, so long as it’s recognizably lemon or lime. As for Greek yoghurt… love it! Mum doesn’t like yoghurt at all.

We’ve had a run of bad luck over the past three days. I won’t recount everything that’s gone wrong, but my parsnip soup wasn’t good (the leek soup much better); a glass broke in the dishwasher before it had even done a wash; everybody seemed to be coming to the house on the same day and I was running from room to room tidying just when I thought I could sit down with a coffee.

I wrote to a friend, saying I hoped she was OK, as she had been quiet for a week. She said she never even got my last email! She was wondering why I wasn’t answering her, while I wondered why she wasn’t answering me. My last email to her had disappeared en route.

Then last night the central heating conked out, and we had a really sharp frost. I was shocked how cold it was when I got up at 7 this morning… brr! Jumped straight into nearest sweater (pretty snowflake-patterned one from Norway).

Thankfully the heating’s fixed now. We had an explanation about the pressure in the boiler having dropped away to nothing, and they poured more water in. I wondered if that was something we could do ourselves, but my mother said no, she hasn’t a clue about boilers. I wasn’t planning to send her to the back of the cubby-hole to repressurize it for us…

However, I’m uneasy at the thought of central heating that gets knocked out just because the pressure ‘drops off’… like it’s something that could happen repeatedly, just on the coldest night of the year.

At least the sun is shining today, and my thoughts are turning to spring. Fingers crossed things will be good from now on! There’s a chicken to roast and tea to drink… both PG Tips and Earl Grey.

Posted in Videos

Invigorated by YouTube

For so many years I mostly ignored YouTube. I hated the name, which sounded rude! I would check out music or a Simon’s Cat animation, but mostly internet videos were an irritation. I hate going onto a news page and finding it slowed down with embedded video clips that take up space and don’t even have captions, and you have to carefully scroll past the wretched things in the hope of finding actual text… a commodity that becomes rarer and rarer, especially in the news world. When friends post video links, even to Simon’s Cat, I follow with great reluctance. From past experience I know I would enjoy the video, yet am still reluctant to be drawn in.

Then I realized I can follow videos (to a limited degree) provided they have automatic captions. I gain access to things I would otherwise have no access to at all, such as some radio shows. Unfortunately, BBC trailers on YouTube never seem to have captions. Somebody consciously removed autocaptions and hasn’t replaced them with edited ones? Oh well, I won’t watch them.

The majority of videos on YouTube have autocaptions, however, and I’m grateful, even though they are garbled in places. You find yourself mentally changing words or glueing a selection of them together to transform into the word that’s intended. Breakfast means Brexit. Barney means Barnier. Mr Young Kerr is Mr Juncker. Jumani chairs might have been Jean Monnet chairs. Large Parrot is Nigel Farage. I will have to look for other examples. What does ‘rather eat a mockery knee’ mean? (Approximately 38.20 mark on LBC’s EU Army video).

I don’t just watch political videos… I was surprised to discover how therapeutic some of the other offerings are, with repeated mantras and soothing delivery. Seeing someone sitting down and looking you in the eye; their humorous expressions, quiet confidence and polite acceptance of you (though of course they can’t see you)… it has an amazing effect.

Up till now, articles and blog posts are all I’ve ever looked at. I enjoy those that take you on a journey of some kind, even if a bit rambling sometimes. I hate shallow, repetitive ‘sound-bite’ dribbets that don’t tell you what you really want to know. Instead they repeat bare facts you might be having doubts about… people parroting each other without appearing to question the information. You think “but is that really true? How do they know?” and search for something more. It’s frustrating when nobody really goes into it… you wish they would look deeper, or wider (at different situations). Like when you want advice how to repair a friendship and instead keep finding stuff about married couples when that’s not the dynamic you were interested in. It almost makes you question your own validity… like “I’m not the important person here; I’m not married… none of my issues are relevant.” That’s not a good example, as there’s actually plenty of stuff that addresses platonic friendships, but you get the drift.

Then I ‘discovered’ YouTube videos; or, should I say, discovered I can make much more use of them than I realized, provided they have captions.

Videos can be short or long; they can amuse, tell you something you never read anywhere else, or merely repeat the same tired points and — guiltily — you find your attention wandering. Sometimes you watch to the bitter end while distracting yourself scanning the comments underneath, but other times you realize it really wasn’t what you were looking for, so you move on. Small blame to the speaker, whose video will make all the difference to somebody, somewhere; no doubt setting that person on a new voyage of discovery.

Last night I felt anxiety like a growing block of ice that threatened to keep me from sleeping, so lulled myself with watching YouTube videos. It worked amazingly well. The speaker in question was a great story-teller, and when she recounted a dialogue I could really empathize with, complete with expressions of remembered shock and confusion, I found myself weeping with laughter. My mother was sleeping in another room so I was trying to keep it quiet, but became so hysterical I had to muffle myself with handfuls of cloth.

I don’t know if I would have reacted that way if I’d read the relayed conversation in an article. I might had chuckled to myself, even laughed out loud, and probably nodded a lot as though to say, “yeah, I know that feeling!” but I’m not sure I would have had the uproarious reaction that I did.

Unnerving but therapeutic. “Wow, I’m not the only one who feels at times as though nothing makes any sense! And all the time, it was because of something going on with the other person.”

The anxiety in my chest suddenly melted, washed away in a surge of positive emotion. After that I was able to sleep, waking in good humour. Several hours later, I’m still feeling shaky but relieved. The video was expressive in a completely different way from written articles. It was not just the message that came across in bold technicolour, but the person herself.

Nevertheless… the underlying reasons for my current bout of anxiety are still there, and I’ve not yet done anything with those. I must try, over and over, if that’s what it takes. Only then can I sleep properly, though these videos are a good reminder that you’re not alone and other people have similar experiences.

This morning I found myself watching something I thought tremendously relevant on all kinds of levels….

What Happens With Unprocessed Emotions by Richard Grannon

It turns into something you don’t entirely expect, but speaks a lot of truth. If videos were always predictable, we would soon give up watching… a tip for YouTube in their quest to keep our eyeballs in thrall. Not that Richard Grannon was really endorsing our addiction to social media.

It is true… I’ve been sucked into this alternative reality — this other place that feeds on itself and grows and becomes more real with every passing moment. Even after watching the video I’ve just linked to, you absolutely know you’re going to check your news feed, write a blog post, and occasionally check your emails, then maybe try another video. You are not stopped by the realization that it’s unhealthy and you’re only frittering away your time because you can’t be bothered to think or do anything else, partly because you do get things from it that you wouldn’t find in your own environment… and you meet people you would never have talked to normally.

Oh… as Richard says, that’s not necessarily a good thing, especially if you have a picture in your head of a person, and that person is very different in real life. Which can be good, because maybe you wouldn’t have known how decent, kind, intelligent or witty that person was if going by visual impressions. Then again, you do get caught out the other way as well, so we really need to take our time getting to know people, both online and in the real world.

Richard made a real case for not distracting ourselves from the way we feel. Ultimately, we need to put our devices aside and get to the bottom of why we feel the way we do, and what we can do to improve ourselves and our lives.

Talking of anxiety, I could feel it mounting again when I read this news article by The Guardian: Stares, Glares, and Internet Dating: The Harsh Reality of Life with a Disability. It was the bit about managing life as a deaf person. Things get worse instead of better… it’s as though people (government agencies, public services, businesses and organizations) have less and less time and space to worry about you, even while expectations increase, pressure mounts, queues lengthen and people are summarily punished for not conforming as expected. I could tell you stories of my own about the difficulties of getting through and making my concerns heard, but I don’t really want to at this point in time. I’d rather forget…

Posted in Rants, Technology and Software

Instagram: Tiger by the Tail?

A few days ago I set up an Instagram account for the first time ever. Everybody else seemed to be using it, I thought, so why not me?

I haven’t been happy so far. I’m so focused on settings and problems that I haven’t looked around much to see what other people are posting.

1. There’s no official Instagram app in the iPad App Store. Eventually I discovered they didn’t make one! We can only use the iPhone app with no way of forcing it to work in landscape view. Viewing it in portrait mode is unnatural and uncomfortable, so I don’t spend long doing that.

2. I can use Instagram from the mobile browser, but it’s spartan. There are things I can’t do unless I switch to the uncomfortable sideways app.

3. Nobody seems to like the way the feed works any more. People complain that the same posts they’ve already seen and commented on hang around for days on end. There’s no logic to it and you can’t target your viewing unless you visit each Instagram friend individually.

4. You can’t hide your follower lists from anyone following you.

The real kicker, though — the most mind-bendingly crass thing — is the way it notifies people you know (mainly Facebook friends) that you have just opened an Instagram account. This happens to some degree even if you didn’t use your Facebook sign-in. As soon as I created mine, it suggested I follow various Facebook friends. I’m quite sure they could see me too, even if they happened not to receive a direct notification.

This isn’t what I want. Even if I jump through hoops trying to keep my Instagram account anonymous, I wouldn’t be able to fully trust it, because who really knows how these social media sites work? Are you sure you understand all the ins and outs, who-can-sees, and who-can’ts?

I feel like a fly floating on the surface of a big pond with very little understanding of how things work and almost no say over my visibility. I’m simply not a fan of this idea!

It’s not that I really care if family and acquaintances can see the uninspiring photos and pictures I come up with, but I feel held back. If I was in a mood and ‘liked’ a grumpy quotation, those who have closer ties to me would wonder if I was grumping at them and what the issue was!

Socializing would be a lot less fun if you had to worry all the time about who was privy to what. Your rabid SNP cousin might blow his top if he knew your political views, which is exactly why you don’t talk politics to him but might to someone else.

Or perhaps this is the idea… we all have to have very bland, politically-correct conversations that don’t move too far from the weather?

I made my Instagram account private but am considering closing it altogether because I can’t see myself using it. I felt confused from the start… “what do I post here? Family stuff or arty, self-expressive stuff?” I considered setting up a second, more private account, then realized anonymity isn’t guaranteed anyway.

These big companies may say, even believe, that they have opened up the internet, simplified it, made it easier, automated everything and connected everybody, but in fact they are closing down the ways you can productively, safely, freely and confidently use it. Everything’s so automated and ‘smart’ and omniscent that it’s out of each user’s control exactly who can see what you’ve posted and where, and I’m sure this has already led to problems for many people.

You wonder what’s the point of having these different forums anyway, if they’re all interlinked to the degree that you can follow one person from Facebook to Instagram to Pinterest to…? It seems like too much bother; just amalgamate the lot into one single interface! One App to Rule Them All.

Instagram might have been fun on its own. I could have got used to the square format and would enjoy creating the right kind of images. Unfortunately social media communicates *too* much on our behalf, and we no longer know what we’re doing. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Posted in Books

Pulling Up the Drawbridge

tired of your world?
try on another’s skin
read a book

I used to read all the time, but it’s an ability I’ve largely lost. I dip in and out of this book or that, and it can take me a long time to finish anything. Today, though, I found out that books still have their place in the world, even in mine.

I’m upset just now about a lot of different things, some of which won’t be resolved any time soon. There’s nothing I can do but wait. I couldn’t concentrate on anything I was meant to be doing, so curled up on the sofa and read.

I was previously dipping into this book for minutes at a time, worried I wouldn’t finish by its library due date, but today wrapped it round me like a blanket and read all afternoon and evening: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.

It was brilliant and I would recommend it whole-heartedly. It upset me a lot. 😀

I know that doesn’t sound so good, but I don’t regret reading it. It gives me a different understanding of what it must be for people to go through memory loss.

The main character talks about being treated like she’s back in school… I could relate to that, as the same thought flashed through my head during a meeting with a nurse. Being talked to like I was six was a very big reason I rebelled and refused to have anything more to do with her proposed anxiety treatment.

Yet anxiety is a horrible thing… I wonder why it should hit me so hard that I needed to pull up the drawbridge and hide inside a novel. I don’t think anything will change me, and maybe it’s not out of the ordinary… we all get overwhelmed at times. I wonder what life would be like if no one ever felt fear?

Whatever… I was surprised how quickly I went from only being able to concentrate for a few minutes to spending hours reading. People talk about how the internet and ‘information overload’ has changed the way we read, think and engage. Perhaps, but I don’t believe it’s a permanent change. If for any reason you mentally disengage yourself from your internet habit, you can still take up a book as though nothing else exists.

Have now begun Dark Eden by Chris Beckett.

‘Hmmph, hmmph, hmmph, went the trees all around us, pumping and pumping hot sap from under the ground.’

See you when I get back. 🙂

Posted in Lost in Thought, Observations

Five Things I Learned

We’re into March already! Five things I learned this year so far:

(1) Treat your Mah Jong tiles with respect.

(2) Artists use battery-operated erasers.

(3) In Scotland you get a free bus pass if you’re severely or profoundly deaf. You still have to state your destination, which is not so hot if you have quiet or poor speech.

(4) There are no more photo booths in town. Even that technology seems to have ‘moved on’, at least locally. (Runs from various digital cameras pointed in her direction).

(5) It seems possible to replace just about any part of a blender — including the jug, supposing you broke it. Possibly depends on the model and the manufacturer, but always worth checking.

Posted in Technology and Software, TV and Films

The Sky’s the Limit

Mum was tempted by an offer of four trial months of free Sky TV (after £75 initial set-up, delivery of Sky box and installation of mini-dish). So now we have a dish on our house too.

It’s been enjoyable so far, though it’s shocking how little is subtitled, including programmes which are subtitled sometimes, and other times not. They must do something about that, as it seems such a waste of energy and resources.

We have seen The Colour of Magic amongst other things, very good.

A few days after the Sky box was installed, we tried to watch a DVD. Nothing happened… I suspected the DVD was playing but not showing up on the TV screen. I crawled behind the TV and changed the Scart cables around – the Sky guy had placed them so that they both ran from the TV. I put the DVD player in the middle, taking both cables so that the TV had one and the Sky box had the other.

The DVD sprang to life on the TV screen (already part of the way through).

After watching the film, we tried to watch Sky again, and this time Sky wasn’t responding. Again I crawled behind the TV and switched the cables round to Plan C… this time I discovered that it mattered which Scart socket you used! I thought it didn’t matter, but it does. The Sky box has one socket for the TV and another for the video or DVD player, so this time I put the Sky box in the middle, with one cable running to the TV and the other to the DVD player. The sockets on the other units matter as well, but I swapped the Scarts round till I figured out which ones worked.

This time we could watch Sky, and we could also watch a DVD if we switched off the Sky box first. But the Sky picture was green!!

“You’ve lost all the red,” said Mum, accusingly. After a little head-scratching, I crawled behind the TV again and discovered that one of the Scart cables wasn’t as well pushed in as I thought; pushing it all the way in was all that was needed to restore ‘normal’ colour to the TV screen…

We now have a TV set-up we can continue to use.

The excitement wasn’t entirely over, as Mum got a letter saying they were going to start debiting her account at the end of the month… she phoned and said she’s barely even started the four-month trial period she was promised, and they said they accidentally sent out letters saying they would, but they weren’t going to, and Mum’s money is safe for now.

Funny how it’s never easy.

Posted in Desktop Pictures, Life and Family

A View of the World

I set my Mac’s desktop picture to change every half hour at random. Life is exciting now – you never know what it’s going to be! I’ve had two violent purple ones already.

My desktop picture folder was tidied up and includes a large selection of old desktops from both Mac and PC, along with a few I made or downloaded from the web. My favourites are the dinosaurs from ITV’s Prehistoric Park. There’s one with a prehistoric croc eyeing a young dinosaur coming down to drink, and I pointed at the croc and said “you’re in MY world, croc, and in MY world you don’t get the dinosaur.”

I’m afraid my world isn’t a very nice one for crocs.

As for the PC’s old desktop pictures, the Mac has been trying them on and laughing wildly. “Look at these old bloomers!” It better watch out, as the PC has stormed off in a huff once already. Well, the Mac probably wouldn’t admit it in a million years, but it rather likes the PC’s old iceberg picture. It promptly chose that one when I said it could pick whatever it liked.

In fact, I’m now feeling guilty for all the years I’ve forced both computers to stick with whichever desktop I told them to use – they must have got very bored.

Anthropomorphism isn’t daft – it’s a curse. You spend so much time feeling sorry for every dead leaf and speck of dust that it’s just horrible. When I was six or seven, I was watching something on TV in which they were testing the wing or tail of a plane. It fell apart and I started weeping. My grandmother asked, “what’s wrong?” and I said I really had no idea. The piece of metal fell apart and it just made me sad. She laughed, and said “they were only testing it.” I’m not sure it made much difference. The world oozes tragedy from every pore.

Posted in Rants, Technology and Software, Trolleys

So-Called Progress

It’s not a coincidence that Mum ordered a printer so soon after I bought mine. She was going to buy more ink for her old one, and I told her the breakdown of my old printer was a blessing in disguise.

On-line reviews showed that people who were dissatisfied with their printers weren’t even waiting for them to kick the bucket. They checked out the competition and made the switch. It saved time, money and energy in the end. Makes me think of the old adage that we should not throw good money after bad, which is what you are doing if you hate your printer but continue to buy expensive inks for it. Your continued patience probably encourages the manufacturer to assume that the model is a winner.

It took the breakdown of my printer (and subsequent reading of reviews) to challenge my old-fashioned mindset. When I buy something, I expect it to last for years. To me, a printer is no more disposable than the oven. I would want to be relying on it for as long as possible. Anything else seems a sad waste – till one day you wake up and realize the real waste lies in:

  1. the ink (due to a bad ink-changing system)
  2. the paper (when the printer makes a mess)
  3. your time and patience (when a simple printout becomes a battle of wits and takes all day)
  4. your money

I don’t believe all printers are as bad as that, but I used to – it was all I knew.

There was one other printer I was completely happy with, and was sad to lose when I upgraded my computer. It was the Apple Stylewriter. That never gave me a day’s trouble. It stood upright and claimed very little room, but its reliability was the real plus. I would rather have a huge and reliable printer than a neat and cantankerous one – a simple one that works rather than a complicated one with lots of flashing lights and doodads that keeps me guessing.

I once believed in progress – imagine that! I genuinely believed that updated products were better. I was horrified to find myself buying some real lemons all of a sudden. The items I found reliable and cheap to run fell by the wayside and weren’t available any more. I’ve had particularly bad experiences with fax machines.

I didn’t mean this to turn into a diatribe on so-called technological progress (which feels much more like provide-the-manufacturers-with-undeserved-largesse)… I only looked in to apologize for my recent silence.

Jolly Update

Jolly the Trolley is still going strong. The other day Mum gave me a lift, and she took Jolly out to the car while I locked my door. I hurried out, flung open the passenger door, and found Jolly sitting in my seat, firmly strapped in.

Well, if he can remember to buckle up, so can everybody else.