So I’m having some eye trouble at the mo – I’m constantly getting dry eyes, so that I have to limit my time reading and at the computer; I’ve already got through three tubes of carbomer gel in the last week.
So I thought I’d explore the possibility of text-to-speech (TTS) stuff, so that I can at least keep myself entertained through my ears – even watching TV is a strain. First stop was my Kindle Fire; deep in the settings, I discovered an option for turning on TTS software for TTS-enabled books. I was delighted, as I have several e-books half-read or waiting to be read. But, o dear, when I tried it out….
The software is technically very slick – it was quite hard to immediately tell that the pleasant-sounding American woman speaker wasn’t human. A mere minute or two of listening, however, and it was obviously mechanical. The speech rhythm was arbitrary and didn’t correspond to the text rhythm – there was the same length of pause between paragraphs, sentences and words, and no longer pauses for taking a breath; the tonal range was narrow, with no emphasis or inflection placed where it was obviously needed; the American pronunciation was jarring. That last was especially irritating as the text I was testing it on contained several instances of “apparatus” and the drawn-out middle syllable was making my teeth ache; it was fortunate that there was no mention of “aluminum” as well, as listening to “the appa-RAHH-tus was made of ah-LOO-min-um” would have had me breaking something. It was also fortunate that I was testing it on a rather dry history book (dealing, in that chapter, with “state apparatus”); I don’t want to even think about how Amazon’s robot would read out a British thriller novel.
So I looked at what was available in human-read books; voice actors are passionate about doing justice to an author’s writing. Going to audible.co.uk, I made a pleasant discovery – an extremely wide range of books, together with a no-strings offer of a free audiobook on signing up for a free months trial. An offer too good to turn down! So I signed up and went to download my free book. It was Ian Rankin’s Standing In Another Man’s Grave; having got it out of the library and then finding myself unable to read it, I was looking forward to spending several evenings listening to Detective Michael Jardine’s smooth Scottish tones narrating it.
But, of course, there was a snag. Since Amazon owns Audible.co.uk, I was expecting that I could download their audiobook straight onto my Amazon-owned Kindle, as I’d done with my ebooks. Amazingly, though, it appears I can only get an audiobook onto a Kindle by downloading it onto a PC and transferring it via a USB cable. Now, my Kindle had of course come with such a cable – but never having had to use it, I’d thrust it away somewhere and forgotten it. And could I find it again? Hah!
So here I am, waiting for a new cable to arrive and wishing desperately that my eyes would just sort themselves out.
…Toothache still continues. It’s actually a bad gum infection -copious rinsings with antiseptic mouthwash give some relief. The main effect is that I can’t eat anything without pain.
Oh well, I needed an incentive to diet anyway.
So this morning, I got out of bed feeling like c**p – headachy, sinuses stuffed up, tired and aching. I’m waiting for an appointment to see an ENT specialist about my chronic sinusitis, but that will take weeks.
So I needed some cheering up. And I think I’ve managed it. Going through my emails, I found a Twitter notification that I was now being followed by somebody who described herself as a “Crystal Skull Explorer” (her capitalisation). Looking at her Twitter account, it was clear that she wasn’t exploring in the scientific sense.
I have no idea why such a person would decide to follow me. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the subject on Twitter; and in fact, I haven’t used Twitter for months (like Facebook, it was taking up far too much of my time). Wondering what to do about this follower, it struck me that I could put my Twitter account to some good use. It took me only a matter of minutes to find this article and tweet it, with an ambiguous description so that she would at least click on the link and read some of it..
That felt quite satisfying. Then I turned to my blog feed and immediately found a link to this wonderful comic strip. It incorporates everything I feel about science and the world of learning. So I tweeted that as well.
The Crystal Skull Explorer probably won’t read it, but you never know. But now I feel cheered up – I’ve done my good deed for the day.
It’s been three months since I last posted here, and even that was a bit of an effort. Well, I’ll try to post more often.
I’m still busy; not only trying to get the 2013 Elfin Diary finished in time but also struggling to tidy up the Astrological Association website – I’ve been appointed the webmaster. And not succeeding too well at either task….
I’ve had eyesight problems, a side-effect of of a new anti-inflammatory painkiller I started in February. It worked marvellously and I felt healthier and more energetic than I’d done in years; but after the first month my eyes started blurring and drying up, to the point eventually where I couldn’t look at a computor screen, or read, or even watch TV for long. So the painkillers had to go and I’m back with my aches and pains and stiffness and tiredness and permanent general urghness.
I’ve been posting quite a lot on Facebook*; being able to post interesting links and short snippets seems to suit me better than writing lengthy blog posts these days. Also, it’s good for keeping up with family and (real) friends. But every now and then, I chafe at the length restrictions of FB posts and think that I should maybe use my blog instead. Something else that makes me feel I should post less on FB is that there are a small but annoying number of people on my friends list who post either endless pictures of unicorns and fairies and glurgy sayings (I’m sick of being told I need to dance in the bloody rain!) or lunatic US political rants, or inane witterings about their cute pet dogs. A good interesting discussion is much more to my liking.
*I don’t use my real name on FB, so if you want to friend me there, email me; however, if I don’t know you in real life, I probably won’t accept your friend request. Especially if I think you’re the type who likes to post endless unicorn pics and glurgy sayings, lunatic rants, or inane witterings about your cuddly pets. If you think you’re not that type, then give it a go!
Wow – haven’t posted anything here for nearly two months. Best get writing then.
Like I said before, the month before Xmas was madness here, with Elfin Diary orders coming in all the time. Now the rush is over, I can sit back and analyse the mistakes. The print bill was more than I anticipated – that was my error, I hadn’t clarified things. Not a big problem – I’ve covered all my costs and even made a small profit, but I’m going to have to raise prices. Having been thrown into the deep end and knowing nothing about pricing, I simply used the same prices that Caro had been using for at least three or four years.
Of course, I have to be careful with raising prices, especially in these times – put them up too much and people won’t be able to afford them, keep them low and I’ll be left out of pocket. So, at the moment, it’s a bit of a guessing game.
Another mistake I made was to think I could sell all the Diaries myself. It now turns out that Caro had supplied shops all over the country – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told “I’ve always bought my Diary in XYZ shop, but they don’t have any this year”. But of course, without her list of shops I had no idea. This time, it will be different; I’m compiling a list of New Age shops and will be leafleting them all come August.
A smaller mistake was not noting the date of posting on each order form; a number of Diaries went AWOL in the post and weakly telling people “Er, I’m sure I posted it sometime last week…” isn’t good business. So a cheap date-stamper will be on this year’s shopping list.
Finally, this year the 2013 Diaries will be ready for sale in September! (Won’t they, John? )
It’s a lovely sunny day out right now but I daren’t go out walking. My ankle has been bothering me for weeks – Doc G says it’s probably a strained ligament, and he’s probably right (it started when I bought a new pair of boots) but it doesn’t seem to be getting any better; everytime I stop taking my daily dose of paracetamol the aching and twinging comes back. So I’m pretty much stuck indoors for the time being. Luckily the weather has been pretty awful most days. Good job, I suppose, as I have to get the 2013 D finished before May.
So, best to stop procrastinating, and get on with it!
OK, so in my last post, I said I was feeling healthier.
I promptly went down with two days of low-level thumping headaches and general unwellness. That’ll teach me.
But today’s been magnificently sunny – yippee, no rain! And I’ve been able to catch up with wurk. And of course feeling better.
So, packing for the Oakleaf Camp now and setting off in the morning.
Quite looking forward to it, but I do hope I’m not disabled with another humungous tachycardia attack like the one I had at the camp a couple of years ago. It lasted the whole of Saturday, and left me whacked out for the rest of the weekend. I’ve increased my dosage of beta blockers for the past week to try to head it off – I’ve already had a couple of short attacks. Otherwise, though, my health seems to be improving somewhat. I had my monthly blood-pressure check last week and it was a healthy 128 over 80. My damm knee has been twinging more than usual, so I’ve tried to keep off my feet. Did slip a little Tuesday night – B had gone to bed early, I was bored and restless, there was a letter to get into the post. So off I went in the dark, down to the postbox in the village and back again. The night wasn’t completely dark, but a long stretch of the road is overhung with trees, forming an almost black tunnel. There’s no footpath or verge and there’s a blind bend. So you have to take a lot of care walking it at night. I slung on my cream-coloured jacket and took a torch – I have a reflective tabard that I should really have worn but couldn’t be arsed digging it out from under all the jackets hanging in the porch. Only one car passed me the whole time, but it was on that dark bend so I was glad I had the torch to make myself visible.
The walk was otherwise completely uneventful. There was some strange noises from the bottom of the field bordering on the loch. It sounded a bit like a pair of geese quarrelling, but it could have been almost anything – foxes, badgers, deer. I’m not enough of a countrywoman to know the difference. Whatever it was, it didn’t sound scary, just natural.
The whole trip there and back took me 40 minutes; I was quite breathless back in the house, but otherwise fine. Curious to know just how far I’d walked, I got out the Ordnance Survey map and measured it; to my surprise, I found I’d walked a total of one and a half miles. I’d always thought it was only half a mile to the village, but the map said three-quarters. Fifteen years ago, I’d have managed that distance is about 25 minutes and not got out of breath; in my current state of health, 40 minutes isn’t half bad. My knee complained by the next morning, of course. But that was as I expected. And it had been an enjoyable little adventure.
Ah well, will report on the Camp next week.
Red squirrel caught on my neighbours' bird table
Yes, I snapped this little fellow yesterday, happily nicking the nuts from my neighbours’ bird table. I was able to get up to within four feet of him; he was watching me, but didn’t seen concerned. Since I didn’t want to waste time faffing with arperture and shutter speed, I had the camera on automatic settings and zoom. So yes, it’s a decent picture, but it’s all down to the camera, not me.
However, taking such a good shot cheered me up after the mess that was Tuesday. I won’t go into details, except that my marvellous (non-) communications skills really put me in the spotlight! So I’m retreating back into my cubbyhole and sticking to what I know I do well (which doesn’t include writing nicey-nice diplomatic emails…)
Caroline is still gravely ill – the news is not good; she’s no longer able to talk and she’s unlikely to be coming home. There’s not a lot I can do from 200 miles away. I’ve said my goodbyes to her.
Although I had to cancel my Lancashire trip and the likelihood of getting the Diary paperwork now seem remote (thanks to the aforementioned terrific communication skills), me and B are getting on with our plans to publish the Elfin Diary. So life goes on, ever changing….
Health-wise, I’m better, thanks to Doc G increasing my levothyroxine dose. I’ve got more energy and I’m sleeping better. I still get tired after walking to and from the village, but it’s now just normal tiredness that’s swiftly dealt with by a sit-down and a cup of tea. Not the oh-god-i’m-aching-all-over-and-can’t-move tiredness that I was getting before. And I’ve not had any more tachycardia attacks – the ones I was having were obviously a temporary reaction to the new dose. B is a whole lot better as well – he’s nearly back to normal fitness. Oh, and we’ve got a new car!
So, things seem to be looking up at last. And of course, it’s summer, though it doesn’t look a lot like it at the moment – we’ve had rain almost every day for weeks. There’s almost no darkness at night now, the Sun is doing it’s usual northern midsummer thing of spending all night skimming just below the horizon instead of setting properly; next week is Full Moon, so there won’t be a lot of difference at all between day and night then.
How many times have I seen this happening? Too many times to count. I’m getting old…..
I’ve been trying out the new dosage that Doc G has prescribed. Haven’t got the new pills yet, but I’ve cut one of my 100mcg tablets into four and taking the extra each evening. Have tried it for two days and although I felt much better on the first day, I’ve been getting more tachycardia attacks and general irregular heartbeat and racing heart episodes. Last night was especially bad for that, so today I’m knackered again. Sigh.
Botheration. Back to ye olde drawing board, methinks…
On other matters, I’ve arranged to go down to Lancashire on Wednesday to see Caroline and sort the Elfin Diary stuff i have to take back. She wants me to carry it on. I’m already doing almost all the work for it anyway (bar the marketing and selling) so the only big change there will be is that I get all the profits. There will of course be some changes in the appearance of the Diary – every year I’ve longed to make my own changes, but Caroline was insistent on keeping things exactly the same year after year. “My customers like it that way!” she would always tell me brooking no argument.
So, on with wurk…..
Seen Doc G again – my blood pressure is going down. It was 156 / 80 this morning – not especially good but a lot better than 170 / 90. He agreed with me that my raised BP was quite possibly due to the stress of dealing with B’s illness, so since it’s now on its way down he’ll give it another month before he gets out the prescription pad.
B is finally going into hospital the week after next – his bypass operation is due on the 20th. He’ll be in hospital for around a week, and should be well enough to potter about the house and do light tasks when he gets home – which is about all he’s been capable of doing for the last several months anyway. If all goes well, he’ll be fully fit four or five weeks after that. That should help my blood pressure considerably!