Thursday, July 15, 2010

Testing with jam...

I've been using computers for a very long time now - in fact I've actually been using a personal computer at home since a time when I had no idea how to use it at all! Hubby persuaded me that having a computer would be a great idea and so we spent a big chunk of my severance pay on something which was extremely whizz bang and up to the minute at the time. It really was something - it came with 3 disk drives - a 3.5, a 5.25 and a 20Mb hard drive - and yes, you read that right, it was 20 megabytes, not gigabytes *1. For the techies amongst you, the drive wasn't SATA, it wasn't even IDE, in fact, it was something called RLL which I think (since this was such an archaic device) probably stood for 'revolves lots and lots'. When we bought it, we also bought a copy of a new operating system called Windows, which we had seen demonstrated and a copy of Dos, which had to be installed before anything could be done at all. I famously rang hubby up in work (yes, there were phones at that time) and asked how I could get the Dos OS onto the computer, because it came with no instructions at all. Anyway, hubby said "put the disk in the drive and then type 'copy a twinkle dot twinkle c twinkle dot twinkle" - which just meant nothing at all to me! Anyway, after a bit of explaining, I managed it and after these first small steps things progressed pretty rapidly. They had to really, because the damn thing didn't work (twinkle or no twinkle) and I ended up on the phone to help desk - before I knew it I was thrust into the bowels of Edlin and on a really steep learning curve. Eventually, with our new copy of DR-Dos (not MS-Dos!) working, I installed Windows only to find that it was Windows 2 - not 3 (which was what had been demonstrated) and it mostly wasn't even in colour and so ensued another long story...

All of this is rather a long way from where I started with this entry, but you know me, never known to ramble ;-)

Its strange really, the way that your mind bunny hops from one thing to another, because all these memories came flooding back because of the new iPad. I know, I know, there's hardly any link at all between the iPad and our first PC apart from the fact that they are both a kind of computer but there you go - you are about to find out why my mind did the hopping:

I read a review recently on the iPad and about how robust it is with it's aluminium back and scratch resistant screen - heck, it even said you could spread it with jam and it would still work! Well, that reminded me of when they first started producing CDs (which was not that long before the time that we had that first PC) and I heard an interview on the news on Radio1 which was saying how amazing these new fangled shiny music discs were. It was said they were so amazing that you could even spread them with jam and they would still play. I mean, what it is with jam? Is there a special department in every new technology company where they test new things out with foodstuffs? Does some little guy with a clipboard and a white coat (with a row of pens in his top pocket of course) approach the boss and go "Mr Jobs, it's OK, you can release this one, it's withstood mashed potato and apple crumble - as soon as it's passed the jam test we're good to go!"

If you happen to work for a new technology company, please let me know why you don't use marmalade? Is it, as I suspect, that the coefficient of stickiness to lumps of peel doesn't produce precisely calculable results - or is it just that Stephen Fry only puts strawberry jam on his toast?

*1 Huge, when most were only 10Mb!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Reading Meme

This is a meme on reading which I got from arbitraryconstant (who got it from normblog and More Than Mind Games) . I haven’t done one for so long and I always think they are interesting and/or fun. If you'd like to fill it out, please do and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

Do you snack while reading? > I don't normally, but I did fancy a nibble when reading Silence of the Lambs.

What is your favourite drink while reading? > At the risk of sounding fixated on Thomas Harris, I am partial to a glass of red wine (although my real preference lies with Merlot, not Chianti).

Do you tend to mark your books while you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? > I have occasionally pencilled marks in textbooks, but even with a pencil I feel guilty. I favour scraps of paper with added notes tucked in at the appropriate place.

How do you keep your place? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book open flat? > I love bookmarks but always seem to forget them and either use any old receipt or scrap of paper handy or (sharp intake of breath), turn the corner over. I do have bookmark with '50 books to read before you die' on it and before I die, am determined to read them all!

Fiction, non-fiction or both? > I've read both but I am a trash fiction reader first and foremost. I'm not ashamed to say that it's escapism all the way for me (as long as it's not romantic (phtew - spit!)) trash!

Do you tend to read to the end of a chapter or can you stop anywhere? > I love to read to the end of a chapter - it satisfies the 'completer finisher' in me but due to the nature of some of my reading time (and the type of books I read), it's not always possible.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you? > Gosh no, um, does anyone?

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away? > Um, actually the kinds of things I normally read don't have long words! Seriously, if I can't figure it out from context or derivation then I will mostly gloss over it until later. Occasionally it's unavoidable and you have to stop, in which case I'll ask hubby (who's good at words) or (if I have to), look it up.

What are you currently reading? > I just started reading The Final Reckoning by Sam Bourne only to discover I'd already read it and had forgotten it because it wasn't that great. His book The Righteous Men was superb though.

What is the last book you bought? > Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett - haven't read it yet. I've always loved his books because they are just about the only ones I've ever read that have made me laugh out loud. On the Terry P subject, I thought his Dimbleby lecture was superb ...

Do you have a favourite time/place to read? > My favourite is in my armchair - at night but I actually do most of my reading outside while waiting for other people.

Do you prefer series books or stand-alones? > I like both and can't decide.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over? > Not really, just about everyone I know has different taste from me; I have recommended individual books when I felt someone else would enjoy them.

How do you organize your books (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)? > I group by Author on the whole but I have 3 'reading shelves' which contain a mix of books I haven't read yet but want to get round to. They are organised in the order in which I'd like to read them. If they weren't in any order at all I would feel pretty unnerved, but that's just me. I have so far resisted the temptation to make a list...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Is equality that simple?

Using a wheelchair is an odd thing - on the one hand, it is perceived by many to be disabling, hideous and the sign of an ended life but to others it is an enabling tool that leads to a measure of equality in an unequal world. In my mind, there is no doubt that it's an unequal world and by this I don't mean simply in terms of disability - let's face it, some people are born rich and some poor - so, that's not very equal, is it? Anyway, there's lots of talk about making society more equal and disability rights (along with such things as women's rights) are among those that are high on the agenda for some people. I suspect that part of the reason for this is that these are among the more visible and measurable ways for people to express their acceptance of all those in society- for example, you can count disabled spaces, or number of female employees.

It's interesting, this idea of equality (and I will stick to being disability specific here as it's what I have most experience with), as I was brought up to try and do my very best to be just like everyone else. Funnily, this did not mean that my life was in any way equal to anyone else at all, even though that's what my parents were striving for. I went to a mainstream school and did pretty much all the things that other kids did (except ballet!) but in fact the 'equality' came at a cost. In fact, to look equal and achieve as much as others did, I had to just work harder to be as good as them. Things took longer for me and they were much more tiring and/or painful, but on the face of it, it looked like stuff was just as normal for me as the rest of the world.

It's also interesting therefore, that over the years I have come to think that equality shouldn't necessarily look the same for all - women do not has to wear men's suits to be good in business and disabled people can have an equally useful life as anyone else regardless of their differences. We all know this, it's old hat, but I was thinking about it recently when I was reading a blog entry by Bad Cripple about a recent visit to Home Depot where an employee told them to "stop speeding" in the store. BC was really upset that the employee felt that they could just chip in, bringing attention to the wheelchair and make a joke at his expense (you can read the entry here) but I wondered if there was more to it than that. In these instances, firstly, would the employee be making a joke with any of the other shoppers, the old ones or the red haired ones; in other words are they in fact just a bit socially inept? OK, maybe not, but in my experience, there are lots of very well meaning people who have no idea how to approach the disabled, but who want to connect with them in order to help, or who just want to chat to them in an equal way. They try to make jokes, offer if they can help in the oddest of situations (I once had someone offer to push me on a railway platform when I was talking to the BMB who was walking beside me!) and sometimes seem as though they have no concept of equality at all.

I wonder if they behave in this way because the alternative might be to completely ignore you - and down this route lies the whole 'does he take sugar1*' aspect of disability. I guess the fact of it all is that you don't wish to be ignored too, as it just makes an already difficult life even harder, so human contact, if well meaning, (regardless of how clumsily it is handled), is the preferable circumstance. I have recently been in a situation where it is going to be hard for me to attend an important event because it is assumed that I will cope, because no one is talking about my disability and my personal situation is being ignored. Part of me (the well meaning part) thinks this may be that those concerned think that it is equality to treat me the same as all the other attendees when in fact it has the opposite effect on my ability to attend. I wanted to be asked if I had any needs, I didn't want to have to phone anyone or make a big fuss or insist on anything at all, I just wanted to be contacted and I wouldn't have cared if someone used the wrong language.

The fact of it all is that it's a horribly complicated life in which none of us are in any way equal to anyone else. We all look different, have different levels of intelligence and standards of education, we have different levels of ability in sport, art and practicality and some of us have disabilities. There's nothing we can do about all of this, we are all different and that's just the way it is. When society talks about equality it should be about making it easier for those whose differences make it more difficult to do the same as everyone else (if that makes sense). Drop kerbs are a simple case in point - they make it easier to get a wheelchair or kid's pushchair across the street - making it just like it is for anyone else - thus generating equality. Action needs to be taken to create equal circumstances and for action to be taken the people need to make contact with each other - however poorly...

By the way, if any of this entry seems rather rambling, then forgive me. I have been interrupted every 5 minutes by hubby who is trying to do something new on his laptop. He assumes that I know how to do what he wants to do (when all I would do it point and click and keep my fingers crossed!) and in between those 5 minutes he has been talking to himself and muttering - I've just had a few issues in keeping concentrated...!


1* "Does He Take Sugar" was a programme (or at least part of a programme) that was first broadcast on the radio 30 or more years ago. I attempted to find out some more info on it when I wrote this entry, but despite the fact that the phrase has found it's way into society as a guide to how not to treat disabled people, there is remarkably little out there on it. If anyone can enlighten me further, I'd be grateful as this programme had a real impact on my family as I was growing up.

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