Eurovision spawns listening parties, yearly rituals and full blown pilgrimages.
As for myself, I freely admit to not being the biggest Eurovision fan but I do try to stay in the loop with what happens, in passing anyway. For this year’s, I randomly picked a track from the Eurovision 2013 Grand Final playlist to listen to. It was Italy’s Marco Mengoni with his entry L’essenziale.
Well, for an Eurovision entry, it was better than I expected. So thanks to Italy’s entry, this year I’ve paid a lot more attention to Eurovision than I have in years.
I realise the following is a rather subjective question but… is it just me or has the standard of entries actually been particularly good this year? Or has it in fact been like this in the years before?
I was actually originally going to include a list of “Thumbs Up” in this post containing any good things I might have to say about particular ESC entries. I stopped myself when I realised I had more Thumbs Up to give than than I possessed fingers. And possibly toes as well. If you’re interested, it’s in its own post.
Problem: Experiencing a period of increased distractibility. Attention drifting to distant, or “exterior” sounds, like people talking downstairs.
Workaround: Institute a louder, closer source of sound that I can control. Got music playing and volume turned up.
Note: It seems rather hit and miss how various conditions are diagnosed because there’s so much overlap in diagnostic criteria of various neurodiverse states. It’s a wonder that anyone actually gets the right support they need. A very similar (or even identical) set of symptoms diagnosed one way warrants medication but diagnosed another way, the advice is to work on self-management.
Compared to us here in the UK, over in the US they’ve really got a knack for doing certain things bigger and larger scale. Halloween is one good example. Check out these amazing installations synchronised to music:
Thriller (Michael Jackson) - KJ92508 The way the pumpkins light up to mark the path taken by the footsteps at the start of the song, it’s a nice touch hinting at the choreography to come.
If you’re a fan of LMFAO then chances are you’ve probably already seen this guy’s work. Kevin Judd of Riverside, California is pretty prolific when it comes to amazing light shows on the front of houses. So impressed were LMFAO with his light show, synchronised to Party Rock Anthem, that they approached him and had him do their lights for last year’s American Music Awards.
This is Halloween (Marilyn Manson) - KJ92508 Wasn’t kidding when I described this guy as prolific- another one from KJ92508 that I really like. His channel features probably the best examples of creative lighting on YouTube. I love this one featuring Marilyn Manson’s cover of “This is Halloween”.
Hope to continue to see more videos of his light shows. Apparently there was an issue with the HOA (Home Owners’ Association?) and he had to stop putting up light shows on his house.
Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen) - OdessaWest By the way, the numbering is actually rather arbitrary: if the numbering actually meant anything there’d be two or three tied first place with the rest tied second place. I really do think that the ones featured here are the best of the bunch. This one is good enough to be ranked joint first place.
So, a while back I promised you (or whoever reads my blog anyway) and myself that in an effort to keep my blog regularly updated, I’d put up articles and things that I write for Spark*, the student newspaper at my university The University of Reading. So this is me making a start on that. We used to have a “In Other News” column but I decided to re-purpose it into an Editorial. I feel it adds a personal touch to the section.
I also happen to be the Web Editor too so I heartily encourage you to go have a look at the website at www.sparknewspaper.co.uk, and if you want to read the latest issue, then that’s just gone up on Issuu - check out the Issuu page on the website or go straight to Issuu.
When a viral hit or meme reaches a certain critical mass, anyone who wasn’t paying attention… well, you just gotta.
As is often the case when it comes to music viral hits from genres outside my usual mix, the first thing I usually look at is parody. Then any tributes/covers or remixes and then finally I’ll look at the original. I find it a good deconstruction of the meme and it helps me appreciate the original more: I come to understand it’s appeal and have some fun while I’m doing it.
In my top 3: North Korea’s Kim Jong-un tells it like it is in Key of Awesome #63, a pair of town guards from Skyrim show off their Gangnam Style and then a look at what might’ve happened if Psy was Klingon.
This one was the first one I saw. I love Key of Awesome's parody videos. This is one of those that's “funny because it's true”. The truth itself isn't funny but the showing up of a less than ideal state of affairs is.
This one I class as a tribute. And it may be my favourite of the ones I’ve seen. The song itself is unchanged but it’s an innovative use of a couple of guards from Skyrim. I should get around to playing that game at some point. Maybe when they release a GOTY edition that bundles DLC/expansions.
Finally, what is probably the best Gangnam Style inspired video I’ve seen on YouTube. This is amazing. You’ll just have to watch it yourself. There are lyrics in actual Klingon. Several popular characters from Star Trek make an appearance too.
Afterthought: It occurred to me that Psy/Gangnam Style is sort of this year’s LMFAO/Party Rock Anthem. Is everyone still shufflin’ or are they doing it Gangnam Style?
So, I’ve been incredibly busy with various stuff so I’ve not been on Tumblr in ages. Is it bad that having felt an urge to blog something, after completing the post I then have to queue for the end of next month because it’s a bit premature to talk about it right now?
Right, I haven’t blogged in months but I am still alive. I’ve just been more active in other places, like Twitter.
In terms of content, I’ll soon be posting up new articles on a (hopefully) regular basis - but more on that in a moment.
Anyway, how is everyone? I’ve been doing alright. I’ve been keeping quite busy actually. In the past few months I’ve been getting stuck in with student media at Reading University.
As of March I’ve been working on the radio station Junction11’s twice-weekly news show and for the past two shows I’ve even been able to read some of it. You can listen to Junction11 online on their website. And as of last month I’m one of the two new editors for the Science & Technology section of our Spark* newspaper - I finished editing our section yesterday for the next issue, out this Friday. It’s also likely that I’m also going to be the new Spark* Web Editor too because right now all we’ve got right now is the twitter account @SparkNewspaper - someone needs to get the Spark* website back up and running and keep it that way. It had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong. ;).
And hopefully I can get more involved with RUON TV, our TV station… going to production meeting tomorrow to see what comes up.
But anyway, on to content. Whenever I write an article for Spark*, I’ll also post it on my blog :)
As you’ll discover, if you didn’t know already, Wikipedia is staging a 24 hour blackout which began 0500 UTC today.
I think this has been a great idea. It’s like the Internet’s equivalent of peaceful protest versus the more hands on hacktivism of Anonymous (akin those who protest by smashing windows and burning cars, etc.). Having said that, I’m half expecting to hear about various cyber attacks in the next few days against organisations supporting SOPA/PIPA. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is for another post/debate.
Things have got pretty bad. Towards the end of November I was seeing the GP repeatedly, trying to get him to give me something to stop me being so debilitatingly tired all the time.
The only thing he was willing to offer was to increase my dose of sertraline from 50mg to 100mg- because I found that the 50mg dose seemed to stop me getting headaches as much or as often, so maybe increasing the dose might help in other ways.
I repeat, while it may be an antidepressant I was not taking it because I was depressed, but rather I was taking it because it seemed to help with my headaches- which is one of the symptoms of my ME. Something is better than nothing, I figured, so I agreed to the increased dosage.
As I went through this new packet, I didn’t find that I was getting any additional improvement from the increased dosage.
So I’d take one pill a day but sometimes I’d miss a day but as I’d still have boosted serotonin levels in my system, I could just top up the next day and carry on as normal. Thus, it would be one tablet a day or at least one every other day. No big deal.
But as my condition seemed to take a turn for the worst, there would be more and days that I’d lose to sleeping because I’d be so tired and that was all I could do. This eventually led me to missing more than one day at time. It was at this point I realised that this was not working. Because on the second day without sertraline, I got the mother of all headaches.
It occurred to me that I was locking myself into a drug that provided minimal benefit which if I ever stopped taking, there would be a small bit of hell to pay. If I was benefiting more substantially, then it would be a different story. I’ve concluded that I would rather risk the occasional headache without sertraline than the guaranteed mega headache if I were on it and discontinued it.
I think I’ll see how things go without sertraline. Going onto 100mg tablets was counter-productive. If occasional headaches become a problem, I’ll consider taking a low dose as a prophylactic but otherwise I think the SSRI angle is a dead end.
What I’d really like is for the doctor to let me try something else. Screw the “official guidelines”. Given that there’s no cure for ME/CFS anyway, lets forget about the diagnosis for a moment and focus on alleviating the actual symptoms. What I’d like is to be able to take something to fight off the constant tiredness and need to sleep.
I wish there was more support in general for people with ME/CFS.
About the extent of it is “Here try these tablets and if you don’t die in the mean time come back and see me in a month.”
We don’t get offered counseling, any kind of therapy eg. art therapy, no support groups, no nothing.
I don’t know if that’s the case for everywhere else, but where I live it seems to be.
I can dream.
The main “treatment” offered here in the UK is CBT but it’s not really what I need and doesn’t treat the symptoms. Forget about “counselling”. Just develop a proper treatment or medication to make the symptoms go away.
Critics of Occupy Wall Street have a transparent objective: They want to persuade blue collar whites and ordinary middle class Americans to turn on the movement for cultural reasons — because its optics offend these voters’ cultural instincts — even if they broadly agree with its general principles and critique of what’s gone wrong.
This dovetails with a quote from John Cole I recently posted here (to much rending of garments and clutching of pearls from the very people he’s talking about):
“The greatest hoax of the last couple of decades has been the ability of the right wing to co-opt members of the struggling lower middle class and lower class and pretend they speak for them while enacting policies that enable the super-rich. They’ve used wedge issues like gay marriage and abortion and the baby Jeebus to alienate folks from their own economic interests, feeding them a steady diet of hatred of minorites, the educated, science, and, well, reality to create a voting block of people so guided by hatred of the ‘other’ that they would crawl over broken glass to cut their nose off to spite their face.”
I just posted that quote from Cole on my G+, and the self-identified conservatives are livid about it. I don’t mean this as an attack on self-identified conservatives at all. I quote it because it breaks my heart.
And not that it matters, but the same thing can largely be said of Democrats since the election of 2000. I strongly believe that if Obama and the Democrats had behaved like the populists they claimed to be when they had majorities in both houses of congress, and actually done something to hold these Wall Street criminals accountable, #OWS wouldn’t be necessary.
Now we just have to hope that the #OWS protests capture enough attention for long enough to force the Democrats (because you can be damn sure it won’t be the GOP) to enact laws and policies that actually address and correct the things we’ve all been begging them to listen to for about ten years.
This is how a movement gets started, and it doesn’t end quickly or cleanly.
And it isn’t the job of the protesters to write the damn laws; that’s the job of the Congress, who need to work for The People instead of The Lobbyists.
With the start of term approaching, things had become busy. I was focussing on making progress with my project work- or trying to anyway.
My GP assured me that as a side effect, my jumpiness would subside over time.
While at the Medical Practice, I discovered something annoying: starting this month, there will a £10 charge to process Extenuating Circumstances forms - i.e. for my doctor to confirm that I’m not making up my illness/symptoms. I do concede that’s in line with what most GPs would probably charge for supplying similar forms of evidence.
Because I tend to think ahead, I usually put a lot of thought into graduate jobs. So, unusually for me, I hadn’t been thinking about it for a while because I’ve just become focussed on doing well this year. Yesterday I popped in to the SSE Placement/Graduate Fair for a bit. It’s mainly for Part 2 students looking for placements but I was on campus and I had some time to kill. I could be imagining it but it feels smaller this year. I’ve had my eye on FDM for a while now so I had a chat with them to get a bit more information. I’m seriously considering it as an option because it would be nice to gain professional qualifications and practical experience which I rather desire.
Freedom and flexibility
Still, it’s annoying because they never charged anything before to do these forms. Hopefully I won’t have to resort to Extenuating Circumstances forms at all this year. Yes, that’s what I think at the start of every year. I aim for it and hope it will be so. This year though, I really think it may actually be the case- but not because of the disincentive of a £10 charge per form. I think I’ll be able to get through this year without any ECFs because I have a lot more freedom and flexibility this year.
Yesterday I met the new “mentor” I’ve been assigned by the uni. There was a discussion on scheduling or pacing of work. which I believe is largely missing the point because my wellness/illness cannot be scheduled. All I can do is work around it. And to the extent that I can pace my working, I do that anyway already.
Now, the times that I’m feeling well there is nothing stopping me and I will plough my way through an assignment. That doesn’t mean I don’t know to take breaks or that I will overwork myself to the point of exhaustion. I’ve lived with M.E. long enough to know better. Something which they seemed keen to reiterate was that I shouldn’t leave things to the last minute. Well, duh! I would actually always aim for an assignment to be completed by 1-2 weeks before the deadline, at the latest.
The problem is that if I’m really not well then however much leeway I plan in, it still won’t be enough. Case in point: I should have fully completed a draft version of my UI design for my project but in the time that I would have done it over the summer (after resits), I haven’t been well enough.
They seemed keen that I have some sort of rigid schedule planned out on paper. That’s just not how I work- I literally can’t work like that. I have to be flexible because I have no way of predicting if or when I’ll be too ill to work. I will work as much as I can (within reason, of course) when I’m up to it so that I won’t fall behind when I can’t do any work. I prefer to plan fluidly. For a plan on paper to be fluid in that way, I’d have to keep revising it. It would just become paperwork. It would be a chore. It wouldn’t work.
If I miss deadlines, it’s not because I’ve not planned properly. It’s because I’ve been ill over such an extended period. No amount of planning will give me back time that I’ve lost to illness.
This year will be better because I only have two hours of timetabled lectures a week while the rest of the time I will be free to work on my project.
I’m not against scheduling. I guess I just haven’t found a way that fits my style. I can organise myself well enough. I just need enough flexibility to do it.
I was wrong. It was not cooler today. Well, it started off cool first thing in the morning but as the day went on it just got hotter.
I think I’ve noticed something that may be a side effect of this sertraline I’m taking: I seem to be quite jumpy these past few days. Just now I was in the kitchen and I jumped when a housemate entered from the hallway.
You’ll probably think you probably would have jumped too but the thing is, I usually wouldn’t - or at least not as much as I have been. Usually I’ll just notice and glance up at whoever is approaching and it doesn’t make me jump. I don’t know if maybe it’s because my senses have been affected somehow or I’m less aware of my surroundings or what.
I’ve never felt nervous or anxious and I’m not feeling nervous or anxious now. I’m sure I’m not developing a nervous disposition.
Heatwave continues. Not much to say here because I would just be repeating what I said the previous two days! (Too hot, can’t think!)
Day 7: Saturday 1st October 2011
It felt relatively cooler today than previous days. I say relatively because I was still roasting- it couldn’t have been more than a few degrees less.
Was to be able to concentrate slightly better because it wasn’t as warm- sertraline or otherwise.
All this time though I think the sertraline has been working at least somewhat because I’ve had fewer or no headaches. And normally, my problem with headaches is compounded by high temperatures and I would have a headache the entire time.
I’m falling behind so much with my final year project - i.e. I should have made more progress than I have by this point - but hopefully conditions will be more comfortable over the coming week and so be conducive to productivity.
Today was horrible. But not because of the sertraline.
Apart from the initial reaction on Sunday when I start taking the sertraline, I haven’t had any adverse effects. Although perhaps it’s still too early to tell.
No, today was horrible because it was so hot. We were getting highs of 27 °C. I’ve always been sensitive to heat - I like it cool… bring on autumn/winter! - so this was not pleasant. Anyway, ended up being exhausted by the heat most of the day.
I actually missed my dose today because I got carried away with my new found wakefulness and went to sleep late, last night. I then got up today around 1pm. Was tired either because of that or because I missed my morning dose.
I know I shouldn’t have done it but I ended up having a nap in the evening. I woke up again at 4am and decided I should start my day because I have a lot of work to do.
Second dose this morning. I’ve been trying to work out whether yesterday’s apparent positive effects were indeed due to this sertraline that I’ve started taking. The scientist in me is mindful that it could have been a placebo effect- that I felt better simply because I had started taking something rather than due to any pharmacological effect. I doubt it though because my attitude was just that I would try it to see what would happen, without any preconceptions. I don’t know, is it possible to believe something and not realise that you believe it?
As it turns out, peak plasma concentrations of sertraline occurs anywhere between 4-8.4 hours - that’s combining the figures from Wikipedia (4-6) and other sources (4.5-8.4). That’s how long it takes for sertraline to reach its maximum concentration in circulation. So at 2-3 hours when I began experiencing nausea and higher temperature, I think it must indeed have been the sertraline starting to kick in.
Didn’t experience any side effects today so perhaps it was just the initial mild shock to the system of having slightly higher (read: normal?) serotonin levels. I’m guessing yesterday’s adverse reaction was just an initial reaction to the new drug entering my system. As sertraline has a half-life of 26 hours, this morning I will have had about half of yesterday morning’s dose still in circulation. So today’s dose was just to top up the amount of sertraline I have in circulation.
What might have been another side effect is that I had a little trouble sleeping last night but that’s nothing new. There are times when I frequently have trouble sleeping anyway.
Gamers in US and Canada have now enjoyed access to cloud gaming service OnLive for over a year. Just when we were feeling left out the service was launched here in the UK last Thursday, 22nd September.
Play a game without having to install or download it first
Easy to try new games: Demos are likewise playable instantly so no more downloading a game demo, installing it and then finding out that it’s rubbish
Don’t need a high end machine to play the latest games, just a decent broadband connection
Must be connected to the Internet with a reliable connection to play - with all the cons that this entails: there may be compromises with visual quality.
OnLive library is limited - the UK site currently lists 145 titles
No modding, as games are stored on OnLive servers
I tried it out earlier today and played a 30 minute demo of Pathologic and then 30 minutes of Warhammer 40k: Space Marine - an older game and the other a recent release. Was able to play both without problems. I haven’t played the download/disc version of Space Marine but I suspect the graphics may have taken a hit.
Overall I think it’s a wonderful idea. It’s great for breaking the upgrade cycle that comes with trying to keep up with increasing system requirements and assuming that particular game is in OnLive’s library, allows people to play a game that their computer might not otherwise be powerful enough to run. People on the move could play Deus Ex: Human Revolution on their netbook if they wanted to, assuming they had access to an suitable internet connection.
With everything streamed from OnLive servers, the service’s greatest strength is unfortunately also it’s greatest weakness. Internet connection going down means interruption of access or gameplay.
I think given a choice, most people will prefer to play a local copy of a game, installed on their own computer, but in cases where that’s not possible there’s now a serious alternative in the form of OnLive.
I actually got my prescription on Friday but the instructions are to take one in the morning so I had planned to take it yesterday morning but I overslept and it was about 1pm by the time I got up. But I had an early-ish night last night and insomnia notwithstanding, I was up early this morning and when I took my dose it was about 8:30am.
As with SSRIs in general, side effects can present when you first start taking them but they disappear or lessen as your body gets used to them. Being aware of this I was fully prepared, within reason, to endure any resulting side effects. What I didn’t expect was that they would hit so quickly.
Still, I guess it’s proof that the sertraline is having some effect.
Within 2 or 3 hours, I experienced slight nausea, increased temperature and I believe, increased heartrate. I was a bit light headed and went for a lie down while I checked the list of side effects on the package leaflet. For a moment I thought it might have been a case of Serotonin Syndrome and was about to call NHS Direct, but after some thought I decided this was unlikely because I was only exhibiting a few of the signs, and only mildly.
Another 2 or 3 hours later I was fine.
I do now feel more alert and my thinking feels sharper, more like how I am when I’m not in a relapse. It could be a placebo effect- that’s possible. Maybe it’s because I went for a lie down- very unlikely as that’s never done anything for me before. Or perhaps the SSRI may be may actually be working as hoped and the hunch was correct.
I was diagnosed with CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalopathy) at the start of 2010. Not so long after, I wrote a somewhat long post discussing what I was going through and what my plan was.
That was during my temporary withdrawal from my course for the 2009-2010 academic year. Since then I’ve attempted to complete the last year of my degree on a part time basis. This past year, the first half of my final year, has been far from satisfactory. I’ve been plagued by constant headaches, incapacitated by the fatigue and for much of the time found it impossible (or at least very difficult) to concentrate.
I’m due to begin the other half of my final year in a week’s time -well, two weeks in earnest but I use freshers’ week to settle back in. There’s a lot riding on this year. Things are serious. I need to be able to perform at my best, so I must not have a repeat of last year in terms of symptoms.
The Serotonin Experiment
…because all else has failed. Or rather, I should say that all else according to the NICE guidelines has failed. I’ve looked. It basically recommends a combination of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and GET (Graded Exercise Therapy). I was really hoping to be put on a programme of GET but that’s not available in my area.
29/09/2011 Edit: Have been doing some reading and actually after further consideration, in a way I’m glad I’ve not been signed up for GET. CBT may not alleviate any symptoms but at least it won’t make me worse either. To be honest, neither GET nor CBT do anything to treat the underlying causes of my condition. At best they are simply coping strategies. At least in my own endeavour to boost my serotonin levels, I’m seeking to put right something that research suspects ME has caused to go haywire - i.e. caused low sertonin levels.
So officially, all I have available to me is CBT. It may or may not be helpful in some way down the line but I’ve yet to hear back as to when my first appointment will be. But however helpful it is, it will do nothing to alleviate the actual symptoms (the CBT practitioner at the assessment concurred).
So I’m faced with having to endure the constant headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Those are the main three symptoms for me anyway, other sufferers of the condition, your mileage will vary.
My GP hasn’t been particularly forthcoming in terms of recommending possible treatments or medications beyond referring me to the regional CFS service as per NICE guidelines. Something needed to done and it needed to be done now because I need to be completely on the ball this year. I’m thinking in terms of last resorts and I will to try anything that might help alleviate symptoms and help me not fail my degree due to the illness.
I’d done some reading and found research suggesting that a feature of CFS is low serotonin levels. I’d been given the SSRI fluoxetine before and tolerated it well enough with minimal side effects. SSRIs are normally used as antidepressants but have other applications too. Let me reiterate that my symptoms are not the result of clinical depression and nor am I currently suffering from depression. For good measure, a quote from that article:
It needs to be emphasized that these drugs are helpful not because patients are primarily depressed (although depression may occur as a result of the illness), but because they often have low levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine
There were other sources too but this one was the most concise. So based a hunch I went to the GP to ask about taking an SSRI to increase my serotonin levels. I was confident that I could get the go ahead because I was no stranger to SSRIs so we’d already knew that I would not react badly to it. As it turns out, my GP was very amenable to the idea saying that treating CFS was often a matter of trial and error so it was worth a try.
The Serotonin Experiment has begun.
I’m going to try to keeping a diary as I work my way through my 4 week supply of sertraline. It’ll be helpful in monitoring effectiveness and who knows, maybe it might be of help to someone else. I’m going to file all these entries under the tag “serotonin experiment” so if you’re only interested in reading about this then click/bookmark this link. [Link fixed!]
Me and my sister, who are (obviously) HUGE Whovians, went to a cocktail party tonight. Both of us have TARDIS iPhone cases.
While at the party, we were introduced to our father’s partner’s son (who, sadly, is closer in age with my sister).
As we talked with him, he asked “Is that a police box on your phone?”. Expecting to (as usual) have to explain why we have Police Public Call Boxes on our phones, he surprised us by finishing “I love Doctor Who!”.
Followed shortly by:
I should be studying but Tumblr is so much more interesting, lol. FAIL. The day that works as a pick up line for me is probably the day I meet “the one”. I’m not holding my breath. ><
Talking about “savings” and cuts without talking about tax rises for the wealthiest doesn’t make sense. Cuts may produce so called “savings” in the very short term but are ultimately costly in the long term.
I agreed with Warren Buffett’s article. It’s only fair. It’s in a significant part thanks to society that such people find themselves in conditions conducive to amassing such wealth. In difficult times, it’s only fair that they give back to society where they can.
There’s a big photo of James Patrick Stuart but that doesn’t distract from the fact that it still refers to writer/producer Sera Gamble as a co-star:
“Former 90210 star James Patrick Stuart will be appearing on the upcoming season of Supernatural. While he has stayed pretty mum on the show, his co-star Sera Gamble said that he will play a charming role.”
I know she’s very talented but I’m pretty sure she’s not taking up a regular starring role.
Let's Kill Hitler: About River Song... (Spoilers!)
Spoilers! Don’t read this if you’ve not seen the episode…
After River brings The Doctor back to life after he dies, Amy tells her that apparently River used up all her remaining regenerations to do so. I’ve been thinking about how Time-Lords are typically limited to 12 regenerations.
How many regenerations did she have left? Did she start with a full dozen or with less because she’s not full Time-Lord?
Were they literally transferred to the Doctor (perhaps minus one used in actually bringing him back) or simply all expended in the act.