Hearing Again

I've written a few times about my hearing in the past, mostly from the bemused side of the story that really was just a vocalisation of the self-pity I am unusually able to apply to myself. The last time I wrote about it was the first time the NHS had been involved as most of the time the loss had been managed by the company private doctor through the yearly Oil and Gas medicals.

The NHS, in it's wisdom, actually took it a little more seriously. Not surprising thinking back though - the Oil and Gas medical was worried about the loss of hearing at work, not the loss of hearing I've always had. The NHS made a decision to check me a little more thoroughly and then asked me if I'd thought about a hearing aid. I hadn't seriously thought about it, so I said I was interested.

A few months later and this past Thursday I went to the hospital and within 20 minutes was fitted out with my very first hearing aid and I'll tell you something right away - why didn't I ask about this sooner?

The key difference I've noticed is that my brain is struggling to recalibrate the difference in the sound. The quality of the hearing aid is pretty poor from a fidelity side - I'd imagine HD 24bit audio isn't really needed when the other side of it is zero hearing anyway. But what surprised me the most was the feeling of a slight delay behind the sound, like when you have a microphone transmitting to a speaker in the same room (like a baby monitor) - it is milliseconds, but the brain notices and is slowly working out how to correct for it.

But the magic thing is that within 48 hours I'd discovered I'd become so used to it taking it out at night before going to bed was like filling my left ear back up with gum. The dull and far away sounds that I got from the non-aid-filled ear was startling, and that the effect that the hearing aid has on my hearing is quite something. A friend "jumped" me at the local shop car park jovially only to discover the reason I almost karate chopped his head off in fright was that he'd used the amplified side to sneak on. The car makes new rumbling noises - Frank's barking is louder too. And the road we live beside is suddenly a bit of a nusiance rather than a little dull rumble in the background.

The Doctor applying the hearing aid asked if I was "ready" to wear one; Connie too had asked me as well, to see if there were any reservations with adding one to my ear. I hadn't thought about it really, but the fact remained that I'd always assumed that I'd need one, just not maybe when I was 31 years old. I guess it is like glasses - the idea of wearing them is fine until you actually realise that you have to wear them all the time. At least with glassess in most cases contacts can replace the glasses, and in severe cases laser treatment can fix your sight for a good chunk of time.

The hearing loss is not like that - there is a surgical procedure that the NHS used to carry out, but compared to the hearing aid it's incredibly high risk (you can lose all hearing entirely) and obviously far more expensive. So the realisation is that this isn't temporary, or a choice that I'll just put on going to work; this is a permanent change to my life and one that needed to have improved life benefits to make worthwhile. I'm not going to chop and change my hearing aid on a hourly basis to just suit my life - I'm wedded to it like I am to my very own body now, and looking back I slightly regret not going sooner and speaking to them about it. That being said, even though there is a permanency to this all, I am not worried about the rest of my life with one (or two, knowing how bad my right ear is now and the projected path that it will take).

Friends and family won't quite realise the importance of this, nor will the lay person, but for me this might be one of the most significant things to have happened in my life. Finally, after years, I might be able to hear properly (or at least better) and it can only get better over time as my brain adjusts and I get more used to it.

It's nice to be able to hear again. Or maybe, hear for the first time?

The Numbers or the Right Method

A lesson I learned from my English tutor was one that I could have done with at the start of my adolescent exam career was this - they don't really care about the answer, but mostly about the demonstration of the method. I was told, for example, if a question had six marks for it five of them were for the working, and one for the right answer. If you know how to do it, show that, or show as much as you can, and then move on.

Note: this might not be the case anymore; I'm 20 years out of doing exams like that, so don't take this as advice - I am not liable for getting fails on your current exams.

Note 2: Joni and Etta will not be getting this advice.

This later bred into me a contempt for the memorising of the formulas that was needed for many exams. Later on, they would give us the formulas, but not the method, and that made more sense to me. This pervasive idea carried through to the University exams I hated with every single breath. Getting the "wrong" answer was way down in the priority list, and instead was the idea that you knew what to do and you'd at least payed a modicum of attention to the class.

This might have been my downfall in my only open book exam, where most of the year failed, but that's just me make excuses for the worst exam mark in my history.

I am reminded of this when hearing of the recent gaffes by Labour politicians. They get the numbers wrong - endless streams of numbers too, some dealt with more accuracy than others - and the spotlight the media then plays on these apparently disastrous mistakes. You can't remember how much money something's going to cost? Then let's set fire to you and your entire policy, never mind the fact that the alternative is a mortar launched at the heart of the welfare state.

It makes headlines and creates column inches/pixels and today that might all be that counts, but at the heart of the Election is a weird media in two minds about how to report it.

I am constantly reminded of the advice of my tutor; if there are three marks, split your answer into three separate sections, even if you think you can only answer two. Then, maybe, the marker will see the three ideas separate even if you're just rephrasing the same idea. This methodology probably got me my B in English, an upgrade from the fail I'd got in the prelim a few months earlier. When I hear answers that feature soundbites and manifesto waffle, I think that's what they are doing - I'll speak for a bit, maybe say some words, and then that's yer lot. On the recent debate, a questioner asked what is going to happen to the £350 million from the NHS we were promised - May's answer was that it was just a basic campaign bit and who cares, but it was structured like a real answer, and the questioner thought it was a good answer - the moderator was astonished.

I loved to manage to "cheat" - my favourite example being the realisation that in a maths exam the "simplified" form would always give the same answer as the long form of the same equation, meaning I could work out which one was the right multiple choice answer without doing any of the work - welcome to the 2017 General Election, where the Numbers are apparently more important than the Method.

Children's Television Part I - The Thunderbirds Blueprint

A while back I wrote about how we were trying to keep Joni away from using television. That was a good idea, and still to this day we feel that a reduction in television is a good idea, but any one who is the parent of a toddler, or a parent of two or more kids, knows that TV is a necessary evil to get stuff done. And, additionally, Joni does enoy it, and it has sparked her imagination in quite a few ways. Obviously, there are limits, but sometimes there are days where you can do nothing but let her watch a bit of TV.

Whilst watching TV a few realisations come to mind, all of which are thought provoking. One trend in Children's TV I have noticed is the trend to make almost all shows about a group of characters doing things to save other characters - I call this The Thunderbirds Blueprint.

Of course, this idea of a group of characters saving people wasn't invented by Gerry Anderson and his puppet, nay marination, style of television show. In fact, it is the tenant of all major TV shows for kids; Mutant Hero Turtles, Transformers and Thundercats, mainstays of the 80s child's nostalgia (though, oddly, not really mine) are all of the same design. But look at almost every show these days, it is hard to not see the parallels with Thunderbirds, or for that matter, Captain Scarlet, or even Stingray.

The blueprint is simple; a few characters (four is the minimum, it seems) are based on a type of home, and have missions dolled out to them by a wiser and older mentor. This applies to PAW Patrol, Octonauts, Go Jetters... even the more modern reboot of Postman Pat, where he works as a Special Delivery team member. The other major component is the need for a range of vehicles - the trucks in PAW Patrol, the GUP-(x) machines in Octonauts, and Pat's endless array of helicopters, hovercrafts, turcks and jeeps getting his parcels to the apparently rich as hell residents of Greendale.

The other part of the shows that match is the repeatability; the pups rattle off the same catchphrases each time, as is the copy and paste presentation of the run-out of the Lookout, in the same way that each Thunderbird had their own launching mechanism, or that each Captain colour had his own little vignette explaining who they were. It means that a chunk of the running time can be padded, but also that children are drilled into the phrases and they will want to act them all out.

The reason for this is quite simple; it is easily marketed as toys; the Lookout might as well be the Tracy Island of my childhood, one my mum made for my from Paper Mache, incredibly. The toys are endless, as were the Thunderbirds toys - I had 1, 2 3 and 4, just not 5 (who wants a Space Station anyway). Joni has a Marshall and Rocky truck, and a Skye figurine, but doesn't yet want the rest of the troupe, which is lucky.

Even the shows that have lasted over time have evolved into it; Thomas the Tank Engine, now known as Thomas and Friends, has something called the Steam Team, who are basically the Thunderbirds of the Island of Sodor. Fireman Sam too has eveolved into a ghaslty CGI abomination, but it has shades of the same influences.

This isn't a criticism either - the format allows for bite sized lessons on being good and helping out people, and defeating the bad guy. Some do this better; Paw Patrol and Octonauts get away without needing a real villain (at least until PAW Patrol introduced Mayor Humdinger and the Catastrophe Kitties as doppelgangers), whilst Go Jetters manage to make their Dr Robotnik style villain essentially pointless when they both randomly turn up at the same international landmarks without so much as an explanation for the coincidence. Octonauts teaches stuff about sealife, and Go Jetters geography, so the framing works.

If you've read all this and you've never seen any of these shows, good for you. Well done. Either you've had kids and you're stronger than we are, or you've yet to have kids and boy - you've got a lot to look forward to.


The Screaming Car Crash

I've not had the unfortunate experience of a major car accident in my adult life - only once, when I was very young - and I hope to goodness it never does happen. I do imagine though that when in one you probably scream, swear, or maybe make a noise not heard before. You'll make the noise anyway, right? Involuntary response to peril and or disaster.

I feel like blogging about the General Election is like that - a loud long scream that has nothing to do with what is about to happen and will make no difference to the end of the event. I can scream louder and harder, but the car will always already be crashing, and here I can write hundreds and thousands of words but there will still be a majority Conservative government at the end of the election.

It is fucking depressing.

The Tories are gutting the NHS in England and by consequence also doing it in Scotland. They then spin it as an NHS in Crisis, not an NHS Underfunded.

The Tories are cutting free school lunches, essentially removing one meal from kids a day, under the impression it's "up to the parents". That's demonstrably bullshit and can only hurt the children who need or even want those meals, under the guise of "parents taking control of their children's eating".

They're reducing spending on Disability and essentially killing people whilst doing it.

They've reduced Corporation Tax to ridiculous levels for some reason.

They are refusing to raise tax rates on people who can easily afford a rise.

They want to kill migration entirely, which will destroy any economical boost and growth.

They are going ahead with the hardest of heard Brexits because... they can? Who knows.

And if you vote Tory your a person I don't want to know. I can't talk to you. I can't see eye to eye with you. I don't understand how you want the country to work. If you want the NHS to end, I wish the worst of all illnesses on you. If you want children to starve and food banks to become the norm, I hate you.

And if you can't see that the country is destroying its self, I can't help you.

I am not saying Labour is the way to vote, nor Lib Dem. I don't have a clue how to vote - all parties in my local area are against things I am for, even the ones I have policies I do like (Labour's ruling out a Scottish Independence Referendum is a sticking point on an otherwise pretty interesting proposal).

So I am screaming - at the TV, at Twitter, at friends - and there is nothing that can be done. The UK is a shadow of the progressive country I thought it once was, a frightened scared inward looking retreating power, scared of a world it has been told not to understand by a media who just doesn't care.

It's horrible. I hate it. Do these airbags even work?

An Android Upgrade 3: Part I - The End of the Nexus 6P

Previously, Leaving the iPhone, An Android Upgrade, An Android Upgrade 2: Part I and An Android Upgrade 2: Part II.

As night follows day, a new phone follows the old one. At present I still have my venerable Nexus 6P but it's days are most certainly numbered. I wish this wasn't the case too - the Nexus is one of the best phones I've ever used, nevermind owned, and I really love every single major aspect of it bar one significant one. So it' a shame to see it go down in fame as easily the mot annoying phone I've ever owned. It is a damn shame to see it's reign as my daily-driver come to a ignomious end, but that's the cut throat world of being my main power device, one on which all Monday Graveyard admin takes place, all photos of my kids are taken on, and the one that keeps me in contact with all my friends across all corners of the world.

And it has came down to the same reason that I got the 6P in the first place - the battery.

I re-read my Nexus 6P review with an eye to do a re-review, which doesn't really need to happen - I love everything about it but the battery - and the last line of one section stood out like a sore thumb.

Time will tell if the Nexus 6P is better than that – surely, it can’t be worse than the HTC…

Well I can confirm that the 6P was indeed worse than the HTC. At least the HTC just drained - the issue I have with the 6P is that it just runs out battery whenever it feels like it. It'll be fnie throughout the day and then, at somepoint, it'll decide, somewhere between 60% and 15% that it has had enough and it just switches off, as if it has ran out. Then when you turn it back on it'll start charging... from the place that it was last at.


This graph is taken from the battery management part of the settings and accurately shows a normal day. That first drop is probably jusy before bed. The lonig flat line is me asleep, and then waking with Etta or Joni. Then, once the hpone is being used for reading the news it just seeps away like sand through your fingers. Then, around 25% it switches off. Then there's a gap and then I start charging - but from above 50% some how. Then it drops off at the usual rate, before dying at around 40% this time. It is immediately put on the charger and then drops as per usual, with my over the night adding it to varius chargers to make sure that it at least keeps power.

I have fast charging which is great, but if you look at the rate of change the fast charging is barely faster than the rate at which it's drops off under normal use. The final little blip had it - seriously - switch off and say it was dead... whilst it was on the power charger. Unreal.

Anyway, that's why the phone is getting tossed. It's done for - useless beyond 12pm in th afternoon - and once, this week, at before 9am.

What is next? Well, we'll just have to see now, won't we?


The Undeserved Retaliation

Frank has been a member of our family since July 2012. He is five years old in a month's time and is a key member of the team - Joni loves playing with him and Etta is a big fan of grabbing his whiskers if he sits too close to her Exersaucer. It's fun to see him grow older and in theory wiser, but also we know that in recent months he's been at the bottom of the pile.

Getting him walked hasn't been the easiest, what with Etta's sleeping patterns being like a 26 sided die, and the weather simply being too poor. Plus, getting out for a "big" walk is a big task and only recently is getting easier, thanks to the weather of course, but also a big push from ourselves in the right direction.

This long preamble is to explain that Frank is rarely walked around our local area for any serious length of time. If he's walked, he'll be taken away with the team. Or, it'll be in the daylight with the girls up and along to the school. Nothing major - indeed, in recent weeks his paws have been burned up by the rough stones on our patio, and he hasn't been out as much as before.

So when someone smeared dogshit all over our car and left a threatening note regarding our lack of picking his mess up, it came as a shock.

Connie and find dogshit on the pavements and paths utterly abhorrent. It's a part of owning a dog in the 21st century that is so ingrained I can't believe anyone in their right mind would do it. If Frank even takes a dump 100ft into a forest's trees way from the path I am in pains to go and pick it up. I take bags out with me everywhere. Family members gift us bags monthly, because we use them all the time. To firstly be accused of not doing it is galling enough, but to be threatened is a different story.

I'm not going to post the picture I have of the dogshit. I'll spare you.

The thing that upsets us the most about it isn't the unfounded nature of it - people can be notoriously petty about things like this and the childish thing to do is write a note without any method of recourse. What is upsetting is the targeting of us, the wrong people. What I mean is that this has to be a build up of someone doing something wrong for months on end and finally the person snaps and decides to do something about it, albeit to the wrong people. That's the biggest problem really; we aren't doing anything wrong, and therefore can't enact change, meaning that the person will continue to do it at their leisure and as such, we might get targetting again for nothing having changed. It's a logical flaw that when I spoke to the Police about it they fully understood our concerns.

And the involvement of the Police should really be the end of it. I don't want there to be any further instalments in the shit-campaign.

However I also messaged the Parish Council here where we live. I thought it prudent to let them know there is a bad no-good person doing things like this, and they posted a thing on Facebook explaining what had happened. Rightly, they left out the details of who it was, but also left out the detail that it was a wrongly targeted attack. This, I should have foreseen to be honest. I should have also foreseen the responses.

There have been five comments on the post, not bad engagement and something I'd kill for for the Monday Graveyard.

HOLD ON A MINUTE. I thought you deleted your Facebook?
Yes, quite. Well, there is a large new pipeline going in across the street and I reactivated to have a chat with the Council, who use Facebook as their means of communication.
Fine, i'll let it slide.

The responses were mirthless. One said "next time it'll go through the letter box", which I found amusing considering the Police are involved and I could send that off to them. Another also bemoaned the local area's problems with dogshit (which there is a serious problem, one I despise and constant moan about to Con) and that this escalation was almost warranted.

Another said that the event was "unacceptable" but then said that the offender should have been approached, which I totally agree with. 

the most hilarious thing about those posts is the fact that the community has around 130 houses, and most are families or family linked house holds. Joni and Etta attend the area's children's groups. We know one of the persons who has commented about it. That was bound to happen. 

The Parish have now bought new dog bins and willbe making new inroads into enforcement. Ironically, as the weather gets better we are less likely to now use our local roads. Frank likes hills and water over concrete and tarmac.