The Chronically Ill and Missing Stuff (by )

As anybody who has spoken to me recently will know I was looking forward to this weekend, I had the night of dangerous writing which to be fair was only a maybe as I needed to see when my practice sessions and stuff where, and the Writing Retreat.

But this week had been a bit rough but I thought I was managing it ok, and I had already had to do damage limitation and not go to my Chuffing It class. Friday I felt a bit odd but in a way that could have been nerves over doing a new show for the first time a school and the first time on my own too!

I really enjoyed the shows and the kids were great but in the car on the way home I got really sick, well not really sick but suddenly very flu-like very chronic pain flare, even my pelvis hurt. I was scrubbed out and didn't make it to Bristol. Then I spent today napping and having warm baths and stuff.

Then this evening I find that due to being out of it yesterday afternoon and evening and really and truly this morning - I'd missed the writing retreat which I was desperately trying to be well enough to go to.... tomorrow - yeah somehow I managed to get my days confused and I only found out after getting an email saying how unfair it was of me not to turn up as there was a waiting list.

This is something that happens to chronically ill people no matter how much you try, regardless of how much you make sure that you pay for things you do not go on etc... people just do not understand and one of the things that was hard to learn on the pain management course 10 odd years ago - is that you can't really expect them too either.

From their point of view you are just being awkward.

It doesn't help that now I have a extra food issues and they had gone to extra effort to cater for that.

Of course if I had known I wasn't going, I would have let them know but I didn't and I am uber hacked off that I missed it - not that I could have gone even if I had been with it enough to realise what the day was!

It's the same mechanism by which the chronically ill lose friends as people think the last minute cancellations are excuses for "I don't like you".

And annoyingly it may be flu but equally due to the arthritis symptoms resurfacing we looked at the breakfast I'd been eating this week. It turns out that some porridge contains a thing called spelt - this turns out to be a kind of wheat - it never occurred to me it would be it oat based stuff and I was only having it as the nurse had increased my calories and it's frosty icing mornings :/

You Can’t Be A Scientist (by )

Me: explains science

Kid: How do you know all this slits eyes

Me: Because I happen to be a trained scientist

Kid: No you're not

Me: Yes I am

Kid: Nooooo, he's the scientist points to Al

Al: Nope I'm an engineer, she's the scientist

Kid: What really?

Me: Yep, I've blasted moon rock with lasers

Kid: puzzled look

This was last week. I am sure I've told you all about the time the toddlers refused to believe I was a geologist and that my friend with his shorts and big beard was the geologist?

I'm sure you've all read the posts I've made about how I get parents thanking me for having Ada and a list of female scientists and engineers but this time I don't think the issue was one of gender exactly - I am a mum, I had occupied the space of "mum person" "stay at home parent" and in our society that means, person who doesn't do anything but house work, or maybe a side job in a shop or nursery.

He had no problem with there being female scientist puppets or the idea of girls in the group doing science but Mums? Mums don't do/know this kind of stuff, mums well they're kind of dumb and reserved and frightened things.

And I have gotten this so much.

I noticed that crutches aside people just assume I don't want to/can't do stuff anymore because I've had a baby or two and it is INFURIATING, more so as though Alaric suffers from this too it is a watered down version - probably as he is out at "proper work". Stay at home dad's I know tend to have issues with people thinking they are lazy and heaven forbid they try and expand their minds by reading or anything whilst at home - surely they should be fixing everything - what you mean they cook and clean? They need to go out and get a job.

And on and on and on.

But I am kind of feeling a bit stressed about bits of science that are not my bit of science because though at primary school age etc... I know all the stuff I feel like I am now The Proof and the only proof that slightly dumpy mummies can do science too.

The Warrior Butterfly (by )

Tonight (21 st Nov 2014) I am going to be taking part in a Quiet Compare event at The Strand in Cheltenham. It is medical themed poetry so I am taking along a poem I have only ever performed twice before and never to a live audience that is sitting there just for poetry.

The poem is The Warrior Butterfly and chronicles the issues I had around the pregnancy and birth of Jean, I could write a lot on the imagery and what the poem means to me but I shall not. The two previous performances were: 1) Cheltenham Community Radio for one of their shows and 2) for the On Form Sculpture exhibition in Oxford a few years ago where I stood on an Earth work (made for the garden not an ancient burial site) that was covered in flowers and called it to the sky and the arty loving people who happened to be wandering about at the time.

It is a long and in many ways personally indulgent poem for me, not my normal but as such it is often not the right sort of thing to read at events and the actual reading of it is hard for me.

I hope local peeps might like to come out tonight to listen - it isn't just me performing a 4 and a half minute poem, there are lots of others performing too, some of whom you might even have heard of!

Anyway I'd better give it the read through a couple of times before tonight.

Here's the event details for those of you not on Facebook it is 7:30 at The Strand in Cheltenham with a £1/£2 suggested donation on the door.

The Dyslexic Author (by )

Sarah Snell-Pym Award Winning Author

This week is Dyslexia Awareness Week, it is also the begininng of an insane writing challenge called NaNoWriMo which stands for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you write a minimum of fifty thousand words in a month and I have been doing this challenge and a picture book sister challenge called PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) since 2009, which is now scary long ago.

When I first started the challenge and using the forum I felt very edgy, being severely dyslexic made me hesitate to enter into online written discussions with grammarian monsters - the sort that correct friends' emails. How was I ever going to compare to such writing experts when sometimes I can't spell mine or my kids' names correctly?

Trying to belt out a novel is an amazing experience but it is also an emotionally fraught one, especially for those low on self confidence. Self confidence is a key to success - it is not the only key but it is one of the main three - Self Confidence, Endurance and Improvisation/Adaptability. Dyslexics, due to our education system and social attitudes, tend to be high on intelligence and low on that whole confidence thing. To keep going with the writing you kind of need to believe that your story is good enough, that your imagination is fantastic and that everyone is going to want to read it. Many authors go through a cycle of thinking their stuff is amazing and will win a nobel prize, to sinking into a pit of despair over how rubbish it is.

But dyslexics have an added edge of nerves, an extra question over their abilities. Not only is there the language structure issues but there is the widely held idea that if you cannot spell you cannot write. This is wrong.

And it turned out that the way NaNoWriMo works is fantastic for boosting dyslexic writers. It goes something like this - everyone is rushing to get down as many words as they can, you are encouraged to leave the typos as they are and just keep going, everyone has typos, inversions of letters, missed letter where they are just typing so fast. Normal people see these and correct them, the dyslexic brain may think that that is the correct spelling and at other times it will see it as wrong - but conversely it might see the correct spelling as wrong and correct it to something incorrect - DOH!

What this means though is that when you are sitting in a cafe or pub with a group of writers your red line squiggles are no longer an issue - everyone has them. Then there is the concept that you can edit a book with mistakes in, no matter how many mistakes there are, but if there is no book to begin with you cannot edit it into something. This frees you up to write.

One of the things I also found was that increasingly I was learning language intricacies and histories and that I could grab the grammar nazis by the proverbial and correct them if and when they started. Grammar is not a fixed thing - look at the history of writing and you find that Shakespeare couldn't spell his own name, that names themselves are pretty fluid, that grammar is just basically a mark up language to tell the reader when to breathe when talking out loud.

But can a dyslexic ever be a writer, be a published author, a journalist?

Yes, they can, and when they do they tend to be multi-genre writers, not brilliant for becoming a household name but good for writing how-to and last minute books, to be able to switch the brain from science to sports to craft, to be journalists (with patient editors!), to be non-specialist all round jacks of all trades. And, increasingly, this is becoming acceptable back in the realm of fiction, thanks to authors such as Neil Gaiman.

So where does that leave me? I have said repeatedly that I must be insane trying to be a writer whilst being very very badly dyslexic but, you know what, I wasn't - I find that being dyslexic helps with research for stories and articles, as I can't rely on words or even the grammar. I often have to use both plus the context, meaning that I can often pick up on the big or small picture, the hidden concepts and deeper meanings. It also stops me making stupid assumptions as I can't take the writing literally and if it doesn't seem right I am forced to ask, to check. For science writing this is extremely important.

Now before we go any further, dyslexia is not something I can really define; it is just a part of how my brain is wired so I will not say that my writing success is because of, nor in spite of, the dyslexia. It could have stopped me; it was a hurdle, and it has stopped many but mainly because they are told they can't do things because of it. Also, yes, I am contrary and stubborn so when people told me I could not, or that I would find stuff hard, I was determined to show them I could do it - especially when my intelligence itself was under attack.

But would my life achievements have been different without the dyslexia? I kind of think not, I just had to take a different path. And that path has been strange and winding and this last week I have found myself writing craft workshops, reading my kids poetry and stories to kids whilst dressed up in ridiculous outfits at various kid clubs, being asked to perform my page poetry at several events, asked to run writing days for adults and kids, getting sci-fi stories accepted, writing blog copy and presenting my project Cuddly Science which includes script writing and picture book writing and report writing and talk writing.

And that was just this week. This last month included articles on sci-fi/fantasy and science and crafts and gardening and grant applications, and this last year saw me become a member of the Poetry Society, British Science Fiction Association and the British Science Writers Association (and yes that does confuse me especially as there is also the British Hen Well-Fare Trust that we got the chickens from too!), I have been asked to present awards to school kids and I completed a Science Communication course - something I dismissed as a "can't" during my undergraduate degree, due to the dyslexic issues.

I now firmly place myself in the role of writer, of author and so do others. I am finally what I was told I could never be - a dyslexic author. It was not trial free and it is not yet over, it kind of will never be over and I'm ok with that.

Back to NaNoWriMo, I find myself actively encouraging dyslexics to write - to take part and I love wondering around the forums and Facebook pages and twitter seeing articles like this pop up and I love to be able to say to those who are worried, those who are struggling, don't give up, you can succeed at this. And that doesn't just go for writing, it goes for every aspect of career and life 😀

Folding history (by )

Ugarit is a content-addressed store; the vault is a series of blocks, identified by a hash, that cannot change once they are written.

But logically, they appear as a set of "tags", each of which either points to an archive (a set of files with associated metadata, which can be added to, or the metadata of existing files changed) or snapshots (a chain of snapshots of a filesystem at a point in time).

So in a store where objects cannot be modified, how do we create the illusion of mutable state in these "tags"? Read more »

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