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Archive for October 2005

eyeballs of steel

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After my trip to the orthopaedic specialist last Tuesday, I’m being set up for a date with Magnetic Resonance Imaging in about three weeks’ time, at the Blackrock Clinic south of Dublin.

The visit was not what I expected, in a good way; I was seen a little late, but the consultation was quick and efficient. The specialist ran a few quick tests on me, which told him something about the general state of my nervous system. It showed some hyperactivity – too-quick responses. This, together with the symptoms I was describing, immediately had him filling out a request for a MRI on my cervical spine and upper back, with the form including terms like “cord lesion”. Oh, bugger.

As if that’s not worrying enough, I need to go to the clinic a little early, to get my eyeballs X-Rayed. This has to do with the fact that I worked in a steel factory many years ago; even though I wore protective glasses, and did almost no welding or metalwork, there is still a risk that I have tiny fragments of iron or steel embedded in my eyes. In the intense magnetic field of a MRI scan these could rip their way out of my eye during the scan, or heat up through induction. The specialist didn’t offer any details of what this might be like, and I didn’t ask for any; my imagination tells me all I need to know on this subject, thank you.

I hope the MRI shows something that can be fixed, because while the symptoms – strange nerve sensations across my whole body below the neck, usually when I bend my head forward – are best described as “annoying” today, they are becoming more common, showing up even when sitting in a chair as I am now. This isn’t going away by itself, so I may need to add a new “medical” category to this blog if this goes on much longer.


Written by brian t

October 27, 2005 at 12:47 pm

Posted in medical, philosophy

colour blandness

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I just took two quick tests on, along with a colleague; while I have doubts about such tests, because of the variability of computer monitors, these ones gave a clear result, confirming that I’m colour-blind relative to “normal” people.

I would never have known I was severely colour-blind if not for the Ishihara tests, which I took under medical supervision years ago. One translation of Ishihara (石原) might be “stony wilderness”, which (I suppose) describes where the Cones should be in my retinas; I hope that means more Rods, since I do think I have good night vision. Apart from that, the only effect visible to me, outside the tests, is difficulty distinguishing between similar colours in poor light – which I thought everyone had problems with.

I took a more thorough test, a few years ago, in the research department of the Royal Victoria Eye Hospital here in Dublin. (An Irish institution named after an English Queen, with the Royal prefix? Hey, if it ain’t broke…) It involved laying little pots of colour in order, e.g. from blue to red. Didn’t do too well there either, if the tut-tutting of the researcher was any clue. (I admit to being slightly distracted by the researcher, who was named Hilary, and was rather beautiful in a slightly Lilith Sternin Crane fashion.)

So, if I’m colour-blind… what am I doing learning photography? Or should I stick to black-and-white film? I find some software colour correction of digital images to be overactive, but I think I have to trust it, at least on pictures aimed at this site.

No, it’s not spelled “color”. I don’t mind using some American spellings, particularly those where a “s” is replaced with a “z” (e.g. “realize”), since I think the change aids in correct pronunciation, but this one is a little beyond the pale (pun intended)…

Written by brian t

October 24, 2005 at 6:14 pm


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Japanese classes are back on, with sensei doing things a little differently this time. There’s more of an emphasis on vocabulary, which hopefully addresses one of the shortcomings of the course so far. It’s not a university-level course by any standards, but I’m not paying university-level fees for it.

Much of my off-time over the last two months or so has been spent watching The West Wing, from the beginning. I bought Series 1 & 2 over a year ago, and recently obtained 3 & 4, after their price was dropped upon the release of Series 6 on DVD. It’s been rewarding because much of it only makes sense if you pay attention and think about what is happening – it’s not something to put on in the background while you do something else.

One major aspect that impresses me is the flexibility of the characterizations, the way characters were allowed to develop; the most obvious being Donna (Janel Moloney), who went from a bit part to a major stabilizing force. We know the producers were not afraid to kill characters off, witness as the death of Delores Landingham (Kathryn Joosten), an event that had President Bartlet stubbing cigarettes out on the floor of the National Cathedral (Washington), swearing at his God in Latin. When Donna was critically injured in a car bomb attack in Gaza, the critical response showed just how central her character had become, both to viewers of The West Wing, and to the other characters. Rob Lowe, on the other hand, started as the top-billed star, but soon blended in to the ensemble cast, and eventually left after his character left the White House for Congress.

It’s a lot of TV, sure, but I’m careful to space it to avoid overload, and it’s not so much as to interfere with other activities. I’ve just started Series 4, which I missed much of first time around, or at least failed to pay proper attention to: can’t see reaching the end in October, but there’s no rush.

Written by brian t

October 13, 2005 at 5:29 pm

Posted in philosophy, television

vista visions

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Another week, another technological upheaval of sorts. I’ve taken on a Tablet PC, the HP tc4200 I mentioned before, using it for this first paragraph. The handwriting recognition, while remarkable, really works in conjunction with a word completion facility.

Good thing it has a normal keyboard, using the Pen alone might drive me round the bend. My handwriting skills have atrophied to the point of near-uselessness, and I haven’t felt much of an obligation to redevelop them. That will change in the future, since the Japanese entry systems for Kanji definitely require more work on my part.

From what I’ve seen so far it’s not enough to just copy a character; no, you also need to enter the right number of strokes, in the correct order, to get a good match for the character you mean. There’s almost no instructional material available on this aspect, it seems to be treated as common sense, or under the assumption that you have undergone school-level Kanji instruction, drawing characters by hand with a brush on paper.

My new PC’s delivery coincided roughly with the release of Microsoft Windows Vista Build 5219, or “beta one-and-a-half”, as I see it. After downloading huge ISO images from a server inside my company – a process that took three days – I installed it on my other two PCs at home, and may use it at work too, on my old work PC.

My home desktop PC runs on a AMD 64 3200+ CPU, so I needed the x64 version. To run it alongside my existing Windows XP installation, I planned to use the old hard drive I had in my PC, a 13GB drive from 1999. It wasn’t big enough – Vista wanted 14.5GB at install time! The actual usage dropped to under 4GB once the installation was complete, but I didn’t find that out until after I swapped the old drive for the 44GB drive I previously used for external USB backups (which was recently replaced with a 250GB drive).

After a few false starts – including a strange inablity to clear the old partition off the drive, which I had to do under XP – I had it going. The second installation was on my trusty old Compaq laptop, which was looking for a new role. Since I knew what to expect from the first time, I was able to take advantage of the streamlined install process: after I answered the required questions on PC name and install location, I left it going while I went out shopping, and came back to a completed installation. This is one change that users will find most welcome.

The usage results are mixed so far: the laptop is flying, with all its old hardware recognized (after the install of the extra driver pack). The driver situation on x64 is some way behind, with e.g. my USB card reader not recognized, even though it’s a standard “USB Mass Storage” device, like the external hard drives that worked without problems.

The new “Aero” interface looks cool, but I still need to spend more time figuring out what’s going on there. I’m used to just taking over an address bar and typing whatever I please in there, and that might still be possible, but it’s not clear just how that works now. Others, including some from Microsoft, have written more on this, so I’ll see what I can find on the topic later.

Written by brian t

October 3, 2005 at 11:01 am

Posted in technology, work