Saturday, 24 September 2011

Were they really that cute....

I have been going through old video of the boys and converting it to go on Tracy's iPad. We rarely watch old videos but I am pleased I spent the time over the years editing it into watchable footage. I was watching one today and thought I would stick a bit of footage up. I can't believe how angelic they looked. I couldn't watch these videos after being diagnosed and it is still difficult now but they are a reminder of what I did, which can't be taken away.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Goodwood Revival 2011

On Sunday I went with Stuart and brother-in-law, David to the third and final motorsport event this year; this Goodwood Revival. Its probably my favourite event as it has a wonderful atmosphere with many people dressing in civilian or military period clothes from the 40s and 50s. I have been twice before and knew from previous circuit laps that a good viewpoint could be had just a few hundred yards from the entrance. So with wheelchair control now dependent on someone else we established our spot for the day. The day is a mixture of races, track parades and air displays with a pre mid 1960s theme. We arrived in time to see the end of the first race finishing under the safety car, following a rather expensive meeting between a chicane wall and a vintage Aston Martin. The next race was motorbikes and it coincided with the first heavy rain that had been forecast. With waterproof covers and umbrellas deployed we managed to keep dry but we missed most of the race as our view was now obscured by a sea of umbrella canopies. We got a dry spell for the next race and the air display which was an impressive scramble reinactment with 10 spitfires, which is about a quarter of those left still flying.

The rain returned for the TT race which was a real shame. The one-hour, two-driver race has a spectacular grid of super-rare GT cars, driven by famous names past and present. The grid features a breathtaking £100+ million array of internationally-renowned historic cars. But the torrential rain spoilt it, initially because the umbrellas prevented me or Stuart seeing anything and then because the race was abandoned! The rain lasted almost an hour and everyone was cold and miserable and almost half the spectators left. We had no option but to stay as trying to go anywhere would have been impossible without me and more importantly, my computer getting soaked. Our perseverance paid off though with blue skies returning by 4 o'clock in time for the final two races. I am pleased we stayed because I was able to enjoy what it was that I had loved on my first visit to Revival; the very evocative experience of seeing and hearing these beautiful classic cars racing in the light of a setting, late summer sun.

I suggested a visit to the paddock before we left. This is another highlight of the event. Row after row of covered parking bays filled with almost priceless classic cars, many with an impressive racing pedigrees. Ferarri, Bugatti, Aston Martin are among the many cars that constitute what must be the most valuable collection in the world. It would have been considered simply vulgar to discuss individual values with anybody, but it is easy to reach an estimate of around a quarter of a BILLION. The fact that they have just been racing and have the odd battle scar to prove it is incredible.

So by the time we left I had almost forgotten about the rain. I hope Stuart and David enjoyed it too and many thanks to them for getting wet in order to keep me dry!!


Saturday, 17 September 2011

My latest invention

I have always struggled to find places to locate buttons where they are easily accessible but not able to be pushed by accident. This was particularly important for my new eyegaze reset switch. My eyegaze system is generally quite reliable, but occasionally something happens which stops me controlling it with my eyes and I have to rely on someone to restart it. If this happens when I am alone, I am completely stuck. So I now have a USB Box which I can connect a standard button to and it will restart Windows. But I didn't want the button getting pressed by accident, resetting everything. So I have made this additional control box.

My device will work with any button using the usual 3.5mm connection. It goes between the button and the device which it control and it only activates the device if the button is pressed 5 times within 7 seconds (this rule worked for me but it could be something different). I now have a button on the bed footboard and wheelchair headrest with which I can easily (but not too easily) reset the computer. Although the concept of the device was mine, my friend Chris has to take the credit for making the circuitry and packaging it so neatly.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Controlling Computers with Eyegaze Control

This won't be interesting to most of you but I stuck it here so I can point other MND sufferers here if they want a demonstration of what is possible using eyegaze computer.
I have recently written a presentation and recorded a video for two UK conferences where Sensory Software (who write the multi award winning Grid 2 software) will present it on my behalf. Hopefully the full presentation will be online soon, but here is the video on which it was based.

Hopefully it will show anyone considering eyegaze what is possible. I didn't include environmental control such as TV and DVD operation although I use this.
I use a bespoke setup. The computer is a Sahara Slate i440t PC from TabletKiosk,

the eyegaze system is from Alea Technologies,
the environmental control infrared transmitter is a TIRA module via USB, SMS messaging is done using Sierra Aircard 880 (sticking out of the top ). The tablet has a second battery pack and Sensory Software provide an amplification unit called a Powerbox 6 and a frame to bolt it together.

I sourced the mounting system and wheelchair power supply from another UK company.
I use Dameware software for remote access. It allows you to create an executable file which you run on other computers on your network. Once run you have permanent remote access rights even after a restart. It costs around £80 but it works well and I would highly recommend it.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Summertime Blues

So the summer holidays are almost over and the boys start the final year of Junior school on Tuesday. Amazing to think they start secondary school next year. It doesn't seem that long ago since I was at Southborough Boys; I have never been an advocate of 'the best days of your life' mantra, but it is was a memorable seven years and I hope it will be the same for them.

I am struggling a bit at the moment with the groundhog day existence. The daily routine is almost identical everyday with the only variation being who I email to chase something I need to sort out. I have never been good at being unoccupied, that's not to say I never indulged in time wasting activities. I was always my most efficient and productive at work when I was under pressure dealing with ten things at a time, but once the pressure was off I found it easy to succumb to the temptation of web browsing or some other activity which wasn't strictly related to the task of generating new business. Fortunately I generally used to snap out of it quickly because I knew that the longer it lasted, the harder it would be. The problem now is that this self perpetuating scenario is very difficult to escape. Writing this blog is about the only productive thing I do and even this is very sporadic.

I think the other problem is that as a coping strategy I have to make myself numb to caring about things. By switching off the desire to eat nice food or have a beer,  it makes it that much easier. The frustration of not being able to join in with conversations is eased by avoiding getting absorbed by the discussion in the first place. When the boys are fighting I try and ignore it because if I don't,  the inability to intervene physically or verbally with any spontaneity just creates immense anger and frustration. So I have to block out thinking about or at least caring about 95 percent of my life pre 2008. I know this sounds a bit melodramatic but it is how I cope. The problem however is trying to maintain enthusiasm for the remaining 5 percent of my life which is still possible. It is difficult to keep this attitude of detachment selective.