Robin Williams and Depression

In the wake of Robin Williams’ death, the internet is rife with talk of depression.  Depression is at best an insidious and poorly understood condition.  There is enormous potential value in the current surge of awareness and discussion of this topic.  But equally there is enormous potential for harm.  For those suffering depression, there is hope that increased awareness may bring improvements to Mental Health Care systems, better accessibility, less stigma.  But there is also despair that so many people are dismissive, callous, or simply don’t understand.

Here is my response to everyone out there, whatever their belief, position, or experience:

THERE ARE NO EASY ANSWERS.

I wish to address a few points that hit home for me.  This is MY EXPERIENCE, it may not be yours.  Everyone is different, everyone’s depression is different, everyone’s life, issues, circumstances, experience, etc is DIFFERENT.

THERE ARE NO EASY ANSWERS.

I have lived with depression for 25 years.

I have no official medical diagnosis, and until recently, never sought professional help.

At the age of 15, 10th grade, I began experiencing mood swings.  At the height of their severity I could swing from a manic, hyperactive, literally bouncing off the walls high to a despondent, catatonic (www.healthline.com/health/depression/catatonic-depression) low in 15 minutes.  Had I seen a doctor at that time I may have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  But I did not see a doctor.  I hid my problems from my family, my classmates, and most of my teachers.  Only a couple close friends and one teacher saw what was happening. 

i knew, rightly or wrongly, that my parents would not understand.  That they would think it was “all in my head”, and tell me to “snap out of it”.  I figured teachers would be the same.  I struggled through daily life for a year, while my friends watched and removed sharp objects from reach.  I got a job, and when the pressure and personal politics got too much for me to handle I quit, with the excuse that my schooling took precedence.  I fell for the flattery of a much older man and found myself caught in a very unhealthy relationship.

I started cutting.

Then I got pregnant.

My baby, along with the influence of two perceptive teachers, probably saved my life.  Being a 17 year old single mother was not easy, but my life now had purpose.  It was my responsibility to care for this tiny, helpless, human being.  I coped with my depression by focusing on my child.

Not that the depression ever went away.  One of the coping tools that the professionals teach is distraction.  Keep yourself occupied.  Find things to do and be involved with which hold your interest and challenge you without being overwhelming.  Depression makes you sedentary and insular, which, in turn, worsens depression.  It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that is very difficult to break out of.  I learned to recognize early signs of a downward slide and force myself to get up and do something while I still could. 

Motherhood, finishing high school, my second child, beginning university at age 23, marriage, travel, work, horses, needlework, farming, tractors, books, writing, etc kept me relatively stable for more than 15 years.  I still had down times.  Periods of apathy.  Times when I didn’t have the energy to care about anyone or anything.  Sometimes the pressures of work or school were too much and I had to take time off.  Sometimes the urge to run away and hide from the world was so strong I started looking up train schedules.  But my husband was supportive, and my children and school were my anchors.  And I coped.

Then my marriage ended in a terrible flood of events leading to criminal charges and jail (not for me).  Over the next 5 years I gradually lost everything I had worked so hard for.  My home, the farm, pets, most of my possessions, stability, safety, security.  I no longer had the time or the funds to continue my part time education.  I had two grown children leaving home, and two little children just starting their lives.  All the control measures I had built so carefully into my life were gone.

Now I am back to coping day-to-day.  Sometimes hour-to-hour.  I cry, often, for little or no reason.  I force myself out of bed every morning when I just want to stay unconscious and ignore the world.  I try to avoid trigger points like news stories, personal confrontations, stress, fatigue, but it’s impossible unless I withdraw from life entirely.  Last fall my babysitter claimed my partner was cheating on me with her.  I spent a night in a padded cell in the local hospital under the care of a crisis nurse and a psychiatrist.

I am slowly trying to rebuild a stable platform on which to stand, but I now know all too well how fragile the structures of our lives really are.  How can you trust your weight to relationships, jobs, finances, homes, social positions, etc which could be whipped out from under you in an instant?  You can’t.

I have seen, in the past couple days, a number of well-meaning people stating that depression is treatable, that suicide is avoidable, that help is out there and all you have to do is ask.

I wish that were true.  I wish it were that simple.

Truth is that Mental Health services and support are not readily available to many people.  Standard treatments like antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs are not effective for many people.  Psychiatrists, psychologists, and councilors are few and overbooked.  Family doctors are not well equipped to diagnose and treat mental illness.

As I said earlier, I spent a night in hospital last November.  I was given a prescription for an antidepressant and sent home.  I was told flat out that my options for follow up care were almost non-existent.  My family doctor had previously prescribed an antidepressant for me.  He put me on the full dose from day-one and told me to come back if I didn’t feel better in a month or two.  The mental health equivalent of “take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning”.  I lasted less than two weeks on the meds.  I had a constant pounding headache, despondency, and stupidity.  My brain shut down and I was unable to function on a daily basis.  The psychiatrist told me that this is typical of family doctors trying to treat depression.  Knowing my family doctor was not an appropriate resource for follow up care, the psych. suggested I check with Health Services at my university.

University Health Services has 1 psychiatrist on site once a month. (Same Dr. I saw at the hospital.)  In order to see him, one has to first have one of the two physicians on staff for primary care (which would cause my family doctor to de-roster me and my kids), then go through the process of evaluation, primary treatment, tentative diagnosis, referral, etc.  By which time the school year would be over.

A quick internet search for mental health services in my area is revealing.  I found zero private practice psychiatrists, nine private therapists – only one of whom is listed as a psychologist, and all of whom must be paid for (supplemental health insurance may or may not cover this cost).  There is a list of organizations (including local hospitals, public health, child protection agencies, local chapters of support groups for various disorders, addiction services, and places like Bethesda and Pathstones) which provide crisis lines, some counseling, and other services for a range of mental health issues as well as developmental disorders, physical impairments, etc.  Some specialize in children, or behavioral or socials issues.  All have long waiting lists. Some are not qualified to prescribe.

And it’s all very confusing and intimidating.

Some people will look at the last 5 paragraphs and see only a list of excuses and negative bias.  They will say that if I cannot find the help I need, then I am not trying hard enough.

Which brings me nicely to my next point: the assumption that a depressed person wants and/or is capable of seeking help.

A large part of depression is apathy.  When I hit the bottom I no longer care about anything, or anyone.  I no longer respond to stimuli.  All I know is my own internal pain.  And all I want is for it to stop.  I’m not the only one who experiences this: 

From the comments on a HuffPost article about Robin Williams –

Lawst In’absentia

Depression != Suicidal
This is a misconception that always bothers me when people talk about depression.
It can lead to it, certainly; especially in severe cases as it was with Robin.
It’s like nothing has meaning and a pressure is always pressing harder and harder on your chest and throat, you want to cry out and explode in emotion but you just can’t. The pain is unreal, it’s like there’s no escape. Your brain is a torrent of thoughts and emotions which have no way to release.
It’s like a shaken bottle being shaken more and more to the point of it exploding but something just won’t let it even though it’s far past the point of bursting.
It’s like no one cares and neither do you, it’s so hard to be happy when going through a depressive episode. Even when people try to help you feel better something just won’t click in your mind. You know they’re there and they care but it doesn’t help.
It’s like nothing matters to you. There’s no reason to anything and if you happened to die you wouldn’t have a problem with it; you don’t necessarily want to die, you just wouldn’t mind if it happened..
I do deal with depression but luckily it’s not /so/ severe to where I can’t manage it.
I do enjoy my life and have many people who care about me and who I care about. Just occasionally things get bleak and very dark for reasons I don’t even understand, anything can trigger the depression.
 

Jeff Gordon

The majority of society will not come to terms with the fact that there are a fair few who, through the most irrational means, become uncontrollably. . . lost. They lose all hope for even the briefest of moments and that is all it takes.
You see someone with such a genuinely kind and loving soul who has struggled with this for so long. You can ask “How could it be so bad? Such a great career, a loving family. . .” – To which I respond, “You don’t understand.” And it is because of that. . . Those of us who experience those most brief of moments standing at the edge questioning the very facets of our being and whom or what ever we chose to believe in beyond this mortal coil. . . It’s because of that those who suffer from depression in any form choose to let go. And. . . It’s scary. I promise you, it is terrifying.
 
Link to a blog –
http://www.scarymommy.com/robin-williams-suicide-leaves-me-terrified
 
The day I went to hospital, I took the steps necessary to save myself.  On that day I had enough self awareness to recognize that I was a danger to myself, and more importantly, to my children.  I had fallen into a near catatonic state.  I did not respond to my baby’s cries.  I did not eat or drink or move for most of the day.  Periodically I would “wake up” and pace the floor in rage or curl up on my bed bawling, or hyperventilate in terror.  I was out of control.  But I retained just enough logic to see what was happening.  A tiny, emotionless, objective observer sat on my shoulder telling me it was time to get help.  My partner had been home, caring for the kids, and trying to help me, but he had to work the next day.   My objective observer knew that I could not be left alone with a 4 year old and a six month old.
 
It took an extreme act of self-will to ask my partner to take me to the hospital.  It took and act of bravery beyond anything else I have ever done.  I did not know what would happen.  Would I be admitted on suicide watch?  Could my children be taken from me?  Might I be drugged and stupefied? 
 
I made the right call.  But not everyone can. Not everyone has the objectivity. I don’t always have it either.  Had my partner not been there at that time would I have been able to reach further for help?  Perhaps not.  I hope I never face anything like that again.  I don’t know if I will be strong enough next time.
 
Robin Williams had perhaps come to the end of his strength.  It happens to many, some sooner than others.  Some day it may happen to me.
 
I guess in the end it comes down to this – if you have never experienced depression, anxiety, or similar mental illness first hand, then don’t pass judgement on my life and my experience.  Don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t think or do.  Don’t dismiss or belittle my illness.  It is no more my own fault than Multiple Sclerosis or many forms cancer, and cannot be “cured” any easier. 
 
Unless you are prepared to live in my head-space don’t assume I’m weak, lack faith, or have a negative outlook.  Most people would not survive more than a few days in my head-space.  I have so far survived 40 years.  Most people probably wouldn’t last five minutes in Robin Williams’ head-space, including me.
 
 
 
 
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New York, New York

Three days in New York City, by myself. Fun times!

I had a really good trip. Left home at 2:30am to catch a 3:30 am train at the Niagara Falls, NY Amtrak station.  There is only one train per day which runs from the Canadian side to NYC, and the timing didn’t work well for me, so the Empire Service train state-side was the right choice.  As a bonus, crossing the Rainbow bridge at 3am is a breeze.

9 hours on the train. I tried to sleep, but I’m really bad at sleeping while traveling.  Always have been, even as a kid.  I closed my eyes, got reasonably comfortable in a seat that reclines about 6 degrees from vertical, and rested for a long time.  I read a book, played games on my phone, watched the scenery go by after the sun came up, got a snack from the cafe car, etc. The train wasn’t too busy, so I had a seat to myself and access to an electrical outlet..

Arrived at Penn Station in NYC just before 1pm.  My hotel wasn’t far, but my bags were heavy so I took a cab.  Could definitely walked it faster if not for the heavy luggage.

I stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel on the corner of Madison and 45th.  Very expensive classy hotel.  And the host hotel for the WD Writer’s Conference.  The conference discount dropped the room rate to about half regular price.  Good thing too, because it certainly wasn’t worth $400/night.  I understand that famous, old, upscale hotels in Midtown are pricey, but for that rate I could do without the carpet stains, leaky toilet, excruciatingly slow elevators, etc.  One lady I spoke to said the door to her room was jammed and she had to throw her shoulder into it to get in every time, and wrench as hard as she could to get out. By the end of the weekend she had bruised shoulders and a pulled muscle in her arm.

Also I had to hang around in the lobby for about 2 hours waiting for my room to be ready.  By the time I got into my room I had 5 minutes to shower, dress, and run to my first session.

I spent Friday afternoon attending talks and panels from about 3:30 till 7. In my next post I’ll go into detail about the conference.  After the agents Q&A, I skipped the opening keynote speech in favour of catching a show.  I saw Newsies and it was very good.  The cast is almost all very young performers just beginning their Broadway careers.  The dancing was excellent and the little boy who played Les was way too cute. Very enjoyable.  After the show I stopped at an Irish Pub I found on the way back to the hotel for supper.

Saturday I slept too late to make it to the first session, but I attended a 10am talk, then skipped the 11am. I spent that hour, plus the 45min lunch break in a restaurant eating soup and working on my pitch.  At 1:30 I attended my Pitch Slam.  Interesting, exciting, and frightening experience.  But at the end of the hour I had 5 invitations to submit material, which made the entire weekend completely worthwhile.

Spent the rest of the afternoon attending panels and then the cocktail reception.  Got autographs from 2 writers whose talks I attended and had a nice, encouraging conversation with one of them.  Socialized with a few agents and Writer’s Digest staff, as well as lots of other aspiring writers.

After the reception I went to another show.  I saw Chicago and it was outstanding.  The cast were all experienced Broadway stars, with film and tv credits.  The singing and dancing were amazing.  The staging was unique, with the orchestra on stage and visible to the audience at all times.  They were on a steeply raised platform which doubled as an entry/exit point for characters.  The musicians and conductor even interacted with the characters at times.  I loved it.

Sunday I woke up late and not feeling well.  I showered, packed, and caught a cab to Penn station without attending any of Sunday’s events.  Had lunch at the station before boarding my train.

Storms and delayed train traffic extended my trip by an hour and a half.  Instead of arriving in Niagara Falls, NY at 10:30pm, we didn’t arrive until 12am.  Who knew that rain could cause so many problems for trains?  Who knew that trains aren’t water-proof?  I had to move my luggage to avoid the drips from the leaky roof and to keep stuff out of the puddles that formed on the floor.

Fortunately my trip home was made more interesting by both my seat partner and the man across the aisle.

Leaving NYC, the train was very full, so I sat with an older lady who was sitting at the back of the car, facing backwards.  This is a spot for disabled people, with room for a wheelchair or whatever.  This woman had a walker.  She was only on the train for about an hour, but in that time I learned her entire life story, and then some.  I helped her make the 15′ trip to the bathroom and back to her seat, as she had a hard time walking, and adjusting to the motion of the train.  I helped her with her luggage at her stop. Thankfully she had people waiting for her at the station.

The man across the aisle was blind and partially hearing impaired.  The train conductor took pretty good care of him, bring him food from the cafe car and such, but wasn’t always around.  I helped the man find his way to the washroom, took his lunch remains away for him, and helped him keep track of his stuff.  He was traveling alone and is remarkably independent for having so many challenges in his life.  He works with blind/deaf youth to help them learn to communicate effectively.  He gave me his card with contact info when he left the train at Rochester.

All and all, I had a great trip.  Interesting, informative, helpful, and entertaining.

I’m So Excited…

So, I’m going on a trip!

To New York City!

All by myself!

At 3:30 am Friday I get on a train for NYC. 3 days, 2 nights in the Big Apple. All alone, no kids, just me. Wow!

Actually I’m attending the 2014 Writer’s Digest Eastern Writer’s Conference. I have classes, seminars, and talks lined up from 3pm Friday till noon Sunday. Saturday I’m participating in a Pitch Slam and a Cocktail Party/Social Hour. Friday and Saturday evenings I have free time.

I’m pretty excited.

In preparation for this trip I went shopping for clothes and shoes, got a hair cut, and lost 7 pounds. I hate shopping and haven’t bought anything but practicalities for myself in a couple years. Now I have 2 new pairs of shorts, a sun dress, 3 nice summer sweaters with camisoles for underneath, a pair of strappy sandals, and a bathing suit. I also raided my sister’s closet for a few more things she was going to get rid of anyway.

I also hate getting my hair cut. It makes no sense to pay someone $30-50 to hack 6 inches off my hair when all I want is a trim, so I usually just get a friend to trim the ends 3 or 4 times a year. And I colour it myself. This time I paid for a “professional” cut and colour. Not really worth it. The dye still runs heavily after several showers (more so than the stuff I get at Walmart), and I actually wanted A Hair Cut, like cut lots off, give me a bit of style, whatever. I gave the girl carte blanche and all she did was trim and layer.

I’m going Thursday to have it cut again.

The one thing I have not done in preparation for this trip is complete my manuscript. This puts me at a disadvantage for the Pitch Slam, but I don’t really expect to land an agent on my first try. If I’m lucky, some of the agents I see on Saturday might ask me to send them some material. In that case I’ll have to buckle down and write and edit like crazy for a few weeks after the conference to make sure I send something worthwhile.

I have a full outline of my novel, a sketchy outline for a 5 book series, and rough first drafts of several chapters written. I had hoped to have more before now, but between kids, school, life, and lack of self-discipline, time kind of slipped away. I’m not concerned though. This weekend is going to be a great learning experience for me. I have chosen seminars on topics I feel I need work on, and on aspects of publishing I need to understand. Maybe I’ll make some friends among other aspiring novelists or some valuable contacts in the industry.

This is my first foray into the world of publishing and legit professional authorship. Even if I completely fail at pitching my book, the overall experience will be amazing.

Plus I get to explore NYC in my down time. Broadway? I think so.

Better Late Than Never (Part 2)

So, six months(ish) have past since I posted my New Year’s resolutions. Time to check in and see how i’ve done so far.

!. Write a novel

I have actually written some of a novel.  I have a complete outline and rough drafts of three chapters. I am attending the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City at the beginning of August. I am signed up for a pitch slam in the hopes of finding an agent.

But I haven’t written enough. I need to seriously crack down. Not much point in pitching a half-formed zero draft that might not ever be worth the paper it’s (not) written on.

2. Blog

Clearly I’m not doing so well on this one. I’ll try harder. Again.

3. Obtain my highest grades ever

I did pretty well in my 3 winter term classes. My grade average is 74% over all, and I got 84% in 1st year Linguistics and 80% in 1st year Intermediate French. But I only got 64% in 4th year Greek Comedy. In my defense, it has been many years since I last took a Greek course. I got 50% in 4th year Greek Oratory in the fall term. My greek is very rusty and it took longer than I thought to get back up to speed.

I am now taking 1st year Advanced French in spring term. I’ll let you know in a few weeks how I do.

4. Save, earn, obtain money

Fail. Maybe not entirely. I have managed to pay for my trip to New York. But I’m really just scraping by.

5. Build the life I actually want

Working on it. This is a long term project. Probably very very long.

So that’s my update. I’ll make more effort to fulfill my resolutions and better myself and my life.

How have you done on your New Year’s resolutions?

I Can Show You My Latest… Obession

*name the above quotation for bonus points

SKYLANDERS!!!!!

Hi, my name is Nifer and I am a Skylander-aholic.

I saw this interesting game in Walmart in the fall. It involved character figurines which somehow related to a video game playable on several console platforms.  Thinking my 4 year old might like it, I asked around, did some research, and wound up buying the newest iteration, Skylanders Swap Force, for him for Christmas.  The starter pack comes with the game disk, a portal of power, and 3 figures. I arranged for him to receive a few extra figures as well.

He loves it!

So do I. And so does my partner. And so does the baby. (She likes to throw and chew on the toys.)

(We also love the Wii U we bought to play Skylanders on.)

Let me tell you how it works.

When you place a figure on the portal of power, the character appears in the game as the hero under your control. Each character is unique and has its own powers. Each character is affiliated with one of 8 elements. In Skylanders Swap Force there are 16 swappable characters which, in addition to having an element, also have one of 8 special movement styles. These swappable figures come in two pieces, a top half and a bottom half, and can literally swap halves with one another for a total of 256 possible combinations.

The game is cute and cartoony, very straight-forward, but with plenty of challenges. It has several difficulty levels, lots of side quests and optional content, puzzles, collections, achievements, etc. In short it is suitable for all ages from kindergarten up.

But here’s the kicker –

While it is totally possible to beat the game with only the figures that come with the starter pack, or even with just one figure, there are many, many figures available. And some game content is locked unless you have a figure with the right element or movement.  Swap Force has 16 swappable figures, 16 new Skylanders, 16 Skylanders returning from previous games, and 8 lightcore Skylanders, which are light-up versions of already existing characters. Additionally, there are special variants. Some figures are released with different paint jobs than usual. For example – Legendaries – black and gold versions of existing Skylanders.

And then there are the other games in the series.

The original Skylanders game is called Spyro’s Adventure (yes, that’s Spyro the dragon). There are 32 Skylander figures for this game, plus variants. The second game is called Giants.  There are 8 giants, 8 new Skylanders, 24 returning Skylanders (with new poses and paint jobs), and 8 lightcores. Plus variants. All together there are now 80 basic figures, plus 26 re-released as series 2, plus 10 re-released as series 3, plus 16 lightcore, 14 legendary, 26 magic items, and 86 variants so far. That’s 258 collectable figures.

But it gets better.

Some figures are store exclusive – like the legendary Skylanders only available at Toys R Us.  Some are given away in special promotions – like the Frito-Lay sidekick figures.  Some are given only to employees of Activision or are exclusively available at trade shows like E3. Some are called “chase variants” and are randomly included in random shipments to random stores worldwide.

So, yeah, obsession.

I currently own a half a zillion Skylanders. I buy them constantly. I have bought them from ebay and Amazon, sometimes paying a bit more than retail for out-of-circulation figures. But I have also bought extras of exclusive or hard-to-find figures at retail or below to resell on ebay at a profit.

Eventually I MUST own them all.  Even if it means coughing up $200+ for “Snowderdash”, the 2013 employee exclusive only available on ebay from people who value cash above their own exclusivity.

Its worse than Pokemon when the urge to “catch’em all” includes packing your unwilling children into the car to drive many hours to Cleveland or Detroit to hit the Pokemon mall tour for exclusive downloads of otherwise impossible-to-get legendaries like Mew.

Yeah, that was me too.

 

Mea Culpa…. My Apologies…

So apparently I`m not so good at this blogging thing.

In my own defense it has been a hell of a month. The family has all been sick, we have had three funerals to attend, and the extreme weather has induced an equally extreme hibernation mode.

My uncle passed away suddenly on Jan 7th in Florida. He had been quite ill for some time, but had been responding well to treatment. He was feeling much better and stronger so his death came as something of a shock. I spend the next week trying to help my mother, who in turn was trying to help her grieving sister. The process of transporting someone who has died in the States back into Canada is complicated, difficult, and takes in inordinate amount of time. The memorial service took place on the 17th.

Next day my partner and I both woke up with the beginning of what was to be a three week ordeal of coughing, sneezing, runny noses, sore throats, aches, pains, and fatigue. By Feb 4th the baby was sick too. And that was a whole `nother story.

Tuesday she was out of sorts and I was feeling nauseous so I didn`t go to school. Wednesday Oren woke up with a low grade fever. All day her temperature stayed around 99 – 100 degrees F, even with Tylenol. Late afternoon she had a bath, refused dinner, and began to heat up. Over the next few hours her temp climbed higher each time the Tylenol started to wear off. She would not sleep unless she was lying upright on my chest, and even so for only 10 – 15 minutes at a time. She was miserable and wanted to be held continuously. By midnight her temp was 102.7 with Tylenol having almost no effect. I decided to take her to hospital.

In Triage her temp was 38 degrees C. Incredibly the emergency room was not busy and we were quickly seen by a doctor. He glanced in her ears, listened to her chest and decided she had a virus. He ordered a dose of Advil for her. I was told to wait a while to make sure the Advil brought her temp down before leaving. Half an hour later a nurse took Oren`s temp. 40 degrees C! Her temp had gone up to 104 F! The nurse seemed quite concerned, rightly since some children can have fever seizures beginning at 104 degrees. She left and came back a few minutes later with a dose of Tylenol. Then she had me undress Oren and feed her a popsicle. An hour later Oren`s temp was 38.5 C. We were sent home.

I was not impressed, so in the morning I took Oren to see our doctor. He looked in her ears, listened to her chest and said she probably had a virus, but the temp was worrisome. Only taking both Tylenol and Advil continuously was keeping the fever within reason. The doctor sent us to a pediatrician for another opinion. The ped looked in her ears and said she could not see properly due to ear wax. So she cleaned Oren`s ears and looked again. Her ears were red. The ped pinned Oren down and made her yell so she could look at her throat. Her throat was also red. We were sent for blood work, given a prescription for antibiotics, and told to come back in 7-10 days. The follow-up appointment confirmed the infection. Not at all impressed with the hospital.

So Oren slowly got better, began eating and sleeping again, nursing less, and being less demanding. By Valentines Day she was almost normal. The next day was rough.

At 10:30am my daughter texted me to say that her roommate`s brother had died in the night. My daughter lives with friends of my partner and myself so this news was hard for all of us. It was not completely unexpected because the young man had had serious health issues for his entire life, but there had not been any particular reason to believe that his death was immanent. A difficult day.

Then at 10:30pm my daughter texted me to say that her uncle had died. My ex-brother-in-law had been declining since Christmas so his death was not quite as shocking, but it was rather overwhelming to have two people die on the same day, particularly for my daughter.

So we attended one funeral yesterday. The second is tomorrow. That makes three in about a month.

So it has been a hell of a month, not even counting the weather. And the weather has been worse. The extreme cold and snow conditions have left me drained of energy and ambition. Winter makes me lazy at the best of times, but this winter has been the third coldest in the last fifty years.

But – this week has been reading week for me. I have had a chance to catch up on missed school work, to rest, to catch up on house work, and to find myself something new and interesting to focus on. The weather has improved, with temps actually above zero and rain in place of snow. Hopefully life picks up a bit moving into spring.

And I shall try harder to write more often.

Technology… Gotta Love It

Apparently technology is not my friend this week.

As I mentioned last post, my WordPress-powered site punkeroo.ca committed suicide last weekend when I tried to update the WordPress software. The front page is still accessible. I can probably still post blog entries. But the links are broken and I just can’t figure out how to modify the theme. So in the interest of time I started this site, so I can blog while trying to learn how to build a site which does exactly what I want it to do. This will take time. Maybe forever. But I maintain hope that one day punkeroo.ca will again be a habitable space with all the comforts of home.

Fortunately, in preparation for updating, my site and database were backed up to my 1tb external drive. I’m lax when it comes to backing up files. I know I should do it regularly. I know drives crater and chips fry. I know I could lose all my precious data, pictures of the kids, half written stories, and old school work. But it just never crosses my mind. So my external drive, which I have had for a couple years doesn’t have a lot on it. I backed up my laptop a few months ago to reset Windows to factory spec. Some older files from my last laptop were stored there. And of course my punkeroo data. It worked fine.

Then two days ago I decided to install Adobe CS5 on my laptop. I had it archived on the external. I plugged it in. Waited. Nothing. Tried various things. Still nothing. I gave the drive to a friend who knows about this kind of techy stuff. He pronounced it dead. I gave it to my partner for a second opinion. He put it in the freezer. Very little possibility of retrieving any data, but I guess the freezer trick is worth a try. Meanwhile, I picked up a cute little 1tb usb drive at Futureshop. I think I better start backing everything up regularly. And learn how to use the cloud. And maybe Dropbox. And whatever else there is.

Last night, while staring at my greek homework, I began to wonder why my phone would not display the greek text properly. I mean, if I could access Perseus Project from my phone then I could work on my greek anywhere, anytime. Like at the laundromat. Or in the car (as a passenger obviously). I mentioned it to my partner, and he suggested checking the tablet. It too produced a wonky display of the greek text in the browser. We looked for settings, checked his phone, and searched the net. In examining the weird display I realized that some characters, specifically letters with accents or other diacritical marks, were simply absent. I sent an email to the Perseus Project webmaster asking for ideas.

This morning I had a reply. Apparently there is some problem with Android devices and polytonic greek fonts.  We spent the next couple of hours searching the net for explanations of this issue and possible fixes. Turns out Google simply can’t be bothered to expand its unicode support in the Android operating system. Academics, religious scholars, linguists, teachers, students etc. have been complaining to Google about this issue for years. We found multitudes of forums discussing the limitations of Android, work-arounds, rooting, apps, fonts, the benefits of Apple products (which fully support the extended unicode charcters for greek, hebrew, and other problematic languages), etc. Every suggested fix we found either involved rooting the device, which I will not do to my brand-new-still-under-warranty phone, or doesn’t work on any OS newer than 2.2.

Finally, just when I though all was lost, and I would have to actually purchase an IPod or IPad, we found a few posts suggesting that Android OS 4.3 may provide some support for an extended character base. Further research revealed that the 4.3 upgrade paired with Firefox for Android seemed to be working for some people. My Samsung Galaxy S4 has recently upgraded to 4.3, so I gave it a shot. Lo and behold the Perseus Project website displays perfectly! Now I can read Aristophanes’ Lysistrata anytime, anywhere. Or I could if it weren’t so bloody tiny. My Asus EEpad Transformer, however, is running Android 4.1 and is not upgradable. It’s also two years old and out of warranty, so I think I’ll be learning how to root a tablet.

Of course, with my recent run of luck, I’ll probably brick it.

 

kids, writing, life, random stuff

terribleminds: chuck wendig

kids, writing, life, random stuff

punkeroo2

kids, writing, life, random stuff

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