24 October 2020

Trying to work the entire computer by voice

When my arms started to hurt worryingly much, I stopped typing text and started to dictate it to Word. But then I realised that I didn't have to stop there! Why not use your voice to do everything else as well? I know the technology exists! So I Googled “speech recognition” and saw where it took me. I quickly found how to switch it on in Windows. However, I needed authorization for that, and that was what got me my new computer. For some reason, I didn’t need authorization in the new one! So I was able to switch that on, and then it was only a question of starting to learn how to use it. I trained my computer on my voice for a bit and set to work! 

Some of the functionality I find very easy to use: opening applications or switching between them, for instance. I have now also mastered the “show numbers” command , which shows you all the various buttons you could press. I still sometimes get things wrong; I sometimes accidentally delete text I have just dictated, and if I try to close a tab I tend to accidentally close the entire programme. I also quickly learned that I should not listen to the radio on my headset, and then if I walk away take the headset off and leave the radio on. The radio will keep talking into the microphone, without my head to block the sound, and it will make the computer do the weirdest things. 

But one learns! I'm sure I'll get better at this. And it really really helps in taking the strain away from your arms. I'm sure my voice can cope with hours more exercise per day than in recent times! 

See me do a screenshot hands-free!

23 October 2020

New computer

On Monday, I wanted to make a change to my computer. However, given that this is a University computer, I did not have authorization to make the change. I still wanted to change, so I emailed the IT helpdesk to ask if I could get the authorization. I didn't expect the response that came. They said that, actually, my computer is so old, that I could get another one; I could make the change on that one. And well, I accepted! As you do. And they weren’t hanging about, and by Wednesday I actually had the computer. It was a nice light small model. It didn’t quite immediately start working; it needed some sort of code to activate but IT was quick to send that to me. The other thing about it is that my old computer used VGA to connect the monitors to it. This computer does not have VGA ports.  IT had given me one HDMI cable to connect a monitor, but I have two! Until I get me a VGA adapter plug I can now only use one of my monitors, but that will soon be sorted. And when I have all the cables, I should do a serious round of tidying up because at the moment it looks like the flying spaghetti monster has crash--landed on my desk. I have a webcam and speakers and a headset and an external hard drive and a tablet. My mouse and keyboard are not even on the cable; they are wireless, but still the amount of cables is outrageous. I have my cable ties ready! 

And the change I wanted to make? Well yes that worked! But that will be a new blog post altogether.  Stay tuned.

The cable mess; I will add a glamour shot after I’ve sorted out the second screen and tidied the cables! 



22 October 2020

Last rendez-vous for a while?

There had been a lot of rumours around that Wales would face another lockdown soon. I found that rather likely. So I suggested to Suzie that we get together one more time before that happens. And we did! This time she came to my place with her small son. We just had a civilised cup of tea in the garden. I had made yet another apple pie for the occasion. I think it will be the last one; The apple tree is almost empty. But it's already mid to late October so I can't complain. 

The last time I had been in her garden I had worn a tank top, shorts and sandals. This time the down jackets came out! But it was lovely anyway. It was really nice to team up again, in person. I don't know when the next time will be!

The day after our session in the garden, the lockdown was indeed announced, and it would come into force that Friday. So I am glad we took this opportunity! By the time we come out of lockdown again, it will be well into November, and meeting outside will be increasingly unlikely. But well, there is still video calling! 

21 October 2020

Apple tree alone

My apple tree had been standing in a corner of the garden among lots of weeds and wild growth. When I had initially started removing all this wilderness, I had revealed it was actually in a raised bed. I had sowed grass in the space between the raised beds, and everything had become a lot more tidy. I didn't initially find the time to empty out the apple tree bed, but it's been weeks, and now I have! There's nothing in it now except for the apple tree itself. That's quite sparse. But that's okay.

I intend to have some low vegetation around the tree. It might have to wait a while though. What I have done for now is just put down slate directly underneath the tree, because I don't want to have to go weeding underneath it, given that the tree is only inches from the ground. Around the tree I do want to have plants, but I also put some big slate slabs down, so I will have a bit of a path on which I can walk around the tree.

The whole corner of the garden is very civilised now. The grass is already coming up. I'm sure that next summer it will all look great! I don't think next year will be a good apple year but so be it. I can't have it all. 

20 October 2020

Keep tweaking the lighting

Not too long ago, I had put up my beer lamp in the lounge. It didn't stay there for very long, though. It was hanging right above my sofa where I do most of my (winter) reading, And the light was a bit too weak for that. So I quickly swapped it with the lamp on the other side of the room, which is a bit brighter. That helps! But then I had started and I didn't stop there.

There were still two lighting issues to be solved: one was my office, where the main light is from a ceiling lamp in the middle of the room. When I'm at my computer, that lamp is behind me. I spend quite a lot of time on camera, and then being backlit is not such a good idea. So what I needed was light coming from the other direction. I had improvised something with the standing lamp, but that came from a bit of a weird angle and I wasn't quite satisfied with it. So I decided to put my other beer lamp into use as well! I took down the stable lamp in the kitchen, put my other beer lamp in its place, and put this table lamp up in the corner of my office where my desk is. That did the job! So now my office is more snug than it used to be. And I like snug stuff.

There was one more corner of my house that really needed some different lighting. I have a storage space in the basement and it doesn't have any windows. Evidently, this is quite dark. That space too only had a ceiling lamp in the middle, which failed to light up the corners. And I had run out of lamps, but I decided to just improvise something; This was rather utilitarian space and didn't need to be particularly snug. So I just fixed a hook into the wall, attached a light fitting I had lying around to it, and Bob was my uncle! It doesn't look very good, but it does the job; I can now see my cupboard with things such as DIY materials.

I'm sure I will be doing some tweaking of light in the future; that is one of the things I find important. But for now I am very happy with my improvements. Bring on the dark season!

New lamp



19 October 2020

Beautiful autumn

Late September coma the trees were still entirely green. That has changed now! I really enjoy the beautiful autumn colours of my garden. And, of course, the beautiful autumn colours elsewhere. I like autumn! And  I thought I just show some pictures here to make other people enjoy along.  


Early afternoon light

Morning light (a few days later)


Beautiful sunset

What tree is this, anyway? 


18 October 2020

If not academia then what?

I explained that in earlier post that my job is on the line. So if I lose it, what's next? The situation has not been resolved yet, but it's important, of course, that I have thought about alternatives. And I have!

My first thought is: I am a bit of a language pedant. When I was in secondary school, I always had to work for the sciences, while the languages happened naturally to me (as long as they were Dutch, English or Latin; that is; my skills in French, German and Greek were less stellar, but I didn’t do these for A levels). So maybe I should do something with that talent, plus my experience in science. What I was thinking about this becoming a proofreader, or maybe even a copyeditor, of specifically scientific texts. And I know it's quite a step to go from having no education in that direction, and having no experience either, to somehow get to the point where I could make a living out of it. But I think people do that sort of thing all the time; they lose their job, they decide to take a different direction, just work hard at it, and succeed. And I think I can do it! If someone writes about geosciences or climate science or that sort of things, I know what they're talking about. That helps! And the pandemic doesn’t stop written text from being produced. And a lot of it needs proofreading. I have no idea what my chances would be to get into scientific proofreading early on, but it's good to have a goal. I might have to start on user manuals or something, but I hope to build up a portfolio and widen my opportunities. And I suppose scientific publications are mainly in the hands of few large publishers like Elsevier and John Wiley & Sons, and these are not situated in North Wales, but  I imagine that in this day and age you could agree with an employer to work from a distance. But this is getting ahead of things a bit. Let's start small!

One of the things that I have learned in my time in academia will come in handy mightily here: learning new skills really fast! And yes I know this blog is full of typos but this is a leisure project. I'm convinced that I could brush up my language skills to such a degree that I could do this professionally within too long. And I would have some time before the redundancy money runs out. And start-up costs are not very high. You need the skills, a computer and an office. That’s pretty much it!

Before I manage to earn a living proofreading, I also should be able to get some a sort of short jobs to keep me paying the bills in the meantime. I've seen other people do that; a friend of mine works for track and trace now, after she quit her job. I have had a look at local job sites, and there are jobs advertised in things such as hospitality (!) and delivery driving. I am not above any of that. And I also saw that there is a job site that lets you search jobs you could do remotely. That widens the field! I already saw that there is quite some demand for tutors. This is not surprising given the effect the pandemic has had on education. I already got me an A level maths book to brush up my skills (I did my A levels some 27 years ago!), so I could do maths tutoring if necessary. Again, ways of earning money with as good as no start-up costs! So there are possibilities, and if it's possible then why couldn't I do it?

Another thing I thought about, as a plan B, was that there is a strong shortage of secondary school teachers in sciences in Britain. That shortage is so big that if you have a degree in a science, you can basically retrain as a secondary school teacher, and be paid for it while you are still in training. I know that it's another very stressful job, and that a lot of teachers quit within five years, but then again; if that would keep me ticking over for a few years, then that would buy me time to consider even more options. And I suppose me speaking Welsh would help here. That is something I did get out of this University! I learned the language. But would I find a school to do the training in within commuting distance? But this is only plan B so I don't have to worry too much about this for now.

Altogether I have enough to do for now! I have to explore my options in the proofreading world, and I have my A levels maths to revise. In addition to my already much more than full time job. I won't have to be bored! Not that that was one of my concerns anyway, ever. But onwards! Watch this space for updates on the University situation. These are interesting times…