Wednesday 27 February 2013

Some people may never know how they encourage me.

Tonight I bumped into someone I know through the church, while she was at work in Tesco. She talked to me as if I were a normal human being, as if I weren't guilty of abandoning children to hungry wolves, and as if she was just trying to cope with some of the additional hassles changes at the church have brought with good grace. I've not talked to her since Christmas, but she was just happy to chat for a few minutes, looking me in the eyes and being open and honest about stuff.

She'll probably never know how much being treated like that was encouraging and affirming.

Monday 25 February 2013

Sometimes you can run, skip & jump

for happiness through life. And other times you just have to drag your carcass through it, but it's better to be dragging it forwards than being dragged backward.

Please feel free to enjoy my little observation.

Monday 18 February 2013

And.... he's finally home.

Seems to manage the stairs OK, and has no obvious difficulty using his computer. Showering may be a little trickier.

Sunday 17 February 2013

Ben should be home tomorrow.

Or at least, that's what we're expecting anyway.

He's been recovering really well. This time 2 weeks ago he was still laying in bed, barely able to move at all, while the wounds on his leg wept so much fluid that it made both his sheet and pillow wet. His face was yellow from blood loss and the assault his body had taken, both from the accident and the operation (one more still to go to repair some of the gaping holes in his leg) and he had to ask for help just to shift the damaged leg around by a few degrees or back & forth.

One week ago he'd just started physio, but had almost passed out with the effort of taking just a couple of steps. His leg was being gently moved by a machine that flexed the knee very slowly up to about 50 degrees (any more was very painful). Although he was off the IV morphine line, he was still receiving morphine by mouth.

This morning, as well as managing exercises like pull ups and tricep dips in bed, Ben managed to take himself downstairs on crutches, did a circuit of the carpark and then 4 flights of stairs. He is pretty much his normal self again in terms of attitude and humour, which has taken a while to come back. He won't be in his own bed for a while, but he will be at his own computer.

We're quite looking forward to not doing the 2 1/2-3 hour round trip every day too.

And we are really thankful for such rapid progress. To those who've prayed, we really appreciate what you've been doing, and are grateful to see the grace of God at work in Ben's body. We really appreciate too the excellent medical and nursing care he has received at Oxford's JR hospital.

Sunday 10 February 2013

A review, kinda, for a phone, sorta.

Talking with someone the other day (Anjella - this is you :-) made me realise that a) other people do still read this blog and b) that I'd made a fuss about getting a phone replacement and then 'walked off' from the conversation. I'm a starter, rather than finisher, but sometimes it's good to put things to bed.

The Motorola Razr i 

Size comparison with an iPhone 4S

First off, let me say that this is my first ever mobile computing device.

"But wait" you cry (well, you could cry it, just to help me) "didn't you have an HTC desire smartphone?"

And you'd be right, but the desire is a 3 year old design running Android 2.2 with the HTC sense overlay, and a very different beast. By comparison it was slow and glitchy, and the sense overlay made everything relatively easy to use as well as providing a bunch of built in tools and players (most of which worked, ho hum). This device is running Android 4.04 ICS (4.1 update is rolled out already, phones being updated according to when registered) in a state close to the naked android experience, and was very different indeed. Several times it's caught me out when trying to do tasks that were either obvious or automated on the Desire.

That's not to say it's bad, but it IS enormously more complicated than the desire ever was, requiring customisation and apps added to do all the things that the Desire would do. Thus I've had to download a 'torch' app to use the built in LED for a light source, a voice recorder app for recording myself when I speak, a media player for music and video. There were apps for these last functions, but they seemed to want to connect with the google play store in order to sell me content, and I'm not interested in that, so downloaded Doubletwist instead.

What else?

Well, many of the visual cues for functions are different, either in physical placement, name or colour, from what I've had before, and that has required more learning. Thus the backup software I used to transfer SMS data to the new phone couldn't find the backup file because it wasn't in the default place. There was an option to browse for the file, but because I didn't recognise it it  took a few goes before I twigged what to do.

But there are some great features Motorola have added, like Smart Actions. These allow you to alter certain settings for the phone according to various conditions. Thus I might have a location-based smart action that turns off wireless when I'm in the office because there are no open wireless networks, or (as the device itself suggested) one for night time that dims the screen, turns off sound and data syncronisation to save battery power and not disturb the user. I've set up 2 for power, one at 25% battery and one at 10% battery to reduce power consumption and stretch battery life even longer.

My impression of the operating system is that this is very much like PCs were between 8 and 12 years ago, with each new iteration of windows bringing greater complexity, more tools and flexibility and also the odd hiccup. I'd say smartphones were very much a place for the computer hobbyist right now.

Since we were talking about battery life, I have slightly mixed feelings. As a phone, on standby, this device is really good. over 12 hours from a fresh charge it dropped to 96% capacity, i.e. a 4% usage. That gives me a week on standby if I turn off all the stuff except phone. However intensive screen use depletes things much more quickly, and a couple of hours solid use could well use 50% on auto-brightness. The battery isn't fully conditioned yet, but even with considerable 'playing' I've been getting >2 days use from a charge.

The screen itself is excellent in terms of sharpness, and colours are very rich and vivid. However it could be a little brighter for daylight use. Generally the interface is extremely quick and fluid, scrolling through streams of text messages or contact lists being rapid and painless, however a couple of times it's obviously been 'busy' and screen actions have jumped instead of scrolling smoothly. I've watched an avi movie clip: image quality and playback really was extremely good, and the image was so crisp that I'd probably prefer this screen to those used in aeroplanes for longer journeys. Last night audio playback was fine through the built in speaker, but tonight I can't get any audio out and have no idea why!

Data connectivity is really very good. In London with HSPA working, web pages appeared to load just as quickly as over my broadband connection, and even on 3G it seemed very usable. Generally all forms of wireless connection worked well, and the phone seems to have better reception that the desire as well. Maybe it's this excellent connectivity that makes me view the Razr i as a mobile computing device, rather than a phone with clever bits, but for the first time, this is something that can be used without stress for emails, facebook etc. The 4.3" screen does no harm either, being so clear & crisp.

One further aspect  so often apparently overlooked by smartphone makers, but very pleasing with this model, is the small physical size. This is just a few mm longer than my old Desire, yet actually thinner and lighter - compare the iPhone 4S with the Razr i in that pic above. It sits in the pocket easily, but has a larger, crisper screen and (probably) better battery life. For sheer power and functionality I'd have loved a Nexus 4 or HTC One X, but this is so much more convenient.

So overall I'd say it's a hit. Not perfect, but certainly very good. I'm currently using a Giff Gaff £10/month SIM package, and it seems quite adequate, while being (eventually) considerably less expensive than the previous contract. Hopefully things will keep going well.

Images borrowed from (top) and (bottom)

The google play apps are perfectly adequate for playing back your own files, but are set to default to the play store. There are tabs at the top just below the menu bar for switching content source, but I'd not expected them to be there, so didn't see them. Several times I've looked in 'settings' to make changes, only to find the controls in another menu or tab. This may be a reflection of my eyes being poor these days, and I have to concentrate so much harder to see tiny menu items. I'd say that, with ICS at least, Android has become too much like a desk top computer to a good as a phone OS, although that might be much less of an issue if using a tablet.

Saturday 9 February 2013

An update on Ben's progress

After a week, boy-wonder seems to be doing well, despite trying to fly like Batman.

The pipes, wires and various feeds have been gradually detached, and are just down to one canula now, plus the pipe for taking wee away. On Thursday he was required to sit up, and was pleasantly surprised to find that his hips did still bend sufficiently to let him do so.

Friday (yesterday) they removed the dressings from his left leg, and if you're so inclined to see it, the pic is on his facebook page (Ben's icky leg). The entry points for the rods holding his ankle in place have remaining un-infected and the skin grafts appear to be taking. He said it was weird seeing the doctors touching them without feeling it, and I'm not sure he'll ever get feeling back in those areas.

The other bit of progress was that he started physiotherapy yesterday. He's been quite fit, doing gym sessions, climbing, mixed marshal arts & similar, so it was a bit of a shock for him to find himself shaking with effort, just trying to take a couple of steps before feeling faint and having to sit quickly before he collapsed. The whole thing was also enormously painful, despite having oral morphine beforehand.

These injuries have been an enormous assault to his body, and it's not surprising that he hasn't bounced out of bed. So I'm grateful for the progress that HAS been made, and the way he's well enough to get bored now, and to be restless with discomfort instead of only being able to lay still. There's months of work still to do, but it's heading in the right direction.

Friday 8 February 2013

And it looks like

The stuff I made last week, at such great effort and costing a huge amount of money. Is junk.

Not ideal.

Sunday 3 February 2013

This has been the craziest week in a long time.

But I'm not grumbling, so much as grateful to have come through it relatively unscathed and with family intact.

We started innocently enough with a migraine/ickiness Monday, with work delayed being completed Tuesday. I knew that there was a big production job coming up at the end of the week, and so had to gear up for it. I ended up with a 2 hour hole in the end of the Tuesday because 'Ted' who I'd got to know recently, 'down on his luck', needed transport to go to the nearest branch of his building society for money.

Tuesday night I'd just got home when it transpired that Ted had been ejected from the house where he was living, and needed help. We desperately tried to find emergency accommodation, only to fail, & eventually decide to put him up in a motel for the night. It was when we collected him that we had some suspicions confirmed that things weren't quite as they'd been portrayed, and it became a little ugly, though not fisticuffs at least.

Cut a long story short, after a couple of nights being put up in different places, no help was forthcoming from local authorities because it couldn't be demonstrated that he was truly homeless. On top of that, a local Christian organisation recognised there were probably deeper issues, and offered help that was rejected. As the main contact I then had to inform Ted that we were no longer able to support him and he was 'on his own'. This went against some of my deepest beliefs, yet at the same time we were not equipped to deal with his issues and his presence would likely have torn our home apart.

Once the call was made I felt the first peace that I'd had for days. Even though the subsequent calls & texts tried to play on various emotions, the worst had passed.

Against this background I worked until 12.35am Wednesday and Thursday, and was pretty much expecting to do the same Friday. During Friday late afternoon my phone kept getting calls from an unknown number that I assumed was Ted trying to negotiate further, no voicemail being left. Finally around 4.50pm a message WAS left, telling me that Ben had been in a motorcycle accident, was not in a life-threatening condition, and was being taken to the John Radcliff hospital.

Turned out he'd lost the bike on a bend on the way home, and with a great sense of timing, had managed to slide both machine and his left leg under a van coming in the opposite direction. His left femur was broken mid-way, both tibia and fibula broken just above the ankle and right wrist also had a minor fracture. There were deep lacerations to his leg and heavy internal bleeding in his thigh. However apart from some minor scuffs and a badly bruised bottom there was no other serious damage, for which were were enormously grateful.

He was however in serious pain (9 out of 10, with 10 being the worst pain he'd ever known, even on repeated morphine shots) and was pale from blood loss, and around 10pm they took him away for around 3 hours of surgery, pinning the femur, sorting out the ankle and cleaning & closing some of the leg wounds.

We went home, made Chris a sandwich so she could go back again. I ate & then returned to work. Chris stayed until he was out of theatre, getting home around 4ish. Fuelled by Chris's fruitcake I then worked until 6.20am, having finished the production process and cleaned & washed up the equipment. After 40min sleep we were back out collecting Ben's past and probably future girlfriend to go back.

Ben was looking better & in less pain. We stayed for a couple of hours, took Laura home, slept a couple, then returned with her again (and were really grateful to Sue & Ian coming to see us there & show us their love). Eventually we had to leave to pick up a friend from Canada returning after visiting her family for a funeral. It was really great to see Janet again, and despite the crazy, crazy stress of everything, having her there was like a little piece of normality and relief in the middle of all the fuss. Some good friends from the church had blessed us with a meal too, and we really appreciated not having to cook after all that. Hit the sack at 9.30pm.

And so today.

We took Janet to the bus station for 9am & saw her on the bus, dropped off the laptop at the chapel with the song list and words ready to go, went to the lab & worked 4 hours, then headed home & ate before popping into Bicester to collect my mum so she could see Ben (if we'd stopped, we'd have been lost at this point). Spent a couple of hours there, then back to Bicester, then back to the lab for a final clear up & floor wash (sucrose solution is VERY sticky when partially dry) finally home for dinner and down time. Today Ben was much better, but two of the wounds from surgery on his thigh were weeping profusely enough to have made the bed sheet & pillow damp after a couple of hours.

Chris is now in bed, and I'm going to follow.

Tomorrow (Monday) he should be having skin & tissue grafts to his leg. This will enable the other wounds to be closed and reduce risks of infection, plus hopefully also reduce scarring and deeper damage.

It's interesting to consider some conversations I've had recently, about Ben on a motorcycle. I've been able to say that I trust that God IS in charge, that He does protect us, and that whether Ben was on a bike, in a car or even safely tucked up in his bedroom, if God has decided it's time for him to die then he will die. It's not a blind fatalism - a life tossed on the whim of a capricious god - but a recognition that no man can add a day to his life by worrying about it.  But having said that, I would not mind if the boy didn't ride a bike again.

And tomorrow is another day, this time with more wee.