Serval

It’s been a while

I don’t know if anyone reads this blog you know. I make such a halfhearted effort to post – yet I am prolific on Google Plus, which becomes prolific on Tumblr and Twitter by default, as one feed morphs into many. If Google releases an API that allowed me, as once I was able to do, to post directly here and thence outwardly I would be so much happier. But here it is.

And perhaps I do so much writing at work, that at the end of any day I may have posted some comments on links found on G+, written in my Journal (DayOne has proven to be a godsend cross platform app), and spoken to so many people that my meandering has no need for a further outlet – indeed, I am unable to consider it. And yet I have many thoughts and ideas that are deeper than the brief comment, the 144 character remark, the noting briefly of the day’s events. This is what the blog exists for.

I guess I am always tired, too – the spirit is willing but the flesh is struggling day to day. And there has been much to process emotionally lately. So I have decided that it may be about time, (yes, the title of the blog is actually a pun that is also deliberately targeting these things), time to address such big things.

Where to start? Perhaps the King of Hearts has a point about starting at the beginning, and going on until you mean to stop, and then stopping. But beginnings are not always clear cut. For this concerns my disability, and happy anniversary indeed to you, car accident, 8 years ago. 8 years ago March 11 my spine started to morph into Evil Back, my bitterest of enemies and strongest of teachers. But I do not need to start quite that far back.

So, my birthday. 46 and aging rapidly – for being female and wishing to still feel young in body as in mind, 46 is an odd transition. I have these beautiful young women, my daughters, to reflect how hopeless that aspiration is. And I resent that not. I do resent the mirror, however. And the weight that wants to lurk in formerly untroubled places – oh belly! Oh hips! How ample thou art! And exercise, of course, basically impossible, beyond merely keeping what works working. So diet it is, but diets for someone who has struggled with eating disorders in the past is a bit fraught. And medication plays a trump wildcard on there. Oh blast and bother, can the scales not sympathetically just LIE occasionally? No??

That’s two pieces. Disability behind both of them to more or lesser extents, merely being flavoring in the background, or adding a more solid foundation for the feelings of sadness and inadequacy. Though I think those labels are a tad simplistic, and it is more complex than that. I like being more mature as a person, and love where my life is at creatively and professionally, as a mother and as a friend and partner. Disability is so intrinsic to who I am now that is it is there in everything, no matter how hard one tries to avoid it. Yes, I am more than my disability, yet I am unmistakably disabled, shaped and strengthened and limited by it. Sometimes I find myself dreaming of past events, or even remembering the past – and in my dreams I am still disabled, in my memories I find myself slightly shocked that once I walked and ran and rode and was without this pain, this constant insistent companion.

So other things, other things I have inferred. Well, meet my new companion, the as yet unnamed vehicle: 20130310-170817.jpg – an electric wheelchair. It tilts, allowing me to adjust my position during the day to an almost full recline, so I can hopefully do more. I can catch buses again, and hurtle round, and generally do things more independently than even the scooter allowed for. All with less of an impact or issue, as it fits in more places, and has a tighter turning circle. It has memory foam cushioning, which is incredibly useful when one sits so much. It has changed and liberated my life.

So why do I feel so oddly guilty for using it? Like I am not quite disabled enough? A normal wheelchair is damned hard work, and I work on the side of a hill, and pushing it aggravates Evil Back something fierce, as he is a spiteful sod. Sure, I am sitting in bed for the second day after pushing myself too hard, now even getting to the toilet is a long and painful process while Evil Back decides to be ascendant until rested into a more placated mood. But I CAN walk after all.

Ok, it’s jolly painful on even a good day, and as the day wears on, the letterbox is a world away and too far to manage even with the walking stick and all the time in that unlikely world. I mean, in that world I can lie down for a day after even the mildest walk to this letterbox – or on the very very best times, to the corner and back, but always with the stick, and a long long time to slowly accomplish it. But that’s not much to live a life with, a small world boundary, you see, and the chair is designed to prevent Evil Back from getting so cranky, malign, and vengeful. It’s allowing me to do so much with fewer consequences.

And yet I have had odd looks and snarky comments from people about it, I find myself having to defend this liberation machine, as if one must pass some sort of strict approval process to be worthy of being deemed disabled enough. Oh well. I must learn to move on from that.

And there’s the last bit to process. It’s MRI time again. Claustrophobics like me will all be shuddering at the idea. And why is it time, well, evaluation and keeping an eye on what the cranky old EB is up to is useful obviously. But also because there is fear my spine is collapsing more on its damaged side. That one day I will move and then not be able to move again, that what mobility I have will be gone. Sometimes I think that is a consummation greatly to be desired, as that could mean no pain. And yet even more issues arise with paraplegia. The body, as I have found, dislikes inactivity, and is designed to move by evolution, and sitting constantly has some very nasty issues that I do faithful physio exercises to try and relieve.

But no pain. Is that a price I am willing to pay? My family would be overjoyed to see me out of pain, and losing the medications would be an additional celebration here. But then, how badly damaged would I be, how much care needed, how restricted would I be, how much more of my precious hard fought for independence would i lose?

So life gets big. I guess it always does. But to lose more of myself, to diminish further would be to lose independence, I have realised, not movement. It is th e unknown that weighs on me, the fear of becoming a burden to those I love, of being even less than I am now. That becalmed increasingly intolerable as a thought, so I try to just revel on what freedoms, what movement, what mobility I have, with or without devices. Of course, I must find a suitable name for my chariot of freedom, to truly celebrate what it gives me first.

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A tool for all Android UI Developers

A blog post at The Serval Project

العربية: Android logo

on what one of our incredibly talented engineers has come up with to help me in my major reworking of the Serval UI for our upcoming major release.

Android UI Tool

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What is happening for me atm?

As of yesterday:

1) doing PhD over next few years
2) frantically coding for May release for the Serval Project
3) now working for the next two years at Flinders University as an academic – a lecturer in two Comp Sci/Eng topics
4) after two years, if all going well with PhD, get employed by uni as perm staff
5) continue with the growing excitement of Serval
6) one last trip to IEEE as handover- but continuing research on IEEE network issues
7) we have a sleepover party* for ms 10 tonight, so caused epic spring clean, very little of which i can do with disability

 

*5 ten years olds – meep!

Stand back – Serval does science!

Besides being my amazing co-founder and brains trust inspiration at The Serval Project,

An illustration of a character from a story; a...

Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen does a regular science spot on local radio. This episode involved an experiment that he roped my bloke, aka our Hardware and Systems guru, Lyn Stephens, into assisting with. Here is the video – you get to hear Dr Paul, and see my bloke in his breakout role as mad scientist assistance Igor clone:)

Sonya’s imploding 44-gallon drum – ABC Adelaide – Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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Google – can it compete with Facebook? Or anyone besides search engines?

Google

Image via Wikipedia

Farhad Manjoo has this article running atm : Google+ had a chance to compete with Facebook. Not anymore. – Slate Magazine.

It got me thinking. Look, i love Google+. It is the same rush of intense gratitude for a service I had when first using Facebook, before it becoame so big and monstrous (all things to all people works for some, not me, and that’s ok). Google+ combines that with the integration of its other services. Wonderful. And blessed shock, for once, the interface is good. Not great, but good. Damning with faint praise.

I have written often on how, from a developer pov (and a user who wants so much to embrace their products), their UI is woeful, and they could benefit hugely from feedback from both developers and users there. I have an iPhone4. My husband has the Samsung Galaxy 2. I look at it, and admire it, but I wouldn’t swap for the world, and he is NOT enjoying Android – but I can see how much the iOS would suit him. I have tried living in Android world, I have had Android handsets, and always gone back to iOS. And I WANT to live in a Googleverse. But Apple UI beats them hands down – and I know of others working in Android who regretfully feel the same way. (Often they are people who care about UI and the user experience too).

But being a developer in Android, I know how hard it is to get Google to take feedback. By hard, I mean damn impossible. They are like a black box – feedback goes in, their own ideas come out. And we at the Serval Project want to work with them – they have teams working on similar ideas to us in mesh networking.It has been interesting at the IEEE 802 PLenary how many people say the same thing about Google being hard to connect to, to work with. And that is a pity. Because we get technical genius that misses the need – Wave, Buzz. They brush it off as learning, and integrate useful bits. But that is expensive, and alienates users. The more they do that, the more cynical people are about their products, and the further behind they are.

So in reading Farhad’s article, I so want to disagree with him, I really do. But he is probably right, because Google hasn’t learned that lesson yet.

But if you ever are Google – let’s talk.

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Tired, tired, grumpy, tired.

Venting personal rant free of useful content : feel free to ignore if expecting usual interesting linkage. But it’s my blog, and I’ll whine if I want to – you would whine too if it happened to you;)

Hate bad nights. Trying to prepare to present at Atlanta (IEEE 802.11 Plenary) in just over a week and damned if sleep isn’t vile this week. Since giving blood last Friday (a rare group, B-, means I feel even more like I should, though of course everyone should). My iron level was ok enough to donate but it’s dipped into anaemia, which I tend to. So popping iron along with the other damn tabs I take – I can take up to 12 before getting out of bed when I include iron and Vitamin D, which I also need. Age, age, plus pain medication, and tablets to ease side effects of pain medication.

So the last few nights are exhausted battlegrounds: last night I slept fitfully 10pm – 3am, so was very tired tonight. When I managed that fitful sleep, had nightmares about being attacked by annoyed ESSIDs and angrier still BSSs (reading up on 802.11s). As i was terribly tired, i have been trying to drop off since 9.30pm. Fell asleep after 1.08am ( looked at time then). Stupid back woke me at 2.40am. Throwing heavy duty meds at it, base rate failing. Tossing and turning really sets it off.

And of course this fails to get the presentation finished – which makes me fret, so weighs on my mind to point I don’t sleep…bother! I do listen to a ridiculous amount of audio books – my comfort ones include Alice in Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass – blessed Audible.com!

Ok, I’ve been sufficiently self indulgent, time to resume normal transmission…:)

(update : 4.21am – do you think in sleep blogging? Arrgghh!)

What has been going on in Serval land?

Well, one of the biggest things happening atm, on a purely personal level, has been putting in a proposal to the Shuttleworth Foundation for funding of my deep involvement with IEEE processes, on behalf of Serval. I am doing this as part of a scholarship that will enable me to get my PhD, and (hopefully) have huge benefits for Serval. As my cofounder, and general driving force/brains trust says on HIS blog :

Serval is going to Atlanta

Well, Romana (co-founder of Serval Project) is.  And that is because she will be representing the Serval Project’s interests at the IEEE 802 plenary meeting there in just a couple of weeks (November 2011).

Romana will be putting forward use cases that reveal deficiencies in the current 802.11 family of WiFi standards for mesh and ad-hoc communications.

If all goes well, we may have the opportunity to input into a process of looking to address these issues, which is tremendously exciting for us.

via  Enabling Communications, Anywhere, Anytime.

Home is where the bed is…

Home from the way more successful than hopedIEEE conference. Himself beyond angel status. My halo has always been somewhat lost…

Exhausted. Back cranky but what’s news? Swollen legs down, especially the very bad RH one (stupid spinal problems affecting circulation). Kids home and happy with our return and gifts – oddly in that order!! Little dog very happy, cat umm catish about it;)

Adele’ 21 album got me through the last tired hurting leg of the flight, with the Zen2 iPad game. I love all the songs (her version of The Cure’s Love Song’ is now up there as my favourite romantic song ever, well, tied with the Tori Amos version). But this one has captured something in me : Set Fire To The Rain

And back in Hong Kong – Travel Vignettes 4

So, sitting at a cafe near embarkation point. Hong Kong Airport is absolutely MASSIVE, we would have been quite lost if not helped by the magic Eddie, ex engineer, now worker for four hours a day (“and then I go home and get very good sleeps”), a Taiwanese ex engineer, with two sons in the Taiwanese army. He took us to every necessary counter, through every procedure, and ferried us the length and breadth of the airport. Almost literally, that is, as the enormous Y shaped airport meant we started at the top of one Y arm, travelled down to the bottom of the base via immigration and initial bookings, retrieved luggage and fully checked in on way. then back up through customs and to the top of the other Y arm. This meant two rides on the amazing automated loop trains, one running clockwise, the other counterclockwise, every five minutes, with no driver, just like a child’s toy. It was utterly magic:)

Hated leaving Okinawa, what a fascinating place, al the quirky Japanese charm, with so much less population that you expect, and such an odd combination of buildings – small ramshackle houses next door to massive office buildings and mansions and empty blocks and car yards and factories and supermarkets – all higgledy piggledy, made of interesting forms and concrete. An incredibly warm and friendly place. More tourist places than you could pike a stick at, gorgeous country and beaches. but we had little time to even begin exploring. I would jump (if I physically could) at going back there:)

But now, oh now, I am missing my kids, and my home, and my bed, my dog, my everything. So is the ever patient and sweet himself, who has been my rock during this. Onehour to go, then winging home to be there mid morning. AT least i can say we had a success beyond our expectations, being invited to join the IEEE and work on the 802.11 standard on Adhoc! Fingers crossed for Serval getting the funding for me (or anyone else, but probably me at this initial stage) to go! It means heaps of travel, but this experience has eased many fears for me BUt business class would be critical for back recovery, if doing this on own…so many lessons learnt about disability travel, I will blog in upcoming days:)

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