Friday, December 03, 2004

Although I'm a Christian, I think its only polite to be aware of other faiths. So, yesterday, I bought a translated copy of the Qur'An (Koran) from Appleby's books in Morpeth. Its surprising how intermingled the Christian, Jewish and Moslem faiths really are. Now all I have to do is find time to read it properly.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Just been to Contact in Lynemouth - it is different to Contact in Morpeth. Fewer people but still ok.

Winter is coming - I've just had double glazing put in and it makes a big difference - I need to put the heating on less often.

Christmas meals are coming and this is the first Christmas since 2000 that I will be based outside of the hospital and the first Christmas I will have as a vegetarian.

Monday, November 08, 2004

On Saturday my VCR's front panel stopped working - I couldn't eject the tape that was in it. AW from the Outreach Team identified the problem and fixed it. Very good of him to do that, I appreciate it.

I've got all sorts of paper work to do with being ill that I've been given over the years. I'm trying to be more organised. It all depends on how much concentration I can muster.

I had a glimmer of concentration at church on Sunday. During the bible reading I was able to follow the gist of the reading without becoming totally lost. I've been trying to stimulate my mind. First I was listening to music. Then I upped the ante by watching TV (Richard & Judy) and the BBC 6 O'Clock News and the Channel 4 News. Now that I've had a glimmer of concentration, I'll cut back on the TV to just watching the Channel 4 News and reading newspapers and books in the spare time generated.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Well, sometime back I asked one of my outreach workers (JX) "How come natural selection hasn't got rid of Schizophrenia?". She gave me various papers, one of which is called
Creativity, Evolution and Mental Illnesses. If I've read the paper correctly, it appears that schizophrenia contributes extra creativity to the general population. In other words, schizophrenia helps the group at the expense of the individual. I'd like to point out that, while meds are important, they do tend to inhibit thoought as opposed to promoting thought.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Well, its been confirmed. My meds/illnes is making me slur my words so I sound either rather dim or drunk. Sometimes it takes me quite a while to formulate a sentence which doesn't help either.

I'm counting the weeks that I have successfully stayed out of hospital. This wednesday I will have been out of hospital for 10 weeks.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Went on the coach with Contact to Skegness' Butlins on Monday (returned on Friday). It took over four hours.

Made friends to a fellow singleton called Joy T. We were inseperable over the past five days, being affectionate, sharing experiences and talking about things.

Butlins is mainly aimed at families - Joy and I mainly made our own entertainment and enjoyed the night life.

We're going to stay in touch and have fun over the future months.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Well, its been two weeks since I've been discharged. I've been meeting friends and generally getting on with things (cooking food, drinking wine). My biggest project at the moment is moving my furniture around in preparation for getting my (gas) central heating installed. I've found that having sky (the £20/month version) is helpful - there is less silence in the house which means its harder for the voices to take control. And I've got PRN medication.

And I've been sorting out my (SuSE Linux 9.1 Pro Update) computer - it turned out that the permissions of /dev/null were wrong which resulted in my email client, KMail, to give strange errors and cause my web browser, Mozilla, to crash silently - although if you ran it from an xterm, you'd get error messages about /dev/null being read only.

And I'm working (with other people) to shift an old web site from HTML 3.2 to XHTML and CSS. We're having difficulty having it look nice on all sorts of different web browsers (Internet Explorer, Opera, KDE Konqueror, Netscape/Mozilla).

Friday, August 20, 2004

I was discharged yesterday. But I've still got my social contacts, at Church and at Contact. The tiredness is still a major problem. And the Assertive Outreach team is keeping in touch with me to make sure things are going ok. And the hospital is keeping in touch, for about 4 weeks after discharge.

Last week AW (from the Outreach Team) took some of us to the cinema to see "I, Robot" and it was quite a good film. I enjoyed it. Now all I need to do is to gather my mental resources so I can re-read the original by Isaac Asimov.

I've got a new album to listen to - "Fire" by Electric Six. It is a good album.

And I might, in the near future, have another meal with friends.

Friday, July 30, 2004

I am constantly tired, due to medication. Today I slept in till 10am so I was late for work. Its a good job that I am doing voluntary work. It makes it so much harder to read YCDI!, a C++ tutorial.

Some friends from Contact are coming round for Pizza tonight - JT, LS, LX and EX (with her daughter because it is so hard to get a baby sitter). It should be ok. Not looking forward to Saturday because its one of my empty days.

The days are ticking away before my house gets turned upside down to install central heating.

Monday, July 26, 2004

I was confirmed yesterday at Mitford. It was good. I think the vicar (David) made the preparatory work simpler for me because of my medicine making me rather tired and dopey. Other people have classes whereas I had informal chats and the task of finding a favourite hymn and a favourite bible quotation, I chose Mark 1 "I will send my messenger ahead of you who will prepare your way" and "Amazing Grace".

I've got to pancake this baby - that is what I kept on telling the Birmingham psychiatric emergency team back in the 90's. Actually I'm not a cannibal, I used to be an aviation geek. At one stage I wanted to fly Sea Harriers for the Royal Navy but I got side tracked into computers. To "pancake" an air craft is to crash land it. So now you know

Friday, July 23, 2004

Clozapine is like a spy satellite - when it is overhead (fully working on my body), my intellect and consciousness hide, leaving me much like a vegetable.

I counteract this by having checklists of thing to do and by waiting for the satellite to go away (and can continue reading things like the classic book I am struggling to review, You Can Do It, by Francis Glassborow. I'm having to work on exercises as I review the book and I have to borrow time on a friends computer because YCDI is Windows based and my house is a Linux  Linux only zone.

I find that 7 hours after I've taken some Clozapine, I can shrug off the daze that descends on me and start thinking properly. Who knows, one day I might be able to think in C++ again, something I haven't done since 2001.

I think I have the right balance. Using Windows at work because that is what people expect to use. And use Linux at home because it is so nice, if a little awkward to set up at times.

I am *so* nearly a vegetarian. When all the meat in my kitchen is used up, I will have a meat free kitchen and diet.

Contact in Morpeth is expanding. I think it would be a good idea if Contact was open on a Saturday because most services stop at the weekend.

Been for a walk with the AOT walking group on Wednesday, walked around a lake and had a soft drink afterwards.

Last Saturday I raised £25 for Contact, shaking a little tin and smiling at people.

It was J's birthday on Wednesday, 21 again.

I think I'll be better when I get discharged from hospital because my social contacts are more robust.

Friday, July 16, 2004

This week I've been mainly eating Clozapine :) In truth, it is a worthwhile medication. While I was on Olanzapine, the meds trashed my concentration. When I moved to Amisulpride, my concentration was still poor. Then I switched, with many misgivings, to Clozapine. I've been on the Clozapine for a while now. When I first started, I had to have my blood tested once a week. Now the initial screening process has finished, I now only get my blood tested once a fortnight. The meds still trash my concentration but, during the day, I get a window of opportunity where I can still have normal concentration.

I've been playing around with my PC (Patience), and started experimenting with the KDE's CD/DVD burning tool k3b. So far everything is ok although I haven't tried to master a CD/DVD, I'v just backed up disks to prove that it works.

I've decided to change my central heating. Its on its last legs. I didn't realise how much hassle its going to be. I've got to move my bookcases so the radiators can be installed, I need to get my bathroom tiled ready for the shower to be fitted.

This week, the Assertive Outreach Team Walking Group went to a pub for a meal at the Dyke Neuk. The food was o.k. and it made for a nice change of pace.

I've been socialising with people from Contact in Morpeth. I've dropped in on Tuesday lunch times and Friday nights. We go for a drink afterwards, generally relaxing.

I've been spending more time in Bedlington, with a view to being discharged in July. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Saturday 3rd July. I got soaked travelling back to the Hospital. First of all. It was raining. That was bad enough. Then a part of the pavement lurched downward, soaking my left foot. Then a car sped through a roadside puddle, soaking my bag and right hand side. When I got back to the hospital I had a nice hot bath and changed into dry, clean clothes.

I was going to go to Edinburgh with a friend from the hospital but he wandered off somewhere else so I decided to go on my own. After all, I wanted to exchange my t-shirts for some shirts of the right size. I got a train to Edinburgh, changing at Newcastle – this meant the trip cost me the best part of £40 – I wasn’t impressed with that – poor service and high prices! We got into Edinburgh about 1pm – I had brought some food and drink with me to east on the train.

When I got to Edinburgh, it was raining as usual. I made my way out of Waverley station, turning left on the bridge and then across the road, up the street to “Who’s Who” (their sign is obscured with scaffolding). They exchanged the t-shirts with no complaint. I had a look if there were more t-shirts that I liked but there wasn’t any more.

After that I went walking, nipping into the cheap book shops and Waterstones. I bought a Renee Mackintosh "Scotland" t-shirt and some history books – got some at Waterstone’s (3 for 2). I could have spent more but I didn’t. During all this shopping, it started raining so I put my yellow plastic poncho on (with “Scotland” printed all over it in blue) but my le,gs still got soaked. I took the 4pm train back, via Newcastle and I arrived back in Morpeth just after 6pm

All in all it was a successful visit, albeit one I won’t be repeating for some time.

Sunday 4rd JulyI was picked up at 9:50 am by a friend (let’s call him “Bob”) from the Alpha course gave me a lift from Morpeth to Mitford. We had the usual service there. And then we reconvened to the nearby river where the Rector waded into the river and baptised a member of the congregation. It was a very special moment.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Well, a lot of things have happened. On Wednesday I travelled (with staff and patients) by train to Manchester to attend the Hearing Voice’s Network AGM. We stayed overnight in a Travelodge near the city centre. The next day, Thursday, saw the AGM. There were some workshops in the morning and afternoon.

In the morning, the choice was between a) the healing powers of crystals and b) setting up Hearing Voices (HV) groups. I went to the HV setting up workshop where we discussed the the charter to be applied to HV affiliated groups. Too much like lawyer work for my liking.

Breakfast wasn’t provided by the hotel so we had a cheap breakfast for £1.75 in Littlewoods.

The lunch was nice. There was a lunch time workshop which discussed the pros and cons of coming off medictation. There was widespread feeling that you should do it slowly and under medical supervision.

In the afternoon we had more workshops and I went to the “Away with the fairies” work group. It discussed the role of myths and legends in psychosis. We talked about Shakespeare (Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Marlowe (Dr Faustus).

After the afternoon we bought some provisions for the train and headed back to Morpeth, arriving late at night in Newcastle train station. A car gave us a lift from Newcastle station.

On Saturday I went to Edinburgh with a friend and bought 4 T-shirts – 2 the right size (XL) and 2 the wrong size (S) so I need to swap them with a friend. The ok T-shirts were “FBI : Female Body Inspector” (Wishful thinking) and “I hear voices and THEY don’t like you”. The too small T-shirts were “Rehab is for quitters” and “You’re just jealous ‘cause the little voices are talking to me”.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Lots of things have happened since I last wrote anything. It .looks like we will be pulling out of Iraq (I hope). Hopefully they will eventually enjoy their taste of democracy.

My clinical psychologist and I have worked out a spectrum of mental capacity, ranging from being unable to listen to music to being able to read article to being able to read technical books to being able to function as a software engineer / programmer in a normal commercial environment. At the moment my intellect is a bit like a sine wave, it has troughs where I can’t do anything and it has peaks where I can read a heavy weight text book over a long weekend.

I’ve been buying a lot of computing textbooks from cheap and not so cheap places. There is a method to my madness. It’s all to do with paradigm shifts in computing. Let me take you back to the early 80s. I was stuck in a sports crazy boarding school and calculators were being introduced as tools for use in mathematics classes. My father gave me a Hewlett Packard Hand Held Computer (basically a programmable calculator that ran using RPN – Reverse Polish Notation). So I learnt how to program using a stack based architecture and a very primitive instruction set. All of the programs were number crunchers. Then a friend of mine showed me his dad’s business microcomputer.. Try as I might, I could not program it. All my Hewlett Packard experience was useless. Soon, one Christmas, my father bought me a 16KB Sinclair ZX Spectrum – to be honest I wasn’t interested in getting one, I was more interested in Hewlett Packard Portable Computers. Well, I tried doing a bit of programming but ZX Basic was a massive paradigm shift. It introduced a high level language (ZX Basic) and a machine language (Z80 assembly language). I stumbled around in the dark for a while, trying to get to the new technology – and I even tried playing around with Forth (interesting but all I managed to do was dabble in that language) and microdrives (an ill fated experiment that was a dead loss).

Later on (was it 1985?), Sinclair released a brand new computer with a brand new processor (Motorola 68008), a brand new language (SuperBasic), multitasking (in a primitive way, it didn’t really take off until the introduction of the Qjump Pointer Environment in 1987ish), networking, a user group (Quanta) and basic networking. When I had my Spectrum, I spent a lot of time reading and researching other computers and architectures – I am grateful to Coleraine’s library for introducing me to new ideas in computing. So I decided to buy a Sinclair QL – or rather bug my parents into getting me one. It took several years – then when Sinclair slashed his prices down to £145 my parents relented. So I got my hands on what would be recognised as a reasonably modern computer. I think I stayed with my Sinclair QL for seven to eight years, sharing knowledge with friends, writing programs and giving them away for nothing or just enough money to contribute to the cost of writing software (simply buying compilers or development tools). During my travels in computing, I came across the occasional Unix book in the library but the only Unix clone I knew of, Mini, required proper money for new hardware (Atari ST etc) and peripherals (hard disks). So I stayed with my QL for years, upgrading it occasionally (Miracle Systems in particular brought out expansion cards like disk interfaces with extra RAM, 40MB hard disks (which turned out to be quite temperamental), and a replacement processor board so we leaped from a 7ish MHz 68008 with 896KB RAM to a 16MHz 68000 with, if I recall correctly, 2 or 4 B of RAM. The expanded QLs were quite capable machines and the Quanta software a delight for people to tinker with. I expanded my QL every so often but the biggest drive to upgrade my QL was the hardware demands made by the GNU C compiler which had been ported to the QL and called C68. So I tried to port Unix tools (written in C) to C68 and the Sinclair QL. I also tried to write GUI programs using Qjump’s Window Manager. But I was out of my depth and instead of developing mega applications, I dabbled in programming but wrote a lot of articles explaining how non technical users could get the most out of using a Sinclair QL.

After I graduated from University, with a 2:1 Honours degree in Information Technology, I had a bit of a shock. All of industry was using technologies I’d never heard of - Novell Netware for networking, Unix sockets for networking programming (QL networking was so much easier), MS-DOS 6.22 for an operating system (quite a disappointment compared to the QL). Anyway, the breadth of my QL experience impressed my future employers so I moved from Sunderland to Berwick Upon Tweed, to work as a C programmer. The company used Watcom C and the first task I had was to port the Opac from 16bit Turbo C++ to 32bit Watcom C. The Watcom environment relied on make files and was, in general, familiar ground to someone who had GNU C experience on 32 bit computers. After a few months working, my Dad encouraged me to buy a flat and get a mortgage. All this “real world” stuff was a bit heavy to me. But it meant that I could have somewhere to keep my network of Sinclair QLs, my collection of second hand science fiction novels and somewhere to play Dungeons and Dragons. Well that job lasted about 6 years and in that time, I joined the ACCU (Association of C & C++ Users), most of my Dungeons & Dragons friends left Berwick, the Opac was re-engineered to handle interlibrary loans for most of the UK (Unity). After the collapse of that company, a competitor, BLCMP, bought the intellectual rights to Unity/Opac for £5000, a pittance and hired me to work on the Opac/Unity business they were starting to pick up from ex-Libris customers. It was after about a year of tight deadlines and working away from home, that I had my first psychotic episode. I was taken off work, given a sick note that said “mental instability” and eventually withing 4 to 8 weeks, my employer made me redundant. Not a nice way to do business. Well, I moved back from Birmingham to Berwick, with the help of a friend who also worked in Birmingham.

When I went home to Berwick, I started applying for jobs and painting my flat. I kept up to date with programming gossip & ideas on the accu-general mailing list. I applied for various jobs and was turned down. Eventually, I spotted a tiny advert in the Scotsman. I didn’t think it would be worth a try but some friends of mine encouraged me to apply for it. Surprisingly, I got the job (after all I was a C programmer and they used Borland C++) fand that lasted for just over a year. During that time, I aggressively learnt new things about software development, reading Stan Lippman’s C++ Primer 3e and Multi Paradigm Design for C++ - Jim Coplien. And I attended the ACCU conferences and in particular I found Kevlin Henney’s ( lecture on substitution to be particularly enlightening. Anyway, that job disappeared in February 2001 and soon after that I had a psychotic episode and was admitted into St George’s, something I’ve already covered in previous entries on this blog.

To recap on paradigm shifts. I started with RPN on Hewlett Packard Handheld Computers. Then I migrated to the Spectrum that introduced a much larger (colour) display and memory and text handling. Then I shifted from the Spectrum to the Sinclair QL. Then I shifted to MSDOS 6.22 with all its limitations. Then I shifted to Windows by porting the Opac/Unity to a 32bit Windows SDK application – the same source code base handled both 32 bit DOS (DOS/4GW) and 32 bit Windows (Win32 C SDK). Then I shifted from C (in which I had, using structs, been using in an object based way) to C++ where I had better facilities for objects / user defined types. During my time in Birmingham I had been learning how to design C++ programs – any old text book can teach you the syntax but it took the help of the Association of C & C++ Users ( with their email correspondence and regular conferences to get me up to speed on C++.

These days, my concentration and mental faculties are something I can no longer take for granted. It is either my illness, schizophrenia or its treatment, Clozapine which makes it hard to concentrate. So that’s the down side. The positive benefit is that I have more time to study and at the moment, I am working on yet another paradigm shift. In 1998/99 I was quite happy using Watcom C/C++, Visual C++ and Windows NT. But then I read in the Register that Microsoft was going to get stricter with licenses. And I heard that there were simply tons of free software being made available over the internet. So I thought : fine, I’ll continue using Windows at work because anyone can use Windows and I’ll branch out to new technologies at home by getting to grips with Linux.

My hardware has been giving me some hassle as well. I can’t quite get SuSE Linux 9.1 Pro to install on my P166Mhz Pentium-MMX PC, Theology (called that because only prayer power keeps it going) and my 1.3GHz Celeron (Patience) – where I’ve had both a faulty memory module – found that by downloading a memory tester, memtest86 – which took me a week to track down – and I may have a faulty 80GB hard drive as well. Linux appears to be a good way to stress test a PC and its components. It will all come out in the wash.

I’ve been reading about free software, especially “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”, “Homesteading the Noosphere”, “How to be a hacker”, all written by Eric S. Raymond and downloaded from ESR's home page
LAMPJ is the latest paradigm shift. Instead of using Windows and proprietary software, I’ll become a LAMPJ developer at home and a Windows RAD C++ (Borland C++ Builder) programmer at work. LAMPJ is an acronym that stands for “Linux / Apache / MySQL / Perl, Python, PHP / Java. It is basically a free software stack used to write client/server internet applications. So I have been spending my savings on text books, magazines (Linux Format, Windows XP Official Magazine, Cvu, Overload) and a little bit of hardware, all with the aim of becoming a LAMPJ developer. I still haven’t quite managed to completely shift from Windows NT to Linux. I’ve no idea how to compile a Linux Kernel, how the shared libraries work, how to upgrade the Gnu Compiler Collection, how to produce RPMs, etc. It all takes time and patience.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Well, what can I say. I am in hospital (still), with more medication. I've been very sleepy in the evening so I now get my medication at 8pm. And I've been drooling quite a bit so I've eventually been put onto patches which have medication in them. We'll see how it works.

I've been going home on occasion and its been a bit freaky. Kind of bouncing off the walls. I've rearranged my old PC at the hospital. I've got 3 drive bays at the front of the computer and one drive bay hidden within the computer. The hidden bay is my first hard disk, and the three front bays are for a removable hard disk, a SCSI hard disk and a SCSI CDROM. I couldn't get SuSE Linux 9 to recognise my SCSI interface but I might get it going with a later release. At the moment I am using SCSI Linux 7.2 which, if I can configure to collect my email, should be ok. I'm waiting for the next version of SuSE Linux to come out so I can have a setup that has Kernel 2.6, KDE 3.2.x etc.

I've been going to an Alpha Course, meeting people and discussing religion. One of them gave me a copy of "The Message", which is a copy of the Bible translated into contemporary English. I've been reading it quite a bit and I've got even more awkward questions to ask.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Oops. I've been readmitted again (as of 8th November) and my thoughts aren't exactly sharec by other people so they might be called delusions. The trouble is they seem so real and I was *just* about to act upon them when I was readmitted into hospital. So it seems the system might work. I get to go home occasionally when the outreach team takes me back to my house and check things over. Who knows what the future may hold? I don't and to be honest, I'm not sure if I dare guess. There's the possibility of me having to sell my house to fund my entry into supported housing where an attendant can keep an eye on me to make sure I'm not going over the edge. I've been staying in Delaval ward, not Otterburn ward because that is the catchment are for Bedlington. Delaval does things differently and sometimes I prefer the Otterburn way of doing things. Despite my misgivings, I am staying on Delaval. I've also hav my medication changed from Amisulpride to Clozapine. This is a big climb down by me because I didn't want to have Clozapine because of the regular blood sample taking that has to happen. But my thoughts were so over the edge that they scared me into trying it despite the blood work.