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posted by [personal profile] purplerabbits at 11:20am on 16/09/2017
 In a previous post I said that I had a lot of things I was worried about and couldn't focus on. That was 20 days ago, so how am I doing?

Thing One
I volunteered to do a really big thing at BiCon and then realised that I didn't actually want to do it

I'm well on my way to getting out of that one, having sent a couple of hard emails. I also have an idea for possibly rescuing the thing, but am going to wait and think on that before I decide...

Thing Two
The camera on my phone stopped working and refuses to focus 

I still haven't done anything about that. I need to find out how to ask Oneplus to do a repair and/or get a quote from a reguar phone repair place

Thing Three
I had a chipped tooth and was avoiding the dentist

I went to the dentist! And it was way less trouble than expected! BUT then the filling they did partially came out and it ISN'T FAIR and I have to go back. BOO!

Thing Four
I have to write a five minute speech about disabled access for Berlin. 

I did succeed on focussing on that and on my workshop session and ran them and it was fine. ALSO, I am going to use the mental health one again at Bitastic in the Highlands and I feel reasonable confident about that even though it adds some things to the to do list.

Thing Five
Knitting: drove myself to tears trying to set up the cardigan for mum's Xmas

It is set up. And I am knitting it and it will look OK. Whether it will be ready for Xmas is a whole other question as it's on 3mm needles...

Thing Six
I have to pack for Berlin. 

Well I clearly did that one OK and didn't over or underpack noticeably

Thing Seven
I had to get up at 6.30am for a flight

Which I clearly did, showing that I can do mornings, just not all the time

Thing Eight
I didn't book myself into any craft classes at all for autumn and it is too late. 

I'm still sad about that. I still haven't been back to the pottery because stuff has been crazy busy, but I can do that now most of that stuff is out of the way

Things that didn't get numbers
Finding another volunteer job - done, more or less
Being a witness - done, hurrah that's over!
Birthday and Xmas plans - have started a birthday plan but no idea about Xmas - I should get on that so it doesn't make me sad.


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posted by [personal profile] purplerabbits at 05:15pm on 30/08/2017
This is an intro and resource list for a group sessions I sometimes run and it's here because I'm doing it again at Less Wrong Europe this weekend (and that's why the references to rationality and transhumanism are in there).

Self Help for the Mainly Sane is a session for people with mild to moderate mental health difficulties to share coping strategies, it can take between 30 and 75 minutes depending on the time available and number of people. I speak for about five minutes, then let other people share their own coping mechanisms and experiences, then I link them to some resources which I sometimes have as handouts (I'm always happy to be linked to more resources so so please do that.)

Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor and wouldn't want to be, but have lived with depression and anxiety for 30 years and helped support people with schizophrenia and manic depression among other things.

My intro bit
Hi, I want to introduce a few tools to improve mental health and fitness. These are mostly useful for people with some form of anxiety or depression because that's my experience, but many other people use some of them for other problems like manic depression, some issues associated with autism etc.

You don't need to be ill or have a diagnosis to use these tools. Mental health is like physical health, it can improve beyond whatever is the average for humans, and if you are a transhumanist there may be no upper limit!

Sometimes just knowing some facts about what is happening is helpful. The first time I had a panic attack I literally thought I was dying of a heart attack, but learning about the physical process of panic helped me. For instance I now know partly why I think people are talking about me when I panic, it's because adrenaline makes your hearing more acute, so you hear things you wouldn't normally be able to and interpret that as a possible threat.

A lot of this is from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT, which has a lot in common with trying to be rational. There are lists online of common thinking errors, sometimes called negative thought patterns or cognitive distortions. I am using this list because it's just the top four but there are longer ones out there.

The Four Big Types of Negative Thinking
  • All-or-Nothing Thinking."I have to do things perfectly, because anything less than perfect is a failure."
  • Disqualifying the Positives. "Life feels like one disappointment after another."
  • Negative Self-Labeling. "I feel like a failure. I'm flawed. If people knew the real me, they wouldn't like me."
  • Catastrophising. "If something is going to happen, it'll probably be the worst case scenario."
Some people, like me, can look at these lists and realise we do all or most of them...

Like any bias, knowing about them isn’t enough to stop you doing them, we must practice challenging it. CBT practitioners usually use something like this checklist, which is sometimes in table form, and the exercise is to take a negative thought and unpack it.

The short version of this is:-
  1. Identify the thought - it helps to say it out loud and then write it down. Saying it may make it sound ridiculous already but keep going. Example, my friend ignored me in the street so they must hate me.
  2. What would this mean? - they must have avoided me on purpose.
  3. Think of an alternative explanation - maybe they didn’t see me or were running late.
  4. Test that explanation - ask them, or ask another friend.
  5. Think what to do next time - like maybe say hi to them first.
It sounds simple but I have discovered that you actually have to do the exercises, even if they seem very obvious because you are training a non-rational part of your brain.

Sometimes though, you are too depressed to do these exercises or even to look after yourself. One tool I find useful for that is called You feel like shit - I have this as a quick link in my browser at home, though I recommend changing the name of the site in the link to avoid negative reinforcement…

This tool guides you through simple questions like "have you eaten in the last four hours?" If you say you could use a snack it tells you it’s ok to eat and when you’ve eaten you can click to say “I did it!” It goes on though things like taking your medication, resting, drinking water etc. It does not expect you to get all better all at once, but I usually feel a little better when I’ve done this, even just because I clicked some buttons saying I had done some self care.

Using tools like this I have trained myself to do some very easy interventions almost automatically - for instance if I feel terrible at home I go outside to my garden - even if the weather is terrible it helps my brain to change scene. Or if I’m stressed in a social scene I have learned to recognise anxious feelings so I can go somewhere quieter to process.

Resource List


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This is the online resource to accompany the my lightning talk I'm presenting this weekend at the Less Wrong Europe Weekend. Some of you are getting a sneak preview cos I'm too paranoid to rely on WiFi once I leave my flat. It contains a slightly longer version of the presentation and some links to resources which I'd be very glad to get comments on as I haven't had the chance to check them all thoroughly...


The Five Minute Five Slide Guide to Disability Access


Hi, I’m Rowan and I want to tell you how to make your event or group more accessible to disabled people. I’ve run a lot of events, but even if you haven’t you can improve some things quickly and easily.

First some basic principles
  • There are a lot of kinds of access needs - physical access is important but it's not the only thing
  • Don’t get hung up on making it perfect - just keep on making it better
  • Good information improves access even before you do anything else, if you can do nothing else take care of this
  • Good access helps everyone, even if they don’t identify as disabled

  • Accessibility shouldn't cost disabled people extra, so share the work and the costs
  • Everyone can help with good access

So I’m going to break the rest of this down into what different people can do

Venue Organisers
Venue organising is one of the hardest jobs in event planning and you can never please everyone. You may not have a choice about where you meet, some cities and countries are a lot better on disability access than others and you can’t change the way places are built. What you can do is find out about your venue and tell people in advance, then do a few things to make it better on the day
  • Do an in person site visit using one of the checklists available online, then do a site report people can read in advance. Don’t rely on the venue’s own website - they’re often over-confident about access or miss stuff out
  • Measure doors and distances and use measurements instead of saying things like 'five minute's walk'
  • Look at access for people who can’t walk far as well as at wheelchair access - some people might chose to climb a few steps if the alternative is a long walk round the building.
  • Remember things outside the venue, like parking or public transport, can be equally important for some people. Consider the distance from stations, whether the path of travel is level and even and if there are extra busy roads to cross
  • Look for quieter spaces with adjustable lighting - good lighting aids lipreading, terrible lighting gives some people migraines. Unwanted noise is horrible for lots of people especially those on the autistic spectrum, people suffering from anxiety and anyone with a hearing difficulty, and quieter music, even at parties, will help people to actually talk to each other
  • Try to plan for a dedicated quiet space for a larger event, or some meetings in a quieter venue for a smaller group
  • Good room layouts make it easier for everyone to move around. Weaving between chairs and tables is hard for anyone with mobility difficulties so don’t cram too many people in, leave a few spaces for wheelchair users and not just stuck at the back. Think about how the room will be with chairs pulled out and bags left beside them and ask the venue to leave more space than they usually do.
  • Plush carpet is a nightmare in a wheelchair
  • Add signposting - you nearly always need more

Speakers and Facilitators
  • Learn to use the mic, and if you’re taking questions either use a roving mic or summarise the question before you answer it.
  • Follow guidance on making your slides legible - no tiny writing on fancy backgrounds
  • Have handouts or info available in other media if possible
  • In groups make sure only one person speaks at a time
  • Consider your group activities - icebreaker games for instance don’t always need people to stand up
  • Ask your event liaison if there are any other access needs you should consider - if they haven’t asked people that might prompt them to do so.

Bookings and Admin
Admin are the first people attendees communicate with and that communication will help them decide if and how they can attend
Their biggest job is clear and timely information - in advance, in response to requests, and on the day
  • Provide information early and clearly
  • Give people a chance to tell you their access needs - you may not be able to meet all but some are as simple as a print out on coloured paper
  • Don’t guess or reassure - as a disabled person I am not reassured when people say “I’m sure it will be OK’
  • Ask for volunteers to help with thing like carrying bags for those that need it or putting up your extra signage
  • Decide on rules for scarce resources like lifts and front seats
  • 
Have priority check in and provide extra seating anywhere people might have to wait
  • Respect confidentiality and don’t share information about people’s health with anyone you don’t have to and keep it anonymous when you can
Disability awareness is everyone’s job
Disability awareness is for everyone’s, so have guidelines available for attendees or even add them to a code of conduct, that way it’s not always the disabled people who have to speak out.
  • Be aware you don’t know by looking how able or not someone is
  • Remember that a disabled person will know more about what they need than anyone else - they’ve dealt with this situation far more often than you have
  • Don’t help without asking - it’s patronising and you could injure someone by for instance pulling them up from a fall
  • Don’t offer medical advice, whether it’s about a new drug or ‘Have you tried yoga and positive thinking?’
  • Don’t ask intrusive questions like ‘What’s wrong with you?’ ‘What happened to your leg?’
  • Treat disability aids as part of the person’s body and don’t touch them


Resource list
Scottish Health Council's venue accessibility checklist
Inclusive and Accessible Events: A guide for event organisers from Visit Scotland (pdf)
Euan's Guide top ten ways to make your venue more accessible
Here's Nineworld's very good and comprehensive accessibility pages - It's for the 2017 event so may change
And here's one we prepared earlier for BiCon 2011
And BiCon 2015

The BiCon Guidelines have this paragraph on disability

BiCon should be accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities, including those with invisible impairments. BiCon literature published before the event (including the website) should give a clear description of the accessibility of the site being used, details of adjustments BiCon can make on request, as well as details of how someone can contact BiCon with specific accessibility requests. Accommodation should be provided which is suitable for people with mobility or sensory impairments. BiCon literature should also be made available in alternative formats on request. In planning the programme, consideration should be given to the need for adequate breaks between sessions. The Equalities Fund [see B15] is available to fund additional costs of attending BiCon that may be incurred by people with disabilities (e.g. carer's costs) and this should be publicised appropriately.

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posted by [personal profile] purplerabbits at 07:07pm on 27/08/2017
I have a number of problems at the moment, and one kind of overarching one is that I have the attention span and/or willpower of a tiny insect. I mean it took me eight goes to get into Dreamwidth and actually start posting this because oh look, a squirrel! This is not a nice headspace to be in and I don't like it.

So things which are making me unhappy right now:-

Thing One
I volunteered to do various things at BiCon, some of which I don't remember. One of the things is really big and is really lots of smaller things, all of which I now realise that I don't actually want to do and also probably nobody else wants me to do them particularly and nobody wants to help me with them even the people who I thought might...

So of course I should just not do it. Except I would have to say I'm not doing it, which would make me embarrassed and sad and make bisexuals in general and me in particular look like complete flakes. It does not help that I've done this before. Indeed at the moment I can only remember the times I've been a flake and not any times when I said I'd do a thing and did it.

Thing Two
The camera on my phone stopped working and refuses to focus at all on anything ever. The selfie camera works but not the main one. I should Do Something about it like contact OnePlus and see if I can get a repair under warranty but it seems too hard so it just makes me unhappy all the time instead.

Thing Three
I have a chipped tooth and should go to the dentist. I do not go to the dentist. Instead I fret.

Thing Four
I have to write a five minute speech about disabled access for Berlin. I have started but the outline is a mess and I keep thinking of new ways to do it but it doesn't really count as thinking cos I don't make notes or even finish forming my thoughts. I know I could probably waffle on about it for five minutes and it wouldn't be a disaster, but I want to have some notes and slides and then some extra online notes with more detail maybe. I can't make myself focus on the documents for more than a couple of minutes at a time. It's driving me nuts.

Thing Five
I have a similar focussing problem with my knitting. Drove myself to tears trying to set up the cardigan for mum's Xmas, and have not finished my own cardigan which is 'nearly done' but needs the underarms grafting and buttons putting on which is not hard I just don't do it.

Thing Six
I have to pack for Berlin. I hate packing loads but I think I can do this one actually. I have a list and I have sort of started so I have the passport and boarding cards and my EHIC and Euros and power adapters and hotel reservation ready. The rest is basically clothes, meds and washkit so I'm sort of OK except I'm still giving myself a hard time and idk why.

Thing Seven
I have to get on a 9:45 flight. That means getting to the airport at 7:45. 7:45! What was I even thinking! Even booking a taxi that's leaving at 7.15 which makes getting up at 6:30am. THis is not even a time of day that exists.

Thing Eight
I didn't book myself into any craft classes at all for autumn and it is too late. I am still able to go to the pottery though, which is up and running again now but I haven't been back yet and won't have time till after next weekend probably.

There are other things but they're on a list of stuff to worry about later like the trial I have to be a witness at which happens later in September, and the fact that I have to find a new volunteer job cos the good people will be leaving my current one in the autumn. Also I have a birthday and a Christmas coming up  and will be unhappy if I don't organise a thing to do for them


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posted by [personal profile] purplerabbits at 11:55pm on 14/04/2017 under
 My DW entry form keeps filling or something, even down to changing things BACK when I have edited them but go into a different field, including changing the date to 1st January 2015. I have turned of autofill forms in Chrome. THis is driving me nuts. I had to edit everything twice to get this one to work, and then the next one I did it was back again. This is going to be seriously unusable :-( It does it on Furefox as well, so not just a Chrome thing...
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posted by [personal profile] purplerabbits at 05:01pm on 09/04/2017 under
I am posting some of my diaryish entries from 750 words to Dreamwidth, in part to celebrate that i am here now and so there should be some relatively recent content. Some of the read a bit oddly though as they were written in about 20 minutes and are more or less stream of consciousness. I am not quite as mad as I sound in them. Probably.

Meanwhile I am debating whether to delete my LJ entirely or whether to keep it for reading the few things I still read there. I guess I have to keep it for a bit but am slowly deleting all the content especially any that links that journal to any other sites.

Also, does anyone know why the web update form here is keeping old tags and titles as default? It bugs me that it wants to post things as 'Project Controlled Descent' which was finished two years ago...
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posted by [personal profile] purplerabbits at 02:12pm on 06/04/2017
I will be joining the mass exodus from LJ in a few days so this is just a heads up that I can be found on Dreamwidth via the link below.
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posted by [personal profile] purplerabbits at 05:01pm on 08/05/2016 under
I spent a nice afternoon pottering in the garden and sitting out there with Matt, so let me tell you more about it... This is mostly a very long list, but the names are quite pleasing :-)

Of the things that were in my garden when I arrived here, I have kept:-

A sycamore tree, cos I kind of have to
One much pruned laurel bush
A wild rose which seems to be doing well now it's been dug out of the undergrowth
A much reduced amount of cotoneaster
A much smaller buddleia - down from a tree to a bush
Many Spanish bluebells, possibly too many but they're hard to get rid of
A lot of wild pink geraniums (but not nearly as much as there was)
Some lovely yellow Welsh poppies
A patch of lavender coloured crocuses that have been and gone
Some daffodils of some kind that failed to make any flowers this year
Wild Hypericum (St John's Wort), which Sandy has added to and transplanted to be all together
Some kind of lily
A decorative redcurrant (I think) which has planted itself from next door
Wild strawberries which can stay even if only the birds will eat them
Daisies in the lawn that I don't intend to kill
Dandelions that I want rid of but that may be hard
Docks, Fireweed etc, ditto
An assortment of ivy, some of which I want to encourage

I have created two wooden planters by the back door with herbs:-
Country cream oregano
Chamomile Treneague
Dill
Creeping Red Thyme
Bronze Fennel
French Marjorum
Pineapple Sage
Lemon Balm which I just have to plant
and in the beds there's Feverfew, Munstead Lavender, Rosemary Fota Blue, Purple Sage and Supermarket chives - which have lived in spite on being monumentally pot bound when planted

I filled two blue containers with De Caen mixed anemones and mixed Harlequin flower, Sparaxis tricolor which are both coming up

One very purple giant pot which I kind of regret getting in Lidl has three Fuschias called Angela and there are two more in the beds (do not ask me how they tell each other apart)

And in the beds are also:-

A Japanese Maple, just now coming back into leaf
Rocky Mix Violas which I got in the reduced section of Dobbies and which have done amazingly and have multiplied and are still flowering
Orange and Red cup daffodils from the bargain store which did well and have only just finished
Tulips - Red Riding Hood which is in flower and Black Parrot which are on the way
Ruby Giant Crocus which has been and gone
Cranesbill Geranium Pink Spice
Hardy Asiatic Lily in orange and red
Hebe Ruby Port
Lily of the Valley, under my tree where it's shady
Campanula Carpatica Blue
Clematis Montana Rubens
Clematis Marjorie
A random allegedly blue clematis from Lidl
Fragrant Cloud Hybrid Tea Bush Rose - allegedly red and very fragrant
A shrub rose called Simple Gold Harsymbol which may be drowning in bluebells if I'm not careful
Crocosmia Lucifer
Campanula carpatica blue
Some mixed pound store alliums which went in late
A Firecracker Azalea which isn't doing very well
Dutch Iris Sapphire Beauty
Peacock orchid Acidanthera
Gladiolus Pink
Liatris Spicata
Oxalis Deppei Iron Cross
A Passionflower from Morrison's called Purple Haze
Coreopsis Sunfire
Honeysuckle
Palemonium Jacobs Ladder
A purple hellebore from Sandy
A foxglove from Sandy
Some Marigolds and Nasturtiums I grew from seed are now planted out and the Marigolds are in bud

I also have cornflower, parsley, calendula, dianthus indoors grown from seed waiting to go out and a Morrison's Rosemary that may end up out front. Oh and a cutting of my neighbour's unidentified sweet smelling bush that may or may not take.
And I have two hydrangeas waiting to go in.

And I've probably missed something :-)
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posted by [personal profile] purplerabbits at 04:01pm on 27/12/2015
I'm not going to answer all those questions, because they're becoming less and less meaningful to me now. I don't have a song of the year any more, because I don't listen to enough new music. I don't have enough people 'close to me' for people to giving birth and dying. I am fatter and richer and more and more tired and alone.

Yeah, I shouldn't do this at all in December - it's all too dark.

But things did happen, and some of them were for the first time and some of them were plans I'd made and carried out. So. A list that will keep the "I did nothing" voice at bay...

I paid off my mortgage. I had a huge clear out. I got a flat on the market and sold a flat and found a flat and bought a flat. And it's flatter than before cos it's on the ground. That was a plan carried out.

I paid a gardener for the first time and we cleared the garden and planted things in the ground. I have my own bird feeder now.

I had double glazing fitted including a whole new door, that's a new thing.

I had central heating fitted and a whole new boiler. The flat on the ground is now warm.

I organised a BiCon team and the team ran a great BiCon with more people than usual. It was completely exhausting and I feel very disempowered and drained after it. I will not do it again. In fact it's a toss up whether I will do any bi 'activism' again including the things I am supposed to have to do. There is too much poison there for me to handle right now.

I made a lot more pottery and got somewhat better at it. I even sold some. I knitted a sweater that I made up the pattern for as I went along and people seem to like it.

I finished Nanowrimo for the first time. I wrote an ending to a novel even though the middle isn't complete yet. In the process I met a new writer's group which I will keep meeting.

I went to Less Wrong meet-ups but sadly all the people have moved away. I need to meet less successful rationalists. Or, er, something

I went to the Highlands, and Orkney for the day.

I saw new birds - all of them skuas.

I dealt with benefits and stayed alive and helped look after people and generally didn't suck.
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posted by [personal profile] purplerabbits at 05:52pm on 19/06/2015
I now have a back garden which means I now have a super deluxe bird feeder installed, which means I now have a garden bird list. The closest I had to a garden bird list before was 'things that have perched on the roof opposite' which consisted of feral pigeon, two flavours of gull, a daring blackbird, a pied wagtail and swifts (which don't perch but did nest).

The Abbenay garden list currently consists of:

Blackbird
House sparrow
Blue tit
Great tit
Chaffinch
Robin
Carrion crow
Magpie
Starling - a trio of which just discovered the feeder and are going to eat me out of house and home at this rate
Wood pigeon (currently stationed under the feeder in case anyone drops food on its head)

I have also seen real proper bees on my lavender, which is the only plant I've actually bought and is still in a pot. As for the native flora, who knows. There's, er, grass, and other grass, and dandelions, daisies, bluebells and buttercups, and a sycamore tree, and an ash sapling I must root up, and nettles I must stamp on and a variety of bushy things which are bushy things of some kind and some yellow type poppies and some pink stuff that may or may not be campion cos I don't know I don't do flowers.

If you want to come visit and look at birds and help me identify and/or destroy plants let me know :-)

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