Using Abbreviations

25 September 2020

Something I have always found annoying is the use of abbreviations without any explanation of their meaning. My favourite is itself a TLA (Three Letter Abbreviation). The company I used to work for had CSS, this being (for them) Customer Service System. Then later I learned much about how to create web pages for my business website and I was told about CSS, but in this instance these were Cascading Style Sheets! Another one from work, relating to the telephone service was NDT. So I knew this as meaning No Dial Tone, but chatting to an old RAF friend of mine I learned that to him it meant Non-Destructive Testing!

With all this Covid-19 business, I am now starting to see government statistics on Twitter and elsewhere and a mention was made of ‘MSOA data’. So we are now into four-letter abbreviations. Now you may be aware of this already, but Middle-layer Super Output Areas (MSOA) are part of a geographic hierarchy designed to improve the reporting of small area statistics in England and Wales. These are, from what my research has found, built from groups of contiguous Lower-layer Super Output Areas, so I guess that makes them LSOA. I have also found a web page that explains these delightful terms:

There’s also an awful lot more to this, all relating to Census data, which may be found on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website, all I will say is that as I’ve said in a previous blog, the more we learn, the more we find there is to learn! But I do wish the person writing the article mentioning the MSOA data had taken the trouble to either explain the term or put a link in to where an explanation could be found and not presume that we would know what it was all about!

It is my guess that the writer would think that we might not understand such terms and in true ‘Sir Humphrey Appleby’ style (as done in that excellent tv series ‘Yes, Minister’ & ‘ Yes, Prime Minister’) be so confused and not bother to find out. If we did, we might start asking questions, and that would not do at all!

As many of you know, I have more than a passing interest in photography as well as in computers. There are always people wanting to learn, but if we do not explain them, our use of abbreviations can make a person new to the subject feel like it is a ‘closed shop’ so they feel like they are not welcome. As a result, I try my best to say through the lens (TTL) metering, where light is measured directly through the lens of the camera as well as describing a single lens reflex (SLR) camera as one where the user can look through the viewfinder at the rear of the camera but typically uses a mirror and prism system (hence “reflex” from the mirror’s reflection) that permits the user to view through the lens and see exactly what will be captured. Folk hear the terms at the same time as their meanings.

It is just the same with computers, where you will probably know that CD refers to Compact Disc, CPU is Central Processing Unit and OS is Operating System, but there are so many, many more! If these terms are explained, newcomers may be more inclined to ask for more details and consider buying, rather than being put off.

Even so, I try not to feel embarrassed at not knowing! I am a fan of American Football and I have been for quite a few years, but I’m still very well aware as to how little I know about the game, the rules, player positions… The list of their abbreviations and codes seems endless! It is true that some of the terms we use are not timeless, one I can think of refers to the use of a hallucinogenic drug popular in the sixties and seventies, but the same term was also used to describe the currency of pounds, shillings & pence used here in the UK prior to the 15th of February 1971, when decimal currency was brought in.

I realise it depends who you are talking with, like knowing their knowledge level but a simple, polite question can save a great deal of misunderstanding. I try my best not to presume, but take the extra time to explain what an abbreviation means. I was taught to do this when the abbreviation was first used, as it would  make sense to the listener and would be  more likely that they would remember its meaning as well as its relevance.

So abbreviations have their place but they can add humour too. I am an avid fan of Star Trek and one character goes by the name of Spock. At one time, my job meant that I was the person others called on if they wanted to know about or had a problem with a certain computer system. I was therefore a Single Point Of Contact – I was SPOC! Entirely logical, in my view…

I’ll stop at this point with a question:
Can wearing an open-necked shirt be considered as a tie-break?

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Do I Need A…

18 September 2020

Some time ago a friend of mine wanted to buy a computer and they asked me for my advice on what they should get. I asked them what they would use it for, but sadly they had no idea, it was because they had been told by a younger member of their family that they ought to get one! That to me was not a good enough reason. I got them to learn a bit about computers and maybe get that younger person practicing their teaching skills by showing what they used their own computer for. It is a truism that we don’t know what we don’t know!

As part of a training course I went on some years ago, I learned of something called ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs’, which graphically displays the levels of our needs, from basic needs to feeling self-fulfilled. What I have found through my personal experience (and what I find fascinating) is how Maslow’s definition is so accurate.

In all, these needs are as follows:

Belongingness and love

The first two, Physiological and Safety, are basic ones – food, water, warmth & rest, then safety & security. We need these to survive. Belongingness & love are all on intimate relationships and friends. This, along with Esteem, regarding prestige and the feeling of accomplishment, relate to our psychology. But the top one, which is Self-actualisation, is all on fulfilment, like achieving our full potential, including our creative activities.

As a child I was given a simple camera, a Kodak Instamatic – it really was ‘point & click’! When I started work I bought a new camera that enabled different lenses to be fitted to it. A while later I got to do all the official photos at the wedding of a friend and they were delighted with the results, so that pleased me! I have continued to take the photos I like, mainly outdoor ones of sunsets, landscapes, holidays, but a few family ones and special events too. Did I need to have and know how to use a camera? Yes, most certainly!

When I was younger, in my late twenties, I wanted a particular car, in my case a Ford Capri. I got myself a good one, it served me well, it kept me all good and safe, even when I accidentally crashed it! I’d had a busy week working so I was tired, it was a Sunday morning, it had been a fairly long journey, the roads were quiet and I was about two miles from the place I lived. I made a wrong decision. The car could not be repaired, but I wasn’t even a little bit scratched. I had wanted that car, but did I need it? I did that day!

A little while later I put my name down to buy a house. I was seeing someone and she thought it was a good idea too, but in the end it didn’t work between us. Then I got a call from the builder, asking if I still wanted the house. I said yes, went to see the plot of land where the place was still being built and happened to meet an RAF guy whose house had been finished and he was just moving in. We became friends and still are, over thirty years later! When I have needed help he has been there and I have helped him. Did I need that house? I am glad I made the right decision!

A few years later my work moved me once more, this time to Nottingham. I bought a place near Chesterfield, I bought my first proper computer and taught myself how to use it, in some cases program it! Then work moved me around the Midlands, I enjoyed the work, learning all the time. As before, others asked me what value it was in me knowing about computers. Then it was all change, I was off again, this time to Sheffield and for a while Manchester!

By now I was a qualified trainer, standing up there in front of folk, telling them what to do and how to use some new computer software. It was fun. At least, I thought so. Finally it was time to move again, this time down to sunny Leicester, to a job where I continued training folk. The firm that I’d  worked for were cutting back on staff, so after 38 years it was goodbye. After a great deal of help and encouragement (you know who you are and I thank you very much!) I started my own business, but what in, you may ask? Photography and Computer Training! Did I need that camera? Did I need that computer? If you’ve read all of this, then you know my answer!!!

But surely, I hear you say, it couldn’t have always worked out well? In truth you are right. Whilst first on my travels by train to work, I met and actually ‘chatted up’ a pretty female. (My dear mother didn’t believe me – her shy, youngest son had been chatting up a female whilst on a train???) As it happened, around the same time I had by chance bumped into another female who I found very attractive, but I didn’t go with my gut instinct, I stayed with the the girl from the train. Ever the old romantic I guess… Anyway, we settled down for a while together, married then divorced as I found she was seeing another and didn’t want me. But that’s how life is sometimes.

So what we perceive to be a need isn’t always. We can however try to trust our own instincts. If we ‘feel’ it is right, then we should do it in my view. If it becomes hard work, when you are really struggling and nothing is working for you, then perhaps consider doing what I do. I take a step back, look objectively, then do what I know is right. I try and trust my instincts.

In the last few weeks and months I have had to do exactly that. There are some things I have had to make adjustments to in my life and it ain’t easy, but I have got some good and lovely people around me. I appreciate them all. Actually a few of my friends have asked how I am coping, now that I am surrounded by these inmates in this Care Home, but they’re not so bad and as I’ve said, the ‘guards’ are lovely and the food is good, but I will still moan just a tiny little bit if I get cold toast of a morning…

I am also reminded of a lovely line from an episode of Star Trek (the original series) by Spock. He had expected to get married but found his fiancée did not want him, so he turned to the new man in this girl’s life and said “She is yours. After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” Since first hearing that I have always done my best to remember.

Right now I’m better off than a few folk I know or am hearing about and I am truly thankful to be alive for as long as I am meant to be. I will give what help I can as, where and when I am able to. Do I need a walking frame? Right now, you bet I do – but that will change. I already have that walking stick to support me when the time arrives…

To end this week I’ve chosen the following:
A car driver is in his car. He stops a pedestrian and the two of them start a conversation.
Car driver: Excuse me, can you tell me the quickest way to get to the nearest town?
Pedestrian: Are you walking, or driving?
Car driver: I’m driving…
Pedestrian: Well, that’s the quickest way, then…

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Covid-19 Update

11 September 2020

Following on from last week’s blog I must report that us inmates are still in lockdown and confined to quarters. I learned that it was a member of staff who had tested as positive for Covid-19. So they have had to bring in staff from other places to cope. It has meant us being checked regularly for our temperature and no doubt we are also being watched for any adverse signs. In addition, last Saturday morning I was so bitterly disappointed to be told that I couldn’t be given my normal medication at my usual time as they did not have stock of them. This included the tablets I take to control my epilepsy. I’ve been on regular medication for this since my first epileptic fit in 1973 and I’ve made sure to keep a good supply of tablets so I would never run out.

So in this Care Home, where medication is kept in a central location and where they surely must have a system for monitoring minimum stock as well as ordering well in advance and ‘chasing up’ on orders, I do not know how this oversight could have occurred. I appreciate that I have recently had to change from one surgery over to another as a result of being in this Care Home, so maybe that is why the problem occurred. I was most unhappy, but the extra tablets were obtained. I know the staff here were and are doing their best, but it still stressed me out. In addition, it has meant some staff coming in on their days off and that cannot be easy for them at all.

I fully expect that I, along with all the other inmates here, will be kept confined as far as is possible until at least fourteen days has elapsed. They will probably do a check on us all as well as the Carers. This is right and proper, I have no problem with any of this. Well, apart from perhaps one thing – of a morning, I have a lovely mug of tea along with toast & marmalade, but at the moment there are rare times when the toast is almost cold!!!

However, if that’s all I can find to complain about, it’s not so bad really. So I will be a patient patient as I am sure that things will be back to ‘normal’ before too long and my toast will be warm again! I had a really lovely fried egg sandwich for my breakfast one morning, it was hot and so tasty! Thank you!!!

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Seasonal Changes

04 September 2020

I know that for some people the winter-time causes changes in behaviour, this is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is then characterised by a loss of pleasure or interest in one’s normal every-day activities along with irritability as well as feelings of despair, guilt, also a feeling of worthlessness. In addition, there might be a degree of lethargy (lacking in energy) as well as feeling sleepy during the day.

An added problem can be that with all the restrictions around Covid-19, only now are people getting very limited access to their family and friends. This will be having an effect on, for example, the inmates and all the staff where I am at present as well as everywhere else.

Recently we have had a few cooler days,  of little sunshine and periods of grey skies.  I know that for me personally I am at my best when it is neither too hot or too cold. I have been invited to spend a holiday over in India, but when I can go it will have to be as and when it is almost their coolest and probably wettest of times!

It is well known that those who climb high mountains have to be careful because the higher they go, the thinner the air due to the reduced air pressure. But changes in our weather bring high or low pressure to us at ground level, so I have an idea that these changes can also affect our mood, how we feel and how we cope from day to day. Also many people really enjoy bright days and look forward to all the sunshine they can, hence the reason that holidays abroad are so popular. Bright days in the sunshine will be what they all look forward to. Most people, anyway.

But what of the moon? It has an effect on the earth, we know from the way the tides change during the year. I  was talking to a friend of mine and I was reminded that there would be a full moon on the second of September. I know it can affect some, I wondered though what effect that might have on the people in this place, given the problems they have. So I decided to watch the behaviour of the other inmates as best I could here over the few days prior to and afterwards.

Then on the day of the full moon, changes occurred. I had my tablets slightly late but also all of us inmates were kept in our own rooms. This was due to a person testing positive for Covid-19, apparently. All our meals were brought to us and I wondered if this situation would remain for fourteen days, just as I had been isolated when I first got here. Time would, literally, tell. I could only presume that someone, my guess a Carer, had tested positive, unless an inmate had showed any signs.

As a result, any effects that the full moon might or might not have were not now so easy to identify because inmates were not able to meet or at the very least be in the same room as each other. They might not talk very much, but being with others can have a really comforting effect. It seems to me, at least.

Consequently I was unable to determine with any degree of certainty as to whether the full moon had affected anyone here, inmates or Carers etc, in this Care Home. I have made a note on when a full moon will occur again and if possible I will note any effects at that time!

Finally this week I couldn’t end without mentioning the following, as it made me chuckle. Normally my supper is a tasty sandwich and perhaps a cake which are served on a proper plate, along with a nice mug of tea. But one night the food items were served on a pad of paper napkins. I did wonder if perhaps they were trying to save on washing up??? Just a thought…

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