Shiny new web design!

You have probably noticed that this web site has had a makeover. I have been meaning to do it for more than a  year but M.E. and depression have left me little productive time that hasn’t been taken up with other things. I did like the old theme that I was using, Piano Black, but it wasn’t without problems. For one thing, the main body was not wide enough which meant that most images had to be resized to fit and there wasn’t room for much text on each line. The patterned background, while pretty, was quite difficult for some people to read. A bit of an accessibility fail.

Tentacles of Doom screenshot
The old design

This new design rectifies those problems and a few others. The new colour scheme feels more like “me” since I have been tweaking it to how I like it. Inspiration was taken from my favourite computer game, Day Of The Tentacle. The background to the text here is smooth but if you still find it hard to read then you should look in the sidebar where there are buttons which allow you to turn on high-contrast text and to change the text size. I have a fantastic new title banner which was created for me by my sister @apricotmuffins. She has more examples of her work on her website at www.mariabovor.co.uk and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind a few paying commissions 🙂

The new design no longer shows the full text of my blog posts on the front page. Instead I have space for two featured articles at the top of the page, and then headlines with a small snippet of text further down. If you would prefer to read all the articles on one page then just click on “All articles” on the menu right at the top of the page and you will see them in traditional blog format. You can also go to various categories like politics, illness etc from the menu just under the title banner.

For those who are technically minded: I’ve built this site on self-hosted WordPress using the Genesis framework. I’ve started with the Prose theme for full control-panel access to tweak fonts and colours but I’ve added my own custom home page with extra widget areas to cope with my bio and the featured articles.

I hope you like it. If you have any feedback please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below or send me an email. And while you’re here, I’d like to take the opportunity to remind you that I have a Facebook page, a Google+ page, a Youtube channel and I’m on twitter. I’d love it if you went and liked/circled/subscribed/followed. If you have a Kindle then you can have my blog sent to it automatically for 99p per month. I’ve never seen any money from it, but if enough of you subscribe then I might!

 

Where did the time go?

I missed an important event.

On the 22nd of June this blog was a year old!

In that year it had 63,284 page views, from 31,744 visitors. Since the birthday that I missed the totals have gone up to 71,520 views and 35,564 visitors. I could never have imagined that so many people would read what I had to say. I am fairly confident that writing this blog has helped me cope as much as it has informed or entertained anyone else, so thank you all for staying with me.

Of course, it wasn’t until the 24th of November, when I wrote about a certain police van at a minor protest in London that anyone apart from Phill, Alex or my mum read my blog. Perhaps that should be considered its real birthday.

One hundred Blog Posts!

This is my one hundredth post on this blog! To celebrate, I’m going to tell you a bit about why I write here.

This isn’t my first blog; I used to have one with Livejournal but I wrote on it about once a month or even less than that. I started this blog in June last year and I wrote perhaps every week or two but I still didn’t have that much to talk about. Two things changed that. One factor was my health, and the other was politics.

Last summer I had surgery which kept me in bed for several weeks. (Warning, grossness behind that link!) Just as I was recovering from that, I had to have surgery again because the problem came back. Then I had flu, and was in bed again. Then I had more flu… I ended up in a full relapse of my ME and a whole new lot of pain which might be diabetes complications or fibromyalgia. Being in bed all day gave me lots of time to think and write, unfortunately various symptoms often conspire to prevent me writing. Brain fog means I often can’t think for long enough to construct a whole paragraph. (Although I can still manage a 140 character tweet!)  I am quite often unable to sit up in bed, so can’t type on a keyboard. I can still use my phone though, and have written several blog posts using the wordpress app, typing on my touchscreen phone with just one thumb! I often use twitter this way too.

Politics gave me something to actually write about. You have probably noticed that I get angry about politics quite easily. I describe myself as an “angry lefty” and the current government has done plenty to get me worked up. I have written about the government, their policies on cuts, their attachment to big business rather than the people, the police and their abuses of power and the chilling effect that they have on protests. I have written about freedom of speech, privacy, and the right to protest.

I have often written about my illness. When I write about being ill I usually think that I am just moaning too much and tend to be quite apologetic about it to my readers, but they tell me that they love me writing about illness and to write more. Writing about ME and the impact it has on me has shown quite a few people the realities of living with this kind of illness. Some of what I have written has turned out to be accidental poetry, or so I am told. I have even written a couple of book reviews, although one of them was intensely political. Well it fitted the theme.

So I have had plenty of time to write, and between the government, the police, and my illness, I have plenty to write about. But what really kicked this all off is the protests against the tuition fee rises. During that #dayx protest, I was watching live TV news. (On three different channels at once!) I saw the vandalism of the infamous police van, and all the events leading up to it. I was outraged that the news reports about it were all wrong, and so I wrote about it on my blog. I updated that article through that day as I received more information. But the real surprise is that my blog post got twelve thousand hits! That is what really motivated me to start writing more. I realised that words written here can have real power and make a real difference, good or bad. Since then I have written a blog post almost every day. On most days this blog gets about 100 page views. About once a month I manage to write something that really resonates and will get as many as 1,000 views. I started out by ranting quite a lot, but I have been making an effort to include more facts, more evidence, and less anger. It’s still all my opinions, but I hope that I make that clear and direct people to the evidence to decide for themselves. It’s a long slow learning process, but I think I’m winning.

This blog has been great therapy for me personally. Finding subjects to write about and researching them has given me something to do with no time pressure. Knowing that people actually read it gives me some sense of purpose while I am stuck in bed. My combined efforts on this blog, facebook and twitter have, I think had an impact on the anti-cuts movement despite me being unable to go out and join them. It has led to me writing articles for Liberal Conspiracy, (1,2) Beyond Clicktivism,(1,2,) One Month Before Heartbreak(1,2,3,4) and The Broken Of Britain. (I have an article to be published there next week and a regular slot after that.)

And so, here we are at 100 blog posts. 23,378 page views. 18,851 visits. 14,231 unique visitors. The most popular post ever was about a police van. Here’s to another 100 blog posts!

This blog in other places

Make me happy and click ‘Like’ on this blog’s Facebook Page.

You can now subscribe to this blog on the Kindle.

Tentacles of doom Kindle Edition

My writing in other places

Facebook page

This is just a quick mention; this blog now has a Facebook page of its own. It would make me really happy if you all went there and clicked Like. You get timely updates when I write something new, and I get the fuzzy warmth of knowing that people read my crazy ranting. I will no longer post announcements of new blog posts on my personal Facebook account. Please note that anyone is free to like the Facebook page, but I have a policy of only adding someone as a friend on Facebook if I know them in real life.

A request for feedback

I invite readers of this blog to take part in a small survey.

First of all, I would like to get some idea of how many read this blog regularly, including those of you using RSS. (Stats are not too accurate.) I don’t mind if it’s a comment or just clicking the Like button at the bottom of this post. (Make sure it’s the lower Disqus Like button and not the Facebook one, although you can click that too if you want!)

Secondly, I ask for your feedback, if you want to give it.

  • What attracted your attention to my blog?
  • Which of my articles do you like best, and which subjects do you like reading about?
  • How do you keep up with this blog? Do you check it at regular intervals? Wait for an announcement on Facebook or Twitter? Use RSS or Google reader?

Thank you for any feedback that you give, and thank you for reading. I appreciate it.

Blood Bikes: the bikers that could save your life

This is a clip from Channel 5’s Emergency Bikers. This particular clip features Blood Bikes from Freewheelers EVS and Severn Freewheelers.

Description taken from their website: Blood bikes are a volunteers that use motorcycles (and sometimes cars) to provide an out-of-hours courier service to hospitals and other health institutions within their area. The charities carry urgently needed medical items such as blood, biological samples, medical notes, x-rays and scans. The service is offered free of charge to the NHS and all members are unpaid volunteers.

If the blood bikes didn’t exist, the NHS would be paying for taxis or ambulances to transport blood, tissues and medical supplies. Despite the amount of money that they save the NHS, blood bikes are ridden by volunteers and funded entirely through donations.

The blood bikes need your help to keep going. They need riders, they need volunteers to answer the phones and help co-ordinate, they need people to go to shows and events to raise awareness, and they need donations.

I would very much like to ride for the Severn Freewheelers. Unfortunately what is stopping me is the training. Advanced Rider Training is a requirement before riding blood bikes, and quite rightly so. I became a member about a year ago and started to take my advanced rider training with Redditch Advanced Motorcycle Group (RAMG) but unfortunately I haven’t been able to dedicate the time to go out riding for most of the day every second Sunday, nor have I been able to afford the full tank of petrol and lunch out that each training trip would entail. Ironically, my insomnia makes me perfectly placed to ride blood bikes from 7pm to 7am, but the same insomnia makes it extremely difficult for me to undertake observed rides for training at 9am! I’m currently looking in to alternative ways to get trained up so that I can volunteer a few nights a month to ride a blood bike.

Useful Links

National Association of Blood Bikes

Severn Freewheelers

Prescott Bike Festival – Fundraising for Blood Bikes in April 2011

Where have all the blog posts gone?

Yes, I know, I haven’t updated this blog nearly as often as I would like. The problem is, while I have lots of ideas floating around in my head for articles on faith, my life, and my business, they are all rather personal and I am not ready to publish them here. I have even typed some out but refrained from publishing them. So for now, I am afraid you will have to make do with this fun video complete with music that won’t get out of my head.

A blog post!

This is my first blog post in a very long time. I used to be on Livejournal, now I have installed WordPress on my own website. To be honest, I probably won’t post much here either. Small thoughts go on Twitter. Other stuff goes on Facebook. Still, this is my new blog, full of my old blog posts, and maybe I will even add stuff to it.

Heres something interesting to get us going again.  I’m an insomniac. I don’t often get to bed before 2am, and it’s frequently nearer 4am. I use the computer most of that time when I should be sleeping, and the bright monitor does nothing to help me get to bed. Three days ago I was shown a very useful tool, F.Lux which cleverly alters the colour temperature (not the brightness) of my display as night draws in. Colour temperature describes the relative brightness of the primary colours to each other. My monitor is normally set to a colour temperature of 6500K but with f.lux installed it is gradually changed over the course of an hour each evening to a temperature of 3400K.  It’s early days, but sleep has been much easier and earlier for the last two nights so I am hopeful that it will continue to help.

f.lux can be downloaded from http://stereopsis.com/flux/