Update and NoobGrind GTX 1080 article

I am now fortunate to have occasional hours without any pain, but then excruciating pain in my left shoulder, neck and even arm, can return for seemingly no reason; likely my pathetic amount of activity was too much. Due to this the new role-playing article I have been tinkering with just feels like a low priority. I decided not to force myself to write something, but thankfully something came along and grabbed my attention.

I have been putting off upgrading my PC for about a year. Since my current system does what I need it to do, I have been able to get by. Amusingly I don’t want to upgrade for gaming reasons, but due to how resource demanding Dragon NaturallySpeaking is. Though the software works incredibly accurately the vast majority of the time, there are occasional moments when it struggles.

Last week I finalised a list of parts and sent an email to a company to price up for me. Thankfully they have been slow in responding, which is handy since NVIDIA have announced their new video card range. So at the weekend I watched the presentation and got quite excited due to how impressive the cards are. After a lot of research I ended up writing an article for NoobGrind about them: http://www.noobgrind.com/next-gen-graphics-cards/

The GTX 1080 is certainly more than I need currently. Buying one would be a bit like buying a sports car but then never driving it more than 30mph. However, in the future I do have plans; I will ponder more.

I hope to have a role-playing related article finished in the next few days. I’ve had a few really interesting ideas recently about my decade long unfinished guide, motivation to do something without that is growing.

Health: Cortisone, Writing Motivation

The cortisone injection last week went well, with the doctor successfully injecting the area on the first attempt. The pain of the needle going in was not that bad, I was reading SuperBetter on my Kindle during the process, to help distract me from the pain, it did help a bit. Then as the injection of the fluid occurred the pain skyrocketed, it felt like a large object landing on the area; the doctor said that this could be a good sign, as it indicates that the injection had hit the right area due to how sensitive it was.

My body had an immediate reaction to the amount of pain, I started sweating a lot and nearly passed out. However, the experience sorting out my damaged right ear was far worse, so to anyone reading this due to worrying about their own cortisone injection I’d say yes it will be painful, but you will handle it. The pain experienced for the next two days was more like how the shoulder pain had been a few weeks ago, so not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

6-TR07 FIGURE 4
Example of shoulder injection

Writing & Motivation

Whilst things had improved a little bit I have still lacked motivation to do much, as well as still needing to prioritise doing nothing. So despite receiving positive feedback about the Kaizo Trap and Cyberpunk articles in particular, I have not finished any articles for a few weeks, and I had planned follow-ups on those previous articles. At least I have had time to think about them, but after making a few notes, I then don’t have the urge to continue. Considering I could ramble on using speech recognition whilst in bed it would seem easy enough, but I just didn’t want to, until today when I got so frustrated I decided to ramble a bit.

One of my coping mechanisms whilst resting up has been watching all sorts of videos, I have written a NoobGrind article about Gaming and Disability: Value of Video, which as per normal for me turned into a thousand word piece. I hope to be able to maintain motivation and get back to writing articles about role-playing games and my professional experiences.

What’s Next?

I have another doctor’s appointment today, and I will need a further sicknote extension for hopefully just a week or two, and then maybe the injection will prove to have been effective. As mobility has improved I have been at least able to do a tiny amount of yoga and tai chi, and I hope that this progress will help trigger further strengthening without interfering with the current healing by re-aggravating something. I am still having to hold off at attempting anything Brazilian Jiu Jitsu related.

As pain reduces and health improves, I expect (hope) motivation will return. I guess if things don’t improve then I will have to change mental gears anyway. SuperBetter is helping, but I will write about that another time.

superbetter-toolkit
SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal

Cortisone, Future Health & Physiotherapy

At the time of writing this I am a few hours away from having a cortisone injection in my left shoulder. The swelling from last year finally started to reduce a few weeks ago, and has nearly gone. The constant pain from the left shoulder, to back of the left shoulder blade, and then up my neck has only reduced a little bit. Although doing more than nothing still quickly increases this pain.

I received whiplash a few weeks ago during an emergency brake, even though it was not a particularly dramatic incident. It just shows how susceptible a person with a weakness is to injury.

My current sick-note is due to expire next Monday. It is hard to estimate whether the cortisone injection will give such a rapid improvement in 6 days, but hopefully it will.

I expect the injection to hurt, and whilst it may not help, I think it is worth trying at this stage. A few weeks ago I read a few articles and research papers on the subject, for example:  http://overhaultraining.com/cortisone-injections/

One of the things I kept reading was how key physiotherapy is, regardless of having cortisone or not. Since I desperately want to be able to exercise again, partly because I miss Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and partly because I have put quite a lot of weight on, the sooner I can start exercising a lot more the better. I have been doing some very simple exercises, small shoulder and neck movements, as well as short works of a mile or two. However, I was advised by three doctors that doing more than this currently is not advised.

The trouble is determining when can I start to do more? Sensibly a few more weeks of basic movement is what I should stick to, and at the moment I am considering re-joining a local gym to get access to the swimming pool, sauna and spa. I am aware it is better to be sensible then do too much and quickly aggravate the injured area again.

360° BBC Click and RSI (Wrists)

Every week I watch Click, a technology programme on the BBC. I think the show does a great job of providing up to date tech news. I also really like the presenters, in particular Spencer Kelly and Kate Russell.

On 11th March 2016 the programme was released with two versions, the standard and a 360° version. This was the first programme to be entirely 360°, so given this landmark and the fact it was Click, I decided to check it out.

I thought this special episode was spectacular. I was very impressed with the choice of locations: the opening shot is of an office with Spencer explaining what it is about happen helps to prepare the viewer for:

“Travel by helicopter to the desolate face of a glacier in the Swiss alps, go 100m underground inside the world’s largest physics experiment CERN with never-before-seen footage of the complex, witness world firsts: the 360 degree magic trick and a preview of computer game SUPERHOT”

I’m sure the majority of people will really enjoy this type of interactivity. Unlike in a normal episode were the editor has already determined what the focus of each shot would be, in a 360° episode the user will be changing the display focus a lot. This is often the case when a change of scene occurs, or maybe when a different person is talking. Add to this novelty of looking at everything, thus I regularly found myself rewinding parts of the video, so I could watch the video time-frame again, but each viewing I focused on a different part of the scene.

As somebody with RSI in my wrists, this level of constant interaction is an issue, due to needing to limit my interaction with keyboard/mouse. My normal method of navigating my system is via the speech recognition. Besides the problem of any audio playing making the software less likely to be effective, the speech navigation process wouldn’t work effectively with the current program. This is due to the amount of speech commands that would be required and how fast the images are changing. I took regular breaks whilst the video, so it took quite a while to watch it all. Crucially I enjoyed the experience, I thought the episode used the technology well, and it was not just a gimmick. Unfortunately I now know that watching a 360° video, whilst constantly updating the focus, is something that I should avoid, or carefully make use of.

Currently there is not much 360° media to consume, so I am not missing out on much. However, over the coming years this is likely to change, in particular when one considers the examples being shown with the new generation of virtual reality headsets. The Click video had comments by people stating that they watched the episode using a VR headset, and that they found the experience incredibly immersive. Of course I would like to try that, but currently I have chronic pain on the left side of my upper body due to shoulder swelling, which affects my neck, so the idea of adding even a small amount of weight to my head by using a headset is horrifying.

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The BBC also have a special report about how the 360° episode. Whilst in the show they do explain the process well, the written report adds a bit more information, and I would recommend reading it as well.

I look forward to being able to play SUPERHOT, particular with a VR headset, although that will have to wait. It seems a sure thing that VR headset will become a major part of gaming. This will be great for most people, as well as helping some disabled or temporarily injured people, whilst being an issue for others. As this technology develops, the ever continuing problem of speculating what could happen next will continue on.

I am not sure about the viability of the majority of videos media becoming 360°. I think with factors like the effects upon on the creation process, such as such as having to hide the crew and equipment, as well as cost increase, there is unlikely to be a rapid change. Never mind the issue of whether making a video 360° provides much bonus.

There will surely be exceptions that utilise the technology well, such as a film plot about the nature of perception, or an animation that does not have the issue of camera placement and green screening the majority of a scene. Maybe other technology, like a cybernetic headset on each actor and even multiple inanimate objects, will take the whole process to the next level!

40th Birthday

I recently celebrated my 40th birthday, which despite the chronic pain was still an enjoyable day, and it’s nice to write about something positive. I do not put any particular emphasis on specific days, since I try to treat every day as special, but I appreciate that some days are more special than others. I had a small family get-together; we enjoyed a tasty collection of Chinese food and a bit of cake. Technically this had been my breakfast since I had been up the previous night and slept most of the day, as once again my sleep cycle was out of sync.

Whilst I don’t expect presents from friends or family I do very much appreciate gifts. Although I am not much of an alcohol drink normally I have recently been using it for medicinal reasons, roughly one or two units a day, so it was nice to receive several different drinks. The wife bought me an amusing present, a collection of treats in a bin; I have mentioned needing a small bin for my new room. The nice secondary joke being that a large collection of sweets is rubbish for my diet, but at least I’m generally good at rationing out treats.

I have been contemplating upgrading my PC for a few years, and have received money towards this. Thankfully I have a powerful enough PC, and I have not needed to upgrade my CPU, memory, or motherboard for years. As the requirements for high-end PC games have lessened over the last few years, in part due to so many games being made for consoles, the hasn’t been a need to upgrade; yes there are games that demand more resources but I don’t particularly care about playing Crysis in maximum specs. Due to resting and avoiding computer use I don’t particularly need a more powerful system, but speech recognition software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking does benefit from having more system resources, so have recently been looking at a more powerful system.

To PC or not to PC.

About a year ago I had been contemplating having a big celebration; my sister had one when she turned forty, and that was a fun evening. I had pondered the idea of asking to use the ITC gym (Sukata), since a lot of the people I would have been inviting train martial arts there, in particular Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). Although I was not one of the club superstars, I do like to think that when I was healthier I was a good training partner, which is an invaluable asset for the more talented, healthier and dedicated practitioners. Hopefully I will be back training and healthy for my 41st birthday, and if so I can have a large party then.

Although I have read dismissive comments about how irrelevant or pathetic a Facebook or email message saying “Happy Birthday” is, I disagree. Even a short message takes time and effort for somebody to do, and whilst it is possible to set up a script to automate sending emails to people on the birthday, it is not something that the general person would do. This is why I appreciate the effort.

This blog post nearly ended up being about the placebo effect, but I decided to separate that information for a future post. In the end was more a collection of thoughts about how my life is not all bad.

This was written (dictated to) listening to the splendid new track by Leslie Wai, a cover of Modern Love but with some great tweaks. He is the wizard behind the Kaizo Trap music. I have blogged about Kaizo Trap before, and I wrote an article for NoobGrind about it.

Music: pain management and mental health

Due to being bed ridden I have been listening to more than I normally do, and I normally listened to a lot! But before I get to the science, music and my love of all things Anathema, first an update:

The ongoing chronic pain in my left shoulder and neck resulted in me losing two of my major passions months ago: martial arts and computer gaming. For months my thoughts have been dominated by pain, and any attempts to estimate when I can return to these two hobbies is impossible to compute, further frustrating my current mind-set. Like so many other people facing major injuries/illness, looking forward to things improving is an important part of maintaining morale; not being able to do so is horrid.

I have already experienced having to make a difficult life changing decision due to the development of permanent repetitive strain injuries in my wrists. Years ago I had to stop playing competitive real-time strategy (RTS) or first person shooter (FPS) games due to the intense twitch-based requirement to compete.

It is accepted that general exercise can help regulate mood, and active distractions such as electronic gaming can greatly help in pain management. 1

I am trying to spend as much time in bed as possible doing nothing, to limit aggravating my injury, and so I will heal faster; I’m barely even walking. So in addition to losing two of my hobbies, they are additionally things that would have generally good physical and mental health beneficial effects.

Fortunately I at least have music listen to, and this still provides a distraction from pain2; whether this is due the power of imagination with the music taking the listener on a virtual journey, or due to specialised brain regions triggering dopamine release, it is not understood currently.

It is commonly accepted that music has a powerful impact upon our mood, as well as being a crucial aspect of society. Since music is so personal it is tempting to think that our individual relationship with music, or the musicians, is unique. I appreciate the reality that our own experience is specifically unique, but in general not rare given how many people there are on the planet. I think this is a more grounded way to view things, especially when you hear about people who hijack everything about a song and even argue with a musician about what a particular track actually means, telling the musician they are wrong about their own version!?

I like to consider that I have a broad taste in music, but unsurprisingly I definitely have my preferences. One of my big influences at 16 was Doom Metal bands like Anathema, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost; an honourable mention to Black Sabbath for their great tracks in this genre previously. The reason for writing about Doom Metal is that I saw the following post:

Doom research

I love so many bands/musicians, but in particular Anathema. If I had to pick they are my joint favourite since I also adore New Model Army with an intensity I find shocking to myself.

I first saw Anathema after the Serenades album came out at my local rock club in Blackpool called The Tache, I think it was in 1993. Most of my night club mates had diverse taste in music, although they preferred the metal scene, so it was no surprise that several of them could be listening to an acid house track one moment, then listen to pop, punk, death metal, etc. without it being a big deal. At the time Doom had the potential to blow up, with Paradise Lost doing great , given that Metallica was suddenly a global giant and Guns N Roses were in the mainstream it seemed oddly possibly Doom could become massive. Never mind the interesting diverse Industrial bands like Ministry Psalm 69 seemed like it was about to be massive, or the quirky but cool G.G.F.H. was being discussed; I recall discussing the potential of a band merging Doom and Industrial sounds.

Serenades

Quite a few of us were really into the Anathema – Serenades album, in part due to the surprisingly diverse nature of the work. The creeping sounds at the start of “Lovelorn Rhapsody” sets the tone for the album well, and builds in to what could be considered a quintessential Doom Metal track; a slow intense almost frustrating build towards something more layered, then reaching a more head-banging worthy pace for the last third.

The much beloved track Sleepless could be badly described as if The Cure made a Doom Metal track, but then got frustrated at their style change, before deciding to fully commit to the project; I mean that as a compliment, it’s a great track, and hints at what Anathema will evolve in to.

The track “J’ai fait une promesse” has a particularly special place for some of the people that were a year or two older than at The Tache, this is because a regular had died of cancer and this track was played at his funeral. I recall this tracks placement in the album was somewhat debated, some finding it to out of place, others loving the difference and the fact that why shouldn’t it be there.

I have offered to help Selim with his project. Between painkillers, alcohol and reminiscing I’ve not felt so bad tonight. For me there is little like listening to Anathema on repeat to make me feel better, but I will write more on them (via speech system) another day.

1. [“Electronic Gaming as Pain Distraction”]
2. [“Superior Analgesic Effect of an Active Distraction versus Pleasant Unfamiliar Sounds and Music: The Influence of Emotion and Cognitive Style”]

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Kaizo Trap review on NoobGrind + Update

Personal Update: My MRI scan revealed a lot fluid around my left shoulder, but thankfully no major structural damage was detected. The massive amount of swelling has slowly been reducing, since I am not doing much, which is incredible frustrating. The incredible levels of pain has reduced somewhat as the swelling has gone down, I still have chronic intense pain, so stating it has reduced is almost meaningless, but it is an improvement at least. Any hopes to go back training in February were quashed back in January, and it seems like the whole of March will be out as well.

 

NoobGrind: After weeks of not doing much, I have managed to use speech recognition to write an article about the incredible video called Kaizo Trap. http://www.noobgrind.com/kaizo-trap-a-gaming-love-story/

 

A whole bunch of other articles are planned, and maybe I’ll get another done soon. My enthusiasm about the subjects is somewhat demolished by the pain, and wariness of doing anything.