Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome and Alexia. (This has nothing to do with Amazon gadgets)

This post focuses on writing blogs, website content, social media and emails rather than stories and books.

As independent authors, our ability to write such is of paramount importance to our promotional and marketing strategy. Yet the way you write could be alienating those who are not quite as apt as you or me at reading.


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A couple of years ago, I had a wonderful comment from a person who suffered from dyslexia about a post.

Although his comments were primarily about the content and not the presentation of the post, he mentioned he found my post far easier to read than many, if not most.

Curiosity got the better of me.

Why I wondered, could he read and understand my posts, when he struggled to read so many others?

Over the next few days, he and I conversed, by email, about his reading on a personal AAEAAQAAAAAAAAxCAAAAJDdmZDE5N2IxLWUxZmUtNGMwNi04YzE3LWYyNGUxYjA3MDE1MQlevel and Dyslexia in general.

 

Before I carry on and explain the outcome of our conversations, I think as writers we should all know and understand what dyslexia and some of the most common reading difficulties are. So, I am including the following few paragraphs & bullet points, (which I cribbed from the internet), for clarity.

 

A formal definition of dyslexia used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states, “It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. “

Unsurprisingly, the International Dyslexia Association defines it in simple terms. “Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.”


In contrast, Irlen Syndrome is a perceptual processing disorder, meaning that it relates specifically to how the brain processes the visual information it receives. It is not a language-based disorder and phonics-based instruction will not help someone with Irlen Syndrome improve in the same way it will help someone with dyslexia improve their reading skills.

At its core, Irlen Syndrome is a light sensitivity, where individuals are sensitive to a specific wavelength of light and this sensitivity is what causes the physical and visual symptoms that people with Irlen Syndrome experience. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty reading not because their brains have difficulty connecting the letters they see with the sounds those letters make, but because they see distortions on the printed page, or because the white background or glare hurts their eyes, gives them a headache, or makes them fall asleep when trying to read.

Unlike dyslexia, difficulties experienced because of Irlen Syndrome can reach well beyond just reading. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty processing all visual information, not just words on a printed page, so they often have trouble with depth perception, driving, sports performance, and other areas not generally connected with dyslexia.


Alexia is a form of dyslexia, but dyslexia is developmental, meaning that it does not happen from an occurrence such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Alexia is an acquired reading disability because of an acquired event such as a stroke. It is most common for alexia to be accompanied by expressive aphasia (the ability to speak in sentences), and agraphia (the ability to write).

All alexia is not the same, however. You may have difficulty with the following:

Recognizing words ● Difficulty identifying and reading synonyms ● Difficulty with reading despite your ability to sound out pronunciation of words.

Although you can read words, it is too difficult to read for very long ● Blind spots blocking the end of a line or a long word ● Focusing on the left side of the paragraph or page ● Double vision when trying to read ● Reading some words but not others. Of course, this makes reading impossible.

A stroke survivor with alexia that can read larger words, but cannot read tiny words such as “it,” “to,” “and,” etc. ● Any combination of some of these traits.

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My conversations with, (I shall call him ‘Jay’ during this post), led me to take a close look at how I was presenting my blogs, what made them so different and, could I improve them further?

It turns out the style I chose… I was going to say developed, but that sounds arrogant. So, the style I was using at the time was to write in small(ish) chunks, using relatively short sentences and paragraphs, as I have so far in this post.

Unlike the following.

This differed to most blogs and posts on the interweb which were, (and still are), long blocks of continuous sentences and sub-sentences, forming large paragraphs with very little line spacing or breaks. This may be a ‘style’ welcomed by universities and those writing technical/medical/professional and some literary journals. I have seen many papers which follow this style. I have even read a few and I must agree it makes for extremely uncomfortable reading. To read such a document, one must concentrate fully and focus on each word of each line. Whenever the eye moves from its forced liner motion, even for a moment, is when the reader finds some difficulty in returning to the exact location they were at previously, often meaning one must, annoyingly, re-read sections already read. Like you have possibly just done when reading with this last long drivelling, over worded paragraph I have written in just such a manner to illustrate my point that it makes for uncomfortable reading, even for those of us blessed with good eyesight and adequate skill. A point which I hope I have now made adequately clear with this paragraph which is representative of many blogs.

Writing in this form creates such a large block of words it becomes challenging to separate them into clear concise ‘bite-sized‘ and manageable ‘lots’ of information.

This is one of the areas of written presentation which was highlighted to me by Jay.

I already used a style of writing which broke long paragraphs into much smaller ones, whenever practicable, but I was not aware of the impact doing so made on the reader. From then on, I broke paragraphs down even further than I did ‘pre-‘Jay’

I was also made aware of unnecessarily long sentences, sentences with too many superfluous words.

This simply meant cutting out all those unnecessary words to make sentences read far more precisely and clearly.

OR

Eliminating irrelevant words.

You see, this is not fictional or creative literature as when writing a novel, or even a short story. This is describing and sharing thoughts, ideas, information and data. Another skill set entirely.

Authors often discover this when having to write a precise about their latest book, like the back-cover blurb, an agent’s query synopsis, or for a promotional activity.

We all know, or at least should, that mixing sentence lengths makes for better reading. But so does spacing and breaking them up, like I have done in most of this post.

Please do not get me wrong.

I am not solely writing or directing my words specifically to those with reading difficulties, but I am looking to be as inclusive as possible and not simply because I am attempting to be politically, or socially correct.

I do it because I want as many people as possible to read my words. That is why I write.

Looking at how one presents their posts on the screen does not take much effort. Neither does adjusting one’s style to make it clearer and easier to read… for everybody, including you and me.

To finish, look at this Git-Hub virtual reality page. It shows how we can best comprehend the way those suffering from dyslexia and associated reading difficulties may see the written word.

https://geon.github.io/programming/2016/03/03/dsxyliea

My lesson following my conversations with ‘Jay’ is, “We can all learn from others, even those we may have previously considered had nothing to give us. After all, I never thought a dyslexic could teach an established author how to write clearer, even better. How wrong I was.”

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings. Please subscribe to this blog if you will.

I am open to all comments and try to reply to them all personally.

Keep happy, Paul


Oh, take a peek at my website, I have a ton of good stuff waiting there 

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Watching the sun rise

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As the sun rose and the darkness faded, the sky took on a burnished amber hue.

Birds started to welcome the dawn with the melody of their chorus.

I breathed in the sharp crispness of the morning air and looked up, a few wispy clouds hung motionless in the stratosphere.

It was such a fresh, bright morning I predictably recalled the hymn ‘Morning has broken’; in this instance, my mind heard it being sung by Cat Stevens. I half consciously found myself humming along, out of tune of course.

This was soon followed by the voice of Bob Marley and ‘Three little birds’. I smiled inwardly as I realised both these voices were inside my head.

However, the realisation itself began another thought process… I wondered why on earth we become so full of angst when someone admits to hearing voices in their own minds, or indeed fearful if they inhabit our own?

This morning, as the sun rose higher and the amber tones dissipated to reveal an azure blue sky, I found I was comforted by the voices in my head, the voices I heard singing to me.

Regardless of the scientific, cognitive or physiological explanations, of which I do not give one iota of ‘care’ for, I was quite amused by my own insight of this experience

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As a writer, I constantly think of ‘Funny things that make me laugh’ (Re- ‘Arthur’ aka Dudley Moore’.) I hope you have seen that film?

Anyway, this was one of those times, when even lateral thinking was unable to keep up with the speed of the random leaping of my thoughts. I have coined a personal term for this, I refer to it as ‘Geometric Surging’.

 

I love it, because this is where all the odd ball, wild, whacky and seemingly unconnected notions, concepts, opinions and theories I have somehow find common ground, which allows them to become authentic and viable concepts.

This is one state of mind where many of my inspirational stimuli collected from far and wide, many over long periods of time, meld into solid ideas.

All I need is a moment of ambiance, an atmosphere which can induce the right frame of mind.

Today, it was watching the sun rise.

 

Thanks for reading this Rambling

Paul.


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It is a gift which, I am sure, any book lover or author would love to have in their home.

Why not treat yourself, or get one as a birthday or Christmas present.

Order yours, today from right HERE 

 

Rabbits, Ducks and Rampant thoughts.

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Bentley hamlet. The duck pond is just visible, to the right of the last building, on the nearside of the road

This evening I took a stroll to an adjacent village to feed the ducks on the pond.

A pleasant, relaxing outing; one that allows my writers mind to relax, to take a break from its normal state, which is one of constant overdrive of complex inventiveness.

I walked to this small village which contains, seven houses, one which is a converted chapel and two farms. To be absolutely accurate, I should call it a hamlet rather than a village.

This hamlet is only one and a half miles from my own home and the walk is along a quite country road. I took with me a bag of half-stale bread and some old cake to treat the ducks that live on the hamlets pond.

Near the rear of the pond is a wooden bench of the type often found in public parks. It was donated by a group of women, I’m uncertain who, but their names are etched into a plaque on the rear of the seat. I thank them.

It is a tranquil spot, idyllic even.

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On my walk to the hamlet, I watched wild rabbits scurry into the dense undergrowth of bracken and bramble, dive headlong under hedgerows as my approach disturbed their grazing. Birds sung evensong, apart from the swifts and swallows which hunted on the wing, darting to and fro, seeking out their prey in a wondrous acrobatic aerial display.

I often walk, choosing various routes, partly as exercise, partly as relaxation and partly to wonder at the sheer variety of nature that is, so to speak, right on my doorstep. It is something I enjoy immensely.

This evening was no different until I saw a small rabbit, white tail bobbing as it ran down a steep bank, dodging the saplings, looking for somewhere to hide from my presence. Uncontrollably my mind took this as a prompt!

How would a body look rolling down that bank? “Imagine pushing it with your foot” it said, “watch it turn over and over as it falls”.

“Hey…what about this? running from zombies, or a mad axe murderer. Think about scrambling up the bank, slipping back into their gasp”.

I fought NOT to think of such things, pushed them to the back of my mind. Luckily, looking up, I caught sight of a Buzzard circling above the woodland. This stayed those musings…for a time.

2-ducks-on-a-pond-vaswaith-elengwinSoon, I was at the pond, sitting on the bench, watching a raft of ducks as they squabbled over the dried bread and old cake I casually tossed into the pond.

But my muse would not be quieted. “How deep is that water?” it asked. “Look, look a body is floating to the surface”. It was not; it is too heavily weighted to rise!

I shook my head to clear these notions. It worked, momentarily.

You see, the cottage opposite the pond has a small window, through which a pale yellow light was shining.

My mind spoke out again, “That is a lover’s hideaway. Two lost souls finding solace and love, a future together after all the turmoil and pain they have suffered”.

Sometimes I cannot control my own mind. It seeks inspiration and finds creative fertility of its own accord. Many times this is visual, like on this evenings stroll. Other times a voice, a sound, a few overheard words, sends it spiraling out of control.

I count this, most times, as a blessing and I am grateful to have this gift; but other times I regard it as a curse, as I did this night.

That’s all I have for you just now.

Goodnight, Paul.

 

© Paul White 2016

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Feel free to visit my website, take a look around, you may be surprised at what I get up to!

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

A question from a faded memory.

My posts are usually based on an idea or theme I have been mulling over for some time. Yet, when I write, I like to let my words ‘Ramble‘ onto the page.

Hence the title of this blog.

Today’s post is one which stems from contemplations which were running amok inside my head at bedtime last night… (read, ‘the early hours of this morning!‘)

It is not the first time I have considered the subject and one, I am sure, you have paid heed to in the past.

It is one of life, or rather death. But not in the regular way we may think on such a topic.

I shall start by sharing a faded memory.

Some time ago a read an article; by whom or in what magazine or book I forget. You see, it was not where the article was, or who the author might be that was important, it was the content.

It gave me food for thought. Thoughts I am writing about here, years later.

The article suggested we can conceive life, human life, without our own being part of it. Such as historical events or even the future.

We all know that in fifty, seventy, a hundred years from now we, as individuals will not be here. In short, we will have died.

Our own mortality is something we learn to accept. We live with the fact that at any moment, any one of us could expire. Such is life.

It is also not so hard to understand life without entire groups of people. We have read in a newspaper, or seen on the television, reports of families and even whole communities being killed by accidents; motorway pile-ups, air crashes, ships sinking, or natural disasters like tsunami, earthquakes, and forest fires.

We have come to accept these events as part of our life on Earth.

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So, to think of life, to think of the world carrying on without those, or without us, should we ever be unfortunate enough to be caught in such a situation, is not beyond most people’s grasp.

This is where the article asked the reader, me in this instance, to take some time to contemplate and consider the next question.

I shall now ask the same of you. Whatever your initial response or thoughts may be, spend some more time, a day, a week, several years, returning and re-evaluating your answer.

… Ponder life on earth without humanity, without a single human being.

Not the past, not before our race evolved, because that gives a false perspective. We know Homo-Sapiens came into being.

But think of a future world without our presence. How would the world look, how would the future be?

Now think of yourself as the final living human. Would you write a diary, an account of your life on earth?

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Why? Who would read it…not another human. No living entity that could understand those little black marks scribbled across sheets of paper. Nothing which could make head-nor-tail of the strange sounds you utter.

Pictures, paintings, art, recordings… all pathetically useless and irrelevant. They would never mean anything…ever…at all…to anything.

Then the Sun explodes and annihilates the earth, the entire solar system.

That is shortly before Andromeda collides with the Milky-Way. The two galaxies’…the immovable object and the irresistible force.

Take time to consider the universe then…without a single trace of our solar system, of Earth, that human life, or any life, ever existed.

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Would you, as the last human want to leave a trace of our passing, however pitifully futile you knew that to be… Why?

Now, as a writer I find myself retuning to wonder what our world would genuinely be like without ‘us’. Let alone thinking about the aftermath of the destruction of two entire solar systems.

The philosophers among you may adhere to certain schools of thought… or not.

I for one have many ideas, none of which I can truly convince myself is correct.

Now, I don’t expect you to answer this question too quickly. Take your time as I have.

Which has been about twenty years, so far!

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Enjoy your day, Paul.

Did you know I also have a blog where I post the occasional short story? You are welcome to read them all, they are right here at… https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com

Steamy windows (All about the writers muse)

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    I was silently musing, as is my bent, when a certain thought kept returning. No matter how many times I dismissed the notion it would not leave me alone; eventually waking me in the early hours with its persistent nagging.

    I guess all writers, at least those of us who are serious about our craft, have such occasions?

    Personally, I find the only way to rid such daemons is to submit to their will, writing about whatever it is which plagues the mind.

    When I say write, I mean exactly and precisely that. I mean scribble the thoughts down in any way, shape, or form possible. Be it in a note book, a journal, incorporate the idea into your current novel, or do as I am now doing, write it as a blog post.

    As one writes the thoughts begin to unravel, they start to form strings of coherent meanings and possibilities. Unlike the tangled mass of haphazard notions previously running amok in the brain.

    As now, many threads appear, each one a possible tale or the premise of another book. This post is but one of those threads, others will follow.

    I already have a new short story to tell from these very words and shall write a draft as soon as I can, as soon as I finish this.

    I think of it, each idea, each notion, much like a kettle on the hob. The kettle is full, the gas burning brightly beneath. Slowly, as the water heats it begins to move, agitations growing as the temperature increases, until inevitably, the water comes to a galloping boil.

    This is the moment the lid starts to rattle, the whistle screams, steam escapes to fill the kitchen and condense on the windowpanes causing rivulets of water to run down and form puddles on the sills.

    That is how the muse builds up inside of us, the writers and authors. The note pads and keyboards are our lids and whistles. Our editors and proof-readers the rivulets and window panes.

    It is not until we have wafted away the steam, opened the said windows, letting fresh air circulate, can we finally put everything together and make that nice pot of tea.

    Of course, that is all a writer’s metaphorical whimsy. But I guess you get my gist?

    Now I sit at the kitchen table, drinking such tea and reading a book. Possibly your book, the one which you wrote as when your conceptual kettle boiled.

    Now all I need is a sweet biscuit to dunk…but that really is another story altogether!

    Happy daze, Paul.

    Why not read some of my short stories at https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

The Wind & the Sun

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  This is a story my father used to tell me as a young child.

  Way back then I had no idea that this story was his version of an Aesop’s fable.

  I loved listening to him regale it over and again; although I had heard this story many times, it was not until I was about seven that I began to understand how the moral of the tale, or at least the basic message it carried, related to life.

   My father has now been dead for over thirty five years, yet I still recall his voice when I think of the Wind & the Sun.

   Moreover I am still learning the true extent of how the simple and basic message this story carries can affect every part of our lives, in work, play, socially, and in our domestic and love life relationships.

   I will try my best to recount this tale as closely to my father’s recitation as I can recall, because I still prefer his version to that of Aesop!

   Maybe you would too, if you could hear his voice as clearly I still do.


One day the Wind and the Sun were looking down upon the earth when they saw a man walking along a footpath.

‘Look at that man’ said the Wind, ‘I bet I can get his jacket off him quicker than you ’.

‘You think you can?’ answered the Sun.

‘Of course’ the Wind replied ‘because I am strong and powerful’.

‘Go on then’ said the Sun ‘let me see what you can do’.

So the Wind began to blow. As the Wind blew the man’s jacket flapped in the breeze. The Wind blew harder, whipping up clouds of dust and blowing the leaves from the trees.

The man buttoned his jacket, turned up his collar, lowered his head and continued walking.

Displeased with his efforts so far the Wind let a howling gale bellow over the ground. It was so forceful that the man had to fold his arms across his chest to stop his jacket from being blown off.

The Wind saw what the man was doing took a huge puff and let loose a tempest.

The man clutched his jacket tighter to himself, holding it firm with both hands.

Again and again the Wind blew and blew. The harder the Wind blew the tighter the man clung to his Jacket.

Eventually the Wind had puffed so hard for so long that he blew himself out.

The sun laughed and said to the Wind ‘Now it is my turn to try and get this man’s jacket off’.

So the Sun smiled and shone his gentle rays of warm sunlight upon the earth and upon the man.

The man took his hands from his jacket.

The Sun continued to smile and spread his warmth.

The man unbuttoned his jacket and loosened his tie.

After a while the man, bathed in the glorious heat from the sun, removed his jacket, slung it over his shoulder and began to whistle as he walked.

‘You see, Wind’ said the Sun, ‘you can accomplish far more by being gentle and giving than you can with brute force alone’.

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I hope you enjoyed my father’s version of this story.


You can read more by visiting https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

Guest Blog – Shawn Jones

Shawn Jones

Today I hand my Rambling’s blog over to Shawn Jones, He may like his dog better than he likes you or I but I can forgive him for that, so long as he continues to write superb sci-fi like The Warrior Chronicles, a science fiction series available exclusively from Amazon .(http://www.amazon.com/Shawn-Jones/e/B00I3JJFYW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1)

I read a poem by Jessika O’Sullivan recently.

The day you no longer remember your childhood dreams.

How the world blurs when you are on a swing.

The smell of your classroom.

Your best friend’s eyes.

Your teenage confusion.

How your first love made you feel.

The hours in the dark, listening to music.

The taste of beer and snow in someone’s breath.

When you no longer remember.

You might blame adulthood.

But the truth is you lost something.

Jessika’s word are the difference between everyone else and a fiction writer. Those memories… the smells… the tastes… fiction writers never forget them. The rest of world grows up and moves on, but not us. We never forget the bump on our bicycle handlebar grip that was the trigger stud for a laser that protected the girl we had a crush on, hoping to be rewarded with a kiss. We remember climbing into our treehouse and ‘targeting’ the top of the round apartment building down by the river, because in our minds, it’s not a building. It’s a rocket. A starship filled with aliens about to overtake the Earth. We were, no I was, on a simple wooden platform in an old fruitless mulberry tree, the only thing standing between those aliens and the end of humanity.

The vinegar I smelled when I walked into the house when Mom was canning pickles… No, it wasn’t vinegar. It was toxic gas, and I had just seconds to make it to my bedroom before I would be overcome by them and breathe my last breath, never knowing the feel of Debbie Koffman’s kiss on my cheek.

We had an old wood pile in our back yard behind the garage. When we were having a cookout, Dad would build the fire and leave me to monitor it while he did whatever dads do while the fire died down to a nice bed of coals. I would see ants start to pour out of an old log, which was my cue to get to work. I’d run behind the garage and grab some branches from that old mulberry tree and hurry back to the fire, where I’d carefully place the fresh limbs to give the ants a way to escape. Then I’d use another branch to gently guide some of the ants to the escape route. Once they were moving across the sticks and away from certain doom, I would rest on my laurels knowing I’d saved lives. Because that’s what heroes did.

People who don’t write do have memories like mine. But I remember the texture of the handlebar grip. The curl in Debbie’s coarse, black hair. The shape of that apartment building’s roof. The smell of the fire coming from our old, square fire pit. Dad made it with concrete and flint rock, so the first few years it would get really hot once in a while and a rock would shatter, sending shards of flint at one of us unsuspecting boys. There was a cool aspect to it as well. If you hit one of those flint rocks with a hammer just right, you didn’t need a match to light the fire.

Writers never grow up. Even when we write about adult things like crime and physics and politics, we are still kids. In every other aspect of our lives, we are told that we are immature and have overactive imaginations. But when you put a real (or digital) piece of paper in front of us, we become gods. It’s not because we are smarter, or even more imaginative. It’s because we never stopped being kids.

My wife rolls her eyes at me when I come up with some new idea for an alien. One of my brothers thinks I have something loose in my head. My sister is amazed at my memories of our childhood. They aren’t always a blessing, though.

I remember the eyes of Lady, my first dog, just before she died. I remember a bitter, evil woman’s hatred of me because I was adopted. I remember the sting of getting swats in elementary school. I remember the smell of Mom’s cigarette-laced breath as she gave me mouth-to-mouth because of my asthma. I also remember the smell of her hospital room as she slipped away from this realm.

And Debbie Koffman? I remember getting her a necklace at the state fair. She loved it. For a week anyway. Then it broke, and she thought it was a sign that we weren’t supposed to be sweethearts anymore. I never got that kiss.

Think about this moment. This one right now, as you read these words. Look around you. As surely as you can see the things in front of your face, a writer can see the past. We can see the future. We can see into the mind of a killer, or the soul of a dog.

You live your life in this moment. Writers live theirs in every moment. Every single one. Past, present, and future, they are as vivid to us as the screen you are reading this on. Speaking of the future, I have a universe to build. I’ll see you there.

Footnote. Why not check out Shawn’s Sci fi blog at http://shawnjonesscifi.blogspot.co.uk/