Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile

Duolingo recently opened up its Irish course. I’ve been waiting for it for a long time, but just one look at the first lesson reminded me that Duolingo is… not a great way to learn a language. It’s a good way to pretend to learn a language, or to supplement real study. I’ve used it for Spanish, and it has not escaped my attention that prior knowledge has protected me the entire way.

BUT! With Irish on the brain, I started writing this thing. It’s kind of funny. Don’t know what I’ll do with it. But it is really, really long, so for the sake of my page, here is a neat illustration and a more tag.


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Reading Tips for Short/Troubled Attention Spans

Somehow, despite my own increasingly poor attention span, I have managed to read 194 books this year. I have also recently managed to start and (so far keep) the habit of reviewing the books I read. When I have about ten of them, I’ll start cross-posting them here, probably on Fridays.

I remember thinking in horror of how little I had been reading over the years, and now it’s a major support for those times when I don’t feel awesome.

That doesn’t mean that I’m getting better at focusing. I may even be getting worse! :D But I have found things that help. The only thing is, it can be a bit expensive. A couple of years ago, I talked about how the TTS on the Samsung Galxaxy Tab 10.1 was not very good. I tried to use it to read Bitter Gold Hearts while feeling peaky and it just did not go.

However, since then, I have gotten a Kindle Fire, and bought a few Ivona voices for my PC. I cannot stress enough how much help it is to have a good TTS to step in. Sometimes my attention just vanishes and I actually have trouble focusing my vision. Some articles that I really want to read would go gentle into that good night because I would take one look and stop being able to see.

But with Ivona TTS, I have backup. Smart Bitches review I want to read but can’t sit through? Ivona Minireader, Kendra US voice. Kindle book I can’t put down but really have to wash dishes? No need to pray that whatever it is has Whispersync, there are Ivona voices on Kindle Fire~ Bored out of my mind but should really finish that book? Voiceover on the iPad~

If you have trouble reading due to frustration at your own speed, TTS helps because it goes at a fairly fixed speed and can usually be sped up or slowed down to suit you.

TTS is more consistent than audiobooks. It is more readily and consistently available, book to book, less expensive in the long run, and if you find at least one voice you like, then you don’t have to worry about hating the reader for any particular book. Brian is always Brian, and Salli even more so.

For iPad users, some tricks I have found are to make sure triple-tapping the home button turns Voiceover on and off, and to learn the gestures to select text to read and to start a continuous read. Scribd does not work very well with VO. It only reads two pages before snapping to read border controls and information. The only thing you can really do is turn it on, let it read two pages, turn it off, turn to the next unread page, and repeat.

I did figure out a workaround, but it’s not perfect. It works best at the start of a chapter (and obviously in books that come in chapters). Make the text as small as possible. If you are able to read at that size, whoa. Then clear all the menus and start Voiceover. It will still only read two pages before stopping, but by shrinking the text, you have crammed a lot into those two pages.

Seriously, I have been using this to get through those times when my hands and eyes are otherwise occupied with Owen’s less fun antics, the times when my attention is lacking, or when I just feel like being read to. Do you ever miss that? After a certain age, I was always the one reading to other people, and now I can’t read to myself because I run out of breath too fast. (dang cricoarytenoid arthritis…)

Winging It – D&D 3E

Since we’ve had some schedule upheaval, the one guy in our gaming group with a fixed schedule nearly had to drop out. This will not stand. :| So we’re playing a more flexible style of game on Tuesday. Third edition D&D. First session was just messing around, but it got Conrad a name (Flattop the Dwarf, as he fell on his head from a great height) and I played a bard named Strong Bard, with a long string of gnomish traditional naming after that.. Also, we had a mercenary contingent of three dwarves named Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur. One of them got a crystal exploded through his face.

Yesterday was the first official session, but we kept our two previous characters. 3E does not faff about, guys. We lost our mercenary contingent to a swarm of midges in two turns. It took a bit longer than that to realise they had been dead for a while, but we didn’t regret setting the midges on fire after all.

Grimer the Halfling got his name by jumping into the Bog of Eternal Stench as we all ran away. He was the slowest, as one might guess. Worse things also happened to him. He went comatose thanks to charisma drain… And I’m getting ahead of things.

Owen’s been laid a bit low with a cold, so I had to get him into the bath for some relief. All I managed to get while he was in the bath was that the party heard a melodious, Tim-Curry-like evil laugh. My first thought was this:


But then I heard someone say tree, and I just went, Oh. Hexxus. So our game is totally taking place in Ferngully now.

hexxus tree

After I got Owen out of the bath and into a towel, the plan seemed to be to make a fake (insubstantial) tree and entice Tim Curry from the real tree in to the one that would fade. This would defeat Tim Curry without having to swing a weapon. I failed my Diplomacy check, but the others started in on saying how great the (fake) tree was, and something about a god that I don’t think Tim Curry liked. I think Reverse Psychology was involved.

But when he went into the tree, and realised he’d been had and things got ugly. The tree took on a life of its own thanks to Tim Curry’s evil power, and we had to roll initiative, because things just got real.

If we lost the fight, then Tim Curry would have been free to roam the land, wreaking havoc. There was a lot riding on this. He also couldn’t be hurt by physical attacks. I’m a bard, so I just made something up. I tried doing the Time Warp again, but that didn’t do much.

Then we tried to summon David Bowie. I honestly don’t remember why that, of all people, was the person we all thought of.

In any case, we failed to compel him to come in person, but he did grant my bard the power of his aspect. Strong Bard became not merely Strong Bard Chapbo Thickwit Schleppman, but Strong Bard Chapbo Thickwit Schleppman the avatar of David Bowie on this plane.

By standing in awe of me, Conrad gave me a +1 to hit Tim Curry. I sang Changes I think in the summoning, so I had to accept physical changes.


I stepped in to save Grimer, but it didn’t quite stick and he ended up with the whole charisma drain thing. Now he has charisn’tma. So Garrett had to roll up a new character. But we defeated Tim Curry largely thanks to the power of David Bowie.

And then a shark or something bit me in the head. It was getting late and I was falling asleep by that point but I remember having to choose a scar.

Fan Art

This is not as good as it should be, considering how much work was involved.  First I had to find my tablet, then I had to war with Wacom drivers for half an hour. (stupid plug and play mucked things up)   Then I found out that MS Paint now uses anti-aliasing. BECAUSE THAT MAKES ANY KIND OF SENSE.

Gonna save up for whatever version of Painter that Corel has reached. Until then, I have paint.


School Days

This has been on my mind ever since I read How to Eat a Cupcake. A major theme for one of the poor-tagonists is that of being stuck in high school. Granted, what happened to her at the time was pretty awful. However, an objective view makes it pretty obvious that her focus on the past makes her look like and live as an immature loser. Her best friend actually bitches at her in jealousy when she makes another friend. That’s childish and sad. I say this because when she finally lets go of the stale grudges, she finally starts sounding like an adult and is happy.

Of course, while reading this, I noted that she had an unhealthy idée fixe and tried to put it into my own perspective. Some pretty bad things happened during my high school years. I mention them in conversation sometimes, I think. But they don’t prey on my thoughts. If I met someone who had been awful to me in high school, I’d probably only be uncomfortable if I recognised them. I really doubt I would. The only person I remember by name is Ed. So… people who know me well are probably laughing now.

But I still tend towards writing YA and I like to read it. I definitely don’t have rose-coloured glasses for the days of my youth, nor do I remember it with loathing cringes. It was high school and it’s over. It’s been over for eleven years. I only even know the number of years because I had a graduation year keychain that I used to like.

For whatever reason, people like to read about school and school-aged people. I think this is interesting. Not bad or good, just interesting. And not in an analytical way, either. It’s hard to explain. It’s like The Red Room (Matisse). People can certainly analyse it. But you can also just say, “It’s red. I like to look at it.”

It’s one of the reasons that people still write school-themed books. I think Harry Potter was one of the first (and effectively the “last” since people screech about copying if you even write about a magic school) but I don’t think it’s all that important as an example. I think people just like reading about schools and they’re easy to write about. When I was in high school (lol) I read the Harper Hall trilogy and could not walk anywhere downtown without someone stopping me to say what a great book Dragonsinger was.

The trouble is finding schools one wants to “attend.”


My shower is a torture device. Never mind that the water either comes out snow or boiling. Or that my backpack is more spacious. It’s the noise.

That only sounds stupid if you don’t know what I mean. But I guess if you knew what I meant, then it would be pointless to even talk about the shower because we both know already.

It isn’t any particular noise. It’s the accumulation. The water lays a mild, deafening foundation, cut through by the rattle of the pipes that whispers of lead lining. The usual white noise of traffic is built up into a menacing echo. Every bang of a neighbor’s door or eagerly shut cupboard becomes the sound of the bathroom door opening.

And in that microscopic space where you’re already dodging hot and cold mini-missiles, your nerves get so raw that the noise becomes a second person in the room.

There, I did it twice. I am afraid of someone walking in on me in the shower.

And isn’t that pathetic?

…I thought that was pretty funny, but the weird first person present tense is kind of precluding.