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Archive for September, 2007

Magnetic Carpal Tunnel Support

I bought this thing from Magnetic theraphy in the UK and I can without doubt say its a complete waste of money. It is totally useless in the fact it is extremely poorly designed and gives absolutely no benefit what so ever.

Prior to purchasing the item I rang the company and ask them how it worked. The explanation went along the lines of “Well you got electricity in your body and the magnetism interferes with that”. After trying this item I can say without any doubt that it doesn’t work at all. My guess is that Magnetic theraphy works for some people thanks to largely the placebo effect – Ie, if you believe something is working hard enough then it will do for a short amount of time.

Magnetic Support

To put on this support, you place your thumb through the little hole, wrapping the rest of the strap around your hand diagonally and around the wrist. Its a particularly poor design as you have to wrap it so tightly for it to stay in one place that it is extremely uncomfortable to wear (unless you wear it on top of a support bandage).

Carpel Tunnel Support

During testing of this product I found that the magnets themselves had no direct contact with the painful areas (how ever you wore it), the thumb hole portion kept catching on things and pulling the strap loose. If though you wrapped the strap tightly then this would not happen, but you will also suffer long term damage if you did this. I believe in the literature it warns about wearing it too tightly to cover themselves.

Support Trap Design Problem

One really annoying design issue with this product is that they have placed a tag right next to the velcro closer. When you are struggling with numb hands, the tag often flaps in the way and stops you from securing the strap properly. Another claim from Magnetic theraphy is that theres a special method of holding the magnets in place. Its not special, its just the magnets in sacks that have been sewed to the strap. This isn’t special!

Magnet Sack sewed

Would I buy this again: No

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For the past week or so I have been wearing support bandages on my left hand. After taking some advice from a pharamacist she suggested I try tubular elasticated bandages and a support glove too. I bought a box and took it home.

At home I proceeded to chop it in half to make two gloves for each arm. Around the thumb holes I added extra plaster to stop the bandage tearing. I also added further plaster to reinforce the parts of my hand that hurt the most and needed that extra bit of support.

Tubular Bandage Glove

A single layer of bandage gives very little compression, I found by doubling over the bandage that is currently covering my arm back over the wrist joint gave an extra bit support that I needed. Thus;

Tubular Bandage Doubled over

Even this only gave me enough support whilst the hand wasn’t in use and I needed to buy a sports support glove to fit over the top. I bought a couple of Muller support sleeves off Amazon and squeezed into them:

Muller Support Sleeve

I found wearing this combination of bandages to give great support and compression theraphy. There wasn’t quite the same warmth as I hoped and I was actually thinking of adding a pair of fingerless gloves to the mix too, but I thought better of it as I didn’t want to look any weirder than necessary!

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Computers for most people are just tools to do a job, whether that’s a paid job or something for pleasure. when you find it painful to use a computer, you are generally not looking for something for pleasure but instead a PC that is accessible to your particular needs. My particular need is that I find it difficult to do much typing and impossible to use a mouse for anything more up to a few minutes. The Windows platform provides alternative technologies, granted these are not free but they are inexpensive in comparison to the huge benefits they offer. The truth of the matter, with Linux there is no sensible accessibility available that promotes an inefficient work flow. Instead, I found for my personal experience that it takes far longer to complete tasks with the Linux interface than it does with Windows. When it comes down to it, it is a simple question; does Linux currently allow me to use the software I need without using the mouse or having to totally rely on the keyboard? The answer is, No.

What some misunderstand is that, I have issues using computers and I am looking for total accessibility which narrows the variety of application I can use it for. I am not looking for something to tinker with it, I am merely looking for a simple interface to allow me to do the job without pain. it’s highly unlikely that after the system has been set up and customized that any further software will be added as the computer being a tool for a specific set of tasks will be a fully equipped.

Voice recognition is an expensive tool, but an essential one for some people. The way I see it, people with such problems don’t think of computers in the same way. For me, a computer terminal merely allows me to complete certain operations that otherwise could not be performed without significant discomfort. I’m not looking to stretch myself since this means more typing and therefore more pain.

What I’m looking for is a computer interface that’s allows me to do the tasks I need to do to solve certain real human interface problems. For example; an interface that replaces the keyboard where large amounts of writing/typing is needed. (writing e-mails, articles and even updating my blog). What alternative solution can do Linux offer me? How do you do these things with Linux without using the keyboard?

Linux offers no alternative to a mouse and yet many applications seemed to require to use one. Microsoft may have their faults, but they have thought about alternatives to make life easier for those that find the traditional keyboard and mouse combinations a painful experience.

I feel that Linux has missed a massive opportunity to address the needs of an proportion of the population that find the difficult financially to afford the additional costs associated with both the hardware and software required for voice recognition on the traditional Windows platform.

My particular repetitive strain injury has reached this stage we’re even reaching out towards a mouse results in a twinge that often makes me jump. The virtual mouse available in Windows is a godsend for me as for functions we’re there are no short cuts I am still able to control the mouse cursor as if I’m using a normal mouse (more or less). Unfortunately, Linux does not currently provide this alternative. some would say you can use the keyboard and run things on the command line. If I could do that, I wouldn’t need voice recognition for my typing. Linux’s idea of alternative technology is to provide keyboard input, which isn’t a much help to someone that finds it difficult using a keyboard.

When you have of repetitive strain injury then a part of the treatment is to reduce the amount of repetitive work you do with your hands. What can Linux offer me in terms of alternative input devices which will address this issue?

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Cold September

This week has been a strange one. I have been suffering quite a lot my wrists and currently have both of them bandaged in addition to wearing support gloves. Like many arthritis sufferers, the change to colder weather has meant my particular aches and pain have become rather more uncomfortable. I have resisted going back to taking painkillers despite the urge and having a cupboard full of them. Instead I have chosen to try to use pressure bandages and massage with varying levels of success. I’ve also picked up a cold in the head which I find really annoying and is particularly bad timing.

Next Monday I’m starting a new job at a local company seo analyst on a 35 hour week basis. This is five hours more than I was planning to work though the company appears to have a good understanding of repetitive strain injury. One of the team leaders seem to have gone through a very similar condition to myself and is now back to full functionality. I feel a very long way off from this, though I am hoping by getting back to work related activity that it will help me on the road to recovery. This is the theory!

I’m not sure how this would work all in practice. It worries me that the company might not fully appreciate how much I rely on voice recognition and that it’s a vital part of the role for me. Any job that consists of being on the keyboard using my fingers all day long would be inherently dangerous for me. When people hear me say this, they think I can’t use a keyboard at all, which is incorrect. I use the keyboard for correcting some of the errors when voice recognition completely refuses to play ball. I am told this is because I’m running the software on an inferior configuration. I need at least 2 GB of RAM and anything any less is just asking for trouble! I also use keyboard input (not the mouse) for surfing the Web and reading e-mails. I use a combination of voice recognition and to a lesser extent the keyboard to get the computer to do what I need. I just hope the company has invested properly in the right hardware has without it voice recognition won’t work and I’ll be sitting there like a lemon on Monday.

This happened to me before when the agency in charge failed completely to inform their client of the full facts of my disability. If any of you remember what actually happened is that I’d turned up to the job and there was no equipment available for me. The working environment was pretty awful and I wouldn’t at all been surprised if the entire department was suffering from RSI, back problems and claustrophobia (lots of people in a small room).

The workstations were not by any stretch of imagination ergonomically designed; in fact it was one of the worst workstations I have ever seen. You are literally rubbing elbows with the person next to you. There wasn’t room to move the chair without snagging it on someone else’s. The size of the room was smaller than my bedroom at home and yet somehow they have crammed six people in there. The only person that had a ergonomically laid out working area was the department head. Where has the workers seemed to be stuffed in like hens in a shed. If I owned the farm, the hens would roam freely and with space around them so they are able to produce quality rather than something on the cheap.

I’m hoping that Monday will be a new start of happier times to come and I will be able to leave behind some of the unhappier moments that have plagued me over the past several years. I am rather apprehensive of course and you never really get used to this when starting anywhere new. I am looking forward to it, it’s just I am partly worried how the rest of the people will react to my particular problem. The impression I have so far of the company is that this should not be a problem.

I do feel quite fortunate in the fact the company is only 4 miles away and that you don’t have to go to work dressed up like a dog’s dinner. Companies like IBM I find confusing as they have these dress codes that force their employees into a specific corporate mould which encourages only for them to think alike and not to have any imaginative thoughts. I have always thought of what I do as creative and as such you don’t want to be an environment where you are stifled in any way. What you need is a workspace and culture that welcomes new ideas from all levels of the organisation. Everyone has ideas and everyone should be listened to, no matter who they are.

What confuses me is that these corporate firms say the relying on the imagination of their staff and yet from the minute you join the company they appear to do everything they can to discourage independent thought. In this environment I would not do very well and I would become very quickly bored. There’s more to life than work. This is something I learned relatively recently and I sat in the waiting room at the hospital, surrounded by cancer patients at many different stages of the disease. Some clearly were very ill indeed and I knew I wouldn’t see them again. What particularly struck me was the wide range of age groups waiting. I wasn’t the youngest, but I was the third youngest. I do like to speak to people and find out their stories. I spoke to this elderly chap who turned out to be 85 and was obviously dying of cancer. He was saying he had a full life and has enjoyed it, but he wasn’t ready to go yet. He said his dad lived to 105 and his brother was older than him. What struck me about the man is his strength and his will to carry on fighting no matter what. I took great strength from that and I knew that all my worries at that point were pretty meaningless compared to those that sat in that waiting room. Many of the individuals had this sadness in their eyes and a part of me felt it to. That experience will be something that will stay with me for a very long time to come.Life is so precious, we should take every opportunity to enjoy it, to make the most of what you have and the people around you. Family and friends are very important.

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This afternoon we drove to the industrial estate close to the Netherfield Lagoons. Its a place I’ve been a few times and many people don’t necessarily see it as the most beautiful. Perhaps they are correct and since its not to far away from the sewage works at stoke Bardoph then first impressions can be of a place that might be more “shitty” than what it actually is. In reality there are few bad smells, though I have to admit its not always like that as sometimes there is a smell of chemicals that can waft towards you if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction – namely, towards you.

In the industrial area, where we parked I have seen druggies shooting up in the entrance to the public footpath. Its hardly a great advertisement for the area, but its like it all over it seems. We walked up by the side of a small stream on the right hand side until we came to a rough footpath on the left that cut through a field full of corn. The path is only tiny and as we approached two large jolly ladies actually gave away to us – Talk about role reversal. Even in my day it was the gentlemen thing to do to give away to women, but oh well this is the 21st century now and things are so different.

The path led away from the stream and into the countryside, it was getting hot and I took my coat off, packing it tightly into my rucksack. We were in affect walking away from both the river Trent and stream, looping around in a “D” backward shape; starting out at the Industrial site, looping around through the countryside and back up next to the river Trent and then finally back through the lagoons around the long way.

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Whilst walking along the River Trent, two policeman on motorbikes came slowly past us. I’ve seen on on bush bikes close to the river, but I have never seen them on scrambling bikes. Its obvious that they are out looking for kids riding there bikes illegally on the tracks. I’m all for catching these kids as they really damage our beautiful country side with their selfish acts. I don’t know why they can’t pay for the privilege of riding their bikes like everyone else. What makes them so special – the answer is nothing.

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We had several rests during the afternoon at lovely locations and I failed to take note of them completely. As we returned it was getting rather late, though I was able to take this picture of a beautiful sunset over the lagoons, proving that even an industrial area can be simply stunning under the right lighting!

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Linux Inaccessibility

For the past couple of weeks I have been using vector Linux on my spare low specification computer. Initially I was quite pleased the way it ran, since is very Windows like in its operation. Ultimately, as a computer user we are all looking for an easy way to complete certain tasks. A computer is just a tool to use to get something else done. For many, a computer has to be able to run a certain subset of software that enables the user to complete jobs in an efficient manner. The big let down for me is that so far out of all the UNIX distributions have tried not to one of them is even approaching close to the accessibility functions available in Microsoft Windows XP.

There is no virtual keyboard and if you have problems using them was, then the links community is only solution is then to use a keyboard all the time. The problem is people that have problems using mice are normally those that will have difficulty using a keyboard for any length of time. To maintain this blog for example I have to use voice recognition because there are some days where I cannot type at all and there are others where I can only type a bit to surf the Web. I suffer from repetitive strain syndrome and have done the number of years and with such a condition it’s important to reduce the amount of work you do with your hands when they are feeling weak and tired. There is currently no decent voice recognition product on the market for the Linux, which makes it inaccessible to large portions of the population; often the poorest members of the society.

Another problem is that there is a limited use of short cuts. In Windows a function I often use is selecting items of menus using a common set of short cuts that are system wide. For example, ALT+F for the file menu or ALT+E for edit menu and so on. Strangely the Windows like user interface seems to force you into using a mouse as there is no alternatives available. This obviously causes problems with me as I can’t use a mouse and its painful if I try to.

I will keep Linux on my back up machine since is the only thing that will run on it. I see though I won’t be the able to use it very much since it’s pretty inaccessible to me at the moment. Linux isn’t really that user-friendly unless you enjoy getting under the hood and tinkering. It’s not good enough yet to be used efficiently and pain-free to do the things I need a computer to do.

So, I’ll have to stick with windows until I no longer suffer from repetitive strain.

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Today I went for a meeting at a local firm out in Derbyshire which is run by Peter, a real nice bloke that commutes all the way for Macclesfield to his place. He has my respect commuting from their everyday, its quite a daily journey on roads that twist and turn. I used to do the same drive occasionally.

Getting back to the topic of the post: the result of the meeting was that he wanted to hire me on a part-time freelance basis to help him out with his business. It’s a small software house who develops CRM’s (Customer Relationship Management) back ends for retail and e-commerce web sites. There is not kind to be any programming involved or Web development, which is great as it is highly unlikely I will ever will be able to go back to that. I am looking forward to trying it out and just see what happens!

He is fully aware of my injury and I suggested to him that to it should do it on a freelance basis has I cannot be sure if I will be physically up to the role are not. I hope I am because it does sound pretty good at something different to get my teeth into. I am still carrying on with the writing and web work of course, and actually I already have another project lined up which is on a commission basis and merely takes a few hours on a Friday.

The hours will be spread over three days; Monday to Wednesday’s. I usually have some sort of health-related activity to do on Thursdays or Fridays are taken because of my commission based project — cutting-edge stuff! In between doing all these things of course I’ve got to get myself a web site for the business and to secure that name. I haven’t really done yet but it is definitely on the list with many other things.

I start next Monday at 11 a.m. which is very convenient and what’s is really good is that there is no dress code. I hate places with suit and tie dress codes; I am with my friend Michiel on this one! Besides, in my business if I attended a meeting dressed like a accountant I would not be taken seriously at all. Bizarrely, you dress down for the creative industries though of course you maintain a smart but casual look. There’s no point looking like a tramp!

I cannot really say that my hands on much better. I have good days and bad ones; today is a bad one. I hate to say I have a disability, I regard myself as long term injured.

Many people, especially the able-bodied don’t understand how hard and painful it is to not be able to use your hands well. I remember for example not so long ago they would work a full day programming, drive to the gym to lift weights and then go on to the pub to a place all those calories I just burnt off. I just cannot sustain that level of activity any more. This is just a normal level of activity, nothing special that most people just take for granted. Life changes.

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