Thursday, 7 July 2016

Mental and physical stimuli

On reading Sunday’s blog, Bryony suggested “While referring to falling over as a result of the stroke, the rest of the blog had nothing to do with it.”

I don’t really agree. While superficially, I appear almost to have recovered from the stroke, there are nooks and crannies of problems that keep on cropping up. It is open to debate whether these are problems that result from the stroke or they are simply a continuation of weaknesses I have had throughout my life. Nevertheless, it is my intention that the blog should record a wide variety of aspects of my life, both mental and physical, so that I can get a handle on managing it post stroke. This was first discussed in “In the beginning”, but here I consider the scope of the impact of the stroke on life in more detail.

The blog began after I had withdrawn from an OU degree in Pure Mathematics towards the end of the 2nd year course (M208). It is reasonable to ask why, when I was more than ¾s of the way through the course material, I stopped. My course marks were fairly mediocre, but I had passed everything convincingly. The rationale for quitting concerned memory and speed. Sadly, I have always been slow and have never passed any exam well. The stroke has made further inroads into my speed of thought and reaction. Also my memory has definitely been impaired, in particular speed and detailed accuracy of my recall.

As you might guess, this means that certain types of academic exercises are more difficult to handle than others. This is particularly associated with activities that have long pathways with many branches. These characteristics are very prevalent in Group Theory and the more advanced aspects of the theory of calculus. Managing the learning processes associated with more advanced mathematics will provide the subject matter for significant numbers of the blogs.

I came late to computing and had no interest until the mid-1980s, when personal computers were being promoted in the UK Civil Service. At that time, I was an Internal Auditor and had to write up audit reports on a regular basis. So my initial introduction was through word processing.

Along with 90% of the general public, my imagination was fired by spreadsheets. Typically, I took a rather anarchic approach to both the presentation and subject matter of spreadsheets. I am now free to express views on spreadsheet construction from a purely intellectual (as opposed to commercial) perspective.

I will use the blog to expand on a more fundamental approach to the concept of what a spreadsheet is than that of a calculation grid. Typically, the kind of question I pose concerns whether the programmatic formula is fundamental to being a spreadsheet or the flexibility of the grid itself.

I will describe many spreadsheets based on the grid that have relatively few formulae and could not in any sense be described as a database, although there will be times when structures have database like features. 

There are also times when we should consider spreadsheets from the opposite perspective. What is the case for retaining a spreadsheet format when the function could be maintained more securely as a database? This perspective has only rarely been articulated other than in very general terms – like never use a spreadsheet when there is a practical database alternative..

Playing any instrumental is a marriage between the physical and the mental. I was initially surprised at how quickly I was able to play my instruments. My limitations are concerned with playing for public performance. Once again I will articulate these limitations in terms of memory and speed.

It has become clear though that my limitations are significantly exacerbated by fatigue. Managing rest periods is an important part of performance these days. The blog will recount the frequent instants where both poor rest management and loss of concentration blow up in my face.

Handling a large instrument
One of the joys of playing any musical instrument is the process of overcoming technical problems so as to present a meaningful performance. This is so intertwined with issues arising from the stroke, I’ll make no attempt to differentiate between the two.


Much of this blog has already used my pleasures associated with walking and cycling as a means of illustrating the impact of the stroke. You might imagine that once your ideas were committed to paper (or in this case the blog), there would be nothing else to say. However the very process of creating the blogs tends to highlight issues I hadn’t noticed before – e.g. essential time management, and the way that the effects of fatigue accumulates. I very much hope that this may benefit others as well as me.

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