vivdunstan: (Default)
2037-04-06 07:00 pm

Access to this blog and restrictions etc.

As I say on my profile page I mainly use this blog to keep track of dosage changes and symptom patterns/progression in my neurological disease. Those entries are restricted to family only.

I do post more widely though. Many early entries are friends-locked. If you know me, either in person or online, feel free to friend me.

But some entries will be on more open access, especially those I link to from Twitter.
vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-08-19 01:40 am
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Thoughts about attending this year’s Worldcon in Helsinki, Finland

Earlier I blogged my thoughts about attending this year's Worldcon science-fiction convention in Helsinki. Since they may be of interested to some of my friends here who've attended Worldcons in the past I thought I'd link to them from here too.
vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-08-09 08:07 am
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Update re my Irish DNA results

Got the second Irish DNA test result re my very hard to trace great granny born in Dublin in 1879. Another match, this time with the grandson of her much younger half brother - they shared the same father, who had two wives. So I can be totally confident in my Annie's mother AND father. Woot! It's also particularly nice for me, because this branch, in New Zealand, has a strong tradition of working in education, science (inc multiple PhDs) and even an early NZ computing prof (Annie's nephew). Quite a nice symmetry with my line. Original DNA blogpost here.
vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-08-05 11:08 pm
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Blog post about autosomal DNA testing

Thought some of my online friends might be interested in my blog post, which shows some of the potential of autosomal (all branches) DNA testing for cracking genealogical brick walls. I've made other DNA matches with cousins, but this is the first one that has proven a tricky-to-trace line.
vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-07-09 03:16 am
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Favourite stories for each TV Doctor Who

I just compiled a list of my favourite stories for each TV doctor (1-12 + War). Mainly from TV episodes, but a few from Big Finish audios that did a much better job with certain TV doctors IMHO. May be of interest!
vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-05-29 07:58 am
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Vasculitis disease awareness, for last days of Vasculitis Awareness Month 2017

Link here. This is the type of disease I have. Mine is in my brain, and one of the rarest types - incidence about 1-2 cases per million people per year. Treatment is long-term steroids and immunosuppression, and chemotherapy is typically needed. I've had masses since falling ill aged 22 in 1994. My form is very MS-like.
vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-05-24 08:29 am
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A body that feels all 'wrong'

Struggling again with my neurological disease, and this blog post from a few years ago sums up how I'm feeling right now.
vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-05-18 08:34 am
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Going to try to read lots of Hugo award shortlisted books

I'm going to the 2017 Worldcon sci-fi and fantasy convention that this year is being held in Helsinki, Finland. I've been to quite a few Worldcons in the past, and have been a supporting member as well for many other years. Being at least a supporting member gets me the right to the vote in the Hugo Awards, including getting a downloadable free voter packet of many of the shortlisted nominees. So masses of novels, novellas, short stories, graphic novels and comics etc.

The 2017 voter packet was released to Worldcon members yesterday, and I downloaded it to my laptop last night. I'm going to try to read as many of the fiction and non fiction books as possible, especially those I can read on my Kindle or in ePub format on my iPad in iBooks. The shortlisted novels lean heavily this year towards the sci-fi end of the spectrum, whereas the novellas are much more fantasy-based. I prefer the latter, but will try to give them all a go. And I'm also planning to judge as many of the related work non-fiction shortlist books as possible, and also the graphic novels / comics.

I'm particularly hoping that my time in Finland will open my eyes up to Nordic sci-fi, fantasy and horror fiction. I'd obviously need to read it in English translation, but hopefully by the end of the con I will have a long list of new things - new for me anyway - to read.

Meanwhile the Hugo voter packet will definitely keep me occupied for the next few months. Once I've finished my current Scottish historical novel in progress anyway.

I will report back here about how my Hugo awards reading goes.
vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-05-13 08:52 am
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Astronomy Picture of the Day from Friday: M13

Just spotted that yesterday's Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA was M13, the great globular cluster in Hercules. We were gawping at this a week or so ago, through our telescope set up on our front drive, in light polluted Dundee. Our view through our 8" SCT telescope with my favourite wide angle eyepiece was remarkably similar in detail to this picture, albeit with less colour. It's definitely an astronomy target we will revisit.

i will probably blog more sometime soon about our telescope and how we are getting on with it. My husband's first degree at St Andrews in the early 1990s was in astronomy, and he now works as a space technology researcher at the University of Dundee, working on projects for the European Space Agency and others. I would have studied astronomy to honours level too, at the same time at St Andrews, but the university had just scrapped the joint honours option for it with Computer Science, though both of us going into second year asked if we could switch to that combination for honours a year later. Answer to both was no. I stuck to CS, my original plan, Martin stuck to astronomy and physics.
vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-05-04 07:52 am

Cousin connections and sharing an instant family tree

Fantastic being able to respond immediately to a Bermuda descendant of my Somner ancestors, who in a Facebook thread said she'd love to see how we're related. I just screenshotted this from Reunion on my iPad ... The Bermuda Somner family descends from Charles son of William. I descend from John son of Francis. John Usher Somner was the grandfather of my great-granddad John Dodds in Melrose.

Of course the tree was only available to me so quickly because I'd typed it into the computer long ago, and had it installed in the Reunion app on my iPad. But still magic.

vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-05-02 09:23 am
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Reflecting on pros and cons of various social networks for academics

In a discussion on Facebook just now I was prompted to revisit my old blog post about this. It may be interesting reading for contacts here. Basically I thought Twitter was the most useful social networking tool for me as an academic. very poor, and I've since left that site, very concerned about their moves (albeit understandable) to monetise freely-given research with often dubious copyright status.

The blog post linked to above is a few years old now, and doesn't mention Dreamwidth at all, or even Livejournal. I'm still figuring out how to fit Dreamwidth into my various bloggings. I have my personal academic blog, as well as my genealogy one, and others. I'm thinking of resurrecting my mini book review posts, and starting them afresh here. It would be nice to record my thoughts on what I'm reading in a little more detail than my scores on Goodreads, and here is as good a place as any. I should be able to manage capsule reviews, from time to time. Fingers crossed!
vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-05-01 09:26 pm
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Implications of living with a rare disease

For vasculitis awareness month here's another link to my blog post about "Implications of living with a rare disease".
vivdunstan: (Default)
2017-04-24 05:13 pm

Pleased with ease of new WordPress sites development

I run two one-place studies, researching specific parishes and their inhabitants in the past. I've had hand coded websites for them for years, but they're very simplistic, old-fashioned looking, and becoming cumbersome for users to read and navigate. So I've had at the back of mind for a while the wish to revamp both sites. But I was deterred by the thought of building new websites from scratch.

But on Saturday night, about midnight, I suddenly had a revelation. I already had WordPress blogs, for a number of different purposes. And I remembered that people build WordPress sites, relatively easily, including for one-place studies. It wouldn't be that hard to do would it?

Within an hour I had proto sites up and running for my two one-place studies, and within 5 hours I had fully transferred all the old resources into them, and filled them out. This included moving the existing blogs into there, but also all the transcripts and indexes of historical records.

I found it remarkably quick and easy to do, and I like the simple design, and look of the sites. It's certainly a lot better than anything I could have hand coded, without much fresh education. I've had HTML skills for over 20 years, but they are incredibly rudimentary. This end result is vastly better. At the moment the sites are hosted on, with dedicated domain names, but I may move them in future. But the priority was to build the content, and not come up with more obstacles to put me off.

The only slightly tricky thing I ran into was importing the tables for some of the lengthy transcripts/indexes, because WordPress (at least the .com version) doesn't provide any nice plugin or similar to handle those. So you have to fall back on HTML coding for them. But I'm ok with that, and the tables I was importing were existing HTML files ... That was a big "Eureka!" moment this morning when I worked that out, and how easy it would make it. The HTML tables just needed a bit of cleaning up, and they were good to go. It wouldn't be so easy for anyone who doesn't know any HTML for tables, but I was ok. There are also some great online tips for how to do this in, for example on this page.

Both sites are a work in progress, both will have new resources added to them. But I'm very pleased with how they are now, and should be encouraged to add more content in future.

Feedback on the new sites would be very welcome. Find them here: Melrose and Coldingham.
vivdunstan: (botanics)
2013-12-29 10:59 pm

Moving book posts to academic blog

I've been trying to blog every month about books I've finished, but have been struggling lately to keep up with this, due to my MS-like illness.

So instead I have decided to do less frequent posts about my reading, including in particular an end-of-year recap, on my separate academic blog.

To see the first of these, see here.
vivdunstan: (botanics)
2013-11-18 02:14 am
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Books finished in October 2013

Late writeup this month - sorry! And not a very impressive haul of books finished. But I was away for quite a lot of the month, at an academic conference, and also very knocked out, and often not able to read so much.

First finished was Edmund Crispin's The Moving Toyshop. This was fantastic fun: a Golden Age whodunnit with many good things in common with the best Avengers episodes. I enjoyed this immensely, found it a real page-turner, and was sad when it finished. I'm surprised it hasn't been turned into a movie to be honest, or a TV version. Correction: it was, in 1964. Wish I’d seen that.

Next up was Rosemary Goring's After Flodden. I grew up in the Scottish Borders, and there is a strong local folk memory of how terrible this Anglo-Scottish battle was, though it's often forgotten elsewhere, including in other parts of Scotland. In Flodden's 500th anniversary year I wanted to read this novel set immediately after. I enjoyed it, but had quite a lot of issues. The chronology jumped about way too much at the start for me. I also found the overall plot too predictable, including the identity of the traitor, which I worked out right at the start. But still glad I read it.

My third and final (oh dear!) book finished in the month was the latest Doctor Who anniversary e-short, The Mystery Of The Haunted Cottage by Derek Landy. This featured the Tenth Doctor, plus Martha, and was very much set in an Enid Blyon-esque world. It was ok, I enjoyed it, but it wasn't stellar. I didn't find the characterisation of Martha too recognisable for example, and I think that the supposed Amelia Williams-penned Summer Falls was a far more effective Blyton-esque story.
vivdunstan: (botanics)
2013-10-07 02:56 pm
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Books finished in September 2013

I finished quite a lot of books this last month. First up was the Eighth Doctor e-short by Alex Scarrow, Spore. I quite enjoyed this, and could visualise Paul McGann reading some of the lines, but the actions of the Doctor seemed off for me, and the plot was not gripping enough.

Next up was the first in Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time trilogy: An Alien Heat. I last (and first) read this trilogy of books 25 years ago, and have been waiting for the Kindle versions to reread them. This opening book did not disappoint. I could remember quite a lot of the details, but many other things had been forgotten over the years. And it was just a joyous mashup of sci fi, time travel, and Wodehousian comedy. Fab.

Third book finished, which I'd been reading on and off for months, was Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges. I'd put off reading Judge Dredd for decades, thinking it wasn't for me, far too hard-core sci fi and hard-core comics. But I found this really gripping, well told, and the artwork was good. On the downside the edition I read reprinted the pages too small, so the text in speech bubbles and elsewhere was absolutely teeny weeny, and a strain on eyes to read. But otherwise it was good, and I've bought more Judge Dredd to read on my iPad.

Next up was Samantha Hay's Archie the Guide Dog Puppy: Hero in Training. I sponsor two guide dog puppies through training, and often see guide dogs - from the nearby Guide Dog centre at Forfar - being trained in the streets and shops of Broughty Ferry. This book is a children's book, retelling true stories of guide and other assistance dogs and their owners in a form that is easy for children to read. But it was still a good read, and I recommend it.

I'd never read Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, though I saw the TV version back on first broadcast, and again more recently. The book is an improvement on the TV version: freed of the restrictions of TV budgets and filming limitations. I enjoyed it a lot.

Charlie Higson wrote the Ninth Doctor e-short The Beast of Babylon. I enjoyed this, and, without saying too much more for fear of spoilers, liked where it fitted into the Rose chronology.

Our Yoggie book club book of the month was The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. This had been on my Amazon Kindle wishlist for ages, so it was nice to get the prompt to read it at long last. And I enjoyed it, despite it being very much a sci fi book. Initially I was a bit frustrated by the narrative being split among so many characters. But then when things settled down on the one character, who I was much more interested in, I got much happier. It does end on a rather sudden note, though I know it's setting up book 2.

My final book finished in September was the second of the Dancers at the End of Time series: The Hollow Lands. I liked this, though perhaps not as much as the first book. But it continued the amusing comedy of manners and time travel shenanigans of book 1. I am looking forward to moving onto book 3, perhaps in October.
vivdunstan: (botanics)
2013-09-06 12:02 am
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Books finished in August 2013

I finished quite a few books this month.

First up was the Elementary BASIC book that uses a Sherlock Holmes framework to teach wannabe programmers the computer programming language BASIC. Or at least that was the aim when it was published in 1982 in the early days of home computing. It's quite a lot of fun, with a nice premise, but I found the later chapters less convincing. Indeed the most impressive computer program in the book for me was in the opening proper chapter, and things went downhill from there. I also found some of the programming structural decisions frankly bizarre, and wonder how a beginner would have understood them. But still fun.

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty tells of a human travel writer who ends up writing a guide book to New York for zombies, vampires, werewolves, and the like. It's quite fun, but I didn't find it as gripping as I expected. Plus I was a bit annoyed that so much of the plot swung (rather unconvincingly) around the human character. But I'm sure I'll go on to read the sequel, which is based in New Orleans. Comes out next year I think.

I'm rereading the Narnia stories, in my own order, which is always to start with Lion etc., then go back to Magician's Nephew, then read the rest in sequence. This month it was the turn of The Magician's Nephew. I like this book a lot, it has a charm about it all of its own.

Poor Yorick was the prequel to the To Be Or Not To Be Choose Your Own Adventure version of Hamlet which was such a success on Kickstarter. Backers got Poor Yorick too, which tells how Yorick ended up as a skull dug up years later. It's short, but fun, and highly entertaining. I sent a second copy of the main book to my English teacher from school, who took us to see a Royal Shakespeare Company touring production of Hamlet at Carlisle. She enjoyed the new book a lot.

This month's book club choice was Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves, essentially a WW1 autobiography. I found the beginning and ending sections almost unreadable, and waded through the beginning chapters until the trenches were reached, and the narrative improved. From then on it was gripping, albeit grim, and a worthy read, at least until Armistice was reached. I studied WW1 in both history and English classes at school, and am glad I read this book.

Last was the latest Doctor Who e-short: Spore by Alex Scarrow, featuring the Eighth Doctor. Some readers found this read more as a Third Doctor story, but I could picture Paul McGann saying the lines. It was a shame he was companionless. For example I'd have liked to see his long-term audio companion Charley Pollard in the story. And I had some issues with the plot and narrative. But I enjoyed it, and more than I expected to.

I'm flying through a few more books at the moment, and expect September to be a bumper read too.
vivdunstan: (botanics)
2013-08-03 04:49 am
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Books finished in July 2013

It's been a lean month for reading for me. I've been very weak for much of the time, extremely brain tired, and often unable to read at all before sleep. Even when I can read it's often been for just a few minutes at night, so I've made extremely slow progress on my reading. But still managed to finish some things.

First finished was my choice for the Yoggie Book Club this month: The Eagle Of The Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. I'm sure I read it as a youngster, but had forgotten most of the plot, so it was a fresh read. I enjoyed it, though found some bits lagged somewhat, and I expected a rather different ending. It was also nice to see the Roman fort near where I grew up as a child featured, albeit under a slightly different name from usual.

Next up was the latest Doctor Who e-short, The Ripple Effect by Malorie Blackman. This featured the Seventh Doctor and Ace. I really liked the central plot idea, but thought the characterisation of Seven was off. Also I found the resolution too easy. But still fun.

Nemo: Heart of Ice is Alan Moore's latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel. I wanted to read this because it had strong Lovecraftian elements. I also hoped that it could be read out of context of the other books in the series. But I was very disappointed by it. I found the plot barely coherent, the story and artwork frequently confusing, and all in all very disappointing. INJ Culbard's graphic novel of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness is much much better.

I've since finished another book, and am well on the way with others. But will blog about those in the blog post for August finishers.
vivdunstan: (botanics)
2013-07-02 12:13 am
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Books finished in June 2013

Not so many books finished this month, but have quite a few ongoing as I close the month.

First finished was the Yoggie book club choice: Fluke by James Herbert. I've read quite a few James Herbert books. This isn't like his others. It's touching, and warm, and not horrific, though there are scenes of jeopardy. It's about a dog, and I really cared for the dog as I was reading it. I suspect James Herbert must have been a dog lover to write such a well observed book about the dog's perspective.

Next up was Whitstable by Stephen Volk. This is more a novella than a novel, quite short, and tells a fictional story slotted into the real life of Peter Cushing. I'm not that familiar with Peter Cushing's life, and can't tell how well-judged the biographical side of this book is. But it was a moving read, and quite gripping, and I would recommend it to any fans of Cushing, or Hammer films, or just a good story.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman's new book. I read this on my Kindle and really enjoyed it. It's marketed as for adults, and there are some adult things in it, but nothing as strong as, for example, American Gods. I suspect it could be read by youngsters well. It's very much in the spirit of Diana Wynne Jones books. Good stuff. I also ordered a signed hardback copy for me to keep.

Something Borrowed was the latest Doctor Who 50th Anniversary e-short, this time by Richelle Mead, the first lady to write one of these short stories. It's been well received by Doctor Who fans, but I struggled with it quite a lot. It features Sixie and Peri, and I found it quite difficult to get into. It was also set on a very alien world, which is never a promising thing for me. I'm not the biggest fan of sci-fi, despite being an ardent Who fan. So not a big success. But still vastly better than the misfire of the First Doctor story months ago.

The Obverse Book of Detectives is the latest in a series of quarterly slim volumes published by Obverse Books. This one contains six detective stories. Mostly they use very unusual settings, and many experiment with the detective story format. Despite that my favourite of the bunch had perhaps the most conventional setting of the lot. But 'The Sorcerous Dogsnatchers of Fishwife Lane' still won out for me on sheer outright barminess.
vivdunstan: (botanics)
2013-05-31 11:11 pm
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Books finished in May 2013

It's been a good month for reading, though quite a lot of the books finished this month had been started long before.

Read more... )