Fight dyslexia with a Kindle!

Something that some people know about me, but by no means everybody, is that i have dyslexia. I don’t think i have it to a very strong degree, but i have it enough to find reading quite difficult, and it takes quite an effort to override my brain’s resistance to reading.

At school we read Jane Eyre for GCSE. I hated it. We were obliged to read a certain number of chapters per week, and we did all sorts of textual analysis, none of which i remember now. There was no joy for me in reading the book, only stress and pressure. I found it dull, and to be quite honest, i don’t think i made it past half-way through. I’ve no idea how i blagged my way through the exam; my memory is blank. Nobody knew i was dyslexic back then, so i had no help and i used to dread English lessons more than any others.

I am one of those stereotypical people who never read anything until i read Harry Potter. I remember the emotion at finishing Philosopher’s Stone was so overwhelming that i burst into tears on a train at the moment i finished it! I love the Harry Potter series so much because it showed me that reading could be enjoyable, and i have been able to read many more books since then.

Enter the Kindle

As i am travelling a lot more these days, i decided to buy a Kindle for the ease of taking books with me. The Kindle is very clear and easy to read, and actually turns out to be very good for dyslexic people, for several reasons …

Kindle changing font options

One of my biggest obstacles to reading is the moment i turn over each page. If i see a big block of text, my brain reacts strongly against it. Every neuron tells me “No, that’s hard! Don’t make me read that!”. It can be overcome by putting a bookmark under a line at a time, letting me focus on a small amount. But on a Kindle there is a better way. You can change the text size, font style, and line spacing. If i see too much text, i can just turn the size up and it’s instantly easier to read!

If that doesn’t work, i can always turn on text-to-speech and have my Kindle read to me whilst i follow along.

I have a bad habit of ignoring words i don’t know. I often just make an assumption of what it probably means, using the context to help me guess. Using a dictionary is terribly frustrating for me because it feels like a bombardment of information. It can take me up to 5 minutes to find something in a dictionary. But hooray! The Kindle has a built-in dictionary!

Kindle looking up a word in the built-in dictionary

All i have to do is move the cursor next to a word i don’t understand, and it looks up the meaning for me! I have often been surprised that the meaning i guessed was completely wrong! I have learnt many words this way. I can highlight the word and add a note for myself if i want to.

Kindle search

Another great feature of the Kindle is its search. I don’t remember character names very easily, but with the search i can easily find out where that character was last mentioned and refresh my memory. It saves so much time and frustration wildly flicking forwards and backwards taking random guesses and having to waste time reading unnecessarily.

With a paper book, i always like to turn it on end to see how far through i am. It’s a little motivator for me. With a Kindle i get even better feedback: a small progress bar on the bottom shows the percentage that i have read. It feels like an achievement every time i see that number increase.

Even a little thing like finding my place again when coming back to a book is easier with a Kindle. Sure, i use a bookmark for paper books, but they usually have so many words on a page that it’s hard to find the spot again. With a Kindle it automatically remembers where i got to. Since i have few words on a page, i don’t mind reading the whole page again, or even going back a page to remember where i was.

There are many widely publicised good reasons for getting a Kindle, but i really think that more should be said about its benefits for dyslexia. These may only seem like small advantages to other people, but for me, anything that removes obstacles to reading means i have far more motivation to read, and i am much more likely to enjoy it.

I found that Jane Eyre is availably for free in the Amazon book store. I think most of the classics are free. I am amazed to find that i am really enjoying the story, it is far more intriguing than i remembered. I’m even reading the study guide that i got to help with my GCSE and now i find that, without the pressure of essays and exams, i am fascinated by the techniques of the author and how the story is put together. Who would have thought?!

Harry Potter: One Day Left!

I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 today, and … I LOVED IT! (Warning, movie spoilers follow!)

It was really well done, especially if you adore the books, like i do. It was very accurate to the book, and beautiful to see the scenes from my mind translated wonderfully on to the screen. Lots of the dialogue seemed to be word-for-word from the book. There were a few small changes, there always are, but like Half-Blood Prince, they only served to make it work better as a film. Whoever’s idea it was to have Harry and Hermione dance in the tent, i congratulate you! That was perfect! Part 1 is extremely dark throughout: there is almost nothing to be happy about, but the action and suspense, and small bits of humour keep it easy to watch.

I am happy to see that they put the split point EXACTLY where i hoped they would. See my post from two and a half years ago: Eight HP Movies! (contains spoilers for Part 2). Part 1 contained everything i predicted (apart from the Harry/Ron hug, shame)!

So this means, and for me this is extremely exciting, whilst Part 1 took place over several months, Part 2 is going to span just one day1. There is SO MUCH action to pack into that one long day. I know people throw the word ‘epic’ around for just about everything these days, but Part 2 i think will really deserve the word. I came out of Part 1 feeling completely exhausted from emotional adrenaline. Part 2 is going to be all that and more!

The great thing about the movie in two parts is that Part 1 provides just enough clues that you could almost figure out what’s coming next. I spent some time exploring theories with my friend who saw it with me, who has not read the book yet. If it were all one movie you’d just get it all delivered to you with no time to think. There are plenty of twists yet to be revealed, and plenty of ends to tie up yet, but you really get the sense that everything is coming together. With eight months to wait until the end, and a DVD release to come, this is a very exciting time for the people who have only seen the movies and not read the books.

Two movies really works well. I am really glad they chose to do it that way and do real justice to the book. Credit to David Yates: i think the last three movies have been better than any of the first four, and i am extremely looking forward to the final exciting installment!


1 Oh, and the epilogue of course, but who cares about that! ;)

the best free entertainment i’ve seen all year

This last week i’ve been enjoying watching A Very Potter Musical on youtube. It’s a most hilarious Harry Potter parody with fantastic acting and delightfully catchy songs!

The star of the show has to be Lauren Lopez who plays Draco Malfoy and spends most of the time rolling around seductively on the floor/bench/harry/hermione! Lauren’s sense of comic timing is incredible, and the voice and facial expressions are just adorable!

Lauren Lopez as Draco Malfoy

Voldemort and Quirrel are beautifully played with some very touching moments together. Snape is hilarious, like all the characters, much exaggerated!

I think the best songs are near the end. “Not Alone” (Act 2 Scene 5) is a beautifully composed piece of music, and “Voldemort Is Goin’ Down” (Act 2 Scene 8) is magnificently performed by the cast.

I’ve enjoyed it so much that i’m making myself a dvd to take to show friends and family. I love it that the whole thing is freely available. By the fans, for the fans, and yep, the fans are loving it!

I also love how linux gives me free tools to be able to create a dvd. This morning i did not know how to do it, but using todisc and tovid i’ve been able to combine all the scenes into a sequence, with a menu. I used mplayer to extract the audio of one song, and audacity to split out the song that i wanted to use as an introduction when the menu is shown. I used kino to look at the frames one by one and export a frame to use as the background for the menu. I used the gimp to darken the image and reduce the contrast.

The menu for my dvd is hopefully going to look something like this:

A Very Potter Musical dvd menu

I’ll update again if it works! Currently it is encoding each of the scenes into dvd format, which seems to take a very long time … and creates files 5 times bigger than the originals!

Update: it worked!! From youtube to my television!!

A Very Potter Musical

Potter Musical on my television!

A Very Potter Musical

Thank you to StarKidPotter, youtube, and to free open source software and the ubuntu community! Now i can take A Very Potter Musical with me to show anyone who has a dvd player! :D

Enjoying the Couch!

My CouchDB series is being syndicated at, along with other people who write about the Couch. Well worth following for all the exciting developments!

I’ve just been on the IRC channel (my first time in my life in an IRC!) and had a friendly chat with some of the people in there.

Now i must remember not to tag this with ‘couchdb’ otherwise it will get syndicated over there and i will create a self-referential digital black hole and probably cause the Internet to implode.

In other news, JKRowling won that court case. I wouldn’t say i’m ‘pleased’ exactly, but i did think it was a bit cheeky of the RDR Books to think they could get away with it.

Another boring post (probably)

Married life suits me well. In some ways everything feels pretty much exactly the same. We’ve lived together for 4 years, after all. But in my heart i just *know* something is different, and i like it a lot. We’re not just friends who live together anymore; there is something more to it. Something that everyone can know and recognise and celebrate!

But at the moment my beloved it at a geography conference, and i’m at home for another boring night with meaningless Twittering and blog posting! I do apologise!

I had a very good day at work. I got a few tricky things done in the morning, and lots of little easy things done in the afternoon. So it was a productive day, and i was complimented on a few things i’ve done lately, which always makes me feel very good indeed!

Tonight i have become a ‘beta’ reader for a Harry Potter fanfic. I’ve never done this before, but i loved the start of the story and it’s nice to get a sneak preview of the next chapters! My job is particularly to translate the dialogue into British English where necessary! This is fun and easy for me to do, because Americanisms in Harry Potter fanfics always stand out for me like numbers on a colour-blind test.

What number do you see?

The author send me a Microsoft Word document with ‘Track Changes’ enabled. I was delighted to find that OpenOffice knows all about tracking changes. What’s more, when i sent it back, my author was able to open it in MS Word again and see what i had changed. I love it when technology works! I was half expecting Word to throw all the toys out of the pram because i’d dared to look at it in a rival word processing application!

By the way, what colours do you see in the bubbles above? I see a 57, which is normal. Some people see a 35 instead. I used to love these tests whenever i went to the opticians when i was little! I thought they were so clever! I always got them right so there was no point in testing, but i thought it was such a fun game! :)

PS here is a very sweet video montage from my favourite film, “Beautiful Thing”. I can see Ste saying “I’m gonna stink of mint!” The Body Shop still make Peppermint Foot Lotion; i got some as a free sample the other day! :)

Caught in a Storm

No, the title isn’t in reference to the current freaky weather we are having (though there have been many surprise storms this week!) but it is the title of a picture that has been drawn … for me! :)

I do like the twoseekers community on LiveJournal, dedicated to Harry and Cedric, my one true HP pairing! :) On Tuesday last week rotary phones posted, saying,

As a big thank you to everyone who made last month the Month of Harry and Cedric (TM), I’m making an offer: free art! That’s right. Make a request, and I’ll do my best to set my artistic talents to the task.

I was the lucky first to get my request in:

Oooohh! That is a wonderful offer, and i have just the perfect scene that i’ve always wanted a picture of.

You know in book 3, chapter 9, the Gryffindor/Hufflepuff match … thunderstorm, everyone drenched to the skin … and the Dementors … Harry fell 50 feet and Cedric caught the snitch. Well, i know that’s what happened in the book, but i’ve read a lot of fan fiction where Cedric actually caught Harry, and in my mind that’s almost become canon now, heheh!

I’d really like a picture of Cedric swooping in at the last moment and catching Harry. If you would like to oblige i would be most exceedingly thankful! :)

And here it is, a truly beautiful picture; the bold colour style reminds me of the covers of the French Harry Potter books …

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JK Rowling vs RDR Books

I feel quite upset by this ongoing court battle. It’s awful that it has come to legal action at all. It is quite clear to me that RDR Books are the villains here, not Steve Vander Ark or Ms Rowling. The Harry Potter Lexicon was and is fine as a website, where no profit is made. It has even been praised by JK Rowling. It was RDR Books who got the idea of publishing, even though Steve Vander Ark had reservations, thinking it might breach copyright. RDR Books have insisted on going ahead anyway, even after being asked not to.

The trouble is, i feel as if this whole thing is hinged on JK Rowling’s personal opinion: “I don’t really want you to publish this”. RDR Books think that they are perfectly entitled to do so, under fair use law, and i have to say their argument is pretty convincing. I really don’t know how this will turn out. I’m sure Steve Vander Ark would happily walk away from the whole thing so as not to cause any more upset, but RDR Books are not going to drop it. I can see this getting even nastier before it gets resolved.

Eight HP movies!

I am very excited to learn that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be released in two parts. This is excellent news. The big difference about Deathly Hallows from the other books is it that virtually everything is essential to the plot of the books. No little subplots that you can easily take out or work around.

For me it means extending the magic of Harry Potter a little longer, and having another three movies to look forward to until Summer 2011. That is a very good thing, in my opinion, and i disagree with all the cynics who say WB are only doing it for the money. I am hoping that, with 2 movies to work with, they will really do an excellent job and do a great justice to the entire series.

The rest of this post is full of spoilers; my speculation of where they might split the two parts.

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Half-Blood Prince poster

So apparently this is the new movie poster:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I really hope this is a fake! That is way too dull to be a Harry Potter poster! What a lame tagline: “I’m safe with you, Harry” – no way. That cannot seriously be the poster. Someone’s having a chuckle!

[Update] in fact, i can prove it is fake: they missed out the dash in Half-Blood.

Wrock on!!

I am continuing to enjoy the Wizard Rock music i have found! I discovered that i really like Ministry of Magic which, as a band, is much more dance oriented, and have a few funny covers of well-known songs.

My favourite would be Here In Your Car, a parody of Here In Your Arms, because it strokes the Harry/Ron slashy bunny in me! ;)

You are the one, the one who flies next to me
Whispers, “I’m scared!”
“Look out! It’s a willow tree!”
You’re my best friend, my best friend so suddenly,
That there’s no place else, I could be but here in your car

Haha, genius! :O There’s a great fan video for the song too! :D Although watching that video just reminds me how cringeworthy some parts of the movie were. Did they really need to have Harry fall out of the car, hanging on by one hand, and almost get crushed by the Hogwarts Express?! It’s like in the 3rd movie where Aunt Marge flies away and into the night! There is such a thing as over-kill.

Oh wow, i really loved Torchwood tonight! I am totally going to love this season! Say hey for the Glorified Bisexual Agenda!!! :D