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Archive for October 2012

Why would a self-professed atheist like me join a hymn singing marathon? Read on to find out how I spent my weekend…

A twitter friend is the organist of a local church. When she announced a 30 hour “hymnathon” to raise money for organ repairs – singing every hymn in the New English Hymnal – it caught my imagination, as someone who loves choral singing. But I didn’t yet know exactly which hymns the book contained. I signed up anyway, and invited my friends to be “organ donors”. Kathryn wrote an article explaining why it was so necessary to restore the instrument she played.

My research told me that the original English Hymnal was edited by my favourite composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams – himself a non-believer. This had been superceded by the New English Hymnal in 1986.

On Friday I wheeled myself through the door of St Andrew’s. I’d been afraid of a reverent “bless you for coming” but instead the atmosphere was light and informal. I was told about the free food for singers, and invited to buy raffle tickets. I greeted Kathryn, observed the notes for singers (sing in parts as you wish, but in unison for the last verse) and took my place, ready for the three hours that I had volunteered, and promised to my sponsors.

At one point there were as many as 7 of us… at other points it was a duet, and the other girl happily said “I’ll follow you” but I was sight reading… *gulp* – and of course part singing went out the window! Luckily nobody criticised my growling! I am now familiar with ALL the hymns of Easter, Ascension and most of Pentecost. I particularly enjoyed Now The Green Blade Rises, an interesting tune and words that symbolise spring and new life.

Parishioners were present at all times so we had a small audience, which was nice. They were encouraged to sing too, which surprised my husband when he arrived 45 minutes before I finished! (I think he busied himself with his phone.)

Time flew by, and my voice began to tire. At last my three hours were up, and I left – Kathryn still flitting about between singing, playing, and greeting!

On Saturday, I felt a need to attend the finale (pictured). It was partly a wish to see things through, and also a desire to see which hymn had “won”; sponsors had been asked to name their favourite hymn, and whichever took the most money would be used to close the event. I slotted into position, this time next to twelve other singers and a second organist, to learn that there had been a tie. Jerusalem (which my atheist supporters had backed) took the same amount as Be Thou My Vision (obviously significant to others). We sang them both.

And that was it! Kathryn had done a fantastic job organising (and was still speaking coherently after 30 hours) and I was delighted to see that the event had been welcoming to believers, atheists and agnostics; to people of all ethnicities, gender and ages; and made me feel an important part of proceedings. Surely this is the point, speaking as an outsider, if a church is to remain current – it must represent everyone in its parish and make them all feel comfortable to be there. Maybe I’ll pop into the church’s cafe in future.

The total on Monday morning was £5k. Not bad for a handful of musicians, two dozen singers, and other volunteers. But the total needed is £25k, so the fundraising goes on!

My part is over. Now it’s your turn – if you’re able to support the hymnathon, please go to my JustGiving page and give what you can afford. I know that any contribution will be valuable in supporting choral singing within my community.

I take a number of tablets every day. I’ve more or less given up respecting which are due every six hours and which every eight; I take them all every six hours and hope that things even out while I’m asleep. But that’s not what I ought to do. So would you like to write me this app?

I need far more than just a few self-set alarms on my phone! I’d even be willing to pay for an Android app, if it does the following:

  • Records the details of at least 20 medicines and the intervals in which they may be taken. This is important because phones and even special pill reminder machines only have 5-8 alarms that can be set. I have 11 meds which I need to take every other day, daily, twice daily, every 8 hours, and every 6 hours. Moreover, if my nausea is really bad when I wake, I take a tablet that can only be repeated every 8 hours. If nausea is less bad, or dizziness is worst, I take one that repeats every 6 hours instead. See how easy it is for even an intelligent person to cock this up?
  • It should respect phone settings – not alarming when phone is off, going to silent or vibrate when ringer is set to this, etc. but still showing on the screen.
  • I would like to turn off the alarm, by telling it “I’m going to sleep now” and to turn alarms back on by telling it “Im awake now”. At the point of being told I’m awake, it should tell me which meds are due and restart the countdown for each med at the point that I say yes, I’ve taken them. I guess if the phone is turned on after a period of being off, it should also check then whether any meds are now due (is that even possible?)
  • “Ive taken meds” should require a tap to confirm, in case I fell asleep again / got distracted after it reminded me they were due. Not sure how we deal with choosing not to take some – maybe there could be an option for each med to say whether it is regular or optional, and whether you want to be reminded about it whenever it can be taken, or only if it was already taken that day? Maybe an “I’ve taken all of them” button but also a “let me tell you which I’ve taken” button which then leads you through each med that was due – have you taken this (y/n)?
  • There needs to be some way of dealing with a reminder to take meds when I don’t have them with me. Maybe options like “I’ve taken them” “Remind me again in 10 minutes / 30 minutes / an hour”
  • It would be useful to be able to press a button and find out “What can I take now?” – for example if the pain is really bad and I want to know if I can take that extra NSAID or not. Particularly useful for people who have some meds which are optional and only taken as needed, so they may not be regularly reminded, but are an option if necessary.
  • It should keep an inventory. That is, each med should be able to be programmed with how many tablets you have, and how many you get per prescription or packet. Then when it thinks you have taken enough that you have only enough for a week at maximum dosage, it prompts you to get a repeat prescription / buy more. The inventory must allow for tablets which are taken two at a time. For example I have 2 x 30mg dihydrocodeine as I find it acts faster than 1 x 60mg.

So in summary
…Alarm options should be “Not taking any” “Remind me again in…[10 mins / 30 mins / 1 hr]” “I’ve taken some [leads you through which ones]” “I’ve taken them all!” and it should reset the countdown for each med at the point you confirm having actually taken it, rather than the time when the alarm went off.
…General features should be buttons saying “I’m [awake / asleep]” “I’ve taken something extra!” (for tablets taken as and when, or not every day) and “What can I take now?” as well as a med management menu (add / remove / edit a med)
…Settings for each med should be name, interval when it can be taken, number taken at once, remind or not?, and how many you have left. All of which can be entered / configured by the user.

So, do any of my geek readers have the ability and time to make such an app? I’d be glad to test it!

And my disabled readers, would this be useful to you? What would make it more useful?