Thursday, October 06, 2005

work related blog - no quake this time...

This may not be of much interest to many of the (thousands of) regular readers I get, but this is my blog so tough pants. Some of you may know that when not being a quake modder and parent I'm a qualified nurse working with people with learning disabilities. If you didn't, you will after reading the following. Questions and disucssions welcome from similar professionals or whoever.

Learning Disabilities Nursing

What’s it all about then?

For those working in this field, and yes I’m unilaterally taking it upon myself to speak for absolutely every LD nurse, it was always felt that our sphere of nursing was somewhat 3rd best in the pecking order. A kind of, until recently at least, Liberal Democrats to General and Mental Health’s Labour and Conservatives.
But then it got worse.
Increasingly that feeling has developed and been exacerbated, to the point where if not, our whole existence being threatened, at least questioned and forced into re-evaluation.
It seems that regularly we need to create a new identity for ourselves, almost Madonna like – our function, raison d’etre and image needs updating. From the pulling away, rightly, from medical models of care to the decidedly hands off function that appears to be heading our way.
Locally, and no I’ll not say where “locally” is, there are 2 residential LD services within the town’s PCT. (Admittedly there are 3 other residential services but they are run by a neighbouring county’s LDS) These services are both Short Term Breaks (nee respite) one for children, and the other, unsurprisingly, for adults. Except the future’s not looking great for either; “not great” as in their continued presence within the local PCT’s learning disabilities service. The children’s service has two options; either moving to Children’s Services and being managed by Health Visitor’s / School Nurse management tree, or being becoming a joint team with Social Services. The adult service is undoubtedly moving to a joint team scenario.
Now, I have absolutely no problem with joint teams. I don’t for one moment think that LD nurses are the only professionals able to work with people with learning disabilities, and I admire and respect the work that Social Care does. What I do worry about are the consequences for my profession; we are an expensive commodity, with, in many people’s eyes, an unnecessary, or at best, confused function. How many of us have heard people say, “so what do you do that a social worker can’t?” or “why do you need to be ‘qualified’ to do that?” In our shy and immodest way, and coupled with a desire not to denigrate another professional, we fail dramatically in “bigging” (as I believe the phrase goes) “ourselves up”
And sometimes we’re our own worse enemies, I spend a good amount of my time training support staff to give rescue medication for epilepsy, supporting them through their NVQ 3, helping them through a Safe Handling of Medications course.
But to what end?
Now I have no problems with support (“unqualified”) staff developing a greater range of skills, having more responsibilities, taking on additional tasks and from there moving onto better pay and a more interesting job, the worries, again, are about the consequences to my profession.
If unqualified staff on a Band 3, with an NVQ 3 and all the correct training and certificates can give out daily medication, rescue medication and lead a shift, what right-minded, budget-conscious senior manager or service planner is going to employ a band 5 or 6 (yes locally qualified, residential LD nurses have been given 6’s) nurse? Or at best, in sufficient numbers?
The direction, the road and the destination is clear; LD nursing as a profession is being funnelled into a two tight, narrow roles; Managers and Community Nurses. Now (notice the trend here?) I have no problem with either, indeed I was a Manager, and am a Deputy Manager, and hope, after a few life changes, to be a Community Nurse, they are fine admirable and rewarding jobs, who serve a valued (well in the case of Community Nurse anyway) function. But (and yes the other trend) the problems lie with the consequences for my profession. Less and less jobs will subsequently exist, the “team leader”, “Band 5”, “qualified nurse” hands-on residential role will face extinction, or at least become an endangered species; a rarity only spotted by the fortunate few or kept only in captivity (okay maybe I’m taking this analogy a little too far.)
Which has an additional problem. Without experiences gained, skills learnt, techniques mastered, understandings made and personal development …...”developed”, where are the Managers and Community Nurses going to come from. The days are gone, or so I understand it, that a bright, young, promising newly-qualified nurse can make the transition from student to CN, Where are they going to grow and develop as a skilled practitioner, ready to be sent out into the community to advise, guide and support families and individuals?
Without years spent leading shifts, managing mini-crisis’s, making increasingly important and difficult decisions and learning how to not be contactable in two places at once, how are the qualified nurses of tomorrow going to develop into the managers of the day after tomorrow?
And, (yes I like sentences beginning with “and”, and yes, it is grammatically allowable) not everyone wants to be a Manager or a Community Nurse. Many nurses just like being a qualified nurse, with the responsibility that currently goes with it, working hands-on with people and being part of a team.
But the options for that are running out, and none of the current service trends are doing anything but increase their demise. The consequences for the qualified LD nurse are there to be seen; as an expensive, non-pigeon-holed, jack of all trades worker with under-appreciated skills it is hard to see a scenario where we’re first choice for under-pressure service planners and budget holders looking to staff a service in the most cost-effective way.
But it gets worse.
There’s what could be seen as a more serious consequence to all this. The effect on client care and the quality and flexibility of services. Now without wanting to denigrate other professions, or to be seen as being immodest, it’s time to “big us up” a little, we’re pretty much the only professionals who are trained to work with the whole range of needs people with learning disabilities have.
Efforts to reduce qualified nurse 24hr cover have led to reductions in services for those clients with either behavioural needs that challenge, or complex health needs.
Now some will say, parents and carers are meeting those needs every day in their own home, with a great deal of success, and they would be right. So why can’t anyone be trained to meet those needs? But there is a significant difference between learning what you need to do to meet your son or daughter’s needs, and learning and being able to work effectively and professionally with not just one particular child’s needs, but with a whole range of similar, not so similar and completely different set of needs.
So what’s the solution? What needs to be done to not only maintain good quality, nurse led and nurse staffed services but also safeguard and protect LD nurses as respected practitioners working in varied of roles, in plentiful and appropriate numbers?

Firstly, and in my honest and (well not very actually) humble opinion, we need to define our role, not just in what we do, but for whom we do it. We need to define the needs for which we are the best professionals to work with. There’s been much talk, not formally and informally, about what constitutes “health needs.” Using one tool, clients with the extremes of challenging behaviour fall into our remit, but no one else. Using another, clients with complex health needs would be the lucky service users. Using yet another it would be no one, and we would “merely” (I use quotation marks, as I don’t wish to downgrade the role) be advisors.
But I humbly believe we know best our client group, and it is not as rigid as the aforementioned categories, nor as closed as the third. Our client group, if it can be limited by such a term, is broad, yet specialised, and representative of the range of additional needs people with learning disabilities have. To see it, I look no further than the local Children’s Short Term Break Service, what could be considered to demonstrate the future range of needs adult services must be designed to meet. In a brief and simplified nutshell:
· Multiply-profoundly disabled people with complex health needs
· People with severe autism
· People with complex epilepsy
· People with challenging behaviour associated or coupled with physical/health needs e.g. epilepsy, sensory needs etc.
And combinations of any, or all, of the above. (There’s that “and” again)
Those people form our client group, and we are the best professionals to work with them. Which brings me nicely to my next point.
Secondly, we need to explain, in assertive, plain and meaningful (to other professionals and service planners) ways, why we are the most suitable, able and skilled professionals to work with them. Which I will now attempt to do.
Nurses bring with them a 3-year LD specific training course, which instructs us specifically in meeting those needs, not just as individual workers but as leaders of teams.
Nurses have both the psychological skills and experience but also the Nursing skills needed to work with the whole range of needs found in the increasingly complex conditions people with learning disabilities have.
Nurses are the only comparable group of professionals to have the background knowledge and skills to not only quickly develop the expertise needed to work with an individual complex clients, but also the background knowledge to apply to developmental work and progressive and positive approaches.

But we know all that, don’t we? However, and to quote a word I dislike (but hey, I’m in management so I should use it more anyway) we need to be proactive in forging the way forward and defining not only our role but more importantly our future as a profession.
Us just knowing all this is useless, if those in control of budgets, those making the decisions about service planning and provision and those other professionals, members of the public and even the media, who wonder what we do, why we’re here and what we’re good for, don’t know and don’t realise the benefit we can bring to a service and the users of it, then it’s all pretty useless ain’t it?

I’m at crossroads career-wise. Management isn’t really that inspiring, Community Nursing may beckon, but it’s not the Golden Fleece for me it once was. What I really would like to do, especially when (if) my degree is completed, is to get a position where I can either be making service policy and planning decisions, or at the very least influencing them. If so, and with a little luck, I’ll be job creating for LD nurses. Because I think we’re great, and I think we’re “cost-effective”.
And, more importantly, so should everyone else.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Developments and plans

If you've been to this site before, you'll notice a couple of changes. Firstly I've added a link to my cafepress shop, at present there's just some Lunkin stuff, soon they'll be some more variety.
To be honest I expect that the only purchases will be made by myself and my son; but feel to waste your money ;-).
Secondly I've added a webcam, this will mostly be facing my monitor, and usually only when I'm doing something quake related, the image is pretty poor, but you might pick some thing interesting.
Thirdly I've added to my mod list, the first is obvious; Raptors2. I've still got a fair amount lying around to use and build on, and recently I've had some good ideas too... which are always useful. Next is LunkinR, not too obvious, but a few minutes guesswork will provide the answer. This will be extremely difficult to pull off, but I'm nothing if not optimistic.
Lastly is theTHIRDmod; which is something and nothing: something because I've 3 vague, yet possible ideas, nothing because I've nothing to show bar a short sentence in way of a synopsis.
Now the pages for each are empty, but very soon I'll add new content, which may just be some more detailed descriptions, or screens or concrete plans. My reasoning for adding all my mod ideas to the menu, is that basically I'm going to be working a little on each over the next few weeks - the one that works out best gets worked on until completion - or until I get bored and quit for another one ;)

Monday, August 22, 2005


After a nice break in Wales for a family holiday, I've returned to find three unknown bugs found by people playing Lunkin, the most concerning of which was that Lunkin lost attack power when you saved/loaded a game.
Anyway a small amount of work has fixed that, as well as the game crashing when you shoot the fire entity that appears in the Lunk2.bsp house. I've also adjusted the falling damage as that was mentioned as being too harsh.
The patch can be found on the Lunkin page of this very site.

So now I can begin work on earthQUAKE. I've got a fair amount down on paper, and have started on quakeC, tentatively. I'm hoping to be more organised with it than on Lunkin, but I said that after Bulldog Stadium, so....
In addition I have two other tasks: buidlign a simple test map for trying out features, and reading anything and everything about Darkplaces, so I can make best use of it's features.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Lunkin's Journey ends..

Released last night, finally, and with great relief on my part. Right up until the end I was finding new problems, and new solutions, and more usefully learning a bit more about making mods.

The number of times however, that fixing one thing, just plain broke another, was very fustrating, especially as often it was just a missing word: return; for instance :)
But I know why; I'm still a noob at heart and I'm completely disorganised. Couple that with code and a mod that spiralled in both scope and size from that which I'd envisaged, and you can understand why I had problems. God forbid anyone else should try to read it ;)
But it's done and regardless it's my best mod, and even though I hate it now, I'm sure I'll appreciate it as such once I've had a break from it.
There are number of things that didn't make the finished version:
Not all quake sounds have been replaced, mostly because the QUake ones suited it just fine, but also because of time pressures. In addition there there's a lot of centerprint - ed 'chat' that was going to have accompanying audio (either spoken/acted words or "vocalisations") but again time, and some skill-decifit, meant it was binned.
A fair amount of planned stpryline is gone or simplified, and this was just unavoidable. There was no way I would have ever finished it, if the planned storyline, needing another 15 or so levels, had been followed. So a few corners have been gut.
Some thing were cut because of model related issues. I'm never going to be a modeller; not even in terms of tweaking existing ones. So some features (there's a full list I may 'release' one day, but I don't want to give the mod any more bad press than I already appear to be doing ;) ) just didn't happen because the model couldn't do it and I couldn't make it!
There are a numebr of cuts made due to coding issues, predominately because [b]I[/b] couldn't get things to work, but some (one major thing) that a bit of me thinks you just can't do in Quake, and I'm sticking to that opinion, regardless of what the actual truth may be.

SO what's left then? A pretty big mod. 16 levels, a 3rd person perspective, background music (different for each world type) 5 species of non-playable characters, with different individuals within those, 5 attacks/powers, 5 world-types, a storyline of some description, and a whole range of (spot 'em there's loads!) "borrowed movie and game influences, most none too subtle.
Part of me loves it, part of me hates it. I'm still quite fustrated that I didn't have time or the skill to include stuff that was pretty great in theory, and also that both in terms of mapping and especially coding, I didn't have the time or enthusiasm to make it as polished as it should be.
But I think it's different, fun and big (during last minute testing I played thorugh it in god mode, taking all the short cuts and avoiding all the pit falls, and it still took me 37 minutes!) and worthy of people playing and giving some time to.

I'll just finish by saying thank you to everyone who has helped me over the it's development, it would have been impossible without you all *sniff*. More detilas of which can be found in the Game Manual plus installation tips, chracter guides and why you should use TomazQuake, so you really should download it.

Hope you enjoy it


Monday, July 18, 2005

24 days later ...

If I'd thought of the title to this entry 4 days ago, it might have been more interesting, but there you go. Anyway 24 days to go, until Lunkin's Journey is released. That's definite and absolute, no "it's done when it's done", no "it's ready when it's ready", but a no doubt, bet your life, mortgage and life savings on it. Why? Because I'm so close to the finish that it's a done deal? Nearly, but not quite. Because I'm so enthused and in love with this mod that every waking hour is spent in feverish, intense and imaginative endeavour? Nope, almost (but not quite) the opposite. No, the reason I'm setting that date is due to 3 factors:
- it's the third day of QEXPO 2005 (
- it's the day before I go on holiday
- I'm almost completely at the end of my enthusiasm for this thing, and if I had to imagine any more time spent on it I think it would never get done.

So, the 12th August is the release date. I truely hope to have it in a "not perfect, but it works, is playable and I'm pleased with it" state. At the moment I'm basically have the following to do:
- one level
- one major bugfix (if I can't solve it, one small sentence as a guide to the player will stop it happening, to be honest, it's unlikely it would happen in normal play, for reasons I won't go into now, but I'd rather prevent it)
- small tidying
- 3 peices of coding (2 easy, one hard)
- my son and I playtesting it (I've already done a fair bit, but I'll do a complete run through a number of times with my son, before release)
- pak-ing it up
- readme.txt (pretty much done)
- manual (50% done)
- "extras", I'd be gutted if I don't get them done, but they're not a priority.

In 24 days. Oh bugger :)

But I'm going to do, I may not have tons of enthusiasm, but I'm bloody determined now.

So come back here, on the 24th, or over at QEXPO, and the mod, if you're interested, will be yours.

After which I'll toddle off on holiday, returning a week later to:
- it's crap!
- it's got more bugs than an ant farm!
- why doesn't so and so work?
and finally...
- it's crap!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Website and Lunkin

The website reformat is done, just a couple of pages to be finished. The design is based on this blog, so, ignoring some smooth edges here and there, there's a nice seamless transition between the two.
I've simplified the whole site, it's tidier and easier to navigate; more user-friendy.
As you may have seen from the front page, the countdown is ticking, and I've 50-odd days to go until the release of Lunkin's Journey, and I've just got another level "in the can".
2 to go and some refining here and there, and it's good to go, fingers crossed.
Please feedback any comments, both on the redesign and Lunkin's imminent release; either through this blog or my email.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Doom 3 and other distractions

Today I've moved my pc/gaming desk from the lounge to the dining room; well it was a dining room, now it's an office come kid's toys storage room. This is not in of itself very interesting to anyone but myself, although it could be argued that most blogs could be defined as such, but it does mean certain things.
Firstly that my decorating and room conversions are finished, and secondly there's now only one or two distractions left preventing me from doing the two things I really should be doing whenever I have any free time; Lunkin and training.
Lunkin's Journey, being something I've worked on on and off for 3 years and something I found to varying degrees a struggle, can be a real chore to apply myself to. Often I'll open up Worldcraft, sometimes even the map I'm currently working on as well, then continue with browsing, playing games or anything but mapping. It didn't help that my previous desk setup was kind of uncomfortable, messy and not conducive to concentrated work. I don't have that excuse anymore...
Training is something I haven't been avoiding, more that decorating, a minor injury and a lack of time has meant I've not trained for a week. Training for me means cycling or gym work, and although I used to be pretty fit 18 years ago, and I've made a few abortive returns to training over the intervening years, I'm still pretty much back to the beginning again. Which means building up a base and nursing (my now pretty aged) body through the inevitable twinges, tweaks and pulls that signify it's rejecting my attempts to make it faster, leaner or stronger.
But it's been quite succesful over the last few months (since January) that I've returned to training, I've felt stronger and fitter, and I've lost about 18lbs, which is both helpful when riding up hills, and helpful when trying to look less middle-aged when sweating at the gym or out in public wearing lycra.
But to the title, and Doom 3. I'm a fairly committed Id Software fan; not to say I've been wowed by all their work (quake 2?), but generally the purity and inovation of their output always hits the right buttons for me.
Doom 3 did so also. I bought, played and finished the pc version, quickly on it's release, and last week saw the release of both the expansion pack; Resurrection of Evil and the xbox version.
Being the fanboy that I am, I bought both, and each is currently distracting me from my Lunkin endeavours - however, I've one last day of my week's leave, and I promise I'll spend more time on mapping than I will on doom, or I'll train, that's if football, cycling on the tele, outings with me kids, housework, spending brief relaxing moments with my whole family, or time to eat or sleep, don't get in the way.
It's a tough old life. :-)