Tag Archives: technology

My Review of the Poemhunter App

Poem Hunter logo for apple devices

I recently downloaded the Poemhunter app to my iphone, https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/poemhunter/id918149865.

The app is described on Apple’s website as follows:

“Poemhunter app is the poetry library in your phone with a huge archive of poems and poets of the world literature.

Whenever you feel like reading a poem, tap on Random Poem or swipe right, and see what this brings you. You will find the best poems for your mother or for your valentine.

Poemhunter has over 1.4 million poems from over 100,000 professional and amateur poets. We also keep adding a lot of new poems and poets to our archive every day. Continue to discover new poems and poets with Poemhunter app forever.”

My experience of using the Poemhunter app has been a generally positive one. For example my first use of the app brought up Edna St Vincent Millay’s beautiful poem “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed”, https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/what-lips-my-lips-have-kissed-and-where-and-why/. Having read this beautiful poem, I downloaded the collected poems of Vincent Millay from the Amazon Kindle store, and I’m currently enjoying reading the work of this fine poet.

Poemhunter is a good way of finding new poets and poems and I would recommend the app to poetry lovers.

On the less positive side, I found as a blind user of Apple’s Voiceover screenreader that the tabs within the app are not properly labelled to enable them to work with Voiceover. In addition the sharing buttons appear to be labelled in a language other than English, which makes it difficult to share content.

Poem Hunter logo for non apple devices

For anyone who does not own an Apple device, you can access Poemhunter on the web at https://www.poemhunter.com/.

A Useful Post on Making Websites Accessible


As a visually impaired blogger, (I am registered blind and a user of screen reading software called Job Access with Speech or JAWS), I am keenly aware of the importance of web accessibility, although my site does, doubtless have room for improvement.

You can find a useful post on web accessibility at the link below:

https://wordpress.com/blog/2020/05/21/global-accessibility-awareness-day/.

On the Internet

On the internet
You may find love.
Regret.
God above.
(Or nature
Or some other creator).

On the internet regret
Is sold
For gold.
At the click of a mouse
A foreign spouse
Will come to stay
(If you can pay!).

Or a lover for the night
Will bring you sweet delight
But you must have money
To pay for your honey.

The web may mangle
And the unwary entangle
In pleasure and pain.
But, much is mundane
For there is nothing shocking
About food shopping.

COVID-19 (the Corona Virus) – my Experience of Living and Working in London

Yesterday evening (19 March), I received a text from a friend saying, “There is literally nothing left in the shops!”.

Whilst I have not experienced there being “literally nothing left”, I have, regularlly visited my local Sainsburys only to find no toilet rolls, canned tuna or other items which, usually fill my shopping basket.

My local Sainsburys in Upper Norwood has, as with all Sainsburys (and many other supermarkets), limited shoppers to purchasing a maximum of 2 of any 1 product so, for example I can only buy 2 packs of tissues (assuming of course that there are any tissues left to buy)!

Given the panic buying by vast numbers of the British public as a consequence of COVID-19 (the Corona Virus), I am wholly in support of Sainsburys and the other stores who have introduced limits on the number of items shoppers may purchase. However, in London I can report that this sensible (and morally correct) policy is not working.

Talking to store employees, I am frequently told how people buy 2 lots of an item, leave the store and, shortly afterwards come back to buy a further 2 of the same product. Staff are sometimes abused when trying to enforce the 2 item limit (on any one product), while families may go to separate check-out lines in an attempt to beat the limit.

Yesterday (Thursday 19th March), my local Sainsburys opened between 8-9 am purely to serve the elderly, pregnant women and other vulnerable customers. Being registered blind, I entered the store at a little after 8 am and was escorted round by a helpful employee. Whilst the lady did her very best to find the items I needed, many of them where, quite simply not in stock, which meant that I either found an alternative or went without. For example there where no rubbish sacks. I was, however able to purchase bin bags when I visited the store later in the day (although they had almost sold out of this essential item).

Whilst some people are behaving in a selfish manner, I have been touched by the kindness of other individuals. While shopping between 8-9 am yesterday, a heavily pregnant lady brought across a box of ceareal which the store employee had not spotted and thought was out of stock. I have also received offers of help from friends to assist me shop. As John Donne famously said, “no man is an island”. We all have duties and responsibilities to one another and its at times like this (the COVID-19 emergency), that we see both the worst and the best in our fellow men and women.

Since Tuesday, I have been working from home (my employer has now instructed everyone to do so). Whilst I relish the opportunity to home work once a week (almost always on a Friday), I am finding it socially isolating to work from home every day. There is much written about how technology can enable remote working and the benefits of working from one’s own home. Home working does, indeed have many benefits, for example cutting down on the carbon emissions produced by travel, however (apart from the problem of isolation) I find that I miss the convivial chats in the work kitchen. “Oh did you see my email?” said to a colleague one has just bumped into, is likely to prompt them to go back to their desk and look at said message. Such a question (put with a smile) is likely to ilicit a positive response, whilst sending a follow-up email may well just get lost in a colleague’s ballooning inbox.

Whilst this is a poetry blog, I will, from time to time continue to put out the occasional post concerning my experience of the COVID-19 situation.20

Kevin

The Origin of the Word Computer

Being visually impaired, all of my writing takes place on my laptop, using Job Access with Speech (JAWS) software, which converts text into speech and braille enabling me to use a standard Windows computer or laptop. (For anyone interested in finding out more about JAWS,please visit this link, https://www.freedomscientific.com/products/software/jaws/

Given my reliance on computers for writing, reading the news and carrying out other tasks, I was fascinated by a recent post on Interesting Literature concerning the origin of the word “computer”. The word computer is much older than the 20th century, as you will find if you read this interesting article, https://interestingliterature.com/2020/02/origin-word-computer-etymology/.

The Limitations of Blogging for Poets and Authors

Yesterday evening, I fell into a very enjoyable conversation with a lady, during the course of which I mentioned that I compose poetry. She was kind enough to express an interest in my work, consequently I provided her with my business card, which contains my website’s address.

On being asked by the lady where she should start, I mentioned my poem “My Old Clock I Wind”. Having done so, I fell to considering how easy and/or difficult it would be for someone accessing my website to find a particular poem.

my blog, kmorrispoet.com, does have a search facility and, on returning home I searched for “My Old Clock I Wind” and reblogged the poem in order to make it easier for my acquaintance to read it.

My search took some 10-20 seconds (well it seemed to do so, although I wasn’t counting)! This incident did, however cause me to consider the limitations of blogging as a means of promoting my work.

In this age of social media, smartphones and other high tech devices enabling people to access information online it is, in my view essential to have a presence on the internet. Having a website/blog enables you to reach readers who would (in the absence of your blog/website) be unaware of your existence, let alone the fact that you write poetry, short stories etc. Having an online presence also allows you to easily share links to your published works (if any) with your online readership.

However, many blogs (including my own) have a very high number of posts, which means that (even with a search facility) its often difficult to find a given article, poem, short story etc. Of course one can (and should) use both tags and categories to enable your readership to find what they are seeking as easily as is possible. One can also create pages (for example a page on a book you have written, or one containing links to reviews of your books). However, having done all this, a blog still has its limitations.

The blogging community is a place full (on the whole) of friendly and helpful people. However, for those who do not blog, accessing a WordPress (or other blogging site) can be bewildering. Indeed I have found that a number of people who have become acquainted with my work through having met me face-to-face (and who have expressed pleasure on reading it), rarely (sometimes never) access blogs. They feel more comfortable with a paperback or an ebook and lack any significant desire to engage online either by reading, commenting or liking blog posts.

I know of people who have visited my blog (they have told me that they have done so and enjoyed reading my work), yet many of these have not followed my site. I (as with many other bloggers) do have a facility to subscribe by email as well as via the WordPress reader. The email facility is particularly good for those who do not have a WordPress site and/or Gravatar. However few people (at least in the case of my own site) subscribe by email, meaning that the overwhelming majority of my (online) readership is composed of fellow WordPress users.

As mentioned earlier in this post, the WordPress community is a helpful and friendly place. However, if one wishes to promote one’s work its extremely important to use a variety of means (not just blogging) Such other means include readings, chatting to interested strangers, and (if you can aford to do so) giving away the odd copy of your books.

As always, I would be interested to hear the views of my readers.

Kevin

James Burke Predicts the World in 2030

Today’s World this Weekend, on BBC Radio 4, contains reflections by the science writer, James Burke, on the developments he believes will take place by 2030.

Amongst Burke’s predictions is that by 2030 humans will be able to live autonomously, in a location of their own choosing, people will be able to create anything using nanotechnology, we can “forget privacy”, and climate change will be solved by technological developments, for example the production of artificial meat negating the need to keep livestock.

I am no scientist (my degree being in history and politics), however Burke’s view that science will solve all problems strikes me as overly optimistic, and that’s putting it mildly!

Whilst I’m sure that some of the things predicted by Burke will come to pass – indeed some, such as the use of nanotech to solve health issues are already baring fruit – I’m sceptical of the timeframes postulated. Also his implied view that we don’t need to change our way of living to tackle climate change (as science will solve everything) is not one shared by most scientists and I, also am unconvinced by Burke here.

I am a believer in individual liberty and I’m extremely wary of governmental intervention in the lives of consenting adults. However individuals don’t exist in a vacuum. We owe duties to one another and our lives are enriched by friendships and other social interactions. Listening to Burke’s broadcast it is, to my mind to individualistic and lacking in an appreciation for the complex relationships, institutions etc which make it possible for individuals, families and communities to live the good life. His view does, I believe chime with libertarians (of left and right) rather than with the one-nation Conservatism which, broadly speaking shapes my outlook on life.

You can find Burke’s interview approximately 25 minutes into the podcast, which can be found here, https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000cnbw.

Free Broadband

A Labour supporter named Bland
Said, “I welcome free broadband,
But as for freedom of choice
And the British taxpayer’s voice,
These concepts I just don’t understand!”.

My review of 2 Alexa skills: Poe Reader and Poem A Day

Below you will find my reviews of Poem A Day (both the web based version and the Alexa Skill), and a review of Poe Reader, an Alexa skill enabling the user of an Amazon Echo to listen to the poetry of Edgar Alan Poe.

I was pleased to come across Poem A Day from the Academy of American Poets. On it’s website the Academy describes Poem a Day as follows:

“Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 250 new, previously unpublished poems by today’s talented poets each year. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is distributed via email, web, and social media to 500,000+ readers free of charge. The series highlights classic poems on weekends, and weekday poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary and audio by the poets. The series’ weekdays are curated by twelve poets from across the country who have wide-ranging expertise and editorial perspectives. Poet Sherwin Bitsui serves as guest editor for November 2019”, (see https://poets.org/poem-a-day).

As the owner of an Amazon Echo, I thought that I would give the Alexa skill of the same name a try, particularly as the information on Amazon’s website indicates that the poems are voiced by the poets themselves, (see https://www.amazon.com/Academy-of-American-Poets-Poem-a-Day/dp/B07HRGCGH6). However, on asking Alexa to launch Poem A Day, a message is generated stating that the Echo is unable to launch the skill. Having tried to use the Poem A Day skill (without success) for several days, I am unable to recommend the Alexa version of this product. I can, however recommend the web based alternative, available on the Academy of American Poets website.

Being a fan of Edgar Alan Poe’s work, I also tried the Poe Reader, which is available as an Alexa skill from Amazon, (see https://www.amazon.com/worldengine-Edgar-Allan-Poe-Reader/dp/B077KJR5ZP). The Poe Reader enables the user of an Echo to request a random Poe poem or, alternatively a specific poem can be requested.

Whilst I was successful in being able to listen to several Poe poems, including A Dream Within a Dream, on attempting to enjoy The Raven Alexa stopped speaking only a few lines into the poem. This happened several times (and not just with The Raven), which indicates to me that there is a problem with Poe reader.

In conclusion, I would recommend the web based version of Poem A Day from the Academy of American Poets (but not the Alexa skill of the same name). As for Poe Reader, my readers may wish to try out this skill, however, from my experience it is likely to cease voicing mid sentence.