Thursday, March 24, 2005

Water retention

Doctors visit yesterday was not overly pleasant as the doc had to push around my tummy (at least she didn't poke the kidney area, cos it's horribly sore from the sciatic trying to play up). I was there to find out if there was something wrong that was (is) causing my legs, ankles and feet to swell up horribly. As I'm on my feet for most of the day and walking up to 2 hours each day, I end up not being able to walk at night :-\ Doc thinks it's due to the continuous pill, building up stockpiles of oestragen and progestogen, so I'm taking a week break to see if it helps the fluid go away again. She was also not happy with my blood pressure (140/100), and is the fourth doctor to threaten blood pressure medication. I'm seeing her in a week and will be doing everything in the meantime to get it down to something a little more normal.

So... looking for gentle natural diuretics. So far the suggestions have included: parsley, asparagus, celery (yuck), and caffeine (which I'm going to mostly avoid). I don't want to stress my kidneys much as they are probably playing a sluggish part in not getting rid of the water. I have a week of non-teaching over easter, so will be resting and hopefully recovering! updates

Due to a day at work without much to do... many updates to have been implemented.

Monday, March 21, 2005


"Sitting here doing nothing altogether very fast"

I wish... *sigh* Work is crazy... I'm looking forward to the end of the week already.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Disappeared, random updatey goodness

I was too exhausted to post in the last week - my first week of 'full time' tutoring. Boy, it hurt.

Tue/Wed/Thu I ended up in bed as soon as I got home (or after a bath), as I could not walk, the pain in my legs was excruciating. It didn't help that my insteps have truly ruined my feet (they are very badly fitted - a wasted $450!). My right foot has a solid bump (created by pressure) right down the outside now, so I'm in my old sneakers for a couple of weeks to a month till I get enough money to buy a decent new pair. The bump is similar to what I get on my wrists using a mouse without a gel pad for support. The doc's once described it as kind of a benign cyst, caused by pressure. I don't know what they are, but they hurt :-\

On Friday I was feeling a lot better, till I walked home, then I crashed again for a couple of hours. However I was up and cooking dinner in the evening (something not even considered on the other days!). By the end of the night I was dead again due to too much being on my feet for cleaning up the kitchen, putting washing away, etc.

The kitties are a little off-kilter with me not being there during the day, and then crashing as soon as I return (they happily crash with me though, they'll keep me company till my bedtime, then they'll be up and playing).

Gingy has managed to lose his collar again, this time it's probably in the spot Smokey has hidden his - I still haven't found them. But... we bought some elasticised collars a couple of shops ago, so we could deal with this problem - Gingy seems _much_ happier with it, possibly as it doesn't have a tag. Smokey's elastic collar is being frayed by lots of claw work, and actually looks really cute (royal purple threads fringing his neck).

The classes... CSE1301 (intro C programming) and 2395 (Perl) tutes don't start till next week, as does consultation, so my hours will go up again by about 10 hours, but only 4 of that will require me to be standing. The rest of the classes (apart from one) were a lot of fun, and being all 'intro to windows/linux' pracs, they mostly finished early. My CSE1304 classes have a lot of students who aren't first years, which makes them noisy and much more fun! Looks like I also get to keep my 3 student prac - yay! Small classes mean a lot more interaction, which with prof. comms. is a lot more fun.

The only class that didn't work that well was the CSE1301 prac, although there are a couple of very good students in there, there are a lot who don't listen to instructions, and need very detailed guidelines. I tend to run my classes loosely, in that I wander around helping and marking over people's shoulders when I notice they have completed a section. I keep track of whether they understand what they are doing by the questions that they ask, and how they go about debugging problems while I'm wandering.

I had a couple of students in this prac who were completely put out by me saying, yup - you have a floppy, therefore I trust that you have done the 'How to use a floppy' part, they seemed to want to show me every tiny step they made (and they did it slowly). This will make it hard for the other students to get help. I hope those students settle into a less demanding role.

 Oh yeah... and the first class of the week contained that student who emailed me (claiming I was discriminating against working students). They didn't say a word, which means I have no idea if they understood anything I said during the tute.

I forgot my keys on Wednesday, so had to wait a long time before I could get in (over an hour). I was in loads of pain, and close to tears, but I managed my old way of coping - doing gardening. I tilled the potato patch, turning under all the borage seedlings == from one plant it's now a weed in this garden!!!). The soil has become beautiful with all the straw that composted into it, so hopefully this weekend I'll put some seeds out (and hopefully will get more than a few measly carrots for my efforts! The last seed planting just did not work). I also raked out the weeds from the other half where I could reach without over-exerting myself. I am looking forward to getting out there today/tomorrow to plant and re-arrange pots, and take cuttings.

I've started a new x-stitch, one that Debbie brought back from Canada (Celtic Seasons). It had a bad start to life as I had to unpick wrongly counted sections twice. But it's coming along. It's a lot larger than I originally thought, so it may be a while till I finish it. I should start the second hedgehog for Helga's birthday in June (I finished her Xmas present in Feb, but it hasn't been washed yet. Another task for this weekend).

I need to get some work done though, specifically a Perl script to parse and rip out info from assignment submissions. I guess this is practise for my Perl tute next week, as the tutorial hasn't been written yet (probably get that on Monday). I'm actually looking forward to the pracs next week - it's not the stupid intro stuff. I'm enjoying being back tutoring (as opposed to lecturing), even though it's killing me physically.

Oh, and I finally got an appointment with the Alfred allergy clinic, so my hives will finally be looked into (after 6 months!!). I talked to the pharmacist and he said it was fine to double my medication (Telfast, top dosage, once a day == to one every 12 hours), when the flare is bad.

I must have done something good this week (possibly the three baths and lots of rest when home!), as they aren't too bad. There are random spots all over, and my head is horridly itchy (and bumpy), but not the 'sheets' of swellings that was common for a couple of months.

I don't know whether to put it down to the doubled meds, or me just being more settled, or the many salty baths. It doesn't seem to react to any foods (I thought a little while back there that it may react to dairy, which I shouldn't have anyway), soaps/moisturisers/scrubs don't seem to make it any worse or better. So it will be interesting to see what the Alfred doc comes up with.
Weight-loss isn't happening, but with all the walking, I have certainly noticed a fit difference in my clothes. So maybe I'm creating muscle as I'm losing fat? Give it a little longer.

I've recently calculated at a couple of websites that I should be having 1800-2000 calories per day to lose weight (and 2500 to maintain). This was different to the PalmPDA program suggested (1300!!). I finding it relatively easy to stick to 1500, but had a couple of days there where I binged (and didn't beat myself up about it - I deserved it with all the walking, teaching and stress!)

Anyhow... off to do stuff not on the computer....

Friday, March 4, 2005

Musings on chronic pain and society treatment of sufferers

I've been told several times this week (with variations of wording but the exact same meaning): "You walk to uni, and you are back tutoring, therefore you must be better." How come the vast majority of people do not realise that chronic typically means "will not recover or get better". I mean, yes, I'm dealing with the pain a lot better than I used to, with more natural means and with less medication, but has the amount of pain changed? No. I have a adenomyoma that is continually growing, and it is pressing into my bowel. I do not get a break from pain. Nor do I get a break from the fatigue and other secondary symptoms that the pain causes. To get rid of the adenomyoma I need a full hysterectomy, and I'm not ready to do that and enter menopause (again).

I was insulted recently by email, by a first year student who stated that I was discriminating against them because they were working (they wanted a completely new tutorial opened on a Friday, just for them, which was impossible because the tute material needed to be covered before the pracs). This student said that it was discriminatory because I was getting special treatment (having not completed honours due to medical reasons), but because I was tutoring, it was obvious that I was not completing honours due to work reasons (not medical). He got this information by visiting my non-work home-page, and despite the medical information on that page, surmised that I was only having difficult with my course because I was working.

Note that my first reply to his request was to simply say that "Policy says that if you are enrolled in a course, you should be able to attend scheduled classes. Work commitments must be scheduled around study commitments. I can arrange an early or late tutorial time on a Monday if that makes it easier to arrange with your employer." - this was what prompted the rude email to me saying I was discriminating against him.

I politely passed the complaint on to my superior (who deals with timetabling classes, and not simply timetable reorganising in the event of clashes), who repeated what I said, and commented that the student's complaint about me was "inappropriate and unprofessional", and that the university has a separate policy for dealing with medical problems, and that my medical problems were none of their business. The student apologised for 'having escalated the complaint' and blamed my use of 'scary legal terms like rules and law' (although, I only used the word 'policy').

I'm still waiting for a personal apology (which I think is not forthcoming), and am desperately hoping this student is not in one of the classes I am teaching.

I am completely sick and tired of the sentiment that if you can work (teach), then you should be able to study. They require a completely different set of skills. Studying at an honours level requires a huge amount of concentration - much of the coursework and thesis work is completely new, not just to the student, but in the field. You need to be able to concentrate for long stretches and think clearly enough to reason your way through obstacles or arguments against your approach. Actually doing programming also requires clear thinking and extended periods of concentration.

Teaching subjects that I have taught upwards of 5 times before, requires empathy (to see when the students understand or need explanations in a different way), but not as much in the way of extended concentration or reasoning skills. I could probably teach the entire content of CSE1303 Part A blindfolded, without any lecture notes, and probably with my hands tied behind my back. I can certainly teach while dealing with chronic pain and fatigue. But I cannot study through the pain and the associated mental fog.

Chronic pain... it's invisible. Because it is not in society's face means that it is never considered, never allowed for. Sufferers are often told that they imagine it. For years my family accused me of being a hypochondriac, even when every visit to the doc showed I was acutely sick each time (13 UTIs each year should have made someone worry about the cause, let alone the many bouts of bronchitis each year, migraines, sciatic pain, period pain, and dysmennoreah). So right from the start of childhood I have been ill, but did not even receive help from my family, let alone much consideration at school of all levels, or later at work (until I raised an OHS case for stupidly designed doors - which were impossible to use if you were disabled).

I read recently that a respected doctor in the field of migraines/headaches and head trauma had commented publicly (in a newspaper), that the majority of the 'migraine' sufferers that turned up to the emergency room, were only there to get their next hit. In other words, he did not consider that they were there because of the pain, but because they were 'junkies'. Even specialists do not take chronic pain seriously, let alone treat the sufferers with respect!

It's all very distressing, and there is nothing one 'lowly' sufferer can do about it. The most hurtful insult I have ever received regarding the diseases that I suffer from, was from a Christian minister who vehemently stated that because I don't have faith in Jesus (and God), and didn't follow their religion, that my health conditions were my punishment. Oh yes, and he also said that anyone who did not believe, was automatically condemned to hell and in league with the devil. If anything, that family pushed me further away from their faith than anything else I had come across, and they truly believed that by saying those things, they would get me to 'convert'.

Please don't take insult if you are religious in any way. I quite accept and encourage beliefs where they are not used to persecute others, which is how the majority of Christians act. I take offense to those who actively try to convert people to their faith, and condemn anyone not of their faith, either through actions, verbally or even just in their thoughts. Most religions value tolerance above most other virtues, and yet most of the problems in this world are caused by intolerance (especially of other religions)! I wonder if the world would be better without religion at all. I have this nagging feeling that the human race would just find something else to fight as bitterly about. Religion is useful for many people - it helps them get through the day, provides a valuable sense of community, and many wondrous things are done in the name of religion. But so many horrors are perpetrated for the same cause.

And now I think I'm ranted out for the day...

Thursday, March 3, 2005

The Chronicles of Riddick

I had been waiting for this movie for a while because of the absolute gorgeousness of the trailer. And it certainly lived up to that, in the aspects of costumes, effects, landscapes and creatures. Storyline, character depth, acting quality, dialogue quality? Nonexistant! Still, I enjoyed it immensely! I spent much of the film agonising over two of the characters that I had recognised, but could not remember from where. About halfway through, I realised the main female character was 'Electrogirl' from Angel. It took me until the credits to realise that Karl Urban (Eomer in LOTR) was one of the male leads, he just looks so wrong with dark hair! ;> I did, however, recognise Judi Dench's voice-over immediately, without even realising she was a cast member.

If you are looking for a good story, I'd recommend not watching it. However, if you want funky effects that are actually very well done, a gorgeous environment, and great costumes, then a definite recommendation! For some reason the music hasn't stuck with me... strange that.

Alien versus Predator

This is another movie I had been wanting to see once it hit DVD (I avoid 'flashing' style movies in the cinemas as that is a sure fire way of giving myself a migraine). I wasn't expecting much, and it didn't deliver much by way of characters or storyline. The history aspect was interesting, as was the combination of three cultures (in heiroglyphs, etc). The effects were good, although the aliens were not as believable as they were in #4 (which is my favourite of the series). The science used was quite unbelievable (Babylonian dates using a metric system? I don't think so....).

Still, it was fun, it was action packed, it had decent special effects, the music and sound was done well, and it set the scene for a much wider scope of storylines for future Alien and Predator movies, whether the two races are combined or not. I could think up a whole hoard of what-if's and storylines. The special features on the DVD weren't overly inspiring, but it was interesting to see just how much expansion AvP had in the comic industry. I had no idea! Probably only collectible to complete the Alien set we have (and it's a whole load better than Alien 3, but that's not saying much).

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

The Adventures of MegaCat and Terror

We had our first breakout the other night. Smokey (aka Terror), pushed out the kitchen fly screen, jumped down over 6 foot to the ground, and then just stood there, till he was discovered.

 Luckily (or stupidly), he came up to me when I went outside calling to him, so he was locked inside very quickly. Much upset, crying ensued at all windows and doors when he realised that he had been outside, and missed his chance to explore. Food managed to quieten him a bit, but not for long.

As a result of this escape, the collars of doom (with bells on) were put on both kitties. They hate the bells, Gingy (aka MegaCat, because he is over 5kg and still a kitten!), kept backing away from the collar. But for some reason, he never got further away from the bell! (His expression was hilarious).

Smokey was simply stressed, and unhappy. So, the bells came off, and we decided to refit their collars on Friday night, when we'd be home for more than 24 hours straight.

This fuss did make Smokey forget that there was a world outside. The refit went smoothly with me around to keep an eye on them. I ended up playing with them constantly for several hours (they completely wore me out), to distract them from their collars.

A couple of days later, Gingy's collar was discovered in the hall, and was put back on immediately.

Smokey sees this and thinks...
    "If I lose my collar in plain view, it is refitted as soon as it is seen. Hmmmm....."
So... he hides his collar. Very, very, very well. 

Three days later, and turning the washing baskets, couch cushions, curtains and everything in the house upside down looking for it, I still can't find it. He is not-a-cat, too smart....