rambling othercat

I'm a 40 sumthin' computer geek. I like to barmp my sax with the band on thursday nights. I live in Toronto with my partner, and Grendel, a chihuahua.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Moving Day

I've decided to move over to another blogging site. Blogger is proving too unstable, and as the old saying goes, a change is as good as a rest.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Snowbank 1, Small Canine 0

Grendel came out on the road with me today. While I was fixing my customer's PC, her colleague M offered to take Grendel for a short walk to the mailbox. I figured there was no harm in that, so off the little fugger went.

A few minutes later, Grendel and M returned. M was in hysterics, and Grendel looked like he had seen some kind of monstrous apparition. Grendel had come face to face with his first snowbank.

A bit of background if I may: Grendel is a small breed of dog that originates in Mexico. He has a short coat, and an obvious love of warmth. Snowbanks are not warm.

Grendel, being none the wiser, figured that he could scamper onto the snowbank for a quick peek. He found out very quickly that some snowbanks are actually quite soft, and if you're only a few inches from the ground, you can disappear quite readily if the snowbank is deep enough.

Grendel was quite shocked by this strange turn of events. M and the rest of us had a good laugh at the little fugger's expense. After all, how is a little condo-dog to know that snowbanks can swallow them whole and cover them in a cold fluffy substance that they've never seen before?

I suspect that Grendel will be a little wary of snowbanks for a while. He didn't get the joke. You should have seen the look on his face.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bright Sunny Day Equals Confusion

Overall I've had another day of improvement. My vision gets sharper by the day. The colour perception is still dodgy, and worst of all, my sensitivity to light is proving quite difficult to deal with. I can't complain, but I can certainly observe.

It was bright and sunny here in Toronto for the entire day. I really felt like the dimmer switch had been turned up a fair bit. It's the most light I've seen in over three weeks now.

I wore my sunglasses most of the day to limit my exposure to light, except while I was in my Pilate's class in the morning, and for a bit this afternoon. Even with the sunglasses however, I found that I have a time limit for exposure to bright lights.

Late in the afternoon I went to the market for some goodies, and much to my chagrin, I found that things had gotten much darker than they were earlier in the day. The sun was still above the horizon, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. My eyes felt differently even though there was a surplus of ambient light.

As I was wandering amongst the vendors, the dimmer switch got turned down to about half what it was earlier in the day. I was quite baffled when I went into the Asian food supply store, and couldn't read a damn thing. I could only tell products by their shapes and sizes rather than making out the packaging details. Worse still, I started into a mild panic when my eyes started fading. I made it home feeling quite agitated. With a bit of rest, and some breathing exercises my vision perked up again. It was disconcerting.

I am definitely going to have to watch my exposure to sunlight for a while until I have a consistent reaction to light conditions. My pupils are not really in sync with the demands of the current light.

Overall, my vision is better, but the warning signs have been posted. I am eager to resume driving, but I think I'd better cool my jets until I'm certain I can handle the varieties of light. Walking the streets and public transit seem to be the appropriate modes of transport for the foreseeable future. It's too bad Toronto doesn't have the luxury of a frozen canal to skate around on like some other town I know.

Two steps forward and one step back. At least I had a good feed on the best pizza in the city to compensate.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Godzilla meets Eyeball

More good news to report. I just got out of the eye clinic, and I have my
latest results. My right eye is now 20/40 and my left eye is 20/25. We have
discovered that color perception in my left eye is returning but I'm quite
colorblind in my right eye. My visual acuity is coming along quite nicely.
Color perception, and sensitivity to light are still an issue. Even on a
dull cloudy day like today, what little sun gets through is enough to dazzle
me a bit, and gives me a great deal of difficulty trying to focus.

The good doctor conducted a quick and dirty field test this morning, and we
discovered that there are still parts of my field of vision that are a
little bit dodgy. The lower left quadrant of my right eye is weak, and
there's still a small but noticeable area of weakness in my left eye. It's
certainly not as bad as the field test from January 12, but I still have
cause for concern. On the practical side, I'm still using the Microsoft
magnifier to read things on my screen. I suspect that I'll have to wait a
little while before my vision is in a steady state so that I can get myself
a new reading glass prescription. My distance vision is now good enough
that I could probably resume driving, but I'm going to spare the good people
of Toronto that headache and avoid getting behind the wheel of the car just
to be safe.

What I need to do now is to counter the emotional turmoil caused by the
steroids I'm on. Last evening I went from a state of relative happiness to
complete confusion and anger in a matter of seconds. I'm still dependant on
my friends and partner, so I can't be pissing them off too much. I can now
understand how 'roids can cause all sorts of erratic behavior. It's like
I've been on a week long speed trip. My digestion, sleep patterns and
emotional steadiness are all unsettled. I think I've had enough of this
stuff to fuel an entire gym for a couple of months. I have only lost my
composure a handful of times since this episode began, but I'd rather not in
the first place. While I regret barking at Sassinak last night, the worst
incident was when I was in the hospital. I was was listening to a string
arrangement of "Good Night" by the Beatles, and at the end of the tune, a
lovely female voice chimes in and says, "goodnight everybody...goodnight."
At the time things were quite dark, and when I heard the voice, a massive
lump formed in my throat. It was all I could do to stop from bawling like a
baby. The plaintive lullaby, and the soothing voice didn't do a lot to calm my nerves. At that moment, I contemplated never seeing anything again. The proverbial ton-o-bricks landed on my ass. Thank goodness that feeling

All in all, I'm quite happy. The drug doses are tapering off, and I have
less than a week to go. I'm a little less wound up every day, so I think I
can cope until the treatment finishes. The end is in sight.


While I'm on the subject of good news, I had a bit of fun last night. Weak
eyes and all, I went to the rink at Nathan Phillips Square and took a spin on my new skates. Am I ever glad I had a Christmas Gift Certificate burning
a hole in my pocket. I must have been out on the ice for a couple of hours,,
and much to my surprise, I didn't land on my arse. Sass came along for the
ride too, so it was nice to get back on skates after a long 19 years. I also
had the pleasure of hooking up with my long lost friend, The Mad Modeller.
It's been a long six or seven years since I had seen him. It's almost like
we hadn't parted company at all. We had a pleasant dinner and caught up on things after my spin on the rink was complete. Hard times always make you find out who your real friends are, and I'm glad my little horror story made him surface again. I will never groan about airplane and helicopter models as long as I live!


"All understanding begins with our not accepting the world as it appears." -
Alan C. Kay

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Twinkle Twinkle Urban Stars

You might be interested to know that the Lakota people of the Great Plains have a constellation that spans from Sirius, through the belt of Orion to the red star in Taurus called Aldebaran and beyond to the Pleiades. It also includes Rigel and Bellatrix on both ends of Orion. It marks out a vast chunk of the night sky, and according the the Lakota, it represents a gigantic animal, most likely a buffalo, but I've also heard it described as a lizard. There's more detail at the Lakota Star Knowledge web site. The ancient Greeks weren't the only ones to name constellations. Those are just the names we're accustomed to from centuries of common usage. Other people from around the world have their own names and shapes to describe the constellations. So Go Lakota! It's a cool star grouping and it's not a huge stretch to see the group.

It's always fascinating to look up at the stars knowing that they're all just like our sun essentially, blazing away in their own little corner of the universe. Whether you're an astronomy fanatic like myself, or just admire the twinkling beauty for it's own sake, it's hard to resist. I've never heard anyone exclaim that they didn't like watching the stars.

Tonight took the cake however. Even with my feeble eyes, I took off my sunglasses and peered up. I was able to make out enough of the stars of this super-constellation, and when I did, I knew for a fact that my eyes were going to be ok.

I can still see the stars. I'm a lucky bastard!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Jeepers Creeper, I've got Peepers

Hello all:

More good news to report. My vision continues to improve. It was good
enough last night that I could install Dragon NaturallySpeaking on my
computer and use it to dictate to the system instead of typing. Exactly 1
week ago I couldn't read the face of the clock from farther than 2 feet.
Today the details are almost luxurious. I suspect that by the end of the
week, I'll be able to resume working without too much eye strain, and I'll
be in full swing by next week.

My eyes are at their best in the morning after a full night's rest. After
an entire day of trying to strain and see things my vision isn't so hot.
But I'm a patient man, and I know I can't push my luck too far. At this
point in the game. I really believe the doctor when he tells me that my
eyesight will recover fully. When this is over, I am going to post a
picture that I drew of my a worst field test just to show you how dismal the
situation really was. And hopefully you'll get a sense of how rotten the
situation actually proved to be. I know I've blathered on at some length in
this blog, but as the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

As this episode winds down, I think I am certainly more qualified to speak
about computers and disabilities. If anyone loses their vision quite
rapidly, I am sure it would prove quite difficult to adapt. As my vision
was rapidly circling the drain, I purchased the Dragon NaturallySpeaking and
found out that it was virtually impossible to set up. I'm sure a lot of
people make the same mistake thinking they can use their computer with voice
commands, but unfortunately, you need to be able to read the text on the
screen to set up the software. It is a cruel catch 22 situation. I am not
aware of other offerings for visually disabled people, but Dragon seems to
have the market share for voice activation software, and I think they could
do a better job of catering to people who can't set up their systems as
easily as they would suspect. I probably would have been beat anyway,
because even if they had included Braille text in the booklet for training
the software, I wouldn't have been able to read that anyway.

Despite this little glitch, the Dragon NaturallySpeaking worked quite
nicely, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to have dictation software
on their computer. As a professional computer geek, the personal computer is
my tiny window on the world, and I felt at a great loss when I couldn't use
it as effectively as I wanted to. I'm sure glad that I can see again.

Things are improving rapidly. All we have to do now is make sure Handsome Jack doesn't slip in the slush.

Monday, January 15, 2007

More Good News

I went to see the eye doctor this morning.

My right eye is 20/70 and my left eye is 20/50. It's much better than 20/500
and 20/400 like it was last week. I will say no more except, I'm as happy as
a pig in shit right now.

Still Improving

Hello All:

I finished my megadoses of 'roids as of this past Saturday. Now I'm on a
quickly tapering maintenance dose that will dwindle to nothing by the middle
of next week. I am happy to report that my vision continues to improve. I
suspect that I won't be driving the Grand Prix or participating in any
marksmanship competitions, but I am pleased nonetheless.

The MS Magnifier plays less of a role in my ability to use the computer, but
I still need it to see the text on the screen. Now I would estimate that I
can read 48 point text clearly rather than the previous 72 points. Not bad
for only a couple of days. I'm still struggling with a few things, but the
situation improves daily.

It was a grey day yesterday here in Ontario, so I wasn't cheered by the
results. I felt like I had hit a roadblock because I couldn't tell if my
vision had gotten any better. I kept a brave face and went north to see my
mum and dad. I think my father was a bit shocked by the news, and I'm glad I
had a chance to put his mind at ease. I can't measure how my mum felt, but
I'm sure she was equally happy to see me up and about rather than
languishing in a hospital bed with no appreciable sight.

The 'roids act as an adrenal stimulant on top of all the other effects, so
I've had the dubious pleasure of rising before dawn for the last week. It's
not such a bad thing, because it's given me an important benchmark for
measuring my vision. Each day, despite the usually cloudy temperament, I've
noticed the sky getting light earlier each day. People have started turning
on the lights, and the sun does come up after all. I'm bouncing back. Just
thought you'd like to know that there is good news in the world.

Have a great day, and if you're out and about in this foul weather, make
sure you don't slip on the ice.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I have the best friends in the world

I think I've dodged a bullet here folks.

A week ago, despite the fact that the sun was out and things were brightly lit, I wasn't too aware of it. I could make out dark shapes and some extremely bright lights. Otherwise, it was black. From last Saturday to the following Monday, it got worse than that.

In the interim, I have been admitted to the neurology ward of my local hospital, and the best doctors available have contributed to what I consider a remarkable recovery. On top of that, I've found that I have the best friends in the world. No shit.

Everyone from frequent company to long lost friends have found out one way or the other and made attempts to contact me. They've let me know in no uncertain terms that they are thinking about me and wishing me well. It's helped me hold it all together, and I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for caring. Like Pete Townshend says "Deliver your future into the hands
of your friends." Truer words were never spoken.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Adventures In Health Care Part Deux

[as dictated to sassinak]

Hello everyone, I'm finally out of the St. Michael's Golf and Country Club where I've been treated to the best healthcare around for my affliction. I arrived at the opthalmology clinic Monday morning to demonstrate to the good doctors my complete blindness. As I was two days early for my appointment they quickly took notice and sent me across the street to see an entire gaggle of neurologists.

At least I think that's the kind of group that neurologists make.

The gaggle quickly determined that my eyesight was largely defunct as a result of my cold and flu before Christmas. Basically they ran tests galore to eliminate every other possibility and the only thing they could agree on was that my body rejected my optic nerve when it was invaded by the flu virus.

To treat me they have decided to give me megadoses of high powered steroids to boost my body's ability to regenerate the nerve tissue quickly and so far it seems to be working.

For example, on Monday on the way to the hospital I couldn't see the crossing lights at street corners. I was guessing that it was safe to cross because I could see the dark shapes of the cars moving through the intersection and I was following them in hopes that they weren't breaking the law.

It got me to the hospital safely anyway.

Since the beginning of the therapy my ability to appreciate light has increased remarkably even though it's not so hot yet. I can see a clock from ten feet away rather than having to peer at it from about a foot. This doesn't include tiny things like watches and microwave displays, this is a clock. So you can see how I can't.

That's pretty pathetic but it's still improving.

My pal in Montreal says that I should get a job as an American League baseball umpire or a driving instructor.

My first two nights in the hospital were quite restful as I had a nice peaceful room and good co-habitants who were not too much trouble. The last night ended up being a whole other kettle of fish. I was delighted to share my room with three post-surgery orthopedic patients who were all in various states of repair and all in great deals of pain.

Needless to say, they had the nurses running in and out of the room all night dealing with pain medication and various body adjustments that they couldn't make for themselves while i tried to grasp a few fitful hours of sleep. It wasn't a good mix but I can't begrudge them their pain because I certainly wouldn't want it myself.

Even so, one of them still tried to pick up Sassinak while she was paying me a visit. [he even asked me to wear a naughty nurse outfit if i came back - sass] So you have to admire his spirit. Regardless all the moaning and groaning didn't give me much of a good night's sleep. Ultimately I'm glad to be home and in the care of Sassinak and a nice russian woman who came in to set up the intravenous 'roids.

All's well with the world thanks to my seeing-eye blogger and I can now take extra therapy on my balcony.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Adventures in Healthcare

I think I'm kinda messed up. I've been in and out of the opthalmology clinic the last couple of days, and about the only thing the good doctors can tell me is my vision isn't right. As Lari sez, it doesn't take a Rocket Surgeon to figure that out.

I've been scanned, probed and bled. I've had my blood pressure checked severak times. According to the numbers, I am a healthy man. No-one can put a finger on what is wrong with my eyesight. The opthalmologists have determined that I have papillitis: An irritated optic nerve.

I had a neat test this morning to determine the optical field. The test basically shows that my right eye is only receiving input in one corner, and my left eye is compromised ever so slightly. I could have told them that without benefit of the high=tech diagnostics. Scientists want cold hard numbers though, so the test merely confirmed the awful truth with nice looking graph.

I'm back to the hospital in a few days to have another field test, so I 'm hoping the downward curve of vision loss is arrested in the meantime. The radiologiest have to do another CAT scan too. I'm hoping that the good people at the clinic can figure out what the hell's happening. All I know for certain is that my vision is worse today than it was yesterday.

On the positive side, I've got the support of my friends and a seeing-eye chihuahua to keep me from grief. I'll keep you posted, if you keep your fingers crossed. Sound like a fair deal?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Not Shaking In My Boots Yet.

I had enough of the two week headache this morning, so I made an appointment with my Doctor. He's unavailable until tomorrow, so I went to the emergency ward to see if anything could be done. I'm not sure if I made the right choice. I arrived at 10 AM and left about 7:30 PM. It was a long droll day.

After the bloodletting and waiting, and CAT scanning and waiting, the good doctors at the hospital were unable to figure out what was wrong with me. I don't have glaucoma. (Probably smoked enough weed to prevent that!) The CT scan was clear, so I don't have a brain tumour. My blood pressure is OK, and the chemistry looks good too. I've just had a headache for the last couple of weeks since my cold ended, and I've got blurred vision too.

When all is said and done, I still feel crappy, but at least I don't have anything terribly wrong that the doctors can pinpoint at this stage in the game. I am going to visit the eye specialist in the morning to see what his perspective is.

The neat thing (if I can use that expression) about the whole ordeal is that my right eye doesn't respond to light the same way the left one does. The pupil dilates and contracts in response to light, but not as much or as quickly as the left one. They should operate somewhat in tandem. but that isn't the case. I approach these sorts of things dispassionately, so I can remain objective. I think I'll start being frightened if the doctor tells me that I've got to get my affairs in order. If I've got some kind of critical illness, that's when it will be time to worry. Until then, it's just another medical mystery.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day Mountain Tour

Mum and I set out on a mountain tour this afternoon. There was not much snow to speak of on top of the escarpment, and the rain wasn't pelting down too hard, so we figured we would take an opportunity to ramble around the backroads. We ended up at the Epping Swamp. You'll see that the river is completely ice free and the water level is up pretty high. It was grey and crappy, but at least it was better than staying at home listening to Mikhail Stephanovich griping about Sympatico's lousy tech support.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Grendel has the Xmas Spirit

Merry Xmas Everyone!

Grendel made me go over to the market for one of those stinky smoked bones for his girlfriend Dingo. Unfortunately, she's definitely getting a lump of coal in her stocking. Just prior to the Yule Dinner, Dingo helped herself to the entire pork roast thawing on the kitchen counter. The crazy bitch gorged on about 40 bucks worth of meat, and paid for it dearly with a stomach ache that wouldn't quit.

Of course Grendel didn't know this when I popped the stinky bone in a paper bag and labeled it. He's just in a generous mood. Even now, I'm sure Grendel is looking forward to giving Sassinak a kiss for Christmas.

I hope everyone has a good holiday and has the chance to kick back and relax. Best wishes from Grendel, PJ and I. Hopefully Dingo will get out of the doghouse, figuratively speaking, and enjoy Grendel's largesse.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saint Nick is leaving a lump of coal in your stocking!

The Eaton Center is festooned with lights and the jeweller has decorated this humungous tree with thousands of crystals. It's all sparkly and dazzling. St. Nick is coming to town in just over a week, so make sure you keep the negatives away from the men in black suits who help Santa with his infamous list.