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Friday, April 28

Living with colitis

I have what doctors consider a moderate case of ulcerative colitis. It's a chronic inflamation of the gut, and as far as I can tell, severe on the diagnostic scale equates to this person's symptoms are bad enough to justify removing their large intestine, and mild can be paraphrased as symptoms completely disappear with appropriate medication [the breakdown in that Wikipedia article doesn't match my experience, and makes the disease sound considerably nastier than it is]. In my case, life without medication is intolerable, but with a regular high dose of Asacol the symptoms are brought down to a level that just requires accommodation. I need to give extra time to get anywhere, and trips [especially on foot] often involve having to go back inside just after leaving wherever I was because my gut suddenly wakes up when I start moving. I also try to avoid sharing hotel rooms or staying at friends' houses that only have one bathroom, because my condition makes sharing a bathroom uncomfortable, at best. Given these constraints, life is usually not too complicated, and sometimes I reflect on how lucky I am to only have this and not, for instance, the extraintestinal symptoms often associated with colitis (which are generally more unpleasant than the main intestinal symptoms), or the painful chronic bladder condition from which my cat suffers.

However, there are times when it becomes much more problematic. The obvious situation is when the symptoms flare up, but there are also situations that cause trouble. Exams are bad, because they are one situation in which having to take a 5-minute break can be a serious disadvantage rather than just an annoyance. Passport control is a bloody nightmare, especially with the long waits at many US airports, because having to go to the back of the queue turns that 5 minute break into as much as an hour of wasted time, and there's always the nagging worry that one of the goons in uniform will find my behaviour suspicious. But the one that kicked in this evening was less obvious than these: it's that colitis makes me a lot less able to deal with disruptions to my schedule.

For entirely unrelated reasons (excessive travelling followed by a bad cold followed by unfortunate scheduling clashes) I've only made it to one capoeira class in the past couple of months. Over the past week I've at least re-started a routine of doing plenty of biking, which has already made me feel better than the previous few weeks of laziness, and this evening I was going to go to my first capoeira class in a while, and hopefully start going regularly again. I had given myself extra time to get there, so I could deal with the inevitable need to come back home for a toilet break before properly getting going. I went to the toilet as I always do before leaving the house, for obvious reasons, and found cat piss on the floor. As anyone who has ever owned a cat probably knows, cleaning this up takes a while, because just mopping up the mess is far from enough to remove the smell. Having scheduled extra time to get where I was going, when this was done I still at least had a chance of getting to class on time, so I got into the car [this is somewhat hypocritical of me, but for now I'm just not fit enough to bike up the big hill to capoeira and keep up with the class, so I'd rather compromise than give up on capoeira] and start heading over there. Then, as usual, my gut decided to grab my attention rather forcefully, so I had to go back. By the time the necessary rituals were completed, I had no chance of getting there on time, so the interaction between my and my cat's illnesses managed to screw up my plans for the evening.

And when I say screw up, I mean that I messed everything else around in order to make it to capoeira. I turned down dinner with some friends, booked the annoyingly late late show for a gig tonight, and shifted around my mealtimes so I'd be neither hungry nor uncomfortably full of food during the class. And now I don't get to enjoy the fruits of all that.

Now, having whined, I think I'm going to go out and ride my bike up and down the waterfront for a few miles, because at least if I get some exercise I will be less annoyed.
posted @ 7:38 PM -

Saturday, April 8

Quote of the day

He invented a telephone using a piece of pig intestine and a small platinum cube, with which he could transmit his voice about 340 feet... this one didn't really catch on, because users would have had to slaughter a pig every time they wanted to make a call.
From the payphones and phreaking talk at Notacon.
posted @ 8:12 AM -

Friday, April 7

There is balance in the world

My life is often rather uneventful, and that is often what's behind me going a long time between blog posts. Lately that has not been the case. If I were to selectively list what I've been up to, I could make the past month sound fantastic or hellish, so I'll try to be fair. Since my last substantive post, these things have happened to me, in roughly date order but with some shuffling around to pair things up and keep that precious balance of good and bad luck:
I had the best week of skiing ever with my dad and my brother
I did take a few photos, but ironically it wasn't a very good week for photography
I got back to a particularly unpleasant 2 weeks of work
I'm trying to build my own computing cluster, and setup has been... painful. It's still not working properly, and let's just say that I like computers a lot less than you might think, considering that I work with them all the damn time.
I went to New York
Having gone ahead and booked without knowing if my cousin would be in town (because I knew Sam would anyway), she ended up arriving on the same day as me, and we had a lovely weekend
My wallet was stolen on the way to New York
This was a combination of my and the airline's stupidity. I was furious with Continental for putting gate-checked bags through the normal baggage handling at Newark airport. I think I still have a point as far as the bottle of wine in that bag is concerned—I would not have gate-checked it if I knew it would get thrown around rather than picked up by me at the gate—but leaving cash in a bag that ever leaves my control is too stupid for me to have much right to blame the airline for that. Fortunately I keep cash and cards seperately, so I wasn't stuck at the airport, but god... this was going to be an expensive enough week anyway without stupid things like this happening.
I got stranded in Philadelphia airport on the way to Cleveland
I still don't entirely understand why the flight was cancelled, and suspect that it's because the airline had no replacement pilot once it had been delayed enough that the original pilot was at the end of his legal shift. I also had to pay for a hotel in Philadelphia myself, with which I was no more impressed than you would expect.
No, there's really no silver lining to this one.
Oh yeah, and then my bag arrived in Cleveland a day later than I did, and US Airways basically repeated all the incompetent steps that Northwest did in December, leading me to conclude for once and for all that there is no differentiation between US-based airlines, and their domestic services are simply all a shower of shit. Either that, or the industry hates me as much as I hate it. Sadly I have no choice but to use them often.
The week in Cleveland has been good, since I recovered from getting here
As always, it's been nice to get the chance to hang out with people here again, and the meetings with my advisor and lab have been productive. They've also alerted me to additional work I need to do, but that happens, and it's better now than when I'm about to defend my dissertation....
jumping across the sequence of events: we adopted a cat when I got back from skiing, and I am in love
I've wanted a cat for years, and it's really nice to have this cute thing stretch out on my lap when the other cute thing is out at work.
We've since discovered that the cat has a urinary tract problem
It's basically the bladder equivalent of colitis, and we were annoyed with him (cleaning up cat urine is not my idea of fun, and Melinda's had to do it several times since I left on this trip) when we thought it was a behavioural issue, but now feel very sorry for him. He's staying at the vet's over the weekend, and once they've cleared up the symptoms they reckon we can avoid a relapse by giving him special food... fingers crossed.
Also in the past few weeks Melinda & I have done a lot of wedding organising, and it's about time we updated meldan.org, but that will have to wait another few days. She's on her way to Cleveland now, and we're going to spend the next few days partly at Notacon and partly hanging out with friends who won't be there. This should be fun—the previous two years were, and they have significantly more attendees registered this time—but I must admit I'm really looking forward to getting home on Sunday and knowing that I won't be going anywhere for a couple of months.
posted @ 11:25 AM -

Thursday, April 6

Do it now

Sign up and submit a photo to the Million Faces Petition in support of the Arms Trade Treaty.

I am generally rather cynical about the value of online petitions, but (a) I think the photo aspect of this one might make it a little harder to ignore because it takes just that little bit more commitment from each signer and makes it a bit more personal, and (b) the heads-up comes from Duncan, who knows what he's talking about, especially on this issue.
posted @ 4:19 PM -

Tuesday, April 4

The United States' domestic airline industry continues to impress me with the depths its customer service can plumb.
posted @ 10:34 AM -
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