T + 283 The Eyes Have it

Posted by raetsel at Friday, June 26, 2009

Well the holiday is nearly at an end but the weekend still has some events to finish off the week. Saturday is a birthday lunch at Mom and Dad's and Sunday Dad and I are off to the 20/20 Cricket at Edgbaston.

Wednesday I went to transplant clinic for the first time in four weeks. On the whole it was pretty good apart from a cock up with pharmacy meaning I had a three hour wait to get my drugs.

The best news was that I don't have to go to the clinic for six weeks this time. (Unless of course something crops up and then I can just call the ward or the day unit to get advice and come in if necessary). The plan is to continue reducing my steroid dose three weeks now at 10mg one alternating with 5mg then next , then another three weeks at 5mg daily.

A slight disappointment was that my haemoglobin had fallen from 11.9 four weeks ago, when it appeared to be on the rise, to 10.6 this time. I've not felt any of the usual side effects of low haemoglobin so far and I am not in the transfusion zone just yet. To try and give my blood making system a little boost the doctor prescribed some folic acid once a day as it is a good general blood "supplement".

The other downer was catching up with a young guy who was in hospital the same time as me last year quite often and whom I've seen in the clinic a few times. He had a transplant off his brother in July last year and had been going really well with only visiting clinic every couple of months. However now he is back to visiting every week as he has developed Graft Vs Host Disease of the lungs. He's on steroids at the moment and being carefully monitored. We didn't have much time to chat because I was called in for bloods and then he went in to see the doctor.

It's obviously a set back for him and a reminder that even nearly one year out after transplant there can still be bumps in the road, or even big pot holes. A sobering thought in case I get too used to this partial re-integration back into civilised society.

Thursday I went to Birmingham and had my eyes tested. As well as needing a new prescription and being warned the time when I'll need reading glasses gets ever closer, I was also told the pressures measured in my eyes were a bit high.

Even after a second measurement they were still high so the optician referred me to the Midland Eye Centre at City Hospital. The pressures are only a bit high and it's probably caused by the steroids but I have been referred to check it out in case it is the early signs of glaucoma. I have to ring the hospital in a few days to make an appointment.

After the opticians I went clothes shopping with Gareth and got some really nice stuff , t-shirts, polo shirts and jeans from M&S, shorts, a new man bag and a crazy Ben Sherman shirt from Debenhams. I lasted the day quite well and enjoyed my first trip to Starbucks in about 18 months, but I was quite tired by the end of the day.

Today, Friday, was to have been a day trip to Prestatyn via the waterfall at Dyserth. However I decided to give this a miss since the forecast was for a waterfall pretty much everywhere anyway, and so it has proved to be.

T + 279 A Week Off

Posted by raetsel at Monday, June 22, 2009

I don't mean a week off from writing the blog, though that is also apparent, but rather the fact I have a week off from work. Which is what is going to be what I believe is known in modern parlance as a "staycation".

The previous week at work was pretty intense as I was covering all the systems for my boss for the first part and then trying to clear the decks before I went "away".

On Friday Arthur, my Smart Car, developed a rubbing noise when in reverse so I took him in for a service this morning, so I didn't get a lie in as the appointment was for 08:00

Tomorrow I have a former work colleague coming to take me to lunch to say thanks for reading his Psychology dissertation. He's about to start a PhD on brain imaging at Birmingham University. I think I have mentioned this before. Anyway as someone who's attempt at academia didn't quite run to plan I'm really pleased for him and only a tiny bit jealous.

Wednesday morning I am at the transplant clinic for the first time in 4 weeks. Hopefully all will be routine and we will look at reducing my steroid dose a little bit more.

Thursday is an eye test in the morning ( really living it up eh? ) and then I am being "restyled". Gareth has the day off as well and is going to be my Gok Wan for the day. ( He's going to kill me for saying that ). It is time I updated my wardrobe it is true.

Friday depending on the weather I might make a trip up to my "spiritual home". Prestatyn. Why is that my "spiritual home" ? Well I use the term advisedly and it's a long story that I won't go into yet. ( One has to maintain a certain air of mystery after all ).

Over the last couple of weeks I've been getting some upper back pain caused either by bad posture at the computer or a muscle strain. It has been easing off these last few days so I'm going to try and spend less time at the keyboard whilst off this week. A good excuse for not blogging for a while anyway. :o) Though I'm sure I'll still be updating twitter.

T + 271 Glee Club

Posted by raetsel at Sunday, June 14, 2009

Yesterday I had a night out at the Glee Club in Birmingham for an evening of stand up comedy. Though I am a huge fan of stand up I've only ever been to the Glee Club a couple of times and they were both music gigs.

So here are my thoughts on the venue and the acts we saw.

The booking said it was allocated seating but didn't actually say where we would be seated so after a quick drink in the rather swish Glee Club Lounge we headed upstairs to the main room and were shown to our seats. The room is laid out with theatre style curved rows with small tables in front of free-standing, and not overly comfortable, chairs. We were shown to seats in the second row just off centre, about 4 feet from the small stage. A great view of the stage but potentially a great view for the acts to see us and make us part of the performance.

Luckily there were a large group of girls in the front row and they provided most of the audience interaction. We were in our seats by about 20:00 but the show didn't actually start until 21:00, it was a sell-out however with, we estimate, about 500 people in and the club obviously wanted to make sure they all got the chance to buy a drink at the bar.

The first act of the evening was the compere for the whole night, Alistair Barrie. He had a light easy style and interacted with the audience well along with his pre-prepared material. By chance one of the single women in the front row was sitting next to a single guy and they both "sold energy" one for Eon and one for EDF . They became the centre of attention for a running gag all the way through three spots that Alistair did between the main acts.

After about 20 minutes by Alistair the first act proper was brought on, Rob Rouse. I recognised his face from a couple of shows on BBC3 and he has also appeared as a talking head on one of those "100 greatest something or other" shows.

Rob put a lot of energy into his act which included a fair bit of physical comedy, particularly with his use of expressions. This was great for us being able to see so clearly but the whole room seemed to appreciate his act. After a brief mention of Jacqui Smith and her husband the rest of Rob's routine was about domestic matters and he built up the energy with a long routine about his over-amorous dog embarrassing itself at his mother-in-law's. The routine was perfectly pitched and paced and he really had the room roaring by the end. An excellent start.

Then came an interval of supposedly 15 minutes but it ended up at half an hour before Alistair came back on to do a few more minutes and then introduce the next act. Although the room was getting more lubricated by alcohol it had lost some of the energy Rob had built up so Alistair did well to get us back on track as it were before the second act Andrew Lawrence was brought on.

As you can see from the pictures on his website Andrew Lawrence has an "unconventional" appearance and a lot of his humour is self-deprecation. His voice, but not his style reminded me of the comedian Andy Parsons. He has quite an aggressive delivery and did a few "patter" routines with long streams of invective. They were very clever and an impressive feat of memory but they fell short of being rip-roaring funny and some of the terms he used like "spastic" and "gypsy" were, I felt, needlessly offensive. He did get some shock value and aside from that he had some good lines but overall his performance was a bit hit and miss.

We then had a second interval of about 20 minutes before Alistair came back out for his third spot and then introduced the headline act. Steve Gribbin.

Steve came out with his electric guitar round his neck and it was a surprise to see a more mature comedian when a lot of comedians are late 20s or mid 30s. Given he did some routines about his 15 and 17 year old children being like living with Scooby Do and Mutley I guess he was in his late forties / early fifties.

For a lot of his act Steve played just the first few bars of popular songs like "I'm a believer" but with alternative lyrics that were funny and satirical. The musical comedy equivalent of a one-liner. His targets were mostly political leaders around the world but Michael Barrymore also came in for some amazingly vicious (and funny) treatment, but as Steve said "This isn't telly so I can say what I like, the laws of libel don't apply to live performances". I'm not sure about the laws of slander mind you.

Steve worked the room like a real pro and was clearly enjoying himself , he even managed to work in a song about the "couple" in the front row who sold energy so this was a nice "call-back" right to the beginning of the evening that Alistair had first started.

The show finished just on midnight and the tables were being cleared away for the self-proclaimed cheesy disco as we were leaving.

All in all it was a very good night out and I laughed a lot, which must be the point after all. It's a great venue to see comedy at, especially if you get seats where we did. I will definitely be going back for more stand up shows.

My only criticism of the venue, and I might be showing my age here, is that the music played during the intervals was way too loud, almost painfully so with some tracks. ( Which included, bizarrely, the theme to Black Beauty ). My voice is a little hoarse (no pun intended ) this morning from having to shout to Gareth to be heard above the music.

The tickets were £13 each, which I think is very reasonable for 4 comedians.

T + 269 No News is Good News

Posted by raetsel at Friday, June 12, 2009

Ok where did that week go? Time does seem to fly by at the moment, still better than being bored.

Anyway, on Monday morning I went up to the day unit to have my bloods taken for my ciclosporin level and kidney function etc. The ever friendly staff were pleased to see me and were saying it had been a while since I had been there, which is a good thing really.

I expected a phone call on the Tuesday asking me to reduce my ciclosporin dose but no such call came. I thought perhaps it would instead be picked up on the Thursday review of all the normal Wednesday transplant clinic results but again no call yesterday. So if I make it through to the end of the day without a call I reckon my levels must have sorted themselves out.

Aside from sitting watching the phone this has been a busy week at work and I've been in to the office on Tuesday and Thursday. It makes those days quite long and very tiring but it worth it I think. The end of the week has been extra busy as my boss has made her annual pilgrimage to the Download festival so I have had to cover all the systems.

and now for a non-medical bit

Phrase and Fable

The other day in response to seeing some glowering rain clouds on the horizon at the office I commented: "It's a bit black over Bill's Mother's" and this was received by blank looks even by one of my colleagues who claims to be a fellow Brummie ( it may be a black country saying I guess ).

Which got me thinking about other phrases and aphorisms I have that are either local to the Midlands or even to just my family. Here are some of them and the context in which they are used:-

It's a bit black over Bill's Mother's

Used on seeing bad weather in some unidentified point on the horizon. The reasoning being I guess that Bill is a pretty common name and some woman "over there" might have a son called Bill.

Pick up your parrots and monkeys and face the boat.

Said by my Mom usually when we were ready to leave after visiting a particular Aunt. A reference to sailors coming back after foreign shore leave I suppose but also slightly redolent of "pick up your paraphernalia".

Do Asquith of it

Said by my Mom ( and occasionally by me ) meaning to do nothing and wait. Prime Minister Asquith had this reputation apparently.

It's time all good folks were in their beds and rogues about their business

Said by my Great Grandmother ( according to my Mom , I never actually knew her ) when guests had overstayed their welcome. The guests never knew if they were being referred to as the good folk or the rogues.

They want cutting for their simples

I think this is a Stanford special. Said by one of my Dad's Mom when seeing something offensive on TV such as football hooligans on the news. Never really knew exactly what this meant and we were too polite to ask. Maybe some reference to lobotomies? ( or worse ).

Eleven O'Clock and not a whore in the house dressed

Said by me and used with any particular time to indicate things are behind schedule. I wasn't sure where I got this from but having googled it, chances are I heard it on one of my favourite Radio 4 programmes "Quote Unquote" (stop groaning Andy). The full version can be found here and runs to:-

"Heavens, eleven o'clock and not a whore in the house dressed , not a po emptied and the streets full of Spanish sailors"

Which is rather wonderful.

You play ball with us, then we'll shove the bat up your arse

Said by me to indicate that the other party in some negotiation is not being reasonable and allowing for some give and take, or taking liberties etc. Not sure where I got this one from but it does rather graphically illustrate a point.

I would be fascinated to know if any of you also use these sayings or if you have ones of your own.

T + 263 Teeth and Telephones

Posted by raetsel at Saturday, June 06, 2009

Well it's been a more medical week than I was expecting after the consultant set my next appointment for 28 days time last Wednesday.

On Tuesday I was minding my own business chewing some chewing gum when half one of my back teeth fell away. Well not quite half but a biggish chunk off the tooth I had a really deep filling in a couple of years ago. It didn't hurt thankfully but having recently discussed avoiding all but essential dental treatment with the hospital I was a bit apprehensive about having to get this fixed.

I phoned the dentist and as I wasn't in pain I got an appointment for midday the next day, Wednesday. I went along expecting to have to work out a treatment plan to discuss with the hospital and have to get extra antibiotics to cover it. I was armed with my list of drugs and contact numbers etc. but as it turned out it was part of my filling that had fallen away rather the tooth itself. The dentist was able to drill out a bit more and re-do the filling all without the need for local anaesthetic injections. 

Thursday I went in to the office and had a long but production day upgrading an Oracle database which was ok though I did get the collywobbles a couple of times due to the intensity of it all. I was really tired by the end of it as well I must say.

Finally, on Friday I was minding my own business, again, when the land line rang and the Caller ID was showing "unavailable" so I was expecting some tele-marketer or some such but it was one of the bone marrow transplant nurses. She was ringing to ask me if I could go in to the day unit on Monday for blood tests for my ciclosporin and urea levels as they were a bit high from the last test. This is a bit unusual because the call normally comes on the Thursday, the day after a clinic visit and this had been over a week instead.

Maybe the results were late being processed or maybe I just slipped the net last week and got picked up on a subsequent patient review. Anyway I'm not too concerned, the nurse said they were only a bit high and I have been keeping up the three litres of fluids a day so it shouldn't affect my kidneys too adversely. If they do need to reduce my ciclosporin below the current 25mg twice a day then I will need to use the nasty tasting liquid version of ciclosproin because 25mg is the smallest capsule they do.

T + 258 To boldly use a tag line.....

Posted by raetsel at Monday, June 01, 2009

....way too many times.

So here are my thoughts on the new Star Trek movie. I won't cover the details of the story, there are plenty of other places on the 'net you can do that, this is more about what parts I did and didn't like. 

However do note some spoilers are inevitable as I discuss certain elements of the plot. I should also add that I am not a trekie. I know most people say that, but really I'm not. (Ask Gareth , who is one :o) 

A brief word about the venue. I saw this at Star City in Gold Class so I could keep away from the unwashed masses. This is expensive, about twice the cost of a normal ticket, but it was nice to have our own bar area to wait in and then be shown individually to our large electronically reclining seats.

The screen, whilst not the biggest was fine and the sound quality was excellent. A real bass rumble for the big star-ships moving off etc.

Overall I really enjoyed the film and thought the story was pretty good, the plot not too full of holes, the action scenes very exciting and most of the characterisations were excellent. It's certainly one of the best Star Trek films I've seen.

On the general look and design, on the plus side the Romulan mining ship was excellent with all it's pointed spiny bits. I was much less happy with the bridge of the Enterprise. All that pristine white just did not sit well with me. Far too cold and clinical and to me it isolated the bridge from the feel of the action. It was like a cross between the sets of casualty and the Minority Report.

The action scenes were excellent and the tension kept high for most of the film though thanks to Paul Greengrass and the Bourne syndicate of films it is now obligatory for all hand to hand fight sequences to be filmed with a frenetic wobbly camera style that makes them impossible to follow. It was a novelty once now it is just distracting and tiresome.   

Some bits of the plot that didn't sit easily with me were the fact that a Super Nova was going to be the cause of the destruction of large parts of the galaxy. Super Novae are relatively common occurrences in the galaxy and whilst catastrophic for the immediate area they are not galaxy threatening phenomena. ( Apparently there is reason given as to why this one was so serious in the background graphic novelette that was released before the film but it's not actually covered in the film itself). Also related to this was what I think must be a deleted scene somewhere because all Spock says is "the unthinkable happened I was too late to save the planet Romulus." No real explanation how or why he was too late just a shot of the planet being destroyed.

So we come to the characterisations. I thought they were all pretty good. McCoy was excellent as were Sulu and Checkov. Apart from the way he sits in the captain's chair Chris Pine's performance did not try to be like William Shatner and that was a wise move because, let's face it, Shatner is not the most subtle of actors. Uhura was very good though perhaps more sassy and self-confident than she was in the original series. 

But for one issue I will come to shortly, Zachary Quinto was brilliant as the young Spock in both appearance, mannerisms and voice. Simon Pegg's comedy turn as Scotty was good enough in its own way but the milder accent ( someone has suggested it is Aberdonian ) didn't match the broad albeit scots-canadian accent James Doohan  had in the original series.

My biggest problem is the emotional side of the half-human Spock is played upon far too much and his affair with Uhura just did not ring true to the character. Even making allowances for the fact this is a young Spock still finding his way before the calm collected older version it did not sit right at all it was all too emotional, this is someone who could have been accepted into the Vulcan academy of sciences remember. A key part of the plot centres on Kirk making Spock have an emotional outburst so he will relieve himself of duty. This was rather week though they had to find someway to get Jim into that chair.

Finally it was great to see Leonard Nimoy playing the older Spock. He has a great look and a great voice. Only slightly spoiled by the fact that despite being over 150 his teeth are still perfect and have not aged at all but the rest of his features have. ( There is some debate over whether they are dentures or his own perfect Hollywood teeth, either way they looked out of place in his craggy features).

All in all, despite these minor grumbles it was a very good film. Just sort the bridge out for the next episode.