Monday, March 18, 2019

flu means anime

Last month I came down with a terrible flu. I wondered where I could've picked up such a punishing version of the virus. Wherever it came from, it hit me hard, forcing me to spend several days in bed, weak and feverish. With my appetite so affected my usual meal regime was thrown out the window, and my trips to the bathroom were more uncomfortable than usual. I had such a bad cough that I ended up going to a walk-in clinic, getting some heavy duty cough medicine and an inhaler to stave off pneumonia.

In those moments of wakefulness, between sips of tea and soup, I found myself turning to old anime. Namely, I watched Hikaru No Go and Great Teacher Onizuka again. Oh, how it does bring me back. The voice acting in both of these series is really quite excellent. And the music! Haha oh man it brought a smile to this old brain.

Out of curiosity, I started reading the Hikaru No Go manga, and so far it's been a real treat, seeing the source for the anime. I think I can recommend both to pretty much anyone dipping their toes into the mediums. It's also gotten me thinking about playing go again, though I remain terrible at it, despite my various attempts at learning over the years.

In preparation for the movie, I also started reading Battle Angel Alita and I gotta say, it's really not aged well. At least, not aged well for me -- young me loved seeing Alita fight her way up the Spire (and beyond) but adult me wants to throw the whole thing into the sun. It's just so stupid, so clearly written by someone obsessed with guns and martial arts and disembowelments and constructing thought experiments. I don't think I have anything in particular against thinking about artificial situations but there needs to be some plausibility to it, to the environments that brought it about -- what Battle Angel Alita asks you to swallow is far too much. For example, there's a character that can experience the history of anything he touches, and in one scene he gains the skills of a sword’s original wielder by holding it -- this is homeopathy for touch, and it's truly one of the dumbest things to pivot a plot around.

The movie was also shit, and not because of those big dopey eyeballs.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

reading here and there

It occurred to me, some time last October, that I used to really enjoy reading. That is, I hadn't read a book in a long time, and I did not really have an excuse. So I looked up how to read library books on my iPhone, installed Libby, got my library account re-activated (I had applied for one many years ago but it had expired from inactivity), and have been burning my way through books, my appetite much returned.
  • The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O'Brian. Still a classic to my heart, an excellent appetizer easing me back on the reading track. I don't think I could ever tire of this series. 5/5
  • Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. Superbly written, I so enjoyed the film that I was pleased to find that the novel gave so much more. Sublime, thoughtful narrative. 5/5
  • Master of the Senate by Robert A. Caro. I only made it through a 1/4 of the 1200+ pages before I had to return it but that was enough to convince me that this was a historical work worthy of its many accolades. An efficient, dense tome.
  • The Senate, William S. White, the body's most prominent chronicler, wrote in 1956, is "the South's unending revenge upon the North for Gettysburg." Not just revenge, unending revenge.
  • A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George. A great disappointment, how such dreck makes it to the best-seller's list is beyond me. While individually the characters are not so terrible, having them all together was simply too much to take. An unsatisfying mystery of shallow, absurd characters. 1/5
  • Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick. I'd read this many years ago and remembered liking it. Certainly the world-building is a delight -- typical Dick stuff. What I didn't recall was the heavy sexism, and the main character being such an arse to everyone around him. 3/5
Becoming so enamored with reading on a device but tired of straining on a small screen, I asked my family to get me a Kobo Clara HD e-reader for Christmas*, which is now a constant companion.
  • The Outsider by Stephen King. Was King always this bad or did my tastes change so? While the build up to the mystery was intriguing, the beginning interviews were rather tedious and the ending anticlimactic. Also, he falls in love? Really? 2/5
  • Kill All Normies by Angela Nagle. Biting political commentary and eye-opening history lessons, relevant to a pre- and post-Trump world. 5/5
  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. Riveting, plausible post-apocalyptic story set in Ontario. 4/5
  • The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso. I can't remember who suggested this one but I found it a bit too much of a child's story for my liking -- overly tidy, the love story uninspired. 3/5
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. This did not age well. I couldn't finish it, saw no reason to do so.
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. About half-way through and loving it. Every word finely crafted, every sentence manicured for maximum impact. Unforgettable.
I also, as many of you do I'm sure, have a stack of books that I am very slowly making my way through. Currently I'm on The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary by Andrew Westoll, a gift from my father-in-law. It's really quite decent, slowed only by the details of the atrocities those poor animals have suffered through at people's hands.

* Kindle doesn't directly support library loans.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Andrew

Andrew passed away on January 4th after a battle with nasopharyngeal cancer. It was a surprise to us, his university friends, a passing shot fired over e-mail, apparently nearly a year since his diagnosis. Those that could visited him at his house, his frame weak and thin, weighed down by the cancer, drugs, and radiation therapy. He kept a brave face, a rather deceptive face in hindsight.

I last saw him on December 12th, about a week before heading to Saskatoon for Christmas. At the time a small thought entered my head, that this could be the last time I'd see Andrew but I quickly dismissed it as we talked of foods he could try and measures he could take to make living at home safer. I was back in Toronto on the 31st when we got word that he had been moved to palliative care and would no longer be taking visitors, a concerning sign but even then we thought he still had a few weeks left, maybe even months.

His memorial was on January 12th, in Scarborough near his father's home, and I was heartened to see that it was well attended by family, friends, and coworkers, both current and old. I finally got to meet Andrew's sister, a figure whom he'd never given much detail about -- she seemed nice and appreciated everyone's sentiments. Andrew's father looked much the same though I felt like he did not recognize me. I was happy to see some of the old gang back together for the memorial. I gave a short speech which probably covered about 1% of all the things I could say about him, though of course I left out the stuff I nagged him about like climate change and Jordan Peterson.

Honestly I feel like I'm still processing Andrew's death, as if he's too fresh in my mind's eye. Not that I talked to him much in the past year, a fact that I lament somewhat now, though I suppose I was busy with my own medical and life goings-on. And certainly our personalities had diverged, something I credit to the different circles we frequented and relationships (or lack thereof) we were involved in.

But that he's no longer around is unreal to me. I can still hear his voice, hear his stifled laughter, see his grimacing smile. I will miss him, certainly, but he continues to be very much alive in my mind.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

a literal pain in the

How is it already December 19th? Yeesh. And it seems my aim of writing more posts this year has been a failure, a goal that kept getting pushed aside as life threw more things my way. Sure, a lack of discipline can also be blamed, but so can simply having very few tales to tell. And that's due to my disinclination to going out, being shy about breaking my routine and leaving my rather comfortable base.

MJ and I did go to Tokyo in September, which I'll write out in full later. A mostly enjoyable trip, memories that are still rather fresh in my mind's eye. I'd never had a strong desire to visit Japan, and I still find it odd that I was there, among the throngs of conservatively-dressed, impassive citizens, along spotless avenues and riding equally spotless subway trains. I'd say the highlight was a bicycle tour which took us through and around the downtown, the city being fairly amenable to cyclists. People talk about how good the food is, but I wonder if those people have taken advantage of the best Toronto has to offer.

When we got back MJ received news that she'd contracted a disease for which she needed surgery, so we've been dealing with her recovery, as well as attempting to plan for the future with what little we know. And a veterinarian visit revealed that Monkey also needed surgery, albeit a far less serious dental procedure, so that also added to our daily duties for a while.

Myself, my condition seems to have pretty much leveled out, a dismal molehill with little hope of much more. While I've gotten the hang of my diet, I still suffer in small bouts; nothing nearly as dreadful as my colitis pains but inconvenient enough to keep my ambitions low and spirit wan. The pain I experience can be of 3 types:
  1. A dull, throbbing pain in my groin, which began happening after my J-pouch connection surgery, leading me to think the operation brushed a nerve in the area. It seems to occur after using my pelvic muscles, or when I'm trying to hold my bowel movement for an extended period. In terms of intensity it's relatively low but it's enough to disturb my sleep.
  2. Going to the bathroom 5 to 6 times a day can take its toll on the skin, and mine is pretty aggravated on a good day, and explosively agonizing on bad ones. That's definitely something I miss about Japan -- why doesn't the world embrace water toilets?! I don't know how people with my affliction manage without one.
  3. Often the urge to visit the bathroom comes with cramps, unpleasantly bundled with a not insignificant threat of an embarrassing breach.
I manage with diet, and a couple pain killers when I know I need some extra protection.

Anyway, I'm off now to Saskatoon for a week. More when I get back, yeah?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Back in the saddle

Halifax Public Gardens
Halifax Public Gardens
Mary Jean got a post-doc in Halifax, and I spent a couple weeks there helping her get settled in. My expectations of the east coast were rather limited*, so I'm glad to have filled some of that in. Indeed, the more time I spend there the more I find myself enjoying Halifax, with its coastal charm, walk-able downtown, and many sprouting districts. As a small city (~400k people), it fits that desirable niche of being large enough to have the amenities of a modern city without the daunting issues of a bigger one.

Halifax Central Library
Halifax Central Library
My second week there was during an unseasonal heat wave, and while MJ worked I sought shelter in the beautiful Halifax Central Library, an impressive structure that embodies the coming together of civic will, a common good that all can enjoy, a modern structure that makes the most of efficient technologies.

I also got to get re-acquainted with some old friends, some dear faces whom I'd never forget but have not thought of for some time since they left Ontario. A joy re-remembered.

Halifax Town Clock
Halifax Town Clock
But how am I doing, you may well ask? I suffer in small bouts, a few moments of each day are maddening trips to the bathroom, the panic of being far from a good toilet always just under my awareness. It seems my body has settled, more or less, on 5 or 6 sessions a day. I still enjoy food but the consequences of even seemingly small mistakes can have long lasting effects. Being at work is good because it gives me a routine, which is something I'd like to hammer down. I worry about my weight (which is light) and my energy level (which is low).

Video games and Twitter help to distract, keep my mood neutral. Is this all I can look forward to? I shall continue to contemplate....


* I had driven around the US east coast back in 2010, but somehow those experiences didn't translate into a vision of what Nova Scotia would look like.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lots of Netflix

One might think that with my two months off of work that I had a lot of free time to kill. In truth, however, when I was experiencing discomfort or pain, I turned to Twitter and simple mobile games to keep my mind occupied, and continue to find myself leaning on them to distract me at various times throughout the day.

I did watch some Netflix:
  • Disappointed by season 2 of Stranger Things, which makes me think season 1 was perhaps seen through rose-colored glasses. A little too goofy, with side-plots that did not pay off.
  • Thoroughly enjoyed the Fargo the series -- Billy Bob Thornton opposite Martin Freeman, who'da thunkit? Second season was weaker overall, but still enjoyable.
  • Inside Llewyn Davis -- I must be missing something because while it contained many of the ingredients I like this Coen brothers film just did not do it for me. Maybe they are not very good at all?
  • Big Mouth -- Watched this one on a whim and it surprisingly tickled me in the right places.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 -- Again, it felt like I should've liked this one more but I just was not that impressed. It's a just a little too smug in its self-awareness.
  • Train to Busan -- A decent take on a zombie film.
  • Bridesmaids -- Holy cow I finally saw Bridesmaids! I used to be a big fan of Kristen Wiig, and I recall being excited to see this one. But I guess my tastes have changed, or maybe the film was never really all that? It was ok.
  • Shrek -- MJ convinced me to check this one out, if only to take in such a well known film. I don't think it stood the test of time very well.
  • Narcos -- Excellent, if depressing to think about. How oblivious I was to this chaos!
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency Season 2-- Possibly better than season 1? Random, unpredictable, over-the-top fun.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (anime TV series) -- This one to fill in holes in time, usually enjoyed while eating. I mean, it's definitely a kids' show, and the premise is ridiculous. I don't suggest anyone get into it.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine -- Funny enough. Maybe I'm unable enjoy police humor?
  • Black Mirror Season 4 -- A couple good episodes and a bunch of terrible ones. Like, I regret seeing them, and not simply because they were physically disgusting.
  • Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories -- The comparison to Tampopo is fair, and that's a good thing.
  • Okja -- Another good idea well implemented but ultimately not satisfying.
Day to day, I fare well enough. Things have settled down, almost into a routine. My exciting improvements have leveled off. I seem to be having difficulty gaining weight, which is not helped by my shrunken appetite. I look forward to being more active, something I imagine happening during the warmer months.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

the other side

Well, I made it. The surgery itself was a success, and I remember the day vividly -- the thin hospital gown, the cold floor through flimsy slippers, the narrow operating table, the oxygen mask placed moments before I was put under. I spent a couple days at the hospital, tentatively trying foods (and sometimes failing to keep them down) and calling for pain medication. A couple friends visiting, holding my spirits up.

I was, for the first few weeks, going to the bathroom around 15 times a day, including a few trips overnight, which thoroughly disrupted my sleep schedule. After a while I kind of got used to waking up in the dark of deep night, hardly a thought in my head. My father was able to jury rig my toilet seat bidet, a puzzle that neither my friends or I could solve, and it made an enormous difference in my bathroom comfort level. Indeed, I now find using non-bidet toilets a delicate operation at best, excruciating at worst.

I had a brief hiccup in my recovery in mid-December, when my nausea prevented me from being able to keep solids down for a couple days. I went back to emergency and, while waiting for various tests, had an extreme nausea reaction to the dye they had me ingest, and I sprawled on the hospital floor for a good hour or so until the doctor took some mercy on me and sought out some pain relief. Frustrating that I should still have these bouts, that after everything I've gone through they remain in my life.

I am doing much better, now. I got a prescription to Lomotil, which has reduced my number of trips to the bathroom to about 4-8 a day. I am getting good sleep, and my appetite is pretty healthy. I have changed my diet to the recommended low fibre one -- lots of carbohydrates and protein, no raw fruits or vegetables, no nuts, etc. No alcohol, though I haven't been much for drinking over the past couple years.

I returned to work this week, and it's going alright. Still trying to build a new routine around my medication and diet and bathroom breaks. I find I have bursts of energy and optimism, which is a start.