Saturday, May 31, 2014

Farewell May

G'day all!

It is almost June already.  Where has the year gone?

This May has been interesting.  It is a month of changes, of farewells - both my parents died in May, many years apart - and this year is no different.

Dunno what it is about May but if it weren't for the beauty of spring and early summer here, I'd go a bit nuts.  (More nuts.)

My love affair with dogwoods continues...

A while ago, DH was approached by a recruiter.  This happens quite often - the IT industry is really quite incestuous and they are always on the lookout for good people.  They thought that he was a different person of the same name, but it turned out that DH was in fact the right guy.  They had discussions and then those turned into interviews, and the upshot is that DH is leaving Amazon.

We are not leaving Seattle...

This means getting new visas.  Yay!  Not.... Every time we have to get new visas, we have to do mounds of online paperwork.

Sorry, that is I have to do mounds of online paperwork (and sometimes real paper paperwork too!).

Magnificent peonies

We also have to supply fairly current photographs for the visas.  That took some effort because there is a problem with having nice, brightly coloured walls.  They a) are not the neutral background required and b) cast odd coloured light and shadows.  That took a while to sort out and may have involved some image manipulation of the background (but not as much as the time in California when the girl changed the white balance of my passport pics so much that my hair went brassy yellow, my skin a ghastly shade of grey and my eyes violet!  I looked like some sort of vampire with my pale, unhealthy skin and bloodless lips...).

Not Cecile Brunner - it's apricot and is Perle D'Or

So Canada is nice and close and the US consulates there issue our sorts of visas.  The waits were three weeks at Calgary and Vancouver and Toronto and Montreal but Ottawa had a three day wait so I start lining us up with to go to Ottawa.  We've never been to Quebec and thought it would be interesting.

When I tried to book the actual appointment, the system said there is a
wait for appointments in Ottawa.

I need some flower pics to calm me down.

You'll find out why!

Now this is after I've just spent two and a half hours putting answers into webpages over and over and over - like we have done this several times before, no we are still not terrorists, no we have no intention or desire to do naughty naughty things whilst we are in the States, why can't we just say yep, nothing's changed except the job?

Lots and lots of flower pics

When DH leaves his old job, we have to be out of the country within ten days.   Yes you read that right.  Ten days.  It's part of the terms and conditions of our visa - cos after all if you've been living somewhere for a couple of years, it is easy to just pack up and leave, isn't it?   Doesn't leave much time to get organised, and a wait of 131 days before the new visa appointment, let alone the visa being issued would equal losing the house, the car and bankruptcy.  And DH had already resigned, just not left quite yet.

Sometimes even flower pics don't help

Or even the cutest, silliest pants
I've ever had

Or silly shoes

Or pics of the Space Needle
with the rose "Graham Thomas"

So I had a meltdown.  A full on sobbing, tearful, snotty meltdown.

Not even knitting calmed me down.

Plus this was all on the day of Mum's deathiversary (at least in Oz), so I was already a bit wobbly.  23 years now.

Now it is sorted, mostly.  The new company is flying us to London.  England.  Hopefully we won't be there for too long as I want to get back to Seattle in time for the naked bike ride - I've been anticipating it for months.  (Must get the bike in order and see if I can manage to ride it with this stupid lung condition.)

Rose "Pat Austin"

Oh, yeah, I also saw a pulmonologist to see what if there is a medical opinion about my lungs.

There is!

I have greater than average lung volume and the diffusion of O2/CO2 across my lungs is more than adequate (127% of that expected).  I have a small area of scarring at the top of the right lung, almost certainly from radiotherapy, and my breathlessness is not caused by lung problems.  My lungs are in excellent shape.

Well dang!  But good.  But dang!

Cute dianthus/clove pinks

He made me breathe in and out whilst he listened to my lungs and then made me take big breaths in and out, and was surprised by the noises I make (it's embarrassing to make weird groans and honks, and I make weird groans and honks.  Sometimes it just sounds like I'm getting ready to speak or saying hmm, but other times it is loud and obvious).  But I think it put him onto something.

He looked at the CT scan taken waaaaay back in ?October? and showed me a shot of my trachea (breathing tube).  He noted the weird position of the right vocal cord and also that my trachea is bowed inwards, partly blocking my airway, on the right side below the vocal cord.  He thinks this is causing the problems.  (The otolaryngologist never even mentioned this...)  My trachea should be a straight tube, not a bowed on one side one.

Foxgloves have always fascinated me.
Yep, I stick my finger in them.

What can be done about it?  Wait and see.  Hopefully when the vocal cord issue is fully resolved my trachea will fix itself up too.  At least he acknowledged that it is distressing to not be able to do aerobic stuff or manage a conversation whilst walking.  He suggested I try actively breathing out through pursed lips when doing more aerobic work - it might help hold my trachea out as the air in my lungs and airways will be at higher pressure and it might reduce the bowing when I breathe in.  Maybe.  A little.  He also asked me a heap of questions that I think may relate to MS, Lou Gehrig's Disease or even lupus.  Bonus!

I'm so tired of wait and see.  My whole frigging life is full of wait and sees.  Cancer.  wait and see if you are going to die - what fun!  Now this.  Extra bonus fun!

I liked this combo.

It is hard to go forth and live your life when you become restricted in what you can do.  I used to ride my bike places.  I used to walk up the hill and see things, admire the gardens, go to the beach and the Locks.  I used to walk lots of places.  I used to get up and dance like a crazy thing and do aerobics at home.  Now I drive the blasted car - it is good to have the car but I want to be able to walk without thinking I'm going to die because I can't breathe properly!  I'd like to be able to dance without having to do slow, gentle dances.  I only have one last specialist to see (a cardiologist) and then I'm done, but now that DH has quit, our health insurance ceases soon and the new one hasn't kicked in yet.  I'm sure the old one is very pleased to get rid of me, but the new one won't be happy!

There has to be a sunset shot of the mountains
across the Sound!

Vevo prettiness

I finally finished a cowl/wimple that I started last year.  The pattern is Vent D'Est Vent D'ouest and the yarn is Madtosh laceweight (whatever it is called) in Stargazing, not Cousteau!

Now with extra cheesy grin

What else has been happening?  My outrage at my government's budget still simmers.  My conversation with first ex continues.  I've swapped over to using Chromium mostly rather than Firefox because the recent Firefox update exposed a memory leak that has plagued Firefox ever since I first started using it, and when it slows a machine like mine with massive amounts of memory and disk to a crawl, it gets pretty peeving.  My obsession with 2048 has settled down somewhat, mostly because I discovered something truly truly amazing.

I am sure I am not the only person who wanted to be an astronaut when they grew up.  I could think of nothing more wonderful than going into space and walking on the Moon and seeing Earth as a marvellous big blue and white marble.

Well I'm most unlikely to get into space but I can do something almost as good and with none of the hassle of having to use the equivalent of vacuum cleaners to pee and poo in, or having reconstituted meals and ahem reconstituted water.

Watching Earth from the International Space Station is doing wonders for my geography skills, and is just enthralling me.  All of my experience is of Earth, and seeing Earth from outside its atmosphere is astounding.   All life that we know of except for a handful of astronauts exists on this one fragile planet.   Seeing the oceans and islands and continents rolling underneath the ISS is addictive.  I keep hoping that I will see my home city but so far I've not managed it in over a week of watching.   In the meantime, I remain enraptured by my planet, enchanted by what I see.

South Australia looking SE towards Victoria, Australia


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Syttende Mai the third

G'day all!

It amazes me to think I've now seen three Syttende Mai (Norwegian constitution/national day) parades.  This is my third Spring in Seattle and I have to say I am still appreciating them.  It is even better now that I can ever so slowly dig up some dirt and plant things.

One part of the parade in Ballard.

It is slow work digging up the grass - it has been around for quite some time and is very resistant to being dug up.  Sometimes the spade will only bite in about a centimetre and then nope, no further.... The good news is that my back isn't giving out, so all the work on developing core strength must be working!

Tricksy not-our-cat

Gardens around where I now live in Seattle remind me of gardens in Melbourne when I was a kid.  We never worried about water then - there was plenty of water!  It rained consistently.  We grew rhododendrons and azaleas and wisteria and lilacs and roses and clematis and various delicate woodlandy type plants and they all did well.  Then we had a twelve year drought - it did rain but we only got about 300-400mm (12-16 inches) of rain a year instead of over 600mm (24").  This made a huge difference to the sorts of plants that would happily grow.  It changed how we gardened.  I'm sorta glad Mum isn't around to see it - she loved her old fashioned plants.  Doesn't mean that there aren't other worthy plants, nor that various of the oldies won't grow (eg roses are tough as old boots and have outlasted many "drought tolerant" plants in the yard at home).

Clematis.  Pretty.

We've had some fantastic weather recently.  It's been lovely and warm, maybe a bit too hot for this time of the year (27C for three or four days in a row!).  It hasn't rained for well over a week and I'm having to use the hose on plants because I want them to grow rather than shrivelling up.   I had to go and buy a hose and an attachment and now I get a shower whenever I use it because the fittings aren't playing nicely.  Stupid screw on fittings - get with the program, US, and get nice click on/off fittings.  They make things sooo much easier!

Last weekend DH got me up on the roof of the garage, helping with gluing the rubber down.  I have issues with vertigo when I'm on a rooftop or anywhere high, particularly if there are no hand rails around it.

Sunsprite, not just joey, in our yard
So he got me up on the roof on Friday as a bit of a test run and every time I stood up, I decided that some weird cross between crawling and a zombie stagger was better.  It is pretty pathetic really but it is just the way I am.  I've never been good with heights.

I did manage to walk around
but not when I had the short roller...

On Sunday, it was quite warm and sunny and I put a sunhat on before going up on the roof.  The hat flops down a bit and voila!  I could walk around!  I had blinkers/blinders on and it made a huge difference.  You would think being able to see less would make it worse but it made it better!

I'm still hoping that the garage will be pretty much done by the end of May.  I hoped this in January, February, March, and April... but it is getting much closer now.  There's still plenty to be done, like pulling a wiring permit, but it is starting to look better.  I've also got to get quotes for getting rid of the old wood and shingles and plasterboard and crap - it is covering half the back yard.  Plus we have a trench that we can't cover over until the electrical inspection is done.  Our yard has more hazards in it than anywhere I've ever lived.

Lovely rose.  We need lots of pretty
flowers to get rid of the distasteful
things happening at home....

My government continues to politicise this animal.  I never really cared about politics before but now I am mobilised.  I dunno what game Abbott and (what a shame Costello is gone - what a team they would've been, Abbott and Costello, pair of clowns....) Hockey are playing but they have managed to piss off pretty much everyone I know.  They say they have the mandate to rip the guts out of our rather socialist healthcare and welfare systems and boy are they doing it!   The idea of someone under 30 only being able to access the dole for six months at a time after a six month waiting period (and remember the dole is well below the poverty line) - like how could someone live like that?  Plenty of 25 year olds have kids and some even have managed to get mortgages.  It would finanically ruin anyone.  They can't live on nothing, so as a number of people have said, presumably Messrs Abbott and Hockey expect to build a heap more jails and are expecting to get a lot more single parents on sole parent pensions.  Things like a $7 fee to see a doctor doesn't sound like much but when you don't have any income at all or have a very low income or have a number of kids and not a whole lot of money, it will stop people seeing a doctor. 

The irises are stunning this year

We can only hope that the budget is blocked at the Senate level - Labor, the Greens and Clive Palmer's party say they won't support the budget and some part of those groups need to to get it through.  If they block supply, the government is threatening a double dissolution, which means we go back to the polls.  And dang if there won't be a fight then!

So sculptural and perfect

To distract me from wanting to shake some sense into the PM and treasurer of Oz, I am knitting madly on baby stuff for my SiL's baby on the way.  She is quite short, or fun size, and she is rounding out quite nicely apparently.  I guess people now think not only is she still about 15 but they also will be shocked by her pregnancy.  I have some really cool stuff on the way for the sprog anyway :-)

The poppies are starting, yay!

What else is happening?  I've got itchy feet - I want to go see stuff now that the weather is good.  Highway 20 is open, and it is over six months since we've gone up that road - we went three times in less than a month after discovering it late last year.  I've had a rotten cold - it seemed to be the sort of cold that hits for a day or two and then clears off, like all the colds I've had since chemo, but this one decided to hammer me.  It was really odd - my nose didn't run much, my body felt quite good, reasonable amounts of energy but I had absolutely no brain.  I'd just sit at the computer, trying to do work, and stare at it.  La la lalalalalala... oh yeah, work.  Lalalala!   I think I played a lot of 2048 cos that didn't need brain, it just needs lots of left/right/down arrows.  I also managed to trim the laurel hedges.  And then the coughing started.  I've managed to survive so far even with the breathing weirdness.  Thank heavens it's not been as bad for me as for DH.  He is still coughing quite a lot.

The rhodos and azaleas have
been completely stunning

Oh and I made another quilt.  It is basted and awaiting quilting, which is awaiting me cleaning off the table, which is awaiting a day when I feel fit and don't want to get into the garden, which at this point in time might be a while.  I'm quite fixated on the garden at the moment.  I've finished some knitting that had been hanging around since last year but it needs to be blocked and photographed, as does my progress on some other knitting.

There is always plenty to do!


Saturday, May 03, 2014

May the Fourth

Be with you, always.

G'day all!

It isn't quite May the Fourth here yet but no matter.

Chives.  Love the focus the
poor old phone got in this pic

Isn't it odd how geek things have gotten into public consciousness?  Like May the Fourth.  I can remember one of my uber Star Wars geek fan friends telling me all these things, and I absorbed them like any good little geek would.  And now they are common place.

Star Wars made me a fortune!
Paid off the mortgage!
Bought me a car....

All of Mum's irises ended up looking
like these.  They are pretty....

The internet has certainly helped.  It has made it so easy to spread memes and sayings and geek culture.  It has given the introverts voices and forums to chat with like minded people and really brought geekdom into being pretty much mainstream.

Weird, huh?

Pretty crab apple - a double!

It is so normal for me to interact with geeks in person and online that it is a bit of a shock when I find someone who just stares at me and I realise they have no clue what I am on about and may even be a bit horrified by my expressing myself that way.

We are well into Spring now.  We had a taste of summer earlier in the week - it got to 31C and I thought I was going to die of heat exhaustion.  Completely pathetic but given we've only had a couple of 20C days so far this year and it's mostly been between 13-16C for the last month.  It's gone back to normal again today - not cold but pretty miserable.  It rained a fair bit this afternoon.

Peas in the yard.  Yay!

I'm sure something must've happened this week, apart from me doing a bit of quilt top making (no photos cos I'm stupid that way!) and a bit of knitting and (quite) a bit of moaning about how hot it was in the house (it turns out our house is very very good at grabbing heat and holding it!).  Oh, I talked to a genetic counsellor at the cancer mob that I see and they reckon it could be worth me getting some further testing as they have heaps of newly recognised genes that they test for.  My health insurer here won't pay for the 52 gene panel, mostly because many of the actions of those genes are not well described yet, but if I wanted to pay out over $6,000 I could get it done! 

Oddly enough, I said no.  I could do a lot of things with $6,000 and getting me tested for various oncogenes and mutation in tumour suppressor genes is not one of them.  I've had some testing done that says I don't have the most well known mutations of BRCA1 and 2 and I'm not against getting further testing done (partly because I already suspect I do have one particular mutation) but paying six grand out of my own pocket... well it isn't worth it to me.  Plus you need to have the money first anyway.


Speaking of money, when the garage project is done and we get past the current cash flow issues, I'm thinking of getting an electric bike.  Yep, I need some help getting back on my bike.  This breathing thing seems to be fairly chronic and I can't see I'll ever be riding up hills under my own steam and it is quite peeving really as I quite enjoy riding my bike (especially when I manage to conquer hills under my own steam but well beggars can't be choosers).  I'm having to wait for a month to see a lung specialist - I should've booked in much earlier but all the other specialists I've seen have only had a week or two wait and I wanted to see the cancer guys and get my chest xray done there first.  I might add a cardiologist to the list as well, get that over and done with.  After all, my father was busy trying to pop his clogs with heart problems when he was in his (mumbl)ies.  He did last another 40 years, mind, in pretty good health until dementia got him (and holy cow that was nearly ten years ago now!  Surely not?).

Old door, the door-wot-nearly-
killed-me-when-I- had-to-shut-ti.

However, for the nonce the garage project continues.  The framing was signed off a couple of weeks ago, the planning for the wiring is underway, we got a new door on Wednesday (one of the hot days, poor guys doing the installation!).  The shot above is from the final closing of the old door after the springs were released.  About half the paint remaining on it fell off when it hit the end of its travel...  Friends dug us a trench from the house to the garage so that we can lay down new wiring (the old wiring is a perfectly legal but a bit underspec bare wire!) and we put in conduit so that we can bring wired internet and other stuff as yet unknown into the garage.

New!  Shiny!  Now with
automatic opener!

I may have gotten a bit excited about the rocks that were dug up along the way.

Apparently I'm a rock nerd.   I can't tell a metamorphic rock from a volcanic one, though sedimentary rocks are pretty easy usually but yeah, I just like the pretty colours that some of them come in.

Where'd his legs go? And there's pebbles in
that there dirt!

Most of Seattle is situated on glacial till - all of this area has been under glaciers in the past.  Some areas are on rock, some areas on alluvial soil and some sit on volcanic matter.  Puget Sound, by which Seattle sits, is a fjord.  The geology and hydrology of the area is pretty fascinating if you are into that sort of stuff.

Our place is on glacial till deposited about 13,500 years ago.  If you dig down about hmm between 30-40cm, you dig though an layer of dark soil with pebbles in it and hit an area of reddish clay soil (with pebbles in it).  I'm not completely convinced that the soil is completely native as we keep finding bits of glass and red brick in it - maybe it was trucked on site or maybe there was a house here before.

Blue skies, sun flare and contrails.

Anyway, before the trench was filled back in, I insisted on getting some hardware cloth as it is called here (wire mesh like overgrown flyscreen only made out of metal) so that I could sift through the soil and get lots of the pebbles out.

Before enthusing about the pebbles, I should've taken some pics of them, eh?

The rhodos and azaleas are in full bloom

Meh, I'll enthuse anyway.  Some of the pebbles are bigger than fist size!  Most of them are rounded but not all.  They come in different colours.  I found one that almost looked like it had been deliberately shaped but it is only a flake off a bigger pebble.

I really should take pictures of them.  Instead you have pictures of Spring instead.  Maybe it will stop raining for long enough tomorrow for me to take pictures of pebbles - I'm sure you will be totally thrilled.

Look how far north the sun is now!
(Ok, it had already set but you get the idea)

Who needs existential crises when you've got pebbles and rocks and lovely spring flowers and a quilt to make and knitting to do?  (However I do keep thinking that November is only half a year away and will be on me before I know it and I will be very very sorry then because November and December in Seattle are pretty blah times of year... how pathetic is that!  The best part of the year still awaits and I'm already worrying about the grotty part that follows the best part?)  Plus I also have this thing called work plus a husband and a house to keep up with.

I can't be the only person in the world who would prefer to go and sift rocks out of dirt than do the vacuuming or do dishes, surely?