}

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Level 3 v2 begins

At 11:59pm tonight, most of New Zealand moved to Covid Alert Level 3, though Auckland will remain at Level 4 for probably two more weeks, and Northland (the part of New Zealand to the north of Auckland) will remain at Level 4 until this coming Thursday, pending some wastewater test results. It’s the first step toward a return to normality in what’s still an active outbreak.

Today, it was announced that there were 49 new cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland, and all linked to the cluster. This brings the total number of cases in the outbreak so far to 610. Of those, 33 people are in hospital, and eight of them are in intensive care; two of the ICU patients are on a ventilator. Of the active cases in Auckland, six are under the age of 1.

Those statistics show why the government is being cautious: The new cases have been found two weeks after the entire country went under Lockdown, meaning they were mainly infected within their bubbles. open up too far too soon and the outbreak will surge. This underscores how much worse it would’ve been if we hadn’t gone under Lockdown. That high infectiousness, and the fact that so many of the infected people are young, shows how very different the Delta Variant is. All the old rules are gone.

Auckland remains under Level 4 because it’s the epicentre of the outbreak. All of the 15 cases in Wellington are linked to the Auckland cluster, directly or indirectly. There have been no cases that originated outside of the Auckland cluster.

Northland is under Level 4 while wastewater is tested for the presence of the virus. That’s because several workers who were exposed to the virus at jobs in the Auckland region live in the Northland region. If the tests are clear, then Northland will move down to Level 3 later this week.

The Level change means only slight easing of restrictions: We’re still to stay at home. Schools, churches, and most workplaces are still closed. People are expected to work from home and stick to their bubbles.

However, under Level 3, more businesses can sell stuff online (up until now it’s been only “essential goods”), and stores can also offer contactless click and collect (that is, customers order online, drive to the store when the order is ready, and store staff will place it in their boot (for most vehicles, that means the staff person will be about two metres from the driver) or place it in a socially distanced spot when the customer arrives to collect the order. Masks are mandatory for all people in the transaction.

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway shops will be able to offer contactless delivery or contactless pickup. News reports suggest that people are eager to get takeaway coffees—and I bet part of the reason is because they won’t have to make it themselves.

The only part of all the changes that really affects me is that I can order stuff for my garden projects to pick up in store (or, maybe, get them delivered). As it happens, tomorrow—our first day day under Level 3—is the first day of Spring. However, I’ll probably wait a few days to let the pent-up demand get cleared. Besides, the weather isn’t yet ready to be Spring-like.

The only other change relevant to me is that under Level 3, it’s possible to extend our household bubbles to add one or two other small households, which means it’ll again be possible for me and my cousin-in-law to form an expanded bubble. We did that last year, too.

On the whole, I’m looking forward to a Level change, even if it won’t actually change that much for me. Being able to get supplies for my Spring projects is one thing that will help me a lot—hopefully the weather will help that, too.

When New Zealand went down to Level 3 last year, I called it “Lockdown Lite”, which is fair, I think. In my photo for that Level change, I use a photo of a locked padlock with the key in it, and said: “If Alert Level 4 can be thought of as a locked padlock, then Alert Level 3 puts the key into that lock. It’s still locked, but it can be opened a bit if we need to.” I’m continuing that imagery this time, too, but one padlock is still firmly locked and without a key. That represents Auckland (and, for now, Northland). The lock with the key is the rest of us under Level 3.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Further adaptations

Every time I change prescriptions, as I did recently, I always have to take time to adjust. Then, it seems, there's a time in which I make adjustments because of those new drugs. This time, so far, it seems like the adjustments have been simple and easy.

When it was time to load up my weekly pill box with the new prescription assortment, I decided it was also time to switch the pill box itself. The one I was using—which can be seen at the top of a post from just over two years ago—had one lid (Sunday’s) that was taped on where the hinge had been, and Saturday was about to need tape, too. I decided to stop making do.

At first, I was going to switch back to the pill box at the bottom of that post form 2019, which is still my favourite, if one can have a “favourite” pill box. However, when I was about to choose a new pill box, I was back to using those bread tags that were the point of the July, 2019 post, and I needed a pill box with bigger compartments than my favourite had.

The problem, as it had been in 2019, was that one of my drugs, this time my new anticoagulant, Rivaroxaban, was in a blister pack with the pills very close together, just as one of my 2019 drugs was. I resumed using the old bread tags—do they qualify as “upcycled” when they’re not all pretty and such?. It's kind of moot now, because I grabbed my tiniest scissors and (so far) have successfully cut the blister pack into individual days.

I opened the cupboard where I keep prescriptions and stuff to dig out my favourite (?) pill box, and I saw one similar to the one I was about to throw away. I’d bought it many years ago, intending to use it with all the supplements I was taking at the time, back in the days before I needed prescriptions. I found it again when I was unpacking stuff here.

However, in the back of the cupboard I saw another, fancier one (photo up top) that I bought last year to use for Sunny’s pills. I didn’t need it in the end, and it stayed in the cupboard. I chose it, instead of the oldest one, in case I resumed using the bread bags.

It turns out that I now have a second-favourite pill box, too: The new one. The new one has a button release for the lid which pops up into one of two positions: Fully open, as in Thursday’s compartment in the photo above, or partly open, as shown for Friday’s. When a lid’s partly open, I can glance at the pill box to verify that I’ve taken my pills for that day (through I still use the Reminders App on my phone, as I talked about in February, even though I only take medication once a day now). However, the big advantage is that the lid opens wide (like on Thursday), and that makes it so much easier to put my pills in every week. With the old one, after wrestling a lid open (it was often difficult), it remained part open. When I filled the pill box each week, I had to lift each lid to be able to put the pills in, and since I put each prescription in separately, I had to do that several times. Not any more.

Unfortunately, the old pill box did not survive the change: I had no choice other than to throw it in the rubbish, because it wasn’t marked for recycling (of course I checked!). I suppose if I really did upcycle things I’ve have turned it into something fabulous instead, but I’m actually not all that fabulous, so there wasn’t any real hope of that happening.

The thing that’s actually important in this tale, apart from the discovery it’s possible to have a first and second favourite pill box, is that this is the only change I’ve made because of my new prescriptions, apart from undoing some I’d made because of the side effects of my old anticoagulant. In most respects, things are more like they were before my blood became a chemical soup of prescriptions, and that’s a very good thing.

It’s still too early to tell if the quality of my life will be improved by these new prescriptions, though I’m still hopeful. Even so, right now the only adjustment I’ve made because of my new prescriptions is to start using what I’ve discovered is my second favourite pill box. As adjustments to medication goes, it doesn’t get simpler or easier than that. And that makes me I’m very, very happy.

The problem is more than plastic

New Zealand is serious about reducing waste and pollution, even if not everyone necessarily agrees on what that means or what needs to be done. A couple months ago, I talked about the NZ Government’s new plans to phase out certain “problem plastics”. While that’s a worthy goal and target, it's very complex, and not the only problem.

The photo above is an example of the difficulty in fixing this problem. It shows the top of a bottle for a squeezable bottle of American-style mustard, and it’s not recyclable. We know this, first, because it doesn’t have a recycling mark on it. That may mean it’s made up different of plastic types—such as the red and yellow being different types of plastic, or maybe the specific blends of one or both. Of course, it’s also possible that the manufacturer just couldn’t figure out where to put the recycling emblem, but the point is that without that code, we consumers have to assume that the plastic isn’t recyclable and put it in the bin for rubbish headed to landfill. As it happens, the bottle itself is Type 4 plastic which is recyclable, however, there’s no company in New Zealand that does so, and countries overseas are no longer accepting foreign plastic waste, so the bottle will also end up in landfill.

One solution is to regulate to forbid mixed and/or unmarked plastics like that bottle top. This will probably take the manufacturer some time to work out, but that’s no excuse to not push them along.

Some solutions companies have tried in recent years haven’t been successful. For example, some years back, I bought a cup of coffee with a lid that, it claimed, was compostable (photo at left). I knew from my research that such things aren’t home compostable because they require the much higher temperatures found in commercial composting facilities—and at the time there were hardly any of them. Such facilities are being built especially to accept organic waste, including food scraps collection programmes in cities like Hamilton and Auckland, but none of them accept supposed “compostable” packaging.

Another problem with such products was that they were often plastic-based, and when they degraded they created microplastics, a huge problem in themselves. Some of the supposedly compostable products like coffee lids use cornstarch which is theoretically better—but there isn’t anywhere to take them, either.

I decided to put the coffee lid in the photo into my own compost bin to find out how long it took to degrade in our conditions. After about a year it was still intact, even as the organic contents of the bin were breaking down. I don’t know if it ever started breaking down because the final year in that house, 2019, was a bit too tumultuous for me to care about it anymore. Even so, I doubt it ever broke down at all.

The government is already planning to ban such products, which is the best solution. However, that doesn’t solve the question about what to use for lids, nor does it deal with the problem of the cups themselves, which are also a huge waste problem. In the short term, the government could reduce both problems by, say, tripling GST (Goods and Services Tax) on coffees bought in takeaway cups, but not on coffee served in customers’ own reusable cups. The government won’t do that, mostly because it insists on one flat GST rate on everything to keep the tax system simple, however, it’s an example of one way that people could be encouraged to use reusable coffee cups instead of disposable ones. Of course, companies could charge a couple dollars more for a single-use cup, providing an incentive for customers to switch, but how many cafes would risk pissing off customers?

A lot of companies have been experimenting with alternatives, like disposable cutlery and plates made from wood. Washable, reusable steel drinking straws are cheap and available everywhere (I don’t personally have any; I don’t use straws often and have way too many paper ones to use first). I’m sure there are plenty of creative people in search of opportunities who can come up with a lot more alternatives to single-use plastic products—and now they’ll have the incentive thanks to the announced timeline for banning such plastics.

Earlier this month, a major NZ food company announced that it would slowly start switching its tags on bags of fresh bread to recyclable cardboard instead of the small plastic tags used now. Even if the cardboard bread tags end up in landfill, they’ll eventually decompose naturally. That still leaves the problem of the plastic bags, but first things first (we can recycle those here in Hamilton and Auckland, but that’s not nationwide). This change will affect how I clean up after painting stuff, as well as how I clean some other things, but it won’t change using them as, well, tags, like I did for my prescriptions for awhile.

In November, the government plans to launch a $50 million Plastics Innovation Fund to “help support projects that reimagine how we make, use and dispose of plastics”. Environment Minister David Parker said, “We need to back New Zealanders to innovate, find solutions and then scale them up.” (Full disclosure: I know and worked with David Parker when I was a volunteer in the Labour Party).

What all of this is about is making New Zealand cleaner and greener, with a circular economy in which nothing is wasted if we can prevent it. “We want to be part of global solutions to tackle the impacts of plastic pollution,” Parker said. For years now, I’ve been trying to do my part, as I’ve discussed on this blog, and will continue to do. Cynics say our efforts are too small to make any difference, but the retort to that is simple: It’s always better to be part of the solution than part of the problem.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

It’s my new project, Mac

If I’ve learned anything about managing my various projects over the years, it’s that it’s always good to have several non-important ones on the list. That way, when progress on important projects gets stalled, I can still have other projects to turn to. Idle hands, and all that. However, my latest non-urgent project takes that to a whole new level—breaking me into new and completely foreign territory populated with many new challenges and the chance to learn totally new skills. Or, it could all end badly. It should be clear which way it’s headed within a few weeks, when the project itself may end. Or, it may go on for ages. The not-knowing is part of the excitement.

I recently bought an old Macintosh Classic (manufactured in 1990) on NZ’s online auction site. I paid $63 for it (today, that’s about US$44) as is—no keyboard or mouse or power cord, and no promises it would work. If that seems like a weird thing to buy, I have my reasons.

It all started when I found an old “get started” disk for the “America Online” Internet service (I forgot to share that Instagram post here; oops). The box it was in also had “dozens (…and dozens) of floppy disks”, as I put it on my personal facebook at the time. I knew I had a USB external floppy disk dive, so it should’ve been easy to check them, right? That’s not how technology usually works.

So far, I’ve found a total of 154 floppy disks, all but three of which I’ve checked. And that right there is where it first got complicated.

I plugged the floppy drive into my current Mac Mini, but it couldn’t read any disks. A little Googling told me that in October 2019, Apple eliminated support for the floppy disk file indexing system called HFS (Hierarchical File System) when they released their 2019 MacOS, Catalina. My new Mac Mini couldn’t read the floppies—but I thought my old MacBook Pro probably could.

That old MacBook still has an older (pre-2019) operating system, so it could read most of the floppies—but there were 45 it couldn’t read. Those disks were “double-sided, double-density” (also known as DS/DD or just DD), and they were the oldest of my floppies and, based on the labels on them, hold some of my oldest files. Those disks hold stuff that doesn’t exist anywhere else, including stuff from my activist days. I had those disks because in those days I was sometimes renting time using the Macintoshes of the day, and they often could only use the DS/DD diskettes. NOW I wish I’d copied the files to HD diskettes, but it never occurred to me back then.

I suspect, but don’t know, that the USB floppy drive Nigel had can only read the more “modern” HD floppy disk format. I couldn’t find any model number on the drive, and my attempts to find out through searching online didn’t solve the matter—but it seems the most likely explanation.

Next, I decided to try to access a bunch of disks that look like floppy disks on steroids: Zip Disks, something like mini-removable hard drives used in the peripheral Zip Drive. I have ten 100MB Zip disks, and I think the emails that Nigel and I sent to each other before I moved to New Zealand may be on those disks, along with other lost files.

The drive I have is a SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) device (SCSI is similar to a serial interface on a PC). I bought a cable that connects it to a USB port, however, it’s a straight pass-through cable, not an adapter, and it won’t necessarily make a modern computer able to access a SCSI device. None of my Macs can access it.

All of which means that I could access some of my files, those on HD floppy disks, but nothing else. I needed new options.

The wisdom of the Internet told me that a Linux machine might be able to read the Zip disks. Nigel turned our oldest MacBook (the white plastic kind) into a Linux machine, but it couldn’t access the Zip disks (or the DS/DD disks, which again suggests the drive can’t read them). Other advice suggested hooking it up to a PC running WindowsXP, but there are potential file formatting issues, and, anyway, I only run that on my old Hackintosh through emulation, and it doesn’t have a serial port. A dead end.

That’s where the Macintosh Classic came into the picture: It has an Apple Superdrive, the floppy drive they introduced in the late 1980s to read and write both DS/DD and HD diskettes. It also has SCSI—all of which would be useful.

The day the Mac arrived by courier, I grabbed a power cord and plugged it in to see if it turned on (photo above—the fire extinguisher in the background was because I figured it was best to play it safe). It seemed like absolutely nothing happened when I turned it on—the screen remained off, there was no sound of a hard drive spinning up, but then I heard the soft whirring of what I think is the cooling fan. This isn’t necessarily bad news.

There could be lots of different things going on, but I won't know anything for sure until I can open it up. I need a very long-handled T-15 screwdriver, a particular size of a Torx screwdriver with a very long handle. I have heads for that, but nothing with a long-enough handle. I'm pretty sure Nigel would've had one, but, I'm not entirely sure where it'd be (though I have ideas…). If I do need to buy one, I can't get it at Covid Alert Level 4, so there's nothing more I can do right now.

Once I open up the case, I may find that the battery exploded (a common thing, apparently) and damaged the logic board. If that happened, it may be irreparable, or, if it can be fixed, it’d be way beyond my capabilities. Another common problem, probably unrelated to the failure to start up, is that capacitors may have leaked, and they sometimes can be replaced—something I also don’t know how to do (assuming I could even get the right capacitors). Once I know what I’m facing, then I’ll see what things I’d need to learn to do, if possible.

As Steve Jobs might put it, “there’s one more thing”: Macs of that era used something called ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) to connect the keyboard and mouse. Those devices disappeared when USB was introduced, so now the only place to get them is from an online auction site (usually in the USA), and they often go for crazy prices (I’ve seen some keyboards going for more than US$200, which today is about NZ$285). I found a place that makes a true adapter (not just a cable) to connect a corded USB keyboard and mouse to the ADB port on the Mac, and it’s cheaper than many vintage keyboards. Still, no point doing anything about that until I know if the Mac can be saved/repaired.

If all else fails and I can’t get it working, it'll be a nostalgic object for me because it's basically the Mac Plus in new clothes, and the Mac Plus was the very first Mac I ever used—AND I used to do page layouts on the thing, but from here in the 21st Century, I have absolutely no idea how I ever did that. On the other, I saw a video by a guy who took out all the guts of a dead Mac Classic, mounted a modern LED screen where the old CRT monitor was, and put an older Mac Mini inside the case. Its—an option, I guess.

Meanwhile, I have other things to try. For example, I could try to find a used USB Zip Drive, which my old MacBook should be able to access. I also ordered a new USB floppy disk drive that can read both formats of floppy disk. That’ll arrive in a few days. In other words, I’m hedging my bets.

All of this is something I did because progress on my important projects has been stalled by the Level 4 Lockdown. I won’t have any room to move in my garage until I can get those 80 now-flattened boxes out of the way (something I’d planned to deal with the day we moved to Level 4). The horrible weather we’ve had lately (cold and lots of rain) has also meant I couldn’t do any of the preparatory work in the gardens. So, it was really good to have this multi-faceted technical project to work on, especially because so far it’s all cost me less that $100, which is pretty inexpensive as hobbies go.

There’s nothing in all this so far that’s new to me: I’ve been using Macintosh systems since the 1980s, so I’m very familiar with how they worked then as well as now. Even so, there’s plenty of stuff for me to learn, and maybe even a new skill or two to pick up. Most importantly, I enjoy it—even the incomplete successes.

To quote Steve Jobs yet again, there’s one more thing: All of these projects I talk about now have one thing in common: They’re all about me—what I want to do, what interests me, and how I want to arrange my life. Very few of my projects now are actually about Nigel, though the security alarm project was one he never got to. But even that was about what I wanted, and it’s part of the changes I’m making to things that were Nigel’s projects as I move to things that work better for me. I carry all the stuff I learned from Nigel, even from just watching him, but now it’s me taking charge of everything, willingly and on purpose.

It turns out, I’m my own biggest project of all, and so far that’s progressing well.

More on the Mac Classic: It was available October 1990 to September 1992 (the fact that the one I bought was manufactured in September 1990 means it’s among the original machines made). It has a Motorola 68000 8MHz processor, and the OS it could run was System 6.06 up to System 7.5.5. They usually had a 40MB hard drive, and had 1MB built-in memory, with a 4 MB maximum (!). They also had a 9-inch (23cm) monochrome CRT monitor, and that SuperDrive I mentioned. It originally cost US$999 to US$1500, and was the first Mac to cost less than US$1000. In today’s money, adjusted for inflation, that would be about US$2,087 to US$3,133 respectively (which would be NZ$2976 to NZ$4469 in today’s dollars; NZ inflation rates may not match the USA’s, and I don’t know the original list price here in NZ, so those amounts are indicative only). Modern Macintoshes are definitely a LOT more affordable now.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Surviving the day and being okay

I wasn’t sure what to expect about Nigel’s Birthday yesterday. I knew when it was, of course, so I had lots time to anticipate it. I didn’t know if it would be trying, bad, horrible, or okay. In some ways, it was a mix of all that and more, but, mainly, it was okay. That was a welcome surprise, but there was a bigger one to come.

In the couple months leading up to his birthday, I was beginning to feel that I might be okay on the day—and yet, I couldn’t be sure. It’s difficult to prepare oneself for an event when we have no idea what to expect.

The day began okay, though I was a bit subdued. After my shower, I ironed some shirts because the one I wanted to wear in my photo yesterday needed it. I did a bunch more while I was at it.

The selfie was a bit of a challenge. I wanted to hold Nigel’s photo in two hands, so I couldn’t take the phone in the usual way. Instead, I got my tripod out, mounted my phone on it, and took some photos (with my phone set to timer). I couldn’t get what I wanted, so I ended up turning on the flash, and it made the difference. Unfortunately, staring at my phone to avoid missing the shot meant that in all the photos I had a kind of weird expression, a bit grumpy, maybe, a bit sad, probably. Mostly, I was actually just trying to concentrate on what I was doing. If I’d been able to, I would’ve chosen a more neutral expression. Maybe it’s the expression I needed that day.

Afterwards, I sat down in my chair to post the photo and caption to Instagram, and it was downhill from there.

The Instagram App on my phone is probably the single most annoying App I have, for a lot of reasons, and I got frustrated when I got a message that my caption was too long because Instagram wouldn’t let me copy what I’d written so I could better edit it outside the App (editing text has been THE single most frustrating thing about the App.

It all got too much for me. I threw my phone across the room, yelling, and took off my classes and started wailing with gut-clenching sobs. I threw my reading glasses across the room, too. I kept crying and crying, and shouted out how I couldn’t take this anymore. Then, I calmed down.

The first order of business was to apologise to the dogs were were completely freaked out. I don’t think they understood anything, including my apology, but they got the gist of that when I told each one he was “a good boy”.

The thing is, I felt so much better after my meltdown: Calm and, well, okay. I guess I must’ve been under more stress than I’d realised, and more emotional pressure, too. That outburst relieved the pressure—kind of like a giant emotional fart. It made all the difference.

I managed to cut, cut, cut, rearrange and edit, and then cut some more, until I could get my caption short enough to post. Then, I posted it (and it cross-posted to my personal facebook automatically). As far as I was concerned, that was that.

I had no plans for the day, so—for no particular reason whatsoever, other than that I needed to get to my own prescriptions—I put the last of Nigel’s expired prescriptions into a bag to take to the chemist for destruction when our Covid Alert Levels drop enough. That meant cleaning out the plastic click container they’d been kept in for years and years. I can’t remember if I first put his or mine into what ended up being two identical containers, but I do know that Nigel wanted his container stacked on top of mine because he didn’t want to have to move anything when he wanted to grab his prescriptions. After he died, I finally put my container on top.

I have no idea why I’d kept those expired prescriptions so long. I know that right after Nigel died, I gathered up some and put them (and some of my own old ones) in a bag for the chemist to destroy, but I remember that for reasons I don’t really understand, I just couldn’t bring myself to destroy the last ones. At the time, one of them was the same drug I was on, and I told myself I could use it if I ran out of mine, but it was already old by then, so I now know that I was just making excuses. Since then, I suppose lethargy became the dominant force: I just never thought about them.

However the situation came to be, or why it endured, I chose yesterday to empty the container, and then I washed it so I can use if for something else (they’re really, really good storage containers, and I use the brand all the time). After that, I considered emptying out a couple of Nigel’s drawers I’ve left alone all this time, but I thought that might be pushing my luck.

I planned that in the evening I’d open a particular bottle of wine to toast him, and there’s a story behind that.

Nigel wasn’t a drinker, having decided well before we met that he just didn’t like it anymore. However, one evening after we moved back to Auckland from Paeroa—probably 2006 or 2007—they had a wine tasting evening at Nigel’s work (probably a social club event). He had a wonderful time, and for some years afterward he laughed about how one of the descriptions used for a wine’s bouquet was “cat pee”.

A non-drinker going to and enjoying a wine tasting might sound a little odd, except that he wasn’t a teatotaller or anything. It turned out that he enjoyed really, really sweet wines, he liked one they had and bought a case of 12 375ml bottles of a NZ late harvest semillon.

When we had family parties, sometimes he’d open a bottle and sip a small glass of the wine, but never actually had that much. He was the only one who liked it, though, so eventually, several weeks later, he’d tip the bottle down the drain.

There was a party at our house one summer and he opened a bottle. I distinctly remember he and I were standing in the lounge of our house on Auckland’s North Shore, right in front of our TV, and he said to me with a big grin on his face, “I’m a bit tipsy!” I probably said, ”really?!”, with raised eyebrows and a big smile, because I was excited by the prospect of seeing him tipsy after more than a decade together at that point. It didn’t happen. In fact, he stopped having any more of the wine that night, and I never did see him tipsy.

The 12 bottles slowly dwindled over the years, until finally we were moving around just one, and that ended up in my pantry here. It was a 2004 vintage, and quite possibly vinegar by now, but I decided I’d open it and have a glass for him (photo up top).

I got out one of the small wine glasses I obtained for free as part of a promotion from the supermarket I went to then. My idea was to get some nice glasses, and maybe get rid of the less-nice ones. Nigel thought I was a bit nuts, but it was free, so he overlooked my weird obsession. I don’t recall every using those glasses, though maybe we did a time or two.

The orphaned wine glasses I chose with the orphaned wine Nigel chose seemed to me to be the perfect match. So, I poured a glass and staged the photo above. After that, I raised the glass toward Nigel’s photo, and said “Happy Birthday, sweetheart!” before having a sip.

It’s safe to say that very, very sweet wines aren’t even remotely my thing, and I didn’t have more than a sip from that glass. Instead, I poured it into a larger glass and diluted it with sugar free Sprite (it was then tolerable, tasting vaguely like a 7 and 7). It took me the rest of the evening and this evening to finish that little bottle. Nigel would be amused on so many levels that I insisted on finishing the bottle rather than just tipping it out as he would've done at some point. Being so diluted, and only being a small bottle consumed over two days, I didn’t get tipsy from it, either.

And that, was pretty much my day observing and celebrating Nigel’s birthday. There were parts of it that were trying, bad, horrible, and okay, but there was one more thing, beyond it being okay on balance: A good and welcome surprise.

The reality is that, as I expected, I missed Nigel like crazy, thought of him constantly, and shed some tears. However, the one thing that I didn't expect at all was that my overriding emotion that day would be gratitude. Obviously, I didn't get to share life with him for even nearly as many decades as I should've had, but I'm grateful for every second I did have with him. I think that's a pretty good space to be in.

Really, really sweet wine is optional, though.

Project adapter

Some things don’t start out as projects, but kind of become one all on their own. I was reminded of that recently by charging cables for my devices.

Back in June, I talked about a charging cable that Leo accidentally broke. In that post, I also talked about a couple reinforced alternatives I bought, and that’s what sparked the mini-project.

I talked about the second set of charging cables, reinforced with aluminium mesh, that I got back in July. In that post, I said that the one I was using—which was the nylon mesh reinforced one—was working well. What I didn’t talk about is how I’d accidentally created the mini-project.

When I ordered the nylon mesh cable, I moved a little too quickly and accidentally ordered one with a USB-C end, rather than the usual USB-A end that charging cables use. That mattered because all my AC adapters are USB-A only, so I had nothing to plug the cable into.

My next step was to go back online and search for a new AC adapter, and the one I found (photo above) is from the same store that I bought the cable from, and I got it the next day by Click and Collect. A bonus is that the charger also has a standard USB-A port, so I can plug in ordinary cables to charge devices (like my Kindle), too.

The package claimed that the AC adapter charged faster than ordinary chargers, and I’ll admit being a bit sceptical. Turns out, though, it actually IS noticeably faster, though I have no idea how much faster: I don’t have an accurate way to measure the difference between the new adapter and the old ones, so I’ll just say it’s faster and leave it at that. Because it is.

The whole point of the new cable was actually that the end is more robust, and that’s where I’ve had several cables fail. I decided to slow damage even more by turning my iPad on its side while it’s charging to reduce the strain on the connection (the photo below demonstrates the difference). While it’s true I never thought of that before, part of the reason is that at the last house, turning it on its side would’ve meant I’d have to lean over to pick it up, not just reach down. The fact is, I use that iPad mainly for leisure, and I take that aspect very seriously. Obviously. At some point, I’d like to lay the iPad on a table while it’s charging to further support the cable, but that requires a decluttering project (the table near my chair has too much stuff on it).

I did put an aluminium mesh cable in my car—the shortest one, which turned out to be only slightly shorter than the old one. Still, it’s clearly more robust than the old one, and that’s important in the car. Plus I have to reinforced back up cables, so, bonus.

The story, then, was that someone we’ll call “Leo” accidentally broke a charging cable, I replaced it, but then had to replace the AC adapter, too. Then, I changed the way I position the thing when it’s charging. It ended up being much more complicated than I’d thought it would be. On the other hand, I knew exactly what to do.

I’ve had lots of projects to deal with over the past year in particular, and most of them have had little to do with Nigel or having to figure stuff out how to do stuff that he would’ve done for me. Even if the broken cable incident had happened while he was still alive, I’d probably still have solved it myself. On the other hand, if I screwed up the adapter, I probably wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone. These days, admitting mistakes is part of talking about how I move forward through a project. I kind of like that.

Left: How I used to plug in the cable. Right: How I plug it in now.


Friday, August 27, 2021

Nigel would’ve been 57

Today was Nigel’s birthday, the second one since he died. Last year was the first time I posted about his birthday, because I preferred to keep it more private when he was alive. Everything’s different now, very different.

Last year I decided I wanted to hold a birthday party for Nigel because I wanted us all to have something positive to focus on rather than the incredibly awful anniversary some three weeks later. That party was was good, all things considered.

This year, instead of sharing another photo of Nigel, espcially the one I shared on his 50th birthday, I decided to make one of the two of us, sort of (that photo is above). I posted it on Instagram, and that also published it on my personal Facebook. The captions said:
Today would have been my husband Nigel’s 57th birthday. I don’t need a special day to think of him—I do that every day. But today is his second birthday since he died, and that makes me a little more contemplative than usual.

Today I put on a shirt that used to be his, though he gave it to me many years ago. Same with my watch, for that matter. I’m also wearing the bracelet he wore every day for years, right up to his last couple days. And I put on a ring he bought himself but stopped wearing some 10 years ago. On my other hand, my civil union and wedding rings. I chose them, but he gave them to me in our ceremonies. My expression is what it is.

A lot has changed over the past couple years, and so much hasn’t. He was, and still is, the person who influenced my life the most. He was my soulmate and best friend, my companion, my rock, and the very centre of my universe. But the searing pain of his loss has dulled into more of a constant ache, more days than not.

These days I focus mainly on honouring the wonderful life we had, remembering all the good that was, and trying, slowly and with many stumbles, to find a life without him in it. I’m nowhere near having succeeded, but, I still exist, and that has to count for something—and it’s a testament to how he helped me become a stronger man so that I could do this at all.

The photo I’m holding is, as far as I know, the last one ever taken of him, several months before he died. It’s one of my favourites. That night, he and his work colleagues were at an awards ceremony for local governments in which a programme he devised for the local government he was a senior manager for won the award in its category and also the Supreme Award. He was so happy and proud, and it’s obvious in the photo. That programme took long-term unemployed people, many of them considered unemployable by businesses, and trained them for good-paying jobs with futures in the call centre industry, including ones in his department. The success for everyone was obvious from the lives his programme helped change. That was the kind of man I loved, and was lucky to be loved by.

But how I wish there could be decades more of birthdays with him.
This day for me is about love and loss, obviously, but it's especially about thankfulness. Even though I didn’t get to spend even remotely enough decades with Nigel, not even close, I’m nevertheless grateful for every second I did get, even the ones where one of us was grumpy with the other.

Because he was born on this day 57 years ago, I got to spend the biggest—and most important—chunk of my life so far with him. His birthday, then, still matters to me, and I think it always will matter, no matter how my life changes in what I hope will be many years to come.

Right now, though, there’s only one way to end this post appropriately, and that’s to say what I what I said last year: Happy Birthday, sweetheart. Now and always.

Away from my fortress

Yesterday, I did something I’ve never done before: I ventured out during a Level 4 Lockdown (photo at left). Here’s the Facebook (that is, corrected…) version of what I said in my caption on Instagram:
A first: I went out to pick up a prescription, the first time I’ve ventured out under Level 4 (I never left my place last year). My somewhat annoyed expression is because the chemists had a terrible set-up, which isn’t new for them, but they’re doing vaccinations, too, so it was more hectic and disorganised than usual. Fortunately, most (socially distanced) waiting was outside. Back to my fortress!
The truth, barely concealed, is that I hated (nearly) every minute of that outing. It wasn’t just the frustrations of that chemist, but probably more about me.

I’ve always had bouts of social anxiety, usually centred on getting myself into situations in which I don’t know the social rules. I had that exact thing happen last year when I ran errands with a mask for the first time—as it happens, that was also the only time I wore a mask until yesterday.

All of which means that my trip was filling me with worry about the unknown, however, the bigger issue was what I absolutely knew was an irrational fear that I might catch the virus (all the 370 cases in this outbreak are linked to Auckland, and there have been no cases transmitted outside of Auckland except within households in Wellington, those being caused by people who were in Auckland).

I was running out of two of my prescriptions, so I sent a secure message to my GP Wednesday night, and early afternoon yesterday I got a text from the chemist to tell me it was ready to collect. I hadn’t had my shower yet, so I went to do that, thinking I’d head out after. I was feeling tired (poor night’s sleep), so I decided to rest awhile (which was actually my way of trying to simply chill out; I could tell my anxiety was rising). I was still tired, so I lay down for a little nap, convinced I’d wait until today to go.

I woke up maybe an hour later, and resolved to go. It was definitely one of those “feel the fear and do it anyway” moments I’ve written about.

I calmed down while I was driving over there, because it was so remarkably light, even on streest that were usually moving at a snail’s pace, In fact, I commented on Facebook that, “On the other hand, traffic was awesome! I’d like Hamilton a whole lot more if traffic was even twice as busy as it was today!”. That wasn’t totally joking, of course: I complain about Hamilton traffic rather frequently.

My anxiety ramped up dramatically when I got to the chemist because there was absolutely no way to know what to do—no signs, no one directing people anywhere, nothing to direct people where to stand. Their service there is almost always incredibly slow, so I suppose in that sense yesterday was no different. It did remind me, though, of some of the reasons I don’t like that chemist, rewards points notwithstanding: My points paid the $10 for my prescription, actually. [I talked about my pharmacy troubles back in June.]

For me, though, the worst part was after I got home and looked at my pill bottles: I forgot that under Level 4 we only get one month’s prescription at a time, so I’ll have to go back there once a month for the next two months. Oh, well. At least they’ll text me to remind me. I guess.

I’d thought about going to the supermarket on the way home, but even before I left the house I thought that would be too much. I was right: As soon as I got my prescription, I decided to go back home, to my “fortress”.

I’d also decided to go to the supermarket next week (which will be two weeks after my second jab, and so, I should be at around my maximum immunity). As it happens, New Zealand south o Auckland will drop to Alert Level 3 at 11:59 on Tuesday, after two weeks at Level 4. I’ve never been to a supermarket under Level 3 (thought I did under similar circumstances under Level 2 last year), so another new thing I can do. I think, but don’t know, that my anxiety about that should be less, of for no other reason than I basically know how that works.

So, yesterday was a first for me, though an incomplete success because I hated the experience. Still, I did it. And I’m perfectly safe here in my fortress—as, in fact, I always am.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Modern medicine

Yesterday I took part in something that’s currently one of the mainstays of routine medicine: I had an online consultation. It wasn’t the first time I couldn’t see a doctor in person because of a Covid Lockdown, but the results were still good.

Last year, Lockdown hit shortly after I sold the last house that Nigel and I shared, and it was only after that I started to focus on settling into living in Hamilton. Among other things, that meant I needed a doctor in Hamilton, but I couldn’t get a new doctor under Level 4 or 3. So, I set up a phone consultation with my last GP in Auckland, mainly so she could write me prescriptions to tide me over until I could get signed up with a new doctor. I also wanted a chance to sort of close that chapter, to thank her for her care and also caring: She was the last GP to treat Nigel, and she was supportive of me after he died. That phone call was the first time I’d had a true not-in-person consultation with a doctor, something the Covid Alert Level made necessary.

Here we are in August 2021, under Alert Level 4 Lockdown, and most in-person consultations are suspended. This was a problem because I was having problems with my new prescriptions, and I faced having to deal with it virtually.

On July 16, I saw the cardiologist for my follow-up at Waikato Hospital, and he changed my prescriptions, which I was expecting. First, he again prescribed the blood thinner/anticoagulant Rivaroxaban. He’d already prescribed that last October when I saw him before my cardiac ablation procedure was scheduled. I started taking that drug last July.

There were two other drugs he prescribed. First, there was a new blood pressure medication because my current one is being discontinued. It’s an ACE inhibitor called enalapril. The other drug was a diuretic called bendroflumethiazide. I put off taking those two drugs for reasons I explained earlier this month.

I further delayed starting the new drugs until after my Covid vaccinations were done, especially because I felt quite unwell the first day after the first one. I didn’t want to risk feeling unwell because of my second jab and adjusting to new prescriptions. I started the last two prescriptions on Thursday. It. Did. NOT. Go Well.

For the first four days, sometime in the first hour after taking the drugs, and for 3 to 4 hours after that, I felt the worst I’ve felt in longer than I can remember. I felt dizzy/lightheaded, not enough to make me fall over, but enough to make me feel nauseous (not actually sick, or at risk of becoming so, but enough to be miserable) constantly. My whole body also felt weary—not tired or sleepy, but weary. I sat in my chair for the entire four hours (except when I had to go to the toilet—thanks, diuretics) because I just couldn’t do anything else.

I was absolutely miserable. I cried a lot, unsure what to do because I was unable to focus enough to work out a plan. By the third day, I was dreading the storm to follow, so I decided (especially after talking to my sister-in-law) to contact my GP to get advice.

I sat down that night and wrote out all the details, provided a list of the blood pressure readings I’d been getting at home—and then didn’t send it. In thinking about it more during the part of the day I felt not as bad, I realised my GP would need to consult with the cardiologist, anyway, and I was due to see him on August 31. I knew that wasn’t going to happen due to Lockdown, but since I wanted to ring them anyway to find out what to do about rescheduling, I figured I could go direct to the source.

As it happens, his office rang me the next morning, Monday, when I was still cleaning up after breakfast. His practice administrator told me that because they couldn’t do consultations in person under Alert Levels 4 or 3, the cardiologist was offering consultations over Zoom if I was interested. I was, and it was set up for the next day, yesterday.

About the same time, I noticed something: The 3 to 4 hour hell wasn’t setting in that day. It didn’t on Tuesday, either. Or today. Apparently the adjustment is complete.

My consultation went well, and he said he didn’t need to see me again unless something pops up that needs follow-up (like after the echocardiogram I’ll get done when Alert Levels permit). Otherwise, my GP can take it from here.

He also said, as he did in July, that he wasn’t really all that worried about me taking the diuretic, and if symptoms continued to bother me, I could go ahead and stop it—being sure to let my GP know I was doing that and also making sure I monitored my blood pressure.

All the medication is aimed mainly at keeping my blood pressure lower to reduce the risk of Afib returning. I asked him about lifestyle changes like losing weight, and he said it would definitely help. The thing is, part of the reason that I’ve put on weight is that for several years I’ve been too tired to do anything physical, and even just walks would help. But, as I also said to him, I mainly need to take in fewer calories (something I’ve been doing better about, actually).

Related to that, actually, I also asked him about alcohol and those drugs, and he said he wasn’t aware of any evidence that drinking alcohol with the new drugs could cause a sudden drop in blood pressure (I knew that the diuretic increases the risk of bad hangovers, even on relatively modest alcohol consumption, because alcohol itself is dehydrating, and that’d be on top of the diuretic potentially doing the same). This is related because the main reason I’m not keen on drinking alcohol is that it’s empty calories—admittedly ones with pleasant results, but empty nonetheless. If I’m trying to reduce calories, then avoiding alcohol is an easy way to do that.

So, apparently the adjustment period for all the new drugs is over, and, so far, everything seems to be settling down. It’s too early to say that all the new drugs are as good or (hopefully) better than the old ones, but so far they seem to be at least as good (except for Rivaroxaban, which I think I can now say is definitely is better than dabigatran was).

Onward.

Important note: This is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Locking down the knowns

The one certain thing about a pandemic is how uncertain everything is. When it begins, we can’t know far it will spread, how badly people will be affected, or what the economic impacts will be. But we learned a lot form the first Covid Pandemic last year, things that have prepared us for the second Covid pandemic we’re experiencing now. New Zealand is taking advantage of everything the world has learned.

The effects/implications of the Delta Variant are so very different from the original variant that in many ways it’s like an entirely new virus. Many of the lessons from last year’s pandemic were useful for this time, when governments decided to heed those lessons, and they prepared such governments to adapt to the much more infectious Delta Variant. As always, some governments chose to ignore the new reality and did little or nothing different. Fortunately, the New Zealand Government rose to the new challenges.

The whole reason that New Zealand went to Alert Level 4 Lockdown, our most restrictive level, after only one case is that we knew it wouldn’t stay at only one case. Sydney’s outbreak started with one unvaccinated limo driver and just kept spreading until they started seeing more than 800 new cases every day, a higher daily total than all of Australia saw in the first Covid Pandemic.

The NZ government also knew how quickly the virus can spread: A person at the hotel serving as a quarantine facility caught the virus when doors across a hallway were opened at the exact same time—for three to five seconds. This knowledge had already convinced the government that a quick move to Level 4 when Delta appeared was the most-likely response.

Since Lockdown, they’ve learned that each person with Delta, on average, may infect six people (that’s an average, however, and not indicative of what happens with every person with the virus). More worryingly, they’ve also learned that a person can become infectious to others in about 24 hours after being infected. Previously, it was believed it took about two days to become infectious, and the original version took about three.

There’s a huge implication in this: Contact tracers need to track down a positive case’s close contacts, and anyone who was at a “location of interest”, as they’re called, in less than 24 hours to have any chance at stopping more infections. That’s extremely difficult to do when so many New Zealanders had become slack about scanning the QR code or signing in to places they visited.

In response to that, a couple days ago the government made it mandatory to scan the QR code or sing-in when entering places where large numbers of people gather, including “cafes, restaurants, bars, casinos and concerts, aged care, healthcare facilities (excluding patients), barbers, exercise facilities, nightclubs, libraries, courts, local and central government agencies, and social services providers with customer service counters,” according to Chris Hipkins, the Covid-19 Response Minister. This will now be a requirement at all Alert Levels.

This had been talked about for a long time (and should’ve been mandatory all along, in my opinion), but the government hesitated over questions about who would enforce it. The responsibility will fall to the businesses and venues, however, because it’s now mandatory, it’s at least possible that at some point police could hand out infringements to people failing to comply (as I understand it, this would require a law change, which isn’t currently possible with Parliament suspended due to both Alert Level 4, and because Wellington has active cases of the virus and may have more undetected). [For more information on record keeping, see “Keep track of where you have been” on the official government Covid-19 website].

The same day the new record-keeping mandate was announced, it was also announced that New Zealand officially hit one million people fully vaccinated. This was the result of several record-breaking vaccination days—even with Level 4 restrictions. With more record-making days, approximately 20% of the population is now fully vaccinated, and more than a third of New Zealanders have had one or two jabs. A week from tomorrow, September 1, all New Zealanders are eligible to book a vaccination, and if current trends continue, most will get their jabs well before the original end of year target. [For current vaccination totals, see the Ministry of Health website].

Still, rising vaccinations, mandatory record-keeping, and mandatory mask wearing won’t, by themselves, stop the outbreak. To do that, we need to break the chain of transmission. So, yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Covid Alert Level 4 will remain in place for all of New Zealand until 11:59pm on Friday, August 27, and until 11:59pm on Tuesday, August 31, for Auckland. She also said that the Alert Level for all of New Zealand will be reviewed on Friday, but that Auckland must remain at Level 4 until at least Tuesday in order to have a full 14-day cycle.

From what I’ve seen, it looks like people seem to expect Auckland to be at Level 4 for another week (or two…) beyond Tuesday, however, the Government makes such decisions based on the best available evidence at the time. So, depending on what’s going on with the outbreak at the time, it could mean that the rest of New Zealand could stay at Level 4, or some parts of New Zealand might drop Levels while the rest remains at Level 4. There’s no way to know for sure right now, and speculation about what might happen is exactly that. However, we do know the decision will be evidence-based, and that’s what’s important.

Covid Lockdowns are always a challenge, but New Zealand is taking advantage of everything we and the world have learned about Covid in order to manage this outbreak and to return us to more normal life as quickly as it’s safe to do so. The Delta Variant is so very different from the original variant, and I’m so very glad to be living in a country that learns from experience and heeds those lessons. There’s quite literally no place in the world I’d rather be right now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Masker Aide

Today the New Zealand Government did something it never did before: It made it mandatory to wear masks when going to the few places most of us are allowed to go under Level 4: Supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, medical facilities (graphic at left). It’s a big change.

This mandate only applies to Level 4 at the moment, but when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked a question about mandatory mask use as we drop down Levels, she demurred, saying other levels would be affected, but she didn’t want to confuse the issue by talking about those levels now. That’s consistent with what they did during last year’s Level 4 lockdown: They talked about the rules for each Level as we reached it. But it does make me wonder what the new rules will be.

Before today, masks were only mandatory when using public transport or on airplanes. Aside from that, the advice was to wear a mask when inside with lots of people or when physical distancing wasn’t possible—but it was still merely advice. This is the first more general mandate.

Even as recently as last night, the official rules only said to wear a mask “if leaving the house” (see graphic below), which isn’t exactly an order—maybe just another suggestion? Wearing a mask when exercising in one’s own neighbourhood (all that’s allowed under Level 4), there’s still no mandate to wear a mask, but I wonder if most people will?

Obviously, other countries are already well used to mask mandates, but because New Zealand doesn’t have a mask-wearing culture, a lot of people have been hesitant. At a guess, I’d say that we’re likely to get better compliance now that it’s mandatory and because we’re under Level 4, but it still not may not be universal. After all, plenty of people simply ignored the mandatory wearing of masks on public transport. What’s different now is that under Level 4 police have the authority to issue instant fines and can arrest someone if they refuse to comply without a valid reason (whether they do or not is another matter). The threat of legal trouble could well encourage compliance by the holdouts—though the vast majority of New Zealanders normally do what’s required of them, anyway.

Speaking of police, the commissioner made clear today that they’ll be much tougher than they were last year because the Delta Variant is so much more infectious. Today, a few dozen extremist lunatics (apparently followers of New Zealand’s leading lunatic loon, a peddler of conspiracy theories and proto-fascist politics) held anti-lockdown “protests”. They held them all outside police stations, obviously to ensure there would be arrests—to dare the police to arrest them for breaking the law. The police ordered the groups to disperse, and most people did, apart from a few (eight in total) who refused and were arrested. The police were well aware they were doing exactly what the organisers wanted them to do when they arrested folks, but they had no choice. Personally, I think loons should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to make clear we won’t accept their bullshit behaviour: One of the main reasons Sydney’s outbreak took off out of all control was that people refused to obey the rules, including holding large “protests” that, of course, only helped the virus to spread. NZ Police have made clear they’re not going to tolerate people breaking the rules on gatherings. Nor should they.

I won’t need to venture out until next week maybe, and I have plenty of those blue masks, which I bought last year, but only used two: One was for a trip out to the shops that I blogged about at the time, and the other was when I was pouring compost in a hole to plant a bush in my yard. Things look to be different now, and I think I should order in some more permanent masks (I actually did that last year, too, but they were crap).

I don’t know what the rules on the next Levels will be (or when Level 4 will end…), but I think I can see at least the vague outline. Time to prepare!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Lockdown v2 begins

Above is the selfie I posted to Instagram this evening, after the press conference had concluded. My usual padlock photo, symbolising lockdown, now has two padlocks because it’s our second complete lockdown, and because there are technicality two different ones at the moment. I said in the Instagram post’s caption:
Well, that’s weird: There was a case of community transmission of Covid and so New Zealand is going under lockdown from 11:59pm tonight. Auckland and Coromandel will be locked down for at least seven days, the rest of New Zealand will be locked down for 3 days. The vaccination programme has been temporarily suspended—so lucky I got my second jab! Oh well, fun times!
What was actually weird about it to me is that I found out about the case in the community while I was driving to get my second and final Covid vaccination jab, as I said in me previous blog post. Still, it is what it is. I may end up getting bored over the next three (maybe more) days we’re under a Level 4 lockdown, so I can’t promise there won’t be more selfies—or that there will be, for that matter. We’re all making this up as we go along.

Kia kaha.

Fully vaccinated, but…

Today I had my second jab of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination, so I’m now fully vaccinated. The photo above is my selfie after my jab. When I shared that to Instagram (and so, Facebook), I said:
Second Covid vaccine jab done! Process was VERY fast! Glad to take responsibility for protecting myself, my whānau, and my community, both in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton and all of Aotearoa New Zealand, too. Also very relieved, tbh. Took a long time to get the jab, but just glad to get it at all when so many people in the world haven’t. Onward!
I was extraordinarily fast, too. I arrived early, at 3:24pm, and got my jab about 10 minutes later, and then left 20 minutes after that (there’s a mandatory 20 minute post-jab waiting time). So, I was all done in maybe half an hour—a fraction of the amount of time that the first jab took.

Right after I sat down in the observation area, I posted to my personal Facebook:
That was FAST! All jabbed and now in the observation area—MAYBE ten minutes (probably less) all up from arriving to sitting down after. All staff friendly and helpful, just like for jab one. Awesomeness!
And it truly was an awesome experience! Afterwards, I went to the foodcourt for an early dinner—a very disappointing beef burrito. When I left, I tried various backroads to help me avoid the rush hour traffic when heading home. It took a few different tries to find the road that went through, but I got found the route, and ig I’m heading home between say 3:30 and 6pm, it’ll save me a lot of time. I’ve been meaning to work out an alternative route for awhile now, and this afternoon I thought, “why not?”.

I symbolically brought Nigel with me…
However, on my way to my vaccination appointment, I was listening to the radio and they mentioned that there was a case of Covid-19 in Auckland, and that the Prime Minister would be holding a press conference around 6pm. “Uh, oh!” was my first thought, because last week that the Government announced, “It is more likely that we would end up with a short, sharp move to Covid-19 alert level 4 for either the affected area or the whole country, depending on the circumstances, in the event that we saw a case of Covid-19 emerge.” I knew what was coming.

As I drove, I thought I should go over to the supermarket after my jab—isn’t that everyone’s first thought when a lockdown may be imminent? But I immediately realised I’d done my big shop the end of last week, and I had enough to last maybe two weeks without re-stocking. That’s how I had the time to take that little side-road adventure—though a thought did pop into my head about that, namely, that it would probably be the last time I’d be able to drive anywhere far from home for awhile.

I summed up where I’m at with all this on my personal Facebook before the press conference was held:
I’m actually okay about all this, apart from the fact my dental hygienist appointment on Thursday may have to be rescheduled, and it can take months to get one. Other than that, I’m okay (for now) if we go under lockdown…

Here’s what I do worry about: Nigel’s Birthday is in ten days. I’d really rather not have to be alone on that day, but if that’s the case, I’ll cope. My appointment with the cardiologist is two weeks from today. If it needs to be rescheduled, it could be many months before I can get another one. Other than those two things, I’m good.
So, right now, I’m perfectly okay with the situation, one we all knew would happen sooner or later, and it was 170 days since our last case of Covid in the community, maybe it was inevitably going to be sooner? I certainly have things to keep me busy for the next three days, or even longer if it comes to that. Had this happened last year at this time, it would probably have been a different story, but a lot has happened since then.

As so many people have been saying, we’ve been through this, we’ve done it before, and we can do it this time, too. The last thing we want is a raging outbreak like Sydney has, and, with luck, this short, sharp lockdown will stop this from getting out of control. We hope!

Because of the lockdown, the Government temporarily suspended the Covid vaccination programme, and will announce more about that tomorrow. Which makes me doubly lucky that I got my second jab today. If my appointment had been tomorrow, I would’ve been so disappointed about getting so close to the finish line and missing out. That probably would have upset me more than being locked down again.

Still, like everyone else, I really hope this will be short.

Days of focus on living

Five years ago today, I got a stent that opened up a 90% blocked coronary artery, saving my life. At the time, the cardiologist told me that he was surprised that I never had a heart attack, but if I had, it probably would’ve been fatal because of where the blockage was. And, as I’ve said before, the whole reason that ended well is that Nigel helped get me to that point.

Nigel had been coaching me for months, helping me learn to advocate for my own health, because he’d learned to do that for himself. It was his urging and coaching that led me to go to the doctor on the Monday of this week in 2016, and by Wednesday, August 17, 2016, my stent was in and my life saved.

After the procedure was done, and they were wheeling me back to the room, the doors swung open, and the first person I saw was Nigel. In fact, when the doors swung open and he saw me, he practically sprinted across from the waiting area and was about to run through those doors into the area when the nurses basically told him to stop and wait, which he did. I’ve never mentioned that before, but it’s the main image that plays back in my mind when I think about that day. He looked frightened and relieved all at once, and I felt instantly better because he was there.

My relief was because of what happened before the procedure: They’d told me they were taking me into the lab, as they called it, a couple hours earlier than expected, so I rang Nigel to tell him, and he said he’d hop in the shower and come to the hospital. A few minutes later, a rather gruff, non nonsense nurse from the lab came to collect me right then. She didn’t want to give me a chance to ring Nigel, but sighed and let me, telling me to make it quick. There was no answer (he was probably in the shower). So, I sent a quick text, turned my phone off (and bravely put it in the drawer by my bed), and was wheeled away to the lab by a porter.

I was frightened by the procedure: The very idea of inserting a probe into my wrist and wriggling it up to my heart was bad enough, but the thought they might insert a thing into an artery to keep it open, was also bad. The thing I was truly terrified of, though, wasn’t that, but that I could die during the procedure, and that only worried me for one simple reason: Nigel wouldn’t have had the chance to say goodbye.

During the procedure, especially the scary parts, including the only time I felt pain, I just focused on Nigel and getting back to him. It really helped.

After it was all over and I was back in the room, Nigel stood close by while the nurses from the lab did all the bits and pieces they needed to do—hooking up monitors and such. That’s when Nigel said, “your colour’s better already!” I remember one of the nurses from the lab shot him a look, no expression or emotion, more like she wondered why he’d said that. At the time I thought she didn’t believe him, but I knew he was the only person in the whole world who could notice even the slightest change. Whatever she was thinking, I knew Nigel was right.

Later, when I looked at my phone, I saw text messages from Nigel telling me he was on his way to the hospital, and that he loved me. I didn’t get those messages before I switched my phone off, of course, but I knew, any way.

The next day, they were ready to discharge me. I met with a very nice and kind lady who told me about everything they’d done, things I needed to do, and what my new prescriptions were likely to be and why/what they’d do. The nursing staff hurried me along because they needed the bed (it was in cardiac care area), but grudgingly let me take a shower. I didn’t even have the discharge paperwork yet.

When I was ready a few minutes later (I did hurry!) a nurse kindly wheeled my bag (I wasn’t supposed to exert myself) and accompanied me to the waiting area down the hall, where Nigel had been waiting for me the day before. Nigel was in a meeting at the time, and said he’d be at the hospital as soon as he could. There was no hurry: I still didn’t have the paperwork and wasn’t supposed to leave the floor.

A little later, that nice nurse returned with the discharge paperwork. But, I had to wait some more for the person from the hospital pharmacy who, according to their procedures, had to give me the prescription and explain it all to me.

Around a half hour later, the pharmacist showed up, gave me the prescription form, and re-explained all the drugs to me. She asked me about supplements I took, which at the time was tart cherry for gout, and fish oil, and I quickly realised she wouldn’t listen to me, dismissing everything I said because there was “no evidence” any of it worked. It was my first experience with someone in the medical field who was certain that lack of proof automatically meant lack of any evidence whatsoever, and that the only things that worked came from a pharmaceutical factory. I shut down and stopped interacting, barely listening to her at all.

A little while after that, Nigel arrived, and I instantly felt better. I really don’t remember much about the day after that (apart from filling the prescriptions), but all I cared about was that I was with Nigel and he was taking me to our home where I’d see our furbabies again. I was content and happy.

I don’t know if I’ll ever feel those things again, but if I do, it’ll be because Nigel helped save my life. Five years ago today was the most dramatic event up to that point, but just last December I had another probe wriggled up to my heart to (hopefully) fix my rhythm problems. That time, there was no Nigel to help me through it and to help take away my fear and anxiety, and it’s no surprise that it’s the only thing I truly wanted that day.

The image up top what I posted to my personal Facebook when sharing today’s “Memory” (click to embiggen). What I wrote today is actually a much shorter version of this post, which I wrote first.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Random stabilised memory

This morning, Facebook served up a pretty random sort of “Memory” (image above), about the time I bought a stabiliser for my video camera. I never got it to work, partly because it was badly designed, and also because my camera was too light. So, I never made, let alone posted, any videos using it, and I posted my last YouTube video about four months before Nigel and I shifted to the last house we lived in together (oddly enough, that was also my most-viewed video by FAR, with some 15,000 views to date—I wonder how many of those were mine…).

The thing that’s odd about this Memory is that until I saw it today, I was sure Nigel bought it for me. Over the years, he bought me lots of things, especially equipment, to help me do creative stuff: Microphones and other equipment for podcasting, camera equipment, even computers & peripherals to help with literally everything I did. Maybe I only asked his opinion before I bought it? I know I asked him to see if he could make it work, since I couldn’t. Turned out, neither could he. I can still picture him walking around the house on Auckland’s North Shore, camera swinging around wildly as he moved.

Nigel almost never stopped me from buying equipment for my creative endeavours, not even when (I now realise) he should’ve. Maybe it was because I almost never talked him out of anything (except for when he wanted to buy a JetSki and, later, a motorcycle). Generally, if he wanted something for one of his projects or hobbies, I was all for it—and I’m now paying for that as I slog away in the garage. I don’t mind that, though: That stuff brought him a lot of joy over the years, and that made me happy, too.

However, I clearly remember one time a few years ago when he didn’t encourage me to get something, and it was a camera stabiliser. It was 2017, and we were in Australia for his sister’s birthday. We went to some sort of tech store (I don’t remember why) and they had a stabiliser on display. I didn’t notice until Nigel pointed it out and said how good it was. I always valued his judgment on such things, and him saying that something was good was always enough for me. But he kind of discouraged me getting it—I don’t know why, though he may have known he could get it cheaper, or maybe he wanted to get me one for my birthday. No idea. All I know for sure is that less than two years later he was dead, and I didn’t care about such gear anymore (I can’t even remember what brand the thing was).

I still struggle to meet my tech needs without him, which isn’t a surprise considering how much I still struggle in general without him. But tech stuff is by far the worst, actually, and it takes me much longer to figure out than I generally have patience for (which just adds more time onto the process, and so, adds more lost patience). Still, I always get there in the end, and that’s in no small measure because I had 24 years with the best teacher ever.

I never did get a camera stabiliser that works, and I don’t actually need one now. But every time I run across it in my box of camera-related equipment, I think of Nigel, and also how much I learned from him. That stabiliser never worked, but for it to still deliver those good and happy thoughts? It was worth every cent we paid.

This post is a revised and expanded version of what I wrote on my personal Facebook earlier today.