Tag Archives: Domesticity

Counting down


Having worn contact lenses for over thirty years, I’ve finally put together the time and money for laser eye surgery. Ever since I heard of the first primitive Russian treatments for short sightedness in Omni magazine back in the seventies, I’ve wanted to dispense with glasses and contact lenses for good. The reviews look good, and I’ve satisfied myself that the practice selected is both reputable and competent, so next Monday 16th February I’m booked in to have both eyes corrected.

Laser eye surgery isn’t cheap at four thousand dollars for both eyes, but as far as I’m concerned it will be money well spent. I’m told recovery time is twenty four hours with the selected treatment, and provided I don’t get hit in the eye for the next week or so afterwards, my eyes should heal up nicely.

The journey towards clear sight started last Thursday with a thorough set of eye tests which include having my cornea thicknesses checked with ultrasound. Which is a mildly disturbing sensation, rather like looking upwards at ripples in a pond. The other tests were more like the usual opticians checks where the retina and outside of the eye are checked for general health and dimension. Bright lights and reading charts. Each of the major eye checks done in a different room by a technician followed by a chat with the eye doctor himself. Then the money conversation, finding out that the advertised $400 per eye price is the most basic PRK treatment, not the LASIK the practice specialises in. Still, when you’ve set your heart on something, cheapest is very rarely best. I’ve elected to go down the high end route with a decent after care package just to be on the safe side. Not the latest cutting edge treatment, but the tried and trusted.

Being short sighted hasn’t been much fun. Not being so good at contact sports like Rugby because first, you can’t really see properly for distance kicks and passes without vision correction and secondly, wearing glasses while playing isn’t really practical. Contact lenses are better, but they do have the habit of popping out or even worse, folding or flipping over under exertion. Sweat stings more if it gets in your eyes while running too. Of course I’ve been able to swim wearing soft lenses, but with my favourite trick of swimming underwater, the lenses can get lost, even wearing swim goggles. There was also the usual tiresome business of getting bullied at school for being different. In Junior and senior school (6th to twelfth grade) my glasses were always getting broken until I got a reinforced set. Getting my first set of contact lenses in my early 20’s was a boon beyond measure. Now I’m looking forward to doing without any external vision correction at all.

As an interesting aside, I’ve noticed how certain people make up stories about the unfamiliar to compensate for their own anxieties. For example, I was working as a warehouse manager back in the early 80’s and mentioned to one of my colleagues that I was interested in the treatment. We were amiably discussing the matter, when another member of staff butted in with an involved and rather lurid tale about the treatment making one of her ‘friends’ go ‘totally blind’. Being of a sceptical bent, I later asked one of her closer work friends if this was the case. The answer came back “No.” Apparently her information had come from a second hand discussion about a TV consumer show where people had been complaining about low quality results from bargain basement treatment, or those who had not followed the post operative recommendations closely enough. Further asking around over the next month or so revealed that the “Friend” in question had not actually undergone the treatment, but rather backed out when they’d seen the full price tag. Which is why I didn’t go for corrective eye surgery at the time. Cost. I simply wasn’t earning enough at the time to afford the treatment. Although if I totted up how much I’ve spent over the last quarter century plus on contact lenses and fluids, maybe it would have made economic sense.

However, that was then and we can all be wise in hindsight. Today I find myself nervously counting the days until next Monday. Hopefully to enjoy 20/20 vision, but if the treatment gets close enough to let me work and drive without vision correction, I’ll be moderately content.

There’s also the thought, that back in the 1970’s when the first radial keratotomy eye treatments became available it seemed like science fiction. Now it seems the updated treatment is being offered in every single town in the Western world.

One of the problems with writing….


One of the biggest problems with writing are not about grammar, spelling etcetera. As far as I am concerned the biggest issue is lower back pain. Most of my problems arising from poor posture for long periods, like sitting the wrong way in the wrong chair at the wrong height for hours at a time while writing. Which is an occupational hazard for anyone involved in the craft.

When you’re ‘in the zone’ and focussed on your work, it’s easy not to notice what you’re doing to yourself. Nothing matters but the web of ideas you’re spinning and the fact that your own hip and back muscles are about to turn traitor is immaterial. You leave sensible at the office door and spend long hours twisted and cramped into the wrong posture. Which is the source of my problem.

Now I’m not talking about some relatively mild discomfort you can shrug off with a good nights sleep or a couple of painkillers, this is the real deal. Pain like someone’s sticking a butchers blade into the top of your pelvis. Pain to almost make you cry. You can’t put weight on the afflicted limb. The discomfort is so acute it locks down your lower spine, making it impossible to bend, turn, stretch, walk up, or even down a short flight of stairs. Pain over the counter painkillers hardly make a dent in. A relaxing nights sleep becomes a stranger and every waking step becomes a purgatory in microcosm. It’s also depressing. When our new Canadian passports arrived on Friday I didn’t much feel like celebrating.

For the last two nights I’ve been tied in knots, hardly able to sleep and unable to get out of the house to visit a doctor. Now I’m fine. For a given value of ‘much better’.

The simple little video below came as a complete revelation. A lacrosse ball under the buttock? Who knew the answer to my problem was so simple? My relief was almost immediate, and a succession of cold packs further tamed the fierceness of my lower back’s agony to make it jump through flaming hoops.

Which is not to say that the pain is completely gone, simply reduced to manageable proportions where the painkillers work and I can actually function again. Fabulous.

Update January 3rd; Pain is gone. Completely. Last painkillers were taken 6pm 2nd January. Remarkable. Work chair has been changed for something a little more sensible.

Updates and headaches


Amazon used to do a little ap you could paste the HTML from into a blog sidebar or widget. Having updated my profile on five marketing web sites today, I went looking for the HTML on Amazon without much success. In the end I was forced to create my own profile link to Amazon using WordPress’ handy ‘Image’ widget, which allows a site owner to add a small image weblink from their site to just about anywhere on the web. I was originally tempted to use an adaptation of Amazon’s logo, but then had visions of copyright lawyer emails, closed accounts etc and chose discretion.

It’s the little icon on the right hand sidebar with the moon and a meteor shower. Which I think looks rather cute.
Amazon link logo
There’s one below it for my Lulu.com Author spotlight, which I think gives a more noirish feel.
LululogoM

The biggest source of headaches is trying to untangle the web of HTML and ensure anyone who is interested finds what they’re looking for. Preferably in three clicks or less. I’ve also tried to tidy up the site a little as far as sidebars are concerned. Simply for the convenience of any visitor.

On the distribution front there’s been one minor glitch with ‘A Falling of Angels’. All fixed now, but there was a little bit of hidden code in the manuscript file that iBookstore didn’t like. One line. This means revision and a further two week delay until the eBook gets listed on the main online outlets, but that doesn’t matter so much. I think I’m getting the hang of everything now, and will have proper links to and from all the major players by the end of this week.

After that Angie and I are off to Vancouver for swearing in, so will be incommunicado. Forty eight hours after we get back from the fleshpots we have family coming to visit for three days, so I’ll be busy ministering to their needs and trying to stay sober. Somewhere between now and the festive season I may even do a little proper writing.

Cooking therapy


One of the problems I have with editing is that it’s a bit of a drudge. Even stressful. Sometimes you’ll come to a passage that feels clunky and awkward. One that clangs in dissonance, like the sound of breaking glass during a symphony. Something has to be done to smooth out the flow of words and let them sing again, but you aren’t sure what. Normally I perform some sort of displacement therapy. Pace up and down my tiny office. Which isn’t far; three paces and back. Alternatively go for a walk, take a time out and peoplewatch, or if I need to be working like today, split my time between keyboard and kitchen.

This weeks culinary endeavour is cooking up batches of soup for when the weather turns even cooler. Let the batches cool off before decanting into Zip-locks and throwing in the freezer. Carrot and Coriander this morning, followed by Chicken and Leek this afternoon. As I’m also trying and succeeding in losing a few unwanted pounds on a low carbohydrate regime, I’m trying to lower the starch content of my preparations, which means playing a little fast and loose with traditional ingredients. Which also means definitely no potatoes and as little starch in the thickening roux as possible. Plenty of fresh ingredients, and in the words of my forefathers; Robert is one’s father’s brother.

As far as manuscripts are concerned; specifically there’s a story element I’m trying to thread into ‘A Falling of Angels’. To add a little more conspiracy into the second of the ‘Cerberus’ series. A hint at something darker beyond the stories sunlit uplands. Which means repeatedly reading and re-reading the content, correcting as I go before checking again for continuity. Which is very frustrating. In betwixt and between, the onions need sweating, chicken turning and other saucepans need stirring. Which in turn I find very therapeutic.

New project


While trudging away on the ‘A Falling of Angels’ manuscript, Angie and I took a little time out. We’ve been working every day of the week solidly for the last two years and are trying to reclaim our weekends. As part of this process we were out discovering some of the more interesting places in Victoria on foot and I had a little flash of inspiration which has turned into a minor project overnight.

With the working title ‘The Great Book of Everything’, I came up with the framework for a comic novel about a boy, his sarcastic pet Hamster and the Quantum nature of everything. And Squirrels. As soon as I get the web pages organised, I’ll post what I write online. This site needs reorganisation.

Back in action


It’s been a rough few months since March. A lot of profoundly distressing things have happened, including getting cleaning fluid on both hands which caused the skin on my fingers to break up. This halted typing for over three weeks with predictable consequences. For six weeks thereafter it was one wretched thing after another, meaning I didn’t write a word. Therefore all my good intentions lie shattered at my feet. Transatlantic travel and jet lag are not good for study or the creative writing process. Neither is multiple bereavement. Nor is being handed post mortem revelations about close family. None of which I intend to share on a public forum. Although I think I will miss my dog Amos most of all.

Today the clouds lift. Since we returned from the UK I’ve been working on the Kindle edition of “Head of the Beast”, cleaning up text errors and minor glitches in punctuation, even rewriting certain passages. Forcing myself to re read and rewrite until I thought my eyes were going to bleed. The story remains the same, but it reads much better. There’s also new cover art, which is one of the low resolution examples below. A volume of short fiction is forthcoming, which is a work in progress. Maybe in late November, maybe not. Recently the sound of self imposed deadlines whooshing overhead has been deafening. There’s a number of back catalogue stories I intend to include, including some published over ten years ago. Rewritten, extended and improved. No title as yet, but I have a number of possibles.

Artwork and poll for Kindle edition of the Paul Calvin supernatural sci-fi title ‘Head of the Beast’ below.

Head of the beast cover Version A
Head of the beast cover Version A

Head of the beast cover version B
Head of the beast cover version B

Saturdays


I’ve finally found my thread with ‘A Falling of Angels’ again, but it’s hard to settle down to work when half the house is in boxes, and the other half being sorted for disposal. My dog, Amos is fussing around my feet because all his favourite hiding places are being disrupted. Three more weeks of this to go. I’m packing books, trying to write course assignments and falling behind in just about everything else.

This isn’t me making excuses, I think. But I’m square eyed from all the screen work and need a bit of a break. It’s times like this that make me think I’ve bitten off more than I can comfortably chew. All I can do is bite down harder and let sheer bloody minded determination carry the load.

When I signed up for my courses, I didn’t actually bargain for doing them in the middle of a house move. Oh well. Headphones on for a favourite tune or two.

Not drowning quite so much


Still struggling a little. Real life is full of drama and getting in the way of actual creative writing. House move to be organised, packing, studying, college assignments to be written, job hunting, landlord arrested (Two squad cars in the yard, neighbours scandalised). All these things happened over the last couple of days. It’s been very frustrating. Over the last week I’ve been sorely tempted to throw up my hands and shout “Oh, what is it now!” to the unforgiving air at every new interruption.

Fortunately the sun is shining and for a change I got a full nights sleep last night. Our suite is a tip, full of half filled boxes and moving impedimenta. For the next three weeks this is going to set the tenor of our existence.

Going slightly sideways



I’ve been good. I’ve been working and writing, but what with Google and Facebook deciding they wouldn’t recognise my connection while I was in the UK, bereavement and major illness in the family, suddenly having to find a new home (Don’t ask) and not one but two courses; one with Simon Fraser University, the other with Coursera to regain my Technical Writer status, it’s all gone a bit sideways.

This isn’t to say that life hasn’t had its up moments, Angie has passed her final course with an A, but at present I feel like the guy in a Mack Sennett silent comedy who’s just been hit by contra-rotating ladders. Ergo, there’s a large element of slapstick in my life right now. All my self imposed deadlines have whooshed over me like a Scramjet on full burn. Everything is doing pratfalls with me as the fall guy.

Google and Facebook are now back up until the next time I walk down the street. There’s ten messages I haven’t had a chance to look at, and since I made my Skype details searchable two days ago I’ve had some rather rum coves asking to be added to my contacts. Which I haven’t. I just don’t have time to verify their details, so I hope no-one takes it amiss if I don’t want to talk right this minute.

As I say, my life has gone a little sideways of late and normal service will be resumed in due course. Just as soon as I whip everything back into jumping the hoops in some form of order. This may take a little time.

Hiatus


Managed to pick up some form of bug the other week while visiting Vancouver. The result of which was a thick head and snivelling cold. Neither of which have been conducive to laying down a sensible sentence. I’ve simply not had the mental reserves to push ahead strongly enough with narrative, and have found myself picking and chipping away at paragraphs and dialogue, deleting the odd pronoun here, checking tenses and points of view fiddling, not really writing at all.

Still feeling a bit post viral two weeks on, and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and sleep.

Moving on


Angie gets back from England tonight on the eleven thirty flight from Vancouver. Much to my relief. Cooking for one is difficult. While she’s been over the other side of the pond on family business, I’ve been busying myself with various paperwork, job hunting and looking for new accommodation. Somewhere more convenient for Metro Vancouver.

‘A Falling of Angels’ has found its final direction and with luck I’ll have the manuscript finished for first proof and edit by April. About 25,000 words to go, with the ending planned and plotted. The story threads are set to tie up neatly, with the bad guys (mostly) caught and brought to trial, my hero redeemed and on a new start in life. Until the next volume of course.

‘Falling through the Stars’ unfortunately, is crawling along very slowly. There’s a whole chunk of storyline that’s simply not working and has to be junked. I’ll just do what I normally do, cut and paste the offending section into a separate file. For future use. Maybe.

While Angie has been away, I’ve been doing a little reading to help keep my Technical writing skills current. One note of enlightenment came from an old copy of Arthur Plotnik’s “The Elements of Editing“. Although it’s a little dated, reading certain sections rather confirmed my suspicions about why so many submissions to publishers go unanswered.

Skipping Christmas again


Times are tight, as is the money supply, and this year we’ll be sending gifts and money to close friends and family as usual. As well as sponsorship for youngest daughter, who is firewalking for charity this year. But with the kids (Grown up young women really) and other family on the other side of the Atlantic and Pacific, Angie and I will be making this festive season a very low key affair. We’ll have a guest and friends over for Christmas eve and day but won’t be making a big thing of it. Don’t think I’ll bother with a tree. I might string up a few lights, but that’s all. I’ve even managed to avoid the day job Christmas party. Which gets me out of the interminable gift giving I can’t afford to people I hardly know. Fine if you’re well paid and have money to spare. Not so fine if you aren’t and haven’t. My boss was surprised when I told her I didn’t want to come, but respects what I do, at least enough to acquiesce. She even sat down as if expecting an explanation. I just hunkered down to begin my shift and said it would take a decade to explain why this time of year always makes me uncomfortable. Which it does.

This doesn’t mean I hate Christmas or any other time of year. No, I say live and let live. Respect the rights of others. If they want to participate, fine. Just don’t judge me for wanting to have a quiet time instead. Maybe work a little, go easy on the whole conspicuous overconsumption thing, smile affably, nod, walk on by. Chill away from the fuss, noise and ‘fun’. Most of it’s for the kids anyway.

John Grisham has a little novella called ‘Skipping Christmas’ about a couple who want to take a break from interminable ‘celebration’ and go on a cruise. Like all these cautionary tales it doesn’t end well for Luther and his wife. Charles Dicken’s ‘Christmas Carol’ and other like works of emotional blackmail are, like Santa, fantasies for small children. “Be like everyone else or bad things will happen.” Is the implied threat. Real life is usually somewhat more forgiving. ‘Couple go away for Christmas, save money and have a really nice relaxing time’ wouldn’t have made much of a story.

As I shall be working on and off, as well as putting in time and energy on my major writing projects, the TV will stay tuned to Netflix and YouTube. We’ll spend time with close friends. New year calls for study, when I intend to improve my various Technical Writing certifications. Writing novels is all very well, but it’s not very good at paying the rent.

Random thoughts of the day


Currently playing physical therapist to my wife Angie. She has a muscle spasm in her back which is proving difficult to relieve. Essentially what has happened is that the big muscles either side of her spine have tensed up and are compressing her vertebrae. This causes a great deal of discomfort. Unfortunately once this type of spasm sets in it’s a bugger to shift. I’ve had them myself, and the memory of the pain alone is enough to make me wince in sympathy. Normally speaking this state of affairs eases after two or three days rest with alternating hot and cold compresses, twice daily massages and a little A-35 cream. Sometimes it takes longer. I’m sure a quick dose of muscle relaxant delivered at source would ‘unlock’ the spasm and provide almost instant relief, but actually getting Angie down the stairs and into the car to get to the Doctors office might prove a little too much for even my robust frame. So for the moment I’m keeping up the compresses and massages.

Getting Facebook invites I can’t possibly attend is proving mildly frustrating. But as a compromise, I’ll make it policy in future that if I get an invite to turn up in say, central London when I’m over here in Nanaimo BC. I’ll save myself the two thousand dollars it would cost me to skip over to the smoke for a mere two hours by sending a ‘Friend’ request to whoever has been kind and thoughtful enough to invite me.

Blog comments are far and few between, as are readers, but I regularly find random remarks that make no real sense in the nets of this blogs spam filter. Usually attached to spammy commercial website links, all of which go straight to deletion with only a minor furrowing of my brow, as if to say “What the hell was that all about?” I can only assume they’re written by those for whom ‘care in the community’ has been prescribed. I don’t want to be unkind, but some people really twist your arm. Maybe those dumb and desperate enough to be tempted by those “My Sisters boyfriends uncle Earns $25 an hour working from home.” Spamverts infesting poorly tended comment threads.

I make no claim to be a Hardy, Hemmingway, Austen, Bronte, Tolkein, Tolstoy, Steinbeck or anyone, all of whom I detest reading – de gustibus non est disputandum by the way.

Maybe I’m not ‘educated’ enough to ‘get’ much 18th, 19th and 20th Century literature. Apart from Yann Martels ‘Life of Pi’ I’ve never read a Booker prize winner I’d ever try to read again without a gun to my head. None of them appear on my bookshelves. I’ll happily delve into classical literature, from Aristotle to Dante, science fiction from Wells and Verne to Niven, Pournelle, Hamilton, Bear and a few others. Quite fond of reading Shakespeare, Donne, Chaucer, and a few of their contemporaries. My own stuff? Hey. I write what I write and if anyone else likes it I’m delighted.