Boosted and Full of Dread

Today we all got our Covid-Omicron booster and while we were at it, we got our flu shots too. I am a bit apprehensive about tonight and tomorrow. I did not have a particularly pleasant reaction to either of the Covid shots but at least I had only one shoulder that ached – this time, both my shoulders are beginning to ache and by evening I will probably be knackered. Oh well, still better than full-blown flu or covid with months-long aftereffects.

My Father’s Mind Is Gone

I was thinking about whether to write this or not, and I have decided to do it.

I do not know how much/whether I will be able to write on the blog in the foreseeable future. I would like to but I might not have the strength.

In the last four days, my father’s mind has completely disintegrated. He is babbling incoherent stories over and over again, expressing paranoid fears that somebody, somewhere, somehow is out to get him, rob him or even kill him. It is impossible to reason with him or to have any conversation at all because he is unable to finish one sentence without trailing off to another.

I am not a physician, but this is probably some form of dementia, maybe Alzheimer’s, maybe something else. The trouble is that the very nature of the illness makes it impossible to even start to deal with it. He refuses to acknowledge that something might be wrong with him and refuses to consult a physician. He insists on “important” talks with me where he inevitably trails off to the same string of incoherent and irrelevant stories. He has a deeply held conviction that something is wrong but is completely unable to say what and why. Everything that is even slightly out of the ordinary is proof of some conspiracy against him or against me – the stranger who walked past the house last month, the nurse who was slightly glib with him a year ago, the change in his prescription meds, the unanswered call message on his smartphone – everything and everywhere. After I think we have dealt with one of his imaginary problems, he pulls out another – the same one that I thought we dealt with yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. We are moving in circles.

He had some signs of mental decline, but at a rate that seemed normal for his age. These last four days it has accelerated extremely and it took me completely by surprise. A week ago he was able to finish a sentence and talk normally, now he is not.

I tried to work, but I can’t concentrate. I tried to explain things to him, but I know that if he has dementia, I can’t do that either. I can’t do anything, except maybe cry. I love my father, but I cannot spend my whole day listening to his incoherent ramblings for hours a day every day. I am exhausted to the point of breaking.

Why Relying on Algorithms is Bad

About two years ago, I got into playing chess online and I also watch chess videos since then, usually at dinner or lunch. One funny thing that happened last year in the online chess community was that a live stream interview between the (then) most popular chess YouTuber Agadmator and chess Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura was banned for hate speech. Apparently, the algorithm has interpreted the phrases as “white is better here”, “black is defending”, “white attack” and similar as incitement to violence, and completely failed to recognize that the talk is about a board game.

At the same time, open racists and transphobes were spouting and often keep spouting their bile on YouTube completely unimpeded under the guise of “Humor” or “Just Asking Kwestchions”.

Today the algorithm struck marvelously again.

I do not remember precisely when I have seen so-called fractal burning of wood on YouTube, but I think it was some time last year. I thought that it looks cool so I researched how it is done. And I have immediately gone to the conclusion that cool looking it might be, but I certainly ain’t doing that, not even for a big clock. And YouTube channel “How To Cook That” has published an excellent video a few weeks ago explaining why fractal wood burning is not a good craft hack for woodworkers:

And of course, an excellent youtube video cannot go unpunished – the algorithm yanked it for allegedly promoting harmful and dangerous acts. And while it was banned, that same algorithm has actually recommended to me a video showing the hack in action. Marvelous work – a warning about dangerous practice gets banned as promotion of said practice and an actual promotion of it gets promoted. Logic straight as a corkscrew.

The video has been reinstated after YouTube got pushback, but I do wonder how many really good and possibly important videos get yanked and never get back because the channels that made them were small and did not have millions of subscribers to cry foul on their behalf. Because let’s be real – YouTube gets an actual human to do the review only when there is an outcry, otherwise, they do not bother.

I think that overreliance on algorithms has great potential for actual harm. Human social interactions are so complex that there are humans out there (like me) who are barely able to navigate them. I do not think that AI is there yet.

Promising Developments

Among the green in the greenhouse, a bit of flaming bright orange caught my eye. After some looking around, there was a second one.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Who can recognize what those are? I’m not telling. I do hope the blossoms open at the time my mother arrives back from the hospital, she has never seen these. Neither did I, not live ones – I’ve only seen pictures of these and my aunt used to have a pygmy variant, but this is not a pygmy variant, this is the real deal. And these are the first flower buds that have shown up since I planted the seeds over a decade ago. I never expected the plants to flower at all.

My mother called on Tuesday that she has been transferred to a rehabilitation clinic and we could visit her, but we don’t have to. So of course we had to, even though it is over an hour’s worth of driving away. We visited her on Thursday and she cried and was in dire need of a hug.

She feels reasonably well, the incision site does not hurt at all but her leg is swollen and she does not have full use of it – the swelling pinches a nerve and she cannot move her knee properly. All this should so far be normal development and rehabilitation should help. Electrotherapy has allegedly some effect on the numbed nerve and she is slowly getting her feeling back.

They also found out she is anemic, which explains why she had for several months cravings for red meat and liver. Hopefully, iron supplements will help with that.

She will need some additional accommodations at home, I will have to order some stuff before she returns. If nothing goes wrong, it should be in about two weeks’ time. In the meantime, I am still busy cutting wood every day in every way.

Better Late Than Never???

It is still unclear whether or not I or my parents will have some long-lasting Covid effects. However, so far it looks good. It does not look so good for one of my cousins though. The cousin in question is about twelve years older than I am. When we were kids, he sparked my interest in nature, and thus he was one of the first people who have put me on the path of actually seriously studying natural sciences. But…

My parents are an exception within the family in that they both are decidedly non-religious (my father even being resolutely anti-religious), a fact that I have not known about until my late teens. And although my religious relatives are not the “frothing-at-the-mouth-fire-and-brimstone-biblical-fundangelicals” that seem so typical representatives of Christianity in the USA, the negative effects of the religious rot on the human mind are noticeable amongst some of them even so.

That my moderately religious cousin has married a deeply religious woman was unbeknown to me for years. They both seemed pretty reasonable in our interactions and religion rarely, if ever, came up. When my cousin-in-law scolded my mother that she should not do laundry on Black Friday because it makes Jesus bleed or something like that I just rolled my eyes, but it was not a harmless superstition, she actually believes that crap. The first warning sign of really bad things to come was when she has become a part of a radical cult and the family almost broke apart – she almost left not only her husband but also her three children over religious bullshit. Once you start to truly believe moderate bullshit, apparently believing egregious bullshit becomes easier.  They managed to reconcile that issue somewhat, but it was apparent from that time on that many of the problems in that family – which I won’t discuss in public in detail – stem from the fact that religion, not reality-based knowledge, and not even common sense – guided many decisions.

Things came to a culmination of sorts last year when they both got Covid and were sick for over a month. They did not get vaccines because “they did not believe in them”. They both have long Covid now and my cousin, a jolly bear of a man of rude health to whom illness was a nearly unknown thing for most of his life, is now battling chronic tiredness and depression. He did say to my mother that he will accept vaccine boosters if they will be recommended to him, as well as new vaccines should the need arise in the future.

It does make me wonder if this is “better late than never” or just “late”.

Covided at Last

At first, I thought I am just tired from heavy work. Then I thought I got a mild strep throat infection and bronchitis from exposure to cold (something that I have always been susceptible to). It lasted from Friday to Sunday, yesterday I was almost completely symptom-free and today as well.

I have bought and made a Covid self-test today nevertheless and it turned out positive. So although I no longer have any symptoms, I very probably did/do have Covid, in all probability Omicron. My parents were due a visit to an orthopedist on Thursday, they will have to postpone it now. My mother probably has it too, she does have a sore throat and a cough, although no fever so far. My father thus almost inevitably has it by now as well. I really do hope they will too only have a mild case. They usually do fare better than I for some reason, and they fared better after the vaccine and both boosters too. But there are no guarantees with illnesses and Covid is no exception.

There are only two instances where I could get infected recently – during one of my bi-weekly shopping trips or during a dental visit last Monday. The dental visit seems a more likely culprit to my mind, although during the shopping I did of course encounter vastly more people.

I really hope my parents come out of it OK. We managed so well for two years and I bring the plague into the household when the cases are in decline around here. I guess it was inevitable, one cannot avoid it forever, but still.

Like a Brick in a Dark Alley…

Today was a sunny day, the days are getting finally noticeably longer – it is nearly six p.m. and it is still reasonably visible outdoors. I went for a nice walk in the sunshine.

And I feel like crap anyway. I was feeling reasonably well last winter as well as most of this one. But the last two weeks I was feeling under the weather, being cranky and tired and getting hardly more than an hour or two of work done a day. And today, depression has hit me like a brick in a dark alley. Getting out of bed was a huge amount of work. I hoped the walk will help somewhat, but it did not.

My specialist physician has performed a number of blood tests to evaluate whether they reveal some possible cause behind my chronic tiredness, but they came out mostly OK. I even had OK levels of vitamin D, so the 4000 IU that I am taking daily each winter seems to be not too much and not too little either.

One result was slightly out of whack though and she has halved my thyroid medication as a result. Maybe the depression is an aftereffect of my body getting adjusted to that. I do hope to be able to do something, soon there will be a lot of work in the garden to do.

 

Virusflakes – Part 3

The final part of kestrel’s viral art project. Enjoy.


Hepatitis B Virus can actually be prevented with a vaccine:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Hepatitis C Virus is a major cause of viral hepatitis. It was interesting to me that it looks nothing like Hepatitis B, it just seems to cause similar symptoms;

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Apparently, most people are infected with Rotavirus at least once by the age of 5 years:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Herpes Simplex Virus was rated as “hard” and boy they were not kidding. This one I found the hardest to do and took the longest amount of time:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Virusflakes – Part 2

Some more pictures from kestrel.


This is the Heartland Virus. It was named after the Heartland Regional Medical Center, and not for the shape:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This is Adenovirus, which can actually be genetically modified and used is gene therapy and in vaccines for viruses, including SARS-CoV-2:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Lassa Virus can cause a severe illness and can be caught from rodents in parts of West Africa:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Bluetongue virus causes disease in cattle, sheep, and goats. I think the inner shapes are particularly beautiful:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Virusflakes – Part 1

kestrel has made some lovely viral decorations and she shared with us some pictures. Enjoy!


Marcus posted a PDF (under the title, “Let’s Go Viral”) that had these wonderful images you could print out and cut up to make virusflakes. I don’t know about the rest of you but the last two years have really hampered my ability to create, so this was a wonderful tonic to help me through a tough time. Here is the link to the PDF: -click-

To start out, just choose an image you find appealing and print it. It will look something like this:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Next, you cut out the square. I actually ended up cutting around the dotted circle, after I tried a few and found out how it all worked. Once you have done that you just fold on the lines (they turn out better if you are as accurate as you can be in your folding) with the printed image on top. I printed mine out on a very tough tracing type paper, almost like parchment paper. I could see through the paper fairly well to fold it, yet it was much stronger than usual tracing paper. After that, you just start cutting out the image.

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I found that using a very small and really sharp pair of scissors worked the best. Each virus comes with an information sheet about that particular one; this can be educational as well as a fun activity. I certainly learned a lot more about viruses than I had known before.

OK, so what do they look like? Well, even the “worst” viruses are really beautiful. We will start with Coronavirus.

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This next one is not actually a virus but it acts like one. This is the RNA vaccine:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And this is what happens to the Coronavirus when it runs into the antibodies caused by the above particle:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

As they say, this is what the end of a pandemic looks like.

To be continued…

 

Third Shot Experience

On Friday I got an SMS from our government that per new regulations, I am eligible for the booster shot. I wasted no time and on Monday I made a reservation with our GP for Tuesday morning when I got the shot at 9:00 a.m. For the first about ten hours, I got nothing but very mild shoulder pain and occasional pain in other muscles and joints. Definitively nothing as serious as after the second shot. Today I got a very mildly elevated temperature, but again, not as bad as after the second shot. Though I am tired as if I were shoveling gravel and my left shoulder and pectoral muscle hurt really, really badly. I do hope it subsides till tomorrow morning because I need to go and buy christmas carp, then dismember, skin, and de-bone it so my mother can cook it for christmas dinner. I need to be fit enough for that task to not cut my fingers off, so I really need at least the brain fog to go away completely and some of the pain. I will do my best to perform that task using only the three knives of my latest experimental set because if those knives are fit for this purpose, they are fit for 99% of kitchen works.

Reproductive Injustice: Adding insult to injury

CN: Descriptions of periods, medical procedures, etc. But hey, if half the world can deal with this, the other half should at least know about it.

I have heavy periods. And I really mean heavy. Like the bottom is falling out. An average period is 60 ml of liquid. My mens cup holds 48 ml and I can fill that three times in an hour when it’s a bad one. Add the cramps, the migraine and the iron deficiency that goes with it and I was fed up. This is clearly an issue that affects my life and my health, so I decided that something needs to be done and that the something is an IUD. IUDs have a great success rate at reducing periods, up to not having any at all (my ob gyn mentioned this as a side effect: “But then you may not hay any periods” as if I knew any cis woman who was happy having hers). Sounds like a medical solution to a medical problem, right?

Nope, nope, nope. As a side effect, the IUD also works as contraception and we can’t have the sluts having sex without at least paying heavy money for it. That would be absurd. Because people afab need to suffer for the very fact that they have a certain biology and they are not allowed to offset the suffering by having fun sexy times. As a society we’d rather have them suffer even without fun sexy times or when they’re using a different method of birth control before we help women and others with uteri to not suffer*.

So I had to pay private for my IUD. With insertion it was 350€ and from what I know this is even cheap compared to the USA. I’m not poor, I could pay, but a poor woman can’t. This would be 75% of what a person on welfare gets a month, and the fact that with any luck this will last me five years doesn’t change that. I’m still angry about it.

So to recap, I have a medical problem, there’s a highly effective therapy, but because I get birth control as a side effect, it’s not covered by health insurance. Fuck the patriarchy.

*And if you get m,ore offended by my wording than the fact that this is happening, kindly fuck off.

Second Shot Experience

I did have some warning that this might happen, but one cannot prepare for these things I guess, not really.

My mother had nearly zero reaction to both the first and second shots of the Pfizer vaccine. Some shoulder muscle aches after the first one, some a bit longer muscle aches after the second one but nothing more. My father had almost no side effects after the first one (he has not got the second one yet) and I got only shoulder ache after the first shot, albeit big enough to not being able to sleep for one night and work for one day properly. But it subsided after 24 hours and I was completely OK the day after.

Not after the second shot though. I got it on Wednesday afternoon and at first, it progressed the same as the first shot – my shoulder began to ache, I could not lift my arm and I could not sleep properly because I am used to falling asleep on my left side. However, this time it did not stop there. at 4 a.m. I got serious shivers so I have measured my temperature and I was 1°C above my personal normal. That not only did not go away until noon, it also got in fact worse – at noon I had 1,5°C above my personal normal. I no longer had shivers, I was drenched in sweat instead. And not only my right shoulder muscle was aching, but multiple joints also did, continuously. Especially my fingers and spine. I had to take Paracetamol to fight the temperature. Whether it helped or not I cannot tell. It stopped rising, but it also did not go down and I had to take another at 20:00 after dinner. And I still had to change my beadsheets and pajamas during the night because I was sweating profusely.

Today morning I no longer had a fever and the aches have mostly receded, but I was still weak, I mostly slept until noon and I remained in bed until now, which is about 16:00. I am now mostly pain-free, but I still feel tired like after a day of work and not a day of layaboutism.

The last time I felt this crappy was the previous year when the flu knocked me out. Only that time it took two weeks, not two days. If a vaccine does this to me, I do not ever want to know what the actual coronavirus would have done, I might not live to tell the tale. Yay for vaccines, even when they give you the taste of the real deal.