Strike a light!

We saw Dr P on Monday. The blood test I had had last week showed that my PSA has risen from the preceding test four weeks ago, but only slightly — 1.44 from 1.29. Dr P was at pains to say that this didn’t worry him. If the PSA keeps increasing at this rate, it would take a fair while to reach 2.0. I mentioned that I wanted to take off a few Covid kilos. He thought the weight gain was a good thing; it was much better for a cancer patient to be putting on weight than losing it, and this showed the disease was well under control. (I said he deserved to be doctor of the year for finding a positive side to being a bit fat around the middle!) He thought I also looked very well, as, fortunately, I feel. I’m sure that my continuing with exercise classes is keeping me in as good a space as can be.

About a week before this appointment I bought a new kitchen radio, from an outfit called Australian Digital Radio in Geelong. They make very high class reproductions of 1940s era mantel radios, but with extra features for the digital age. The model I bought, called the Retro, has DAB+ as well as FM, Bluetooth, and a USB socket from which one can either play music or change one’s phone. A 20 watt RMS amplifier and a twin cone speaker means that it sounds excellent — as good as the Bose Wave Radio, at a fraction of the price. For anyone who likes the look of 1940s bakelite radios, as I do, I think it looks really dope, as the young folk say nowadays.

The Retro arrived the day of my appointment with Phillip. It was very professionally and securely packaged; Ron, the manufacturer, had previously SMS’d me a copy of the package label, and included his mobile number with the enclosed documentation. The latter was fortunate because the user interface isn’t the greatest feature of the Retro: even after reading the manual, I had to contact Ron to work out how to tune in the stations. He was very helpful, however, and I am now really enjoying listening to ABC Classic and 3MBS-FM. The tuner has very good sensitivity — 3MBS is usually quite difficult to receive clearly on the FM band, but the Retro pulls it in extremely well. The sound is quite rich and a bit rolled-off on top, obviously modelled on the mantel valve radios predecessors, but without the hum and hiss. There are five sound modes (Normal, Classic, Pop, Jazz, and Rock) which can be selected. The dial displays an analog clock when in standby mode (albeit a smallish one), so you get a kitchen clock as well.

In my conversation with Ron I said that, although I really liked the Retro, I found it looked possibly a bit big for the shelf on which I had put it in the kitchen. Australian Digital Radio also makes a slightly smaller model called the Lil Lottie, and I asked whether I could return the Retro and exchange it for one of the former. Ron offered to send me a Lil Lottie to try out, at no charge, to allow me to see which worked better in our kitchen! I think this was outstanding customer service, and only gives me further reasons to recommend either model to anyone who would like a great sounding and looking kitchen and/or bedside radio, designed and manufactured in Australia! (For those thinking of ordering a Lil Lottie, Ron supplied the dimensions — 23 cm W, 15 H, 15 D. These are a few centimetres smaller all round than the Retro. I have no connection with Australian Digital Radio other than as a customer.)

As part of the packing around the radio, Ron included an issue of Australian Radio and Hobbies from December, 1947. As well as numerous articles and advertisements for radios, valves and so on (the transistor was yet to be developed), the issue contained an article, ‘Fire making through the years’, the title of which is fairly self explanatory. (The link points to my scan of the article in my Google Drive. The copyright holder, Silicon Chip Magazine, has kindly agreed to my publishing this link.) The author of the article, Calvin Walters, was described in an article in Wireless Weekly, May 31, 1935, as a “well-known experimenter” — the latter link points to a Trove page. If you have ever wondered how the safety match came into being, or what people did beforehand, look no further! The illustration, dated references to “primitive people” and “the natives”, and a few grammatical howlers, remind us that Australia was a different place 85 years ago. These solecisms aside, this is actually a pretty interesting piece, and transports us back to a time when radio hobbyists also took an interest in most scientific topics. (A burning question, if I may so put it — was it supposed to be unlucky to light three cigarettes at once?)

To finish off the GT repair saga, I finally received the monies from the transport company’s insurance company about a week ago. So the car has an entirely new bonnet and repaired front guard at no cost to me, apart from the week when I couldn’t drive it. It’s heartening to report that there are some honest operators, and ingenious and reasonable folk in general, out there.

New wheels

Yesterday we went to the local Toyota dealer and put down a deposit for a RAV 4 Edge hybrid .

A replacement for our faithful 2004 Camry had been mooted for quite some time, especially as bits kept on having to be replaced, and a kind of intermittent groan from the passenger side under the dashboard became more frequent. Our garage had been able to fix this when it first became apparent. Unfortunately it un-fixed itself, and became quite distracting. A proper fix would have involved taking off the dashboard, and would have cost $2,000-odd. Anyway, the old girl gave us sterling service for 16 years, and still drives well. A new set of tyres is unfortunately required, the old ones being unroadworthy, but at least we won’t have to re-register it — the rego only expires in May, 2022.

This actually fits in (fingers crossed) with the availability of the new car, which we won’t get our hands on until March or April. RAV 4s have been extreme popular of late, with hybrids especially requiring long wait times. According to one report, the Cruiser (previously the top model) has a waiting time of up to 14 months. (The local dealership quoted us eight months to get hold of one, against three for the Edge.) Why the delay? Apparently there is a worldwide shortage of semiconductors, with which modern cars are replete. Covid has apparently also gummed up supply chains in various ways. Demand really took off as well during the various lockdowns; when international travel became impossible (and remains problematic), people decided to travel within Victoria. All this, and a desire to get it done, meant we were ready to sign on the dotted line for one of the new model. Time is money!

We only drove a couple of cars yesterday. The first was a hybrid Camry, which felt very smooth and quiet. Then we hopped in a RAV 4 Cruiser, really just to compare and contrast. We both liked it a lot. It is a very easy car to sit in and figure out what does what — something that all the tests I have read say. It is a medium size SUV, with the increased height giving a better view of the traffic. RAV 4s have a very similar drivetrain to the Camry, being both mild hybrids. As drivers of these vehicles know, the switching between the electric motor and the petrol engine is very unobtrusive. The RAV 4 is actually a shorter car than the Camry, which is now approaching 5 metres in length. But the SUV body allows you to chuck a fair bit more gear in the back. The Edge is also AWD, which wasn’t on our list, but will give driving in rain more secure feeling. This feature is doubtless the majority of the price increase over the Cruiser. The rest goes on a new front bumper, and what could be a rather busy trim, featuring an orange stripe. (We only saw this on the large screen at the dealership, and in a brochure — none of our model has landed in Australia yet.) Apart from an extra 3KW of grunt, the Edge is basically the same vehicle as the one we drove, which had plenty of urge. All those people chasing one can’t be wrong!

The mild hybrid was a bit of a compromise from a plug-in hybrid or a full EV. The last we rejected on grounds of range anxiety. A recent trip to Daylesford revealed only one charger in the main drag — being hogged by a Tesla both times we passed. OK, the infrastructure is improving, but what do we do in the meantime? Also, Toyota doesn’t make a plug-in hybrid or an EV, and that was the make we were inclined towards. To date, we have, jointly and severally, owned five Toyotas — one each of the Camry, Celica, Corolla, Crown, and the GT. These have all been extremely reliable. The local dealer is also only a tram ride away, a consideration for getting the thing serviced. The cost of dealer servicing is generally usurious, but the RAV 4 only needs servicing every 12 months, and the first five services will cost $200 each. If services are carried out at a dealer, the five year warranty becomes extended to seven years. (This is nice to have, but I don’t expect we will need it. When I bought the GT I shelled out for a three year extended warranty, which I’m happy to say was a complete waste of money.)

The damage to the GT has been fixed for quite a while now (the repairer replaced the bonnet, and resprayed the driver’s side front guard). I still haven’t been reimbursed for the the excess I paid on my comprehensive insurance to have these repairs done. However, someone from our insurance company rang me on Friday and told me that they had obtained the monies from the transport company’s insurer. I will believe it when I see it, but it is definitely looking hopeful.

Staying in the lane

We saw Dr P on Monday (22 November). The PSA was 1.29, which he described as a “very minor increase” on the previous figure of 1.01. The good doctor added that

  • Enzalutamide is known to give such increases, so this one was “not unexpected”
  • the PSA could come down
  • he thought the PSA was “just grumbling along”.

Most importantly, I still feel fine. After the consultation I walked up to Epworth Eastern to have my Zolodex implant, which was delivered as usual.

The preceding week we had finally gotten away for our mini-break in Daylesford (two nights in a self-contained villa near the lake). We had booked this originally in August for September, I think, and it was deferred three times with various lockdowns. The holiday was lovely, but its conclusion was a tad stressful. On the morning of Friday 19th, while I was getting all our stuff together before checking out of the villa, I got an SMS alerting me that we had a message on our landline. (We seldom use this number, and consequently don’t often check the message bank attached to it.) I thought I could play back these messages remotely, and found out how to do so after a bit of Googling. The message directed me to call Epworth Eastern, where I was booked in to have the Zolodex the following Monday.

I rang the number that had been left on the message, and got through to the day oncology ward at Epworth Eastern. I had to have a Covid-19 test before I could have the implant on Monday. (They apologised for the short notice — apparently this is a new hospital policy.) I didn’t have to get the results back in order to have the implant — I just had to have had the test.

My beloved was taking the waters at the Hepburn Springs bath house at the time, and had the car. I tried to figure out what to do. Should I try to have the Covid test in Daylesford? Or should we cancel our lunch booking and drive straight back to Melbourne? I decided we should go to lunch as planned and drive straight home. I would then have a Covid test at a drive-in centre at Deakin University a short distance away. If I could get the result back in time, well and good; if not, it wouldn’t matter. This all worked out as anticipated. I had the test on Friday afternoon, and got the result the next morning via SMS — no Covid discovered. I just showed the SMS to the oncology centre when I booked in on Monday. (I also asked them to remove our landline number from their records.) It looks as if I will have to have this test at three monthly intervals, before every Zolodex implant, or before any other hospital admission. Touch wood there won’t be too many of the latter!

Level pegging

Updates to this post are minor, made only for clarity.

My beloved and I went to see Dr P on Wednesday, October 27th. The PSA is very slightly elevated — 1.01, up from 0.94 at the previous test. However, Dr P. said this is within the measurement error of the machine. So we weren’t to worry. He emphasised that he was still happy with where I was at. I am to see him next on 22 November, on which date I will also be having another Zolodex implant.

I am a bit late posting this because the consult came at mid-way of an extremely busy week. On Monday I parked the GT at the back of the IGA supermarket on Maling Road, Caterbury. I noticed a truck unloading in a right-of-way next to my parking space. I went to four places on Maling Road, at all of which I checked in, using the Service Victoria QR code reader and digital vax certificate. When I got back from the last stop (the IGA supermarket, as it happened), the truck had gone, but I noticed a bit of damage on the car bonnet and driver’s side guard. (There wasn’t a note on the car acknowledging responsibility.)

I whizzed back to the supermarket and asked if they had had a delivery that morning. (I’d chosen not to get a receipt for the items I’d bought, but, via the Service Victoria app, was able to show them that I had been in the store within the last half-hour.) They were very helpful and gave me a copy of the receipt that they had received from the delivery driver. The latter wasn’t an employee of IGA, but was working for a transport company. The invoice gave me his name and other useful information.

When I got home I wasn’t sure whether to call the transport company or my insurance company. I hadn’t seen how the damage occurred — I was only inferring that that it had been caused by the truck driver who’d made the delivery to IGA. So I rang my insurance company (Apia) and explained what had happened. They agreed that there was only circumstantial evidence that a third party was involved, charged me my excess (which I paid over the phone by credit card), and set an assessment and repair appointment in train.

After this I rang the transport company. They were unexpectedly sympathetic and said they would speak to the driver, and that someone would call me back. I didn’t have great hopes from this. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from the company the next day. They had indeed spoken to the driver, who said he hadn’t had any traffic accidents on his run. However, they had looked at footage from a video camera mounted on the back of the truck. This showed a pole, called a pogo stick, which the driver used in unloading the truck. The driver had leant the pogo stick against the truck, causing it to fall onto the bonnet of the GT as the truck reversed out of the right-of-way. So they acknowledged responsibility for the damage. (I thought this very decent of the company to put their hand up for this, and said so.)

To cut a long story short, after exchanging a few SMSs and emails, I received an indemnity form to fill in and send back. According to this the company said they would pay the amount of my insurance excess, if I, my heirs and descendants and so on, undertook to make no further claim on them in this matter. Rightio, I said, and filled it out and returned it to them forthwith. (What is this mysterious company’s name? I haven’t received the money yet, dear readers, so I am keeping schtum until I do. However, I expect the amount to be forthcoming.)

In the same week

  • I had two in-person exercise classes at the exercise physiology practice;
  • via Zoom, had a German lesson (for which I hadn’t done much hausaufgabe);
  • also by Zoom, had an appointment with my psychologist;
  • hooked up our barbecue (which had been sitting out in the garage for eighteen months or so after having been gifted to us by a former neighbour), in preparation for a Cup Day get-together with friends;
  • drove the GT out to Blackburn to the damage assessor/body shop place, where it resides until Friday (Apia shouted me an Uber back home); and
  • baked two sourdough loaves.

The loaves turned out well, the BBQ works fine (although I have to clean the grill plate soon), and I have been adapting well to only having one car between us. Actually, my beloved and I got by perfectly well with one car between us for twenty years. It is only in the last seven years that we have had a car each. As far as I am concerned, I would be happy to trade both the Toyotas in on an EV.

I can’t preview this post as I used to be able to, so I am just going to post it as is.

Down but not out

We went to see Dr P yesterday, and the news was good: the PSA was 0.94 at the last test. He said “I told you I’d get it down to zero”, and he has. As I understand it, anything under 1.0 is undetectable, so this is as close as makes no difference. (Or, as Dad would have said, 5/8 of SFA. That’s the expurgated version, anyway!) We walked away with a script for the next lot of Enzalutamide, a copy of the latest blood test results (“pristine”, according to the good Dr), a screed for the next blood test, and the receipt for the consult. After the Medicare rebate, this last was only a few dollars — 5/8 of you-know-what! Frequent illness points, or something.

I had been expecting the number to continue its downward progress, but still felt rather tired and drained afterwards. Had we been able to go out for a coffee we would have; as it was, we just had one at home, and watched “My Unorthodox Life” on Netflix. The show is about Julia Haart, who left an orthodox Jewish sect in New York and went on to make a major career for herself in the fashion industry. (There is a rather academic account of the show in The Conversation, which nevertheless covers most of the bases.) Whether you are into fashion or not, it is a lot of fun, and is beautifully shot in the Haart penthouse in Tribeca, her fashion company, and various other locations in Manhattan. In the last episode we watched, she, her husband and four kids also go to Paris for the fashion season. They hire a 13th century chateau as well (presumably close to Paris). You get the picture — they have plenty of dough — but this makes the show a great bit of escapism!

I had a small win also, closer to home. The study, where I spend a lot of time, had a picture which, for historical reasons, was situated oddly in the right hand corner of the rear wall. I wanted to move this picture to the middle of the wall, and hang my masters and long service award from RMIT on either side. The fact that all these are a different size — and that I didn’t have another hook the same as that which the picture was hanging on — made this a maƱana project. A catalyst that enabled me to Move Forward with it was reading an article in the New York Times about picture hanging. This article made a couple of helpful suggestion for hanging pictures of disparate size together:

  • give them a common top line, and
  • using painter’s tape (AKA masking tape) to show this line.

I had the further brainwave to use a blob of Blu-tak on the top of this line of masking tape to show the position of each hook. (Saves making pencil marks on the wall.) So the tape gives you the horizontal and the Blu-tak the vertical reference. Et voila!

Study

Of course I mucked it up slightly in the execution — measure once, cut twice, and all that. (Not saying where!) But eventually I think it was quite successful. Oddly, from this slight angle, there is a slight optical illusion that makes the large picture look a tad higher than the others. From where I am sitting it actually looks a bit lower. I can tell you they are the same distance apart, however they might look in the picture! Anyway, it is “rough enough for the bush”. More importantly, it has the elusive WAF (Wife Approval Factor). This is no small thing from someone I have been known to refer to affectionately as Der Fisch — as in, an eye like a dead fish! (This is meant to be complimentary: I can’t understand why it is not always so taken.)

International day of …

This morning I was vaguely encouraged, for no good reason, to read in The Age that 1 October is the International Day of Older Persons.

When I informed my beloved of this, she snorted and enquired as to why they didn’t just call it the International Day of Old People. This set me thinking about euphemisms and their continued popularity. Maybe we could have an International Day of Euphemisms. The difficulty is that these circumlocutions seem to be popular year-round.

Body parts seem to provide a rich source of euphemisms. I was reminded of an old one a few days ago, when my exercise physiologist asked me if I was feeling a stretch in the lower part of my back. Thinking of the antique phrase “lower back”, I asked if she meant my bottom. (She didn’t.) The backside is also referred to in polite circles as the BTM. (Modern American parlance refers to the “butt” — itself also a euphemism, and something that seems to have displaced “bum”.) The nether regions seem particularly to attract euphemisms, “down there” being a sort of catch-all phrase that springs to mind. When considering the business end of the BTM, the “Khyber Pass” (usually abbreviated to “the Khyber”) is one of a large group of euphemisms employing rhyming slang.

Everyone will have their favourite euphemism. The motoring industry has provided a few good ones. One from yesteryear, also qualifying as an oxymoron, was “compulsory option”. (This was a way of allowing a manufacturer to price a car under a particular price point, by “disallowing” a particular feature that purchasers had to pay for separately.) Others that come to mind: “budget” (poverty pack), “detuned” (gutless), “economy” (couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding), “family” (a boring barge), and “reliable” (whitegoods on wheels).

Euphemisms are a peculiar sub-branch of language because they are a way to refer to something without actually naming what you are referring to. I generally disapprove of euphemisms because I feel they blunt meaning — this being, obviously, their purpose in life. (At least the ones using rhyming slang are a bit witty.) When pondering this topic I thought “Wouldn’t it be great to compile a dictionary of slang?”. A quick Google search revealed that, as often, I am late to the party. Several quite august publishers such as university presses have brought out dictionaries of euphemisms. One example is R W Holder’s now rather venerable A dictionary of euphemisms, published by Oxford University Press. (No, I’m not going to give you publication dates — the thing has gone through more editions than I’ve had hot dinners.) There are numerous lists of euphemisms on the internet, too, of which this one at Lynn Schneider Books has some quite funny examples.

Slang seems to go the other way to euphemisms in finding a zingy and forceful way to refer to things. An earlier post in this august publication, Partridge in a pear tree, listed some of the slang expressions for the male generative organ. (Warning: adult content.)

The teabag challenge

I generally don’t include video or any other links in blog posts. However, I am making an exception with this clip because it is really fun — even if you’re not normally into this sort of thing! The Teabag Challenge is a 58 second video clip (.mp4) showing a rather nifty bit of heavy vehicle driving. (I think the truck featured is a B-double: maybe someone could confirm or correct this? You know who you are.)

Here is the link to a YouTube copy of the file. (It will open a 15 second ad at the beginning, but you can skip this.)

Scratchings

This is the first in an irregular series of stuff that has been disinterred from old notebooks; some quotations, some drafts of poems. All are posted as I found them.

Humankind, fleet of life like tree leaves, unsubstantial as shadows, weak creatures of clay, wingless, ephemeral, sorrow worn, and dreamlike.

(Aristophanes, quoted by Raymond Moody, Paranormal.)

Down, down

We went to see Dr P today, and the news continued to be good: the PSA is now 1.07, down from 3.2. The good doctor is confident he can get it below zero. I know I’m not supposed to be focusing too much on the PSA. But Dr P has led with it the last couple of consults. Maybe he does this because he knows we get concerned about it if it rises. Also, let’s face it, medicos, like everyone else, like to focus on good news — something with which to cheer the patients up. Whichever it is, I’ll take it anyway! So the Enzalutamide continues be successful, while at the same time not incurring any very objectionable side effects. (The exception to this is hot flushes, which are definitely on the increase. I don’t mind these, however, because I feel them to be a sign that the medication is doing what it’s supposed to do, i.e. starving the cancer of androgen.)

While I was just having the Zolodex, I used to see Dr P every six weeks. Now that I am having the Enzalutamide to my regimen, I need to see him every four weeks. This is to do with the Enza being dispensed in batches of 112 — a strange number, on the face of it. However, the logic is: I take four of these a day. Each lot of 112 therefore cunningly lasts me 28 days. (Trust me on this.) Dr P wants to see me after each batch, therefore every four weeks. I continue to have a Zolodex implant every 12 weeks. Each of these will now occur following every third consult with Dr P (instead of every second consult, as has been the case until now). Alles klar? I get most of the charge for each consult back from Medicare anyway, so having them more frequently is not a financial impost.

Coincidentally, today was also a Zolodex day. I was actually a bit early for this appointment. The nurse who was supposed to administer it was busy, so one of her colleagues took over. There was a slight confusion initially, on my part, over terminology. Zolodex had always been referred to previously as an implant; it is about the size of a grain of rice, and is placed just under the skin of the abdomen with a fair size syringe. This afternoon, though, the nurse asked something to the effect of “Which side would you like your injection on”? When I heard the word “injection” I automatically thought it would be something going into the vein at the wrist, so started rolling up my sleeve. Then I remembered it was an implant, and said this to the nurse. She said “Oh, I’ll go and get the box” (again, words to this effect), and went to fetch the relevant documentation.

At this point I should explain that each Zolodex implant goes into a different side of the abdomen to the previous one. Whichever side is used each time goes into the clinical record. Nursing staff avoid putting the implant into the same side twice in a row to reduce bruising, I think. However, I wasn’t worried about getting the wrong stuff — each dose is checked by another nurse before it is administered. (I know because, as always, they did this in front of me.) The patient is always asked their name and date of birth as well, to make sure the correct medication goes into the correct person. There was just a moment of being at cross purposes because the nurse said “injection”, not “implant”, sending me momentarily off down the wrong rabbit hole. We had a joke about how she was just seeing if I was paying attention (like Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army.) For chemo patients and those having CRT scans, an injection means a cannula in the wrist. (Yeah, OK, I suppose technically an implant is a type of injection. Please don’t correct me if I’m wrong about this! When I hear the word “culture” I reach for my Browning!)

Better news

We went along to see Dr P this afternoon to check how the Enzalutamide is going. He had some encouraging results from my last blood test. After two weeks the PSA has gone down from 7.2 to 3.2, a drop of 55% by my arithmetic. This has been accompanied by absolutely zero side effects. (I was supplied with a fancy little diary in which to record does times, dates, and side effects. After the first one, I had nothing to record.)

I will have my next Zolodex as scheduled on 1 September. Fingers crossed we can get away for a two-night break in a week or so (within Victoria, obvs). The arrangements are all made, but all of course is contingent on no more mystery cases, or people not being stupid. As I saw in an article somewhere or other — it is all down to the single males. (Apparently this is the the group most likely to party, not observe social distancing regulations, and thus be COVID spreaders.)

To be watchful of single males is also a maxim that everyone who learns German comes across early on. The masculine singular form of articles in the more exotic German cases (accusative, dative and genitive) do tend to be the most at variance with the plain old nominative forms. Crazily, this complexity is a reassuring thing into which to immerse myself. I’ve never been a crossword person — they just don’t grab me — but I imagine the feeling of finding the answers to a puzzle is similar.