Dogs

Today I have found myself watching a few videos of very touching moments with dogs. I’m not talking about those ones where they do stupid things, or the animals are being made fun of, but things like dogs at animal shelters or being reunited with their owners due to a multitude of different reasons. I honestly shed a tear or two.

There were so many that got me, like a dog who had refused to eat at a shelter, so the veterinarian sat in it’s pen with his breakfast in a dog bowl, and another bowl the same with food for the dog, and with a little bit of patience, the dog finally felt at ease enough to eat. Or, the small dog who’s owner had passed away, and it was teamed up with a new owner, an elderly man who had just lost his wife of 58 years, and the almost instant connection they had was amazing.

Then, there were a couple where the dogs had very clearly been in horrible homes previously, where they were very afraid of people and would be noisy and snappy if someone tried to touch them (as the narrators said, probably the only time they were touched previously was when they were being abused), and to see the caring and patient people who managed to break through the protective shell these dogs had made for themselves, was amazing. All they needed was a bit of love, and a gentle hand.

The last one I want to talk about was a series of video’s by some wonderful lady in the USA, who searched for, and looked after dogs who had neurological disorders. These poor dogs were given up on, even though they deserved a chance. They were very loving dogs, and yes, they had some out there neurological problems (hey, I don’t judge, I have Functional Neurological Disorder myself!!), the one that got me started watching was one named Josh, which looked like one of those Poodle/Labrador crosses, who had a lot of trouble with his muscle control, but he never gave up. What an inspirational dog, as well as the woman who is his owner.

I guess the reason I was watching these today was because I needed to see some sort of positivity from humanity. What I ended up getting from it was so much more. It did feed my needs to see humans doing good things, but it also made me realise how vitally important dogs are to people. Yes, some of these dogs needed healing, but the amazing healing power these dogs have themselves is incredible. I know our little rescue dog has helped me enormously, it is tough going through the various maladies I experience daily, and the trauma I have gone through and it’s associated psychological damage, but Max has made huge progress with me, he just seems to know when a person in the house needs him the most, and I believe he is probably the most intelligent, and empathetic dog I have ever had the pleasure of sharing my life with. Everyone needs a dog in their lives.

Andy.

Just a couple of photo’s for a change.

This beauty of a late season storm popped up a couple of nights ago, at about 10.30pm, out of nowhere. I ducked out and about an hour later, it was all over. Never got closer than about 40km from us, but was very nice to see a clear air storm like this (yes, they are stars above the storm), not typical around the coast here.

Anyhow, not much from me right now, just enjoy the photos.

Andy.

G’day again.

I feel really guilty not getting on here much. I find it difficult to keep myself together to write much, and everything else seems to go out the window as well. I hope you are all well.

There are so many things I want to write about, so many things. There is so much going on here in Australia at the moment that I have strong feelings about, but at the same time, to write about it is very difficult. One of the big issues right now is the treatment of women, especially by senior politicians in our current government. You’ve probably read stuff, or heard stuff about it. Anyhow, it’s an absolute National disgrace. There was a protest in Cairns a week or so ago, and because we feel so strongly about the issue, both my son and I went, to stand in solidarity with the women of this nation who our current government is showing the utmost contempt. I will leave it here for now, but I hope I can revisit this at some point. I am very triggered by it all myself.

My illnesses are deteriorating more and more, and that is the primary reason for my prolonged absences from here. It’s hard to function most days, and I try every day to push on, but geez, it is so damned exhausting. I might get the odd day here or there when it is okay, but so rarely now that a good day is gone in the blink of an eye. Hand tremors, muscle spasms out of no where, forgetting what I am saying constantly in the middle of a conversation, dizzy spells, and the ever present crushing fatigue and extreme pain. The only time I am feeling okay is when I am asleep, and that doesn’t always go well. Some nights I might get 9 or 10 hours more or less straight through sleep, others, well most, I am continually waking every few hours in pain until I just get sick of it and then get up.

Somehow, through all of this, my son has managed to do nearly half the years school work, and successfully mind you, in the first 8 weeks of the school year. He is just flying through. We work hard every weekday, and he is learning how to research now, which is just making his ability to learn expand exponentially. I am really proud of him.

Anyhow, this measly couple of paragraphs is all I can manage tonight, but I hope I can do more soon.

Goodnight folks, from The Land Down Under.

Andy.

The Dangerous Slide Down the Rabbit Hole……

*language warning*

I’ll get straight to the point, one thing in particular has bothered me for some time now, and it seems to becoming worse just recently, even though it was pretty bad before that. The rise of White Supremacist Right Wing Terrorists. You know, those people who our grandparents and great grandparents fought against in WW1 and WW2? Then they called them Nazi’s, but they are the same style of human detritus whatever they call themselves.

One of the most disturbing things I see right now, is the transition of seemingly good people, into the beliefs of these nutcases. I am increasingly seeing people I know seemingly unaware of the sources of things they share on social media, but with each incremental step, they are being sucked down the Rabbit Hole. I try desperately to point out the inaccuracies of the things they post, bombarding them with the facts about the issues rather than the lies being spread by these gym junky little boys with serious steroid rage. Sometimes I win the war against these scum, and those I know realise the lies of these nasty little boys (they are not, and never will be men…), but increasingly it is becoming more and more difficult to have these wins. I can clearly see now why the general populace in Germany in the 1930’s believed Hitler. These scum feed and use other seemingly nice people’s irrational fears.

Now, I unfortunately have several family members in my extended family (namely an Aunt and her daughter, and her daughters children, and another 2 male cousins from the other side of the family tree) who are deeply within these circles. My female cousin has been there for years (probably because of her mother, who is just plain stupid) and said cousin has been arrested for it. It was such a big deal that her son couldn’t join the police force because of it. He joined the army instead, and now he has jumped down the Rabbit Hole too. ( He fits the Mr ‘Roid Rage Gym Junkie moniker as well).

The two male cousins from the other side of the family tree….well their mother is my own mums sister, and her first husband is probably the main reason they went the way of the Nazi. He was a right royal piece of shit. The younger of the 2 male cousins, well, he’s been a selfish little turd his whole life (a few years back I actually called him one as well….) and has aspirations of being a Conservative Politician…..he’d actually fit right in with the current mob who run our country. God help us if he ever succeeds on his mission. The older one, well, as a kid, he was pretty reasonable. But I guess his father really poisoned him after the split. Homophobe, Xenophobe…..yep, he’s all those and more.

I don’t know where we go from here. This whole thing needs to be reversed, this same thing has already led the world into 2 world wars, why the fuck don’t people realise this stuff? I guess all reasonable people can do, is keep trying to combat the spread of this fear and hate, which is based on a bunch of lies. Will we win? We must, because we can’t afford WW3.

The first 2021post……

Firstly, I hope you all had a good start to this year. Another year, hopefully a much better one for everyone, than the last year.

The beginning of this new year has been a rather hectic one for me, between having an extra person in the house, that extra person going through the stages of purchasing a house (the last few weeks in of 2020 was beyond hectic looking at houses) and then with all the things that come with living in a Cyclone region and having had to prepare for 2 so far (although they didn’t end up causing us too much trouble) there hasn’t been much time to even think much.

So following on from the previous post, my little trip to Rockhampton to meet my brother and then help him drive the rest of the way here went well, although it will probably be another 20 years before I subject myself to another 19 hour bus trip. I was sore, tired and frankly fed up with self entitled young men who pretty much think they are the only people on the planet. Nobody wants to hear your phone alerts every 30 seconds for 17 hours, and have a bit of respect for the person who is a whole foot taller than you in the seat behind before you recline that seat to take up 2/3rds of the minute space that person has already to survive in. Considering there were no seat allocations, and there were so many spaces where you didn’t need to sit in front, or even behind someone else just makes me think you did it to be an arsehole.

After meeting my brother at midnight, we drove to my Aunts place at Airlie Beach the next day, and then on to home the day after. Sometimes you just need to do a longer trip like that to remind yourself how awesome Australia is. (I am talking about the places and scenery, not necessarily the people…..)

Okay, so now on to how the rest of life has been going. I have finished my chemo treatment, and everything is good. I have, however, had another surgery, this time I have a 1 and 1/2 inch scar on my left bicep, as the spot that was biopsied there was something not right, so I had to have a much larger piece taken out. This time, everything has been removed, so another skin cancer bites the dust. I am surprised, seeing I have been sun smart my entire life, that I have still ended up with these skin cancers. I don’t even have fair skin, I have a very olive complexion.


Okay, so all the above I wrote 2 days ago……life came up again, namely my son stacked his bicycle, so I had to attend to those matters, like cleaning up wounds and dressing them, and also then hardly sleeping that night because I kept checking on him during the night. He copped the handlebars in his stomach, so was a little concerned for the first 24 hours, but it was just bruising, nothing more serious, you can’t be too careful (which is why he ALWAYS wears a helmet…..)

Anyhow, I will leave this post here for now, I am writing a new one and will post shortly, I can’t sleep until I do, because it is bugging me.

Adventure awaits and nervous waits

In a few days time I will be jumping on a bus for a long distance trip, the first time in more than 20 years. I am excited, but trepidacious, it has been a long time, I am older, and with the little quirks of getting older I feel a little nervous, hoping that my body behaves itself. Mainly the ablutions side, because it isn’t much fun on a moving bus.

I also feel a bit nervous as this will be the first time since acquiring diabetes that I will travel like this, and not just being able to stop for something to eat when I need to. It’s only 1 day, a long day, 16 hours to be precise, I should get through. Then, I will be seeing my brother for the first time for 12 months, the longest stretch we have gone for nearly a decade. That’s Covid and 2020……

The bus arrives at Rockhampton around midnight, fortunately my brother will already be there, he is driving in that day, and we are actually staying in a hotel just across from the bus stop. then, we have 2 days of driving in his car (the whole point of me going there to meet him is to help with the driving, by that point he will have done about 3 days and 2000km driving on his own, so I am going to help with the last 1300 to 1400km). 5 days of driving is a long time by yourself, so at least the last 2 days, he won’t be.

The first night, we plan on stopping at my Aunts place in The Whitsundays, then it will be about another 8 hours driving the second day and we will arrive back here.

Apparently, at this stage, I should be treated to a pretty good lightning show once it gets dark on the bus trip down, basically the last 1/3rd of the trip is through areas that are expecting storms that night. I have got my portable music player ready and noise cancelling headphones, so I can zone out on the trip, hopefully the bus trip goes quickly.

We finalised the preparation of my brothers room here today, it looks really great, a good base for however long he needs.


The second part of this whole post is the nervous waits. Yesterday I had 2 chunks cut out of my skin, one on my chest, the other on my left arm. Both because of suspicious sun spots. The one on my chest is precautionary, it looks like it may be something so it’s getting checked out. The second, the one on my arm, my doctor believes is a melanoma. A shallow one, the beginning stages, so she has removed a reasonable section and deepish around it. I should have the results in a few days once the lab has had a look at them. The one on my arm was a surprise to me, I hadn’t even really ever noticed it, it was, quite literally, about the size of a dot you can make with a ballpoint pen on a piece of paper by just pressing the pen down on the paper without moving it. This should show everyone the importance of skin cancer checks.

The chemo I am having on my face is working well, the treatment is now down to 1 application a day, from twice daily before. It is showing, fortunately, that the sun damage on my face isn’t actually all that bad, just a couple of small spots, and they are nearly gone now. I may have worked outside a lot over a long period of years, but I always wore a wide brim hat, and other protection. It seems to have helped a lot, especially on my face, the sun damage on my face is more in locations that would have been caused by reflected light. Like light reflected off car windscreens and water.

Hopefully my doctor has got the whole thing with both the spots she removed yesterday, and we can move forward without too much hassle.

Andy.

Being bounced around.

So much has been happening, and as such I have found myself neglecting this blog again. I want to write every few days, but life happens. Most of the time, life happens, and leaves me in a heap by the time I have time to write, relegating me to the bed, rather than sitting here writing.

So, since last writing, what HAS happened. Well, big news of the day, week and month is that my brother is moving here and arriving in less than 2 weeks. The restrictions because of covid have been eased, so now he is allowed to enter Queensland, finally, without having to quarantine for 2 weeks at an expense of thousands of dollars. He can drive into the state now. As such, in about 10 days time, I am jumping on a bus to meet him about halfway, and help him drive the rest of the way. It’s over 3000kms driving, a lot to do on your own. He is moving here permanently, leaving Victoria for good. He’s even buying a house here.

I have also had a running battle with an Ebay seller, I bought some items for car repairs at the end of August, it was an Australian seller, so you would expect about a 6 day delivery timeline. after 1 month, I asked what was going on. “Oh, we sold you something we didn’t have, it will be here at the end of October”. End of October, and after reminding them that selling goods you don’t have is a big no,no under Australian consumer law, as well as Ebay rules, still nothing, asked again. They ignored me for a week, then mysteriously in the middle of November, I get a parcel, 1 day after they finally replied. NOT ALL THE ORDER WAS IN THE BOX !!!!! Again, back at them, threatened them with legal action, they very quickly responded, and finally today, over 2 months after it should have been here, it arrived. Now I have the parts to fix the car, but now I am unwell again………so not up to taking the front suspension out of the car and replacing it just now !!! I was okay 2 months ago !!!!!!

I have also been doing a lot of medical stuff, doctors, medical imaging, biopsies, neurologists and ……….currently undergoing some chemotherapy………… It isn’t the full on, pump your insides full of poison to kill it, it is a cream, it’s for skin cancer. It still makes you feel a little ill though, today was a bad one for it. I have some cancers on my face, below my eye, so being sensitive skin, it seems to be absorbed into my system a bit more than it would on tougher skin, hence the nausea in particular. I have 2 more to be cut out in a weeks time, one on my arm, one on my chest. I have always been super sun-smart, hats, cover up or sunscreen up, so it just proves, it can still happen regardless. I don’t even have skin that would be overly susceptible, I have quite an olive complexion and not many freckles at all.

The other medical stuff has been in regards to an ongoing issue with my right foot/ankle, which has been painful for about 14 months. Still waiting on those results. Also, I have started to get to the verge of possible fits, due to the Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), the neurologist checked to see if it was epilepsy, as there is a family history, but that is ruled out. The cause is FND. It is part of the slow degeneration. Shit happens, pardon my French !!!!

Anyhow, life is still marching on, and I must now retire to bed, as the fatigue is going to make me fall asleep right here if I don’t do it soon.

Andy.

Home Schooling: an initial evaluation of the decision…..

I used to be one of those people who was highly sceptical about the benefits of home schooling. How could a home education be superior to an education provided by people who have spent years learning and honing their profession ? Didn’t only whacko’s home school, those anti-vaxxer types, the hippies, and radical religious types? Honestly, all the people I had previously known who had home schooled their children were a bit whacko, not actually real bright, and had some weird ideas about things. Not to say they weren’t nice people, heck, they were people I was friends with, but it seemed their decisions to home school weren’t exactly wise ones.

Then, along came Covid, and I was suddenly thrust into effectively home schooling, albeit with work provided by the school. Then, I realised, that this wasn’t exactly a difficult thing, and I actually thought what was coming home was actually a little lacking. It was actually made far more complex and perplexing than need be. And, they didn’t seem to have it together, constantly changing the delivery, it started with one App, then they decided to do it through another, as well as a thick wad of pre-printed work sheets, which forced a lot of parents to have to go and purchase things like tablets (because some of the Apps didn’t work on a desk top computer), and it was just constantly changing. Then you were expected to sign in on certain days to do a virtual classroom thing, with video conferencing programs, which required the exact right set up (which many just didn’t have) and thus meant that either you had no sound, no picture or……….well, it was just a shambles and didn’t achieve anything much at all. The teachers didn’t even understand the programs being used, which created half the problem.

Anyhow, I will say, the whole shambolic mess did make me aware of useful resources, and as time progressed, it became obvious what I would need to do. We couldn’t risk my son contracting Covid at school then bringing it home, it was too dangerous for the others in the house. So, once they decided to return to school based learning, rather than home learning, I opted to get fully registered to home school. It wasn’t actually that big a deal. Yes, you had to submit a list of curriculum aligned plans as to what you would teach for the 12 months, and it took me about 12 hours over 1 weekend to get that all typed out, and then I submitted it. it was obvious that it was Okay, because once the teaching outline was reviewed, we got the okay, and were now registered.

I went ahead and found a supplier of work books that were aligned to the Australian Curriculum, (Pascal Press is who I found to have the best resources, and no, they aren’t paying me to advertise for them), and then I decided to back this up with Studyladder, (again, they are not paying me) who provide more curriculum aligned work, and this effectively means that the paper based work he does is then reinforced and his knowledge tested, as he works on this independently on his tablet. He has to achieve 80% or greater in each activity to pass it, and so far, out of the more than 400 activities across all subject areas, he has completed over 300, since the beginning of June. Those 400 activities were the total of the activities he was required to do in 12 months, and he is on track to completing those in just 6 months.

His grandma does a lot of the literacy work with him, I do all the maths, science and social studies (geography, history, that sort of thing) work with him. Today, because grandma was feeling too tired, after about 4 months of not doing any reading with him, I did it, and I am astonished by his progress. We have gone from a child who struggled even with the basic words 6 months ago, to a child who is approaching the reading level he should be for his age. He was really fluent, and barely struggled at all, ‘carnivore’ just slipped out as though he had been reading for years, and even other fairly complex words just flowed. For 3 years at school, reading had been a big issue. Now, in just six months of home schooling, we are well on our way to a proficient reader. I believe, that a big part of this, is the individual attention he has had, and being able to have that has meant that we have adapted our strategies when we have worked out what was causing the difficulties. I am really proud of my son, and super proud of my mum, who has managed to get him so far in such a short time.

With all his other subjects, which he has always excelled in academically, he is now working at a higher level than his grade level. He is constrained by the slowest kid in the class, he can step ahead with work, if he understands the concepts, and wants to learn at a higher level, he can. Just yesterday, we were watching a science lesson designed for junior secondary students, and he totally understood what was going on. I mean, he is year 4 level, and junior secondary is still 3 years away !!!!

Anyhow, there have been multiple benefits to the whole thing. I am running around in the car less. It is actually cheaper, believe it or not ( all the workbooks and the subscription for the Studyladder App work out at around $200 per annum, school books and uniforms were well over $300 per annum) and we can work on our own time frame, like this morning, he worked on Studyladder from 6am to 8am, of his own accord, well before school would have started if he was going to a traditional school, and by 11 am, he will have finished everything for the day that he is required for a days work.

So, I am a sceptic, who is sceptical no more, when it comes to home schooling. It works, and it works well.

Andy.

I am going to have a break by myself.

After my visit to the doctor on Wednesday, I have decided I need to have a break away, by myself. I discussed it with Mum yesterday afternoon, and she thought it would be a good idea, she will look after my son while I am away. Normally, I wouldn’t do that, like, not take him, but I need a proper break, albeit just 2 nights away, but for my mental health, I NEED to do it. Basically, in the 10 years and 5 months since my son was born, I have spent a total of 5 nights away from him. Yep, 5 nights, in over 10 years.

I am heading to what I consider to be Australia’s best beach (and trust me, I have been all around Australia, so can speak with some level of knowledge), Etty Bay, which is located just south of the iconic Banana and Sugarcane town of Innisfail. Innisfail is full of Art Deco buildings (which just so happens to be my favourite building style), and I lived in Innisfail about 11 years ago, it was actually where my son was conceived !!!!!!

So, the plan is, that after my son’s doctors appointment on Monday morning, I will bring him home, and leave, stopping in Innisfail on the way down to grab some supplies (ie, food), before checking in at 2pm. Then it will be get set up, have a swim in the beautiful waters of the Coral Sea, and then see what happens next. Basically, my only plans are to have a few swims in the sea, walk the beach, and do a bit of photography. It is a place I have wanted to do some specific photography for a while, but to do so means I have to actually stay there, so why not do it ? I will come home on Wednesday, staying 2 nights. I booked it all first thing this morning, so it is definitely happening.

So apart from the photography bit, I need to do this, because I have been struggling immensely with my Functional Neurological Disorder, and I think a large reason is that I am a bit overloaded, constantly having to be thinking about other people, never having much of a moment all to myself. This way, the only person I will have to worry about is me.

Anyhow, between now and then, I hope to get some cracker shots of lightning to share with you, the plans for the weekend storm chase are still set to happen.

Andy.

Very close to the first major storm outbreak of the 2020/2021 season.

For the past week, I have been scouring the storm forecast models, as about 7 days ago, a major outbreak was starting to show up in modelling. Then, about 3 days ago, they started aligning, 3 different ones, all saying the same thing. Now, it looks like an outbreak near to my home base will kick off possibly as early as Thursday, but the peak days are Sunday and Monday, before a 1 day respite and then more action again after that. It may be a busy week.

So, current planning, is that I will head initially about 50km inland from here, up on the Atherton Tableland, around 10 am on Sunday. Both myself and my son will go, taking both lunch and dinner with us. I will cook something nice, like a bit of steak or something with some veges, wherever we are at the time !!!! There is no set time of return, basically when it stops giving the goods, it will be home time.

The area I am focusing on stretches about 150km from north to south, so will probably be on the move a fair bit, watching what is happening and moving as it is needed. I have scouted out a number of locations, and been looking up some more on Google, the outlook needs to be pretty clear out to the southwest, west and northwest, where ever I am, with no obstructions, and especially my dreaded thing, powerlines. I hate a perfect landscape shot ruined by powerlines in the frame. The movement of storms up there generally tends to be in an easterly to north easterly direction.

I have prepared the car now, mostly, for the upcoming storm chase season, I have 2 new tyres, so now the car has a full set of brilliant BF Goodrich tyres all around, it’s fully serviced with everything that needed doing done, spark plugs, the works. I do all my own work on the car (benefits of a past life doing it as a job), except for the tyre fitting, and this shows, as the one job (the mostly bit I referred to) I have to do is replace a broken wheel stud, which was snapped by the turkeys at the tyre shop doing it up with a rattle gun at too high torque. I have it ordered, and hopefully it arrives in the next day or so.

This is one of the reasons I usually do my own mechanical work on my vehicles. I have had several incidents over the years, where you take it to someone to do a job, and they stuff something up. Frankly, I would rather do it myself (even though it is pretty difficult for me these days with my health issues, not very useful when your hands don’t co-operate when trying to play with bolts in tight spaces), because I know I take the time to make sure it gets done right. I had one instance, where something wasn’t sealed properly after some work, and only 10km down the road after picking it up, I was being smoked out by burning oil, oil was squirting out all over the hot manifold where they hadn’t replaced the gasket for the tappet cover, even though they charged me for it. Another was when it was over filled with oil, and again, 10km down the road, the car started coughing and spluttering, because too much pressure had built up in the crankcase. Luckily I realised, checked the oil level, and, something that I am not so proud of, I had to let out some oil on the roadside, I always have tools in the car, so I was able to loosen the sump plug. That could well have caused a catastrophic engine failure. Also, just to be clear, these were at apparently reputable(expensive), highly regarded mechanics……..not cheap backyard blokes………

I am so itching to get out for my first storm chase of this new season, in the northern hemisphere, you get a storm season in the middle of the year, where as here, it overlaps the end and beginning of the years. I am so looking forward to bettering this shot from last season, I have better shots of lightning from a composition point of view, but this is my favourite, with all those leaders ……………..

Andy.