I haven’t run much for quite a while. From September 2015 to July 2016 I was constrained by a hamstring tendon over-use injury. And when I tried starting running again I sustained two thoracic vertebral fractures, due to osteoporosis in my spine. That abruptly ended my return to running.

Last Sunday, however, I took time out from my normal early morning routine of coffee drinking and novel reading to attend the Blackmore’s Half Marathon – as a spectator. I was not permitted to drink coffee anyway, as I was preparing for this coronary artery angiogram and Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring at the Sydney Adventist Hospital (run by vegetarians!) because a cardiologist believes I have serious Ischaemic Heart Disease.

The main reason I attended the Blackmore’s Half Marathon was to cheer on my daughter, daiskmeliadorn. Under rain-threatening, cloudy grey dawn skies I set myself up at a location where I was sure I would see her. I stood at a point about 8 km into the route where the field would be somewhat thinned out compared with the start, and where the race course narrowed to just a single road lane as they ran across a pedestrian crossing. I had my supporter’s sign with me.

[Waiting at the 8 km point, Blackmore's Half Marathon]
[Waiting for the runners at the 8 km point, Blackmore’s Half Marathon]

It wasn’t too long before the leading runner came through, with his pursuers not too far behind.

[Leading runner, Japanese teenager Kei Katanishi, goes through the 8 km point of the Blackmore's Half Marathon]
[Leading runner and eventual winner, Japanese teenager Kei Katanishi, goes through the 8 km point of the Blackmore’s Half Marathon]

I had a good idea when daiskmeliadorn was expecting to go through, and I watched and waited. The numbers increased and soon they were running through thick and fast.

[Lots of runners go through the 8 km point of the Blackmore's Half Marathon]
[Lots of runners go through the 8 km point]

I watched, and watched….but eventually the numbers declined, leaving only their characteristic detritus behind, along with one disappointed father.

[runners' detritus]
[runners’ detritus]

Fortunately, just across the other side of road, the runners looped back on their way towards the finish, making that point the 19 km marker of the 21.1 km race. So I moved myself and my sign over to where there was already a trickle of runners passing through.

[19 km marker]
[I move across to the 19 km marker]

Not a great deal of time passed until I saw her running towards me. Yay! Oh joy!!

I waved and reached for my camera – but by the time I figured out that I didn’t have the camera switched on, she was running past, looking cool as a cucumber. She ran off down the road and I got this parting shot of her disappearing down the road towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

[daiskmeliadorn! That’s her with dreadlocks, wearing a white and red Sydney Frontrunners shirt, next to the guy with the blue top]

I checked my watch. Although I didn’t know exactly what time the race started, it looked like she was perhaps headed for a good time, close to her previous best of 01:47:20, set in the May 2016 SMH Half Marathon. I packed up my sign, collected my umbrella – thankful that it wasn’t needed – and took my coffee-deprived body back towards the train station to go home. About 15 minutes later, on my walk to the station, a message from Sam flashed up on my phone: daiskmeliadorn had finished! Time: about 1 hour 43!!! What a performance. How proud I was to see how daiskmeliadorn had worked so hard and trained conscientiously and was rewarded with a great personal best time.

[daiskmeliadorn and partner after Blackmore's Half Marathon 2016]
[Sydney Frontrunner, daiskmeliadorn, and her partner, Sam.
Photo credit:
Picture taken by a friend of daiskmeliadorn]

That achievement is nothing, however, in the overall scheme of things, by comparison with what you and I can see in the picture above. As I commented after the SMH Half Marathon, these two people have a wonderful partnership in which they provide magnificent mutual support and rejoice in each other’s successes.

Posted in coffee, emotions, family, friends, health, injuries, running | Tagged , , , ,

Not fair

A few years ago my sister died, aged only 60. Then, a couple of years later, her husband died, aged 61. Now, my brother’s ex-wife has died, aged in her 50s.

In contradistinction, it seems as though my mother is going to live forever, much to her own disgust. Every single time I see her, she tells me she wishes she were dead. Although she has dementia, she has told me this often enough, consistently enough, and over a long enough time, that I’m sure she does really mean it.

Recently, however, she defied both my predictions and her own desires, and she became a nonagenarian.

[congratulatory phone call]
[Receiving a congratulatory phone call from Scotland]


[cutting the cake]
[Cutting the cake]

It isn’t ‘fair’,  but why should we have any expectation that fairness would prevail?

Posted in death, emotions, family, food, health, special days | Tagged , , , ,

A very good morning

It was a cool early winter morning, just after sunrise, as I walked up King Street, Newtown.


King Street Newtown
[King Street, Newtown.]

I was meeting daiskmeliadorn for breakfast in here, Handcraft Specialty Coffee. Neither of us had been here before, but I had walked past a couple of weeks ago and it looked interesting enough to explore further.

Handcraft Specialty Coffee
[Handcraft Specialty Coffee, King Street, Newtown.]

They had only just opened (at 07:00) and I was the only customer in the shop.

Handcraft Specialty Coffee
[inside Handcraft Specialty Coffee – nothing out of the ordinary here]

While I waited for daiskmeliadorn to arrive (I was early, of course), they gave me some iced water – with a sprig of mint in the bottle.

iced, minted water
[iced, minted water]

“That’s a good start”, I thought. Definitely a class above the plain, unrefrigerated tap water provided at most cafés.

It wasn’t long until daiskmeliadorn arrived, hungry for something substantial to get her through a busy morning to come, working in the campaign office of the local Greens candidate. She ordered the granola, but without yoghurt and with soy milk instead.

granola with fruit and soy milk
[granola with fruit and soy milk]

The granola came beautifully presented (my photo doesn’t do justice to the thinly sliced apple on top) with apple, strawberry, passionfruit, kiwifruit and banana, and with the soy milk in a cute little bottle.

We both ordered long blacks, hers made with the standard house blend while I opted for one of their single-origin coffees. I chose the Ethiopian as I have had good experience with another Ethiopian coffee, and I have a soft spot for that country. It is, after all, the birthplace of coffee.

Ethiopian coffee
[Ethiopian coffee]

My coffee turned out to be absolutely top drawer! Excellent flavour and extra hot. We talked while we enjoyed our breakfast, and the attentive staff replaced the cold water as we drank it, without us have to request it. As usual we covered a fair bit of ground in the conversation, but obviously the status of daiskmeliadorn’s brother, and the Greens campaign for the forthcoming Federal election were the major topics. We also talked about daiskmeliadorn’s employment, with the good news that she has been offered a job . . . two jobs, in fact! One is a public service position – secure, permanent, and moderately well paid. The other would be working as a researcher-activist for the international transport workers’ union – pay and duration unknown. You can guess which position she’s likely to accept.

I loved everything about Handcraft, and I was especially grateful that they didn’t follow the trend of most Sydney hipster cafés of providing hard metal seating. At Handcraft they provided very comfortable cushions.

[yes, even a cushion!]

It was a very good morning, and I went on my way rejoicing.

Posted in coffee, emotions, family, food, observations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

another one gone

OK, it’s nothing like the real thing, but I like this stuff. I make sure I have a spare jar or two, both at work and at home (it comes from America!)

empty jar
[empty Strawberry Fruit Spread jar & full jar ready to open]

There are no strawberries in this. Further, its texture is more like jelly (‘Jell-o‘ to you North Americans) than jam, but it contains no gelatine. It’s very hard to extract from the jar because it slips off your knife. But it’s sweet, has a vaguely strawberry-like flavour, and it’s moist. Given that most of the dumpster-derived freegan bread I eat is up to a month old, sometimes I need a spread to liven up the toast. Or I just need to satisfy my sweetness addiction.

The best aspect is that it has (supposedly) zero calories! There’s nothing nutritious in it!

There’s one other good thing about it. The empty jar is just the right capacity to hold the 85 g of coffee beans I use in one day’s coffee (that’s four cups), with a bit of extra space if I think it will be a day when I need stronger coffee than usual.  So I can line up 3 or 4 jars of coffee beans and know the next few days of my life are adequately catered – in the style of  J. Alfred Prufrock.

strawberry spread jar recycled as coffee storage jar

[strawberry spread jar recycled as coffee storage jar]


Posted in emotions, food, health, observations | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Ouch. Fractured in Fort Collins

My son works with customer relationship management software called CiviCRM. The community of CiviCRM programmers and users was having a get-together in Fort Collins, near Denver, Colorado (He lives with me in Sydney, Australia). Seamus decided this get-together, CiviCon2016, would be good to attend – as a holiday from the intensity of recent work, as a CiviCRM learning experience, and to build on his CiviCRM network. He booked to stay on the Colorado State University campus.

Unfortunately, on his first morning at CSU, he slipped in the shower area and landed on his outstretched hand, producing a classic fracture of the distal radius and ulna.

radiograph of radius before treatment
[text book case of forearm fracture with distal fragment of radius substantially displaced]

Of course, we all know about the potentially enormous costs of American healthcare. He opted for the cheapest and easiest treatment alternative: a heavy dose of ketamine followed by closed manipulation to attempt to restore a good position of the fractured radius. Here’s the result:

radiograph of radius after treatment
[distal fragment of radius is now in a much better position]


The hospital provided a splint and a follow-up appointment at a nearby clinic and wished him luck. His smile on that day probably hides a certain amount of anxiety about how this was going to impact his trip.

smiling after the emergency treatment
[Smiling after the emergency treatment.]


Dealing with this sort of situation isn’t easy, even if you’re at home in a familiar environment. His travel insurance company was good and everyone involved was really helpful (CSU, all the hospital staff, the Emergency transport people, Loveland clinic, orthopedic surgeon etc), but he’s not quite out of the woods yet! He has been able to participate in most of the conference and post-conference events, but still has to negotiate traveling back to Australia with only one (non-dominant) hand free to do the work. He has a date with a specialist wrist and hand surgeon at the Royal North Shore Hospital on the day he lands back in Sydney, and it looks likely that some titanium might find a new home in his forearm.

My other son will be headed back to RNSH for surgery soon, too. Maybe we’ll have both sons in hospital at the same time – how lucky would that be?!

Posted in emotions, family, health, injuries, pessimism, technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Half Marathon Highs and Lows

It was a perfect autumn Sydney morning for the 2016 Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon, which starts at sunrise.

I am too old, decrepit and lazy to participate, but daiskmeliadorn was keen to improve on her time in the Grunty Fen Half Marathon last year. She’s been training hard, using a training and nutrition guide, and has joined up with Frontrunners. I decided to go and watch and cheer her on. I set myself up at the 2 km mark in The Rocks about 15 minutes before the start.

[2 km mark SMH Half Marathon 2016]
[George Street, The Rocks. The 2 km flag is on the left, as we wait for the start.]

From my position I could look east and see the sun just starting to light up Sydney Harbour.

[Sydney Opera House, dawn, 15 May 2016]
[The Harbour; Sydney Opera House. Dawn, 15 May 2016]

I didn’t have to wait too long before the lights of an approaching police motor cycle heralded the first runner’s progress down George Street.

[The leading runner arrives at the 2km mark]
[The leading runner approaching the 2 km mark]

As he got closer I could see that already he had opened up a big gap on second place.

[The leading runner is already about 100 m ahead of the second runner at the 2km mark]
[The leading runner is already about 100 m ahead of the second runner at the 2 km mark]

The trickle of fast runners started to swell fairly quickly and it wasn’t too long until the trickle turned into a flood. They were even running down the footpath past the early morning coffee-drinking tourists.

[The pack arrives]
[The pack arrives!]

Unfortunately, I couldn’t spot daiskmeliadorn. I had a rough idea of what pace she was hoping to be setting, but I realised they had a staggered start and I wasn’t even sure if she was in the group which started at the first gun. I eventually gave up watching and headed off towards the 17 km point, where I hoped to have a better chance of seeing her in a more spread out field. Perhaps my mind was elsewhere or maybe I’m simply lacking the appropriate motor coordination, but I tripped on a kerb and crashed to the ground, landing heavily on my left side. My knee and elbow were grazed, and my thigh bruised. Sadly, my phone was in my pocket and was sandwiched between my thigh and the ground.  The screen glass was intact, but the underlying LCD was cracked, making the phone completely unusable. I would later be quoted $180 to repair it.

[My knee.]
[My knee]

I hadn’t broken any bones, however, and was able to hobble up to a nearby nice sunny spot about 4 km from the finish line (it’s an ‘out and back’ course so the finish is near the start). I got there just in time to see the eventual winner run past.

I had an idea what time daiskmeliadorn was aiming for at the 17 km point so I was on the alert for her arrival about half an hour after the leader, but was surprised to hear her calling out my name as she ran past – I missed her again! I saw her dreadlocks disappearing up the road towards the finish, though, and she seemed to be running pretty well. Not exhausted (as far as I could tell).

[daiskmeliadorn at the 17 km point]
[daiskmeliadorn at the 17 km point]

At this time I decided that I needed a coffee, so I limped off to the railway station to catch a train home. I later found out that daiskmeliadorn had beaten her previous best half marathon time, with an outstanding new PB of 01:47:20 which is at the 89th percentile in her very competitive female 30-39 y.o. group (91st percentile of all women, and 78th percentile of all entrants). What a performance!

[daiskmeliadorn after the finish (Copyright)]
[daiskmeliadorn & her partner]

I didn’t go to the finish line and the photo above, which was taken in Hyde Park after the finish, is not mine. But I imagined this scene and it gave me great pleasure. Not only is daiskmeliadorn rejoicing in her wonderful achievement, but she’s sharing that moment with a very special person who understands her better than anyone else.

Posted in emotions, family, friends, injuries, running | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teeth – a glimmer of hope, but a long dark tunnel

Several years ago I had to have a tooth treated with root canal therapy. Then it fell apart and I had to have this dead tooth repaired. And then the repair failed and about a year ago I had to have it reconstructed, with a stainless steel post inserted down the middle. Now it has broken again. I also have visible deep decay in one of my canines, right on the gum line. Unfortunately, it turns out that Alain, my dentist since the retirement of his wife Susan, is overseas in Europe somewhere.

I decided that my broken dead tooth and the lower right canine couldn’t wait for Alain to come back from Europe (and I have no idea when that would be). Alain said the business would be opened by a substitute-dentist on Tuesdays so I went there at their official opening time and waited. At 09:10 I gave up waiting. I phoned repeatedly, with no one answering. I gave up on this practice.

I decided to try the dental practice down the road: DentArtisans.


I think a work colleague goes here. I decided to book in to see Dr Max Guazzato. His waiting room reading matter indicates that he has a PhD for his work with dental ceramics, so he could be just the person to fix this broken tooth.

[waiting room bookshelf at DentArtisans]

He took a radiograph of the broken tooth and showed it to me. The top has broken off (as I knew) but there’s some evidence of movement of the threaded stainless steel post that Alain installed. When I had that procedure done in February 2015, I wrote: “I don’t have that much confidence that the repair will last, but Alain reckons I’ll get many years out of it. We’ll see.

Clearly Alain was wrong. But maybe it was a freak accident? Maybe I bit into something too hard?

Dr Max says a stainless steel post should not have been used. He says the elastic modulus is inappropriate and he recommends using a composite post instead. He says leaving the steel post in situ risks cracking the tooth below. He gave me three options, in order of price and efficacy:

  1. leave the steel post and just repair the top with a composite material
  2. replace the steel post with a composite one (which is cemented in, not screwed) and repair the top with a normal composite material
  3. replace the steel post with a composite one and repair the top with a crown.

And he also suggested a fourth option: do nothing till Alain returns and get him to fix it. I decided that I wanted it fixed now, rather than wait some unknown amount of time till Alain returns. I also was persuaded by Dr Max’s stiffness modulus argument – I’ve heard my partner L make the same argument about concrete and masonry repairs. So I have lost a little faith in Alain even though I’m sure he’s very good at his specialty – but that’s dental forensic work. If I met with a fatal accident, he’d be the first person I’d suggest to identify me from my remains!

Anyway, I opted for alternative 2 – for nearly $900 (including repair of lower right canine)! I asked for the repair of the canine to be done at the same time as the dead tooth repair, so they allocated a two-hour appointment for me next Tuesday.

This is scary stuff! I will not be looking forward to this appointment, but will be relieved to have these repairs done (assuming they are done OK).

Posted in annoyances, emotions, health, injuries, observations, pessimism, technology | Tagged , , , , ,