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 , , , , ,

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 , , , , ,

We celebrate! We eat!

We didn’t sing The Internationale (Billy Bragg’s lyrics), but it was a great May Day celebration, nonetheless. Matt, who has recently been laid so low by Crohn’s disease and its surgical treatment, arranged for the family to go out to Jago’s for lunch to celebrate the birthday of his good friend.

[Jago's family lunch, May Day 2016]

Our lunches – clockwise from left:

  • L’s Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon
  • S’s Beef Burger with egg, cheese and tomato relish, salad and fries but with bacon instead of egg
  • Matt’s Big Breakfast of two eggs with bacon, sausages, mushrooms, smash potato and grilled tomato
  • Matt’s friend’s BLAT with crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado and aioli on turkish
  • Daiskmeliadorn‘s Poached eggs, avocado, beetroot, wild rice, quinoa, balsamic reduction but with baked beans instead of egg, accompanied by soy Chai tea
  • my mixed leaf salad

The two vegans (daiskmeliadorn & me) were satisfied with our selections, despite the menu itself offering precious little choice for the animal-friendly customer.

Sydney turned on some very pleasant outdoor eating weather as the morning’s rain cleared away nicely. They discussed politics down Matt’s end of the table while we discussed health and running down my end.

Daiskmelaidorn is hoping for a personal best time in the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon in two weeks’ time. She has a few little muscuoskeletal ‘issues’ but recently got some good advice from expert physiotherapist, Ken Raupach. She wants to beat her 2015 Grunty Fen Half Marathon (perhaps the last ever Grunty Fen Half!) time of 1:52:05. I’m excited about the prospect of seeing her run. I’ll probably set up camp at a point on the out-and-back course so I can see her fresh at the 1 km point, then not-quite-so-fresh at around the 17 km point.

It was good to see Matt’s friend again. She lives in Brisbane and we don’t get to see her so often these days since she and Matt decided to spend less time together.

The best part of our May Day lunch for me, however, was seeing Matt in comparative good health and able to tuck into a Jago’s Big Breakfast with enthusiasm. I hope his ileostomy was equally enthusiastic about the final product of the meal.

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[Matt survives surgery]
[Matt survives surgery!]

Following his ’emergency’ admission to hospital a few weeks ago, after tests, discussions, and some thinking time, it was decided that the best option for Matt would be to have part of his large bowel removed.

So last week it happened. It took them about 3.5 hours of knife-work, but they removed around 20% of his colon and created an ileostomy to render the remaining colon redundant, for the time being at least. His faeces now make a premature exit, with most of the water and some of the nutrients still present, to be captured in a plastic bag.

He has been making good recovery, and I reckon he’ll be sent home in the next day or two. He’s still learning stoma management, but I don’t think that will hold up his discharge for long. The surgeon thinks the remaining colon is only mildly affected by the Crohn’s disease, so their plan is to give it about three month’s rest and then close off the stoma and put the remaining colon back to work.

Coincidentally, Matt is in a room at RNSH which is next door to the one my mother was in after her emergency admission a few years ago. On that fateful occasion my mother decided she couldn’t go back living at home by herself again. Now every time I visit her she abuses me for dumping her in a nursing home just for my convenience. I’m hoping history doesn’t repeat itself and Matt won’t have too many long term regrets about his trip to Ward 8B.

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