Not so sick after all

After reporting yesterday that I seemed to be coming down with a nasty cold, today I felt absolutely fine! I downed an antihistamine tablet with breakfast, and my nose has been clear and problem-free all day. So I suspect yesterday was merely a severe bout of hay fever, brought on by the spring weather and the strong winds we had yesterday, blowing around pollen and other offensive bits of plants. I did a COVID antigen test to be sure, and it came up negative.

After a morning ethics class, I took a drive with Scully out to my favourite pie shop on the beach. We sat on a bench by the sand and watched the sea as I had my lunch.

Scully at Fisherman's Beach

Well, I watched the sea. Maybe Scully sat looking inland.

This afternoon I started to clean up some of my bookshelves. I want to get rid of some books to make space for newer acquisitions. I selected a handful of books and took them with me on Scully’s afternoon walk. There are a couple of community street libraries along one of our walking routes – the little boxes where people swap books. So I left a few in each of them. I didn’t take any out for myself – I do look in them as I walk past to see if there’s anything I want, but I’ve never actually found anything that I wanted to take. Anyway, hopefully someone will want the books I donated.

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A quick update… feeling sick??

This morning I did my face-to-face ethics class at the school – the second lesson of cause & effect and determinism. The kids seem to be enjoying the topic and it’s making them think, but today they were a bit chatty and many times erupted into talking over one another, rather than a nice orderly one-at-a-time speaking. This sort of thing always seems to happen when the weather is windy, as it has been for the past two days. Very windy indeed. All the teachers say the same thing – the kids get rowdier when the weather is windy, I wonder if there’s any real connection there.

Back home I did a 5k run. I wanted to get that out of the way for November on a relatively cool day, before it gets too hot.

This evening I had three online classes on this new topic of ageing. I started to feel a bit off this afternoon, with my nose running like a tap and frequent sneezing I’ve blown my nose through almost a whole box of tissues. I really feel like I’m coming down with a bad head cold. I’m not fevery or coughing, so hopefully it’s not COVID. I’ll keep an eye on it tomorrow.

Before I go, a couple of photos of birds I took in the last few days with my phone. An Australia brushturkey, sitting in a tree:

Australian brushturkey

And an Australian king-parrot. This is a juvenile, without any of the orange-red plumage of the adults. And yes, I’m as close as this looks – I got the phone to within about 30 cm of the parrot. These guys are pretty tame around here.

Juvenile Australian king-parrot

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Icing my back

Despite taking it easy last night and trying not to aggravate my twinged back, it stiffened up badly overnight. I made an appointment with my physiotherapist, at midday today. The guy I see is really good and loosens up my pelvic joints and realigns things so it feels a lot better. Then it’s just a matter of getting the inflammation down, which in the past has taken a few days. But today he mentioned that if I was an athlete I’d put an ice pack on it for 15 minutes, take it off for half an hour, and repeat that all day, and by tomorrow it’d be completely fine. I never realised I could do something like that! If it helps heal faster, I’m all over it!

So I’ve been icing my back on and off for much of the afternoon. And yeah, it feels a lot better already, so it seems to be working. I’ll see how it is after another night’s sleep.

The other main thing I did today was write up my lesson plan for the new online ethics topic of Food. I included stuff on dumpster diving for discarded food, food waste, healthy and unhealthy food, and some ethical questions about the impact of raising meat on the environment, and also the impact of shipping food around the world just so we can buy peaches in the middle of winter. One kid tonight had a very interesting idea about junk food, suggesting that people should get a maximum quota of junk food per month, “maybe two chocolate bars or something.”

Oh, and the rain is back again… It was very cold today, a maximum of only 13°C in Sydney, which is the second coldest day of the year so far. It’s supposed to be rainy for the whole week. We’re definitely approaching that all-time yearly rain record.

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In brief

I’ve strained my back a little today, so I’m keeping this short to avoid sitting at the computer too long. I’ve also decided to take a bit of a break from making new Irregular Webcomic! strips, to recharge my creative batteries, and also to try to get some other things done that I really want to do, like add new classes to Outschool.

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Secret Project milestone

That secret project I’ve been talking about recently – I completed a major milestone today. The hardest and most time-consuming part has now been completed, as of this morning. There’s a bit of tidying up around the edges required before it’s ready to unveil, but that’s all very minor and mechanical compared to the major creative parts that are now finished. Yes, it’s a creative project, and yes, you will see it soon. Just not quite yet.

The other thing I achieved today was finishing watching season 4 of Stranger Things. I’ve loved this show since the first episode of season 1. I thought season 3 was a bit weaker than the first two, but this new season was amazing, and my wife and I both were spellbound from start to finish.

The other main thing today was I got my fourth COVID shot. The Australian Government approved them for people aged over 30 on Monday, and I made sure to get in early before demand ramps up and makes bookings difficult to get. I had it about 5 hours ago now, and still feeling fine, so hopefully no fevery side effects like I had for one of my previous shots (I forget exactly which it was, but it was just one of them).

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Too much stuff to do

It’s late and I still haven’t really done as much as I wanted today.

I had an appointment at the optometrist to check my eyesight. My reading prescription hasn’t changed, which is good, and my distance vision is still excellent. And the retinal images and glaucoma test were both good. So that’s all good news.

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Ethics off the rails!

I did an online ethics class today that went completely off the rails. There was a new kid, from England, who was super talkative and kept bringing up extra points to every answer – often stuff that I’d planned to ask everyone later in the lesson. Rather than talk about farming, we ended up in a huge digression about whether we should force everyone to become vegetarians or not. Given the others were also keen to butt in on the topic and offer their own opinions, I just let it meander of its own accord for most of the lesson. It felt totally out of control and my lesson script went out the window, but it was fun, and we were still talking about interesting and ethical questions, so it was good in the end.

My sore back stiffened up again overnight, and it was painful turning over during the night. But again, it’s improved a lot during today. I got a better sleep, but hopefully tonight it won’t be as painful during the night.

I didn’t have my face-to-face ethics class at the school today, because New South Wales teachers held a strike today, seeking better pay and working conditions. They fully deserve it.

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And going to the physio

I had my physiotherapist appointment this morning for my sore back. It stiffened up again overnight, but wasn’t nearly as bad as the night before. I got a much better sleep and managed to get myself out of bed in the morning without too much pain.

The physio worked on my back for about 45 minutes and I felt significantly better after he’d loosened up the muscles and released tensions and whatever it is he actually does. I’ve been to this guy a few times over many years, and found him to be really good. Usually one visit is enough to make the movement freer and less painful, and then it improves rapidly over the next day or two. He also gave me a bunch of exercises to do some years ago, which I now do regularly to maintain my core strength and recover myself from minor strains.

Back home, I wrote my next week’s ethics lesson, on farming this time. I have a series of questions for the kids on the ethics of various types of crop agriculture, then we move on to farming animals, either for meat, or other products such as milk and eggs. In one of the classes there was a wide range of opinions from the kids, including “it’s fine to farm animals, because we need the meat”, “farming animals is cruel and we shouldn’t do it; we should hunt wild animals instead”, and “people should eat less meat so we don’t have to farm so many animals”. I suggested to the second kid we could eat less meat, but he said no, no, keep eating the same amount of meat, just hunt it all rather than farm it. I guess he hadn’t thought through the logistics of having to hunt for the amount of meat that we currently consume.

At lunch I took Scully for a walk up to the local shops and I had some Vietnamese fried rice from a “new” restaurant. I say “new” because I haven’t tried eating there before – it actually opened about 3 years ago, replacing a previous Cuban place that we quite liked.

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Back healing

The night was awful. I hardly slept, and my back was very painful every time I tried to move into a more comfortable position. It took some effort to get up out of bed, but once I was up and walking around things began to improve. By this afternoon I was walking mostly freely and feeling a lot better, able to sit and lie down briefly without problem.

Unfortunately I did some gentle stretches and I think I pulled something again, because it got worse. Not nearly as bad as yesterday, but it now feels like much of the progress during the day has been reversed.

I made an appointment at the physiotherapist, but they had no appointments today, so I’m going in at 9am tomorrow. At lunch I felt fairly good and went for a long walk with Scully and my wife to get some food, and to stretch out on a walk. It was good for my back as I felt pretty good after that.

Other than that, I pushed my way through teaching three online classes. And I guess not much else. A lot of pacing around and gently moving my back.

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Back pain

The bad news today is that I threw my back out. I’m limping around the house with a painful lower back strain, and hoping it will heal up over the next couple of days.

The stupidest things can set this sort of thing off. I decided today was a house cleaning day and started with vacuuming all the floors. Then I used to dust attachment to dust off the furniture and bookcases and stuff.

I found some more spots of mould that have been caused by the relentless high humidity here in Sydney, around some of the window frames and on some of the wooden furniture. So I attacked all those with mould killer. I checked out a closed cupboard area where I was storing some Magic: the Gathering cards to check if there was any mould in three. Thankfully it looked clean. But I decided to take a quick trip to the hardware store to buy some damp remover crystals to put in there to keep the humidity low.

I took Scully in the car for some time outside, and drove over to the hardware store. They let you take dogs inside, so it’s a good trip to do with her. Unfortunately, they were completely sold out of all the damp removal stuff – the basic tubs and the refills of the absorbent crystals. It seems everyone is Sydney is having damp/mould problems at the moment and they just can’t keep stock on shelves.

I walked with Scully back to the car park and thought we’d walk over next door to the home centre – a complex that has various furniture stores, bed and bathroom stuff, lighting, whitegoods, and so on. There’s a place there that sells storage containers, and I thought they might have some damp absorbers. But Scully was reluctant to walk that way and wanted to go back to the car, so I bent over to pick her up and carry her… and bam! My back tweaked and I knew I was in trouble.

It got sore so fast that I abandoned plans to go to the home centre and went straight back to the car with Scully. It took some effort to get into the car. I drove home, and tried to climb back out, and by now my back was really painful. I laid down on the floor to take pressure off it, and that helped a lot.

But when I tried to get back up again, I just couldn’t it hurt too much. Every way I tried to bend to get up from a prone position and stand up failed because I couldn’t bear the pain. I ended up lying on the floor for something over an hour while my wife fussed over me and asked if she could help. She got me some pain tablets, and ran to the pharmacy to get some topical gel for muscle strains.

Eventually I just had to grit my teeth and push myself up off the floor as suddenly as I could, to try to get into at least a kneeling position before the pain made me collapse back down again. I managed this, but boy did it hurt. Once kneeling, I managed to stand up and walk around, and that felt better. That was about 6 hours ago now, and I’m managing to stand and sit okay. It hurts, but it’s not excruciating like when I was on the floor.

I’ve had this happen a couple of times before, and seen a physiotherapist to fix it up. I know what stretches I need to do to help it get better, which help when I get milder back pain. It’ll probably stiffen up overnight, so I’ll see how it is tomorrow morning, and will try to get a physio appointment. It tends to stiffen up overnight, and then ease during the day as I move around.

Anyway. That was my day.

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