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Three weeks of web comics to catch up on - Stephan [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Three weeks of web comics to catch up on [Feb. 27th, 2009|11:10 pm]
Hi all,

First I want to say how warmed and comforted I felt at all the well wishes expressed by everyone at the last posting in my LiveJournal. I was very surprised that as someone who nowadays rarely appears on the forums, and is more than 18 months behind schedule on the web comic, there are people who continue to maintain their friendship toward me. I'm not sure how I deserve this, but I will certainly make good on my promise to resume Kaustic auZzie Notes at first opportunity.

This may be a while though, because there's a lot of work ahead for me in the near future, which will be going at a less than speedy pace while I have one arm tied up. My most urgent task is to make the apartment fit to live in. At the moment it looks like someone turned it upside down and shook the contents around. Prior to my absence I agreed with the landlord for some renovations to be carried out during my absence. Most of my valuable possessions I locked up in the cupboards, and now I need to return everything to some semblance of order. For example, my vacuum cleaner is beneath ten boxes of VHS cassettes. A lot to do... and literally single-handed.

My arm has to stay in the sling until at least the 20th March, and there's a restricted range of movement which I'm worried might be permanent. The shoulder doesn't hurt unless I try to move beyond that restricted range. The hand works fine, but often I need to bend down to pick things up off tables. My back becomes sore from this very quickly. You’d be surprised at how it affects even something as simple as walking; having one arm rigid upon the stomach leaves you with a diminished sense of balance. All in all it’s quite annoying.

Thank heavens the weather has cooled down. The January temperatures nearly killed me.

Internet-wise I'll be a somewhat quiet until at least the 5th of March. To save money I had my internet quota reduced to 200mb for the February billing period.

Makovette, Carlfoxmarten and Marmoe, thanks greatly for the links to the video file manipulating software. I'll get onto that as soon as my internet quota is renewed. Carlfoxmarten, command-line interfaces are fine with me. My dyslexic nature actually finds them less confusing than windows-based interfaces. I used to love working in DOS and Decimal Command Language. (It's a mystery why I'm still struggling to learn the commands in FuryMuck).

Financially I'm still waiting for the bad news. I've not yet received ANY of the invoices for the surgery.

Sleep I’m finding difficult to achieve. All my life I’ve only ever been able to sleep sideways (co-incidentally, the same applies to macropods), with a tendency to roll from one side to the other during my sleep. Now to prevent the arm being damaged I need to sleep either on my other shoulder, or my back, and it’s easier said than done.

Now to bring you all up-to-date on my activities, and in hindsight I wish I'd recorded a diary...

6th February.

The train I caught to the hospital broke down, just ONE STATION before my destination. What a drama!! Fortunately for me I make a habit of arriving for important appointments with abundant time to spare, which in this case proved invaluable. Whatever the situation, it was not made at all clear because the train crew were very remiss in utilising the train's on-board PA system. They instead relied on the PA system of the station platform, which was badly distorted to begin with and not nearly loud enough to hear from inside the train. When I finally had the chance to access the internet (two weeks later) I lodged a complaint and just now I've read the reply from Cityrail who apologised for the oversight and gave assurance that their Management are working to improve their communications systems.

I had left home with at least 40 minutes leeway, but reached the hospital breathless with less than 10 minutes of this remaining, and dripping with perspiration (the train was NOT one with air-conditioning and it was a very hot day). I was treated well by the hospital staff (I worry about how much all that will cost when I finally receive the invoice). They too had encountered a delay in their own schedule, which I found a relief that I hadn't kept them waiting myself. If memory serves correct I was wheeled down to the operating theatre somewhere around 3pm. A young member of staff (I don't know her official title) who accompanied me there had a distinctive accent, and I asked "That sounds like a Canadian accent?" Indeed she was a Canuck, and we exchanged a conversation about how she was coming to live in Australia (poor her) and how much I yearned to emigrate to Canada.

After entering the operating theatre and being lifted onto the table I can only remember the anaethsetist connecting the IV tap to the machine, and that's where my memory ends. I was later advised that the particular anaesthetic they applied (don't know what it was) affects the memory, therefore I can say with experience that I know how Florence Ambrose felt when her short-term memory was blocked. I awoke in post-op with an oxygen mask on my mouth, and the Canuck lady in attendance. She explained that the oxygen would work to remove the remnant anaesthetic from my system. When I then began taking deep breaths from the oxygen she asked if I was doing this deliberately, whereupon I laughed gently and replied "Yes. I want to get the darn stuff out of my system as quickly as possible." The anaesthetic was having an annoying influence on my vision; I was literally seeing double, especially on distant objects, and no amount of effort rectified the experience. Other than that I felt fully coherent, and did not experience any disorientation or discomfort.

I don't think I slept at all that night because the noise of the IV pump kept me awake; I can't achieve slumber if there's the slightest sound nearby. Now and then I tried to pass the time by watching television, but there was nothing to interest me. I almost never watch television these days for that reason.

7th February
My mother had already arrived when I was visited in my room by the orthopaedic surgeon. He showed me the series of photographs taken of the inside of my shoulder (yuk) and the work that had been done to stitch the joint back together. Not even the ultrasounds nor MRI scan had revealed how severe had been the initial injury, and yet the operation had gone "exactly as planned." It's a credit to his skills as a surgeon that the work was accomplished so well, and a sense of relief that for once in my life anything HAS gone exactly as planned. He explained that I need to keep my arm in the sling for a total of six weeks, keeping the weight off the shoulder, gave me instructions for daily exercises, and asked that I make an appointment to see him again at the end of the six weeks.

I was able to leave hospital immediately. Although I'd been contemplating waiting until Sunday to travel, I was keen to reach a place of decent air-conditioning, which many of you will know I DON'T have at my apartment. Nor did my mother's car as it happened. The temperature around coastal New South Wales that day rose over 40 degrees Celsius.

This was the same day that the terrible firestorms broke out in the states of Victoria and South Australia. In Victoria whole towns were destroyed in the blazes with more than 200 people dying under dreadful circumstances, plus an assisting New South Wales firefighter killed in a tragic accident when his fire truck was hit by a falling tree after the fire had already burned out. I pray that the families who have lost their homes and loved ones will be able to recover from this catastrophe.

Concerned about my journey, I had been instructed by my surgeon to exercise and move around at least every 2 hours to prevent DVT. We therefore paused at Wyong and Stroud. At Wyong there's a large roadside stopping complex, with some air-conditioned (hooray) fast-food outlets. I felt a bit silly walking up and down in them, but the respite was much needed. I walked as much as possible both in and out of the buildings before continuing another 2 hours to Stroud. There we exited the car to spend about 30 minutes at the riverbank. So intense was the sun that the exposed riverbed rocks were too hot to be touched with the unprotected hand, but I relished the chance to soak my feet in the cooling river water.

I was most impressed with the farm house that my mother has bought from the divorce settlement, and had only moved there 6 weeks prior to my visit. Three bedrooms, separate bathroom, toilet and laundry, with a small kitchen but a fair-sized lounge room. Covered space for four vehicles, with two lockable roller-doors. Three rain-fed tanks (capacity unknown) for household water, plus one additional tank and an earth bank dam both for garden watering. Lots of trees (some of which will need to be cut for fire hazard reduction) and she's underway at cultivating her immediate vicinity as a garden for vegetables and flowers. I don't know how it compares with Magpie House, but this one has the advantage of being visited by adorable wallabies every dawn & dusk (videos planned to be posted on YouTube). Less than welcome however are the noisy crows, butcher birds, invasive ants and hordes of croaking frogs.

There to meet me also were the three cats living on the property. Diminutive little black "Lulu", who sixteen years earlier I had found as a kitten wandering a busy road, and gave her to my mother for a pet. "Mini" a hyperactive black cat whose white patches look like she ran her underside over a newly-painted white surface, and probably did since she has an irritating habit of jumping up on furniture and knocking things over. "Mookie" my sister's neurotic white cat with black spots, who is scared of his own shadow, and is never seen except at meal times. My mother is looking forward to giving him back to my sister when she becomes responsible and gets a job (when or if).

The property is situated a short uphill drive off a dirt road, both ends of which have low-lying bridges. I'm going to look like a complete idiot here contradicting what I wrote in my earlier LJ post because the northern bridge is NOT wooden. It's concrete and not much better than a causeway because it floods after only a little rain. Probably I got this fact wrong because it was already under water by the time I commenced capturing it on video. The southern bridge is indeed wooden, and also vulnerable to flooding after prolonged rain. I have video of both to post on YouTube.

The nearest general store is situated about 15 minutes to the northwest, but it doesn't have much more than essential supplies. The nearest town is due east, and about 20-25 minutes away via either of two different routes. Further east, the main city is 30 minutes away via the most direct route from the homestead, but can also be reached through the aforementioned town with an additional 10-15 minutes. Sydney is nearly six hours south. Public transport is minimal in these districts, and none exists anywhere near the homestead. The northern railway runs alongside the river at the north end of the road, to the east through both the town and the city, but there are no local passenger services, only the thrice daily intercity XPT (eXpress Passenger Train) which requires advance booking.

Visiting my mother was, for the most part, agreeable. I tried to avoid any contentious topics, with the exception of making her aware of how displeased I am about the selfish actions of my siblings over the past few years. She was willing to concede a little of this, but much more willing to play down their extent of their behaviour.

Where my mother herself is concerned, her short temper hasn't improved, nor her common sense, or her need to understand that not only is it polite to face toward people while speaking it's often the only way her soft voice can be heard (until she loses her temper). She keeps an immaculately clean and tidy house, yet is hopelessly disorganised at time management. I spent a good number of hours patiently educating her on the importance of writing up task lists and shopping lists, because I'm the other way around; I manage my time well although I'm a mess at organising my cupboard and wardrobe space.

8th February to about 22nd February
I really should have recorded a diary during this time especially. After that last day of record high temperatures the rain bucketed down for several consecutive days.
Nevertheless I found myself all-too frequently accompanying my mother to the shops because she always forgets one or two items, while being distracted and spending time buying or arranging other things.

Much to my own surprise, my presence at the homestead proved especially helpful to my mother despite the state of my arm. I can now tell you how many one-armed foxaroos it takes to change a light bulb; one if there's a two-armed person involved. Several of the lights in the house were bare incandescent bulbs and my mother wanted to install proper coverings and change the bulbs to energy saving. We did so with little difficulty, and the house looks that little bit more elegant now. After we visited a locksmith to obtain new lock cylinders, I replaced the locks on all the doors including the two roller-doors. All fairly were easy except the front door lock, that one I struggled with for most of the night but finally it was in place and my mother says it now works far better than the original. Having less than average PC literacy there was plenty to help my mother with on her computer, as well as operating her DVD player. She actually has a far better computer than me, and uses less than a tenth of its capabilities. My greatest surprise of all was that I managed to solve a problem with my mother's four-stroke lawn mower. She had been unable to start the contraption. With my total lack of mechanical knowledge I was under no illusion of being able to diagnose the fault, but found it almost immediately - she had filled the oil compartment too high. After we drained the excess back out the machine started on the very next attempt.

Because we spent so much time shopping in town I was able to visit my Grandmother on at least three occasions. Her health has deteriorated badly. While she's very bright and alert, she also looks to be especially frail and immobile. She lost the ability to walk about four years ago and has been wheelchair bound ever since.

I was hopeful of an opportunity to visit my Aunt & Uncle in Port Macquarie but sadly no such chance arose.

Somehow I DID manage to fit in sufficient time for study and practice of cartoon drawing, and I want to be able to post up some samples of my practice work. In commencing this however I experienced a typical moment of unpleasantness from my family. Last year I had purchased some books on the matter, general cartoon drawing, drawing animals, drawing manga, and also "The Animators Survival Kit" by Richard Williams the Director of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." In November I had entrusted the books to my mother who at the time had been taking care of my Grandmother. My Grandmother is now in the "dutiful" care of my sister Fiona, who has in every way made herself at home in my Grandmother's place. On arrival my mother was immediately angered when she saw that the garbage bin by the curb was filled with many household items that my mother did NOT want thrown away. She retrieved them from the bin and placed them in the car to be taken home. When I asked about my books my mother went to her former room in my Grandmother's house and found all the books gone. My sister insisted that she hadn't seen them. Two hours later we found my books, thankfully intact, but buried below several piles of dusty old books and junk in the storage shed at the far end of the yard. Throughout this time my heart had been pounding with ever-increasing agitation.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that my sister is an individual so rude that I just cannot speak to her. The only words I mouthed in her direction were a polite "Goodbye Fiona" when I left that day, to which she curtly replied "Get real." This 29 year old also made her presence felt on or around the 19th February when she invited herself over to my mother's homestead to make use of the washing machine and drier. This meant she needed to drive the 40 minutes from the city. Why didn't she use the local laundromat? Because "she doesn't like their soap." She arrived with her car filled with clothing, and when my mother ask why there was so much of it my sister replied "MOM!!! I SWEAT!" Such was the sheer volume of laundry to be cleaned that the tumble drier needed to continue working well into the night, and the house reeked from the ensuing moisture spewed into the air. My sister however had long since returned to the city, requiring my mother to deliver the clothes the next day. Only one day later my mother was visiting my Grandmother again, whereupon she found the dirty clothes basket already filled with garments that had been part of the original consignment of laundry. Evidently my sister is of the practice of wearing clothing for only a few hours before changing. My mother was not impressed.

Fresh air and exercise had been an important goal for my time away from work, and between rain showers I took a few strolls around the countryside. The three primary subjects for my camera were the flooded river, the railway, and the local wildlife. Freight trains proved to be very rare beasts themselves. I only managed to capture one of these on video, and it was so far in the distance that the video isn't YouTube worthy. The XPT seemed far more willing to show itself and I have each of these encounters recorded for viewing. I haven't yet dragged out my bathroom scales to verify if all this activity has worked to reduce my body bulk.

On one of these treks I found a wallaby buck recently killed in collision with a vehicle. A beautiful and harmless creature with long eyelashes above it's lifeless eyes. My mother and I shifted the carcass off the road to prevent the otherwise intact body from being a road hazard. We were both worried that this buck was the male from a family of three we'd seen around the homestead. Thankfully the three were seen together a couple of days later. Much as I wanted to record them on video, they never came close enough during sufficient daylight, but I did record some individual wallabies who were less frightened.

When I heard that the town of Bourke had been flooded I worried that Batty's home city might have been similarly inundated. A telephone call brought relief that he was OK, but Disappointment that none of this rain had actually reached Dubbo at all. Furthermore that the economic downturn has inflicted its toll on the Batty family business. I really hope things improve for all of us everywhere.

23rd February to about 26th February
The rain ceased despite TV forecasts by both the local & national channels for more rain, and both the temperature and humidity gradually rose. On Monday the landlord confirmed that the renovations would be completed by Thursday afternoon, and thus I returned home and have since then been working on these LiveJournal entries.

A lot to do over the next few weeks, and plenty of E-mails to read for a start. I'd better get some sleep now.

Best regards to all,

[User Picture]From: alaskawolf
2009-02-27 02:19 pm (UTC)
wow that is a lot of writing to do with one hand :O im still wishing you the best and it is really good to hear from you.

rest up and heal up
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2009-03-05 11:36 am (UTC)
Thanks Alaskawolf!

Typing is one of the few activities that is only marginally affected by my situation. It's one of the few occasions that it's safe for me to take my arm fully out of the sling, because I can rest it on the desk without putting any weight on my shoulder muscles.

I need to take the arm out of the sling every few hours anyway. My armpit and the elbow joint need to breathe. I received a nasty fright when I found that the skin inside my elbow joint had turned pale white and was peeling away.
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[User Picture]From: sleepyjohn00
2009-02-27 02:33 pm (UTC)
Suggestions for sleeping:

1) A small 'white noise' generator; a constant low level background sound may drown out intermittent sounds that keep you awake. Ironically, i find that the hum and whoosh of my CPAP machine is a positive sleep aid.

2) Roll up a few blankets into a bed-length pillow and put it along your back. When you roll in your sleep, you won't go all the way over.

Glad to hear the operation went well (finally!) and you and your mom got along well enough. In re your sister: your mom can always tell her to keep walking till she hits a fence. Not your issue.

Good luck, don't try to do too much too soon.
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[User Picture]From: deckardcanine
2009-02-27 03:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, man.

I say that not just for your hard times, but for my own shame. I've been to Canada several times, yet I don't remember Canadian accents.
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[User Picture]From: dhlawrence
2009-02-27 04:09 pm (UTC)
Most of us sound the same as border state Americans, with the exceptions of the Maritime provinces and Quebec (for obvious reasons). The difference is a little more noticeable in other parts of the Commonwealth, though ;)
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2009-03-05 11:39 am (UTC)
During my conversation with the Canuck lady, there was a smart-alek nearby who said something about how bad the Canadian accent sounds. I immediately retorted "Hey! The Canadian accent sounds like a more pleasant version of the American accent!"

What followed was a mild cheer from the Canuck lady, and echoes of amusement from other staff nearby. It may have been the reason the Canuck lady was attending to me when I came around... :)
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[User Picture]From: dhlawrence
2009-02-27 04:13 pm (UTC)
Same thing happened with my grandmother and her sisters. After their mother died, they kept fighting over whose responsibility it was to clear out the house and who got what (one brother walked into the house, grabbed a clock off the wall, and left without saying a word). One sister got tired of it and decided to start throwing things out. Lord only knows how many pictures were lost because of her.

Fortunately, we got the dining room set. We also have the parlour furniture in our hall, a purchase from one of my uncles. My grandmother got the huche, a large chest used as a breadbox, but we picked that up from the home's new owners a couple years ago--thankfully it was still there!
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[User Picture]From: marmoe
2009-02-27 05:16 pm (UTC)
Hi Stephan, glad to hear the surgery went well. I hope the shoulder will heal up nicely. Thank you for the report, must have taken some time writing it with just one hand. I'll better close now, before you run into the 200MB ceiling. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2009-03-05 11:41 am (UTC)
Thanks Marmoe!

Don't worry, I'm still able to type with both hands... paws... ;)

Text isn't so bad (was it you who jokes about "recycled electrons?"), but things like Yahoo Mail consume a bit of quota because of all the stupid advertisments which I haven't yet figured out the way to turn off.
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[User Picture]From: marmoe
2009-03-06 10:06 am (UTC)
Yep, it was me with the recycled electrons. Glad to hear you can use both hands.

As for yahoo, if you are using Firefox, there is an extension that will block those ads. I think it stops them even before they are downloaded.
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[User Picture]From: carlfoxmarten
2009-02-28 08:47 am (UTC)
thefoxaroo said:I was very surprised that as someone who nowadays rarely appears on the forums, and is more than 18 months behind schedule on the web comic, there are people who continue to maintain their friendship toward me. I'm not sure how I deserve this, but I will certainly make good on my promise to resume Kaustic auZzie Notes at first opportunity.

Funny, I don't remember you promising to update KZN constantly and without breaks...

Personally, I still hang around because I like helping out (and I can't come over for the day to help out :( ), and because I've found your story (and visuals) very interesting so far...

Ugh, so tired right now, I'll try to comment more later.
I was doing some volunteer work for eleven hours straight on Thursday and I haven't quite recovered yet.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2009-03-05 11:48 am (UTC)
carlfoxmarten said:"Funny, I don't remember you promising to update KZN constantly and without breaks...",

What I mean is that I'm no celebrity ;)

And bother! I've forgotten where you posted the instructions about colouring these LJ quote boxes. I saw it on my work computer, and now I can't remember whether you told me in an E-mail or here on LJ.

Re the comic - it's something I've promised to MYSELF most of all. I not only desire to see the completed work up on display, but I enjoy working on it in the first place. The trouble is that whenever I do the work in little bites of interrupted time the result is like concrete that's set in different stages - cracks appear and it looks inconsistent.

Just another two weeks until the sling comes off for good. The weather has already cooled down, so that's a good start!
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[User Picture]From: carlfoxmarten
2009-03-07 12:20 am (UTC)
That would be somewhere around here:
(kind of hard to find, as it's buried behind several journal entries...)
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