Monday, 30 April 2012

I am 50 today!

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What a bloody accomplishment! Sort of a bit stunned at getting here. Time to put the past behind me. 

Haven't been out drinking or anything, just haven't felt like it taking antibiotics and having coughing fits. But it was nice at home yesterday. Daughter gave the presents yesterday as she's working today, including the badge above (it's very her that badge) and the cake above. I couldn't believe they can put pictures on cakes now. What will they think of next? That pic is when I was about 30 I suppose and her a toddler, it's very obvious she's my daughter looking at that one. The cake shop has this special machine that scans a photo and prints the image on rice paper, and they put it on the cake just as you get there to pick it up. Never heard of such a thing. Very nice thought.

She also gave me a beer mug with "Happy 50th" on the side (will put it on the shelf to look at as I don't usually use mugs at home with beer) and a very nice card. 

We chatted very relaxed while having some cake. Appreciated that, how well we get on now. Told her later that that was the best present of all.

Asked her if she still had the picture of her hand after it went into the deep fryer at KFC a few years back, but it was lost on an old phone that shit itself. We were talking about the recent news of the KFC thing, particularly as she'd worked at the one closest to us. She said that she also had seen food that had fallen on the floor being put back into the warmer, and I related how during the KFC trial they used for witnesses workers such as her that had been there and seen what was happening, to testify in the court about it. She was horrified about the girl who got brain damage, and that her superiors let things like that happen at her store as well. Like I've said, I'd never eat there after her working there, just that alone, as I know the sort of thing that goes on there.

So I now embark on my 50's. What a relief.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

The road to 50

Tomorrow I'm 50.

There's so many thoughts and emotions going through me right now I just don't know where to begin. I've been too sick to be out drinking and celebrating, but I'm sort of glad now as it's provided clarity to the whole turning 50 experience. It's been a very long, rough, (and of course dramatic darlings) journey to at last get to this point. I know this blog is about HIV, but HIV was rather a late arrival on the scene; I've often described it as the icing on the shit cake. I wished I'd have started this blog many years earlier (although we're talking pre-internet for some of it) as it's been vital these last couple of years in helping me to sort out my thoughts and feelings, and move forward with some kind of clear head in it all.

Am often asked by people who contact me through the blog, like WTF happened in your life to end up so hurt and all like you are? The blog itself is also a recent arrival on the scene, although the dramatic tragedies have continued unabated after it's inception. I'm not generally eager to share any of what went on pre-blog as there's just so much of it that I'd be raving on for ages. But someone asked recently in an email, and I did manage to fit some of the pre-blog dramatics all into a single paragraph in my reply, albeit a long one:
OK a very brief summary of my shit. You may be surprised to know that I was married until 2006. We were together for 17 years, and our daughter is now 21. My wife was chronically ill for most of that 17 years and eventually died in 2006 after a long slow decline. I was of course the primary carer. It was bloody hard, to watch someone slowly die like that. We had some huge arguments and it was a very stormy relationship very often, but in the end none of that mattered. Just that we loved each other. I was there when she died, I knew she'd hung on overnight so I could be with her. Of course our daughter took it very badly, and the first Christmas after her death decided to drop everything in Sydney and go and live in the country with some idiot 18 year old she'd gotten to know on the internet, full of anger and hatred for me. She'd only just turned 16 so there was nothing I could do. So yeah, that hurt more than my wife dying. Ripped my heart out that one. I've never celebrated Christmas since. Anyway after a while my daughter moved back in with me about a year later after her relationship with the country fuckwit collapsed. It didn't work out though as we constantly fought, she was 18 and a total little shit. Through all of this I had a very good online friend in America who we got to know each other very closely. For a bit we even thought of taking the relationship further, but by that time I was exploring my sexuality other side of the fence, and we just stayed very good friends. Her husband was dying like my wife, and she supported me while my wife died whilst I supported her when her husband died only a few months later (right around Christmas). But alas they have no support services at all in America for people like her. Unlike me she had no grief counselling, no financial assistance, no friends, nothing. She did try the poor thing, but long story short 2 years later she ended up in a caravan park facing eviction in a couple of days. She was open with me about it, and decided that she wasn't going to do homelessness, and killed herself on the day before the sheriffs would have come to chuck her out. I rang briefly a few hours before and we both said goodbye to each other. I miss her friendship, but I understand how she was feeling and there was nothing I could do from here. It was what she wanted. That was Australia day 2009. Two weeks later my daughter and I had an enormous argument here at home and I hit her a couple of times lightly in the arm. She went to the local police station and had me charged with common assault, and the cops came and arrested me later at 1am in the morning. I booted her out the next day. One month after that, I was diagnosed with HIV. For the next 6 months I was very close to suicide, and very nearly did it. I was put on a very high dose of antidepressants (which I'm still on today) and was seeing both a psychologist and psychiatrist at Albion St Centre, who diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress. There's more of course, but it sort of connects with the beginning of the blog from there.
I should keep that paragraph somewhere I think. Just copy and paste next time I get asked! Looking at it all in one place like that sort of does my head in. And of course you can add acute kidney failure and near death to that, along with financial near bankruptcy, and on and on. 

But hey, here I am, still here. I'm not sure how, but I am. Have said before my GP is of the opinion that I'm like a cat with nine lives, although I dunno which one I'm up to. Indeed, I seem to be un-killable. Perhaps one of the reasons suicide became less of an option/attraction? It'd be just my luck that I'd jump off a tall building and fuckin survive! When I was diagnosed with HIV I instantly thought "Thank fuck, a way out of this world", and then they told me it wasn't a death sentence anymore. WTF? And that I no longer had HepC as my body had cleared it on it's own. WTF? 

I seems like nothing I did self destructing made much of a dent. All  those drugs over the decades. All that alcohol. The depression. Living on the edge, putting myself in all kinds of danger. How the hell I survived all of that is surely one of the great paradoxes of the universe. Against all odds, I have survived. 

Turning 50 tomorrow will be a truly remarkable experience.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Continuing slime

Struggling on with the yellow slime. It's all very dramatic of course. If there's one thing I've learnt about the YSD is that it's bloody persistent. The antibiotics do appear to be doing something, with the slime level reducing somewhat and the consistency more fluid than gooey. There are still patches of more solid slime though, mostly in my throat and some the left nostril. I seem to have slime attacks, full on running nose and yellow fluidy crap coming out. Yesterday at work I had to blow my nose constantly for about 5 minutes. Today now there's a bit of blood coming out as well. Oh FFS it's back to the bio-hazard rubbish bin again. Having coughing attacks as well, it's right back in my throat and takes a lot to cough it up. Going to the chemist later today to get the antibiotic repeat. Will ask them if they have something strong over the counter to dry the slime out a bit. The Codral tablets I got from there the other day don't seem to be that effective.

Simon rang last night and said he'll be here in about 2 weeks. Coming in his car this time with his little dog. I warned him the other week about the fleas outside that ended up doing the cat in. It's because of all the rain this year. Have got some of the very effective flea pills left over though so the dog can have them if it gets fleas. Kills all the fleas on the dog for 24 hours somehow. Got the pills when puss was dying and only used 2 of them. Expensive they were $70! Glad that they can be of some use. He can take them back with him if he wants in case the dog ever does get fleas. Hope I'm better by then. Fuck I'm already going into the 4th week of this shit.

Going to be 50 on Monday. What a fuckin accomplishment! Feels like I've run a marathon to get there. My 40's were an utter horrendous time. Would never want to go back and do it all again, happy to have made it this far.

More on KFC - It's worse than I thought.

Still following  the KFC story here. I found this article back when the trial was in progress. It is truly revolting reading:
 The 16-year-old in charge of cooking at the Villawood outlet had described part of his duties as removing "feathers, foreign objects and blood bits" from the raw chickens, Mr Bartley said.

"Your honour will hear that, if the store was particularly busy, then even if chicken dropped on the floor near the burger station, then it was on some occasions simply put back into the burger station from where it had fallen," he said.

That evidence would come from those working at the time at other KFC stores and at Villawood, which was not a franchise but "their own internal operation", he said.

"In relation to the performance of this particular store, in August 2005, your honour will hear a group of 10 or more people who bought KFC from the Villawood store fell ill with vomiting and diarrhoea."
A 16 year old "in charge of cooking"? WTF? For an entire restaurant? Is KFC fuckin insane? And this:
The manager in charge of the Villawood KFC in 2005 told the court that getting staff to follow food safety procedures was a problem.

Some staff members also testified that they used to throw food around as a joke, saw chicken fall to the floor and people handling food without gloves on.

"The evidence was consistent that the standards set by KFC were not met during the latter half of 2005," Judge Rothman said.

"The contamination has occurred because of the failure of one or more employees of KFC to adhere to that procedure."

An assessment of the restaurant conducted at the time Monika ate the Twister found it was operating at "breakdown" level and scored just 51 out of a possible 100 points for criteria including cleanliness, the court heard.

Cleaning checklists were apparently not being used by staff and many were not following hand-washing procedures.

Judge Rothman said some staff might not have been fully aware of the potential consequences of not following the strict procedures around food safety.
Also found the NSW "Name and Shame" website. A site dedicated to making public information about restaurants in NSW that breach food and safety health regulations. The info is left on the site for 12 months. Not surprisingly then there are 4 penalty notices listed for KFC, the breaches being:
Fail to take all practicable measures to eradicate and prevent the harbourage of pests - live cockroaches observed
Fail to store potentially hazardous food under temperature control - mashed potato at 45C, previous warning given

Handle food in manner likely to render it unsuitable - mashed potato and gravy stored at 38C

Fail to maintain the food premises to the required standard of cleanliness - unclean floors, refrigeration seals, chip cabinet, slushy machine, freezer, coolroom, garbage room
And to top it all off, a local one very nearby me I found was fined in 2009, too far back to be on the Name and Shame site:
KFC, Belmore Road, Randwick received three fines of $660 each for being unclean and having cockroaches on its premises.
KFC has said it will appeal the decision to pay the family poisoned by them the $8million, so all this isn't over yet. It's good to see that the news has gone around the world though. Perhaps people will start seeing through the lies of the corporate advertising and see the food for exactly what it is. Deep fried unhealthy crap thrown together (literally) by young teenagers who don't have a clue about the strict standards required to keep food safe for human consumption.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Bank Karma

Perhaps this is an indication of how things are panning out with me and the asshole bank; the one that has given me strife from day one of me telling them I was presently unable to pay my debt to them. It's a long convoluted story, but perhaps the worst thing they did of which I will never forget, was to (illegally) deny me to apply for financial hardship and a reprieve for some months whilst I sorted out my affairs (as required by legislation) and hand me over to an Indian call centre. Which proceeded to make 14 calls in ten days to me, long story short out and out harassment. It was only the $guru who stopped those calls by threatening the bank. This bank I'd been with for 27 years.

In disgust at my treatment, not long after that I changed banks and started putting my wages in another one. I left the fucked up bank to sort out it's own process with what it was going to do with my dormant account. As I was no longer putting a minimum of $2,000 a month into the account of my wages I knew it would incur the $5 a month account keeping fee. So I waited....

I got the final letter about the account today in the mail. They had in recent months charged nearly $20 to the account in fees. I know it was "autoclosed" in the end, but it does seem very Karma to me that they had to in fact credit all the fees they'd charged to the account, back to the account, to close it.

It's the end of an era. I know that account number from memory after many years of writing it. I'm glad I don't bank with them any more.

KFC ordered to pay $8m to brain-damaged girl

This story captured my attention the other day when the courts found that KFC was responsible for the food poisoning that caused severe brain damage in a girl, who's family all became sick after sharing one of their "Twisters" with each other. I was disgusted how the KFC response was to deny all responsibility and call the family liars, indicating that the family had thought KFC an "easy target" during the trial.

Today they were ordered to pay the family $8 million in compensation, plus court costs to the family, within 28 days:

The family of a young girl who was left severely brain damaged from salmonella poisoning after eating a KFC chicken twister has been awarded $8 million in damages plus costs by the NSW Supreme Court.
Seven-year-old Monika Samaan became seriously ill after eating the chicken wrap at the Villawood KFC in 2005, suffering brain damage that has left her confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak.
KFC denied it was responsible, challenging the family's claim during a four-week trial.

Justice Stephen Rothman found in favour of the family last Friday, and this afternoon he ordered the fast-food giant to pay the family $8 million in compensation plus costs.
In a statement to the media, the lawyer for the Samaan family George Vlahakis, said Monika's severe brain damage and severe disability had already "exhausted the very limited resources of the family".
"Monika is now a big girl and they are finding it increasingly difficult to lift her and to look after her basic needs as well as look after Monika's younger siblings," Mr Vlahakis said.
"The compensation ordered is very much needed. KFC have to date been determined that Monika does not receive a cent."
KFC has indicated that it intends to appeal against the decision of Justice Rothman as it has "a responsibility to defend KFC's reputation as a provider of safe, high quality food".
Mr Vlahakis said last week that KFC should accept the court's decision.
"KFC chose to put Monika and her family through a court hearing over several weeks, which they adjourned twice so that the process so far has taken seven years since she sustained her injuries," he said.

"KFC of course got a completely fair hearing and were represented by a large team of lawyers from a multi-national firm and their own in-house legal team.
"Monika is represented by a sole practitioner law firm and the family has virtually no resources other than their love for one another, their courage and their belief in themselves and their case."
During a four-week trial in 2010, Monika's father Amanwial Samaan told the court he and his wife Hanna, son Abanou and Monika all fell ill with vomiting and diarrhoea after sharing the Twister.
Unlike Monika, who was in a coma for six months and in hospital for seven, they recovered.
Monika took the court action through her father.

KFC's behaviour alone (IMO) in this case is deserving of never me eating there. Or perhaps their not accepting the verdict and appealing, amazingly claiming that they are "a provider of safe, high quality food". Oh FFS! You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that they're fuckin serving up deep fried chicken, and that there's been a few cases here of their stores being fined by the relevant food authorities for breaching regulations (including picking up stuff off the floor and serving it to customers). Or that we have 15-18 year old teenagers involved in the food preparation process; I mean who the hell wants to buy something that a 15 year old has chucked together? I can do much better in my own kitchen blindfolded. But ultimately the reason for me never eating there is that their food is not only unsafe health wise, particularly for someone HIV+ who has health concerns already like me, but it's also unsafe because you don't know if you could end up with food poisoning or not.

As a person with a struggling immune system, trying to avoid going on medication if it's possible, and after all my health issues last year, I'd not touch KFC with a fuckin ten foot barge pole. I can't afford the risk of contaminated food, let alone the slow burn from bad health that it brings generally.  

And let's not forget, this is a foreign company to our shores. How dare they poison us and deny any wrong doing.  

Thursday, 26 April 2012

I joined the Bears

Have been thinking for a while to, as Simon and I know a couple of members and have often been to their Sunday drinks at the Lord Roberts Hotel. Finally took the plunge. Step in the right direction I think.

The Harbour City Bears:
 Harbour City Bears is an inclusive not-for profit community group for hairy men, their admirers and friends.

I showed the neighbour the Bear website. He was shocked, never heard of them obviously. He did stay and look at some of the pictures in the galleries though. I think he was a bit curious himself. He's very bear-ish himself, big build, chunky and hair everywhere. Oh but he's hetro of course..... I told him he'd make a good bear, and that "they would love him", between fits of laughter. He didn't appear very impressed, but kept looking at the pictures. Hmmmmm...... 

They seem to have quite a few social events, which is good for me trying to get out again. They even have a Bear Benefits Program. Cheap drinks involved there, fantastic!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The return of the Yellow Slime Disease (YSD)

A holiday here being ANZAC day. Only working Thursday and Friday this week.

When I went to the doctors on Monday he examined me re the coughing and nose infection. Said it didn't need antibiotics at the moment, but he'd give me a prescription in case it did soon. As it wasn't getting better at all I decided fuck it, and went and got the prescription. Amoxicillin. So far have taken one last night and one this morning, with little improvement. Still coughing up revolting yellow slime from the top of my lungs and now it's progressed into my nose as well. Oh how very pleasant.

Had a massive headache all day yesterday, probably to do with the sinuses. Down my neck as well. I'm up to the third week of this shit now. Think it's been made much worse by the bazillions of rain we've had last week. Everyone's getting it the doctor tells me (I don't know why doctors tell you that, is it supposed to make you feel better? :s). Anyway I've learnt in the past not to try and be the hero when it comes to these things, particularly the YSD. It only ends in tears, literally. 

Still remember one time last year I ended up at the doctor after a great manly delusion about fighting it off myself. I think it's a guy thing. Some blokes just seem to think going to the doctor is a sign of girly weakness or something. My neighbour's like that. He'll get some sort of flu and refuse to go to see anyone. Last year he ended up finally going to see a GP as it was either that or the hospital, he got that bad. Hopefully this time won't be so bad for me, got to be proactive I think and jump the gun a bit. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Top 5 regrets of the dying

I came across this a while ago and thought it was interesting, but more so now given the direction I've been going on the blog. 

Living true to yourself, looks like a common theme running through many people's thoughts about happiness, life and death. To be authentic to who you are. To not succumb to restrictions in life that suffocate you as a person, but to assert yourself as the person you really are.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
Growing up in a small town in New Zealand, looking back, was incredibly insular and restrictive. I remember on the farm before even moving into a small town, long before the internet, colour TV (was 1 channel that aired during the afternoon and evenings), and long before FM radio even. The only access beyond the stifling small minded community was the occasional play around with a short wave radio, and it was amazing to me as a kid that I could actually hear someone from another country. It was like I was listening to beings from another planet. Life involved growing up, getting married, having kids. A mind numbing living death.

Gay people were never discussed. Apparently we didn't have any. That was something that happened in the big city I suppose. It didn't seem an option to consider at all. I do remember later on my stepmothers daughter coming to visit from Australia and after she'd left I was told the terrible secret that she was a lesbian. I wasn't concerned at all, but the way it was said to me was very strange; like it was a big secret to be hidden away and not spoken of. 

All of this was nothing like Sydney today. Jumping the fence just wasn't an issue for me, or anyone else that knows me from the past. It's simply expanding sexual horizons, being open to desires that weren't part of my previous life. That's not to say I didn't have great sex when I was with my wife, we did. Gay sex however involves different feelings and desires. It's where I am right now, and at present I'm very comfortable in identifying myself as gay. Sexuality is a very big subject, and the labels that society applies to various groups can be restrictive in themselves. I refer to myself now as "gay" for want of a better word. At least people have an idea of where I'm coming from. It's just to hard to get into a whole discussion about sexuality if someone asks you about it. 

I am who I am, whatever that is. Still exploring. That said IMO it's a big help for me personally to be open about things and live authentically to that. At times even to the point of revealing my HIV status quite freely within the gay world. In a sense being HIV+ is part of who I am. Part of life's scars that make me who I am today.

And in another sense, being positive confronts you with your own mortality. You think about how you want to live life now. What's really important for you. Many times the things important to you before diagnosis become trivial.

Monday, 23 April 2012

What makes us happy?

By chance I happened to be watching the Ellen show earlier today. It's usually not my cup of tea, a lot of mindlessness which I don't find at all entertaining. I did however very much enjoy this interview she did today with Tom Shadyac:

He said some things that have been exactly what's been going through my mind in recent times, particularly about living authentically to who you actually are. In fact the subject came up yesterday when my sister (in Sydney) and I were talking on the phone. 

Not sure if this was the actual graph he was referring to, but if not something very similar. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

A path to healing

Have been moving in this direction for the past few months, looking back in hindsight. There have been more than one catalyst involved. 

It's an awareness, almost an awakening, of what's impeding. I have a sense that out of all the confusion and chaos, I've found a path into the future. This path leads to betterment, peace, a healing of spiritual, emotional, and possibly even better physicality. That involves every part of my being. A path that's mine, and which I must take.

There's no turning back. It's time to burn the bridges to the past. To move forward away from the pain and despair. From the paralysis. I'm setting fire to those bridges, a fire-storm erupting around me. I'm not going to let myself be hurt any more. Drawing a line in the sand. The past is over. Now I must turn my attention to the future.

I dunno if people involved in that past will understand, like maybe most of my family, me leaving them behind. But I've been to hell and back, and I can't let myself continue to be hurt by anyone who doesn't really care about me at all. 

An update on that U2 video from Live Aid:

The guy on the left sorting out the mic cord is Greg Carrol. A very good Maori friend of theirs who U2 meet on tour in New Zealand. He moved over to Dublin with them. However not long after this he was killed in a tragic motorbike accident, much to everyone's grief. The song "One Tree Hill" is for him, and a reference to One Tree Hill in Auckland.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Fast food tragedy

It's been another difficult week.Have been sick for 2 weeks now straight. The pain has gone in my throat but now has moved down into my lungs and am coughing up yellow slime (ah what memories). Thankfully there's no yellow slime in my nose, but it's constantly running and I have to spend all day blowing it and sneezing out of it. I have the usual headache with it all. And to top it all off I got an ulcer in my mouth where my back teeth rub against the gums. I often get one there as my wisdom teeth back there constantly rub, but usually it's nothing big. This one is about 5mm across by the look of it in the mirror, and so painful it's almost as bad as a toothache. The same parts of the right side of my head hurt from it as when I needed a root canal. 

And it's the second week where work has been a struggle. This was a 4 day week, and everyday it was really hard to get up. Waking up coughing up slime and blowing my nose like mad. Fuck. I sound like a real whinger. It's isolating as people get so sick of hearing this shit they turn off. I'm pretty sure though the stressing about the money has been making it worse. Made an appt with my regular GP for Monday, after the psychologist, to go and whinge to him. Suppose I'm due for a CD4 count as well. Was going to leave it another month as I'm so sick of doctors after last year, but I might as well get it done if I'm going anyway.

Took this picture at work this week. It's the big knife that gets changed twice a week. This is the sharpened one ready to put in the machine. The other blunt one gets put in the case and sent off to be sharpened. About a metre long, as sharp as a razor blade. Cuts through 1,000 sheets of paper at a time.

Was reading this morning in the news about KFC here. My daughter used to work at the local one a few years ago here, and so I decided (after finding out some of what goes on there) I would never in my life eat at any KFC. My daughter in fact got a major burn as the floor hadn't been moped and she slipped on it when rushing around the deep fryer. Yep, you guest it, her hand landed in the deep fryer as she tried to stop falling. Can't tell now they did a very good job healing it, she had to go to the special burns unit at a hospital western Sydney. It was entirely KFC's fault as the floor was fuckin filthy. Now I read an even worse case from someone who ate their food:
 A Sydney father who claimed his daughter was left severely brain damaged from salmonella poisoning after eating a KFC 'Twister' has won a court battle against the fast-food chain.
 During a four-week trial in 2010, Monika's father Amanwial Samaan told the court he and his wife Hanna, son Abanou and Monika all fell ill with vomiting and diarrhoea after sharing the Twister.

Monika, who was in a coma for six months and in hospital for seven, is effectively now a quadriplegic and severely brain damaged.

She took the NSW Supreme Court action through her father.

KFC's lawyer, Ian Barker QC, argued there "never was a shared Twister" because there was no sales data to prove the family purchased it.

"You did not tell anyone at the hospital, when you were there between October 27 and 29, that you had shared a KFC Twister that Monday," Mr Barker said in the NSW Supreme Court in July 2010.

"Because there was no direct question at me," Mr Samaan replied.

He also accused Mr Samaan of thinking KFC "might be an easy target".

But the family's barrister, Anthony Bartley SC, presented evidence about KFC food practices that were "disturbing and unsettling".

"If the store was particularly busy, then even if chicken dropped on the floor... it was on some occasions simply put back into the burger station from where it had fallen," he said.

U2's Live Aid "failure"

Been reading more of the "U2 By U2" book. This morning before I got up I was reading about their performance at Live Aid in 1985. I don't remember that one, must have missed it. Had only been in Australia a few months at that stage. Apparently everyone thought they were brilliant, a highlight of the whole Live Aid thing. This was their performance of Bad:

I've just watched it for the first time (Oh god that hair, and those boots! Bono admits now though it was a fashion disaster). It's very funny to read the very different story of the band when they were on stage. They were supposed to do another song Pride, In the name of love, their hit single, after Bad.

However Bono decided to climb over things to get to the audience, impromptu. For a bit the band couldn't even see him and didn't know where the fuck he'd gone, thinking possibly he'd decided to finish the set early and had left the stage. He did the thing with the audience and eventually got back on stage but it took so long they didn't have time for Pride. The band was absolutely ropeable with him, nearly fired him over it, and he spent some days depressed about it afterwards. It wasn't until the feedback started to come in about the performance that they all realised that people thought him going into the audience had been a big highlight.     

Thursday, 19 April 2012

On the verge of a Super success!

I got yet another phone call from the Dept of Human Services today. It was Jason, the bloke there dealing with my application for early release of my Superannuation. He wanted to discuss the latest emails, PDF's, and other attachments from both me and the $guru. I was able to clarify that he needed to look at the JPEG attachment as that was the up to date screen shot of the loan (which only has 3 month statements so I did a screenshot of the latest transactions to date). He was happy with that. Unfortunately as the $guru had been a third party with the other bank and their letter had come through him it wasn't acceptable. He needed something to be sent directly from the bank to him (Oh FF bloody S). 

But he was able to ring the $guru at my request, as I explained this had all done my head in long ago and the $guru was guiding me through all this as I wasn't mentally incapable of meandering through all this crap on a weekly basis. Um, well not in those exact words, but the inference was there. I actually said he'd been holding my hand through it all whilst I freaked out. I also commented about the horrifying (darlings) evil bank that had to be dragged kicking and screaming just to follow the legislation, and a formal complaint made to the Financial Services Ombudsman about my case. Jason was pretty good actually. Sounded actually a bit caring (for a bureaucrat) and said it wouldn't be much longer. As soon as the thing was received directly from the bank then the funds could be released within 24-48 hours. I nearly fuckin fainted on the spot. 

So I rang the $guru about an hour later. He'd received the call from Jason, and was going about getting the bank to send something directly to him. This is the final hurdle of this 6 month War and Peace episode with the gov. I am running down the home straight to the finish line. I can see it just ahead. 

I was at work when all this happened. I started digesting the events. Had a relaxing beer on the way home. The events sparked off many thoughts.

As this is the last major thing to sort out from the ongoing train wreck of many years that is my life, does this mean that the end of the train wreck is near? It's been so very very long since anything went remotely right. Just the thought that the end of my train wreck may be near makes me cry. For the last years I've been experiencing the wreck in some weirded out slow motion. This money thing was like the last carriage still moving along and crashing into things before it stopped. I so hope that last carriage is stopping.

I don't believe it all happens for a reason. WTF would be the reason for me? To drive me suicidal? To destroy me? It's simply fate, for me. The hand that fate deals you. A chance of the universe. I got a really fuckin bad hand. I dunno how much shit chance can deal out in one lifetime, but I got a big handful of it. It was way way more than I or anyone could deal with. It's only from the support of the society here that I survived. At the worst times I was measuring plastic bags over my head, among other things. 

I remember at one point in tears at one of the many psychologist's visits. Relating this song to him:

"Time can be so hard,
 Ain't no shuffling of the cards that your dealt".

I said to him, "All I want is another chance, another hand dealt...."  

To think that this may be the end of the shit.... I'm too scared to even hope....

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Julian Assange, the Australian demonised by America and the Western allies as being a "terrorist" and deserving of death because of Wikileaks, has started a new interview show called "The World Tomorrow". This is his fist appearance on it, where he interviews Hezbollah leader Sayyid Nasrallah. His first interview in 6 years. I dunno what to make of it. I support Assange in standing up to the main stream media, to give a different view, whatever that is.

Stress illness?

Day 2 of the work week. It was hard to get up this morning. My throat had yellow slime that I was coughing up. All day my nose has been running. It's been pouring rain here the last couple of days, torrential, but as the symptoms are so familiar I'm not so sure it's the rain bringing all this on.

Last year when I was stressing badly about the factory manager at work I had the same thing. Sore throat and nose, snot, and lasting for not days but weeks, even months last year. I'm pretty much thinking that today as well I'm sick because of stress. It's like I'm going through some of last year again. The illness just goes on and on and doesn't get better.

I'd say it'd be stress about the Superannuation money and about how much time this is all taking. Supposed to take 10 days they said, but now over 3 months since the application sent. I keep worrying about what the banks will do if they keep taking more and more time, or if the banks will in fact hang me out to dry if after all this the application is denied. 

I know I shouldn't worry like this, and I'm trying so hard not to. But even the Shingles scars have gotten a bit darker last couple of weeks. I just want this to be over. I just want them to tell me either way so it's over. If I have to go bankrupt so be it. It's fuckin worse hanging around for all this time not knowing.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Hiyhway to Hell

Unenthusiastic at work today. Bored shitless.

Had a couple of beers on the way home. Last week at the pub nearest work they had this song being played on the TV at the pub, Australian band. An old AC/DC song, way back in 1977. I'd not seen that one before played live like that. Back when Bon Scott was still alive. It fuckin rocks. I was transfixed.

Later at home I looked up this one. Here's the original video from Australia.

I don't believe in hell. Or heaven. But if there was a hell I'd rather be down there stoking the fires than playing harps in clouds, how boring.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Revolting stomach dilemnas

Had a very bad night last night. Been taking it easy all week but went Sunday afternoon for an outing at a pub in Darlinghurst as was invited there. As I hadn't eaten since lunch I thought I'd have the "Soup of the day" before leaving. It was very nice, a large bowl of a Thai soup and some bread with garlic butter. 

Something in it didn't agree with me at all though. Got home about 8 I think on the bus and felt incredibly tired for some reason. I guess it might still have been the effects of this illness I've had for a week. It's definitely getting better now at last, but the fatigue seems to be lingering. Hadn't been out at all apart from a few beers going home from work last Thursday. Have not even drunk any beers apart from that since the Sat before. But as I was so tired even though it was early I got in the door and went straight to bed (after grunting hello at daughter).

Woke up about 11 feeling really bad in the stomach. Felt like what I'd eaten was just sitting there and refusing to go any further. Drank some water, burped a few times, lay back down. But it slowly got worse and worse, and in the end had to spew in the toilet. Fuck haven't spewed in ages. I hate spewing it's revolting! And this one didn't seem to stop. In the end it was stomach acid coming up as well and afterwards my throat was sore from the acid. Ack, very nice soup but I should have ordered something else I think. Eventually got back to sleep. Not at work today being Monday, but am tomorrow being the second Tuesday.

Thankfully the spew drama ended after it happened. Just something about that particular food that my stomach chucked a fit at. By morning I felt OK. I haven't even had to take any Panadol today for my throat as it's so much better. Happy days. 

Gonna do some shopping shortly. Getting something for lunch for the 4 days of work that will be better for me than the food risks at the work cafeteria. Think it's me more than them. Digestion seems to be a bit of a roll of the dice these days. Suppose I am nearly 50. HIV too does reside in your guts I've heard. Oh for the days when I had an iron stomach! When I could party all weekend and go to work happily first thing Monday morning (albeit a bit dazed). Amazing I'm even making it to 50.   

Getting something easy to make for dinner through those 4 days too. So important for me to eat well especially in that time.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Order out of chaos

This PC is so much better than the old one. Dunno how I managed with that for so long now. There's so much more that it will do. Today I discovered some pretty amazing fractal things. Fractal geometry has been around for a while, but with today's computers there can be some amazing work created. I had no idea that there were now 3D fractals.  Dunno WTF this has to do with HIV, but it's really bloody interesting. Order out of chaos.

Must admit its a bit hard for me to get my head around. The best explanation I came across was this:

Many things previously called chaos are now known to follow subtle subtle fractal laws of behavior. So many things turned out to be fractal that the word "chaos" itself (in operational science) had redefined, or actually for the FIRST time Formally Defined as following inherently unpredictable yet generally deterministic rules based on nonlinear iterative equations. Fractals are unpredictable in specific details yet deterministic when viewed as a total pattern - in many ways this reflects what we observe in the small details & total pattern of life in all it's physical and mental varieties, too ....

FRACTAL FERN: One very simple way to understand fractals and the meaning of "lteration" is to examine a simple recursive operation that produces a fractal fern thru a "chaos game' of generating random numbers and then placing them on a grid.

After a few dozen repetitions or ITERATIONS the shape we would recognize as a Perfect Fern appears from the abstract world of math. How and Why can this be?

The answer to why is that it Simply IS - and it's quite surprising too!
Answering How is that nature always follows the simplest & most efficient path. Fractals are maps of the simplest paths sliding up the scale of Dimensions (from 2-D to 3-D and so on). So maybe it's simply an artifact of nature's elegance that we find exact correspondences between these inherently existing mathematical forms and natural patterns, and even living creatures of many types. 

And in that link are comparisons with naturally generated fractal patterns, and similar patterns created within todays' computers which are capable of generating such massive complexity. Such as this:
And here is one I liked, a 3D one set to music. Amazing.


What all this means I'm not sure. I suppose you could speculate that the human race is moving ever towards more complexity following our own fractal pattern. I even read someone who was saying that the internet itself would follow some sort of fractal pattern and out of it all would come some sort of order overall. What does it mean for our own individual lives? Over time do our minds become more ordered as we age? This whole subject just brings up more questions.

Think I'm actually feeling a bit better today. Still sneezing and all, but the pain in my head not so bad. 

Saturday, 14 April 2012

A tough week

Haven't been well this week. Had this bloody soreness inside the nasal passage and throat, sneezing, the usual stuff. Back of throat is red raw and painful. It's not as bad as on previous occasions though, but it is similar to other times when my estimation was that it was stress related. Given the drama with my Superannuation funds this week and having to provide the Dept of Human Services more info for the third time, it's understandable how just a small cold could hang around like it has. I was very pleased with the email that the $guru sent to them though. It's really good to have someone on my side in all of this. There's no way I could have done this without him:
I am concerned with the process around  this application as it was first forwarded to ERSB on 19th of January  (nearly 3 months ago) and now there is a request for a ___ balance statement. The ___ statement was current at the time of the lodgement of the application. The account is now closed and the balance is static. It may take some time for ___ to generate a statement as banking computer systems are not configured to provide activity statements when an account is closed.
My concern goes to the very crux of the the application, as it is on medical grounds to allieviate my client's stress levels, which impacts on his immune system. As Mr. ___ states in his email to you: "the stress all this is putting me through".
The nose/throat thing has also been giving me headaches all week, been dehydrated, and extremely tired. The days at work were a struggle. Getting up at 6am was very hard, and getting through the work day involved taking Panadol all day to help with the soreness. Getting home after work I'd just make a simple meal, and about an hour later go to bed. Sleeping the whole night, and still finding it hard to wake up at 6am. 

Unfortunately I just couldn't go to work on Friday, was just too tired to get up. It was OK though as I had sick pay to cover it. In fact even with over an hour to spare! Had a friend stop by middle of the night Thursday in a bit of a state (long story) and in hindsight I shouldn't really have gotten up and all given my condition. I was asleep when he rang though and he rang only 2 minutes away, so I sort of felt dazed and obligated to let him in. Would've said no don't come over if he was at home or out somewhere else as I had to work and it was 1:30am. Never got back to bed until 4am. At 6 I just couldn't get up. 

Went and saw a doctor across the road, at the place that's started recently bulk billing again (free). Had to wait an hour but it wasn't too bad. I was feeling pretty sick as the head cold had gotten worse, maybe not enough sleep who knows. Doctor said I had a bad cold infection thing and gave me a certificate for work for the day. I wasn't lying or exaggerating at all when I said I'd had this all week and although it wasn't so bad it had worn me down. It's likely I'd not have gone to work even without interrupted sleep.

Slept 12 hours last night solid. 

The 5 worst Aussie junk foods

A humorous look at someone's idea of the worst foods to eat here.

Tim Tam's come it at 2nd on the list. They are an Australian icon, similar to Oreo's in America I'd expect. Not rocket science saying they're bad for you, just too many of them!

 And Kebabs, I didn't realise the meat in them was that bad. I suppose it's only logical. Seems like the more processed foods are, the worse they are for you.

I came across this very informative thing from Choice magazine. They researched and compared many of the different take away foods available here, and made a very smick looking comparison table out of it. 

 The best thing I like about this article is it's very practical, and even gives some recipe alternatives to do at home that take bugger all time to do. Very suited for me as most of the time I just cook for myself. Boiled potatoes and veges can get a bit monotonous, although I'm not a fussy eater at all and if I'm hungry it's fine. Am not big on deserts either, never had a sweet tooth at all, lucked out there I think.

I also have never been into soft drinks either. Just drink water, coffee, or beer. Alcohol is another subject altogether though. Lucked out there too, as now they've found a link to heart disease in children and soft drinks in a recent study here.
While narrowed blood vessels inside the eye are a known precursor to cardiovascular disease in adults, researchers from the Westmead Millennium Institute have for the first time looked at the link between carbohydrates, which includes sugars, and the retinal health of children.

Nearly 2000 12-year-olds had retinal images taken at the Centre for Vision Research at Sydney University. Narrowing of the retinal arteries was seen in those children with an intake of more than 274 grams of carbohydrates a day.

A major source of those carbohydrates came from soft drinks or cordial, found the study published in this month's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, with high-risk children consuming one or more glasses a day.

Study leader Bamini Gopinath said the health of retinal blood vessels gave a ''very accurate'' indication of blood vessel health throughout the body.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Phenomenal ignorance

There are only the chosen few at work who know that I'm HIV+, people who my status needs to be known to them as it's relevant to my performance and the like. People in HR, and those directly in charge of me. I also told the union FOC as well when I was going through all that crap with the (now fired) factory manager. It's certainly not something that I throw around everywhere at work. Although I'm sure many there would be very supportive and understanding, I'm also sure there'd be many not so. Sometimes it's quite astonishing the level of pure ignorance that still exists in the straight community.

Was talking with my workmate about this shocking video of a prison guard caught on camera bashing the fuck out of a prison inmate. It's been headline news here this week. An appalling display. It started when the inmate spat on the guard. The guard then opened the cell door and punched him over and over while another guard held him down (looks like they've had a bit of practice at it). Both the inmate and the guard have been charged with assault, the guard being stood down.

Unbelievably a spokesman from the Corrective Services Union defended the guard saying that being spat on by someone known to have Hep C provoked the reaction. 

So we were talking at work about it, and my workmate (who doesn't know I'm positive) said "Oh, but you know he had HIV!" 

I replied, "No it was Hep C, I saw it on the news. And you can't get Hep C by being spat on. As a matter of fact you can't get HIV either"

Sort of stunned silence, him looking at me like How does he know that? ... 

I thought it was pretty funny that he'd think that you could get HIV from spit. Mentioned it to the union guy (who knows my status) and he thought it funny also. I was saying it's fuckin unbelievable the level of ignorance around. He reckoned especially with older people. I'd never considered that. He came over later and and said "It's no wonder people keep things to themselves". It's that level of ignorance that fuels stigma and discrimination.

I haven't seen any stories about the incident mentioning that the inmate was HIV+, but the other workmate was adamant that the guard was now getting tested for HIV and won't know in 3 months. What a fuckin waste of resources and time. I told him that the only way that he might possibly have got it, was if the inmate spat blood at him and it landed on an open cut. That in fact if the guard was concerned about getting HIV or Hep C, he should know that there's no risk of getting it from spit. And that by going and bashing the guy repeatedly with bare fists is infinitely more risky than being spat on. Just a small cut on his knuckles in contact with blood from the guys face, sounds like a pretty effective way to get HIV to me. Ironically, if he does test positive after 3 months to either HIV or Hep C, it will be his own bloody fault. Literally. 

It seems to me that for many people in the community, their HIV education stopped with this add from 25 years ago. Way back when an HIV diagnosis was a death sentence.

I'm happy to tell the relevant people at work, but if my status went through the whole place I'd just leave. There's laws against discrimination, but it doesn't stop the stigma and attitude of some people.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

DHS dramatics

Simon rang yesterday, seemed rather eager to speak. I was in the supermarket which is completely no reception on my phone with Telstra. Yep, that's both home with fuck all and the supermarket with nothing. There's one spot at the freezers where you can actually get a text message, which I got saying he'd rung. Luckily I was at the freezers and was able to text back that I wasn't in range. He just said "ring when you can". Unusual as it's normally no biggy.

I immediately got another text message only seconds later (Oh FFS, why does everyone have to ring at the only time in the day that I'm completely in a fuckin black spot?). It was from "DHS" telling me to ring them. Who the fuck are they? I said out loud. Anyway the text they'd left a number to ring (how does Telstra do that anyway? Is it some kind of voice recognition they convert into a text when a message is left?). Soon after I realised DHS was in fact the Dept of Human Services, which is the faceless office in Canberra currently processing my application for early release of Superannuation. Oh fuck I thought, as I went through the checkout. WTF do they want now? 

Got home and put away the groceries. Taking a few deep breaths to remain calm. It doesn't take much to get me into a bit of a mental crisis darlings. What did Simon want? Was something wrong? What did the DHS want? Where they ringing to tell me my claim had been denied?

I ring the DHS from the land line, and proceed to listen to about 2 minutes of blathering crap that I already know, before it gets to where I can "press one".....   I get through, and am informed that there is a "high volume" of calls right now. I put the bloody phone on speaker and turn on the PC for something to do while I wait. The music is elevator music from the 1950's, and it fades in and out with static like it's half off a radio station. I'm on hold for at least 20 minutes, maybe longer. Daughter walks through the room to the kitchen and we chat. Finally I'm talking to a person....

It's not the person Jason, who's dealing with my application (of course) so he has to read through the computer screen to see WTF is the story why I have to ring back. Finally he tells me a note has been left on there by Jason saying that I need to supply statements from the bank that are less than 30 days old re the amount of debt. 

OMFG! I try not to swear. For Fucks Sake I thought. What's happened by my reckoning is that the loan from one of the banks only has a 3 month statement period, not monthly. The last statement I sent of that was in Feb, with the 3 month period ending in Jan, so that was fine. Now as it's taken so long for the DHS to process this bloody application, that statement is now more than 30 days old. Also, I'm not getting any statements at all any more from the other bank as they've cancelled my whole credit card account and told me to chop up the card. 

I go online and the first bank site tells me that there's no statement available for the last 2 months (it's a 3 monthly statement so it's too early) so I take a screen shot of the last 2 months of transactions up to today with the closing balance. I hope they're satisfied with that. The other cancelled card account I've asked the financial adviser at BGF to get something off the bank saying how much I owe to send to them. 

Fuck this is mental. At the end of my email to the DHS (with 4 attachments) I also put a short paragraph saying that this is the third time I've been asked for more info, that it's been nearly 6 months since I started this whole process, that it's stressing me out badly, and to give this application now urgent attention. Honestly, I think it would've been easier just to fuckin go bankrupt.

So after all of that phoning and emailing and stressing, I go run a bath. Haven't had one for ages. Showers are OK but it's nothing like a bath with lots of salts, really relaxes me and takes away all the aches and pains. Simon rings while I'm in the bath on my mobile, but luckily with me in the bath with a lot of water the phone reception seems fine. Ahhhhhhh, very nice. In the bath talking to Simon, bubbles everywhere......

He's been waiting to tell me some good news, how wonderful. When he was here in Sydney last (regular blog readers may remember) his town outback - Lightning Ridge - was surrounded by flood waters for about 2 weeks or so and he couldn't get back. Turns out the Federal gov as part of it's flood relief package for the area, is giving people who couldn't get back $1,000 to help with accommodation expenses incurred being stranded away. Wow! And the dear sweetie, has decided to give me $200 of it as he was staying with me at the time. Awe, what a darling. I'm so touched. I never expect to get money off anyone, rather independent I am, have to convince myself to take their help if it's offered as I sort of fell a bit guilty or something.

Told him about the DHS dramatics, and he was even more pleased to help.