Archive for March, 2011

Around about December my colitis started getting worse. It wasn’t too much of a concern at first – just an occasional need to use the bathroom more often that usual while my stools became less solid. Things weren’t too bad – I had no problems in the Philippines, January passed with a slight deterioration, but when I went to Malaysia at the beginning of February I still wasn’t having problems that interfered with the holiday.

Things got worse in February, though, and, one morning, after passing a load of blood, I decided it was time to go to the doctor. As a tourist in Korea, I don’t have any insurance, so I was expecting it to be an expensive undertaking. Previously, earlier in 2010, I’d been prescribed mesalazine suppositories to go along with my six mesalazine tablets per day. I stopped taking them for a while – which may have contributed to my current flare-up.

Anyway, the doctor prescribed me cortico steroid enemas for a week. These were not so much unpleasant to use, but were annoying – requiring a whole extra bedtime routine. The enemas didn’t have much effect, so once I’d finished the seven, I started using some mesalazine enemas I’d been prescribed last year along with the suppositories. I went back feeling a little better and the doctor (a different one, this time) gave me more of the steroid enemas.

Around this time, Habiba and I moved house for Habiba’s new job. Our new flat is smaller than our old one and older and mouldier. The stress of moving and the less than salubrious apartment probably contributed to a further decline in my health.

After another week of the enemas I started feeling constantly slightly nauseous, I got bowel pains as stuff moved through my lower intestine and my appetite deserted me. I’ve lost two or three kilograms in weight and my energy levels have plummeted. I can’t sleep at night and when I get up in the afternoon showering and doing a few chores is enough to exhaust me for the rest of the day.

I went back to the doctor and reported my symptoms. This doctor (another new one, who at least speaks English well – much better than the other two) prescribed me a stronger alternative to the Pentasa mesalazine pills – Asacol mesalazine pills, to the tune of nine a day. He also said that my nausea and bowel pain were irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, so he gave me additional medication for that.

None of which improved the situation noticeably. On my next visit, he gave me a prescription for steroid pills – at last. Steroids – at least in tablet form – have always been the magic bullet for my ulcerative colitis since I was first diagnosed in 2007, so I was looking forward to a rapid recovery.

That recovery has been slow in coming. The steroids give me some respite from the pain in my guts and allow me to sleep a little better and eat a little more, but they wear off after a number of hours and the pains return. Still, I feel better today than I have for a few weeks, which is something, and I still have about ten days of my steroid prescription left.

The episode has been a real pain in the arse. I haven’t had energy to dedicate to any of my projects – no writing, no roleplaying, no blogging. Even reading and playing computer games (I downloaded a port of the classic Atari ST game, Dungeon Master) have fallen by the wayside now that I spend so much time in bed trying to sleep.

My symptoms in this flare-up have been different to my symptoms in earlier years – in some ways less severe – I haven’t needed to take constant trips to the bathroom – but the bowel pain has been really trying, as has the length of time it’s taking to recover. At the back of my mind – not even that far back, actually – is the worry that UC increases the risk of colon cancer after about ten years – which is about the length of time I’ve had bowel problems. I suppose I should push for a colonoscopy – which will be very expensive and involve the consumption of an utterly disgusting laxative.

At this point, with my slight improvements in symptoms, I can only wait in hope that things will clear up further in the next few days.

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While, in broad terms, The Japanese Devil Fish Girl is much the same as any other Robert Rankin novel – a plucky but unlikely hero must save the world from the forces of darkness – it has a different feel to any of the author’s books. I put this down to two things: the Victorian setting and the presence of a strong female protagonist.

The setting is key to the story. The novel takes place in a post-War of the Worlds era where Britain has conquered Mars and has been welcomed into the solar system’s family of space-faring races – which include the jolly Burghers of Jupiter and the aloof Ecclesiastics of Venus. This is much more of a science fictional setting than many of Rankin’s other books – although the story does concern a race to find and control the über-goddess, Sayito, also known as the Japanese Devil Fish Girl, source of all religions in the universe.

George Fox and his employer, Professor Cagliostro Coffin, display a pickled Martian at fairs around the land until George receives a prophecy that the fate of worlds hangs upon his shoulders, whereupon they formulate a much grander plan, although the details of this plan often strike George as somewhat untoward. Ada Lovelace is a stowaway on the luxurious airship, the Empress of Mars, with whom George strikes up a friendship – and who may or may not be more than she appears.

The narrative is as polished as you’d expect from a man whose stories are all variations on a theme. It moves along at a rapid pace and is full of all the quirky incidents and rewritings of history that you would expect – a series of footnotes explain that the recorded death dates of the personages appearing in the novel – Babbage and Tesla, for instance – are woefully inaccurate.

As with many of Rankin’s later novels, there were far fewer laugh-out-loud moments than I remember from his earlier books, but reading this volume was still a pleasure.

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Charlie Brooker on Radio 4’s So Wrong It’s Right.

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Charlie Brooker introducing a round called This Putrid Modern Hell on the Radio 4 panel game, So Wrong It’s Right:

Critics say our reliance on text messages and tweets is making us worryingly inarticulate, but luckily there’s a wealth of scientific research to suggest the truth is actually a whole opposite bunch of stuff to that.

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Stephen R Donaldson in response to a questioner on his Gradual Interview requesting he eases off on the recondite lexemes:

But seriously: what’s wrong with encouraging you to expand your vocabulary? Words are the tools of thought. The more words you know, the more things you can think about.

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From Iain M Banks’s new novel, Surface Detail:

Almost every developing species had a creation myth buried somewhere in its past, even if by the time they’d become space-faring it was no more than a quaint and dusty irrelevance (though, granted, some were downright embarrassing). Talking utter drivel about thunderclouds having sex with the sun, lonely old sadists inventing something to amuse themselves with, a big fish spawning the stars, planets, moons and your own ever-so-special People – or whatever other nonsense had wandered into the most likely feverish mind of the enthusiast who had come up with the idea in the first place – at least showed you were interested in trying [to] provide an explanation for the world around you, and so was generally held to be a promising first step towards coming up with the belief system that provably worked and genuinely did produce miracles: reason, science and technology.

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HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is due to start in a little over a month and the above is the first full official trailer for it. It looks pretty amazing.

In related news, Martin and his publishers have announced a release date for the long-awaited fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons: 12 July 2011. Even though the author hasn’t even finished it yet. This raises fears that the book will be rushed out without being thoroughly edited and proofread, but, according to the Wertzone, those parts that Martin has finished have already begun to be edited.

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