Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Condition: OMG!

I've not been avoiding monitoring my M.S. Its just that nothing really significant has happened since earlier this year while I was managing the college contract.

Looking back it very nearly killed me.

I first assumed I was having a relapse, but I was wrong. It was my first real introduction to the world of fatigue.

I've written about the effects of fatigue before, but now realise the 'mild' episodes I'd experienced weren't even a '101' for what was to come.

I hope don't have to write that again in another 6 or 7 months!

A few weeks ago we experienced a strange phenomenon here in Blighty, the sun came out, stayed out, and bestowed it's radiance in abundance on our perpetually damp island.

I now know that when the temperature rises above 20C (sorry, can't find the degree symbol on my iPad) my body goes into shut down. I'd have an uneducated guess at Uhutoff's Phenomenon. It doesn't effect some with M.S., but that's M.S. for you... individually tailored, bespoke.

I can't actually begin to describe what it feels like. Some over on the M.S. forum have tried, but analogies are just that, analogies.

The lack of energy ain't the half of it. There's the background nausea that's suppressed my appetite. My mental functions are greatly impaired, which leads to lack of motivation, which leads to frustration, which leads to depression, and I'm back in the cycle.

I still dose myself nightly with 15mg of Mirtazapine, which was prescribed to help my sleeping. It's also an anti-depressant.

I'm somewhat underwhelmed by the varity of anti-depressants I've been exposed to over the years and now believe, much as it grieves me to admit, I probably do have some kind of cognitive problem.

I've always found it easy to think myself into a ditch, It's thinking my way out that's the tricky bit.

I don't really need the Mirtazapine as sleeping aid now, I could sleep for England at a needle match between Man U. and Liverpool FC., but, considering the levels of depression I've experienced recently I worry about what new gates of hell would open up if I chose to stop taking it.

6 weeks ago I began trying to get a grip on what was happening to me.

Using a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being 'normal' and 10 being 'OMG. Kill me now!'). Most days were in the 5 - 6 range (with one anomaly of a 2 on a cooler day). The last two weeks have been in the 7 - 8 range.

The amount of sleep I get seems to have no baring on the level of fatigue I experience. I can sleep for 8 - 10 hours and wake feeling like I haven't slept for a month... or two.

My hope is this will be a temporary situation and it will improve as the cooler weather arrives, but I'm not holding my breath.

There is another, rather more worrying aspect of this current situation..

In my head, when ever I find my mind drifting, when ever I close my eyes to sleep, a huge red neon sign lights up in my consciousness. It reads...


Do you think I could be trying to send myself some kind of message?

Republic Concert Resonator Ukulele Strip Down/Re-Build/Re-String.

There comes a time when every stringed instrument player 'knows' it's time for new strings. Some change strings on a regular basis, others choose to ignore the necessity and solider on.

I tend to be in the later category.

When I played the guitar I ended up on the expensive new string treadmill round about every six weeks. I favoured Elixir strings with Nanoweb coating at £10 a pop. Boy, am I glad those days are over.

The stings on my resonator uke are the same ones it came with when I took possession of it... I'm tempted to change that line to 'when it took possession of me'.

The stings on this uke are anchored in slots on the body and, on close inspection, to my horror were beginning to stretch-out to thin strands. Considering how hard I thrash this instrument it's a wonder I've managed to get away no broken strings.

N.B. string breakages happen at the most inconvenient moment, usually mid-performance, usually in public, usually when you don't have spares, and will usually have a detrimental effect on the tuning of the remaining strings.

It's time for change.

On removing the old stings it proved to much of a temptation not to open the uke up...

12 small screws later... Inside we see the aluminium cone c/w 'biscuit' bridge assembly. I found the 'biscuit' was bolted to the cone. I'd assumed this would be a 'floating' assembly which would allow some intonation adjustment. On further inspection I discovered the cone has a good bit of 'elbow room' in it's housing, so I suppose that's the intonation adjustment...

On removing the cone...

A disappointing stick self-tapped in place with two struts linking it to plywood discs placed against the back of the chamber. Crude, but effective?

Then there's all the dust a fluff. I found a spherical 'pill' of fluff had formed inside the body..

Cleaned up, reassembled, and re-strung..

Now the annoying bit starts...

New strings need stretching till they stay in tune. I use the ubiquitous Aquila Nylgut strings. I stopped experimenting with uke strings the moment I first threaded a set of Aquilas on to my baritone uke. They have the astonishing capacity of improving the sound of any ukulele they're fitted to. Most new Ukes seem to come fitted with them as standard nowadays.

The initial tuning I make is 3 semitones above the normal tuning of G C E A. So, that's Bb Eb G C. I 'hammer' away at a few chords, adjusting the tuning as necessary until the strings stablise and hold tune, then tune to the G key.

3hours on from the change over things seem to have settled down nicely.

To be honest this instrument's intonation isn't entirely correct, just that little bit 'off' that makes it sound interesting. (it's not a good idea to drift above the 5th fret BTW) All my favourite instruments have an endearing 'quirk' like this, the slightly 'broken' sound appeals to me.... that and it's 'BARK!'

So now I don't have to worry about changing strings for another 5 years, or so.


What would this ukulele sound like with steel strings?

It certainly seems built to take 'em.



Sunday, 3 August 2014

'We go to the gallery' Dung Beetle reading scheme 1a.

Pages of Miriam Elia's Ladybird reader spoof have been floating around the interwebs for a few months. I first saw them on Tumblr, where I seem to see lots of things that Linda draws my attention to 6 months later when the same thing turns up on FaceCloth.
I was more interested than is usually the case with things I see on Tumblr because, in it's original print run, the book was a complete mock-up of a Ladybird reader right down to the logo. Humour + Nostalgia opens wallets. (I'm working myself up into posting a rant about how nostalgia is probably a bad thing for society in general and another about my unrestrained loathing of stand-up comedians.)
The saga of Miriam Elia's 'journey' (I've come to loathe that word) in producing this wonderful book is chronicled here:
Artist's spoof Ladybird book provokes wrath of Penguin
My post-wallet opening journey begins here:
I've never really struggled with 'conceptual' art since a person, now long gone, told me 'Airfix kits are what you make them'. I realised this concept could be applied to most aspects of my daily life and have applied it ruthlessly ever since. I now disregard the artist's intention or interpretation and construct my own, however misguided that may be.
Anyway, basically (I loathe that word as well) the plot is Mummy takes Susan and John to a gallery and attempts to explain the concepts behind the works.
Buy the book because it's a hoot.