His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman

Just finished the 3rd volume of this. All I can say is I’m glad I’m finished it. If I hadn’t bought the whole thing at the same time from Amazon UK I probably wouldn’t have continued.

But since I’d bought them anyway I decided to finish. I agree completely with the views expressed in the books about religion, churches, the need for people to be nice to each other and the need to respect the environment. But as a story the series just didn’t grab me and draw me into the Universe Pullman creates. I’m sure that the philosophy outlined in the series will be new and enlightening to many people who read them. This can only be a good thing. The more people who think for themselves and judge the world based on reason and evidence, as opposed to on faith and dogma, the better.

For this reason I’m glad the books are a success and are selling very well. It’ll be a while however before I take them down from the bookcase to read for pleasure.

Thief of Time – Terry Pratchett

The best Discworld book so far?

After reading Terry Pratchett’s latest book (Monstrous Regiment) I decided to read “Thief of Time” (TOT). I bought TOT when it came out in hardback a while back but it has languished in my bookcase ever since. I read it this week. It’s brilliant. Possibly the best Discworld book IMHO. Deciding your favourite book from an author can only be done when all the books being compared have been out for a while, or have been read a few times. So it’ll be a few years before I can say that TOT is the best in the series, but currently I think it is.

Working simply

There are only 1440 minutes in every day. People in work environments such as offices, hospitals, schools etc., are being bombarded with an increasing amount of information. This information, in the form of e-mails, telephone calls, voice mails, industry publications etc., means that you can waste many of the 1440 minutes in a day sifting through information that is useless to you. So how do you survive this information overload?

Bill Jensen has a radical suggestion. Do less!! He suggests, for example, that you can delete 75% of your e-mails unread after a quick subject scan. There are several documents you can download from his web site that outline how to do more by working simply. He also has a few books on the subject.

First post RT check-up

Had my first 3 month post radio therapy check-up yesterday. The doctor examined my abdomen and neck checking for lymph node swelling. Nothing strange to report. Blood was also taken to check for AFP and beta-HCG markers. No x-ray or CT was ordered. I had lots of x-rays taken during the RT and they were all clear. I expect the blood tests to be normal as well.
So that’s that done until February 2004 🙂
I actually feel really well. I was in New York and Toronto last week on holiday and walked about a million miles! Had loads of really good food and still lost weight 🙂 I’m down to my cricket bowling weight again! Walking is really, really good exercise. Much better than that gym nonsense 😉

After the zapping

My zapping (or radio therapy as the medical staff insist on calling it) finished on 5th August. It’s been a month since I finished my treatment for TC so here is an update on how it went.
Over the three weeks of the treatment it was similar to the description given in the previous entry. There was mild nausea a few hours after the sessions. some days this was worse than others and it got slightly worse towards the end of the treatments. An unexpected side-effect was that the incision site of the orchiectomy got slightly sore and swollen again. At least this showed that the x-rays were having an effect 🙂
I started back to work a few days after the last treatment and started mild exercise in the gym a few weeks later. I played cricket about three weeks after the treatment ended. After this I was sore all week so I think it was a bit early for this. The cricket season in over now until April 2004. My goal is to get fully fit for it so lots of gym time over the winter is needed I think.
I will have an appointment with an oncologist in October for a checkup. Will probably get x-rays or a CT scan to ensure there are no other tumors. All the evidence is that there wont be. Previous CT scans and tumor markers were negative. So hopefully my brush with TC is behind me with the exception of the periodic follow-up checks.


Three days into my radiotherapy treatment (or zapping). Actually this is day 4 but I get Saturday and Sunday off for good behaviour 🙂 Very strange feeling.
The best way I can describe it is that I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. Or it’s like the muscle strain felling I get when I start cricket training at the beginning of the summer. Of course with the training pain it’s my whole body that’s sore (even bits I didn’t know I had!).
I felt really nauseous a few hours after the sessions on day 2 and day 3. Same this morning but its not too bad at the moment. Nearly chucked this morning after gargling with mouthwash. The action of leaning forward to spit it out nearly triggered further action!. I have tablets to take for the nausea. One a day. Plus I’m drinking lots of water. I feel like I do when I have a viral infection that my body is fighting off. I don’t think I have an infection but rather it’s just the feeling on my body repairing the damage done by the X-Rays. Just as I was starting to feel okay again after the surgery. Still better than some of the other alternatives though.
The worst part is pain in my pelvic region related to the scar tissue from the surgery. I think this is a result of the manipulation to fit the lead shielding to protect the remaining testicle from the radiation 🙁 Liberal does of Panadol Extra for that issue.
12 more sessions to go over the next 17 days. Chin up as they say!

The reason the Earth exists?

Some people think (incorrectly in my opinion) that the Earth exists for some profound reason. Well, if I’m wrong, then I think that a reason as good as any other is that the Earth exists to give Kate Bush something to stand on when singing.

She does after all have the voice of an angel. For the last few hours I have been listening to her complete collection on my iPod in random play mode. Current track is “In Search of Peter Pan” from the Lionheart album. Pure bliss. The title track “Oh England, my Lionheart” has just started.

Now where is that new album we hear about? Like all her stuff it will be worth waiting for.

Eclipse lyric

I wrote this little ditty in 1999 when there was a total eclipse that tracked over Europe. The recent interest in the annular eclipse in Scotland reminded me that it was lurking on my PowerBook hard drive. The appearance of Brian May on The Sky at Night show in the UK and Brian’s thoughts about the eclipse on his web site prompted me to send it to his Soapbox email address. I got a reply from Brian and the lyric is also posted on the letters section of the Brian May web site (page it was on no longer available).

Anyway as it is now out in the wild I may as well post it here. Nothing serious. Just a bit of fun.


Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
First contact thrills us as
The sun sets in the day
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
Twilight comes and light fades
In a spooky way
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
It gets colder and the wind blows
In a peculiar way
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
The atmosphere dances madly as the
Shadow bands play
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
Totality is upon us now as
Beautiful as they say
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
The corona shimmers brightly as
Prominences dance and play
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
Blazing forth the diamond ring as the
Moon goes on its way
Dead of night will fall away
With the return of day
The eclipse it is behind us
Time we were on our way

Orchiectomy follow up

I had my first appointment with my oncologist this morning to discuss follow-up treatment after my orchiectomy on May 12th. During the appointment I had a very long detailed discussion about what I should do next.
It was confirmed that I had a Stage 1 seminoma that had some vascular invasion.
The option of surveillance was discussed at length as an alternative to getting radiotherapy immediately. The decision was that I should get the radiotherapy now as –
1) Young men are notorious for not following surveillance regimens. Whilst at this minute I would obviously say 100% that I would follow any regimen, who knows what I’ll be doing in a few years time.
2) The doses that are given are very low as seminoma is very susceptible so the risks of causing other cancers are low.
So I have an appointment on Monday to plan the treatment in detail. They will inject me with contrast solution to outline the kidneys etc. then. The treatment itself with last 3 weeks and will be every weekday. As a result of some past history of surgery in my case (that I won’t go into) they are going to irradiate both the retroperitoneal lymph nodes in my back and the left inguinal nodes in the lower pelvic region of my abdomen. As a result I will be banking sperm before the treatment. I can’t get the image of Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun 33 & 1/3 out of my mind 🙂 Were he is under cover in the fertility clinic and has to give 3 samples so as not to blow his cover 🙂
The remaining testicle is covered with a lead protection cup during the treatment and sperm production should not be effected. Even so the recommendation is not to father any kids for a while (a year?) after the treatment. Even though it’s covered there is always scatter of radiation during the treatment. The banking of sperm is a precaution just in case something goes wrong and sperm production does not recover. I have no plans for any kids in the near future anyway 🙂
I’ve just got the following from another member of the TC support list about the effects of radiotherapy:
> Btw, when you have RT, you will need to avoid whatever sun you get in
> Belfast, for a year. No problem, I know. :).
> Nausea and diahorrea are common side effects of RT and you can expect
> body hair to fall out towards the end of the routine..
> Afterwards, you can expect it to be a year before your stamina fully
> recovers.
> Itr just means you have to life the Liffey water with two hands !
> Good luck with it.
Hmmm. Hopefully it wont be quite that bad 🙁 If nothing else it’s give me an excuse for a sedentary lifestyle with lots of studying.

Complete short stories – H. G. Wells

800+ pages of excellence.

After recently re-reading Wells’ “War of the Worlds” and seeing the Hallmark produced mini series based on some of Wells’ short stories on the UK Sci-Fi channel I ordered a copy of his complete short stories. I’ve only read about 10 of them so far, out of the 84 it contains. But they really are excellent stuff. Incidentally it says in the editors introduction that Wells said of his short stories: “I would rather [they] were found in the bedrooms of convalescents and in dentists parlours and railway trains than in gentlemen’s studies”. I’ve been reading them whilst recovering from surgery. So his wish has come true in my case!

The edition I got is on Amazon UK here.