28 April 2020

Space Pirates and Docking Ports: virology 101 for small persons

Are you wondering why we are all still at home, and worried about coronavirus? Let me try and explain a bit about how viruses work.

A virus is like a little capsule - like a survival pod from a spaceship, it's only got room enough inside for the essentials. It can't do anything on it's own except float around through space - so it looks for the nearest safe docking port. Viruses dock up against the regular cells our body has, and once they have made the connection (like when the airlock clicks when a spaceship connects to a station), the stuff inside the virus busts out of the capsule and takes over the space station, like invading space pirates. All the work of the space station is turned over to the pirates, who use the station to make more capsules to send out to take over other stations.

So, why doesn't our body just fight off the space pirate viruses? Well, once they have injected themselves into the space station, from the outside, nobody can tell they are there. The virus gets control before any emergency beacon signals can be sent out. So it's sneaky: it floats through the air and into the body and into the cells all without raising any alarms. Eventually, the body realizes that the cells aren't doing what they usually do, that the space stations have all stopped doing their regular jobs because of the pirates. Special pirate-fighting forces are deployed - that's your immune response, the antibodies you hear about in the news. After awhile, the antibodies get pretty good at spotting space pirates, but fighting space pirates is hard and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. That's when your body gets sick: the battles going on between your cells and the virus invaders gives you a fever and chills and lots of other unpleasant things. If the body is able to raise enough of a pirate-fighting force, it can probably fight off the invaders. Sometimes, though, the body needs the allies to come in with extra support: help with breathing (from oxygen or a ventilator), or help with keeping the temperature down, or fluid levels right ... and that's when people end up in the hospital.

Sometimes, the pirates take over and there's just not enough resources to fight them off - and that's when people die. The reason we are all staying home and far away from other people is that the virus can't travel anywhere on it's own: it is adrift in space, and hoping to bump into a likely space station, but it can't steer itself or decide where to go next. If we can keep our bodies away from places where the space pirate virus hides out (on surfaces like doorknobs and cash registers, in other people's bodies, in the air around someone who carries the virus), then we can slow the pirates down by giving them fewer opportunities to find docking ports. That's why we stay back, wash our hands, cover our faces: the virus likes to get into the body through your nose and mouth and eyes especially, and it escapes from bodies it has already taken over mostly through the same openings. That's why we are so careful to cover our mouth when we cough (so we don't spread space pirate virus particles into the void), why we wash our hands so much (so we don't accidentally pick up a space pirate on our fingers and then deliver it to a docking port in your body).

If you want to know more about how virus pirates work, or how the body fights them off, or any other questions about how this works please ask. I studied this stuff in university, and I still remember how it goes. Meanwhile ... do your part to stop the space pirates. Wash your hands, keep your droplets to yourself, stay in places you already know are pirate-free ... like your house.

Hang in there. It's hard for everyone.

27 March 2020

That feeling when you don't even qualify as a "burden on society"

So finally, after 16 months, two letters to every politician I could think of, four medical reports, and a pile of paperwork, CPP has informed me that there is no evidence that my disability has changed in any significant way since I first applied in 2014 and 2016, and I wasn't disabled then, so I'm not disabled now.

Yes, I swore. And I cried.

I don't even qualify as a "burden on society" because society has deemed me able to look after myself.

If you've been reading along (there are new ebooks out that make catching up easier, they're on Amazon), you will know that I am *not* able to look after myself. I forget things (even important things, even with lots of reminders). I dissociate into a fog ... which may look like researching some random topic for hours, spending ages trying to find the right audiobook to keep my brain from chewing the mental furniture, or having no clue whether I'm the only person in the house or if someone came home and I've forgotten they're here. I frequently want a cup of tea but find actually boiling the kettle and pouring water over a tea bag to be too much hassle. I crave cookies but haven't the energy to bake.

I wouldn't trust me with a job of any kind.

Yet the government seems to believe that if I just "tried a bit harder" it would all be okay.

They're wrong.

Yes, there'll be an appeal, but oi, how long is that gonna take? The whole thing was just a horrible fist to the guts, especially with the world falling apart and everyone needing to count all their pennies.

I guess this is a good year to do that potager garden, grow some lettuce and carrots and potatoes and cabbages and flowers and herbs and trees.

Now if only the snow would melt. I need muddy feet in the worst way.

27 February 2020

CPP Disability Application: 470 days and counting

: sent to the office of the Prime Minister today :

Hello, Prime Minister (and to whoever has the job of reading these as they come in).

I know that you have a lot on your plates right now, but I am writing today to ask that the government consider implementing a review of the Canada Pension Plan Disability process and service response times.

I have been disabled by PTSD since February of 2011. I was denied insurance coverage from my employer's plan, was denied CPP on my first application and appeal, have two failed return to work attempts, and was granted leave to make a second CPP application. That was submitted November 14, 2018 (that's not a typo - it's been 470 days). I spoke to a representative in November of 2019 (right around the one year anniversary of my application being "in progress"), and was informed that just the day prior, Edmonton had "handed off" a large number of files to the Chatham office, as they finally acknowledged that they were way behind and needed assistance. In December 2019, my care team were asked for more information. CPP has had it since the start of this month. My application is still pending and there's no indication of when a decision might be made.

Service Canada says applications should be handled within 4 months. It's been 15. We are expected to wade through the application process, assume we'll be denied on our first application, process the appeal, try to work, fail, apply again, and then... wait. And wait. In the interim, our families have to pay for our therapy and our meds (my husband has a job so we don't qualify for AISH and Blue Cross won't cover the most expensive of my meds) and we disabled people have to live not only with the burden of our disability, but the knowledge that we are, undeniably, a huge practical and financial burden on those who love us.

Please consider making enquiries into the *actual* turnaround times, and ... help. I can't be the only one in this boat. Thank you!

12 February 2020

The Victorians knew what they were about

I wear Victorian style walking skirts all the time (I can't wear pants anymore, it triggers the "oh help I'm trapped" feeling, but long skirts are fine).

This, of course, means that I need petticoats to go under my skirts.

I have just completed a flannel and silk petticoat for colder weather: silk for the ruffle at the bottom, flannel for the skirt, cotton for the wider than usual waistband. As my body has evolved into a rather Rubenesque matronly shape, my short-waisted structure has more of an effect on my clothing choices: there never has been more than a few inches between the bottom of my rib cage and my waist, and as my waist has thickened it seems there's even less space now than there used to be. As a result, my skirts sit fairly high on my body and a wider waistband fits more comfortably into the curves.

I construct skirts by feel, for the most part: measure four lengths of fabric that are as long as my waist to floor (or more likely, waist to ruffle), full selvedge width, and cut two of those into triangles. Add a triangle to each of the selvedge edges of the two full rectangles, make your side seams, and voila, you have an A-line skirt.

Then, I find something to use as a waistband and measure it so it's about an inch wider than my waist. Pleat the back of the skirt (sometimes I stitch the pleats down a ways, like on a kilt, sometimes I just leave them as folds, it depends on how the fabric drapes) and fit it to the waistband, overlapping the ends and finagling them flat.

Final fitting consists of one of two methods: the fixed waist or the closure waist.

For a fixed waist, as I did on the flannel petticoat, I insert a couple of slanted darts into the back of the waistband to make it fit snugly and sit comfortably on whatever level of waist/hip it settles on and stitch them down. As my hips are not much bigger around than my waist, I can just step into the skirt and scoot it up over my anatomical padding and voila, done.

For a closure waist, I leave one pleat unsewn and stitch the waistband along the edges of the unsewn pleat, making a skirt that is an inch or two too wide to fit. Fold it over (which makes the unstitched pleat become a fold like all the rest), add a buttonhole and a button or hooks and eyes, and you're done. No placket, no gap, easy to adjust if your size should shift.

Then there's the ruffle. Ruffles serve a purpose: they help keep the fabric at the bottom of the skirt somewhat spread out, so you're not getting it tangled in your feet or having the fabric stick to your socks. I have some bolts of Japanese kimono silk which are fairly narrow (usually around 14") and I figured that would be an excellent ruffle material. I gathered it along one selvedge edge and stitched it to the right side of the bottom of the flannel skirt, then folded it over and stitched the other gathered selvedge to the wrong side, making a tube - kind of like the bubble skirts that were all the rage in the 80s. The join between the ruffle and the right side is then covered with a ribbon - this not only covers the stitching (which could just as easily have been done with a neat seam), it provides an extra level of stiffness to the bottom of the skirt, keeping it away from the ankles. The combination of a bubble ruffle and a heavy ribbon overlay seems to be just about perfect for holding the weight of my lighter skirts.

Were I a proper Victorian lady, of course I'd be wearing multiple petticoats with stiff cording or maybe even supportive wires, and caring about how far out my skirts were held so that they were shown off to best effect. I'm more of a merchant's daughter than a lady, so I'm just after practical comfort and ease (I actually *am* the granddaughter of a merchant, come to think of it). I currently wear ordinary t-shirts and sweaters over my Victorian skirts ... though I'm thinking about making some shifts and overdresses as I like having the weight of my clothing carried more by my shoulders than around my waist.

We shall see.

11 February 2020

The Apple Jack Creek Estate

We have a snowy day in the forecast, which means grey and overcast, but there’ll be sunshine again tomorrow.
As it is February (worst of the year for me, generally, mental health wise) I am just being super cautious and taking everything very easy. I have spent most of the last week buried in garden books: having spent 8 years in university, the habit of spreading out resource books and making notes by hand is deeply embedded, and I’ve been enjoying working on my “individualized gardening resources”. I have one notebook with different plants and their needs / uses / details, and another where I’m making general notes about permaculture principles, different design options, and sort of “big idea” stuff. I do a lot of throwaway note taking too - drawings of how I might lay out the yard or garden beds and “thinking out loud on paper” stuff, and I thought it would be kind of cool to have some notes that are specific to the gardens here - but I’m starting to make notes about when things bloom, when and where I’ve planted things, and why … notes that can be kept from year to year to see how things go over the longer term.
One of the permaculture books I was reading suggested that one consider the time scale of the project. I’ve decided to take a generational approach - treat my house and land like a great estate, which I am caretaker of and need to improve and pass on. I want to plant a big tree in the yard that can someday hold a swing. Shelterbelts to protect the house from wind and grow berries and veggies - even if the trees will take 20 years to get to any notable size. A potager garden to grow root vegetables and things that need care, in raised beds protected (somehow) from the quack grass. And maybe a miniature Iron Age Roundhouse in the yard, as an experiment, retreat, and play house for Small Persons. Because why not?
It’s good for me to push my brain into the future.
And, my son has the same attitude towards our land as I do - when DH and I married we were very careful to ensure that the property ownership arrangement and the will are set up so that when I die, my son inherits my share of everything, and as I own pretty much nothing except my share of the house and land, that’s what he’ll have. He intends to keep the place (he’d buy out his step siblings or DH, who would probably be just as happy to move to a smaller place were he on his own), so The Boy sees this kind of as a mini estate, too - he doesn’t mind doing work around here or even investing some of his own funds to make improvements as he feels a sense of ownership. DH finds this a bit discombobulating, as he sees it more like “the place we live at the moment” not “the place I and my descendants will live, insh’allah” but that’s okay. slightly_smiling_face
Now if only my mini great estate came with staff. :) Oh well, you can’t have everything!
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Unpopular Opinions, Service Dog Edition

Service dogs are not a first line treatment for anything, and they are contraindicated in some situations. 

Your doctor probably has no clue about whether or not you’d be a good candidate for a service dog. Your psychologist might, but it’s still kind of a niche knowledge set. Review the Aanderson service dog prescriber guidelines, particularly when considering a psychiatric service dog.

The handler’s condition needs to rise to the level of persistent disability and the dog must be actually, intentionally, and properly trained to assist with mitigating that disability: “I feel better when my dog is with me” doesn’t count (even if it’s true).

If technology can do the job just as well, then use technology instead. Asking a dog to dedicate their life to looking after us is a big ask.

Protection from discrimination on the grounds of disability is a right, but there are processes and legal protocols to follow when seeking accommodation: for public access, follow your province’s Service Dog Act (AB, BC, NS) or your Provincial Human Rights Act (everywhere else at the moment); for employer and school accommodations for workers and students, follow your province’s Human Rights Act. Contrary to popular belief, there is no blanket “I’m disabled so I can take my dog anywhere as long as I have a doctor’s letter” or equivalent in Canada.

Badly behaved dogs are not welcome anywhere, no matter what paperwork or identification they have. Also, online service dog registries are scams.

Owner training is a wonderful option but it is hard, time consuming, expensive, and potentially heartbreaking. Get guidance from a reliable source such as servicedogtraininginstitute.ca, your provincial Service Dog Team, and certified force-free trainers.

Service dogs should be trained with force-free methods. Shaping (clicker training) is ideal because it encourages active problem solving and it’s fun.

If you cannot put a dog’s needs before your own for a year and a bit, you are not in a position to owner train a puppy. Service dogs take a lot out of us before they start taking care of us.

For the entire first year, the handler meets the needs of the dog: not the reverse. Service Dogs cannot be asked to work until they have had a chance to grow up. This is hard, because our needs don’t go away just because the puppy isn’t ready to meet them, but it is absolutely essential that dogs not be rushed into work before they are ready – it’s a recipe for dog burnout.

Service Puppy Candidates can do all their early exposure work in pet-friendly environments: near a school or daycare, watching a construction site through the fence, walking on sidewalks and in parks, greeting people outside stores, visiting at businesses or offices where you know people and can pop in for five minutes of meet and greet. Service Puppies do NOT need to be following their person around everywhere nor should they be taken to places where they cannot safely make puppy level mistakes. Public access work comes LAST not FIRST.

A dog who trusts you and has solid obedience skills that have been practiced in a wide variety of situations will have no problem going into a mall for the first time as an adult. In fact, because they’ve had a chance to grow up and develop good self-control before being put into overwhelming situations, it’ll be easier for them. And you.

Service dogs are people too. They have bad days and make mistakes just like us. Deal.

2020: I'm back

I've decided to publish some of my thoughts here, again, as the transient nature of Facebook is ... well, transient. There are things I'd like to be able to easily link back to, and potentially useful things I hope will turn up in searches.

So, yeah. There'll be posts here again.