Vegeta! What does the scouter say about her power level?

...IT'S OVER ONE HUNDRED!!!!!!


WHAT! ONE HUNDRED? Yeah, that sounds about right.

I've had my blog for more than a year now (my first post is dated Feb. 16, 2010), so I completely missed that milestone. My first comment was received on July 10th, 2010, so I suppose I missed that milestone, too. I guess I should celebrate one of my blogging milestones, so reaching 100 followers will be it.

I have just a smidge over one year of Google Analytics data on my blog and its visitors. I decided to look back through all my data to see if anything caught my eye. First, I have my overall pageviews and visits:

Yellow being visitors, and blue being pageviews

The largest spike there occurred on May 2nd, the day after I published my blog feature on The Two Matthews(ers). In attempting to spread some love to one of my favourite blogs, I ended up getting a (comparatively) massive amount of traffic from her readers. Oh well, I guess you can't win 'em all.

The disproportionate amount of pageviews that occurred in March was probably people getting a bit excited over my post titled "My first sex post: teen sex" which is very much not titillating at all.

Diving a little deeper, I took a look at the geographic distribution of my visitors. Unsurprisingly, the US was ranked first (Most visits coming from California), followed by Canada (With most traffic coming from my city; I guess my friends like to visit), then UK and Australia. More surprisingly, Canada is totally 'leet.



So, what is bringing visitors to my lil ole blog? The keyword searches that bring people here are actually not very varied, and they account for only 22% of my total visits. Of 1,958 visits sent from search engines, a little over half the search engine traffic is captured by the following keywords:

Alzheimer's

It started when my grandfather lost his job as a minister at our small Anglican church. I was still quite young at this point and didn't really understand what was going on; all I knew is that grampie wasn't working any more and for some reason it was very awkward. (I think it's regarded as pretty disgraceful to be fired from a religious position.) My mom stopped going to that church for a while, while my grandmother straightened her back and started making phone calls to protect his pension. She had no income of her own and they relied heavily on him working.

Grampie went to the doctor.

Grampie was submitted to some new drug trials.

Grampie was diagnosed with a dementia-spectrum degenerative disorder.

For a while things were steady. Grampie spent most of his time reading in his study, or pecking away at his keyboard. Grammie resumed her normal activities: cooking, cleaning, planning church events. Grampie was never the type of man to help around the house, so life was normal for a bit. Just that he didn't give any sermons any more.

He very, very slowly got worse.

I was at university by this time, so I don't know exactly how it progressed, but grampie's memory got worse and worse. He stopped being able to do simple things to take care of himself - he could no longer be trusted to work the microwave, and his daily walks around the neighbourhood were sometimes alarmingly long. He could no longer drive. He started wandering, pacing from room to room trying to remember where something was, and eventually, trying to remember what he was looking for.

And then it got worse at a faster rate.

I'd come home for a weekend every few months and have dinner with my grandparents and family. "Do you notice a difference?" mom would ask every time. "I think so, but it's hard to tell when he doesn't talk as much," I'd say. He still remembered me (probably because of careful coaching). I'd watch him trying to figure out how to eat. It was painful to see him not remember what to do with the butter, or forget how to cut meat. His motor functions were deteriorating. He would still laugh at jokes, though.

And then he stopped laughing at jokes. He stopped being able to "get" them. He got more and more frustrated and angry. You could tell he knew what was happening - that he was losing his memory, that he was losing his brain. He would get angry when he became confused, raising his voice when he said "I don't know. I don't know!" He stopped going on his walks - he couldn't be trusted to find his way back home. He stopped being able to read. He would watch TV, but not understand it. On bad days, he wouldn't be able to figure out how to sit in a chair. He couldn't dress himself. He had trouble sleeping. It was scary to be in a house with someone who was always frustrated and pacing from room to room.

The medication does nothing to help - well, the sleeping medication helped keep him calm. But there is no treatment for Alzheimer's. There is no way of slowing the process, or stopping it, or reversing it. Once you are diagnosed with Alzheimer's, there is one outcome.

He was very, very unhappy, and so was our family. Grammie could no longer leave him to do errands - he started going to an adult day care centre, and she hired someone to come in and watch him while she went to do errands, or church events. He seemed to like the day care centre: they kept the seniors well-entertained.

My family treats it like an awkward joke. That frustrates me the most. My grandmother seemed convinced that he was exaggerating, that he was faking it. On a bad day, she would whisper, "He just doesn't try. He refuses to do anything he doesn't want to do. He won't let me distract him when he gets in those moods." The overwhelming feeling I get from her is that he's doing this just to spite her. When my mother talks about him, she has a half-smile on her face. I don't know what that means, but it makes me angry. "HIS FUCKING BRAIN IS ROTTING WHILE HE'S ALIVE!" I want to scream at them. "JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!"

I don't really blame my grandmother. It was not a happy marriage she'd had. He was a very "traditional" man, controlling, selfish. She was forced into a "traditional" housewife role, with few hobbies (they couldn't afford much) and two generations of children to raise (her own children, and then me). I overheard her talking to my mother once. She almost left him, very early on, but she decided to stay when "god told her to."

Fuck god. The thought of my grandmother being unhappily married to my grandfather for all those years just...

My grandmother emailed the family in early July to tell us he was finally hospitalized. He can no longer reliably control himself, and had been having hallucinations,

Lately he has been complaining of not being able to see, not being able to move his arms and legs, shaking of the arms, and weakness. For all of these things I have either taken him to emerg or the doctor. He has episodes where he talks and laughs to himself as well as to someone he sees on the ceiling of his study. He also has times when I'll hear a thump and find him on his hands and knees in front of his chair as he can't seem to get the hang of sitting back in his chair and goes forward instead- hence landing on the floor.

but the final straw was an act of aggression when he threw a steak knife at a family friend because he was frustrated that he couldn't cut his steak with a spoon.

He doesn't watch TV in the hospital because he doesn't like the headphones. He can't use the toilet without help, because he will make a mess on the floor and get his clothes wet. His hallucinations are getting worse - in a bad week, he sees a man with a chainsaw who cuts people up. "You're dead. He cut you up," he says to a family friend, "And he's coming for [my grandmother] next."

We visited him this weekend when I went home. Grammie brought him to sit on a bench outside, so the younger kids wouldn't have to go into the neurological unit at the hospital. This was the first time I've seen him where he very clearly didn't know who I was. "God bless you!" he said when I hugged him. But he didn't know who I was.

The sun shined on a glass-fronted poster, and the reflection caught his eye. He smiled and chuckled and reached out his hand to try to grab the light. He started waving at the spot of light and it captured all of his attention.

There is no where for him to go but down. There is no cure for Alzheimer's, there is no treatment to slow the progression.

On the positive side, now my grandmother is finally free. She has always loved travelling, and she has children in a neighbouring province and also on the west coast, in Seattle. She really likes Seattle. Now that she can travel alone, she has many trips planned. She's still quite young - somewhere around sixty years old - and she's just got a second lease on life. She spends Thursdays and Fridays baking hundreds of cookies and treats to sell at the farmer's market. She has the whole family over once or twice a week for supper. She can have young children visit without fearing that my grandfather would have an episode. She's not caregiver to someone who only repays her patience with frustration, anger and (sometimes) violence.

I've never seen her this happy, and it makes me happy to see her enjoying life. She is more of a mother to me than my actual mother, so I am very glad that she has freedom again. I just wish it could have come another way... while my grandfather and I were never close, and while I know he wasn't very loving to my grandmother, I wouldn't wish this horrible disease on anyone.

Nobody writes in cursive, anyway

I realized today that it has been a looooonnggg time since I had a writing cramp.

I quite literally cannot remember the last time I touched a pencil or pen, since exam time. I'm sure I have, once or twice, written something down on a piece of paper... but I certainly cannot recall what or when that was.

ETA: I just remembered the last time I hand-wrote something. It was a birthday card a little over a week ago that I wrote in Sharpie because I didn't have enough letter stickers.

The vast majority of my communication is done though human interface devices - physical keyboards, microphones, virtual Swype keyboards, touch screens. I keep my grocery list on my phone. I take notes on my netbook. The kinds of things you would jot on a sticky note I have stored in Untitled.txt. If I need to write a letter, I type it and then print it. The point is, I hardly write anymore.

I can clearly recall being in elementary school and being forced to learn how to write cursive. I hatd it, because the weird looping letters were hard to remember. What the hell is up with the cursive b, eh? It's balls-crazy. I can't recall any children enjoying cursive, but we had to do it anyway. "You'll have to use it in high school," the teachers would say in exasperation, "They won't let you print. Everybody writes in cursive."

Little did they know that by the time I was in high school, everything was printed - by a computer printer. Teachers flat-out wouldn't accept hand-written documents, and especially not if they were written in cursive. I really don't know where they got the idea that teachers would prefer cursive writing. People finally realized it is always easier to read something in a clear, standardized format than try and decipher all the varied approaches to writing. (Not to mention the convenience of writing it... When was the last time you used white-out?)

Earlier this year I was sitting in a longish history exam massaging my hand, which had seized up from the unnatural amount of writing I was doing. As I was rubbing my hand, I thought to myself about all the hours I used to be able to sit and write and write and write, with no pain and no cramps. In my childhood I would spend hours pencilling out (awkward) stories for my own entertainment (mostly about wolves), and now I couldn't handle more than a half hour of moderate writing?

Pathetic, I had thought at the time.

But then I remembered how my fingers and wrists used to hurt after being on the computer for even short periods of time. I realized I no longer get any aches from long days of typing, and that somehow my hands had gotten... stronger. My typing is certainly more deft and sure, and I can now spend hours and hours with one hand on a mouse and the other hand on WASD and never have a problem - nary a cramp or ache.

I suppose I've traded one skill for another.

I am somewhat sad that handwriting is falling out of favour. A person's lettering has a certain flair of personality that just vocabulary and style can't capture on their own. You can learn a lot about a person by just glancing over their handwriting. I remember wishing I could write like all the other girls in a clear, rounded font. My own penmanship is cramped, angular and hurried, which is how most boys seemed to write. I guess I was always destined to find myself in a typically male field, heh.

Oh, and I've almost forgotten: some people are able to elevate mere writing to an art form. I have seen some absolutely stunning displays of penmanship, notably one of T's more distant relatives is a talented calligraphist who sends bewildering Christmas cards (Bewildering because your first thought is, "Where did she find a pre-made card with out names in it? Ohhh... that's handwritten, not a computer font.")

On the other hand, I'm glad I no longer have to sit beside people as they try to decipher my scribbles - "No, that's an n, not an r. Those are two words. My bs do NOT look like my hs! Look, I'll just read the damn thing to you out loud." I no longer have to write one copy of an essay or assignment, and then recopy the whole thing word-for-word, carefully forming every letter so that my teacher has a chance of interpreting it. For my academic career, at least, it's been a good move.

I think that in the future I will leave my pencils for doodles only. If I am given a pencil and a surface to use it on, I very quickly turn to idle doodling. My favourite things to draw are cats, dandelions and trees. I draw many trees. And I like to draw horses, too, but I can never remember how their back legs are shaped.

I picked up a habit of combining doodles and notes in, ah, nonessential classes. I spent a significant portion of my history class trying to make my friends laugh by drawing silly interpretations of what the professor was saying. Surprisingly, it kept my attention and helped my remember many facts I would have otherwise forgotten. It's a good tactic for being in class, though it certainly made me feel silly come time for the open-book exam, haha. All the other students had neat spiral notebooks full of highlighted and organized notes, while I had a handful of pages covered in doodles.

I've uploaded a few of my doodle/notes pages for safe-keeping, because there is a good chance I'll accidentally throw them out next time I clean the bookshelf.



Menstrual cups | How to have a happy period

Fact: Periods suck.

Drizzling blood between your legs for several days a month fucking sucks. There's no way around that. Making it even worse is all the bloating, cramping, moodiness and money.

I threw money in there because even if your periods are pretty light on the unpleasant symptoms, you're still likely to spend a stupid amount of money on tampons, liners or pads. Most women end up using tampons, because they're less smelly, irritating and diaper-like than the alternative and you can pretend that you're not a filthy unclean woman having her gross time of the month. But, even tampons have their drawbacks - the biggest one being the risk of TSS.

You'd think, that after some ridiculously large number of years of female humans bleeding out of their crotch every four weeks, we'd have created a better way of dealing with it than shoving wads of cotton up our junk.

Well, we have. But very few women know about it.


These are menstrual cups. Say "hi" to the menstrual cups! They want to be your friend. They want to make your periods better. They want to save you money. They want to sit all warm and cozy in your snatch and keep your monthly flow from staining your underwear.

And I'm going to evangelize for them.

Fact: Menstrual cups will make your life better

Imagine not having to run to the drug store at odd hours of the day (and night) when Aunt Flo gives you a surprise visit. Imagine being able to wear your normal, cute underwear even when you're on your period. For all you heavy flow ladies out there, imagine being able to sleep through an entire night and not wake up in a puddle of blood. Imagine being able to go to the beach for a whole day and not have to worry about changing a tampon. Imagine being able to address your period once in the morning, and once right before bed and not having to give it a thought in between. Imagine your bathroom garbage not being a source of embarrassment for sensitive male visitors.

This is my life. You want it, don't you? I know you do. I can see it in your eyes.

Q&A

If you have any questions I haven't added here, I encourage you to ask in the comments!

What's so bad about tampons?
They suck, that's what. First there are very valid ecological concerns: here is a highly artificial product that is thrown away in high volumes after being used for a few hours, not to mention the plastic applicators and wrappers. There is no way to recycle tampons, and they are usually not biodegradable. They are commonly flushed down the toilet to be dealt with by the sewage system. As owners of an older house or a septic system know, the sewage system is not always the best at handling such waste.

Secondly there is the convenience - or lack of it. Compared to pads they can be more convenient, but you still have to carry spare tampons around with you wherever you go. You need a waste basket to dispose of all the packaging as well as a toilet to flush the used tampons. For most people that isn't a problem, but for women who work in locations where there simply aren't any facilities available, such as geological field work, it is a significant concern.

Thirdly, and most importantly, is the health concerns. Tampons contain many toxic chemicals, such as dioxin, which can leach into the body. Tiny fibres - notably rayon - from the tampons themselves frequently enter the body. Tampons also increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), "a potentially fatal illness caused by bacterial toxin." Using high absorbency tampons for extended periods of time can lead to TSS, meaning a tampon user must change their tampons regularly. Tampons are also too absorbent: they frequently absorb natural vaginal mucus, drying out the lining of the vagina which can lead to irritation and abrasions.

In comparison, menstrual cups have no waste, no risk of TSS, no drying or irritating effect, and can be worn for... well, nearly as long as you want to. (About 12 hours is where the manufacturers say, but you can leave them in longer if you want)

Okay, so, how do they work?
Menstrual cups are usually made of flexible silicone with a stem attached to the bottom of the cup. The cup, when inserted into the vagina, creates a slight suction seal against the walls of the vagina. This seal prevents any fluid from passing the cup, and the cup collects all the menstrual blood. To remove the cup, you reach in (using the stem to find the cup - many people cut the stems off because they don't really need it) and slip a finger up the side to break the suction seal. You can then pull the cup out and empty it in the toilet, or other drain. You can then wash the cup, or just wipe it off with toilet paper, and then reinsert it.

Is it messy?
You're going to get blood on your hands. If you're dainty about it, you'll only get a bit on your fingers. If you have a catastrophic removal failure, you can end up looking like you crushed someone's jugular with your bare hands. Personally, I usually remove and empty my cup in the shower where I can drip and make a mess and it's not a problem. 99.9% of the time I can remove and empty the cup quite cleanly.

I'll be frank here: if you're uncomfortable with touching your vulva, or you're uncomfortable with touching menstrual blood, a cup probably isn't for you. Unless you're trying to overcome that. In which case, a menstrual cup is a great therapy tool.

At this point, after using a cup for several years, pads or tampons is kind of gross to me. You're either walking around with a wad of blood-soaked material taped in your panties, or else you've got a hunk of cotton shoved up your junk with a little bit of string hanging out. That's creepy. With pads you just throw said bloody bundle in the garbage, and tampons you flush the bloody cotton cork down the toilet. It's messed up, yo. Cups are way more tidy; at least you aren't sitting in your own excretions. :P
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