Ad Astra 2014: The journey there (back again comes later!)

It’s been a challenging week. Having thrown my back out last Sunday, I was bed-bound Monday, but there was work to be done and I decided to go into work Tuesday through Thursday, hobbling like Quasimodo. I’ve blogged those lessons separately.

All week, I’ve been worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Ad Astra at all. But here I am, and I’m having a great time.

I had booked Friday off work so I could travel down. The opening sessions weren’t until 7 pm, so I figured that I wouldn’t have to leave until 1 or 2 pm to get here in time. I’d be able to have breakfast with Mom to make up for missing our standing date on Saturdays.

Friday morning, we had a power outage. It’s important that you know this. It has an impact. Later.

At noon, after breakfast and puzzling, I returned home and was going to call the car rental place to come pick me up, and pack while I waited. Unfortunately, I had to wait out some physical discomfort first.

I ended up calling them at 1 pm and was told that they’d be able to pick me up in a half an hour. I packed, as I had planned, and waited.

Turns out the driver went to the wrong residence (we have a couple of apartments up the hill and everyone goes there first).

So I finally got the car, signed the rental agreement, and got it home. It did not have heated seats as I’d hoped. My back would have appreciated a little heat for the drive.
The only things I had left to do were to check the weather for the weekend and to print out my Google maps route.

The problem was that the internet was out. I went into the basement and tried to reset the cable modem. I gave it the magic three tries, in fact, before I gave up. By this time, it was 2 pm and it was starting to rain.

Since the temperature was hovering around zero degrees, the rain was supposed to turn into freezing rain before long. I did not want to be driving in that.

So I called Mom and her internet was fine, so I packed the car, went over, and printed out what I needed. Unfortunately, her printer was out of colour ink and wouldn’t print the maps in grey scale. Plus, Google kept giving me instructions that included pulling several U-turns. A map wouldn’t help very much with that.

At 2:35, I was off, and it rained steadily all the way down.

I’d never actually been in this area of Toronto, well Richmond Hill, before, and so I just trusted that the U-turns were errors on Google’s part and tried to follow the directions otherwise.

Turns out that if a turn is greater than 90 degrees, Google calls it a U-turn. Still, I made the journey in four hours and found the hotel largely without incident

It took me about an hour to search fruitlessly for a parking space (there was also a medical conference, a tennis tournament, and at least one hockey tournament here), check in, finally find a parking spot (next to the bin), and make my way to the registration area.

nicebutsmall1The room here is small, and set a half-floor down, but it has a heated bathroom floor and really, for one person, it’s all I need. I’ve just been spoiled travelling for my employer where upgrades are de rigueur.

I basically dropped everything at the room and hobbled.



Registration was easy and I got a lovely little package of gifts including a book, Flashpoint trading cards (I think – it could be a booster pack for a game), and some consuite drink vouchers.

By then, I’d missed the opening ceremonies and the walking tour of the facilities. I attended two panels that night, saw, but did not approach Robert J. Sawyer (he was often talking with someone and I didn’t want to intrude), reconnected with Marie Bilodeau, who gave me an awesome compliment, and then had a very late supper while I listened to Klingon karaoke.

Just to be clear, people were not singing karaoke in Klingon, that was just the name of the event.

When I got back to my room, I discovered the microwave did not work. Another point against my sore back as I’d have to do without a warm wheat bag for the night. I got that fixed up this morning.

I’m going to begin blogging the sessions I attended, but only on the weekends. I have to go back to work next week, so I will not be spending my writing time with further bloggage. I’ve had to pace myself because of the back, so I shouldn’t be blogging Ad Astra forever. Just a few weeks. Probably enough to see me through to the next conference 😉

So that’s how I got here.

More fun to come.

What the body teaches us

So … I mentioned it briefly last weekend, but I torqued my back out of alignment last Sunday. It’s not an unfamiliar experience, but it has been years since I’ve had an episode.

And no, I must disappoint you; I was not swinging from the chandelier, or doing anything remotely fun or kinky at the time.

back pain

This is kind of what happened. Glamourous, ain’t it?

In my experience, it’s the subtle movements that get you. I was picking up the laundry basket, a movement I’ve done countless times. This time, I felt that hum, like a cable under stress unravelling. Though I didn’t feel the pain immediately, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I did.

What did I do? Go shopping, of course. I wanted to get the activity in before the worst of the pain descended. I really hate shopping, by the way.

I spent Monday in bed, flat on my back. Foolishly, I went in to work for the rest of the week. There were meetings and assignments due. I should have listened to my body, gone to see my doctor, and taken the week off.

As a result, it was a week of epic fail at work. Everything I did was done half-assed, or not completed at all. I was pulled in so many directions, I kept on changing course. Everything was a priority.

I haven’t felt this incompetent in a long time. That I was moving at a snail’s pace and moving through a constant haze of pain likely had something to do with that.

Learning that I had been screened out of an assessment process (internal job posting) because I hadn’t read the posting thoroughly didn’t help either. I was screened out on a technicality.

What I learned:

Listen to your body. Not only should I have gone to the walk-in clinic on Sunday instead of going shopping, but I should have, at that time, gotten a note (if required in my GP’s opinion) for bed-rest until healed.

Someone else would have been assigned my work. It would have gotten done. It may have been incredibly stressful for my colleagues, but the work would have gotten done. I’m not so self-centered as to think that I’m indispensable in any way. It’s how the machine of the workplace functions.

Working while in pain and with little sleep (resulting from the pain) is worse than working while under the influence (thanks to an Ad Astra presenter for that lovely tidbit).

The fact that I got the injury in the first place tells me that I have been far too sedentary for far too long. I sit all day at work and I sit all evening, writing, at home. I need to strengthen my core. I need to lose the Buddha belly. Carrying extra weight in the front throws off my centre of balance. It makes me susceptible to injury.

So I’m going to get more active.

Naproxin is a girl’s best friend. I’d been prescribed the medication for another health condition, but it proved brilliant for the back pain … after I had a loading dose.

So there you have it. The wisdom of the body should speak louder than the natter of the day-job.

Here endeth the lesson.