Journal

Welcome to my online journal, which I started in December 2002 after several very persuasive hints from friends. Although I obviously don't write about everything that happens in my life here, I hope it'll provide an insight into who I am and what's happening in my life - whether good, bad, happy or sad.

A new look for Tears and Laughter...well sort of!

Posted by Anna at 22:27 on Monday, April 26, 2004
Those of you who read my journal regularly may notice a subtle change in it today. Although it still looks largely the same, the implementation has been given a thorough overhaul and is now a bit more flexible and easier (I hope) for me to maintain.

Up until now, I've been using Blogger to publish the PHP source for the pages forming my journal and it's archives directly to my webserver on Easily. Although that works rather well, it does mean that any changes to the layout of the journal only take effect when all pages are republished. That's wasteful, and also means that the message archives on the server are PHP files (containing not just the text but the complete layout of the pages) rather than just what I've typed and when.

There's a better way. Rather than have Blogger publish the complete pages I could just handle their contents, and leave the formatting of the pages to the webserver itself. It so happens that there's now a file format ideally suited to this - it's called XML, and I'm reasonably familiar with it as a result of my work.

I'm not just doing this for my own benefit though - it gives me the ability to add a couple of new features to Tears and Laughter:

  • A contents page which lists all the posts I've made.
  • An RSS feed, which allows you to determine when a new post has been added via an RSS reader such as SharpReader or Ampethadesk (or indeed through an IM client such as Trillian!) rather than having to check back here to look for updates.
  • Smileys when journal entries or comments are posted.
The code is based on the article How to manage your site with Blogger, PHP, and XML by Matt Kingston. Although I'm a PHP novice (give me C++ anyday!) I'm finding it a useful and interesting exercise.

Obviously this is a major change so there's always the possibility of bugs. Please let me know if you see anything weird happening.

I'll try to further refine the implementation over the coming weeks.

We apologise for the inconvenience...

Posted by Anna at 23:52 on Sunday, April 25, 2004
When I checked my email after getting back from Cardiff today I found a message from my site host (www.easily.co.uk) saying my account had been suspended because its bandwidth was exhausted. That's fixed now (and I'm �24 poorer, which should keep things ticking over for a couple of months this time) but it's a fitting time to talk about this site, how often people are using it, and what it costs to run.

Easily's model is a simple one which seems to work well. Hosting costs me �35 per year, with the domain name costing �15 for two years. I think that's pretty good. The package includes an allowance of 5BGBytes of "data transfer" for the year - which you can top up if necessary. That costs �3.01 per GByte, which seems reasonable too.

When I first started this site it wasn't consuming much bandwidth at all, but since then the figures have been steadily increasing, until bandwidth is now most definitely an issue. The data transfer useage has climbed from 782MByte per month a year ago to 4.5GByte last month. Amazing.

Easily's site monitoring tools give me a great deal of information about the useage of this site. Of these, among the most interesting (and useful for me) are the search strings people have used to find the site ("garfield mad" being one of the most recent unexpected ones!) and which pages are the most popular or consume the most bandwidth. I've reproduced the table giving the latter information below:


Top 10 of 1058 Total URLs By KBytes

#

Hits

KBytes

URL

1

2766

0.41%

169073

3.80%

/journal.php

2

4340

0.64%

107632

2.42%

/grs.html

3

2021

0.30%

47986

1.08%

/ffs.html

4

1085

0.16%

44461

1.00%

/galleries/trans-mission_aug_2003/

5

1633

0.24%

43790

0.98%

/galleries/grs_post_op/

6

2884

0.42%

28855

0.65%

/

7

1004

0.15%

25881

0.58%

/galleries/grs_intra_op/

8

2749

0.40%

25843

0.58%

/photos.html

9

814

0.12%

23220

0.52%

/links.html

10

601

0.09%

21786

0.49%

/galleries/six_go_mad_at_tewkesbury_july_2003/


What this tells me is that if I want to keep the bandwidth my site is using under control these are the pages I need to look at most!

I'm not particularly surprised to see that the pages describing my reassignment surgery and facial feminisation surgery are so popular - purely because of the number of people seeking similar treatment and the fact that the site is so well indexed by Google. That my journal is top of the list I consider to be a real compliment!

It's interesting that the post-op and intra-op pictures of my surgery are so popular. It just shows that people aren't as squeamish as we expect....

Over the coming weeks and months I'll continue to optimise bits of my site to keep the bandwidth useage under control. One thing I will promise though - no matter what it costs me this site - like me - isn't going to disappear.

Postscript:
Since writing this I've discovered that many webservers (including mine) running PHP 4 are capable of compressing content on the fly without modification to the pages themselves. The advantage is obvious - significantly reduced bandwidth.

You can test whether a page is compressed using the tool at http://www.desilva.biz/gzip-test.php. Running it on an example page from this site (http://www.annasplace.me.uk/my_story.html) shows a compression ratio of 60% - from 31.2KB to 12.5KB. Not bad at all!

If you want to know how it's done, the following two links should tell you everything you need to know:

Technoclutter

Posted by Anna at 21:21 on Friday, April 23, 2004
Ever get the feeling that your desk is a bit overloaded? On the premise that a picture tells a thousand words, here's a pic I took today of my desk at work:



This is getting silly. The yellow box on the left is a Scout USBL acoustic tracking system I'm working on, the two left hand monitors belong to the black Dell box on the right (a 2GHz Xeon with 512MB memory running XP Pro), the right hand monitor belongs to a Win2k box (a 733MHz PIII) I mostly use for simulating acoustics and my own laptop (a 1GHz Duron running XP Home) is on the right.

I remember the days when it was paperwork covering my desk..

At home things are a bit more sedate...I just have my laptop, enhanced with an external TFT monitor, speakers, scanner, printer, webcam etc. All the usual stuff a girl needs...aside from a large bottle of Baileys and a partner to serve it to me of course.

Big tent, small sword...

Posted by Anna at 20:08 on Sunday, April 18, 2004
Another little bit of my past came home today - my authentic medieval tent. It's been in storage with friends (thanks Martin and Helen!) for over a year now, and it's about time I took it off their hands!

For those familiar with these things, it's a campaign tent (there's a smaller example illustrated on the Past Tents site) - essentially a bell-ended ridge tent, but with a front opening flap and poles to support it.

By modern standards the thing is huge - 20 ft long, 8 ft high and 11 ft wide. You can fit no less than three double airbeds in there (not authentic I know, but that's no big deal if you don't let the public in) and it takes two people to erect or take down. The canvas alone weighs a fair bit even when dry, and as for the poles - well with the longest two being 8 ft you need a fair sized car or a roofrack to transport them.

I'm glad it's home. Even if I never used it again (which I almost certainly will!) it's part of my past and I don't think I could part with it. Where I'm going to put it I've no idea though - it's just dumped in the hallway for now!!

P.S. Anyone need a beer tent? I'm taking bookings for the summer....

All (too) quiet on the K-Y Jelly front

Posted by Anna at 22:12 on Wednesday, April 14, 2004
The latest episode in my quest to find tubes of K-Y Jelly which fit the applicator I use while dilating has just arrived in my inbox. Unfortunately, it's not exactly positive:

Dear Ms Metcalf

Ref: 000118329A

Following our recent telephone calls regarding our K-Y Lubricating Jelly I am writing to advise you of the outcome of my investigations.

I have contacted all of our Consumer and Medical manufacturers of K-Y Lubricating Jelly and unfortunately have not received a very positive response.

The Consumer product, as you already know, is now produced worldwide in a plastic flip top capped tube, which I appreciate is of no use to yourself.

The Medical production of K-Y Lubricating Jelly takes place in France and they in turn supply exactly the same product in the same packaging, to all other countries. However, I have spoken to a representative in Thailand, following our conversation, and they have confirmed that the only version available in their country is the standard tube produced in France.

In addition I have been advised that the Medical product will also only be available in the plastic flip top capped tube in the very near future.

Finally, I have submitted a suggestion directly to the Franchise Director with regard to producing an applicator. This idea has been suggested before but the decision was made not to pursue it as the primary use for K-Y Lubricating Jelly does not require an applicator. Despite this they have agreed to reinvestigate the possible requirements of producing an applicator. Unfortunately this may take many months and / or even years before it is available for use.

To conclude I am disappointed to have to advise you that my investigation has brought me no nearer to a satisfactory resolution for your issue. As previously discussed you can obtain the existing Medical K-Y Lubricating Jelly directly from the below supplier, you will be required to quote the relevant product codes when ordering.

Southern Supplies
0870 8734900

42g = Product Code 41148
82g = Product Code 41248

Please contact me again on 0845 6012261 should you require any further information.

Assuring you of our best attention.

Yours sincerely

Rebecca Weavers
Consumer Information Centre Team Manager

So there we have it - I'm back (almost) at square one. Oh well...at least I tried.

Thank you

Posted by Anna at 12:46 on Tuesday, April 13, 2004
I just wanted to take the opportunity to everyone who's called or emailed me since finding out I was feeling down. A special thanks to Andrea who dragged me out shopping yesterday afternoon, and Patrico and Rosalind who took me out to play pool last night.

Thank you.

I should be celebrating this weekend

Posted by Anna at 18:46 on Sunday, April 11, 2004
I should be celebrating this weekend - it's three years since I found my Faith, and that Faith has led me to heal myself (in a way I certainly never expected) and begin my life anew with joy in my heart and love and acceptance all around me.

Instead, I'm numb from tears because no matter how hard I try I can't let go of the girl I love. Every time I think I've adjusted to the change in our relationship the tears come back to remind me that I certainly haven't.

As well as being incredibly painful, it's making me doubt my ability to fully rebuild my life - and (especially) to let anyone else into my heart. That makes it hard for me to move on, which makes it even harder for me to let go. It truly is a vicious circle, and I can't see any way out right now other than to grit my teeth and accept the tears.

I feel I've let her down by holding on to her and subjecting her to my tears. I guess I'm also afraid of my future...a future distanced from her love and the smile she always has in her eyes.

All day I've been thinking of profound words to write on this subject, but they all escape me now. Tonight there's a bottle of wine with my name on it. Maybe it'll help me stop thinking for a short while.

A letter I've been half expecting - but it still made me smile...

Posted by Anna at 19:28 on Thursday, April 08, 2004
When I got in from work this evening I found a letter from my GP's surgery waiting for me:

    RE: CERVICAL CYTOLOGY SCREENING - ROUTINE CALL
    "You are invited to make an appointment to have a cervical smear test as our records show this is now due. The test is important as it checks that the cervix (the neck of the womb) is healthy. It is confidential and free of charge, and you may find the enclosed leaflet helpful. It would be helpful to bring this letter with you when you attend.

    If it is not appropriate for you to attend at this present moment, please bring this letter to the surgery. I will inform the Agency, who will then, if it is appropriate, invite you to attend at a later date.

    It is highly recommended that women aged 20-34 years have a test every three years, and women aged 35-64 years, every four and a half years. If you wish to discuss this test with someone please contact the surgery before making an appointment."
I know it's an automated letter, but it still feels like affirmation - and I'm flattered that they think they'll be able to find my cervix. I've come a long way towards fulfilling my dream, but there's one thing I'll never be able to do - carry a child.

I try not to think too much about the life that might have been.

Two years of hair removal

Posted by Anna at 21:33 on Wednesday, April 07, 2004
While I was at my weekly electrolysis session tonight it struck me that it's now over two years since I started facial hair removal in preparation for my transition.

So far, here's what I've had done - and how much it's cost (excluding travel expenses etc.):

    Face:
    • 16 monthly sessions of treatment with a Ruby laser at Christianos (Earls Court, London). Total cost: �2320
    • 16½ hours of electrolysis. Total cost: �421.25

      This is self-explanatory. How many women would be happy to have a face full of facial hair? I had a lot to get rid of, and it's a long, painful and expensive process.

    Chest/Abdomen:
    • 6 sessions of treament with an Alexandrite laser with Lasercare, Shaftesbury Avenue. Total cost: �720

    Bikini:
    • 2 sessions of treament with an Alexandrite laser with Lasercare, Shaftesbury Avenue. Total cost: �130

      I started this treatment ("extended bikini") in preparation for my reassignment surgery, as I was worried that otherwise I might have some hair inside the vaginal opening (a risk in any penile inversion vaginaplasty). I didn't have my scrotum (how wierd it is saying that now!) treated as I knew Dr. Suporn's staff would remove all of the hair follicles from the skin grafted from it to form my neo-vagina while I was out cold in theatre.

      Although I'd planned to have about four sessions when I managed to get a cancellation date for surgery that plan went right out the window! Now that I'm largely healed I'm planning to book another appointment soon (maybe next month). In medical terms I'm aiming to get my perennium and labia majora cleared....but I prefer to think of it as "clearing the grass surrounding the landing strip" (yes, I have a Brazillian...).
Altogether that's �3591.25, a lot of time and pain and countless trips to London to one of the two laser clinics I've used or up the M3 to see my electrologist Vanessa.

It's certainly worth it though - my face is pretty clear now (although I'll be undergoing regular electrolysis for at least a year yet), and my chest and abdomen are now largely hair free - and that remaining is largely fair and velous so laser wouldn't work now anyway. I've come an awful long way since my first laser hair removal session on 14th March 2002.

Birthday celebrations

Posted by Anna at 00:24 on Monday, April 05, 2004
It's been a long, relaxing weekend amongst very good company - I've been down in Kent visiting Susie and celebrating her birthday!

Although I'd planned to work on Friday and drive down in the evening, by Thursday lunchtime I was very tired and quite run down. Fortunately I was able to book Friday off at short notice, which not only gave me the chance for a lie in and an unhurried dilation in the morning, but also meant I could drive down early in the afternoon and dilate before heading out with Susie and Helen in the evening.

Fittingly, Susie had booked a table at The Bangkok House Thai Restaurant in Canterbury for 8:30pm. It's a truly amazing restaurant (the food is incredible, and the atmosphere just perfect) and I can't recommend it enough. We had a fantastic time, and I was able to try out a gorgeous dress I'd found a couple of weeks earlier:


It's truly amazing to think that the last time I was there I was looking forward to my reassignment surgery. So much has changed since then! When I told one of the staff that since they last saw me I'd been to Thailand not once but twice she just laughed...

Saturday was a truly lazy day for us all, but especially for me - I spent much of it dozing, which I guess indicates I was pretty run down. Although we didn't get to do any exploring (we'd made some tentative plans to wander over to Leeds Castle) the company certainly made up for staying in.

Helen headed home in late afternoon leaving Susie and I to plot our evening out. The plan was to go to spend the evening in Revivals Nightclub in Deal - and a wetter night we couldn't have chosen if we'd tried!!

After driving into Deal and leaving the car in a local car park we quite literally sprinted for the The Hole in the Roof Hotel (which is just next to the club) where we relaxed for an hour before heading into the club shortly after 11pm.

I was actually quite nervous - although I'm getting used to the idea of going to pubs again, this was the first time I'd been to a nightclub in the UK (Thailand doesn't count - the culture's so different!) and I really didn't know what to expect.

I needn't have worried. We had a fantastic time, were both chatted up (a nice compliment, I think, and I didn't get the drunk chasing me...) and had lots of fun dancing, laughing, joking and just being us.

It was certainly interesting looking at the mixture of people there too...I did wonder how much I had in common with them all. Being TS gives you a whole new perspective on the phrase "life experience" - and in some places it's more obvious than others. That certainly doesn't detract from the fun evening we had though.

By the time the club closed at 2am, we were pretty tired out from all the dancing and very content with the way the evening had gone. The only downside was waiting for a taxi in the pouring rain...and having to chase one down the street when it finally arrived but didn't see us!

When we got back to Susie's house we crashed hard, awaking late on Sunday and taking our time before driving back into Deal mid afternoon to pick up Susie's car. After a little shopping, at my request we drove briefly around the town as I wanted to recapture some old memories.

I should explain that the last - and only - time I visited Deal prior to this was way back in Summer 1996 when I was taking part in a Landsknect re-enactment at Deal Castle. That weekend was huge fun and holds very fond memories for me, so being able to visit again (even if just driving past briefly) really means something.

I had to smile as we drove down the seafront past The Port Arms Inn as I immediately recognised it as the pub we were drinking in on the first evening we were there - and playing cards for 15th Century coinage!

I rather suspect the interior of the place has had a makeover since the days they were happy to admit a bunch of re-enactors with the keys to the Castle and their own personal stockpile of weaponry though...

All too soon it was time for me to drive home ready for work the following day. It's truly a shame such a wonderful weekend had to end.

Thank you Susie and Helen!

Spare Head 2 finds a new home...

Posted by Anna at 23:28 on Thursday, April 01, 2004
In the early months after reassignment surgery, a regular dilation routine is essential. If you don't do it, the body will attempt to heal itself - and the neo-vagina will be crushed by the muscle surrounding it. Ask any woman how she would feel about the loss of her vagina and I'm sure you'll appreciate how upsetting and scary it must be if the one thing you need to keep yourself complete to break.

That's exactly the nightmare that happened to a friend of mine (newly returned from Thailand) yesterday. When I arrived home last night there was a panicky message waiting on my ansaphone - her stent had broken, and not surprisingly she was panicking. While you can order them online, they can take weeks to arrive - and she certainly couldn't wait that long.

Fortunately, that was something I had anticipated myself (as have others who've done the same) and while I was out in Thailand in November I asked for a spare 1¼" stent - which I eventually christened Spare Head 2 (don't ask!).

To cut a long story short yesterday lunchtime she travelled all the way to Blackwater (the nearest railway station to my workplace) so I could give it to her. I'm just glad I could help a sister in need - and I know others would do the same for me if I was in the same position.

This little incident is an all too real reminder not to take any chances - if you are newly post-op or your surgery is approaching, make sure you have a spare stent you can get hold of quickly in an emergency. If you don't and the worst happens, it will be a very scary experience indeed.

Hopefully the clinic will shortly be sending her a spare and me a replacement for my spare.