The tech had just invited a resident to watch me taking my dose of radioactive iodine. I remarked that I was eager to photograph the pill. That wasn’t allowed–once the pill was out, it was going into me. No fun and games.

We walked into a small room with a list of regulations on the door. We went over the protocols for my being radioactive. I asked lots of questions–about dos and don’ts in my domestic space (more on that in a moment). Then out came the pill. Sort of. First there was giant lead locker. Inside the lead locker was a lead cylinder that was about half the height of a pint glass. I didn’t take any pictures (no fun and games) but imagine a canister sort of like this but orange and with a flat top:

lead capsule

(photo courtesy The Annoyed Thyroid)

Then the tech and the resident left the room. She peeked in through a window and told me to open the canister. Inside was a little plastic pill jar like you’d get at the pharmacy, and inside the canister was a capsule that had been filled with my exact dose. The capsule wasn’t particularly large. I was to open the lid and dump the pill directly into my mouth without touching it with my hands. Except she wasn’t quite fast enough, so I took it out, then put it back in, then dumped it into my mouth. After that, I had to leave the premises immediately.

Standing outside, waiting for my friend Rob to pick me up to give me a ride home, I positioned myself about six feet away from anyone else, in a spot where nobody would be inclined to stand next to me. He showed up 5 minutes later, and home I went for three days of (sort of)  isolation.

This experience of radioactive iodine is totally different than my last one.  For one thing, I’m not locked away in the hospital; for another, the protocols are much more lax. Last time, I was under the impression that I had to worry about electronics — so much so that I rigged up an elaborate arrangement with my iPhone inside a latex glove and an extra keyboard and mouse so I wouldn’t touch my laptop for three days. My clothes were put in the basement for 3 months after my time in the hospital.

This time, they said I should do laundry before Carrie comes home.  In fact, if we had two toilets, Carrie could be home right now (except that I timed my dose so that it would coincide with her trip to Michigan for a panel on gender studies institutes). I have to have my own toilet until Sunday afternoon.

For the next 2.5 days, Carrie can spend up to two hours within a meter of me, and the rest of the time we could sit across the room from one another.

As for electronics, they said not to worry about them.

My radioactivity apparently spreads two ways.

1. One, it emanates from me, like exposure to the sun. In the file below, I turned on my Geiger counter, hit record on the phone, put the phone down and started walking away from the Geiger counter. At first you get a steady stream of beeping, because the rates are so high it can’t separate them. As I walk toward the other end of the next room (about 25 feet away) the rate goes down.


I am like a theremin in reverse.

A theremin emits an electromagnetic field which the body interrupts and manipulates to make sound. I am giving off a radioactive field that the Geiger counter interrupts to make sound.

Yes, I am planning to make some audio on this basis.

2. Radioactivity also comes out of me in liquid form. I sweat it, I excrete it, and so forth. Hence the toilet issue. The other big thing besides the toilet issue is not throwing up. At the first hint of nausea, I’m to take gravel so I don’t throw up.  Luckily, I haven’t felt really nauseous.

As for how I feel?  A bit tired, but otherwise ok. I have had a couple waves of light headedness, but other than that I’m just lolling around the house. I have dry mouth and eyes something fierce but that’s been going on since I started taking lithium earlier in the week (3 days before the dose and 3 days after to stimulate uptake of the radioactive iodine in my lungs). No of the more bizarre side effects have manifested yet (like loss of taste, though that can come later).

The weird thing about the experience is precisely that I can’t feel it. I need the Geiger counter to tell me something is different about my body. Which is no different from the CT scans that diagnosed my condition in the first place. It’s a complete alienation from my own senses. Phenomenally, it is an experience of submission, and an experience of the limits of my own faculties. A lot of recent scholarship on perception has tried to develop accounts of perception beyond consciousness in one way or another. But this is a completely different feeling. I am left to experience myself not experiencing my own chronic condition, and my own radioactivity.

So it turns out that Tako is blind. We knew something wasn’t right, as sometimes she wouldn’t respond to toys waved in front of her nose, and she would come tearing around the corner in the bedroom and run right into the legs of one of the dressers with the cutest little [thump] sound.

Since we are doting cat owners, we got an appointment at a cat ophthalmologist.  Yes, they exist, and yes, that’s what the professor salaries are for. Carrie wound up having to go by herself because I was in a meeting. The vet looked over Tako’s eyes and then let Carrie peer into her eyes. She (Tako, not Carrie) has something called “retinal death” — as in, there are not a lot of blood vessels in her retina, which makes it more shiny and reflective. Cats usually have reflective eyes in the camera but in this picture you can see there’s a lot more reflection than usual:

Tako's eyes reflecting back at the camera





















Either it’s genetic or she got a virus from her mother in the womb.

The amazing thing is that we imagined she could be farsighted but we never imagined she was blind, and she’s been blind the whole time we’ve had her and we didn’t even know it.  The vet told Carrie that this is normal and sometimes their human companions go a long time without realizing their cats are blind. As for what you do with a blind cat, his advice was pretty simple:

–> touch them a lot and talk to them a lot because (duh) they can’t see you

–> don’t move furniture around a lot

–> also blind cats tend to be more snuggly (oh, no!)

That’s it. He finished with the whole “she can lead a full life” schtick, which is hilarious since that appears to the part of the standard disability announcement speech.

Carrie was a little sad at first, but I have to say my own reaction was more being impressed. And now we understand the explanation for some behaviours we’d been seeing.

Between Galaxie’s extra toes, Tako’s blindness, my v0cal cord paralysis and Carrie’s diabetes, our household is living what Tobin Siebers called “human variety” in Disabiility Theory. Except it’s “the human and feline variety.”

My contribution for last summer’s “5 Minute Manifestoes” plenary for the 2014 Encuentro. It’s pretty self-explanatory.


Now that I have a Vimeo account, I am posting some stuff that’s been sitting on my hard drive.

Vegetarian Low Iodine Diet Redux [LID]: Week 1

by Jonathan Sterne on October 19, 2014

It’s Sunday.  Time to watch football and cook a lot.

Here are some vegan/low iodine things we’ve been making. Recipe links are posted when available. I’m too lazy to type things out if they’re not already typed out online or in our electronic recipe book already (there’s a lot of copy/paste in this post, but it’ll be new to you). Also, I had planned to do this daily but that’s too much. So instead you get massive weekly updates, like this one.

When on the low-iodine diet you can either make everything yourself, or eat boringly. I lean toward the make everything myself because it’s frankly enough unpleasantness to put a giant dose of radioactive material in my body at the end of this. Why shouldn’t I have a little fun now? The other thing is even if it’s boring, I still have to plan it out.

Dinner #1: Stew and sides. We made this Friday night.

–>Bulgarian Red Pepper Stew from Sundays at the Moosewood.  We served it to guests and got another meal out of it. 

Normally you have it with sour cream or yogurt. Since I can’t do that right now, I went for cashew cream courtesy of the Post Punk Kitchen and Isa Does It.

Soak 1 cup cashews in a bunch of water overnight. Drain. Put in the blender and puree with two cups water, a little fresh lemon juice and salt.

Serve the stew and put just a small spoonful of the cream into the bowl and you get some nice creaminess.  I don’t find cashew cream all that good by itself but it works to add texture.

Our side was roasted brussels sprouts and cauliflower (also made a ton and ate leftovers for another meal):

Slice brussels sprouts in half

Cut cauliflower into florets

toss with olive oil and salt

roast at 425 degrees about 45 minutes or until the sprouts are melty.

I also made another no-knead bread, this time with 1 cup each of white, wheat and rye flour.

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

For LID people, you need to check the label for additives. The kind I got was organic with guar gum as the thickener. That’s LID-approved.

Two cans coconut milk

1t vanilla

1/2-3/4 cup sugar (to taste)

Put all the ingredients in a blender. Blend. Put blender jar in fridge for a couple hours. Then freeze it in your ice cream maker. We served it with berries. You could also flavour it however you like. Tonight we will try it with cardamom and rose water if we have it (to go with the Indian).

–>Corn muffins from Isa Does It (on a quick look online I don’t see a similar recipe).  We both loved them for breakfast this morning. We had to substitute Yu rice milk for soy milk since YU is the only LID approved non-dairy milk in Canada (unless we made it ourselves).

–>Tacos (aka “breakfast tacos” aka regular tacos, but eaten at different hours than usual)

Fresh tortillas with no salt in them are fair game.  Then it’s off to the races. I used the following veggies but any will do:



Poblano Peppers (tons, they’re from the market)

Nance Carrots

I stir-fry them in oil, and add chill powder (we just happen to have a little free jar from Penzy’s that doesn’t have salt in it–otherwise I was prepared to roast and grind peppers), cumin, salt, pepper, and a little paprika.  I do the spices visually.  A big dusting of chill powder, and less of everything else to add a few “notes” to the flavour.

Then I added some seitan, which is the only veggie protein you can have on the low iodine diet. (Lentils are also an option, but there are lentils in the stew and lentils in the Indian, and so I wanted a break.)

Tacos were eaten for lunch Sunday and then will be rotated across different meals as the inspiration strikes.

I took the leftover cashew cream and made an experimental “nacho sauce” for the veggie tacos.  It’s based on this recipe, except I substituted mustard powder for miso since I can’t have miso (homemade mustard would have been better but was too much work). I skipped all the veggies except for garlic, but I did put in a dried chipotle.  The result is not exactly like nacho cheese sauce and not amazingly delicious straight, perhaps because I didn’t follow directions properly.I found it a bit strongly flavoured as a background to the tacos and not in a good way–I think I might just whip up more regular cashew cream instead, and/or make pickled onions since I can’t put on a vinegar based hot sauce.

Baked Seitan (adapted from Cooking with Seitan, a cookbook I bought mainly because the title is fun to say out loud)

(Skip this if you’re gluten free. This would be a bad thing to eat in that case.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2 cups gluten flour (you can make your own but it’s a hassle)

1 cup veggie stock (I used unsalted), cooled

1 cup rice milk (soy or whatever ok if you’re not LIDing)

1/2 t each garlic powder, dried onions, salt

Stir up the dry ingredients in a bowl, stir in the wet.  The dough should be spongy and not too sticky.  Roll into a log with about 3″ in diameter.  Slice into 1/2″ cutlets. Lay them out on an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, oil the tops, flip and bake 10-15 minutes more. Seitan cutlets will get a bit puffy.  This recipe is pretty bland but the texture is good and since I want to use them in Mexican and other recipes, I didn’t want to flavour it one way or another. For the tacos, I sliced the cutlets thin, added them in right before the veggies were done, dumped in all the spices and about half a cup of water with the heat on high and the seitan soaked up the flavour. Normally, you’d do something else with the cutlets, like simmer them in broth or stuff them.

–>Indian dinner This will make tons of good leftovers for the week that can be reheated in a few minutes. Key when you’ve got lots of late afternoon meetings like I do.  

Biryani (adapted from Neelam Batra’s book)

6 medium cloves garlic, crushed (lots)

1-2” piece fresh ginger, minced (lots)

1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped

1c tomatoes, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

6 or more cups fresh vegetables (carrot, cauliflower, bell pepper, frozen peas[leave out the frozen peas for LID], etc) — we got a beautiful cauliflower from the market, and have some left over broccoli and string beans. And some more bell peppers and carrots.

1 cake tempeh, cubed [skip if on LID--no soy allowed!--we made the lentils below for protein instead]

2t garam masala [for LID, you need a masala without salt--we have a rose masala with no salt that we have been wanting to try]

2t ground cumin

1t crushed red pepper

1-1.5t salt

½-1t turmeric

oil for stir frying (I recommend coconut oil)


2 cups brown basmati rice

4 cups water

5 black cardamom pods, lightly pounded

1 cinnamon stick

1.5t cumin seeds

1t salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in saucepan big enough to hold all the rice and water. When hot, add cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, cardamom pods. When they pop after a few seconds, stir in rice and water, crack a little pepper in (or use a few whole peppercorns if you dare), bring to boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or until done. Rice can be a little wet when it’s done.

In a very large, oven-safe dutch oven, stir-fry vegetables and tempeh in the usual order (hardest to softest), add spices, add tomatoes and coriander at the end and cook a few minutes more. Stir in cooked rice, put in the oven for 15 minutes. (or transfer to baking dish if you don’t have anything that works on the stove and in the oven).

Watch out for cardamom pods and cinnamon stick when eating.

To go with it, we made the everyday dal from Curries Without Worries, using red lentils. (this is the only adaptation I’ve found online, we do it a little differently)

–> Dinner if necessary. Stir fry as yet to be determined. With rice.  Quick and easy, veggies available at the corner on the way out of the metro and left over seitan. As long as it’s not soy-based we’re good.  Perhaps Carrie or I will make this:

Carrie calls this “Jon’s Dry Coconut Curry Delight” which means, when she makes it, I like to call it “Carrie’s Jon’s Dry Coconut Curry Delight”

1 large onion

1 leek

1 sweet bell pepper

2 cans mock duck (or 1 large cake tempeh or tofu) [for LID, it would have to be home-made seitan or just put lentils in the rice for protein]

½ cup desiccated coconut

oil for stir-frying (coconut recommended)

1.5 tsp black mustard seeds

1.5 tsp cumin seeds

¼- ½ tsp asafetida

1 dried hot chili or ½ tsp red pepper flakes or to taste

2 tsp good curry power [LID: make sure it's a curry powder without added salt--and hey, we have fresh curry leaves in the freezer so we might try that]

½ tsp salt or to taste

Slice onion and leek thin, chop the bell pepper small and cut the protein as you see fit.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. When hot, dump in the mustard and cumin seeds. Once they start to pop (which will be almost immediately if the pan is hot; be ready), add the onion, leek and bell pepper. Sautee until almost done. Add the protein and coconut. Then add the spices and salt to taste. Serve over rice. Goes well with fruity hot sauce and yogurt if you’re not on the LID.

Other notes for LID people finding this via web search:

For lunches at work, I’m going to bring in leftovers some days and other days eat a variety of portables: we’ve got a metric ton of hummus and acres of carrots, fresh fruit, some nut bars from the corners with no salt in them, more muffins, and the like. I’ll also do PBJ at least once, since that’s easy, filling, functional, and portable.

LID Day 1 + Bureaucracy, not in that order

October 16, 2014

And we’re back to cancer blogging.  Yesterday I spent a couple hours at the Jewish General getting my records in order. I forgot how much bureaucracy there is to being a patient: Keeping files, updating files, moving between offices, the whole gig.  Though I have to say that prior experience has meant I know how to […]

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(Not) Her Master’s Voice

October 8, 2014

Roughly two weeks ago, Wolfgang Ernst came to Montreal. I missed both talks, as I was at the University of Michigan.*  But we did meet up on Saturday for a visit to the Musée des ondes Emile Berliner, whose back areas are filled with old media technologies, as well as many versions of the His […]

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New Text: The Low Acuity for Blue: Perceptual Technics and American Color Television

August 28, 2014

(coauthored with Dylan Mulvin) “The Low Acuity for Blue: Perceptual Technics and American Color Television,” Journal of Visual Culture 13:2 (August 2014): 118-138. This piece is the first of a pair of articles on colour television that Dylan Mulvin and I wrote together (the second has been accepted to Television and New Media and will appear in 2015 […]

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