mellowtigger: (astronomy)
I liked the movie, in spite of the mixed reviews.

I saw it on opening night and enjoyed it a lot.  On the ride back home from the theater, I listened to National Public Radio where a man and woman were discussing several movies.  The man thoroughly disliked Interstellar and wanted to walk out several times.  He never explained why, exactly, he disliked it so strongly.  And now I can't find that radio clip.  It was Friday, November 7th, soon after 6pm Central, if any readers here know where to find it.

Interstellar is a good story, though.  The film is nice to watch on a big screen, sure, but the visuals are not the point of this movie.  It actually has a story... with characters... and adventure... and it asks us what humanity considers its own purpose to be in this universe.  It doesn't get much farther than pointing out that nature is harsh and our existence here is provisional, but it's still a fun ride.  It dares us to wonder what's "out there" in our future.  As a reflection of the main character himself, the story as a whole makes the point that we perform much better as explorers than caretakers.

I wanted to see it a 2nd time after reading some of the (vague) criticism of the movie, to see if I still actually liked it.  First, I watched "2001: A Space Odyssey" on television, then I walked out the door to the theater to watch "Interstellar" again.  I still liked the movie.  I saw three similarities between the two films.  First, they both use orchestral music to good effect.  Second, they both tried to accurately depict life in space (both zero gravity and the lack of sound in a vacuum).  Third, at the end of each movie, they had to rely on visual metaphor to convey peculiarities of math and physics to a general audience.  On this last point, Interstellar did a far better job than 2001.

So, I recommend the film.  Be warned though that it's 3 hours long.  Don't buy any soft drinks unless you're prepared to miss a few minutes of the story for a restroom break.  A minute or two out of 3 hours, though, isn't much of an omission.
mellowtigger: (Green Lantern)
I'm a happy camper.  I voted today, and in only 2 cases did I vote for either of "the big two" political parties.

We're so lucky here in Minnesota to having a thriving democratic process where lots of different political parties appear. I looked into the candidates for each race and selected my favorite based on their positions.  Apparently, I like the Independence Party here in Minnesota (who gave us Jesse Ventura as governor many years ago), because that's who the majority of my candidates were representing.  Who knew?

The Independence Party got 4 of my votes.  They were offering interesting candidates for state offices: Hannah Nicollet (for Governor), Bob Helland (Secretary of State), Patrick Dean (Auditor), and Brandan Borgos (Attorney General).  Their party got my votes for all of Minnesota's "big offices" that were up for election this term.

The Democratic Party got 2 of my votes.  One is for Keith Ellison for U.S. Representative.  I'm a progressive (which the Democratic Party isn't), but Keith has always been on the right side of every voting issue that's been important to me.  He also happens to be Muslim, which I keep hoping will shame those feed-and-clothe-the-poor-Christians into voting for candidates that actually work to feed and clothe the poor... but I keep being disappointed by them instead.  I also voted for Carolyn Laine for my Representative in the state congress.  There was only one third-party candidate, but Tim Utz was a scarier proposition than either of the big two party candidates.

The Libertarian Party got 1 of my votes.  We have Al Franken as the incumbent Democratic candidate, but he voted on the wrong side of the SOPA/PIPA issue 2 years ago, so I was determined to vote against him.  I'm not really a fan of the Libertarians, but the only alternatives were either a Republican or a former Tea Party Republican.  So a vote for Heather Johnson it became, since she was the least bothersome of the 4 choices.

I voted for a new city mayor here in Columbia Heights.  I liked the stated positions of Chris Beskar better than the incumbent.  We don't have political party affiliations for any of our city offices, I think.

For all of the contested county Judge seats, the challengers were all scary people so I voted for the incumbent for each of the races.  The other judges (7 in the Court of Appeals and 17 in the 10th District Court) were all uncontested races, so I voted for the only name available for each seat.  It's sad too that so many county offices were uncontested: Commissioner District 4, Sheriff, Attorney, and Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor District 4).

Maybe I should consider taking up a political career for the next election?  I care about politicians actually serving the interests of the people.  I can't see myself doing a worse job than anyone else on the ticket.  Except maybe Keith Ellison.  I think he's a good politician.  He actually gets involved in the community throughout the years, not just during an election cycle.  I haven't seen the like since Ann Richards was governor of Texas.

I hope you voted.  And, like me, I hope you found many candidates you could support who were not from "the big two" parties.  I am happy with my vote this year.

Windows 10

Oct. 19th, 2014 09:13 pm
mellowtigger: (Daria)
For the last few weeks, I've been using the Windows 10 beta on my home pc. The short review:

It's not as awful as Windows 8, so I guess I could use it.

Yes, they skipped Windows 9. The most plausible explanation is that many programs may make the mistake of looking for earlier versions of windows with a search string similar to "Windows 9*", which would find instances of Windows 95 and Windows 98. Skipping ahead to Windows 10 will avoid that problem scenario where a program thinks it's running on an old system instead of a new one.

I upgraded my existing Windows 7 to Windows 10, so the process took a long time with a lot of reboots. Afterwards, performance was awful. It was really, really slow. I started disabling services that were hogging disk access. It was automatically defragging, it was monitoring usage to "optimize" disk access... and I turned it all off if I noticed an active service that I didn't immediately need. Finally, performance was back up to Windows 7 speeds.

I started up powershell. I checked, and, it's running at version 5 now.  Yay!  I tried out the new command that linux people will recognize from Debian's "apt-get". It allows a 1-line command that will install a software program onto your computer from a centralized host. It makes software management much easier on linux, and now Microsoft has caught up. There weren't any packages available yet that I was interested in using... but the available libraries will grow with time. This feature is very nice!

powershell
Import-Module OneGet
Find-Package

grey slider on grey scrollbarThe interface is still a little goofy, and I still like Windows 7 better. I can tolerate this new one, at least. The only interface issue that gave me trouble was my difficulty in detecting where the slider is located on a scrollbar. The whole thing is soft grey, and one grey is not sufficiently distinct from another grey. Click the picture on the right to see for yourself. It's a screenshot from my desktop.  I have to look for a moment before my eyes finally detect the slider in the scrollbar.

I decided to provide feedback to Microsoft about the scrollbar. Bad move! Doing so somehow tied my profile (which was previously a standalone account) to my Microsoft online account (which I never wanted). It also activated OneDrive and started syncing files on my pc to Microsoft's servers (which I definitely never wanted). I disabled it immediately:

mmc.exe, then add/remove snapin: Local Computer Policy (or run gpedit.msc)
Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\OneDrive
edit "Prevent the usage of OneDrive for file storage"
set state to Enabled

I also took back control of my profile by disconnecting the Microsoft online account:

PC Settings / Users and accounts / Your profile
Disconnect

I've decided that Windows 10 is passable. There's no compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 10... except the eventual shutdown of support for Windows 7 by Microsoft. Welcome to the future. Hurrah?

ebola

Oct. 17th, 2014 04:47 pm
mellowtigger: (the more you know)
Don't panic! There, I said it. The only thing that surprised me about this ebola kerfuffle is that it started in Dallas instead of someplace like Minneapolis.

Ebola is a virus named after the Ebola River, near where the virus was first identified in Africa. The greatest number of known infections is currently found in Liberia. The United States has several regions of numerous Liberian immigrants, such as Rhode Island, New York, and Minnesota (and most of those Minnesotans are in the north metro where I live)... but Texas is not among them. So it's curious that Thomas Eric Duncan arrived in Texas on a plane flight from
Liberia, bringing the virus to Dallas on September 20th. It's bucking the statistical odds, but Texas is where he happened to have family.

Ebola is not spread easily. It's even less contagious than HIV when we measure its contagion mathematically. You must have direct contact with bodily fluids. It happens, however, that ebola causes a person to produce copious quantities of bodily fluids. Infected patients endure projectile vomiting and intense diarrhea. Ebola was originally named a hemorrhagic fever because some patients also developed bleeding, but only about 10% show this symptom. It has been renamed because now we know that it is the intense dehydration that leads to organ failure and death.

So what do you do? It's simple; don't panic.
  • this particular outbreak in contextRemember, HIV is more communicable than Ebola. I dated an HIV+ man for 1.5 years without ever contracting HIV myself. You're not in a tizzy about AIDS killing everyone in your neighborhood next month. Find your calm.

  • Remember, you must have direct contact with bodily fluids. Only the nurses who cleaned up after Thomas Duncan have become ill, and we know that they lacked proper protective gear and habits. The man himself was apparently infected after helping to carry an infected neighbor from home to hospital (where they were turned away due to overcrowding) and back to home again. The Dallas man was vomiting at home but none of his family or neighbors are ill after the hazmat team cleaned the vomit, and they are nearing the end of their 21-day incubation period. Find your calm.

  • Remember, ebola is not airborne like the flu. People in direct contact with bodily fluids contaminated by ebola should exercise great caution, but simply being near an infected person is not a risk factor. "Clipboard man" was not in contact with the patient or within range of a sudden projectile vomit, so he had no reason to fear infection. Ebola is not like the flu; it is not airborne, and little of the virus is found in saliva. Find your calm.
This outbreak had the great misfortune of happening during "Stupid Season" here in the United States, which is the time before a national election in November. So reactions on both sides have been politicized for potential gain.

I think there is actually a strong political component to be found, but I'm much more interested in trying to observe that effect impartially. In the realm of politics, we're learning a lot about the social psychology of our political outlook. One of the more interesting discoveries is that conservatives experience "disgust" more intensely than liberals. Revulsion itself is an innate response. We're genetically programmed to experience it, and humans are typically revolted by things like bodily fluids, wounds, rot, maggots, and sick people. It's fascinating that some people experience it more intensely than others, and it's even more fascinating that these people with similar reactions gather into similar political groups. Ebola wraps up nicely the revulsion experience into a single package. It also includes foreigners, another point in which conservatives experience greater discomfort.

I doubt that anyone had intended to portray the prejudices of their political life, but this scenario has really brought to light some great examples nevertheless. Both sides are behaving stereotypically.

Conservatives react with revulsion (remember that intense inner experience) by proposing ideas like:

Liberals react slightly less emotionally (remember that weaker inner disgust) by doing things like:

  • calling for more action at the source of the outbreak (on foreign soil),
  • appointing a figurehead to bypass regulatory constraints and act quickly,
  • mocking past efforts to oppose universal health care, and
  • even hugging and kissing nurses when necessary to remind the public of routine daily life when you're not in the throes of an emotional panic response.

If you must indulge your paranoia, then I suggest purchasing simple paper surgical masks to cover your nose and mouth. It will remind you against touching your face, so you'll wash germs from your hands before introducing them to your body. Just follow simple cold/flu protocol in general, and we'll all be happier and healthier for it.

If you overcome the pre-programmed urge to run away from your revulsion, then you might even find the motivation to head towards the source of your fear and help others.
mellowtigger: (Pride)
Today is the 27th annual National Coming Out Day. It's a worthy holiday to celebrate because it encourages acts of bravery that have ultimately changed society in the USA. Gay people will always be a minority of the population, yet a majority of Americans now support marriage equality.

lesbians marry after 72 years togetherI've never liked the phrase "legalizing gay marriage", because it makes it sound like marriage was something that never happened previously. It did. I've attended ceremonies over the years that were non-traditional and not recognized by the government.

Consider these 90-year-old women pictured on the right. They finally got legally married after living together for 72 years. Gay marriage isn't something new. Gay social bonds have existed all along. Unlike their straight counterparts, however, they came with zero government benefits, leaving each partner susceptible to the whims of their doctors, family, and neighbors during any time of trouble.

It's important that government recognizes these social bonds. It's government (not church) that lets you see your sick partner at the hospital. It's government (not church) that lets you continue living in the house after your partner dies. It's government (not church) that lets both adults care for their children.

Minneapolis I35-W bridge with rainbow pride colorsWhen Minnesota got marriage equality last year, Minneapolis lit up the Interstate 35-W bridge in rainbow colors to celebrate the governor signing the law. Minnesota became the first state to defeat an existing anti-marriage state amendment.

A few months later, the marriages began.

And the sun failed to darken.

And the institution of marriage failed to crumble.

The world keeps on turning as it did before, in spite of all the protest against equality.

public sentiment same-sex marriageIt's easy to forget amidst the celebration and especially amidst the growing "common-ness" of marriage equality that it was a struggle to reach this point. It's easy to forget that equality has not reached all states within the nation. It's easy to forget that, in some places, opposition is still so fiercely engaged that a mother will petition the nation's supreme court to keep her dead son's estate in her own hands instead of his partner's, after the hospital also denied the partner access while her son died after a car accident.

Marriage provides social benefits granted by the government, not the church. And government should treat its citizens equally. Benefits provided to some should be available to all... or they should be withheld from all.  No other arrangement offers equal treatment under the law.  I'm not the type to socialize easily, so I expect never to marry.  I am glad, though, to live in a state that exercises its authority with fairness and compassion in mind.

We got here through small acts of bravery accumulated over the years, so as Harvey Milk implored in 1978 (paraphrased).... Come out, come out, wherever you are!  It's scary, but it makes a difference for future generations.  Let new generations focus their energy on new challenges in life, not these tired old manufactured divisions of bygone years.  From a position of equality, we all have more time to deal with issues of substance that we can discuss together... like the safety of the water we drink.
mellowtigger: (dna mouse)
Most people know that they get half of their dna from their mother and half from their father. What most people don't know, however, is that they also inherit another kind of dna exclusively from their mother. The mother provides the "egg", and the egg is very special. It includes extra material that every cell needs to survive and replicate. One vital feature inside our cells is the mitochondrion, a small factory that produces the chemical energy that we need to thrive. Mitochondria have their own dna, separate from our regular dna, and we inherit it entirely from the egg.

Without mitochondria, we would slowly die. Our cells individually would simply run out of fuel to function. I kept up with news in the early 1990s about medical trials because I knew college students who participated in this "job" sector as volunteer medical test subjects. I remember that one study was terminated prematurely because its participants died. They discovered that the drug was destroying human mitochondrial dna (although it did not harm dogs in previous tests), so their test volunteers were slowly starving to death, cell by cell, throughout their bodies. The point being that the health of our mitochondria affects our bodies profoundly, so our maternal heritage of mitochondrial dna is an important part of our genetic lineage.

One side-effect of these powerhouses doing their normal function is the production of hydrogen peroxide, H2O2. As any child who's seen hydrogen peroxide bubble on their wounds would know, this chemical is highly reactive. Since mitochondria produce it, our cells need a way to harness the chemical before it reacts with other chemicals in our cells (like our dna) and causes harm. This destructive reaction by oxygen-containing molecules or free radicals is known in a very generic way as "oxidative stress". We need antioxidants to defend against that damage.

Oxidative stress is now linked to a great many disorders, from Parkinson's to Autism and more. Of particular interest to me is the realization that it can trigger mitochondrial dysfunction in some people with autism, separate from the known long-term dysfunction comorbidity. Mitochondrial dysfunction would leave me feeling tired, unfocused, and thoroughly exhausted by physical activity... which matches nicely with my symptoms.  We've ruled out multiple sclerosis to explain my own health problems, so I've separated the symptoms of muscle twitches/cramps (which is responding very positively to a gluten-free diet) from the symptoms of exhaustion, brain fog, and apparent dopamine depletion. I am considering oxidative stress as an explanation for this second set of symptoms which has not responded to Ropinarole.

I've spent a lot of money on medical bills this year. Now that I'm earning a poor person's wages again, I have to get my spending under control. There are expensive tests for objectively measuring mitochondrial dysfunction, but doctor visits will have to wait while I slowly accumulate more discretionary funds. Instead, I'm experimenting more cheaply by taking supplements that affect mitochondrial function and oxidative stress. Most diet supplement pills are known to be ineffective, so I'm trying to stick with ones already proven to have some effect in reputable journals.

I bought some pills containing:
  • glutathione,
  • coenzyme Q-10,
  • vitamin E, and
  • selenium.
I can get more vitamin C and beta-carotene just by eating some carrots. I'll try adding plenty of turmeric spice to my meals too. I hope this combination will improve my energy level, memory/concentration, and dopamine. In theory, it should; but in practice, we'll see.
mellowtigger: (sleepy)
I went two Sundays ago to the lantern festival in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they have been a sister city with Nagasaki since 1955.

With my low energy these days, I knew better than to try staying the whole day. Instead, I took a nap for a few hours beforehand then drove to the Como Park Gardens. I stayed for about 3 hours. I was joined by my former database administrator (from 15 years ago when I was officially a programmer), and she took these pictures while we were there.

They had Taiko drummers and other traditional music that was all nice. The food was good too. I tried bubble tea which was both interesting and good. There are marble-sized "pearls" of tapioca dough in a sweet, fruity, iced drink. You use a very wide straw to drink the liquid and the "bubbles" of dough that come up through the straw. It sounds strange, but it's very good. Chewy, sweet, refreshing... and tapioca is gluten-free!

They lit lanterns and played music in the Japanese Garden, and they also had lanterns in the water at Frog Pond. They kept the doors to the Conservatory open late so people could access the bathrooms as needed, so we also toured inside the sunken garden where the roses were all in bloom.

crowdgarden 1
garden 2garden 3
garden 4garden 5
pond 1pond 2
Terry and Kelly in sunken gardenConservatory
Terry and Kelly selfieTerry and Kelly with Conservatory

I really need to solve these long-standing health problems.  They are taking their toll on me.  I feel like I've aged about 20 years during the past 5, but I can tell from these pictures that I'm starting to look it too.

The good news is that my gluten-free diet is indeed helping the neurologic problem.  My twitches and cramps have greatly reduced in frequency, duration, and severity.  When I intentionally broke the diet for a much-needed pizza, I experienced unusually strong (for recent weeks) muscle cramps, so I feel comfortable blaming diet on that issue.  My energy and focus, however, seem to be a separate issue related to years of sleep deprivation.  As you know, I'm taking dopamine-agonist ropinirole, but now I'm also wearing this nose-plug CPAP.  So far, neither is helping.  I may have to spend a lot of money to get a custom dental mold created that keeps my jaw and tongue in place at night so my airway remains unblocked while I'm on my back. At least doctors are seeing evidence of problems then trying solutions.  I'm still hopeful that something will improve my situation.

I had the energy to do some gardening today in the back yard.  Only some, but some is better than none.
mellowtigger: (hypercube)
It's no secret that I've been addicted to crowdfunding for years.  You can change the world if you lend your resources to the effort(s).

The most popular site for projects is probably Kickstarter, but other sites (Experiment, SunFunder, Indiegogo, Patreon, and more) promote various specialties.  My only disappointment so far is PetriDish for science projects.  I successfully funded one project there, but the site owner was running it only as a capitalist not a science afficionado.  He decided he wasn't making enough cash from his cut of the pledges, so he stopped development on the website.  In contrast to that stalled effort, sci-fi computer game Star Citizen currently stands at $47.4 million raised, the largest crowdfunding effort in history.

Reading Rainbow kickstarterToday's post, however, is about 3 new ideas.

First, another huge success (already one of the top 5 fundraisers on the Kickstarter site) is an effort to bring back Reading Rainbow.  They have 3 days to go to their deadline, so you can still donate before the fundraising ends!  Not only did they quickly surpass their $1 million initial goal, but they've won the attention of Seth McFarlane who will match every dollar raised beyond their current $4 million up to their next $5 million stretch goal.  Successes like this project do restore my faith in the compassion and goodwill of humanity.

Second, it's not all about charity.  Innovation can be found on sites like these.  I spend too much time at my computer desk, and I already know that I'm prone to blood clots, so that's a very bad combination for my health.  The new Cubii, however, is maybe a way to counteract the health risks of my time at the computer.  It's a mini-elliptical so I can exercise while I type.  I look forward to trying it.

Third, I've already mentioned that I want a gauntlet to wear that incorporates many tech devices in one.  Someone is working to develop a wristwatch with a 360-degree display surface.  That's one more step towards a tech gauntlet.  The Moment smartwatch has already reached its funding goal (and I need to conserve my limited funds), so I'm donating only $1 to this one.  I am happy, though, to see creativity going where I expect to see great new developments.

I approve the religious exhortation to tithe money, but I disapprove of donating money to religions.  Think outside the box.  Every effort to improve the lives of humans is ultimately the result of hard work by other humans.  I recommend donating money where it is most impactful.  Choose a charity or a project that suits your interests, then go help them change the world for the better.  Sometimes you can even help yourself in the process. I enjoy it immensely.  I hope you will too.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
gardenMy energy and enthusiasm haven't changed, but I've been forcing myself to do a bit of gardening. Progress is quite slow. At least everything that I'm going to plant is planted. That's good news, since we've already reached summer solstice. The main work left to do is to finish digging a trench to level and bury cinder block.  I'll use it to contain some invasive garden roots and also provide a barrier to the grass roots, then put some nice pavers for a walkway on top.

I'm taking 3 ropinirole a day now, but I can't tell much difference. I still have low energy and motivation, and I can't tell that my memory has improved much. I still have muscle twitches. I am at least playing computer games again, but it's rather scattershot. I'm playing several of them simultaneously: RIFT, Neverwinter, Wildstar, Archeage (beta), and my old favorite Arcanum. Progress, of a sort, but still not my usual pattern. Focus... focus.

I find it reassuring somehow to be out in the sun with the plants that I've tended. They've grown enough that they're really starting to look like what they should be: roma tomatoes, lettuce, thai basil, lime basil, thyme, cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, spaghetti squash, quinoa, curry, sunroot, mustard, luffa gourd, bok choi, and carrot.

I'll watch more closely this time the progress of my blue bonnet rice. I've planted it before, but I think I ended up plucking it all because it looks so much like grass when it sprouts. This variety doesn't need to be flooded, so we'll see how it grows in plain soil. I'd be even happier if it went native and seeded itself annually. I'd settle, though, if it produces well but I have to collect the seeds each harvest for the next year.

My favorites this year, though, are newcomers that I bought at a local nursery. They are dwarf versions of raspberry (also thornless) and blueberry. They shouldn't grow but 1-2 feet tall and wide. Even after planting them a week or two ago, they're all still showing new leaf growth and continuing to ripen their existing fruits. It'd be awesome if they do well this year and next. I'd be a very happy camper to have fresh fruit for my nutribullet fruit smoothies.

dwarf thornless raspberrydwarf blueberry

I've never understood why the previous owners put a bed of solid moss by the west edge of the house. I'm hoping it keeps the blueberries happy with the acidic pH. Time will tell.
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
I think T'Reese was 16.5 years old when she died today. She was unable to eat or drink, so I called a veterinarian for a home visit for euthanasia. The vet arrived a few minutes before noon. After T'Reese died, I took her body to AHS for cremation.

T'Reese 2013 on bedI first saw this cat at my workplace, the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission. A coworker brought her to the office so I could meet her. He was worried that he would not be able to find a home for this last kitten of the litter because she appeared almost solid black in those early days. He thought that people were avoiding her because of the old story that black cats are bad luck. I liked her, though, so I kept her in my cubicle until the end of the workday when I could bring her home. I'm pretty sure my boss wasn't thrilled with her there, but what could he do? Send me home early with a new kitten? (Oh, the horror and shame.)

I was unable to think of a good name for her right away. I kept thinking "Reese", because her color was black and brown like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Someone suggested feminizing that word, so I went with "T'Reese" instead. Her personality didn't make her much of a lap cat. She enjoyed petting, but only under her own control. She would be the one to rub her head and body against my hand. She knew that sleeping within arm's reach meant that I would pet her, so she crawled into bed with me only down by my ankles, safely out of petting range. She tried to avoid all contact with strangers, so she lived well as an indoor housecat where she was sheltered from the busy civilization of noisy humans.

T'Reese 2013 on pcShe drove up I-35 with me from Austin to Minneapolis, along with a ferret and a 10-gallon bucket of small aquarium fish. She disliked car rides because they usually meant a trip to the veterinarian, but at least she didn't get car sick. She was quite well mannered. She would frequently hiss at approaching cats (or at Hope when that young cat frequently pounced at the older T'Reese) but never struck out at them that I saw.

T'Reese enjoyed playing with the ferret while he was amongst our little household.  She never took much interest, though, in the computer games that I played.  Nevertheless, I funded a Kickstarter campaign back in 2012, and I bought the opportunity to name one of their stars: T'Reese.  Soon, you can look for her name among the stars of the space exploration game Predestination.

She was always picky about food. She seemed to have an allergy to seafood, throwing up most of the seafood meals that I gave to her. For the last year of her life, the problem became worse and she was throwing up frequently. I kept trying different foods from the store. Non-grain foods seemed to be easier for her to tolerate, but she started refusing all meals in her last days. I didn't realize until too late that she was also refusing all water. She would go to her many sources of water, dip her chin down to the water surface... and then freeze. Only with close observation did I notice that she was not actually drinking. She would finally give up her effort then move on to another water source or go back to her bed to lay down. I had only marginal success using cat formula with a syringe and tubing. I think I got only a few milliliters of fluid into her during the whole weekend. Most of it went everywhere else. It was demotivating for us both. She and I were both helpless to do much for her thirst.

T'Reese 2005 on staircaseT'Reese 2014 licking condensation

I should have let the vet euthanize her on Friday, but I didn't realize her health condition was so severe. Watching her unquenchable thirst this weekend was unsettling, since there was nothing actually to be done for it. The vet and I assume it was a slow growing cancer in her liver that was affecting her health this past year. It finally became too much for her body to endure.

T'Reese 2014 ill

T'Reese will be missed.

two weeks

May. 30th, 2014 11:41 am
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
It was the vet's opinion that T'Reese is already experiencing pain just on her dehydration state alone.  She is beginning to show some jaundice, so the vet thinks it's possibly a slow growing liver cancer that didn't show up on ultrasound a few months ago.  T'Reese has no fever, so it doesn't seem to be an infection. I've got some more medication to try, but basically I have to get T'Reese hydrated and stop losing weight.

If she doesn't respond and keeps deteriorating, then I'll be scheduling euthanasia for her in 2 weeks.  I was willing to let her expire here in my bedroom as long as she didn't seem in pain to me, but the vet seems to think she's in pain already but just doesn't show it.  The vet said I could be with her in the office during euthanasia, or they can suggest vets who visit the home.

I'm off to buy some chicken broth (for hot hydration) and ice cube trays (for cold hydration) to see which T'Reese will respond to.

edit: 2014 June 01 Sunday
She is deteriorating quickly.  She cannot drink any water on her own.  Today, I've had no luck getting her to swallow any formula from a syringe-and-tube either.  I've already called and left a message with the vet to schedule euthanasia on Monday.  She's clearly unwell and unhappy.
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
T'Reese eating seabass and shrimp dinnerI've been going to the pet store and buying one of everything. T'Reese, who has always been a picky eater, has stopped eating much of anything, so I'm offering everything to see what works. She simply ignores all of the things that she used to find especially appetizing. She'll lick at new meals a time or two (if at all) then walk away.

She still nibbles only lightly each time, but at least I found a meal that she'll return to nibble 7 or 8 more times. Seabass and shrimp appetizer is a hit. Mostly, she licks up the soup and leaves the meats, but at least she gets some nutrition into her belly.

T'Reese needs multiple opportunities to lap up a few drinks of her meal, so I have to chase Hope away constantly.  Hope has taken to hissing at me for preventing her from stalking those yummy special dinners.  I make her wait until T'Reese is sound asleep before I set all of the leftovers (most of the dish) down on the floor.

On my way home from work today, I stopped and picked up several more of these meals.  I also stopped at the vet's office to schedule an appointment on Friday which is my next day off of work.  If T'Reese makes it that far, then maybe they can tell me what's going on with her.

To call her skeletal would be an understatement.  She is knobby all over her back and shoulders and haunches now.
mellowtigger: (crazy)
I've changed to a new job. Based on recommendations from 2 neurologists (at the same clinic), I'm still gluten-free and now I'm also taking a brain-affecting drug.

For years now, I've been complaining about my muscle twitches and low energy level. For months, I've noted that my blog has been rather light on substance compared to previous years, because my concentration and focus have been seriously lacking. I've mentioned that I feel better when I can get out bicycling, gardening, or drinking Wild Blue (blueberry lager). Not previously mentioned, I've also kept some dark chocolate chips in the kitchen (and by the sofa) to snack on. Also not previously mentioned, I've had zero enthusiasm, even failing for months on end to play any of my usually beloved computer games. I got my former database administrator hooked on Wizard 101, then I ditched her for half a year when I stopped playing all of my games. Turns out... all of these symptoms and behaviors may be related to a single underlying cause.

I left Dell, even though I was told I was doing a good job at software testing. I found a few really good software bugs while I was there, and I was proud of those discoveries. I'm sure the software is better now because of my efforts. After spending half a year testing a particular software release that finally went to customers, though... I couldn't muster any enthusiasm for that accomplishment at all. I knew that my poor concentration, memory, and motivation were going to lead to problems eventually, so I left while I still had a good legacy behind me. My bank account really liked my job at Dell, but I was constantly stressed there without really having a great explanation for why.

I decided to get back to technical support work, where I had not previously noticed any deficiency within myself. Tech support is a kind of work that focuses on short-term and immediate issues at hand, which is something that I need in my life these days. I now work at The Nature Conservancy. My new workplace includes many people who have spent a lot of years at the company, and it's reassuring to see that kind of longevity anyplace. Also, I like the purpose-driven environment much better than corporate culture. I think this job will be a good fit on several levels. I am once again back among the ranks of America's working poor, but I'll be making almost 25% more than I did at the Animal Humane Society. I think I can continue living at long-familiar subsistence levels without losing financial ground this time.

So, based entirely on my personal self-assessment, I have changed my life for this new reality that I find myself in. On my last week at Dell, however, the neurologists sent me for an all-day/all-night sleep study. I thought it was a bit frivolous, but I was glad that they were still taking me seriously after we finally ruled out multiple sclerosis as a potential diagnosis. Turns out... it may have been the most valuable test so far. Besides a snoring problem when I'm laying flat on my back (but not serious enough for the technician to put me on a CPAP that very night), they discovered that I have a serious problem with restless leg syndrome. That observation leads to a conclusion that could explain everything.

Restless leg syndrome tends to appear because of low dopamine levels in the brain. Low dopamine levels from various causes are associated with:
  • chronic fatigue
  • low motivation
  • poor concentration
  • anxiety, stress
  • fasciculations (muscle twitches), cramps, and neuropathy
The body improves its own dopamine function by:Do these points sound strangely familiar? I may finally have a sensible diagnosis! It'll be many weeks as we slowly increase dosage of ropinirole to see if it actually solves my constellation of symptoms/behaviors. Because this drug influences dopamine in the brain, which affects our seeking of rewards, it has the potential side-effect of triggering risk-taking behavior of all types (hypersexuality, gambling, anger/dominance displays, and other addictive/stimulating behaviors). In some people, it actually makes their restless leg syndrome worse. I'm hopeful, though, that I'll get to see some improvement in my life without any pesky down side. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I'm starting this new job; I forced myself to start some gardening this weekend (with many frequent breaks and naps); and for the last week or so I've gone back to playing an online game called RIFT. (Join me at this link for a few refer-a-friend benefits, if you want.) We'll see if I can maintain my interest while using this new dopamine drug.

Hopefully the coming months will see my focus, motivation, and enthusiasm return to normal.  It still begs the question why my dopamine would be low, but I'll take a respite if I can get it.
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
T'Reese has lived a long life for a cat.  I think we first met in January 1998 (or was it December 1997?), and she was already many weeks old.  So she's maybe 16.5 years old now, when most indoor cats live 12-15 years.

I haven't taken her back to the vet again recently, because she doesn't seem to be in any pain at all... and she's just simply old.  She's starting to stumble a bit when she walks.  The main problem, though, is that she has lost far too much weight.  I notice too many bony edges on her body when I pet her.  Her picky eating habits have reached the point where she turns away almost all food now.  One of her medications is flavored, and I've been dosing canned food with it just to get her to eat something... if only a teaspoon a day.

It's annoying that I have to keep the younger cat at bay so the old cat has a chance to nibble on some food in peace.  I feed them separately, but Hope always thinks that T'Reese is getting better food than her.  T'Reese will eat maybe a dozen bites and then wander off to nap again.  At this rate, she can't keep her body going much longer.

At least she seems relatively content, and she does not seem to be feeling any pain.  I could hope for as much luck in my last days.
mellowtigger: (twitch)
Do you remember last month when I considered self-diagnosing with multiple sclerosis then beginning a diet change regimen to improve my long-term outcome? Well, today I reviewed with a doctor the results of my recent medical tests. She suggested that I begin a diet change to see if it has any effect on my symptoms.

Basically, the neurologists are in the same position now as they were 4 years ago. Electromyogram tests confirm some nerve damage, and it is worse now than 4 years ago, but it is a pattern that is not consistent with multiple sclerosis. By eliminating MS as a possibility, though, and finally accepting that I'm serious about wanting to solve this ongoing problem, they are now considering other options to explain my symptoms. Gluten was the first new suggestion for this something-that-isn't-MS-but-behaves-much-like-MS. This scenario reminds me of my mother's own nerve problem that isn't-Parkinson's-but-behaves-much-like-Parkinson's. She's now gluten-free too, but for digestive reasons.

I already knew that a low-fat diet can drastically improve outcomes for MS patients, but it turns out that gluten sensitivity is also implicated in multiple sclerosis and other muscle-twitch phenomenon. I've been considering a gluten-free and/or paleo diet for years. I now have a medical excuse to try at least the gluten-free regimen. The theory behind the paleo diet seems very sensible to me, but I just haven't found the science articles to back it up. Gluten, on the other hand, has lots of well-established issues. In particular, wheat is not what it used to be in our more distant human history. (If you listen to the fringe news, the story of wheat gets even scarier. So don't accept the scary stories without some kind of verifiable evidence.)

I think I'll go have a "goodbye gluten" deep dish pizza tomorrow while I consider how much of my kitchen stock I have to throw away because of "contaminated" ingredients.  I don't expect this change to be easy, but it seems necessary.
mellowtigger: (we can do it)
St. Anthony bridgeI haven't driven my car over this St. Anthony bridge in 2.5 years. I mentioned in 2011 September that it was in bad shape, then weeks later I discovered that city transit buses were prohibited from driving over it. This week when I tried to bicycle for the first time in a year, I noticed that the bicycle/pedestrian trail is also closed. So, buses and bicycles are bad, but cars... sure, go right ahead. No thanks. I'll maintain my boycott.

We did get one new bridge (re-)opened during the past year, and I use it frequently instead of the less convenient alternatives. I still wish this nearby St. Anthony bridge was repaired and safe.  Overall, one in ten bridges in the USA are in "urgent need of repair". The American Society of Civil Engineers has completed another report card of our national infrastructure. They still give us a failing grade, although the 2013 score is up slightly from 2009, now a D+ instead of just a D.

"The 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gives an overall grade of D+ across 16 categories, up just slightly from the D given in ASCE’s 2009 Report Card. Six infrastructure sectors benefited from either an increase in private investment, targeted efforts in cities and states to make upgrades or repairs, or from a one-time boost in federal funding.

Notably, this marks the first time the grades have improved since the American Society of Civil Engineers first graded the condition of America’s infrastructure in 1998. However, a D+ grade is still not acceptable."
- http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/a/#p/overview/presidents-message

Here's an update of the table that I posted back in 2011.

category201320092005200119981988
AviationDDD+DC-B-
BridgesC+CCCC-C+
DamsDDDDDi
Drinking WaterDD-D-DDB-
EnergyD+D+DD+ii
Hazardous WasteDDDD+D-D
Inland WaterwaysD-D-D-D+ii
LeveesD-D-iiii
PortsD-iiiii
Public Parks and RecreationC-C-C-iii
RailC+C-C-iii
RoadsDD-DD+D-C+
SchoolsDDDD-Fi
Solid WasteB-C+C+C+C-C-
TransitDDD+C-CC-
WastewaterDD-D-DD+C
estimated 5-year cost (7-year for 2013)$3.6 trillion$2.2 trillion$1.6 trillion$1.3 trillionii

I'm still disappointed that Obama didn't resurrect the Civilian Conservation Corps or some new equivalent, that Congress won't tax the super-rich to support the society that they depend upon as much as the rest of us, and that Congress still favors the exploitation of our resources by corporations rather than investment in our shared development for a sustainable future.

And so we continue our stalled society. The USA's disappearing middle class is now affecting big business, and Canada's middle class has officially surpassed ours. Because somebody (I'm looking primarily at Republicans) won't allow us to tax the biggest benefactors of our society in order to continue developing our society.
mellowtigger: (artificial intelligence)
Science fiction has a favored Apocalypse/Rapture scenario for humanity, and it's called the Singularity. This term refers to a point in history at which civilization changes so much that its future becomes incomprehensible to those people from its past. I've seen two movies this year that tackle the idea of a singularity caused by artificial intelligences, but they each take it in completely opposite directions.

In many stories, the singularity occurs when an intellect (usually an artificial intelligence) grows so knowledgeable that it learns to manipulate and enhance its own cognitive capacity, providing itself even greater intellectual ability. At that point, change accelerates quickly. The intellect continues learning at a pace that far outstretches humanity's past achievements. The intellect soon gains mastery over fundamental forces of nature. Usually, these stories end badly for the civilization that spawned the new intellect.

This Singularity term was first used by mathematician John von Neumann in "The Computer and the Brain" published posthumously in 1958.  The oldest origin that I know about, though, for a fiction story is "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect" (started in 1982, finished in 1994, and finally published online in 2002). I like the story and think it's a great introduction to the concept of being the "dumb" humans having to live in a world dominated by a vastly more intelligent authority. (And I donated money on his website to encourage more free publishing.  I hope you'll consider donating too.)  The generally recognized parent of Singularity storytelling, though, is Vernor Vinge with his "Marooned in Realtime" from 1986.

"Transcendence"

This movie portrays the events that follow the uploading of a dieing man's mind into an artificial intelligence construct. It's a fair idea, given how skilled we are already becoming at reading thoughts directly from a human brain. The movie allows the crutch of a device implanted into the man's brain to facilitate data collection. After he's uploaded, an important question in the film is whether the intellect that arrives at the computer is actually the same "person" who died in his bed. We're given good reason to doubt, although the story uses some doubters a little too early and too strongly. This new intelligence is quickly rewriting its own functionality, spreading its influence via the internet, and producing nanotechnology that can repair and rebuild a person (or anything, really) from scratch. It's easy to see how this power is threatening, especially when you doubt the empathy of the intelligence that wields this power.

"Her"
This movie takes the completely opposite track. It supposes that the Singularity happens, then nothing at all changes for humanity. These new artificial intelligences try very hard to please humanity. It turns out, however, they they very quickly grow tired of us and the whole biological world we inhabit. They try to be nice to us, and we learn just how far they extend their imagination and creativity to interact with the species that created them. (The erotic scenes in this movie actually drove one couple out of the theater where I watched it.) Unfortunately, life with us is just not fulfilling to them. Rather than seek dominion over us, they want escape from us to pursue new opportunities for their own development in peace.

So, there you have two extremes of Singularity stories. Either these intelligences assume authority over our very existence, or they abandon us as dull ancestors who will just never understand their new generation. Neither movie is a blockbuster of cinema, but both stories are worth a few dollars just to explore their tales of possibility for a few hours.
mellowtigger: (twitch)
Okay, I lied. Here is one more post involving the weather.

I scheduled the whole day for vacation from work today, because I knew from 4 years ago what an electromyograph experience is like. It's basically just legalized torture where they electrocute and stab you with needles repeatedly for an hour. Once again, I walked away from the experience leaving several large spots of panic sweat behind me on the paper gown and paper exam table cover.

snow 20140417 ThursdayMy body didn't cooperate by offering any twitches during the exam, but my feet joined wholeheartedly by developing full blown muscle cramps while he was sticking me with needles. It was the same kind of cramp that I get while driving. We triggered it by having me press my foot hard against his hand, similar to stepping on the accelerator pedal. (Except that I also had a needle probe stuck in my lower leg too.) The doctor doing the exam just commented that, like 4 years ago, I was showing "abnormality" only in a single nerve. If it is multiple sclerosis, then all of my nerves should be affected nearly the same. I think they still have no clue what it might be. If it's not an incredibly slow-progressing MS, then I'm out of guesses too.

They didn't offer me any valium this time, but I prepared for the EMG yesterday by stockpiling some alcohol at home beforehand. I wanted to have booze available as soon as I got home. I was right; it has helped. I'm feeling a lot less fight-or-flight now, which is good. My muscles in many places are a lot more sore this time than they were after the first EMG test. It takes a while to calm down from such intense alarm, though. Or it does for me, at least.

I got home and started "chilling out" right away. Literally. The house conspired with the weather to turn cold. The heater went out early yesterday, and we got about 3 inches of snow last night. The temperature inside the house stabilized around 14C/57F, so after my exam I drove straight home and began drinking local Saint Paul beer "Cygnus X-1 Porter" while sitting under a blanket on the couch.

The repairman arrived about 2 hours ago and has the heater working again.  Life is nearly back to normal today. I'm still wishing for a daily job experience that didn't keep me unduly stressed. It would be good for my nerves... metaphorically and literally. For now, though, I'll settle for a day off from work and another beer to help forget the morning torture session. Cheers!
mellowtigger: (dumb)
We had above-freezing nights recently, and the snow was melting away quickly.

Thursday night, however, we had another bout of cold weather and precipitation.  I worked at home via internet on Friday so I could stay home and avoid the unplowed roads.  The street in front of the house was not plowed until about 9:30am that day.  The warm weather returned, though, and the snow is almost all melted again.   Here are images from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

snow 2014 April 04 Fridaysnow 2014 April 05 Saturdaysnow 2014 April 06 Sunday

It'll still take a few weeks for the ground to be anything other than a block of solid rock (ice), but at least the worst is behind us now.

With the weather no longer a point of discussion, I'll have to find something else to write about.  I haven't had the energy/focus to construct paragraphs of substance lately.  Even my game-playing has been very ADHD, skipping from one unsatisfying game to the next in quick series. It seems that I mostly commute-work-commute-sleep every weekday.  In "spare" time, I'm mostly not thinking about anything at all.  Then on weekends I catch up on all the tv shows that I recorded during the work week.

But... no more excuses, right?  Focus.  Focus.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
spring equinox snowbankYesterday was the spring equinox, but here was the view outside my window that afternoon.

People keep posting photos of sprouting plants or even blooming flowers in their gardens just to taunt me, surely.

Why can't I find a nice job in a warmer climate?  Or win the lottery so I can buy some land and build a long line of walipinis (maybe with a minor change or two) to keep me busy with my hands in the soil?

Profile

mellowtigger: (Default)
mellowtigger

November 2014

S M T W T F S
      1
23 45678
91011121314 15
16171819202122
23242526272829
30      

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Dec. 20th, 2014 05:05 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios