mellowtigger: (Default)
I realize that my posts have been mostly of the "inconsequential" variety during the last 2 years or so. I've been preoccupied by the new house, of course. I intend to change my practice soon. I have important posts in mind (with photo documentation) that I've put off for a very long time. For now, though... one last update.

homesteading: I drove to downtown Minneapolis this morning to turn in the affidavit for my homesteading. It will make a big difference in my taxes. They didn't receive my full documentation last year when I dropped it off at the Hennepin County office. That was the address on the documentation, but apparently they didn't pass it along to the City as they said they would. I lost homesteading status for 2017. With this affidavit, however, the City gave me back a letter from the Assessor's Office that they "will notify Hennepin County Taxpayers Services to send the correct property tax statement. They will recalculate the 2017 property tax due." Good news. Strangely, they didn't ask for all the supporting documentation again, so... did they locate my lost files in a bin somewhere, so I only had to sign the affidavit this time? Strange.

my leg: The wound has scabbed over solidly. It's clearly healing well. I can tolerate touching the surface of it, but it's still painful if I put any pressure at all on it. While gardening, I occasionally forget, and I kneel on that leg. One quick yelp, and I'm back trying to awkwardly position myself safely for digging in the ground.

fence: It still hasn't arrived. I knew it would be many weeks, but I'm still looking forward to it impatiently.

trees: I'm also waiting for the service to remove two trees from my back yard. Thankfully, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority is paying for it, since the trees are technically on my neighbor's property, which the Authority owns. With those gone, and 2 more that I plan to cut down myself, the other trees that I've planted in my back yard will finally get some decent sunlight.

garden: It's coming along nicely still. I plan on going to the Quaker plant sale on Friday morning to pick up some ferns to put under the shade of the neighbor's tall pine tree. Here's a quick video of Mason bees using their bamboo home. It shows some obvious wear after a few years. I need to hang it more securely.



Amongst the perennials I have planted already that will keep producing food in future years, I have:It's amazing that a lot of fruiting plants will grow nicely in zone 4, although sometimes you do have to look for appropriate varieties. Some of them went into the ground just this year, so it may be next year before I see any food from them.

A decade from now, I expect to enjoy some lazy afternoons just sampling the fruit in season.
mellowtigger: (Default)
injured leg still not sealed upIt's now day 9 since I scraped up my leg, and it's still oozing.  I bought more gauze pads at the grocery store today, so I could keep up with the daily replacements.  I stopped adding ointment a few days ago.  The red swelling hasn't gotten any worse, so I think it's still healing normally.

It's been cold (near freezing) and rainy, so I haven't made any more progress on my gardening.  I have plants that need to go into the ground. Maybe tonight will be the last night that I leave the heater running on the patio.  The forecast is for warmer days and nights starting tomorrow.

And a few days ago, I had another camping dream.  It was as brief as the one from two weeks ago.  I was camping with someone I knew (different from the previous dream).  There were lots of other people camping in tents near us this time.  We were all camping under a massive canopy.  It was sort of a tent city... within a giant tent.  Strange.  I have no idea what event drew all of us there.

busy day

Apr. 28th, 2017 03:50 pm
mellowtigger: (we can do it)
Politics. If you live in the state of Minnesota, please call the office of Governor Mark Dayton now. He's waffling on an important veto. Just leave a message on their answering machine, as I did, and hopefully you can help persuade him. Our state legislature passed a bill that forbids cities from raising their minimum wage or other protections above what's already granted as minimum protections by the state. That's right, the minimum protection would also become the maximum protection. The bill was taken from the corporate group ALEC, in case that's sufficient information to provoke you to action.

It's being called the city preemption bill. You can read the House HF600 text here and the Senate SF580 text here. You can find at this Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing For Change page the Governor's office phone number and sample text you can speak.  If you use Twitter, you can also use my Tweet's text if you'd like.  I've called.  I've tweeted.  Please add your voice to the swell.

yellow leafed cornGardening. It's literally freezing in Minnesota. I haven't planted my garden yet. On Wednesday  morning, I had a small pile of slush on my car windshield when I drove to work. I should have put a heater on my patio to keep my sprouts from freezing, but I didn't think of it until too late.  I lost a few plants.  On Thursday night, I did put the heater out there, and the plants survived much better.  I think I'll need one more night of extra care for them.

I have a very strange corn plant with leaves that are entirely yellow.  Not variegated yellow-with-green, but just yellow.  It's been growing for 2 weeks, with only a slight hint of green at the very tip of the leaf.  I've never grown an "albino plant" before.  We'll see if it survives to produce any corn this year.

blueberries front yard newly planted or transplantedI've also got a whole row of blueberries in the front yard by the neighbor's fence.  I planted 2 last year, I transplanted 2 this year, and I added 2 more this year to help fill out the row.  We'll see if I keep up with the soil amendments necessary to keep a low pH.  If I fail, and the blueberries die, then I'll just replace all of them with Juneberries.  They're much the same as blueberries, apparently, but slightly taller, and they're not picky about soil.

I'm also concerned that this freezing weather (round 2 of 2017) will keep my apple and apricot trees from fruiting.  I'd be disappointed to have to wait yet another year to see any fruit from them.  Last year, I received them while they had blooms on them, and the blooms fell after the shock of being planted.  Maybe I'll have to wait for year 3 before they produce.

I also asked the city of Minneapolis about rules for building a raised garden in my front yard.  I want a raised bed, so I can grow carrots and leave them planted until they finally produce seeds in their 2nd year.  I learned last winter that where I intended to put the raised garden was completely shaded from our low-on-the-horizon sun by my neighbor's tall house.  The bed wouldn't gather any warming light to keep the carrot roots thawed.  I'll have to put the raised bed in the front yard instead.  I just have to stay 5 feet from the property line, and I have to stay under 4 feet tall.  I've got the area marked, and now I have to buy more bricks to build it.

Security:
I wrote a large check today for the nice fencing that I want. I'm poor again, but it'll be worth it. A month from now, I hope that I have successfully enclosed my yard within a good fence. I'll need to learn how to work with Quikrete concrete, so hopefully I don't mess up anything.  I'm sure that I'll "feel" better with my yard and windows enclosed.  I could also easily get a dog for additional peace of mind, after I have the fence in place.  We'll see how it goes.

Health: My leg has almost stopped oozing.  It's easily pained, though, if anything touches the area where I lost so much skin.  I've had to skip doing much gardening this week, and maybe a week more.  I'm not happy about losing such rejuvenating exercise time.  I definitely heal slower now that I'm older.

I'm looking forward, though, to see what my yard looks like after this season of gardening is done.  It should be even nicer than last year.

lung crud

Jan. 22nd, 2017 06:29 pm
mellowtigger: (flameproof)
I haven't logged in here in a while. I'd like to comment at length on the election, the inauguration, and the protests.

Instead, I've been on antibiotics since Friday, and it keeps getting worse. My temperature as I write this note is 38.8C/101.8F. I've been coughing lightly or heavily all week, but the fever and bad headache didn't show up until after I started taking the antibiotics. It just annoyed the wee beasties, it seems.

I'll probably be heading back to the doctor tomorrow if my temp doesn't come down by morning.
mellowtigger: (Daria)
We can't have nice things in the USA.  I wish I lived somewhere civilized that had a single-payer health care system that "collects all medical fees, then pays for all services, through a 'single' government (or government-related) source."  But, no.  Instead, we have a convoluted bureaucratic nightmare that is ripe for exploitation.

I had sinus surgery back in January.  It's public knowledge, since I blogged about it.  Many bills arrived later.  I paid all of them except for one curious letter that arrived from people I didn't know and a place I didn't know, wanting money.  There was no  privileged information in that letter, so I treated it like I do all spam email that I receive: I trashed it.

Months later, a bill collection agency tries to collect.  Once again, they say a person I don't know wants money, but nobody can offer any definitive information to help me confirm their authenticity.  Again, I refuse to pay, but at least this time I'm willing to put some effort into an investigation of the claim.

It required 2 calls to my surgeon's office, 2 calls to my insurance provider, and 2 visits to the hospital, but I finally got a claim number that I could verify.  Here's the trail of shame for the rickety medical billing system currently in use:
  • My surgeon's office had no contact information for the anesthesiologist.  How did they arrange for him to show up at my surgery?  Who knows?
  • My first call to my insurance provider (Aetna) offered only one name for anesthesiology, but it wasn't the doctor's name; it was a nurse's.
  • My hospital does include a listing for the doctor (Mark Lantz), but the information is all wrong.
  • The listed phone number (763-520-5370) is "disconnected or no longer in service".
  • It includes a webpage (apanorth.com), but it's also useless.  The webpage offers no contact information for the doctor.
  • The webpage includes its own email contact (feedback@apanorth.com), but the email bounces.
  • The webpage includes a brick-and-mortar address at the hospital itself, but the information desk at the hospital knows nothing about the group.
So, somebody wants money from me, but it is...
  1. somebody with no phone contact,
  2. somebody with no email contact, and
  3. somebody with no viable street address.
Once again, I feel perfectly justified in treating this demand for money as an unlawful attempt to wrangle money from my pocket.  This complete lack of verifiable accountability is why internet email is so filled with spam.  An unscrupulous person could easily get rich by getting a virus onto a computer for a hospital or billing service.  They can start writing paper letters to people they learn have had medical procedures done.  People will willingly write them checks for no good reason.  It's terrible.

On my first visit back to the hospital (their customer service was great!), I was able to get printouts for the anesthesiologist report and the billing report.  At least I could verify the doctor's name, but nothing provided any trail to verify the claim against me.  On my second visit back to the hospital (again, their customer service was great!) a billing person was able to connect me by phone to the doctor's billing person.  Finally, at long last, I had a reliable trail of contact to someone with knowledge of this bill.  I got a claim ticket number that they had filed with my insurance provider.

I called my insurance provider again, and this time they were able follow that claim number and give me confirmation of this bill.  I called back the bill collector and gave them my bank routing information so they could file an electronic draft immediately.  I still don't know anything about the bill collector other than the phone number (651-287-6137), but I'm tired of investigating and just want this mess to end.  Afterwards, I was so stressed out and drained from this escapade that I went to bed and slept 6pm-1am.

This is the healthcare system that we have in the USA.  It's awful.  And I'm sick again, this time with something new that's affecting my throat.  Happy, happy, joy, joy.
mellowtigger: (coprolite)
I'm not a very happy camper this morning. I've had a sinus infection since Wednesday of last week. I know the cause. I have a blockage in my left, lower sinus. As such things go, it's actually somewhat mild. The burning started in my sinuses and has since spread lightly to ears, throat, and chest. I've been taking plain aspirin the whole time to keep the headache at bay... until I returned to work yesterday.

temp 102.9F (39.4C)Last night, my temperature kept rising for hours and finally reached 102.9F (39.4C). I didn't even know my electric thermometer would flash a dramatic red background color like that. *laugh* It seems like overkill, but I went to the hospital to have them take a look. I was intending for them literally to take a look to see if they could spot that blockage and just pull it out. What a disappointment. They barely peeked in my nose and throat. They were concerned mostly with getting my temperature down. But getting the temperature down just masks the infection! That's what I'd been doing unknowingly all week by taking plain aspirin. It wasn't until Tuesday that I stopped taking aspirin, and that's when my body showed me just how bad was the infection that it's been fighting for the last week.

On the other hand, they ran a urine test and discovered minute traces of blood. They uncovered a possible kidney problem. Okay, so I guess the hospital visit wasn't a waste. They put me on amoxicillin for the infection plus two over-the-counter pain killers to keep the fever in check (instead of using aspirin).

I called this morning, but I couldn't get an appointment with my sinus specialist (who did the sinus surgery in January) until Friday. I couldn't get an appointment with my regular doctor (to start investigating the kidney issue) until Monday. *twiddle impatiently*

I guess it's more naps, plenty of fluids, and saline sinus flushes until I finally get to see a proper doctor.

Update 2015 May 08 Friday: The amoxicillin accomplished nothing useful after 2.5 days, so the ear/nose/throat specialist told me to stop taking it and start taking levofloxacin instead. She saw the bad mucus and suctioned it out of my sinus. Whatever it was, it plugged up her machine, so she had to rinse it to get suction back. I can't tell yet if that was all of the blockage.  She also has me using Nasacort and Afrin, rubbing Bacitracin ointment in my nostrils, and continuing to flush my sinuses with saline.  I'm hoping the infection will finally subside soon.

Update 2015 May 11 Monday:
The followup with my regular doctor this morning showed no blood in my urine, so apparently I don't have to worry about kidney problems after all.  It may have just been a side effect of the infection I had earlier.  I can still feel it a bit in my sinuses, but my temperature is normal and my ears and throat are normal.  I'm on the way to better health again.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Surgery took longer than expected, but I am recovering well.  I have a slight fever tonight (just 99.3F), but I'm continuing antibiotics for a few more days.

The surgeon found more polyps than showed up on the x-ray, so she worked on me much longer than the expected 2 hours.  I think it was more than 3 hours.  One of my landlords drove me to the hospital at 6:30am on Wednesday morning, and he came back to take me home again.  I arrived in the living room around 1pm.  For days, I felt like I had been punched in the gut, chest, and throat.  Apparently that muscle soreness was the result of spending so much time with them using the breathing apparatus in my throat, inflating my lungs more than I normally would.  My diaphragm, chest, and neck were sore.

looking like Hannibal Lecter after my sinus surgeryFor the first 24 hours, they had packing stuffed up my nose to absorb all of the blood.  Every time I stood up, though, I would start bleeding again.  My face was a mess.  The hospital nurses showed me how to roll up a face mask to use it as a belt to hold up the bandages on the outside of my nose.  After a few times going to the bathroom at home, I finally looked at myself in the mirror.  I realized I resembled "Hannibal Lecter" from Silence Of The Lambs where he's wearing that face mask to keep him from biting people.  Pretty, isn't it?

I didn't take any painkillers the next morning, so I could drive myself to my 1-day followup exam.  The doctor removed the internal bandages.  She told me the surgery ran so long because I was "very good at growing polyps". There were no problems at the exam, although I had to wash my shirt when I got back home.  The bib they gave me didn't absorb all the blood, so it soaked through to my work shirt.  I resumed painkillers, so I mostly slept from then onward.  I slept a lot.  I probably spent 2/3 of those first few days asleep.

I had my 1-week exam this afternoon.  It also went well.  I've been washing out my sinuses several times a day, and she said I had done a very good job.  I'm avoiding stairwells and heavy lifting for a while, but I think I'm out of danger now.  I have a 3-week exam in February, and I expect to get a "clean bill of health" then.

My throat/voice still seem a bit out of whack.  I should probably talk more, so my vocal cords get some use after that breathing tube.  I just wish I could knock the last of this soreness in my sinuses... and the mild fever.  It doesn't help that the air here is so dry from the cold temperatures.

Better days ahead, at least, since I can breathe normally again.

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: (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: (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.

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: (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!

blood work

Mar. 9th, 2014 03:55 pm
mellowtigger: (dna)
I had some blood tests run recently, and the results were... interesting.  I wish the USA had a first-world healthcare system.  I'd pay cash right now for another brain MRI if I could get a fee schedule like this Canadian company, but here it's impossible to even get a straight answer about how much the procedure costs.  Go, Team America!  But... I'll leave behind the politics for now.

White blood cells develop into 1 of 5 main types. (I found this wikipedia image helpful.) Three related kinds are called basophils, neutrophils, and eosinophils. Together, they are the polymorphonuclear (or PMN) cell family. Their near-cousin is the monocyte. Their distant-cousin is the leukocyte (natural killer cell, T-cells, and B-cells).

I have to mention that background because my latest blood tests muddle the issue slightly.  Automated machinery can stain the cells in a blood sample and count the various kinds of these 5 white blood cells. Not-so-good machines are unable to distinguish between all 5, so they end up with only 3 groups: PMN, leukocyte, and monocyte (as a mid-range size cell). My recent blood results use this less-advanced machinery. Here are some blood results over the years.  I started complaining of neuropathy in 2006 (I think?) and muscle twitches in 2009.

Date:
Expected Range
Lymphocytes
24 (or 20)-48 %
Monocytes
0-12 %
Neutrophils
40-75 %
Basophils
0-2 %
Eosinophils
0-6 %
Bilirubin-Total
0.2-1.3 (or 1.0) mg/dL
Bilirubin-Direct
0.05-0.24 mg/dL
B12
211-911 pg/dL
Folate
3-16 ng/dL
2/28/201420.412.0 "MID %"67.6 "PMN %"1.60.2745218
11/18/201130.57.256.80.45.1    
5/20/2010361147060.6 33411.9
2/2/2010        16.5
1/12/201035950061.6   
2007 ?       285 ? 
6/6/2003     1.0   

I see a few trends here.  First, the good news is that my B12 climbed significantly after my gut infection was finally cured in 2012.  I thought my first blood test in 2007 showed B12 at 285, so it's improved a lot. I appear to be absorbing B12 properly again.  Yay!  I do periodically show high levels of Bilirubin and Folate.  I'm not sure what they mean.  My genetic testing with 23andMe shows that I have a predisposition for primary biliary cirrhosis, and the bilirubin could be related to it. 

The troublesome data trend is the decreasing leukocyte percentage.  The usual culprits are either HIV-infection or leukemia, but I don't think either of those conditions are in my future.  (edit 3/17/2014: Blood tests for neuron-related infections show that I do not have Lyme disease, HIV, or syphilis.)  A common theme that can tie together the leukocytes, bilirubin, genetic risk, and symptom history, however, is my usual favorite... multiple sclerosis.

My current doctor is in a new healthcare network for me, so he doesn't have any of this history.  He wants to wait a month and test me again to see if results hold the same.  I'm trying to withhold my impatience and let the American healthcare system work its slow bureaucratic process.  What I really want right now is a new brain MRI.  I may give up and just self-diagnose myself with MS then see what diet and lifestyle changes I could make that would improve my long-term outcome.

More news next month, I guess.
mellowtigger: (twitch)
I'm sure I mentioned that I'm tired of being tired.   I crawled into bed by 7pm tonight and fell asleep.

Unfortunately, the young cat had found styrofoam peanuts in the house during the day and brought at least one into the bedroom.  The older cat found it at 10:05pm and started chasing it all over the bed and me, waking me up.  I watched some tv and went back to bed.  Now, twitches are keeping me awake.  Mostly it's a hyperactive muscle fiber high on my right buttock, but there's also the occasional twitch in my left hamstring and right tricep.

Better days, 2014.  These are supposed to be better days.
mellowtigger: (twitch)
A near-constant twitch under my left shoulder blade prompted my post this morning. I haven't written much about twitchiness this year. It's definitely better since metronidazole day nearly two years ago. My nerve problems have not disappeared though.

I still get painful muscle cramps, usually in my right foot where this all started so long ago. A few weeks ago during the commute home from work, it got so bad that I crossed my legs and used my left foot for both the accelerator and brake in my car. And, of course, I'm still tired of being tired. I might someday experiment with marijuana to see if it can control the muscle twitch symptom as anecdotal stories continue to assert.

The new job is still a mixed bag. The nausea during the commute is much better but still there. I feel much more confident about the day-to-day work, but less so about the larger project that somehow is my responsibility even though I'm the newcomer and less qualified for it than someone already there.

Still hoping for better days ahead. It's currently -25C/-13F this morning. I should add warmer days to my wishlist.

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