Sunday, December 9, 2018

More Patience Needed

Yeah, assuming you go for the idea that all the things which annoy me these days are my fault or just beyond anybody's control, and patience will cure the  problem. I posit the idea that neither applies, way too often. And hey, we're not even going to discuss President* "Cheetolini".

Let's start with my morning shopping trip to WalMart. It was a short list. I wanted to hit the photo section to make some more photo cards. I also needed a very few sundries. Steve had his own list, so we went our separate ways at the door.

Photo is along the back wall in the store. Time was when this would have been a problem in itself, but my knees are so much better that I hardly think about it. So this wasn't on the problems list. Now on the other hand, sitting before their machines - anybody's machines - to generate photo cards has always been filled with annoyances for me. The machines do not operate in ways that I think they should. Symbols don't translate the way I find logical, and options I firmly believe should be available to me somehow just aren't available. Let's add that these machines change every year, so each visit is a new learning curve, and almost never is there a person familiar with them to help out. All this is true of every visit, and not just WalMart's machines either. So add a level of frustration already built into the anticipation of the event.

However, I had just been there a week ago to generate this season's cards. I finally located another favorite picture thought long lost, and decided to take advantage of that recent experience to make another set of cards for next year while I remembered how. Alas. Sometime in the last few days they changed the software in the machines. Honest! After getting bogged down a couple times trying to work through the program, I backed out to start over. I remembered exactly where to find the card template I used this year, decided you all would forget what it looked like and I could use it again, and started hunting.

It wasn't there.

Not anywhere.

I tried several different ways to reach it, and failed. I tried a number of other cards I'd considered  and rejected, but none of them were available either. And of course the young man who had been tending the photo counter when I arrived was now someplace else in the store. Nobody to ask for help now that I finally decided I needed to.

I pulled out my thumb drive and left. I'd had enough, and this wasn't a battle I needed to fight today. I figure any time in the next 370 days will do.

Next on my list was a dust mop. There is enough uncarpeted floor in this house that could use one's attention, and neither brooms nor vacuums quite do the job. Armed with memories of childhood, I headed over to the cleaning supplies section of the grocery department to hunt for one.

They had brooms. They had wet mops. They had chemicals galore.  They had weirdly shaped replacement pads in microfibers (!?!) to fit handles I didn't own and they weren't selling. No. Plain. Ordinary. Dust. Mops.

I double checked.

Nada.

I even expanded my search area a bit. Another of my pet annoyances with WalMart is once you know where something is located, they move stuff around the store. It ranks right up there with them discontinuing whatever my favorite brand or variety within a brand is. Some idiot probably told them that if they can get the customers walking through more of the store while they search, said customers will buy more other stuff on their way to their goal.

Actually, I've taken a poll of fellow frustrated customers. Most of us just get angry, and some of us simply go away.

I just cut my shopping list to the two absolutely-must-get items on it, and walked out. My patience for shopping was kaput.

So if any of you wonder why so many of us do more and more of our shopping online....

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

(1) Brain Fart Explained

If you're like me, when you're searching for a particular word, if something else pops into your mind it kicks aside all hope of finding the right word. You keep circling to the wrong one and can't get past it, not for hours, sometimes longer.

The older I get, the more common that is. Watching Jeopardy, for example, I know exactly what the answer (OK, question) is, I can see it in my head, but the word just isn't there. I would never consider trying to be on that show because everybody would have the correct answer first, and be three more questions down the road except for the fact that the real information would have been stated. It's a change. Twenty years ago, I was simply ignorant and couldn't have even imagined I knew the word. Now, especially after watching years of the program with Steve, I know the words are missing. Maybe just displaced.

Yesterday, in ordinary conversation - and don't ask me why the hell this was ordinary - I was searching for a word. It wasn't lost until I started hunting for it. I could describe why I needed that word. I knew exactly which one-and-only word I needed. It was the name of a disease and had only one name, no synonyms, no approximations. I could - and did - explain what it meant.

The disease is a blood disease, most common in children (because of poor survival rates?), and targets those of mostly African descent. It is thought to be the result of a genetic adaption that is beneficial in areas where malaria is endemic, increasing survival rates in those who contract it. Here, there appears to be no up-side, with no malaria to fight. It requires blood transfusions for the child's survival.

All this knowledge, shared with Steve, while moderately interesting, brought no word forth from him either. My years-old information sources had been different from his. Or maybe I just wasn't describing it as well as I thought. I was certain, as soon as I ran across the right word I would recognize it instantly.

Searching for the name, my brain had gotten sidetracked. I know without a doubt that "cystic fibrosis" is wrong, but the brain stuck there, like a train going down the track in the wrong direction because the switch has been flipped, with nobody to switch it back. I couldn't come up with the right term by bedtime. When I woke up in the wee hours, the fitful sleep I had after that point and the dreams I had searching for the term were all unproductive. This happens more and more these days, and on the way to my computer, I spent some time musing about my aging brain and possible "old timers disease", as a late friend used to call it. I try not to let that scare me: I've been very "brain proud" most of my life. One aunt who lost her vocabulary had a terminal brain tumor when I was a child, and I give passing thought to that as well. I can list past chemical exposures and try to calculate their effects too, or remember my parents' last years, or ....

Not helpful! There was only one solution: Google. I spent a bit of time translating my descriptive paragraph to a few key words for the search: "blood disease African children". Since my idea of what are key words seldom match Google's, while I was typing those in, I was also working on plan B. There wasn't a plan B. This was either going to work or I was going to have to pester one or more of the medical professionals I have contact with for the name, with no reason relevant to why I was seeing them.

Fortunately, the first six answers to my search all came up with the right answer: sickle cell anemia. Of course it was! Not only did I have the missing name, I instantly knew why my vocabulary train derailed, this time It was the similarity of sound in the first syllables, sickle and cystic.

For some reason I find that reassuring.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Ask George Carlin Why....

Poo... poop... crap... frass... guano... coprolite... buffalo chips... horse biscuits... turd... cow pie... dung... feces... #2... doo-doo... BM... discharge... excrement... defecation... stool...feculence... waste... manure... droppings....

All these terms are OK for use on the public airwaves according to the FCC. So why oh why did somebody decide you can't say "shit" for shit?

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Medi-Go-Round

Finding just the right combination of just the right meds can be a challenge. There have been several adjustments in the 5 years plus since my A-Fib diagnosis. I was very lucky in my timing, having my first ER visit on my 65th birthday, just a few days after going from no insurance to Medicare.

First, there was the decision to take me off the diuretic that was controlling my BP, under the supposition that it was - after about 15 years - interfering with my electrolytes. It was replaced by a beta blocker, Metoprolol, which has the main effect of keeping my heartbeat slowed to between 50 and 60 bpm. Since the a-fib attacks boosted it to around 130 bpm, this was a logical choice. I'm still on that one.

It wasn't very good, however, at controlling my blood pressure. Add Lisinopril. Double the pill dose. Double the pill number.  Add Amlodipine, with regular BP monitoring, in case the dose needed to boost from one daily to two, or drop back again.

The Metoprolol also wasn't good at regulating the cardiac rhythm. Irregularities progressed for a couple years until, while on vacation back in Minnesota, I required an ambulance ride during which I kept nearly passing out about once a minute. I've got some real interesting EKG tapes from that ride to take home to my Arizona cardiologist so he could see just what had been happening. You may have read here earlier that his response was, "Well, it's not flatline, but it's just as bad." It was enough to scare the crap out of me.

Luckily I had a relationship with a cardiologist in Minnesota that enabled me to slip in an appointment the very next day in their clinic office. They prescribed Amiodarone. It worked so well that after 6 months of no irregularity whatsoever - and I'm one of those who can tell it's happening - I was taken off the Warfarin, prescribed to prevent strokes. Stopping that was fine, since we never did get to the point of regulating what the proper dose for me was.

So now everything was stable, and for several years. End of story, right?  Well, not exactly. My eye surgeon, the one who replace my cataract, in a regular follow-up visit, noted brown spots accumulating in the back of my eyes. It's a symptom of Amiodarone toxicity. There are other nasty effects when your body decided it's toxic. Last spring, before heading north again, I discussed with my cardiologist my desire to go off Amiodarone. Just, not until I was back for 9 months for medical supervision. The toxicity wasn't going to drastically change while on vacation.

A month ago, the process started. The plan was a half pill for 2 weeks, then cold turkey. The medication stays in the system for weeks anyway, so the effect would be a gradual tapering off.

Theories are great. Life doesn't always cooperate. Within just a few days I was getting episodes of arrhythmia, prompting a call to my cardiologist. Each day's episode was more extreme. She took me seriously, put me back on my Amiodarone, doubling the dose to make up for the tapering off, before settling back down to normal dose. That is what prompted my going back on Warfarin as well.

Fortunately I had the foresight to keep the medic alert bracelet I wore last time I was on Warfarin.

The rhythms are back to normal. INR levels not so much. Those are getting monitored twice weekly, as opposed to every two weeks or even less often for most other people. After two weeks, my numbers which should have been between 2 and 3, with one being unmedicated normal, were over 7. My blood's ability to clot was so low that the regular BP cuff was enough to raise a bruise. The lab tech who took that reading told me to start eating with a spoon because I didn't want to stab myself with a fork.

I confirmed that wasn't a joke.

Today we started Plan B for weaning me off Amiodarone. It involves replacing it immediately with Cardizem. It's expensive. However, it's also stronger than what I've been taking at lowering BP. So, I also quit the Amlodipine and cut the Lisinopril in half. Not that they get thrown out, but instead are kept around in case this doesn't exactly work out. All in all, the cost is close to a wash. Plus, the cardiologist and I had a long discussion on the desirable range of BP readings, now that too low is an actual possibility. So that will be checked twice daily, and the Lisinopril intake will be modified accordingly.

I'm just a work in progress.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Low-Info Voters: No Excuses

Public radio often has segments I find highly disturbing. Today, Nov. 6, Election Day, was no exception. The interviewer was speaking with a Millennial who was representing the viewpoint of others in his generation, explaining why so many of them did not vote.

After listing several "reasons" for not voting, one stood out. Too many of them were low-information voters. Not knowing everything about all the candidates, they were unwilling to vote for any of them.

There are so many ways that is wrong. And this time around, it is so very important. That is, unless you have no problems with a president* and a political party promoting racism, misogyny, fearmongering and violence, not to mention destroying the environment so the rich can get richer, incidentally the same principle behind the tax cut plan, and ignoring the Constitution.

It's not hard to get the facts, folks, as long as you pay a little bit of attention. If you don't have time for in depth research, check with somebody who's well-versed in the party platform from each major party, ask what they stand for, and decide which most closely matches your personal ideals. It is possible to vote the party line, as they are so far apart these days, and any representative of each is more likely to, well, represent. Don't let yourself be fooled into thinking somebody has to be a "purist" in following the party line, and if not, you can't vote for anything they stand for. The perfect should never be the enemy of the good, particularly when the choices are so stark.

I always ran into trouble once the ballot got to the point of voting for the judges. I'm not sure why they were ever put on the ballot. Politics should not be part of their process. Following the laws should be. Besides, they were never out there advertising themselves. I simply asked my attorney friend who lived in the same county whether anyone was way out there so far they weren't fulfilling their duties. And more often or not, candidates way down-ballot got no marks either way on my card. If I couldn't decide from ignorance, blank did seem to be the proper choice. So yes, I get that. We may not know everybody well enough to make all the choices wisely. But we should still know some race(s) that we have an opinion on, and get out and do our civic duty by VOTING.

It's a small price to pay for the privilege of living in this country.

Too soon we forget how recently so many of us weren't allowed to have a say in how our country was run. Minorities, the poor, women, those between age 18 and 21 - we've all had to fight for our places as additions to the rolls. And today, too many of the powerful are working to deny that right all over again. Let's not do that job for them by staying home.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Insomnia Idiosyncrasies

I've decided I'm weird. Physiologically, that is. Since retirement I've been battling insomnia, and have taken to studying my own sleep patterns to aid in figuring how to amend the problem. I've done all the usual things that are advised. The blue light sources, TV and computer, are shut down in favor of incandescent lighting for reading before bed. Caffeine, including chocolate sources, are (mostly) cut off early in the day.

Well, at least when I remember. Sometimes the chocolate goes in before the brain engages.

I take melatonin, with mixed results. It may or may not work, but the results tend to be short lived. If I wake around 3 or 4 AM, that's often my body's cue to wake up fully, thus requiring a good nap during the day. The nap, in turn, means I'm fresh to stay up later, and around and around we go....

I try not to nap.

I can think I'm sleepy, head for bed, and start designing jewelry in my head. Combine a concept with a learned skill, and try to figure out how they combine for the desired results. Then start in on the variations, and I'm wide awake an hour later. The only help is getting up again, either to write down the concept in ways only I can understand, and hopefully still will in the morning, or actually start working with the materials to see how it goes and try to solve the kinks. Some literal. Only after that will the brain settle down.

This year's travel back from Minnesota seems to temporarily, at least, have set my sleep clock straight. Partly time zone changes, partly several days with lots of miles and little room for naps, I think. Anyway, I welcome the change. I'm starting to feel my normal morning-person self again.

Along the journey to a livable sleep schedule, I've discovered one other thing, quite paradoxical. At night, I sleep much better and deeper when the room, the bed, and I are all a bit cooler. I can aid that by opening my bedroom windows and stripping down to PJs about an hour before bed. Barefoot helps too. But during the day, getting warm and cozy is what makes me sleepy.

Don't ask me how that works. I just mark it off to being weird.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Hail !!!!

There's a hurricane passing way south of us: Willa. We thought it might mean a chance of rain here, but odds dropped as it stayed south. A check of the sky today showed clouds building in all the usual spots, i.e., not here, and radar showed small spots of rain by later afternoon. Again, not here, and aimed away. As the sky darkened, radar still showed it well away from here.

Sigh.

But then there were a few drops hitting the steel awning over the front sidewalk along the house. They were the kind that evaporate seconds after hitting the ground. A check also showed they were hitting the front yard, not the back. Typical, being just on the sharp edge of moisture.

Sigh. No wonder we're called Sun City.

Then it started to show it meant business. We could actually hear, as levels increased, the edge of the rain moving across our roof into the back yard. Quickly, it was pouring. Then hailing!

Cool! No, really, we could turn off the AC as the temperature rapidly dropped from upper 80s to mid 60s.

While only dime sized, mostly, it was pounding us for over 20 minutes. Hail is so rare here that we decided to head out to the patio and watch something more entertaining than the TV. Despite lack of wind, the hail was hitting so hard it was bouncing off the ground and into the covered patio. Some even made it as far as the door.

Camera time!

I set it on video: stills just wouldn't tell the story. Besides bouncing in, hail was coming down so fast it continued to show a white yard even though it was melting rapidly. Puddles collected all over the back yard, and as they grew into small ponds the splashing kicked up the water over 3" in some cases. Under the steel patio roof it was so loud I could barely tell Steve was yelling. If I had to guess, I would have said it was just a series of whoops like one might yell early in a roller coaster ride. If it was important, he would have needed to do something drastic to get my attention. I was busy filming.

When the hail finally quit, it was still pouring, though now the decibel level dropped enough that we could tell there was continuous thunder. There was so much standing water that the birds flew in and took advantage of their rare communal birdbath, including the 1st red-winged blackbird I've seen down here.

Once the hail ended, it was just another thunderstorm. No more filming. There was already an inch of rain in the gauge, with more pounding us for a while. There were cushions and a wood table to rescue outside, windows to open for fresh cool air, and more radar checks to make.

There was also the fun of watching the runoff in the street. This area is so flat only a good rain really indicates up and down. Yes, the streets are crowned, eventually the only place showing above running water. Watching one car coming "down" our street, I watched the driver hitting its brakes about three houses down. The whole street was flooded there, better than half a block from the next intersection. It wasn't enough to stop for, at least as far as I could still follow the car's path.

Tomorrow I'll know how much rain we got. Last time I looked it was 1 1/2 inches, but it was still coming down. Suppertime news showed streets in Sun City from helicopter views after sunset where cars had stalled out after driving into the water, one totally submerged but with its headlights still shining. They also showed the idiots, of course, who loved wading through flowing water up to the hips. We're not sure, from shots where the only landmarks were palm trees in the middle of a temporary lake, just how high the standing water would be in intersections right around here, but Steve wisely decided to skip cards tonight. His scooter has about a 3" clearance.


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FYI: 2 1/2 inches in the gauge, in just over an hour.