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Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Musings on Unclaimed Relationships & Utter Things

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 19, 2017

I read some poetry today that reminded me how so many people feel sad because someone they loved is gone, either through the end of a relationship or death. That is sad indeed, although an old relationships can often be rekindled, even though at a certain point in time it doesn’t seem possible. People seem to not know that, or ignore it, or conveniently forget it.

I don’t forget it. Sometimes that has happened to me. I remember how terrible it felt at times, but I no longer feel that way, about the relationships, or the two marriages, or my father’s death, or even my godfather’s death, although I still miss my favorite cat ever, and even though I accepted that he was dead, I suspect he is still alive, having seen what I’m pretty sure was that cat, with a new collar and tag a few miles from here.

I can’t go get the cat, even if I could find him, because I have a new cat, and another cat besides, and the fighting would be bad, and three cats is just too much. I am deeply saddened by not having that cat around, and knowing that with some effort, I might be able to reclaim him. But, that is somewhat like what this post is actually about: unclaimed relationships, not with cats, but with people.

I live alone, save for the cats. It could be otherwise. An old girlfriend from many years ago ended up single, and available for friendship or living together. And even though I used to think that I would jump at that, I don’t want to. For one thing, she is quite batty, with a house overrun by cats, and sometimes a dog or two, and bizarre off-the-deep-end beliefs which she will force on anyone and everyone, but also because I like living alone.

She is not the only woman I’ve met since my last divorce. An old girlfriend actually lived in this same housing complex when I moved in ten years ago. We often met at the mailbox kiosk. Once I met her walking her dog along the ditch that runs just behind these houses, and went to a mutual friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. It was nice. Next time I saw she she gave me a big smile, but we never hung out. She taught at a technical/vocational community college, and she worked at the nearby bookstore, so I often saw her there. But, I didn’t feel any sparks. I remembered that the sex had been nice. We attended another Thanksgiving dinner the next year, but then not again. She eventually quit the bookstore, and moved away, though I did visit her in her new place a couple times.

Not too long ago, a much younger woman gave me a couple of years of extreme pleasure, but insisted I not fall in love with her because we were friends only, with benefits. I was a bit sad about that, because I would certainly have married her, and not just for the sex, although that would have been a pretty compelling reason, but because she and I enjoyed each other’s company, sharing meals, watching movies, and even having drinking games during movies. The pleasure of snuggling up with her between bouts of sex was heavenly. She finally moved away. Contacted her and she wanted me to visit, but then changed her mind. Such is life.

I wasn’t as sad about that as I’ve been about other relationships, because she warned me from the first to not fall in love with her, and would get quite upset if she thought I was drifting that way. So, it never came as a shock, nor depressed me beyond my normal state of living life a bit less than to the fullest.

It’s not like I don’t still meet women. Being involved with the TV & movie industry in New Mexico, both in front of a camera, and behind the scenes, I meet a lot of woman, and there are possibilities there. But I don’t pursue them. There’s something about leaving things as they are that suits me. Beside the acting and crew work, I hike the mountains around here. I read a lot. I eat what I want, sleep when I want, watch TV or not watch TV. I’ve a friend I watch Netflix rental movies with once a week.

I work at a winery,

040616 (4) 072810 (8) watering, weeding, picking fruit, pumping and filtering, bottling and labeling about a thousand or more gallons of fruit wine every year. I don’t make any money at it, but it sure keeps some of my “free” time occupied.

I buy lots of things online, mostly books, and graphic novels, and I resell them. (Terry’s Books) I have a diverse coin collection:

I also take photos of the landscape around here, and sometimes I sell one, in a shop, or by hanging them at the winery.  091616-147

IRS I owe the I.R.S. way too much money every year, so I think I’m doing my part to prop up the U.S. economy.

But, let me tell you, it all doesn’t seem to mean much. It’s not that I think there’s more to life, or need a reason for life, or worry about the meaning of life. I don’t think life has much meaning, except what we each want it to mean. Sometimes though, I remember what it was like to share my everyday life with someone, sleep next to them each night, and wake up with them.

I do miss that, in somewhat the same way I miss my cat. Not the same thing of course. Even having cats leaves me feeling lonely and miserable at times.

Nowadays, I accept that I am just going to be living this way. It’s easier for a misanthrope to live alone. I suppose I don’t really dislike all people so much as I like being a recluse and not having to deal with other people.

And then again, sometimes I don’t think it matters, because I don’t expect to live all that much longer. I had a heart attack back in 2013. Before that happened, I was losing my ability to keep up with other hikers, some of whom were older than me. My energy was flagging, and I kept having to stop and catch my breath. I fell to the back position in any hike, and was wasted by the time I reached the mountaintop. Finally, one day while reading, I felt suddenly as though the world was ending, that everything was going black, and there was this intense pressure in my chest, and I called 911. The paramedics, and a cardiologist convinced me I was having a heart attack, and I had angioplasty with a stent emplacement, followed up by drugs. Things got better, I ran three half marathons, I got faster on hikes, and had more energy.

But, now I am starting to feel the energy fade again. I hiked on Monday 8.9 miles, about 6 hours, up and down my favorite trail, an elevation gain of roughly 2800 feet.041717 Panoramic

It was slow going, about 1 1/2 miles an hour, but I was beat when I was done. Felt wasted. Drank electrolytes on the way up, and a bottle of black tea on the way down, and had to drink two more bottles when I got home, just to have the energy to function. I’ve done this trail before, and I wasn’t that wasted. It was the same on another trail I hiked recently – wasted, sleepy, lethargic afterwards. I’m thinking the heart is not doing all that well. My cholesterol is the lowest it’s ever been, and my blood pressure has never been too high. I do have a visit with my cardiologist next month, and a stress test, so I’m curious what that will reveal.  Even simple exercise seems to tire me, just like before the 2013 heart attack.

I should write a poem, or a song:

I’m so sad and lonely

near my end of  time

there’s no one to miss me

and nothing left to live for.

O, o, o, I think I’ll die.

Set to music, it’d be alright, and entertaining. Of course, it’s been done so many times already. It’s the human condition, the poet’s theme, the singer’s shout, the hipster’s wail.

Meanwhile, I’m still here. A hike tomorrow morning, fruit to water Wild Cherry Farm.JPG on Friday, wine to sell on Sunday with my lovely stepdaughter, physical therapy for my aging back Tuesday morning, acting class Tuesday evening, background work for a TV crime series pilot (based on graphic novels) scalped next Wednesday. I’ve an acting gig to finish up. Then the stress echo-cardiogram next month, and a visit to the urologist, and a strange 5-day cruse with five of my six siblings, some in-laws, some nieces, a nephew, a couple of cousins and my mom, mostly to please her. Dream cruise for her, or I wouldn’t go. I’d rather not have that much interaction with people, even though I sometimes crave it.

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Posted in family, health, hiking, In front of the camera, Life, love, madness, marriage, misanthropy, poem, rambling, rants, relationships, wine | Leave a Comment »

Dreaming About My Health?

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 24, 2014

Metoprolol Sometimes my dreams intrigue me. I woke up the other day after dreaming about a strange happening in a restaurant. There was an argument going on, and I was following several of the people involved. One man stood off to the side and simply wrote comments on pieces of paper that he handed to the people arguing. He wrote comments like, “bullshit” and “irrelevant” and “you’re an ass” – things like that. Suddenly I felt the need to get up, and I approached him. I had been following one argument, and while I didn’t agree with the last point entirely, (it escapes me now) I felt the need to add my opinion, being that there was some merit to the argument, but only up to a certain point. I wish I could remember it now; seemed important at the time.

However, as I approached the man who gave out the comments, and I felt he would probably give me a scathing comment of disapproval, he instead threw a whole bunch of written comments in the air. At first I thought he was exasperated, but he simply came over and stared at me. He seemed to be watching me as I continued to make my point. He looked concerned. He listened very intently ro what I had to say, it seemed, and then walked off, out of my field of view. Then he returned, looked and me, and kept looking out over the balcony. I continued to speak, and he continued looking at me and walked away again. When he came back again, I noticed that I felt funny. My chest was tight, and I didn’t feel good. I realized I was likely having another heart attack, and the man had noticed. I decided he was trying to help, had called an ambulance and was looking for it.

I wondered how he knew. Was I acting odd? Slurred speech? I couldn’t tell, but he seemed to know. Of course, I woke up before this could play out. Was he a doctor? Why had I approached him? What had I been trying to tell him? One thing I remember is that I felt very grateful that someone noticed and decided to help. Amazing.

Awake. Being wide awake, then, I noticed that my chest did feel funny, and my heart seemed to be calming down, like I’d been really excited. The story I’d seen could have excited me, or the argument I was making, or, which seems most likely, my heart had flipped out for few moments, and the dream was my attempt to understand what was happening. In one of my recent stress tests, the EKG had revealed extra heartbeats as I was recovering from the test. The doctor had been concerned enough to put me back on a heart calming beta-blocker drug. Metoprolol A stress test, following a few weeks of that drug, showed that I was doing better after stress, with very few extra beats, although a few showed up during the exercise this time. However, his opinion, and that of others he had consulted, was that I stay on the drug, at least until I see him again in six months.

Damn. I had been happy to get off the damned drug. It seemed to make me drowsy, and it made training for a marathon harder than it should have been. At least I’m only on a half dose this time. Last time, I felt like I couldn’t get my heart rate up at all while running, and I had trouble getting enough oxygen, with no stamina. I’m better now. Is it my heart that is stronger? or it because of the half dose? I don’t know, but I’m running a half marathon (13.1 miles) on October 19, so I’m anxious to see how it goes. Maybe I’ll dream about it.

Metoprolol

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Sometimes it takes a good swift kick in the heart

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 11, 2013

There have been many times over the last five or six years when I thought I was ready for death. My life didn’t have much meaning, but it didn’t have to, I thought, since I had lived a good, and a long life already. I mean, what’s the point of just living? Life needs to be lived, and I mean lived, enjoyed, relished, savored. It doesn’t matter what the mix of good and bad is. A really good week makes up for a bad day anytime. An exceptional day makes up for a bad week.  However, since my days were one long string of bad, mediocre, or really crappy times, I couldn’t figure out why I was still alive.

Sometimes, I felt like I was dying. It seemed to me, day by day, that my life was winding down. Sometimes I had trouble hiking, and I could feel my lungs struggling to bring air in. Sometimes I felt pain in my chest. In my mind, I suspected I might have a heart attack anytime, or simply stop breathing. I was old enough. The idea didn’t bother me. We all have our time, and it seemed mine had passed. A few times, after I’d fallen asleep in my recliner, I’d awakened to find myself half dead, my brain fuzzy, my thoughts chaotic. It was as if I hadn’t been breathing for a few minutes. I would get up and walk around, but even though my lungs were moving, there was no oxygen in my brain. My brain felt dim, and dark, as though I was trapped underground. I mean, what is more symbolic of death than that?  I asked my doctor about it, and she said those were panic attacks. Well, you’d panic too if there was no oxygen going to your brain. I believe I actually did stop breathing each time, probably not for long, but long enough to trigger my body’s desperate attempt to reboot. I envisioned a time when I would be found dead at home, probably days or weeks after the fact. Who would check?

When my step-daughter had experienced her brain tumor, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and more radiation and chemo, that had been really troubling. I didn’t want her to die. She survived, and the joy I’d felt then had been true joy, unbelievable happiness.  However, my marriage ended shortly after that. There was no further contact, no hope of reconciliation. I had a friend I’d known for years, and asked her out. She was horrified at the idea, and gradually pulled away too. I retired from my job of twenty-five years. I lived alone. It all seemed pointless right then. Was I depressed? Sure. But, eventually that passed, but I could see that I wasn’t really living, I was just marking time. It was as though I was in a waiting room, killing time, only I was just waiting for death to tap me on the shoulder, even though I was occasionally having good moments.

stainless-steel stent

Stent

So, a week ago, I did have a heart attack. I suspected it might be a heart attack before it had hardly begun. I had felt something odd in my chest, a tightening, or pressure, on and off for months. It never lasted long, and I could simply sit down and rest a bit and I was fine. I don’t exercise enough, so I attributed it to my less-than-perfect stamina. Hiking in the mountains here, once a week, even for 5 to 9 miles, is not really enough to stay in good shape when you’re old. When the day came and the pressure wouldn’t ease off, and I felt anxious, was sweating like a pig, and foggy in my head, I thought, yeah, maybe this is it. For years, I’d believed that I would welcome it. I debated going to see my doctor, the newer one who had diagnosed exercised-induced asthma. I was breathing OK. I had no pain. However, something was wrong. At first I thought I would get over it. I took two aspirin. I tried to relax. Increasingly, I felt worse. Suddenly, I had to make a decision: do or don’t. I decided to act. Got help. Heart attack verified. Angioplasty performed. Clot destroyed. Stent placed in right coronary artery. Stent 2

For someone prone to hypochondria, this was actually vindication. I knew I was sick, and I was. More importantly, I made the decision to live. If I had just sat down, or gone to bed, I would have reached the point by myself, as I did in the cardiac lab, where my heart went into arrhythmia. I would have died, painfully, all by myself.

So, I had decided to live on. I took steps to get help. I survived. I am on drugs for a while to help get my body through this experience. I signed up to train for a half-marathon. It feels good.

Posted in health, Life, medical, My Life, rambling | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

And, Suddenly, a Heart Attack

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 8, 2013

Sandia view I hike in the mountains, nearly every week. Sometimes its a three to four-hour jaunt, sometimes six hours, with a lunch break. The elevation gain can be 1000 feet or 2000. I’ve done much harder hikes in the past, but found that I was having too much trouble keeping up with the other hikers. Instead of getting stronger with more stamina over time, I was having a hard time finishing 12 mile hikes up and down a mountain trail at all. So, I began hiking with a Meetup group, hiking just the three or four hours at a leisurely pace. I tried snowshoeing to the peak of one mountain, Mt. Taylor trail Mt. Taylor, at 11,301 feet. I had hiked it on two prior occasions, and snowshoed it once before, but didn’t make it that day. I had to stop to catch my breath a few times. Once I leaned against a tree and felt like I could fall asleep right there, standing up. I fell so far behind that the hike leader, tired of coming back to look for me and unwilling to wait for me in temperatures near zero degrees F (he was not warmly-enough dressed), relayed a message to me that I was to turn around. I had never failed to complete a hike before, so that was upsetting. I knew I could get to the top, but just needed more time. The hike leader had also cancelled our scheduled lunch break at the top, which is when I felt I could have caught up to them. I missed the wonderful sluicing through the deep powder on the back side of that climb. Well, so  it goes. However, on the way home by car, I had trouble breathing. My chest actually hurt upon taking a deep breath. That was very troubling. Back home, I saw my doctor and he said I had exercise asthma, and prescribed an inhaler. I used it a few times before hikes, and had no trouble. However, on several hikes with rapid elevation gain, I had felt strange and weak when we stopped for lunch.

Then, last Sunday, while puttering around a winery I help out at, I felt the same strangeness, more like a tightening of my chest or pressure on my chest. I had only been cleaning up, putting equipment away, and climbing up and down a short ramp when I felt it overtake me. I sat down in a chair with a  glass of cranberry wine and relaxed. I felt better after a short while, so I finished my duties and went home. At home I was comfortable and relaxed and slept well. The next day, however, was far different.

In the morning I awoke early, had coffee, and picked my step-daughter up from her home, dropping her off at her job. She doesn’t drive, due to a problem with her peripheral vision, so I take her to and from work most days. This day I also had a blood donation appointment, so I went there after dropping her off. The blood donation went well – no unusual blood pressure, pulse normal. Afterwards I stopped at a breakfast buffet, JBz and for $6.49 had bacon, sausage, eggs smothered in red chile, a bit of carne adovada (pork marinated in red chile), small slices of french toast, and fruit – hey, the blood place said to eat a big breakfast, so I did. I dropped off a package at Fed-X for my step-daughter and went home. It was a slow day after that. I messed around at the computer: reading news, checking blogs, Facebook, eBay, an art site (Deviant Art), and then sat down to quietly read a book.  In mid-afternoon, however, I felt that strange pressure in my chest. I used my asthma inhaler, but to no effect. I took two aspirin. I stretched out on my bed for a bit, but without improvement. I felt odd, perhaps a little anxious. I was sweating, so I turned on the evaporative cooler. I went back to reading. I still felt that something was wrong, and I still felt hot. I increased blower speed on the cooler. I began to worry. It was getting late, after 4pm, so I wasn’t sure if I could get to the clinic my doctor worked at before it closed. Suddenly I decided I was going to go anyway. Enough uncertainty! I had to find out what was wrong; I might even be having heart problems. I decided not to take the motorcycle, opting instead for four wheels, should I become weak or unsteady. However, I changed my mind as I was backing the car up, and went back in. Something was wrong and I was getting worse fast. I called 911.

It didn’t take the EMT guys long to get to my house, as the firehouse was less than two miles away, but they had to search for my house in this compound so I got up and flagged ’em down. They came in, asked questions, took vitals and decided I should go to the hospital. An ambulance had arrived after they came in their firetruck. By this time I was sweating profusely, felt weaker, and didn’t mind lying on their gurney. I’m not sure it was a good idea to attempt an IV while the ambulance was bouncing over the speed humps, but I got to the hospital OK. They sent me to the cardiac lab, and five or six guys went to work, taking pictures, repeating vitals and finally deciding that I was, indeed, having a heart attack. There were options, like drug therapy, but the best idea presented was to do an angioplasty, where they run an inflatable device up an artery into my heart to open the artery there. X-rays had shown that the artery was indeed almost completely blocked by a clot. Heart before

I agreed, so the team went ahead. I felt a pain after they began. I said “Ouch!” just as somoene was sticking a needle in me, and he apologized, but it was the sudden sharp pain in my heart that had gotten my attention. The pain increased, but, miraculously, as they worked and the catheter reached my heart, the pain subsided; the pressure that had been building stopped, and I felt great! They had used the balloon-like device on the end of the catheter to ream out my artery, Heart after and then released a stainless-steel tube from there that expanded to fit to the walls of the artery. It’s called a stent. stent It’s an odd, meshed device. To me, it resembles those old Chinese finger puzzles, but on a much reduced scale. The stent will remain with me now. Stent 2 I must take a drug for one year to prevent my body from rejecting the stent. Ha! I wish I only had to take one drug. I must also take aspirin, a small 81 mg dose, every day. I am taking a drug to lower my blood pressure, even though my pressure is normal. I am taking a statin drug to lower my cholesterol even though my cholesterol is not high. I am taking a drug to block blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots. I am taking a drug to lower the acid in my stomach. And I am taking a drug that lowers my heart rate, reducing strain on my heart, which was only minimally damaged in all this.

In short, I survived, and in good shape. I’m certain I do not need all of these drugs. My blood pressure is now lower than ever, at about 118 over 70, as I just measured. I already eat fairly well, so my cholesterol is not dangerous, but I welcome the assistance of the drug, for now. I think some of the others are a bit too much, as I would like to be as drug-free as possible. One drug can be interfered with by fish-oil supplements, which are in my daily multivitamins already. If the fish oil has the same effect, I don’t know why I can’t just take that instead of a drug.

Ah, well. I’m lucky to be alive, and damn lucky to have had that cardiac team work on me. They worked very quickly, efficiently and smoothly, each one performing certain vital tasks, and being watchful of changes in my status. Without them, I wouldn’t have survived. I need to take them some wine.

I received lots of messages from friends and family, and my step-daughter visited me while I was confined to the hospital for two days. My friend, who is “not a girlfriend”, declined to visit me in the hospital because, as she put it, “…hospitals freak me all the fuck out…”, but she said she wanted to see me to verify that I was alive. We went to a movie and had dinner Friday afternoon. Life goes on.

Posted in health, hiking, medical, My Life, wine | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Going To Mars, Wine, Wine

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 2, 2012

MARCH 2, 2012

        

As much as I’d like to go to Mars, and work in a habitat, it’s not likely; the earliest populated mission to Mars is in 2037.  However, I have applied to the Cornell/University of Hawaii Mars Analogue Mission and Food Study. Applications are now closed, and about 700 people applied; only eight will participate. It’s a 120-day Mars exploration analogue mission that will take place in early 2013 on the big island of Hawaii. I’m psyched! Actually, studies of the effects of living in an enclosed environment for long periods of time have already been done. Between 2007 and 2011, a crew of volunteers lived and worked in a mock-up spacecraft. The final stage of the Mars-500 experiment, which was intended to simulate a 520-day manned mission, was conducted by a crew consisting of three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian and a Chinese citizen. The experiment helped plan the mission, identifying possible problems and solutions. The mock-up facility simulated the Earth-Mars shuttle spacecraft, the ascent-decent craft, and the martian surface. Volunteer crew used in the three stages included professionals with experience in fields such as engineering, medicine, biology, and spaceflight. There have been many other similar studies and more underway, in Antarctica, Europe, Russia, China and Australia.

520 days! Holy crap! That includes a round-trip flight time of between 400 to 450 days. What will we do in space that long? I’m trying to imagine what 120 days in isolation will be like, and that’s only in a contained environment on Hawaii. However, the habitat part of this mission doesn’t involve psychological effects or exploration. It’s all about the food!  People on long missions typically eat only prepackaged meals, or concentrates. No matter how tasty the food, a type of fatigue sets in, a food monotony, and astronauts not only lose interest in the food, but also eating meals altogether. Additionally, prepackaged meals contribute more weight to a mission already starved for mass. Every bit of mass taken on a spaceflight must be boosted into orbit, at tremendous cost with limited storage space. There are other problems: prepackaged meals have a shorter storage life than the individual ingredients. Moreover, all of the crew members have scientific and exploratory goals, and time spent in food preparation and cleanup is time lost to research.

I think this type is thinking is short-sighted. I know exploring Mars will be exciting. I know the prospect of living on another planet will be exciting. I also know that there is such a thing as job fatigue. One cannot spend all of one’s time on the mission. I don’t mean just that all work and no play makes the Mars explorer dull. I mean that everyone needs a break from their own work. I propose that each member of the crew take turns preparing meals and cleaning up, say one day a week for each person. Perhaps one day a week, assuming there is a six-member crew, be a non-cooking day. The crew could simply eat prepackaged meals on that day, and everyone gets a break.

I’m sure that the experience of preparing meals will benefit every member of the crew. There will be the benefit of eating freshly prepared foods. There had better be a small array of spices! Salt, pepper, red chile powder, garlic powder, onion flakes, maybe some packaged shallots, and other spices as crew members might suggest. Nothing helps break the monotony like different spices; and dried powders are very light. Will there be cooking oil, I wonder?  How about some sesame oil and chile oil too? Certainly some oil is a necessary part of our diet. Instant butter! Mmm.

One thing I’d recommend: high fat, great tasting food.  One does not get fat or malnourished by eating good foods. One gets fat or malnourished by eating too little or too much food. Period. These programs might be making the mistake of assuming all the food must be low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar. No, my friends, I don’t think so. If portion size is strictly controlled, one can have snacks and deserts and still maintain a healthy diet and weight. I’m sure the calorie-intake needs of each person can be measured, and such a group of dedicated explorers, knowing how limited their food supplies are, will adhere to strict guidelines for food consumption. There should be enough leeway to allow for the occasional party, with some special food and drink.

What will these intrepid explores drink by the way? Water is extremely heavy to ship into space. In an ideal situation, the Mars explorers will find ice or other trapped water on, or close to the surface. But we do not live by water alone. I’m sure there are some powdered drinks to break up the monotony. Coffee, PLEASE! But you know what makes digestion go better, and livens up the entire eating experience? Wine! How’s that for an idea?  I know a lot about wine, particularly food-pairing. I am a partner in the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas, New Mexico. We pair our fruit wines with a wide variety of foods. Apricot wine goes extremely well with fatty fish and aged cheese, for example. Cranberry wine goes quite well with roast chicken, turkey and mild cheeses. I’m not just talking about a connoisseur’s point of view. I find that certain foods, like venison, soft and/or aged cheeses, for example, bring out intense fruit flavors in wine. The wine itself alters the palate so that the food itself is more flavorful. How about that, mission control? Can we have wine with our meals? We need it. Can wine be freeze-dried and retain its alcohol and flavor? I don’t know. Alcohol is usually the first thing to go when dehydrating liquids. The alcohol would sublimate from even frozen wine. I don’t know how to solve this problem, but I’m telling you all right now: if you want those souls trapped in a hostile environment to always enjoy their meals, they will need wine. Put it in individual lightweight boxes, like those ubiquitous boxed fruit drinks. Put it in small bags. Put it in anything lightweight, but bring it!

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MARCH 3, 2012 – Walking to Mars (Mars reached the closest point to the Sun in its orbit)

On Wednesday, February 29, after I had sent my application off the night before, I went hiking into the Sandia Mountains. Short hike; just fours miles up and back the Domingo Baca trail. The entire time I kept thinking that I need to get in better shape. I still have to pass a Class 2 flight physical. Of the 700+ people who applied for this mission, 30 will be selected and notified to get the physical. I expect the physical will help prune that number down to the remaining eight. We still don’t know when we will hear anything. In the meantime, I need to keep walking. Today, March 3, I went on another 4-mile hike, but climbed 1200 feet in elevation in one hour! My hiking group hiked to the Eye of the Sandias. It was painted in the 1960s, refreshed in the 1990s and it looked as if it had been touched up within the last two years as well. The Eye looks out at Albuquerque, monitoring its growth, according to legend. It was a good hike. We started at about 7200 feet and climbed to 8400 feet to take a break at the Eye. I took some photos and we went on back down. I suspect I’m going to have to increase the number of hikes I go on, and get back to those 9 to 12 mile hikes I was going on two years ago. Time to get this old body back into shape, and I’d better hurry. I’d hate to be selected and fail the flight physical. Anyway, here are some pics from today. Some are looking out across Albuquerque to Mount Taylor, some 90 miles away. Other shots show my hiking companions, the Eye itself, and parts of the trail. One shot shows I-40 snaking eastward though Tijeras canyon, even as we were able to view Albuquerque and Mt. Taylor. It really is a good place for an eye.

As viewed from the Sandias, 90 miles away.

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MARCH 5, 2012 – News & Information

Finally, some information: “The selection panel is currently going through the applications to determine a short-list of candidates, who will then be asked to get an aviation medical exam (at our cost), and to provide references. We expect to be able to inform you whether or not you are on the short-list by the end of March.” Good to know.

In case some of you are wondering why the hell the Mars mission itself is important, there is this:

http://www.npr.org/2012/02/27/147351252/space-chronicles-why-exploring-space-still-matters

Exploring space, especially the planets around us, IS important to our future, not only for our nation, but for the survival of our planet.

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MARCH 7, 2012 – It’s a not-in-Kansas-anymore twister! 

Half a mile high! Image from the high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. More info: http://bitly.com/zNeD5P

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MARCH 9, 2012 – posted on HI-SEAS:

“As we go through the applications, we are blown away by the caliber and the passion of the applicants. You all are amazing.”

Of course! 🙂

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MARCH 12, 2012 – The Case For Space

Please read this article: The Case For Space

 In it, the author makes a logical, but also very compelling pitch for the United States to go to Mars sooner, not later, and to revamp its space program now. A hazy “commitment” to Mars sometime in the late 2030s is not going to keep us on track. President Obama said that the Apollo program “produced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors to test for hazardous gases; energy-saving building materials; and fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers. And more broadly, the enormous investment of that era — in science and technology, in education and research funding — produced a great outpouring of curiosity and creativity, the benefits of which have been incalculable.” Of course, according to author Neil deGrasse Tyson, there is much more to that list of revolutionary spinoff technologies, including digital imaging, implantable pacemakers, collision-avoidance systems on aircraft, precision LASIK eye surgery, and global positioning satellites. Even in troubled economic times, the author states, the United States is a sufficiently wealthy nation to embrace an investment in its own future in a way that would drive the economy, the country’s collective ambitions, and, above all, the dreams of coming generations; in 1969 the United States went to the moon while fighting two wars — one cold, one hot — during the most turbulent decade in American history since the Civil War.

Imagine the excitement when NASA, bolstered by a fully funded long-term plan, starts to select the first astronauts to walk on Mars. Right now, those science-savvy future explorers are in middle school. As they become celebrities whom others seek to emulate, the United States will once again witness how space ambitions can shape the destiny of nations.

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MARCH 28, 2012

No news yet; just this post from HI-SEAS:

“We expect to have an update for applicants next week. Thank you for your patience as we give your applications the attention they deserve.”

I’m patient, but next week seems so far away now. 🙂

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APRIL 7, 2012 NEWS!

Received this today:

Thank you for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and
Simulation. As you may know, we received almost 700 applications for
this mission, for only six crew positions. Because of this huge
response, we have had to add one more stage to the process (as
originally described in the call for participation). At this point, you
are one of the candidates for a potential
education/journalism/outreach/art/social-media position on the crew.
However, we will have to narrow the total pool down further before
moving on to interviews, references and medicals. We expect to be able
to notify the ~30 crew semi-finalists by mid-April.

This must be what waiting for a launch window is like: “end of March”, “next week”, and now “mid-April”. I’m pretty damn excited! I feel like a kid waiting for a holiday.

APRIL 20, 2012 Final News

My last message from HI-SEAS:

“Dear HI-SEAS Applicant,
Thank you again for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog
and Simulation. I am sorry to inform you that you have not been selected
for the interview stage of the application process. We had a very large
number of highly qualified applicants, and it was extremely difficult to
narrow the pool down.
We expect to be able to run further HI-SEAS missions, so even if you
will not participate as a crewmember this time, we will keep you on file
for future opportunities. If you would like us to delete your
application from our files, let us know.
Thanks again for your application, and for your commitment to human
space exploration.”

Oh, well, and my hopes were so high. This was the first thing I’ve been excited about in years.

Posted in coffee, current events, health, Mars, opinion, space, spices, Travel, wine | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE JOY OF BRAIN TUMORS

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 14, 2011

I didn’t know I could find joy in
a brain tumor
I never really felt love before
the brain tumor
I never felt such fear
a brain tumor!?

We joke about it
It’s not like you have a brain tumor
We compare headaches to
brain tumors.

It’s my step-daughter that had
the brain tumor
I never knew such fear
– the all-day brain surgery
– the chemotherapy
– the radiation.

I never knew I felt such love
this young woman I’d known
thirteen years from girl to woman
I never knew such joy
– after the operation she survived
– still needed chemo she survived
– still needed radiation
gamma knife
– a high-tech magic bullet.

Damn brain tumor
fuckin’ damn brain tumor
dead brain tumor.

She survived
She’s alive
She’s healthy
She’s whole.

My chest loosened
I can breathe
My heart
is beating.

I never knew such joy before
the brain tumor.

Posted in family, health, Life, love, medical, poem, poetry, relationships | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

What IS depression anyway?

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 26, 2010

Just what the fuck is depression anyway?  I tried researching it, after experiencing it for a few years.  Got medication simultaneously with counseling. I was definitely depressed.

Depression, which doctors call major depressive disorder, isn’t something you can just “snap out of.”

Symptoms

  • Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
  • Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
  • Extreme difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
  • Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed (such as sex)
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping

Major depression disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic, is when a person has five or more symptoms of depression for at least 2 weeks. In addition, people with major depression often have behavior changes, such as new eating and sleeping patterns.

Depression can appear as anger and discouragement, rather than as feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. If depression is very severe, there may also be psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. These symptoms may focus on themes of guilt, inadequacy, or disease.  It is thought to be caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals and other factors.

However.  Hmmph.  However, none of this says what depression is, or where it comes from. Obviously, trauma can bring it on: the loss of a loved one, a pet, a friend, or the end of a marriage, love affair, or even a job. Many things can trigger depression.  If it is caused solely by a chemical imbalance, then it would be entirely random, in my opinion.  People in all walks of life would be depressed for absolutely no discernible reason, whereas most of us can attribute those feelings to something that happened. Everyone deals with these things in different ways, and, in fact, it is common for everyone to be depressed at some time.  So, to follow the medical opinions, I should talk about major depressive disorder, that thing that just doesn’t go away for some people sometimes.

I think I know what it is, and where it comes from.  I’m not a doctor, neither an M.D., a psychologist nor a psychiatrist.

Now, Wikipedia says: “The biopsychosocial model proposes that biological, psychological, and social factors all play a role in causing depression. The diathesis–stress model specifies that depression results when a preexisting vulnerability, or diathesis, is activated by stressful life events. The preexisting vulnerability can be either genetic, implying an interaction between nature and nurture, or schematic, resulting from views of the world learned in childhood.”

Blah, blah, blah.

I think it is nothing more than our reaction to pain.  Pain, as many of us know, decreases in intensity after we suffer it for a time.  Runners, torture victims, accident victims, and victims of disease know what I’m talking about. There may be a variety of things involved, but we all commonly think about endorphins kicking in, numbing us to pain after awhile.

Endorphins (“endogenous morphine”) are endogenous opioid peptides that function as neurotransmitters. They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during exercise, excitement, pain, consumption of spicy food, love and orgasm, and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being.

Well-being after sex, yeah, I know that one pretty well. I also like chile, red or green, and sure enough, a blast of really hot spicy food brings about a lessening of the hotness after a short time. I can then eat hotter chile, but I pay for it later.  So, one thing to notice is that this morphine-like substance we produce in our bodies doesn’t last very long. But, we can produce it over and over again, in response to various stimuli, including stress.  Some of us experience stress daily, so we must also be producing endorphins daily.

Here’s what I think: depression is our bodies’ response to psychological pain.  Depression is our psychological morphine, producing analgesia.  We go numb in response to psychological pain.  We cry, or grieve deeply, sometimes feeling an overwhelming crushing weight.  We can’t function that way.  We have to go to work, or continue our normal routines, so we have to push those feelings aside just enough to function.  Depression is the result.  If it was a relatively minor pain, we may work it out through continuing our normal routines.  Sometimes, however, the pain was severe, or was perceived as severe, and continues to recur. We may keep brushing it aside.  I think this is a normal mental defense, allowing us to continue our life until we can deal with the cause of the pain, similar to the production of adrenalin or endorphins, which give us temporary options for survival.

But, it has to be dealt with sooner or later.  Just as an injury can be ignored while adrenalin or endorphin pumps through our bodies, eventually the injury must be treated.  Depression is our temporary defense against psychological pain, but at some point, we have to deal with the “injury” that produced the depression in the first place.  How we deal with the injury is what our mental health industry is all about.  Alcohol and other central nervous system depressants slow normal brain function. In higher doses, some CNS depressants can become general anesthetics.  Temporary.  These measures are temporary, and can actually worsen depression.

An interesting tidbit I gleaned from the research literature is that endorphins attach themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions (limbic and prefrontal areas).  Perhaps endorphins are involved in the onset of depression? I do not know, nor care.

Do I know how to “cure” depression? No.  Various treatments, combinations of certain drugs with counseling, are said to allow our minds and bodies to slip out of depression long enough to allow us to reprogram ourselves out of it.  The length of treatment, types of drugs and types of counseling vary widely. The results vary widely.

Having just come out of a three-year long depression (at minimum), I have some observations:

1.) Depression is temporary.

2.) It does not occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

3.) In all likelihood, we prolong our depressive state ourselves.

4.) Whatever caused the initial depressive response must be overcome.

Yeah, I hear you: Overcome? How? Beats me.  Drugs and counseling will help in some cases.

My best guess?

Here ’tis.

1.) Recognise that one is depressed.

2.) Trace the cause. This may take medical and psychological help.

3.) Eliminate the cause. This one is tricky.

I know that there are techniques often applied, common sense approaches, that may or not be accepted by all.  For example, I have read that grief cannot be overcome unless one goes through various stages, like denial, and anger, leading to acceptance.  I’ve found this to be true for depression.  One cannot wish depression away – that is simply denial. Accept that one is depressed. And then get angry.  Avoid violent solutions, because the depression will worsen, and be prolonged, but anger? Anger is good.  Get really fucking angry. Maybe one thinks it was all their own fault. Let me tell you, getting angry with oneself doesn’t do a whole lot.  What hurt you badly? What was the thing that drove you over the edge? Was it your boss, your spouse, your ex, your lover, your sibling, your parent?  Hate them. Your injury? Hate it.  Give it all you’ve got.  Hate your boss, your spouse, your ex, the negligent driver, the government regulation, the politician?  Hate them.  Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.  Give into it.  Feel the vindication, the release, the shifting of the pain from yourself somewhere else.  When you’ve gotten the focus off of you and onto the cause, let it go.  Forget? No.  We can never forget.  But we can let the anger go, and the pain goes with it.  Then focus on change.  Get away from the source of the pain if you can, or confront it. Attempt to change the situation that caused the pain in the first place.  We all know what we have to do.  If we don’t, the pain will hit us again, and we will be depressed again.

In my opinion.

Posted in depression, health, Life, madness, medical, My Life, opinion, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Bitch, moan, grumble, gripe.

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 11, 2009

It’s a good thing I like to complain, because I felt like crap last night.  Had been to  a day-long meeting of statewide union execs, and felt funny.  It was a long, tedious legislative training session.  Parts if it were interesting, and in New Mexico, most of us public employees are entirely dependent on money flowing from Santa Fe.   But, I had a hard time getting lunch down, and couldn’t even finish it.  That should have been a warning sign, as I can eat, and eat, and eat like a teenager.  And, it shows.  Anyway, I keep feeling, first, pressure in my stomach, than a god-awful pain.  Every so often the pain would flare up, and it was intense.  Got home finally, and felt like crap.  Took a short nap, but woke up cold, shivering almost.  Then I felt feverish, like my face was on fire.  Then it seemed I was feverish and still cold!  Had to put slippers on my feet, and my winter vest, and I had the heat turned way up!  My head began to hurt, then my stomach too.  Sometimes it alternated, sometimes it was both.  I wanted someone to kill me!  if_flowers_could_talk_by_sqthreer Good god! that was painful! And, I couldn’t relax, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat or drink anything.  Tried to watch Hellboy II, but had to keep pausing it, as I couldn’t relax.  Wrapped myself in a blanket on the recliner.  Popped some vitamin C, drank a cup of ginger tea finally, but I had to force myself to drink it.  9:30 pm – I’d had enough – went to bed.  Woke up six hours later feeling better, surprised that I was alive at all.  Got up to pee, but went back to bed.  Didn’t want to get up at all.  Still hot. Then I realized I’d left the liquid-filled radiator heater on high all night!  Turned that off, and got back in bed.  My head still hurt, in fact, I couldn’t get comfortable anymore.  My neck felt like someone had pummeled it, but the worst part was that my whole head felt sore.  It hurt to be face down, sideways, or face up.  There was no position in which my head didn’t hurt.  And some acid had worked its was up my throat, so that tasted and felt horrible.  Finally forced myself up to take some Advil.  Feeling better now, but my stomach is still unhappy.  I wonder if I could have gotten food poisoning.  staph1 Sheesh. salscale2

Posted in health, Life, medical, rambling | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Keratoses & Barnacles & Young Pretty Doctors

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 19, 2008

Actually, to be specific, Seborrheic Keratoses (seb-o-REE-ick Ker-ah-TOE-sees).

I found this thing on my ass, of all places. It was a mostly round, raised area, with a brown circle, almost like a cell nucleus off to one side, and the rest was red. I went to see a doctor over a month ago, and got referred to a dermatologist. The doc said it wasn’t cancer, so I guess that’s why there was no big rush. Of course, it’s also because the University is trying out this new managed care thing, and rather than have an employee stop by the employee health clinic and get seen right away, I guess it’s better to make appointments, and wait for those to come around, if I can remember to even go. But, I’m straying from the story here.

So the dermatologist, over a month later, takes a look at it, and she says right off what it is. I’ve got a nice pamphlet explaining it all. So, nobody really knows why these things occur, but they’re not cancerous, and they’re not from sun exposure. That is pretty obvious, especially if you saw how white my ass is. I’ve never had sun shining on that part of my anatomy for very long. Here’s the salient point from the brochure: “…almost everybody will eventually develop at least of few of these growths. They are sometimes referred to as barnacles of old age.” How nice.

barnacle.jpg

Real barnacles

“They become more common and more numerous with advancing age,” which is what my doc kept trying to say, without ever mentioning age. She said, “as we get wiser” and things like that, trying to be funny, I guess. I said, “You mean, as we get older and fatter?” She didn’t want to agree with that.

Anyway, my barnacle is irritated, probably by having my jeans rubbing against it all the time. Even though it isn’t dangerous to have one, these barnacles can itch or bleed, so they are often removed (among those of us with health insurance). Liquid nitrogen to the rescue! So I ended up having my ass frozen by Dr. Kim, a pretty young doctor. Not so bad.

Meanwhile, there are also actinic keratoses. The first doctor I went to noticed them on my forehead. They are little tiny hard bumps; they feel like a piece of sand glued to my forehead, and I’m always scratching them off. These I hadn’t given much thought to. I had felt them on my scalp before, and asked another doctor about them, but he tried to tell me they were just sand, and only after bugging him about it did he finally admit they were probably keratoses, which can be pre-cancerous. He dismissed it as insignificant and harmless, so I never worried about it. Hey, I’m getting old anyway, so who cares? Long story short, these are also called solar keratoses, because they are found on fair-skinned people who have had significant sun exposure; they are considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer (10% do become actual cancers).   How nice. actininc-keratosis.jpg

Again, treatment #1 is freeze ’em right off with liquid nitrogen. That was more fun. However, it’s likely I have more, and will continue to develop more around my forehead and slowly receding hairline, so rather than make regular trips to have my face and scalp spot-frozen the rest of my life (the doc gives me another 30 years), there are other methods. One is a topical chemotherapy lotion that really reddens the skin for awhile ( that’ll look really nice all over my forehead), and the other is another cream that promotes an immune-type of response (also possibly creating red blotches all over my forehead) for a much longer time. I have a prescription for that, so once these frozen ones fall off, I will start using that. After three months: fours weeks of treatment, four none, four treatment, I should be through with these little things.  The odd thing: the cream, Aldara, is also used for genital warts and actual skin cancers (basal cell carcinomas).  In my incarnation as a cancer lab worker, I used to give skin cancer to rats, then treat them with combinations of drugs and radiation, before those treatments were tried on terminal cancer patients.  Then I had to dissect them – skin cancer will eventually invade the entire body, organs, lungs, brains – not a pretty sight.

And, the moral of this story? Use sunscreen, especially when you’re young. The doc, the young pretty one, said I probably got these started when I was 18 or so. Actually, it was riding a bicycle around the country a few times in my 20s, but close enough. Never wore a hat much, and certainly never used sunscreen. Of course, my parents took us to the beach every summer as kids, and we always got sunburned, every single time. It wasn’t ’till I lived in Arizona for awhile, after bicycling in from the East Coast, and working outdoors there, that I ever had a sustainable tan of any kind. I told Dr. Kim that it was great: I was tanned and muscled for the first time in my life. She thought that was pretty funny, or wanted to me to think I was funny.

“Who’s that knocking on my door?” said the fair Young Maiden….”

Just call me Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

barnacle-bill.jpg

You should listen to or read the bawdy lyrics for Barnacle Bill the Sailor sometime.

You won’t believe it! (Barnacle Bill the Sailor song lyrics)

betty-barnacle-bill.jpg

A much tamer version: Betty Boop Cartoon

UPDATE: 4/30/08. I’ve started treatment for the actinic keratoses. Weird!  The first morning after treatment I could see more of the little bumps under the skin, and they stay visible.  No reddening of the skin yet.  I did wake up with acid reflux.  Felt like acid in my throat.  Later on, I felt so tired I was like the walking dead.   Drank an extra coffee to get me through the day.  I was unusually talkative, and even more unrestrained in what I said to people than usual.  Suddenly, about 9pm last night, I felt like I woke up.  My mind was clear, and I felt happy.  I even smiled, for no reason at all.  Odd.

UPDATE: 08/14/08. Finished treatment last month, but one area still itches.  Every place I saw raised bumps and scabs that itched like crazy during treatment, but only that one area still itches every day.  Odd.  I learned that 10% of all actininc keratoses become skin cancer, so I do wonder.

Posted in Bicycling, health, Life, medical, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts, skin cancer, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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