Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sad cat tales

Life does not always deal from the top of the deck, even for cats...often for cats.

My daughter's two-year old cat, the personable Ms. Pinot, has been diagnosed with feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. For those who don't speak medicine, this means that the muscle around the left side of her heart is grossly overdeveloped. Her cardiac function is already no more than 30 %. Unless the heart responds to aspirin therapy (a long shot) the heart will eventually crush itself. Pinot has no better than an even chance of reaching three, and is unlikely to live more than three more years in the best case.

The good things in this are that HCM causes no pain, in cats or people. Also, being a cat she can live in the moment and be spared the foreboding that her people feel.

In the exchange of feline symptoms that this news brought about, my daughter suggested that Ms. Annie, a cat who lives in our house but is not ours, or any human's, has probably developed feline cognitive disorder, popularly known as "kitty Alzheimer's."

One of our neighbours is an ASPCA volunteer who gentles feral animals before adoption, and Annie was one of her few failures. Well, partly so: although she ran away from Sheila's home, Annie stayed on the block. Eventually she decided to try life on our back deck, and during a snowstorm seven years ago nonchalantly moved in. She will not permit a human within five feet of her, but is content to have food, water, warmth, and the often-annoying companionship of Spike, the cat of record here. Annie is probably 18 years old, which is right up there in cat years.

The one benefit I can hope for is that Annie might forget that she is afraid of people, and so allow some petting and comfort. I don't know that she would accept being gathered up for that final trip to the vet's, but one could at least give her a little comfort at the end: she is such a beautiful little thing.

Monday, April 28, 2008


They did it on purpose.

Read the sad, even pathetic, tale of how this nemesis team became "the Rays" here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

There's always a reason

back before winning ways had become a habit with the Red Sox, there was this phenomenon which ensured that no series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays* could pass without at least one act of gratuitous violence per game, or even per inning. Now, of course, this may have been acting out, or it may have been that a critical mass of retired Sox fans and retired Yankees fans live fairly locally to Tampa. The TBDRs simply became a surrogate allowing both groups to express their hostility without getting into denture-throwing contests in the stands.

Or, it may have been a logical Red Sox tactic to keep these uppity youths in check. If that was the objective, and some one in Red Sox management has gotten too PC to resort to damaging the opposition batters, well then they have bloody well paid, haven't they?

Next time, score more runs and cause some casualties, preferably in that order.

*What's with this business of calling them "the Rays" anyhow? For a more articulate exploration of this question, go here.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

If I only had a brain...

I suppose it is not so much that no two brain MRIs are alike. It is more that technology advances.

The last brain MRI I had was around three years ago. I remember that it sounded rather like being trapped under a steel deck with 50 tons of scrap metal being dumped on it.

This one was different. They didn't even bother to suggest that I bring a CD: they knew perfectly well that it would be up against too much competition.

I wish I could write music, because I would be writing this one down, not blogging about it. If you take the different image experiences as movements, half of them would have been prize-winning club techno, needing only a stronger back beat. The other half were minimalist concert music, much like that written by a childhood friend, John Adams.

The music was nearly all-absorbing. I must explain for the uninitiated that in a brain MRI, you have two means of communicating with the outside world: one is a little bulb that you can squeeze if life in there gets to be too much. The other is a tiny mirror that does little more than reassure you that there is an outside world.

The view out of my mirror was dominated by the reflection of one end of the machine. I found myself watching a strange animated head that looked like something from South Park. Having nothing better to do (apart from lie perfectly still for an hour and a quarter), I named it MiRIon. Lame, yes, but not bad for someone trippin' on brain dye.

I don't know if I should be pleased or sorry, but I found out at the end that MiRIon was the offspring of a large logo incised into the visible end of the MRI machine. Corporate culture pursues us even into our hallucinations.

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No Book too Short

Long ago when the world was young, we had something called "the world's smallest book" jokes. For example, The Joy of Irish Sex, or that favourite of a friend with a Scandinavian spouse, The Complete Book of Norwegian Humour.

They were jokes, and fictional. Now, we have Miley Cyrus' autobiography. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rambling on a half-decent Sunday

A little equal time clause demands that I balance the rather grim message of my last with the news that I seem to be home to a remission struggling to get out. I bloody well hope so: it's much easier to contemplate questions of medical philosophy when you're feeling good and the weather is nice.

Speaking of philosophy, I've been following the pope's road show with detached amusement. I mean, really, Benny the Hitler Youth is a stiff, not a rock star. If just one broadcast journalist would open up and admit what a bad act this is, I'd feel better about broadcast journalism.

I loved the bit about how had the church is going to work to be sure no more pedophiles get into the priesthood. Sure. When last I looked, the problem is mainly not one of pedophiles getting into the priesthood: it is that the system of creating a celibate clergy, vested with considerable power over their flocks, creates pedophiles. It virtually guarantees that an unusual proportion of priests, stuck in a system that worships arrested sexual development, will express their sexuality through pedophilia sooner or later.

These pious pronouncements say nothing about a recent finding--might have been international, I don't recall--that about half of the church's seminarians are gay and were gay before they entered the seminary. So, will this "keeping out" eventually boil down to keeping out anyone who is gay, faithful, prepared to take on the rigours of celibacy, and just as horrified as straight people about pedophilia? Well: won't that be a conventional bit of witch hunting?

Why not lose celibacy for the secular clergy and be done with it?

Note: Previous readers may recall my status as an atheist in matters of faith, Catholic in matters of socialisation, and be tempted to comment on it. Bite me.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Identity of the Beast

My intention to stay off TN-related topics seems to be taking a beating. My excuse is that just when you think there's nothing new to say, there's something new to say.

For some while now, I've been pinning my hopes for a future on surgery. About a month back, my PCP decided my TN met a reasonable definition of "intractable" and got me a referral to a downtown clinic with auspicious credentials to discuss surgery.

The neurologist with whom I met is one of those who ... let's just say, he has about about as much experience as anyone living when it comes to surgical treatments for this disorder. It then gave one pause to hear him say that he wishes now he had not done most of them. With each year, it seems, more and stranger unexpected effects surface. In many cases, the duration of the relief is much less than claimed by many enthusiastic advocates. In his opinion, it is almost impossible to avoid permanent loss of sensation in the face, in either the short or long term. Accompanying that loss of sensation may be frightening episodes of phantom pain in places where one should not be able to feel anything. Above all, I was fascinated to listen to the humbling experience of a man nearing the end of his career, hearing him speak of how utterly persistent the nervous system can be in finding ways around the barriers created by puny humans. "We do not know enough about the brain," he said. "We should not be doing this."

On an objective level, I found this one of the most profound experiences I've ever had in conversation with a doctor. I very much wished I was just covering the story, and did not have a stake on the table.

I do have a stake on the table. I took away from the conversation the realisation that there are perhaps some things I cannot bring myself to risk in this contest. I am vain enough to fear the mutilation of my face that could follow from these procedures. I am candid enough with myself to believe I would find it nearly impossible to risk this much, only to have worse pain than ever return in three years or less. The doctor read this in me, and confirmed it. High as the risks of suicide are for intractable TN, they are higher still when the surgery fails.

We are going through the inevitable motions. I have another brain MRI scheduled. I know now what to expect, and now have a superior who owns a definitive heavy metal collection to borrow from while I get zapped. I've been bled for another round of tests. I'll chat it up with my PCP. Life keeps one in its grasp.

The final humbling realisation is that I have misnamed the Beast, for my enemy is my own brain.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Culinary Adventures in Mush-land

Still experimenting with how many different ways one can find to eat mush. Yesterday's effort was low-fat grits n' gravy.

As with my previous experiments with low-fat poutine, I recognise that there is something fundamentally heretical in the idea. Dammit, Southern gravy is supposed to be fattening! Whilst I have been able to concoct a tolerable low-fat poutine, the grits n' gravy was a decided flop.

The reason, of course, is that there isn't all that much to grits in the first place. If y'all mean to put some meat on your bones, you have to have some substance with it. McCormick's low-fat gravy mix, which comes in at about 20 cal. per tablespoon with some absurdly low fat content, does not get the job done: not even close. Like poutine, grits n' gravy is meant to be one of those dishes where you call your cardiologist before you sit down to dinner, so the defibrillator will be en route before you get up from the table--or collapse out of your chair.

In this contest, the Italians get the upper hand. One can do a low-fat dish of polenta with spinach in marinara sauce and skim-milk mozzarella, and come away feeling as if one has actually had a meal. It does make a change from yogurt or oatmeal.

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