Monday, December 23, 2013

Hand made nut scratchers; It's what's for Christmas.

As much as I like to think I'm getting to be the grouchy old curmudgeon, a few of my peers are making strides to unseat me. My grandpa on my mother's side was my roll model of grouchy old man-ness. I have waited literally my whole life to become like him.  As my general health and well-being continue to improve so do my spirits in general. The shit for brains guy that is my liaison at the company I work with not withstanding I have been somewhat, (dare I say it?) cheerful. I got to a point where, should it continue on to performances, the improv lessons I've been taking have sparked a renaissance of my own imagination. The best times of my life were when creativity was a part of my daily functioning.

Every December, for at least the last couple of decades, the people I did theatre with in college and others we gained along the way go out for Basque dinner and Christmas party after. The only churchyness in the group is one couple that mentions going to mass on Christmas. Otherwise it's secular group all the way. We do have a tradition of exchanging gifts. Nothing so organized as secret Santa or any of that. Small stuff maybe home made jam or small things. Myself and some of the craftier guys have made wooden and other things. This practice has been on the decline as the others have begun being grouchy old curmudgeons. Like I said I have been more creative lately and just couldn't find anything I wanted to buy them. As it turns out the idea for the gift they got is not original or even that new but it did take some ingenuity to pull it off in time for the big dinner.

I was looking through a specialty catalog and spotted it there. Online they go for $6 up to $15 for the deluxe one. After tax and shipping a hillbilly nut scratcher can be a $20 item. "Balls" I say. I can do it for less. Walnuts were easy enough to come by. The crucial element is the bamboo backscratcher to use as a base.

The week before Christmas I spent going from one 99¢ type store to the next. I went all over town with no luck. Then it occurred to me to go to the crappy little mom'n'pop $1+ stores. Bingo!

One thing was still missing. The ladies of the group. The wives, girlfriends etc. Bingo again.

If "Nut Scratchers" are for the gentlemen then the ladies would need "Clam Scratchers". It only makes sense. It also makes sense that since nuts come in pairs so should the nuts of the scratchers. It has been a while but I have been known to stick my face in a ladies clam, if memory serves it is a wondrous structure in 2 halves. The clam shells I got did come with both halves. I didn't really have to make ClamzScratchers to go with the NutzScratchers but the smaller shells looked kind of sad by themselves. Some got 2. What was I going to do with left over clam shells?

I got all of the pieces laid out on my work surface.

I used my little moto tool to sand off a patch of varnish from each bamboo scratcher so the glue would stick. then use it to sand a flat spot on one side of each walnut and clam shell. I sanded deep enough so that it made a hole that would fill with glue and become solid. I couldn't even think of a place to get clam shells in my landlocked town. Even with 2 day shipping a dozen shiny colorful clams were like $10.

Then it was just a matter of mixing up some epoxy and letting them be undisturbed long enough for it all to set. I did wait till 2 hours before the big dinner to do the final assembly. By the time we got to the after dinner party they were rock solid and ready to be gifts.

Of course as time progresses the big Basque dinner that used to fill 2 of the long tables now is an even dozen hearty souls at one table. This means that I have a few left over for the 2 other Christmas events this week.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Where were you 11/22/63?

On Nov. 22, 1963 I was 6 years old and in the first grade. I went to Ed C. Lewis Elementary School at 13220 Bellflower Blvd. in Downey California. I only have 3 memories of going there. This is one of them. 

It was a typical Southern California school with most of the doors opening onto covered but otherwise open air corridors. The main building did have one indoor corridor going through the middle with a big door at the side leading to the playground and the other corridors. I’m sure that they didn’t usually let us little guys wander around unattended but for some reason I was by myself on my way to the office. The office was located in the indoor corridor.  I had only been there a couple of times before. I remember the way sounds echoed off the polished linoleum floor and walls painted the same green apple color all government installations were painted in those days. I could hear the biggest clock I had ever seen ticking and tocking. The secretary was situated in a kind of niche in the wall behind an island counter that was too high for me to see over. She or some adult had always been there before. Tick tock. It was kind of spooky. I peeked around the counter to see the secretary sitting at her desk crying. Other in the room beyond were crying too. I don't remember if I said anything. 
She saw me and said “The President has been killed.” 

We got the next day, maybe 2, off of school. At first the adults were interested, concerned, upset. Those black and white clips you see of the funeral procession were the only thing on TV for days. After many hours of this mom pronounced that she had had enough of the riderless horse and eternal flame. The others concurred. The next time the adults; mom, dad, grandma, grandpa and assorted aunts, uncles and cousins all watched the television spectacle in amazement and horror was during the Watts Riots a couple of years later. We had moved to Bakersfield by that time and I was closer to being a sentient being so shared in their emotions to some degree. The things on the TV and the things the adults were saying mixed much more darkly in my child’s imagination than they had when President Kennedy was shot. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Drummer boy

When I was 7 or 8, or however old it is that you can start taking band class, my folks rented a snare drum for me to practice on. My sister sings with an acapella group. I have a cousin that is an incredible jazz singer. Except for these outliers my people are thoroughly white with all the lack of rhythm that implies. So how were the folks to know that you don’t need an actual drum till you have the basics down? In the mid sixties in public school that’s how it worked and for good reason; most kids washed out within a couple of weeks. Fortunately, like I said, they had only rented the drum with a stand that fitted nicely into it’s own suitcase. I washed out too.

I did get to keep the sticks and wedge of rubber they called a practice pad. The thing was and remains today: how the hell do you hit the thing an eighth of a beat? At some point after other attempts to understand how music works and taking classes, I did finally have an understanding of the theory at least. Up on the liney music paper the note’s tones are higher. Left to right is an amount of time. However eight eighth notes in a measure don’t add up to one. Or do they? That was a long time ago. Even when I did know how it was supposed to work, making the transition from paper to instrument just didn’t happen. It always reminds me of the scene in the movie “The Jerk” just before he finds “The music that speaks to him” when he just can’t seem to get the beat.  In my 20s I hung out with musicians. After I tried playing with them a time or two, first harmonica then tambourine, I was always designated “Roadie”. sigh.

I never lost the desire to be in sync, how musicians do, when they are playing ‘in the groove’, or however they say it. In the years I did massage for a living I often played CDs of that dreamy new age music. Sometimes I experimented with tribal rhythms or other exotic forms with remarkable results. I didn’t bore my clients with the spiritual awareness aspect of my work. I always figured that if they were open to it it would happen for them. Lilies of the field and all that. (exchange “cosmic awareness” for clothing) Often, long established clients not otherwise predisposed to it would end the session with a knowing calmness and remark “That was great”. What could be more rewarding? I miss doing that work quite allot. What with overuse injuries to wrists and elbows notwithstanding I do try to keep a hand in but the bulk of it was over 20 years ago.

I had heard about drum circles, read about them, I lived in the middle of “out there” California, but in an island of repression. I never crossed paths with the kind of hippies that did it. Over the last 20 years a strange side effect of atheists coming out of the closet is that many more people are free to chose what/how they believe. You aren’t stuck with what your parents are into. Many are choosing an experiential type of spiritual life over a belief based one. This has fostered the addition of mainstream people into the local spiritual/psychic/trippy stuff community and back out into the mainstream.

My sister, the dear sweet woman that she is, gifted me a doumbek about 15 years ago. She knew. There have been drum circles in the past that I heard about, after the fact. It wasn’t until the last year or two drum circles, or ‘community drumming’ as they call it in marketing speak, have been held several times. I was finally able to go and use the drum she gave me. It has been just what I needed to fill that need to live a communal experience of music. No sheet music is required, you do it by feel.

Friday, July 12, 2013

299 and falling.....and Yes, it is a big fucking deal.

It has taken little over a year to get my weight from 356 down to 297.

That makes it a little over a pound a week on average. Pretty much the prescription for losing weight that you want to keep off. I have been careful not to lose too fast. (not sure careful is the right way to put it. Lucky to lose it but not so fast that my body's hard wired calorie preservation mode was activated. I know people who have used long term calorie restriction and ended up having to run miles a day just to keep the weight off. That's not to say everything I have tried has worked. Most of my schemes are in earlier posts. Here's a recap:

The cookie diet was pretty much a bust. It did do the one thing I really needed it to do plus an extra. Break the ice and get me on the road to finding better plans. 

Low Carb, High Fat, medium protein (AKA Atkins) worked mostly in theory. On the one hand I did lose a few pounds and it lead me to other plans. On the other hand; Who the fuck can eat that much fat everyday? Gee-Zus. 

Gluten free via the book "Wheat Belly" Just cutting out wheat and all the easy calories in pasts, bread and most processed/fast food lost me 30 pounds. Not to mention that stopping gluten has given peace to my bowels they haven't had in decades. I'm still learning to bake gluten free but I don't crave it like I thought I might. So a loaf of bread every couple of weeks.

This lead me to learning about what is generally referred to as the "Paleo Diet". This is the idea that we evolved to eat what we could hunt or gather. Foods like grains and legumes that require cultivation and most processing are foreign (toxic) to our system and should be avoided. The people that follow this concept quickly become self righteous and even more shrill than staunch vegans. Some are also vegans. Some also shun the cooking of food all together. While a certain amount of raw food is a very good thing there is too much solid science against more than a couple of servings a day being of benefit. However many of the "Paleo diet" concepts are more than a morsel to chew on. 

As a side note the book "Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality" also bases a new look at sexuality on paleolithic humans. Many of my preconceived notions are in shambles and I am
still rebuilding what little I know about such things.

The week I spent in hospital for pancreatitis changed lots of things for me. In the weeks that followed my weight did technically get to 293 or something. It quickly went back up to 318 so I don't count that as a win. Like I was saying about slow and steady. 
Got me to thinking. The cure for pancreatitis is fasting. My nutrition diva was talking about the positive effects of short fasts. I had a feeling that that was what I wanted to do. I liked what she had to say on the topic but it lacked a framework I could feel comfortable using. Then . . . 

Eat, Fast & Live Longer HD by limoslight

I ended up getting the audio book that followed up the documentary. It turns out that this too is based on a concept from the way our paleolithic ancestors lived and evolved. They only ate when food was plentiful. Other times not so much. Far from being a bad thing, times of little or no food are when the body does housekeeping. Scientific studies have boiled it down to 600 calories a day (500 for women) taken as 2 small meals. You do this 2 days a week and don't worry about what you are eating the other days. (AKA 5:2) If you do this, what you end up with is fasting for 12 hours twice on those 2 days. 

I have just completed my first 6 weeks today. I was so taken with this idea that I started another blog.* 

I knew that besides losing weight that other improvements would occur. I was as surprised as anyone that the veil of depression that has plagued me all these years has begun to fade away. More and more I am seeing stark reality and am okay with it. Clearer thinking in general and more energy.

At some point I'll go on and on endlessly about this. For now I'd like to share the 5:2 thing with other people. A little group that can share our experiences. It's easy enough to do on your own but some commiseration would be nice too. 

I want to thank you too my gentle readers. Some have offered kind words others have just followed along. I know that it isn't easy to slog through some of my ramblings. It has been a comfort that someone out there has an idea of what I'm up to. 

The plan is to continue as I have been. if the 5:2 fast works as it should I will keep with it forever. Why not? 
If it stops working even with adjustments I'll move on to something else.

As this is my 56th birthday I should reach sub 200 pounds by my 58th birthday if not before. If that surgery where they cut off the excess skin is required, time to figure out financing for that will be needed. 
199 here I come,
Full steam ahead!
*I didn't want the whiney personal journal tone of this blog to flavor that one. I wanted to try Tumblr too. It turned out fairly up beat. Tumblr is okay and has a couple of significant advantages but I prefer the way blogger works. I'm used to it and it offers more control of text. I have no easy way to know if anyone is reading the Tumblr. I have only 1 follower. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Life is like . .

Life is/or some parts are, like always being on a scouting trip to find a place for an archaeological dig.

On Wednesday June 5th I posted the below indented paragraphs as a comment to a posting of my own I had made on facebook. That original posting has so far gotten over 31 comments of sympathy and some of sympathetic outrage. I’m sure that if I looked I could easily find numerous quotes about how times of distress are when you learn the most about yourself. 

Words are the tool I use to process and draw in all the disparate factors that all too often cloud my mind. Words are symbols that represent specific patterns of mental images or concepts, those in turn are an interpretation of sensory input and/or clusters or cogitations of the aforementioned images or concepts. Ironically words by their very nature are removed by 3, 4 or more steps from what they represent. When deep emotions and/or the reptilian part of the brain, that evolved before mental images or concepts, are engaged in a real life; words become theoretical at best. 

In the last day or so puzzle pieces have slipped into place. 
I deeply loved doing massage for my living. After 10 years I had to give it up. Partly because my wrists and elbows were generating a great deal of pain from overuse. I was also burned out. I went to see a counselor, an MFCC. I told her about the many ways doing the work gave me joy. The part of her advice that sticks with me is “The price of being a sensitive person is; being a sensitive person”. That was 20 years ago, I understood what she meant. I tried to tell myself that it only applied to a situation like massage where I made a conscience effort to open up empathetically with all of my senses and emotions to hundreds of people on demand. 
Come to think of it after a year of working for a local ambulance company (1977) as a non-emergency driver when I was 19 I tend to think I went away with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I only rode with the red lights flashing once. That's where I encountered my first dead guy. My job was taking people to medical appointments. It was the personal contact with people in serious long term distress of many kinds that I was unprepared for. My parents weren't helicopter parents by any means. They owned a fast food place and spent what time they could with us. I was still what can be described as a suburban kid raised in blissful isolation from the real world. Just as so many are today. The ambulance job was my first step into the real world.

After growing up and into middle age before knowing I really am differently wired with what is simplistically labeled ADHD. After 30 years of sporadic sometimes extended lack of REM from sleep apnea. Not to mention the mind bending side effects of statins and the things I used for relief from the mental noise like weed and booze. Then there were the 5000+ massages I gave, doors open. Whatever barriers I had originally or have pretended to have in more recent years are a myth. Life experiences give me the capacity for metal toughness in the form of what might be described as street smarts. My work these days while 97% low key have 'underbelly of society' moments that keep me sharp. In the end however I am a sensitive person and need to respect myself accordingly.
I never know what to think about this kind of electronic bulletin board kind gestures. Your kind words and thoughts have been a comfort. Thank You.
I got home at around 5 or 5:30 AM and as usual was soon asleep. The last few days had been stressful. 
The back door of my house is in a very small laundry room where the dogs sleep. There's a gate to keep them in there with a doggie door to the back yard. I think I heard one of them banging against the gate but I was asleep and didn't respond. Then Lit'll is by my bedside in a panic. She's 8 lbs of Chihuahua desperate to get my attention. I went to reach down to pick her up wondering how she got into the house. I live on a busy street and am used to weird noises. I heard something weird but it was coming from the back yard. I sprung up and went to the back door to see two big dogs. I stepped over the dog gate to see them shaking Wookie around in their teeth. Most of her was under them and I could only see a leg with her long red fur. I grabbed the closest thing to hand, a broom, and burst outside. The big dogs weren't angry they were just destroying a new toy like they might any other. I run to them yelling and swinging the broom. They trotted off up the retaining wall at the back of the lot and went behind the garage. One turned back briefly as if to say "Dude what's going on? Why are you being like this?" I yelled again and he left. I turned back to Wookie, who had limped into the laundry room and collapsed onto her favorite rug. She was breathing heavily and her abdomen was all bloody. I stroked her head spoke to her gently and went to pull on some clothes. My mind was racing. What the hell time was it? 8:35. Lit'll was leaping and whimpering at my side. Is the vet open? What is her damage? Will she make it? I was still too much asleep for all of this. Strange how in a crisis your emotions are all there but stand back, out of the way. I went back to the laundry room. Wookie was dead. I nudged her. She was not breathing, her black eyes frozen. I called the SPCA where I got her but they don't open till 9:30. No clues on their web site as to disposing of dead animals. I called the County animal shelter. The lady said it's okay to bury a pet in your yard away from water. I thought 'and have those dogs come back and dig her up?' She then said the shelter would take care of it for $10. They don't open till 2 PM on Wednesdays. The back 5 yards of my back yard behind the retaining wall is a dense jungle and on a steep grade. I don't actually climb up into it often but I needed to know where they got in. Will Lit'll be safe? The fences back there look intact but perhaps low enough for a big dog to jump over. Then I saw them, still in the yard of the vacant house next door. I backed down the hill and went around to the other yard. They were gone.  One is all white and is a pit bull I think. Both about 70 lbs each, the other one is has a similar build but is a different breed, white with brown patches. I think they live around the corner on North Baker not directly behind my house but one north, I think. I saw the all white one going to an event at NX cafe that is 2 doors down from there. I still needed sleep and can't do anything with Wookie till 2. I needed to tell someone so sat at the computer and posted it on facebook. Did a search fo a picture for my profile that reflected what I felt like. So tired I laid down with Lit'll glued to my side.Tried TV but couldn't focus on it. Rolled onto my side tried to relax and got close to sleep when there's a loud knock at the door. When Jehovah's Witnesses come to the door I usually let them say what they need to say then say no thank you and close the door. Today I didn't yell or curse but vented a great deal of anxiety and slammed the door. Turns out those guys do serve a purpose after all. The events above on repeat in my head I thought if I type it all out it will let me sleep. One moral to this story that really hurts is that Lit'll survived because she is ah-scared of everything. I didn't have to see it to know what happened. The minute Lit'll saw the intruders she gave a bark as she sped like a bullet for the house digging frantically at the gate to get to me. Wookie was the sweet friendly dog that wanted to make friends with everybody. That's why a couple of weeks ago when she got out a stranger lady had no trouble picking her up and taking her home. -Not liking what this implies. Maybe I can sleep now. But the shelter place opens in 75 minutes. I'll try to sleep anyway It's not like she going anyplace.
I kept wanting to say it was all so surreal. What with the stress and sleep deprivation it sure seemed that way. I demanded of myself to accept that is was real. Surreal is a type of art. The whole rest of the day I felt stunned. I loved the little dog but ‘Christ’ she was just a dog. The pain in my heart was a real pain. 

The trip to the shelter did get surreal at the end. She was in the back hatch cargo space of my

car. After I paid the office people I was directed to pull around to the side of the facility. Over the public address system came “We have a D as in David at the side entrance”. I am not a fan of euphemisms and detest political correctness but this might have been a good spot for it. Eventually a man over 40 that looked like a dust bowl refugee that had been transported into a modern day jumpsuit found the latch and opened the car’s back hatch. He hesitated then picked up her stiff carcass by the neck and walked off with her like that. 
Here is a link to an earlier post all about how I got Wookie.
Since Wednesday anytime I am at home Lit’ll is either in physical contact with me or at least where she can see me. I love this little one too but remember why I wanted a companion for her. The hunt is on. Serendipity having her way with me again I was invited to a fundraising event for the Friends of the Kern County Animal Shelter Foundation tonight. 
Also in this week's revelations was that I really am a pacifist at heart. While the reptile part of my brain went wild with thoughts of revenge I was not really feeling it in my heart. Those stupid dogs were just stupid dogs. Their stupid owner caused me pain, the cost of a new dog and all that. I may seek him out and will investigate further how they got into my yard. (In the 12 years I have been here this is the first time anything like this has happened. When people lived next door they had dogs. A couple that were big. They never got into my yard.) Intuition tells me harmony will resume one way or another.

Update June 11th - Today Lit'll woke me up at about 6:30, she heard something. I went to the back door and they were back. They took off immediately so I followed them to the empty house next door. After taking this picture I saw them again on the street and in my backyard. Thinking that it is a good thing no small children live at that house now. I emailed this photo and a description of the events and noting the lack of collars to County animal control. Animal control sent back an email to tell me "I have entered a call for my officer to go out." I hope that means something will be done. Lit'll need a new playmate her size.

Behind 3000 River Bl.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Idiopathic Pancreatitis

I actually started this post before the post below but never did come to any conclusions about what the heck caused my acute pancreatitis and if what a was feeling after my hospital stay was chronic pancreatitis. As I quote below acute pancreatitis is the most common thing people are admitted to hospitals for yet beyond the 2 most common causes for acute flare ups (alcohol and/or gallstones) the root causes can include any of 100 or more medications or substances. Or as I suspect in my case some of those and pressure on my abdomen from using a machine at the gym. As a fallible human when I started feeling more normal and didn't find much in the way of answers I lost interest in the topic. For now at least. If you like sciencey stuff or have an interest in what happen to me continue reading. Otherwise it's kinda dry stuff. 

I had done some searches but this last painful interlude really put me into overdrive. At the bottom of this post you'll see many links to some of the places I've looked for answers.

Besides making insulin your pancreas makes all of your various digestive juices. It contains many specialized cells that make various enzymes. Pancreatitis comes in 2 basic forms acute (painful inflammation) and chronic. Each of these has variations based on what has caused the condition. What put me in the hospital was the acute form. The chronic form is more of a dysfunction that make your body unable to digest food. These two problems are really quite different so I am not sure why they don't have names that are different. Must be a Latin thing. 

As you know, if you've used the internet for more than facebook, porn and eMail, the quality of information varies from cutting edge to harmfully dreadfully inaccurate.  

Abstracts of university studies like the ones I found through the National Institutes of Health are a solid source. Each one only tells a tiny portion of the story since they are based on usually a single hypophysis. These kind of studies are constantly challenged and slight changes in the structure of the studies that follow can get very different results. This is why the version of what is true in the practice of medicine is slow to change. They need to wait for results to filter down to some consistency. This is also a problem because the process of challenges continues after standards are established. Better ideas can come and go unnoticed depending on timing and industry politics. This is one reason I will always remain a skeptic of the healthcare industry. 

Established medical organizations and institutions also have websites. These can be trusted to give a version of the accepted knowledge on many topics. This is where my information gathering began to go off the rails. Each site has it's own take on what goes on. This video has the most 'to the point' explanation of the pancreas and pancreatitis.

Even this however is not consistent with other sources that are just as credible. 

After looking at a hundred web pages or so I found that there are a number of possible causes. 

"Acute pancreatitis occurs when intracellular protective mechanisms to prevent trypsinogen activation or reduce trypsin activity are overwhelmed."

"Its etiology and pathogenesis have been intensively investigated for centuries worldwide. In 1856, Claude Bernard suggested that bile reflux into the common pancreatic duct could trigger acute pancreatitis. Several subsequent studies led to theories fuelling the debate until 1901, when Eugene Opie proposed that gallstone migration into the common bile duct is the main cause of acute pancreatitis."

" . . acute biliary pancreatitis is bile-pancreatic duct obstruction, which increases pancreatic duct pressure, bile reflux, trypsin activation and pancreatic auto-digestion."

"In 10%-40% of patients however, no cause is identified (acute idiopathic pancreatitis). Identifying a cause in these patients is important, since the recurrence rate is high."

cholelithiasis (gallstones)
prolonged alcohol use
Idiopathic acute pancreatitis (it could be a lot of things.)
Microlithiasis (sludge)
infection (including mumps, hepatitis, rubella, and Epstein-Barr virus)
surgery that temporarily cuts off blood supply to the pancreas
injury to the abdomen
cystic fibrosis
cigarette smoking
family history of pancreatitis
Occult gallstones (This is when you have gallstones that hold séances)
Use of certain medications (such as corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and antibiotics such as tetracycline)

"The reported annual incidence of acute pancreatitis has ranged from 4.9 to 35 per 100,000 population. Acute pancreatitis is a leading cause of hospitalization in the United States." 

" The true nature of acute pancreatitis still remains to be elucidated. The causes of acute pancreatitis are various, and its mechanism is common." 

"Accurate assessment of disease incidence is difficult since mild disease may be missed. Similarly, death may occur before the diagnosis is made in severe and fulminant attacks. In one report, for example, the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis was not made until autopsy in 10 percent of patients."

A few days ago I mentioned that I had pancreatitis to some one who said 'oh yes my Mom had that, they said it was because she had too much irion." Oh geez I had done all these searches and hadn't run across that before. I did a search and found this
The major cause of chronic pancreatitis is alcohol abuse (in 90 percent of all cases). In the other 10 percent of all cases, chronic pancreatitis is a result of hemochromatosis (excess iron in the body) or heredity.
Yikes, every source indicates that a main cause is excess use of alcohol. (except the ones that don't mention it at all) Some say 60% some say 40% some have a different number. Few define just what amount of alcohol is excessive. Over a period of years is somewhat consistent. 

Then I proceeded to look up every drug or supplement that I have taken. Most are already on this list. I and a growing number of people have taken a dislike for the cholesterol lowering drugs called Statins*. In some cases you have to resort to looking things up by their class name. *HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors are on the list. Most of the things I take have been linked to pancreatitis in some way. None have a clear cut track record of being a consistent cause. I was suspicious of the Metformin I take for diabetes. Since it has something to do with insulin sensitivity. Turns out it does it's job through the liver and most of it's side effects are good.  

After all the web searching I don't have any firm answers. Even though my drinking has been mostly light and very sporadic (once or twice a month) the last dozen years I haven't ruled it out as a cause. The 25 years before had runs where I'd drink to excess 2 or 3 nights a week. I've never been any good at drinking by myself but during the holiday season with all it's social events, whew! 

Still what has triggered my attacks has yet to be established. The big one may have been Rye whiskey but this last one and the one last summer couldn't have been.

Did he say drain the stomach via a tube down the nose?

Comprehensive explanation of pancreatitis

Merck has created The Merck Manuals, a series of healthcare books for medical professionals and consumers. 

Ongoing studies

Drugs and drug classes associated with acute pancreatitis

Metformin effect on pancreatitis correlation is not causation.

The risk of acute pancreatitis associated with acid-suppressing drugs

However they pre blocked persons with other conditions that may be related.

Long-term use of novo-ranitidine may cause inflammation of the pancreas and the liver.
Read more:

Can Statins Cause Pancreatitis?

Drug Induced Pancreatitis Might Be a Class Effect of Statin Drugs

Add'l links

More trash talk about statins

Toxicity of Indomethacin 

And some good in prevention following a procedure

Plant poisons like cyanide also can cause pancreatitis

Cures, treatments and special Diets

Aloe vera juice

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pancreatitis chapter 2

Time for an update. I know I said I was ramping down the whiny blog posts, but damnit all, this thing just came at me from the blue. Rather than go on and on to live people, those interested in my latest quest for medical contentment can read this at their leisure. I have found that like journaling, typing out my thoughts here is very helpful in putting the pieces together.

After I got out of the hospital I found that I just didn't want to eat. I would get pangs of hunger but nothing sounded appetizing. I got by with nibbles a few times a day. I made gluten free mac n cheese and other comfort food. That went down fine. After a week I went to a salad bar and had a decent meal for lunch. It was 4 weeks till I had several days of having a normal, for me, appetite for at least one meal. Overall though you could say that I am still "off my feed". Ironically since I am back to cooking all my own meals, small and infrequent as they are, I have run the dishwasher more than I have for years. I was getting tired of restaurants and prepared packaged food anyway.

A week after I left the hospital I had an appointment with one of the Drs as a follow up. This was yet another intern or resident or . . . I never have caught on to the labeling. Student Dr lets say. They should issue flowcharts. As soon as she entered the exam room she asked how I was doing with the AA meetings. "What, what are you talking about?" "Your primary care Dr has on your chart for you to go for Alcohol rehab meetings." As you know from the last post I was worried that this might happen. I protested and even though I had never seen her before in my life she argued with me because of what was in the chart. The more I protested the more I could tell that I was in one of those vicious circle things where no matter what I said it would be interpreted in such a way that they can say later "Oh yeah he's an alchy"

I had been having an attack of gout (often linked to drinking also BTW). I asked her for a refill of my prescription of colchicine. Colchicine in one form or another has been used for gout for 1200 years. I have been taking this stuff for 30 years. The old bottle said take one then one in a hour then one.  It can take several days for a flare up to subside. She wrote the Rx for 3 pills. I have never gotten less than 30 pills that often last for a year. WTF? Are alchies know for taking too many colchicine pills? These are not pills you feel in any overt way. 

Besides the involuntary anorexia my whole abdomen remains tender. Hoping it isn't my imagination I feel a number of familiar and some strange sensations in that area as well. None of them pleasant, only occasionally harsh. I know something is still not right but I have been hoping it's just a matter of recovering from the hospital stay. It was 3 weeks before I felt I could try the gym again. I did the easiest workout possible and felt kind of good when I left. By the time I got home I began to have a deep feeling of fatigue and slept for hours. This was not the usual after a first workout tiredness. I haven't been back yet. I still feel weak and it's been 7 weeks so far.

I guess I had been home for 5 or 6 weeks when my regular Drs appointment came up with my primary care Dr. Most people see the Dr once or twice a year. I see him every 3 or 4 months to check my diabetes and other blood tests. I went in a few days early to get the labs done but there was no record of him ordering labs. I left him a note asking why. He called me the next day to tell me since they took so much blood it the hospital that those tests would do. Since I was feeling not so well I did not like this idea.
When got to the clinic just a few blocks from my house I was met by a lady from my psychiatrist's office. He's the one that prescribes Adderall for ADHD. She was there to coordinate my primary Dr in writing those Rx's since I have been using Adderall for 5 years or so and am stable. After a brief visit to the parking lot for a fire drill (or bomb threat or they never told us what) she, another coordinator and me were packed eyeball to eyeball in a tiny exam room to wait for several awkward moments. Dr finally arrived with a student of his own in tow. Being the patient I sat on the exam table while they stood and talked. He balked at their request but wrote the prescription.

My primary care student Dr is an interesting character. Asian american, mid twenties perhaps, one of those hyper know it all kind of guys so he could be younger. A classic nerd that seems unaware that all the information in his head has yet to filter down to being wisdom. He has some self confidence issues over this and tends to overcompensate.  As we waited in the parking lot earlier for the fire drill I saw him in the distance with the stereotype posture of an elder asian. Wide stance, belly sticking way out, thumbs stuck in his belt loops. He seemed to be pontificating. 

After the interdepartmental coordination ladies left I asked him about the pains and concerns I had about my eating and fatigue. He dismissed them out of hand. Drs, I have observed, will often tell you what you are feeling is nothing; to either weed out whiners or as a kind of placebo to get you over what will pass anyway. However since I made such a point of shooting down his alcoholism theory he should have addressed it in some direct way. The student he had with him was a nice looking blond woman; he was in full pride & posture mode. I picture the earlier student Dr's report starting either an embarrassment for my Dr or a consensus that "well since he is in denial about being an alcoholic, fuck him" or words to the effect. It could just have to do with the Drs being overworked. Whatever the case I was not at all satisfied. The lack of resolution to this pancreatitis thing is frightening. 

The rest of the exam went as usual. Including the obligatory dramatic announcement that I need to lose weight. I asked him what I weighed when leaving the hospital then what I weighed that day. I had lost 20 pounds but he dismissed this also. "You need to lose more" I know that, Fuck him. I have been dieting and reading about dieting for over 40 years. Slow is the best way to lose weight. Before dismissing me he stopped and listened to my heart like they do. He then asked the student to listen. He asked her what she heard? They settled on skipping every 3rd beat. Fuck me. 
I am to get new labs, an EKG and be back June 3rd. 
It could have more to do with the Rx for Adderall than what he heard, but we'll see. 
This week I reapplied for the KMC health plan, fingers crossed that I get it again.

Meanwhile back at the homestead I am spending even more time by myself. The guys I play darts with haven't played since the night I went to the hospital. My other usual companions have been unavailable. My sister came for visit last week. I couldn't stop talking. For the most part I am used to this, it's been my way of life since I can remember.  Something is different about this latest medical misadventure, the need for the life affirming closeness of a woman has never seemed so necessary or so far away. Skanky, hyper neurotic, profane or otherwise undesirable women are circling like vultures. They smell blood in the water. I am Physically and financially compromised, my house always in a maintenance deficit. Even taking this into consideration I am better looking than most guys my age/size. I am also clever, funny and have all those massage skills going to waste. I should be able to do better. 

I have been spending most days flat on my back or napping. Fatigue settling in as soon as I try to do something. At least whatever the problem is with the pain in my glutes it hasn't gotten worse with all the rest.  

I like this picture of the pancreas because it
 looks like an erect penis lounging under an umbrella.
As I said I have tenderness even a bit of pain in the area of my abdomin. Other odd feelings too. I was getting back to feeling kind of normal when the pain of pancreatitis started coming back on May 2nd. 

The feeling like a tennis ball forcing it's way out just below my sternum. It was painful to lie down.  Sitting was not bad. Walking jostled things too much. I looked it up and found that many people find that leaning almost upright was most tolerable so I tried it and got some sleep. I was able to do my job. Sitting behind the wheel didn't make things worse. It was painful but didn't feel like it was getting worse. I didn't want to go to the hospital. I did what I could to repeat what they did in the hospital. No food (no appetite so that part was easy) and very little liquid. Stopped all my meds. No morphine unfortunately. It was tolerable by the 3rd day. Perhaps a coincidence but I had an episode of explosive and messy bowl movement, like had been quite often when I still ate wheat. After cleaning up I began to feel more normal. It's been a week, I had a big lunch and feel fine. Well, . . fine-ish.

Epilog May 22 2013 - Minor update not enough to warrant a whole post. 
I was nervous about filing the application to renew my County Medical plan. Last year I only had work for the last 5 months so looking poor was in the bag so to speak. This year I did the self employed newspaper distributor thing for the whole year. What with the newspaper losing popularity all the time and the cost of gas bringing my daily transportation cost alone up to between $40 and $50 a day a definitely qualify as a person in need. I got a new card and letter telling me I am covered through May of 2014. Which is good in two ways. Not only are my medical expenses covered but I will have coverage when the Affordable Care Act kicks in next year. I foresee paperwork nightmares for many people for the first few years of that at least. 
Otherwise The mystery pain like the pancreatitis hasn't been back but I still feel tired and weak most days. Could be that the heart trouble is worse than I know or just that with all that has happened recently the sleep apnea is making trouble. Or I just don't know and need to focus on what's going right till there's something I can do about it. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Welcome back my friends,
to the show that never ends . . .

It’s been 40 years since the song that starts off that way was first released. I was always a big fan of Emerson, Lake and Palmer

 This time it seems an appropriate lead for the latest installment of me logging in about my medical woes. This one should be a Duesy. Except the part about the Duesenberg being the finest money could buy at the time. The latest adventure was not the finest money could buy.

 If you have been following along you know that over the last 10 years or so I have ferreted out many sources of my dysphoria. Finding that the prescriptions for statin type drugs that started about 15 years ago were responsible for the deterioration of my muscles and also short circuits in my brain were key. Before that I had to quit cold turkey the cocktail of wellbutrin for depression and nortriptyline (a tranquilizer) I was given for the neuropathy in my feet. Between the two I don't think I had a thought in my head for about 2 years. More recently, finding out about the effect GURD has had on me was like a kind of revolution. ‘Oh you mean being tired and grouchy especially after meals is not normal?’ Removing wheat from my diet all but ended a decades old battle with bloating and diarrhea. 

 Most recently, I was in a place where I could see an end to living by the limitations of my impaired constitution. 

  •  I was dealing inch by inch with the daily ordeal of sleeping the whole night with my biPAP mask on. This provides REM sleep and oxygen. Both are required for life on our planet. This is not without it’s humorous elements. Since it all happens (or doesn't happen) when I am asleep my first indication of successful sleep is often morning wood. Other indications are a feeling of having a reason to get up at all, energy, confidence, strength, focus; just to name a few. 

  • I was having more and more days of energy and a feeling of well being. I had plans for the future. After years of neglect I was doing house work. The kitchen was more organized that it had been in years. A quarter of the living room was clean and the floor waxed. I had picked out new tile to finally finish refereeing the bathroom. The project that I never did finished 10 years ago had grown from just installing a shower to needing a new toilet, sink and faucets. I bought the replacement faucets a year ago when the 65 year old cold faucet froze up and died. The design was so old that even the rare and antique plumbing fixture web site hadn’t a clue. The new ones will be fun. 

  • One trouble that seems intractable is the thing of my experiencing pain when sitting for more that a few minutes. Very expensive seat cushions allow me to do my behind-the-wheel job. I have a flat on my back keyboard set up so I can type this without the distraction of pain. I went to Physical Therapy but this particular thing is not on their list of things they know about. I started going to the gym again. Since this started the same time as my other muscle problems I hypothesized that my glutes had also been damaged by the stains and the weight of my 300+ pounds was not letting enough circulation repair the damage. I was taking it very slowly but adding a little more weight and repetitions to the glute exercises. It seemed to be doing some good. 

  • I don’t want to sound too hopeful but even my long standing record of self sabotage at ever having a real relationship may be at an end. Or at least I know where I am starting from and can proceed.

  • If you have bothered to listen to my first podcasts you will have noticed how they are so lame that they are barely listenable. The point was for me to learn and I did. New approaches and even a way or two to monetize were in the making. (see most recent previous post)

What Happened?

For at least a dozen years my interest in booze and marijuana has been on a steep decline. I loves me some marijuana. I don’t know if it’s me or the way they grow it these days. The wonderful old euphoria slips away in a few minutes. Usually followed by hours of headache and disorganized thoughts. Similarly the warm loose feeling of drinking liquor, if it comes at all, is accompanied by a kind of nausea and general feeling of being ill. Liquor was always my 2nd drug of choice so letting it go was no big deal. 

 Still, as I said above, I had been feeling unusually well. With the annual St. Patrick’s day at Garry and Debby’s planned for the Saturday before St.Pat’s a bottle of Rye whiskey seemed to be just the thing. I brought it chilled and proceeded to pull it out of the freezer at intervals to share a pull with all of my longtime friends. After about 5 hours of lawn games (horseshoes, bocce etc.) too much corned beef and cabbage and a goodly amount of Rye I was very sleepy. Refreshed, a few hours later I was off to deliver the Sunday paper.

I felt a bit weird the next day or 2. There was nothing unusual about me feeling unusual. 

 On Thursday I was back at Garry’s house to play darts with the guys. The last few months have been spotty but for over 20 years we have played in some form of a garage nearly every week. Counselors always praise me for having a group of friends at my age. The taunting and teasing among grown men is quite usual. I have always thought it curious and not really in my nature. Reminds me if being teased by bullies as a kid. On the the hand It keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously. I have learned to play along after a fashion. Sometimes I even have some fun at the expense of the unwritten rules. 

 At about a hour in I began to have what felt like a softball just under my sternum trying to get out. The softball got harder and began to grow. After my turn to throw I went outside at first to just get some air. “Maybe if I throw up some of the pressure will leave” I thought. I tryed but it didn’t work. By this time I was bathed in sweat even though it was in the 50s outside. If you are not on the line for your turn to throw the routine is to be as quiet about it as possible so you will be skipped and lose your turn. After I missed a couple of turns Rob broke the dickishness rule and went looking for me. 

 By this time the pain had driven all but my most basic thoughts away. I asked if he could take me to the hospital. I could over hear someone suggest an ambulance if I wanted to be seen first. An ambulance costs too much. “Well maybe just order a hearse and skip the middleman” Smart ass.

 I was racked with pain and probably in shock but noticed how my one by one thoughts were direct and to the point. When we pulled up to the hospital I carefully put my money, cards and keys in Rob’s hand. This was not my first visit to Kern Medical Center. I asked him to get a wheelchair from inside. It was an odd device, designed to be easily hosed down and not worth stealing. Once inside I was on the verge of passing out, my memories fade in and out as well. I went through some intake questions, the first of dozens. Once I told them I was on the Kern Medical Center Health plan that was the first and last time how I was to pay for this was mentioned. (I can still get something in the mail but doubt it). Since this is the second time the fine people of Kern county have saved my life this way. I have nothing but curse words for the people who reject universal health care for all Americans. 

 They were perplexed at first until I told them about drinking 8 shots of Rye Whiskey the Saturday before. For a real drinker like I had been once upon a time 8 shots would have been just a normal big night of drinking. These days with so many foreign born Drs and Drs who do drink having to keep it on the downlow 8 drinks is now a binge. Did they assume I have shame about drinking and figured that I underestimated.? Who knows?  This lead them to take some tests, ultrasound and some kind of full chest scan. They took blood of course. 

 “You have Pancreatitis Mr Parks” The treatment is dehydration. No food or water till the inflammation goes away. They started an IV of .09% glucose to keep me functional and a shot of morphine every 4 hours to manage the pain. My brain was still in survival mode even after the morphine. At no point in this whole experience was I afraid. Fear is something I save for irrational moments. I was assured by the simplicity and directness of the treatment. Since they didn’t even try a less provocative pain med I figured it must be serious. On the other hand after 150 years morphine must be out of patent and cheap.After I don’t know how many hours Rob and Teri had gone home. I love those guys so much. 

We all remember this lovely scene from the movie "Alien" 
Just like when I was at KMC in 2001 beds were scarce. Finally after long hours on the unpadded gurney the actual hospital bed felt like heaven. Just like when I was at KMC in 2001 I was placed in the same room on the 3rd floor. This part of the hospital is only opened when overflow is needed. It was a room big enough for 4 beds but there were only 2. Just like in 2001. 

 The first 2 days were pretty much a blur. Every 4 hours they would add the pain med to my IV and I’d drift off for an hour. The next couple of hours were kind of okay but the painful swelling in my abdomen would become progressively more uncomfortable. The last hour was a miserable time of never finding a comfortable way to lay there. Slowly, over days, the swelling went down some and the pain went from 10 to 7 then 6. 

 Then I began to be aware of my surroundings. The other person in the room was a filipino guy recovering from a broken ankle. I think. Most of the time he had the tethered TV/nursecall/speaker thing turned all the way up. Sports mostly. It may have been my lack of interaction taken as a snub or it may have been the guy down the hall bursting out in very loud moaning every 15 minutes all night long that motivated him to move to a quieter floor. I don’t remember much but my first day or so, I was mostly moaning. Though I don’t think quite as loud.

His bed sat empty for almost a whole day. Next was a biker looking guy with troubles that put mine in perspective. He was looking for a diagnosis to confirm bone cancer. Both of his arms held so much pain he slept sitting up with them extended straight out. His pain meds were very much stronger than mine. 

 This is about the time it really came home that this end of the hospital was just for the charity cases like myself. Housekeeping came in twice a day like clockwork to change the trash bags. Twice the floor was swept/mopped and three times I was called by housekeeping to find out if my room was clean. During my whole 5 days there, my sheets were never changed. Blood stains from the IV and all. Due to my swollen abdomen I didn’t wear a gown. I sat in the pants I came in, the whole time.  

 The staff was not their top notch people either. At nights I think I had 3 different asian nurses all of similar description. They didn’t display enough in the way of personality to tell them apart. I’d see them when the IV ran out, it was time to test my blood sugar or knock me out again. 3 days the nurse was a man about my age with an accent. One other (spanish speaking) male nurse called him German. Everyone else referred to him with the spanish pronunciation.  Over time it became harder and harder to find a nurse when the IV ran out. That damned thing beeping in my ear till I hit the stop button myself. (this only stopped it for 5 minutes) Once it took and hour just to find the nurse and another hour before he installed a new bag of sugar water. He nearly had to redo the IV just to get it working again. 

Even though the pain was less overall after about 3 hours I would start to get uncomfortable. It got harder and harder to get a new injection on time. The noise of the place got overwhelming. 

 I know I didn’t pay for anything better but at what point is cost cutting a deterrent to care? I said that the bed was like heaven compared to the gurney. Considering my condition, the 3 inch foam mattress on the hospital bed was not soft enough to allow me to sleep even briefly on my side. No sleep except drug induced must have slowed my progress. I didn’t have my biPAP machine and so no chance of REM sleep. This was not addressed except to remind me to keep the oxygen thingy in my nose. Shortness of breath was also a symptom. 

 I wasn’t able to focus on the Television till the 3rd day. Just like the rest of us I am spoiled to what I am used to at home. In my case I don’t afford cable TV but watch all I care to over the internet on Hulu and other places. All random access and with few commercials. At KMC they have this ancient technology of a single thingy at the end of a tether containing a speaker, volume control, call button and 1 button marked TV. Not even a clip or anyway to pin it near your ear. The one button turns the ceiling mounted CRT TV on and each press pushes it ahead one station. There is no real way to know what is on each station until you stop for minutes on each one till the commercials are over and the program resumes. The channel numbers went to 99 with over half blank or shopping.  I gave up broadcast TV 4 years ago all those commercials were a shock to my system. Next the lack of something playing that was not an insult to all I hold dear was another shock. Oh-my-god no wonder people are so ill informed and lacking in cooth. They let this inane crap pour over themselves day in and day out. At one point I thought “Cool Bugs Bunny, some old time simple humor” my roomie agreed and was on the same channel. Bugs & Daffy were talking about lattes and blowing off appointments. Some hipster asshole Tv producers ruined Bugs and Daffy. It made me sick.  I did find a few things that were okay diversions. Lacking my trusty iPod filled with audiobooks and podcasts I mostly tried to sleep. 

 The goal was to test my blood for amylase or lipase each day looking for a level below 200. (I don’t know what units). When I was admitted it was over 5000. Finally on Tuesday evening it went below 200, I was told I could try to eat dinner. If I kept it and breakfast down I could go home. Eating wasn’t easy. Everything tasted like crap but I ate it. 

Wednesday morning I had a new nurse a pretty Jamaican lady.  She was charming and friendly to my roommate but cold and officious to me. Mr German had been friendly enough when I could find him. All the others not so much. All I could figure was that since my problem was alcohol induced the mindset that sympathy is wasted is still an accepted practice. I have also encountered in my travels prejudice against white males. In this instance; since I am not minority, woman, or child I should not deserve public assistance.

 Once I literally got my walking papers I proceed downstairs to wait for my pal Teri to drive me home. Maybe it’s an old procedure but I though they insisted on wheeling you to the door. It may have been my imagination but black Jamaican nurse made the offer to be wheeled out with a tinge of disgust in her voice. It’s not like she would do it herself, they have a transportation dept for that. I only mention it because I was very weak and once I did make it to the ground floor standing to wait was difficult. 

 Recovery is slow. They say for each day you are in the hospital it takes a week at home to really recover. 

The minute I got home I went to sleep on my side and didn’t wake up till after dark. I didn’t go back to work that night. I mostly slept on my other side. Then my back etc.
I have been home for a week now and still nothing sounds good to eat. One day I went to Marie Callender's for the salad bar. It was good and I felt better for having eaten. Other times have not gone so well. Even deep hunger pangs result in “Yeah, but nothing sounds good to eat”. I feel physically weak and lightheaded much of the time. Each day brings a little improvement. I guess I’m just being impatient to get back to where I was. 

 After reading the wiki page I linked to and several others I find the risk to my insulin production concerning. The pancreas produces all manner of digestive juices that are at risk. Is this related to why I’m hungry but nothing sounds good to eat?

After thinking about it, the pain I had in the hospital was not that different from the pain I described last July when I started the Cookie Diet. No alcohol that time. While the pain and severe inflammation are new, many of the other associated experiences I have felt off and on for a long time. There is a whole shopping list of possible causes for this condition. 
Alcohol by itself is the most common suspect. It is also, but not necessarily, the trigger for a giant inflammation like it was with me. Gallstones is the next most common cause. I have never had gall stones to my knowledge but I am in the high risk group for it. My days of hard drinking began to slow dramatically after an unfortunate New Years Eve i Hollywood 20 Years ago. Tricking down to almost nothing the last decade or so, as I have said. Working my way down the list of possible causes I found my old tormentor. Statin. 

  It is going to take time to understand this new problem. I have a follow up visit with the Dr on Friday then my regular appt with him at the end of the month. Maybe he and the other Dr will have a working theory. Gallstones being the most likely cause if that should not be the cause and pancreatic cancer is ruled out. Until I have evidence of a strong case otherwise I will assume this is just another way my life and body have been damaged by Stains. I found many web pages with information like this and this. If studies are thin on this topic here is a site I have referred to before

 Anyway I am weak and disgusted/discouraged at this setback. Hoping it is only a set back. Work is something that has become so routine I gave it little thought. Now it seems to take forever to get to the end of my route. My butt starts hurting an hour before I get home. I had that tamed at least at work times. Just for fun yesterday I started getting an attack of gout in my left knee. By the time i got home the pain was . . i just hope the meds for that are not the cause of Pancreatitis. 

 This has been going on for so long I don’t really let it get to me. Displays of anger are like a cough that throws off the worst of it. All my study of Buddhist philosophy and Taoist texts have given me perspective. My own unique relationship with that which is beyond words and forms has grown strong over the decades if enigmatic. 

For now, muddling through my days looking for the good side of my moments. Hugging my pups is always good therapy. Looking forward to finishing the house cleaning and tiling the bathroom. Heck then I might even be ready to have company over.