Monday, April 27, 2015

Memory; so very complex

A dinner conversation about my glasses. It seems as if they are always smudged. Then, a comment about how my glasses were always covered with dark flecks back back in the days when I was working with my tools. Then I remembered; most of the dark flecks were from the cheap paint on the  3/4" cold rolled channel we used for ceiling construction. The other spots were more permanent; sparks of hot metal burned into the glass when I was welding and didn't get my hood down in time as the arc began to flare. I remembered the cost of new glasses when the spots became too numerous and vision was impaired.

Only a minute had passed since I had commented on the smudges on my glasses. In that small amount of time I had gone back in time to the late 70's and the 80's. And had placed myself on a scaffold, 40 feet above the ground during a cold winter day.

It's all part of growing old. A comment or the sight of something vaguely familiar will trigger the most intense memories. Sometimes I will see a face in the crowd that closely resembles someone I knew 40 years ago. can't be. They haven't aged at all? A few times I stopped myself, just in time, from walking up to them and saying "Hey! remember me?" A close call!

I saw our doctor last week and I asked him about memory; both the long term and the short term. He told me that what I was experiencing was normal, and from his observations, I was not in any danger from Alzheimers or dementia.

I've decided to enjoy the memories. I can't go back in time but I can bring those memories back to this present time.

At the meeting with my doctor I was proud to tell him that I had lost 56 pounds since August of last year. Also, that I was going to do another 5K walk. Just for the t-shirt of course. I will be doing that this Sunday.

To conclude our meeting with my doctor, he gave me referrals to the out-patient physical rehabilitation department of our local hospital. That's to help me combat the balance problems I have these days. My right foot was affected by the spinal surgeries I had  and has a tendency to do what it wants, That, and neuropathy for the right foot makes balance an iffy proposition when I'm tired, And I have a referral to a neurologist as well and for the same thing.

I went to the out-patient department today to set up the appointments and there I was, in a building that I had helped to build 25 years ago. Apparently the building had changed hands and was now the property of the hospital. More memories! I can't seem to escape them...but that's certainly better than the alternative!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Our very own volcano...

Sometime in the near past, I read the story of Mt. Tambora and its eruption in 1815. It was an interesting story that explained the Year Without Summer, 1816. That frigid summer caused so much death and misery around Europe and the New World and all from a volcano in Indonesia. A volcano that a starving Irish peasant had never heard of.

Now Chile and Argentina are suffering from the near effects of the recent eruption of Mt. Calbuco. Tons of ash are already in the upper atmosphere and subject to the winds that sweep from west to east. But...maybe the eruptions will end soon and the effects will be minor. It's happened in the past.

Here in Butte County, I can stand up from my seat here at the kitchen table and look out the window to the northeast and see Mt. Lassen, a real live volcano and it's less than a 100 miles away; maybe 60 miles? It last erupted in 1914-1921 with a major eruption on May 22nd of 1915. The 100 year anniversary of that event is less than a month away. I'm not really worried (should I be?) as the USGS monitors the whole of Lassen Park for any increase in volcanic activity.

My wife and son have climbed to the top of Mt, Lassen and described it as thrilling. I was away on business or I would have joined them. We've been to Lassen Park in the winter and seen the plumes of steam rising from the vents in 'Bumpass Hell'.

The evidence of volcanic activity is all around here in Butte County. Even the buttes themselves are formed from volcanic basalt. The fields around here are littered with small chunks of lava that make them unsuitable for anything other than grazing. The residents of Paradise, a small town just east of here, routinely use dynamite to 'dig' holes for the planting of trees. A cap of lava covers the whole ridge and it won't yield to a shovel.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Vertical swimming

Friday has come and it's on its way out. And Fridays mean time in the pool for me. I am certain that I am an imposing figure as I stand close to the edge; flotation belt securely fastened around my middle, webbed gloves for more 'traction' in the water, headphones with my Sansa Clip holding all my music securely fastened to the headphones with rubber bands and a hat crammed down securely over the headphones so that my music doesn't get wet. I'm ready for 30 minutes of 'deep water aqua jogging', or vertical swimming as I call it.

Back and forth for the length of the pool. Over and over. I couldn't do this if I didn't have my music to cut through the tedium of it all. I have the music set to play randomly and that adds some minor excitement as Santana plays a set followed by Charlotte Church followed by Little Richard followed by Randy get the picture.

And of course my mind wanders for the 30 minutes of boring exercise. I think there's something to be said for the 'wandering mind'. Being old, 74, I get to dredge up all sorts of long term memories. Short term, not so much. So for 30 minutes I get to wander through the memories of my teens, the twenties and thirties, the workplace and memories of watching my children grow. Yes, my wife is included in these memories; that goes without saying. I certainly didn't raise three wonderful children by myself. I also spend some time solving the worlds problems. But, important as that is, it's not as much fun.

I started the day without my usual cup of coffee as it was time for the 6 month checkup and I had to go to the lab for the blood draw. It's a 'fasting' blood sample that's needed so no coffee till that was done. I was lucky, it was 6:30 and I was first in line and first out, heading home for the needed cup.

I will be seeing my PA next week and I want to be sure I tell him about all the the health items that concern me. I'm writing them down and will email the list to him. Hopefully, he will have time to read it before I show up. The only hard part of this plan is the fact that I don't always remember what those items were. I have a feeling that 'memory problems' will be top of the list. Followed by neuropathy, balance, memory problems and how much longer do I have to take Neurontin?

I said memory problems twice because I just took a look at my previous posts and I have been repeating myself at an alarming rate. Sorry about that...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Ah! Relief is here at last. The last steroid injection has done its magic and I can go to the gym once again.

I need to keep going on this fitness craze of mine; who knows when it will suddenly stop and you find me eating Butterfinger ice cream once again. Plus, I have another 5K race next month and I want to make a respectable showing. I made it down  to 191 pounds last week  and that's good enough. I can eat to stay at this level. But...I have grown quite fond of a certain brand of rice cake so it will still be my choice for a snack.

I've been spending a lot of time scanning the old family photos. The amount of images that I own staggers me and yesterday I took most of the unscanned photos off of my desk and put them away for now.

My fourth grandchild, my granddaughter #3 is a high school junior and is taking a class in photography for the second year. She has become quite good at restoring damaged photos and so I have her working on a dozen photos left by my great uncle. He was in the Army Balloon Corps during WW1; the war to end all wars. The photos show some of the balloons used as well as the terrible damage done to Ypres in Belgium. He also had some photos of the USS Mt. Vernon. The Mt. Vernon was a captured German luxury and was used to ferry troops home from the war. Wikipedia has an interesting story about the ship.

These are the photos before retouching via Photoshop

Thursday, April 2, 2015


The pain in my right hip has finally been identified and treated. It's been hurting me for the past 6 weeks or more and increasing in pain levels during the past two weeks. I finally got in to see my favorite pain doctor and she wasted no time in diagnosing the pain as an inflammation of the SI joint. Sacro-Iliac to most people. She made my day by telling me that I looked like I was in a lot of distress and she was going to see if she could fit me in right then for the treatment. She did just that and in a few minutes I was laying facedown on the treatment table. She uses ultrasound to guide the needle in to place. Like most doctors, she told me that I would feel 'a little pinch'. A pinch? Maybe a pinch by a gorilla! I gripped the edge of the table as hard as I could until she told me it was all done. A corticosteroid had been injected into the joint and I should start feeling the effects within a week.

It looks like I have my life back. I was taking an awful lot of pain meds during the past two weeks.

And, although the steroids do a great job, they aren't a permanent fix. I now have 3 different sites that have been injected. It's like driving a car that has 3 recapped tires. many people even know what a recap or retread tire is?

The big news here is the drought. Now classified as California's worst drought in over 1,000 years. Well, we are breaking a record; is that a plus?

Now that the governor has declared a mandatory 25% reduction in water use we will see the lawyers rushing to defend the rights of their clients to use as much water as they want. The oil industry is going to be targeted as a water waster. Supposedly, they use 200 million gallons a day for fracking. Water that is now hopelessly contaminated. Another target will be the corporate farms that are able to drill deeper and buy more powerful pumps to water their almond and pistachio orchards. These are trees that require more water than most and they were planted after row crops were dug up because the price for almonds and pistachios is so high now. In the lower San Joaquin valley, the ground is subsiding almost a foot a year in places as the supporting aquifer is drained. All very serious stuff and a lot of money is involved. Although agriculture uses 80% of the water here, they only contribute 2% to the states GDP.

One of the more powerful sectors of the economy is technology. And strangely enough, no one seems to notice the amount of water used in microchip manufacturing. Here is a fine article that details the amount of water used in a 'Fab' or a 'Super fab'. These fabs can use between 2 to 4 millions gallons of water each day. These microchip foundries also use an inordinate amount of power. Here is a report on that.