Life

Contents:

I Can Tell A Fib
Here A Tick, There A Tick, Everywhere a Tick Tick
No Heart For A Stressful Test
Statination
Tunnel Surgery
Law Of Diminishing Bodies
The Imitation Game
Lookalikes
Soccer Mate
Up To My Eyeballs

 

I Can Tell A Fib                                                          May 8, 2014

No, not a lie. A-Fib, the holiday disease, atrial fibrillation. Cardiologists call it the holiday disease because it’s most commonly brought on by excessive drinking, especially of wine. The old ticker is triggered to tick more often than it should. Some forms need to be addressed more aggressively than others, however, a blood thinner is considered a must to avoid strokes.

I had it a year ago and didn’t know it until hooked up to an EKG. At the time, it seemed like the anxiety of the test triggered it. I had to wear a monitor for a month. There was a button to press when I felt a fibrillation was occurring. I pressed it about five times during the month. It came as a shock to learn the fibrillation was continuous. The Cardio (as those in the know call them) said it was a kind I could live with for the rest of my life without a problem. Okay I said but won’t all those extra ticks shorten my life? Doesn’t a heart have only so many ticks before it wears out? No, he said.

Still didn’t care for the idea so I stopped drinking (which had consisted often of a health martini before dinner and two glasses of wine with it), lowered caffeine intake, lost a few pounds and exercised more. After two or three weeks, my heart dropped back into a normal rhythm one morning so I eased off on the strict regimen, although I still seldom drink any wine.

Unfortunately, the guys I golf with in Arizona are not a good influence and I cannot tell a fib, the A-fib returned. A little different this time, the pulse rate remained roughly normal, however there’s a missing beat at irregular intervals ranging from as few as three to as many as thirty beats. At odd times I can be found holding my wrist silently counting beats waiting for normality to return. Advancing years have altogether too many ways of becoming a nuisance.

 

Here A Tick, There A Tick, Everywhere a Tick Tick  May 14, 2014

Here’s an update for all you millions of fans who expressed concern about my A-Fib … well, thousands of fans … hundreds? … the few of you? … my family? … I don’t care, I’m happy my ticker is running normally again.

Blogs are funny things. Where did the word blog come from? Is it the B Log of posts? If so, how do I find the A Log? Do blogs go viral? Don’t think so. While tweets can be broadcast with a click, it takes effort to tell or text friends to visit a blog. That doesn’t detract me from vicariously monitoring visits after posting a new ad lib or story on trial. I even use integrity and refrain from repeatedly visiting the site myself to run up the count. (That may change if more of you don’t start coming to it.)

Book sales operate the same way. Bestsellers are simply books that go viral. One reader tells another “you gotta read this”. It helps if the books are well-written but that’s not a requirement. And conversely, a really good book seldom becomes a bestseller. At least that’s how I rationalize my dearth of sales. Fortunately, the enjoyment and satisfaction is in the writing, not the sales. So no amount of secrecy on the part of those of you who have read my books will keep me from writing more. You might as well give up and spread the word.

 

No Heart For A Stressful Test                               July 10, 2014

Think I mentioned earlier that I’m a damned fool at times. Not long before going in for a one-year checkup with my cardiologist, there was a brief recurrence of atrial fibrillation. The damned fool enters the picture when I mentioned it while setting up the appointment. It went away two days before we met. Then during the interview damned fool mentioned that he tired easily. In retrospect, it was probably because I didn’t get enough exercise in Arizona. Upshot of that was calling for a heart stress test.

Had the test today and must say it is aptly named. The doctor had called for me to reach a pulse rate of 123 before injecting the second shot into my blood stream. Well, I got to 119-120 and levelled off, which left me racing up a never-ending hill until exhausted (and then some). We all agreed that the limit was caused by a year on Verapamil so I got the second shot and a very welcome cool down period.

Before starting the nurse explained everything to me. I asked if she was going to catch me I dropped. She said no. You mean you will just let me crash onto the floor. No, we won’t let you go that far. Have to admit they didn’t though they vigorously encouraged me to keep going long after I would have pulled the cord if left to my own devices. In truth, the crew was professional, friendly and caring. And I’m still alive.

In reference to my last post, there’s a mounting suspicion that my cardiologist, good guy that he is, may be programming my subconscious mind to believe I have a heart problem. Sure hope not because according to Colin Christopher’s laws, it will eventually oblige. It’s time to counter that with “I feel fine” inputs.

 

Statination                                                                    July 23, 2014

Turns out the “I feel fine” inputs could not overcome the objective side of the stress test, which showed a cool area over part of my heart on the scan. My cardiologist says that indicates a probable shortage of blood through one of the coronary arteries. So I’m scheduled for an angiogram and possible stent on Friday. Interestingly, he plans to go in through an artery in my wrist rather than groin. I like that. Never thought I would slit my wrist but we never know what life brings us.

Speaking of that, the nurse practitioner in describing the procedure and risks involved, which don’t amount to much, finished with the legally obligated “and death”. He went on to assure me that in ten years, he had never encountered a death. Why do they bother to mention it? Anyone alive runs the risk of death. Maybe in the next instant, day, week, year, decade, century or millennium. Most of us have successfully passed through each of those milestones. Felt like telling him he had a risk of death by falling down the stairs on his way home from work or being T-boned turning onto the street outside the hospital.

A much more serious consequence of a possible blockage is that it weakens my argument in a long-standing battle against the scourge of statins. I still believe that they will go the way of blood-letting, prefrontal lobotomies, thalidomide and the low fat diet. But it takes a long time for independent research to overturn the mass of drug manufacturer sponsored studies which show cholesterol is related to coronary artery disease but fail to recognize that there are “good” as well as “bad” LDL’s and play down side effects as either rare or manageable or not proven attributable to statins.

I have tried three different statins in the past and had muscle problems with each. That is recognizable. Less recognizable or attributable to statins are such things as memory degradation, loss of situational awareness, dementia, Parkinson’s and even Lou Gehrig’s disease. Research beginning to expose these possibilities is still overwhelmed by the mass of data supporting statins. Regardless, I predict statins days are numbered and I simply do not want to expose myself to any of these side effects. Please don’t write on my tombstone, “He died fighting against the statins which could have saved him.”

 

Tunnel Surgery                                                         July 27, 2014

Friday I had the angiogram, the cardiologist found an 80% blockage with a nearby 75% blockage in the left front wall artery. He then inserted an inch and a half stent that covered both. He went in through the wrist rather than the groin. I was conscious throughout with only a very mild sedative. We chatted occasionally during the procedure and within two hours I was resting comfortably in a recovery ward. No pain killers at any time. Doctor McCoy on the starship Enterprise couldn’t have made it any easier. This is modern medicine at its finest. Here’s a photo of my “wound” a day later.

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I have to be careful to not start it bleeding for five days – no lifting anything over ten pounds, especially pushing my body up. Can’t wash dishes or soak in a tub, neither of which is any sacrifice on my part. Already feel more energetic. Oddly enough, it’s been more difficult to control bleeding from the IV puncture. Here’s our Rube Goldberg approach to that.

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You are inflicted with this information partly to pay homage to the doctor but mainly to dispel the impression from some that I am suffering mightily and facing a long, arduous recovery. In fact, I can start hitting golf balls within a week and will be fully functional from then on. Of course, a program to prevent future occurrences is in the works. It involves an exercise regimen, weight loss, some dietary changes, a few natural cholesterol lowering possibilities and perhaps prolonged discussion of a statin. (Well at least a discussion is only fair in view of the doctor’s prowess in detecting and fixing the blockage.)

 

Law Of Diminishing Bodies                                   October 16, 2014

No, this is not about bodies shrinking in old age. It’s about bodies disappearing altogether, as in friends and cronies passing away. Each year, a few more. Last week it was a treasured friend, Jerry Jones. Jerry was a lifetime Seattle native who always followed the beat of his own drum and his drum usually beat louder those around him. One of the few high school students asked to find another school, Jerry was a leading baseball players in town at each level. He was a charter member of the Sahalee Country Club where the coordination that made him a fine athlete produced a formidable golfer.

Talent is commendable but that’s not what stood out about Jerry. It was his compassion for everyone. He had no mean bone in his body. A great instigator, he could rally us to charge off on any mission he chose. Everyone was included. His infectious laugh guaranteed an enjoyable experience. His departure leaves a glaring hole in our golfing group.

And speaking of our group, which is where I started, we are half a dozen now where we were four times that fifteen years ago. Of course, some have simply moved away. But many have left our world entirely. Sure, it’s inevitable. Still it’s depressing to contemplate. I have too much left to do before bailing out so I plan to be kicking for another twenty years. Who of my contemporaries will be there as well? Hopefully a few will be able to spit on my grave and say, “Yep, I knew ol’ Sandy afore he started writin’ them books”.

There are some good role models like the feisty 106 year old woman at a Mariner’s baseball game a month ago. Decked out in Mariner paraphernalia, she is still animated – not staring straight ahead in a contemplative stupor. Maybe 106 is a trifle ambitious but I want to follow in her footsteps and selfishly leave it to others to fulfill the law of diminishing bodies.

 

The Imitation Game                                               January 16, 2015

Have you seen The Imitation Game? It’s a powerful, very well acted movie about one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant minds, Alan Turing. Who? One tends to think of Einstein and more recently Hawking as the mental giants. And that’s fair when talking about cerebral discoveries. Turing was a practical genius.

As many of you know, the German Enigma coding machine was unbreakable by human codebreakers. The Germans were fast becoming unbeatable when Turing, a mathematician, was recruited. He immediately recognized the futility of human attempts and conceived a machine that would stand a chance of breaking the code. What he conceived, designed and built was the first programmable computer. Not only does every computer today owe its roots to him, his effort, against formidable skepticism and opposition, shortened the war and is estimated to have saved 14 million lives. You have to see this wonderful movie to understand why so few know of him today.

I was choked up through much of the movie. Perhaps more than others because computers have been a significant part of my life over the past 55 years. The first one I encountered was at UBC in 1960. It was an ENIAC, the proud child of math professor Hull. I never actually saw the computer. It was housed in another room. A relay machine much like Turing’s, the best I saw it do was play a mean game of tic-tac-toe, though we had to wait some time for it to make each move.

Three years later, I took an off-hour Fortran programming class and used that as a stepping stone into Boeing’s Computing Department. I have been involved with computers ever since, even built a Heathkit PC at home in the early days when the operating system had to be loaded in from a 5¼ floppy disk before loading the desired program also from a floppy. Last year I donated that relic to the Computer Museum in Seattle.

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Here it is fully assembled with the latest color dot matrix display (at the time) sitting on top. It could only display characters – no images. It would take a billion of these hooked together to come close to the computing power in your phone. Below are the manuals that came with it along with their associated floppy disks.

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Yes, I guess a half century of playing with computers and watching them evolve into the miraculous things they are today played a role in the emotion I felt watching The Imitation Game.

 

Lookalikes                                              April 12, 2015

This morning I created a separate page for Ickee Mushta now that he is out for sale. Since much of my last post transferred across, it triggered a serious bout of head scratching to come up with a new ad lib. Sort of blogger’s block.

Then it looked like lookalikes deserved a comment or two. Back in my young days, people said I was the spitting image Representative Dan MacDermott. This didn’t sit well especially when he made a fool of himself in Iraq but also because he was far too socialistic for my liking back then (and still today). Others claimed I looked like Bobby Kennedy. Could never see any resemblance, however, I wasn’t prompted to vehemently deny it. Every time I come across Robert Oppenheimer’s photo thumbing through the dictionary, it reminds me of an engineering acquaintance of years ago who was an exact double. Then too, there was a pilot who was Lee Trevino’s double both in appearance and voice. He told me once when checking into a hotel, the clerk mistook him for Lee, gushed over him and gave him a free suite. At first, he thought to correct the mistake but decided that would simply disappoint her. And what the heck, maybe some desk clerk gave Lee a free room thinking he was a celebrated pilot.

In each of these cases there is no family connection. So, given the nearly infinite genetic combinations possible how does it happen? Not just genes are involved. Two people with nearly identical genes could easily grow up with one becoming fat, the other skinny, etc. Still, genes are a starting point. Wonder if one could trace lineages back, a common point could be found. Or do we simply have the reproductive equivalent of a monkey typing a Shakespeare sonnet?

 

Soccer Mate                                            December 15, 2015

I was born and raised on Salt Spring Island (or as it was called then Saltspring Island). Now even spellchecker objects to that version. Soccer was the main sport during the school year, perhaps because nothing more than a ball was needed. In those days the island was divided into two camps: Ganges and north versus Fulford, which included everything south of Ganges. There was no question which team one belonged to and the rivalry was intense.

Each day, the game began when the first person lucky enough to own a soccer ball arrived in a school bus. It continued through morning recess, lunch, afternoon recess and after school until the last ball owner left. The score at that time determined the winner for the day. Everyone played so instead of eleven man sides there was an enormous, shin-hacking swarm chasing the ball. This phenomenon is incorporated into Two Loves Lost.

I continued to play soccer through high school and into college and enjoyed a fair degree of scoring success thanks to the fact that I could kick equally accurately and firmly with either foot. Most players assume opponents will move to their stronger side and defend accordingly. That gave me an advantage.

My soccer days ended in university, although as it turned out that was merely a hiatus. In my mid-thirties, I again took up the game in a thirty and over league. Someone once described the difference between this league and younger players as follows. When you receive the ball you look up to see who’s coming at you. After fiddling with the ball a while you look up again and notice he is still coming towards you. Sometimes the scenario can be repeated once more before getting rid of the ball.

The following year, I was drawn to a team being formed by a displaced Englishman named Mick Barfield. The team was called the CMN Hammers in honor of its sponsor and it lasted a number of years until the sponsorship ended. Mick reconstituted the team under the name Springboks. His protest against Apartheid was compromised somewhat by the fact that we had no minority players at the time. We played in wind, rain, snow and sun until I reached 45 and decided injuries were becoming too easily acquired.

Mick is a fun-loving character who likes beer and darts as much as soccer. Tavern attendance after games was mandatory, though little prompting was needed. He has the quickest and most brilliant mind I’ve encountered, against some stiff competition over the years. We were constantly entertained by his wit.

It’s been 32 years since we kicked a soccer ball together. During that time our contact dwindled to annual cards once he moved out of the Seattle area. But even a Christmas letter has been a joy to receive, always laced with humor and a clever twist or two. Therefore, it has been profoundly saddening to learn this week that Mick has managed to combine leukemia with a particularly aggressive lung cancer and weakening heart. The prognosis is dire. Yet Mick accepts his lot calmly and steadfastly maintains his belief in reincarnation, a belief he has held at least through the years I’ve known him. The body that receives him next will be lucky, destined to live an exciting life.

 

Up To My Eyeballs                            December 22, 2015

MyAmsler

Many moons ago I posted comments on dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Time for an update. The condition is detected by staring with each eye in turn at one of these Amsler Grids. Wavy lines indicate AMD and what I see is shown above. Not only are the lines wavy, there is a blind spot in each eye as represented by the shading.

For me, two things are important. First, the blind areas don’t overlap. This allows the brain in all its magnificence to take the good parts from each eye and compose a valid overall picture. How it does that never ceases to amaze me. My view of the world is essentially the same as yours. Essentially but not exactly. For example, driving down the road, I often see a slight jag in the shoulder moving along with the car. Nevertheless, there is no blind spot hiding another car, cyclist or pedestrian.

Second, I have vision at the focal point for the left eye but not for the right. This becomes very significant when focusing on an object, like when reading, examining a person’s face or tracking a golf ball’s movement. None of these is possible with only the right eye. When I do any of them, my brain tosses out the right eye’s contribution and homes in on what the left is sending.

The upside is that I can read. The downside is that a few strange things happen. For example, as I scan across a line of text, particularly the last line in a paragraph, each word appears to be the last on the line. A new word keeps popping into view as my focus moves. When I study a person’s face, the right side of it blanks out. It makes recognition difficult if not impossible and leaves me wondering how many acquaintances walk by thinking that snobby SOB just ignored me. And often, putts appear to drop out of sight when they lip out to the right. I often think the putt was sunk only to find the ball a moment later still sitting defiantly on the green. That has occasionally led to the embarrassment of congratulating a fellow golfer at the same time he is swearing at the golf gods. Since depth perception is compromised also, it’s now difficult to hammer in a nail without bending it and that is extremely frustrating.

Reading and writing are crucial to my lifestyle. It would be devastating if that left eye shaded area were to creep over the focal point. I’m not claiming the loss of one more novel is in the same league as Beethoven’s tenth symphony. In fact, almost no one would give a damn, other than me.

Fortunately, the AMD has been fairly stable for a number of years. Thanks to an AMD designed vitamin regimen, there is almost no deterioration. Periodically a report will appear claiming a cure for AMD, such as nanosecond laser treatment or stem cell injection. Always they end with the caveat that researchers think it will be available in about five years or so. WHY? So the researchers can keep playing with it on rats? If it seems to work, they can have my right eye to practice on tomorrow. And assuming that doesn’t result in death, headaches, earaches, toothaches, nausea or more aggravated dementia, the left will not be far behind.

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