Sunday, December 30, 2012

I am not a morning person

I am dumb as a stump for about two hours after I wake up.  Coffee makes me more alert, but not smart.  For example, this morning I had already made and started drinking coffee, and yet I *almost* drank egg beaters out of the measuring cup I had poured it into.  As such, I do quite a bit the night before to try to make sure that I don't have the opportunity to make stupid mistakes in the morning.

The night before, I:
1) Lay out clothing.  This will not prevent me from putting on my shirt inside out or my pants on backward.  No, I'm not kidding.
2) Put out coffee K-cups to make first thing.
3) Lay out a can of catfood, two bowls, and a spoon.
4) Leave myself notes and hope that I read and comprehend them.
5) Put together as much of my lunch as I can.
6) Put anything that needs to go to work into my lunch box.  If it is only lunchbox-adjacent, there is a very good chance that it isn't leaving the house.

I make up my morning vitamins two weeks in advance so I just pop open that day's vitamins.

If things that need to go with me will fit in a grocery bag, I can try hanging them from the front doorknob.  Sometimes that will work.

I try to leave some things until after I have had a while to get up to speed, such as

1) Putting on shoes.  (I have shown up at work wearing one hiking boot and one running shoe before.)
2) Brushing teeth.  (So I don't brush my teeth with something that comes out of a tube but isn't toothpaste.)
3) Answering email.  Or Facebooking.  Either one may end up with completely random output if done before I'm really awake.
4) Talking to people, including my husband.  See 3).

Once I get up to speed I am intensely aggravated at all the stupid things I did in the morning.  As far as I know, there is nothing to be done for it but try to make my morning as pre-prepared as possible.  It gives me sympathy for people who are stupid all the time.  It's not like it's their fault.  Just like it's not my fault that I'm completely incompetent for two hours every day.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Links to all the gluten free products I prefer

It's been four months since I went on a gluten free, cow dairy free diet.  I specify cow dairy because I can eat goat and sheep cheese just fine.  I know that some people go gluten free because it's trendy, or because they think they'll lose weight.  I did it because I was sick as hell, and nothing had worked to make me better.  The doc tested me for celiac disease, which caused me to go read up on celiac disease.  And that's when I found out that even if you don't have celiac disease (or do have it but test negative) you can still have a bad reaction to gluten.  So I girded my wallet and tried it.

I felt better, but not 100%, so on a hunch I stopped having milk or cow cheese.  And then I felt nearly 100% better.  Except when I screwed up and ate something containing gluten or cow milk.  Which really reinforced the fact that those two things were causing me trouble.

My initial symptoms were primarily gut pain (at times so intense that I thought perhaps an ER visit was in order) and pretty amazing bloating.  Like, several months pregnant level bloating.  I had to stop wearing most of my pants because during the day I'd swell up so much that not only did the pants not fit anymore, but there was a five inch gap at the top of the zipper.  The bloating was uncomfortable, as you might imagine.

The gastroenterologist I was sent to was completely effing useless.  After his tests (including upper endoscopy) failed to reveal anything at all, he just looked at me and said there was nothing he could do.  "I can't treat pain", he said.   I said that I had tried cutting out gluten and that I felt much better as long as I avoided it.  And he told me not to avoid gluten!  The fact that it appeared to be the source of my pain was beside the point.  The tests had shown no gluten problems, so I had no gluten problems.  He said, quoted to the best of my memory, "It's very difficult to avoid all gluten in your diet.  You probably shouldn't do that."

I don't care if there are toothy alien heads protruding from beneath my sternum, I will not be going back to that doctor.

Four months is not a long time to heal an overstressed gut, IMHO.  I feel much better, but I don't think I'm all the way better.  I did try eating a roll a few weeks ago, to see what would happen.  I was fine.  So a week later I ate another roll - and this time I felt bad.  So it would appear that at this point I can tolerate a small amount of gluten, very infrequently.  I hope that in the future I can tolerate more, but I'm not counting on it.

I'd heard of gluten intolerance prior to getting sick, of course.  It was always one of those "oh please no, not me" sort of conditions.  I ranked it right up there with cancer.  Fortunately, I don't have cancer (as far as I know) but I do have a gluten intolerance.  I think I'm dealing with it reasonably well.  I've found several good substitutions for every-day items in my diet.  Poor JD, who previously had to deal with my fat intolerance and occasional dairy intolerance, has dealt admirably with cooking for my new gluten intolerance.

I'm going to list some of the things I've found that I really like, just in case you have gluten (and/or dairy) intolerance and could use some tips.  Keep in mind that it's only been 4 months so I'm not up on gluten information like somebody with lifetime celiac disease would be.  But so far these things have been making my life better.

Almond Breeze original unsweetened almond milk - so much tastier than soy or rice milk.  Also I see that they have an almond coconut version and I'm thinking thai chicken coconut soup.  Mmmm.

Feel Good Foods has several delicious varieties of dumplings and egg rolls for when I get a dim sum craving.  Not the same as going out for dim sum (no pork buns!) but still pretty dang good.  They're frozen so you can buy them and stash them in the freezer until you get the craving.

Against the Grain Gourmet sells utterly amazing rolls that are an improvement on wheat rolls.  JD wanted one of my gluten free rolls for Thanksgiving rather than a crusty french roll.  That's how good they are.

Schar gluten free pizza crusts - not as good as going out for a good brick oven pizza, but as good as most frozen pizzas in a box.  You have to provide the toppings.  Which works for me, because of my dairy issue.  I've been using Manchego cheese, made from sheep's milk, instead of cow cheese.  That includes on pizza, sandwiches, and omelets.  And plain as a snack.  Schar also makes a variety of pretty good cookies.

San-j gluten free tamari  - regular soy sauce has wheat in it!  Who knew?  So I started using this wheat free tamari sauce.  There are gluten free soy sauces out there as well.  You have to read the label.  But this means we can cook asian food at home, and I got some little packets to take to restaurants with me.  Sushi is tricky, btw.  The dressing on the salad is suspect.  The miso soup is suspect.  The freaking fake crab in the California rolls is full of wheat.  Plain fish is safe.  Anything marinated (including my favorite gourd strip rolls) is not.  The fish eggs aren't safe - some have soy in them.  The eel isn't safe because of the sauce.  Basically I can have tuna and cucumber rolls.  Don't even think about anything with a tempura coating.

Rice noodles are a safe replacement for wheat pasta, and I like how they taste.

Kinnikinnick gluten free donuts are not a replacement for a glazed yeast donut, but they keep me from feeling sad on donut day at work.  If cake donuts are your favorite, they're fine.

I have yet to find a variety of Nut Thins crackers that I don't like.

Popchips are safe to eat and lower calorie, which is a nice bonus.  Plus I like the taste.  They're expensive in single servings so last time JD bought a big bag and repackaged them into single servings in sandwich size zipper bags.  Mmm.

I'm sorry that I have to tell you that Dr. Lucy's Chocolate Chip Cookies are really, really good, because you might develop an addiction to them the way I have.  I have to keep them on a shelf way up high and out of my line of sight.  They're that good.  I haven't tried any of the other varieties of cookies.  I'm scared.

Glutino makes a variety of gluten free products, of which by far the best are the pretzel sticks.  Although to be fair I haven't tried everything else they make.  But the pretzel sticks are excellent.

Van's gluten free waffles are pretty good toaster waffles.  They're sort of Eggo-y.  I haven't tried all the flavors.

Udi's white sandwich bread is sort of like french bread, but in sandwich form.  I.e. I love it.  I've always preferred french bread to sandwich bread, so this is the perfect amalgamation.

There are several restaurants that are gluten-free friendly.  Either they have a separate gluten free menu, or they note the gluten free items on the menu.  Some of the ones I enjoy are P.F. Chang's,
Outback Steakhouse, Silver Diner, and Chipotle.  Also I was amazed and pleased to see that my cafeteria at work has started labeling some of their offerings as gluten free.  I have sent them a couple of comments and they have been very responsive.

There are a couple of cuisines which work pretty well for me.  I can safely buy a variety of Indian and Thai frozen dinners which by nature have no gluten ingredients.  Papadums are often gluten free.  Mexican food may or may not be safe, depending on where you get it.  Taco Bell has virtually nothing gluten free on the menu.  But if the restaurant's main starches are corn, rice, and beans, I'm golden. 

Beer is pretty much out, but there are a few alternatives.  Anheuser-Busch makes Redbridge Beer, which so far is the most beery tasting gluten free beer I've tried.  Most of the other gluten free beers are brewed with rice and sorghum, and they end up with a bit of a sour flavor to them.  It's not horrible, but it doesn't keep me coming back for more.  However new gluten free beers are being brewed all the time, and I intend to keep trying them.  :)  Wine is fine, as is hard cider.  Gluten intolerance has not kept me from being a lush.  It hasn't even kept me from having beer with my crab in summer.  It has, however, interfered with my enjoyment of sig-beer.  I miss having a good porter with my pals.

Of course, there are plenty of foods that don't have gluten in them, even though it seems like it's in everything sometimes.  Fruit, plain meats, plain vegetables, corn, oats (for me - some celiacs have issues), lentils, rice, potato, quinoa, beans, chocolate, cheeses.. there's a whole lot of gluten free food out there.  It's just that things get mixed together, and then they're not gluten free anymore.  Sadly for me.  Even corn cereal (like Corn Chex) or rice cereal (like Rice Krispies) are not necessarily gluten free.  I'm reading labels very intently these days.

I really hope that you don't have to deal with this issue, but if you do then I hope my links above are helpful.  Bon appetit!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

From James Brady to hermit crabs

I have never wanted to be a celebrity.  I suspect this places me in the minority.  But being a celebrity just seems awful.  You can't go to the grocery store without somebody inspecting your cart or disparaging your panty line.  I first realized this when I was a little girl, and somehow had ended up working at a parade in Washington DC.  I'm not sure why it seemed like a good idea to have little girls volunteering to seat members of the public.  Like we had any clue what was going on, and would be able to tell anyone else?  Or would have any authority when said members of the public didn't want to sit where we told them to sit?

That wasn't my point, actually, that was a tangent.

Anyway, it rained at the parade.  We all got thoroughly soaked.  And somebody saw us all bedraggled and sad and cold and decided to invite us into the VIP tent to warm up.  There weren't any VIPs in it, yet.  And Red Cross or some other helpful organization had blankets, so they wrapped us up and we were quite a bit less miserable.  And then James Brady rolled into the tent. 

James Brady had been shot, of course.  I mean, not right then.  Before the parade.  WELL before the parade.  He was in a wheelchair.  And the press followed him in.  He looked harassed.  They were asking him pointless questions, just to make him stumble over words, as they knew he would.  And he slurred out something for them.  To make them go away, I assume, because he didn't look like he enjoyed being on national television with his wheelchair and his brain injury.

Note that since I was standing behind him, this was my one flirtation with national tv.  Wet rat wearing a wool blanket.  No idea why nobody has called my agent yet.

So that was my early experience with celebrity.  Perhaps if my early experience had involved some sort of pampering and adulation rather than sodden misery and embarrassment for the disabled guy sitting next to me, I would think it was fantastic.  But it didn't.  And although intellectually I understand that some people want everybody to look at them, I have a very hard time understanding it emotionally.

Now, I wouldn't mind being somebody so awesome that people thought I should be a celebrity.  On account of my new era moon landing, perhaps.  Or my humanitarian efforts, which had ended world hunger, overpopulation, and religious differences.  But I wouldn't want to actually BE a celebrity.  I value anonymity.  At least in a large community context.  I don't mind being in a small community and having everybody know me, and knowing everybody.  I like knowing that people know exactly who I am, that what you see is what you get.  This is me.  I don't put on airs, I don't suffer fools gladly, and I try to be nice to my fellow man.  Also I don't wear makeup, and that right there means I'll never be on anybody's tv screen.

The idea of my anonymity so engrained in me that I am constantly surprised that people remember me.  "Yes, Amy, I've known you for fifteen years."  Oh.. gosh.. I didn't think you had noticed me.

I realize that having people remember you after you've been around for fifteen years is completely unlike being a celebrity.  But in my mind somehow they're connected.  Maybe I would make a good hermit.  I mean, I'm crabby sometimes..

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pervy dog brings our clothes out of the closet.

I just can't hide it anymore. The Schnork has a problem.  She's a perv.

At first she was rummaging in the laundry for my underwear.  Mortified, I brought in a tall laundry bin with a lid and started putting my underthings in it.  Because I'm not comfortable with anybody licking my underwear, that's why.  But apparently it wasn't about me.  Because the Schnork started finding JD's boxer shorts.

And so now I regularly wake up with a pair of my husband's boxer shorts on the sheepskin next to my side of the bed, and not because we've been doing the nasty.  No, the Schnork has been getting nasty.  I can't imagine what the attraction is of a used pair of underwear, but apparently it's obvious to the Schnork.  Sometimes I hear her rummaging around in the laundry, and I sleepily remonstrate.  "Schnork!  You stop that!"  And then she pauses until I fall back asleep.

As far as I can tell, she isn't destroying our underwear.  She's just... licking it.  Lovingly.

I haven't had a dog with this particular perversion before.  I have no idea what to do.  I mean, how do you shame a pervert?  She doesn't care.  She has no shame.  This is the same dog who schnorks at me until I pick her up and stroke her naked belly until she falls asleep and starts shnoring on my chest.  I have nothing to work with. 

Have I mentioned recently how good the Schnork is making Beauty look?  Beauty is a saint.  All she wants is the occasional sweet potato treat and to get scritched behind her ears at bedtime.  The Schnork finally trained us not to make her go outside, which means she excretes indoors at all times.  And she only mostly hits the wee pad.  Sometimes she is only wee pad adjacent.  You know what's fun?  Trying to pick up a wee pad so that the wet parts on the underneath don't drip.  We need to buy stock in the pee-destroying enzyme company.

Do you have  a pervy dog?  More importantly, do you have a previously pervy dog?  What did you do about it?  Did it involve cayenne peppers?  We have questions.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In which my friends annoy me into making a decision

Apparently, I need to see some more doctors.  My loving, helpful, but annoying friends have been harping at me about stopping riding.  (Because I keep being generally miserable about it.)  "Just have spinal surgery" they say.  "I had three and I ride just fine."  I was feeling kind of bad, and kind of sad, and kind of mad.  Because what the hell do they know?  Have they been to the neurosurgeon with me?  Have they gasped in agonizing pain when the back stabs?  Have they suffered through hours of torture in the car because the back can't handle bumpy roads anymore?

But then I googled facet arthrosis surgery.  And also some other things.  Did you know they can pretty much replace a joint in your back?  Not stab it with iron bars so it never moves again, but actually replace it with something else that moves very much like a normal spine?  I watched videos of spines with hardware in them, bending all around.  And I thought about how nice it would be to have a functional back again.  And to be able to ride my horse.

Going by the video, they shave off the ends of your vertebrae and put new fake ends on.  And do something or other to the disk.  Trim it, or replace it, depending.  And they put some kind of miracle joint off to the side.

My mom's recovery from spinal surgery was fairly horrifying, so I'm not fooling myself that I would have a quick and/or easy recovery.  But if I got another, say, ten years of reasonably normal use, would that be worth a couple weeks of agony?  Maybe yes.  I mean, I got ten years of normal vision out of Lasik and that was worth it.  Plus in 10 years Pluto would be 23 and started to get slower.

I don't particularly want to go to the neurosurgeon all the way out in Annapolis, though.  It's not like there aren't doctors hiding in every crevice of Greenbelt.  I'd like to find somebody closer to home.  Especially as it seems likely that neurosurgical consulting is going to be a repeat thing for me.

First, though, I have a new patient appointment next week with a regular doc.  I actually like my old doc, but her office staff is horrendous.  Just to get test results I'd often have to call several times and finally drive over and stand in their office until they gave me the paper.  And they completely failed to get me authorizations for medical testing this year.  I finally paid out of pocket because I didn't have any more time or patience to screw around.  This doctor was recommended by a good friend, and she also vouched for the office staff.

I have made a list of my medications, and my various bizarre ailments (think zebras, doc.)  So I figure I'll go in there, smile, bombard him with all my weird health problems, show him my xrays, and ask for a referral to a neurosurgeon.  Piece of cake, right?

If this works out, and I do find a doc who can and will fix my back, and I endure PT and get better and can ride again, I'll have my friends to thank.  Thanks for being a pain, guys!  It was helpful.  Eventually.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dietary experimentation

I have big news.  Big, big news.

I ate a roll.

You probably expected something more grandiose, like "I got a new job!" or "Andy contracted fatal acne".  But to me it's big.  I've been living gluten free, with a few accidental exceptions, for four months.  I wasn't sure if this was going to be a lifetime change, or if a few months off might heal me up enough to be able to handle it again. 

When I went hiking with DeLee a couple of weeks ago, I accidentally ate beef jerky which had been marinated in soy sauce.  I stopped as soon as I realized what I had done, then waited.  And no pain.  So this past Monday, I bought a wheat roll to eat with my lunch.

Man, that was a good roll.

I waited nervously all afternoon for the stab of massive pain.  And it never showed up.

So, that was nice.

I'm planning another experiment next week.  Perhaps soy sauce.  I'm not jumping back into the world of gluten too vigorously, because it hurt too much for that.  But it would be nice to be able to be less careful than I am right now.

Beer.  Right there, beer, is a thing it would be nice to be less careful with.  Some of the gluten free beers aren't awful, but none of them are fantastic.  And you know I like me the fancy beers.  It's porter time of year.  You really need a good porter when you make chili.  It brings out the deliciousness.  (I mean, you put the beer in the chili when it's cooking.  But drinking it is also nice.)

Am seriously hoping to be able to report in another week or so that I ate another gluten thing and I still felt fine. 

Oh, gluten.  I hardly knew ye.  And I'd like to get back in touch.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Starting the long, hard, boring search for a new vehicle

My car, Eddy, will be ten years old next month.  I just spent lots and lots of money getting his 90,000 mile tuneup on the theory that I would have him several more years.  But small problems are creeping up.  The "multifunction switch", i.e. the stick on the steering wheel that controls the various lights, started malfunctioning this weekend.  The dents where he got shot are growing larger and ever more rusty.  The seatbelt doesn't retract like it used to.  The driver's seat wore through to metal several years ago.  Also I am reminded that maybe he has started going through oil, and I need to check the level now.

Basically I need to start thinking about a new vehicle, because at some point Eddy will either to be too expensive to maintain, or too annoying to continue driving.  Or both.

I would buy an identical replacement, except of course they quit making them.

It's hard for me to shop for a new car because there are so many of them, and none of the sites have an option for "not awful", "comfortable", or "good for back pain".  Also "cheap to have work done".  I used to have a requirement that I be able to transport a ladder in it, but now I can use JD's truck so it doesn't really matter.  My car seldom gets used to ship large object anymore.

Do they have an option for "doesn't make my dog carsick"?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Followup: we did not in fact die in a storm

I guess I kind of left you with a cliffhanger, there.  Superstorm Sandy did not bother us much.  In fact our power didn't do out at all, though it did flicker.  And it occurs to me that I have something like 30 pounds of ice in the freezer that I need purpose for.

Work ended up being a little exciting.  I went in on last Monday and shut everything down, so that if the power went out things wouldn't cook and then crash.  Everybody said we'd lose power.  The power companies were autodialing all their customers to say as much.  It seemed like a done deal.

And the power didn't go out after all, so Tuesday morning I went in to power everything up, and we lost a little bit more hardware / filesystems this time than I was expecting.  But that wasn't the exciting part.  The exciting part was where somebody at NOAA decided that we were essential and raised a ruckus that we had shut our machines down in the face of a major storm.  Apparently it seemed less major to people in Colorado, who weren't having people die / roads and buildings swept away.

Now, I've been working there since 1994, and we've shut our machines down many times for many reasons.  Generally speaking, nobody cared.  We alerted folks that we would be down, if there was time.  And then we shut down the computers.  Or if they shut themselves down (i.e., crashed due to power failure such as during the derecho this summer) we turned everything off at the power switches so that we could bring them back up in an organized fashion.

All that has apparently changed.  And so now we are working on a continuity of operations plan for our mission.  Our mission which is well past its expiration date.  I find this mildly humorous.

So that was last week, although the COOP thing continues.

This week I'm planning for a backpacking trip this weekend.  I hope.  I started coughing and sneezing and having a sore throat at work today.  I told myself that it's just allergies and I'll be fine tomorrow.  I sincerely hope that's the truth.  Because if it's not, I'm going to have to cancel my trip.  I happen to know that going on a backpacking trip in cold weather when you have a cold is an excellent way to get bronchitis.  And even if it's an excellent way, it's not something I want to do.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Brief note before the storm

Tired and getting ready for bed, but just wanted to reassure everybody that we are prepared to do without power for several days.  We are not in a flood zone.  And our basement has a backdoor and is on a hill so water will drain out the back.

Also, I did not win my speech contest today.  Yay!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pink rhinestones and the Frankenstorm

JD got the Schnork a new tag for her collar today.  Instead of saying "Princess" with my phone number, it now says "THE SCHNORK" with my phone number.  And it has pink rhinestones on it.  So it's official.  Gotta call the vet and change it in the records.

The Schnork just made me crack up.  I heard her chewing on something, and she was enjoying it far too much.  So I went to see what she was chewing on, and by the time I got there she had scuttled away.  LIKE I WOULDN'T NOTICE.  She only scuttled four feet to her crate, though, so I still discovered her.  Somehow.  She was chewing on the much folded paper for the Buckyball instructions.  She didn't even try to kill me when I took it away, which is what she usually does.  She's like a tiny hair chainsaw.

Are any other physicists bothered by Bucky Ball toys? It drives me nuts every time I see them.  THOSE ARE NOT BUCKYBALLS.  This is a buckyball.  Note how it has nothing to do with children's toys or swallowing magnets.  Those other guys are totally misusing the words!  Come up with another name, you yahoos!


I am inaugurating this weekend with laundry, as it was pointed out to me that we wouldn't get much laundry done without power.  And we had a LOT of laundry.  Why no power, you say?  Funny you should ask.  Apparently the bastard child of a massive hurricane and a nor'easter is bearing down on us.  They are calling it Frankenstorm, as it should arrive around Halloween.  But we expect to lose power prior to that because the thing is hundreds of miles wide, so wind and rain will precede it.  The power companies are actually calling customers to warn them of impending outage.  When they call you ahead of time, it's a bad sign.

We've stocked up on bottled water and Halloween candy, so we're pretty much good.  Other than the need for more clean underwear.

JD and I have a long list of tasks to accomplish this weekend, starting with cleaning out the gutters and securing loose items in the yard.  Something tells me that I won't be hiking this weekend.  But I WILL be giving another frigging speech, as the next level of humorous speech contest is this weekend.  I feel kind of dirty because I bought and installed Microsoft Office on our home computers so that I can give the Powerpoint presentation that goes with the speech.  First time I ever bought a Microsoft thingie.  I don't know that my honey oatmeal soap is strong enough to wash that feeling away.

Also JD and I will be working on our costumes for Halloween.  Also Beauty and the Schnork's costumes.  Actually just JD will be doing that, as I don't normally dress up dogs.  Oh, also?  JD bought the Schnork a pink sweater, and also a pink vest.  With rhinestones.

I've checked.  He's still not gay.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rough draft of this week's (slightly controversial) speech

I had a heck of a time coming up with a topic for this week's speech.  Which I have to give Wednesday.  Fortunately, I figured out a topic this evening, and shortly after that I wrote the speech.

The audience is a small group of coworkers in Maryland.

The title of the speech is "Vote Yes on Question 6".  The objective of this speech is to speak persuasively, using logic and emotion. 


Good morning, TMOD, fellow toastmasters and guests.  I typically speak to you about my hobbies and interests, but today I'm bringing up something important.  Something that I care about for personal and philosophical reasons.  Today I'll tell you why I think it's important that you vote in favor of Question 6, a referendum petition regarding the Civil Marriage Protection Act.

The presidential election is coming up quickly.  Early voting starts this Saturday.  The official election is in two weeks on November 6.  So this is when you need to make your decisions about how you vote.  And I hope you do vote.  It's not only a civic responsibility, it's important to how our society functions.  What you choose now will affect our culture, our laws, and how we all live.  So please take the time to cast your ballot.

The Civil Marriage Protection Act, which has already been passed by our General assembly and signed by our Governor, establishes that Maryland's already existing civil marriage laws will also allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a marriage license.  The same law let me get married.  It let my parents get married.  It let my brother get married.  And I want my uncle to have that same freedom.  I want my friends to have that freedom.  I want people I've never met to have that freedom. 

As a country, we proudly proclaim that we are the land of the free.  But that's never been entirely true.  Do you know who had the vote when we first started?  Land owning white males.  Women?  Nope.  Black men (or women?)  Nope.  Everybody has had to struggle for their "rights".  That, at least, is in line with the founding of our country.  We struggled.  As a country, we have fought against what we thought was wrong.  And within the country, we have voiced our feelings loudly and at length on every topic that could be legislated.  We make laws and then we strike them down.  We amend.  We clarify.  And all of us vote for what we think is right. 

You may not feel that our gay and lesbian coworkers should have the right to marry each other, because your religion says that they shouldn't.  But should others be forced to abide by the strictures of your religion?  Should you stop drinking coffee because it has caffeine in it?  It's not such an odd question - the Mormon religion prohibits it.  Should I wear a head covering in public?  Muslim women do.  Should we all give up that most delicious of treats, bacon?  The Jewish faith prohibits it. 

And no, we don't have to do any of those things, because we have freedom of religion.  I can worship any way I choose.  And thank goodness I don't have to worship the way somebody else says, because what if that somebody else were a Pentecostal snake handler?

The Civil Marriage Protection Act, while allowing folks to get married, specifically protects clergy from having to perform any marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs, as well as several other protections for religious group. 

Religion aside, the benefits that civil marriage provides don't just benefit the couple in question.  The act gives the spouse the ability to act as next of kin and to make medical decisions for their partner.  Without that right, who will make decisions when 80 year old Jane Doe with Alzheimer's is in need of care?  Preferably, her wife Janine Doe will do it.  Because Jane Doe's parents died quite a long time ago, and there isn't anybody else to make the decision.  Wouldn't it be better to have her spouse of 40 years making that decision, rather than an uninterested doctor? 

Or when John Doe dies, leaving James Doe and little Harry Doe.  If John and James are married, they can both adopt Harry, and there isn't a legal question about who Harry's remaining parent is.  With no marriage, Harry suddenly becomes a ward of the state - a burden on us all, a misery for him, and a heartbreak for James.  With marriage, James and Harry can grieve, and then Harry gets to still have a father.

After John's death, if they were married, James inherits all their jointly owned property through right of survivorship.  If they weren't, as under our current interpretation of the law, the lawyers and the state get a whopping huge chunk of the money, and the joint assets are tied up in court for months to years.  I guess it's just as well that Harry was orphaned, because with John and James' bank accounts held by the state, it's not like James could feed him anyway! 

For this and other reasons it makes sense to give Jane and Janine, and John and James, the right to marry.  Let them take care of each other.  Let them take care of their own affairs.  Don't make the state step in, where it isn't needed or wanted.  It costs us all more.

So please, when you come to question 6, vote yes in the referendum on the Civil Marriage Protection Act

Monday, October 15, 2012

Scheduled my next thruhike

I decided to thruhike again!  Not that this is probably a big surprise to anybody who ever met me.  Unfortunately, I'm not doing it anytime soon.  Starting date is set for March 1, 2020.  Only 2694 more days!  Unless I lost my job, in which case I would go ASAP.  But for some reason my job has been oddly stable despite the economy, and as far as I know I'm in no danger of losing it any time soon. 

More's the pity.

Probably the only people who can empathize are the former thruhikers or multiple offenders, but I'm thinking about things I'd do differently.  (Note to self:  Look up post about things you'd do differently, written immediately following last thru.)  Like I'd hike the approach trail.  I never had the patience for it before.  I think I will by 2020, though.  I want to take the trail more deliberately.  I know it probably didn't seem like I was in a mad rush the first time, but I was going as quickly as I could.  I'd rather give myself an unlimited window to finish so I could go just as slowly as I wanted. 

Sometimes the terrain sets its own limits on you.  You can't stop if there's no water and no place to lay your aching bones.  But other than that, limitless.

What else?  Well, ideally I'd find some other slowpoke to hang out with.  Company is nice.  My lowest days on the trail have been about loneliness, not about weather or my feet or the fact that I'm sick of all my dinners.  I do like my alone time, but it is really nice to see a friendly face.  I realize that some people never spend a night alone on the trail, but that has not been my experience.  AT ALL.

I think I'd explore the towns a little more.  One of the awesome parts about thruhiking is getting to see small town America.  I loved meeting people all up and down the trail, and visiting the businesses along it too.  Maine showed me that Whoopie Pies are in fact good.  (I had doubts based on our honeymoon trip to Freeport.)  Pennsylvania had such a unique run down Germanic feel.  I want to see it more.  Again.

I'd love to fix all my health problems before my next trip, but that seems wildly unlikely.  The cards dealt to me involve defective digestion and degenerative disk disease.  I work around them as much as I can.  I really seriously hope that I can eat wheat products again in the future, because A) they're really hard to avoid, and b) I want pizza.

I might be able to lose weight, but I've been working on that for all of my adult life and then some, and it doesn't appear to have made any difference.  Perhaps I should just buy a voluminous scarf and go with the babushka look.  Perhaps adopt an accent. 

Oooh, you know what's good about planning so far in advance? SO MUCH GEAR.  I'm certain that everything I have now will be worn out by then.  I'll have to buy all new ultralight stuff!  Eeee!  Although if I lost my job that would be less exciting.

Oh that reminds me.  Today was Eddy's 90,000 mile service. It took him nearly 10 years to get there so more things needed to be replaced than if it had only taken a year.  Still, it's going to cost more than he's worth.  Sigh.  But still less than a new car, and he's still plenty driveable. Sooner or later I should do something about the marks where he was shot, though.  That's a little more trashy than called for, even in a ten year old car.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Trip report: Southern Shenandoah

My latest hike started in a hurry on Friday night.  I flew out to the barn to hold Pluto for our new farrier.  Pluto was startled by something behind him and managed to put his full weight on the farrier's already broken toes.  I was mortified.  I offered her advil, but basically there isn't much you can do for that kind of pain other than cuss.  Which she did.

Then I drove to DeLee's.  We ate something, then started to leave.  At the last minute I mentioned that it would be nice to have walkie talkies for the drive, since we would be in two cars.  She couldn't find hers, so we stopped at the REI on the way out of the neighborhood and bought a new set.  I was so glad we did, it was much nicer to be able to communicate than to have a four hour drive without speaking.  It was super, super helpful to be able to talk about when we wanted to stop to visit a rest area, or comment on traffic, or the like.

A couple of hours in, I started getting a lot of text messages.  I could hear the phone buzzing, but at 70 mph, in the dark, I was not able to read them.  (Which would have been illegal anyway.)  When I finally got the chance to pull over at Woodstock, VA, I found that my dad was in the emergency room.  We went to the McDonald's and called around, trying to find out what was going on.  Finally we decided to drive the hour on to Waynesboro for the night, as Dad seemed to be stable.

Later texts and calls revealed that he was doing all right and they had sorted out his problems, and Mom and Dad were joking about it.  Thus reassured, at midnight or 1 AM, DeLee and I hit the sack in our motel room.  Not the restful start one hopes for.

In the morning, breakfast didn't sit right with DeLee, and it vacated the premises quickly.  DeLee was very subtle.  I doubt the other diners even noticed.  DeLee is a trooper, and so we still packed up and got on the road.  By the time we got in the park, shuttled the cars around, and started hiking, it was after noon.  Oy.

The weather was beautiful and hikers were scarce.  Our parking spot was supposed to have a nearby trail leading up to the AT, but that trail seemed to have disappeared several years ago.  We bushwhacked up a mountain until we found the trail, then started north.  I think we saw four hikers all day.  So we were considerably surprised when we got to the shelter and found it full and surrounded by tents.  There were boy scouts everywhere.  They were in good spirits and a little rowdy, but they settled down and were amazingly silent all night.

We had managed to find a spot in the shelter, which was especially nice around 5 AM when it started to pour.  I love not packing up a wet tent.

The forecasted all day rain didn't appear.  It was misty and damp, and cold, but not solidly raining.  We had a beautiful morning's hike, but it was hard to stay warm on rest breaks.  At lunch we couldn't find a great windbreak, but we did find a downed log in a very brushy area.  We set up leaning on the log, and it wasn't bad.  I immediately made us hot drinks using my fabulous Jetboil stove.  Even with that we started to get a bit chilled as we finished lunch.  We packed up and got hiking again, but when I looked at DeLee her lips were blue.  I checked her frequently over the next few minutes until her lips turned pink again.

Shortly after her lips turned pink, her lunch turned against her.  She held it down, but she felt awful.  Her steps slowed.  She still walked, but I was stopping and waiting for her frequently.  Within less than a mile, she wasn't generating enough heat to stay warm and became hypothermic.  The trail crosses Skyline drive frequently where we were, so at the next road crossing we stopped.  We both dug into our packs for fleece to put on, and we stuck our thumbs out.  German tourists stopped and offered us a ride.  We had cars stationed in both directions, so we didn't care which way they were going.  (Weirdly, this is the second time that German tourists have rescued me in Shenandoah.  Another couple gave me and Mel a ride when I hurt my foot a decade or more ago.)

Back at Eddy, my car, we turned around and drove back to DeLee's car.  I was starting to run low on gas, so we stopped at Loft Mountain Wayside for gas and hot chocolate.  Then we headed out of the park, looking for a motel.  DeLee was still feeling shaky and wasn't up to driving the several hours home.

In Harrisonburg, we checked into a motel.  I was ravenous.  DeLee only wanted a hot shower and a nap.  I read the literature about local restaurants, but soon the call of a soft bed overrode my stomach.  I fell asleep too.

After a couple of hours of rest, DeLee was feeling a lot better.  The nap didn't hurt me any, either.  We got up and drove over to the Outback Steakhouse, where we had delicious food.  Our server turned out to be from DC, so it was fun to chat with him.  I brought D-Ribose to dinner with me for both me and DeLee, to help with after-hike soreness. 

So our two night trip turned into a one night trip, but one that avoided potentially serious hypothermia in really dangerous conditions.  It was about 40 and raining when we left the park.  It was likely 30 degrees that night.  Had we kept going DeLee would have been in deep trouble, and the likelihood is that I would have been hypothermic as well.  Instead, we met some nice people, had a delicious dinner, and slept at a nice motel.  That's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Although I wasn't the one to get hypothermic this time, I usually am.  I wasn't expecting it from DeLee, as she is usually more resistant to cold than me.  I thought we had planned well enough to avoid hypothermia, but DeLee's icky feelings were something I hadn't accounted for.  If the park had more water available in that section I would have set up camp for us and gotten her some hot food and beverages immediately rather than having her drive her car when she didn't feel well.  But, we didn't have enough water so that wasn't a good option.

Oddly, I felt great for pretty much all of the trip, paternal medical drama aside.  I was surprised at how good I felt. A little over a month ago I was still too sick to walk all the way around Greenbelt Park.  Last week I walked around the park with a lightly loaded pack and still felt pretty tired.  So why was I feeling so much energy this weekend?  My stomach didn't complain, my legs didn't complain, and I felt like I had boundless energy.  Today, the day after the hike, my legs have barely any of the typical post-hike ache.  My shoulders don't hurt from the pack.  I surprised JD by not wanting a nap.  Weird, huh?  My only supposition is it's the wheat, or lack thereof.  When I was reading up on celiac disease, prior to my (negative) test, I read about an athlete who stopped eating wheat for other reasons and was surprised to find herself with faster racing times.  She supposed that she had been held back by wheat, or its effects on her body, before without noticing.  Perhaps the same is true for me.

I'm definitely still sensitive to the stuff, as I have accidentally "glutened" myself several times, and felt awful.  Last time was earlier this week when I had sushi.  I thought I was so smart with my wheat-free tamari sauce instead of soy sauce, but I was caught by either the artificial crab in the California roll, or the spicy sauce on the spicy tuna rolls.  Within hours my guts hurt like they were being stabbed.  If I'm able to go back on wheat at all, it looks like it will be a while.  Sigh.  But I'm learning to live without it, and learning what to avoid out in the restaurant world.  (Turns out IHOP puts pancake mix in their eggs to make them fluffy.  Who knew?)

Lactose isn't so bad.  If I'm willing to swell up and look pregnant for a few hours, I can have some dairy.  Which I did last night, on my loaded baked potato.  I got my pregnant look on, and I enjoyed the hell out of that potato.  But it only lasted a few hours and then I was back to normal.  Being glutened takes two days to resolve - much less fun.

To sum up, and as notes to my future self:  maybe skip the trip in bad hypothermia weather.  But walkie talkies are fantastic.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Misleading feeling

About 1 pm today I started to feel like I could do everything.  I could do ALL the work.  But it turns out that I had had caffeinated soda with lunch.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Looking forward to my steamed crap upgrade

I am having a day.  I shall present it in random order.

I am not entirely certain, but I think that my scotch (Lagavulin) may have liquid smoke in it.  It is not an improvement. 

I am not sick, but then neither am I well.  As far as I can tell, every joint that has ever been abused (which at last count includes all of my fingers and toes, much of my feet, parts of my hands, my knees, my hips, my entire spine, and my collar bone area) is aching with the cool damp weather we're having today.

The nicest thing said to me today was "Hoping you upgrade to steamed crap."

I just ran out of chocolates.

My vet knows some dressage riders looking for rides, so I may be able to find somebody to ride/lease Pluto soon.  I have mixed emotions about this.  I think it's a good idea, but it also makes me want to cry.

The Schnork peed right next to the wee pad, again.

While driving home from work I got this insanely bad headache which made me think that aliens might burst out of my left temple.

I spent an hour and a half on a telecon today, and they didn't say anything very relevant to me until the last three minutes.  And then just as I was logging out somebody started to say something very very relevant, but it was too late.  My hand finished pushing the button.

I STILL haven't gotten much done on my security plan, and I am worried about what will happen next year when our current one expires.  Despite this, I can't seem to carve out time to work on it.  Things keep happening.  Things involving spacecraft, IT security, new hardware, and other issues which are my actual job and not just a government requirement.

I am cranky, and my husband is also cranky, and there is a chance that our joint crankiness could explode into outright grumpiness.

I'm worried about my dad, who is only just released from the hospital and still has a way to go to get back to healthy, and I'm worried about my mom who is spending all her energy being there for Dad.


So I'm drinking smoky scotch because I don't have any other scotch, and I'm hoping it will be sunny out tomorrow.  Sunny days are nice.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Oh for the love of Mike

You know what this means, don't you?  I have to do it AGAIN.  At the next level of contest.  And this time I have to wear a costume, because it's Halloween.

Dear District 36:  Please field somebody funnier than me.  I'm pretty sure this contest doesn't go to the regional level, but if it does I definitely don't want to go there.  I realize that I'm not that great of a speaker, but Trouble was a really funny cat.  I can't help it.  And I don't want to win.  (The next level involves karaoke.) So get your A game going.

What on earth am I supposed to do with a trophy?  Put it with my best GPA award from 8th grade?  It doesn't look like it would even be good for killing crickets.

JD suffered through today's contest but didn't enjoy the incessant clapping and congratulating, so I'll suffer through the next one alone.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Crap. I won.

So, Trouble vs the Roomba won the contest I didn't hold for which speech I should give at Toastmaster's.  I gave the speech.  I won.  Now I have to go to the next level.  I sincerely hope somebody there is better at speechifying than me, or I'll have to do it AGAIN at the next level.  Crap.

I'm including the modified speech below.[1]  This is pretty much the end product.  I probably won't remember all of it for the contest, and you can't use notes, so who knows what I'll actually say.  But what's written below is what I mean.  There is also an awesome powerpoint presentation that goes with it, but apparently there is no projector for the contest so I can't show it.  Maybe I can insert the pictures here, though.

There has been a lot of news in my life, and I'm bundling it all up here.

I am still staying gluten and lactose free, and I feel pretty good when I don't screw up.  Last week I forgot that beer had gluten in it and didn't remember until I felt sick the next day.  And I had been so good!  Doh.  Anyway, it's all gluten free here in me-land, and really gluten free is not too hard to accomplish these days.  A lot of packaging tells you right on it whether or not it contains gluten so you don't have to guess from the ingredients.  My friend Barbara even pointed me at gluten free donuts so I don't have to feel left out on Donut Day at work.  Although I do have to remember to bring the donut from home.

My dad went into the hospital for brain surgery and was released two days later.  To go home.  Not to rehab.  Home, two days after brain surgery.  Crazy!  They probably would have released him after one day, but the MRI machine was busy.

Unfortunately, a few days after that he started to bleed in his brain, and he got very, very sick.  So he went from walking around the block tumor-free, to attached to many many things in ICU in the course of about a day.  After a week and a half in the hospital, he is finally being released - this time to rehab.  Spending a week sick in bed does terrible things to you.  And he was really, really sick.  I went out and spent about a week there at the hospital with Mom, and my brother also came out for four days.  I strongly hope that Dad is on the road to wellville, as seeing my formerly robust father sick and at the mercy of the hospital is painful.  He was patient for the first few days, but he finally started getting cranky.  Which may have helped, I don't know.  Sometimes anger helps push you, and maybe he needed a push to get through the pain.

My October hike has been whittled down to a long weekend.  I have the opportunity to test out a new backpack frame/cushion, so that will be fun.  Only carrying 2.5 days of food means my pack will be a lot lighter.  I like that.

Beauty got bit by something, possibly a flea, and proceeded to chew the hell out of her tail.  She is wearing a doughnut around her neck to try to keep her from chewing it any more, but she is a very long backed dog so it's not working very well.  I have bandaged it up to keep her from making it worse.  She is depressed by this.

Shamika dyed my hair blue, and then purple.  I liked it both ways.  The purple started out dark and then faded through several lovely shades of lilac and lavender.  It's almost completely faded now.  I don't really have the patience to keep getting it dyed, or to take care of dyed hair the way it needs to be taken care of, so I think the experiment is over.  But it was pretty fun.

The Schnork has been pretty good recently, but it's hard to tell with Schnorks.  She might just be saving it all up for an episode of extreme badness.

[1] I'd like to tell you today the story of what happened when a household cat dueled with a robot.

I am an animal person.  At last count, I had four cats, two dogs, and a horse.  Just in case you were wondering, that is in fact too many animals.  I didn't get them all on purpose, is my only defense.  The events I am relating to you today concern Trouble, an ancient farm cat who was retired to my household after he got too old to live outdoors.  By the time he was admitted to the Forinash Home for Senior Animals, he had had a long and eventful life.  As a kitten he was carried off by a bird of prey and returned home days later with puncture wounds down his ribcage.  We still wonder what he did to the bird.  That incident set the tone for his entire life, a life during which he took no guff.  We lovingly referred to him as "Old Man".  If he had been able to operate a cane, he would have been shaking it at teenagers and yelling at them to get off his lawn.

As you might guess from his name, Trouble was not a particularly nice cat.  He walked around with an Elvis like sneer on his face at all times.  He didn't appreciate us taking care of him.  He didn't like much of anything.  He didn't start many fights, but he would finish them, if you know what I mean.  His approach to human interaction was to stomp up to you and demand to be petted, and then bite you when he was done.  After a few of these interactions, I let him know that he was on his own.  My husband, when he came into Trouble's life, thumped the cat back after Trouble bit him the first time.  I worried that he would actually break Trouble, who by that point was approaching mummification.  But Trouble warmed up to JD, my allergic and asthmatic husband.  He could respect a man who would defend himself with violence.  Violence was a way of life that Trouble had embraced from kittenhood.  I was astonished to see this elderly cat finally like something, finally like SOMEONE, in his life.  And my husband, who was in no way a cat person, fell a little bit in love with this ancient, grumpy, skinny cat.  Trouble really had no idea how to be nice in his affections, as it had never been an issue.  He and my husband worked it out.  And that is how I came to find Trouble plastered to the face of my husband, whose eyes were swelling shut.  I recommended Benadryl but otherwise left them to themselves. 

Trouble became so attached that he literally got sick every time JD left town.  On the vet's orders I started giving him Xanax whenever JD was away, and discovered that getting a mean old cat high was hilarious.  He wobbled around like a drunk, he got the munchies, and he loved EVERYBODY.  All the other animals in the house were terrified.  They were afraid him nuzzling them was just a trick.

Ironically, Trouble was a very handsome cat so people always wanted to pet him.  As you might guess, that never ended well.

In addition to loving animals, I am also a nerd.  I've been working at NASA for coming up on 20 years.  I was a physics major in college.  Before that I went to a science and technology magnet high school.  My father was a physicist, and my grandfather was an inventor.  My nerd roots run deep.  You can imagine, then, how excited I was when domestic robots became commonly available.  I went out and gleefully bought my own Roomba, imagining that I would never vacuum again.  Unfortunately, I didn't save any time housekeeping, because I loved my Roomba so much that I sat and watched it vacuum. 

I didn't give much thought to the animals when I was getting my robot.  They all hated the old vacuum cleaner and stayed away from it.  Had I considered the issue, I probably would have assumed that they would all run away from the Roomba.  However, it didn't quite work out that way.  The dog looked puzzled by the little robot and made sure to stay in another room.  Our shyest cat, Monster, hid under the bed.  The youngster, Andy, tried to get it to chase him.  But the geezer cat Trouble was another story entirely.  Maybe it was because the Roomba was smaller than him and not very loud, but Trouble was not intimidated by the Roomba.

The Roomba, by the way, is not completely helpless against cats.  It has a few skills.  It has a vacuum, for instance, and I'm pretty sure that could thoroughly annoy and/or dehair a cat who let its tail get to close.  It's autonomous, which means that it could theoretically hunt down your cat and bump it repeatedly.  It's got that "brrrrr" vacuumy noises that cats hate.  And it can spin on a dime.  Also, if you purchased a Scooba (outside the scope of this fight, but we did buy one.  Of COURSE we bought one) it is a mopping robot, so it can make a wet spot.  And cats don't like wet spots.

It's not designed to be a fighting machine, of course.  You won't see it on Battle Bots.  But it has a few tricks up its sleeve.

The first time Trouble encountered the Roomba, it was vacuuming the kitchen.  Trouble stalked into the room, glaring.  He sat down in the middle of the room.  He tried to dominate the Roomba.  Everything else in his world gave him right of way, and the robot would be no different.  It started toward him, and he just stared at it.  It wouldn't *dare*.

It dared.

While he stared at it, now in disbelief, it bumped into him.  Trouble whapped the Roomba a good one.  Its collision detection algorithm noted that it had hit an obstacle, so it backed up, turned a little, and tried again.  From Trouble's perspective, the Roomba was challenging him!  When it bumped him again, Trouble snarled and lit into the little red disk.  He attempted to beat the tar out of it in a flurry of speedy claws and gnashing of fang.  (He only had the one left by then.)

The Roomba held its own for a moment, trying to get away, but eventually the beating it was enduring from Trouble convinced it that it had run into too many obstacles.  It made its "Something's wrong, I can't continue" "bee-yoop", and powered itself down.

Trouble returned to his afternoon nap with an air of satisfaction.  We never again turned the poor Roomba loose on the kitchen floor.

And that, my friends, is the tale of how my cat once beat the crap out of a Roomba.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Repost from 2010: Trouble kicked a Roomba's ass

Backstory:  Trouble finally died on November 30, 2010 after years of ancient mummified cathood.  The entire post is here, but the pertinent bits are quoted below.  JD eulogized him this way: 

Thanks, folks. We've often noted, he wasn't exactly a good cat, but he was our cat.

The way I figure it, we wouldn't miss critters so much if they weren't worth it. And, on that note, one of my favorite Trouble stories:

Not long after we got ...the dog, I noticed we were getting drifts of fur all over the place. Since I'd moved in with a Roomba, I decided to see just how well it would do on insane amounts of pet fur.

Beauty didn't know what to make of the thing. She stayed back out of the way, puzzled look on her face. The Monster treated the Roomba as he did anything else: he ran away and hid. Andy alternated between ignoring it and fruitlessly trying to convince it to chase him.

Trouble, on the other hand, got up from where he was snoozing, went smack dab in the middle of the room, and plopped down on the floor as it trundled by. And eventually, the Roomba wound up on a collision course for the Old Man. And the Old Man just stared at it. It wouldn't _dare_.

It dared.

Trouble sprang up, claws out, and whapped the Roomba a good one. The Roomba's collision detection algorithm only turned it a little, and it bumped Trouble again, at which point he snarled and lit into the little red disc, attempting to beat the tar out of it in a flurry of speedy claws and gnashing of tooth. (He only had the one by then.)

The Roomba held its own for a moment or two, trying to get away, but Trouble's thrashing eventually convinced it that it had run into too many obstacles. It let out its "Something's wrong, I can't continue!" bi-tone, and powered itself down.

Trouble returned to his afternoon nap, and I never again turned the poor Roomba loose on the floor upstairs.

And that's the tale of how my cat once beat the crap out of a Roomba.

Repost from 2006: The results of the great field shakeup

Back story:  Playboy, at 29, had gotten very rickety.  He had a bad health problem and was laid up in a stall for a few days.  He was miserable.  We decided to try putting him in with Chocolate, an even more elderly horse who lived in the field adjacent to Playboy's regular field.  We took Ben the Mule out of the field with Chocolate, and put him in with Pluto.  We thought old guys together and young guys together would work out pretty well for all.  We moved them into their respective fields on January 29, 2006.  This is what happened:

Today, a formerly very angry and now very relieved Playboy got to 
come out of isolation. We decided to put him in the field with 
Chocolate the 33 year old Morgan horse, on the theory that Chocolate 
would be less likely to harass him than 6 year old (and bored) Pluto.

Chocolate has been sharing a field with a 6 year old mule named Ben. 
In the shuffle, Ben was assigned to Pluto's field so they could each 
have a youngster to play with.

Here's what happened.

First we moved Ben into Pluto's field.

Chocolate: What the hell?
Ben: Hi.
Pluto: Hi.
Ben: I like you.
Pluto: I like you too.
Chocolate: I said WHAT THE HELL?
Ben: Want to run around?
Pluto: OK!
(there is much running around)
Ben: Want to play nippy face?
Pluto: Joy!
(there is much playing)

Kevin and I went to get Playboy and put him in the field with Chocolate.

Playboy: Hi! I'm Playboy, I used to be in the other field, how are you?
Chocolate: DIE!
Playboy: Um.. I'll just hang out over here.
Chocolate: (glare of death)
Playboy: Look, grass.
Chocolate: I'ma kick your ass, boy.
Playboy: I may be old but I'm still younger than you, you old fart. 
(He thumps Chocolate in the ribs.)

Chocolate spends some time staring at Ben in the other field and 

Playboy investigates the shelter, the grass, the trees.

Chocolate turns back to Playboy. The shark attack music from Jaws 
begins to play in the background. Chocolate charges Playboy at a fast 
shamble. Playboy kicks him again and runs off.

Chocolate: DIE DIE DIE!
Playboy: In case you haven't noticed, you're not fast enough to get 
in front of me so you can kick me. And you don't have any teeth left 
to bite with. Give up or I will kick you again.
(Chocolate glares at the world and at me in my car. He blames me now. 
I start to wonder if he will brave the electric fence to try to kill 

Playboy: I'm just going to go hang out by the trees until Chocolate 
gets tired.

Pluto: Do you have any idea what all that fuss is about?
Ben: Nope.

Playboy, all pumped up with Banamine, is agile enough to fend off 
Chocolate for now. I hope that by the time it wears off, Chocolate 
will have accepted the situation. The mule is very nice but Playboy 
is a good pasture buddy too.

Ben has decided that as a Cookie Lady I'm cool. Pluto is thrilled to 
have somebody who will race around and play gelding games with him. 
Playboy is just happy to be out of jail. So far only Chocolate is 
unhappy. Poor old guy.

&apparently Chocolate and Ben too

I keep saying "glucose free"

I haven't had a lot to say recently.  I've been sick.  It's boring.  You know what's more boring than being sick?  Writing about being sick.

I'll sum up:

Felt horrible
Laid around a lot
Eventually was able to see GI doc
Excitingly, had immediate celiac test and endoscopy
All tests came back negative
.. so I still don't know what's wrong
Decided to go gluten free and it helped
Decided to go lactose free and it helped
Still waiting for follow up with GI doc, where he'll tell me he still doesn't know what's wrong
In mean time, trying to get back to daily life but feeling very much like I've had a long flu

You know how after you have the flu you feel better for a day and you think you're fine until you try to do anything?  And then you realize that you have all the strength and endurance of a newborn kitten?  I've had that going on.  When I first got home from the trail I was too sick to exercise, so I pretty much just worked and lay on the sofa.  But it feels like more than the end result of laziness.  The first time I tried to walk around the park, my knees were rubbery at first.  They failed to get better, and then after a mile I started cramping all over my body.  It was not what I expected.

My back definitely did not appreciate the extended time off from the gym, and started hurting all the time.  So I went to the gym and did the best I could.  The back has been getting better.  And the rest of me too.  I went to the park this weekend and I didn't start cramping up until mile four.  That's measurable improvement.

I never in my life thought I'd go on a gluten free diet, so this has been interesting.  I've been reading a lot of labels.  Restaurants are a problem.  I've been trying to eat at the cafeteria and have chosen poorly a couple of times.  Today, for instance.  But since I don't have celiac disease, I think I can assume that I am only causing myself temporary inconvenience when I have gluten, rather than long term intestinal damage.  Although, as soon as I stopped eating gluten, several awful skin things that had not been responding to treatment started to heal up.  So maybe the implications are more far reaching.

Lactose free I've done before.  I already knew what brand of soy milk I like on my cereal, and if past experience serves I'll be able to eat goat and sheep cheese. 

I'm going to have to start packing my lunch more and that bugs.  I really liked being able to get fresh hot food at the cafeteria.  Sigh.

JD was out of town while I was experimenting with gluten/lactose free living.  Tonight was his first night back where he cooked dinner.  He made us a pretty good dinner with a red quinoa base.  He made enough that I'm dehydrating the leftovers to take camping.  It should be good with savory stuff for dinner or with sweet stuff for breakfast.  A little non-dairy protein powder, a little stevia, maybe some walnuts.. Actually I'm making myself hungry.  Heh.

The camping I mentioned above?  I have a week long trip scheduled for the beginning of October.  I've been planning it for a year.  I have no idea if I'm going to be able to do it.  But if I don't prepare for it and then I'm well enough when October gets here, I'll be pretty pissed at missing the opportunity.    So I'm finding foods that won't make me sick (Packit Gourmet is nice enough to label their stuff if gluten or lactose free) and working out the logistics now.  DeLee and I are going to go on a low mileage trip in a couple of weeks to see if going up and down hills wearing a backpack is a problem or not.  If it's okay, I'll make a motel reservation for a night in Waynesboro so we can stage ourselves for a Shenandoah hike.

Let's see, good news?  I can totally eat chocolate.  And jelly beans.  I found gluten free waffles.  Beer and wine are both being a problem, but scotch apparently is not.  Oh, and I am entered into a humorous speech contest in exactly a week and apparently I'm okay with that.  Trying to decide if I'm going to talk about the Schnork, the day we tried to move Playboy into Chocolate's field, or the day Trouble kicked a Roomba's ass.  I was going to link to those last two but they were a really long time ago and a little hard to find online so I'll repost them here. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

I can't recommend it, but it worked for me

I feel the best today that I've felt in ages.  I attribute this to my diet.  Normally, I start my day with a high fiber, hi protein cereal and a banana.  I have four prunes and several almonds for a mid morning snack.  Lunch is a large salad with nuts, beans, and cottage cheese, or more recently cooked veggies and some turkey breast, as raw veg seems to make things worse.  Mid afternoon snack of string cheese and fruit, then a light dinner (well, a small portion of whatever JD is eating) with water, bubbled and then sweetened with a little stevia.

Today, I had a slice of leftover pizza and a piece of dark chocolate for breakfast.  George brought treats from Greece, so I ate too many mini chocolate bars.  Lunch was at Marathon deli - veggie gyros, greek fries, and full sugar birch beer.  Dinner so far has been wine and tacos.  And more chocolate.

And I'm not swollen up like a balloon, and my insides don't hurt like daggers.

Apparently, healthy living is bad for me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

State of the Schnork, August 2012

It's been a while since we've had a Schnork update.  I must say, the Schnork is starting to shape up.  Once we pulled up everything resembling a carpet and layered the house with wee pads, we had no more accidents.  Except that one.

She still doesn't come when called, or sit on command, or in fact do any other doglike obedient things.  But she does sit when she wants your food.  So there's that.  And she does fetch the squirrel, repeatedly, until you would really like to be done throwing the squirrel now please but she is still trying to get you to take it from her.

Really our biggest problem right now is that Beauty has decided to ignore the existence of the Schnork, and thus mows her down every time she runs down the hallway.  The Schnork is rightfully indignant and will undoubtedly sustain a rotator cuff injury soon.  I mean, it's mayhem in the hallway.  Beauty steps right ON the Schnork, or runs over the top of her, or sits on her, or beats her with her beefy Labrador tail.  And then she tries to pretend that she doesn't know why I'm yelling at her.

Do you think it's like True Blood, when somebody in the pack has done something just too awful, like get a really bad geometrical haircut, and they abjure the person/wolf?  Maybe Beauty has abjured the Schnork.  Then she couldn't be held responsible for mowing her down several times a day, because she LITERALLY DOESN'T SEE HER.  THE SCHNORK DOES NOT EXIST FOR HER.  Stupid asymmetrical haircut.

In other Schnork news, she managed to use a tool today, kind of, and I'm having to revise my opinion of her intelligence upward.  The sunroom is right behind my desk, and I realized I'd been hearing quite a lot of schnorking in there this morning so I turned to look.  And I saw the Schnork standing on top of a cat scratching post type item.  It's in the shape of an S, and it's pretty lightweight.  She had pushed it across the room and then stood on the upmost curve of the S so she could try to lick the remainder of the cat food out of Andy's bowl, which was on a chair too high for her to reach.  That's pretty ingenious for a dog, let alone a Schnork.  My theory is that although she has a tiny brain, she isn't using much of it to control her body (because there's so little to control).  So she has more brain than expected available for fiendish planning.

Friday, August 10, 2012

But if I don't do it then I'll never fail spectacularly

I am aggravated with myself.  I reread my old journals and I crack myself up.  I read actual published books, and I think "I could write a better book than that."  But do I get off my lazy butt and write said book?  No I do not.  I'm not so good at writing unless I have a long stretch of time in front of me.  Or it's due tomorrow.

Also, part of me thinks I should actually hike the entire trail before writing a book about it.  I mean, Bill Bryson didn't, but he was already a famous author.  I'm just somebody who amuses my own self.

I'm probably going to have to do something adult and mature like make a commitment.  Like, I made a commitment to go to the gym twice a week to do the back exercises the physical therapist taught me.  It's important, it's for my own good, and I actually do it.  Of course, that's only 45 minutes twice a week, which isn't a huge commitment.  But I think it counts.

Gah.  Hate being adult and mature.  Is much more fun to watch tv and eat Twinkies.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure that I've ever watched tv and eaten Twinkies simultaneously.  Also not sure how many years it has been since I ate a Twinkie.  I am definitely sure that I loved Twinkies when I was nine.  Also I loved that tomato soup with the alphabet in it.  What was that called?  I can't remember.  But I tried it again when I grew up (technically I'm an adult now) and it tasted sweet and gross.  Sad.

Also, we haven't really watched "tv" since those jerks changed everything to digital and turned my tv into a useless hunk of metal and glass.  I watch Netflix.  Sporadically.


I just went into the kitchen because I heard the dryer buzz (the dryer is only accessible through the kitchen) and as I walked through I saw a camel cricket.  ON THE CUTTING BOARD.  Camel crickets have invaded our kitchen!  I screamed like a little girl, and then I tried to kill it with a knife but it jumped, like those little effers like to do.  So instead I dropped the cutting board on it from several feet up, and miraculously I hit the critter.  And then I bravely killed it by stepping on the cutting board.  Not one of my finer moments.  I'll sleep in the woods for months on end, but do NOT let one of those godawful too-many-leg prehistoric-looking things in my house.  Eesh.



We are having a domestic situation here at the house.  I can't really give you any details because my husband might divorce me, but the gist is that we have a LOT of ants in here right now.  All over the place.  I am having hysterical itching.


What's a good way to do something that you do want to do but it involves being grown up and mature?  Do you think 45 minutes twice a week is reasonable?  That's, like, 8 words in Words with Friends, which is mostly Words with my Husband, except not in the "we're having words" way.  It's amicable.  Except when I get all vowels.

The really galling thing is that it's mostly written already.  I'm planning to take journal entries, spell check them, buff them a little, and intersperse them with commentary as I feel moved to do so.  And it's not like I need to do a lot of fact checking.  (I might need to change some names to protect the innocent.)

So annoyed with myself.  Might put self on restriction.  No tv for one week.  Or Twinkies.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

On the whole I have few regrets

I came across one of those "things people regret on their deathbed" sorts of things today.  I took the moment to pause and think about my life.  What have I done that I'm happy about?  What would I regret having not done, if I were at the end of my life?

Things I'm happy about:

I got a degree in physics.  In one sense I never use it (my job is not physics related), but in another I use it every day of my life.  I always wanted to know how things worked.  And to a large extent, I do thanks to that degree.

I had a really great dog.  Everybody should have at least one really great dog.

All the time I got to spend wandering around in the woods as a kid.  I made up a thousand stories, and ate as many wild berries.

I've experienced enough pain and suffering to enhance my empathy for others.  You really have to walk a mile in those shoes to know what it's like.

I had a really great horse.  Far fewer people experience this than a really great dog, but it is, if anything, more fulfilling.  Dogs are bred to want to be around humans, and their pack structure makes them nicely obedient if you're the alpha.  So they're kind of easy. Horses, on the other hand, usually don't care about people except as it relates to their dinner.  If you have a really great relationship with a horse, it means a special horse and probably a whole lot of time spent together.

I own my very own Lipizzan cross, as close as I could afford to get to nature's own dressage machine.  And I did in fact ride dressage on him for several years.  More importantly, that nutty horse and I have learned each other.  I have not yet met another horse who will play Red Light Green Light with me.

I finally told the man I loved how I felt about him, and we are now married.  

If things go as planned, we'll own our own house together before either of us is 50.  We are pretty much financially stable.  This makes me happy.  I have never been comfortable with debt.

I have some really great friends.  And they are not the ones who I expected to end up with, which makes it more special.

I have spent a LOT of time alone in nature.  I've sat on the tops of mountains - under a clear sky, in the middle of a cloud, watching a storm come in, plundering a blueberry patch, listening to absolute silence.  I've felt nature's fury against my bare skin.  I've laid out at night, far from a city, and seen too many stars to count.  I've felt the thrill of sharing a place with a wild thing.  Teaching myself the skills to be comfortable alone in the wilderness has been a wonderful experience.  Sometimes scary, but wonderful.

I've met hundreds of people hiking, and they have almost all been the sort of people you would really want to meet.

I've made some people happy and I've made some people laugh.

Things I regret:

Sometimes I was lonely when I didn't have to be.

Sometimes I've been unfair to others.  And to me.

All those times I got Lyme disease.  What a waste.

Oddly enough, I regret not meeting some people who died before I was born, or before I could meet them.  Two grandparents, and JD's dad.


On the whole, the likes far outweigh the regrets.  I think I'll keep going the way I'm going.

Is there anything I still want to do?  Of course!  I want to keep enjoying my life, and that means more hiking, travel, trying my best at my job, many years of laughter with JD, probably more dogs and cats, and loving my friends and family to the best of my ability.  But as far as anything that I've never done that I really wish I had?  Something I would regret missing? Nope.  Can't think of one thing.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Today's revelation

I went out to the farm this morning, as one does, to see my horse.  He was being a sweety.  First I drove to the south end of his field to check out his hay bale (so freshly installed that it's still perfectly cylindrical) and then I turned to drive up to the barn where his gear is.  In the meantime he had started walking toward my car, so he had to reverse and walk the other way with me.

I love having a horse who recognizes my car, and likes me enough to follow my car around.

Of course, despite that he didn't want to be caught, so instead Mystery got a handful of cookies and some attention.  And then Pluto was ready to be caught.  I imagine that if anybody else ever ends up with this horse, they'll be cussing me for his quirks.  But I swear I didn't install those quirks.  He came this way.

He was oddly good on the lead - no lunging for the grass, just sort of calmly walking along at the end of a loopy rope, as if he were well trained.  What's up with that?

I brushed a few loose hairs off him and neatened up his mane a little bit, but he was already looking pretty shiny.  Pluto pretended to be scared of the fly spray when I fwooshed it at him, but he didn't pretend very hard.  Not much is worth the energy to really act out on a summer day.  I said "stand still" and then he did.  A really scared horse would have jigged in place, or maybe just stood and shook.  Whereas Pluto just stood.

I intended to stay with Pluto and let him graze today like Bonnie does with Mystery, but instead Pluto wanted to stand with his head three inches from my face.  We did that for a few minutes while I blew zerberts against his nose, but eventually I decided to put him back out with Mystery and mosey on home.  Between the new grass the rain brought and the fresh round bale, I think he has plenty to eat without grazing outside the field anyway.

After grooming and spraying and making much of him, I suddenly realized that my middle didn't hurt.  I stopped to think about it.  I guess it did still kinda hurt.  I just hadn't noticed.  And that's when I had a revelation.

My brain has been trying to come up with a reason why I should keep a horse when I mostly don't ride anymore.  My heart says "I love him" should be enough, but my brain keeps looking at my wallet.  But today, my brain finally figured out that when I'm with my horse, I forget about everything else.  And I don't have to be riding him for this to happen.  This is valuable.  This is a good enough reason to have a horse that I don't ride.

PS My middle really doesn't hurt as much today as yesterday.  I'm not as swollen up, either.  Yesterday was a very bad day.  Today is making up for it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An encyclopedia covering the last three weeks, with an emphasis on grossness

Special note:  if you don't want to read about bodily functions, you are totally at the wrong blog.  You've been warned.

I'm back!  Actually I've been back since Thursday night, which is almost a week, but I've been pretty busy being bulbous.  The last week of my hike, my stomach or related items in my abdomen started getting kind of cranky.  And so I stopped eating as much, so I got really tired.  Because when you're hiking up and down big effing mountains with a backpack is not a good time to cut calories.  Food = fuel, people!  No food = not going up mountains very fast.

That said, I had a really good time.  If my tummy had behaved it would have been pretty much perfect.  But then again, when has my tummy really behaved on a long trip?  Eh?  EH?  I think the answer I hear echoing around the room is "never".  So I'm kind of used to it.  The terrain was gorgeous, the people were fun, and the hiking was not as hard as I expected.  It was a good vacation.

So I'm back at work.  I'm sort of easing in.  My boss has also been out, which helps with the easing.  My coworkers very seldom pressure me to do more work.

Weeks ago, before I went on my hiking trip through the Whites, my doctor gave me an order for a CT scan.  I had only casually mentioned the astonishing but short lived abdominal pain that had been happening in my middle periodically, because I was in the office already getting my arm (and apparently arthritic neck) checked out.  As I told her, I only brought it up because I knew if I ended up in the ER with something abdominal and I *hadn't* mentioned it when I was right there in the office that she would be really mad.  My doctor is tiny but she has very intimidating frowny expressions that she gets when people do things like that.  So I "oh by the way" mentioned it, and in addition to the MRI orders she wrote out the CT order.  But she said it could wait until I got back, since I wasn't having immediate problems.

Well, she was *almost* right.

I'm pretty lucky things happened the way they did.  I mean, A) I didn't have to go to the hospital, although I was starting to wonder, and B) when my intestines did what intestines do when they're really pissed off, I was in a motel room.  With a flush toilet (and a shower, which became important).  Not on top of a mountain in a tent with no more facilities than whatever sort of hole I could scratch out of the bare rock with my plastic trowel.  Had I ended up in that situation, I think I'd have just laid sideways on the stone, shat my brains out, and hoped for a rainstorm.

Did you know that if enough pressure builds up in your intestines (due to, let's say just theoretically, an intestinal blockage) that poop can undergo a phase change?  Not solid, not liquid, but more of a foam?  Kind of like happens with geysers.  Except in this case nothing started miles underground, and also nothing was heated to  hundreds of degrees.  Although it kind of felt like it from my perspective.

I listened to a fascinating podcast about geysers the following morning, as my poor abused innards and I were jostled and jolted the many miles from North Conway, NH to home in MD via the bus and the train.  It really struck a chord.

Anyway so I got off the trail a few days early because I was tired and I needed a day off, and I didn't have time to get over Mt Washington and then find a way home if I took that day off.  I mean, it took me two whole days to get home starting from Crawford Notch.  Several more days travel would have only made it worse.

Day one only got me as far as North Conway, where I could get a bus to Boston... the next morning.  There is not a lot of public transportation happening in the smaller parts of New England.  If you miss the 8:30 AM bus, you're stuck there until the morrow. I started wandering around North Conway, hoping to find the movie theater.  I never did, but I did have iced coffee in a delightful coffee shop / art gallery.  After I gave up on finding the theater (it was five hundred and three degrees out, and it just wasn't worth it) I stopped in at the information office for town and the lady there directed me to the town library.  I just wanted some place air conditioned to sit quietly.  Reading free magazines was just my speed.  Also, the lady told me to come back and talk to her if I got bored.

Also, EVERYBODY told me I had to get ice cream while in town. Apparently it's a thing.  So, library and a milkshake.  And I visited the Mt Washington museum, which was right across from my motel, and also free.

After sufficient time had passed to allow me to checkin (around four pm) I went and checked in at an exorbitant rate to a room so small that it had a Murphy bed.  But it had air conditioning, and a shower, and a toilet, so I was happy.  I immediately folded down the bed and lay directly in the breeze of the air conditioner and was happy.

At dinner time I wasn't really hungry, but I've been fooled before.  I hate it when I'm not hungry and I don't eat, and then it's too late and my stomach is a giant pit of churning acid.  It remonstrates.

I went across the street to the Thai place for basil rolls (which are kind of like spring rolls except it's all incredibly fresh crunchy veggies inside, and the outside is a not-fried rice paper wrap) and some Pad Thai.  Which was starting to gross me out by the time I got it.  I ate a few bites of noodles but couldn't finish.  The restaurant owner convinced me to take it with me in case I got hungry later.  I think he couldn't stand the thought of wasted food.  Which is too bad, because I left the whole thing in the fridge of the motel room.

I stopped for a Slushee, which I had never actually gotten before.  At home we have Slurpees.  Slushees are different.  Instead of several varieties of flavored slush, there are several varieties of syrup, to which you add plain slush.  Both ways work fine.  I got blue flavor syrup.

Blue slush was tasting pretty good.  Sugar + ice + water is excellent when it's twelve hundred and nine degrees out.

So I toddled back to my motel with the intention of watching bad tv, drinking a quart of sugar ice water, and falling asleep early.  Instead, as soon as I got there I noticed that a basketball had apparently inflated itself just under my breastbone.  I don't know how I didn't notice this procedure, but once I did notice I can assure you that it was painful.  I lay back and tried to focus on the tv, but dang!  It was really uncomfortable.  And I couldn't, you know.. go.  Actually I hadn't been able to for several days.  And suddenly the whole "you might have adhesions because of prior abdominal surgeries" portion of the casual chat I had had with the doctor several weeks earlier became very clear in my brain.  Adhesions = things connecting where they shouldn't = possibly my intestines are not a through street anymore.

I thought pretty hard about calling 911.  Or the front desk.  Wouldn't it be good to alert the front desk before I exploded all over their room?  They might want to get a mop.  Or a tarp.

Then, I remembered "wind breaking poses" from yoga.  I was in far too much pain to do a real down dog, but I attempted a facsimile thereof.  Oh my lord.  That hurt.  BUT!  I felt things moving.  Like in one of those Indiana Jones movies, where a giant boulder is rolling down a carefully hidden track, and it wants to crush Indy?  Like that, but with poop.  And then I was ever so grateful that the room was tiny, because I was only four feet from the toilet.

And then there was the business with the foam, and something about projectile, and I had to take a shower.  And basically that's how my evening went until quite late at night.  It was quite early the next morning before I could fart with impunity.  Which I did a lot of, because apparently I had packed a *lot* of gas into the basketball.

Oddly?  Those farts, and all the farts of the next two days, smelled like nothing.  I was sad when my farts started stinking again.  But in the meantime it was very handy because I farted about every 30 seconds on the train, for hundreds of miles.  And nobody complained.

In the morning I realized that if I didn't do something about the geyser I wasn't going to be able to travel, so I purchased a large quantity of Imodium, some ginger ale, some Gatorade (blech) and some graham crackers, which I figured would keep me from passing out due to low blood sugar.

It was a long day, my friends.  But I stoppered the geyser, I manfully maintained my stiff upper lip while farting copiously, and I painfully made my way home.

Which brings us to today, when I finally was able to get that CT scan.  I couldn't get a followup appointment with my doctor until next Monday, and of course the technician isn't legally allowed to tell you anything because that's the radiologist's job.  But she did point to the exact spot where my belly hurts to ask if that were where my trouble was located.  So I'm guessing she saw something.  Which I'll find out about on Monday..

In the meantime, I'm dealing with the after effects of the "oral contrast" they make you drink so they can actually see your intestines in the xrays.  Just like last time, in 2009, my body has been trying vigorously to eject the stuff since I started drinking it.  I was able to clamp down on the gag reflex, but I can't do anything about the other end.  I went to work after the scan in the vain hope that THIS TIME I would be fine, but no.  After four hours of hurried trips halfway across the building to the ladies room, I gave up.  I tried to time it so that I would have enough time to drive home before the next visit, but I didn't count on road construction. I almost didn't make it.  But I did!  It was like I had an umpire yelling SAFE as I slid through the door!  Whew.

I'm pretty much clean as a whistle now.

Oh, and the bulbous thing?  Has been pretty much happening every day, so I feel like things are kind of drawing to a head.  I get up, I'm normal shape, and by mid morning my middle is distended.  Getting horizontal helps.  I'm fairly certain I have some kind of partial obstruction.  And I'm pretty sure the only way this is resolving is with the help of a scalpel.

Good times, good times.  How was your vacation?