Monday, June 29, 2015

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

I grew up in the middle of the 20th century. Even though I wasn't in the middle of the conflict, I watched the civil rights movement evolve on the nightly news. The women's rights movement became a big issue. Many other social issues came to the forefront and our political leaders struggled with how to calm the storms. Many laws were written. Many social injustices were addressed. Many of those laws were contested and eventually decided by the Supreme Court. Many of  those court decisions were sharply divided on religious and political boundaries.

Just because a law was passed doesn't mean that the problem no longer exists. It doesn't magically go away. Look at how many major federal laws have been passed regarding civil rights: 1991, 1968, 1965, 1964, 1960, 1957, 1866. Do people still discriminate against those who are different? Of course they do.

Discrimination is a fact of life. Is it right to discriminate? Of course not. Is a law going to make those who discriminate change their minds? Nope.

Multiple federal laws have made discrimination illegal. Those laws didn't prevent the recent mass murder in Charleston, South Carolina.  Roe V. Wade was decided in 1973, that was 42 years ago. Does everyone now agree that abortion is okay? Passing a law on social issues doesn't fix the problem. It's putting lipstick on a pig. It might look nicer, but it's still a pig.

If you have gone your entire life believing something, a law isn't going to change your mind about the matter overnight. You're going to struggle with the new idea for a long time. Maybe you'll change your mind, maybe you won't.

A few of my friends and even some of my children feel that the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage is the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. I have to admit that it's a struggle for me. Growing up in the 1950's and 60's, I was taught that homosexuality was wrong. I'm a religious guy and the Bible says it's wrong. It just feels wrong and I can't change how I feel about something just because the Supreme Court says it's okay.

Do I hate homosexuals? Do I want to go out and shoot a few of them? No, of course not. But it's like a bad itch to me. It bothers me. A lot. And it's not going to go away tomorrow, in fact I'll probably go to my grave feeling it's wrong.

Don't get in my face and tell me I'm wrong. It won't help and will just make it more difficult for me to accept. Understand that it's a big struggle for me to change my mind on a difficult issue. I won't tell you that you're wrong and will go to hell because you think it's okay for two people of the same sex to marry. I might think it, but I won't say it. You're free to think I'm a bigot. A close-minded old man who is behind the times. Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. A Supreme Court decision isn't going to change the way I think.

Give me some time.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Case of the Travelling Bras

Note: This is a guest post written by my wife.

Without giving out too much information let me say I am a difficult person to fit correctly when it comes to bras. So, when I see just the ones I need being advertised in one of those mailers that comes in the post, i immediately go online and order three. That was on June 19.

I admit, I’m rather spoiled when it comes to ordering things online. It is so convenient. Order today, get package delivered in less than five days. Usually. The bras I ordered online have been taking the scenic route. They started out in Los Angeles and then went to Walnut, CA, from there they went to Hespera, CA. Okay, California is covered. Next they show up in Holbrook, AZ. , then Fort Sumner, NM. Well that covers the Southwest pretty well so I track them as they go to Lebo, KS and then Edgerton, KS.  Next, I get a feeling my bras are not in Kansas anymore and sure enough, when I check, they are listed as residing in Earth City, MO.  (Perhaps for a back to nature retreat?)

I can’t wait so see where they go next. Surely they will be able to fit in a few days touring Canada? At any rate, they are scheduled to be delivered to me by June 30th, so they have plenty of time to take the Appalachian Trail if they choose.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Today is World Blood Donor Day, sponsored by the World Health Organization. The theme of this year's campaign is "Thank you for saving my life." It focuses on thanking blood donors who save lives through blood donations and encouraging more people to give blood. It's a worthy cause. Just one pint of blood can potentially save the life of three people. About every two seconds someone, somewhere, needs blood. And you can give blood more than once, you know. There are folks who donate as often as they can and have done so hundreds of times.

I take a medicine called warfarin. It's also known commercially as Coumadin or Jantovin. Many folks refer to it as a "blood thinner," but it doesn't really affect the viscosity or how thick your blood is. Warfarin affects the clotting properties of your blood. The more of it you have in your body, the longer it takes for your blood to clot. The main reason it's administered is to reduce the chances of a stroke due to a blood clot blocking a vessel to your brain or other vital organ. All medicines seem to have a negative side effect. The obvious one for this medicine is that if you have too much of it in your system you can bleed to death from a minor injury that normal people wouldn't even put a bandage on. They also use this stuff in rat poison. It makes the rats bleed to death internally when they eat enough of it. Because I have it running through my veins, I can't donate blood.

I also have to get my blood tested every four weeks just to make sure my blood still clots enough that I'm not going to bleed excessively if I cut myself somehow. Getting poked with a needle every four weeks isn't a whole lot of fun. I can think of much better ways to spend an afternoon, but I do it because I don't want to die the next time I decide to shave.

A person who specializes in taking blood samples is called a phlebotomist, or a phlebotomy technician. I like that word - phlebotomy. It's unusual and doesn't come up in conversation very often. Phlebotomy. Phlebotomy. Phlebotomy.

I'm what some phlebotomy technicians call a "hard stick." Although I will grant that the clinic where I routinely get my blood drawn almost always gets blood on the first try, that's not the case just about everywhere else. Other folks generally stick me at least two or three times, sometimes more. A few places have a policy that they will only try three times and after the second try they'll call in their best expert to do the job. I hate it when they go for the hand...that hurts unbelievably. I've been told my veins roll, that they collapse, or they just "blow out." I tried to donate blood a few times back when I was a younger man and not on these medicines. After a few tries, one of the ladies taking the blood told me "Don't come back. We don't need your blood that badly."

Some interesting facts about blood I looked up: The average person has a little over a gallon of blood running through their veins but a newborn baby only has about a cup. It's not recommended, but you can loose about 40 percent of your blood and probably still survive if there aren't other mitigating circumstances. A heart pumps over 82 billion gallons of blood in the average lifetime. If you're a normal person, you have about 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your body. The time it takes for a single blood cell to leave the heart and travel through your body back to the heart is only about 30 seconds. It would take about 1.2 million mosquito bites to completely drain your body of blood...although I've seen some pretty big mosquitoes in my lifetime that might tend to make that number somewhat lower.

In church we often talk about the blood of Jesus. We sing about being "washed in the blood" and how his blood cleanses us of sin. The concept is that God commanded animal sacrifices in the Old Testament to defer his punishment for the various sins that men committed. Animal blood took the place of human blood. Jesus changed everything. He gave his own blood, his life, as a permanent sacrifice for the sins of man. I guess you could call him the ultimate blood donor.

If that's the case, if Jesus made the final sacrifice, why should we worry about sin or eternal life in hell? The catch is the sacrifice is only good if you believe it. There are specific requirements to be included in the class action. Of course you need to hear about the sacrifice, what Jesus did, the details of the pain and suffering he went through. As I said before, you also need to believe the story is true. You need to accept that the idea that sin exists and that you, and everyone on earth, is guilty of sinning against God. Finally, you need to personally accept the sacrifice Jesus made, confess that you believe he is the true Son of God, and be baptized as a symbolic cleansing of your sins by the washing of his blood. The theme for World Blood Day is "Thank you for saving my life." In the case of Jesus, it's "Thank you for saving not just my life, but my very soul."

Monday, June 08, 2015

Left turn at Albuquerque

First, an update on my health. I reviewed the latest CT scan with Dr. Whoosh on Thursday. For the first time he showed me a copy of the images and pointed out the mass in my right lung. I had obtained copies of the scans myself and looked at them, but wasn't exactly sure what I was looking at. Now I have a better handle on what I'm seeing. The mass in my lower right lung is still growing at a slow pace. Although there was some dramatic shrinkage after I first started the oral therapy, the trend has reversed and the cancer is growing back. It's now slightly larger than it was when I first started the treatment. No changes to the therapy yet. I'm tolerating the medication very well and it does seem to be retarding the cancer growth somewhat. There are only a limited number of drugs that will work on this thing and they don't want to exhaust all their resources too quickly. Plus I might not tolerate the other medications as well. The fewer side effects the better.

Following the visit to Dr. Whoosh,  I took a weekend trip to see my cousin in West Chicago and pick up the wheelchair I bought on Ebay. The trip took a bit longer than it should have since I misread a map and got lost in Indianapolis for about 45 minutes. I also made the mistake of waiting too long to stop for the night in Champaign, IL.  Instead of stopping at one of the nice places we passed on I-74 W, I decided to wait until I made the turn on I-57 N to look for a hotel. Big mistake. I-57 north of Champaign is a black hole. The first sign we saw advertized a Microtel. The exit had absolutely no street lighting of any kind and the signage was pitiful. Lost in the dark, it took me fifteen minutes just to find my way back to the interstate. I never did see the hotel. The next exit at Rantoul offered a Day's Inn. We stayed there out of desperation. I requested a non-smoking room. What I should have requested was a non-smelly room. There was a definite odor of mold and mildew with a hint of chlorine from the indoor pool. I can cross "stay overnight in a crappy hotel in Rantoul, Illinois" off my bucket list.

We spent the next two nights in my cousin's beautiful home being wined and dined. A very pleasant stay to say the least. Terrific pork chops on the grill, all the coffee you could drink, a wonderful breakfast...hmm it seems I'm obsessing about the food. Well, it was good. I don't recall ever seeing a four-poster bed quite as tall as the one in her guest bedroom though. Thankfully she provided a stool to help climb into the bed. The top of the mattress was literally chest high. I also knocked one of the balls off the top of the finials when I leaned on it. It had been broken once before, but still I should have been more careful. Sorry, Alyce.

The wheelchair fits in the trunk of my car, but it fills  it up completely and is a bit difficult to load and unload. I'm going to need to do some work on the wheels. It doesn't roll as easily as it should. Perhaps some lube on the hubs or maybe new bearings. I haven't had a chance to take a really good look at the problem yet.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

LIfe Goes On

It's been six weeks since the last CT scan showed some growth in the spots on my lungs. I had another scan two days ago. I get to hear the results on Thursday. I waited around after the scan and got a CD with the images on them for both scans and looked at them already. Yeah, I can't interpret them at all, but in my layman's opinion the second one appears to be worse. I'm not looking forward to Thursday at all.

As I mentioned in my last post, Dr. Whoosh adjusted my cancer medication. I was taking three pills a day, he had me raise it to four pills per day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and told me to keep an eye on my blood pressure. After a couple of weeks, the blood pressure hadn't gone up a great amount, so I increased it to four pills every day as he had suggested. Nope...the blood pressure went up some more so I've dropped it back down to alternating three and four pills per day.

During the visit, the nurse practitioner noticed a rash on my wrist and asked about it. I explained that it was some contact dermatitis I had gotten from my wristwatch. Over the last couple of years I've gotten to the point that I can't wear any type of wristwatch without it causing a rash within a week or so. I've tried metal, plastic, fabric...all to no avail. She suggested a pocket watch and started joking around with my wife about how I'd look very distinguished in a waistcoat with a pocket watch on a gold chain, what with my white hair and beard. The conversation escalated, and by the time we left the office, my wife was making plans to dress me up steampunk style. I got hooked on the idea and we discussed it all the way home. By the time we reached home we had decided to create our own steampunk costumes and attend a steampunk convention somewhere.

Since I can't walk more that a few hundred feet without resting, I decided I'd need to invest in a why not get one and steampunk it? I also don't want to make my wife have to push me around, so I'd need to motorize it. This all lead to my current project...building a steampunk wheelchair to take to a steampunk convention in Cincinnati in April of next year.

I've got a little over $200 invested in it already, but a good portion of the major mechanical and electrical components are already purchased. I'm hoping to bring it in at under $500. You can read about the ongoing project on my other blog at Note that you'll need a Tumblr account to view the blog.