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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Fistula



So I had fistula surgery a little over two weeks ago. To facilitate my ongoing apheresis therapy.

This is a pretty common thing for people who take dialysis, which apheresis resembles. They're filtering my blood for different reasons but it's still filtering the blood. In my case, it's high LP(a) which is strongly correlated with early onset heart disease, which I have. Heart attack at 32, a double bypass at 43, it's financially ruinous, physically unpleasant, and time consuming but while there's no guarantees, it's the best shot I can see to being a senior citizen some day.

So this fistula. The surgeon basically hooked an artery to a vein in my left arm. Gotta remember not to let them take my blood pressure on that side ever again. And there's a visible bulge where this rewiring of my circulatory system creates a big fat vein for the apheresis clinic to access both for input and output.

The up side is besides making it easier to access me and possibly even to run the treatment a little faster, I'll have one hand free to jack with Netflix and whatnot (what else are you going to do when immobile for a half day?) The downside is if you were to cull my phobias and squeamishness to come up with the perfect freak out, the only thing this surgery is missing is giant spiders.

I played guitar this evening for the first time since the surgery. I was officially cleared to do so a few days ago but I wasn't feeling up to it. I have all kinds of neuropathy symptoms from the surgery that call back my senior year of high school when I dealt with a lot of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome symptoms that were misdiagnosed at the time as tendinitis. I have chills, spasms, numbness, sweats, aches in my forearm and wrist. It wakes me up at night sometimes.

Physically I seemed able to play pretty well, but it felt so freaky and sometimes painful. But the worst, looking down at my upper arm above the elbow and seeing the fistula bulge. I almost fainted dead away in the middle of the living room with the guitar around my neck.

I'm sure I'll get used to it, but it's not instantaneous.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Lucky 13



I went to a casino. To gamble. For the first time in my life. But first....

I had fistula surgery last week to facilitate ongoing apheresis treatments. Basically after almost four years of fortnightly filtrations, my veins had developed sufficient scar tissue that it was getting impossible to get a treatment going. Jennifer was on vacation (she's got her spots and ways, she's been the main one to access me all this time), and the whole crew plus the IV nurse (who apparently floats the hospital just starting IVs and who appeared to have been at it for decades) tried for over two hours without success.

I've had better days. Anyway, so the fistula surgery. I tend to think of fistulas as something to repair, but in this case they went in on purpose and hacked one of the arteries in my left arm into one of the veins, which is supposed to create a big vein they can easily do both the take-out and put-in of my blood for the treatments. All the other patients who come on Tuesday mornings already have them, seemed surprised I'd been going so long with out one. I guess dialysis patients get them pretty commonly too, same reason except their treatments are even more frequent than mine.

So anyway, no bicycle. No guitar. Can't lift more than 10 lbs. My arm feels weird with chills and tingling and one night it swelled up pretty good and there's been spookly looking contusions and hopefuly it's healing the way it's supposed to but I went to a casino. It seemed like something to do on the way home from work.

I'm not a big gambler. I guy the occasional Powerball ticket even though I'm pretty sure winning that just ruins your life. A life ruined by windfall money doesn't sound that bad to me sometimes. I buy scratchers for my relatives at Christmas to remember my late step-brother who did the same, though I buy them without hope or expectation of winning anything. But my favorite memory of Todd was taking a smoke outside (we both smoked back then), and lecturing him about how stupid lottery tickets were and the odds of winning and so on and he just smoked in silence until I ran out of lecturing words and then asked, "So you want another one?"

I grew up with a play casino set in the board games closet, and I'd play roulette (it had a little plastic wheel with a BB sized ball), my Dad taught me and my brother stud and draw poker, but we were just playing for chips. And all of this play gambling came with heavy lectures about how the house always wins, it has to. Who do you think is paying the light bill on that casino? My first, and most important professional mentor in life, Rich Nadler, had a huge anti-gambling bias. He thought the lottery and casinos were in many ways worse than the illegal, mafia-run gambling they were meant to replace.

And while I'm not great with money, I'm relatively risk averse and I know the odds.

So I was watching the movie Casino the other night and it occurred to me, I've never once, in my life, place a bet at a casino. On my way home from work, I decided to stop in the Isle of Capri and take a look. I like Texas Hold'Em (though I've never been good at it; I've only ever played in charity tournaments and I'm usually the first one out of chips). According to their website they had some version of it.

Walking in, the first thing that struck me was the smell. You're allowed to smoke in there, at the slots, the table games, as far as I can tell everywhere. It smells like 1987 in the Isle of Capri. Actually down in the rows of slot machines where the smoking is really going on, it smells like my Mom's house when my aunt and late uncle used to come for a visit and all three of them would sit in the closed house smoking every waking moment of the day.

The vast rows of slow machines, there's a bar, the cashier. I can't believe how many slot machines, with lots of people many appear retired, just zombied out. I can get plenty addicted to games on my iPhone that I play for free, Pokemon Go, Candy Crush, Words with Friends, I don't see the appeal of the slot machines. Maybe if they had Galaga with money payouts for clearing levels I could get into that. But I headed over to the table games.

I watched their version of Texas Hold'Em for a while. I noticed there wasn't much folding going on. Unless I'm the blind or the small blind, I check my pocket cards and decide if it's even worth seeing the flop in Hold'Em. It often isn't, sure a pocket 2 of diamonds with a 4 of spades could, theoretically, become the connectors of a straight or the completion of a full house, but don't bet on it. Literally.

This 'ultimate' version of the game, you're playing against the house. You ante every hand, and the only real decision is whether to bet against the dealer. It ends up resembling Black Jack more than poker to my mind. Same thing with their Six Card Poker. Black Jack didn't hold much appeal for me either.

I watched the craps table for a long time. I don't fully comprehend the game, it's so complicated it takes three casino employees to run it. It's quite popular, there was constantly a full crowd playing the whole time I was there, but I just couldn't place a wager on a game where I can't understand why money is coming and going from different spots on the table.

Roulette was fun to watch. I understand roulette more or less. Well, I later learned I didn't entirely.

I watched a woman buy in, get a little stack of chips, and proceed to hit straight up on a number. 35:1 payoff, she suddenly had several stacks of chips twice as tall as her one, original buy in. I was thinking, "take the money and run." But she stayed and played through those chips until she was down to nothing. And I judged her for it, oh boy, did I.

So I never did get around to placing a bet on that visit. I watched, the people watching aspect was pretty entertaining. I saw other people get up significantly and stay playing until they were back down again, not just at the roulette wheel, at all the games. I had a beer and watched and eventually decided the smoke was getting to me and went home.

The next night I decided to go back and actually play. That whole know when to stop before you start thing they throw in to the gambling ads? I decided going in that $40 was all I'd put at risk. I put two twenties in my front shirt pocket and was like, that's it for the gambling part. I got a drink from the bar and watched for a while more before I finally sat down at the roulette table. I didn't want to buy in with the whole $40 a once, I figured I'd blow through the chips faster if I went that way. So I gave the guy $20 and got a cute little stack of blue chips.

It's a $5 minimum, $50 maximum bet, and I knew from watching that people spread their bets around. I started to do so, and the dealer was like, you can't do that! I didn't understand, but when I explained that this was my first go at this, scooped the chips back to me and explained the whole inside/outside thing. Outside bets like black or red, even/odd, etc., don't pay as well as inside bets (where you're placing on a specific number or straddling numbers). The minimum applies to a single spot on the outside, so you can bet $5 on black, for instance, but you can't spread the $5 to multiple outside bets. On the inside, as long as you put a total of $5 in play, you can split it up between single numbers or groups of up to six numbers, with correspondingly lower payouts as you get less and less specific in your bet.

So anyway, 13 is as close as I get to thinking a number is lucky. Both my daughters were born on the 13th. So was my wife. In hindsight, we got married on a 12th but should have done it the next day, on the 13th. So I put $5 on 13 and $5 on black. A guy came to the table and bought in with $100 and proceeded to spread about half of it over so many spots on the table that I told him he'd missed a spot. One of those spots was 00 and he ended up with more chips than he'd started with. And proceeded to litter the board with chips again. I tried 13 by itself, nothing. The money is going fast, mind you. I did 13 one more time and bought in with my other twenty.

The next spin I played 13 and odd again, and the guy who'd bought in for $100 and already hit an improbably high payout scattered bets all over the board again.

And it hit on 13.

A little voice in my head said, 'quit while you're ahead.' Pretty sure this situation is exactly where that expression comes from in fact. I decided to play one more spin, put $5 on 13 again. "Gonna see if lightning strikes the same place twice," I said. The little voice in my head said '33.' I almost put $5 on the 33 spot but chickened out.

And it hit on 33. And that's when I decided to listen to the voice in my head. As my brother pointed out later, the longer I stayed and played the more my results where going to revert to the average, and the place can only stay open if the average is in favor of the house. The $100 buy in guy left the table with considerably less than he'd bought in with to move to another game and I decided to cash out. I gave the dealer a $5 tip, not sure what the standard is on that, I had one more drink while I watched people gamble as I held the $190 worth of chips (which the dealer had exchanged from the cumbersome $1 chips to a $100, three $25s, etc.

I left with $190. I'd spent a little over $10 at the bar, tipped the dealer $5 and bought in with $40, so up what, $135 or so? Watching other people win and give the winnings back over and over, I just don't think that's for me. I got lucky. I basically had eight cracks at the wheel and managed to hit a 35:1 plus a 1:1 payoff on one turn. If I'd listened to the voice in my head about that 33, sure I'd be up another $175 but I don't think life works that way.

So rather than take my winnings back to a riverboat casino and turn them into riverboat casino profits, I decided to take my wife to a nice sushi dinner and ice cream.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Our Own Little Duck Dynasty





So the ducklings started out in the house, stinking up the joint, growing almost visibly every day.





I feared Corinna had been premature when she moved them to the coop. But with the heat lamp out there, they were fine. They have a little porthole to get in and out that we block with a piece of marble at night. There's a bigger door that they use to go back in. Well, this evening we managed to team up and get them to go in the small opening for the night. I was mighty proud.



Well, I was proud because two or three nights ago, I went to try and put the ducks to bed when it was still light out. They weren't having it, no matter the door. If someone had been recording me with a phone, I'm sure it would have been a hilarious video because every time I thought I had them boxed in they squirted through to somewhere else where they'd cheep and wave their tongues at me. And look at me really hard in profile, which is a thing ducks do because their eyes are in the wrong place to look you in the face.



They're gaga over spinach though and we have a bumper crop. I've successfully used it as bait to get them to go places up to a point. They like other greens, they like the chick feed, which is mostly grain with some sand mixed in it. But they LOVE spinach, try to steal it from each other. It's like Cookie Monsters with bills on their faces.



Gonzo, our black cat who's such a good mouser has been an issue. We decided to lock him in Molly's bedroom for the week until the ducks can get bigger because we caught him stalking them. With clear intent. The other cats are mildly interest in the ducks, but Gonzo was clearly on the prowl. I don't thing a five to seven pound adult duck has to worry but these ducklings, I don't know.



He's gotten out a couple of times. My nephew came to check out the ducks over the weekend and he managed to let Gonzo out in his thorough search to find even more animals he's allergic to even if he adores them. Before his mother could even voice an objection he was hands and torso inside the duck coop looking for birds before going on a cat quest that involved all three of our kitties and then checking out the dogs before needing a Benadryl.

I got Gonzo back in his quarters before any ducks were murdered. Then, the next night, I came home and he was out again. I asked Corinna if this was parole or jailbreak, didn't know if she'd decided our Swedes were hardy enough to fend off a Gonzo. She said, "Jailbreak, look."

I should have taken a picture for right here but I didn't and it's dark out now. The cat clawed or chewed his way through the screen window in the bedroom to liberate himself. I don't feel too bad about confining him temporarily for the safety fo the flock but that's a deeply unhappy cat. He's got food, water, a litter box, lots of visitors, but he'll gnaw/claw through the screen to get out.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Ducklings



So we debated a long time, chickens, ducks, geese. Chickens are what everyone is keeping these days and that's fine. Ducks lay bigger eggs, you can keep a breeding flock easier in the city since drakes don't make the racket a rooster does.



Then there's Guinea fowl, we looked at that too but apparently they raise a ruckus, even the females. Geese, too, are apparently louder than bombs, a flight risk on top of that so they're out.



So ducks. We got six, but one died almost instantly. They're pretty frail at this point, strong language can do them in. They're in a brooder box in a closet under a heat lamp with food, water, spinach/lettuce from the garden. They fight over the greens, it's pretty stinkin' cute.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spinach



Corinna has been a lot more the gardner than I the past few years. I kind of lost interest after 2014, and our gardening styles are so different collaborating is difficult. My rigid notions of how things should be done mixed with her eagerness to improvise and experiment, and her ideas about what is worth going to the trouble of and what isn't, it just makes for too much conflict.



I said something to the effect that you can't grow too much spinach. It freezes well, and it's my favorite green to eat raw as well, right?



So I guess Corinna decided to see if she could prove me wrong. She's been bringing in five gallon buckets of the stuff at least once a day and she's not even making a dent in what could be harvested from these beds.

I guess we should be careful before we end up with kidney stones or something.

Party Time





We had a great party. It was billed as Corinna's birthday party, but by coincidence the date ended up being St. Patrick's Day. I think that probably helped bring people out, it's a day they were already thinking in terms of going out and socializing and whatnot. I grilled steaks and fish, my in-laws were in town for the weekend (it was a steak heavy weekend, they took us to Fogo de Chao Friday evening), and my brother's family, my parents and some other old friends started showing up around 3:00.



It was a rambling affair, including the unveiling of the fig tree. Which amounted to going out and watching Corinna pull the bags of leaves she'd buried the tree with in the fall to protect it through the winter.



I didn't do a great job of documenting it with my camera. I'd remember the Nikon from time to time, but a lot of the shots I took were blurry because I didn't have the ISO high enough, and I kept getting involved in other stuff and forgetting about it.



I didn't even get a group shot with Gwen and Tim, and they don't come to town that often. I think Gwen's last visit was when I had my heart surgery in 2014 and I'm not sure Tim had been along since our wedding in 2012. So I should have gotten some pics taken, damnit.



Tim and I did get to spend some quality time Friday night. The trunk lid to Corinna's car wouldn't open, and Gwen & Tim's luggage was in the trunk. When we got back from the restaurant he started trying to mechanic his way into the trunk, and I ended up helping. Holding lights and fetching tools mostly. He'd had a similar issue with a different year of the same model car before so he knew what he was about. Or more so than I did.



We got the back seats flipped down and there's an opening to the trunk but it was smaller than Tim's hard shell suitcase. Finally he took the seats out completely and we were able to force it though. Then he crawled in and started trying to figure out a way to get the trunk lid to open. Sometime after midnight we finally had the lid open, and the next morning he rigged a way to make the trunk lid open and close (and stay closed). The car is old enough to legally drink, so not worth investing in a proper fix.



Anyway, we had quite a few guests still going at midnight with a five player game of Risk finishing up. Corinna and I play that with just the two of us a bit, but a third player really makes it a game. Five, and it's much more fun. Amber turned out to be way more competitive than I would have guessed. Dennis managed to hold Asia for a couple of turns by the end, which is no mean feat, but Amber had North and South America and pretty soon Africa once she crushed the last of my armies. She skates roller derby, too, so I guess it figures.





As much as I didn't get a lot of the pictures I wish I had, I did catch Aaron amazing some of the kids with his yoyo. Which was pretty cool, it'd be worth doing a shoot with a neutral backdrop and setting up the speedlights to get action frozen or selectively frozen better.



My meads seemed to be a hit as well. We did some damage to the dry traditional orange blossom I have on tap (sparkling, very champagne-like) and at least one bottle of my raspberry melomel and morat managed to find its way into our guests. I need to get another pail of honey and get to fermenting.





Snake Saturday Competition



The Indiana Brewer's Cup was easily the biggest homebrew competition I've ever judged at.



This was the smallest. Grain to Glass put it on for a festival there in Northtown on Snake Saturday, the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day.

Just a single session on a Wednesday evening, category 15: Irish Red Ale, Irish Stout and Irish Extra Stout. A very focused competition, I think there were roughly 50 entrants, mostly well done if not off the charts spectacular. There are worse ways to spend an evening, and since diabetes has my beer consumption restricted to when I get a chance at judging, I've been looking for more opportunities to judge.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Mafia How To



My friend Julie once complained about my blog posts using pictures that didn't really go with the text. Pictures I took, stories about shit I'd gotten up to, but they weren't related.



Sorry Julie, here's a pic of an excellent dry sparkling orange blossom honey mead. And I have a story to tell you about how to get blood stains out of shit In case you want to go to work for the mafia or something.

The mead had an original gravity around 1.100, finished about .998, not light stuff but as meads go kinda. Bone dry with delicate floral aromatics, really a delight to drink. A little too easy to drink if you know what I mean.

But today at my apheresis, I learned a trick about garment maintenance I have to share with you.

I'm sitting there like usual, my fortnightly filtration of a bunch of blood. I'm pretty squeamish by nature but after a few years of this shit I've gotten to where I can watch these lovely women stab me with their 17 gauge needles.

So today I'm watching Weeds, my latest streaming option through the treatment and I notice something. I'm bleeding. A lot. Like blood is leaking around the needle. And before I can say, 'Hey Jennifer,' I see a fine, needle diameter jet of my blood arc from my arm to my shirt. A $40+ Hawaiian shirt, and I don't have a great sense of humor about this.

The nurses weren't freaked out a tall. They brought forth hydrogen peroxide and after my treatment they soaked my shirt's problem areas with that. It foams on contact with blood and when you dry it with a towel and hit it with more hydrogen peroxide, when it quits foaming you're there. My shirt looks good as new.

So screw cold water and whatever, if you want to avoid blood stains on fabric, hydrogen peroxide, end of story.

Separately, I really enjoy this mead, it wouldn't do well in competition, too dry, but delightfully aromatic and crisp.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

KCBM 35



So last summer I got diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. The doc I see at the apheresis clinic had drawn some labs and just casually asked, 'Who do you see for your diabetes?'



And I was like what diabetes?





He also said my liver enzymes could look better. "How much alcohol do you drink?" he asked.





As a friend of mine put it, you didn't just rain on my parade, you also shot the Grand Marshall.





I tried to bargain with the diabetes. I love beer. Good beer, not Miller Lite or Michelob Ultra (which don't send my blood sugar to bad neighborhoods). But no, the blood glucose levels don't even like a Bohemian Pilsner like Pilsner Urquell.





So I make allowances for competitions. They feed us like Hobbits at these things: first breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, etc.





Which, before I even tried to clean up my diet over the diabetes thing, was why I quit buying banquet tickets for the KCBM competition. I'm typically full from breakfast when lunch arrives, lunch is typically pretty heavy, and I'm not that big a supper eater anyway. If I'm going to pop for a $35 dinner, I want to go to the table hungry.







I feel like I'm in a rut with the pictures I've been taking at these things. Someone from the club commented to me during the auction that he liked my pictures, and I was like, they're the same pictures every year.





Same people, same setting, same activity anyway. I did take some of my meads from the past year, I got religion and read Steve Piatz's book on the subject, decided to be the old dog that learned new tricks, in no small part because of things Al Boyce said at a presentation at the Bier Meister's competition a couple years ago.





Al's initial response was they seemed like hydromels. He has a bit of a sweet tooth in this area, what he calls a semisweet I'd call a sweet; what he cals a sweet I call cloying pancake syrup. What I call dry he calls 'bone dry' with an obvious negative connotation.

Me, I favored dry meads before diabetes pushed me further into those woods. I wouldn't fancy my chances in competition with these things given how much Al's scale of sweetness seems to be the rule.





I did have Al and two or three others suggest my raspberry melomel would benefit from more acid. Which surprised me, the five gallon batch had almost 20 pounds of the fruit, and it's a pretty acidic fruit. But given the people who were asking for more acid, I'm game to try next time. Maybe take a small sample of the batch, add acid blend in varying quantities to the finished mead and then scale up that addition accordingly when I find nirvana.





Oh, and we had KCBM royalty show up. The closing panel before the banquet included Boulevard founder John McDonald, along with brewers from Red Crow, Crane and KC Bier Co.



I didn't stay for the banquet like I said, but at least I got a shot of Myles in his fez during the raffle. Which I bought a buttload of tickets for and yet won nothing. I guess as karma goes, I'm still paying off my score from a few years ago, my Snoop Dog oil painting.



It's a hiphop version of a velvet Elvis, and it hangs over the recliner I'm blogging from. I've looked in some pretty ghetto liquor stores and never found Colt 45 Blast in grape. But then, maybe my liver enzymes and diabetes don't want me finding that.

Mo's 21st



My youngest daughter just turned 21. I thought getting to be an old man would take longer, but alas.







So a party was held. But this kid isn't a Power Hour kind of 21 year old. Low key, at her Mom's house, with pretty much immediate family present. Ice cream cake, soda, pizza.







The artist formerly known as Frau Lobster gave her a sip of wine to try since, after all, what is the point of turning 21 if you can't get boozed up. She made a face that reminded me of the time she had oral surgery and was given something to ease her into anesthesia and reacted to the flavor with, "Hello, boring! Boring! Boring! Boring!"





So I thought, well, beer. Okay, there wasn't actually any beer on hand, but there was some Coors Light in the fridge. Mo loves club soda, and that's about what the Silver Bullet amounts to, so I tried her on a sip of that one. I guess that was hello boring, too, based on the face she made and the force with which she pushed the Solo cup away.





I'm cool with this. I have something like a romantic relationship with alcohol. I'm a BJCP National rank beer judge, a homebrewer since 1995, with some ambitions of eventually opening a meadery. But I've also had to scale back my consumption in the face of bad lab results, I can't say the stuff improves my social skills or judgment, and Mo takes some pretty high test drugs to control seizures so booze is probably pretty strongly contraindicated.





She had fun opening her presents. We tried to get her to blow out candles on her ice cream cake but she, predictably, ran to her bedroom and hid under stuffed animals. Not sure what gives with that, until a few years ago I could count on getting a photo of her blowing out her candles but at some point that went into the column of I'm not doing that no matter what.





My eldest daughter, by the way, had to show me her and her husband's digs in the basement of my ex's house. Which features a flag for a Panic at the Disco tour. I don't get the appeal of that band, but I am super stoked that I got us all (my wife, my kids, my kid's husband and me) great seats to a local high school's production of Spamelot. Should be epic. We all loves the Monty Python.