Tuesday, December 07, 2010

California Dreamin'

Thanksgiving means family, and the family member we don't get to see very often is Patrick. Sandy's third-born lives in Fallbrook, CA - a fair commute from our small town home of New Braunfels, TX.

After mulling it over, Sandy decides she doesn't really care for flying that much, and Rick can do without the airport hassle. 

So road trip it is!

We get an early start Saturday, November 20, and are soon on IH 10W heading for the desert. Our first rest stop is in Fort Stockton.

Dusk falls as we leave El Paso (and Texas) in the rear view mirror. By late Saturday night we finally pull into Las Cruces, NM for a well-earned night's rest.

Sunday morning finds us back on the IH 10 for round two. Our mid-day rest stop is at the Texas Canyon rest stop in Arizona, famous for its Dragoons rock formations.

In Casa Grande AZ, we say goodbye to good old IH-10, and take I-8 towards San Diego. Making it to the high mountain pass of the Cleveland National Forest just as dusk falls, we "enjoy" an exciting night time adventure, buffeted by high winds and passed by high-speed maniacs on the twisting mountain road.

Our Sunday night treat is a stay at the beachfront La Jolla Inn, in one of the Pacific coast's most beautiful areas. A chilly morning doesn't deter us from enjoying the stunning La Jolla beach.

Tide Pool

We meet up with Patrick and his family to take a tour of Old Town San Diego.

Above you see Nicole, Patrick, and Sandy (top), and Trent, Payton, Dylan, and Bailey (front).

Rick and Sandy with the kids at the old San Diego Union newspaper building.

Yes, you have big shoes to fill, Dylan.

Sandy and Rick sneak away to take a ferry ride from Sand Diego terminal to Coronado Island.

San Diego from Coronado Island

A nice ferry ride brings us to the Coronado landing.

Fallbrook is a verdant green, the opposite of what you might imagine of the southern California desert area. It's called the avocado capital of the world, and I can believe it. Avocado trees line the hillsides just about everywhere.

You can see the avocados hanging on the tree in the foreground. This view is from Grandpa Ed's home. It's a fun place for the kids too.

Robert and Patrick decide to enjoy a game of horseshoes - 'close' counts in this game!

Patrick is also in charge of turkey frying. Smell's good!

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Piney Fourth

In this edition of Rick's Cafe, Sandy and Rick decide to get away for a one day vacation, a more or less improvised spur-of-the-moment trip for the July 4th holiday.

The ever ingenious Sandy quickly finagles our lodging: a "limited use" mini-cabin on the lake at Buescher State Park near Smithville, Texas. "Limited use" turns out to mean no bathroom, although there is a common bath/shower building about a hundred feet away.

That's roughing it! Sandy's no dummy, however; we do have A/C, lights, electric, bunk beds, and a small fridge.

The lake view is idyllic. Another one of Sandy's wonderful finds!

As darkness falls we are treated to a an eerie symphony of toads, a rather noisy affair that lasts most of the night. I managed to capture a little snippet of the free concert on my camera's video (the sound is the interesting part):

Morning of July 4th arrives and we get an early start on our way.

Goodbye, Mini-Cabin 1! We loved you well.

We take a leisurely drive through the scenic trail to the adjacent Lost Pines State Park.

I don't know how the pines got lost here in south Texas. Sandy says Indians brought in seedlings. That's as good a theory as any I can come up with.

Another short drive brings us to the bustling metropolis of Flatonia.

Anytown USA, July 4th
(actually it's Flatonia, Texas):

From Flatonia, we scoot along Hwy 90 to the little town of Praha, a Czech settlement dating from the mid-nineteenth century.The pride of Praha is the Catholic Church of St. Mary's.

St. Mary's Praha had its centennial in 1955!

Some interior views of St. Mary's - Praha

About the same time he Czechs made their way to Praha, a Moravian settlement was founded at Blum Hill (later High Hill). St Mary's at High Hill is about a fifteen minute drive from her sister church St.Mary's Praha.

Interior views of St. Mary's at High Hill

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Muscles of the front of the leg.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) is one of those fake diseases made up by hypochondriacs and exploited by the Big Pharma to produce annoying commercials and sell expensive drugs. Well, maybe so.

All I know is once I hit the sack, that right foot starts doing the happy feet dance. It actually doesn't bother me unless I try to suppress the motion. The resulting sensation is very hard to describe...kind of like defining the color "red" to somone who has been blind for life. Did you ever do any distance running? Just think of that burning feeling in your leg muscles as lactic acid builds up. Then throw in a creepy tingling - as if thousand of tiny spiders were crawling around the insides of your legs.

So if it doesn't bother me unless I try to stop the motion (I hear you ask), why I in the world don't I just let it take its course? What's the point in trying to duke it out with your CNS sending phantom signals to your limbs?

Here's where the OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) comes in. My poor wife has a, ahem..."heightened sensitivity" to certain sounds and motions, and my rhythmic leg movements are one of those annoyances. Now it's not like I'm kicking her; the actual range of motion is small. It's just that my constant leg movement is weirding her out and keeping her awake.

So, to keep the peace and avoid being any more of a selfish bastard than necessary, I toss this hot potato in the direction of my friendly family practioner.

He smiles and gives me that "I went to medical school for this?" shrug. Turns out there's no known cause or cure for RLS, just a vague set of symptoms (that's "syndrome" to you non-medical yokels).

So the good doctor prescribes a pill to add to my growing collection. Mirapex: yet another non-generic that my insurance will make me pay extra for.

So, does it work?

Kind of. Sometimes. It seems to help.

I've read a study of brain autopsies performed on RLS sufferers that suggests brain uptake of iron may be impaired. I'm going to try a little cocktail to help out the Mirapex.

This is suggested by the Life Extension Foundation, which I've found to be reliable source:
  • Folic Acid—400 to 800 mcg daily. Take with 500 to 1000 mcg of vitamin B12 daily in the form of methylcobalamin.
  • Magnesium citrate—100 to 250 mg before bed, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
  • Iron—Dosing is based on individual needs. Better forms are iron protein succinylate or iron bis-glycinate. Take with 250 to 500 mg of vitamin C to help the body absorb the iron.
We'll see how it goes.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Danger: Dinosaur Crossing

Q: Why did the dinosaur cross the road?

A: Chickens hadn't evolved yet.

Q: Why did the dinosaur fail to cross the road?

A: Civil engineers hadn't evolved yet.

Q: Why did the psychic cross the road?

A: To cross over to the "other side".

Q: Why doesn't Fox News ever cross the road?

A: They don't believe there's another side.

Q: Why did Rick cross the road?

A: To pick up a sixpack from the Sak-N-Pak.

Q: Why did the paranoic cross the road?

A: What road? Who's asking?

Q: Why did Martin Van Buren cross the road?

A: No one really knows or cares.

Q: Why did the Tupolev Design Bureau cross the road?

A: To reverse-engineer it.

Q: Why did John Donne cross the toll road?

A: Ask not for whom the toll road tolls. It tolls for thee.

Q: Why did Nostradamus cross the road?

A: He had already foreseen he would do so and felt powerless to stop himself.

Q: Why did the chicken cross the Mobius strip?

A: To get to the same side.


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Friday, February 19, 2010

The Heart is a Lonely Hurter, Part Two

Click here for Part 1

My health insurance administrator is kind enough to send me periodic updates on the amounts they've paid out to doctors, hospitals, ambulance services, and lab tests. It's more than a little scary to contemplate the total financial burden I've placed on my brother (and sister) members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who in effect self-pay into our own insurance plan. More than a hundred grand, easy, and I'm not out of the woods yet. My only solace is the 35 years I've contributed to the fund with sicks days you could count on one hand.

It wasn't supposed to happen. Me, the solid oak...I could outwork the youngsters easily (and did). Many were the evenings, at the dead ends of twelve hour days and 70 plus hour weeks, when I and a handful of others were the only ones left manning a job. When it counted...when it had to be finished. Endurance is everything.
That's was my reputation: reliability and competence. It meant a lot to me. A hell of a lot.

3/7/09 midnight

A whirlwind week is ending. A unrecognized heart attack on Monday, hospitalization Tuesday night, and two stents implanted in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. A day of recuperation and release from the hospital by Friday. There is surprisingly little pain, mainly at night when I try to sleep. (My wife has set up a bed downstairs so I don't have to climb the stairs)

I'm profoundly grateful (that doesn't even begin to express it) to my wife for the way she has held up. Two wrecks at the same time doesn't cut it, not with a teenager in the house. But I know just how shaken up the last week has left her.

It's a cool still night, and I stand outside looking at the stars...all six of them. Hooray for civilization and light pollution. I remember summer nights at my grandmother's house - millions of crystal stars and the brilliant white smudge of the Milky Way splashed from horizon to horizon.

Suddenly, from nowhere, there are tears running down my face. Dude. Stop this. What the...remember Edmund Muskie. Glad no one is seeing this.
A few words about stents:
A stent is a spring-like medical device designed to be placed in artery to keep it open (See illustration above). The newer and more advanced stents have a drug-eluting coating that help prevents "restenosis," the return of clots and scar tissue that choke off blood flow. I have a total of four: the two implanted immediately after my heart attack plus two more implanted during a scheduled procedure 3 weeks later.

A dragging sense of limbo seems to have overtaken my life. It's been six weeks and my direction is more confused than ever. Our one income family status is slowly dragging us down, despite a small (temporary) disability stipend from our insurance. I'm trying to fast track my doctors into clearing me to return to work, but there are complications.

Dr. B, while implanting the second set of stents, saw something about my ventricular function he didn't like. He told my wife Sandy that the ejection fraction was too low, and the danger of heart arrhythmias worried him. An implanted debrillator could be an eventual solution, but he wanted a further test to get a more accurate picture of Rick's ventricular function.
Enter the MUGA!

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