Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thunderstorm Asthma? Is that like my "Extrinsic Asthma"?

‘Thunderstorm Asthma’ Kills 8 in Australia

This story got my attention, not just as an interesting story but because it may shed some light on a personal mystery. Years ago, I started having some trouble getting a full breath. I had medical tests done, saw specialists and they found nothing. One doctor's best guess--and it was very clearly a guess--was what he called "extrinsic asthma."

I've had allergies all my life. As a kid, I spent 8 years going to the allergist every Friday for shots. Yes, allergy shots. Every Friday after school. That helped, but eventually we were told I was as good as the shots would get me. The severity of my allergies varies, but they're always there. I'm allergic to pretty much anything that can float through the air--pollen, dander, dust and on & on. The doctor's guess was that when my allergies sufficiently irritated my lungs, my bronchial tree would get inflamed. While not meeting the technical definition of asthma, the effect is the same. Fortunately, it's never been so severe that it has threatened my survival, and I hope it never does! But trust me, not being able to get a full breath is quite a distressing feeling. On top of that, it always takes weeks or months to go away.

My "extrinsic asthma" recurs every few years. In the past, I've been through all manner of tests. I've had more cardiac tests than I care to remember. (When you're obese, they immediately think anything like this is cardiac.) After two rounds of those, a few years apart, I stopped them from doing it again the next time. We just went with a simple EKG--no thallium heart scans, stress tests, etc.--and ruled out heart issues.

I've been to pulmonologists a couple of times. The last guy put me through lots of tests, including one that determined I have 127% lung capacity. Not sure what that compares to--127% compared to what?--but he clearly had no idea what was going on. (I wasn't actively having my issues right then, so...)

Anyhow, this "thunderstorm asthma" makes pretty clear that an allergy attack can drive asthmatic symptoms. Actually, this is pretty scary, since this thing killed people. But it validates the "extrinsic asthma" theory. Maybe it's that simple. My allergies irritate my lungs, and eventually they rebel. Now, if I could just figure out how to tell when that's building up, so I can take Benadryl or whatever and head it off. No luck with that so far, but I think I have more faith in this answer now.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Two years without our Dodger

If you know us, you probably know Dodger. Maybe you met him or maybe you knew him through this blog or Facebook. In any case, you know that he was a very special part of our lives.


Two years ago today, he died. We helped him in that process, and I still feel guilty about that. Don't get me wrong--on an intellectual level, I know his time had come. His body was failing him. We'd done everything we (and the vets) could. The night before he died, he couldn't even get up to go out, and that was with meds and his special harness to help him walk. He'd been having serious trouble, on and off, for months. But we'd reached the point where he really was done.

Logical thoughts are not what haunt me, however. Emotions do. Deep down, I feel like I failed him. I feel like, if I looked hard enough, I could have found some other way to help him. He would have given his life to protect me, and I had a hand in taking his life. It feels so wrong. I'm sorry, Dodger! I wish I knew what else to do!

I loved all of our dogs--and I love this crazy girl we have here today--but Dodger was very unusual. He was smart, but others are smart. He also had a personality that was very human. He showed his opinions, and he had a sharp wit. I know... wit in a dog? Oh, yes. You could see it in action if you lived with him. He was quite amazing.

By the way, he didn't always have that white face, but that's how some knew him and many of our friends remember him. Here's a shot from when he was about four-and-a-half years old:


From the look, he either was in no mood to have his photo taken or I'd done something wrong. :-) Most of the time, he was ready with a smile!

We say that Bernice was the one who defined all the things a dog is supposed to be, but Dodger combined dog traits with an amazingly human personality. He also had great judgment. We knew our friend Sid was someone we were likely to keep in our lives for the long run. A couple of months before Dodger died, we barely knew Sid from rugby, but he needed some portraits done, so I agreed to shoot them.

Now, one of Dodger's traits was that he wouldn't welcome just anyone into his home, even if we did. Rather, he'd observe them for a bit and then decide if they were worthy of his attention. He exercised his judgment freely, and his judgment about people tended to be sound. Well, when he met Sid, this is what happened virtually the instant Sid arrived...


For Dodgie, it was love at first sniff. That's all we needed to know. And sure enough, Sid became and remains a close friend.

As I got in bed last night, with Lexi between Marc and me, I remembered how Dodgie spent his last night in that same spot. We knew the end was coming, and we wanted him to be as comfortable as possible. Really, we always did. But once that thought entered my mind... well, I didn't sleep much last night. Today marks two years without our sweet, wonderful little boy. I'm starting to cry again as I type this. I do try to remember all the joy he brought, but I miss him so much! I'm sorry, my Dodgie! I wish you could still be here with us, happy and healthy! Rest in peace, my little boy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A dog after my own heart

Lexi has this thing she does in the morning, called "going back to bed." Marc gets up earlier than me. That's not unusual, as he's a morning person. He also has a job. I got up not long after, but Lexi knows there's about an hour that she can come back, hop on the bed and curl up against my legs after she has gotten her breakfast and yard visit from Marc.


But now we've reached a new level of canine accomplishment. She may be a full-of-energy less-than-two-years-old pup, but she knows the value of a comfy bed! After I got up this morning, she watched me go brush my teeth, get dressed, etc., and then she just watched me leave. The look on her face seemed to say, "I'm good right here. You go have fun! I'm here if you need me."

After a while, she came downstairs, but I had to laugh. She just watched me go, while she relaxed on the bed.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Patience may be a virtue, but it isn't easy!

Six months ago today, our new CEO called me in to tell me she'd decided to eliminate my position. She claimed my job--and some others--had to go, due to budget problems. It sounded like a lie, because I knew they'd still need HR leadership for such a large organization. Also, I handled legal matters, in addition to my HR work, and sending those to outside counsel certainly wasn't going to save money!

Sure enough, my suspicions eventually were confirmed when she hired someone she knew well after I left. She just had to "reorganize," so she could bring in her guy--after a "lengthy search" that magically selected the person she already knew.

C'est la vie! Ironically, right before the layoff meeting, Marc and I had given a friend a chunk of money to help him with expenses as things were very tight for him. No regrets there. Helping friends is one of life's joys. But the timing was unbelievable.

Marc has been the best support I could ask. He's encouraged me to be patient. He has told me not to jump at just anything--that I should wait for a job that's worth it.

Still, it's so hard to be patient. I've been searching every day. I've been on interviews. I've seen jobs that I decided weren't worth it. I have more opportunities coming up. I'm also looking into building a consulting business. Whether it's a side business or becomes something bigger, we shall see. In the meantime, I'm hoping I'll get a job sometime soon. We have been careful about money and debt over our years together, so we're okay for now, but I really don't like this. I hope my 6 months' patience is rewarded soon! Send good thoughts my way!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

That would have made Star Trek: The Next Generation even better

Time to revive my poor, yet-again-neglected blog. And what better reason to restart it than the sighting of a hot man? This afternoon, as I was doing chores, I was watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, called "The Outrageous Okona."

When I saw Captain Thadiun Okona, I was... interested. Marc is the one who remembers actors, their names, etc.  I'm pretty bad about such things. Anyhow, the actor was Billy Campbell. He looked like this in the episode:


Looking him up, I was reminded of some of his roles. I also read that he was the first choice to play Commander Riker. No offense to Jonathan Frakes, but... wow, he could have been Commander Riker? I was and am a Trek fan anyhow, but looking at this every week wouldn't have been too much of a hardship!:


Come on, would that have been so much to ask?


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Musings on stuff blowing up

So the explosions in Tianjin, China, got me thinking about the forces we can unleash and how puny we are in comparison to the mess our efforts can make. The estimates I heard were that it was equivalent to 21 tons of TNT. Pretty damn big, since that's 42,000 pounds, and one pound of TNT would do plenty of damage. For reference:


But going back to the China explosions. 21 tons of TNT, you saw that horror on the news. And then think back to the A-bombs. Hiroshima was hit by the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT. 30,000,000 pounds equivalent.

And then when the big countries really play like boys with new toys... Ever hear of the Czar Bomba? During the really entertaining part of the Cold War, the Soviets came up with that one. They scaled it back, because the original yield was so big that the plane dropping it couldn't have escaped, even with the drogue chute slowing it down. The scaled-down version had a yield in excess of 50 megatons. That is, comparing to the China explosions' 21 tons of yield, 50,000,000+ tons. (The pre-scaling back plan was for a 100 megaton bomb.) If you want to know more...



And the really fun part? Have you heard of the explosion of the Krakatoa volcano? That would be nature showing us that, yes, we remain mere ants in the grand scheme. The Krakatoa volcanic explosion is estimated to have had about 4 times the power of the Czar Bomba. Take that, humans!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Nice upgrade

I'm traveling for business. Alas, Marc couldn't tag along, and I can't stand being apart from him. But that's not what this is about. Rather, it's about the plane I'm in as I type this. I've never been a fan of the 737. It should have been a creation of Airbus, because that's how it always felt to me--like a flying bus.

Well, this plane is a 737, but it's not what I'm used to. It's a newer model, the Boeing 737-900ER, and it's quite a difference from what I usually think of as a 737. Many upgrades and modern touches, from the seats to the cabin lighting to the entertainment systems.

Nicely done! I hope more airliners get this kind of treatment!