Category Archives: Rants

Pills

skeleton

I have Crohn’s disease. I take pills. Twelve a day. Really expensive pills. Thank God for insurance. Specifically, I take Asacol, which is Mesalamine wrapped up in a plastic tablet that’s designed to keep it from releasing the good stuff before it gets to the target area in my poop pipe. It works, kind of. I have long periods of remission punctuated by some very long periods of, let’s just say, discomfort. When that happens I get to take a course of Prednisone , which is similar to making a pact with the devil. Fortunately I’ve been in a fairly long period of remission (knock wood) I think partially due to some diet changes and some supplements that my doctor probably would view as the product of witchcraft, but that’s another story.

This story is about some flat out weirdness in the world of pharmaceuticals. Recently I got a letter from my mail order pharmacy telling me that the FDA was taking Asacol off the market and that I should contact my doc to get a substitute prescription, some alternative that the name of which I can’t remember. Naturally I went right to Google to find out the reason for the ban. It turns out that the coating on the tablets contains Dibutyl Phthalate. It’s a plasticizer. It’s used in nail polish as a solvent of dyes and to prevent the polish from becoming brittle. There’s a lot of controversy about it getting into to environment. And I’ve been putting it in my body on a regular basis FOR YEARS.

So I call the doc and inform them of the situation, which they seemed to be vaguely aware of. They agreed to give me a new prescription. When I saw the prescription I was shocked to see that rather than the alternative medication, it was for 400 mg Asacol tablets, six a day. So same dosage, just bigger pills. At first I thought that the 400s had a different coating, but some research quickly revealed that wasn’t the case. The FDA banned the 200 mg pills and not the 400 mg. WTF?!?

6296890907_abb66440a3Now I realize that taking the bigger pills means I get more bang for my DBP buck (math wizards out there, I’d love to see how one calculates this ratio) but in my mind, poison is poison. The stuff is associated with some forms of cancer, two headed frogs, obesity and the galloping never-get-overs. On the flip side, the research isn’t conclusive and the dose I’m taking is so small that it might kill me in fifty years. Plus the drug itself, contributes to hair loss. Now that’s something to worry about.

Given all that and the fact that I’ve been doing really well since I started taking magic potions from the patent medicine quacks, I quit taking the stuff this week. That lasted a couple of days and then I started feeling the tell tale cramps in my gut that sometimes warn of an approaching flare up. I’m back on it. On the advice of Dr. Faustus.

I have , although, stopped drinking Becky’s nail polish.

February

It’s a beautiful sunny day. Clear and sunny and 3 degrees. Yes, it’s Minnesota where hell does freeze over. I know you hearty folks who love to get out and snowmobile and ski and snowshoe and winter camp and ice fish and all those other forms of winter insanity will say that it’s a fabulous winter, plenty of snow to play in, but to me it’s just COLD. Yesterday I think Rebecca got the paper and brought in the mail so I didn’t even go outside all day. Someone said that April is the cruelest month. For that honor, I’ll give my vote to February.

My office is in what we fondly call the mudroom. Long and narrow behind the family room with the door to the garage on one end, it sits on a concrete slab, which means that as well as freezing me it’s probably dosing me with radon as well. The thermostat is on the floor above me, in a sunny, south facing room that warms up around noon and shuts down the heat. “Just toasty here boss, shut ‘er down.” So here in my north facing studio there is no heat. I did recently get a space heater, but it can only do so much. Some days by three o’clock it’s so cold down here that I just give up and go upstairs and kick back in the Barcalounger with a good book and a blanket. I don’t read the book, I just nap.

Here’s another thing to hate about February. Valentine’s Day. I pretty much hate all “Hallmark Holidays,” however, Lucia and Quinn if you are reading this, please feel free to shower me with tokens of your affection on Father’s day. I think my grudge against Valentine’s Day started in fifth grade, when I gave the girl who I thought was my girlfriend a card that I bought because I like the way it looked, without reading the text. I still don’t know what it said, but it seemed to inspire a lot of derision when she showed passed it around to her buddies. This year as Rebecca and I were drifting off to sleep on that special day I said, “Thanks for not getting me anything for Valentine’s Day.”

“Are you being sarcastic?”

“Hell no. That way I don’t have to feel guilty for not getting you anything either.”

Now that’s what I call true love.

Some Randomness

On Saturday night we attended the annual Mardi Gras Party at the Beckers. Any party at the Beckers is a great party and the Mardi Gras Party is the greatest of the great. I could have gotten the award for the lamest costume, Becky found me a sport coat that had a pattern of target logos all over it. The novelty of the fabric was one thing, but I wasn’t actually costumed as anything. Multi-targeted warhead? The host’s two older daughters pulled an good prank. They’re not twins, but they do look somewhat alike. One was dressed in a ball gown and the other had a wedding dress on, one was wearing flats and the other really tall heels. I noticed that they had done their hair exactly the same, but thought nothing of it. Midway through the party they switched costumes and I’m not sure anyone noticed.  The youngest daughter’s husband entertained on the piano, including accompanying her on some of  her songs that she’s preparing for her role in Guys and Dolls.

I’ve been obsessing about painting in Photoshop. I’m trying to upgrade my skill level with the Wacom, I’ve been drawing heads and figures and trying to color them, without much success. I’ve had some success scanning some of my pencil drawings and giving them simple color treatments, which is what I was most interested in doing with the tablet, so I can use them to get a little more visual interest here at HA. After all, as long as I have an published editorial illustrator in the office I might as well throw him some work. That, along with the drawing at left segues nicely into the next random topic.

I’ve been working out at the gym pretty consistently since I bolted the 9 to 5. I worked my way to the point that I think I’m in better condition than before the knee disaster. Motivation is a challenge for most of us who try to keep to a workout schedule and we have to find it where we can. One the things that brings me back to the gym is the people watching. I know it’s mean spirited to make fun of people, and God knows that I probably look as goofy as the next, but there are some folks who’s appearance is so odd that I just have to share it. If you recognize yourself here, I apologize. On the other hand if you don’t want people to make fun of you, try not to be so frickin’ weird.

I’ll start with the guy pictured. Older gent, probably around my age. Long stringy hair that doesn’t look like it’s been washed this century, held in place by a headband that probably was white in the Twentieth Century. He looks trim and fit, it seems like he’s there working out most times I am. Other than the hair, from the knees up he looks pretty normal, in an 80′s kind of way. But the thing that puts him over the top in the weirdness category is the fact that he always wears knee high brown dress socks and brown street shoes. I have to look away every time I see him to keep from laughing out loud.

Another guy, much younger, isn’t so much weird as he is scary. He’s always there, working the free weights. His arms are bigger than my thighs. I guess that’s not saying much, so much bigger is a better description. Yesterday while I was pumping some paltry weight on a machine, I watched as he strapped what had to be 50 pounds to his waste and knocked off about 20 pull-ups. I don’t think I can do one pull-up, even if I was in moon gravity.

Then there’s a guy who looks a little bit like John Belushi. He has shoulder length hair that he usually has tied up on top of his head some way. But this week I saw him with it down. He had it in a classic flip, like every girl in my ’67 high school year book. Think pretty hair on a jowly, pasty complected, five o’clock shadowed, scowling, hairy man. Another case where I have to practice smirk avoidance.

There is another man who it would be cruel to make fun of since he’s obviously overcoming some real challenges. But, being the mean bastard that I am… He has a hugely developed upper body, just massive. This barrel is supported by extremely short legs for it’s size. And one of those legs doesn’t work very well, he walks with a cane and it looks painful. He was wearing one of those wrestling style sleeveless t-shirts. One of his very hairy breasts had popped out, which was a disturbing sight. He passed me in the weight room as I was climbing into the crunch machine for my final set for the day. He sat down on the Cybex arm press machine and as he began to lift he let out a sound that I can only compare to the roar of  lions and tigers at the zoo, moaning at their captivity. Or maybe it was like the sounds I made while trying to take my first dump after surgery and a week of powerful narcotics. Whatever you compare it to, it was really loud and really frightening.

I don’t feel bad at all about ridiculing this last victim, because frankly he’s one of those guys that makes you dislike them almost at first glance. He’s about my age, very fit, very trim and has a silvery brush cut, like a sergeant in a comic book. When he’s in the weight room he speeds from machine to machine, lifting heavy weights too fast, looking gruff and impatient with anyone who gets in the way of his routine. He might as well have a sign that says “compulsive narcissistic asshole.” That’s opposed to me, I’m a compulsive narcissistic nice guy. He always wears one of those jerseys that you used to see in the eighties, the sleeves cut off and the jersey itself cut off, exposing his belly. And maybe I’d do the same thing if I had a six-pack at sixty. But I noticed last week that protruding from the front and back of his shorts are the edges of what looks like some kind of absorbent pad. I’m sorry but please don’t share things like that with the public. When I look away from him, it’s not to keep from laughing.

No business like snow business

OK, I want to know what it is I did to piss off the snowplow driver. I had my driveway and Dean the handyman’s driveway all blown out yesterday by early afternoon. Now granted, it snowed pretty much all night, but the blowing and drifting didn’t seem to occur and there was only a couple of inches of fine powder on the driveway in the morning. But the berm that the snowplow left across the entrance to my driveway was at least three feet high!

In Minnesota you’re a fool if you don’t beseech your chosen higher power to protect and bless the plow drivers, they work crazy hours to keep the roads passable when the weather gets like this. But I’ve watched them plow and I know they have a little dealie that they trip that diverts the snow a little when they pass a driveway opening. That simple courtesy probably cuts down the incidence of heart attacks in the city by 20%. The crap that they do pile up is ten times more dense and crustier than the original snow and it’s a bitch to shovel. So when I went outside to start my snow clearing for the day, I almost cried when I saw the mountain ridge that separated me from the street.

Thank God my buddies neighbor moved to California right after he bought a big ass 7.5 horse Snapper snow blower. He sold it to me for about half price, I don’t think he’d used it more than once. If I would have had to shovel that mess it would be an all day project. And I’m still sore from yesterday’s work. But Big Red ate that mound of ice chunks up and spit it out. And I’m not feeling the least bit guilty about increasing my carbon footprint.

Weak Link

In my last post I promised that, in the near future, I would cogitate on planned obsolescence, or why the manufacturers of my garage door opener chose to put in a plastic drive gear that would certainly wear out long before the other components of the machine. First of all “cogitate” is not, as you might think, defined as the mental ramblings of a codger. But in this case they may be analogous.

When I was informed by Dean, the neighborhood handyman, that it was a worn out nylon gear drive that had rendered my garage door opener non-functional, my first conclusion was that this was a design flaw. It seems that this part is the weak link in the operating system of this machine. Dean knew right where to look for the problem. He said he’d already replaced them for most of the neighborhood.

What do you think would have happened if I’d called a garage door repair specialist? Would he have replaced the gear or sold me a new opener? I’m thinking new opener. Was there some design requirement that mandated the use of a nylon gear? Like functioning under specific conditions. Or did Sears specify the use of the gear so the opener would fail after 10 years instead of 20, so they could sell more units over time? Or would a more reliable (metal?) part add enough cost so that the Craftsman 1/2 hp unit couldn’t compete in the market with similar products?

You might think that I’m going to answer those questions. I’m not. I’m hoping you can. I will observe that this kind of design is part of the price we pay in the world of mass production and part of why we’ve turned into a throw away society.

What do you think?

ccccccccoooooolllllldddd!!!!

Baby, it’s cold  outside. It was -17 when I woke up this morning. It hovered there for a long time and now it’s up to -11. That’s Fahrenheit baby. 43 long degrees below freezing. And that’s not wind chill, thats the actual temp, although I don’t see any movement in the trees outside this morning. Of course cold is a relative thing. Those wimps over at BlueNC think are bitching about it being 25, that’s a positive number. I can guarantee you that the next time it hits 25 around here, people will be out walking around shirtless and in shorts. In our old neighborhood there was a guy who used to wash his car shirtless when it was in the 20s. Actually, somewhere, probably on a college campus, there probably is someone out walking around in shorts. I just hope that they have more sober friends that pull them inside before they lose body parts.

There are all kinds of ways of dealing with this kind of cold. One of the best is a trip to Mexico. Another is staying inside. I personally haven’t been outside for almost 36 hours. If those methods fail and you must venture outside, dress in layers, wear a hat that covers your ears, and a scarf or turtle neck to keep all that body heat from escaping out of your collar. Thinsulate, down, fleece, and wool are excellent at protecting you from the frosty elements, but you must lose any vanity you might have. It’s hard to look sexy in a down parka.

It’s also important to deal with the cold psychologically. Bone crushing, dick shriveling cold can have deleterious effects on you mind. You can spiral into a vortex of self doubt, characterized by thoughts like, “Why the hell did I choose to live in this God forsaken state?” Agoraphobia, as previously mentioned,  you might find yourself housebound for days simply because you can’t think of any reason worth that icy smack in the face you know awaits. This of course leads to Minnesota’s second most common psychological malady, right behind pathological self deprecation, cabin fever. Sleep disorders, all you want to do is sleep in front of the fireplace under four or five down comforters. Yes, extreme cold over long periods of time (it sometime stays below zero for weeks here) can cause all kinds of profound nastiness in one’s mindset.

But there is hope! I have found the trick to fending off  the “it’s too f**king cold syndrome.” And the trick my friends is so simple you won’t believe it. And for a small fee I will reveal my secret… Never mind I’m feeling generous so I’m going to let  you in on it for free. All you have to do is remember this one thing, DON’T FLINCH! You know what I mean, you step out into the deep freeze and right away you tense up, your shoulders hunch, you try to pull your head in like a turtle, every muscle contracts, you convulse with shivers. Relax people! It’s only cold. Stand up straight, throw your shoulders back, shake off the tension, be brave. You will immediately find yourself thinking, “This isn’t so bad.” If you can just adopt this simple technique, it will go a long way towards banishing your cold weather blues.

I wonder how long I can manage to stay inside this weekend?

No refund policy.

angrybobA month or so ago, I kept getting calls on my cell from a certain unknown number. After several occurrences and no messages I decided to go to dexknows.com and do a reverse number search. By all appearances, that feature was being offered to me by Dex. But I soon found out that I had been forwarded to an Intelius page, which presented the special offer of $.99 for one search. I was a dope and didn’t read the fine print, or for that matter the second level subheads in red reverse. Nonetheless I plodded through and got my information, it was someone trying to sell me windows. They were offering a special deal that was about three times what I figure I could get it done for.

What I didn’t realize was the special deal was contingent on a free trial of Identity Protect. I also didn’t realize that they would automatically continue to bill me $19.95 monthly for this service. I would like to have my identity protected, but the fact that I’m writing this blog and I post on various social networking sites, it obviously isn’t a high priority for me. My concern about fraudulent activity involving my identity doesn’t rise to the level of $19.95 a month, for that price, I’ll take my chances. I have plenty of company in my dopiness, there are discussion boards going on this, well, scam. Continue reading

Small engine symantics

I finally got my snowblower started in time to use it on the second significant snow fall of the season. For the first one I was thinking lawnmower instead of snowblower when I primed the carburetor. The lawnmower requires about 30 pumps before it will start, that many pumps on the snowblower will fill the carb with gasoline to the point of it leaking out on the floor. Which is why I missed the first snowfall last year. I thought it was leaking gas and tore it apart in an effort to fix it myself rather than take it in to the friendly local hardware store. I never found anything to fix, but hadn’t gotten it put back together by the time it snowed. The other problem was related to my tenuous understanding of the workings of small engines. And the manual writers tenuous understanding of how to communicate clearly. I knew that when starting the engine you need to choke it. The manual said the choke was supposed to be “on” when starting cold. The choke switch itself doesn’t have an indicator that says “on” or “off” only a graphic consisting of a curve roughly parallel to the arch of the switch, thicker on one end and going down to a point on the other, and a little symbol that apparently represented an open carburetor butterfly. OK, that gives me a vague idea that counterclockwise means “closed” and clockwise means “open.” But does “closed” mean “on” or “off”? Since the knob is the choke control, wouldn’t you think that the thickening of the graphic would mean that you were turning the choke “more on”? I tried to bring back the memories of starting carbureted automobiles (remember them) on subzero days in my youth when I still messed with that kind of thing. Did I use the pencil to hold the butterfly open, or closed. I had a distinct image, in fact I could almost feel how cold I was, leaning over the fender of a ’69 Chevy, trying to fire it up somewhere in South Minneapolis, probably for a trip to the 400 Bar. But I couldn’t bring back the memory of exactly what it was I was trying to do. At a social gathering this weekend, I asked one of my friends who I figured was savvy about this stuff and we got confused as we discussed it, so we asked the two engineers at the table. They were able to straighten us out.

You have to admit that it takes a man who’s very confident in his manhood to admit to such ignorance of small engine repair, something that seems like it comes attached to the Y chromosome. And maybe it does. When I was a kid, I spent all kinds of time in small boats with outboard motors. My dad could spend ten minutes in a pen of 20 cattle and tell you what their average live to dressed yield would be within a half percent, but probably didn’t know the difference between a carburetor and an alternator, so he was not a small engine mentor. But we always owned or rented boats and I always was able to keep them running. I guess it must be a use it or lose it kind of deal.

In case you’re wondering I have the lowest cylinder index of any male I know.

Drama Queen

I quit my job at Caribou. Yes Caribou. Since I don’t work there anymore, I’m not concerned about problems with identifying which coffee conglomerate I was employed by. I didn’t really like it that much, I’ve written before about how the level of multi-tasking is beyond this old guy. And that I had difficulty remembering where the buttons on the cash register were, that there didn’t seem to be any system to the way they are laid out All that standing was also getting hard on my knees and the rest of my body. The whole experience was stressing me out. I think the next person that tells me how much fun it must be to work in a coffee shop is going to get punched in the nose.
But the decisive moment came Wednesday night. The supervisor on the shift was, like all the shift supervisors, a twenty something woman. I’d worked with her before and come to the conclusion that she was kind of a slave driver, but I had no idea how nasty she could really be. Continue reading

Low Impact

lowimpactSaturday night we attended a cultural milestone event. The wedding of the youngest and last unmarried daughter of close friends. The cultural significance of this event is that the fun level of weddings is going to drop significantly now. These folks really know how to throw a party. Unlike the Kellers who have been advising their daughters to elope since they were marching their Barbies down  the aisle. There’s no money here for big weddings! But I’m sure our friends will continue to find excuses to party.
During the dinner, we sat at a table of friends and neighbors, the two other men at my table are that kind irritating fitness enthusiast (I diplomatically avoid the term “nut”) that likes to talk about there last marathon or that nice easy three hour ride they went on last week in the rain. The conversation got around to biking and I was encouraged to get out and start riding. It’s the best exercise with the least impact on the rest of your body! It would be great for your knees! There’s those great trails just over on the other side of this golf course that it seems to take me a half hour to drive to.
Don’t get me wrong. I could use a good workout routine. I’m in terrible shape.

Continue reading