Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hey, look at that

Factoid: the NYT story on a recently published study about genes linked to multiple sclerosis (with the somewhat Onionesque title "Advances Cited in Research on Multiple Sclerosis") is currently #5 on the site's list of most-emailed stories. More support for the notion that everybody knows someone who has MS or knows someone who knows someone who has MS. Again, I ask you: Why haven't we been able to find our Michael J. Fox, our attractive, young spokesperson, who raises the disease's profile a couple notches?

Monday, July 30, 2007

One mystery solved

Last Wednesday, I started feeling really crappy: achy, tired, and a little dizzy. It was a familiar feeling. I'd last felt it the day a few years ago when I'd mistakenly taken my bedtime pills in the morning. This time, though, I was certain that I'd taken my AM pills (after the last med mix-up, I bought a pill case of an entirely different color and design for my AM pills). The only thing I could think of was that I had probably missed a couple days of amitriptyline after forgetting to pick it up at Walgreen's.

Well, Friday morning, I figured it out: yes, I had correctly taken the pills from the AM pill case, but I had mistakenly portioned out the elongated, white nefazodone tablets, instead of the elongated, white Provigil tablets. So I wasn't getting the Provigil boost, and was instead giving myself more than double the correct dose of nefazodone and getting most of it in the morning. So I sorted out the right pills, and started feeling better almost immediately, although I woke up with really sore hips on Saturday.

It sure would be helpful if the makers of ordinary-looking white pills would give them some kind of obvious distinguishing mark, like a wacky shape or some kind of color. Flomax is good: orange/green capsule; Cymbalta is good, too: blue/green capsule. But Provigil kinda looks like nefazodone, which kinda looks like Tylenol. Baclofen and amitriptyline are both ordinary-looking round pills. I guess I can understand why the generics might forgo fancy shapes and colors, but Provigil? That stuff is expensive. My HMO pays good money for the stuff. You'd think a Schedule IV drug would have some flashy color or something. Oh well.

By the by, you've probably seen the articles about the discovery of three genes that are linked to MS. See the WaPo article here. According to the Post, these findings give you and me "new hope." I think that's hyperbole, of course, because this kind of study seems more to suggest how much we don't know about MS. After all, the Post article quotes one of the investigators as saying, "We suspect there will be dozens, perhaps hundreds of gene variations associated with MS."

Speaking of new hope, I have officially concluded that I received no benefit from the Botox procedure. No change in urgency, emptying, bedwetting, dribbling, or any of the bladder-related indignities. Too bad. On the other hand, I got to see what the inside of my urethra looks like, so it's not a total loss.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Blushing at history

Spent a lovely weekend at my dad's place. Did a little fishing, a little grilling, and a little just sitting and watching: watching the dogs (our 2, plus my brother's 2, plus my dad's 1), watching the hummingbirds at the feeder (surprisingly aggressive, chatty things), watching my 65-year-old father trying to get a wireless network functioning, watching my 13-year-old half-sister change from a cute, dreamy little kid into a startlingly beautiful, startlingly bright, er, woman, I guess.

About a month ago, Dad and brother made a trip out East to see Uncle Crabby Weirdo and to recover some materials for the family archive from the Ancestral Home in eastern PA. I would have liked to go, but work kept me at home. Fortunately, they returned with tales of Uncle Crabby Weirdo's scary house crammed full of crap and his diet of frozen pizza and microwaveable "entrees." The real jackpot, though, was the cache of old letters sent from my grandma to my grandpa on board various cargo ships at exotic ports of call (Port Said, the Canal Zone, Jakarta, Karachi, etc.) and the telegrams and letters from him to her, first to Miss S.R. on Adelphia Street in Brooklyn, then to Mrs. G.S. at the Ancestral Home.

The letters and telegrams filled a large duffle bag purchased especially for the purpose of bringing them home. We sat around reading excerpts from letters, from V-Grams sent during WWII, from Western Union telegrams, just scraping the surface but finding little jewels--in my grandma's functional, legible script, and in my grandpa's indecipherable but gorgeous fountain-pen scratchings--that hinted at some great stories. Confirmation that Uncle Crabby Weirdo was conceived out of wedlock. Grandpa insisting that he loved her and would have married her even if she wasn't pregnant. Grandma's chuckling account of my dad's insistence at age 2 on running around the neighborhood naked from the waist down. Grandpa's fear that he would never amount to anything, his longing to be home with his family. Everyone agonizing over money and the war. Good Lord, discussion of birth control and some startlingly raunchy bits of postal erotica, which someone had tried in vain to obscure with ink scribbles.

The photos were icing on the cake: rowing a wooden boat at Harvey's Lake, kids displaying little bitty fishes, picnics, gathering huckleberries, presents under the Xmas tree, and some cheesecake shots of grandma topless on a beach.

"Grandma topless." Just try saying that out loud; it won't come out, will it?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fishing season ends, self-pity season begins

It had been maybe a month since I'd last been out in the boat, so I'm not sure why I expected it to fire right up or why I actually took the can of starter fluid out before hooking up the trailer. Anyway, I left work a couple hours early on Monday, intending to spend a few quiet hours on the lake. I've been working too much lately, coming in on Saturdays and such, so I was anxious to get out on one of the few cool days we've had around here.

Of course, the motor wouldn't start. I think I might know why, but I'm feeling less like fixing the situation and more like pouting about it for a while. After spending ten minutes cranking the starter (electric, thank god) and fiddling with the gas line, the mixture, the choke, I had to haul myself up on the dock and stumble back to the car and get the boat back on the trailer. Which usually isn't a problem, but somehow becomes another 15 minutes fighting with the boat, shoving, tugging, cranking, while a woman and her son skip rocks on the lake from the dock. By the time the boat is finally on the trailer, I'm fully discombobulated, and steady myself against the car as I try to get from the trailer to the driver's seat, and the woman and her son are looking at me, probably trying to decide what particular chemical I've been abusing.

In truth, I don't think I'm quite ready to give up on one of the few activities that still provides me with some transcendent moments of bliss. I'll probably get the boat running when the weather starts to cool off a bit and, in a few years when my wife's new career as a nurse is well underway, maybe we'll have enough scratch to replace the leaky piece of shit with something newer and nicer. For now, though, I choose to stay a little bitter about this small indignity.