Saturday, August 30, 2008

Woohoo! Three-day weekend! sinus infection!

On Tuesday, I had a momentary ache in my lower back. It passed, but I recognized that ache from when I was 12 or so. Back then, I noticed it while swimming with my dad at the ancient pool at the local tech school (it was down in the basement of a building that's long since been remodeled into something else, but I remember thinking it reminded me of the pool in Lex Luthor's hide-out in the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie). Then I got another one yesterday evening. And by the time I went to bed last nite (we put our old futon out on the back porch and listened to the amazing whine of the crickets), I had a sore, swollen throat and a nose full of goo. Sinus infection.

It's not uncommon for me to get them in the fall allergy season. I'll gargle with salt water, suck some up through each nostril and spit it out, and I'll be fine in a couple days. But I was all set to charge out and go fishing bright and early this morning, and now I'm achy, tired, and sorta depressed. I should be feeling better just in time to go to work on Tuesday morning. Crap.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What I did this summer

1. Ate lots of peaches. I wish they grew locally, but they don't. In early summer, they come from California (meh). In June and July, they come from Georgia (mmm). In August, they come first from Missouri and Illinois (mmmmmmmmm). About now, they come from Michigan and Colorado (can't talk- eating).

2. Read some books. Le Carre's "Single & Single," Russo's "Empire Falls," and Pelecanos's "Shame the Devil." Quit on De Lillo's "Falling Man." I can't seem to stay focused unless there's a lot of "Then what happened?" moments to hold my attention. It's a shame, I guess, that I've lost my attention span for Serious Literature; on the other hand, it's nice to be reading something: I think there was a period of maybe five years where I couldn't read anything longer than the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" pieces.

3. Listened to some audio books. Black's "Silver Swan," and Fforde's "Eyre Affair."

4. Peed-- lots. Summer ain't summer without a gin and tonic or a nice hoppy ale, but what goes in also comes out. Despite the Interstim, and even at work (where I generally stay away from booze), it feels like I've had to make an inordinate number of express trips to the WC (leaking most of the way and staggering like a sailor on shore leave) and changed an inordinate number of pads.

5. Bought a new car. After the Prizm was totalled, we spent a couple months or so looking for a similar cheap, efficient used car, only to find $4 gas had made that kind of car far too expensive. Example: we almost bought a 2001 Toyota Echo. Nice enough car, great mileage, possibly even less fun to drive than the Prizm, but $6000 for a 7 or 8 year-old car with 107,000 miles on the clock? Eventually bought a new 2008 Civic sedan. With tax, it was pretty close to $20,000, but in my book it's at least 5 times as much car as a 2001 Echo that's already been driven 107,000 miles.

I'd initially been thinking we'd get a Civic with an automatic tranny, but in the course of looking at used cars, we drive a sporty little Mazda Protege 5 with a stick. Wasn't interested in the car--not great gas-wise--but we both found we liked driving a stick. I'd kinda given up on a manual after driving one in heavy stop-and-go traffic left me rubber-legged, but I figure I can drive the car with the automatic in situations where I'm likely to get stuck in stop-an-go traffic. Frinstance, getting to work after a blizzard. We had a couple of those last winter, and it took me about an hour to drive what is usually a 15-minute commute. Let's just say the sporty stick-shift is a good motivator for doing one's PT exercises on a regular basis.

6. Blushed, or maybe flushed. For some reason, I seem to have developed a tendency to develop, from time to time, a hot, red, right ear. It's happened a couple times a week or so, and it doesn't seem to be connected to any particular trigger. Last week it happened (1) while eating really good pizza and (2) after reading a short prayer at my kid brother's bar mitzvah. I asked my neurologist if it might be MS-related. His response: "Maybe. Pretty much anything can be MS-related, because your brain pretty much controls everything."

7. Nothing. At work and at home, I've had less to do this summer. At work, because of the cyclical nature of my job, I had lots of time when I didn't have work on my plate. At home, with Carmen not working or going to school, I found myself with more time when I had (or at least felt like I had) no pressing household duties. More free time means more time for naps, crosswords, books, dogs, meditation, sex, and other fun things. I'm hoping I haven't developed lazy habits I won't be able to break once things get busier. Caryn starts classes again tonite, and work has been starting to heat up a little bit lately.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dogs can 'catch' human yawns

Researchers in the UK report that pet dogs can 'catch' human yawns, the way humans can 'catch' yawns from each other:
The team found that 21 out of 29 dogs yawned when the stranger in front of them yawned - on average, dogs yawned 1.9 times. By contrast, no dogs yawned during the non-yawning condition. The researchers believe that these results are the first evidence that dogs have the capacity to empathise with humans; although the team could not rule out stress-induced yawning - they hope to in future studies.

Well, duh.

I'm pretty sure most dog owners have had the experience of passing a yawn along to Fido, and, for that matter, catching a yawn from Fido. And while I confess to being one of those folks who are apt to anthropomorphize dog behavior, it seems unlikely to me that this could possibly be the first evidence that dogs empathize with humans. Whether you call it empathy or a "sweet disposition," we humans have been selecting for this kind of dog for as long as we've been sharing our lives and homes with them.

Maybe signs of dog empathy are stronger or more frequent when they live around people whose body language frequently telegraphs fatigue, pain, or other distress. Our yellow lab seems particularly skilled at picking up when my MS is kicking my ass.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

2 PML deaths scare investors, not MS patients or docs

As the WSJ reports, Elan and Biogen shares were hit hard by news of two additional cases of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) among the 31,800 MS patients on Tysabri. According to the article, though, doctors and patients are "unfazed."

Of course they are. That's because investors can put their money in any of a zillion other places, but an MS patient's available alternatives are pretty limited, especially given that Tysabri is "generally recommended for patients who have not been helped enough by, or cannot tolerate" the interferons, glatiramer, or mitoxantrone.