Friday, July 31, 2009

CAW-lling All Crow Lovers

If you didn't catch the NPR report on crows earlier this week, I recommend you listen to it now. Fascinating stuff. When you go to the NPR page, consider watching the video feature near the top that summarizes a crow's interesting ability to recognize human faces or listen to the full radio broadcast (just a mere 7 minutes and 49 seconds near the bottom of the post). Or, you can see if you can recognize a crow's face with the quiz in the middle. (I did pretty well at my first and second try and then started failing miserably.)

This is very much so that others (like Joshua Klein) have picked up on crows' abilities and have begun to think about the possibilities in training them.

If you have never been to home site of where Joshua Klein's presentation is posted, spend some time there. You can learn and learn and learn. Listen and watch, spit out what you don't like, and really chew on the rest.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Give Me A Brake!

Today, I woke up with excitement. I went to bed early (for me) last night. I had really good dreams. I woke up without an alarm. I felt refreshed. I felt rested. I was ready to go go go. I finished my loads of laundry last night so I didn't have to do the last minute scramble to move items from the washer to the dryer in hopes they won't be too damp by the time I need to leave for work. So, all in all, I knew it was going to be a good day.

However, as soon as I got less than a mile away from my house and on my way to work, I realized that my dash was a little brighter than usual. That's because there are no fewer than 6 lights lit up there today... including the traction light, service engine soon (not uncommon/long story), service auto soon, antilock brake light and the tire light. (The sixth light is escaping my mind right now.)

I took my sweet time getting to work... but HAD to get to work before going to the shop. So, now it is lunchtime, and I'm heading to the garage. I'm putting money on the fact that I'm going to have to have some brakes replaced today. It won't explain all of the lights... but it will explain some of them. It'll be a good start and the first step. Here we go. I'm already holding on to my wallet. I feel my debit card heating up by the moment. I'm taking a couple of books with me, because I have a feeling I might have to wait this one out. I'll provide an update on the damage when I return.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Plan & Looking Ahead

I am getting ready to go to the pharmacy - with prescriptions in hand - to receive some medicine. These are three important medicines, in fact, which I hope will greatly change how I've been feeling. I have been waiting for this day... a day which I hope will be a marking point for moving forward. A day which will divide 'before' and 'after' in my mind and my life. A day of difference.

Many of you know that I haven't felt well for a few years. Things haven't been right for actually many years. And, with my doctor's help, I've been able to piece together the timeline of some of the symptoms exhibiting themselves. Some of the worst started showing up 10 and 8 years ago - which were two extremely stressful times for me. And, I've been fighting through the aches and pains and oddities ever since.

I don't know how many doctors I've seen now. Some were kind. Some were dismissive. Some didn't believe me. Some became frustrated when the tests didn't show what they expected. One moved away right as we were making progress. Some didn't work well with others. Many I never saw again after visiting for the first time. When I didn't need anything else bogging me down, dealing with a doctor was often yet another unbearable obstacle. (And, I don't have the patience to begin describing the interactions with the billing departments.) Finding a doctor I trust has been difficult, but I think I've FINALLY found a good few. And, with the help of an administrator at a local hospital, I think these are going to work well together.

I don't feel like myself. And, I feel like I don't look like myself. I definitely don't act physically like I feel on the inside (if that makes sense). It has seemed like everything has been put on hold while dealing with this situation. The aches and pains have been strong this past week. But, I pray everything starts lining up, and I'm able to move forward like I've been hoping for so long.

I'll be making updates here on the blog to include some of the progress. Some of it may not be pretty, but it will be the truth. And, it will be great to look back a few months and years down the road to see all of the progress that has been made.

The plan for the near future is as follows:
1) I'll start taking two of the medicines right away and ease one in gradually in the upcoming weeks. Two of the three I have taken before, and two of the three will likely make me sick to my stomach from the start. But, that should go away in a week or two, and I'm at the point where I'm willing to try about anything.
2) I have received booklets from one doctor which shows me the food that is best for me. For the last week, I have followed it to the T, and some of the symptoms have subsided. Thankfully, this is not something I will always have to follow - especially after some of the medicine kicks in. But, the food plan should greatly help me over the next month.
3) I have a few more blood tests to take over the coming week. FUN FUN! Hopefully my arm will recuperate from last week's tests.
4) I am doing everything I can to attack bad health and encourage good health. So, I am trying everything - even if I tried it six weeks ago or six months ago and it didn't work. One of the doctors said that I have to remain on track with my plan even if my aches, weight, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, etc. seem to increase... even if they continue for weeks at a time. I imagine that's going to be the hardest part of the whole plan - to remain encouraged and focused if that occurs. But, I'll do it if it is necessary. The doctors are convinced - with their help - there will be turnarounds even after seemingly long periods of setbacks. So, I went to my gym, signed up for sessions with a trainer to whom I have talked on several occasions, and we're setting a plan Tuesday night.
5) I'm logging everything. Types of food, amounts of food, exercise, types of exercise, liquid intake, symptoms, sleep... That last one probably caught the attention of a few of you. I'll be doing my best to stick to a 24 hour schedule and get enough sleep, but I can't make any promises about my dreams.
6) I'll be seeking out two more doctors to deal with a few of the things found by my uncle (who is a nutritionist and ran a test on me) and that appeared through my tests with the endocrinologist. It is likely that those new specialists will run more tests, but I'd like to have as much done as possible right away (to get to the bottom of the issues and to have all of my large medical bills be billed within this year. The insurance will kick in to pay everything else within a calendar year once I hit my deductible.) In addition, the doctors will be trying to get to the bottom of why my feet (when I wear tennis shoes) and arms keep going numb. These matters point to nerve issues, but nothing has been determined yet.
7) I have been doing my best to keep up appearances in my schedule for so long that the effort has often caused bigger setbacks for myself. That is because I didn't take time to rest or deal with everything that was happening. My doctor had a stern talk with me about many examples of this. So, in the coming months, I am going to have to make some tough decisions. This will be especially hard for me - just as difficult as step #4 - as I feel like I am already doing so little and barely keeping up with the basics. But, I am going to try because I know this will create a way for me to do more in the future. I have to keep reminding myself that no matter how important some things may seem and no matter how badly I want to do them, there are very few things more important than this plan at this time.
8) I'll follow up with the endocrinologist in 6 weeks to log any changes (hopefully many!) and go from there.

So, that's the plan. And, I have a lot to do. Hope you'll be thinking of me during these next six weeks. I'll give you an update then (if not before), and I am hoping for progress.

Friday, July 24, 2009

All A-Twitter

Four of my young cousins have been asking me about Twitter again. I don't know if I have good answers to their questions regarding the purpose, the point, and the pay-off of having an account. What I do know is that over half of my friends that created a profile in the last 6 months no longer make regular posts (known as tweets). They have either deleted their account or they just follow their favorite celebrities' tweets. When groups of friends join and interact together, it seems like it can be a ton of fun. So cousins, if you're up for it, join and follow me. And, I'll follow you right back. (But, if you don't understand the point of status updates in Facebook, you probably won't like Twitter.)

Even if you don't create a profile and tweet all day long, you may have noticed that Twitter references are creeping into conversations and vocabulary. Late night talkshow hosts have been speaking to celebrities about their Twitter habits. And, there have been important news events which have been reported first through tweets.

There are several articles written about Twitter from which to learn more. Here is "All A-Twitter" from the Boston Globe from earlier this spring which explains how a businessman shared one of the first accounts of US Airways Flight 1549 landing in the Hudson River.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Refined Ford Fin

Long story short, John Green, of Indianapolis, is a friend of a friend. He's an author who has received the Michael L Printz Award as the winner in 2006 for Looking for Alaska and as an honoree in 2007 for An Abundance of Katherines.

Within his second book, he writes about a character who is an outstanding annagramatist. I love anagrams, but I am not as skilled as creating (or discovering) them as I wish I could be.

For anyone challenged in this area, you may rely on the Internet Anagram Server... or the appropriately named "I, Rearrangement Servant". When I plugged in Stremmed Out, the following are some of the (somewhat) amusing results the server displayed:

Emoted Strum
Demurest Mot
Muttered Oms
Modems Utter
Stormed Mute
Muted Metros
Trusted Memo
Mud Remotest
Deem Must Rot
Deer Mums Tot
Doter Met Sum
Red Me Utmost
Drums Me Tote
Mud Meets Rot
Do Retest Mum
Duo Terms Met

The title of this post is an anagram of 'A Friend of A Friend". But, in all honestly, John Green is really a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend. I think.

If you plug your name into the server, feel free to comment to leave a few of the funny results.

Ahead Gave A Try
Adage Heavy Rat
Average Day Hat
(Have A Great Day!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Animal Update

I went to the church building last night to set up some tables for the annual meeting, and I saw 4 groundhogs and 3 baby bunnies. But, once again, I did not have a camera with me. Thankfully, they let me watch them from my car for about 10 minutes before I needed to get closer to the building. My movement made them scurry away.

I'm VERY THANKFUL that Chris & Lydia have allowed me to "borrow" their camera since they have a new one. So, I have to get in the habit of having it with me again. I'll make an effort to try to capture a shot of them for any of my little cousins who are checking in here at the blog.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Picking Brian's Brain

Do you have a friend that thinks in a way that is so completely different than your way of thinking? Does she know information that you don't even know is available to know? Do you enjoy spending time with him because you're sure to walk away from the exchange with new ideas?

Well, one of my friends is just that kind of person to me. His name is Brian. He was a student that lived in the residence hall that I oversaw when I lived in St. Louis from 1997 - 1999. We have lost touch and reconnected several times since then. And, each time we connect, I learn about and become fascinated by what he has been doing. I wish I could sit down with him and pick his brain for about a month.

I admit, I don't understand 50% of it. (And, that percentage is probably giving me too much credit.) But, I always learn a lot. And, for those of you who know me, you know I just love learning. So, it has been a treat to read some of the posts on Brian's site.

I may rush through a paragraph in which I barely understand a word. But then, right there in the next paragraph, I'll understand the whole thing or appreciate the insight provided. Or, maybe I still don't understand a thing but learn about a phrase or word he uses. (He is thoughtful in providing useful links to help me expand my vocabulary.) I do read a lot. But, I'm reading completely different items than what Brian is reading.

You may have differences in opinions with Brian about some things, or you may may notice a word spelled in a very interesting way (maybe due to his time spent in Europe or maybe because he now lives in Iceland.) But, if you take some time to read along, I know you will learn something too.

I recently read the following articles:

What are 2D Bar Codes?

Future Predicting: What Might Happen in the Next 100 Years?

Introducing: The PaperNet

Cola Wars Redux

If you read any of these, feel free to comment on anything that was of interest to you.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Reminders for Today

Matthew 14:22 - 36
And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.

And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.

And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.

And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.

But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.

And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased;

And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.

Mark 4:37-41
And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Proverbs 29:25
The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

Monday, June 08, 2009

24 Hours of Wild Animals

First of all, I know I haven't posted for six months. I know. Believe me, it's on my mind constantly. (Mom reminds me on a very regular basis just in case it isn't already on my mind.) The upside of the situation is that not too many exciting things have happened. Just the same old same old (not to diminish the importance of any of them): Work, home repairs, church, going to the doctor, searching for new doctors... Lather. Rinse. Repeat and repeat and repeat... But, even that has felt like too much most of the time.

There haven't been too many events that are different than what has happened in the last year of posting. But, there may be some big things happening in the upcoming months, so I will try to record them here. We'll see. I'll give it my best ol' college try in the midst of trying my best to juggle the basics.

I don't know why I'm even posting this. But, I realize posting anything will maybe help me get back in the swing of things here on the blog. So, I'm going to do it. This past weekend, we had a surprise 60th birthday party for Mom, and it was a really fun day. (More on that later after our family members share pictures with each other.)

However, after the party, Cousin Kayla and I started heading home. We first had to pull out the stakes that were placed on specific corners in Mom's hometown to direct friends and family to the party. When we went to remove the last one on the state route, we saw a family of raccoons. A parent and some baby raccoons were walking along in a row in the moonlight while climbing out of the culvert. That's always a nice sight to see. Very cute.

The very busy day had worn me out, so I was struggling to stay awake during the long drive home. But, as we were just 10 miles out of Edwardsville, something made me perk up quickly. I saw an auto ahead (facing us) with its hazard lights on. When we came closer to the SUV, we could see that a young deer was standing in the middle of the opposite lane just a few feet in front of the SUV and looking over its shoulder as if it were waiting for family and friends to cross the road to catch up to him. I backed up the car to speak to the driver to ask what was going on. He explained that he had called the police because the deer had been standing there in the same position for about 30 minutes. The situation was odd. But, it was interesting to see such a beautiful young deer standing at such a close distance.

The next day, we had a blessed time at church, but Cousin Kayla and I left earlier than expected because both of us were very tired from the previous day. Before exiting the parking lot, we both wondered what happened to the deer from the previous night... only to pull out onto the hard road and see two baby bunnies in the church yard.

I immediately commented on how interesting it was to see so many baby animals in such a short time and joked to ask Kayla if she had any guesses on what we'd see next. No quicker than the words left my mouth, I slammed on the brakes right there on the offramp of route 143. That's because a parent and baby woodchuck were right in the middle of the road. We both laughed so hard as the woodchucks scurried off.

I continued on my way into campus to drop off Kayla... when I saw the largest wild turkey I have ever seen in the grove of trees on the right side of the road. (I've seen only 3 outside of a zoo or turkey farm, so I realize that's not saying much.) He puffed himself up and gobbled and gobbled. We always see a lot of animals on campus but not usually turkeys. Sadly, no baby turkeys appeared.

I joked with Kayla about what else we'd see and noted that, of all of the squirrels in my backyard, I have never seen a baby squirrel. We pull into her lane, and BAM! Baby squirrels. (I don't mean BAM! as in we hit them. I just mean BAM! There they were!) I decided to keep my mouth shut from that point on. (Kayla scrambled to get her camera, so we have a few fuzzy pictures of the baby squirrels and turkey to prove this. But, they were moving quickly.) When Kayla got out of the car, I think our eyes were wide open because we had no idea what we'd see next.

I pulled out of the parking lot, drove toward my house, and saw two more wild turkeys before exiting campus. I literally rubbed my eyes to make sure my exhaustion was not making me see things. I drove 2 more miles to reach home and saw a hummingbird near my sage plants along the driveway.

I know none of this seems like a big deal to some folks. But, it has been a long time since I lived in the country when these sightings are more common, and I don't think I've had a 24 hour period when I've seen more wild animals. Especially wild baby animals. I guess it is still officially spring since summer doesn't arrive until June 21. So far, no interesting animals have been seen today, but I wonder if there will be any spotted this evening. I'll keep you posted.