Allysen Retires!

posted in: personal news 3

My lovely wife Allysen has retired! Her company, Ab Initio software, gave her a great sendoff. (Ab Initio has long been outstandingly generous to its employees, and her departure was no exception.) She’s been editing their software documentation for the last thirteen years. With perfect timing, our sister-in-law Youngmee came to visit on that very evening and spent the weekend with us. This is Allysen receiving a toast from us at one of our favorite restaurants, the Menotomy Bar & Grill.

In her first half-week of retirement, Allysen has celebrated by sleeping, and sleeping some more. Tonight, another great friend flies in for a visit!

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

New Roof!

Rebuilding the front porch just didn’t seem like enough. After all, the porch had only been needed for the last ten or fifteen years. The roof has definitely been on the to-do list for longer than that. And now… it’s done! K’ching!

I’m glad that wasn’t me up there.

Tales of the Kite — Six Weeks into the Herbs

For six weeks now, I’ve been gulping a pile of Chinese herbs from my potions master that look like this, dissolved in hot water, twice a day. Yum. (No, not yum. Gaghh.) So how’s it going? Is it working? I’m glad you asked. Reports from my crack team of observers say that I appear to have more energy, more focus, more life. Myself, I can’t tell! But I believe them, and I’ll take the win. Also, my years-long morning cough has largely gone away. I feel subjectively that I’m less short of breath when I exert myself. Does that mean it’s working? I hope so.

Empirical evidence is less clear. My O2 readings are about the same—dipping down when I exercise and coming back up, as always. I’m using the same amount of supplemental oxygen. I won’t have pulmonary function tests at the docs until August, and then we should know if this regimen is working in a measurable way. Fingers crossed.

Though I had high hopes for better on the O2 end of things, I am encouraged by the energy, and the other things. Keep on kiting!

Tales of the Kite — A Calculated Vulcan Risk

Once there was a man who had pulmonary fibrosis, a disease of unknown cause and poor prognosis—and his very kind and very smart doctors who knew the disease well looked at him sympathetically, and with open hands said, “We’re really sorry, but we’ve got nothin’. This disease has no cure.” Well, short of opening him up like a clamshell and putting an even more unlucky person’s lungs into him—and then stitching him up and putting him on antirejection drugs for the rest of his life. If that were me, I would find the prospect both daunting and discouraging. Oh, wait. That is me.

Fast forward a little. One day he—okay, I—read a letter in the Pulmonary Fibrosis Newsletter from a patient who, more or less in desperation, had turned to Chinese herbal medicine—and after eight years of decline, is now improving. Not just feeling better, but showing better numbers in the pulmonologists’ tests. This person included the Chinese herbalist’s phone number; he’s in the Seattle area, but consults by phone. So I thought, what have I got to lose, I’ll give him a call.

Forward again. I’m just starting an intensive regimen of Chinese herbal medicine, while continuing all my other medications. Herbalist Bob says he is currently treating around five patients with PF, and all are improving. The treatment is expensive, and of course not covered by insurance. It’s accompanied by an alarmingly extreme high-meat-protein diet. The idea is to lose weight and improve the circulatory system. If I’m measurably better in four months, we’ll know it’s working. If not, it was worth a try. (While I have some doubts about the diet part, this guy is mostly about the herbs and the state of blood flow throughout the body, especially in the lungs. He doesn’t talk about chi, or energy flow, or meridians, or any of that stuff, which I find mildly reassuring.) All the herbs come from Taiwan and are tested at multiple points along the way. I’ve just had my first dose, and they don’t taste too bad.

I’m calling this story Tales of the Kite because kites make me think of Chinese lore, and also because I sometimes feel like a kite rising and dipping on the wind, anchored only by the most tenuous of threads of faith, hope, and really tiresome exercises.

Is this a risk? I suppose it is. But the alternative is certain slow decline. Herbalist Bob thinks he can get me off supplemental oxygen, and maybe fix my allergies, and wouldn’t that be great?

The journey begins with a risk. A calculated, Vulcan risk.

The Ponce Chronicles 2024 — Part 4

Not wanting to spend too much time in one place, I got on a plane yesterday and boomeranged back to Puerto Rico. A lot of families with kid on this flight; I guess it’s a vacation week. Climbing out of Boston, I was treated to these views of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Allysen and a friend were there to greet me in San Juan.

Life of Leisure at Home

Yeah, right. The two weeks (feels like two months) since coming back to Boston have been a carnival of people working on the new porches, installing the new boiler, installing and fixing electrical stuff, and starting today at 7:30 a.m. putting new insulation into the attic. Oh, and did I mention hunching for hours over Quicken, pulling together a year’s worth of numbers for the tax man? God willing, by this time tomorrow, all that will be done, or mostly done. And then I’m going to leave it all behind to return to Puerto Rico! (This time for some actual leisure, and writing I hope.)

Here are some pix of the porch! Those round columns, by the way, are made of a resin-stone composite with a permanent finish. No painting required! And the railings are powder-coated aluminum. If there was one theme to this design, it was “low maintenance.”

The Ponce Chronicles 2024 — Part 3

It’s quiet here on my last full day in Puerto Rico (for this round). All our guests have left. Crystal back to L.A., which we hope hasn’t washed away in the rains there, and A’s cousin Vanessa and her husband Cesar back to South Carolina, via San Juan. The air here has turned intensely humid and muggy. Earlier, we had a brief wind-and-rain storm that made me wonder if I’d missed the memo about an approaching hurricane. Wish I’d taken a picture.

Tomorrow, I return to Boston, while Allysen stays to greet Jayce and her boyfriend who are flying down from Boston at the same time I’m flying north from San Juan. We’ll pass each other over the Atlantic. While I start dealing with house issues at home, Allysen will be working with a contractor she’s found to do some of the larger repairs needed here. (Cesar and I fixed a bunch of small things, including—long-time readers will recognize this—yet another patch on the fabled Ho Chi Dog Trail.)

I’m going to close out this chapter with various pictures from the visit. First, Crystal and Allysen at El Yunque…

An egret at the beach at Caña Gorda…

An interesting tree in the dry forest right next to the beach…

And an evening at a new discovery, a delightfully idiosyncratic Ponce restaurant, El Rastro. This is Vanessa and Cesar.

I’ll be back down at the end of February. Lots to do between now and then.

Good News Is, Our House Didn’t Burn Down and No One Was Hurt

But the boiler is dead, Jim. Dead, dead, dead. Both daughters and their significant others were plenty scared, when—with Allysen and me away in Puerto Rico—the smoke alarms at home went crazy and they found one of the steam-heat boilers in the basement smoking and starting to glow. I believe terrifying was the word Jayce used. I got a not-quite-panicked call, “How do you turn off the boiler?!” with a lot of beeping and commotion in the background. I said, “Unplug it and get out of the house and call the fire department!” The firemen got there fast, turned off the gas to the unit, and confirmed that the boiler was toast but it was safe to stay in the house. I don’t know how long it took the family to stop shaking. (Connor remarked later that the boiler was glowing orange at the bottom and looked like a rocket about to take off.)

What happened was, it boiled dry, and the automatic low-water cutoff failed. The result: our own mini Three Mile Island meltdown. But as I say, no one was hurt, and the house didn’t burn down, and the smoke alarms worked, so I choose to regard it as a win-win. Plumber Mike came the next day and started making plans to replace the unit.

It was mostly my fault for not properly briefing everyone on checking the water level from time to time. Anyway, why is it that every time I leave for Puerto Rico, there’s a major plumbing problem while I’m gone? It never fails.

Because we had ductless minisplits installed a few years ago for cooling and bumper-months heating, there is still heat available in our apartment; no one had to freeze. So that’s a win, too. There is actually a statewide effort to get people to use electric heat pumps instead of gas heat, so one could argue that we should just switch over. But our experience has not sold us on that method of heating in winter. And forget running a heat pump in a power outage with a small backup generator, which I can do with a boiler. We are all in on offsetting climate change, but I guess our solar-electric panels and our solar hot water will have to be our contribution for now.

Here’s the boiler with the phaser blast marks.


Good Shows to Watch When You’ve Got Covid

One consolation of having Covid (and yeah, I’ve had a rebound and it feels like a head cold, but I am now positive again!!) is that you have a good excuse to sit and binge watch shows you’ve been meaning to get to. In my case it was For All Mankind (Season 4) and Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (Season 1). Both were really good, both on Apple TV+!

For All Mankind was co-created by Ron Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame, and it displays all the strengths and (maybe) excesses of that show. The writing and acting and production are top-notch, and the story arc utterly compelling (alternate history of the space program). It maybe goes overboard on the gritty realism, for my taste—in the sense that virtually every character is conflicted by bad choices and tormented by the ensuing consequences, just like in BSG. The characters are all quite believable, and I wouldn’t call any particular one into question, but the overall angst-o-meter reading is way over into the red, and I might have liked a little break from that. Also, I’m skeptical about the asteroid-diverting orbital dynamics that enabled the Mars-firsters to steal a big asteroid from the Earth-loyalists. But never mind that. It was a terrific watching experience, and it took my breath away at the end.

Monarch was good, too, which was surprising to me, as I watch creature features for the love of the monsters and don’t expect much good writing and characterization. In fact, this was much more a human-character story than it was a monster flick. Godzilla and others appear, but infrequently. (Godzilla still doesn’t have the proper Gronnnnnnnnnk! roar of the original.) And some of the character angles (the antagonism of two step-sibs toward their wayward father, primarily) got beaten into a dead horse at times. But overall, it was entertaining and surprisingly well done.

What to follow that up with? Well, I tried Reacher (Season 2 on Prime), and it was time-filling, but not much more than that. Banal dialogue, endless stupid violence, and if my memory is accurate (not at all a sure thing), it didn’t follow the book it was based on very well. I confess I have listened to many Reacher books via audiobook, and they are definitely a guilty pleasure. Reacher’s an interesting character, and the books are fun action adventure, but basically overloaded with mindless violence. Each time I finish one, I say, “That’s it, no more.” And then another comes out, and I go, “Oh well, maybe one more.” I’m not proud of myself, but there you have it.

Oh, we’ve also been watching Astrid on PBS and Midsomer Murders on Pluto, both excellent. I am trying to memorize the theremin theme to Midsomer so I can learn to play it on my theremin.

Meanwhile, we are getting ready for a trip to Puerto Rico, and the porch reconstruction inches along.

1 2 3 4 55