Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Back to the mundane

The Jetta was due for the state inspection sticker at the end of August , so I started looking it over for problems before I took it in , but then life got in the way with the demented medical roller-coaster ride, so Annie got to drive the BMW for a while .
 So the VW sat in the garage taking up room for about three months until I could muster my courage to crawl under it .
The major failure was the exhaust . That's the front joint where the pipe goes in to the big box muffler . The rubber hanger was stretched out allowing it to flex and it cracked at the weld , on the top side where I had no hope of ever welding it .
The muffler did not look bad at all for sixteen years of Maine winters and was not leaking itself .
The resonator , though looking a bit ratty on the outside, was actually sound . That is just the heat shield rotting off it . No compromise to its integrity nor critical to proper operation .
 I had replaced the cat pipe last year when the flex pipe gave up the ghost. . . though the cheap Chinese gasket between it and the manifold had gone in less than a year and was thus . . .
. . . now throwing an O2 sensor code .
 The leaking joint was an easy enough to fix for the cost of a new gasket and some scraped knuckles. Here's looking at it from underneath . I used every extension I had for my ratchet to reach those nuts .
That reminds me that last February I wound up having to replace the alternator on the thing too.

As the book value on an 02 Jetta with 160K miles is about six hundred dollars , paying someone else to work on it makes little sense . The quote from the muffler shop for a new exhaust system was more than the value of the car , and the local NAPA wanted over five hundred for the new exhaust kit. . .
 . . . it really left us no choice but to go with the cheap Chinese one from ebay .
Removing the old muffler was not easy and I had to resort to cutting the pipe with my saws-all in order to get it past the hump it makes over the sway arm cross beam . I wonder how the heck I am going to get the new one to go back in . . . I bet that's going to be fun .
The offending joint
Took a bit of finagling and some cussing along with the liberal application of a ball peen hammer on that aluminum heat shield to create enough wiggle room to snake the rise and bend in the muffler pipe over the swing arm cross beam where it needed to go .
But it is in where it belongs including new rubber hangers . All the slip joints got a hit of 700 degree silicone before I wrenched them tight too .
And while we were burning up the credit card on fleabay we got some new rear rotors and pads for about one third the cost of what NAPA wanted .
Got the right rear side . . .
. . . and the left rear replaced . I had replaced front brake pads and rotors , as well as suspension struts , and rear coils and shocks last year .
And after sitting for three months unattended , the six year old battery was DOA so we spent another hundred and a quarter on that
I even washed the dust off it so it would not look so sketchy for the guys at the inspection shop .
And we got the snow tires put on and a new inspection sticker today. . .  glad to have that monkey off my back .


Friday, November 30, 2018

Healthy Vittles

On a lighter note now . . .

Just cause you need to eat healthy don't mean it has to be tasteless .

Tilapia tacos , one of our recent favorites .

About a pound of fresh Tilapia, cut in one inch thick strips. Go for the stuff from Costa-Rica . Stay away from the Chinese farm raised junk that always tastes like mud .
Dust with Mrs Dash lemon , but the regular one works well too . Then dredge in flour and pan fry in a non stick pan with olive oil for about eight minutes .
Serve on a soft warmed tortilla , on lettuce or shredded cabbage , with avocado and red pickled onions .
Drizzle with poppy-seed salad dressing or any other dressing that floats your boat .
To make the pickled onions just peel and thinly slice a couple of big red onions , lightly salt and pepper . .
. . .  stuff them in a couple canning jars and cover with apple cider vinegar . Best make them a couple days ahead before you plan to use them so they can marinade well. They will keep in your fridge for at least a month if you don't finish them first .

An alternative to fish is also boneless skinless chicken thighs cubed or cut in half inch thick strips .
Dust with Garam Masala and stir fry in olive oil, and serve in the same manner with the same toppings.
If you can't find Garam Masala you can make it up yourself .

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Milestones, Bladder Stones and a Hail Mary Pass.


First of all I want to thank all my friends and visitors to the blog for the thoughts and prayers during this nightmare of a roller coaster ride.  It did make a difference and helped to buoy my spirits knowing I had many folks around me putting in a good word with the man upstairs. I believe we had most angles covered, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Baptist and probably a few others too. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. It might have just made the difference.
Last Friday the 16th marks a year since dad shed his mortal coil. I wish that so much could have been different. Or relation was never an easy one. His passing was brutal in so many ways, beginning with the fact that we were always behind the curve and were never able to get enough morphine in him to keep him out of pain. He howled for four days straight before he passed. I can't shed that agonizing image from my brain. 

It has been a stressful time trying to cover dad's in addition to my regular chores. Seven high-mile family cars and a 1952 Ford tractor to look after and maintain. Still cleaning up at mom's after last year's big wind storm. Taking down some of the more exposed trees, cutting six cords of firewood for her. House repairs, you get the picture.
All of this was not made any easier when last July, while doing some deck repairs at mom's, and responding to the call of nature, I felt an extremely sharp pain, on the level of fainting pain, that ultimately led to the discovery of a large bladder stone requiring surgical removal in August.
Just as the nurse was waking me up from that ordeal, and working to get my pain under control, and I become aware of the new pipes coming out of my body, the doc comes in to the recovery room and tells me; "looks like you and I will be having a long term relationship".  ohh yippee!!!
Apparently besides revealing the quarter sized stone in my bladder the pre-op CT scan showed other "issues" of greater concern. In the midst of the battle between my pain and my drug induced stupor I lodged that information somewhere in the back of my brain but did not make much of it right then.
 The bill for that medical misadventure you ask? It totaled just short of thirteen thousand dollars. Five grand for forty five minutes use of the operating room. Four grand for an hour in the recovery room. Twenty five hundred in "pharmaceuticals" and the anesthesia man. Another grand in incidentals and supplies. And the four fingered doc gets only about six hundred and eighty for his skilled labor. Go figure! is that the missing pinky discount rate?
The short of it was that at the postoperative check up a month later the doc tells me, yea we have an issue here, as he shows me the CT scan image showing two centimeter tall Mt Fuji where none should be. The doc says we need to do a biopsy cause it has all the looks of cancer. GULP.... BIG GULP.. ohhh shit!!! Yea , go see the lady out front to schedule for the TRUS biopsy procedure. WTF? Yea it conjures up images of a medieval torture rack and you're not far off to think that. I walk out of the place nearly in tears, feeling I have a hand grenade inside me, the pin has been pulled and it is about to go off any second.
So for about six weeks we were running scared. Exhausted and terrified really. I don't have time for this. I am to young for this. What if they have to operate and take it out? The level of stress is like none I felt ever before.
As some visitors here know I earned my pilots license a few years ago.
Over the last thirty years I have had my share of frights, and have had to cope with a couple close call emergencies. I learned to not loose my cookies under that sort of duress. I have learned that I am OK so long as I stay in control and fly the airplane, and have something I can do to influence the outcome. Keep flying the plane I tell myself. This one however, just like a year earlier with dad's stage four prostate cancer, I am helpless and can do nothing to fix. And that is the most dreadful feeling of it all. It's not like I can go down to NAPA, buy the part and do the job in the garage like I am used to.
One of the benefits of doing physical work for a living is that at the end of the day I am dead tired and when I lay my head down on the pillow I am out like a light. I normally don't dream and am a sound sleeper. Now suddenly I start having the same reoccurring nightmare all in darkest shades of blue. I am in a strange dark and dirty abandoned house, dead tired and need to sleep. I find a bed, but as soon as I lay down it comes alive and starts eating me. I scream in my sleep and Annie wakes me covered in sweat. 
Up to a couple years ago I never had any medical issues of any concern....
 ... other than those self induced by my reckless invincible youth on assorted wheeled and motorized vehicles.
 Just past the mid century mark now . . .
 . . . the picture suddenly does not look so good anymore.
Now, I have butchered a deer or two along the way, and consequently I have some idea of what a mammalian body arrangement looks like on the inside.Yet, despite being married to a physical therapist who's employer provides us with the best available medical insurance in the state, I know nothing about this medical ailment other than it is the same cruel poison that killed dad. So I try to educate myself on the subject. The internet only provides one horror story after another about the procedures involved in obtaining biopsy samples of the offending tissue. No telling what happens if it is actually cancer and the end result after they cut you open and yank it out. I try hard not to go there despite it being the glaring likely end result of this dreadful adventure. Can you say Depends adult undergarments? And you can forget about the squirrel ever jumping again.
Yea the TRUS biopsy thing? Think demented medieval blood letting and torture. Fifteen needles about the size of a sixteen penny nail where the sun don't shine. We request a second meeting with the doc and then the PCP to answer questions and calm frayed nerves, only to leave with more doubts. Do you put me out for this thing? I ask the doc . . . Nope, he says, we just inject Lidocaine, it burns a little, Oh it's nothing, he says, it will feel like a small rubber band snapping, he said. Yea right!!!. You are doing what to where? NO NO NO NO.... the F--- you are doing that to me.
 Oh yes, there are other much less invasive, no blood, no needles, no pain, no risk of antibiotic resistant sepsis, more costly methods involving a high resolution imaging. Something called a Three Tesla MRI that can look at the area of concern on a cellular level and map it all and identify individual cancer cells. Its' available for this ailment as a first course of action in some of the greater metro areas of this country like Boston just two hundred miles to the south of us. But we live in the Peoples Republik of Maine (think Kalifornia light), where the total population of the state is just over a million. The insurance number crunchers know the exact figures and cost involved in providing their slice of the local population with diagnostic and treatment services for this and every other ailment. So the insurance fat cats hash it out with the hospital fat cats on what diagnostic and treatment protocols will be covered and which won't, so that everyone's books can stay in the black, and all the paper pushing hacks can keep up their payments on their new luxury SUVs.
 Less than six years ago it used to be that we had independent, stand alone, healthcare providers that could make a reference to any specialist they and their patient agreed upon. But since the day that Nancy Pelosy told us that we "need to pass it to find out whats in it", and they shoved this pig-in-a-poke Affordable-Care-Act down out throats, all providers are forced to be affiliated with a major hospital. There are only three major hospitals in the state, and they all now operate under the umbrella of Maine Medical Partners (MMP). So medieval blood letting and torture is what we get here as a first line of attack, and you the patient has to subjugate yourself and accept that you are not the customer, you are the product being commercialized.
 I'll pay for an MRI out of pocket, I said. . . . Nope. . .  it's not her fault, the nice girl behind the counter don't have a box to enter that in the computer to make the request. The PCP don't know about the Three Tesla MRI diagnostic program at Brigham and Women's cause the whole system he is forced to operate under since the implementation of the ACA discourages it, and it is not available for him to make the referral anyhow.  And if you simply walk into B and Ws in Boston and ask to see a doc about the issue, they ask to see your insurance card and then tell you to go back to your PCP back home. So much for "if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor".
  I was an emotional wreck for weeks. Walked into my barber for a hair cut in the middle of this sadistic roller coaster ride, and Joe asks me how I am doing. I nearly start bawling right there. My nerves are shot. After much fretting it was clear that if we were are to get to the bottom of what the hell was going on with me, I have no other choice than to submit to the medieval torture and blood letting. The day of the procedure, ominously enough Halloween, I felt I was walking into my own execution. Fucking dreadful! All of us in the waiting room had the same dreadful stare all over our faces. I was clearly the youngest there, not a good sign. After more preparatory humiliation and pain. Strangers fiddling with your privates and inserting tubes where none belong, you are taken in to a dim lit operating room, and spot the freak tool they are about to use on you. The thing is about a foot long. Think a dildo with a handle like a caulking gun on one end connected to a computerized control console. The doc walks in and I tell him that I sure would love to trade places with him right about now. He just shakes his head and gives me this "it sucks to be you" look. The nurse lubes you up and in it goes. Oh joy!!!! The lidocaine the inject in you? yea it burns... like a fricking blowtorch on your innards. That's when you start squirming from the pain. "Get ready, here it comes", he says. Craaaack, It sounds like a fricking pop stapler every time the four fingered sadist at the other end squeezes the trigger. Rubber bands my ass!!! it was more akin to having an electric cattle prod shoved inside you and triggered sending 200 volts through your innards while you hold on to your willie, scream, cry and whimper like a little girl every time the thing snaps. Fifteen times in a row! "you are doing great", they reassure you amid your sobs and tears.  I can assure you that when I cut my finger in the chop saw a couple years ago it did not hurt as much as this. But Hey, they even give you a diaper before you leave. Get used to the idea. It a sign of things to come. A week of blood, discomfort and anguish ensues till we hear back about the results. I am terrified to pick up the phone every time it rings, and as it was the week before the mid term elections the spam calling is fast and furious. This shit is nerve rattling.
When we finally get the call a week after the biopsy, the doc tells me the lab work found NO cancer in any of the samples he took. Annie and I both break down in tears right there. The stress has been brutal . . . I don't know what to say . . . I gather my emotions and ask him, so where do we go from here? The doc says well, he figures the biopsy is only about eighty percent accurate because in about fifteen to twenty percent of the cases when he goes back with an MRI he still finds something. And now we learn the insurance does pay for the high-res MRI but only after you do the bloodletting and torture as a first line of attack. So while the news for now is good, and our level of stress is down by a corresponding measure, we are not 100 % out of the woods just yet. We are on what they call an "active surveillance" program. In six months time we go back and do and MRI and hopefully there will be no more needles and bloodletting involved.
It has been a couple weeks since we received the good news. It has taken me that long to decompress from the built up stress enough to gather my thoughts in writing.

12/6/18 - Postscript:
I am just going to park this one here. It might be helpful to anyone who finds himself in the same boat and stumbles upon this page.
A really good article on the different diagnostic options:
http://paact.help/adding-multiparametric-mri-to-prostate-cancer-screening-will-save-lives-and-money/

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Whistling through the graveyard

Trying to keep focused on chores to keep myself from totally loosing my cookies regarding a recent very frightening medical diagnosis .
The Volvo needs a place to spend the winter so I  . . . 
 Emptied my wood shed and took about three chords of firewood up to mom's .
Using salvaged weathered materials to save on cost and disguise it all  , I repaired the roof edges where they had rotted , added rim joists and drip edge , replaced a corner post and re-dug them all so they line up properly .
Built a knee wall with store bought pressure treated lumber and sheathed it with Hardy-Board sheets .
 Set three salvaged half inch thick glass panels on the knee wall to keep out the weather .
Looks like a dang store front now
 Added some glass doors salvaged from another project . The tarp in the window is cause there is actually too much solar gain .
 Closed in the far end with salvaged pine boards from another job and some left over felt paper .
 Still had a pile of junk to get rid of when I was done
 Removed the old vinyl siding off the back of the garage which I will use to side over the felt paper on the far end. Leveled the ground and lined it with several layers of heavy plastic to keep the moisture out . Made racks and hung one of my kayaks in there as well , and parked the old Volvo after one last run around the neighborhood .
 Stuffed some carboard against the glass to reduce the solar gain and keep prying eyes out
 Cut and framed in a doorway to have access from the garage into the new space .
Might even get my mower to fit between the front of the Volvo and the glass doors .
Got the far end sided , yes inside corners don't line up . But my sheathing is lower on the wood shed so I needed to go lower with the vinyl to cover it properly .
Quasimodo safe in it's cocoon and out of the weather for the winter .

Monday, October 15, 2018

Boring holes in the clouds

Saturday noon we had an appointment with some folks down in Nashua New Hampshire.
 So at about 11am we pull the Bonanza out of the hangar . . .
 . . .  on to a wet and cold tarmac and after a quick top-of of fuel and de-ice fluid . . .
 . . . we are off and away
Climbing out of Portland
 Scud running on an IFR flight plan .
 Nothing but clouds in the windshield climbing out through thirteen hundred feet for . . .
    . . . . six thousand feet , and it is still gray up there
 The thermometer tells us things are a bit cold up here.
 So we turn on the TKS pump to keep wing and prop clear of ice .
Nothing but soup
After a half hour of this . . .
 . . . we shoot the approach and break out of the clouds at two thousand feet and can see the runway at Nashua
Crossing midfield we enter a down wind approach for RWY 32
 
 and circle to land
 The Flight-Aware track and profile of our flight . NOTE ; The image above is a screen capture from later on Saturday , thus the weather depiction on the image is not our actual flight conditions .
After a couple hours the weather has cleared a bit to the north and east so we make our departure .
 And climb back in to the clouds .
 Shoot a practice approach  . . .
 with one turn in the hold .
 Into Concord NH
 Then execute the missed approach procedure and a hold at the fix . . .
  in the broken afternoon clouds with the TKS de-ice fluid streaming on the windshield
 And shoot a practice approach in to Laconia
 Breaking through the scud , marker beacon inbound to Laconia .
 We come out of the clouds below three thousand feet .
Executing the missed approach  . . .
 . . . we cross over lake Winnipesaukee
 Back into the broken clouds headed east .
 And set up for an approach back home into Portland
 Rigby yard and Cash Corner to our left
 Cape Elizabeth and Higgins beach to our right
 We pass over Phineas Sprague's Spurwink farm runway
 And follow vectors to the ILS 29 in to Portland
 Final tun inbound for the ILS 29
 and in real time
 Way out on the glide slope
the video
 Zooming in a bit on the runway
final marker inbound
 Over South Portland
 Looking across to Portland downtown
 The Portland working waterfront with the Casco Bay bridge
 Short final
 Over Phineas Sprague's new boat yard on Commercial St
 Looking over the right shoulder back at Portland
 St Johns Street and the new hospital building
 Short final and landing
The track and profile of our return trip