Friday, December 31, 2010

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

So, yesterday I finally got a copy of my sleep study.

It was worse than the sleep tech said. Actually, when I went to pick up my CPAP from the local medical supply place (better price than online, AND they bill my insurance directly) the machine tech said it was the worst sleep study she had ever seen.

Quoting directly from the report:

"The patients time in bed was 352 minutes, the total sleep time was 289 minutes".

Basically I slept almost five, out of almost six hours in a rest state... which for me is actually not bad. Considering I was wired up like a Christmas tree, which was really quite uncomfortable, it's a surprising amount... of course the 200mg of trazodone I was taking didn't hurt I'm sure.

"The patient had 691 respiratory events. There were 315 apneas, 131 were obstructive, 82 were central, 102 were mixed. Patients Apnea index was 65.4. Patient also had 376 hypopneas for a total apnea/hypopnea index of 143.5. There were 7 RERAs for an RDI index of 145.4".

Severe RDI is your respiratory disturbance index. An index of 30 or over is considered severe. I was at 5 times that. And remember, that's 691 events, in 289 minutes of sleep... 2.4 times a minute.

Basically, I was experiencing either apnea or hypopnea the entire time I was asleep.

I also had 60 partial wakefulness episodes, and was awake for a total of 62 minutes after the onset of persistent sleep. That's a partial wakeup every four to five minutes.

But it gets worse...

"There were 620 respiratory events associated with a 4% or greater desaturation. The apnea/hypopnea index with a 4% or greater desaturation was 129.2"

...and worse...

"The minimum oxygen saturation was approximately 58%. The oxygen saturation was less than 90% for approximately 62% of the study".

58%... yeah... Thats REALLY not good. Really. That's brain damage territory if held that low for very long. It's well within the range of acute hypoxia, and I was probably cyanotic (blue from lack of oxygen) when it hit that low.

No wonder I'm not alert some days, have fatigue, sudden sleepiness, and microsleeps; and seem to have lost about 30 IQ points...

And clinically speaking, it's almost certainly part of why my basal metabolism is so severely suppressed. Combine that with endocrine irregularities... yeah, it's not exactly shocking.

So, last night was my first night on the CPAP machine. I didn't really have a problem with it; though I did wake up in the middle of the night, and took the mask off for a while because I was a little hot under there. I just turned the heater down on the humidifier,

I think maybe the Air Force got me used to an oxy mask better than most people when they start CPAP; since most say they take the mask off a lot at first. I'm in a full face mask (which isn't really. It's an oral/nasal without cannula), and honestly, it's pretty comfy. A lot more comfy than a military mask.

Right now I'm on a temporary machine, a ResMed S8, auto-set with a heated humidifier. It doesn't have much in the way of monitoring or data readout capability, though I know my airway pressure went up to at least 15.4 last night.

Next week my permanent machine should come in (it would be here tomorrow, but the weather has been delaying things), the new ResMed S9 AutoSet:
Which seems to be a very good machine, having the highest ratings of any machine at the various sites online:

I was looking at that one, and the Fisher and Paykal Icon Auto, which is brand new and has the humidifer all in one with the main unit, so it's smaller and quieter. Unfortunately, my insurance doesn't have the Icon on their list yet (they do have it's predecessor, so it's likely they'll update to have the Icon next year, but the machine has only been shipping for a couple months, and the insurance company is a bit behind the market).

At any rate, the new machine has central sleep apnea detection, built in oximetry, and 365 night sleep session review; so I can see each night how many events it thinks I had and what type, how effective it thinks it was, and what my O2 sats were. Really, I'm looking forward to seeing the data.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Damn Blizzard

Well, now WE'RE in a damn blizzard. 10" so far, another 6 expected, and 40knots of blowing and drifting out there.

Its going down to 11 below overnight, and the power is out. Thank god weve got the wood stove.

Posting this off my droid. The whole town (3000 homes in this grid) is down and they're not sure when they can get us back up yet.

UPDATE: We got power back after about two hours, internet came back a few minutes ago. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Irrelevant TV shows top 10 metal videos of the year...

This is probably surprising to most folks out there, but amazingly enough, "headbangers ball" is still around.

Yeah, I know. Why bother at this point.

But what the hell... they were doing their "top ten metal videos of the year" and I figured, "why not".

Complete waste of time.

Some emo crap from Slipknot, a little Sevendust... not bad, but nothing spectacular. Ozzies latest without Zakk Wylde? utter shite, though John G can certainly play. The Deftones newest, ok, not great but ok...

Disturbed with "Another way to die" pushing the AGW fraud... Yeah, Disturbed is one of those bands where I just have to shut their politics out so I can listen. In the case of "Another way to die" the politics are the entire song... and it's not even a good song. Actually it's a pretty good video (made up of news footage), but a bad song.

The biggest disappointment to me is actually Fear Factories reunion. I was expecting more out of them. "Fear Campaign" is just another anti-american screed, with poor vocals and a muddy undefined sound.

Their number one video was Avenged Sevenfold, with "nightmare"... Frankly, it was just another Avenged Sevenfold song. Same riffs, same sound, same vocal sound... Ok video, but not particularly original or interesting. Not a bad song, not a bad video, but certainly not best of the year.

As far as I'm concerned, the best metal video of the year has to be Black Label Society with the directors cut of "Overlord".

There were a total of two decent songs in the countdown:

Alice in Chains "Your Decision", which isn't really metal so much, but they do kick ass and it's a good song and a decent video:

On the one hand, I have a problem with calling it Alice in Chains without Layne Staley; but I appreciate that rather than try to find a replacement singer, Jerry does the singing, and he does a pretty good job with it, making great music still so... OK.

The other song was 'Bullet for my Valentine' with "Your Betrayal", which was a mediocre video, but is a pretty good song:

BFMV aren't exactly a 'new" band, having been formed in 1998; but they only released their second full length album "Fever" in the U.S. this year (they're a Welsh band); and they've really been doing well all year. They're a great band, heavily influenced by classic metal, speed metal, thrash metal, and power metal (all my favorite genres); and both aggressive and melodic. I recommend checking them out.

The last of the Christmas loot...

I'm going to do a loot post when I can take and edit some good pics. I got Mel something pretty big, and pretty neat, and I want to get good pics.

But I just thought I'd mention one of my better presents...

I'm going to see Satriani, in a 750 seat, acoustically excellent, 100 year old theater.

Here's the setlist he's been playing on this tour (23 or 24 songs in each show, and those are NOT short songs):

  1. Ice 9
  2. Hordes of Locusts
  3. Flying In a Blue Dream
  4. Light Years Away
  5. Memories
  6. War
  7. Premonition
  8. Satch Boogie
  9. Revelation
  10. Pyrrhic Victoria
  11. Crystal Planet
  12. The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing
  13. Dream Song
  14. God Is Crying
  15. Andalusia
  16. Solitude
  17. Littleworth
  18. Why
  19. Wind In The Trees
  20. Always With Me, Always With You
  21. Big Bad Moon

Crowd Chant
Summer Song

Should be fun.

Nah, they forgot something...

From WillBarnesOnline:
How to Identify Where a Driver is From

1. One hand on wheel, one hand on horn: Chicago.

2. One hand on wheel, one finger out window: New York.

3. One hand on wheel, one finger out window, cutting across all lanes of traffic: New Jersey.

4. One hand on wheel, one hand on newspaper, foot solidly on accelerator: Boston.

5. One hand on wheel, one hand on nonfat double decaf cappuccino, cradling cell phone, brick on accelerator, with gun in lap: Los Angeles.

This was obviously not written by a Bostonian, or he'da known that Boston drivers have one KNEE on the wheel, one foot on the accelerator, one hand on the Herald (only commies read the Globe... except the sports page... too many New Yorkers) reading the sports scores, one holding their regulah dunkies up to their face.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Thank you to the New Orleans Saints...

For getting Atlanta fans to SHUT THE HELL UP about how the Falcons are better then... or even as good as... the New England Patriots.

Seriously Falcons fans, this game shouldn't even have been close (especially after that giveaway), never mind them pulling it out on you in the last 4 minutes.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oh and something else official...

As of this morning, I have been officially prescribed an auto adjusting CPAP, with a heated humidifier.

My titration rate has yet to be determined (and whether I need supplemental oxygen or not); but I need to acquire the machine before the end of the year or my insurance deductible resets and I'm responsible for the full cost of the thing, which is substantial.

A regular CPAP can be had for as little as $300, plus another $300 for a heated humidifer, and another $150-$300 for a mask and tubing. A BiPAP (bi-level positive air pressure; meaning instead of constant pressure, it applies high pressure during inhalation and low pressure during exhalation, which makes breathing easier), or APAP (auto-adjusting positive air pressure, meaning it automatically adjusts the air pressure to the demand) is a LOT more, starting around $750 (again plus $300 for the heated humidifier) and going up to $3,500, plus mask and tubing (basically because they can. There's really nothing more to it for the extra expense but a little extra programming).

There's even a new implementation called AVAP, that they're charging $5,000 for. Which yes, is insane.

You want to know why medical care costs so much? the CPAP is a perfect example. It's a very simple piece of kit, that's been around for decades. They make hundreds of thousands of them. There is plenty of competition in the market. There is no technical reason why they cost so much.

They cost so much, because insurance pays for them. If it didn't no-one would ever buy one on their own at that price. They also cost so much, because of the liability associated with any medical device.

Take away those two factors, and they'd cost, at most, a couple hundred bucks...

Ok, so now I'm OFFICIALLY off for two weeks

Dont expect much blogging here... not that there's been all that much lately anyway.

Read, relax, and get medical treatment, that's pretty much the plan.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WF, WHF - Tool Addiction

  There's a new post up at We Few:
Tool addiction. I has it.

Usually it's the husband with the tool addiction. Oh, Chris definitely has an addiction. Garage tools, woodworking tools, diagnostic equipment, musician's tools. If it has a purpose within his hobbies he either has it or wants it. I continually bust his balls about his addiction but in reality I have one of my own.

Don't give me jewelry, or knicknacks, or other pretties. All I ever want is more tools.

Cooking tools, cleaning tools, household tools, garage tools. If it has a motor, a heating element, an LCD, or a specific niche I either want it or have it.

I have to agree with Scott Ian here...

When I think of Anthrax, the lineup that immediately comes to my mind is always the 1985-1992 Joey Belladonna era.

The original albums with Belladonna, "Spreading the Disease", "Among the Living", "State of Euphoria" and "Persistence of Time"; are not just three of their best albums (yeah "...Euphoria" is a bit of a dud), but are three of the best albums in metal history.

I still think "Among the Living" is their best original studio album (I actually like "attack of the killer B's" the most personally); with "Among the Living", "N.F.L", and of course what I think is their greatest song "Caught in a Mosh".

Apparently though, Scott Ian (founding member of the band, the only original member left, and the only member to play on every album) disagrees.

I was watching a rerun of VH1s "That Metal Show", and Scott came on and made it very clear that he thinks the best iteration of the band is with John Bush (who I didn't realize before tonight, was with the band for 12 years and 5 albums... way longer than Belladonna).

In fact Ian even said (and his wife, Pearl, who happens to be Meatloafs daughter, said with him), live on stage, that he preferred Bush to Belladonna, and that he thought of Bush as the "real" singer of Anthrax not Belladonna.

I have to admit, as big an Anthrax fan as I am, I don't love the John Bush albums as much. I liked Bush as a singer, but I always thought of Belladonna as better; and he certainly sang the better songs.

In fact, Scott agrees about the better songs; now naming "Among the Living" as Anthrax's best studio album. When they chose to re-record a bunch of songs in for a compilation album in 2002 (more on that in a minute), almost all the tracks they chose were off of "Among the Living", "Spreading the Disease", and "Persistence of Time".

Anyway... I actually hadn't ever listened to that album, "The Greater of Two Evils"; thinking it was just another live compilation greatest hits money churner.

I have made a mistake in not doing so.

Scott mentioned on TMS, that "Greateer..." was actually an album of the band re-recording their greatest hits, almost all from the Belladonna era, but with Bush as the singer; and he considers it their best album ever.... and he didn't say it directly, but I got the impression that the name of the album as a deliberate dig against Belladonna.

Let me just say, in addition to being THE main member of Anthrax, Ian is one of the biggest metalheads, and just one of the biggest fans of great music there is. He's done tons of album reviews, interviews about other bands music, vh1 compilation and "100 greatest songs of..." shows etc..., and I've rarely disagreed with him. He even likes a bunch of the stuff I like that other metal fans don't (or even make fun of, like Journey or Meatloaf), so even if he weren't in the band, I'd take his opinion seriously.

So I quickly youtubed a few cuts off the "Greatest of Two Evils" album... and then I listened to the original Belladonna cuts...

Well shit... he's right.

Listen to the Belladonna original "Caught in a Mosh":

and now the John Bush version:

John Bush is just plain better. He's a better metal singer, flat out. He's got better pitch, tone, timbre, breath control, and expression for thrash metal. He's the better thrash singer in every way.

"...mosh" isn't exactly the best song to show your range as a singer... let's face it, it's thrash metal, not the three fucking tenors, singing consists primarily of shouting in tune... but it's Antrax's signature song (and the song most Anthrax fans name as their favorite), but even on "Among the Living", and "Indians" the songs they both did that probably best show Belladonnas range as a singer (yeah I know, again not exactly spectacular demonstrations of vocal talent)... Bush is better.

I checked out some live cuts on youtube as well... and yeah, Bush is better live too.

I still love you Joey, and you're the originator of those great albums, and you'll never lose the love of the fans... Bush is just a better singer.

If, like me you're an Anthrax fan, and you'd never bothered to listen to "Greater of Two Evils", you should fix that mistake.

A quick followup with the doc...

Got a call from the docs office today. My bloodwork was all good.

As I suspected, the doc is having me switch up to 160mg of Furosemide twice a day to see if that controls the excess water weight.

That's four times the original dosage (twice as much, twice as often), and he wants me to do another blood panel in 10 days; to make sure it's not excessively depleting anything (which is why I'm on megadoses of vitamins, and potassium supplements) and that it's not screwing up my kindey function.

He only got the sleep study results and the EKG results today and hadn't gone through them yet; but I already know from the sleep tech, I have something beyond "severe" complex sleep apnea (a mix of both obstructive and cns apnea), and hypopnea (periods of excessively short and shallow breathing with long gaps between breaths).

I am apparently experiencing apnea 40-60+ times per hour, for 10-40 seconds each episode, with as little as 10 seconds between episodes, and as much as 4 minutes. This is reducing my O2 saturation down to as low as 67%, with sats below 80% at least 40% of the time and below 70% at least 5% of the time.

94-99% O2 saturation is normal by the way.

SaO2 as low as 67% is actually into hypoxia territory, and can cause brain damage if it stays that low for prolonged periods.

The apnea is probably contributing to the blood pressure spikes, the insomnia, the weight gain and a bunch of other crap, as well as the fatigue, microsleeps, daytime sleepiness, and cognitive dysfunction (it's making me frikken stupid).


Unfortunately, there was a problem with the monitoring equipment in the middle of the night at the sleep lab, and they couldn't test my response to PAP; so I'm going to need to do another sleep study before they can set a titration level, and give me a scrip for the damn machine.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A little peek at conditions in our area...

Spokane is a hilly city, with poorly drained and poorly graded roads; which spends about 30% of the year at under 32 degrees, and raining or snowing.

This is the inevitable result:

We were actually driving up that hill a few weeks back, on the day of the first big snow in fact; and while it wasn't nearly that bad, it took us about 15 minutes to get a couple hundred yards up the hill because some genius decided to stop and parallel park right in the middle of the hill, right in front of us in a way we couldn't get around him.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

I'm not TECHNICALLY on vacation for the rest of the year...

... But I might as well be. All my normal meetings for next week are cancelled, and most of the people I work with on both sides of the aisle from me, are on vacation.

Basically not much is going to get done next week. It's more like I'm on call in case something goes wrong.

On the other side of Christmas, I AM officially on vacation from Friday the 23rd, through January 3rd.

I had to take the days, just so I could get down to 5 days carryover for next year (giving me another year with 30 days of PTO that I won't be able to take all of... again).

Two weeks basically off... not bad. Wish I felt better physically and mentally to enjoy it more, but you can't have it all.

Reading, practicing my new bass... trying to relax... sounds like a plan.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I seem to have underestimated my water retention...

...Because as of this morning, I was down 40 pounds from my peak a few weeks ago, and as near as I can tell, I'm only halfway done losing the excess water. I figure I've still got at least 40 more pounds to go.

Strangely though, losing 40 pounds thus far hasn't really made me feel much better, excepting to relieve SOME of the edema.

Yes, that's right, SOME. I'm down 5 gallons of water, and I've still got pitting edema, every single day.

And losing the weight has actually made me look worse, because I've got skin hanging in loose folds right now. Not comfy.

Also, if I don't take the Furosemide at least twice a day, every day, I gain at least 10 lbs that day; with normal food and water intake (i.e. enough to keep normally hydrated). Furosemide only has a half life of 100 minutes, so after three hours it's lost all effect.

Woese, the Furosemide has become less effective. The day I started, 60mg had me losing. Now I'm up to 160mg twice per day. Any less, or less frequently, and I gain not lose.

I need to follow up with the doc and maybe  switch to Bumetanide (more bioavailable), something longer lasting than Furosemide (maybe Torasemide). Or maybe just have him up my dose even more or change it to 4 times a day (the max dosage is 1mg/kg every 4 hours. ). Maybe supplement it with something other than a loop diuretic.

It's even more impressive from 6 feet away...

As I found out while swimming this summer.

Not sure if this is from Idaho, but it might as well be.

HT: Bayou Renaissance Man

I award you NO points, and may god have mercy on your soul

I have SOOOOO been there... so many times...

Thank god, I run a place so totally unlike that, as to be unrecognizable as the same class of thing. Please, come join us. We have pie and punch. Everybody likes pie and punch.

As someone who DOES shoot at 600 to 1000 yards (with .300 win mags built for the purpose), knows more than most ever will about ballistics, and has a fair bit of the gear (and knows how to use it, though in my current physical state, can't make use of much of it), these guys really irk the shit out of me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


John Enwistle, one of the best technically, one of the most musical; and certainly given his body of work and it's significance, the greatest bassist in the history of rock (other than perhaps James Jamerson, who basically invented Rock and Roll and soul bass as we know it)... at the time 56 years old (we lost him two years later in 2002), delivering a virtuoso performance on "5:15" (from "the who" album "Quadrophenia"), without breaking a sweat.

Entwistle pioneered many of the techniques now considered standard in hard rock, progressive rock, and heavy metal bass playing, including: bi-amping, the use of high powered 8 speaker bass stacks (necessary to be heard clearly over the high energy drumming of Keith Moon - eventually he used two 200 watt amps, each feeding two 4x10 or 4x12 cabinets, or sometimes four 2x15 cabinets, for a total of 16 driven speakers), the use of feedback, tapping, and harmonics as a musical element for the bass, the use of effects, and the general "lead bass" style.

It is generally thought that his bass solo on "My Generation" is if not the first, certainly one of the first bass solos in recorded rock music (they were not unknown when bands were playing live, but they rarely made it onto records, and almost never onto rock records; as they were considered to be more of a "modern jazz" type thing).

Many of what people think are classic Pete Townshend guitar riffs, and even solos, are in fact Entwistles bass work; especially the intros to many classic who songs.

Entwistle is yet another reason why I believe "The Who" were the BEST (not the greatest, that's clearly "The Beatles") band of their time (not that Paul McCartney isn't a very good -and very innovative- bass player. He is.. and as far as I'm concerned he was the far greater talent than Lennon in the Beatles).

Here's the entire 2-1/2 hour live concert from 2000 (later released as the album "Live at the Royal Albert hall"), that the bass solo from "5:15" above is pulled:

And yes, by then, Townshend had clearly lost too much of "it" to keep on the way he was trying to. I saw them in 1989 for their 25th anniversary of Tommy "The Kids are Alright" tour, and they just utterly blew me away.

In between, somehow, Townshend blew out his voice entirely, and seemed to have lost his ability to either keep time, or play on key.

But, Entwistle, Daltrey, and their drummer (more in a moment) were really on for that tour (Daltrey has since lost too much of "it" to keep going as well).

Oh and the drummer for that concert happens to be Zak Starkey, the son of one Sir Richard Starkey, better known as Ringo Starr.

Starkey has been the drummer for "The Who" since 1996 (much as Jason Bonham has been for the various Jimmy Page projects, including the Led Zeppeling reunion). Appropriate, since it was actually Keith Moon who taught him to play drums (and rather well at that).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not to put too fine a point on it...

STOCKHOLM (Dec. 12) -- No one died except for the suspected bomber, but two explosions in Sweden's capital tore at the fabric of this tolerant and open nation - a society that hadn't seen a terrorist attack in more than three decades.

Two people were wounded in central Stockholm on Saturday in what appeared to be the first suicide bombing in the history of Sweden, which has been spared the major terrorist strikes seen in several other European countries.

A car exploded in the middle of the seasonal shopping frenzy, shooting flames and causing several smaller blasts as people ran screaming from the scene. The blast that killed the alleged bomber came moments later a few blocks away from the car explosion on a busy pedestrian street.
... But, once a "bomber" has actually blown themselves up, they are no longer a "suspected bomber" or "alleged bomber"... They have actually committed the act, and the evidence thereof is scatted in millions of pieces in the public street.

One might say they are an "alleged" or "suspected" terrorist, or an "alleged" or "suspected" attempted mass murderer... Those are mere suppositions on our part... But the facts that the bombing occurred, and that the bomber died in the blast,  are not in dispute.

I'm just sayin...

People keep asking me why I dont freelance anymore...

Actually, this isn't even remotely far out... In fact, it's WAY worse out there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Outta Left Field

In the midst of all the other drama concerning health and family life, I received a call from my OBGYN's office. The doc routinely orders full blood panels every 5 years "just in case" for all her patients, and since I'd hit 30 she ordered one for me.

The test results came in Friday. Evidently my TSH levels are high (5.83) and my T4 level is in the low normal range (0.9) signaling an imbalance and an under-active thyroid.

As the nurse was rattling off the symptoms, I couldn't help but notice that yes, I had the symptoms but attributed them to other conditions.

  • Depression = life circumstances, unavoidable
  • Fatigue = from the depression
  • Increased hair loss = seasonal change, it is my first winter here after all
  • Inability to lose weight = also from the depression
  • Mood swings = from the already well known hormonal imbalance and PMDD
Turns out that instead, I have a very easy to treat condition. One little pill a day to give my thyroid a boost.

The first couple of days I felt like a mix between a zombie and a robot. Took me a while to realize why.

My emotions have normalized. I no longer have huge mood swings, really high highs or really low lows. I feel... normal. Without the huge variations in mood I feel almost as if I have no emotion whatsoever. It will take me a while to get used to being so stable, and so in control of what I feel.

How odd it is that the most psychoactive drug I've ever taken besides opiates for pain is a little tiny thyroid pill. How odd it is that every other anti-depressant failed, but a thyroid medication has started working within 3 days.

Maybe I should have looked into this sooner.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Don't I look thrilled?

That's me, after being wired up for my sleep study.


Oh and yes, my face DOES look like an overinflated waterballoon, and yes that IS from excess water retention... "dependent fluid" as my doctor would say".

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Back to Bass

As I've mentioned here before, I play guitar and bass (and a little bit of drums, and piano; neither of which I have practiced much of in years).

What I haven't mentioned, is that it's been almost 10 years since I've owned a bass; mostly due to moving around a lot (College, Air Force, then a security consultant, then an IT consultant, finally settled down into a non-travel job 5 years ago but I've moved three times since), and not having the time to get back into it.

I sold, lost, had stolen, or had burned down from under me, all my guitars by about 8 years ago; but about four years ago Mel bought me a guitar for Christmas.

Me being me, I started accumulating gear again; and now I've got a half decent acoustic, a nice Jackson archtop Dinky DKMGT in trans-black flame maple, and a REALLY nice quilted maple trans black Epi Les Paul (all picked up for WAY less than list, either on major discount or used); and a pair for Fender amps for them (a G-DEC 15w 8" practice amp, and a Frontman 212r 100w rewired with 2x12 Celestion vintage 30s).

I've even got a decent multi-effects processor; a Line 6 PODxt-Live that I basically stole from the guy selling it ($300 for it, the Fender Frontman amp, 8 good quality cables - $15 each at least, a Shure SM58 mic worth $100 on its own, a pair of XLR cables, and two mic stands).

Really, as far as guitars go, the only thing I kinda want right now is a really nice custom piece (which I can't really justify the cost of at the moment) or maybe one of the new higher end Godins (really great guitar company out of Montreal, newly expanded and really doing some great things); and a new head and cab instead of my combo amp (I like my combo, but I want a nice head and cab to play with. Thing is, I've got better things to do with $2000... though I'd kinda like the Line 6 spider 150 half stack, at $650...).

Oh and I'd love a thin body 14 fret cutaway Martin, but again, I can't really justify the price (Martin only makes the cutaway as a thin body from their custom shop. Runs about $4,000 to start... maybe $15k the way I'd really like it. And no, there's really no justification for why it costs that much except "because they can").

We've even got a digital piano here,  (a Yamaha YPG-235, which they call a "portable grand piano"), because it's easier to compose with a keyboard, easier to learn a vocal with one, and easier to teach music with one (since the kids want to learn, and we're more than glad to teach them). Plus, it's a half decent drum machine and a metronome, both of which are useful in general.

But that's all just gear, and I want to talk about music first.

The Musician

I've been listening to a lot of modern jazz, fusion, funk, groove metal, prog metal, and progressive rock this past year. Victor Wooten, Billy Sheehan, Jaco, Claypool, Dream Theater, Al DiMeola, Leo Kottke, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller...

I mean I've listened to all of them for years, but that's been MOST of what I've listened to (on my own anyway. Mel mostly listens to country, so I listen to country about half the time just as background noise... I don't consider that real listening) recently.

Listening to all that, I've realized over maybe the last few months, that I really want to get back into bass again; maybe more than I want to play guitar (at least for now)... and given my 25 year love affair with the electric guitar, that's saying something.

Funny thing is how exact that number really is... I know exactly how long it is since I figured out I wanted an electric guitar. It was July 3rd 1985; so 25 years plus five months. 

Anybody know what the significance of that date is? Extra points if you get it without clicking on the link.

What got me interested in bass was something else entirely... and this is going to sound weird... but it was TV theme songs. Specifically, Barney Miller, Night Court, Sanford and Son, and a couple of others.

"Sanford and Sons" was written and produced by music legend Quincy Jones (it's actual title is "The Streetbeater") and the bass on the track was performed by the very well known and respected funk, R&B and fusion bassist Chuck Rainey; who also performed the bass for the M.A.S.H theme (the TV theme, not the "Suicide is Painless" recording used in the movie).

"Miller" was performed by two very well known session bassists, Jim Hughart and Chuck Burghofer; both of whom have performed on literally thousands of famous jazz, funk, and other records. There were two different recordings. Burghofer co-wrote the bass line, and played it on the original recording and the "alternate" version used in the last two seasons, but Hugart played the on air version used in the first few seasons.

The "Night Court" bass line was co-written and performed by one of the greatest bassists (and multi-instrumentalist jazz virtuoso) of all time, Marcus Miller.
NOTE: The "Night Court" and "Barney Miller" themes were both written and produced by the same guy, the late, great Jack Elliott (along with his writing partner Allyn Ferguson); and both are available in full song length versions on Elliotts CDs.

As it happens, the creator of "Night Court", Reinhold Weege, was the head writer on Miller for several years; and he had noted how important the Miller theme was to the shows success... it just stuck in peoples heads, had them thinking about the show. That's part of what a great TV theme gives you.

Relatively unknown except by hardcore fans of jazz, professional jazz musicians, and industry insiders; Elliott was a HUGE force in keeping Jazz alive and well  from the 60s through the 80s. He and Ferguson wrote themes for a dozen or more TV shows; most notably S.W.A.T, Charlies Angels, Banacek, Police Story, and Starsky & Hutch.

Elliott was the music director for dozens TV shows including the Andy Williams show, and the Smothers Brothers show, and was the composer for dozens more films and television shows; as well as the musical director of several jazz bands and orchestras. Notably, he was the long time musical director for the academy awards, the Emmys, and for 30 consecutive years, the Grammys.

Elliott knew talent, and kept as much of it as he could on hand. In so doing, he kept a lot of great talents in the Jazz, Funk, and R&B world employed and playing, for decades, when their particular musical genres weren't commercially viable.
Those shows just had some cool bass playing... In fact, in talking with a lot of bass players around my age, I've found a lot of guys said the same thing... That it was their first exposure to bass as a distinct musical element, not just the background to rock music etc... Judging from the number of youtube videos of people playing the groove from the "...Miller" theme, I don't doubt it.

Then, when I was around 11 or 12, I got into funk (and soul, and classic R&B), punk, and metal, all basically at the same time; and it was all over.

Of course, funk and soul would have been enough by themselves. From James Jamerson with the funk brothers rhythm section on all those great motown records; to Duck Dunn laying it down behind Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, and all the Stax greats; to Bootsie locking it in for James Brown and P-Funk; to Larry Graham slapping the bottom for Sly and the Family Stone.

I think it was Graham slappin and poppin that whole damn bass line on "Thank you (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" that finally made me say: "that's it, I have to have a bass".

I was lucky enough to be able to find a decent used Squier Standard P-bass, and a little Peavey practice amp, that didn't quite take ALL my money; and I started learning the basics.

I think the first "hard" thing (i.e. a real song that wasn't a basic bass line from a book) I learned to play was the line from Stevie Wonders "I Wish" (which of course Will Smith later used on "Wild Wild West"); one of the few songs of that era where Stevie wasn't playing the bass line himself (either faking it on the clavichord, or just playing the bass - having been taught to play bass "motown style" by James Jamerson in 1965). A lot of folks really love the "bass" on "Superstition" or "Higher Ground" for example, not knowing the bass line in both songs, is actually Stevie faking a slap bass sound on the clavichord (and in most covers, the cover artist will play the lines on bass).

It wasn't until my late teens that I really got into Jazz, when somebody gave me Coletranes "Blue Train"; and I pretty much went crazy buying every CD reissue of a Blue Note, or Prestige etc... record I could find (thus finding Miles, and Monk, and Bird and... yeah... I could easily go bankrupt in a record store, trust me)... and of course, that's how I first heard Paul Chambers (one of the best double bassists of Jazz), Ron Carter (possibly the most recorded bassist of all time), and later Marcus Miller...

Then I started listening to more Rush and Cream than they played on classic rock radio (the entire Disraeli Gears album was a revelation, nevermind 2112)... then Primus came out big... Then Tool.
NOTE: For progmetal geeks, I take the position that Paul D'amour is better than Justin Chancellor... No disrespect, Chancellor is great, but "Undertow" is an all time classic album and "Ænema" is just... damn. They recorded most of "Ænema" with D'amour, but replaced him with Chancellor before the tour... Though OK, I'll take the argument that Lateralus is at least as good... I disagree but I see the point.
Then around 1995, I heard Dream Theaters "A Change of Seasons", and it totally blew my brain away.

Then I started listening to the EARLY Chilis records (and I found "Get up and Jump", and Hollywood, and  Jungle Man. and Skinny Sweaty Man... not great "songs", but really great bass playing. I honestly think Flea is the best bassist in rock outside of metal and prog rock) ...

...and I finally started really LISTENING to the really great musicians and music around me, rather than just hearing it.

I had been listening to Mr. Big for years, without ever really getting how amazing Billy Sheehan was (or Paul Gilbert for that matter, but I did at least have an appreciation of shredders).

I had listened to three Chili Peppers albums ("Mothers Milk", "Blood Sugar Sex Magik", and "One Hot Minute") before I ever figured out how great Flea was. Though in my defense, this was post Hillel Slovak, when the Chilis focused less on Fleas rhythms, and more on the vocals and guitar of John Frusciante... and "one hot minute" wasn't very good to boot... but the cover of Stevies "Higher Ground" on "...Milk" alone should have given me a clue, especially since "...Milk" was my first Chilis record).

Finally, I was probably 21 or 22 when I found Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and the incomparable Victor Wooten. Unfortunately, by then, I didn't have a bass anymore... though frankly, trying to play Wootens stuff back then would probably just have permanently discouraged me...

Anyway, what brought me to bass, was the love of the music... and the fact that I'm a total gear queer. I have a total and complete love for gadgets and gear, and a real love for beautifully shaped and figured wood.

I appreciate guitars, and bass guitars, both for the music you can make with them, and as expressions of the luthiers craft; as pieces of art rendered in wood.

Which brings me back to the hardware side of things...

The Gear Queer

Now, when I started playing, over 20 years ago, it cost a serious amount of cash to set yourself up with a decent bass rig... at least $700 to get a playable four string, if you wanted new, from a reasonable manufacturer, with a playable and stable neck, tuners that wouldn't slip, acceptable pickups etc... and they would of course be passive pickups (active electronics were just starting to really be a thing in basses outside of high end professionals and studio guys then).

You could expect to go $1200 plus for something really worthwhile; or over $5k for an Alembic, a Conklin, or a Fodera (but that's an entirely different league, and they're about double that now).

And that was in 1990 money.... $700 in 1990 is about $1200 in todays dollars.

A couple months ago when I started thinking about this, I took a look around... and man, things have changed.

You can get a very nice, reasonable looking bass, with decent passive pickups (EMG basically dominates the market), for under $500... You can even get a 5 string, with a through neck, good tone woods and solid active electrics (though generally not particularly pretty) for like $700.

Amps and cabs have come way down as well.

Back then, you could expect to pay over $500 at least... more likely over $1000 for an acceptable head, and another $1000 for the cab (never mind practice amps. I've never heard a bass practice amp I would bother spending any money on. Of course these days you can get one for under a hunny...).

Now you can get a perfectly acceptable head for $400 (or less), and a pretty decent 4x10 cab for another $400 (or less). You can even get a 450 watt Ampeg with a 4x10 cabinet for $1100 (though your classic Ampeg stack is still going to run you $2000+)

So anyway that very day, I was looking through basses at Amazon, and they had the Dean Edge Q5 ($800 list, usually about $550 street. 5 string, with a quilt maple top, bass body, 5 layer laminate maple and mahogany bolt on, and EMG 40hz passives with an active pre-eq), on special sale, $220...


Unfortunately, it was out of stock (not surprising considering the price), but they allowed backorder at that price so I said "what the hell", and I ordered it.

I figure for $220, I couldn't possibly go wrong.

As time went on, and they never updated my "in stock" date, or ship by date, I started getting the feeling they were going to cancel; but I decided I wanted a bass this year anyway.

In particular I wanted a 5 string; for the extended low range, and the ability to use lighter strings for bending and chording on the high frets while maintaining clean and bright tone, and still having that big beefy bottom B string for deep growl and grumble.

I think I'd like a six string at some point, but not to get reacquainted with the instrument. I don't see a 5 string as being too much more difficult than 4 string, but 6 string clearly is, simply because of the size of the fretboard and the string spacing.

So, I started looking for  a 5 string, preferably with pretty wood, active pickups, and neck through body construction.

Given those parameters I did some research, and came up with a pretty long list of possibilities, all between $650 and $800. So, I budgeted $800 for it; sold a couple of things, saved the money out for my Christmas gift budget etc...

As it happens, Amazon did cancel my order (actually they said they regretted they couldn't tell me when they might be able to fulfill my order, but I could keep waiting if I wanted. I didn't)...

...on Black Friday.

So, it being the number one shopping weekend of the year, and everyone and their mother offering special deals, I decided to take a look around; and man I'm glad I did.

... 'cuz I managed to snag one hell of a deal...

So for my Christmas present to myself this year, I picked up this:

It's a Dean Edge Pro 5: 5 string, 5 layer maple and rosewood laminate neck through basswood body with a bookmatched flame maple top and back, in transparent black, rosewood fingerboard, grover tuners, ABM single string bridges and brass string nut, EMG actives with a 3 band EQ (for 2010 they started branding the pickups as "Dean", but mine is a leftover 2009).

Price: $1000 list, about $700 street.

I paid.... $340

Yeah... No way I could pass that one up.

I was seriously thinking about the Schecter Stiletto Elite 5, or Stiletto Studio 5 (both very similar), both available for around $750-800 ($1200 list) from several places; but when that deal came up on the Dean no way I couldn't take it.

It's likely the Schecters are SLIGHTLY better wood (and on the Elite very slightly better fit and finish); but the Dean has better hardware, better pickups, and of course, LESS THAN HALF THE PRICE...

The other great thing about that deal was though, since I had budgeted $800 and since I had only spent $340 on the bass...

... Sweet, I had enough left in the budget for a real amp; instead of just scrimping up a hundred backs for a cheezy practice amp (like I said, I've never seen a bass practice amp worth spending any money on... though people tell me the Roland Cube is OK).

$440 gets a half decent combo amp on discount.

At first I thought I was going to end up with a decent brand 100 watt 1x15 combo or something similar... but looking around I found a deal on a Fender Rumble 350 watt 2x10 ($650 list) for $440...

I was about ready to push the button when I though just for the hell of it I'd look at what amazon had for cabs and heads.

I had already wishlisted a Hartke 2500, 250 watt head ($329 list, $249 at Amazon) and a Hartke 4x10xl cab ($469 list, $349 at Amazon); so I pulled those up, but together, they would've been over my budget.

However, what did I see in "related items", but a neat little Hartke 210xl, the 2x10 little brother to the 410xl half stack cab...

For $146 ($269 list)....


Ok, I can get the Hartke 2500 for $249 and the 210xl for $146... That's $395 for a pretty decent little setup for my music room.

I was about ready to do that, when I looked down at the related products listing, and saw the Behringer Ultrabass 1800 180watter (list $285), for $143.

Again I say DAMN those are great deals.

OK, combined, that's $289... still under my budget... by $151... So I bought both.

Ok... so 180 watts into a 2x10 isn't exactly a big fat setup. My though was, honestly, I'm not gigging with it, so the 2x10 with 180 watts behind it is probably more than I'll ever need at home.

...but I was being clever.  The Hartke 210XL is voicematched to the other cabinets in the XL product line; and is specifically designed to match up with the Hartke 115XL, a 1x15 cabinet ($399 list, $299 at amazon).

The 210xl has a higher extension, without the bottom, and the 115xl has the big fat bottom without the highs. Together they make a balanced, spacious, clear and defined sound, with plenty of thump; but not requiring the kind of power (or taking up the space) a 15 plus a 4x10 would take (at least 350 watts to really do it justice).

I like the sound of a 2x10 plus a big 15 better than a single 4x10 anyway; and stacked they're a 4ohm load (so you actually get the rated output on the amp) vs. the 8ohm load of each cabinet individually (most decent amps are stable at both 4ohm and 8ohm. Some can handle 2ohm, but most can't. However, stable or not, an 8 ohm load means a lot less rated power. In the case of the Behringer, it's 180watt vs 100 watt).

The one thing I was concerned about, both with the little Behringer, and the small cabinet; was the low B... I thought maybe the rolloff at 31-33hz might be too much for the 2x10 (probably more than 6db), and the power to clearly define that note may be too much for the little Behringer.

More on that later...

So, finally, what to do with that last $151 in the budget...

Hmm... I could get a couple decent pedals for that, or maybe a pedal and a headphone amp... Actually a headphone amp sounds like a good idea, but the Rockman is like $70 and you don't get much for that...

Then I remembered the Line 6 pocketPOD works with bass as well (and there are plenty of bass tones downloadable for it). Plus I don't have a headphone amp for my guitar, and of course it works with guitar... and it's a full multi-effects processor AND a modeler AND a headphone amp...

It's normally $180, but Amazon has it for... YES $129 plus $15 for the external power supply.


So I got a bass, amp, cab, and a preamp/modeler/mep/headphone amp, all for $793.

... or, not quite...

The Player

Everything arrived, and man, the bass is beautiful. It feels great in the hand, and it sounds great... unless I have a CFL light on nearby unfortunately, as the pickups pick up a bunch of noise off them (I may be able to fix that with some extra shielding, and wiring in a noise filter, or I may need to switch to different pickups. My guitar pickups for example don't have that problem).

Most importantly, it PLAYS great. It's got a feel WAY better than any other bass I've played that didn't cost more than $2k.

The amp and cab came in too, and they're great. Good looking, and for the most part good sounding... but for one problem...

...That open low B string I was worried about before.

At low volume, or fretted up past low C, they're fine. Unfortunately,  the amp doesn't have the power or frequency response to handle the open B string. The 210XL seems to handle it alright at low volume, but that's all the Behringer can drive at that low frequency without badly distorting (and yes, it's definitely the amp distorting, not the cabinet).

If it was a regular 4 string bass, it wouldn't be an issue, but that low B is just a killer.

So, I'm going to return the Behringer 180 watt, and get a more powerful amp; either the Hartke HA2500 (250 watt), or the Behringer Ultrabass 4500 (450 watt). That should drive the 2x10 enough to be acceptable (though not perfect), until I can afford the $300 to add on the big 15"; and either should be enough power to drive the two cab stack at 4 ohms.

I'm still very happy with the bass and the 2x10 though; and I'm leaning strongly towards going with the all Hartke solution.

Both literally and figuratively

My Brother, the Dying Felon

My brother is a criminal. This is not news to me, as he's been a criminal... basically his entire life counting his time on the amateur circuit; but at least semi-professionally, since he was a teenager.

In particular, he is a thief, and a drug dealer. He's been the first for his entire life, and the second since high school.

Amazingly enough though, he has generally managed to avoid consequences for this. It's not that he hasn't been caught, it's that whenever he IS caught, they give him probation (which he never completes or complies with), and send him on his merry way.

Now, for the last two years, he's been dying, slowly and painfully, of pelvic and abdominal cancer. Malignant but slow moving, he's in terrific pain, and generally miserable.... but he's refusing treatment other than emergency and lifesaving measures.

He became septic earlier this year, almost dying in the process; and they cut out some of his cancerous lesions,  which were in part causing the infection that was killing him. They could have cut out most of the cancer while they were in there, but he refused to allow it; only accepting treatment for the peritonitis and septicemia.

At this point, my brother wants to die; he just doesn't feel like committing straight up suicide. On his last birthday, he called me back late that night (I had left him a birthday message earlier in the day) and said "Hey, I just took 8 oxys and drank a half a bottle of Jack. Let's see if I wake up in the morning".

He didn't. He was out for two full days, but somehow he lived.

Amazingly, allthat hasn't stopped him from committing MANY felonies... but up until a few minutes ago, I hadn't known that he had been caught. Again.

In 2006, he was convicted of felony assault, and given probation.

In 2007 it was DUI, and driving without a license or insurance... probation again, and they didn't revoke his original probation for assault.

In 2008 it was felony possession with intent to distribute, and probation again; and again they didn't revoke his previous probation.

In 2008 he also got picked up again for DUI, driving without license, and driving without insurance. Again, probation, again no revocation.

Scattered among those are multiple failures to appear, resisting arrest, and other lesser included offenses.

...but I knew about all those ones.

I just found out, due to a Google search looking for my grandfathers obituary (he died 14 years ago yesterday), that my brother, who shares first last and middle name with my grandfather; was again convicted of felony posession with intent to distribute, this time in September of 2010 (he was arrested in July)....


...and again, didn't violate any of his previous probation.

That folks, is what conservatives are talking about when they say things like "revolving door judicial system".

My brother should be in prison. Frankly, at this point, it's the only thing that would save his life... maybe even get him to change it, though I very much doubt it.

Instead, he's living off my mothers disability, selling her prescriptions, sleeping illegally on one room of her three room "apartment"; and not complying with his probation.


There is of course a warrant for him right now, for failure to complete his probation requirements. The know where he is. the system down in AZ is so screwed up right now, frankly, they just don't care.

Ain't that some shit?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The problem with being an engineer, and watching mythbusters...

Is that you end up watching the show and yelling at the screen "It's a VECTOR CALCULATION NOT A STATIC FORCE CALCULATION!!!!!"


So, in addition to the scrips et al yesterday, I got a tdap booster; since the last one I'd had was something like 10 years ago.

I had forgotten how much the damn things hurt the next day.... feels like I was hit in the deltoid by a ball peen  hammer.

Channeling Jessica Rabbit...

Katy Perry, singing for the troops.

The girl can actually sing, I just wish she wouldn't sing such crap... and pics like this show you why Russell Brand can't get that stupid grin off his face.

It's less funny when it's the other way around...

You know, like when there's been over 3 feet of snow in the last three weeks, and on Sunday the five day says you're supposed to get three days completely snow free; so you start some outdoor projects, and instead of snow free, on Tuesday night you get another inch overnight, with another two inches expected during the day, and intermittent snow for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Worth a listen...

I've always likes Staind, one of the best bands of their genre (hard to classify other than "emotional hard rock"), and particularly of their cohort that broke out in the late 90s and early 2000s. They're a Massachusetts band, and are probably most closely associated with another Mass band, Godsmack (with a similar sound, if a totally different feel; both play low dropped tunings, and mostly slower grooves...).

Critically though, they aren't and never really were, a Boston band. They came out of the semi-rural area of Mass south of Springfield.

That part of the state, it really is country. It's relatively affluent well educated country, but otherwise you could be anywhere in the Appalachians, or inland northwest, in terms of both culture and geography.

People from western Mass most definitely don't identify with Boston... in fact most folks from western Mass actively dislike and avoid the entire state east of Worcester, except for shopping and the airport.... and frankly, a lot of folks would rather go into New York than to Boston (Pittsfield is only about 25 miles from Albany, and about 125 from both Manhattan and Boston).

TO give you an idea of the difference, most of western Mass is covered by the 1st congressional district; which was represented by a Republican continuously from 1857 to 1991; and when John Oliver retires or dies, most likely will be again (no-one will EVER challenge him.

As it happens, I've got a lot of family out there, in North Adams, Pittsfield, Dalton etc...

At any rate, I can see where this song came from:

Not everyone in rock is a leftist idiot, that's for sure; even the ones from Massachusetts.

Back to the docs today...

To follow up on the edema.

My regular doc is on vacation this week, so I got a new guy, who I quite like actually. He was rather concerned by how much fluid I had retained, and my rapid and repeated weight fluctuation in general.

He put me on 80mg of Furosemide (generic for Lasix) daily, plus Klor-con to prevent potassium deficiency (a common side effect of diuretics). He also ordered liver and kidney panels, a protein test, and a heart ultrasound, just to make sure nothing worse is going on.

Finally, he said he'd follow up with the pituitary specialist endocrinologist, to see if he could speed up the process getting in to see them, and to get an LHAP MRI.

So, the "process" moves on another step.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The most amazing, ridiculous, over the top dish I can imagine...

Brioche sourdough crostini, with roast beef marrow, smoked dry cured berkshire bacon, seared foie gras, black truffles, gorgonzola, and drizzles of veal demi glace, and balsamic gastrique.

I've never done it... but I should.

First little bitch to whine about "piling on" or "running up the score" gets slapped

Just watched the Patriots prove that the Jets are the most overrated team in the NFL, quite convincingly.

What exactly was the score? 173-2 or something like that?

27 turnovers?

Might as well have been. Brady and the boys made the jets their bitches, and that was that.

Oh and the actual numbers? 45-3 on three interceptions, four touchdown passes by Brady... but time of possession was almost equal, so obviously the pats defense proved something.

Nice to be number one... Well, tied for number one with Atlanta, but the Pats are certainly the better team.

Think Zakk was having way too good a time on this one?

If you don't know Black Label Society, they are Zakk Wyldes primary band, for the last 12 years or so. They're one of the leading bands in metal, and are holding up the side for metal out in the world as one of the few bands to get mainstream airplay and video play (basically because they're Zakk Wyldes band, though they SHOULD be played just because they kick ass).

If you don't know who Zakk Wylde is... well first, why are you reading this blog?

No, in all seriousness, you SHOULD know Zakk Wylde, being that he was Ozzy Osbournes primary guitarist for 20 years. Zakk was the guitarist on every Ozzy record since 1988s "no rest for the wicked" (and primary songwriter on all but "..wicked") until 2007s "Black Rain" (and did most of the guitar writing and recording for the 2010 album "Scream").

In fact, Zakk Wylde has played with Ozzy Osbourne more than any other guitarist, including Tony Iommi... probably more than every other guitarist combined when you think about it; and certainly he's written more material for Ozzy than anyone.

Zakk was Ozzys guitarist the first time I got to see Ozzy live, at a "warmup" show before the release of 1991s "No more tears"; which, as it happens, Wylde wrote most of (every song on the album is credited to Osbourne and Wylde. Zakk wrote all the guitar for the album, and most of the lyrics). 

..and if you DO know Zakk Wylde, you know the name of the band "Black Label Society" comes from his drinking habits, which are legendary.... and which according to some stories are what ultimately led him to being fired by Ozzy... or to be more realistic about it since Ozzy makes NO decisions for himself, Sharon (you can read about Sharons history of screwing over Ozzies artistic collaborators on Bob Daisleys - the bassist and primary songwriter for Ozzies first six "solo" albums - personal site).

Anyway, according to some stories, Sharon decided that Zakk couldn't continue to play with Ozzy unless he got sober, and Zakk refused... Vehemently... (as anyone who knows Zakk knows, his use of language is... shall we say... colorful, and extremely descriptive...).

The worst part is though, nobody told Zakk. He found out when some guy from a radio show called him up one day and said "hey, Ozzy is saying he's auditioning new guitar players, what's up with that?".  Zakks response was "huh? I'm supposed to do a show with him in a month... What?".

Now... serious dick move, yes; but not exactly surprising for Sharon Osbourne... and frankly, Sharon does have a point. Listen to this radio interview with Zakk from last year (talking about being fired without being told), and you can hear he's clearly drunk.

Yeah, Zakk has (or maybe had...) a really serious drinking problem. I've seen him live a number of times, met him at and after shows, seen him interviewed many times... I don't think I've EVER seen him sober.

He says he went sober in late 2009... If that's true, great, I wish him well... but like just about every other metalhead out there, I'm not sure I believe it.

Anyway, their current album "Order of the Black" kicks ass. If you like hard and heavy music, you should check it out.

BLS gets some criticism from the younger metal fans out there for not being hard enough, or original enough, or somehow being cliche (someone once said "BLS makes big dumb metal, for big dumb metal fans)...

Guess what you ignorant and/or elitist little fuckers, BLS are "cliche", because ZAKK FUCKING WYLDE INVENTED THE FUCKING CLICHE AND EVERY FUCKING BAND IN THE WORLD COPIED HIM...

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Put on your shitkickers

Always liked that tune...

What brings it to mind at the moment though, is the snow around here.

We've had about three feet of snow in the last three weeks; and we're expecting another 12-15 or so feet over this winter (yes, it's a heavy winter. La Nina etc...).

As it happens, my existing hiking boots have proved entirely inadequate to the task, and I didn't have any dedicated snow boots.

Until this week that is:

Outdoor Outfitters had a special sale going on, and I was able to pick up a pair of Wolverine Big Skys, normally $200, for just $99. Vibram ice and snow sole (re-solable, though I PROFOUNDLY hope I never have to wear them enough for that), 1000g thinsulate, composite reinforced toe, and DAMN comfy.

Even better, it was a buy one get one one half off sale, and I managed to pick up a pair of clearance Merrell Shivers, normally $90, on sale for $69, then half price off, so $34.50:

Merrell is another brand of Wolverines, and are similar in quality. The shiver has nother Vibram Ice and Snow sole, polartec, and is fully waterproof. So I have something for the slightly less deep snow in say, my driveway AFTER being plowed. 

So, I stand before you, a well shod man.

Update: Og asked me to do a little comparison with my favorite boot brand, Danners.

Specifically, he asked how I thought they compared to the Danner Canadians; having previously taken my recommendation (still in effect) for Danner boots for general use.

I'll never say anything bad against Danners; they're great boots. I've been wearing them since the day AFTER basic. I own a pair right now (uninsulated though). I will recommend Danners (also Corcorans, Rockies, and Hi-Tecs; but Danner are my favorite) for anyone who has to live in boots all day every day.


The Canadians cost twice as much as the Wolverines, by MSRP, and about the same differential online at discount.

Admittedly, the Canadians are a 10" boot vs an 8" boot for the Wolverines; but they also have considerably less insulation, especially in the shank. Also they're a plain toe, rather than a composite toebox.

The Danners are full leather, while the Wolverines have Gore-Tex and ballistic nylon panels in the shank. The leather is likely to be tougher, while the Gore-Tex is going to breathe better; and if you live or work in an environment where mold or biologicals are an issue, the nylon is easier to disinfect.

I think a closer comparison would be the Danner 42655 Elk Ridge GTX Boots. They're nearly identical to the Wolverines, except they don't have the composite reinforced toebox (which I like for ATVing, hunting, cutting wood etc...). They're also only a few bucks more than the Wolverines, v.s double.

I think having a reinforced toebox is a good idea, but I don't believe in steelcaps anynmore; having seen more than one unintentional amputation because of them. Composite reinforcement is the best compromise as far as I'm concerned.

The toecap doesn't actually cut the toe off; but it does kill the toe, by trapping it in the boot with no circulation. Especially in extreme cold, way out in the woods, or otherwise far from medical care.

I'd rather have steel toes on a construction site close to a major city, than not have them; but I would never wear them in preference to composite toe reinforcement, nor would I wear them anyplace I couldn't get them cut off me and receive medical attention, within a few minutes.

For a similar Danner with a composite toebox, check out the Vandal GTX. They're a little more expensive than the Wolverines, and a little less insulated; but they also have a Vibram sole.

Between the sole, and the composite toebox; both the Wolverines, and the Vandals, are oil resistant and electrical hazard certified, in addition to being great for ice, snow, and extreme cold.

Also, I prefer Vibram soles, especially their ice and snow soles, to Danners "Bob" sole (which is on both the Canadian and the Elk Ridge).

I still think Danners duty boot soles are the best though, unless your command authorizes Rockies or Hi-Tecs. Most commands authorize Danners and Corcorans, but only a few allow Rockies or Hi-Tecs; which are generally more comfortable, but don't offer as much support, and don't last as long under extreme use. Danner also offers a very nice insulated duty boot (as does Rocky).

I think, overall the Danner Canadians are going to be more durable and last longer, but I don't think they're going to last twice as long; and I'm pretty sure the Wolverines are going to be more comfortable to wear for 16 hours. As for the Elk Ridge or the Vandal, I'm guessing they'll perform pretty much identically to the Wolverines, only the Danners are a little more expensive.

Also, I know a lot of guys in Minnesota, and yeah anecdotes don't equal data, but they absolutely swear by Wolverines... and let's just say they know something about cold and snow.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Well, the good news is, I lost 25 pounds...

Actually 24.4 according to my fairly accurate scale (I get the same reading three times in a row... best I can do right now); but I figure a little rounding never hurt anyone.

The bad news... there's always bad news... is why and how.

So, for a few months, I've been experiencing peripheral edema; because of the hormone fluctuations basically, plus being overweight, and sitting in a chair for 8+ hours a day etc...

If you've never felt it, it's not particularly pleasant... Kinda like your limbs are overstuffed sausages.

When it gets bad, it become so painful you can't stand, or walk, or put shoes on, or socks, or even have a sheet resting on your feet (gout sufferers know the feeling as well).

I've actually had general edema as well, around the face, eyes, neck etc... but that hasn't been as bad. Just makes me look puffy. It's also probably why I've suddenly started experiencing apnea, after years of never having a problem.

The testosterone therapy made the edema MUCH worse. It was a little uncomfortable before, but after the injections started, there were days it was genuinely painful.

Along with that of course was huge water retention, and weight gain. I actually gained 40lbs in one month, on a 2000-2400 calorie a day diet; basically all from excess water retention (yes, that's 5 gallons of excess water).

Finally, yesterday, it was pretty bad. My feet looked like summer sausages, and they HURT. We went out to eat after running some errands that had me on my feet for a while, and it was so bad I had to take my shoes, and my socks off at the restaurant, or the pain was too much for me to eat.

So after we finished dinner, I squeezed my sockless feet back into my "loose" slip on shoes (they were loose and comfy when I bought them) and went to urgent care. The doc gave me scrip for Lasix, a rather powerful diuretic; 80mg every 24 hours.

I've been on them for 20 hours, and net, even after lunch, and all that I've drunk (about a gallon between water, fruit juice, and diet soda... which is actually light for me) I have lost 24.4 lbs.



24.4 lbs in one day, lost using diuretics.

Yes, I've urinated over 20 times in that 24 hour period. I was up all night pissing the edema away (seriously. I was up til 4 peeing every half hour, then I woke up at 7).

Can you say hypermicturation anyone?

Yes, seriously, 24.4 pounds. Yes, I know, that's 3 gallons. Actually more; because I've drunk about a gallon of liquids, and had a sandwich for lunch... Call it another 8-9 lbs.

4 gallons...

I've slowed down a bit, now I'm only going once an hour, maybe once per 90 minutes.

Honestly, I think I've got a good 60lbs of excess water in me... or did when I started. I'm guessing I can get rid of all the excess in a week or two on these things... now if we can just figure out how to stop it from happening again.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Damn Drugs...

So, I got the remaining blood tests back today, and once again INCONFRIKKINGCLUSIVE!!!

My HGH and IGF-1 are high, but not so high as to indicate Acromegaly. My Cortisol is high, but not so high as to indicate Cushings. I've got most of the symptoms of both, without a clinical explanation, and with no clear diagnostic indicators that can't be caused by a dozen other things

Hell, it could even be one of several subtypes of Multiple Endocrine Neuroplasia, which can present with many symptoms, and no single diagnostic test (other than finding the small tumors that cause it with a PET or MRI) can show it.

We've found a pituitary specialist down in Spokane, and we're going for another series of tests with them as soon as we can schedule it; plus a full endocrine MRI series... which I may have to pay out of pocket for, because the damn blood tests are inconclusive.

My BP is normal right now, has been since I got out of the hospital. My blood sugar is dead normal, in fact my A1C is 5.7%; a lot better than it was back in September (6.2%) when the doc asked me to change up my protein/carb balance.

That's a frikken miracle all by itself. NO-ONE is my weight without being diabetic. Frankly, I think it's the only reason the Doc believes me when I tell him I'm not overeating.

In the mean time, the doc is worried because I've finally started experiencing sleep apnea (since I started on the hormones); which can cause my blood pressure to spike in my sleep; and is killing what little sleep I get.

Basically, everything gets much much worse when you don't get proper sleep (and it throws off hormone levels, and inhibits healing, and causes inflammation etc... etc...) and I haven't had a proper nights sleep in months.

Hell, I've been an insomniac since I was 5 years old. I'm lucky if I can get 4-5 hours a night.

The doc asked me to try a CPAP machine because of the apnea, and I told him "look Doc, I can barely sleep without a damn mask on my head, how am I SUPPOSED TO SLEEP WITH ONE?"

So he suggested I try a drug treatment for insomnia, which should be sufficient to put me into a sleep deep enough to get around the apnea. As of today, I'm on 100mg of Trazodone at bed time.

He gave me a number of options, and together we picked Trazodone, because most of the major side effects of it are either things I'm already experiencing; or they're actually helpful to me.

My previous experience with sleeping pills is, shall we say, not positive; so I have my doubts; but anything is better than what i've been going through.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Welcome to Winter in North Idaho

It's midnight on the 23rd of November.

Two weeks ago it was in the high 40s. Two days ago, it snowed for the first time at our altitude this winter, but it melted within a few hours.

Right now, it's 8 degrees out. The high temp today was 12, but it was below 10 most of the day; and the overnight low is expected to be -14 (an all time record low for this date).

There's six inches of blowing snow outside, with another 3-6 inches expected between now and 10am.

There are 30 knot steady state winds out there, with gusts over 40kts. The wind chill is -12. By 4am, the wind chill is expected to be -30. The temp isn't expected to climb above freezing for about five more days.

The national weather service is calling it a blizzard.

Ya think?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hey, that's my Dad

Here's a little QT video of my dad from I guess about two years ago, before he got his lap band (he's lost about 80lbs since). I hadn't visited their website in forever, so I didn't know it was there until just now.

If you've met me, watching this you'll know why I say he we're a lot alike, only he's 8" shorter.

Since I'm stealing the video, I might as well plug his business.

My dad Chris Byrne III is the general manager, and master stonemason, for Stone Design Marble and Granite. They do stone countertops, stairways, tile, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, monuments, outdoor, household, and architectural stone.

As it happens, the get a lot of very high end specialty stone that others can't get; because one of their primary suppliers is my uncle Patrick, who runs one of the largest decorative stone importing business in the northeast.

If you're in the greater Boston area, from Southern New Hampshire to Rhode Island, you won't find a better source for stone than my family.


On Friday, feeling very ill, short of breath, suffering peripheral edema, and in a great deal of pain in my back, neck, hands, feet, and joints (especially my knees); I went to my doctor.

While I was there, I became flushed and short of breath. My blood pressure was taken, and read out at 196/138. The nurse practitioner thought she must be mistaken, so took it three times, with only a slight difference each time.

Apparently, for at least part of the day Friday I was in hypertensive crisis.

Literally two minutes later, my BP was back down below 160/110, so they didnt rush me over to the ER, but obviously this was a big concern.

My BP had been normal the last time we had talked, and I had been taking my BP every week or so since going back on hormone therapy and it had been up a little, but still well within normal range. Given the history, and that both the medications I'm taking and the LHAP class of disorders are known to cause, or increase risk for hypertension; we decided that it was likely induced by the medication, and that we would discontinue it immediately.

A blood pressure as high as I read on Friday carries significant risks. Stroke, heart attack, organ damage, aneurysm, blindness... It's very much a not good thing.

At any rate, I immediately went to the hospital for more tests, by which time my BP had subsided back to normal; where it has been ever since.

I was told to take aspirin, and given a scrip for vasodilators (no joke. Viagra. Apparently its one of the best meds to give for transient hypertension. It was originally designed as a hypertension drug, and the erectile dis-function treatment was just a side effect)) should a problem recur; but the next week is a real danger.

The medications I'm on, especially the hormones, are delivered by deep muscle injection, and are persistent for three weeks. I had just injected them the night before (which is why we're pretty sure the problem started Friday. The concentration in my system probably wasnt high enough til a few hours after the injection), so for the next week the levels in my system are high enough they could induce another hypertensive crisis.

I have to monitor my BP at least three times a day, or whenever I feel any of the possible indicators. I need to restrict my physical activity, and not do anything strenuous, or that would get my BP up. Also no meds that would either dramatically drop, or increase, my BP (like cold medicine).

I'm not to be left alone for more than a few hours, or drive by myself either.

Finally, I need to be especially on the lookout for potential symptoms of heart attack or stroke; and never to be more than a few minutes away from a hospital.

The additional test results from Friday should be back on Tuesday, and I'll go back to see my dock next week (or earlier if the hypertension recurs).