Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Schrödinger and the Sinking Ship

An oversimplified version of quantum theory implies that reality is variable until it is observed, as in the famed example of Schrödinger's Cat. I've noticed a similar phenomenon in medicine, at least via anecdote. You read all the time about people who have lived for years, decades even, with conditions that should have killed them ages ago… conditions that have a way of killing those people not long after being officially observed and diagnosed.

Pets are no different.

Last year, round about this time (or so says my blog), my elderly cat Orion developed a peculiar problem: urinating outside the litter box at random times, often on or near the bed (or my person.) The vet found no organic cause for the behavior. Kitty Prozac seemed to cure the problem, so I figured it must simply be stress related. Or maybe he was developing dementia in his old age. He's 17, after all - that's about 84 in human years. (The same age as my father, eerily enough.)

For the past few months, he hasn't quite been himself. Orion was never a hefty cat, but he felt too thin by half, and he just had that unwell look to him: the hunch, the squint, the general air of lethargy. The bouts never lasted long enough for me to break down and call a vet, but they just kept happening. Finally, since he was due for his shots and a physical anyway, I took him in. At that point, the only definite problem was weight loss; the rest was just a feeling I couldn't quantify.

The vet determined that he was not only underweight, but dehydrated. His kidneys were also too small and producing too much urine for his condition. The vet wound up drawing blood for tests and pumping in some fluids before sending him home.

That evening, for the first time in months, Orion had an out-of-litter-box incident. He had another one the next day. I had my fingers crossed that it was just because of the fluid treatment; maybe it was too much liquid on top of an already-stressed system. Maybe he was just "draining" the only way Nature allowed him.

Maybe that's not an iceberg off the port bow.

The blood tests revealed that not only were his kidneys not doing their job properly, but his liver was malfunctioning, as well. Given his age and overall condition, a liver biopsy seemed about as useful as a coat of duct tape on the hull of the Titanic, so the vet decided to try medicine in the hopes that it would, at least, buy Orion some comfort. Maybe, once the new regimen kicked in, the urination issues would sort themselves out. For a few days, they seemed to… until I woke up with a sopping wet shoulder. I wrestled Orion into incontinence pants (left over from his late brother Randy) the next night, but removed them too soon in the morning; the next thing I knew, something warm was dribbling all over my sweatpants leg.

As per vet advice, I'm altering Orion's medical cocktail, but it's just a delaying tactic at this point, to see if I can't squeeze another few months (or weeks, even) out of the old boy. His condition has been observed, making it real. In other words, the good ship Orion's struck the iceberg; all I can do is slap on duct tape and rearrange deck chairs until the water gets too deep.

And now that I'm nice and depressed, I'll leave with a picture of a rainbow. (Look close, and you can see two shadow-rainbows underneath... they didn't photograph well, but they were there.)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Hey, June!

Ah, June. The sixth month of the year, on the very threshold of summer. A time for lemonade and ice cream and picnics in the park, for lazing away the afternoon in a hammock watching butterflies and listening to the gentle purr of the neighbors' lawn mowers and the spontaneous symphony of birdsong and bee-buzz...

Or for panicking when you realize the year's almost halfway over and you're hopelessly behind on your projects, not to mention your life in general.

But, hey, sometimes you just have to kick back and do something just for yourself. Even if you're way behind on your projects. Even if you're on a budget so tight that walking around the yard counts as a vacation. Even if you need more toys like a hole in the head. (Though, you know, we humans actually have several holes in our head, all of which are useful - nay, essential - in everyday life. Unless you're viewing this through your fingertips or listening to those birds via your armpits while sipping coffee directly through your epidermis or something... in which case, you're probably an alien, and no doubt have better things to do with your existence than browse my blog. But I digress...)

So, what is this about?

I got myself a Nook tablet.

I already have a desktop computer, and my old faithful laptop, still chugging away on Windows Vista. But sometimes I just want to pop online quickly, or jot down some story notes without waiting for a computer to boot up (and, as often as not, decide that now's the perfect time for a major software update.) Mom's been in love with her Kindle Fire ever since she got one (well, ever since she got one that worked - she had issues with the first one they sent her, but the replacement's been great), but the price was out of my range. Then Barnes & Noble sent me a coupon for a very significant discount off their entire line of Nook tablets. And there I was, having come off a month of significant overtime...

Well, dang it, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

I've only just gotten the thing - quite literally, as in I just opened the box about two hours ago - but I'm already intrigued. Setup was very easy, not much more complicated than setting up my Kindle. The screen's very sharp, though with backlighting I can see eye fatigue becoming an issue if I read on it for long stretches. I'm not sure how to go about writing anything on it - I know about touchscreen keyboards; I'm just unsure about apps or software - but I've seen posts on writing boards from people who write stories, even parts of their novels, on their smartphones, so there has to be a way. This is, after all, the HD+ model - I splurged on the top-end item, for once in my miserable existence.

I really shouldn't be playing with the thing too much right now. I have two logos to finish still, plus a writing backlog half a mile long, not to mention other projects clamoring for my attention.

But, if I can't have that idyllic little hammock in an idyllic summer getaway, at least I can have my shiny new toy this summer.

(Oh - for the curious, Dad's appointment with the specialist went very well; they got all of that evil skin spot removed in a single go. So that's good, at least...)