It is with heavy but happy heart that I say goodbye to my old me – the novels, the poetry, the short stories, the haiku – and say hello to the new me!
A me that only wishes to blog about that which he loves most, not counting his lovely and loving wife and children, of course…
And that which I love most, not counting you know who, is My Dogs & Ramen!!!
Let’s face it, my writing efforts just aren’t cutting it. Have you bought one of my books?!
No, of course you haven’t.
So why deal with that stress and frustration when I can do something here that I truly enjoy…
And that is to embrace the inner Pet Lovin’ Foodie in me and begin posting pictures of my dogs and all the ramen joints that the wife and I love to seek out and enjoy!!!
So, without further ado, let’s get this party of a new blogging format started, shall we…
Since you all know my dogs Aurelius & Zeno, two loving but highly destructive Plott Hound brothers, I shall commence my new photo-blogging journey with a picture of Baltimore’s newest Ramen Joint TenTen Ramen
As I wrote to my friends on my private Facebook page, which probably didn’t include you, TenTen is hands down the best ramen joint my lovely and loving wife and I have had the pleasure of eating at in the States.
Yes, even better than any in New York City.
In following issues I will discuss the history of ramen (you cannot imagine how exciting and full of intrigue it is) and we will have an in-depth conversation with the man behind TenTen Ramen.
And because this blog is also now dedicated to my dogs as well as ramen, I will share a few shots of my boys with you.
I should add here that, even though I will no longer post literary things here, after reading more about the Clean Reader app, I have decided that I am going to endorse their efforts after all, instead of opposing them. The founders are good Christian people with good intentions. So, since I am no longer opposed to censorship in literature, I feel it is best for me to be more prudent with my photography and edit over that which may be offensive.
Well, I hope you are as excited about my blog’s new direction as I am. Wish me well!!!
Have a Pet-Lovin’ Food-filled day!!!™
Global food poisoning? Yes, We’re maxing out. Forget Peak Oil. We’re maxing-out on Peak Food. Billions go hungry. We’re poisoning our future, That’s why Cargill, America’s largest private food company, is warning us: about water, seeds, fertilizers, diseases, pesticides, droughts. You name it. Everything impacts the food supply. Wake up America, it’s worse than you think.
We’re slowly poisoning America’s food supply, poisoning the whole world’s food supply. Fortunately Cargill’s thinking ahead. But politicians are dragging their feet. They’re trapped in denial, protecting Big Oil donors, afraid of losing their job security; their inaction is killing, starving, poisoning people, while hiding behind junk-science. – MarketWatch
He says that over the next 50 years, if nothing is done, crop yields in many states will most likely fall, the costs of cooling chicken farms will rise and floods will more frequently swamp the railroads that transport food in the United States. He wants American agribusiness to be ready. – New York Times
Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe. In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts. – Pentagon
If it wasn’t already our reality…
History shows us there is a thin line between outrage and unrest, between unrest and riot, and between riot and revolution. And it seems lately that we are constantly crossing these lines, that we are constantly on the edge and on the verge of being pushed to the limit, that every day, somewhere in the world, individuals, families, communities, countries, and regions are fluctuating and transitioning from one point of frustration to the next, even more frustrating point.
From the economy, to the environment, to intractable politics, to intolerance, to technology, to terrorism, to any number of other issues, who knows what will trigger the next outrage, unrest, riot, or revolution.
While there will always be multiple known and unknowable factors behind any tumultuous event, historians and analysts have come to a consensus that it was increasingly rising food prices, and, more specifically, the high cost of bread that pushed a region over the line and triggered the Arab Awakening.
And there is evidence showing that throughout the ages it has been the rising costs of basic food staples that pushes even the most civil minded citizens into becoming violent revolutionaries for change.
As the most cursory of searches reveal, the cumulative effect of the world’s many crises, coupled with the continuance of extreme weather patterns and resultant droughts, flooding, and other climate change unknowns, 2015 may be a year of severely rising food costs.
If so, it may prove to be quite the year, indeed.
Hercules Gone Mad – Part One
Rebels for Love
I love my hood…
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They had been living mostly on ramen, corn dogs, and Costco frozen quesadillas—supplemented by Vitamin C tablets, to stave off scurvy—but the grocery bills were still adding up. Rob Rhinehart, one of the entrepreneurs, began to resent the fact that he had to eat at all. “Food was such a large burden,” he told me recently. “It was also the time and the hassle. We had a very small kitchen, and no dishwasher.” He tried out his own version of “Super Size Me,” living on McDonald’s dollar meals and five-dollar pizzas from Little Caesars. But after a week, he said, “I felt like I was going to die.” Kale was all the rage—and cheap—so next he tried an all-kale diet. But that didn’t work, either. “I was starving,” he said.
Rhinehart, who is twenty-five, studied electrical engineering at Georgia Tech, and he began to consider food as an engineering problem. “You need amino acids and lipids, not milk itself,” he said. “You need carbohydrates, not bread.” Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, but they’re “mostly water.” He began to think that food was an inefficient way of getting what he needed to survive. “It just seemed like a system that’s too complex and too expensive and too fragile,” he told me.
What if he went straight to the raw chemical components? He took a break from experimenting with software and studied textbooks on nutritional biochemistry and the Web sites of the F.D.A., the U.S.D.A., and the Institute of Medicine. Eventually, Rhinehart compiled a list of thirty-five nutrients required for survival. Then, instead of heading to the grocery store, he ordered them off the Internet—mostly in powder or pill form—and poured everything into a blender, with some water. The result, a slurry of chemicals, looked like gooey lemonade. Then, he told me, “I started living on it.” Rhinehart called his potion Soylent….
Food is way too costly, in both time and money. I’m all in:
FILM | TELEVISION | DRAMA | ACTION
SONS OF ANARCHY
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and since I am American I must, like all Americans are doing across the nation and all over facebook, offer my thanks.
There are many things for which I am thankful: my family, my health, my freedom, football (football, the real kind, not soccer), you know, all the standard things a standard American is standardly thankful for.
But in addition to those standards, I am also thankful for the miracle of technology, for it allows me to experience right from my easy chair such wonderful, and cheap, mind melting joys like this and this and Netflix.
And I am especially thankful for Netflix, for it allows me to watch movies and television shows and documentaries and even some cartoons “on demand” (which is a very American way of putting it, no?).
And, of course I’m thankful for Hollywood, too, for without Hollywood, how else would I and the rest of the world know what it truly means to be an American?
And because of Hollywood, and Netflix, and technology, and my health (and all the free time it affords me), I just spent the past three or fours days (I’m not exactly sure how many it was because by the second day it all became a blur) watching a delightful, family show called Sons of Anarchy.
Well, it may not necessarily be a show you would want to watch as a family, but it is undeniably a show about family and the many challenges a typical — and non-typical — family faces.
Yeah, I know, as usual I’m late to the party. Four seasons late, to be exact. Season Five is already close to a wrap. Unfortunately, I will not be able to see it until sometime next year, probably right before Season Six kicks off; that is, if Netflix graciously makes it available for me to watch.
So much for “on demand” I guess.
Anyway, now, after that marathon of anarchy and mayhem I willingly subjected myself to, I can’t stop thinking, “What the hell just happened?”
You know, I’m not really sure. After four straight days of watching four straight seasons of head bangin’, rock n’ rollin’, face tattin’ motorcycle clubbin’, gun runnin’, drug slingin’, porn flickin’, bombs explodin’, race baitin’, back stabbin’ drama, I’m not sure of anything right now.
Except that the show is good.
Once again, Hollywood did what it does best: exploiting, romanticizing, and glamorizing the most extreme of man’s deviant nature.
Hollywood did its job so well and the show is so good I gave it a Netflix rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
I briefly considered giving it 5 of 5, but it does have a few superficial flaws; however, over the entire well thought out and executed arc of the show, those flaws mostly become forgotten.
But for the curious, here are a few of the annoyances I noticed:
— A bizarre Irish Republican Army connection that put a bit of a drag on the pace and feel of the show for one of the seasons, season two, I think.
— A couple of cheezy reveals, especially at the end of season four, that pissed me off.
— Chuck Hunnam’s British accent. Mostly it goes unnoticed, but it is noticeable. It especially gets thick when he is talking with/screaming at Irish dudes.
But other than those minor flaws, the show is a masterpiece, as in Masterpiece Theatre.
Well, perhaps not but speaking of theatre — dammit, I’m American! — speaking of theater, Kurt Sutter, the show’s genius creator, is in no way shy about the show’s obvious draw off of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For example, we have our conflicted prince (or Motor Cycle Club Vice President), we have our surrogate father king (or MC President and step-father of the VP), we have our ghost of the dead former king and father of the prince (or a manifesto written by the dead former MC President, which is found and read by the son/VP of said dead former MC President, and which conflicts said son/VP even more).
There are more parallels but I think you get the point.
Hey, if you’re gonna rip off someone’s storyline, who’s better to rip off than the Great Bard himself (who, by the way, is also accused of being a first class storyline ripper-offer in his own right).
Yeah indeed, it’s a raunchy, guns/drugs/sex-laden American version of Hamlet (heck, to make sure we slow on the uptake Americans didn’t miss the Hamlet connexion, Mr Sutter even titled the last two episodes of Season Four as “To Be – Act I” and “To Be – Act II” for us).
I haven’t watched such a deviantly fine contemporary adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s plays since My Own Private Idaho (yeah, I know — Keanu Reeves. But hey, his “style” of acting works in this flick and, besides, it also has River Phoenix (MHRIP)).
Yes sir (that would be a non-gender specific “sir”), Sons of Anarchy just about has it all; all, that is, except…anarchy.
Sure there’s all the killing and all the other subversion of societal “norms” one could imagine, but all that is done within the context of maintaining a structured and orderly, albeit somewhat illicit, motorcycle club. And clubs, especially those that are guided via vote and majority rule like the SAMCRO is (if you aren’t an SOA fan, you’re probably just as confused about the meaning of SAMCRO as I initially was when I first started watching the show…if you want to know what it means, ask Mr Google like I had to), represent anything but anarchistic ideals.
Clubs, especially those of the motorcycle variety, do not represent anarchy, they represent democracy and freedom.
And democracy and freedom, damn it, represent America!
Yes, the Sons of Anarchy, with its British leading man, and its British-owned storyline, and its Irish Republican Army and Mexican Drug Cartela dependencies and connexions–er, connections, is about as American as any television series could ever strive to be…
Or not to be.
Oh well, I tried.
While my dubious and corny conclusion may be in question, there is no question that, with Sons of Anarchy, Hollywood has served up yet another feast of a show for us turkeys to feed upon in our unending quest to fill our insatiable viewing appetites.
And for that, I also am thankful.
★ = Unwatchable
★ ★ = Poor Show
★ ★ ★ = Average Show
★ ★ ★ ★ = Outstanding Show
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ = Exceptional Show
So…I may have been talking tongue in cheek for much of my Caffeine Therapy article, but I was serious as a heart attack, and we all know how serious those Widow Makers are, when talking about the positive impact that caffeine has had on my mental state of mind. Before I started drinking coffee I never knew where I was going to be mood-wise. Some days I would wake up Dr. Jekyll, some days Mr. Hyde. It was very stressful. After I started drinking coffee again, or, more specifically, after I added caffeine to my diet again, life was much more normal, predictable, and pleasant for me…and the rest of the family. While I still get stressed out and tense relatively easily, even while caffeinated up, it isn’t nearly has bad as it would get while I was caffeine-free.
Consequently, when I visited the doctor for a checkup from the neck up…and down…this past Thursday, I was looking forward to finding out how adding caffeine to my diet has impacted my liver, since that is where it’s metabolized.
Well, the lab results showed that my liver component counts were pretty high. Here are the numbers (Read: Component, Low Range, High Range, Range Units, My Lab Results):
DIRECT BILIRUBIN, 0.0, 0.4, mg/dl, 0.3
ALKALINE PHOSPHATASE, 30, 120, U/L, 173
ASPARTATE AMINO TRAN, 0, 37, U/L, 100
ALANINE AMINO TRANS, 0, 40, U/L, 263
Now, I have no idea what all of these different components are, but I do know the docs look at them to determine how my liver is doing. I asked my oncologist if he thought I should stop drinking coffee because the counts are so high and he said no. He wasn’t worried about the impact of caffeine on the liver. In fact, he agreed with my assessment that it is probably the caffeine that is positively stimulating me mentally while suppressing the negative psychological impact of all the other drugs and stress from my inflictions.
He was, however, worried that the high counts indicated that Graft Versus Host Disease was flaring up in my liver. After examination, he also assessed that it was flaring up again in my skin and eyes. He wanted to take some “preemptive measures” (his words) by either raising my steroid dosage or by trying another drug called Cyclosporin. But the way things work with my care and treatment, it wasn’t his call. All decisions relating to my care that involve GVHD are made by a different oncologist, one who also is a nationally renowned GVHD specialist and he was not quite as concerned about the elevated numbers as the other oncologists on Team Kurt. In fact, the wife and I had lobbied the GVHD specialist to raise my steroid dosage the last time we saw him over a month ago. I could tell even then by the way that I had been feeling and how my skin had looked that the GVHD was flaring up. But the specialist’s primary concern is with the GVHD in my lungs and not so much with the GVHD anywhere else. According to him, the other areas are relatively minor concerns compared to the lungs and were no cause for alarm or any additional action. A month later he apparently still feels the same.
I’m guessing the GVHD doc wants me to focus on my upcoming week-long visit in April to the National Institute of Health where I will participate in a study to get FDA approval for a new Lung GVHD treatment.
Still, the other oncologist wants me and the wife back next Thursday so we all, to include the GVHD specialist, can get together and further discuss this GVHD flare up in the liver and elsewhere.
Before the cancer I had been a pretty heavy coffee drinker. I drank it not only because I was addicted to the caffeine and the boost it gave me, but also because I really do enjoy the taste of a well-brewed cup o’ joe. A good cup of coffee, just like a good glass of wine, really does [cliche alert!] make life worth living.
I was a late bloomer as a coffee drinker. Though I always loved its smell growing up—I still have vivid, fond memories of the bubbly coffee percolator sounds and the delicious coffee smells that I woke to every morning as a child—I found its taste repulsive and the heated spoiled crap breath that all coffee drinkers blast out even more so. I didn’t want to be complicit in that.
But after high school I joined the navy and, like an idiot, immediately started smoking cigarettes, a habit that previously had disgusted me even more than drinking coffee. If I could force my body to accept and then to crave and then to fervently demand a steady intake of toxic death fumes, then it would stand to reason that hooking myself on coffee couldn’t be too far behind.
Actually, it took another six years.
What finally got me to join the Caffeine Club was the twelve-hour watches that I had to “stand” while stationed aboard my first ship.
I had stood twelve-hours watches all during my time in the navy prior to transferring to the ship, but those watches had always been in large, noisy, bustling communication centers with teams of sailors, which meant that there was always someone around to talk to and to keep me awake during the brutal night shifts. But on the ship, I stood my watches in a quiet, closet of a room by myself and boy could those midnight watches, or mid-watches as the navy jargon goes, get boring.
Thus, in 1989 began my addiction to coffee.
Coffee and Cigarettes. A heavenly match made in hell.
Fortunately, I was able to kick the cigarette habit about a year later.
But I drank coffee like mad until my cancer.
While I initially started drinking coffee as a crutch to get me through the night, I still hated the taste and had to load in piles of cream and sugar to try to cover it up. Over time, however, I eventually acquired a taste for the bean. But my passion for the bean didn’t really come until years later after my father casually remarked that to really enjoy coffee, it needs to be drank black. Unpolluted, so to speak.
So I tried it black. And, like most fathers are, he was right. From then on, I no longer was a man who preferred his coffee “sweet and blond” but one who preferred it “bold and black.”
I drank it that way pretty hard for twenty years.
But when the cancer struck, I had no qualms about quitting. In fact, I didn’t decide to quit, I just did without even realizing it. I guess my subconscious took over after they started pumping me full of chemo and steroids and other crap and spared me of any coffee or wine cravings during my year-long treatment and recovery.
Throughout my years as a coffee drinker prior to cancer, every once in a while I would try to get healthy and ween myself off of caffeine. Not that caffeine is a particularly unhealthy addiction as far as addictions go; but it still is an addiction and deep down, I guess always felt a little uneasy about my dependency on it.
I don’t remember exactly when the last time was I tried to stop consuming caffeine, but I do remember how much it hurt: the eyeball shattering headaches; the total body aches; the nasty moods.
I remember being stuck in traffic for a very long time once during my last attempt at the last weening process and having my legs ache so badly that I thought I was going to have to pull over to the side of the beltway and have the wife come pick me up. I was jonesing bad. I struggled on, but as soon as I got out of traffic I drove directly to the store, bought two cups of coffee, downed one right in the parking lot, and begged forgiveness and mercy from the other one as I lovingly nursed it all the way home.
I probably went through the same kind of withdrawal pain and discomfort when I quit drinking coffee after the cancer diagnosis, but there was already so much other pain and discomfort going on from the blood clots and the treatment that the withdrawal stuff just mixed right in and went unnoticed. Thankfully.
And for over a year during my treatment and recovery process I had no urge whatsoever to start the habit back up. Until recently.
When the urge returned, it returned with a vengeance.
I started drinking it like I never stopped. There was one big difference when I started back up though:
I know, I know. Drinking decaffeinated coffee is like having sex without the climax. What’s the point, right? But, I figured, since I have to take an overload of drugs every day that are already throwing my mental state out of whack, it might be best not to include a stimulant like caffeine into the mix.
So it was decaf for the first couple of weeks.
Until the first time I ran out of it and mistakenly bought a bag of the real stuff.
Why would Starbucks make the bag green if it wasn’t for a decaffeinated coffee?
One good thing about drinking decaf coffee is that I can drink it in the evenings without having to worry about it cranking me up for an all-nighter.
I made the first cup from the mistaken identity bag around 7:00 pm. I think I finally fell asleep around 6:00 am the next day. By 2:00 pm, I was back at the store buying real decaf this time, which was not packaged in a green-themed bag, by the way.
What’s up with Starbucks thinking they can set their own standards?
I have always been very sensitive to drugs and other foreign substances. For instance, it’s hard for me to use morphine or codeine as pain killers because of this sensitivity (remind me later to write an article about my first experience with morphine…ugh).
Even caffeine in the smallest of amounts can overly stimulate me (it’s not often I get to say that out loud) to the point of annoyance to anyone who happens to be around me.
My daily cocktail of drugs are no exception to this sensitivity rule.
The biggest culprit from the cocktail mix for jerking me around is the prednisone. Prednisone is the drug of choice, in fact, it’s just about the only choice, to treat Graft Versus Host-related diseases, of which I am suffering from, and for which I am taking the prednisone.
It addition to GVHD, prednisone is also regularly prescribed for many inflammatory-related illnesses, like asthma or COPD. Because of its potency, it is usually prescribed in low doses, around 5 – 10 mg, for short periods of time, around 7 – 10 days, or so.
Well, I started at 200 mg and now I’m down to 60 mg. I’m going on my fourth month and, even though the treatment doesn’t seem to be slowing the advancement of my lung disease, unless there is a new miracle discovery, I will probably will be taking high doses of prednisone for the rest of my life.
Speaking of miracle discoveries, I will be participating in an NIH study in April 2011 for a new Lung GVHD treatment—fingers crossed.
It kind of freaks me out whenever I visit with a new doctor and their eyes widen and mouths drop when they hear that I’m taking 60 mg of prednisone every day.
The reason they react the way they do is because prednisone has a slew of annoying side effects and is one of those drugs where the cure could turn out to worse than the disease. It causes bone density loss, diabetes, sodium retention, water retention, insomnia, moon face (for some reason it makes the body fat accumulate around the face—my head is friggin’ ginormous!), and worst of all, anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
Because of my sensitivity to drugs, I seem to be really affected by the anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
You might be thinking, like I would be if it wasn’t me who was the one saying it: Brindley, get over it. It’s all just in your head.
And my response would be: You’re exactly right! That’s what makes it even worse. I do know that it is all just in my head. But I’ll be damned if I can get it out.
The more I can keep my mind actively engaged, the better off I am.
This blog is great therapy.
So are naps.
But sometimes my mind gets stuck in a deep rutted ravine filled with all of my fears and doubts and I can’t get out no matter how hard I try. It really is crazy because even as I am trapped in this dark place, I know that a big reason why I’m there is because of a drug that is supposed to be saving my life.
And once I get stuck there I usually can’t get out until the drug wears off, which is about twelve hours after taking it.
So, the next time I ran out decaf and decided to go to the real stuff, I had to take all of this into consideration. I knew there could be consequences from the caffeine so, to try to make good out of my stupidity for willingly hooking myself back onto something I had not needed for over a year, I had decided to treat it all like an experiment. When drinking caffeinated coffee while taking the prednisone and other drugs, which would be anytime I drink caffeinated coffee, I would pay close attention to how they interact and affect me.
Good idea, right? ;)
What I found is interesting and somewhat promising.
- Caffeine, like the true stimulant that it is, seems to balance out the negative effects of the prednisone. By drinking caffeinated coffee in the mornings when the drugs are at their nastiest, I do not seem to be feeling as depressed and grouchy.
- It seems to be easier to breathe when I take my walks. After some research, I found that caffeine is a xanthine derivate. Xanthine is used to help treat asthma. Maybe this explains why it seems that I’m breathing easier on my walks.
- Caffeine is a diuretic. Diuretics make you pee. This is useful for me since I tend to retain water because of the GVHD.
- Because of the prednisone, I also retain sodium. I don’t understand all this diuretic stuff enough but it could be a good thing if caffeine is of the type that flushes out sodium. I’ll have to follow up with the doc on this.
- In addition to the depression, prednisone also makes me anxious and edgy, and increases my heart rate. Adding caffeine into the equation only amplifies that feeling.
- Because of my GVHD, I have dry, itchy skin and my mouth gets dry easily. The steroids help, but since caffeine is a diuretic and I’m peeing all the time I get dehydrated quickly, which only exacerbates the dry skin and dry mouth. I have to drink more water to compensate, which means even more peeing. Its a tedious balancing act.
- Again, I don’t understand much about diuretics, but I read that certain types flush out a body’s potassium. This isn’t good because prednisone already tends to decrease potassium levels. Need more info.
- Because of all the meds I’m taking, my liver is really taking a beating. Since caffeine is metabolized in the liver, I really need to be careful here.
So, to make a long story short… What? Oh…yeah, I see. Too late for that. I guess I got to rambling a bit. Thanks for bearing with me.
In conclusion… better? …my long, rocky love affair with coffee has resumed once again and I find that my passion for the drink is as strong and true as its seductive flavor is bold and addictive.
And now, not only do I drink the brew to fulfill my own selfish desires and dependency, I drink it also to fulfill a broader need, one with an utilitarian, more nobler purpose—I drink it in the name of medical research.
Just think, what started out as an aide to help me better defend my country during my navy years (that sounds much better than calling it a crutch to help me stay awake during boring mid-watches), may turn out to be the impetus behind a cure for a very serious mental health condition.
Now, whenever I drink coffee while strung out on prednisone, I may be one cup closer to understanding the longterm synergistic and psychological effects on the brain from simultaneously consuming large quantities of both stimulative and depressive agents over long periods of time.
My research is going to have an extremely significant and beneficial impact on the entire mental health community. Better lives will be lived because of it.
Yeah, that’s all a bunch of BS, I know (see Disclaimer). But hey, if it helps me to rationalize my pathetic, self-induced dependency on something that I probably shouldn’t be messing with in the first place, why not, right?
Have I mentioned how long it’s been since I’ve had a glass of wine?