First feral cat


First feral cat, originally uploaded by mtbikernate.

I have been having problems with feral cats this year. I first noticed them shortly after I moved into this house about a year ago, but didn’t have any trouble until this spring when I came home from the hospital. One of the ferals had a litter of kittens in the neighbor’s densely wooded lot, and they’d come into my yard to play. The first problem I had was the feral cats raided a wren nest on my porch and at least ate the babies. Not sure if they got the adults or not.

Later in the spring, my wife noticed that mama cat had been hit by a car. We wondered if the kittens would survive. At least some did. We didn’t see them for a long time, as I’d chase them away whenever I saw them. But one night, when letting the dogs out for their evening pee, one of them (now a cranky tomcat) was sitting on the porch. In trying to chase it away, it ran around me and into the house. Boy did that cat reek strongly of urine.

Because of my cancer treatments making me susceptible to disease, bleeding, and bruising, my wife had to take over. She threw a laundry basket on top of the cat and ushered it out the front door with a broom. When she removed the basket, the cat tried to attack her. She had to whack it a couple times with the broom to get it to run away.

It was then I decided we had a problem and set about to fix it. I bought this tomahawk trap, some heavy duty kevlar lined leather animal handling gloves, and the pictured scent lure. I tried catching cats on the back porch for awhile, with no luck. Just yesterday I moved the trap to the front, near my car where there were fresh muddy cat prints on my hood. Today, this was waiting for me.

This cat was a nasty bugger when I took the shade cover off the trap. It tried eating me as soon as I lifted it off and moved the trap to the driveway. The cat continued to hiss and try to attack me any time I went near the trap. Definitely a feral. An owned and socialized cat shouldn’t be behaving that way (yes, my wife and I have a cat of our own…and it’s an indoor-only cat).

I sprayed the cat with the hose, blared a loud air horn, and released it. Aversive conditioning has been proven effective for years on habituated bears, and is a technique recommended by the Humane Society of the United States. We’ll see how well it really works on cats. I’ll be keeping the trap in the front yard for the time being. It’s possible the smell of the dogs in back helps keep the kitties away.

Mammoth Cave National Park, KY





For my second anniversary, my wife and I went to Mammoth Cave National Park.  Overall it was a good trip.  My only complaint relates to the HEAVY horse use this park gets…the horses destroy the trails at stream crossings and other wet spots. Continue reading Mammoth Cave National Park, KY

My Homemade Hiking Quilts

I made these awhile ago, but currently the details only reside on a web forum.  I wanted a better place to put them.

Alright, here goes nothing. I am placing an order with thru-hiker for the materials to sew TWO quilts…one for myself and one for my wife. Here’s what I’m ordering:

2x Down Quilt Kits:
Smoke Grey nanoseeum netting (both)
Momentum90 liner (both)
1.1oz sun shell (mine)
1.1oz dark green shell (wife’s)
24oz down (total)

8x anchorable cord locks (for draw cords at head and feet)
20ft flat cord (for draw cords)
2ft velcro

I am basing my quilts on neatoman’s quilt, previously linked by Hanger in his quilt thread. I like the ability to use it as an overbag when I need something warmer. My quilt, however, will have a rough temp rating of approx 20 deg. When used in combo with my lafuma down sb (40-45 deg), I figure I ought to be able to get close to a 0 deg system at a semi reasonable weight (roughly 3lbs for both for me…less for my wife). I am second-guessing the idea of having extra fabric flaps on the sides, but I will not make a final decision on that until I actually sit down to work on this.

I’m going to have fun with this. The wife is going to be out of town for a conference this coming weekend through the middle of next week, and this is what I’ll be doing to keep busy. I know, I know…I’m a party animal, right?  I only hope that either the lack of a seam guide on the machine doesn’t result in wacky seams…or, the local singer parts dealer has one (and the other parts I’m missing, but don’t necessarily need for this project).

The best part, of course, will be the satisfaction I get from completing it. Once it’s done, I’ll be able to add to Reality’s proud accomplishments thread.

Edit:
Note where I wrote that the kit contains 24oz of down.  It’s the 800+fp stuff thru-hiker sells. Once I come up with measurements for the wife’s bag, I’ll be able to figure out how much hers needs. But for mine, the full 12oz will actually give me a bit of overfill (even accounting for a little loss to the 11th dimension according to the M Theory). I’ll be making the wife’s bag slightly warmer b/c she’s a cold sleeper.

My materials came in the mail yesterday. I’m going to start working on finalizing the dimensions of my quilt (I have some preliminary ones…I just need to decide if they will work, of if I need to make any changes) when I get home from work tonight, and possibly start cutting tomorrow after work.

I am going to need to track down a good scale that measures in grams (my current scale doesn’t even handle tenths of an ounce, and really doesn’t register until I get over 7oz). I will need it so I can measure out the down for each chamber correctly.

I also need to decide how I’m going to mark my cuts and seams on the fabric. I tried using blue painter’s tape on my preliminary mock-up (using bargain fabric from joann), and it really didn’t stick well to anything.

I’ve put in several hours’ worth of work on my quilt so far, and I am ready to post a few photos and a description of the work I’ve done. Forgive some of the fuzzy pics. I’m still trying to pin down the various settings in my new digital camera. There’s a lot more to this one than to my old one.

Tools used:
Craftsman 25ft heavy duty locking tape
Craftsman stainless steel carpenter’s square
Ryobi laser level
Scotch blue painter’s tape
Scotch magic tape
Black sharpie

I’ve decided on my quilt dimensions and design. The quilt will be 75″ long. The width will be 48″ at the head and hips and 38″ at the foot. I based the measurements on those of an existing sleeping bag and my own measurements. The ‘hip’ measurement was taken from my own body and I determined it to be 40″ from my feet. I have decided NOT to put flaps along the perimeter of the quilt due to extra hassle and that 48″ will be plenty to wrap around myself. I am 5’8″ and 155lbs for reference.

Laying out the head end of the quilt.

I found that the small carpenter’s square I had really wasn’t big enough considering the long measurements I was making (75″ at the longest). It got me close, but I had to double check everything and move my tape guides a couple of times before I had it all right. A larger square MIGHT have eliminated the adjustments.

Also, taping the fabric down to carpet is a less than ideal situation. I used up a LOT of time and tape trying to keep the thing secured to the floor. Not to mention, due to the small workspace, I oftentimes had to sit on the fabric. I have a larger room, but I don’t have the ability to keep the cat out of it. I was not going to leave the fabric taped to the floor so the cat could play with it all night for a couple days. No way.

Perimeter guides marked.

I used a lot of blue painter’s tape because I had a bunch left over from painting the house. I moved on to using scotch tape later on because I started running out of the blue stuff. I like the blue tape better because when laying the shell fabric over the marked liner, it is easier to see the blue tape than the clear stuff.

Seam allowances and baffle guides marked.

Here you can see all of my seam allowance, cut, and baffle guides. I gave myself 2″ of seam allowance and 5″ baffle spacing. The 75″ overall length of the quilt worked out well for this and allowed me 15 baffles all of the same width.


Shell fabric ready to cut.

You can see the tape guides on the liner showing through the shell fabric. I used a sharpie to mark dotted lines on the shell for those guides instead of using a solid line because the sharpie bleeds through the yellow 1.1 ripstop. The dots should blend in well with the black thread I’m using.

Close-up of dotted line marks on the shell.

Tomorrow, I will be cutting everything out and getting ready to sew the baffles.

I’m pretty sure I can still use it as an overbag. Even though I’m not making flaps, there will still be flat spots around the perimeter where the seams join…maybe an inch at most. That’ll be enough space to put some velcro or omni tape. In the discussion about the JRB Down to Earth system, there’s been some good ideas thrown around about maybe putting on a fabric backing to hold a pad in place (rather than attaching the quilt to the pad directly). I’m thinking something like that would work well to complete an overbag.

Today, I wanted to get the machine ready to start sewing, and maybe sew a couple of baffles. That plan was pretty well shot when I realized that the tape I used to mark seams on the liner is going to get in the way of sewing (around the perimeter, where the baffles will overlap the side seams). So, per Diana_of_the_Dunes’ advice, I’ll be getting a silver sharpie to trace the lines out and take the tape off.

Also, I want to emphasize that you should do some sample stitches on a scrap piece of fabric before you get to sewing the real thing. You REALLY want to make sure that all your settings are correct on the machine and that everything will go smoothly. It turns out, if I try to go too fast on my machine, it will fling loops of thread around the needle and the various tensioning bits of the machine and create a royal mess. I had to pin down an acceptable speed to get everything set correctly.

Also, on my machine, the stitch length adjustment is pretty arbitrary. I had to play with it a bit to get it set at the right # of stitches per inch. After a bit of toying with the machine (and lots of cursing when the thread would tangle), I got everything set up correctly and running smoothly. I should be ready to lay down some seams pretty soon!

After a pretty nasty headache as a result of inexperience with a sewing machine and improper setup, I’m back on track with this thing.

I tried starting to sew my baffles the other day, only to find out that my machine was skipping stitches ALL OVER the place, resulting in nasty tangles. I put sewing on the bag on hold so I could figure out the problem with my machine. After some research on various sewing sites on the web, I had a list of items to check before I contacted a service technician.

The skipped stitch issue was caused by the bobbin hook not catching the loop of the main thread underneath the stitch plate. So, I pulled some covers off and turned the hand wheel so I could see what was going on. Lo and behold, I saw that the needle was installed backwards! Silly me…when I changed needles for the smaller one for this project, I put it in backwards, so the little scarf on the needle (which helps to create the main thread loop) was on the wrong side of the needle. I switched the needle around, and no more missed stitches.

I did encounter another problem, however. My tension settings were WAY off. So, after a couple of hours of playing with the tension settings and sewing on a piece of scrap fabric, I got everything set up correctly, and I was able to start sewing the baffles onto the liner of the quilt today.

I have to say, I like the way everything is looking now. It won’t be long before it starts to look like a real bag.

Ok, since the weather was sour today (several inches of snow changing over to sleet and then to freezing rain) and my boss called me to tell me to stay home, I decided to sit down and make some progress on my quilt. And oh, what sweet progress it was! I am now ready to stuff the quilt with down.

But before that, some updates. First are some pics from sewing the baffles onto the Momentum90 liner fabric.

Baffles taped to the liner.

Baffles sewn onto the liner.


Baffle seam detail.

Today’s work. I got all the baffles sewn to the shell, along with both seams at the short ends and one of the long sides.

Side seam detail, illustrating how the side seams overlap the baffle seams to prevent down loss.

Now, I’ve gotta get myself a good postal scale and I can start filling this bag with down. I’m starting to get the hang of the sewing machine and handling the fabric, so everything is going so much faster now than when I started. Now, if I can avoid huge gaps between work when I start the wife’s quilt, I should be able to whip it out in no time. I’m pretty stoked about this thing now because it’s actually starting to LOOK like a quilt. I tried it on for size this evening and I am happy with the measurements I chose. The length lets me pull it to my neck and tuck it in to cut off drafts (I absolutely cannot sleep with my head under the covers, so I made mine a little shorter relative to my height than diana_of_the_dunes), and the width lets me wrap it almost completely around myself if need be.

I made a real nice mistake last night, too. Haha. As you can see in the pictures, I originally cut the mesh really long so I could make sure it got enough overlap. Once I sewed each baffle to the shell, I would cut off the extra length. On one of them, I nipped the momentum90 with the scissors, leaving a nice v-shaped snip in the fabric.

It’s not a HUGE deal since the snip is in the seam allowance. However, it’s close enough to the bag that it won’t be getting folded under. I had to cut a little patch of fabric out and use a wide, tightly spaced zigzag stitch to patch the hole (pretty much to prevent it from ripping out later on).

D’oh! Silly me. That’s what happens when you’re getting close to your anticipated goal and you start to rush a little bit.

Okay, so the quilt is more or less finished. There are some small details left, like omni-tape for closing the footbox and a small down-filled flap at the foot to seal off drafts in the foot box, but the quilt is minimally functional!

I had a hard time with the last few seams. The fabric kept getting in the way, and there were a few spots where folds of fabric got sewn in on the underside, and I’d have to pull a seam and restitch. In spite of the difficulties, it’s all finished and I’m quite proud of it. I did not take any pictures during the messy affair of filling the baffles with down, but here are a few shots of finishing touches.

The whole thing…stuffed.

Corner seam details

Loft

I found a stuff sack for it and tossed this thing on the scale. It comes in at 21oz including the stuff sack! That’s lighter than the 40deg down sleeping bags my wife and I have been carrying. I’m thinking those sleeping bags aren’t coming out of the closet much from now on. The little extras I need to add probably won’t even add an ounce, I bet.
I can cram it pretty small if I need to. I put it into a 5×9″ Equinox silnylon stuff bag…just to see how small it could get. It was an awful tight fit, though, so I won’t be using that bag regularly. I like the fit better of the Granite Gear #4 airline stuff sack. It is about 6×14″. These are stuff sacks I already had and wasn’t using much, so I decided to put one to use.

There are some spots I’m not especially happy with…mostly spots where I goofed and had to pull out a seam. Even still, I tried hard to minimize the appearance of those mistakes. On one or two slips of the seam ripper, I put nice holes in the yellow ripstop shell. I used some urethane sealant to patch the holes and stop any fraying. If you didn’t know the spot was there, you’d never see it…thank goodness. I’m too much of a perfectionist for my own good. The one I make for my wife next should go more smoothly with fewer mistakes…and it’ll probably look better, too. It’s funny…she told me last night that she never expected this thing to end well, and she’s pleasantly surprised that it did. She was wearing it around the house like a cape for awhile.

I MIGHT have been able to cut the weight just a tiny bit more if I had trimmed the baffle mesh as I got it sewn in. But you know, I doubt it would have been much more than half an ounce.

The last bits of sewing I did, I was really starting to notice the needle getting dull.

I think I used right at 12oz of down, and the temp rating should be about 20 degrees (at 2.5″ of loft).

I found some (Omni-Tape or no-snag Velcro). This stuff can be tricky to find at times. My old links broke, so you’re going to have to hit Google for up-to-date product listings.

Today I started on my wife’s quilt. Due to dragging my bum out of bed late, and a couple supply errands (I needed new needles and bobbins for my sewing machine), I didn’t get started until a little later than I wanted. But…I made as much progress on her bag today as it took me a month to do on mine, so it’s all good.

By the end of the night, I should be ready to start sewing, and by tomorrow, I should be mostly finished with it. I’m not going to post progress pics of this one, but I will post final pics when it’s done. I think the best thing about this for my wife is that I customized the dimensions of it to her body. Mine came in at 21oz, and hers (for the same loft) should be a couple oz lighter since it’s both shorter and narrower than mine.

I’ve got both quilts finished…just in time for a few days at Mammoth Cave NP next weekend (even though daytime temps will approach 80, and nighttime temps in the mid 40’s to near 60). Still, these are lighter than the 40deg sleeping bags they are more or less replacing. Mine comes in at 23oz including the Thermarest Stuff Sack Pillow, and my wife’s weighs 21oz including a Granite Gear airline stuff sack. These weights include drawcords at both ends (the drawcord at the head does indeed help keep the quilt pulled close when you want it), no-snag velcro to close off a footbox, and a little down-filled pocket at the foot to seal off drafts when everything is cinched down.

His & Hers quilts…finished. My wife’s is a little bit lighter, and also a little bit smaller than mine.

Close-up of the foot box covers. I got this idea from neatoman’s quilt.

His & Hers quilts stuffed.

Estimated Temp Rating: 20F
Loft: 2.5″ (with ~1oz overfill in each bag)

Fun with heart rate monitors

Ok, so I’m trying to catch up on some posts.  Seeing as how I’m going to have to go through a significant recovery process to regain my physical form, I’ve been picking up some tools to help me pull that off.

One of the first was a Tanita scale that records weight, body fat %, and a few other values.  That’s going to help me keep track of how my body changes with my workouts.  I can’t really do much except walking right now, so the values I record now help me establish a baseline from which I can make comparisons later.

I also got a Garmin Edge 705 HR+Cad.  I bought this one because it allows me to record my heart rate during a workout, as well as collect data while I’m riding my bike on the trainer in the living room.  My first use of it, however, was to strap it on while I slept one night, to see how my HR changed during the night.  This test was very shortly after a round of chemotherapy (the chemo elevates my HR), and that I’m also chronically anemic (also elevates my HR).  So my sleeping HR is MUCH higher right now than it would be for others.  I’ll be checking it from time to time to see how it changes over the course of my treatments.

It’s interesting to look at.  You can see the beginning, where the HR fluctuated a lot and was generally above the nighttime average, but as it went on, it fluctuated less and became more stable.  It looks like while it took awhile to fall asleep, I tended to sleep pretty well.

Wow, what a year!

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything, but I have a good reason for that.  Really, I do.

You see, I got cancer.  Yup.  Acute myelogenous leukemia.  Man, that hit me hard and fast, too.

Here’s how it went down:

Back in February last year, I got sick…flu sick.  Body aches, runny nose, coughing, that sort of thing.  I started taking ibuprofen and some OTC flu meds to feel better.  It never really went away, though.  In fact, it got worse, to the point I was frequently missing classes, sleeping through the ones I DID attend, and generally feeling worse.  I went to see my doctor, saying I thought I had the flu, and wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything worse.  Well, doc thought it was the flu, also, and had me managing symptoms.  They still didn’t go away.  I ended up going in for a second visit, where the doc took blood samples to test.  Well, the samples came back looking really bad.  Unfortunately, when they did come back, my doc was out of town and had another doc filling in for him.  That doc saw my lab results and they were so bad, he didn’t want to get involved.  We’re contemplating what to do about that, actually.  Doc came back a couple days later, called me at 11pm, and told me to go to the ER.  I went in, and I was given more tests, including a bone marrow aspirate, which confirmed my leukemia diagnosis.  Things get fuzzy from here onward.

I remember being put on an ambulance in my little town and being shipped to Houston so I could be treated at MD Anderson.  Once I got there, my memory is gone.  My wife says I was still lucid and all, but I don’t remember it.  From now on, I’m going to go off of what I’ve been told.  I was in the ER for a couple of days, partly because the hospital was so full and it took awhile to get a regular room.  Once I did, I was only there for a day or so.  At one point, I got up in the middle of the night to pee, and I collapsed before I got there.  At that point, my wife insisted on an MRI.  The hospital staff didn’t object…they thought I might have hit my head and got a brain bleed or something.

Well, I didn’t have a brain bleed, but the MRI turned out to be a good idea.  It was discovered that I had swelling on my brain stem.  Not caused by the fall, but serious nevertheless.  So I got moved to ICU.  I spent the next 18 days there, because that brain stem swelling very nearly killed me and I got kidney and liver failure to boot.  I think I had two rounds of kidney dialysis before that resolved, and the liver failure also resolved.  I did suffer lasting kidney damage, but not so severe that I needed a transplant or additional drugs or anything.  Thankfully my values now have returned to the normal range, albeit higher than they were before I got sick.

I remember a few things from when I was in the ICU…but I was gorked out on some serious drugs.  I was hallucinating quite a bit, and all I remember is the room I was in (which seemed excessively cluttered at the time), the TV and computer, I remember bugs all over the place, and I remember cats in the room.  The bugs and cats were not there, but they were certainly in my head.  I also remember some sensation that I was being moved frequently from one room to another.  The reality was that my original room got a leak in a heavy rainstorm and they had to move me once.  The construction activities at the hospital caused the trouble.  But I had no perception of time then, so things were all F’d up.

Sometime during that time, the doctors moved me from being intubated to giving me a tracheostomy…a hole in my trachea where they could pump the oxygen in and I would be able to use my mouth.  Then they started pulling me out of the drug-induced coma and I started waking up.  That period was REALLY trippy.  My mind was doing some crazy shit that I still can’t explain adequately.  Eventually the drugs wore off enough that I could make sense of the world around me.

Of course, the first thing I noticed was that with the trach, I could not speak well.  It took a day or two for the docs to give me a ‘speaking valve’ so I could talk.  Another thing I noticed quickly was that my eyesight was garbage.  I couldn’t see worth a damn, and they sent me to opthamology on an emergency basis to see why.  I had leukemic infiltrates in my retinas, that’s why.  Wonderful.  I also learned that my father had lost his leg in a motorcycle crash when coming to the hospital in Houston to see me.  He rode from Indianapolis to Houston to see me, and got hit by a Mustang a few miles from the hospital in downtown Houston.  Nice, huh?

I spent about another week in the hospital before they let me go.  They had me doing a little physical therapy because I had lost nearly ALL of my physical abilities while I was there, and they wanted me to be able to stand and walk to the bathroom before sending me out.  I did a lot of work standing up and sitting down.  I also did a lot of work with the throat folks.  I essentially even had to learn how to swallow again.  I was started on a liquid diet and as I progressed, I eventually made my way to a regular one.  I still had a hard time getting the food to my mouth, but I could at least chew and swallow it once I got there.  I was also given a spinal tap to see if they could figure out what that swelling was (they couldn’t do it earlier because of the pressure on my brain stem being so great, I ran the risk of rupturing it), and while they had the needle in my spine, they gave me some intrathecal chemo just in case.

Once they let me out, I still couldn’t go home yet.  I had too many appointments for blood tests, bone marrow aspirates, chemo, and checkups.  I did get to go home on a couple of weekends for a couple days, and that was nice.  We rented a trailer home in Houston for awhile for this.  It was SOOO uncomfortable, but it sure was cheaper than a hotel and better than driving back and forth all the time.  The few steps up to the front door were great for my physical therapy.  I eventually got to where I could walk up and down them without help.  The trailer park was also a good place for me to learn to drive again.  My car is a little Honda Fit with a manual tranny, so that was tough.  I picked it up quickly, thankfully.  My eyesight also improved some during this time.

Before long, I was able to go home on a more permanent basis.  It eventually became clear that I was pretty stable, and my oncologist (Dr. Estrov is my hero) released me to an oncologist/hematologist at home, and permitted me to have my blood tests done at home.  He still insists I go to Houston for my chemo and monthly checkups, but that’s better than daily or weekly trips to Houston.  My wife at this point gave me permission to get a fancy home theater system.  I call it my “cancer survival present” because I soon learned that my leukemia had gone into remission.  I got a 40″ widescreen 1080p Samsung LCD HDTV, a Samsung blu-ray player that connects to the web to also access Pandora, Netflix, Blockbuster, and YouTube, a Yamaha surround sound receiver and speakers, and an upgrade in my DirecTV service to include HD broadcasts.  I also got a subscription to Netflix since it’s so much cheaper than renting blu-rays at the video store.  I certainly use it since I’m at home all the time.

At this point, things started to settle a bit.  At first, my mother, my father, and my mother-in-law were all staying with me, helping me out.  I still couldn’t use the computer well at this point.  My coordination was no good.  I also used a walker and a wheelchair.  My parents bought my wife and I a loveseat to add to our living room (we had been planning to buy one anyway).  My mom soon left to go back home, since she needed to start work soon.  My dad and my MIL stayed awhile, but my dad eventually had to go home, also, because of the physical therapy he needed with his amputation.  Eventually it was just my MIL.  She helped around the house a lot by cooking meals and doing chores to help out my wife, since I couldn’t really do anything.  She eventually went home, too, and my wife and I had to pick up on those things.  I was at a point, however, where I could start taking up some slack so it all didn’t get dumped on my wife.

During this period, I settled into a routine of getting my chemo treatments, and then coming home to deal with the effects.  I’m really lucky that I don’t get severe side-effects of the chemo.  What effects I do get have been quite mild.  I only lost about half my hair, which has since grown back.  Any nausea I get is very mild.  I do get diarrhea, but not severe, either.  The frequency of my bone marrow aspirates also decreased, and so did my MRI frequency.  I still had a little ‘spot’ on my brain stem that we still could not identify, so we kept an eye on it.  Basically it showed up on the MRI as an ‘increased FLAIR response’, which indicated that spot had more fluid than other spots around it.  I had no symptoms, and the spot never got bigger.  Eventually, my Dr. told me that the spot is not of consequence and that its continued presence was partially due to the technique used to take the MRI.  As far as he was concerned, the spot was nothing and that it would go away in time…and he was not scheduling anymore MRI’s to check up on it.  Imagine my relief!

The opthamologist also kept up with my eyes.  I ended up getting two more exams.  The 2nd one did not show leukemic infiltrates, but it did show some hemorrhages, so he did not clear me to update my prescription yet.  My 3rd appointment (about the same time as I got the report on that last MRI), the hemorrhages were healing, there was no new damage, and he cleared me to get new glasses.  He wrote me the prescription (hehehe, I sneakily got an eye exam covered by insurance even though I have no eye insurance) and I got new glasses.  That was really nice, as I hadn’t had new glasses in probably about 10yrs.  I have one pair of old contacts left, but I can only wear them part time at the moment.  Immediately after my chemo, I can’t wear them because I need to frequently take steroid eyedrops so the chemo doesn’t damage my corneas, but that’s okay for now.

Now, I only have two more chemo treatments left (out of a total of 8), and one more bone marrow aspirate.  I really hope to return to my master’s program in the spring, but the timing of things is pretty tight.  In August, I think, I got a septic infection when I went to the hospital for a ‘routine’ blood transfusion, and the fallout from that delayed my next round of chemo.  Right now, it looks like my last one will be occurring around Christmas, which means my return to classes for the spring term will be close.  My Dr. will not yet commit to any timeframe, so we’ll have to play it by ear.

Feral Bottles


IMG_0527, originally uploaded by mtbikernate.

Ever wondered what happened to those plastic soda and water bottles all those yummy beverages come in? Well, look no further than your local wildlands. I captured this scene in Texas along the Trinity River…a bit downstream from Dallas. This opossum was chewing the bottles to put holes in them, then lapping up the sweet residue from inside.

I honestly don’t know where these particular bottles came from. They were located at the high water mark, indicating that they were deposited here during the last flood. I’m sure many of these were random litter…thrown from moving cars along the road, blown from the beds of pickup trucks on the freeway, and possibly even tossed in bags full of other refuse in little out-of-the-way areas that people frequently dump garbage illegally. But with so many of these bottles along the river, I can only wonder if there might be other sources, too.

I wonder if there are any landfills upriver from this site. How many of these bottles were discarded of properly, in the garbage or even the recycling bin? How many fell from garbage trucks and recycling collector trucks as they were in transit?

All I know is that a sight like this makes me think long and hard about purchasing drinks in plastic bottles in the future. I already avoid buying bottled water. I use a PUR filter instead. The only way to avoid soda in bottles is to avoid soda altogether, and much like this opossum, I enjoy the yummy sweetness a little too much.