Monday, August 31, 2015

Il ultimo d'agosto

Depot Town, Ypsi. Had to go back down there today as I left my credit card there

I framed the Chihuly ceiling of the glass bridge

pretty butterfly

I had taken a break from buying Groupons and their ilk and then rushing to meet a deadline to make whatever but last week, a coupon came in my e-mail for a photobook for just $5. Plenty of time  to do today but then I kept putting it off. My first problem: I never saved many of the photos I took with my iPhone onto the computer. As my iCloud is full, I should at least store them somewhere safe. The new iPhone stores things differently than the old so it took forever to figure that out. And once they were loaded, all the editing, I did on them was gone. I was unexpectedly busy Saturday so I reserved Sunday to do all the work. But I kept being interrupted. My friend whose sister probably has breast cancer can't begin treatment as the tissue taken from her did not indicate cancer (tumors are in several places in her spine, femur, ribs, and lung), kept texting for advice. And despite almost 2 weeks of searching, they still can't find any tumors in her breast. So new tissue has to be taken and identified before they can begin treatment. Meanwhile, a new tumor popped up. Lots of fear and frustration. Why can't they just begin treatment anyway? The medications for lung cancer and breast cancer are very different; they need to know exactly what kind of cancer they are dealing with.
So this morning after an early morning run (heat has returned along with the bugs in my hair), I devoted all my energy into making this photobook. When I went to pay for it, I noticed that my credit card was missing. Frantic search ensues. I pay for it with another credit card and finish buying the book. Right after that, I notice an e-mail saying I could have the book for free instead of $5. They give you an hour to cancel. I cancelled the order and tried to submit it again with the free code instead. All of a sudden , my book was missing in cyberspace, one that I put 6 hours into. Their phone lines were busy with 22 people ahead of me. Eventually someone called me back and told me to restart the program. Suddenly my missing book appears and I seemed to reorder it with the free code with no problem. Meanwhile the restaurant that I think I left my credit card at, was too busy to search for it but they did call back 2 hours later with it. So two minor frustrations dealt with.
The end of August but not the end of heat.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Frogs and Joy

what to do with a junker truck? Turn it into a flower basket.

rose paperweight

these photos were covered in grime and thus were 50 cents for the 2 of them
hand made tile from Ecuador
We watched Allie yesterday. She is speaking more and more and learns very quickly. Her hair is growing in back but still needs more in front. She will turn 2 in a month. She says she wants her own purse for a present. Below is her daddy at 17 months When she smiles, she looks so much like him
dinosaur lurking through the trees
So we have at least 2 frogs in our little pond
Look at the gold in his eyes and tympanic membrane

Most of our swallows have left to journey south. The pretty birds, cardinals and purple finches, have lost their breeding colors and now are dull. The hummingbirds will leave in a month. Fall is almost here. But we have frogs though I haven't heard them over the cicadas.
Joy is the name of the dirt road fairly close to our house. A neighborhood off it abuts our neighborhood. If only I could find the magic passage connecting the neighborhoods, I would have a less buggy place to run. As it is hard packed clay and has only minor hills (going down a steep pot holey road scares me), I've been biking on it a lot and some of the adjoining roads. I skipped them today as they were wet from last night's rain and wet clay can be slippery. I needed to bike the other day during rush hour so I went on Joy. No cars but I saw fields full of cranes.
My grandfather used to take me on his house calls years ago even before we moved to Michigan. Two roads that I remember: Stone School for its funny name and Joy as I had a good friend with the same name. The road he lived on also had a strange name: Underdown.
According to the surgeon, I won't be able to do anything heavy duty with my arms (he gave vacuuming as an example) for 3 weeks, no jostling, and no raising the heartbeat too much (though I can not figure out why) If the roads are still snow free, if I ride in low gear in the flats,, I think my heartbeat won't go up too much. I will have decorated for Xmas by the surgery date.
Back to making a photobook today with a coupon that expires tomorrow. What to focus on? Vacations? Grandbabies? Flora and fauna?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fried green tomatoes and cheesy grits

frog resting on one of my solar waterlilies

45 cents for my Chinese paper cut. How long must it took to cut this out
beautiful zinnias from one of the Moms
Purple finch in one of my new frames. They lost their breeding colors and now look like dull sparrows. Honey from one of the Moms. She has two hives: her mellow California bees and her angry Florida bees (they came in the mail) She is too afraid to harvest the Florida hive
This handmade paper collage has real shells and a tiny sea horse. It looks good in my foyer
I harvested lots of rainbow chard, some regular chard and a bit of kale to cook up for the Moms. I had to put it in the pan in 3 batches. It cooked down to a disappointing tenth the original volume
Before we hit the resale shops, we went to Sonic Lunch, a series of outdoor concerts in downtown Ann Arbor. A different restaurant handles the food each week. This week the Produce Station featuring peach everything: peach and brie sandwiches, peach ice tea, blackberry-peach cobbler, and peach gazpacho. Yummy

I've been busy. Thursday after a 15 mile bike ride, I met a friend for lunch and an outdoor concert of this techno-rock group from UM Music School. A very mixed crowd, fun for people watching and a nice day to sit outside because the promised sun was not beating down on us. Then off to 5 different resale shops: some high end, some full of trash but I did find a lot of stuff and bought quite a bit. I've been gradually been sneaking it into the house and into a closet. If it were up to Steve, our walls would be totally bare. Every nail I hammer in annoys him so it is just easier not to point things out and do everything when he isn't around. He does sigh  some when he happens upon my handiwork. I did spend quite a bit of time hanging things up yesterday as he mowed the lawn.
Believe it or no, I am actually running faster these days instead of my usual decline into decrepitude. Thrills and chills. I was helped yesterday by it being only 45 degrees when I started. The temps rose more than 30 degrees by the time I served dinner outside.
Off to the plastic surgeon Friday morning to finalize plans for my BC repair job. December 8  will be the big day. I was not pleased to find the surgeon with two sidekicks: Frick and Frack, handsome young men with one being a med student and the other a resident. They were very sweet but it is still unnerving to bare ones deformed chest to them and discuss very personal details.  Before photos were taken from all angles. Then off to the Albatross to water things (someone is there right now as I type and another viewing will happen later today), off to the bird store to get suet for my cardinals and then off to the grocery store for last minute things for the dinner I was cooking for the Moms later that day.
And if life can't be any more hectic, we get a call Thursday. The downstairs condo owner was claiming water was dripping from our condo into hers. @$@! Yep we are dealing with 3 properties. Steve dealt with this disaster meeting with a plumber who could not find any obvious leaks from the bathroom directly above. But he needed to get in the other resident's condo who was not home. Finally management got ahold of her at a Tiger game and she gave permission to cut a hole in her ceiling to investigate. All dry.  The plumber resealed the toilet just in case it was the culprit but unlikely. What an annoyance and expense!!!We haven't had any more phone calls but it has only been two days. Fun times.
I tried to incorporate as much of my gardens into the dinner. Ripe tomatoes and basil into Caprese salad, 2 kinds of Swiss chard and kale were used to make wilted greens, green beefsteak tomatoes were turned into fried green tomatoes, chives were added to my cheesy grits. I sautéed shrimp in butter, garlic and sriracha sauce to serve onto top of the cheesy grits. One of the Moms brought her home grown zucchini in pie form along with freshly harvested honey from her hives. Another Mom along with her zinnias, brought crab stuffed mushrooms. Some of  the Moms are vegetarians but all of them eat seafood. Another brought a pepper-carrot salad. And for dessert, a Mom made a peach cobbler with pistachio crust. And all brought wine which we drank well into the orange red full moon night on my patio.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hero of Chemistry

mums are popping up all over

lots of nice sunrises these days
Had a great lunch with a good friend. We were treated with the Amtrak train thundering in the middle of the street next to our seats
later watched Shanna's kids. Here they are mesmerized by the forbidden screen. I didn't realize that this was verboten but I should have known when I asked if mama would approve and all I got was a sly smile. Screens suck us in so much and kids really need constant reminders that they need life away from them

Last week my brother was honored at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston as a Hero of Chemistry for his work in developing a drug that cures, not just treats, hepatitis C. Medicinal chemists can labor their whole careers and not see one drug go to market much less a drug that changes how patients are treated. I was considered 'lucky' in that 5 of the compounds I made (3 in one year) made it into further development ( usually only 1 in 5000 make it that far) but none hit the market and none of them would have been 'game changers'. So his work was exceptional and we are very proud of him.
He started the work in a very small company in Princeton, NJ. Publications of his work attracted the attention of Big Pharma which ended up buying the company to obtain this drug and offered him a good position. It was a good decision as the drug has made them billions, the most money a drug was ever sold for in a year. This has not been without controversy. It cost $84K for a 3 month round of treatment which cures 90% of the patients. It does seem like a lot of money but consider the costs of liver failure: hospitalizations, transplants, antirejection drugs. The latest figure (2002) I could come up with for a liver transplant was $312K. One can safely assume this number has tripled. Many cancer drugs cost well over $100K a year for treatment and virtually none of them are curative.

Last weekend I was feeling so hopeful about the other house: the woman who looked through it was so enthusiastic, I was sure she would make an offer. Instead we had a viewing the next day (hope, hope, hope) but at the end of the day, we received negative feedback (too much work needs to be done!!!!!). But maybe that wasn't her. Tuesday another viewing. Maybe this is her. Hope, hope, hope. But at the end of the day, even more negative feedback. something about what was wrong with us having a bathroom off the master without a shower. Meanwhile a house down the street, not in good condition and costing $35K more had an open house Sunday. Yep it's sold. Maybe to her. So we put so much money into structural repairs (new roof, new windows, new fixtures) but didn't do anything cosmetic except paint (entire house!!) Do we do more? Does the house have a hex on it? So this albatross is sucking all the joy out of our lives excepting in the brief times I can forget about its existence and the money suck it is. People ask am I glad I moved since our new house is so nice but if we hadn't and just fixed the old one  up and stayed, we would not be in this annoying situation. But then I would have been treated with Steve whining how much he hates the house. After we withdrew our offer on the other house, I just wanted to take a break for a year but no, constant viewings of houses I really didn't want to buy. And when I refused to go to some of the open houses, he would get mad at me.

It has been like October the last few days. Nice and cool, perfect for running and biking. Too cool for the cloud of biting flies that trail me on hot days landing in my hair. I kill them before they have a chance to bite but I am left with a head full of dead flies. They occasionally take chunks out of other exposed spots but they usually target my head.

The hummingbirds continue their wars. At any one time, I can see 3 or 4 chasing each other or seeing them perched on the tree outside my window with them watching their perceived domains. Wasps are also their enemy. I've cut down the amount of wasps by applying a thin coat of oil around the ports. Wasps presumably hate oil on their legs. Most of the interesting birds are gone except for the goldfinches. A female oriole did land on my hummingbird feeder yesterday while I sat on the bed a few feet away but she was spooked when she saw me. I've been putting suet cakes out in the hopes of eventually attracting the woodpeckers. Th cardinals love them too but the sparrows are still around and eat it up. The days are shorter and summer is quickly disappearing. I do love fall but as it is a segue to bleak winter, I dread it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Propranolol and cancer survival

I do have a few roses though the Japanese beetles are tough on them

Weird seed pods of love-in-the-mist
Garden: things are too close together and I have too many sunflowers
2 days of tomatoes plus one squash
new necklace plus candy pink nails
Yesterday I was reading in the WSJ of a study in which patients undergoing chemo for ovarian cancer were divided into 2 groups: some were given the beta blocker propranolol and the other ones were not.
Median survival to death for the control:42 months
Median survival for the propranolol group: 93 months
This is significant though the death rate remained the same, the beta blocker group survived more than 4 years longer. What is propranolol? Not a cancer drug though if any new cancer drug improved survival so much, it would be approved in a heartbeat. Propranolol is a very old drug. It is mainly prescribed to treat heartbeat irregularities, mainly tachycardia but it has many other uses, prevention of migraines, lowering of blood pressure, treatment of excess sweating inhibition of certain anxieties(stage fright in particular), treatment of essential tremor and treatment of post traumatic syndrome. It even has limited use as an antimalarial. My favorite use (aside from extending the lives of cancer patients) is that it reduces racism. People who took it in one study had less negative stereotypes than those that didn't take it.

Why would it increase survival in ovarian cancer? As it turns out, stress hormones, norepinephrine in particular, act as growth factors for tumors. Propranolol, among its many actions, reduces this hormone so the tumors do not grow as fast. Is this specific for ovarian cancer? No as it turns out. Numerous studies have been done in breast cancer with very promising results (see Komen Page). Some of these studies are 9 years old meaning I should have noticed this before. I would have insisted on taking it while doing chemo. Is there a downside to propranolol? Well it lowers blood pressure significantly, maybe too much and it slows the heart rate considerably. Also it can cause swelling of extremities. I did take it for a few months to lower my heartrate when I had thyroid storm due to Graves Disease. It also interferes with the metabolism of the thyroid hormone which may be a problem . But the side effects seem slight versus some of the drugs given with much less results.

Will this drug be approved for this indication? Probably not as it is off patent and no company will put the work into having it approved with no payback. However doctors are free to prescribe it for any indication they believe is medically helpful.

My friend waiting for her bone marrow transplant got some good news: her brother is a match (only 25% of siblings are matches). Survival is much higher for related donors than non-related donors so that is good news.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What the pho?

What the pho? is the aptly named travel blog of Josh's high school buddy. He has travelled many places and always writes a blog. He is an interesting writer  In the following post, he gives a brief history of the Vietnamese War.(

His blog on his experiences of living in South Africa inspired me to keep a travel blog when I had my summer abroad experience in Abruzzo, Italy.

Some of his photos:


Sunday, August 23, 2015


Buckingham Fountain

Navy Pier

 The first 4 photos are from Naomi who texted me often yesterday as she was by herself in a big city. Plus my distraught friend trying to help her sister kept messaging me for advice and to vent. Between the two of them, my phone was constantly going off.

A new bird for me this morning that I spotted on my bike ride: a belted kingfisher on a wire poised over a stream just a half mile from my house. As I screeched to a stop to take its photo, it flew away. So close.

Very nice weather. If summer could just stay like this though we are about to be stormed upon. Good because I was too lazy to water my new plantings at the other house. According to our Showing Time app, someone saw the house today, hopefully the promising couple.

Shanna brought the kids over followed by Josh and Allie. Allie and Tess enjoy playing together riding the little tyke cars up and down the driveway. Tess has mastered the ziggle but Allie hasn't figured it out yet.

New treat: salted caramel bread pudding from Trader Joe's. We snacked on this all afternoon until it disappeared. Even the grandbabies likes it especially with whipped cream.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Missing Primary

fuzzy skyline shot by Naomi

Naomi a zillion stories up in the Sears Tower. Don't like her expression but love the kid's next to her

a long way down
the Cloud at Millennium  Park
Craft fair I biked to this morning Bought a handmade necklace from a sweet old lady named Muriel. This is one name that did not come back. Also got a molten in the sun brownie. Very tasty. I suggested she move the brownies out of the sun
Salem Stone school where the fair was at

Sometimes one is diagnosed with breast cancer only when it has spread all over the place with no sign of a lump in the breast. A childhood friend's younger sister was recently misdiagnosed with lung cancer by a local yokel doctor. When a tumor pressing upon her spine made it difficult to walk, sit, lie down, live...she decided to go to a cancer center,  MD Anderson in Texas to see what was really going on and discovered that she does not have lung cancer but breast cancer mets in her lungs and her bones. They are using radiation to shrink the largest, most distressing tumors. My friend asked me what hopeful things she can tell her sister. Only they can keep extending her life until they can't and new things pop up all the time.
My friend had 5 younger siblings, the youngest of whom I babysat for when I was 11 and he was a 5 pound newborn. Cloth diapers used to be 4 foot squares that you folded repeatedly until they were the right size making it thicker in front for boys. I was told that the cloth could not touch his cord (never had seen one before, my brother's must have fallen off in the hospital) making my task more complicated. He was so tiny. Then I had to stick safety pins through about 12 layers of fabric. No wonder babies were toilet trained so early in the 50s and 60s. Very motivated parents.
I only remember the woman with cancer as an adorable little girl 7 years younger than myself. In my mind, she is pretty little  giggling 4 year old not  as an engineer in her mid-fifties and a mother to 2 teenagers.
I have been hearing roosters crowing. Steve can't hear them (as he is deaf! and won't wear his hearing aids) and assumes it is my imagination. But I found one of the roosters running loose on my running route today crowing for his flock I think he is a Rhode Island  Red (my friend had them until a raccoon  wiped them all out). The flock must contain another rooster who was answering his crows but he was too stupid to go towards the crowing. Flocks should not contain more than one rooster. Maybe the flock kicked him out. After my run, off on a short bike ride to buy my necklace and eat my messy brownie. Then a trip to the old house to plant extra hostas in the space that the shed used to be  while Steve mowed the lawn. While I was there, a young woman stopped by wanting to see the house. So I gave a tour. She seemed really interested in buying it and presumably will come back with her family and Realtor. So here's hoping. Over the last 2 days, we had 4 viewings but still no offers.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cosmos, Orioles and Talking Statues

My stylized cat and iris lithograph. It was covered in dirt but there was an easy fix for that.
We once had a cat, Sasha, who looked very much like the drawing. He lived to be 22.

I bought this for the frame and matting. Not sure if it's a photograph or lithograph Will look nice in one of the bathrooms
one of the glass pieces we bought in Washington

I hit the resale shops yesterday looking for small ornate mirrors for a project. Found none but did find some picture frames and the two prints above. They also had a nice marble table with ornate wrought iron legs that I was undecided about. I sent Steve to fetch it today but alas, it was gone. Then off to a visit with one friend and then on to a visit with another where we sipped cosmos while watching the antics of several pairs of orioles on her property.
Naomi is off on her first vacation in a long time and first one without me. At some point, she will be by herself in downtown Chicago. I did equip her with a map though she has been there with me several times. There are numerous statues throughout the city but these have a new twist: if you scan a bar code with a smartphone, they will speak to you in the voices of several well known actors. We will see how many she can find.
So cool and dry, perfect for me the heat hater. On my 16 mile bike ride this morning, I stopped to take a picture. No phone! Good thing I didn't have a flat. Later I went to the Italian market with a friend for lunch and to buy some goodies.


Blog Archive