Quickly recapping some recent reads and listens:
Frans de Waal asks the question Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? and the book provides many interesting examples of observing a variety of species as well as a history of the evolution of ideas about animals. A section on octopuses led me to read the next book.
Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus largely involves her time interacting with fascinating octopuses at the New England Aquarium which I visited several times during my Boston years. Usually I was only there to go on a whale watch but the book still felt like a visit home. I enjoyed this book except that it didn’t examine the ethical issue of keeping obviously intelligent animals captive even after the death of one who escaped the aquarium tank. She does ask the question of someone who captures wild octopuses for aquariums—no surprise what his opinion is.
Yellowstone Standoff by Scott Graham is a rather silly mystery in which wolves and grizzlies team up against humans after being microchipped by a mad scientist type. I read it because of the title and it was another quick visit to my past.
I generally finish TC Boyle’s novels without considering them among the best I’ve ever read, but I always keep an eye out for the next one because he chooses subjects which interest me. His latest, The Terranauts, is based on Biosphere 2, the ecological and sociological experiment from the 1990s.
Engineering Eden by Jordan Fisher Smith includes a subtitle referring to a violent death (by grizzly) and trial (lawsuit against NPS) to try to make it seem more exciting to the average reader but it’s primarily an environmental history of how nature has been managed in national parks. There’s a lot going on in this book—too much really, as it constantly jumps from one subject to another. Despite the author’s efforts, I don’t share his opinion; working in Yellowstone left me with no sympathy for people who die as a result of rule-breaking bad choices. Looking through the book’s notes led me to a great discovery—this NPS online resource of historical documents organized by park: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/parkhistories.htm
I was facing some days at home after surgery last week and decided it was time to reconnect to the internet. One of the first things I did was research the dozens of books on High Country News’s recent list and added several to my library holds list. http://www.hcn.org/issues/48.19/recommended-reading-to-take-you-into-the-next-year
Despite always looking for new books to read, time may be getting short (sure, I’ve got 23 years left according to the stat charts, but those don’t factor in things like eyesight or comprehension or homelessness or Trump). I think it’s time to return to Thoreau and some favorite field guides to relive the places of my life such as Sierra Club’s Southern New England and North Woods, and Peterson’s Eastern and Rocky Mountain Forests.
While being internet-free at home for the past six months and inspired by blog reader Jain, I’d download podcasts at the library to listen to later.
Outside/In is described as a podcast about the natural world and how we use it. I wind up liking about half the episodes. It’s often too goofy for its own good but it comes from New Hampshire Public Radio so sometimes feels like another dose of (past) local flavor for me.
Home of the Brave has varied topics but most recently did a three part series on grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem (which included comments from Doug Peacock and David Quammen and has great photos online too). There’s an old interview with Charles Bowden also.
Out of the Past is a series of commentaries on film noir movies. It’s usually more academic than I’d prefer, bringing me back to my unpleasant year as a grad student in English when I was taught that every novel written in the 18th century was a metaphor. But I prefer to think back on my time in the darkness of Cambridge’s Brattle Theatre where I originally saw most of these films.
You Must Remember This is also about the film world, specifically Hollywood’s first century, including a sixteen-part series about the blacklist.
If after the most recent election, you’re already longing for a time when good people ran the government, The West Wing Weekly is running through the old tv series episode by episode. One of the cohosts was in the cast, and guests have included other cast members and real life politicians and scientists.
Inspired by that podcast, I started looking for others based on favorite old tv series. I found a fairly new one about Buffy the Vampire Slayer but after a few episodes decided it wasn’t for me. I then discovered another podcast about the series which has been running much longer and seems like it might be more to my taste, called Dusted.
And of course, if you don’t catch them on the radio, you can find Fresh Air and This American Life episodes online as well.
Four ships on the Lake this morning,
Bald eagle in a tree above, harassed by crows.
Tin soldiers and Trump is coming,
Amerikkka’s reality TV,
Kardashian VP? No need,
First lady has fake bimbo covered.
O Canada, my cries of passion,
Grab me by the penis,
Annex me! Annex me! Annex me!
I’m no fan of Clinton; only something like Trump could have made me vote for her. He is scum, ignorant and incompetent, and completely unqualified for the job.
This is a very dangerous moment in history, a go back in time and kill Hitler moment. Unfortunately, most of the gun nuts voted for him.
I’ve never had a high opinion of the U.S. public, but it’s never been lower.
Thirteen grizzlies together? Obviously, they’re Cubs fans.
It all began with dark brown urine, something I’d never experienced or even heard of before. That was late Monday afternoon. I made a trip to the library that evening to look up dark brown urine causes on the internet and found a long list of options ranging from a few foods to cancer and liver failure, and suggesting a doctor be contacted, especially if it lasted more than a day. Unfortunately, I hadn’t eaten any of the foods.
Back home, I collected some urine, found dark solid flecks in the liquid and decided I’d be calling a doctor in the morning. The next day, everything was back to normal so, being a man, I put it off but the color returned Wednesday evening and I again planned a morning call. Shortly before midnight, I was woken by the pain of a kidney stone, a familiar pain which was oddly somewhat of a relief but since I’d never had this urine color before I still wondered if something more serious was happening. I thought back to the most recent stone pain in the middle of the night about five years ago while working in Yellowstone which occasioned a sixty mile ambulance ride at 3 AM while avoiding elk on the road.
I made it through a long night of pain-induced shivering and vomiting, catching brief moments of sleep while tightly clutching a stuffed animal between trips to the bathroom. By Thursday morning I was worn out and decided I’d make the ten block bus ride to medical treatment. I called and found out that the urgent care center didn’t open until ten, later than I wanted to wait. I called internal medicine to try to see someone sooner but was told they had no available appointments so I was off to the emergency room where I traded a urine sample for a blue plastic bag to vomit in and began to wait.
After longer than I’d expected (I’d begun pacing against the discomfort), I got past the waiting room to a private room, changed into a robe, and said yes when asked if I wanted a blanket. Time passed, pain increased leading to more shivering but no blanket appeared so I eventually had to ring for one. More time passed and a couple people came in with equipment and I said this was what I was waiting for, thinking I was about to get pain relief but they were only there to take blood. More time passed and I was wheeled off to be scanned, still with no fluids or medicine being put into me, shivering and hiccupping, and accumulated more blankets–I was up to five. After the technician managed to get a scan just before another hiccup, I asked if he was a baseball fan, trying to get an update since it had been days since I’d used the internet or heard scores, but he had no info for me.
Back to my room where I finally got an IV and some dope which induced another round of vomiting and, losing the pain and in a bed for the first time in months, fell asleep for a couple hours. When I woke, pain was starting to return, I skimmed through the television and got some baseball news, a doctor came in for the first time, I had to make a couple requests to get to a bathroom (not good treatment for an old guy with a kidney stone and big prostate). I’m not a pushy guy and my assumption was that they were busy, so my second requests for a blanket and a bathroom had allowed them plenty of time to get to me. When I later told someone about my plan to write about my seven hours in the emergency room as low man on the triage totem pole, he wondered if that was due to medical reasons or insurance reasons (I have Medicaid coverage). The second possibility hadn’t even occurred to me, but maybe I’m just not cynical enough. Nah, that can’t be it.
When the orderly finally arrived to point me to a bathroom, he carried the empty IV bag attached to me. When the doctor came in, I asked for more pain medication and he requested it. He told me I had a large kidney stone and he had called a urologist for advice about whether I would need a stent inserted but hadn’t had a response yet. Forty minutes later, I still hadn’t received more drugs and only did when the doctor passed by again and told someone specifically to do it.
Next I was moved to a different room which doubled as a supply closet so I had many visitors. By this time I finally had a new IV bag and more dope so I didn’t mind and was trying to amuse myself with the television. I’d had enough sleep and pain relief that I was more aware of my situation so I requested that the doctor stop by when possible. When he did and verified that the urine color was due to blood from the stone and there was not a more serious issue showing up in test results, I said I’d prefer trying to pass the stone rather than have surgery. After he talked to a urologist who set an appointment for me in the morning, I was on my way home with prescriptions for pain, nausea, and infection.
That evening a sharp pain near my hip and a spurt of fresh blood in my urine told me that the stone had moved and I thought the worst was over. Friday morning when the urologist showed up, we looked at the scan and he said that rather than one large stone, I had two. So surgery wasn’t needed but more pain lay ahead. I spoke a bit about my emergency room experience and though we both expressed understanding for their busyness, even he shook his head when hearing that fluids hadn’t been pumped in nonstop.
The two-stone theory was verified Saturday afternoon when I was in excruciating back pain at home for about an hour and experienced the most impressive vomiting I’d seen since The Exorcist. I considered options for getting back to the hospital—ambulance, bus, cab, neighbor—and packed a small bag while pacing and gasping and sweating and shivering and practicing my speech to the imaginary medical staff—just keep filling me with fluid and dope. Ultimately, I decided there was no point in going back since I couldn’t count on prompt or quality care so I just rode it out.
Several waves of less serious pain followed Sunday as the stone began to move, and I think there is still more to come.
As I mentioned, I’ve been through this before, and emergency room treatment of kidney stones should be simple and has followed the same basic pattern in all my past experiences—put the patient in a corner with a pot to piss in, pump full of fluids and medication to push the stone and kill the pain until it gets past the narrow spots, then send home pain-free. This time I was failed on all counts and have had additional pain and lost days of work as a result.
I didn’t see this moose in Duluth (but then I may be the only person who hasn’t seen a black bear in town even though I’ve gone looking for them) which was at the east end of town about 45 blocks from my home (Duluth is essentially a few blocks wide and a few miles long–where I’ve been working is 85 blocks in the other direction), but it gets the town on the level of Bozeman where I saw a moose in a park near the library, much closer to downtown.
Pause for moose memories–in Yellowstone, a bull’s head visible in Floating Island Lake, and a cow walking near Trout Lake; in Grand Teton, a bull, cow, and calf near the Cascade Canyon trail.
For anyone interested in what nature’s doing here, there’s a Facebook group Duluth Phenology which is where I learned of the moose. There are lots of photos as well as reports, photos you’re unlikely to see here anymore. I took some photos on a favorite hike (and had to push my old body to complete it) a month ago but wasn’t happy with any of them. So I got home and tried the other camera and remembered that it doesn’t focus at all anymore.
It’s raptor migration season–I doubt I’ll make it up to Hawk Ridge but I did get a good luck at a couple turkey vultures soaring over a bus stop this morning. Lots of yellow and red appearing among the still mostly green leaves, and it was a lovely mix of sun, clouds, sky and Lake this morning.