Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Connections, Failure, Feedback, Humor, Predictions, Publishing, Science Fiction, tech | Tags: art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, calfskin, Communion of Dreams, goatskin, jim downey, Kickstarter, leather, Legacy Bookbindery, literature, Peter Haigh, predictions, Science Fiction, technology, WIlliamson Oak
My, how time flies …
I’m a little startled to discover that it’s been three years since I last posted about doing the leather bindings for the custom edition of Communion of Dreams. No, I know it’s been a while — but I have been giving this binding a lot of thought, so it seems like it was still a recent ‘pending’ project. I liked the idea of using the sewing structure to incorporate classic raised leather cords on the spine of the book, but I just didn’t like the sparseness of the rest of the cover design. The initial tests were OK, but the more I thought about them, the less satisfied I was with what the final product would be. The problem was that while the cords under leather gave a nice tactile effect, there wasn’t enough detail possible.
So I kept trying to figure out how to keep the relief I liked but to get more definition. I won’t go through all the different iterations of ideas I considered, but there were a lot, mostly along the lines of trying different ways of mounting different weights of cord/string or molding/engraving the board under the leather. But each approach failed to give me the definition I wanted. Worse, each one felt further and further removed from the image of the “Williamson Oak” by Peter Haigh I had used for the paperback/printed hardcover/website.
Then recently another bookbinding project got me to thinking about using something like a woodcut as a way to make an impression on a leather cover, and I realized that I had gotten so set on the idea of using the raised cords of the sewing structure as the basis for the rest of the cover texture I hadn’t considered the possibility of impressing the leather rather than trying to raise it. What would be required would be to make a plate which would press down most of the leather, leaving the design I wanted alone so that it would stand up (and out).
So that what I tried today. Here’s how I did a quick test:
That’s my high-tech, fancy “polymer plate” … also known as a plastic cutting board. I did a quick sketch on it with a marker, then carved into it using a couple of different cutting heads on a Dremel tool.
Then I mounted a piece of goatskin and a piece of calfskin onto some bookboard, got it good and damp, and then pressed it quickly in one of my book presses. Here are the results:
This was just a trial to see if my press would generate sufficient pressure, and if the plate would hold up to it. I am very happy with how well they turned out, and I learned what I need to change for the final version (such as smoothing out the surface of the plate, adding more detail and title, and — oh, yeah — reversing the image).
So, progress! Hey, it only took three years for me to get past my perceptual bias …😉
Filed under: Connections, Failure, Feedback, Health, Humor, Society, Survival | Tags: atherosclerosis, blogging, choice, diet, exercise, health, http://despair.com, humor, jim downey, Limitations, luck, motivational, penguins, science, society, stent, technology, Wikipedia
No, this is not about the ongoing fiasco which is the TSA. But it certainly could be.
Rather, it’s a chuckle I thought I would share about my cardiac rehab sessions. Remember those? I started them about a month ago, with all the expected advice about diet and exercise. Since then, except for a trip to California to visit family early this month, I’ve been a good boy about going to my sessions and putting in the time and effort to meet the goals they have for people who had a couple of stents installed like I had.
Actually, let me amend that: I met all the goals they have set with my first workout session. As in, for where they want you to be at the end of 36 rehab sessions. Today, at my tenth such session I hit twice those goals. That isn’t to say that I am some perfect physical example of athletic prowess; rather, it’s that typically when people have the procedure I had done, it’s usually because they have systemic atherosclerosis with all the problems that entails. I had a genetic defect. And while I am overweight and out of shape, I’ve managed to avoid the real damage of cardiovascular disease.
Anyway, I’ve been going to rehab 2 – 3 times a week, in addition to my regular morning walks and other yard/garden work. Frankly, I mostly hate it. I hate the TVs which are always on, tuned to some inane morning show. I hate the cheery encouragement of the nurses, particularly when they want to go over yet another handout they have about reading food labels and strategies for managing portion control when eating out. And I hate the pap of “motivational posters” featuring lovely outdoor images (which are fine) with mostly trite inspirational phrases in a very distinct typographical style. There are about a dozen of these things on the walls, mixed in with yet more posters about diet strategies and charts showing exertion and pain levels.
… I noticed this one, lost in among all the others:
It’s a little hard to read, with all the reflection/distortions, but it says: “Limitations. Until you spread your wings, you’ll have no idea how far you can walk.”
I think that this is absolutely hilarious.
I don’t know whether it was slipped in there by someone as a joke which no one else has ever caught, or it was seeded among the others to give cynical bastards like me a chuckle, but it works. I get a laugh out of it every time I go to rehab. It makes the grim process of exercising slightly less annoying. And I think that is wonderful.
Filed under: Emergency, Health, Preparedness, SCA, Survival, Violence | Tags: cane, cardiac stent, D.I.Y., defensive, health, Preparedness, SCA, self-defense, survival, violence, walking stick
(So, been a while, eh? Yeah, it has. But no worries, things have been going very well, through a lot of minor and not-so-minor changes. More about all of that will emerge as I get back into regular blogging — you’ll see.)
A few weeks back a friend posted a question to a discussion group along these lines: what was a good, basic self-defense item which you could have under most situations which would be innocuous yet effective?
But after a bit, a general consensus which emerged was that a walking stick or cane would fit the bill. And people posted links to various such items, ranging from the very basic to the traditional to the ultra-modern. There are a HUGE selection of different options out there, if you just do a search for one. Looking through a bunch of different choices, I got to thinking that it should be pretty easy for anyone with minimal woodworking skills to make their own walking stick to their own specs, for a lot less than most of the items was seeing cost.
So I set out to see what it would take. And I set my goals:
- The stick should be made from readily available materials, with minimal tools.
- It should be completely free of all metal, so as not to arouse suspicions when being scanned.
- It should look and function as a real walking aid, not just a disguised cudgel.
- It should nonetheless be an effective defensive tool.
- It should cost $25 or less.
I stopped by a local home improvement store, and found the following:
That’s a 1.125″ rubber foot for about 50 cents, a wooden (oak) decorative cap (finial) that was about $4, and a hickory replacement handle for a sledgehammer or axe for about $14. Here’s another pic:
I chose hickory because it is well known to be a hard, dense wood. Next pic:
I removed the metal screw from the finial, then used a spade bit to expand the hole to about an inch. I used a wood rasp to make the mounting end of the replacement handle likewise about an inch in diameter.
Then I added some wood glue, and tapped the finial onto the replacement handle.
I did the basic shaping of the finial into a knob suitable for my (large) hand.
Here’s the top of the finial. I inserted a bit of .375″ dowel into the hole with some wood glue, then allowed it to dry. When it was dry, I rasped the whole thing down to a smooth hemisphere about the size of a tennis ball.
That’s the overall stick. It’s about 37.5″. Note that it is no longer quite the same size or shape of an axe handle — I spent an hour or so with the wood rasp, and took it down a fair amount. There it’s smooth, mostly uniform (no longer has as much of a swell in the wood up by the head), and about .25″ narrower and thinner.
This just shows the finished width of the handle — about 1.5″. It’s also just about 1.25″ thick. Both of those dimensions are a little larger than your typical commercially-available cane, but it no longer looks like an axe handle. After I was done with the rasp, I smoothed it out with some 60-grit sandpaper, then some 120-grit, then some 220-grit. I wanted it smooth and ‘finished’, but wasn’t worried about it being super smooth.
I then gave it three coats of urethane stain (dark walnut), sanding lightly between each with 600-grit sandpaper. Then I added the rubber foot and a simple braided leather lanyard.
Another detail of the head.
Holding it with the lanyard around my wrist.
That’s it. Simple, effective cane/walking stick. Nothing metal or high-tech about it to alert someone that it is anything other than a walking stick. Total cost under $20, since I already had some simple tools, sandpaper, and stain on hand. And a total of a couple hours of labor.
Something I want to note: the handpiece/finial is not intended as a striking surface. You don’t need any additional bulk or weight there for this to be a very effective defensive tool. It’s more like the pommel on a sword. In fact, the overall length, heft, and other measurements is very similar to the rattan broadsword used in SCA combat. As such, I know full well just how effective such a tool can be against another opponent in even confined spaces. And now that I’m an old guy with a couple of cardiac stents in place, I need a good walking stick with me no matter where I go …
Filed under: Brave New World, Connections, Failure, Feedback, General Musings, Health, Predictions, Preparedness, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech | Tags: atherosclerosis, blogging, choice, diet, echocardiography, electrocardiography, exercise, health, jim downey, luck, privilege, science, Science Fiction, society, stent, technology, Wikipedia
I got an object lesson in privilege yesterday. My privilege.
I went in for my first session/assessment for cardiac rehab, following the stent procedure I had two weeks ago. The RN who did my assessment had been a cardiac surgery nurse, and knew her stuff. She also had all of my medical records pertaining to my procedure, and was completely familiar with my overall health and particularly my cardiac health (which, as I have mentioned previously, is actually really good).
We went through what is the normal procedure for such things: I got hooked up to a heart monitor, she checked my blood oxygenation, my blood pressure, my pulse. All were excellent. Then we went through my exercise and dietary habits in pretty thorough detail, discussing the few points where my eating habits deviate from ‘accepted medical recommendations’ (which are actually just ‘outdated medical recommendations’ such as limiting how many eggs you eat in a week to just one or two) according to the forms she had to fill out. All that was routine, and the same material I had been over with at least half a dozen other medical professionals in the last month.
Then we got into discussing just exactly what the condition of my heart now was, and what was recommended to help me improve it, post-procedure. She started out with the model heart on the desk, relating it to how my own chart compared, and complimented me again on the fact that I basically have no other evidence of atherosclerosis or plaque build-up anywhere in my heart other than the one problem section of my RCA that they stented. She said something to the effect of “genetics plays a role, but undoubtedly your regular walking every morning for the last decade has made a huge difference.”
“I’m lucky. I’ve been able to arrange my life so that I could take the time out to do that, for the last dozen years or so,” I said.
She nodded. “A wise choice.”
“Well, not one a lot of people can make. Most people can’t just schedule an hour for daily exercise. Like I said, I’m lucky. Very lucky. ”
“True,” she said. “But I always tell people that whether or not to exercise is a choice they make.”
I paused, considered, then nodded. We went on with the rest of the assessment.
Why did I hesitate? Because in that moment — in her statement of my ‘choice’ — lies a perfect summation of my privilege.
I’m a ‘virtuous patient’, in the eyes of most of the medical community. I’m a nice guy, who is well educated, professional. I exercise regularly, eat (relatively) healthily, don’t smoke at all, and rarely drink to excess. I maintain good social integration, and work to have a happy marriage and a good support network of friends. I even floss more than is probably average.
So, since I do all those things, in their eyes the quirk of a fault that is my kinked coronary artery isn’t really my fault. It’s just a small bit of bad luck. A small bit which can be forgiven, because I make a lot of ‘good’ choices about how I go through life.
But while I have indeed made a number of choices which can be considered to be virtuous, my privilege lies in having been able to make those choices. Realistically, how many people who are earning minimum wage are able to plan to go walking through their neighborhood (or at the local YMCA or city activity center or mall) every morning? How many people living in a food desert have access to plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables? How many people who are actually obese (I need to lose a good 50 – 60 pounds to be at my ideal weight), would be perceived as being lazy rather than working to maintain good health? How many people have the formal education and time to stay on top of modern medical research and discussion of best practices such that they can discuss the nuances of diet and exercise and the role it plays in cardiac rehabilitation?
I could go on and on. But I’ll refrain. For those who are already concerned with such matters, it isn’t necessary. And for those who seldom or ever consider how privilege affects health, it won’t be sufficient. However, perhaps a few people — you? — will take the opportunity that my privilege has presented to realize that how we judge the choices of others comes mostly from how we perceive them as people.
Filed under: Brave New World, Connections, General Musings, Health, Predictions, Science, Survival, tech | Tags: atherosclerosis, blogging, echocardiography, electrocardiography, health, jim downey, luck, music, Pink Floyd, science, Science Fiction, stent, technology, Wikipedia
As of Thursday, I had passed the week-long “don’t exert yourself” mandate following the cardiac stents installation. There wasn’t any worry about how my heart would do, just that I needed to let the puncture in my femoral artery heal completely.
And as I resumed my normal activities, I realized that things had, indeed, changed. Significantly. For the better.
Which was a little confusing, initially. Because as I had noted, I wasn’t feeling particularly poorly or limited prior to the procedure. In fact, as I said in my previous posts, there were no real indications that I had much of a problem. That was because overall my heart was very strong, and was perfectly capable of dealing with the blood demands of my body in almost everything I had wanted to do. It wasn’t until the very upper end of the stress echocardiogram that there was objective evidence of a possible blockage. The ultrasound imagery showed that the lower part of my heart wasn’t doing much work — the upper 2/3 of the heart did almost everything. That was because of the 95%+ blockage of the lower part of the RCA.
But what has become clear to me in the last few days, as I upped my exercise activity significantly, is that having 2/3 of my heart handle all the work of the whole heart meant that it was working harder all the time, if only just to push enough blood into the lower heart muscle to keep it alive and healthy. And now it no longer needs to do that.
The result is I feel a lot more energetic, and less tired at the end of the day. I feel, already, like I am ten years younger. I suspect that as the virtuous cycle continues to build on itself, that even that situation will improve. Exercising (walking every morning, doing yardwork for 60-90 minutes several times a week) takes less effort, and is more productive — which will help me lose weight and strengthen the muscles in the rest of my body. I recover from those exercise sessions faster, and can get more accomplished overall.
While I didn’t realize it while it was happening, I had been increasingly constrained and drained of energy. That constraint is now largely gone. Amazing what a couple of inches of steel mesh tubing can do in the right place.
Filed under: Brave New World, Connections, General Musings, Health, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech | Tags: atherosclerosis, blogging, echocardiography, electrocardiography, health, heart attack, jim downey, luck, masculinity, miracles, myocardial infarction, science, Science Fiction, stent, technology, Wikipedia
This is a follow-up to my previous post.
I just sent the following message to my primary care doctor:
I wanted to take a moment and thank you. Your recommendation that I take an echo stress test likely saved my life.
You’ll probably get the cardiac cath results from Dr W, but it may not include an observation he made when he first examined me: that had I come to his practice for a routine exam, presenting the same symptoms I told you, he probably would not have suspected such a serious condition. But the echo stress test clearly demonstrated that there was a major problem. And that the cath procedure showed just how bad it was: 95-99% blockage in the lower part of my RCA.
The seriousness of that condition was masked by my overall/otherwise heart strength. But it could have *very* easily resulted in a serious M.I. or even death. Had you not picked up on the subtle indications we discussed, and taken the prudent step of recommending the echo stress test, my true heart condition may not have been discovered until it was far too late.
So, thank you. Your intelligence, education, and experience probably have added decades to my life.
Why am I sharing this?
Because I got extremely lucky. And I want others to benefit from that luck, and my experience, if possible.
As it turns out, the overall condition of my heart is remarkably good. The strength and efficiency of that muscle is at the very top range for normal healthy people, or at the lower end you’d find in a serious athlete. Furthermore, there are no other indications of atherosclerosis or plaque build-up.
However, due to either a genetic or developmental defect, the lower part of my RCA is badly kinked/convoluted, creating a situation where eddies in the blood circulation form, and allowing what plaque I do have in my system to accumulate, like a sandbar will develop as a result of a bend in a river. In my case, that accumulation had progressed to the point where just the slightest additional clump of plaque could have closed off the artery completely, allowing a part of my heart to die. That’s a classic heart attack, folks.
But the strength of my heart overall was such that it almost completely masked the condition of my RCA. It wasn’t until I was up to about 90% of my heart rate maximum while taking the stress test that indications of the problem surfaced. And even then, just how bad the situation was wasn’t fully known until the cath procedure was done. But when the cardiologist went in and directly observed the condition of my coronary arteries, he saw the problem. And with about 90 minutes of hard work, corrected it with a couple of long cardiac stents.
That was just three days ago. I actually left the hospital the next morning, and have been playing catch-up on things since then.
Think about that: for 90 minutes, a team of medical professionals were playing roto-rooter with the inside of a major artery of my heart. I was completely awake and unsedated through the whole thing. The next day I left the hospital, walking on my own without difficulty. This morning I got in my usual morning walk of a mile. For about another week I have to take it a little easy, to let the puncture site in my femoral artery completely heal, and for the next year I need to take blood thinners, but otherwise I don’t need extraordinary care.
That’s pretty miraculous, in my opinion. One of the everyday miracles which surround us, and which we seldom give due consideration. Stuff that not too long ago would have been considered science fiction.
Anyway, here’s my advice, though you’ve heard it before: pay attention to your body. Don’t succumb to toxic masculinity. Or, if you’re a woman, to the illusion that you’re immune. If you think that something is going on, get it checked out. A little embarrassment at being wrong beats dying.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Brave New World, Connections, General Musings, Health, Music, Science, Society, Survival, tech | Tags: Affordable Care Act, Alzheimer's, blogging, care-giving, echocardiography, electrocardiography, health, heart attack, Her Final Year, jim downey, luck, masculinity, music, Pink Floyd, Roberto A. Ferdman, science, technology, Washington Post, Wikipedia
“Well, I’d hate for you to have a heart attack,” said my doctor. She was standing against the wall in the small exam room, arms folded in a classic body language message of being skeptical about what I had just said.
* * * * * * *
I wrote this in September 2007:
And as I stood there at the sink, washing the dishes, thinking favorably on the option of having a heart attack, it sunk in that I was done. I mean, I’d been considering that a heart attack might be the best solution to my problems. Yeah, a heart attack. Hell, at 49, I’d probably survive it. It’d come as no surprise to anyone, given the kind of physiological and psychological stress I’m under. No one could blame me for no longer being a care-provider for someone with Alzheimer’s. Hey, it might even get someone to think about noticing my writing, since a tragic character (whether alive or dead) always gets more notice as an artist than does someone who has their life, and their shit, together.
That was a few months before our care-giving journey ended, and Martha Sr passed away. For those who don’t know the story, I was able to re-center, and continue with my role as a care-provider the next day. The following year was spent recovering from the stresses of that role, and getting my shit back together. Because in spite of the perspective indicated in the final sentence of the passage above, my hold on things wasn’t nearly as solid as I thought at the time.
Such is often the case. I think it’s a defense mechanism, with more than a little toxic-masculinity.
* * * * * * *
Did I say toxic-masculinity? Why yes, I did. Such as in this timely article:
Men, in short, are less likely to seek preventive care than women and more likely to put off seeing a doctor when in need of medical care. They also prefer to seek out male doctors, but they tend to underreport pain and injuries to male doctors, thereby compromising the chances of receiving optimal care. And all of this, it should be said, is particularly true among those men who prescribe to masculine ideologies.
“Masculine men tend to not go to the doctor, and when they do, they tend to pick male doctors whom they then underreport their ailments to,” Sanchez said.
* * * * * * *
We recently had a change in our financial situation, thanks to the sale of some property we owned. That, combined with the protections of the ACA which mean you can’t be as easily penalized for a pre-existing condition, made it a lot easier for me to make the decision to having something checked by my doctor.
Howso? Well, our income has never been huge. In fact, it’s always been pretty modest, though in recent years it has gotten better and become more stable. But still, if I had something turn up which required me to miss a significant period of work, or which came with a large insurance co-pay for treatment, we would have lost what progress we had made. And not having to worry about having a documented ‘serious health issue’ mess up my insurance coverage in the future is a huge relief.
In other words, I’m financially stable enough to get sick. Hell of a system, isn’t it?
* * * * * * *
“Well, I’d hate for you to have a heart attack,” said my doctor. She was standing against the wall in the small exam room, arms folded in a classic body language message of being skeptical about what I had just said.
Which was that I was reluctant to go see any medical specialist, since the way the system works it’s almost guaranteed that they would find something which needed ‘treatment’. After all, none of us are walking perfect models of health. And, as the old adage goes, never ask a barber if you need a haircut.
But I nodded my head, sitting there on the exam table. I had my shirt back on after they had done the in-office EKG, which showed that everything at present was OK, but that there were possible indications of problems in the recent past. And the very mild symptoms I had recently were possibly indicative of a coronary arterial blockage, and it runs in my family on my father’s side. “Yeah, me too. OK, go ahead and book me for a stress test.”
She nodded, we chatted some more, and she left.
I had the stress test last Friday. Got the call with the results yesterday.
No complete blockages. But some constrictions which need to be addressed. So yeah, sometime soon I’ll be seeing a cardiologist, and we’ll discuss options from there.
It’s not good news. But it’s not horrid news. After all, this is one of the most common medical problems around the world. So we’ll see what happens.
But I’m glad that I’m lucky enough to be in a position to have it found, treated (to whatever extent possible), and not worry about it completely ruining our financial situation. And I’m also glad that I’m not quite macho enough to think that I should ignore the classic symptoms, as mild as they were.
PS: if you feel the need to post a political comment related to the ACA … don’t. I’ll just delete it.