August 29, 2019

Great river quote

...from a great river book:

“There is an inherent, humbling cruelty to learning how to run white water. In most other so-called "adrenaline" sports—skiing, surfing and rock climbing come to mind—one attains mastery, or the illusion of it, only after long apprenticeship, after enduring falls and tumbles, the fatigue of training previously unused muscles, the discipline of developing a new and initially awkward set of skills.
Running white water is fundamentally different. With a little luck one is immediately able to travel long distances, often at great speeds, with only a rudimentary command of the sport's essential skills and about as much physical stamina as it takes to ride a bicycle downhill. At the beginning, at least, white-water adrenaline comes cheap.
It's the river doing the work, of course, but like a teenager with a hot car, one forgets what the true power source is. Arrogance reigns. The river seems all smoke and mirrors, lots of bark (you hear it chortling away beneath you, crunching boulders), but not much bite. You think: Let's get on with it! Let's run this damn river!
And then maybe the raft hits a drop in the river— say, a short, hidden waterfall. Or maybe a wave reaches up and flicks the boat on its side as easily as a horse swatting flies with its tail. Maybe you're thrown suddenly into the center of the raft, and the floor bounces back and punts you overboard. Maybe you just fall right off the side of the raft so fast you don't realize what's happening.
It doesn't matter. The results are the same.
The world goes dark. The river— the word hardly does justice to the churning mess enveloping you— the river tumbles you like so much laundry. It punches the air from your lungs. You're helpless. Swimming is a joke. You know for a fact that you are drowning. For the first time you understand the strength of the insouciant monster that has swallowed you.
Maybe you travel a hundred feet before you surface (the current is moving that fast). And another hundred feet—just short of a truly fearsome plunge, one that will surely kill you— before you see the rescue lines. You're hauled to shore wearing a sheepish grin and a look in your eye that is equal parts confusion, respect, and raw fear.
That is River Lesson Number One. Everyone suffers it. And every time you get the least bit cocky, every time you think you have finally figured out what the river is all about, you suffer it all over again.”
― Joe Kane, Running the Amazon

Nantahala rock/mud slides

As many of you know, the Nantahala river suffered rock and mud slides in 4 places this past Saturday.  This is a drone video of the area near Ferebee park.

The Log 2: Another Year

 ...this pretty much sums up what makes me happy:

August 22, 2019

Seasons, a gift of paddlesports

The different seasons and their message of the passage of time can be melancholy for us mortals, unless we consider them in the light of paddling whitewater in the glorious Southeastern United States.

Fall beckons us even now in the heat of August.  The place we practice rolling on the Cahaba is newly covered in leaves.  The air seems less humid.  And already I can feel the Nantahala in autumn; the Hiwassee in fall colors, the Ocoee in October crispness.  Campfires, wet gear hung to dry (it never does), cold beers and tall tales of the river adventures of the past, and of the day; plans to make new river stories the next day.   Football scores.  Guitars by the fire.  Fleece.  Cold air, warm sleeping bag. Warm socks.  Clear sky; meteor showers, milky way.

Winter, drysuit weather; December in Alabama the local water is coming up; the air is cool,  but the water is still somewhat warm.  We can even have 70F degree weather days in January; but we wear our drysuits for safety.  The Mulberry Fork and the Locust Fork of the Warrior River are the familiar backyard runs.  At higher water there are challenging spots in each.   The Alabama creeks arise -  Little River Canyon, crown jewel of Alabama;  South Sauty and Town creeks, Kelly creek; Calvert Prong; many others.  They range from class II-III to class V.  The trees are bare; sometimes icicles cover the rock walls.  In February it can be in the 30F range and the water is brilliant; it feels like little knife cuts as it splashes.  Everything, everything! is intense; the muted grey colors are even intense.  We slide off of wet rocks; we bash and tear down rock stairs on the creeks, and then again, run deep waves and troughs on high water Locust.  

Spring, fecund, soaked, saturated, greys turning to green and everything is running; sometimes too high, we call it high-water skunked; then again, rarely run options are available.  Water is still chilly; but getting warmer.  We can get away with wearing drytops and shorts, and maybe step up and run things we might feel a bit intimidated to do; but it's local water, the best water.  The riverbanks are crazy with things growing but they're not yet choked with blackberry thorns and rhodo.  We roll and roll and roll.  We celebrate having all the water, every day it makes us yearn for it as we go to work instead.  We surf ourselves silly.   Life is amazing.  

Summer, my favorite season, though the local water is gone; the heat is upon us and we have to drive to the dam release runs for whitewater.  But they are excellent destinations; and there is nothing better to me than the full sun, and the river.  Ocoee in shorts and a splash top.  Hiwassee with bald eagles, wave surfing, and kids learning to boat. Playboats.  Sunblock, Deet and sandals.  Summer is also the season for the annual Week of Rivers event near the Nantahala.   Smoky mountain love.  My heart's home.

August 21, 2019

Nighttime bugs

Tonight, the katydids are calling.  The cicadas were earlier in the evening.  
I love to hear these calls.   I love summer here in the South.

August 20, 2019

I love this song, too...

Good advice about end of life preparation

As my sister is in hospice care I can attest with experience that this article is spot on.

I like the “Niagara Falls trajectory”: To live as well as possible for as long as possible, followed by a rapid final decline.  It even has a pun in it.
I have a few thoughts to add from my experiences. There are going to be lots of surprises.  "Surprises" means, by their very nature, you can't prepare for them; but maybe I will be able to spare you a few dear reader.  
The system of password protected websites that we have now, is a nightmare for someone with cognitive issues, and for their loved ones who must untangle the mess.  Make a list of current passwords, or use a password manager like KeePassX, and put that information in a secure place where someone trusted can access it in need.
If you want certain things for your funeral etc., tell people.  Write it down.  Put it in your will, or with your will.  Even better, go ahead and pay for what you want now.  There are ways to do this, even with payment plans and 'themes' for your life celebration like Fiesta, Irish Wake, etc.  I'm not making this up.

Hospice is great - it can allow someone to pass away at home with their family, pets, familiar surroundings and peaceful setting.  No beeping monitors, no hospital room.   A nurse will come twice a week; a bathing nurse several times a week; they provide things like wheelchairs, oxygen, chucks and diapers; medicines are free.  But hospice does not include someone to stay with you or your loved one.  If you are the primary caregiver of someone, and you have a full-time job, you will need to find help.   If you can get volunteers, great.  There are services; they are expensive (sitting is expensive no matter what).  I found that word of mouth was a better way to hire sitters.  I have been fortunate in this way to find outstanding, wonderful people for care.  You'll need to gather a bunch of people, available for times when a sitter might be sick or have to take the day or night off.  And know that you, yourself will always be the backup sitter. 

Hospice will send someone to stay with a patient for a couple of hours if needed.  But that person cannot assist the patient to the bathroom, or dispense medicine, or really do anything but be there.

Oncology teams are heroic, amazing people.  But they can be so focused on trying to treat the disease that they may not focus on quality of life vs. longevity.  So you must do that.  Be your own advocate, or be the advocate for the person you are primary caregiver for.  Tell the people who may end up being your advocate what your wishes are, now while you can be clear about it.  Make a living will.

Get rid of stuff, now.  Seriously.  Do not burden your family with a bunch of stuff they have no idea what to do with.   If you have things you wish to pass on to others, put that in your will.  If you just want to make sure your nice pottery collection doesn't end up in an estate sale with $2 price tags on it, label things with information about what you paid for it, who the artist who made it is, and when you bought it. 

I was sitting on the bank of the Middle Fork of the Salmon river in Idaho last year, with my toes in the water in that glorious, cell phone and internet free wilderness, and I realized that I want to make the rest of my life resemble that moment as much as I can, while I can.  So while I may joke about living in a van down by the river, that is really where I hope to one day be.  My stuff, as little of it as I can manage to own, stashed in a cabin, and my boat on a river, many rivers, somewhere, every day I can do it.
Scene from the Middle Fork of the Salmon river in Idaho

What is your life dream?  Your retirement dream?

There's more, and I may end up archiving this post after a while, it's hard to write about.  But then again it may help someone, I don't know.

August 15, 2019

Moldy Mary and Coley's Toxins

I was reading about "Moldy Mary", a woman named Mary Hunt who had a job finding rotting fruit in groceries to test for new antibiotics. In 1943 she found a melon with a mold that produced a variety of penicillin that allowed it to be easily mass-produced.  I wondered to myself if anyone is doing this kind of research today?
I was also reading about Coley's toxins. Around 1900 he came up with a method of using heat-killed bacteria to induce an immune response in cancer patients, many of which had complete remission. For real!
His approach fell out of favor for reasons I find disingenuous.  Read this link to see the story:

It makes me wonder what other treatments are out there in the ordinary world, that we are overlooking.

August 9, 2019

Antix review from Alex Barham.

I'm telling you, the Antix is an awesome design!

August 8, 2019


Have I mentioned Ana-Maniac recently?  Or ever on this blog?

She's a very shy cat and we share a home.  Her mom is the same mom that gave birth to my cat L...  He is a year older than Ana.  I trapped him in a nearby wooded area after noticing him as a kitten.  I also tried to catch his tortie mother,  with the pedestrian but apt name "Momma Kitty" as I called her, but she was trap wary.  I caught a possum one night, which I let go of course.  It was an adventure.
L... was an older kitten when I finally trapped and eventually tamed him.  He was fixed as a feral and has a docked ear.  I view this as a badge of honor... a mark of a feral kitten who came to be part of my household.  He loves me unabashedly and is an incredible pet.  He doesn't trust any other human though.  My older cat C.. views him with disdain, as she should since she is far fancier than he is.  L... is a wonderful goofball.  He always sits by me on the keyboard bench with me when I practice, and I have dedicated a simple version of Maple Leaf Rag to him as his theme song.  Here's the original version:

I didn't give up on catching Momma Kitty.  But she was smart, and I had to be patient.  The following summer came around and she had more kittens.  Trapping 
Momma required a plan.  I set food near the trap for a few days, then just inside the entrance, then fully inside.  It took weeks.  She was wary.  Finally I had success. I was able to trap her and one of her babies, a dilute tortie kitten. Two traps set in case you were wondering.   I had Momma Kitty fixed and released her where she was found.  No more kittens from her, I knew of three of her litters and that was after I discovered her.  Sadly after a month or two from being fixed, she disappeared.  I hope the best for her.  I think of her often. 
The kitten I had trapped that night, I had fixed as well, as a feral with a docked ear.  I was going to let her go as I had her Momma a couple days previous. But it was torrentially raining and I couldn't make myself do it.   She was an older kitten, again, and I tried to tame her.  I named her "Anna" after the Beatles' cover of the Arthur Alexander song.  Valerie and Dave helped me with her and rechristened her "Ana-Maniac".  I loved, and love this. 
Ana was not easily tamed, and I let her into 'gen-pop' from the room I had her in, a couple weeks earlier than I should. She had been kept in a large wire dog pen in a spare bedroom for a few weeks... the cage was  loan from Valerie and Dave... for which I am eternally grateful.   I had used the same wire pen with L..., but whereas he had a "Helen Keller at the water fountain" moment when he realized I was his friend and not a predator, Ana never had this epiphany.  Eventually I let her have free roam of the house, and she and L... are fast friends forever, whilst C... ignores them both and is visibly relieved to be left alone without aggravation.

Friends, what I did is get L... a kitten.  A buddy.  A best friend.  A BFF.  Ana-Maniac hides if I stand up and walk around. Sometimes she graces us with sitting on the couch with the rest of us.  But she is always, always, wary of me.
I tell her out loud that she is here at home, and that her life is valuable; that she reminds me that her life and all life is valuable, and that if I have the honor of keeping her safe, warm, out of the rain, and the hot, and the cold, well I am thankful.
She looks at me as if I'm the Crazy Cat Lady. I point out that the threshold of CCL status is 4 cats and I only have 3. I don't think I've convinced her.