Thursday, April 24, 2014


let's talk about my drug dependency.

i've been hearing a lot these days about benzos and how bad it is for people to become dependent on them.

i am dependent on not one but two classes of sedatives. this is not a matter of choice for me.

here's the short version: i have a severe bipolar illness. i prefer the term manic-depression (as does kay redfield jamison), but bipolar is what they're calling it these days.

long ago if you carried that diagnosis, it was kind of a death sentence on your career and your relationships, sometimes on you.

because there was no good treatment prior to sometime around 1972, doctors were less apt to diagnose it. chances are if you carried the diagnosis, you had already gone off the rails once at least.

then along came lithium.

lithium is cheap and effective, but it can have some bad side effects. i took it right up until my body stopped metabolizing it, and i got lithium poisoning at doses way below the therapeutic window which everyone said wasn't possible, but when your lab work comes back at panic levels, people have to rethink what's possible.

i had to stop taking it.

and then there was depakote.

depakote is a miracle drug. it was better than lithium, and it's not terribly expensive. it has relatively few side effects. "so THIS" i thought, "is what normal people must feel like."

i took depakote for two and a half years before i developed an allergy to it. it was such a good drug that we tried every formulation of it and did an allergy challenge test.

the allergist told me that if i kept taking it, one of those doses was going to be the LAST dose.

years passed. meds changed. i tried what there was. some were marginally effective. i developed intolerances or allergies to all of them.

what that leaves me is very careful management of my sleep and eating and stress levels. sometimes this means that with care and diligence i'm ok for months, and sometimes it means i can't even go to the grocery store.

which brings me back to the sleep thing.

sometimes i can sleep just fine all by myself. sometimes the crazy comes and sits on me in the night and i get hours of horrid dream hallucinations where my brain speeds up and doesn't clean itself out and i'm headed into a death spiral and the bad thing is i can't tell ahead of time which kind of night it's going to be before i get there so i take two classes of sedatives - one to slow me down, and one to knock me out- that nearly guarantee at least four hours of uninterrupted sleep.

it's not as nice as sleep that isn't drug-heavy, but i can depend on it mostly and eating and sleeping regularly are things i have to do or else there are serious consequences.

i can handle regular eating on my own.

but one of the things the illness does is it screws with your sleep.

i am thinking about it a lot this morning because i had to pull the sedatives for two nights running on account of having had anesthesia yesterday. the second night is never as bad as the first, and plus with the fasting you can't even have a cookie to get your head on straight so while i am now two nights without sleep, i was only ONE night without food and water also, so i feel very much improved today.

the worst thing about it yesterday was knowing that i wasn't done with sleeplessness yet.

but today i am allowed to eat and tonight i can resume my meds and in a couple of days i'll be good as new.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

tweeting delorme

let's start here: i have a big black leather satchel full of delorme street atlases, because sometimes you just need a paper map. for the state i live in, i have THREE delorme street atlases so i can have a clean copy and some with annotations.

and quite frankly, if you are trying to do outdoor activities in maine, you are stupid to go without a delorme atlas for maine, because the delorme atlas does an extra-good job of noting important things like where you can camp and where there are gates on the roads.

so i was already a fan. i wasn't buying a lot of new delorme product because the ones i have hold up pretty well, which is incidentally a thing i like about a company's product: durability.

you need to update map sets every now and again, but you should do it when YOU want to have the most up-to-date version, and not when the company that makes your mapset decides they're ready for you to open your wallet again.

it comes down to, i think, who has control over your consumer experience.

i want control over my consumer experience. i want to be able to buy stuff i like and use it how i like and shop for it how i like.

which brings me to my problems with garmin.

i have a garmin handheld GPS receiver. i have a garmin receiver because it's what my mom gave me for christmas all those years ago. i like the garmin line. i'm used to it. i like the feel of it.

but garmin wants me to use its products, all of its products and ONLY its products and it slaps some very proprietary controls on those products to keep you from using the products in ways they don't like.

my mapset has needed updating for a couple of years but i didn't want to lock myself into the punitive and restrictive garmin model so i put it off and put it off to the point that i had to do SOMETHING because my maps were far enough out of date to cause some significant navigation errors, and i had a hardware failure and couldn't get the garmin product i owned already to work on the new machine without updating to garmin products i did not like as well, but that helped garmin to control my experience more tightly.

so i was looking at the delorme mapsets and it turns out that not only do they have some very nice and reasonably priced maps, but they have a super cheap bundle that comes with a no-frills usb GPS receiver.

on top of that, once i got over the initial learning curve of how to use the software, the reasonably priced software/hardware bundle does everything that the garmin product did and a great deal more.

well, there are some things that the garmin product did that i didn't give a fig about, like the ability to use garmin's social media mapping in their very restrictive environment and let garmin track all my travels and store that information on their servers so they can sell me stuff.

the delorme mapset does not do those things.

and by "reasonably priced",  i mean at roughly an eighth of the cost.

and get this: delorme apparently does not give a wet slap if you use entirely delorme products with your delorme maps. you can import/export your data however you want and use third party equipment and applications to your little heart's desire and delorme even puts instructions in the manual about how to do it on their end.

delorme would probably like it if the receiver you were using was one of the very nice delorme receivers, but just in case you prefer something else, they're happy to let you use their product with somebody else's receiver.

there's a trend in marketing to try to get consumers to use one brand and only one brand of thing. some companies want to be your one-stop source for everything.

some companies are just happy to make a quality product and let you decide how you would like to use it.

so a couple of days ago i made my final tweet in the series of tweeting every day how many times my garmin GPS receiver froze up and had to have its batteries removed to be restarted. garmin did not take notice.

garmin does not care.

but delorme took notice.

yes. you do rock at maps. your company rocks at maps. it rocks at consumer service.

you guys just rock.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

tweeting garmin

i'd like to start by saying that i am a map nerd. i'm not a cartographer or a surveyor. i am not a GIS specialist. i just like maps. i like trail maps, hand drawn maps, printed maps, online maps. i am delighted because the New York Public Library just came out with an online archive of maps, yay them! in a large sense, maps are just one fascinating way that we, small people, encode information about our world and try to make sense of it.

so when i took up geocaching, it was a sport i had only been waiting for my entire life.

this is where garmin comes in.

because i got a garmin GPS receiver.

now, i like the garmin GPS receivers. mostly. they feel right in my hand and they work pretty well.

one of the newer product lines, however, has a known "feature" in which the screen just freezes for no apparent reason and there is no way to fix that except to take the batteries out, wait a few seconds, put the batteries back in, turn the unit back on, and wait for it to boot up.

this is super annoying, especially if you're using the thing to, oh, i don't know, navigate or something and you have to get in the habit of checking it every fifteen seconds or so to see that it hasn't frozen, not that it will do you any good when you don' know if this is your turn or not and you have to take the batteries out of your GPS to find out.

what i'm saying is there were a lot of missed turns. or potentially missed turns. and if i wanted to do all my navigating myself, i'd not bother with the GPS. because really, if you have to keep checking your GPS and second guessing it in case it freezes up (on average twice a day), you basically have to navigate for yourself anyway.

for a couple of months i started tweeting daily the number of times my garmin GPS unit (one of the expensive models, mind you) froze up.

did garmin take any notice? no, they did not.

i also had a set of garmin maps on my laptop which worked pretty well but occasionally broke down for no apparent reason and the garmin customer service queue is a byzantine nightmare of a phone tree and the website is just as much of a clustertangle.

see, now, if you're garmin, these things do exactly what they're designed to do, which is to upsell you into the entire garmin universe of only garmin products.

but you can't go to the garmin website and just browse the catalog. you can't just look up what you need done and find out the units that will do it.

because garmin wants to channel your experience starting with you should decide BEFORE you can see any of the merchandise what activity you will be using it for.

and garmin wants you to buy some VERY expensive maps and some VERY expensive updating subscriptions and here's the thing: they make sure all the data YOU generate using their products are in THEIR proprietary format, which means that to use your own waypoint or route data you have to use it on garmin products, even crappy ones like basecamp.

and they make it so that your data that you generated using garmin products can't be easily reformatted so you can use it on older garmin products and your old mapsets can't be updated without breaking your data and new garmin mapsets can't be used on the old garmin products.

don't even think about using your another company's product with your garmin device or your garmin maps. while we're at it, don't even think about using more than one  garmin receiver with your garmin maps that cost you hundreds of dollars, because you have to buy a registration code for EACH DEVICE you want to use with the maps you bought and if for some reason your primary registered device breaks and you need to plug in your backup, the one set of maps you have installed suddenly won't give you anything but the basemap, which has only major highways.

this is what i want: to have maps i can use with whatever device i own, and to be able to manage MY DATA and stick it on whatever maps i have bought and while i understand that a company might prefer that i use their products uniformly to do that, it really starts to suck when their proprietary policies and controls interfere with YOUR USE OF THEIR PRODUCT.

in short, garmin's own restrictive controls made me want to look for some other things not garmin that might have the functionality i wanted.

garmin does not care. garmin is too big to care.

i still like my garmin receiver, even if it does freeze up twice a day, and i don't even care anymore about it freezing because i found a good alternative and because this is a long post, later on i will tell you how the problem got solved.

i may have been tweeting garmin every day, but it was a different company that finally took notice.

Monday, April 21, 2014

feet up

ok, so i still have a gigantic goose egg on my shin that looks a lot like my calf muscle when it has a lot of definition. it's not supposed to look that way.

i am behind in my blog reading list.

my ipod is dead, or the battery is.

my new map software is working well, but i am having the usual troubles learning to use the new software.

i am trying to clean up my winter gear to put it away for the year. i am also trying to check and assemble my spring gear.

my hair is too long. i need a haircut in the worst way but i am putting it off for may 1, which is the traditional day i get my head shaved because when i go on my roadtrip i have to jug wash and a shaved head is an easily cleaned one.

i've sort of figured out where i want to go, because i found an interesting geocaching project near some campsites i already know about. it will involve hiking, biking, and kayaking.

it could just take a couple of days, or it could take a couple of weeks. after that, i don't know where i'll go.

it's nice to have a project, though.

wednesday morning i have to go to the hospital to have a pair of little procedures done which would not particularly worry me except that i historically do not do very well under general anesthesia. my better experiences with general anesthesia involve screaming, searing, nightmare-inducing pain when the chemical goes in.

my least happy experience with it involved a white knuckle ambulance ride, because my allergic reaction to the meds only manifested hours after i was already home, and i live about forty minutes from the hospital.

it makes me kind of nervous.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


i think i have mentioned that i've been eating a lot of frozen burritos these days. it counts as real food, because if you go tot the trouble of making burritos and freezing them, you cooked them.

i showed up at my mom's office last week with a frozen burrito to give her, which i handed to her saying "i am only giving you this because you're my mom and i love you", because i like these burritos so well that it feels like a hardship to part with even ONE.

and she wrote back to me to say

that burrito was awesome. i think it was probably the best burrito i've ever had. can i have the recipe?

to which i answered, more or less,


taco filling made with quorn grounds TVP (use any premix taco season you like)
black rice and beans (there are premade mixes in the mexican aisle and the rice aisle)
onions cooked down not quite caramelized
vegetarian refried beans
grated cheese
burrito wrap

cook the parts up, put it all in there and roll

it's a lot of pans at once but it takes only about an hour and then you have a freezer full of delicious burritos. and there's no stopping you eating it with a little lettuce or something.

my mm is impressed, i think, because  my childhood was one in which there was always a freezer full of burritos. when we had taco night at our house my mom would make enough for a small army and after dinner lay out dozens of burrito wrappers and fill and freeze them.

i think the primary difference is the beans an rice and the onions, plus when mine are frozen, i bag them in freezer-weight ziplocs and squeeeze the extra air out. while in my childhood there was no shortage of frozen burritos at snacktime, there was also no shortage of slightly freezerburned burritos.

it's important, also, to roll the burrito properly, which i think my mom did not know how to do. i only learned it last year when i saw a youtube video about it.

and if you have a freezer full of burritos, you never have to worry if you're too tired to make dinner or don't have anything you can eat for lunch.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

george carlin sums it up.

george was a great man.

and right about a lot of things, unfortunately.

Friday, April 18, 2014

cliffhanger pudding

it was like totally a long time ago i wrote an entry talking about how i arrived at how i make my chocolate pudding. you can read that here if you want.

but here's the basic instructions, without any cute story attached.

you're going to need:

about 3 tablespoons of cocoa. if you care about using good cocoa, use it.
about two tablespoons of flour
about a tablespoon of instant coffee
somewhere between a third and a half cup of sugar

two cups of milk. whole milk recommended

a tablespoon of butter
about a third of a cup bittersweet chocolate

vanilla and almond extracts.

do this, more or less:

whisk the cocoa, flour, cofffee, and sugar in a large saucepan. when it's really well mixed, stir in the milk. stir it in slowly like you're making a roux because that's how you're not going to get lumps. there are two steps here where you might get lumps. if you like lumps, just pour the milk in willy-nilly.

heat the pan under mediun-low heat. you can mostly ignore it until just before it starts to thicken, but the key here is just before it thickens, so you should keep and eye on it and stir it from time to time. the higher your heat, the sooner and faster it will thicken, so you'll have less margin of error if you lack patience.

when it starts to thicken, stir it and keep stirring until it's thick enough. this is kind of hard to define, but most people consider it thick enough when you can take the spoon out of the pot and the pudding doesn't escape too fast. i like my pudding thick, so if i'm going to err i like to err on the thick side. i like pudding i can chew.

yeah. when it's ready, take it off the heat and toss in the butter, the chocolate, and the extracts. i am very fond of both vanilla and almond, so i go heavy on those. you should put in as much as you like.

put it in little dishes and toss it in the fridge.

mmm, pudding.


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