Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Some second thoughts about "the care and feeding of blogs"

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time (my October 23rd post). A few helpful hints for those just creating their own blog, I reasoned. The fact that I was only days, perhaps hours, ahead of my prospective audience should have given me pause. It was especially painful to re-read this stuff after learning a bit more about Blogger. Much of my advice appears to been preempted by features already available in Blogger.

The above paragraph is an example of what's called "self deprecating humor". In reality, it's a last gasp attempt to salvage any credibility I have left. My bad!

But, wait! Before throwing myself on my sword, perhaps we can allow for the notion that a few of my ideas might have had merit. I still believe, for example, that a lot of well written posts are preferable to a few slightly better ones. There's a finite amount of time available for most folks to play with this toy. And I still love the quote in the last paragraph. So, there!

Parkinson's Disease: Take it away, please!

Five years ago, I knew almost nothing about Parkinson's. Since my son Claude was diabetic, I began to look for similarities. Both conditions are chronic. Diabetes results from a lack of insulin, and Parkinson's from a diminishing supply of dopamine. Diabetics must carefully balance the amount of food consumed, the amount of insulin taken, and the expected activity between medication intervals. A PWP (person with Parkinson's) must attempt to ascertain the amount and types of medication required to provide symptomatic relief without incurring devastating side effects. What a daunting prospect for the rest of one's life! But fear not! Help is on the way.

The symptoms most commonly associated with PD are tremors (often in the hands) and a slow, stiff walk. Other telltale signs include balance problems, masking (face appears immobile), and cognitive loss (what were we talking about?). The one that bothers me the most is an almost complete lack of balance. I have to be constantly aware of the implications of this problem , especially when standing or walking. I feel I will fall if I let down my guard, even for an instant.

These days, when one thinks of PD, Michael J. Fox comes to mind. His condition is much worse than mine. But with all his money, he can't simply buy relief. Brave man, fighting the good fight. I'm reminded of the saying, "If you don't fight PD, it will run right over you."

Note: Let's get real, here. I'm not an expert, in PD, or anything else. So, although I probably know more about PD than the average person, and I try very hard not to spread bad information, I'm not infallible. If you see something in this post, or any other in my blog, use the comments section to set me straight. Thanks in advance.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Letters to the Editor for fun and profit

During most of my adult life, I wrote letters to the editor of various publications, ranging from the local Village News to the Washington Post and New York Times. The last time I counted, there were at least a thousand; over four hundred were published.
I'm not sure why I stopped but I suspect this blog will bear the brunt of my renewed urge to put pen to paper(finger to keyboard?) . I keep the published letters in a file; many are so old they are difficult to read, others hopelessly outdated, and a few still not ready for prime time. I will include some of the better ones in this blog. Due to my appalling lack of expertise in things like scanners, the first letters will be short since I'll be typing them. As time goes by, I hope to scan letters (and other items of interest), insert them into posts, and publish them as part of my blog. I will also include remarks putting them into context - historically as well as societally.

This letter was written 40 years ago. It appeared in the Washington Post on Christmas Day.

Christmas Spirit
A recent news article revealed that a Washington couple had begun a fight to reverse their 1957 conviction of Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws. They were sentenced to a year in jail but the sentence was suspended on condition that they leave the state.
Lest the unsophisticated among us suspect that this amounted to banishment, Virginia's Attorney General Robert Button recently pointed out that they were free to visit or live in the state, so long as they do it separately.
Mr. Button is obviously overwhelmed by the Christmas spirit.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

She's the one!

I originally decided not to use real names in this blog. But I found this to be burdensome and probably unnecessary. So, henceforth, I will move toward full disclosure by using first names. This decision was made as I began to post a photo of my wife, Nancy. There, I've said it! Her name is Nancy and I love her! Emboldened by this show of courage I will now introduce myself. "Hi, I'm David and I belong to Nancy."
Well, enough of this serious stuff. Yes, this is Nancy, my bride of some 20+years. We met in Church, of course. I was visiting this little fellowship in Gaithersburg, Md. and decided to sign the guest book. As luck would have it, there was Nancy. So I asked her to marry me and we lived happily ever after.
OK, I oversimplified a bit. But, as I said before, this blog is written in an episodic manner (which I take to mean I can skip around chronologically, starting and stopping as I damn well please). I will try to regain a more sedate tone in my next post. Remember, I said "try".

My life with Parkinson's Disease (PD)

For me, a large portion of each day involves dealing with PD, my constant companion. It's not the kind of illness you can ignore for any appreciable length of time. So spending even a few minutes a day writing about it does seem a bit like overkill. On the other hand, if I'm going to write about my life, it doesn't make much sense to ignore PD.
One of the frustrating things about dealing with Parkinson's is the appalling lack of clear and definite answers to the questions it raises. One hears a lot of "It depends" and "Everyone's different."
Typical questions: How long have I had PD?
Most people have it for months or even years before they are diagnosed. Others have it, are unaware and may never know. Many people are misdiagnosed. How will this affect my longevity? Not much, probably. You will live about as long as if you didn't have PD, but the quality of that life will be diminished, at least to some degree. When will I experience side effects from medications, what kind can I expect? It depends and everyone's different. Some people have great difficulty tolerating certain drugs while others have little or no problems. Some drugs work well for some people and not at all for others. More about this later.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A brief history, very abridged.

Assuming that anyone is actually reading these posts, I suppose I should give you a brief synopses of my life thus far. I was born in a small town in East Texas. My brother and I were raised by our folks according to their understanding of Southern Baptist tenets. Although my brother might disagree, I feel this had both good and bad effects on our lives. Economically, we were perhaps lower middle class, but we both ended up with college degrees (OK, he got a Master's). He stayed in Texas and I roamed. He got married and I got married, and married, and married. We're both retired now. He's still in Texas and I live in the Washington Metropolitan Area. We have lots of grandchildren. OK, so there are a few gaps in this little life history, but I intend to fill them all.

Indeed, by its nature, this kind of storytelling tends to be episodic. I will post entries as they occur to me. If they turn out to be chronological, so be it. This is true regardless of subject i.e., life experiences, thoughts, relationships, Parkinson's, whatever.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The care and feeding of blogs

I've begun collecting items of interest which I will call, “The Care and Feeding of Blogs”. I hope these items will be of use to new bloggers. I noticed, for example, that my blog had three posts, created on the same date, three days ago. So here is what I learned: One should not attempt to create perfect posts. I kept refining my ideas (I thought), but instead started a cycle of change, publish, change, publish, etc. to the point of frustration. What I really did was use my time inefficiently. In other words, it is preferable to have many well written posts than just a few marginally better ones.
Remember, although there is a finite amount of time available for this effort, there are times when extra effort is warranted. A case in point is the Title and Description section, which should enable the reader to decide if he is likely to enjoy the blog. If this section is well crafted and inclusive, it will be a reminder to the frequent reader as well as an introduction to the newcomer.
Unfortunately, it must also be brief. This reminds me of the famous writer (this means I don’t remember his name) who wrote to a friend, “I’m sorry my note is so long. I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Very pithy!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Let's sprinkle some photos into the mix.

This is a reasonable facsimile of the author. It will be replaced by a more recent one soon. Those in the know (Pro-Footballwise) may have spotted the Washington Redskins logo on my windbreaker. Obviously, I have learned to live with disappointment. The beard has been my constant companion for some 40-50 years - neither my wife nor children have seen me beardless; accounts vary as to what I’m trying to hide. Photography, by the way, is one of my favorite hobbies. I have a couple thousand images from digital cameras and hope to add to that number by scanning images recovered on film. I hope to integrate Blogger with Picasa, where I edit, organize and save my images.

My Battle with the Blogger

A sharp teenager could probably put together a decent blog in 30 minutes using the program Blogger; add another couple hours for entering material to make it look presentable. It took me 2 days. Of course, I was handicapped by having actually built one earlier. I made the mistake of thinking I didn't have to keep notes since I had no problems before. Well, as the saying goes, "that was then and this is now." In addition to experiencing some short term memory loss due to Parkinson's, I've also lost a little of what the neurologists call "fine motor skills". I refer to them as my"Not so fine motor skills". This is the dexterity which allows people to do things like write, type and pick up sticks.

In any event, I kept making silly mistakes. Suffice to say, I went from my first attempt at a blog, called "Shuffling down the road less traveled" through "Slow steps down the road less traveled", "Life in the slow lane", Life in the very slow lane", and finally ended up with "Living in the slow lane. So at this point, I'm afraid to change anything lest I screw it up. Paranoia is a powerful and mysterious force.

In the beginning ...

I'm very excited (one might even say manic) about this new project. A flood of ideas pop up in my mind and cry out for organization. But that sounds a lot like work, so let's start with a personal note. I'm married to a very nice woman and have lots of great kids and grandkids. But discussing my marital history without some sort of flow chart would be folly. Let's save that discussion for another day.

A word about Parkinson's Disease. It's called "a slowly progressive neurodegenerative disorder" (plus a lot of other unpleasant things by people who have it). By the way, progressive means it's not going to get better. Here's what happens: When too many of a certain type of nerve cells die or are disabled, the production of a substance called dopamine is diminished. This, in turn, hampers the smooth functioning of the body's muscles and movement, e.g.,tremors and slow, stiff motions. More about PD, later. We've barely scratched the surface.