Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On the way back from the doctor on Monday, we went to Rensselaer Appliance and got a new stove. I'm not the type of person to rip out a kitchen because it looks dated or to replace something just because it is the wrong color or does not have the latest features. I believe such actions to be wasteful and spoiled. And I just don't care about "stuff" that much.

But our Kenmore owes us nothing. It is about 20 years old and the electronic ignition broke long ago, so now all the burners have to be lit with a match. About a week ago one of the front ones stopped working entirely, you can't even turn the knob. So it was time. We got one that is black, with the grey accents. It has a window in the door and self-cleaning which I don't like, but I didn't want to order something and this one was in stock. I'm not fussy. It is a Hotpoint, similar to what we have in Samsonville but maybe one model nicer. Besides the color (Samsonville's is white), the biggest differences are that it doesn't have a tiny burner like we have in Samsonville (which I never use), and it has drip trays under the burners that you can take out and wash. It will be delivered on 8/8. "I've made many a meal on that Kenmore." (And last night it did a dandy job on the zucchini parmesan.)
I wish I had something fascinating to write that wasn't about Lyme Disease.

How about, I have been eating "off the grid." (How Y2K.) I mean out of the garden, if not 100% homegrown then 90% garden + 5% local + 5% not local. I made zucchini parmesan, green beans with garlic, and tomato/mozzarella/basil salad. The zucchini and garlic came from the Samsonville garden. The green beans and tomatoes came from Castleton. The mozzarella, tomato sauce and eggs were local. The olive oil, sea salt and pepper were not. The bread crumbs weren't local either, but I added herbs from the Castleton garden: parsley, basil, oregano, chives. Just typing this is making my mouth water.

Class is going well. I was scrambling for a while. I've just been out of sorts, and I hardly need an excuse to procrastinate, especially in the summer. But...I just got caught up. Unfortunately, about half the class is struggling. Summer is always a challenge, but I am not sure I have ever had so many as this semester. Maybe it is Blackboard's fault.

Speaking of Blackboard, I wish there was some way to give meaningful feedback to IT Services about the courseware. There are so many great tools within it, but there are also pretty significant flaws. The help desk attributes everything to user problems. I have contacted them about the system's instability - crashing, not saving changes, other minor glitches. The answer to that seems to be I have the wrong version of java or maybe it's that I have more than one version of java. However, there doesn't seem to be a place to share concerns not just about whether things work but about the way things work.

For instance, when I evaluate student essays, if the student sent me an attachment, after I grade it, I have to rename it or the system won't attach it because it believes it to be a duplicate. That's no user problem. That's extra work for me. Also when grading essays, if the student did not use an attachment, there is no way for me to write comments within the assignment. There is only a drop down comment box - so I can't correct grammar, sentence structure, etc. as I have always done in the past. The most annoying, extra-work-making so far is something that isn't the fault of the courseware itself, but of IT Services' policies. Already my Spring courses are gone. They archived them, I guess. I would think that they could stay around for one semester, so that I could have easy access to last semester's materials until I am done developing the next semester's work, wouldn't you? I know server space must be premium or something but if they didn't have the infrastructure to support the change, why did they do it? Anyway, there are myriad other issues, but those are just three examples.

(That may not have been fascinating, but at least it was something other than Lyme Disease and how much doxy sucks.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I had another blood test. I'm not sure why, maybe to be sure the doxy is working. He said my initial tests were strong positives, and that the infection was recent, which confirmed to me that the deer fly was the culprit. (I could tell the doctor was skeptical, though.)

Tonight I am making zucchini parmesan. Such a beautiful was hard to stay out of the sun. (I cheated a little and worked in the garden a bit - hopefully not long enough to make my skin blotchy.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

After my sister sent that link, I decided to search "deer fly" rather than "black fly." It works better, resulting in the following links: from Ohio State University, from yahoo, and finally, this one. There are more, but most of these searches are already overlapping.

In thinking about it, we have never had many classic Adirondack black flies in Samsonville. They are deer flies, as described in the OSU link. That must be what bit me.

Also, I've added a "Lyme Disease" tag to these posts.

A few weeks ago I added another record in the Brown Recluse Spider bite site. I had to create a new one, rather than just adding the incident to the existing record from the 1984 bite. I decided to share it there not because it is due to a BRS this time, but just because that is a great site that people go to for information when they have a weird reaction or rash.

I have to go back to the doctor for a follow up. He asked me when I was there on the 14th whether I consider myself to be at high risk for Lyme Disease. Am I outdoorsy? I said yes, definitely. Not that I am one for camping or tromping through weeds, because I am not. But I am not exactly a couch potato and my surroundings are often rural. I am careful about checking for ticks (I've never found one attached) and wearing long pants etc. in risky areas. But both Samsonville and Castleton are known as places for deer and ticks and I always hear that so-and-so has Lyme Disease. Rudy had Lyme Disease when he was about 7, at that time we used to walk him at Schodack Island State Park (we stopped as soon as we figured out that it is loaded with ticks near the Hudson).

When he asked me, I didn't say yes for this reason, but Castleton has tons of mosquitos (although I think they may have been worse in some past years), and Samsonville is loaded with deer flies (especially this year).
My sister found this link from the New England Journal of Medicine about Lyme Disease being transmitted by a fly.
I tested positive for Lyme Disease! So that means 28 days of Doxycycline. Yuck. I am so nauseous from my morning dose as I write this. But I certainly don't want to get any other symptoms of Lyme, so take it I will. What is scary about my diagnosis is that everything I have read about Lyme says that it takes ~3 days for an attached tick to transmit it, and that there is no evidence that it can be transmitted by other insects. Yet I was standing on my deck and felt the bite. Checked it within five minutes and saw the reaction, and no attached tick.

So to me this means, with my n=1, that I got it either from a flying insect (such as a black fly) that bit me through my jeans (which is what I suspect), or that a tick crawled into my pants, bit me, immediately dropped off, yet gave me Lyme Disease. I know a lot of people who have tested postive without ever finding a tick. The assumption is that they had one attached, didn't see it, and it fell off eventually. Now I say, maybe not. Maybe they were bit by a black fly and didn't think anything of it. Didn't get a rash or major reaction, but then developed Lyme symptoms weeks later.

I did find these websites, here, and here, of people writing about their Lyme experiences. Both mention black flies as the vector. So I make three! I say, why not? In Samsonville, there are lots of deer. Also lots of deer ticks and black flies. A tick can pass Lyme from a deer to a human. Why can't a black fly do the same? I am remembering the Brown Recluse bite in 1984 again, that at that time almost no one had heard of poison spider bites and the trouble I had with a diagnosis. So I am always Case #1, it seems.

Also in my research, although my rash was not the classic bull's eye, I can see that it resembles a Lyme rash. In darker skinned people it can look almost like a bruise, and that is how I would describe my rash in some places.

What a summer!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Back from a long weekend in Samsonville. Swam everyday, it was heavenly. All these weekends away are not doing much for my productivity, in terms of the online class. I do have computers and high speed internet access there - what is lacking is the desire to do that sort of work. I get by, but I really have to buckle down!

I think I will be picking my first green beans today!

Over the weekend we watched Waitress (got it from Netflix). It was OK, but only OK. I doubt it would have gotten much notice if Adrienne Shelly had not been murdered. In fact, I think that was the reason I knew about the movie.

Another movie I saw recently, but this one was awesome! It was The Kite Runner. Personally, I thought it deserved Best Picture; it was definitely better than the nominees I have seen [even admitting Atonement was quite good, as was Hairspray. There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men were OK, a significantly better OK than Waitress, but to me, still only OK. Ranking them, There Will Be Blood was not as good as No Country for Old Men. I am correct about the nominees, yes? Or am I including movies that were not nominated? I am not sure]. Anyway, my sister said the book (The Kite Runner) was even better than the movie.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lyme Disease test results are not back yet. They should be available on Monday.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Something happened today that is one of the things I never write about here. It's a subject about which I could write (and in the past have privately written) many pages. I even have several short stories and a partially finished book (that will probably never be finished) on the topic. (I have never considered trying to have any of it published, although a small group has read some of the short stories).

In 2002 when I first started blogging (or ejournaling, my preferred term and the one that I used back then) there seemed to be a lot of bloggers writing about whether to self-censor. The majority of the ones I encountered who wrote on that subject argued that you should avoid doing it at all costs. They advocated a sort of free-for-all, stream of consciousness, raw emotional, "real," no taboos style in the name of "honesty" and "truth." (And my impression was that even a lie could be the "truth" if it was raw enough, but that is a whole 'nother story.)

By 2002 that debate was nothing new to me (print writers always struggle with it, even in fiction), but the online environment does take it to a new level. Anything can be published, and anyone can Google and find it. Although I do believe that sometimes self-censoring can really, really cut down on creativity, I never agreed completely with the bloggers who believe(d) in "anything goes."

I have self-censored this. I've thought about writing something here many times, but never have. I haven't even written about it off-line or read my old stories in years. I'm not even sure why I am writing this post. I guess because I sometimes use this journal to keep track of things (when we opened the pool, when we picked the first tomato, etc.) and I want a way to have a marker. Those examples are trite, but this is major. Let's just say that something has resurfaced from my past. Unfinished business, you might say. I have no idea how it will turn out, and I dare not even hope. (Yet I do, a tiny flicker.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Here are some cute pictures, to make up for the post I just made! This is Ande, the Villa Valente cat.

Remember this?

Taken June 24

Then, there is this:

Taken June 27

I stopped taking pictures after this, because it was so much better:

Taken June 29

I got out the camera again to take these two:

Front of my leg:

Both taken July 14

I am on doxycycline. It is awful! So harsh, it makes me immediately sick to my stomach, dizzy and gives me an unpleasant metallic taste in my mouth. And there are so many rules: stay out of the sun. Take it on an empty stomach. No yogurt, milk, magnesium for hours. But it works fast, my leg already looks a lot better, thankfully. I will know the results of the Lyme test in a few days (although I am sure it isn't Lyme Disease).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I have been a satisfied Belkin customer for years. I have bought all sorts of computer accessories. After being plagued with several incidents of fried computer components in Samsonville last summer, I bought three Belkin Surgemaster surge protectors in September 2007. I chose them solely because of the $250,000 connected equipment warranty, and because I've always liked Belkin products. Last month a surge in the cable/ethernet burned out two NIC cards, my router, and the cable modem. Time Warner replaced the modem and after much research and hassle, I filled out the Belkin claim form, documented everything, and sent them the three surge protectors. What was the result? They denied my claim, said there was no evidence of a surge. When I protested, and asked if they thought I was lying about the fried equipment, I was told that it wasn't intended to be an attack on my character. I asked to be transferred to a supervisor, who promised to get back to me in a few days after looking into my claim further. The result? An unsigned letter in the mail, denying my claim.

So save your money, and don't ever buy Belkin. Belkin surge protectors don't work, and you will not see a dime of the warranty from this company. Their surge protectors either show no evidence of surges afterwards, or the incompetent technical staff can't find the evidence, or (most likely) Belkin is just in the business of denying claims. They make it nearly impossible to file one, and finding contact information is also very difficult. Now I just run around at the mere prediction of rain and unplug everything. I will never, ever buy another Belkin product. I went from a 100 percent satisfied customer to a totally dissatisfied customer in ten minutes. I am going to trash them at every opportunity (remember, I still have not set foot in Target and how many years ago did they destroy the Defreest-Church House)? May they go bankrupt!

7/16 update: a day after I emailed them my angry follow up, and almost immediately after I posted this (and trashed them on Amazon), the phone rang and it was the claims department supervisor at Belkin. I could tell from her voice that 1) she was nervous and 2) she thinks I am a nutjob. But they are continuing the tests, and will get back to me. Stay tuned.

And yet another update, later on 7/16: I got another phone call. They are going to honor my claim! Stay tuned.

Update 3, 7/17: I got an email with a settlement offer of $82.99 for my router. On the phone they said they are sending me a new NIC and a new adapter. They already sent the new surge protectors. That isn't the total cost of my router but I am OK with it. My one problem is that some language in the letter is confusing. Not sure if signing it will mean I am forfeiting my warranty, or it it just means that I am waiving my right to make a future claim for the same surge. I have to investigate before agreeing. I hope it is the latter, because I am tired of fighting with them.

Update 4, 7/18: the replacement NIC and USB ethernet adapter arrived. I emailed to find out if signing means I will forfeit my warranty, or it it only means that I cannot file additional claims for the same surge. They are slowly redeeming themselves!

Update 5, 8/21: I almost forgot to post this! I never heard back from my email, so I crossed out the objectionable language on their settlement offer and faxed it back. A few days ago the check came. So they have completely redeemed themselves! You just have to be persistent. A pain, and it shouldn't be necessary - but there you go. I will update my posts on the various places where I wrote complaints to reflect this outcome.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Can someone please tell me what is the problem with audio file hosting sites? I need something for the online class. The university could host them, but the problem is that they need a long lead time for uploading - so I can't record something on Friday and expect to have it there for when the module opens on Monday. So that would be OK for content that doesn't change much, but not for the updates I do every week. I've been burned three times on services I have joined - not that I haven't gotten my money back, but the sites unexpectedly go away and are unreliable even when they stay in business. I have avoided free services because I expect them to be low quality - but you'd think premium services would work better than they do. This is really having a bad impact on my productivity in the online class. It takes way too much time that I should be using to grade essays.

I had a relapse of cellulitis on Saturday. I've been off antibiotics for a week and I guess the course I took wasn't long enough. So it is back to the doctor today. Sigh. Speaking of bug bites, Sam was stung by a bee yesterday! He is such a baby about things like that, he carried on terrible. Poor Sam-Sam.

I'll balance that with some good news: Swimming was wonderful on Saturday. The pool was 81 degrees. And I've been picking tomatoes in Castleton!!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Long time no post! You'd think in the summer I'd have more time for posting. But until Thursday I had a really terrible chair in my home office and my back was killing me. Add in the bug bite reaction, keflex side effects, summer session class, gardening, and going to Samsonville every weekend (where there are numerous distractions, including the pool) and posting is pretty low on my list.

Anyway, the bite is 95 percent better. Swimming seemed to help it a lot. I finished the keflex on July 4. I have a couple of other pictures of its progression which I will post once I get around to downloading them.

I got a new office chair! Actually it is used, from a business that traded it in at a commercial office furniture place. New it must have been $500-$700 dollars, I got it gently used for $175. It is awesome! I had a cheapie from Staples before. It wasn't any good a week after I bought it. The new chair is heavenly.

I also got a new mattress. It will be delivered on Thursday. Now, if I can find suitable shoes, my orthopedic problems will be totally gone.

I also have this year's gardening pictures. We have eaten lettuce, garlic scapes (both from Samsonville), and tomatoes (from Castleton) so far. It looks like the zucchini in Samsonville will start to be ready this weekend. Bugs in the summer may suck, but the fresh produce is the counterbalance.