Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lady Marmalade... without the prostitute part

Due to our sort of success with making plum jam this past year, I thought we could attempt to make mandarin orange marmalade from the mandarins of our tree in the back yard. We aren't eating them fast enough or giving enough away, and I don't want them to go to waste like our last batch ever of white nectarines (I cut the tree down - don't worry, will be replaced with a lime tree in the near future).

So this past Sunday I went and picked about half of the remaining mandarins off the tree. Looked up some recipes and found two to try. One for mandarin marmalade and one for mandarin vinaigrette. Apparently there is enough pectin within the pith of the citrus, and you don't need to add any, so we already had what we needed for the recipe. And only needed to buy some cider vinegar for the dressing.

So Monday evening rolls around and I thought I better get started on the marmalade. So I washed a little over half of the mandarins. And started peeling zest, peeling the little buggers, and picking out seeds, and removing pith.

Oh My God! I started at 5:30, and finally finished with a little help from sis when she got home from work at 11:30! My fingers and back were sore. Suffice to say, we did not actually make anything on Monday.

Tuesday evening rolls around and I thought I'd better get cracking. I begin to juliane the peels. After about 1.5 hours I am halfway through the bowl. Ugh. Meanwhile sis had made dinner and prepped the mandarins for cooking. She pulsed them in the blender a bit to break them up, added the sugar, water, and lemon juice (from our lemon tree) and had the pot ready for me to add the rinds. We decided that I had cut up enough and into the pot they went.

50 minutes later, ready to jar. Meanwhile we had another pot boiling to sanitize the jars.

We made all of 7 jars. Which was about perfect. We only had a tiny bit left over. We reboiled the jars, and all lids have "popped". We did it. Phew. We decided that mandarin marmalade, no matter how fantastic it tastes, is not worth the effort. Over 8 hours of labor for 7 jars of actual marmalade.

The vinaigrette however was very easy. Cider vinegar, mandarin juice, brown sugar, shallot, salt, and basalmic vinaigrette in a blender and add olive oil while it is on. Presto!

So we used all the mandarins I picked on Sunday. Now what to do with the remaining ones still on the tree??

oh, and by the way, Sura the dog was here the entire time.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Got Cocci?

Coccidioidomycosis aka Valley Fever, California Fever, Desert Rheumatism, or San Joaquin Valley Fever is a fungal disease endemic to Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and northern Mexico. The fungus resides in the soil, it develops as a mold and breaks off into airborne spores when the ground is disturbed. Infection is caused by inhaling the particles. It is not transmitted from person to person. The infection however leaves the person with a specific immunity to re-infection. (why some archaeological company’s only hire crew who have had it.)

The spores can be easily inhaled without the person knowing. It arrives in the alveoli (the branches in your lungs) and then enlarge and internal septations develop. This structure is called spherule. The septations develop to form endospores. The spherules rupture and release the endospores. Nodules can form in the lungs surrounding these spherules. When they rupture, they release the endospores into the bronchus, forming thin-walled cavities. These cavities can result in symptoms like chest pain, hemoptysis (coughing up blood), and persistent cough.

Other more common symptoms include flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, headache, rash, myalgia (muscle pain), and arthralgia (joint pain). Some people fail to recover and develop chronic pulmonary infection or widespread disseminated infection (affecting meninges [membranes that cover the nervous system], soft tissues, joints, and bone). Those with HIV can develop severe pulmonary disease.

The majority of people that have this, have had it since childhood. They don’t even know it. They get it as children and the parents see it as just another flu. This is especially true for those who were raised or live in the Central Valley of California, and those who have immigrated here legally or otherwise from Mexico.

Now that I have scared you to death, I have this lovely fungus among-us. I, along with several others were excavating in the deadly heatwave of the summer of 2006 just east of Bakersfield. I say deadly heatwave because some old people had died, and many a cows. I didn’t notice anything at the time. It takes a while to incubate, so to speak.

The following week we were to go up to the sierra’s to survey and record/update some sites, and a large sawmill site. The day we were to leave I woke up early with chest pains. I sat up and saw stars. I sat there and thought, “I’m having a heart attack”. I walked, slowly to my parents room and said, “I have chest pains, I think I’m having a heart attack.” They didn’t have the response I thought they’d have. My dad said, “are you dizzy, light headed?”, I said, “yes”. He said, “you probably have that bad flu thing with the inner ear thing. I had that last week.”

I turned around and went back to bed. “I guess I’m not having a heart attack”. I called the office and told them that I wasn’t feeling well and that I’d try and come out the following day. I drove out the next day, I still felt pretty bad. Still had the chest pains, and was getting weak. Day, three, started work with the crew out at the sawmill. I was tasked with documenting a trash deposit. I sat down on a tree stump and didn’t get up for two hours. I knew something was up. I was lethargic all that day and “out of it”. That night I got a fever. I still had the fever the next morning, and was even weaker. I walked out to the truck, and told my boss I now had a fever and said I should probably go home, so that I don’t infect everyone.

I rested up a bit, and then drove home. I didn’t leave my house for two weeks. I found out later that the day I left, the others started getting symptoms. In fact the day after, someone else went home. And by the end of the rotation, they were taking two hour naps under trees. After about 5 days or so, my chest pains went away. My other symptoms were fever, headache, cough, and muscle and joint weakness. I was out of work for about a month and it took about a year to get my lungs back to health. For many years, I had a hard time breathing at higher altitudes (above 7000 feet).

I never got tested. By the time everyone who got infected figured out what to test for, my symptoms were over. My boss got misdiagnosed with pneumonia and was eventually hospitalized for several days. She ended up taking anti-fungal medication for over a year to get rid of the spores in her lungs. She was out of work for over 4 months! Another comrade got chest x-rays taken and can see the scaring and nodules (looks like smokers lung). Another comrade had a cough for almost a year due to his complications with diabetes. We all inhaled the same spores but we all had a variety of different symptoms. I didn’t really know what Valley Fever was until we all came down with it.

For years after, I blamed my heavy breathing at high altitudes and when climbing/hiking up mountains on Valley Fever. And for awhile it was true. But now that I am in decent shape, I know that after the first couple years after infection, my heavy breathing was because I was out of shape. My lungs are now as strong as they ever were prior to infection. I still have nodules and probably scars, but they are healthy and strong now. The last time I was above 6000 feet, my lungs were fine, it was my legs that were sore. I had never fully recovered until now. Just like you can train your lungs to hold your breath for minutes, you can train them to better use oxygen. I figured they would recuperate on their own, and they did, but I had to train and exercise a lot to get them to be strong and function optimally.

So when I mentioned in my second post about Taft that some of my minions thought they had Valley Fever because they had heat rash, and I dismissed it? Now you know why I thought they were full of shit and overreacting. If your only symptom is a rash, count yourself lucky.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Foiled Again

Why why why!!!!!! So frustrating!! It seems like every time I get going on a new routine, it gets derailed. I’m talking about my ongoing lifelong exercise/workout routine. I had set a new goal for January. It consisted of a 3 mile run, five days a week (mon-fri) and strength training focused on the fat tire (crunches of various forms and free weights). A complete workout would last about 45-50 minutes. I was going to remeasure the target areas at the end of the month to see if I had made a dent in the bulge. I completed the first two weeks of four and was feeling good. On Saturday I started to feel congested. Sunday was full blown head congestion with the throbbing headache and if I moved too fast, I would see stars and my sinuses felt like they would explode out of my face. Sunday night took 4 ibprofen and an advil sinus just to get to sleep. I knew I would not be able to continue the plan on Monday. I was so mad. I’m healthy now, why do I keep getting sick? My nephew had the head cold, so he’s the one that brought it into the house. But I did everything I could to keep it away from me. Kept washing the bathroom, my hands, didn’t use his towels, etc. Got it anyway.

This happened in November too, when I got a nasty cold/flu virus from my sister. I was going great on the workout, trying something, and them BAM! I was out for over a week. It’s Monday, and I’m indoors, on advil sinus, and blowing my nose like crazy. And it is beautiful outside!!! It’s finally warm and sunny, like spring. So bummed. Will I be able to go out tomorrow? Not sure I will be able to breathe by then yet. So once again, foiled! Will I have to push the deadline back again? It seems like that is all I do these days, and not just with my weight loss goals.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Steel Testicles

My house, Fuzzbucket, has for the past week, smelled like death. Why? Because we heard some rodents playing under our house and in our walls, and I had the genius idea of throwing rat poison under the house and sealing all the vents. It worked. Something had died. When the smell first appeared, I thought the little dog had peed again, and was getting quite mad at him. I was thinking, he’s peed so much now in the house that it has leaked through the floor into the sub floor and we can’t get rid of the smell now without ripping out the floor and replacing the urine soaked sub floor. It took about a day for me to realize that the smell I was smelling wasn’t urine at all. It was decomp.

We lit candles for a few days, but when my room started smelling up, I had had enough. It was time to suit up, grow a large pair of steel testicles and go under the house to find the dead things and remove them.

Here is me suited up. I’ve got my rain pants and rain jacket on, mittens with rubber gloves over them, bandana because we didn’t have any masks, hat to keep my hair back, and head lamp to see with. Also had a garbage bag for dead things and the hot pockets box to use as a scoop.

Luckily there was no standing water under the house. Usually during the winters there is a small pond under there. But there hasn’t been a whole lot of rain this year, and so it was just very wet and it is more like a freezing mud pit.

Fuzzbucket’s crawl space is quite small. You can’t crawl on your hands and knees. You have to scoot on your belly. It is only about a 1 foot 6 inches worth of height down there and gets smaller the farther you go.

I found the first dead rodent under the hall bathroom. It was a fuzzy grayish mouse. It stunk. Scooped it up with the hot pockets box and into the garbage bag. I continued the search, scooting, scooting, scooting. Found the next dead thing under the living room near where the fire place is. It was pretty gross. It was completely flattened, bones sticking out everywhere and as I scooped it up, realized it was also covered in maggots. Nasty ass mother f@%$&! Got it in the bag and twisted it up so the maggots wouldn't start creeping out.

By then I had about had it under there. I started the trek back up and continued to search for more dead things on the way. Didn’t see anymore. However, there is a nice collection of red plastic bowls down there, along with various nails, screws, and other unidentifiable things. The original plan was to get the dead things and also rewire the cable lines coming into my nephews rooms, but the cable lines are a complete mess down there, and I didn’t want to pull the maggot/rodent bag of death around anymore.

Sorry nephews, you will have to wait till summer, when it is dry down there.

There is so much moisture down there that the dirt is growing fuzz. Not green fuzz like moss, but it’s white hairy fuzz. It was kinda cool.

I was going to have an after picture of me as well, but I kinda had to undress while in the hole. But here are my clothes after coming out.

It has been two days now, since this adventure, and the house still smells! So we are still burning candles. Oh well. My sister thought I was very brave though. Those steel testicles are awesome.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

me + Sierra National Forest

During my career as an archaeologist, I spent most of my time working in the Sierra National Forest. Not as famous or travelled as much as say, Tahoe National Forest or Sequoia National Forest. Still within the same mountain range, just doesn’t have destinations as famous as Yosemite. Still I loved getting to work there, Sierra National Forest, not Yosemite. I never got the chance to work there.

I will miss it. I got to see things like the inside of a working powerhouse, climb mountains off trail, discover bedrock mortars that had been undercover for decades. It’s where I learned how to drive 4 wheel drive.

It’s were I came across a pack of coyote/dog hybrids. Saw my first bear, mountain lion, and bob cat (however briefly - I swear I saw the little ear wispy thingies). It’s where my truck got attacked by a mule and got yelled at by an angry cowboy. It’s where I ran over a sapling and scared a co-worker to the point of her leaving the truck. She was in no danger of dying, I swear.

It’s where I impressed a biologist on my driving skills (two wheel drive truck on roads that required 4 wheel drive). In the process probably scaring the bejesus out of the guys in the truck behind me.

It’s where I met some incredible people such as an 80 year old forester in his second career who still ran marathons. A Mono Indian who was able to blend his Indian religious beliefs with Christianity in a way that made perfect sense.

It’s where I got to have my second helicopter ride, as scary as the landing was. I liked being able to drive forest roads that to everyone else were locked and off limits. I liked being able to see things like the bottom of Shaver Lake when it got drained for maintenance. Watching the sunset from Indian Rocks.

I got to see and experience things there, that I will miss. Perhaps this place and all I got to do there is what I will miss the most about leaving archaeology behind. I’ve always wanted to go back and show people how cool and amazing it all is. Of coarse it won’t be the same experience for them as it was for me, but then it shouldn’t. Every person experiences places and events differently.

I liked working there. I have many many memories. And amazingly, mostly good ones.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Butt I...

So apparently admitting that I have shat myself was a big hit. That post got the most page views ever... well except for the one on space invaders. But that was most likely by accident by people searching for blogs about gaming. My nickname in college wasn't loggs for nothing. Not saying that I did that in college as well, only that I was willing to share, whether you wanted me to or not, about my bodily functions. It was college, give me a break. So in honor of my embarrassing moment, I’ve come to the realization that embarrassing myself is good for the blog. You all seem to like it. It is somewhat liberating in a way.

How do I top shit? With this little sweet cherry from my childhood of course.
It starts out great. It’s the summer of 1986. Twas a good year. And I’m 8 years old.

Good form.
Nice 1980’s short shorts.
Cute little haircut.
A wide open teammate.

total girly girl bubble butt flail.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The second level of hell

I’ve realized that I have mentioned my time in Taft back when I was an archaeologist several times on the blog but only wrote about it once. Was it really that bad? Yes and no. Obviously I survived the experience. A lot of things were going on at the time, some I saw then, and others only after it was all over. I notice that while looking for pictures for this post I didn't take many pictures. So the ones here give you an idea of the landscape and terrain but not really.

As the months went by (I spent a little over 6 months out there) and my brain started turning to mush I turned to music to sooth me. At the end of the day (for my crew) I would drop them off at the hotel and then turn around and go back out to the, for lack of a better term, field headquarters. I would have to return the gps units, talk with the biologists, discuss tomorrows plans with the various leaders (client, BLM, Oil Companies, geo crew leaders, etc), tell the geeks what we need on the gps units, what they could delete, what they can’t delete and find out the next morning that it was deleted anyway, many many things. After doing this I would then get back into the truck and drive back to the hotel to organize what we had done that day and get ready for the next, or back into the field to clean something up (a forgotten utm point, picture, etc). I would blast three songs on a loop. I wouldn’t play these with the crews, this was just for me time in the smelly, sweaty, sunblock and dust stained truck.

The songs were: click to listen
Welcome Home by Coheed and Cambria

Hear Me Out by Frou Frou

The Day the World Went Away by Nine Inch Nails

You could probably make an interesting case for my state of mind with these three songs at the time. But we’re not, that would be scary. There was a point where I had a melt down that scared my parents to the point of them driving all the way down to see me the next day. That night the only thing I could do to stop myself from screaming and punching holes in the hotel walls was putting my earbuds in and cranking the volume so high that it drowned out all other noises for hours. Plus if I had put holes in the walls, it would have only increased the number of cockroaches.

What compounded my mental state was that my physical body was also taking a beating. It was hot. The heat cracked our windshield one day. When it was 110 outside, the ground was perhaps 125-130. The rubber soles on my boots would start to get soft and almost squishy. We all suffered from heat rash. Several of my crew members had convinced themselves that they had Valley Fever. I let them have their fantasy. But perhaps should have smacked them upside the head instead when the debacle of insurance claims got denied by our company when their test results came back negative. I had heat rash so bad on my feet that the hair on my toes stopped growing due to scabbing. It has since starting growing again, thank you very much. It was like having a permanent 3rd degree sunburn on your feet and having to strap them into boots everyday was, well, painful. I was suffering from exhaustion, not enough sleep, and poor diet. Only two restaurants had decent food and the grocery store didn’t have very good looking “fresh” food. Most of what I ate was highly processed. My digestive system by the end was shot. I think I had the shits for 2 months straight. Try taking a dump in a place where the only cover is a 2 foot high salt brush shrub, and then repeating that every day. And then the Most Embarrassing Moment Ever happened. One particular day I didn’t quite make it to a bush. I flagged over a crew member, handed her the gps unit and told her to tell everyone to head for the truck and I’d meet them there. She knew what happened, but didn’t say anything. While they were in the truck with the air conditioner on, I stripped, cleaned, and buried, and went commando the rest of the day. I think they all figured it out, but to their credit never said a word... at least not that I heard. This is also when I started my weight gain. One would think that walking in the heat all day would make you loose weight, but I started gaining and didn’t stop gaining till a year later.

I hid all of this from my crew. A leader needs to present oneself as in control, strong. Apparently my acting skills are superb. I even fooled myself.

This didn’t just happen to me. I had a co-captain. We had an overlapping schedule so that there was a crew in the field every day. On our 10-day rotations (10 days on, 4 days off) we would see each other on 2 of those days. The first day of my rotation was the last day of his and vis a versa. And we didn’t really have 4 days off because the last day was spent driving back to the cockroach hotel. But I digress. I mention him because he suffered all of this himself. Maybe not the poop thing, and where his heat rash was, I do not really want to know. But at the end of the field work we were both shot. Done. Over cooked. I think I mentioned in the other post about Taft that at one point or another, both of us had mentioned to each other that we had seriously contemplated leaving one day and just not come back, even leaving archaeology all together.

I went to New Zealand by myself for a month and he went to England with his girlfriend for a week or two. The poor girl hadn’t really seen him for 7 months! It was so bad we had to leave the continent!

Was it really that bad? Well, I never want to experience that again. But I did survive it. I did learn a lot about myself and my limits (physical and mental). It was perhaps something I needed to experience. Had I not, would I have gone to New Zealand? Would my experience there been the same? Although, I still would have made an ass of myself. I’m good at that.