Saturday, April 21, 2012


Just went to drop off the comforter and get it cleaned, since I don't have a washer big enough, and it's high past time. It's a gray, chilly Saturday, the kind that inspires baking things and hot tea to warm the house and soul, and the streets were no busier than a middle of the working day on Thursday.

As I parked near the little storefront for the cleaners, a slim, impeccably dressed Asian woman came to the door and watched me. As soon as I opened the back door and got the mass of cloth out, she had the door wide open, letting heat out with a smile on her face. "Welcome in! Welcome in!"

I walked in to find a very neat, clean shop with every spare surface crowded with photographs of family, and the woman whipped behind the counter. She was eager to pull out a pad and get my information, and when I pulled cash out of my wallet to pay, her eyes sparkled. "When do you need it back?" She asked, and her smile grew into a wide grin when I shrugged. "Wednesday, yes? You good customer, in no hurry, I love you! Is first time here?" And insisted on shaking my hand, introducing me to the family in the photographs, and proudly proclaiming her citizenship and her business's history.

I thanked her very much, and walked out smiling, but there was a little chill going up my spine.

More and more, lately, though, business owners and employees alike have been standing at the doors of their empty shops, ready to greet me, welcome me in, help me however I can, and could they carry my items out? For all their helpfulness, their excellent service (whether I want it or not), I find myself reminded of a wake. Where the survivors are saying "See this man, and hear my story, and share this memory, make him real and alive to you as he was to me."

See me, see this business I have built with my own hands, let me shake yours. See my family, I support with it, see how long I have been in business, see how I am part of your community and love your country. See me, and come back, please, and often. Please. Please.

There's a little chill thought that won't go away. A little voice in my head whispers, as grey and aching as my old injuries: This is not a healthy country.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dehydration in the brain

One of the very cool opportunities from being in the Lower 48 was being invited to spend time with the Baen Barflies at DragonCon. Now, I've heard of Baen's Bar from a good friend and for the last twelve years, but somehow I never quite got 'round to joining - especially when he told me the good stories anyway. This includes moments like watching Mad Mike (Michael Z Williamson, whose books are as great reads as they are politically incorrect) make a drink called "clubbed seal" (and failing to get up off the couch afterward. Tasty and potent!)

It also included meeting Speaker To Lab Rats, who is a real live neuroscientist, and a really great guy. He is not only gracious and generous, he also has a wickedly keen wit and isn't afraid to use it. He keeps a blog that puts mine to shame:Teddy's Rat Lab, which explains very interesting science in ways that let laymen understand.

I was reading the second of his two-part series on Diabetes in the brain, on diabetic neuropathy, and experienced on of those moments in which the perfectly well-put fact suddenly acts like a seed in a supersaturated solution, making fuzzy generalizations, "everybody knows" and "the symptoms are" resolve into a perfectly understandable cause and effect.

As previously mentioned, neurons in the brain are not dependent on insulin for their uptake of glucose from the blood. This is not to say that neurons are insensitive to insulin or that insulin has no effect on neurons...

Thus, in the brain the effects of high blood glucose are largely due to the osmotic properties of the glucose molecule dissolved in the liquid component of blood. In this manner, glucose acts very much like high salt concentrations. It is fairly well known that one means of preserving food is to dehydrate it, quite frequently with salt.

I love learning things. Especially things that help me understand how the world works, and make sense out of the universe. So I dashed downstairs, and excitedly related this to Calmer Half. "So, it's actually the dehydration of nerve cells that poisons and kills them, which is why diabetics end up having problems with vision and feeling in their feet! Isn't that cool?"

Calmer Half, who is still having struggles aplenty with the low-carb diet and blood sugar, didn't look so calm as I name him. In fact, he looked at me with the same face a soldier on patrol turns toward the approaching sandstorm. "No. It's not." He frowned, and it was a frown that made me decide that maybe I better take myself off somewhere else and remove my feet from my mouth.

...And for some reason, the usual sources of carbalicious temptation just weren't as appealing that night.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Here's the holster!

There's a time for shaky cell phone pictures in available light, and there's a time for professionals. Oleg does awesome work - and so does Dragon Leatherworks!