Time to put a more positive spin on..a couple of things.
my legs are still sexy, albeit with less tone than a few months ago. But still sexy.
I lost almost four pounds during my kidney infection. Sure, not the best way to lose weight, but a nice (if unintended) boost to my weight loss plan. It’s also helped to steer me away from snacks or at least blatantly calorie-rich ones. I actually bought apples!
still no nuclear war
Not the greatest list, but good enough for now. I’ll gussy it up later. I probably won’t, actually, but wanted to use the word “gussy.”
Instead, I went for my usual stroll along the trail around the golf course, except this time I only did one loop (about 2.7 km) instead of my usual two, walked slower, and took the time to stop and take pictures of some of the flowers along the way.
These pink blossoms are in one of the gardens of a home adjacent to the trail (the path in the background is a private one, not the one I was walking along).
I believe these are Lydian Broom (Genistalydia), growing wild on the perimeter of the golf course. The wooden fence ringing the course can be seen in the lower-left.
Finally, what might be some orange daisies…or possibly something else. A botanist I ain’t. There’s a pleasant, dream-like softness to the flowers, especially the one in the left of the frame. The miniature picket fence is also kind of adorable. These flowers are part of a small public garden maintained presumably by some public people. I took photos of some of the other flowers, but didn’t like how they turned out. I may try again on my next walk.
I went for another walk today, a little longer, but at a still-slower pace as befits a statutory holiday when one moves more deliberately in order to sop up all that “would otherwise be working” time. I ventured from home, down the Brunette River trail, then up to the Production Way SkyTrain station, where I let mass transit do most of the walk back home.
This time I did tap the camera “viewfinder” to tell it what to focus on. It worked surprisingly well on one shot.
I’ve also developed a sudden appreciation for flower therapy (I’m sure this is an official term, I’m not even going to check), where you go out, find pretty flowers, then take pictures of them, just to help you relax, unwind and center yourself. It beats thinking about how you spent a long weekend fighting then recovering from a kidney infection.
Anyway, a few more pics!
The first is an artificial pond that was created as part of the restoration work done in 2012 when they expanded the nearby No. 1 Highway by two extra lanes. The pond has a spillover (unseen in the photo) and a stream on the east side that eventually reconnects to the river (also not visible). The white fluff is cottonwood seeds and plenty of them. It’s the time of year when they start piling up like snow. If I was allergic to cottonwood seeds I would still be at the spot I took this photo, unconscious and blown up like a puffer fish.
These pink blossoms are in the vegetation alongside Government Street, not far from Brunette River. The best part is how you can’t see the dual railroad tracks that are about five meters behind the flowers, nor the giant Costco warehouse that was directly behind me.
The final shot is a bunch of daisies not far from the above flowers. You may be able to guess which one I focused on.
That shot almost makes me look like I know what I’m doing with a camera. Sometimes I do.
Yesterday I went for my first post-infection walk, noodling around Lower Hume Park and some of the upper area, taking photos of all this nature stuff while walking at a pace much unlike my usual (which is silly-fast). It was a mild early evening and the sun was just about to dip into its sunset colors.
The first photo is a broader view of the shot I posted on May 15th. The sun is more diffuse here, so the color doesn’t pop nearly as much. It’s like pulling back the curtain to show the weird man behind it. Still kind of mesmerizing.
I’m not sure if it’s bad composition or pushing the limits of a smartphone camera or just “be grateful I didn’t stick my finger over the lens” but the blowout of the sky is unfortunate in this shot. It otherwise vividly captures the scariest tree in Lower Hume Park. It looks like it ate a bunch of people, then died with them trapped inside. Pleasant dreams!
Here’s something far less creepy, a pleasing mix of yellow and white blooms a few steps away from the Brunette River. You can see the camera and I had a bit of a disagreement on what to focus on. I should note that I don’t use any of the available controls–I just aim and tap the “take photo” button. I’ll probably look more into actually shaping the photos soon. The clarity on the leaves is nice, though.
This is a cropped photo of a pink blossom located on the far side of a drainage ditch, not far from the covered seating area. Fortunately the ditch is dry, so I didn’t have to get wet and stinky to grab this shot (the travails of not having optical zoom).
And finally this low-perspective shot of flowers and vegetation leading off into the not-easily-traversed bits of Lower Hume Park, which are probably inhabited by coyotes, snakes and hill giants.
Overall, it was a pleasant walk and I took the time to find little details I’d missed before or had forgotten about (like that delightfully hideous tree pictured above).
This review is full of spoilers, the way the hole under a lifted rock is full of bugs. Or something like that. If you want a short, non-spoiler review, read the next paragraph, then stop.
Abandon is well-written and has an intriguing premise–why did the 100+ inhabitants of a Colorado mining town suddenly disappear on Christmas Day in 1893?–that unravels once the mystery is revealed, and the plot gets hijacked by cartoonishly evil people, way too many coincidences and convenient acts of god. It’s a story about how isolation and greed affect people (hint: neither are good), but it fails to resonate because Crouch regularly undercuts the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief.
Spoilers ahead! The premise–and the fact that I enjoyed Crouch’s fun alternate reality romp Dark Matter–is what drew me to pick up Abandon. (It should be noted that Abandon is Crouch’s third novel, published in 2009, where Dark Matter came out in 2016.) Abandon establishes a structure where scenes jump from Christmas 1893 to late fall 2009 and back again. The present-day scenes follow Abigail Foster, who, along with her estranged father, a ghost-hunting couple, and their guides, head up to Abandon to check the town out before the snows come and it becomes inaccessible until the spring.
Crouch starts unwinding things slowly and there’s some tension early on over whether anything actually supernatural might happen, especially in the present day. The 1893 scenes depict a town hit on hard times and winding down, its citizens poor and tired and about ready to, well, abandon Abandon. Crouch neatly handles the differences in dialect between the two time periods without making it seem forced or unnatural, though the citizens of Abandon tend to fancy the exact same expressions.
Where the story started to lose me was after the mystery got revealed–not because the mystery was gone, but because of what happens for the remainder of the novel. In 1893 the town’s preacher, Stephen Cole, goes mad because–well, he does (a brain tumor is possibly hinted at). And God tells him to kill all the wicked heathens (the citizens of Abandon). Meantime, there’s a stash of Conquistador gold that’s been piled up and hidden in the area for a few hundred years and a couple of the locals look to make off with it.
Cole convinces the town that a marauding band of cannibal Indians is making its way to Abandon and everyone must hide in the mine above the town while they pass through. He escorts them all into the mine for safety (hehe), and then marshals some of the men to go meet the savages head-on. Cole shoots and kills the men. A few days later he returns to the mine with a team of burros carrying the gold. He dumps the gold off in a an alcove inside the mine. Then he locks the impenetrable steel door for good, leaving the last few still alive to die.
One person manages to escape by getting boosted through a natural chimney by the barmaid due to be hanged in the spring–more on her fate in a bit.
From the 1893 side we see men who beat women, men who beat men and men willing to murder over gold or just because they’re plain loco.
In 2009…it’s mostly the same. It turns out Abagail’s father has lied about their trip to Abandon–he knows about the gold, and how it was never found. A small band of Iraqi vets (who maybe totally have PTSD) want him to lead them to it, then use everyone to help haul it out and be rich, hooray.
From here the 2009 scenes alternate between a kind of torture porn, with the group leader Isiah constantly threatening to hurt people, and sparing no detail in telling them how. He kills the husband of the ghost-hunting team to prove he’s a credible threat. After that the other members of the party–all of whom are evil or foolish, save Abigail, who is only kind of foolish–face various horrible ends.
There are several near-comedic scenes where Abigail and the others almost escape, but always get caught again. They finally think they’ve succeeded when Isiah and his right-hand man Jerrod go sliding off a cliff. But they can’t get close to the cliff edge to see the bodies. But they’re totally dead, right? Of course not. Convenient ledge.
But Isiah dispatches Jerrod because Jerrod is hurt and there’s no hope of rescue. Sorry, Jerrod! Isiah somehow gets down unscathed, spoiling for revenge/whatever. He also managed to hold onto his gun.
Meanwhile, the sudden appearance of a guy named Quinn startles, then delights Lawrence. He’s a big admirer of Lawrence’s work. What a coincidence they’d meet up at Abandon. Quinn has a key. Lawrence thinks some more and somehow thinks he knows where the key might fit. Plus maybe gold. The three head up to the mine, unlock the magic door, and in that little alcove, there it is. While Lawrence and Abigail are exploring the mine–and finding the bones of the citizens of Abandon–Quinn helps himself to a bunch of gold, then uses the key to lock up that impenetrable steel door because he is super-evil.
Thus trapped, Lawrence and Abigail spend several days trying to find a way out. A veritable blizzard begins blanketing the mountain. They finally find a natural chimney and Lawrence is able to boost Abigail up high enough for her to climb out. She somehow makes her way back to Abandon, finds Scott in the old hotel, one of the guides thought to be dead, but who totally went ninja on his captor despite a grievous injury. They head out for Scott’s SUV, located miles down the mountain.
Quinn immediately pops up and gives chase, taking potshots with a rifle.
They evade until Scott finally has to get out of their hidden tent to take a poop. He then gets shot dead–by Isiah! Then Isiah starts to describe how he’s going to kill Abigail. He then gets shot dead–by Quinn! This is why guns are bad. So much shooting! At this point I thought the whole thing was just kind of ridiculous, but nearly everyone was now dead or stuck in a cave, so what else could happen?
Well, as it turns out, Abigail makes it to Scott’s SUV and peels off, just as Quinn arrives to get out of a few more shots. He gets in another vehicle for a good ol’ car chase.
Meanwhile, in 1893, Lana Hartman, the mute piano-player, has escaped the mine, but Cole is on her like Quinn on Abigail, except slower, because they don’t have motor vehicles. He chases her on down through the snowy slopes of the mountain and though she falters, she never gives up. In the end she grows weak and stumbles and Cole–who has conscripted a seven year girl as his co-murderer (it’s easier to just not explain) is about to dispatch her when…an avalanche literally sweeps them all away, killing Cole, probably the girl, but leaving Lana relatively unscathed. Those darned convenient acts of god.
Lana pushes on through the snow and finally makes it to the town of Silverton, where she is brought to the hotel and treated by a local doctor, who regretfully has to amputate her legs and left arm due to the “mortification.” As she can’t talk, he gives her a notepad and she writes out the terrible tale of Abandon and also P.S. ALL THAT GOLD UP THERE. This is the doctor’s cue to reveal himself as super-evil. He knocks Lana unconscious, cuts off her good right arm, then signs her off to an insane asylum, because who knows what trouble a mute woman with three missing limbs might get up to when there’s gold to be found otherwise?
Somehow he never finds the gold, despite Lana earlier handing him the key to the mine door and telling him via the notepad to send a rescue party as there are children and such locked up there.
Back in 2009, Abigail arrives at…Silverton! Is she safe in civilization? No, Quinn is still hot on her trail. She dashes into a hotel and asks where the sheriff is, then tells the indifferent clerk to hide under the counter. Quinn comes in, huffs and puffs a bit, then leaves.
Abigail makes it the sheriff’s office or actually his home. Or maybe both? Anyway, his daughter Jennifer lets her in and for some reason Abigail clams up about her whole story, as if Quinn is suddenly not a threat. She finds an old book on a shelf and leafs through it. It’s that super-evil doctor’s journal from 1893! The sheriff spies her reading it and that’s when the drugged tea she was given kicks in. Turns out the Quinn is the sheriff’s son and they, along with Jennifer, are descendants of the super-evil doctor and have been hankering for that gold he never found. They are also super-evil, blithely willing to pass off multiple murders as a few days of bad behavior in exchange for lots and lots of gold.
They plan to take Abigail back up the mountain to make it look like she didn’t make it trying to get down through the snowy conditions. Instead, Abigail remembers she has her father’s Ruger stuffed in her pants (okay, it’s actually in her jacket, which the super-evil trio somehow failed to check), and even though she has 30 milligrams of Oxicodone–per Jennifer–coursing through her system, she manages to shoot and kill all three of them while completely zonked out
Except she goes on trial for murder, but then is found not guilty due to “mental defect.”
Except I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the other details that just don’t add up. Abigail keeps quiet about the gold during the trial–citing how it brings the worst out in people (you think?) to her mother after the trial has ended. But it’s made clear earlier that multiple people knew about the gold and have been trying for more than a hundred years to find it. It doesn’t really seem that secret. Also, the drugged tea, the bullet holes in Scott’s SUV, Quinn’s rifle where said bullets came from, and a billion other pieces of evidence would clearly paint a picture of how yes, maybe someone really was trying to kill her and it wasn’t a “mental defect.”
But anyway, that’s where the story ended, so I was glad.
What frustrated me is despite everything I’ve said, Crouch writes the whole thing really well for the most part. It’s not just readable, it’s colorful, full of interesting and weird characters, vivid imagery, scenes that blend the real and hallucinatory. It’s just saddled with cartoonishly bad people and a stream of coincidences and plot contrivances.
A curious “great idea/not so great execution” I can’t really recommend, unless you’re okay with everything that was obviously a problem for me. If you are, all the better for you, because the writing, as said, is quite good.
One thumb up, the other thumb waggling at the first one disapprovingly.
Yes, I’ve made a major decision and shortened the title of these posts to simply be Cats, because that’s what these posts are about. Cats. Funny cats, specifically, such as those found on the internet.
I ask you, what is better than a cat in a hat? A cat in three hats, obviously.
As you might guess, I never actually had kidney infection on my bucket list. That would be nutty, unless it was an opposite-universe bucket list where every item was something terrible, like “get stung by a swarm of bees” or “get trapped in a landslide” or “be hit by a blimp.” But if I had put kidney infection on my bucket list, I could scratch it off, because I do, right now, have a kidney infection.
In what is shaping up to be my Year of Personal Health Hell™ I experienced the early symptoms on Wednesday (three days ago as I type this). In the morning I suffered an episode of shivering/feeling cold that lasted about ten minutes. Later I felt very warm, but that, too, subsided.
I had been recovering from a sore lower back (see above, YoPHH™) and that was mostly gone at this point, but I did feel one small spot on the right side that was still a bit sore. I was wrong about this. It wasn’t my back.
I went to see my new doctor later that afternoon and since I was feeling fine at the time, said nothing to him. That was mistake #1, as the pain I felt was not in my lower back, but on the other side, in my abdomen. Specifically my kidney. I wasn’t sure so said nothing, which was dumb.
Wednesday evening I spent the night burning up the bed. I felt radioactive. My partner would not cuddle–who wants second degree burns from a hug? This led to mistake #2. I was clearly running a fever at this point, but instead of going to the ER or a walk-in clinic (my doctor is a two hour commute) the next morning I went to work. Later that morning I began feeling the hot/cold thing again, but it was lasting much longer now. By noon it was persistent and I left work early.
Mistake #3 was going straight home to rest instead of going to the ER or walk-in clinic. By this point I knew something was wrong and I’d have to get checked out. But I was weak, and felt terrible and just wanted to shut off.
Thursday night was spent in a weird fugue where sleep came in small snatches as I burned up/froze. By 1 p.m. I summoned the strength to go to a nearby walk-in clinic.
It was uphill all the way. I’m not even joking. It’s on Columbia Street, just off Keary Street, and the latter is all hill. At least it was all downhill coming back.
At the clinic I gave them my info and the woman at the counter told me it would be about 45 minutes. I did not relish this. I sat down and closed my eyes and pretended to be inside a healthy body.
Surprisingly, about ten minutes later I was taken to an exam room and was attended to shortly after by a sexy red-haired doctor. Even in my horrible state I pick up on certain details.
He applied pressure to my kidney. I confirmed it caused much pain. He took my temperature with an ear probe thinger and said it was 38.7ºC. That’s super high. He made me produce a pee sample. I was sent back out to the waiting area while they did a quick analysis. I was then taken to a different exam room, but with the same doctor, so it was only partly disorienting. He confirmed a kidney infection and prescribed antibiotics (you know, those things I’ve proven allergic to over and over). Fortunately this batch is Cipro, which I’ve taken before without sporting a rash after. It’s only six tablets, two per day, but they are what the old-timers called horse pills, which is to say they are big.
On the way to Save-On to get the prescription filled I had to drop my urine sample off at Life Labs for further analysis–a precaution to make sure they were treating the infection as efficiently as possible. Normally a courier would handle this, but he’s apparently off until Tuesday.
The doctor cautioned me that if I felt worse after a few days of treatment to get to the hospital or clinic ASAP because kidney infections can apparently turn very nasty very quickly (he used the phrase “low tolerance”), leading to toxic shock and other equally fun-sounding side effects.
Fortunately, a few hours after taking the first tablet my fever broke and I am feeling much better (though not great) than before. I’ve actually done a few things today, which is way more than I did yesterday. I no longer feel hot or cold, just mildly awful.
The bigger issue now is why did I get two infections within weeks of each other (the broken tooth being the first)? Is my immune system compromised? If so, by what? Something else even more horrible? Considering this is the YOPHH™ there’s a strong chance the answer is yes.
Once I’m done with the latest antibiotics, I’m getting some bloodwork done. Perhaps more answers will be found there, even if they are un-fun answers.
In the meantime, I may have some ice cream today. But I have a specific window for that. These antibiotics can lose their potency with dairy products and also things like calcium, minerals or anything acidic. My solution is to have a two hour window of no food/drink before and after taking a pill. I’m about 45 minutes away from the next window opening up. I’m pretending water is delicious and satisfying in the way a turkey dinner might be.
Yesterday I went to Horseshoe Bay and spent some time in downtown Vancouver. While in these locations I did not do the following:
Lift anything heavier than a regular sized beverage
Push or pull anything of significant girth or weight
Twist my body in a pretzel-like shape
Indulge in any sort of exercise more vigorous than walking
I mention these things because by dinner I felt a few twinges in my lower back, the kind that raise miniature red flags. In the middle of the night I awoke to considerable stiffness and discomfort in my lower back. Why? I do not know. I am not especially flexible, which makes these sorts of issues more likely to happen, but it’s still a tad frustrating to not have a metaphorical smoking gun to point to.
I initially opted out of work, then foolishly went in late, thinking a T3 would get me through the afternoon. T3s do not really work for sore or spasming muscles, alas. I spent about five hours experiencing a quiet agony, the pain persistent and unyielding no matter how I stood, sat or attempted to hover.
The best relief came in the evening when a soothing bubble bath with bonus Epsom salts allowed my back to temporarily experience pseudo-low gravity, my body bobbing blissfully in the warm, redolent water. So if I could work from a bubble bath my problems would be solved.
Failing that, I’ve opted for taking Robax, avoiding sitting, indulging laying down, and have gone to bed early, all in the hope that tg latest part of my body to declare itself in disrepair will at least somewhat mend itself overnight.
If I win the Lotto 6/49 I am going to seriously look into purchasing a robot body. I’m good with the brain but at this point I’m willing to trade in almost everything else.
This afternoon Nic and I drove down to Horseshoe Bay so Nic could use his keen photographer’s eye to get some pics of ferries so I might ponder how to use them for a potential book cover. We had it all planned out. Mostly.
It was a beautiful and unusually warm day–my watch told me it got up to 26°C, which is much warmer than normal for not-quite mid-May. Not that I’m complaining. I got downtown early, so I strolled around seeing what has changed, then went to Sunset Beach, where two women were in the water, not exactly swimming, but up to their waists in it and wearing what may have been, “What were we thinking?” looks on their faces. A short distance away several crows were pestering a seagull. I couldn’t determine why as there was no sign of food and I doubt the crows were nesting right where the tide comes in. They flow off after a few minutes, having forced the seagull to move about one meter away from its original position.
i wasn’t standing very close to the feathered fracas–I’m not big on volunteering to get pecked–so this is a fuzzy, zoomed-in shot of the action in which one of the crows looks more like abstract art, but when I have an iPhone 18 with super telephoto lens as standard, this would look way better. So just pretend for now.
I then met Nic and we had a nice lunch at the Fountainhead Pub on Davie Street. Given the weirdly warm weather, there was lots to look at, namely hot young guys that made me feel like a dirty old man. I remember walking down Davie Street when I was their age. It was when parachute pants were legitimately in style. For a few weeks, anyway.
Off we went to Horseshoe Bay next. Getting there was pretty straightforward, though we were caught in the middle of the lanes reversing when we got on the Stanley Park causeway (strangely, this happened on the way back, too. I’m still amazed there aren’t more accidents when they switch the traffic flow). Once we got to Horseshoe Bay we spent literally the same amount of time that it took to drive there (30+ minutes) looking for anywhere to park. About half a dozen drivers managed to nab spots just before we got to them. At first it was annoying, then maddening and finally, as expected, kind of hilarious. On one of our final go-rounds we actually came across a spot and parked in glorious triumph (for two hours, anyway).
We headed a few blocks down to the bay to await the ferry’s arrival, which we didn’t actually have to do at all, since it came in while we were trying to park. I was more worried it would leave before we could get out of the car to take any pics.
But we did get pics and I’m perusing them now. We’ve made tentative plans for a zany day trip to Nanaimo, as I suspect we can get even better images at Departure Bay.
Also, I got a sunburn on my neck. I have no idea how that happened. I mean, I understand the science behind getting burned skin from exposure to the sun, I just have no idea how my seemingly minimal time out in the sun led to a burn. So yes, the neck is feeling a little warm. Also my upper arms, too. At least I’m not getting a sunburn on top of my allergic reaction rash. I’d probably look like a boiled zombie.
Before leaving we got a couple of waffle cones and they were good. I did not dribble ice cream on myself, something I do almost as if it is a requirement every time I have an ice cream cone, so that was nice.
Here’s one shot of the ferry I grabbed. It’s the Queen of Oak Bay in all her marina-crushing potential:
On the way back to the car I got a photo of a children’s boot perched near a giant propeller because why not? (Nic also took a shot of this, but my angle was approximately 500 times more dramatic.)
All in all, a pleasant little outing, other than the (unexpected) difficulty in parking and the (in hindsight, inevitable) sunburn. I really ought to just slather myself in sunscreen from now until October. And next time we’ll probably take the bus.
Run 577 Average pace: 6:09/km Location: Burnaby Lake (CW)
Start: 11:21 am
Distance: 5:05 km
Wind: light to moderate
Weight: 165.8 pounds
Total distance to date: 4470 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone 8
Well, I now have two back-to-back runs with a pace of six minutes per km or more. This is not a good thing, but it’s still better than collapsing halfway through the run because my knees exploded and getting carried off by a pack of dingoes.
First, the conditions. It was a lovely summer-like day, with warm temperatures, a light breeze, and clear sky. I actually sweated a little, but it wasn’t too bad, and the air wasn’t super-dry, so I didn’t feel parched. The sun did feel surprisingly toasty when I was out from under the tree canopy, though.
And the trail was not as busy as last Saturday, which was nice. A few unleashed dogs threatened but never quite got underfoot. Overall, a fine day for a jog.
But the walk to the lake left my knees feeling sore, which is not helpful when you are about to start running. My mantra was again to just go through and not push at all, not even for the first km, which is usually easy peasy.
A couple ran past me just before I was to start, so I milled a bit to give them some space. I didn’t want to catch up to them and pass, because that would require accelerating to pass, then running faster long enough to create enough space to keep them from being on my heels. My knees were in no mood for this.
My pace for the first km was a pokey 5:59/km, so I stayed true to my word. The second km was only slightly off because, as feared, I closed the gap on that couple and ended up having to pass them. Surprisingly, my knees were not really any worse for this, but I did begin experiencing some cramps shortly after. Normally cramps are a sign that I’m just plain running too fast, which is currently impossible, so it’s more likely a sign of, “LOL you are SO out of shape, slow down before you rupture something.” And I did slow down.
In fact, my pace for the third km fell through the proverbial floor, dropping a massive 22 seconds. Here are the splits for all five km:
I did pick up for the final stretch, but was definitely in that “please lord let it be over” state of mind. Well, maybe not that bad, but I was certainly glad to end the running part and go back to the walking part. The walk back was fine, though this time I didn’t have the energy to mix in any running, save for a bit during a few small stretches. Mostly I want to get back and have a nice bubble bath and pretend I had the world’s best knees.
Another positive from the run was a BPM of 162, about the same as the last run and well below the 170 max I try to stay under.
But much like my broken tooth that got infected and forced me to see the dentist instead of pretending they were mythical creatures, I am likely going to have to talk to my (new) doctor about the knees. Perhaps I can be outfitted with bionic replacements or given some miracle cure that will make them feel a hundred years younger. If the actual cure is “find some other exercise that doesn’t involve running” I will be sad and such.
I might try running on Tuesday. A 5K at the river will be a gentler experience and my pace might be better as a result. This could be a pleasant psychological boost. Now I just have to actually do it, instead of simply writing about it yet again.