Saturday, May 29, 2010

Some fun questons

Following is a list of short questions I've wondered about for years.

  1. Why is Tucson (Arizona) pronounced Tooson? Shouldn't it be Tuckson? Don't tell me it was originally Spanish, because in Spanish it would be Tuckson (or maybe Tookson). Maybe it comes from an Indian word?
  2. Why is Boston cream pie pie instead of cake? Pie has a crust, cake doesn't.
  3. Similarly, why is cheesecake cake and not pie, since it has a crust?
  4. Why do they call movie previews trailers?
Any takers?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Where I’ve been

From sometime in February until this week I didn’t update Bricolagia. Where have I been?

On December 28 I got a call from my doctor, who urged me to see a hematologist ASAP because a blood protein test indicated I might have multiple myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells.
In January, my appointment with the hematologist had to be canceled because I got pneumonia. Multiple myeloma interferes with the making of the various components of the immune system.

Finally in February I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, stage 1. The treatment is chemotherapy until 90 – 95 % remission is achieved, followed by a stem cell transplant. I will get an autologous stem cell transplant, in which my own stem cells will be harvested and reintroduced after intensive chemotherapy to remove all (or most) of the remaining cancer.
Texas Oncology, the cancer treatment center providing the chemotherapy, doesn’t do stem cell transplants, so we opted to go to M. D. Anderson Center Treatment Center in Houston for the transplant. The doctors at Texas Oncology and M. D. Anderson were willing to work together, with M. D. Anderson in charge, so that meant I could get most of my early treatment in Austin.

I began chemo treatment on April 26 – 2 weeks on chemo and one week off, for 2—4 cycles, whatever it takes to get the disease under enough control that I can go on to the next stage. After the first cycle the proteins indicative of multiple myeloma have gone down dramatically and Dr. Kasper, the oncologist at Texas Oncology is pleased.

I am just finishing up with the chemo stage of the second cycle and the results aren’t in yet.

One of the drugs I’m getting is Revlmid, which is derived from Thalidomide, the drug that was given to pregnant women in the 60’s that caused birth defects. The FDA is paranoid about Revlimid and makes you sign your life away to get it. You have to promise you won’t have sex with a woman of childbearing age, or even let her touch the pills. And it’s very expensive, a problem for me since I don’t currently have any drug coverage.

You’ve heard about the various side effects of chemotherapy – they’re different for everyone, but they include constipation, diarrhea, mouth sores, general aches and pains, fatigue, etc. I’ve had fairly constant constipation and occasional aches in my rib cage. I lack energy, but all in all it hasn’t been too bad.

You’ve heard how people who are in bad situations and the church is praying for them say they can tell people are praying for them. Well, I can attest to that. I have a huge prayer team – it overwhelms me how many are praying faithfully for me, and I can tell that they are.

I will keep you updated as things progress.

A More Satisfying view of the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) Controversy

H. Leighton Steward is a geologist who has been interested in climate and what drives it for some time. His book, Fire, Ice and Paradise (Bloomington, IN, Authorhouse, 2009) describes the various climate drivers through earth’s history in layman’s terms. The title roughly outlines earth’s geological history: from the time the earth was formed (fire), through the “snowball earth” period 850 million years ago to 650 million years ago, to the present period, which he designates “Paradise”.

Steward’s most important points are that CO2 is not the only climate driver and that many interacting factors control our climate. Factors Steward deals with include
  • Variations in the sun’s activity, especially the magnetic activity which controls the incidence of cosmic rays in the lower atmosphere, which in turn form ionization trails for clouds to condense on. The clouds increase the earth’s albedo (tendency to reflect light) and have a cooling effect.
  • The tendency of CO2 to become less effective as a greenhouse gas as it becomes more concentrated.
  • Variations in the earth’s orbit, together with variations in the sun’s position caused by gravitational interactions with Jupiter and Saturn.
  • Various geologic processes such as weathering of rocks and plate techtonics which release calcium to combine with and sequester CO2.
  • Changes in earth’s albedo due to desertification, vegetation growth, and the exposure of more or less beach as sea levels advance and retreat.

In Chapter 7 Steward discusses two scenarios that show how the various factors can interact. The first is pretty typical of the conventional wisdom of the AGW advocates, although it includes some drivers such as water vapor, methane, changes in albedo due to increased vegetation and melting snow. In this scenario the earth warms.

In the second scenario Steward notes that
  • The earth’s orbital alignment is moving in a cooling direction
  • The greenhouse effect of CO2 saturates as the CO2 concentration increases
  • Warming of the atmosphere allows it to absorb more water vapor, which in turn leads to more low-level clouds, increasing albedo and leading to a negative feedback, mitigating the heating. But water vapor is itself an important greenhouse gas, and whether increased albedo due to clouds or the water vapor greenhouse effect wins out is a matter of research.
Steward gives extensive charts showing temperatures and CO2 concentration throughout geological history. Important points to glean from these charts include
  • In the past, the Paleocene period for example, CO2 concentration was as high as 1200 PPM but temperatures were around 27 degrees C (80 deg F). Since then CO2 and temperature have both declined to the present levels (with some ups and downs) of 380 PPM and 59 deg F (15 deg C)
  • The great civilizations of the past have been associated with warm periods, not cool periods.

Steward does not advocate expensive efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, neither does he propose doing nothing. He advocates continuing research, and some reduction in CO2 emissions (including sequestering CO2 and storing it for later release if needed)