Monthly Archives: March 2022

New Stove Arrived

As promised the new Hike Crew stove/oven as promised. Looks pretty nifty. The only problem is that the hose is too short so I had to order one. I ordered a 12-footer that comes with a pressure regulator and a gauge to guess how much is in the tank. I own a 20 lb. tank but the weight, combined with my COPD made it a pain in the pooper to manhandle around on the boat. So I traded it in for a more manageable 11 pounder. Works for me. Has been lasting me about 5 months BUT I never tried to bake anything. I will be with the new oven, though.

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Another Sunday

If I wasn’t a hardcore bad guy I’d be posting stuff like this over in Facebook….

BUT…

So it’s….

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Good Medical Advice

Since I was diagnosed with COPD about 10 years ago, down in Panama, I’ve taken various medications in the battle to stay functional. One of the first I got gave me horrible leg cramps. I’d be awakened in the middle of the night with cramps. There was one time I was boarding a bus in David (dah VEED) when my calf spasmed sending me stumbling in the aisle. A young teenager instantly gave me his seat. Panamanian kids are actually like that…I stopped taking that.

Besides using the Ventolin rescue inhaler I didn’t take any specific COPD meds until several years later when I dropped anchor at Bradenton Beach, FL, just south of Tampa Bay. When I told the doctor there that I was depending on the Ventolin too much he prescribed Breo Ellipta. It helped a lot. Now the thing is these meds DON’T cure anything. They simply make it a bit easier for a person to carry on a more or less normal existence. I still have to suck on the Ventolin several times a day when I exert myself physically, but that’s a lot less than if I wasn’t taking the Breo every morning.

As my lung capacity diminished from the 43% I was tested at in Panama to the 21% I registered a few months ago here in Central Florida, I’ve tried several different meds. One was Symbicort. I tried that one out when I found it was now available in generic form. NOW, here’s one of the reasons America’s medical system is so expensive and messed up…my insurance WON’T COVER the less expensive generic form of Symbicort. Only the high-priced spread. It wasn’t a big deal because after using it for a month it wasn’t nearly as effective as the Breo which I went back to using.

My new doctor here in DeBary, FL had me try out a new med called Trelogy. It has three medications in each puff you take daily instead of just two meds that come in the Breo. After a couple of months I didn’t notice that the Trelogy was any more effective than the Breo even though it was about 25% more expensive. So I went back to the Breo.

The pulmonologist I was sent to see on the recommendation of my primary care physician had me try a med I can’t even remember the name of anymore. It didn’t do a damned thing. It was as if I’d been given a placebo. So it was back to the Breo. At least that worked, sorta, to make life a bit more comfortable.

Now, here’s the important thing for me. I live entirely on Social Security. Thanks to George (putting the “W” into AWOL) Bush’s clever “donut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug coverage I usually get nailed around October with a HUGE increase in what i have to pay for my meds. Most of my meds really aren’t breath-takingly expensive. A 90-day supply of my BP meds run under $11. A 90-day supply of the med I take to keep my prostrate shrunken is around $5. The generic Albuterol for the rescue inhaler runs $12 and a few pennies. One of those generally lasts me a couple of months. The full price of Breo Ellipta is $410. In Canada it’s $212.

The price of the Trelogy depends, like ALL the meds, on where you buy it. The price without insurance is $696.58 at Wally World and $729.63 at Walgreens.

Last month my primary care physician had me try out an new three-med product named Breztri. It works the best of any I’ve tried. BUT the retail price at Wally World is $715.57. If i I was in Canada the cost would be $299!!!

When the doc told me to try the Breztri he gave me a discount card but here’s ANOTHER way things are totally EFFED up in the US of A…AstraZenaca WON’T give anyone who has Medicare insurance the discount. ONLY people with private insurance qualify for that. Realistically that’s because Medicare won’t let them be ripped off by Big Pharma, but Astra can rip the eyeballs out of the major insurance companies with impunity.

I WILL continue to use the Breztri as long as I my insurance helps before being sucked into the donut hole. Then I’ll have to see how many months I’m going to have to struggle through paying the higher price and how much that increase is going to be.

The thing is you take two puffs of the stuff in the morning and two puffs at night. It DOES open my lungs up after taking it. I can take much deeper breaths than before the dose. But, of course, it doesn’t last all day. I kind of feel that the second dose is wasted since I’m sleeping though it and am not active. (Not that I’m THAT active during the day if I can avoid it…)

So, I asked my doctor at my most recent visit if I could get away with just taking the morning dose and forget the evening dose which would effectively cut my cost in half. I really appreciated his response…

“As your physician I have to say you need to take both doses as prescribed. As a person who knows and appreciates your financial situation I’d say cut back to once a day and see how you function doing that.” That’s good medical advice in my book!

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Cooking on a Small Boat (Chapter 2)

Five days ago I wrote a post about my problems with the pressure regulators on the small, single-burner stoves I’ve been cooking on blowing up. Fortunately they did their job cutting off the propane from the 11-pound tank I keep in the cockpit so there was no fire hazard. (As per Coast Guard regulations I have a fire extinguisher that is within arm’s grasp) But last night the THIRD one self-destructed. The part I’m talking about is in the red circle. . . I’m pissed!

That was my first dual/fuel stove and I liked it a lot. The plus factor was that when I couldn’t use the propane I COULD use one of those small butane cylinders so I was still able to brew my morning mug of espresso. But not much more than that because those cylinders only provide about 3 hours of cooking time.

I was able to buy a replacement hose from Amazon but when that one blew and I went online they are no longer available. So I bought a different brand. I liked this one even better.

But it only lasted a month before the regulator shit the bed! Gee ZUSS!!!

I went online to see about getting a stove sorta like I’d had on my Kaiser. (Not the actual one)

What I discovered on my search was a tiny two-burner camping stove/oven. I’ve missed being able to bake anything the past few years so this seemed like it might work. Size is the important thing. Basically my actual living area is about 7-1/2 feet X 7 feet. The available space for a stove, after deductions for the solar generator, the fridge and a three-drawer thingy that holds a bunch of junk, it minimal. The Gas One stove worked well…

The stove/oven combo is a bit bigger, but with a little bit of rearranging should be doable…

It’s scheduled to arrive at my mail drop on Monday…We’ll see. In the meantime I have the butane and my Instant Pot. I won’t be wanting for hot food.

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This Atheist’s View of Easter

THEY’RE BACK!!! YAY!!!!

Jesus spent an uncomfortable three days for your sins…

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Tales From The DMV (Two Countries)

Given a choice between having to go to the DMV or a dentist for a root canal I think most people would opt for the dentist. Both are pains. One in the mouth when stuck with needles. The other a pain in the pooper because you have to be there. Everyone has a DMV story. Here are a couple of mine.

Back in 1987, after having lived in Louisiana for the previous 10 years I needed to get a new Florida driver’s license. I went to the DMV in Plantation, just to the west of Fort Lauderdale. I knew it was going to be a huge hassle when there were two people inside the door passing out numbers as anyone entered. 

It was well over an hour before I was called to a counter and handed the written exam. I went to the testing desks, went through it and, when finished, returned to the counter. No, they wouldn’t grade it then because there were people who were issued the test before I was and they hadn’t finished yet. Well, SO EFFIN’ WHAT? They probably had to stop and rest during the test because their lips got tired of sounding out the words that had more than two syllables. Finally, when I got my test graded (Aced it, of course) I was told the place was closing for the day. I’d have to come back the next day to do the “practical” road test. 

So it was nearly two hours of hanging around the next morning before a tester was available. We met inside the building and I handed him my paperwork. I told him what kind of car I was driving and he told me he’d meet me at the front door. 

I got my car and pulled up in front of the DMV door at the strip mall and the tester got in.

“See that empty space between those two cars at the curb up ahead?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Pull in there and park.”

Aware that I was going to be graded on my performance I put on the blinker to signal that I was pulling away from the curb. I drove ahead, perhaps 100 feet, and parallel parked between the indicated cars. The tester scribbled something on the sheaf of papers in his lap, handed a couple of pages to me, grasped the handle of the car, opened it, and left without another word.

Inside the DMV I handed my papers over to the person behind the counter and was directed to stand in front of a white sheet where I was going to have my picture taken. 

“Smile,” the lady said.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I replied. 

FLASH! 

Two effin’ days! GEE ZUSS!

***

Forward a few decades. I’m now down in the Republic of Panama. I need to get a Panamanian driver’s license. It’s rather simple but kind of convoluted. I’m house-sitting in a place called Potrerillos Arriba, up in the mountains above David (dah VEED) in Chiriqui Province. It’s about 30 miles from the Costa Rican border and about 300 miles west of Panama City, or as the natives call it…”Panamá” accent on the final “a.” That’s what that little diacritical thingy means.

I have to make an appointment at the American Embassy in Panamá and then take a 7-hour bus ride across 2/3 of the country. I check in to an hostel for the evening. The next morning I take a cab out to the embassy where I wait for an hour or so before getting called to the counter. Thank heaven I always bring a book along. I’ve spent a good deal of my life waiting to get to talk to people behind counters and have always wondered at the people I see around me. Most, unbelievably, aren’t reading anything. They just sit there. Sometimes for HOURS. I wonder what the hell is going on in that vacuum between their ears during all that time? I mean, is it like white noise? Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, until someone in minor authority says, “Next.”

So, you go to the counter, lay down your stateside driver’s license and they notarize it. You get in another cab and head for the Panamanian Foreign Ministry. You hand someone there your notarized papers. There was no wait when I went in, and you really don’t need to be able to speak Spanish. They’ve been through this drill thousands of times. When they have you papers you go down stairs to a bank on the first floor. There you purchase some “Timbres” (stamps). They know what you need so it’s a painless process. Upstairs they’ve given you a time to return. This will give them time to process the paperwork. When you get there at your appointed hour they actually lick the back of the stamps and paste them to your papers and that’s the second step in the process.

Spend a second night at the hostel and catch an early bus back to David.

The next day, after a two bus ride to the Chiriqui Mall where the DMV is located I encounter one of the truly wonderful things about Panama…the way they treat their older population. And even if you’re an “Etranjero” (foreigner) if you’re old enough, you get to be treated as the older Panamanians are. That is there are all kinds of discounts on such things as meals at restaurants, discounts on travel (buses, planes, but no taxis), entertainment, medicines, and others I don’t remember at the moment. But the best thing is “head of the line” privileges. When I went to get my license there was a line waiting outside the door waiting to be admitted. I got in the back of the line. I stood there for no more than a minute when the armed security guard at the door came up and said, “No. No. Vamanos..” He took me by the elbow and led me directly inside and to the head of the line. Nobody objected. Nobody said a word. That’s the way IT IS. And they don’t complain because one day it will be THEIR TURN. 

I handed over my papers to the girl behind a desk, took a quick eye test and an equally short hearing test, and had my picture taken. I went to another window where I paid a ridiculously low fee and a few minutes later I had my license and was back out in the heat and humidity that is Panama.

In the eight years I lived there I had to deal with the DMV four times. I NEVER spent more than 3/4 of an hour taking care of business. 

One thing they do down there with drivers is that once you reach 70, every two years you have to get a doctor, either an internist or a gerontologist, write a letter to the DMV stating that you are physically and mentally able to operate a motor vehicle. I think the same thing should apply here, too.

***

When I repatriated to the states about 5 years ago I needed to get a new Florida license. I went to the DMV in Bradenton and had absolutely NO PROBLEM getting a new license.

Today, March 23, I finally went to get a driver’s license since I’ve moved from Bradenton Beach to DeBary. You’re supposed to do it within 30 days of the move but it’s been a year plus. Oh well. Thing is I don’t have two pieces of identification (mail) with my new address on it. All I have, outside of my mail drop, is my car insurance. That was ALMOST good enough, but when I finally got up to the window after an hour and a half wait, I had to sign an affidavit that the address on the insurance card is the actual one I live at. While I could have used the mail drop address, and I DO have several pieces with that address, you can’t use a mail drop as a voting address and I wanted to shift my voter registration. I registered as a Republithug. Florida is a “closed” primary state. That means only someone who is registered in a party can vote in their primaries and I intend to be as disruptive as possible. 

I also got one of those blue Handicapped thingies that hang from your rear view mirror. My lung capacity is down to 21% and I need to be able to park in those spaces much of the time. Sixty years of smoking licit and illicit substances was NOT a good idea.

Once I got to the counter window the girl I waced was very efficient and the whole thing was done in no time at all. The Florida DMVs have certainly improved their performance over the years.

One observation I made is that there are a lot of really UGLY looking people living here in Central Florida. I’m not saying I’m anything all that hot but judging by the menagerie at the Orange City DMV I’m handsome! 

There were probably 40 or 50 people waiting to do something at the Orange City DMV and one overweight security guy. I don’t feel very comfortable being in a place like that. I’ve had my COVID-19 shots but STILL. What about the others. Many were wearing masks. Perhaps a few more than half. But here’s the thing that really made me uncomfortable and perhaps it’s just a U.S. thing, but several times I thought it’s entirely possible that some disgruntled dipshit who flunked his test could walk through the door and start shooting at random. It happens nearly EVERY DAY somewhere in this country. It’s a good reason to avoid being around people.

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Coping With COPD

Went for my 3 month visit with the pulmonologist. He was an hour late seeing me and then our total visit was less than 10 minutes.

He wanted to do a blood/oxygen test which consists of putting one of those thingies on your finger and then doing a walking stint for 6 minutes. Starting level was 97%. After about 3 minutes was down to 92%. My 80 year-old hips were beginning to hurts so I said “Fuck it” and told the nurse I wasn’t going to make 6 minutes. Hey! I’m down to 21% lung capacity. I’m not going to push it any more than I have to.

The doc ordered some kind of B/02 tester that I’m going to be receiving soon. Supposed to wear it around my wrist while sleeping and then send it back for them to do some kind of study. Sounds like more mumbo-jumbo bullshit to me, but we’ll see.

Anyway, I did get the form to take to the D/L bureau to get a handicapped plaque to hang on my mirror. Lots of places it hasn’t bothered me not having one. If I can get two or three spots away from the handicapped space I’m okay. I still have to sit in the SUV for several minutes to get my breath back to what passes for normal these days, though. Going to places like Home Depot and the Super Wally World, on the other hand can be a real bitch.

Will go to the D/L Bureau tomorrow. I need to change my address, anyways. Also get my voter registration changed. Think I’m actually going to register as a Republikunt so I can participate in their primaries and screw with their system. Don’t, and WON’T vote for any of those assholes in a general election anyway.

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Cooking on a Small Boat

Living permanently on a small, 22-foot sailboat designed to maybe sleep someone for one or two nights over a weekend presents a unique set of problems. It’s very similar to camping out every day. Feeding one’s self is challenging.

Back in 1992 I bought a Kaiser 26. Hull #24 of only 26 ever built.

It came equipped with a single-burner gimbaled “Sea Swing” stove similar to this. It operated off of those ubiquitous, green, 1-pound propane bottles which gave it a pendulum-like weight.

But I wanted more than a single burner and the cost of those bottles quickly adds up since they only give you a half-dozen hours of cooking time each. So I bought a two-burner propane stove top something like this and two 5 lb refillable propane tanks. They look like mini 20 pounders. Each one lasted me about 3 months and I cooked every day.

Now there are people who are going to say that propane is dangerous and shouldn’t be used in small confined spaces such as a boat. Remember, these are people who drive around every day with 20 or more gallons of a highly combustible fluid slung beneath the rear of their cars and trucks without giving it a second thought. Knowing the potential danger of propane I took precautions every time I used the stove. First, the bottles were kept in the open air of the cockpit. When it was time to cook I’d attach the hose to the stove. When the cooking was done I’d turn off the gas at the bottle and let whatever gas was in the lines burn off before removing the line from the stove. I did this EVERY time.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and I’m now on a 22-foot boat. I bought a Coleman two burner propane camp stove like this…

The first couple of years I used those stupid little pounders, but then I bought a 20 pound tank and learned how to refill the little ones. It was a real pain in the pooper, too. But it was cheaper than buying new bottles every month. Another downside was how much of my very limited space the thing gobbled up…It’s 22″ long and almost 14 inches deep.

So, after a a couple of years I purchased a Gas One single-burner unit.

As you can see, it’s just a hair over half the size which freed up a bunch of valuable space. While it works with either butane or propane I don’t use the butane. Those tiny bottles are about triple the price of the propane one-pounders and only last half as long. Plus, butane doesn’t burn as hot as propane. I do have two butane cans, though, in case something fizzles on the propane.

I ran this off a 20-pound tank for quite a while. But age and advancing COPD made manhandling the weight difficult so I dropped down to an 11-pound tank. It lasts me about 4 or 5 months before needing a refill.

Cutting down to a single burner had a learning curve. I did a lot of online searches for one-pot meals. I also discovered that if you’re cooking stuff like spaghetti you can get it rolling along and then take the pot off the burner. Don’t drain it. The pasta will continue to cook in the hot water while you prepare your sauce.

A year or so into using this new stove the pressure regulator on the hose broke rendering it impossible to use the unit.

I was able to buy a new hose through Amazon and got it in a couple of days. In the meantime I was able to continue cooking using the butane spares.

When the regulator crapped out on the new piece after about a year I couldn’t buy a replacement. “Unavailable” Amazon says.

So I bought a different dual fuel single burner stove.

You can see It has that same kind of hose/regulator. What I DON’T LIKE about the new unit is hooking up to the propane. As you can see the Gas One has a hole in the back of the unit through with you can thread the hose. The Kohree, for some grossly STUPID reason doesn’t have that…You have to leave the cover open.

At first I hooked the hose up to the Gas One unit and stored the Kohree away. But the Gas One burner has run its course, apparently, and isn’t working properly. Runs for a bit and then cuts off. So I’m using the Kohree. Except for the cover part I like it a lot. I’m going to have to dig out my small hack saw and modify things so I can keep the cover closed.

That’s what life is like here in The Swamp off the Saint Johns River in Central Florida.

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Sunday Thoughts From The Swamp

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Planning Ahead

As I approach the completion of my 80th circuit of the sun I’ve finally started doing some things I’ve long deferred. I really should do a will, but since I have little money or material possessions I don’t feel the pressing need. I DID, however, just complete a Living Will.

Five years ago I ended up at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital with complete renal shut down caused by severe dehydration. I’d been evacuated off of my boat 18 miles in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida’s panhandle.

On being admitted I gave a “Do not resuscitate” order. When asked why I replied: “I’m 75 years old. I have COPD. I have three stents in my heart. My hands are becoming crippled with arthritis. But all things considered I am one of the lucky ones. Everything I dreamed about doing when I was a kid I did. I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve been down the Mississippi River on a boat. I’ve circumnavigated the eastern half of the United States in a boat. I’ve been through the Panama Canal. I’m not looking forward to dying, but I’m ready.”

So, I have a medic alert tag hanging around my neck that says, “Do not resuscitate.” When I stop breathing or my heart stops then that’s it. Done. After all, none of us are getting off this place alive. So lets just let it go. The only concession I’ve made in the living will is to be loaded up with pain meds until I’m finally “worm food.” That’s not completely accurate. I want to be cremated and scattered on the Gulf Stream off of Fort Lauderdale. Then I can see myself being carried leisurely along the coast of the US that I cruised in boats and eventually some small molecule of what was once my body might wash up on England’s shore from whence my family came in 1630.

My mom was the first to be cremated. I’m the first of seven sons. Two died in infancy. They were buried at my dad’s family plot in Woburn, Mass. My mom’s family is interred in Westminster, Mass. She had herself cremated and part of her was left with the boys in Woburn and the rest with her family in Westminster.

My dad was also cremated. Part of him was scattered off the inlet at Venice, FL. He lived in Venice for years after leaving Cape Cod and fished off Venice Inlet for years. I passed the inlet several times in my own boat and never failed to say, “Hi dad.” Part of him was buried in Woburn and me and my brothers were each given small Zip Loc bags of ashes which we took to Westminster and scattered on our mom’s grave site.

Having created the Living Will I feel a bit more comfortable in my dotage. We never know when we’re going to shuffle off this mortal coil. Remember, almost everyone who dies today had plans to do something tomorrow.

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