Monday, September 29, 2008

This Must Be Monday

A little squall-line sneaks in from the sea and scurried toward the foothills, rumbling as the clouds jostle one another. I've gotten five hours of sleep, interrupted by nightmares from Vietnam. The horrors are forty-three years old yet replay themselves with the clarity of a Technicolor movie. It's worse when it rains.

If you weren't there it does no good to talk about it. Seek help and you'll be given tranquilizers in doses large enough to stun a horse. I imagine our Iraqi vets are going through the same bullshit and that makes me angry. You'd think that after forty years they could come up with something better than 750 milligrams of Thorazine and a pat on the head.

There are thirteen pills in my cup this morning which means it must be Monday. Some of the steroids I only take once a week and Today's the Day. Alas, the steroids trigger dreams of their own. These Cancer Nightmares compete for howling room with my Vietnam nightmares. Sometimes they join hands and dance around the Maypole of my memories as I struggle to awaken. Once awake, I try to read. Or write. Or do chores of somekind. I've become expert at Silent Floor Scrubbing, an act of contrition for my long-suffering wife who I've screamed awake too many times.

Thirteen pills and the rumble of thunder. Thirteen pills in the cup marked: morning. There are other cups; mid-morning means 10 a.m. Then noon, mid-afternoon, evening, late evening and Bed Time. Other drugs must be injected, a task I carry out with aplomb to the delight of the grandchildren who cover their mouths with their hands and jiggle with excitement, jostling each other: 'Did you see it? Did you see it go in?' Coming out, the needle gets bent an the syringe goes into the stick-box which is actually a no-stick-box, to be traded in for a new batch of pre-loaded syringes.

Other drugs are administered wholesale. A liter bag of juice plumbed into a vein to dribble its way into my body and begin its Tumor Hunt. But not today. Today there were thirteen pills in the cup. When I go down for the I.V. there will be only eight pills in the morning cup and not a steroid amongst them.

The steroids give me hot flashes which turns a T-shirt into a dish rag in a matter of minutes. GatorAde replaces the sweat, along with orange juice and water. Lots of clear, cold water until you begin to feel like Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers, singing for their supper about cool, clear water. (The Riders of the Purple Sage couldn't hold a candle to them. Perhaps they'd do better with GatorAde.)

Giving myself injections, counting out my pills, consuming glass after glass of fluids of the proper sort and at the correct time, I'm very much a part of my treatment. Should I begin to suffer from Old Timer's Disease someone else would have to count the pills and watch the clock and stick the needle in my belly. It is Monday, the 29th day of September, 2008. I know my name and where I am and who is President which means my faculties, while annoyed, appear unimpaired and the thirteen pills go down the hatch, sluiced along by eight ounces of cool, clear water and another glass full of orange juice. I take my vitals. All are within bounds save my dissolved oxygen, which is a bit low. I bring it up by Power Breathing, as if I were about to free-dive to the bottom of LaJolla Cove and snag an ab, if any are still there for the snagging.

After breakfast I'll mount my faithful steed and cycle off to Nowhere Land, listening to Joni Mitchell or perhaps Gnarls Barkley. Probably the latter since we are both crazy.

Thirteen pills in the cup. This must be Monday.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cancer Report 02

The photo on the left shows me collecting some herbs for an omlet. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) The dark area on my lower back is the result of the radiation therapy; daily sessions from the middle of July until the first week in August. Frankly, I'm surprised the irradiation mark(s) would persist as long as they have.

Several of you have asked that I issue periodic posts about my condition. I've mixed feelings about doing so. In the purely informational sense a detailed message would name my medications, their dosage and frequency. If you've got Multiple Myeloma I'm willing to share that information privately but I see no reason to do so publicly.

As for a general message, I'm afraid it would mostly be about pain and how I'm dealing with it. We've developed a pain management procedure that allows me to sleep. During my waking hours I'm willing to trade pain for mental awareness, although I've been provided with the means of knocking the pain down, should I care to use it.

If I stand up for any length of time the Pain takes over, so you try to keep ahead of it, keeping track of the time and taking a pain-killer before the pain arrives. These pain-killers are not very effective unless you take them early then go sit down. You can do this perhaps four times during the course of the day, giving me about an hour to work on... whatever it is I'm working at the moment, which is mostly engines. (But right now I have to replace the starter on my VW bus, which is going to take some careful planning.)

Between awakening and bed-time, I take medication six times. I'm presently taking sixteen medications, some as often as three times a day, some only once. The dosage ranges from half a tablet to four tablets. All tolled, I'm taking about sixty pills per day.

I have a standing appointment at a local lab which draws from one to six blood samples for testing. The results of the tests are used to adjust the medications either by dosage or periodity. Most recently, a new medication was added; a few weeks ago a medication was deleted. In another case, the dosage of a medication was adjusted.

There are five physicians involved in my treatment, particularly in the side-effects that come from such a salad of medications. To prevent conflicts only one of the physicians can prescribe for me. They coordinate their efforts electronically, using email, text messages, FAX and so on, a convenience that was not available until a few years ago but which has already revolutionized medical care. especially for the treatment of cancer. My records, especially those of any recent tests, are available to the whole group and any member of the group may order tests -- which I can veto in some cases. That's because I am an active player in the group's activity, mostly with regard to describing any effects induced by the medication. My 'veto powers' usually reflect a conflict with the schedule or logistics but also applies to how my body deals with a new medication.

Yesterday (Friday) I weighed 184 pounds, a slight gain over the past two weeks. I don't know what I weighed in June when I was diagnosed with MM but last Christmas (2007) I weighed about 230 pounds and made a New Year's Resolution to shed some of the lard -- and had, by June. The fact my weight has remained fairly constant over the past two weeks is taken as a good sign.

The cancer -- and it's treatment -- is debilitating but if you simply sit around or loll in bed you will make the situation worse. As soon as you are able you must resume your normal level of activities... or as much of them as you can. One of those Greek fellows said 'Walking is the best medicine' and walking makes up the bulk of my exercise, although it does little for the upper-body. To deal with that I begin the day with a series of isometric exercises. I also have an exercise bike that links the arms and torso to the motion of the legs. I pump away for a given number of minutes each day. Any physical activity is exhausting; some activities lead to cramps and/or muscle spasms. Some exercises result in dizziness and I have to be very careful not to fall down, since one of the drugs I'm taking is a blood thinner, meant to prevent blood clots. It also prevents minor wounds from rapidly healing. Another of the drugs serves to suppress my immune system, a necessary subtrafuge that prevents my body from rejecting some of the medications. But it also means that even a minor wound can become a life-threatening infection. (Most multiple myeloma patients don't die from cancer, they succumb to a mild cold... that turned into pneumonia, or a bruse that spawned a blood clot that resulted in a stroke, or a minor wound that became gangrenous.)

I spend my day trying to work on one of several engines presently in the shop. I have several other projects at various stages of completion, such as Chugger's tail feathers and landing gear. When not working I'm usually at the computer. I have a large file of drawings for a Primary Glider that must be consolidated and uploaded, plus I get a fairly heavy load of email. I have a wide range of interests, from Live Steam to astronomy. Many of those who write are unaware of the cancer business and I see no reason to clue them in unless I need an iron-clad excuse for failing to answer their letter :-)

-Bob Hoover

NOTE: The picture on the right, above, was taken today 7 January 2009. It was a nice warm day and I thought it would be kind of fun to provide a comparison to the picture at the start of this article, which was taken about five months ago. My weight is 173, up two pounds from about a week ago when the doctor(s) said I was getting too skinny. This sounds a bit strange but with regard to my weight there's nothing organically wrong with me, I just don't have much of an appetite; some of the drugs I'm taking make you sick to your stomach (or worse) and you just don't feel like eating. But if you force yourself, your weight will begin to increase -- as mine has done.

-Bob Hoover

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


The wire-braced truss is probably the original method used to fabricate a ladder-like truss. The only jig required is a pair of saw-horses, the only tools a carpenter's framing square and a level. The method is also extremely versatile in that the compression members, shown here as a strengthened rib, may be completely independent of the ribs. The Volksplane uses a heavy dowel-rod, for example, while the Fly Baby uses a steel tube. The turn-buckles may be located on either end of the tensioning cable.

Following World War II new turn-buckles, cable eyes and Nicopress sleeves were available as surplus, often priced at their metal value. This allowed homebuilders to utilize this type of wing structure which would otherwise have been too expensive.

By comparison, the Pitts-type of truss makes use of rods as the tension elements with re-enforced ribs as the compression members. The rods, typically of .156" to about .185" in diameter were threaded. The fixed end was fitted with a T-nut or other fitting that prevented the wire from turning. The other end of the wire was fitted with a coupling nut, secured with an elastic stop-nut. Tightening the coupling nut provided the required tension. The assembly was then locked in place by the elastic stop-nut. The
key factor in this method was the use of filler blocks that presented a perpendicular face to the tensioning wire. For lightly loaded wings, mild steel rods and cut threads (vs rolled) provided more than enough strength.

I've called the third type of truss the Ison Truss because I first saw it on a set of drawings from Wayne. In this truss a wooden spar serves as both the tension and compression member. The key to success with this truss is to ensure adequate gluing area between the spars, the ribs and the diagonal tension/compression member. This is accomplished through the use of plywood gussets having a generous surface area.

This truss is specifically designed for use with a C-type built-up spar, in which the plywood gussets are glued directly to the spar caps. To increase the load-carrying capacity you need only increase the area of the glued surface between the spar and the diagonal strut. Indeed, the advantages of this method are almost too numerous to mention but first among them would be low cost, followed by ease of fabrication and light weight.

This method is popular among ultralights and may be found on Leonard Milholland's 'Eagle' series of VW-powered airplanes. When fitted with a D-cell leading edge of adequate depth, the wing proves remarkably rigid making it suitable for use in a Primary Glider.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Big Red, your basic flasher

A basic chore associated with airplanes is making something flash. Sometimes you want them to flash fast, other times you want it to go slow. What's getting flashed may demand a couple of amps whereas other circuits may need only a fraction of an ampere. This can lead to the use of half a dozen different flashers, resulting in a heavy and complicated circuit.

The circuit shown here is a basic One-Size Fits All.

The basic idea is to use an integrated circuit (ie, the Ne-555 chip) to toggle the circuit at a given rate. The output of the flasher is then fed to a small RELAY capable of handling about an amp. If you need to flash a higher amperage you simply wire the existing relay to one having a higher rating.

This isn't a new circuit. If you dig around you can probably find a circuit-board mask for it in one of the archives. The advantage of this circuit is that it's very inexpensive and may be sized to handle anything from a 1A nav light to a 10A strobe by simply selecting a suitable relay.

NOTE (17 SEPT 2008)
One of the comments suggests replacing the fixed resistors R1 & R2 with variable resistors. In fact, that is what I did when bread-boarding this circuit. Once I'd found a setting that gave the approximate flash rate & duration needed for an automotive turn signal, I lifted one leg of the variable pots and measured their resistance. This was matched to the nearest standard value FIXED resistor. The purpose was to make the module easy to fabricate by guys who weren't born with a soldering iron in their hand. Fabricated from all fixed or sealed components, the finished circuit could then be potted with epoxy or similar sealant, rendering it weather-proof. The relay of course may be mounted almost anywhere. -- rsh