When I Grow Up I want to be a Veternarian

When I Grow Up I want to be a Veternarian.

Letters from the Way

Letters from the Way.

Free Air

Free Air.

The American Mission

The American Mission.

On Pluto

On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s: Greg O’Brian

Imagine an ice sculpture so perfectly frozen placed in the sun. Slowly over time it melts and all that’s left is a cold liquid. Take a match and light it. Place the small flame on a piece of paper and watch the flame engulf the paper turning it into ash. Imagine being able to walk into a store and purchase anything you want and the next time not remembering what you bought. A reporter’s mind is sharp, filled with facts, important details and is able to decipher and discern information. What happens when that mind no longer functions the same way? What happens when the spark begins to fade and all that’s left is a dim flicker? What happens when your fate is no longer in your hands the outcome is early-on-set Alzheimer’s which is a death sentence in slow motion? What happens when you hear these words and you refuse to process what you now know is the reason for your memory lapses, your articulation problems and your ability to function and process information at times? Some would give up and call it a day while others fight back and will not allow this deadly illness to win. On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s is Greg O’Brien’s way of letting the world know and Alzheimer’s too that he’s not giving up, not going to take it lying down and that although it might win in the end he’s going to fight as hard as he can in the present.

In the introduction he explains the history of the illness, how it was discovered and the stages. At first you might have increasing impairment of learning and short-term memory problems and difficulties with speech. That would be at first. As the illness progresses to the moderate state you will progressively deteriorate leading to incapacity to perform even the simplest daily functions and your short term memory will fade even more, anger or rage is strong and the inability at times to recognize familiar place and people set the stage for this part of the illness. But, incontinence often occurs and misidentifications and illusions are not uncommon. Of course the advanced stage is the one you hope never comes as you can expect a complete shutdown of “cognitive and body functions.” But, first there is much more to understand and learn as you enter the mind of someone with this dreaded illness.

The author and journalist takes readers inside his family to understand just how this illness impacted not only him but his mother too. Imagine having to take Aricept and Namenda. Imagine taking it along with your mom. As her illness progressed she became aware of little areas where her functioning was failing but never really recognized her limitations. Fighting to keep who you are is not easy as the author relates till this day. Having to come to terms with the illness, share his findings with his wife and family should help others understand why supporting the person and not allowing them to give into the disease is vital.

When reading page 10 the author shares that Dementia runs in his family and he explains that he was diagnosed five years ago in 2009. Explaining what his doctors told him and understanding that his daily routine would be Aricept, Namenda and two other drugs to help him sleep and keep him calm, reminds me of my mom who took the same things. Sad but true there is no way to combat and win but there are ways to keep alert, sharp and not allow this illness to overtake your every waking hour.

Pluto is the one planet that has been declassified to a dwarf planet and because it is so far out in the solar system with an orbit that the author relates is like his: Chaotic. So small in size “makes it sensitive to immeasurably small particles of the solar system.” Imagine being so far out in orbit you cannot find your way back in. Isolation is one thing people feel at times and frustrated when looking at someone familiar and unable to identify them. Dementia knows know age limit and the requirements do not fit a particular age bracket. You can get it as early as 40 and some even younger. The book Still Alice seems to be his guide and inspiration. Fear, the unknown, the loss of memory, lack of ability to take on new challenges are just part of what happens when this illness decides to take over your mind and ability to think. Understanding the stages and what each one entails is not easy for some to grasp or want to grasp. Sharing his childhood, his parent’s illnesses and the impact Alzheimer’s had on his mother and father’s relationship is heartfelt and heart breaking. Knowing that you too will face the same fate at some time hard to imagine yet you know it will.

Important information regarding how to tell family members, documents that need to be in place and when to take the car keys away are all shared. Not being able to remember a friend’s name at a business meeting and dealing with teams of doctors that evaluated his case including Neuropsychologist Gerald Elovtiz of the Memory Center and Dr. Conan his personal doctor each sharing their findings and points of view. When you read pages 35- 45 you will learn exactly what the author did about his illness, what they felt he was experiencing and how he dealt with the news.

Daily activities vary and at times he felt disjointed or disconnected. Learning what he felt and experienced reminded me of what my mom did too as she had her own journey with this illness for 12 years. The determination to continue his daily routine, working out at the gym, writing his reports and attending business meetings and keeping his body and mind active is just part of what Greg does to keep up the fight and not let this dreaded disease win.

As Greg realized that his mother was facing her own downhill battle as she began sticking knives into sockets, misplacing money and even using liquid soap to brush her teeth, the harsh reality that she was facing her own slow progression only add to his fears about himself. Taking Aricept together and rebonding with her was one way to keep the lines of real communication from totally fraying. But, realities set in and one event came crashing down on him as he realized that his mother could not identify her own children in a photo. That’s hard as my mom would often ask me in her later stages who I was even though she knew in her heart I was her daughter. Doctor visits, many assessments and a diagnosis that would make most chuck it in but not Greg. In the doctor’s own words: I am not sure how much longer he has in terms of being able to reliably and meaningfully provide the quality of work he put out in the past.” Who wants to hear that! But, that final visit with Dr. Marks alerted him to the fact that certain documents had to be in place, signed and different bank accounts needed someone to oversee them.
Denial is one way of dealing with a reality you prefer to not face as within Chapter 5 you hear the anger, frustration and fears that rage within the author as he signs the documents and feels he is losing control of his life. The next chapters deal with his childhood, his family, his daily routines and the rocks he feels now comprise his mind, brain and head.

A fathers voice is heard as his son reacts to the news in a way that most would not expect. When Greg thinks about this disease he questions whether his children will allow him to be their father. As the author relates it is vital and important for those with Alzheimer’s to have ties to the past, present and their family. Long-term memories are often sharper than short term as I learned with my mom.

This book brings it all back and the author’s words are heard on every page letting readers and families whose loved ones have this dreaded disease the importance of supporting each other, the person of course, allowing them to continue as normal life as possible and to remember that they are still there. Talking about the Rye Family dinner table, discussed, understanding that those with the illness need to be accepted where they are and understood. The stories he tells on pages 173-174 are quite compelling and what happens on February 4, 2010 frightening. But, the saddest pages dealt with his parent’s final moments sharing the deaths of so many of his friends and reminding everyone “Memory is everything. Without it we are nothing,” observed Eric Kandel winner of the 2000 Novel Prize for groundbreaking research on the physiology of the brain’s capacity for memory.” He further elaborates in the next three paragraphs and the author closes with many other remembrances and why some days he’s focused and others he is caught as he states in the mirror of infinity-seeing the past, confused in the present, and preparing to head to Pluto. Adding resources where you can learn more about Alzheimer’s and help raise funds, this book is a must read for anyone that has a family member with dementia, early on-set or any form of Alzheimer’s. How do you say goodbye to yourself when you are not ready to do anything but say hello: You don’t: You never give up! You keep going strong and you stay you as long as you can!
Fran Lewis: reviewer
I dedicate this review to Ruth Swerdloff my mom you lived the illness for 12 years and whose courage, strength and love of life would not let her give up!

Blood Gold: my review

Blood Gold: William Nikkel

A simple specimen jar filled with water, a research project geared to finding out what this specimen jar and the secrets it might uncover as one young woman stands on the bank of the Mazaruni River dipping that same jar into the cold waters of this vast river. So many people oblivious to the imminent threat to thousands of people as this one small specimen jar just might hold the key to saving lives if the research being done uncovered the toxins and poisons someone is dumping in the river. Ahalya Pillai stands on the bank of the Mazaruni River dipping a small specimen jar into the cold waters of this river. The sample did not present any visual danger but looks, as we know can be deceiving. Mercury and other dangerous poisons and toxins used to separate gold from the gravel beds in the mines found their way into the water supply of Bartica. Imagine cooking, washing, or cleaning yourself and finding that your body has been absorbing cyanide, mercury and your life is now in danger. You are not the only one that is being held victim to this carnage the aquatic life that lives and breathes within these waters has been victimized too. Innocent fish, sharks and other animals living within the river have died out and are seen floating on top of what used to be fresh water. Imagine coming to the river and seeing dead fish floating. Imagine walking back and facing a stranger smiling and looking directly at you but never realizing that you as well as the fish is this man’s prey.

Marine Biologist Jack Ferrell is in Guyana; South America doing research geared towards finding what is causing the increase in shark attacks. Seeing that Pillai was in danger Jack went into action taking care of the attacker and brought her to safety. Learning more about each other and realizing that his research and hers might be linked they formed an immediate alliance. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is where he is a marine biologist. Pillai is a biochemist and no threat to anyone in Guyana so she thought. But, someone wants her out of the way. As part of an international research team whose goal it is to document the level of toxins in the country’s water system, and sent to find out what has been contaminating the water and hoping to help the Guyanese people would put her and others in the direct line of fire.

Governments are not all honest. Companies are sometimes corrupt. A mining company working in Guyana has one goal: to dig up as much gold as they can find, not care about what they are doing to pollute the waters or killing the fish. Not concerned about the fact that the cyanide level might be above the legal limit, not caring about mining regulations and hopefully being able to skirt around the problem, fix the leak that is causing the toxins to infiltrate in the tailings ponds and hopefully not get closed down this mining company rationalized their plan at least in their minds and forged ahead to stop the researchers at any cost. Two men: Raoul Billaud and Gerard Gourde: greedy, dangerous, relentless, unfeeling and power hungry and will stop at nothing including murder to complete what they started and keep the heat off of them from the Ministry of Health who was suspicious of the high amounts of toxins in the river.

Philip Bjourson headed the international research team and learned about the attack on Pillai. As the incident is discussed and Pillai realizes that the outcome might have been different if not for Jack, she becomes enraged and will not give agreeing to go up river and get more samples to find out just how far the river has been contaminated and conduct further testing. Fear might keep someone else away but Pillai was determined to continue with the aid of two others: a teammate Martin Fletcher and Alex Soukis the team leader.

Pollution, the ecosystem, the environment and the lives of an entire village and the fish within a river are what are at stake and the issues brought to light within this complex and multi-layered novel by author William Nikkel. As Jack and Pillai join forces, discuss their goals and become familiar with each other’s work, they discuss the possible origin of the problem, the significance of the gold mine, the worth of the gold, the importance it has to the Guyanese government and the damage the toxins have already caused to the river’s fish. A leak that was huge! Was the leak caused by nature? Was it intentional and if so why would anyone want to take away the one source of water for the people of Marshal’s Landing? There’s more as the players come into place and two more take center stage as Jack invites his friends Robert and Kazuko to come and help. But, things do not go as planned and both Kazuko and Pillai are taken by Gourde and his men but not before Jack and Robert find themselves in Gourde’s hands too. Circumstances change, forced to cooperate and go along with their demands both Jack and Robert find themselves pawns in a deadly game. With the Ministry of Health informed and the knowledge shared about the dead animals you would think more would be done to close down the mining company and prevent any more deaths. But, the men in charge have a goal and gold his their primary concern as the stench of death permeates the air and the mining operation suffered due to the breach in its tailings pond intends to achieve its goals. Cyanide the caused the leak into the water, killing the fish but not really the prime concern of the mining company but what about the government, the police and the Ministry of health? What was his fate and just how far would Gourde go to attain what he wants? Kidnapping both Kazuko and Pillai he thought he would use them as shields to get what he wanted. Little did he know that one would escape but the other would bring the primary person controlling the sale of the gold and the hidden source behind the sale a drug lord named Salazar to the forefront. As the story continues to unfold and the demands are met by many sides we learn just how far Gourde will go to get what he wants but not before being double crossed by one of his own and the end result of the double cross would bring more than just the threats of Billaud his boss but the drug lord too. When the truths are revealed and more lives are lost, greed takes a front row seat and the author shares that there are large amounts of gold and diamonds being dug from the Amazon basin and this mining company and its illegal practices are not only causing the deaths of the fish but working without permits. But, the government is counting on the money and revenue from the taxes on the production of the gold accounts to increase and enhance their operating budge. Drug dealers want to seek methods to make profits and have them appear to be legitimate. But, things get out of control. Robert and Jack need to find a way to save Kazuko and the race to finding her begins hoping to save her before it’s too late. As things spiral out of control for the drug lord, Kazuko is being used for his folly, Gourde is impatient and just wants to make the sale something changes it all. An unexpected source comes to help Jack and Robert but without the proper manpower, weapons and the lack of help from the police can they succeed before more lives are lost? Will Kazuko remain in the hands of the drug lord or will Jack and his men will they get there in time? An ending that will take you deep inside the waters that are filled with contaminants, having to hold your breath, not swallowing any water and hanging on for your life as Jack takes on Gourde and is in for the fight of his life in order to protect the people he cares about the most. Loyalties are tested, friendships are soldered and a spark is ignited between Pillai and Jack. Will he make it out or will he wind up like the fish? What about Kazuko will they save her in time before the drug lord uses her as his latest puta? As Kazuko stands up for herself a killer is determined to not only bring her down but not before focusing on the gold, his primary concern. When greed, wealth, power and control take over and your every thought is consumed with how much more you can get the end result just might be you wind up with what you deserve! Jack Ferrell: killing does not faze him. Joining the deadly race to safe his friends done without giving it a second thought. California had a gold rush from 1848-1855. James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California found gold. Imagine 300,000 people coming by sea or land to seek gold. These gold-seekers faced many hardships and the gold nuggets that found were picked off the ground. Because of the worth of the gold and where financing was needed mining companies became important. But, the mining company within this book is quite different and their goals not quite the same and the end result will bring a cash value that you won’t expect and an ending that will keep you breathless.
Characters that are strong, each having their own personality and each solid in their own way. Kazuko strong willed, smart, crafty and a survivor. Pillai smart, tenacious and clever. Jack resourceful, trustworthy, loyal, dangerous in his own right and Robert never giving up on his goal, as author William Nikkel brings to light just how far some will go to attain what they feel is their ultimate BLOOD GOLD!
Fran Lewis: let’s give this novel: FIVE REAL GOLD BARS

The Theta Timeline

Just Reviews

The Theta Timeline: Chris Dietzel

Creating fear when people are weak and are easily convinced of a specific idea or mindset is part of the primary focus of issue in The Theta Timeline. What happens when the public falls prey to the ideals, mores, thoughts and       manipulations of a small group of people that slowly infiltrated their government, took over in a subtle manner and managed to convince some or most of the population that what they were doing was for their own good and safety. Thinking is banned. Thinking just might get you executed or sent away never to be seen or heard from again. Thinking is no longer allowed and laws have been put in place to make sure that anyone who voices their opinion speaks out against the new government or Tyranny will pay heavily. Imagine living in a world where your every move is monitored, aero-cams…

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