Posts in the “personal” category

Mast cell activation disease vs histamine intolerance (differences)


October, 2016: I’m pretty new to learning that I probably have Mast Cell Activation Disease (MCAD) — also known as Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) or just mast cell disease — and as I’m learning more about it, I’ve been wondering, “What is the difference between MCAS/MCAD and histamine intolerance?” In this article I’ll share what I’ve learned so far.

(Note: I take a little time to explain mast cell activation disease in this article. If you just want a quick overview, see the Summary section below.)

Sage Hotel, Santa Fe: Bed bug report

As a brief note, the Sage Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico had bed bugs when I stayed there in late 2023. The photos below show the bed bugs that I discovered on the bed at 1:15 a.m. one morning, and the resulting invoice/receipt from the Sage Hotel (formerly named Sage Inn Hotel).

2024 Update #1: I wrote the Sage Hotel in 2024 about my experience, and how disappointed I was — both with the hotel having bed bugs and with their service — and never received any sort of reply.

2024 Update #2: Also, I talked to someone who checked me into another hotel, and they said (a) they’ve never had bed bugs, and (b) if they ever did, they would give customers a full refund. (The Sage Hotel would not give me a full refund.)

Sage Hotel bed bug images

This first photo is from the bed bug I killed. I woke up, saw something moving in the bed, pressed it with my finger, it popped, and left this blood stain:

Peter Gabriel, discussing a moment of enlightenment that reminds me of the movie V for Vendetta

The following paragraphs are a quote from Peter Gabriel, discussing a moment of “enlightenment” that reminds me of the movie V for Vendetta:

I was doing some gigs in Germany with Frank Zappa ... we were supporting Frank Zappa. And his audience in Berlin were very much old hardcore hippies, and they thought I was just cheap shit, and the boos was just ... this rain of stuff being thrown on the stage. It was very humbling.

Next night we’re in another German city and I thought, “Oh shit, here we go”, and we go out there again, and a similar sort of reaction, they hate it. But it wasn’t just the music, it was me, personally, you know, they meant it.

And suddenly I had one of those moments and I thought, “That’s it, I’m no longer afraid.

You know the thing you’re most scared of when you get on stage is being rejected and booed off, and I suddenly realized I’d been booed off and I was still out there. They didn’t like it any more, but I was still doing it, and they couldn’t stop me.

And I just started giggling. And Tony Levin looked over like I’d gone crazy. But it was a fantastic moment of enlightenment.

Mousey Alexander - The Mouse Roars

One of my uncles was Mousey Alexander. I didn’t know him very well, only meeting him a few times that I can recall. The most I remember about him was (a) watching him play drums at a jazz club in Chicago one time when I was young, and also (b) spending a little time with him on a vacation in New York. (In particular I remember going fishing with him and my dad in New York. We caught something like 40 small fish in an hour or two. Every time we dropped a line in the water we caught a fish in a matter of moments.) I also remembered that he called a lot of people “cat” or a “cool cat.”

I was told that he played on the Johnny Carson show and also played at The White House. I think he’s most well known for playing with Benny Goodman and Clark Terry. If you’re interested you can read more about him at that Wikipedia link, and thanks to YouTube you can also find some of his performances there as well, including this Doc Severinsen “Airmail Special.”

Sanctify Yourself

January, 2017: I was laying in bed last night, waiting to fall asleep, and the power went out. As I laid there thinking about how cold it would get, a gray telephone we had many years ago began ringing in the closet. I wondered what it was doing in there.

Instantly the scenery changed and I flashed back to an event I didn’t know about twelve years ago. As I observed it, it made me sad.

Then I kept going back in time, first to one event and then another.

The meaning of one woman’s tattoo

Many years ago I was traveling and stopped at a donut shop in a small town. A young woman was working behind the counter, and I noticed that she had a tattoo of words on her left arm, but the words were upside down to me.

There was nobody else there at the time, so I said something like, “May I ask about your tattoo? It looks interesting.” I’m always fascinated by tattoos, because I assume they’re an expression of a person’s personality.

She moved her arm around so I could see the words, and explained that she gets nervous and panics a bit at times, like when the store gets busy. So at the store she’ll take someone’s order, then turn around like she’s getting the donuts, but look at her arm and read the words to herself as a way to calm down (like reminding oneself of a mantra).

I always thought that was smart, and I think of it myself when my own life gets hectic.

“Rare disease makes woman allergic to everything, including her husband”

In honor of Rare Disease Day (February 28th), here’s  a story about a woman who has a more severe form of the illness/disease I have. A few quotes:

“Johanna Watkins, 30, is allergic to almost everything and everyone, including her husband Scott, 29. She’s been diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome, a rare and progressive immunological condition.”

“She has a list of 15 foods she can eat and that’s it. Even those foods make her feel ill, it’s just that they don’t kill her. She’s eaten the same two meals for two years.”

Update: In 2016 Johanna wrote this article, What I’ve learned being isolated and allergic to everything.

(The image is from the story.)

An old white building I have one memory of

Back in the days of my youth, the town I lived in used to hold Little League tryouts in the first floor of this old white building. In one of the exercises, one of the coaches — my dad — used to hit ground balls to us. All of us wannabe players would stand in a single-file line near the front door and front windows, with the line wrapping along the windows on the right side. My dad would stand at the back of the building with a bat and hit these rubber-coated baseballs at us. We had to field them and then throw them to another coach who stood at the back of the building.

Notes on radioactive iodine treatment for papillary thyroid cancer


(These are some notes that I originally wrote in May, 2014.)

The next step in the process of treating my papillary thyroid cancer is a radioactive iodine treatment. I’ll be going through this treatment process in a few weeks, and this is what I know about the process today.

The radioactive iodine treatment process

From what I’ve learned from my endocrinologist, the process goes like this:

Comparison of the 2015 Subaru Outback vs Forester


I recently went into a Subaru dealership to buy a 2015 Subaru Forester. I currently live in Colorado, and may move back to Alaska, so it’s important to me to have an all-wheel drive vehicle for either winter experience. Although I went into the dealership to buy a Forester, I ended up buying an Outback. As a result of that experience I thought I’d share what I learned about the two Subarus.

Body style

The obvious difference between the two vehicles is that the Forester is a small SUV, while the Outback is more of a station wagon, though some people say it looks like a smaller SUV. I went into the dealership to buy a Forester because my current car is (was) a 2006 Toyota RAV4, and I wanted another SUV style vehicle. But, in my opinion, I think the Forester body design/style is dated. From a purely design standpoint, I think my RAV4 looks much nicer than the Forester. This became further apparent to me when I saw a Forester parked next to an Outback.


The Forester interior is very plain. My old RAV4 looks much more finished, and the Outback interior is much nicer than both of those vehicles. The Outback interior is nicer, more modern, and more finished than the Forester. I’m not sure, but it seems like Subaru has put a lot of design money into the Outback, and very little into the Forester.


I took two test drives of the Forester, and found the ride to be rough and bumpy, like I’d expect with a Jeep. By contrast, my RAV4 had a much smoother ride, and the Outback has a nicer ride than either the Forester or the RAV4. (I also took a test drive of a Honda CR-V, and the Outback ride is comparable to the CR-V.)

Interior size

I thought the Forester would be larger than the Outback, and it does indeed have more headroom than the Outback. But the numbers aren’t that different. The Outback has 108.1 cubic feet of passenger volume and 35.5 cubic feet of cargo volume, while the Forester comes in at 108.3 and 34.4 Despite the Forester being a taller vehicle with more headroom, I think the numbers work out this way because the Outback is a little wider and longer than the Forester.

Engine and gas mileage

The base engines in both vehicles are the same. Neither one is fast, but they get the job done. The Forester is estimated to get 32/24 mpg, and the Outback is estimated to get 33/25 mpg.

All wheel drive

My understanding is that both vehicles have the same all wheel drive (AWD) systems, but the Outback also has an additional XMODE that can be used for climbing and descending dirt/gravel roads. I think that’s an option on the Forester.

Weight and towing

The Outback feels like a much heaver vehicle, but a little research shows that the 2014 Outback had a weight of 3,423 pounds, which is only slightly greater than the 3,296 pounds of the Forester.

There is a huge difference in the towing capacity though: Edmunds shows the 2014 Outback has a towing capacity of 2,700 pounds, which is much higher than the 1,500 towing capacity of the Forester.


The Outback is about $2,000 more expensive than the Forester for each model level. (Subaru refers to their model/pricing levels as Standard, Premium, and Limited.)


Since I had the RAV4 for eight years, I decided that it was worth an additional $2,000 to have what I thought was a nicer vehicle for hopefully the next 8+ years.

The biggest issues with the Forester for me was the significantly rougher ride. Several times a year I make very long road trips, and I think my bodily organs would all be arranged after a 10-15 hour drive in the Forester. The body styling/design was another significant drawback for me; I didn’t like the idea of buying a car whose design looked older than my 2006 RAV4.

A diary of my first bout with diverticulitis (symptoms, testing, and treatment)

After my first-ever bought with diverticulitis, I wanted to make notes about what happened over the last five days.

Monday, April 7, 2015

On April 7, 2015, I woke up at 3:30am with pain and discomfort in my lower-left abdomen. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. It felt like a golf ball was lodged in there, and several hours later it was still there.

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How long does Angio-Seal leg pain last after an angiogram?


Caution: If you’ve had an angiogram and now have an Angio-Seal device in your leg (or arm), and you have medical concerns about that device, don’t waste your time reading this article. Call your doctor, or call 911 if you think it’s an emergency situation.


After having what I call a “fake heart attack” — something that was really Kounis Syndrome, also known as allergic angina — I had an angiogram in May, 2016, at which time an Angio-Seal device was used to help seal the hole that was put in my femoral artery after the angiogram.

What pericarditis feels like: Chest pain, signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment


WARNING: Chest pain can be a serious life or death matter. If you’re experiencing chest pain right now, don’t waste any time reading this article — get yourself to a hospital.

Initial signs and symptoms of my pericarditis

On Sunday, November 3, 2019, I had just finished lunch, looked at the clock, and saw that I could fit in about an hour of work before the Denver Broncos game started. Despite Denver’s 2-6 record, I was looking forward to see how Broncos’ quarterback Brandon Allen would do in his first career start following Joe Flacco’s neck injury.

A minute later I had severe chest pain. The pain wasn’t in the middle of my chest, but it was on the left side of the left chest/breast area. To the best of my memory, I went from feeling perfectly fine to having severe pain in a matter of moments; there was no other warning.

“I will control the controllable” ~ Sinner

“This is what I practice for, to play against the best players in the world. It’s going to be tough. This, I know. I will control the controllable, which is giving 100%, having the right attitude, fighting for every ball. And then we see the outcome, no? More than this we cannot do.”

~ Jannik Sinner, before playing Novak Djokovic in 2024

Dream: Maintenance people and a monk in my apartment, and Dalia Lama videos

January 28, 2020: In a dream this morning a bunch of people came into my apartment uninvited. All but one of them were maintenance people, and they started renovating my apartment. I argued with them that a little notice would have been nice.

While that was going on, I saw that the other person was a Tibetan monk. While the maintenance people started drilling and cutting, the monk walked around breaking all of my things. He’d pick up a glass thing and let it drop to the floor and break, and work harder to break other things. I ran over to him and asked, “Why are you breaking all of my things?”

He didn’t reply, but broke some DVDs in his hands. For some reason this made me more lucid in the dream, so I stepped on some of the DVDs he had dropped to the floor so I could crunch them more. “I get it,” I said, “it’s the whole ‘impermanence’ thing, right?” Then I thought of something and said, “Stay right here for a moment. Break something if you need to, but I’ll be right back.”

Then I went over to my DVD collection and grabbed my Dalai Lama video collection. I went back to the monk, handed him the DVDs, and said, “Here, you can break these, too. Or watch them. I don’t care.” Then I remembered that my tv started on fire when the maintenance people did something, but it didn’t matter, he took the DVDs and sat down silently.