Archive for May, 2010

Myrtle June 2007-May 2010

May 28, 2010 4 comments

Myrtle was a great little dog, a real one of a kind. My dad got her right after he retired from the vagabond life of a truck driver from the Humane Society in Mesquite NV. She was out the door at $15 and they threw in leash, collar, and a bag of toys. She was a pup and they said she was half chow and half hound dog and Dad always called her a chow hound. She was tiny though, and at first i swore she couldn’t be more than a 1/4 chow because she was so little. She had the black tongue and aloof nature as well as the long black hair and some of the looks, but tiny. With big grizzly bear feet with long wicked black nails and beady black eyes. But cute though, straight out of a dr seuss book.

Not long after Dad had her he realized something wasn’t right, she would just fall out, scream, and kind of have a seizure or something. After a check up at the vet we learned she had leaky heart valve. It would be 5K just for the diagnostics so Dad decided to love her just as long as she was here. We figured that was why she was so tiny.

Myrtle was a funny dog, she was raised pretty gentle and sometimes she had an attitude. Dad always emphasized personality over obedience. She’d come when she was called when she felt like it. If all were inside and were going out Myrtle wouldn’t come, she’d have to wait 45 seconds and then she’d want out. If we were outside and went in she wouldn’t come in with us, she’d wait her 45 seconds and then scratch at the door, just long enough to sit down and take one shoe off.

Sometimes when we were out she would scratch at the door, and i’d go to let her out but she would just stand there. She didn’t want out, she wanted us all to come in. She had definite ideas about propriety and strict obedience violated her dignity. She had a Princess quality about her, in hind sight its easy to see why Dad babied her.

She was a desert dog who didn’t like the heat, she’d hike from shade to shade, and would always crawl under the truck to stay cool when we were camping. She loved my brother’s Australian cattle dog who was about the same height but 40 pounds heavier, a dog with muscles on its forehead. Smokey, my brothers dog, loved Myrtle and would lure her in to play by rolling on her back and pretending to submit. They were very cute together.

Myrtle could only be active for a bit and then would have to stop and catch her breath. Smokey would hang back and let her. Myrtle couldn’t over do it or she would fall out, eventually she learned to self regulate and stopped seizing. Eventually she did less and less.

Sometimes in the humidity she couldn’t catch her breath. It was the saddest thing. I had a feeling she wouldn’t make it through this summer. Three weeks ago she got pneumonia and couldn’t catch her breath. She crawled under the truck like she was going off to die while we waited for her appt. at the vet. At first we thought it was a spell and she would snap out of it like she’d had in the past. But she crawled under the truck like she was crawling off to die.

The vet hit her with antibiotics, steroids, and benadryl and she seemed to snap out of it, but she never did catch her breath. She went through it all pretty stoically. She just got so tired from not being able to breath and couldn’t really lie down until her little heart just gave out. Dad found her dead in the basement, still warm yesterday morning.

I was just heading off to work. I was in no shape to counsel and canceled my day and came back home. Dad wrapped her in a sheet and carried her in the backyard and put her on the hill by the bird feeder. He had marked off a spot and was shoveling out sod. We dug a deep hole, close to 4′, below the worms and above the water table, dad said. Dad buried her with her little pink semi truck and a little girl’s shoe Myrtle had found in the desert.

After we buried her i got cleaned up and we went to breakfast at the Country Kitchen. We went to the nursery and got most of a flat of Spanish Myrtle, the flowering shrub. They didn’t have the tree kind.

Categories: dogs

“Glue Sticks and Potatoes”

I wrote this little ditty in the heart of my manic break down. I had stayed up all night thinking nonsense and was cooking breakfast (frying the last of the potatoes) when i was trying to remember i wanted to pick up some glue sticks for a collage i had an idea for and couldn’t find a pencil so i wrote a little song to help me remember when i got more potatoes. I recorded it with Milk Carton a capella with a lot of reverb. I think it came out kind of haunting and pretty cool:

Glue sticks are so wonderful

When you want things stuck together

Glue sticks are so wonderful

When outside there’s stormy weather

Potatoes are so wonderful

When they’re just like Mom makes

Potatoes are so wonderful

Whenever your heart breaks

Glue sticks and potatoes

They stick to you

Like bread sticks to butter

Glue sticks and potatoes

Is today’s analogy

For loving one another

Categories: poetry


On Tuesday I promised the guys in treatment when I did my education group on Saturday I would talk about spirituality. Prayer had come up and there was some question. I always walk a careful line on issues of religion and spirituality, its something where you really want to honor personal choice. But we do know some stuff about prayer and its power in the treatment of chemical dependency. The only practical stuff about letting go i have ever found in clinical literature is on prayer. Plus the Bible is extremely quotable. Today’s quotation i couldn’t pass up was “everyone is righteous in his own eyes”. Many are Christians and being able to cite stuff adds credibility. I try to mix it up with you can always bow to someone’s Buddha nature, good Mormons save 10%, tithe 10%, invest 10% and store up a years supply of food. But mostly i stay rooted in science. I have never done an entire presentation on spirituality and am a little excited about it. I am going to open up with a Dali Lama quote:

I believe an important distinction can be made between religion and spirituality. Religion I take to be concerned with faith in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another. Spirituality I take to be concerned with qualities of the human spirit, love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, that bring happiness both to self and others.

Spirituality comes from the Latin spiritus, spirit, or breath. It represents our animating force, our connection to something larger than ourselves. There is an in and out that comes with breathing that implies interaction. It is far less important what we believe as what we experience. Spirituality provides a connection, an engagement with the ineffable. Something larger than ourselves. Kabbalists believe that the imagination is the horse that we ride to see the divine. It is not the divine but its the means by which we travel to it.

Categories: philosophy, religeon, work

I am Blessed

Its been a really long day in a really long series of days, nonetheless i am blessed. I wake up early so i don’t have to be jarred awake by the blare of an alarm and put myself on a time schedule right from get go. I take my chill out time first so i make sure i get it in whatever else happens in the day. For today that was good planning. Work was work, with an extra group at 7 added on which challenged my getting the lawn mowed before the rain. As did the rain that fell at 4 and then rained on me while i mowed the front and half the back from 5 to 7 as well as dinner. Harry made some good spaghetti, a little sagey i thought at dinner, he sages the ground beast so as to give it a sausage thing, to good effect. I’m looking forward to having it for lunch tomorrow, because as i mentioned, i am blessed. I did a process group for my random hour of work in the evening. I only live a block from work but i like the little walk to shift mental gears. I hope i’m not breaking confidentiality to reveal that three others were feeling pushed about getting their lawns mowed before the rain comes. I discussed the evils of should and its easy replacement with could, and declared that i could mow my lawn after work, or i could just lay around. I also said a couple of sentences about the wonders of gratitude. It can save your life as something to cling to in tough times and its pretty useful in all other times. So i came home and mowed my lawn. I remembered a tip Amee got from a self help book when we were married and remembered how good i would feel when i was pushing it out. And I do, my back feels great, my lawn is mowed. If it rains i am ready. if it does not i have plants to plant. there’s a tiger game on to watch with the popster. life is good. i am blessed.

Categories: Uncategorized

all talked out

I have been posting a lot but not writing much. Pulling together my drugs and the brain series and writing the wedding have kept me writing so i haven’t wanted to take the time to write something, but i feel out of touch. As far as updates I got my MRI results, i have 2 bulging discs and a cyst on my spine. Its the upper disc the c-6 that’s pinching my nerve. I have been getting stronger but i am still out of whack. Today we had family day but the flier didn’t make it out of the marketing committee so no one was there. Jared shot some footage of me for the motivational interviewing training video we’re putting together. I am excited about the project, he’s pretty in to it and getting shots from a lot of different angles and stuff. I bet it’ll be tight. I talked about OARS: Open ended questions, Affirming, Reflecting, and Summarizing. You do all those things selectively and you can direct someone without telling them to do anything, its a cool technique. I also went to the Farmers Market and got lettuce, (some of my first crop of lettuces are coming in but not enough for local salad for every dinner. With the romaine recall i’m glad i’m doing all local lettuce. I also picked up asparagus, its been out for over a month and got some plants. I got 4 tiny hot pepper plants of various varieties and a 4 pack of big yellow marigolds.

In the garden the strawberries are turning white and should be producing soon, looking good. Bunnies have been at the kale not only in the bed but one up by the house as well and they grazed across the baby peas. I am going to put out cayenne tomorrow, i told the bunny hanging out in the neighbors yard. I am just not going through all this work to feed rabbits. I also picked up some sweet spanish onions each is supposed to come out a pound. Its getting late but its still cool. I double dug the eastern end of the 2nd bed and shoveled in about three inches of compost. I have room for another couple rows of something. I think i’m out of lettuce, maybe more kale though. I really need to cultivate everything, feed the bulbs in the back yard, weed the shade flower bed, and sundry other chores. If i had the time and strength i would knock out the rest of that second bed and do it up in yellow beans. I still may. As I write this it seems worth it. Have to finish amy and michael’s wedding first, i have all the pieces now. and clean the bathrooms, brenda and heather are coming next weekend.

Categories: gardening, health, meta


Hardy Are Red Mums On New Years-eve

Dusted by the fallen snow, warmed by fallen leaves

Our love blooms like those hardy mums and shimmers like the snow

It also warms like fallen leaves, as only lovers know

Harmony oh Harmony, i’m not the man i wish i could be

Harmony oh Harmony, i make up words, then sing ’em off key

Angels and Anarchists never stop to marry

Heaven and Revolution don’t leave time to tarry

But if they knew love like we know love, we’d see pretty soon

Angels and Anarchists on their honeymoon

Harmony oh Harmony, i’m not the man i wish i could be

Harmony oh Harmony, i make up words, then sing ’em off key

Categories: feelings, poetry, politics, religeon


The world is simply illusion

Full of suffering and confusion

Still you guide us through the night

And do not pass on into the night

Bodhisattva oh Bodhisattva

Pass up Nirvana for Samsara

You alone are here by choice

To share your vision share your voice

Bodhisattva oh Bodhisattva

Pass up Nirvana for Samsara

We warp your words and cause much strife

And all too often we take your life

Still you ride on the Karmic wheel

Take upon yourself the pain we feel

Bodhisattva oh Bodhisatttva

Pass up Nirvana for Samsara

Categories: poetry, religeon

Cocaine and the brain

Cut – N – Paste Notes for my education group, except for the first one the web page is on the top. Emphasis is mine.

Cocaine in the Brain

Melissa Hoegler

“Cocaine delivers an intensity of pleasure – and despair – beyond the bounds of normal human experience.”

When a person takes cocaine, it causes a rush. There is between one or two minutes of intense pleasure. This is followed by five to 8 minutes of euphoria, then as the high comes down, an overwhelming urge for more, which may last for a day. When a user is between cocaine doses or halts usage, the opposite effects occur. The user is depressed and tired.

Cocaine is attractive to users because it triggers dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is present in many regions of the brain. In normal mice, the introduction of cocaine increases dopamine by 150 percent. Dopamine regulates movement, emotion, motivation, and the feeling of pleasure. In a normal brain, dopamine is released by a neuron into a synapse and then it moves to dopamine receptors on other neurons. It is then moved back to the neuron that transmitted the dopamine initially.

When cocaine enters the area of the brain where the dopamine is located, it blocks the reuptake pumps that remove the dopamine from the synapse of the nerve cell. Thus, more dopamine gathers at the synapse and feelings of intense pleasure result. This feeling continues until cocaine is naturally removed from the system. Research findings by the National Institute of Drug Addiction (NIDA) demonstrate that cocaine not only effects the level of dopamine in the brain, but also the level of seratonin. In a study using mice without dopamine transporters, the mice were given cocaine and they still experienced rewarding effects. This was obvious because the animals kept on attempting to get or self-administer more. These researchers speculate that more than one neurotransmitter is responsible for the pleasurable feeling cocaine yields. Although main hypothesis as to why cocaine is so pleasurable, is that it alters levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and seratonin, some scientists report that cocaine effects approximately 90 different parts of the brain, not just the two main regions of the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens. However, it is interesting that it is these two regions of the brain that remain active after the cocaine has left the system, and the powerful, uncontrollable desire for the drug has set in.

It was recently discovered through newer imaging techniques that cocaine hinders blood flow. This is why is it can cause brain damage or defects. Recent research demonstrates that if a cocaine user even thinks about cocaine, the blood flow is altered . This suggests that the addictive nature of the drug is stronger than we think, because simply thinking about it produces similar results in addicts’ brains’. This is likely to be a result of the way in which cocaine changes the structure of an abuser’s brain. For example n experiments done with lab rats, scientists reported that after repeated exposure to cocaine, the rats’ dendrites changed by becoming bigger and denser. This means that an increase in synaptic connectivity results from cocaine use which triggers people and animals to work harder to attain the drug.

When Is It Best To Take Crack Cocaine?

As a rule of thumb, it is profoundly unwise to take crack-cocaine. The brain has evolved a truly vicious set of negative feedback mechanisms. Their functional effect is to stop us from being truly happy for long. Nature is cruelly parsimonious with pleasure. The initial short-lived euphoria of a reinforcer as uniquely powerful as crack will be followed by a “crash”. This involves anxiety, anhedonia, depression, irritability, extreme fatigue and possibly paranoia. Physical health may deteriorate. An intense craving for more cocaine develops. In heavy users, stereotyped compulsive and repetitive patterns of behaviour may occur. So may tactile hallucinations of insects crawling underneath the skin (“formication”). Severe depressive conditions may follow; agitated delirium; and also a syndrome sometimes known as toxic paranoid psychosis. The neural after-effects of chronic cocaine use include changes in monoamine metabolites and uptake transporters. There is down-regulation of dopamine D2 receptors to compensate for their drug-induced overstimulation. Thus the brain’s capacity to experience pleasure is diminished.


Researchers have found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol to produce a third substance, cocaethylene, which intensifies cocaine’s euphoric effects. Cocaethylene is associated with a greater risk of sudden death than cocaine alone.

Behavioral interventions—particularly, cognitive-behavioral therapy—have been shown to be effective for decreasing cocaine use and preventing relapse. Treatment must be tailored to the individual patient’s needs in order to optimize outcomes—this often involves a combination of treatment, social supports, and other services.

Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications for treating cocaine addiction

Chronic exposure to cocaine depresses neural activity. Initially, the effect shows up mostly in the brain’s reward areas. With longer exposure, however, neural depression spreads to circuits that form cognitive and emotional memories and associations.

All the monkeys that had self-administered cocaine showed some localized depression of glucose metabolism. In the monkeys that self-administered cocaine daily for just 5 days, neural depression was largely restricted to pleasure and motivation areas, especially the reward circuit and areas that process expectations of rewards.

In the 100-day test, animals that had received the high dose of the drug revealed less neural activity in 40 of the 77 brain regions analyzed as compared with animals that had received only food morsels (see table). The high-dose monkeys incurred a 16 percent drop, on average, in overall cerebral glucose metabolism. The low dose of cocaine depressed metabolism in 14 of the regions, but not overall.

The tests suggest that with longer exposure to cocaine, reductions in neural activity expand within and beyond the pleasure and motivation centers, says Dr. Porrino. “Within the structure called the striatum, the blunting of activity spreads from the nucleus accumbens, a reward area, to the caudate-putamen, which controls behavior based on repetitive action,” she says. Long-term cocaine use also depressed memory and information-processing areas.

The findings accord well with those of human imaging studies, which have found general depression in cerebral blood flow among chronic cocaine abusers compared with nonabusers. By using animals, however, Dr. Porrino eliminated two sources of uncertainty in those clinical studies: differences in metabolic rates that may have predated cocaine abuse and abuse of drugs other than cocaine. “My team can directly attribute to cocaine the depressed brain metabolism observed in the study,” says Dr. Porrino.

“Our 100-day experimental protocol for rhesus monkeys gives a good picture of what might happen in the brains of cocaine abusers,” she says. “Some addiction researchers believe that the shift in activity within the striatum may, in part, underlie the progression from voluntary drug taking to addiction. Moreover, human imaging research has linked drug craving with the amygdala and insula, temporal lobe areas depressed by cocaine in our study.”

COCAINE SELF-ADMINISTERED BY MONKEYS FOR 100 DAYS DEPRESSES NEURAL ACTIVITY IN SPECIFIC BRAIN AREAS. Name of area Selected roles in behavior Depression of metabolic activity* (percentage) Nucleus accumbens (ventral striatum) Processes reward and motivation 16-31 Caudate-putamen (dorsal striatum) Controls behaviors based on repetitive action 10-23 Hypothalamus Controls eating, fighting, mating, and sleep 18-22 Insula Translates body signals into subjective feelings 17-19 Hippocampus Consolidates memories and influences mood 15-23 Amygdala Forms emotional and motivational memories, e.g., linking a cue and a drug to produce craving 13-19 Temporal cortex areas Processes emotional and cognitive information, e.g., recognition and short-term memory 17-22

A diuretic commonly used to treat hypertension and congestive heart failure may improve brain blood flow in cocaine addicts, according to a study in the August 2003 issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Chronic cocaine use is associated with decreases in blood flow to the brain, but the mechanism for this decrease is not fully understood. Researchers theorize cocaine-induced constriction of the arteries in the brain and/or increased blood clotting may be involved.

The problems associated with decreased brain blood flow in some cocaine abusers are the results of major stokes such as paralysis, loss of ability to speak, severe cognitive impairment and in the worst cases death. The patients in these studies with reduced blood flow to their brain had significant impairment in thinking, concentrating, reading and remembering things. They also had significant depressive symptoms that may be related to these deficiencies in brain functioning due to lack of sufficient blood flow to the neurons.

Thus, increasing blood flow back to normal can reverse these cognitive impairments and make these patients more responsive to our behavioral treatments which require learning of new skills to refuse drugs. These improvements in cognition can also enable these patients to return to productive employment and be active members of society.

To gauge the effects of the diuretic amiloride on cocaine dependent subjects, Thomas Kosten, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, and colleagues administered amiloride, aspirin or placebo to 49 patients for one month while they resided on a research unit. Blood flow in the brain was measured on admission to the unit and at the end of treatment.

At the time they were enrolled in the study, cocaine-dependent subjects showed decreased cerebral blood flow compared to 18 control subjects. After four weeks of treatment the researchers found that the amiloride, but not aspirin or placebo, improved blood flow in the brain. None of the treatments affected blood clotting.

The authors speculate that the improvement by amiloride may be due to the medication’s ability to dilate the arteries in the brain. The authors also pointed out that amiloride may be used in combination with other medications that also increase cerebral blood flow to treat cocaine dependent patients.

Categories: the mind, work