Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hard Week

Recently we learned that Mackenzie’s Aunt Connie Connie was going into Hospice care, due to ovarian cancer. The middle of last week we learned that there wasn’t much time left. Also last week, my 96 year old grandmother went into the hospital for GI issues. Last weekend Grandma was put on palliative care, and Connie’s condition quickly deteriorated.

Connie passed away Monday night at the age of 63. Mackenzie made plans to head to Green Bay (around where she lived) on Tuesday, leaving Thursday. I would have liked to have gone with to be with her and her family, but I was not able to commit since I didn’t know what was going to happen with Grandma. Thursday morning I was anxious, and saw that fares on Virgin America to Chicago were fairly decent, if I stayed through to the following Thursday (2/7), so I booked a plane ticket. However, around noon PST, Grandma Kitty passed away, peacefully, exactly 96 years and 3 months of age. I’m at my parent’s house now. Both Mackenzie and I are mourning the passing of a wonderful woman who we cherished, and neither of us can be with the other.

posted by neil at 8:49 am
under emo,family  

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pine Mouth and Me

Two weeks ago, on August 22, I had people over for dinner. I made this recipe for the Zuni Cafe roasted chicken with bread salad. The recipe/dinner itself would almost be worthy for a post in and of itself, but as you can see, Deb has already well explained the recipe, and I have something more important to talk about – Pine Mouth. I know, you are probably thinking “what the heck is pine mouth?” I would be saying the exact same thing in your shoes, if I didn’t have the unfortunate experience myself.

I suppose it makes the most sense for me to explain this by way of a timeline, and fill in the information as I learned of it.

Tuesday August 25, 2009 – I woke up for work (I work from home Tuesday mornings), and while I was brewing the coffee, I grabbed a gum drop from a plastic bin as a snack. It tasted a bit strange to me, extra bitter, but I thought maybe it was just a bad gum drop, and didn’t think much of it. The coffee, prepared in a Moka pot, also tasted a bit bitter, but I thought I had burned it some, and just kind of powered through. Neither of these tastes really made me think anything was wrong, but after I got to the office around 11, I noticed that there was a persistent foul taste in my mouth – a acrid, sour taste. I thought maybe I was having some reflux, not completely unheard of for me, so I had a Tums, which also tasted completely awful. When 30 minutes later the taste didn’t go away – in fact it was hanging there like a bitter blanket on the back of my tongue, I started to get concerned. So I did what any sane person would do, and I googled “bitter taste on back of tongue”, and found a bunch of very concerning articles – was my liver failing? Did I actually have a brain tumor? However, thankfully, I noticed, far down on the page, a reference to pine nuts causing a bitter taste. “I had pine nuts Sunday in the bread salad, in fact I had a bunch while cooking dinner too…” was in my mind.

I did some more googling around, and found that wikipedia contains a reference to this outcome, as well as a link to a paper in the European Journal of Emergency Medicine describing this affliction. Interestingly enough, the paper is from 2001, but most of the 13,000 hits for “Pine Mouth” seem to be from the past 9 months or so. So what’s going on here? Well, no one knows, but I will talk about what’s known:

  1. Around two days after eating certain pine nuts, certain people develop a lingering, unpleasant taste sensation
  2. The pine nuts that have caused the issue appear to be mostly sourced from China, or other places in the East. European and American pine nuts appear to be precluded from causing this, for now
  3. The exact methodology of this affliction is not known (but I will discuss a hypothesis of mine shortly
  4. The affliction lasts for about one to two weeks for more people

Seeing this all relieved me greatly, and also caused me to realize that the bitter taste was reminiscent of the bitter component to pine nuts’ flavor. I made it through the rest of the day eating food that tasted poorly, and just suffered.

Wednesday August 26, 2009 – This mostly probably the worst day of the experience taste wise, because everything I put in my mouth, save for water, tasted like it was coated in dish soap. I was also a bit concerned by getting affected now (and note that none of the other 3 people at dinner got hit by this, so perhaps my extra snacking before dinner helped this along), since I had plans to go wine tasting in Napa the coming weekend with Mackenzie, and what’s the point in wine tasting if all the wine tastes like soap!?

Thursday August 27, 2009 – The soap taste had receded a bit. It was now more of an aftertaste (and a most foul one at that), and I found that some foods had strong after tastes than others. In particular high carb/high sugar foods were the soapiest, and spicy and savory items were markedly less so. I had some hope that by the coming Saturday I would be “better”.

Saturday August 29, 2009 – Sadly, I wasn’t all the way better by Saturday. The soapy aftertaste was certainly less strong, and it lingered far less, but my taste was still not up to par. I couldn’t trust any aftertaste in any of the wines I tasted (and, alas, port in particular was fouled by the soapy aftertaste, which made my otherwise fun visit to Prager Port imperfect.

Wednesday September 2, 2009 – After brushing my teeth in the morning I thought to myself “hey, was this baking soda tooth paste”, because it had that sort of aftertaste. It was not, just normal minty stuff, but this also the last little whisper of the Pine Mouth distastefulness. I was, after this, free at last!

So it lasted a bit more than 8 days for me, which seems to be right around the average, but the big questions remain – what the heck is this, how does it work? Of course, I can’t answer everything, but I can say that scraping your tongue, eating things like parsley, etc have no impact on this. It’s something inside (or chemically bonded) to your taste buds which causes this. And, I think this is the key to the one to two week duration – the life span to a taste bud is about two weeks. So, I, hypothesize that some chemical in these pine nuts from China or Korea or etc, binds with the taste receptors in some taste buds, and then over the course of 36 or 48 hours, metabolizes into some other chemical that blocks all taste except bitter, and perhaps even generates this taste. Now, as these afflicted taste buds die off over the next two weeks, your taste gradually returns to normal.

That’s my story with Pine Mouth. I’m going to be hesitant to eat pine nuts sourced from Asia again, but I’m not going to completely avoid them. It’s entirely possible I will never face this again (and I hope so), but at least I’ll know what it is next time. Have you ever had pine mouth? What was your experience like? Let me know!

posted by neil at 12:42 pm
under cooking,emo,food,rambling  

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sadness Times 2

Two sad pieces of news to post about:

  1. I didn’t get the apartment I really liked. Instead I got the one with the panoramic view. The most sad thing about this is that the world will not be getting a “zelda secret found” playing device. Oh, one nice thing about this new place is that it is really close to my CSA pickup place. I am kind of mad now that I realized this is the pickup place with about the worst hours (12-6) in the city. I was looking forward to changing to one near the other place that was open a bit later a night, so I wouldn’t have to leave work “earlyish”
  2. The optical drive in my Macbook Pro is busted. It’s in the shop now. AppleCare to the rescue again, I guess. This is worse than it would normally be because it is nanowrimo and I liked to write on it. Well, I will just use my work laptop for this last week or until I get sarnath back. Double points to anyone who knows what that name is a reference too

I think I will be moving around 12/5 or so, if all goes to plan.

posted by neil at 5:20 pm
under daily tribulations,emo  

Saturday, October 18, 2008


No, I didn’t go to the Redbull Soapbox Derby in Dolores Park today – although I did want to. Instead I am watching a cat derby in Sunnyvale.

My friend Erin, who lives in Sunnyvale, is in Salt Lake City this weekend, so I am keeping tabs on her two kittens (Or are they young cats? They are about 5 months old. Not fully cats yet for sure, especially in behavior). I have some birthday festivities to attend back up in San Francisco tonight, but I want to make sure the kittens are well attended, so I am staying here until early this evening. The upshot of course, is that I am missing the Dolores Park silliness. The kittens are pretty silly (they are wrestling in a bit of sunshine on the carpet not), at least.

It’s actually kind of weird being here alone. The last time I was here alone was probably back in March, when I was watching Sneakers, before she got really sick and Erin was willing to leave town. It’s also weird that because, while Sneakers was very much my cat too, these girls are not. Granted they love me, and are really friendly and adorable, but it’s still a bit weird. But I can’t help but think of Sneakers – as I look up at the “mantle” over the TV I can see the lovely wooden box that her ashes are in. She’s been gone for almost 3 months now; I still miss her.

So I don’t end on a down note, here is a photo of the kittens investigating the toilet (they didn’t drink form it but they were sure interested):

posted by neil at 1:07 pm
under emo,rambling  

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The past weekend

My mom was in town from Thursday evening until Monday morning. I will go over some highlights of the weekend:

After picking her up from SFO and dropping her stuff off at the house, we went to eat at Liberty Cafe in Bernal. I had a pot pie and I burned my tongue a bit on it. This was unfortunate because the next day we went up to St Helena and Calistoga.

While “up north” we took a tour at Ehlers Estate Winery, which is an organic and not-for-profit winery – all their profits are invested in cardiovascular research.

We happened to be there on one of the last few pressing days of the year, so we got to see some sorting action, and sample the cabernet sauvignon grapes. They were actually remarkably delicious – quite sweet, but not cloying, and with a rich flavor. The put green globe and red flame grapes to shame!

After the tour we had a tasting of their merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon wines. They were all pretty good, but die to my tongue burn I think I might have missed some nuance. Regadless, I like the franc enough to buy a bottle of it.

After the winery we had a decent lunch in Calistoga, and then went up to the Petrified Forest. This was a rather interesitng, albeit overly touristy place. Still, giant fossilized trees are rather impressive.

I decided to take my mom to dinner at my favorite sushi restaurant, Sakae in Burlingame. I discovered it soon after she left the last time she was in the area, so I figured it would be nice to take her there. We both greatly enjoyed our meals (it was the first time I had really good (not from Mollie Stone’s) sushi in months. After dinner I took my mom to Lucky 13 where people I knew were meeting for happy hour. We hung around for an hour of so, and my mom got to meet some of my friends.

Saturday we visited the newly opened California Academy of Sciences. Parking was a bit of a mess, but we actually managed to find a street spot about half a mile away from the museum. While walking across the plaza between the De Young and CAS we came across a guy registering people to vote, and we each donated a dollar for an Obama button. And then we entered the zoo that is the CAS on Saturday two weeks after opening.

The first thing that we did was get tickets for the planetarium – it was 12:30 and there were tickets for the 3:30 show, which seemed reasonable enough. We spent the next 3 hours looking at most of the exhibits – the overall highlight was the living roof, for me, but there were some good tanks in the Aquarium. The one major exhibit we did not visit was the rain forest “dome”. The line was just too long. The planetarium show was indeed neat, and it should be something on everyone who visit the museum’s agenda.

After the museum we headed back to my place and got ready to go to dinner:

You might be asking yourself “Oh, why are they dressed so nicely?” The answer of course is that we were going to Gary Danko for dinner. I could bore you with details of the dinner, but I will just give you a capsule summary: exquisite. Seriously it was fantastic from the physical restaurant, to the food (well one dish was only REALLY REALLY good, but the rest were so good, I am willing to overlook that) to the staff. We had a great time and a fantastic meal. And we were very full.

Sunday was a chill day – mom had to grade some papers, so we hung around the house for the morning, then went down to Sunnyvale that afternoon to visit with my friend Erin and her two young cats (just a little old to be kittens now). We went to dinner at my favorite mexican place, Vive Sol, and that pretty much was the end of the weekend. I took mom to the airport Monday morning before going in to work.

posted by neil at 6:45 pm
under adventure,emo,politics,rambling  

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A tribute To My Cousin

My cousin Allan Goldberg passed away in June at age 40, from cancer. He survived cancer as a teen, against almost all the odds, and pretty much dedicated his life to living it to the fullest since then. Soon after graduating college and moving out to San Francisco he joined the non-profit world, and started to work for Camp Okizu, a summer camp for children with cancer and their siblings. It is designed to help them enjoy a more normal life. As their director of financial development he raised money for them at crucial times. Al had the ability to make things work, despite the long odds.

Eventually he decided that he wanted to go back to school, and got a Masters from Harvard. He then went on to work for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and from there to become a director at First Descents, an organization for people in their 20s and 30s with cancer to experience outdoor adventures.

Through his work at these various foundations Al touched many lives in ways that I can’t even being to imagine. Yesterday there was a memorial for him at Crissy Field, attended by well over 100 people. My aunt and uncle and his one of his sisters and her husband came to town from the East Coast to attend, and I went to the memorial with them. Listening to a wide variety of people speak about him was very sad, and also very uplifting, because he made so many lives better.

The saddest part, for me, was that even though i had known him my entire life, and was a blood relative, people who had only known him for a couple of years knew him better than me. Obviously I can’t take all the blame for this, but I do feel sad about it. His death was tragic, but it was great to see the immense amount of good that came out of his life. I had last seen my aunt and uncle exactly one year ago for a memorial for my Grandmother, and my cousin, well, I don’t think I had seen her over 15 years, and I had never met her husband. It’s sad that it takes a tragedy for me to see my family.

Some articles about Al below, and a web search will reveal a lot more, including many blog tributes to him:

New story on his stretchathon
Chronicle tory about the memorial
Washington Post obituary

posted by neil at 8:17 pm
under emo,rambling,Uncategorized  

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Emo Part 2

This is completely for myself. I didn’t mean to be all emo again, but I think I need to, for my own records.

Yesterday, we spent all day with sneakers. We took a nap in the bed, and sat wth her outside, and on the couch. While outside Sneakers saw a humming bird, and hid in some flower bushes. She couldn’t move much, but I know she was enjoying it in the best way possible. I gave her a couple of raspberries, which she licked at, but couldn’t really muster the strength or desire to eat. The same with treats, and her soft food.

When the time came, she got right in to her carrier, which was odd, she usually despised it. She was silent on the car ride, unlike normally when she would mew and meow the entire way to the vet. She would also not take any Pounce treats, even her favorite catnip variety.

At the vet, they quickly brought us in to the back room, and we took the top off the carrier and let Sneakers sit quietly on her towel. Soon the vet came in, and remarked that Sneaker’s fur was still amazingly shiny, soft and silky, despite being so ill (we knew this already, Sneakers always had awesome fur). The vet then told us what was going to happen, and then we began the procedure. Sneakers lay still as Erin and I pet her, and within a minute of starting, she had passed on, quietly, and peacefully.

We cried over her corpse for a bit, and said our final goodbyes. I, of course, had already had a separation from her, so this has been much harder on Erin.

After we left, we made a stop at Bevmo, for some booze, cheese and crackers. When we got back, erin cried in bed as I threw out the litter boxes, and cleaned up the food dishes. It was very weird to see Erin’s house without those things in it, and to know that there was no cat hiding somewhere.

Again, goodbye Sneakers, you were the best cat ever.

posted by neil at 12:16 pm
under emo  

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Most Emo Post Ever

Sneakers, my ex’s cat, who was also my cat for a long time (and I still consider my cat, even though I don’t live with her) is sick. Very sick. She’s had kidney disease for the past several years, and it has progressed to End stage in the past couple of months. In the past two weeks she has degraded greatly. She also has arthritis in her spine, and she has a hard time walking. Pretty much all she’s been doing is eating and sleeping, but she was getting some joy from going outside and sitting in the sun.

Erin talked to the vet yesterday, and they decided that Sneaker’s quality of life was just not there anymore. Emotionally, I want to think this is not true, that there are still things she enjoys, but logically, I know that it’s not really true. Besides, she has a hard time walking without being drugged up on kitty narcotics. At this point, prolonging the inevitable would be more for us than for Sneakers. So we’ve decided to bring her in to be put to sleep this afternoon.

I stayed over at Erin’s last night, so I could spend as much time as possible with her. I bought her some raspberries, one of her favorite foods, and she enjoyed some of those last night. But I can also tell that there is a definite lack of spark there. She’s still Sneakers, but she’s missing the vibrancy that was always a key part of her cat personality.

Even though I haven’t lived with her for the past two years, I felt happy knowing she was around, and that I could see her on occasion. I am going to miss her a lot.

posted by neil at 7:27 am
under emo  

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Grandparents and Such

My Paternal Grandmother passed away on 2/23/2007. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago, so it wasn’t a big surprise, and she didn’t really suffer much, and she was 89. However, I didn’t find out until Monday Morning. Which is fair. No reason to tell me something like that before brain surgery.

Anyway, as things worked out, I had two grandparents alive at that time. One is very, very dear to me (my Maternal grandmother), the other one, I never was close to. She was a pretty distant woman. So while I am sad that she died, it didn’t really cause me much grief. However, as soon as my dad told me on Monday morning I had to call my other Grandma – who thankfully, besides severe arthritis, is in good health for someone on the verge of changing from an octogenerian to a nonagenarian.

Anyway, I don’t question the decision to keep it from me, but I know I wouldn’t have been really affected. She was such a distant, and fairly cold woman – I mean I loved her, she was my grandmother, but i wasn’t really fond of her. My other Grandma, though, is one of my favorite people in the world.

I feel a bit bad that my dad didn’t get to go the memorial service, but, well, not that bad.

posted by neil at 5:55 pm
under emo  

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