Friday, October 29, 2021

Halloween Villains

My friend Rain's Thursday Art Date themes have finally pushed me
into attempting art, something I've been meaning to do forever, 
In my past I dabbled with art, usually in a required course
or in demonstrating art projects I wanted my elementary students to do.
I could count on the fingers of one hand how many times
I've sat down and made something artistic for the sheer fun of it.

In the last two months or so, I've learned so much about art,
and my idea about what art is has expanded.
I'm learning from Rain and from the talented people
who participate in her Thursday art date.

This week's theme is Villains.
I only recently learned that all kinds of art stencils existed.
I knew there were stencils for letters and geometric shapes,
but there was a whole world of art stencils I knew nothing about.
So for Villains, I ordered some Halloween stencils from Amazon to try working with them.

I was excited to shuffle through my 28 stencils when my Amazon package arrived.
It took me about five seconds to realize that I wanted to create 
a picture using bits of about fifteen stencils.

Six Stencils at Work

What I learned as I played with the stencils,
tracing the outlines, inking them, and coloring them,
was how relaxing the process was.  
And I forgot about perfection!  I just had fun.

It took me about five hours to complete my picture,
and when I was finished, I panicked.
I thought I had misspelled villain.
Even my super-speller-husband thought it was villian.
Fortunately, after a dinner break filled with imagining how to fix my drawing,
we checked the spelling again, and I breathed a sigh of relief:  villain.

I'm quite pleased with my finished picture, 
and I realized it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.
I relaxed and had fun creating something.
That's what counts! 

Halloween Villains
October 28, 2021
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I heard back from my doctor, and my tests confirmed I have Graves Disease.
It's a very good result, and one I can deal with.
After months of searching for an answer regarding my troubling symptoms, 
it's a relief to have a diagnosis!
I'm feeling grateful and positive! 

Stay happy and safe!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


Friday, October 22, 2021

Adventures with Radiation and a Broomstick

I had a medical adventure this week.
After a number of medical tests and enough blood draws to make a vampire fat,
we're finally zeroing in on what has happened to me in recent months.
I have suddenly developed a hyperactive thyroid,
and yesterday's and today's tests should indicate what is wrong.
Right now I'm radioactive, LOL!

Sky Ridge Medical Center
Lone Tree, Colorado, USA
October 20, 2021
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I went to Sky Ridge Medical Center for an outpatient 
Radioactive Iodine Uptake Scan (RAIU),
for a twenty-four hour test over two days.
This test determines a patient's thyroid function as opposed to its anatomy.

The first thing I did was swallow two radioactive pills 
containing a small amount of radioactive iodine,
a radiotracer that a gamma camera can detect.
I couldn't touch the pills with my hands.  
I had to drop them into my mouth from a special container.
My body identifies the radioactive iodine as iodine
and sends it to my thyroid to be processed into thyroid hormones.
Then I had to wait six hours while the radioactive iodine headed for my thyroid.

No problem!  After nine hours of fasting and not being able to have even a sip of water,
I raced for the hospital's Starbucks!

Starbucks ~ Sky Ridge Medical Center
Lone Tree, Colorado, USA
October 20, 2021
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

And there was a witch with a broom on a Starbucks sign, 
so I have a pitiful something for Rain's Thursday Art Date broomstick theme!
I had no time this week to create art.  

Starbucks ~ Sky Ridge Medical Center
Lone Tree, Colorado, USA
October 20, 2021
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I had planned to go to Park Meadows Mall to shop for some new clothes,
because I hadn't seen the inside of a mall since the beginning of Covid.
But the truth is, I was too tired to face walking all over the huge mall.
When your thyroid runs amok, all kinds of unpleasant things happen.
Your heart races, your breathing is fast and shallow, 
you contend with fatigue, muscle weakness, heat sensitivity, 
tremors, and difficulty sleeping.
The thought of trying on clothes was overwhelming.

Furthermore, I've lost nineteen pounds since April.
I was so excited that I was losing over three pounds a month.
I thought I had figured out how to eat healthy meals
and lose weight after Terry's heart attack in April. 
And now I know it was my hyperactive thyroid in action.  😱
Why buy new clothes if I might puff up on thyroid medicine in a month?
So I plugged my phone into a charging station and hung out.

Six hours later I was lying on a moveable examination table 
with my arms immobilized and my knees raised.
Russ, a friendly, knowledgeable, and calm tech,
slid the table into the machine and positioned an imaging scanner 
above my throat to record the radioactivity emitted by the radiotracer in my thyroid.
All I had to do was lay still for seven minutes for each position of the scanner.

A Similar Machine to Mine
Screenshot from You Tube

The scanners are like Geiger counters.
The radioactive iodine taken up by the thyroid emits gamma rays.
A gamma camera detects the gamma rays, 
and the gamma rays are turned into an electrical signal and sent to a computer.
The computer builds a picture of the different intensities
of the gamma rays in the thyroid, in shades of grey and white.
A gamma scan is also known as a scintigramm.

5 different scintigramms taken from thyroids with different syndroms: 
A) normal thyroid, B) Graves disease, diffuse increased uptake in both thyroid lobes, 
C) Plummers disease (TMNG, toxic multinodular goitre), D) Toxic adenoma, 
E) Thyroiditis. Marker 99Tc  Wikimedia
Then I had a second test sitting in a chair.
Russ placed a probe against my neck and took more gamma measurements,
followed by the probe placed on my thigh for additional gamma measurements.

Photograph of a typical probe counter used for thyroid uptake exams. 
The patient sits with the camera directed at the neck for five minutes, 
and then the leg for five minutes.

This time the computer generated images of the radioactivity 
in a blue or background wave and a red or radioactive wave.
By subtracting my thigh waves from my neck waves, 
the radiologist can determine how active my thyroid is,
the larger the subtracted red area, the more activity in my thyroid.

Today I returned for a second probe of my throat and thigh.
The two probes, 18 hours apart, help the radiologist understand 
the functioning of my thyroid better.

In the past few months, I have experienced increasingly bizarre double vision.
It's really freaky watching your two-headed stylist working on your hair,
with her upper lips talking between her lower eyebrows.

Mr. Bean doesn't come close!

Based on my worsening double vision, 
my doctor and ophthalmologist think I likely have Graves Disease, 
but I won't know until I get the results of my tests.
Maybe Monday!

So why would I share his?
The thyroid is a very important gland!
It creates hormones that enter the bloodstream and travel to every tissue in your body.
The thyroid hormones regulate how your brain, heart, muscles, and other organs function, and they control how your body uses energy and stays warm.
Untreated thyroid problems can be life-threatening.

Thyroid symptoms are often mistaken for symptoms of other conditions.
I had had my annual THS (Thyroid-stimulating hormone) test in November, 
and my results were normal, like they had been for decades.
So my doctor initially looked in other directions:  heart, lungs, abdomen, and blood panels.

Between two sets of blood tests,
I had my freaky hairstyling event and raced to my ophthalmologist.
He coordinated with my doctor, and I had an immediate THS test.
My THS levels were barely detectable, 
meaning my thyroid was hyperactive and producing too much thyroid hormone.
In a few months my THS levels had tanked.

Before I left my doctor's office, my doctor ordered 
a more extensive thyroid blood panel and scheduled me at Sky Ridge for a RAIU.

If you are experiencing concerning symptoms, and you are not finding answers,
be proactive and ask for a thyroid blood panel.
An abnormal THS test can signal that something is wrong.
Additional thyroid blood panels can confirm it.

I hate medical mysteries, especially concerning me.
If you can get a diagnosis, then you can address the problem.
You can be sure I'll address mine, whatever the diagnosis.

Stay happy and safe!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


Friday, October 15, 2021

Dreams of Mars

When I think of alien worlds, Mars immediately comes to mind.
It's the one world that I may live to see astronauts land on,
and it's the one world that humans may colonize in this century.

So it was great fun to participate in  Rain's Thursday Art Date theme Alien Worlds,
and to think about Mars and human colonization. 

Mars has haunted the dreams and imaginations of humankind
since we first gazed at the red planet. 
It has been associated with war and bloodshed since ancient times because of its color.
Babylonians called Mars Nergal after their god of fire, war, and destruction, 
and Romans named it Mars after their god of war.   Google

Dreams of Mars
by Louise MacBeath Barbour
October 13, 2021
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

The First Card in the Mars Attacks Trading Card Series, 1962
To See the Full Series Click Here

From Earth, Mars is the most accessible place in the solar system,
although establishing a colony on Mars poses difficult challenges:
radiation exposure, isolation, low gravity, toxic soil, 
very cold temperatures, and a lack of available water and oxygen.

NASA artist's conception of a human mission to Mars (painting), 1989

True color image of Mars taken by the OSIRIS instrument on the European Space Agency Rosetta spacecraft during its February 2007 flyby of the planet.
The image was generated using the OSIRIS orange (red), green, and blue filters.

Mars has always fascinated me.
When I watched the Eagle land on the moon on July, 20, 1969,
I was certain we'd have colonies on Mars by now.
My hopes were crushed by the lack of human space exploration over the last half century.

But on September 28, 2018, I felt renewed hope when Nature reported an exciting find.
Planetary scientists reported the discovery of liquid water below the surface
of Ultimi Scopuli at the base of Mar's south polar layered deposits.

The water existed in a 20 kilometer-wide lake about 1.5 kilometers
under a thick polar cap formed by layers of ice and dust.   
The Mars Advance Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) survey
collected the data leading to the detection of water.

Illustration of the European Space Agency's Mars Express Mission Showing its MARSIS Antenna

The European Space Agency conducts the Mars Express mission to explore Mars.
MARSIS is a radar instrument carried on Mars Express,
and it was designed to search for water, water-ice, or permafrost layers
under the visible surface of the planet.  Mark Plank Institute for Solar Research
The MARSIS principal investigator is Giovanni Picardi at Sapienza University of Rome. 

Mars-Subglacial Water-South Pole Region
A view of the southern polar plain of Mars, with the Mars Express’s color-coded findings superimposed at the site where they were detected. The 12-mile-wide lake is believed to be about a mile deep.

The South Polar Ice Cap, Mars, Summer 2000

Layered Deposits at the South Pole of Mars
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter captured this view 
of part of the south polar ice cap on Mars on 13 May 2018

Mars Express detects water buried under the south pole of Mars.


If Scopuli sounds familiar than you are likely a fan of Amazon's The Expanse,
a fabulous, critically acclaimed, science fiction series based on the James A. Corey novels.
The Scopuli was a Martian light transport freighter that is pivotal to the Expanse series.

On September 28, 2020 Nature reported more water
detected beneath Mar's south polar layered deposits.
Since the initial report in 2018 was met with skepticism as well as excitement,
scientists collected additional data with the Mars Express orbiter.

Elena Pettinelli and her colleagues at the University of Rome confirmed the existence
of the first lake and the discovery of three more.
Altogether the lakes cover an area of 29,000 square miles 
(75 thousand square kilometers), about 1/5 the area of Germany. and Nature

Radar Map from Mars Express
Showing One Large Subsurface Lake and Three Smaller Ones

Water is life, not necessarily for Martian life,
but rather to support humans living on Mars.
So I dream of a underground colony on Mars, one that extracts
potable water from the hypersaline brines in the subsurface lakes.

Such a colony would face other challenges.
An underground colony would solve the problems
of radiation exposure and and very cold temperatures.
Oxygen could be recovered from the Martian atmosphere by electrolysis, 
a process that splits carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide.

Low gravity is a big challenge, but I imagine that could be overcome
with centrifuge-like human living pods within the colony,
exercise, supplements, and perhaps genetic tweaking.

Cyanobacteria could be used to transform toxic soil into soil to support plant life,
and lab-produced meat substitutes could expand the variety of food available.

As for isolation, mixed sex colonists, space mission visitors, 
and advanced communications, would help colonists deal with being so far from Earth.

I can see it!

A Rough Sketch of an Underground Colony Below Ultimi Scopuli 
by Louise MacBeath Barbour
October 13, 2021
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My sketch for an underground colony is rough indeed!
I imagine a series of underground tunnels connected
by dome-covered elevators, one main and two adjacent,
with a separate dome and elevator leading to a nuclear energy plant.

I see humans living in a tunnel colony about 300 feet below ground,
and cyanobacteria and plants growing in a tunnel
several hundred feet below the human habitat.

Hundreds of feet deeper in another tunnel,
a factory produces oxygen and other life support systems are functioning.
Finally, in the lowest tunnel, a water production system
processes water several hundred feet above the underground lake.

I believe humankind's survival depends on expanding from our home planet Earth,
and establishing a colony on Mars is a necessary step.
Here's to a bright and successful future!

The International Space Station Orbiting above the Earth

Stay happy and safe!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 8, 2021

Oops! Back on Friday, October 15th!

I forgot to say in my Wednesday post that my next post 
will be on Friday, October 15, 2021.
Typically I post on the first Wednesday of the month
for the Insecure Writer's Support Group,
and all other Fridays in the month except the one in the IWSG week.
So I'll be back next Friday with a post on Alien Worlds
for my friend Rain's Thursday Art Date.

See you next week!  Stay happy and safe!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved