Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Dog With Diabetes

For those who don't know me, I'm a dog person. Everybody has a certain animal that works best as a pet for them, for me it's dogs, and I like my dogs a hell of a lot more than I like most people.
That being said, it's coming up on two years since my dog Nugget died. Here's a picture of him.

Nugget was a 14 pound, cream colored poodle that my parents bought when were living in Tennessee in 1993. Although he was my parents dog at first, he sort of gravitated towards me over the years until my mom ended up just giving him to me.

In late summer of 2002 I noticed that Nugget had lost a lot of weight and that he was drinking a lot of water. I suspected it was diabetes and a visit to the vet confirmed that it was. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and the vet put him on two injections of insulin twice a day (in the morning and at night).

It really didn't take that much getting used to. I had to switch his diet to dog food that was safe for diabetic dogs, moniter his blood sugar levels, and of course give him his injections twice a day, but aside from that it was fairly easy to adapt to. Nugget didn't mind the injections because I would give him a dog treat (diabetic safe) each time.

He responded almost immediately to the insulin. His weight returned to normal and he stopped drinking so much water so often.

There were some diabetes-related issues: his eyes developed cataracts very quickly, within a few months. Also about three years after being diagnosed, his teeth had to be removed. The vet told me to brush them every day, which I did but still the began to decay, so the vet pulled them. From then on I had to soak his food in hot water before I gave it to him. He also twice had to have a cancerous tumor removed from his left leg. But luckily it was easily removed both times.

Once incident that occured involved hypoglycemia, extremely low levels of blood sugar. Nugget was sleeping on the bed one night while I was reading and he began having what looked to be a seizure. This was about five years after he was diagnosed but I remembered that the vet had told me to rub corn syrup on his gums if that happened. Which I did and he responded almost immediately.

It was almost six years after he was diagnosed that I woke up one morning to find him panting heavily with his gums and tongue almost white. I rushed him down to the vet and he was diagnosed with heart disease. The vet could "patch it up" for the time being but as she said it was just a bandaid not a cure.

The next few months were really hard. Because up until February of that year he had been doing fine. But he went downhill pretty quickly. There were two more visits to the vet in the time between February and June. And although things weren't easy, his quality of life was still sufficient so that I didn't have to put him to sleep, he was able to eat and drink on his own, he didn't lose control of his bladder, and although he was blind he could get around by smell.

By the last week of June however, I knew that he wasn't going to live much longer. He was having coughing fits that would keep him from sleeping and he couldn't keep any of his food down anymore. I had made the extremely painful decision to have him put to sleep when one morning I woke up and saw that he was again panting and his gums were white.

I took him to the vet and she said that there was fluid building up in his lungs and that although they could try to use medicine to clear them out, his diabetes would dampen the effect. They said they would keep him there and see what they could do. But I knew that this was it.

Around 2:00 that day I got a call from the vet saying that Nugget had died. He had gone to sleep and never woken up.

At first I really didn't feel anything, but later that day it hit me that he was really gone and I felt devastated. He had been my friend for fifteen years and now he was gone.

I had arranged before hand for him to be cremated and when his ashed were returned to me I put them into an urn for pets that I had bought on eBay. It also had his name and the years he lived on the faceplate.

The whole point of this story is that if you have a pet and they get diagnosed with diabetes, don't put them down. You could be missing out on many more years with them. I still miss my dog sometimes, but I'm really glad that I did have him taken care of.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Marching Through Georgia - A Book Review

"Six generations of his family had made war for the Domination of Draka. Eric von Shrakenberg wanted to bring peace, but to do that he would have to become a better killer than any of them."

Being that one of my favorite subjects is history it should seem only natural that one of my favorite types of fiction is Alternate History.

Alternate History is fiction that takes place in a world where history turned out differently. Two of the most commonly occuring stories take place in worlds where the Civil War turned out differently or where World War II turned out differently. A staple of Alternate History is a "Point of Divergence", the event that occurs in the fictional history and not in ours. Often times the Point of Divergence can be a specific event such as "what if the South won the Battle of Gettysburg?" or a more general event such as "what if Nazi Germany won World War II?"

Good Alternate History doesn't focus on the timeline too much, instead it tells a story that takes place within that timeline.

Marching Through Georgia by S.M. Stirling is a much different take on an alternate World War II. In this book the Point of Divergence occurs during the American Revolutionary War, when the Netherlands declares war on Great Britain. Consequently, Great Britain captures the Dutch colony in southern Africa during the war.

America still wins it's independence and after the war Great Britain offers land to all American Loyalists as well as anyone who fought for the crown (in real life they were offered land in Canada).

The refugees head to South Africa and found the "Crown Colony of Drakia" (named for Sir Francis Drake). Taking their slaves with them they direct all their efforts to taking land and slaves for the new colony.

Their drive for conquest fuels a much faster development of technology than occured in real life. For instance, aircraft and automobiles (steam powered) are developed a generation earlier than they historically were.

The Drakians found a society upon slavery and conquest. Their society is extremely rigid, there are two types of people: Citizens and Serfs. Citizens make up only 9% of the population. Serfs are the slaves, they have no rights whatsoever. Draka society is extremely brutal in order to dissuade any attempts at serf rebellions.

Over the course of the late 18th and 19th centuries the Drakas are reinforced by French refugees from Haiti, Icelanders, refugees from the French Revolution and defeated American Confederates.

The Draka are fanatical soldiers. All Citizens are sent to military training schools at the age of 5 and undergo intensive military training until the age of 18 when they are required to serve at least 4 years in the military. Draka soldiers, both men and women are extremely strong, tough and deadly. Citizen soldiers make up 40% of the military, the other 60% is "Janissary" (slave soldiers).

The Drakas soon prove too powerful to contain and by the end of the 19th century they have conquered all of Africa. People in the conquered countries are all enslaved. By the 20th century their attitude towards race has changed. At first their racism was directed towards non-whites, but now, like the ancient Romans, they view all non-Draka as cattle to be enslaved.

When World War I breaks out "Dominion of Draka" joins Great Britain and invades and overruns the Ottoman Empire. After the end of the war the Draka declare themselves independent and invade the rest of the Middle East and then continue into Asia until they reach the Yangtze River.

The United States is Also much larger, having invaded and conquered Canada during the War of 1812, and Central America in the 1850's. By the 20th century the United States encompasses all of North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Hitler comes to power in Germany in 1932. In 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union invade and occupy Poland. Hitler then turns his attention west and invades the rest of Europe, with Spain joining the Axis. Unable to defeat the British, the German Kriegsmarine, successfully blockades them. In 1941 Hitler launched Operationb Barbarossa and invaded the Soviet Union. Due to the Second Russian Civil War, the USSR is much weaker than they were historically and the Wehrmacht sweeps across Russian and into the Ural Mountains. The Empire of Japan has also invaded the Soviet Union from the east, occupied the rest of China not annexed by the Draka, as well as conquered all of the South Pacific and the northern half of Australia.

The book itself opens in 1942. The United States and the British Empire are facing extinction from Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan, respectively. Knowledge of Hitler's Holocaust has kept the the US and the UK from allying with Germany. The only choice for them is an alliance with the Draka.

Earlier in 1942 the Draka invaded and occupied Italy and are now preparing for an invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. A Draka airborn division led by Centurion Eric von Shrakenberg is charged with beginning the invasion by taking the Ossetian Military Highway in Nazi-occupied Georgia, at the same time an entire legion of Draka troops will invade from Draka-held Kazakhstan.

Although they are able to occupy the town, their equipment was accidentally dropped far outside the town. They are soon cut off by the enemy forces and must now hold the town and the highway against the German reinforcements which includes a division of the 1st SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler division.

I enjoyed the book as instead of simply depicting a different outcome to World War II, the author has invented a society that never existed to begin with and described the timeline in detail (provided in an appendix at the end of the book). The author devoted much attention to describing the battle scenes and is well-versed in military technology. Because of the faster pace of technological development, the tanks and airplanes described are more powerful than those that historically existed.

The book itself was written in 1988 when events in the Republic of South Africa were coming to a head and it was obvious that soon that Apartheid system would be ended by one means or another. And although the author has never commented upon this, it is obvious that one of the inspirations for the book was a world where South Africa grew too powerful for any country to contain and took their caste system to it's logical extreme.

The interesting thing about the Draka is that they are not simply one-dimensional bad guys. They extensively cultivate the environment for aesthetics and for conservation purposes. They are lovers of fine art. They have strong family ties.

But it is always obvious that the Draka are evil. They are ruthless conquerers and their military is notorious for it's atrocity. Soldiers engage in the wholesale rape, murder and pillage of conquered people.

The book effectively creates a world with an enemy whose atrocity dwarfs anything Hitler's Third Reich ever committed. And as later (described in the timeline) the Draka proceed to invade and conquer the rest of Europe, the Nazis become almost sympathetic, struggling in vain to defend their country from an enemy even worse than they are.

R.F.K. Must Die!- A Book Review

On the night of June 5th, 1968, Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down by a 24 year old Palestinian-American named Sirhan Bishara Sirhan.

Sirhan was quickly apprehended and identified by many witnesses as the many who had shot Kennedy.

Once in custody, Sirhan's defense team faced the impossible task of defending in court the man who had killed RFK.

Robert Blair Kaiser is a journalist and author and in 1968 he was allowed access to Sirhan's defense team.

In 1970 Kaiser published R.F.K. Must Die! based on his experiences with the defense team as well as his own interviews with Sirhan. The book covers in great detail the assassination of RFK, the biography of Sirhan, and the formation of the the defense.

The book also covers the strange and surreal interviews with Sirhan. Excerpts from his notebook are included that are particularly unsettling.

The book sticks to the facts, hardly ever discussing any of the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of RFK. However in an afterword the author does state that he believes the "Manchurian Candidate" theory: that Sirhan may have been programmed by someone to kill Kennedy.