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What I Learned When My Kidneys Failed–Postscript

Its been a year and a quarter since I was wheeled into that operating room being almost indifferent to the outcome of the surgery. Either I would wake up and no longer be desperately sick-or I would not wake up and I would no longer be desperately sick. A win-win I thought as I started to count backwards.

Renal failure is the ultimiate perspective checker. No what happens now–the challenges, the frustrations, the seeming intractable problems of everyday life I can always say to myself (and I often do) “This sucks but it beats renal failure.”

Apparently I am the poster boy for successful outcomes for a kidney transplant. I show no signs of rejection, and all of my blood chemistry is normal. The transplant docs tell me that if they are going to experience trouble with a transplanted kidney it will most likely show up in the first year. Transplanted organs to not last forever, and I know that I may need to go throughout this again. But I have a reasonable expectation that this kidney will outlast the rest of me.

It has been an amazing year. one that I did not deserve. I am fully recovered from the surgery, I am traveling again and am doing the best photography of my life. I can walk my dogs on brilliant October afternoons while I can take in the active social scene around Lake Merritt. There are a new cast of characters in my life that would not be there but for this experience. Every moment that I am alive is a blessing.

But there is something else that is present every moment I am alive. There are thousands of people still on the road that I just left. Many will die without leaving that road. Many are not as fortunate as me in having excellent health insurance or supplemental resources needed to cope with this condition. Many do not have extended networks of loyal friends willing to donate a kidney on their behalf through the National Kidney Registry’s paired exchange program. Many do not even know about this program. I will be mindful of these people and their continued suffering with every breathe I take that I do not deserve.

I am just one survivor and I do what I can. But collectively, we all need to do more. The need is great, the suffering is real, and the resources are short. Please support research into this disease so that someday, no one else will have to go through this. Consider becoming a living donor, even altruistically. Altruistic donors start these paired exchanges that can save several lives.

Above all take care of yourselves. If you are at risk for this disease, do what you need to do to actively manage this condition as you can have many fruitful years with declining kidney funtion. And don’t allow yourselves or your loved ones make choices that put yourselves at greater risk.

Now I close this series with the pledge that I made to everyone who made this possible–I promise not to waste the time you have given me.

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Approach to the Eastern Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

Ever since the collapse of a portion of the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge during an earthquake in 1989, we have all known that this portion of the bridge was just one earthquake away from a total collapse (the western span, being a suspension bridge is not so vulnerable).

In September 2013, the replacement span was opened for traffic, just a mere 24 years after the original partial collapse. After all, this is California–the land of rapid innovation and first mover advantage. For the last five years or so, we watched this structure taking form and shape right beside the the the bridge that had scared the bejesus out of us  generation earlier. Now as we glide over our new and improved structure, we are watching the old bridge in reverse process, disapearing before our eyes.

If you want a more complete history and context of this effort, you can find it here.

This is the approach to the new bridge, taken just after sunset. To find this spot is not hard if you know how to do it. Here’s how to do it:

Take the last exit before the toll plaza and stay on the little road, keeping the freeway on your left. Drive to the very end of the road where you will find a safe place to park (calling this a parking lot would be overly generous.) Keep walking (note-at high tide part of this pathway will be under 2-4 inches of water, bring your boots) toward the bridge for about 200 meters where you will find a small wall–just step over it and walk down to the water line.

Camera: Nikon 800e

Lens Nikkor 70-200mm zoom, taken at 200mm

Exposure: F/16, several exposures combined into one HDR image

Bay Bridge Approach BW2

Approach to new eastern span of the Bay Bridge

 

For contrast, this is an image of the old bridge being taken down.

Camera Nikon 800e

Lens: Nikkor 24-70mm, taken at 35mm

Exposure f/22, several exposures combined into one HDR image

Old Bay Bridge Early Morning #1 BW

Old Bay Bridge disappearing

Under the Maze, West Oakland, CA

The Macarthur Maze is a prominent structure in Bay Area traffic. It serves as a funnel into San Francisco from the East and south East. And it seems to spew traffic coming out of San Francisco to the East and South East. To understand how important this structure is, consider that San Francisco itself is tiny—only 49 square miles and home to less than a million souls. By contrast, the East Bay is home to 2.4 million million souls. Yet, San Francisco is the economic hub of the entire area. Lots of people need to go there every day, and they all have to come home.

It is impossible to appreciate the maze when you are in it. For the initiated, it can be terrifying, with all the overpasses and underpasses swooping every which way. And God help you if you miss your exit because it will take much longer than you would ever expect to right yourself get back on the path to your destination. For the people who do this often, it is only a chore. The delays, the congestion, the pollution, the idiotic fender benders and yes, the road rage are simply a tax for the privilege of living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

A history and more detailed background can be found in Wikipedia—the link is here.

To appreciate both the beauty and the engineering of the Maze, one must get under it. From that vantage, the elevated structures with their beautiful sweeping lines and the fluidity of their designs are easier to see and appreciate.

The access is not easy, and the environment is not that hospitable, with the homeless encampments, the trash, the active railroad lines and the grit and filth. But if you look up, you will see something that I think is worth seeing.

Camera:     Nikon 800e

Lens:          Nikkor 24-70/2.8

Exposure:  f/16, several exposures, covering 7 EVs

B&W Rendering: Silver eFex Pro

HDR Rendering Photomatix Pro

 

West Oakland Overpass #2 BWc

West Oakland Overpass#1

 

West Oakland Overpass #3BW

Just Where is the Uber-Partiot Militia Movement Now?

I am doing my best to stay out of politics and devote my energy to my first passion–photography. But sometime, I need to return to the political fray.

Like now.

One of the animating factors in the militia movement is to protect us from the tyrannical government:

So I am wondering, where are these uber-patriot protectors against tyranny in the wake of what is beginning to look like the cold blooded murder of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson MO? Or the over-militarized police reaction against lawfully assembled citizens seeking a redress of grievances?

 

Fergeson 1

Getting ready fr urban combat

 

Feregeson 4

Time to kick some unarmed teenaged ass…

Are they not outraged by police sitting atop armored vehicles pointing a tripod mounted weapon at what appears to be unarmed citizenry? Under what circumstances would they open fire on these citizens?

Fergeson 2

Ready to open fire on unarmed citizens

 

Fergeson 3

Ready…Aim…

Or are they only outraged by a petty land dispute brought on by a Nevada grifter?

Come on, militia uber-patriots. An unarmed citizen with with his hands up being gunned down by a police officer is the streets is government tyranny. Leaving the man’s body in the street is tyranny. Overwhelming police reaction, with automatic weapons and full tactical gear facing unarmed citizens is tyranny.

Where are the militia men “Praetorian Guard!!” when we see this kind of tyranny on the streets on an American city?

Protecting Cliven Bundy’s cows, thats where.

So militia types, either show up with your guns to protect the citizens or admit that all of your big talk at the Bundy ranch is nothing but hyperventilated bullshit.

 

 

 

 

The Great Mosque

The Great Mosque.

The Great Mosque

In the fall of 1990 by then-girlfriend (now wife) and I took our first foreign trip together to Spain. Neither of us had been to Spain, so the trip was designed to see as much as possible in the shortest time possible. The pace was frenetic and what we saw was the Cliff Notes version of the country.

As a matter of fact, we developed a catch phrase which we still use to this day: “Very nice…Very nice…Lets go!” You get the idea.

But there was one place that stopped us in our tracks. Literally. As we blasted into Cordoba, checklist of must-see attractions in our hands, we encountered the Great Mosque. The history and background of this structure from Wikipedia can be found here.

This is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of medieval Moorish architecture in the world today. But it symbolizes something else.

When the Moors were evicted from Iberia, the Christians erected a giant, gothic cathedral in the middle of the mosque. They did not destroy the mosque and replace it. They simply built their monument in the middle of the religious structure of the (in their minds) infidels. I choose not to photograph any of the Christian parts of this structure because one can see this kind of thing in any European city. The Moorish parts, however, are unique.

The Iberian peninsula has a long history of violent religious conflict. This building in its current form is an architectural travesty. It is a perfect symbol and sober reminder of the travesty that results when people wage war over God.

From the inside from the the Great Mosque:

Camera: Hasselblad 500 C/M

Lens Zeiss 50mm Distagon

Film: Kodak Plus x Pan 125

Exposure: Not recorded

 

Inside the Great Mosque, Cordoba Spain

Inside the Mosque #1

 

Inside the Grand Mosque #2 Cordoba Spain

Inside the Mosque #3

 

Inside the Grand Mosque #2

Inside the Mosque #2

What We Discard

What we discard can say as much about us as what we carry. Sometime in the fall of 1980, I found an abandoned church in rural central Indiana. It caught my eye because this obviously derelict building stood alone with cultivated land all around it–except for the dirt trail that led to the site. There were no visible remains of other buildings like a parsonage, no broken sidewalks, not an abandoned cemetery. Nothing but cultivated farmland around it. Why was this tiny patch of ground not plowed under? How long had this building stood unused? Inside were the leftovers of what must have been an active, indeed vibrant community of believers. Leftover hymnals, the fans used in the humid Indiana summer heat (with the obligatory funeral home advertisement on them) the long unused coffee pot in the back. What happened to these people? Did the community outgrow this humble building and now were worshiping in bigger and brighter surroundings? Or did they just die or drift away? Were they…raptured? Many questions–no answers. The only thing I know is that whatever was here is now gone and only this sad artifact remained. I now carry  photographs of what they discarded.

Empty Pews #1

Empty Pews Central Indiana 1980

 

Empty Pews #2

Empty Pews Central Indiana 1980

How the images were made: Camera: Hasselblad 500 C/M Lens: Zeiss 50mm Film Pan-X 125 Exposure not recorded although it was a pretty small aperture given the depth of field. The exposure time must have been between three and five minutes because I illuminated the open doors and  windows by running around the outside the church with a hand held flash while the shutter was open.

 

You can see more on other topics here.

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