Heart Problems

A couple months ago I mentioned to my wife, “After I started giving blood regularly I’ve been getting the heart flutters a lot me often.”

And she said, “Heart flutters?”

“Yeah, you know, when your heart feels like it’s beating faster for a second or two?”

My wife informed me that this was not a normal feeling and that I should go see a doctor. Big surprise to me!

I went to the doctor and she concluded that I was probably having heart palpitations. Not unusual. About one third of people have them with some frequency.

I’d been getting mine about once or twice a week, often in association with exercise.

The doctor did a bunch of tests and found two things.

  1. The right ventricle of my heart is a little bigger than it should be. The ventricle is bigger so there’s more blood in it, but it doesn’t exert enough pressure to remove as much blood as it should per beat. Since it can’t pump everything out there is a slight backflow into my heart. This small disruption in my bloodflow might occasionally be causing heart flutters.
  2. I was suffering from acute anemia, not enough hemoglobin for my red blood cells. This was due to giving blood. One of the symptoms of anemia is heart palpitations caused by my heart not getting enough blood. There just isn’t enough of the stuff in my body to keep everything working all the time.
Obviously my heart is much prettier than this.
Obviously my heart is much prettier than this.

I asked the doctor, “What do I do? This has a small risk of a heart attack and I want to control that risk as much as possible.”

She said I should avoid things that trigger the heart palpitations and if I experienced any additional symptoms of a heart attack at the same time as the flutters I should call 9-1-1 immediately.

Haven’t had any additional symptoms yet, so I’m good on that count!

Avoiding the triggers has been… difficult.

Giving blood was the biggest one. I stopped doing that.

I’d like to continue giving blood and I still have the option of donating plasma. Plasma is the actual liquid part of your blood, not the cells. Giving just that part doesn’t lower my hemoglobin or red blood cell count so I shouldn’t get anemia afterwards.

Giving Plasma by Dave Coverly

The other two things to avoid are exercise and caffeine.

Taking out caffeine was a letdown. I survived all of college without caffeine but I’d grown to like having a cup of coffee in the morning.

I still occasionally have some caffeine but I have switched to decaf or healthier low caffeine substitutes like tea. There’s been a noticeable reduction in the frequency of my heart flutters since I stopped drinking coffee everyday.

Exercise is the weird one to cut out.

I wasn’t exactly active prior to going to the doctor for this issue. I bike to lab every day and I walk my dog, but that’s about all the exercise I get. I don’t get heart flutters doing either of those things, only when my heart rate gets elevated past 140bpm (estimate).

So it’s not like my lifestyle is really changing by stopping those forms of exercise but it is a rather strange message to hear from my doctor, “Don’t exercise.”

I feel like eventually that’ll cause problems for me. I avoid heart palpitations by not exercising, but as I get older I’ll accumulate other problems that will mostly be solved by keeping to an exercise routine. But if keeping to the exercise routine causes other problems, then what do I do?

Ultimately, this is not current Isaac’s problem. This is future Isaac’s problem. He can deal with this when I have to make those sorts of decisions.

I feel healthy with the amount of exercise I’m getting now and hopefully low bpm workouts will continue to fulfill my needs in the future.

Long story short, I have some sort of heart condition, but it’s fairly common and not dangerous as long as I don’t give blood or drink caffeine every day.

-GoCorral

PS. This is also the 300th post on the site. Woohoo! Milestone!

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Tetalya

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Tetalya is a jungle city with a population of about 45,000 along the Aractrash River’s exit from the Aractrashan Jungle. The city is a center for alchemy of all kinds. Magic potions and nonmagical salves are made in great quantities in Tetalya. The surrounding trees, plants, and animals have many different type of spell components that fetchers bring in to the city to be harvested for spell components. The more rare and dangerous specimens such as Basilisks are processed in a cordoned area just outside of the city.

Tetalya has a popular battle arena that attracts visitors from other cities. Many husbands have lost their life savings and gone home to the verbal abuse of their wives while others have moved up to positions of insane wealth. The arena is special in that it does not hire new people or use beasts except for its most special combats on holidays. The arena has rotated through a set of twelve different combatants since its formation. The fighters rarely leave their cush arena position thanks to the large cut of the betting, luxurious living space, and the best food that can be given to them. The twelve combatants currently active in the arena are: Hargoth the Axe Rager, Dylan the Sword Ranger, Julian the Drunk Monk, Shara the Half-elf Grappler, Tira the Knife Woman, Organ the Buffing, Sheera the Elven Archer, Tjakres the Githzerai with Magic Arms, Batinhen the Dwarven Paladin, Constance the Dwarven Defender, Kuvintal the Rapier using Acrobat, and Bats the Halfling with a Hooked Hammer and Net. There are contingent spells put on the combatants to prevent them from dying. All of them are best buddies and spend most of their off time together.

The biggest production of alchemy ingredients is done at Grandma Sullust’s Garden in Tetalya. She has a virtual monopoly in the East on magical plants that can be grown domestically. She sells some of her crop in the city itself but most goes to the druid’s guild in Lordodo. They use the plants they can to make salves and the rest are exported mostly to Crafterton to make alchemist’s fire and other offensive chemicals.

The Druidic Healing Guild of Lordodo has an office in Tetalya. This office is the organizational center of Tetalya, filling the basic function a lord’s castle would in a feudal town. The druids do pay fealty to King Staynard of Aractrash and defer to his authority when he is in the city. The druids increased sanitation to levels that some of the public think is unnecessary, while the rest think the clean streets are the best thing since bread. The guild built many public parks and improved the fire prevention service. Overall the druids have drstically improved the standard of living within the city while restricting most of the city’s more dirty medieval traditions.

-GoCorral

Sheerzen

Two notes about this city. First, it uses a numbering city in parenthesis to indicate which floor the current description applies to. Second, the concept for the history of this city was created in part by a member of my D&D group. His screen name is Zigfried and he deserves a lot of credit for developing the unique flavor of Sheerzen’s history.

Sheerzen.png

Sheerzen is a town of about 10,000 people built in the middle of Apollo’s Plains. The town was constructed by an early group of heroes, Brelfagar the Dwarven fighter, Shoree the Human paladin, Sunrise the Elven wizard, and Jeffery the Human cleric of the Muses. This adventuring party known as the Bronze Chords served their bronze dragon master, Rilopenaril. There are not many useful resources in the area around Sheerzen besides good soil. The city is not along any large rivers or trade routes. Earthquakes routinely rock the area destroying most buildings and any tunnels that would provide a connection to the Underdark. Sheerzen was constructed in this location precisely because it had little to offer. With no resources, the Bronze Chords hoped it would always be a peaceful city.

Sheerzen has only one building, a gigantic castle built atop an even bigger hill and surrounded by a moat. The keep rises about one thousand feet into the air. At the center of the tower is an empty space about forty feet across. This area is called the levitation elevator and bestows the power of levitation on all those who come into it.  There are stairs, but most residents use the elevator. The elevator does not reach the top six levels of the fortress. A magical waterfall goes through the center of this great empty space and provides all the water the citizens need. The waterfall disappears into a magical hole in the ground floor to prevent flooding.

The whole structure is reinforced with adamantine and lead making it impossible to teleport or scry into. The first five (1-5) levels of the castle are entirely defensive except for a park at the base of the elevator. These defensive levels are a show of force to visitors and an actual precaution against those who might attack Sheerzen. Hundreds of arrow slits look out on Apollo’s Hill making sure no army can approach within a mile without being shot at by ballistae, bows, crossbows, slings, catapults, and magical defenses.

The next dozen or so (6-19) levels are mostly commercial, so that tourists and visitors to the city need not go too far to find what they are looking for. The town sells commemorative items with a specialty in complex imitation weapons and armor for children to wear. Many famous painters, sculptors, and architects are also from Sheerzen and copies of their works are sold in numerous shops. The hotels and restaurants of the city are also on the commercial levels.

The next few (20-26) levels are where crafting takes place. These levels although unattractive need to be low in the fortress so that resources would not have to be taken all the way up to the top of the building. Sheerzen has a large available space for making items, but not enough people using that space. It would be a rival to Crafterton if it shared a similar central location in The Magical Lands. The work place and tools are free to use for all, but craftsmen must provide their own materials. A popular recreation for the people of Sheerzen is to see who can make the best of a particular type of item or how fast someone can make such an item.

The next couple dozen (27-93) levels are mostly residential with parks on some levels surrounding the elevator. A few hotels, restaurants, and other small businesses take up shop on these levels as well, but it is against an unenforced law for them to do so. These levels are considered claustrophobic by the people who do not live in Sheerzen because of the low ceiling on the wide boulevards.

The next (94) level of Sheerzen contains the city’s legal facilities, jail, and police headquarters. The police headquarters is on the inner circle with the jail in the middle circle and the courts and lawyer’s offices on the outer circle. The town has no punishments for which the jail is required. The jail is used to house criminals before their trials. Sheerzen’s legal code is regular except that during a siege or war almost every punishment is death. Capital punishment is always carried out by tossing the convict off the roof of the fortress. The landing spot is surrounded by a railing to prevent an innocent person being crushed by any falling felons.

The next three (95-97) levels are for the administrative offices of the town. The treasury of Sheerzen is on the 95th level with an extensive guard contingent to prevent theft. The bureaucrats are on these levels as well as the library and hospital. The elevator does not reach these levels. Permission from Sheriff Dratles or another person of similar importance is required to access the staircase to the 95th floor and above.

The 98th level is entirely empty except for the stairs going up and down directly across from each other. Most people upon entering this room for the first time find it unsettling due to the low ceiling. Some with weaker constitutions have even thrown up when walking across it. The rumor is that it serves some purpose for the defense of the city, but no one really knows.

The 99th and 100th levels make up the palace of the large royal family. The royals are descended from the Bronze Chords. Rilopenaril repeatedly seeded the adventurers’ descendants with his own bloodline ensuring that any member of the Sheerzen royal family would have some draconic features. Additionally all of the royal family members have some command over arcane power due to their draconic descent. Rilopenaril encouraged the development of this arcane power in the royal family and eventually he became obsessed with it. The dragon organized magical duels for his children to determine who was the best sorcerer. This tradition expanded until the successor to the current monarch was chosen by the winner of a series of lethal duels between the bronze dragon’s grandchildren.

Danar the Beastslayer was the most significant king in Sheerzen’s history. Exiled at an early age, Danar returned to the city after training for many years in the swamp that now bears his name. Danar slew his elder brother, Einhart, in a magical duel and claimed the crown. He joined the other heroes of the age in their fight against the tyranny of the dragons. Danar helped defeat his own ancestors, Rilopenaril and the dragon’s twin sister, Langudina. The mortal warrior locked away the dragon monarchs in the Orbs of Dragonkind, becoming the guardian of the Red Orb.

Rilopenaril left Sheerzen after his sister was locked away in the Bronze Orb. He guards the Bronze Orb at a hidden location close to the tower city. The conditions of Rilopenaril’s magical bondage allow him to visit Sheerzen for the coronations, funerals, and weddings of each successive monarch. The current king and queen are Dominiic and Freya. Forty years ago the Xorian army marched upon Sheerzen. The king and queen surrendered the city to Xoria on the condition that their line and traditions be allowed to continue. King Dominiic and Queen Freya elected to keep their mortality, but do not judge the decisions their subjects make. Under these conditions, a mortal and Dragovinian aristocracy have peacefully mixed in Sheerzen.

Sheerzen was built to be a haven for artisans and craftsmen to practice their art without worrying about their income. The city’s enchantments allow the monarchy to easily provide patronage for hundreds of artists. To defend the city the army is outfitted with the best weapons available and focuses on learning defensive battle strategies without losing a single man to the opponent’s weapons. Because the fortress creates its own food and water within it is always prepared for a siege. The magical nature of the monarchy extends to the army where mages are trained to dispel and counter enemy battle mages.

Danar has recently returned to life due to the destruction of the Red Orb. The magic that orchestrated his return will only allow him to rest once Invernix is defeated once more. Danar decided to delay his confrontation with Invernix due to the numerous other contemporary threats to the people of Cimmeria. Once he feels the world is safe enough, Danar will confront Invernix once more.

-GoCorral

Shalerton

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Shalerton is a city-state with a population of about 50,000 people. Herds of sheep form the economic backbone of the city. Close to a million sheep live around Shalerton and there are enough pastures and vegetable farms to provide for a healthy diet for the livestock and the people of the city-state. The town itself is small for the number of citizens in the city-state. The necessary businesses like smiths, tailors, and mills occupy the majority of the real estate within the town walls. Government buildings such as courthouses, fire stations, police headquarters, the jail, and city hall fill out the rest of the space in town. There are almost no permanent residences separate from a person’s place of work. With so few residences, hotels and inns compete ruthlessly for customers. The three main hotels are: the Pot of Comfort, run by Jusilia, a mother goose character; the Traveler’s Home, run by Hardigan, a big fat bearded man; and the Yurgastraplax, run by Tgfjklwharydfbi the foreigner, whose nickname is Bill.

Only about 6,000 people live inside the town’s walls working in businesses or for Shalerton’s government. The government workers are part of a bureaucracy that is headed by the police chief. Lieutenant Hunter is a large man who controls everything in the town. Extra taxes usually go in his pockets instead of to the town treasury. He unofficially appoints all the bureaucrats, judges, and police in the entire town. He inherited this role from his father and his father before that. While the town is effectively a monarchy, the Lieutenant family (yes, their first name is Lieutenant and it is their family’s surname) has always stayed away from officially declaring their power.

In the past only police were allowed to carry weapons within the city. Spell books and anything else that could be magically offensive were not allowed inside the town walls as well. If somebody did wish to bring in a weapon special permission had to be gained from Lieutenant Hunter directly. Those who were granted weapons were made members of a special operations police force that occasionally acted as spies or secret police. Shalerton’s participation in the Second Alliance War has caused a shift in this policy. The general weapons ban has been lifted as Lieutenant Hunter believes an armed populace will assist in the defense of the city alongside the police force.

The large police force ensures that crime is close to nonexistent in Shalerton. Theft, murder, and rape are rare and punished severely soon after the crimes are committed. This reduced crime rate and swift response is not just because of the restrictions on weapons but also due to Lieutenant Hunter’s almost complete monopoly on magical power in Shalerton. All magic users must join the special operations force and the practicing of any simple magic within the city is highly regulated. Some magic users chafe under these rules, but Lieutenant Hunter does his best to keep his special operations force happy with gifts and the occasional party in their honor. Using these bribes, Hunter is able to keep the magic users power in his court. With liberal application of divination magicks he is able to predict most crimes before they happen and discover the culprit of those that do fly in under the radar.

Lieutenant Hunter also plays a hand in the town’s economic system through price controls. His grandfather started this practice and he continues it. Price controls on most commodities eliminate excessive time spent on haggling allowing the people of Shalerton to spend more time at work or at home. The price controls also serve to protect both producers and consumers depending on market conditions. Initially the populace resisted these controls and there was even a revolt, but since that time the citizens of Shalerton have grown to love the predictability the price controls bring. Few would dream of returning to the old unregulated system.

In recent years Shalerton joined the Second Alliance against Xoria, not out of good hearted nature, but because Lieutenant Hunter feared his town might be one of the first on the Xorian invasion route. Unfortunately, due to Shalerton’s history of restricting the public’s access to weapons the people of Shalerton have little real martial experience. Their troops were kept out of the early battles of the war to train and were not present at the Siege of Phoenix. Training continues under the eyes of Junai and Gradorian and soon the Shalerton militia will be a formidable force indeed.

-GoCorral

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Movie Review [SPOILERS]

Star Wars Force Awakens

I finally saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m not going to shy away from spoilers in my review, so stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie and want to keep it a surprise.

The movie was good and I’m excited for where the new Star Wars movies are going.

The new characters were interesting. Including the old characters meant there were a few too many important people in the movie but I managed to keep up with it.

The new villain, Kylo Ren, was awesome. Just as menacing as Darth Vader while embracing the anger part of the dark side. When Kylo Ren gets angry he ignites his lightsaber and just lays into whatever is around him. Excellent characterization.

The plot was… familiar but there’s nothing wrong with that. Star Wars 1, 4, and 6 all had the same damn plot. Why shouldn’t 7 as well?

And while I enjoyed the movie a lot, it was still a let down.

I’m a big fan of Star Wars, both original, prequel, and expanded universe, so inevitably the movie was going to be a let down in one way or another.

There were two specific things the movie did not do that I wanted it to do.

The first thing is a little complicated. You see, the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, was based off a Japanese movie called The Hidden Fortress.

The Hidden Fortress is a story of two poor soldiers who get caught up in a war when they find a chest of gold belonging to the “rebels.”

They team up with a general to transport the gold and the warrior princess to whom the gold belongs to a faraway castle.

The whole movie is about seeing war through the eyes of the low, the two poor soldiers.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is the general in A New Hope, Leia is the princess, the gold is the Death Star plans, and the two poor soldiers? Are they Luke and Han?

NO! The poor soldiers from The Hidden Fortress are R2-D2 and C-3PO in Star Wars!

The whole Star Wars series has been told in some way from the point of view of the two droids. They experience all the action in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. They start off the action in Return of the Jedi by going into Jabba’s palace alone. We see their origins in A Phantom Menace and how they got to be part of the Rebel Alliance in Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith.

But is the story of The Force Awakens told from the R2-D2 and C-3PO’s point of view? Nope. They are thankfully still in the movie, but their role of in the movie has been taken over by BB-8.

The idea still plays out the same way with BB-8, but it disappointed me that the original droids will no longer be the focus.

And I get why Disney made that choice. R2-D2 looks clunky and old now and C-3PO was always supposed to be lame. BB-8 has a cool design and his character is active and energetic. There were tons of BB-8 toys sold even before the movie came out, making it a smart financial move on Disney’s part to introduce the new character. More merchandising!

The second thing that upset me about the new movie was that Luke Skywalker wasn’t really in it.

Sure he has a cameo at the end, but he doesn’t have a single line.

Everything I’d heard about the new series of Star Wars movies indicated that they would be about Luke passing the torch to the next generation of Jedi. While the new characters want to find him for that reason, that plotline just didn’t move forward in this movie.

From an impartial perspective the movie didn’t suffer from Luke’s absence. The whole plot was structured around him not being there and thus it worked fine without him, BUT I STILL FELT LIKE HE SHOULD’VE BEEN THERE!

Another minor problem, the whole Force Awakens thing was never explained. The idea was introduced in the first trailer but it only shows up in the movie as a single line from one of the villains. The way the trailer is, I thought the whole movie would be about “The Awakening.”

Regardless of the movie’s faults, I still enjoyed it a lot and am looking forward to the next ones.

If you’re still unsure if you should see the movie, I definitely recommend it for Star Wars fans. The Force Awakens is also a good introduction for those who are new to the series.

-GoCorral

Sisters Movie Review

Sisters

The other day I saw Sisters, the comedy starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

I’ve heard that Fey and Poehler are good friends and that definitely helped with their chemistry in Sisters.

Fey and Poehler produced the movie and given how the movie played out it seemed very much to be a movie they had chosen because it needed a pair of leading ladies.

The two sisters are opposites. Fey plays Kate, a mother of a college-aged daughter and a hair stylist who is constantly getting fired for her attitude. Poehler plays Maura, a goody two-shoes character who is financially successful but still has trouble talking to men. Both women are in their forties.

The parents of the titular Sisters move out of their old home into a retirement community. They call their daughters and ask them to come clean out their rooms before the sale of the home closes.

Kate and Maura are upset that the house representing their childhood is being sold.

As a way of saying goodbye to that part of their lives and moving on into the future they decide to throw one last house party.

They invite all their friends from high school who are still in the area.

From there the movie is fairly predictable. Crazy hijinks ensue. Drugs are involved. The cops are called. The party gets more and more out of control. By the end the house is absolutely wrecked.

While there were some good parts I did not like the movie as a whole.

Comedies don’t always make me laugh when I watch them alone, but in a room full of people I expect to laugh a lot.

I did not laugh much during Sisters and neither did the other people in the theater. The jokes just weren’t good enough.

Sisters also offered a weak subplot of Kate and Maura working out the personality problems they’d taken from childhood to adulthood. This plotline didn’t really move forward until the final few minutes of the movie. It served as a vehicle for the jokes, which is fine in most comedies, but not in ones that aren’t funny.

It’s possible that I just missed the jokes because they were directed at people in their forties like the characters in the movie; however, there were a few middle-aged people in the theater and they weren’t laughing either.

Maybe the movie would be funnier to people who are fans of Fey and Poehler, but that’s not me. I dislike their past work.

Ultimately, I can’t really recommend seeing Sisters. A comedy that isn’t hilarious just isn’t worth watching.

-GoCorral

Shalemstead

ShalemsteadShalemstead is a small town of 3,500 people along the eastern bank of the Isdmir River. The town is growing due to its proximity to the Elves of Valor’s Forest. The Elves do not allow any non-fairy creature to stay in the forest, so they must find shelter in the Human settlement nearby or camp in the much less hospitable outdoors. Many of the citizens of Shalemstead have grown to rely on this tourism and their reputation for hospitality is well known throughout Cimmeria.

Shalemstead is self-sufficient and requires a lot of farmers to provide for its own citizens as well as the many tourist and trade caravans that pass through on the way to meet the Valor’s Forest Elves. The necessary professions in town are monopolized by guilds that are controlled by the descendants of the original settlers of Shalemstead. The guilds are named after their founding family member. All the blacksmiths belong to the Boris guild, all the innkeepers belong to the Shord guild, all the wainwrights belong to the Tama guild, etc.

The town’s government is solely composed of the guild leaders. This council of elders meets every three months to make important decisions for Shalemstead. They contribute all the funds for any necessary expenses such as paying guards, maintaining roads, or building bridges. These funds are in turn collected through guild dues, tariffs, and the personal profits that the guild leaders make on their own operations in town.

Many years ago the Shalemstead was attacked by a cabal of vampires. A fire started during the attack and dozens of people were injured or killed. The town’s only cleric at the time, George, also perished in the attack, but the small shrine he had built remained untouched by the flames. As the town has grown a new and larger temple was built. Regardless, many of the townsfolk continue to pay homage to the gods at this small shrine in George’s honor.

Shalemstead has joined the Second Alliance to fight the Xorians. The town cannot contribute much in the way of manpower, but their trade connections with the Elves have proved valuable.

-GoCorral