Archive for January, 2006

Scan You Dig It?

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

I was back at work today, and feeling quite a bit better, but I had to leave at noon because my doctor has been wanting me to get a CT scan on my chest.

There was something that they didn’t tell me about the scan in advance, and that was ANYTHING AT ALL. It’s like, “Oh, we’re the medical establishment, so you have to jump through this hoop! JUMP, Sick Boy, JUMP!”

To be more specific, that Anything At All that they failed to tell me could be divided into two areas.

The first thing they didn’t tell me was that when I registered for the scan, I would be required to “cough up” (figure of speech) FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS for what my insurance wouldn’t pay.

It wasn’t so long ago that I wouldn’t have been able to pull out a credit card with four hundred dollars or more left on the limit, and I’m still not happy that my plan to get out of debt took such a huge surprise hit in just one day.

In fact, I know a lot of people who would have to do a lot of scrounging to come up with $400 in order to get something like this done, if they could acquire the money at all, and getting the money would probably mean monthly payments in addition to what they already can’t afford.

That means that a lot of people probably get in the situation I was in today — taking off from work, driving across time, wasting time sitting in a waiting room — FOR NOTHING, since they wouldn’t be able to pay the money and get the scan.

Not to mention the fact that their health wouldn’t be getting any better.

The second thing they failed to tell me in advance about the scan: THAT I WOULD BE SHOT UP WITH IODINE. “Don’t eat or drink anything for four hours before the scan.” “Um — okay … and the reason is … ?” “It’s … um … well, just DON’T”. “Well, sure, since you present your reasons so logically …”

After asking everybody in the registration process as to what was involved in what they were signing me up for, and having everyone feign ignorance (at least I hope they were feigning), the lab technician that hooked me up to me to my halogen cocktail was finally able to shed some light on what he was doing — as he was doing it – and, at the same time, warn me of some of the negative effects of what he was injecting me up with, including, in some cases, a strong desire to throw up.

At least he was the only one in the entire process who treated me like a co-participant in the activity, instead of just another piece of meat through the health-system grinder.

Anyway, he said that the radiologists would review the scan immediately, and if they found anything urgently wrong, they would call me doctor’s office people, and they in turn would call me today.

I don’t think he knows my doctor’s office staff …

And he said if everything was fairly normal, the doctor’s office would let me know later this week.

Maybe he does know them …

Various Things

Monday, January 30th, 2006

Okay, you folks deserve more than just the aforementioned Sick Update, so here’s some more stuff:

At least my wife is taking care of me, as evidenced by the cake shown here. There was a party for one of the hairdressers at her shop, and the birthday girl didn’t want the leftovers, so we got the cake, plus lots of deli coldcuts, including (yum) swiss cheese.

Plus, as I already mentioned, she’s been making Symphony-bar brownies, and I even wheedled her into picking up some Cherry Garcia ice cream.

Have I got a great wife or what?

But I have a feeling that I’ll be entering the office tomorrow by way of the receiving dock …

Probably as a result of this bucket of medicine I’m having to take every day (and maybe all the sugar I’m eating), my heart has been pounding out of my chest this past week, but it’s better tonight, plus my chest doesn’t feel as tight. This was also my first day without a nap — I was tempted, but I resisted, so I could sleep through the night.

Another sign of my increasing energy level is that instead of just vegetating in front of the big screen TV today, I got out my laptop and played one of my older games, Age of Empires II, Conquistador Expansion.

I actually prefer playing AoE I, starting in the Stone Age and clawing my way out, but I couldn’t find those disks (since stupid Microsoft makes you load the disks each time), so I settled for starting in the Dark Ages with a tribe of hardy Celts. I picked the Highlands and Random Map options, and the game put me on one side of a river, with all three AI opponents of the other side, so as soon as I advanced to the second age and mined more stone, I walled up all three ice bridges and secured them with towers.

Usually at that point it’s just a waiting-and-fortification game, but the Persians in particular have been on a castle-building binge (I counted FIVE!), and I’ve almost mined up all of my territory’s gold and stone, so a more aggressive strategy must be adopted — in this case, one involving priests, catapults, and lots of wall-building peasants.

That’s right: Pack us a lunch, Ma, we’re goin’ mine-stealin’!

Then we’ll follow up with a few transports full of bombardiers for a rousing round of “Ventilate the Castles”.

Good times.

Anyway, that’s for another night. In the meantime, I feel more invigorated just having played, and more confident that I’m getting better.

I’ve been a (free) member of Classmates.com since early on, and had their constant announcements clog my mailbox ever since, but it’s never been of much use to me until now: One of my old college-era buds contacted me!

Everybody has friends that you can go years at a time without seeing, then you’re in contact for a few years, and then they swing back through; Terry is that friend for me. The last time I talked to him is when I was going through the divorce with Psycho, back in 1993. I hadn’t even met Karlyn yet, I don’t think. I didn’t even know how to fix a computer.

Whenever you get back in touch with somebody after so many years, you start thinking about all the new things to catch them up on, which makes you remember just how far you’ve come.

Just another reason for having old friends.

Anyway, we haven’t really communicated so far, just exchanged stock Classmates.com “quicknotes” and email addresses. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s been up to all this time, although according to his profile he’s back in Lubbock and doing well.

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Okay, that’s all I have the energy for tonight, but it’s more energy than I’ve had in the past week, so that’s a start …

Sick Update: Downhill Slide?

Monday, January 30th, 2006

It’s been almost a week since I went to the doctor, and tonight I’m only marginally better, but I’m going to work tomorrow, no matter what. I haven’t had to miss this much work since I was temping in late 1994. It’s making me nervous and depressed.

And I won’t even be there a full day: I have to get another scan in the afternoon. Of course, I probably wouldn’t be able to make it the full day anyway, so at least the scan gives me an out.

But the bad thing about the scan, other than just the fact that it’s a scan, is that they told me today that I can’t eat or drink anything for four hours before the scan.

Are they nuts??? I’ll dry up and blow away. Seriously, I don’t eat huge meals, but my brain needs nourishment every once and a while or else it starts to wander off and stumbles into all sorts of mischief, none of which the rest of me is aware of until it’s brought to my attention.

And besides, even if the lack of sustinence for a huge chunk of the day weren’t bad enough, I can’t even drink water, and water is an important part of getting over this mess. It’s even on my prescription bottles.

I plan to pack a Sherpa-satchel with Power Bars and fluid for immediately after the scan, just so I can make it to the parking lot …

Nobody Expects the Monty Python Marathon!

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

I can’t believe I’ve missed all these days at work and still accomplished almost nothing. That’s because the pneumonia has me too worn out to do much but channel surf.

Fortunately, BBC America must have felt my pain, because they gave me two consecutive days of eight-hour Monty Python marathons. I wasn’t able to watch them all — and let’s face it, 16 hours of even Monty Python is a bit taxing — but at least I got to see some of my favorite skits, like the Spanish Inquisition (pictured here), the Ministry of Silly Walks, the Upperclass Twit competition, Tiger of the Yard (“I must not ask anyone to leave the room!”) and the Lumberjack Song.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the Killing Joke, Confuse-a-Cat, or “My hovercraft … is full … of eels!”.

The good news is that Look at This has gathered several Python video links for our viewing pleasure.

Anyway, it was a fun couple of days of vegetating; I might just have to spring for the DVD boxed set one of these days …

Meme-Tag, I’m It …

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

Capn Kurt from Information Nation has meme-tagged me and three others, so here’s my part:

Four Jobs I’ve had:
Department Store Stockboy/Clerk
Credit Union Loan Officer
Temp
Office Drone

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over:
Lord of the Rings (any of the trilogy)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Blade Runner
Powaqqatsi (see my music list below)

Four Places I have Lived:
Lubbock
Dallas
Lewisville
The Colony

Four TV Shows I Would Love to Watch:
(That “I would love to watch”? How about just “Favorite TV Shows (Past & Present)”???)
Northern Exposure
Lost
My Name is Earl
Futurama
(Honorable Mention: America’s Funniest Home Videos, The Simpsons [Seasons 4 & 5], Saturday Night Live (Seasons 1-4, and others)

Four Places I have been on Vacation:
Cottonwood Pass, Colorado (Age 24 & 26)
Corpus Christi (Age 28, 29, & 37)
New Orleans (Age 16 & 17)
Carlsbad Caverns (Age 15)

Four Websites You Visit Daily:
Internet Movie Database
BoingBoing
Flickr
Wikipedia

Four of My Favorite Foods:
Spaghetti
A well-crafted chef salad
My personal vegetable-beef soup
“Supreme” Pizza

Four Places I would Rather Be:
This quiz doesn’t know me very well. Of course, if they’re talking about places to visit, then sure, I’d like to see Ireland, rural England, and Iceland (during the summer, of course). But if they’re talking about living somewhere else: If you can’t be happy where you are, you can’t be happy.

Four Albums I Cannot Live Without:
Okay, I can’t help it, for this item I have to elaborate:
Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells — Even though 10 minutes of it (halfway through side 2) is almost unlistenable, this album is still Rock’s finest hour. It’s a tuneful, rambling trip the the Stonehenge in your mind — with one person playing all the instruments.
Philip Glass: Powaqqatsi — The least typical of Glass’ work, this soundtrack is more pastoral than the normal frantic arpeggio runs. This album is very relaxing and meditative.
The GoGo’s: Vacation — Not only is this “chicks with guitars” of which I’m so fond; this work combines party-girl imagery with minor chords and broody meditations. That makes this my favorite of their four albums.
Laurie Anderson: Mister Heartbreak — There are parts of this album I could do without (the tiresome duet with Peter Gabriel, and the “song” narrated by William S. Burroughs), the other great more material more than makes up for the low spots. It’s a much more mature and musical work than her first studio album, and more coherently whimsical than everything to come after it.

Four People to Tag:
Kim at Yay! Blog
ILuvNUFC at Look at This
Nels Lindahl
Logtar

More Comfort Food

Friday, January 27th, 2006

Back on the subject of comfort foods (see previous post), my wife picked us up a nice dinner at Boston Market tonight — their new Roasted Sirloin, with side dishes (click here for larger picture plus details on the sides, plus information on the song from the Boston Market commercials).

Also, I’ve just about wiped out the brownies, so she made me some more — this time fancy brownies with Symphony bars in the middle.

For healing purposes, of course …

But for now, I’ve meme-tagged by Capn Kurt from Information Nation, and it’s going to take some work …

Sick Update

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

My doctor’s office finally got my x-ray’s back — why does that take 2 days?? — and the nurse told me that I do in fact have areas of “pneumonitis” on my lungs.

She also said I needed to call the diagnostics lab tomorrow to make an appointment for next week for a CT scan, because there’s another place on my lung where “they want to make sure that it’s not something else”.

Oh great.

It’s probably just more pneumonia, or a motion blur, but it’s just like a doctor’s office staff to get their jollies making somebody panic for a whole weekend.

I’ve still committed to going back to work tomorrow to try to catch up before the bosses get back. Then I’ve got two more days that I can mostly rest — at least when I’m not fretting about what the CT scan is going to clean up.

I haven’t shaved since Tuesday morning, so I figured I’d better get a headstart on that chore tonight, instead of tomorrow morning when I’m still asleep — and I’m glad I did, because I noticed that one of my shaver’s screen heads has a hole in it, and thus it makes painful tugs at my beard when I’ve not careful.

Fortunately I’ve got a spare set of screens and blades; it’s just a shame that men who use electric shavers have to go through this every year, with no warning as to exactly when the screens or blades are going to crap out and start eating our faces.

The replacement parts are so expensive when you add in shipping that every few years it’s cheaper to just buy a new razor, since the rechargeable batteries eventually go out too, and those have to be replace at the factory. You can buy two razors for what that costs.

Last year I found a razor almost like mine, and the same brand, at Big Lots, for only $24, so I’ve got a backup plan for next year, but still, this annual replacement thing is getting old.

Maybe 2008 will be my year to go Grizzly Adams

Do you have a favorite “sick” food, something that you like to eat when you’re sick? I haven’t been stay-home sick hardly at all in the past 10 years, but I usually like to order a pizza. It means I don’t have to cook, not even a frozen dinner, but mostly it’s a food I try to stay away from most of the time these days, since it tends to be a wee bit fattening, something I don’t need any more of.

But when you’re sick, all bets are off, all rules suspended. Good old tasty, fattening pizza is back on the menu.

I had some Domino coupons, so yesterday at lunch I used them.

To further speed up my recuperation, my wife baked me a batch of brownies on Monday night, complete with the little chocolate chunks that she knows I like, so I have been self-medicating with those as well.

So now when I have this pneumonia problem whipped, I’ll just have to work on my new-found obesity situation.

Mitigating factor: The added chocolate chunks were sugar-free; that makes it okay, (right?)

But seriously, I’ve needed those brownies the past couple of days; today I napped for about an hour, and by the time I woke up I was starving: I had been dreaming about chocolate chip cookies.

I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had the brownies handy …

The New Lego Army

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

I usually take my time reading new issues of Wired, to make the last all month, but as sick as I am, all bets are off.

The cover story is about Lego’s second generation of their Mindstorm project, and how they’re using hobbyists as the design team.

In case you’re not familiar: Mindstorms is Lego’s programmable robotics kit, first released in 1998. The core of the bot is a big yellow “brick”, which included an 8-bit processor that the users could program through line commands on their PC’s. The kits include touch and visual sensors.

The new models will have a sleeker brick (it’s closer to an iPod), 32-bit processors, and sensors for sound (for voice commands) and ultrasonic waves.

The big news, though, is that almost from the beginning of the original kit, the executives at Lego have proved that they’re smarter than the RIAA and MPAA combined: The Danish company has encouraged users to hack the software and help develop innovations.

Propietary systems are circling the drain; open-source development is the new viable business model.

So check out the article, it’s pretty inspiring.

The Topic is “Me Sick” …

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

… so let’s do this thing:

First, the important thing: I’ve got a doctor’s note saying I shouldn’t go to work tomorrow — woo-hoo! With both Big Bosses out of town, it couldn’t happen at a better time, and the official note keeps the pencil-pushers in the High Holy Corporate Office happy.

Of course, tomorrow is also Main Computer Guy’s day off, so if any of my esteemed colleagues have a problem, say, starting Excel without me having created a shortcut on their desktop (true story! that’s actually happened!), they’re just S.O.L. until one of us gets back.

Are we not men?  We are Lego! Another thing that makes the timing fortuitous is that I got the latest issue of Wired today — woo-double-hoo!

I’ll go into details later, but here’s one of the words from Jargon Watch: “Boot Mail”, which is military slang for a message that, due to incompatible technology, has to be loaded onto a disk and trotted to the intended receiver.

Nice thought, but it’s really just a variation of “Sneaker-Net”, which I first ran across about ten years ago in the same column.

(And in case you’re not familiar, sneaker-net is the act of networking computers by running disks back and forth between them.)

I’m a bit disappointed in Wired for not catching the near-duplication, but I guess they’ve got a lot of things to keep up with.

Anyway: It’s good to have a new Wired to help you through a period of recuperation.

And speaking of me being sick: I’ve mentioned before that my doctor is great at ongoing good-health maintenance, but my results in getting him to fix my occasional problems have not been so great.

But today, miracle of miracles, he gave me antibiotics! And Prednisone — Bonus! He made a special exception since I’ve basically been sick for a month.

So anyway, the diagnosis: Bronchitis, and possibly pneumonia, depending on what the x-rays say later this week.

Yeah, yeah, been there, had that.

Anyway, it’s an excuse to sleep all day and order pizza.

And as a fringe benefit, maybe soon I won’t feel like hammered catfood.

Monday Night Grab Bag

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

I’m almost getting sick again — bronchitis, etc. — so I’ll make this quick:

Rain! We finally had rain! It’s been a month since we’ve had any moisture at all, and even then it wasn’t much. We got about an inch and a half at our house; maybe this will put the brakes on the epidemic of grassfires we’ve had lately.

One negative side effect, though, in our case, is that Molly has this habit of wearing down the corners of our back lawn into nothing but dirt, and with the rain her favorite spinning spots turn into mud pits. For now we’re having to take outside on a leash, per Wife’s orders …

I got dragged into yet another meeting today, to hear our new ISO 9000 engineer give his presentation. The high point: His visual aid was (I am NOT making this up) a jigsaw puzzle of a little fuzzy duckling.

Yes, because nothing says Quality Manufacturing Systems like baby farm animals.

You’ve heard of Salad Shooters? Now check out the dog-treat shooter, that theoretically gives your dog some exercise while giving him more calories.

Okay, I can accept that, but here’s the obvious question: Can’t you just throw the treat?

Speaking of needing more exercise …

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Now I’m off to bed, to read my new book of Icelandic sagas until I drop off …