Archive for February, 2006

Countdown to Destiny

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

It’s just over 36 hours to my surgery, so you bet you’re gonna hear about it:

You might recall that I have remarked to the effect that only a team of wild horses could keep me from going to the North Texas Irish Festival this year.

I need to update that list: “Wild horses or tumor surgery”.

I am so ticked. In January I thought there was no way I’d still have pneumonia over a month later.

As time went on, though, and tests were ordered, and more tests were ordered, and surgery was deemed necessary, my ray of hope got progressively dimmer, until now it is snuffed out entirely.

Not only will I not be attending the festival this weekend, I probably won’t even be fully conscious.

I won’t even see the local news reports.

Shoot. Of all the freakin’ weekends, this tumor has to kill my Old World holiday, the time of year that I put life in perspective.

Of course, the tumor and the surgery themselves are doing a pretty good job of giving me perspective too …

But they don’t come with funnel cakes and Irish jigs.

We had a hospital of choice, because it’s closer to where we live, and we’ve heard so many good things about it from people who have had surgery there. The surgeon does do surgery there, but he was surprised that we wanted to, because our primary care physician — the one who started all these tests and found the tumor — doesn’t “have privileges” there, and wouldn’t be able to visit me.

We weighed this factor, and decided that as long as the surgeon, would be checking on me, and there was a full medical staff, we’d take our chances on the superior (and more convenient) hospital over have our regular doc. We also checked with our primary, and he was okay with it.

The surgeon agreed, and we scheduled the surgery … then today the surgeon’s office called, saying that he said we couldn’t have surgery where my primary couldn’t check on me, and that we’d have to go to the hospital about which we had heard discouraging words, and which was a half-hour round trip further for my wife to drive.

A surgeon with memory loss: Not a good sign.

So we both called back and appealed the decision, and we prevailed.

Yeah, we had just been thinking, We’re not experiencing enough stress — if only someone would call and jerk us around!

I have my pre=op testing tomorrow, so I’m taking the rest of the day to prepare and rest.

So today at work I had to get ready for my job to be vacant for maybe as long as six weeks, and now my desk is cleaner than it’s been in years.

I also took the opportunity to throw away a bunch of junk that’s been under my desk for way too long.

It just so happened that this was also the last day in our old building for half of our Inventory department, and all of Vickie‘s department, and Soon-to-Retire Boss.

Everyone else will be following them to the new building over the next couple of months, but for now it’s probably going to be strange, especially in the front office, where about half of us are going to be gone.

It will especially take some adjustment for them to get used to my absence: They’ll have to bring in a temp to get on everyone’s nerves.

Return of Tumor Boy

Monday, February 27th, 2006

I think I’ve gone all of four days without mentioning my upcoming surgery — so let’s get back to it!:

After getting stood up twice, I finally got in to see my surgeon on Thursday — and he was 2 hours late. He did apologize profusely though, especially when he realized that my wife and I had showed up for two of the appointments he had to cancel earlier in the week.

After he reviewed my charts and xrays, he started by saying, “Okay, there are several reasons why we need to remove this tumor. First of all, getting rid of it is the only way you’ll get over this pneumonia. Secondly, if we leave it in there, it will only keep growing and spreading, and we certainly don’t want that to happen …”

And I’m like, Hey, Doc — you had me at “Hello”! If you’re waiting on me, you’re backing up! Are you gonna sit there yakkin’, or you gonna start cuttin’?!

Okay, maybe I didn’t use that exact phrasing, but I let him know he could save the sales pitch. Recovery will be painful, but I’ve gone two months feeling like I’ve got a fat guy sitting on my chest. I’ll gladly trade six weeks of sharp-pain-and-drugs, if only for a change of scenery if nothing else.

He said that another side effect of the tumor (neuroendocrine, BTW) is that it secretes hormones, which manifest themselves through symptoms like flushing of the face and racing heartbeat, but that I didn’t seem to be having any of that.

I told him that, actually, I’ve been experiencing that for about the past year, especially the pounding heart.

He waved it off and said, “Oh, yours is a mild case. Most of the people who come in here with this are red-faced, and their eyes are popping out of their heads, and they can’t sleep — they’re like maniacs!”

So it’s reassuring to know that I’m on the low end of the curve …

My cousin Billy sent me an email of encouragement this morning, and he closed with the line, “Leave your camera outside the OR.”

Ha! Am I that predictable? Yeah, I guess so …

I’ve got an idea for a short film to do during my weeks of recovery: It’ll be dedicated to my co-workers, and called “You’re at Work and I’m Not”.

After all, I’ve been “itching” (figure of speech) to do a creative video, to put to work the skills I developed from doing training films at work, and this will be the perfect convergence of material and free time.

There’s a new online short film contest I can enter it in, too; the only drawback is that it has to be in Quicktime format, but still I can find other outlets for it.

Obligatory Post

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

I have all these long ideas I need to post, but now I’ve waited too late to do those … so here’s some random stuff:

It rained some Friday, and almost all day yesterday. Maybe it put a dent in our winter drought? At least it should hold off the brush fires for a few days …

It was clear and sunny today, but I’m using the raindrop bullet anyway, since I don’t get that many chances.

The main reason I haven’t posted yet today is because I woke up with a horrible headache. A nap helped the problem, but I’ve been dizzy ever since.

Think having pneumonia for two months has anything to do with it? Or the fact that half the pills I’ve been taking say “May cause dizziness”?

Speaking of which, tomorrow will be probably the first Monday I’ve worked in over a month, due to sickness and testing.

I really got used to those three-and-four day weeks.

I had thought I might not be working tomorrow, but now it turns out I will, since surgery has been put off a couple of days, which means all the panic-working on Friday was for nothing.

Anyway, this gives me another chance to clean up my work area, to make it neat while I’m gone.

So anybody that uses the desk can get the wrong impression.

And speaking of upcoming bedpan holiday, I’ve got close to 3000 songs loaded onto my MP3 player, and I’m not quite done yet.

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Okay, that’ll do for now, I’ll make a more concerted effort tomorrow …

Bye Bye Barney Fife …

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

Vickie just let me in on this news: Don Knotts has died.

Dang. First it was Captain Kangaroo, then Gilligan, then Maxwell Smart, and now it’s Barney Fife.

All my childhood TV memories are now officially dead.

I posted earlier this week about how there are a handful of supporting actors, like Alan Rickman, that everybody likes, sometimes for reasons that are not always obvious. These actors brighten almost any TV show or movie that they’re in, and viewers invariably carry good memories of their characters.

Don Knotts was another of those actors, especially on The Andy Griffith Show. When he left and was replaced by Jack Burns, America collectively lost interest in the show. Oh, a lot of people still watched, but our hearts were no longer in it.

These days we call that “jumping the shark”.

This is not necessarily a reflection of Burns (and his annoying character, Warren), but it just wasn’t Barney any more.

Knotts had left the show to purse a movie career, and a nice little career it was. He starred in a string of comedies in the late 60s and early 70s that were a bit formulaic (ordinary guy gets a shot at greatness; falls instead into public humiliation; fights to clear his name; and emerges as a hero) but still fairly entertaining: The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Shakiest Gun in the West, and, probably the weakest of the series, How to Frame a Figg.

(Obligatory catch-phrase from the first one: “Attaboy, Luther!”)

Most people forget, though, that he got his TV start on a soap opera (Search for Tomorrow — wish I could see some footage of that!), and went on to be one of the Steve Allen show, along with Bill Dana, Louis Nye, and Tom Poston.

Oh, and I almost forgot, a lot of people today probably mainly think of him as the second Mr. Furley on Three’s Company.

Not his finest hour, but I’m glad he was working.

For more information on this American pop-culture institution, check out his profiles on Wikipedia and IMDB.

And in closing, let’s remember a song by Sheriff Andy Taylor (to the tune of “My Darling Clementine”)”

“Oh my Barney, oh my Barney,
Had a jail and couldn’t lock it,
Had a bullet,
For his pistol,
Had to keep it
In his pocket!”

Weekend Geek Roundup …

Friday, February 24th, 2006

… or maybe it’s just Friday Nerdy-Herding:

There’s something really cool about this: A tactile Rubik’s Cube, for the sight-impaired, and anybody else who wants a challenge.

Check this out: Pictures and information on a home assemble-it-yourself computer kit from 1969.

I’m brining this up because … I actually had one! My older cousin sent me one for Christmas when I was 14; does that make me an alpha geek or what!

The truth, though, is that it didn’t do much, computer-wise, at least as we think of computers today. The real lesson was more conceptual and mathematical, but still:

I HAD A COMPUTER IN 1969.

So there.

I found this thanks to our friend at Look at This: So-called “video piracy” actually increases “legitimate” consumption, as recently proven with Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who.

So there.

I’ve been meaning to post about this too: Democracy, a new video player/aggregation site, much like Archive.org and YouTube.

Check it out at GetDemocracy.com.

Light at the Beginning of the Tunnel

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

That’s right, I said BEGINNING.

It was two months ago today that I went to the doctor with a fever, and one month ago that I had the x-ray that found the spot that launched all these tests, and now, finally, we can see the entrance to that long, dark tunnel.

I’ll be driving full-speed into that tunnel next week.

I met with the surgeon today, and we set the stage for doing my surgery.

In contrast to my regular doctor, who reminds me of Donald Trump in cowboy boots and a white coat, the surgeon is more like Captain Kangaroo without the bowl haircut: Pudgy, with salt-and-pepper hair and mustache.

Except that he had zero sense of humor.

Seriously, I pulled out some of my A-list material, and didn’t get a chuckle.

Of course, considering the gravity of the situation, I didn’t set out to make it a non-stop schlockfest — sort of a reverse Patch Adams — but sometimes the temptation was irresistible.

For example, at one point he asked me if I had any kids at home, and I said No, no kids. I fought back the urge to respond with one of my old standup bits.

But then, a couple of minutes and several questions later, he asked me again if I had any kids at home, and I fell victim to temptation.

Hey, it was his fault, he triggered the bit — twice.

I couldn’t help myself: I said “No, but we have two dogs and we dress them up as kids, does that count?”

Not even a smile.

He said, “Okay, so anyway …”

He thought I was punishing him for asking the question twice.

Here’s the worst part: He cut me off before the bonus punchline: “We had to enroll them in soccer before our neighbors would talk to us!”

This is proven, time-tested material, folks, that has been amusing folks for years now.

But I guess none of those folks were surgeons.

But anyway: He explained what the surgery will involve, then he said, “They’re going to ask you if you want an epidural, and you need to say YES.”

So I started to warm up to the guy.

He warned me that they’re going to tell me about all these possible side effects, and he told me that I need to put my hands over my ears, and when they stop talking, I tell them that the surgeon told me that I DO want an epidural.

So who needs a sense of humor when you’ve got a healthy respect for industrial strength drugs?

Anyway, I’ll have more details later, but for now suffice it to say that I’ll be getting cut on next week, and not a moment too soon.

My Music Collection, Made Portable

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

In anticipation of a lenghty hospital stay and home recovery, I’ve been loading up my new MP3 player. Here’s a quick sample.

Click here to see the whole listing.

Think it’s eclectic enough?

(Hey, Vickie, I included a Country folder; you proud of me?! I figured I’d better have some goat-roper tunes to avoid losing my Texas citizenship …)

I test-drove the player — and the music collection — to and from work today, on random play, and it was an enjoyable experience, going from Badfinger to Dean Martin to Alicia Keys to Prodigy. I’ve got 2500 songs packed in so far, so that should keep the mix fresh while I’m healing and on drugs.

But just in case, I’ll load on another 1,000 or so …

Delayed Surgification

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

In case you’re checking in to see what we found out from our meeting with the surgeon yesterday, the answer is NOTHING. Nada. Big fat goose-egg.

His people called to cancel for the second day in a row, and re-scheduled for Thursday at 2:00.

Oh yeah, like I’m going to fall for that one again.

There are two different office locations where he does his consultations, so when they were setting the new time, I asked, “Okay, HYPOTHETICALLY, which location would this appointment be for?”

Assuming the joker actually shows up this time, which he won’t.

He probably does this on purpose, jerking civilians around, making us rearrange our schedules, because he’s a SURGEON, and we’re just puny mortals.

“Look, he’s taking off work again! He’s driving out of his way to be here because he thinks I might actually show up this time! Ha!”

Yeah, don’t mind me, I’m just the guy with the tumor. My concerns pale in comparison to the amusement needs of a surgeon.

Meanwhile, the bottom line is that I still have no idea when the surgery will be, and, at this point, I don’t even have an estimated date of when ol’ Doc No-Show is going to honor an appointment.

Details will be forthcoming as they are available, IF they’re ever available.

Birthday Notice

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

I wanted to mention this before the day is out: Alan Rickman turns the big Six-Oh today.

The reason I bring this up is because … EVERYBODY LIKES HIM. Everybody that I talk to about movies likes Alan Rickman.

This seems strange for an actor that got his big break playing a sadistic villain in Die Hard. and who continues to play the shadowy Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies), but it’s true. From casual movie watchers to avid film freaks (myself included), I’ve never heard anybody say anything negative about him.

In fact, in a recent poll of movie bad guys, his Die Hard character came in second only to Darth Vader himself — a pretty neat accomplishment considering that DH was released in 1988, and the poll was taken in the middle of all the hype about the new Star Wars trilogy.

Rickman held his ground against the Hollywood publicity machine and and the public’s short attention span.

So it gives me a good feeling when an accomplished supporting actor is held in higher esteem with us regular people than the constant stream of Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt/ Julia Roberts megastars.

“Scanner” Setup

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Watching Attack of the Show tonight I saw the trippy new trailer for A Scanner Darkly, the latest in a long line of adaptations of works by Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Paycheck, Minority Report, etc. etc. etc.).

What makes this one so interesting is that it’s directed by Richard Linklater in the same almost-animated visual style (called rotoscoping) as his Waking Life from a couple of years ago — except the effect is so much sharper than before.

The story involves America in the possible near future, when the government has one out of five people narking on the other four, and the pyschological implications of such a widespread conspiratorial lifestyle.

But what could be just another thriller starring Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr. gets a whole new dimension with the rotoscoping technique.

I would tell you to visit the official site but the Warner site was organized by idiots: You have to click on Upcoming Releases, then scroll down to A Scanner Darkly; they won’t let people link to it directly, or even find it easily …

But anyway: Seriously, check out the trailer,, because the movie isn’t due out until the summer.