Monday, September 24, 2007

Learning Things I'd Rather Not Know

I don't know if you've ever felt the hot, melted cheese from a grilled sandwich stretch out and then slap against the skin of your cheek-- hot, molten cheese that sticks, that you can't remove fast enough, and that still hurts even after you peel it off. Some ideas have hit me like that-- painful, challenging, or revolting ideas-- where just knowing it hurts and blisters the spirit.

I remember as a child of about 9, when my older cousin talked about breaking up with his girlfriend (they may have been all of 13 or so), and he called her a "whore." When asked "what's that?" he explained that a whore is a woman who will trade sex for money. Well, as a somewhat naive pre-adolescent, I at first didn't believe this at all-- no one, especially a woman, would do that. It didn't fit my picture of the world. Just thinking about it was alarming, and the level of alarm made me think about it a lot! I wasn't sure I wanted to live in a world like that. It became an infected wound with a hard scab over it, which I picked and poked and scratched and kept the wound fresh for days. I may even have asked my Mom about it, though I don't think so-- by then I was just old enough to know what were the taboo subjects, and this was obviously one of those.

Other truths I experienced as such searing, blistering experiences were the Holocaust-- which my father told my brothers and I about when I was about 10 years old-- and when I found my Mom in bed with George the antique dealer when I was about 13 or so. I can understand people who go out of their way to avoid deep, painful truths like these, or who attempt to protect their loved ones, especially children, from them. Sometimes the truth is terribly painful, and the pain of learning it overwhelms the objective value of knowing it in the first place.

So this long lead-in is just to say that learning about my cancer, and thinking through all of the implications of that for my mortality has been another of those blistering, hot-cheese experiences. I am being diligent in learning as much as I can about the disease and the treatment options, and being carefully observant of possible symptoms and my own bodies reaction, but I have to admit there are moments when I experience nothing but that instantaneous scalding, searing pain of hot cheese against my face. I peel it off, but the hurt stays. I touch it, because it feels like the cheese is still there. I'm going to be fine, but I'm not going to be the same. My inner rationalist wants to know everything, my inner cynic is happy it's all turning out as badly as planned, but my inner 9 year old has his eyes popping open and his ears covered, and he's shaking his head "no." It hurts.



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Friday, September 21, 2007

OK, I need a theme...

I've been writing in blogs a lot this week. A LOT! Almost every day I write a couple of entries. Unfortunately, I have four blogs I update-- well, actually in the last week or so I've only been updating three of them, but that's a lot. And one of the blogs is completely out of sight-- it's on a local server I keep here at home. No one really reads that one except myself. The only blog that gets read is the one on MySpace, and I don't really feel like promoting that because it's so butt ugly.


But the point stands-- I've been blogging a lot in the last week. So what? What I've written on visible blogs is easily available, but it's not very interesting. And no one would seek it out based on just random thoughts I arbitrarily decide I want to write down. Who cares that I bought tomatoes, that I believe I was duped by my early childhood learning, and that my blogs are out of control? If you don't know me, this is not likely to interest you in the least. It's barely tolerable for those who do know me. Sometimes it's not even interesting to me (gulp, there's a confession).


In order to have a blog that readers will flock to, the blog needs a theme which will grab their attention, and then it needs to work the theme. I'm using all of these blogs to practice creative writing, but I need to come up with a subject and write exclusively (or at least mostly) about that. Maybe if I can do that, I'll attract a reader or two, and hey, maybe I can even start using Google Ads and pay for some of my bandwidth. Maybe I can sell some books.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Somebody talk me out of buying a new camera, please?

OK, I've been looking at NewEgg for a new camera, and found the Canon PowerShot S570 IS, which they carry for about $180.00 including shipping and a 1 gig SD flash memory card. It's a very, very sweet rig, with 7.1 megapixel display, SDHC flash memory compatible, USB 2.0 download, 2.5" LCD display, auto orientation of the picture display (whew!), wide format pictures, Digic III processor, and image stabilization. I WANT ONE!! RIGHT NOW!!! The interesting thing is this is an incremental upgrade from my present camera, but it costs about $40.00 less. I'll try and find some pics of it and maybe some links to post. It's a sweet deal, that's for sure!

Skepticism

I wonder sometimes whether learning to be skeptical is more valuable than learning to trust. I believe myself to be in the former camp, but I feel I could have been more successful if I'd been in the latter camp. This could turn out to be a recurring theme here.

I look directly down the barrel of any rule, obligation, or received thought or belief that comes my way. When someone tells me something, or tells me I must do something, I examine their motives, their stature, their qualifications for telling me. I fight against deadlines, ultimatums, popular wisdom, direct orders. I sincerely believe myself to be the exceptional case, an outlier, an edge condition. This has paid off for me, but sometimes I believe the cost has been too high-- that learning to adapt would have been much more productive.


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Too many blogs

For some reason in the last few days I've gotten very active with blogs. This is partly due to finding not one but two stand-alone programs in Linux that allow more-or-less one-click posting to a blog. Just start the program and it displays a blank notes area into which to type, then you just click the "Post" button and voila, it's there in the blog. So I had to go and check all the blogs I use to make sure I still remembered the user names and passwords (jeeze, that's a pain in the ass!), and they all seem to work. And I can post fine.


Of course there are issues with both of the programs, mostly of the fit-and-finish type, where things don't work intuitively, or, in some cases, very well. One of the programs won't update Blogger (it needs an update, but the update isn't in the Fedora repository so I don't want to update it manually), and the other one updates, but doesn't place the title correctly. Arrgh...


On the other hand, they both work acceptably, and allow me to update stuff, and I've been doing that with a vengance. I can even update my private blog on my local linux server. No problem.


And because of all this activity, I was inspired to upgrade my Blogger blog (this one right here), so I bought myself a domain, and then hosted it, free, on Google. I am now abirdman.com! It's the tits! Watch for more inspiring words here in the near future.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

ten pounds of tomatoes



ten pounds of tomatoes
Originally uploaded by me


It's the end of the summer in Maine, and there are a lot of vegetables in the farmer's market now, and the prices have dropped considerably. Two weeks ago, these tomatoes were $2.00/lb. Last week they were $1.00/lb. I hope that this week, they will be half that. I made these into tomato sauce over the weekend, and it's delicious. I make it with onions, green bell peppers, garlic, and hot, hot, hot Scotch Bonnet peppers, along with oregano and basil. It's delicious.

The end of the summer is great for vegetables. I'll freeze the sauce and extend the summer. Goodness.

Back at work

So I came back to work today (after what might be called a mental health day off), and it feels pretty good. It’s interesting how that works—get all dressed, shaved, scrubbed, polished, and buffed on a nice sunny warm day and come into the center of the city, and the world of work seems pretty appealing. I’ve already done some good and productive work, and will do more before the day is over. It helps that I’ve got a nice windowed perch over Monument Square from which I can look out whenever my computer monitor is too boring. It’s great! I’m lucky!

This Blog is in a new place

Yesterday I stayed home from work and, among other things, fiddled around with Blogger and looked at some of the interesting things I can do with it. Atom feeds! Lists! Blogrolls (or whatever the equivalent is in Blogger).Polls! Google! Ad Sense! All vey intresting...


Some of the features, however, were only usable if I actually hosted my blog with Blogger/Google. Well, that didn't seem that great, because I don't like the "blogger." thingy in the URL. It turns out there's another option. Purchase a domain name (it's cheap!), and then host the domain at Google. Click, click, done... then I had to wait for "24 to 48 hours" (actually, it was overnight) and I had my blog all magically hosted at Google, invisibly, because you get here by typing in abirdman.com, which is my new internet domain! Schweeet!


And there's no waiting for the stupid FTP server at my other hosting company to respond. Google seems almost instantaneous on updates. There are only a couple of "gotchas" with this setup: I don't think I can swear too much because I think I'm bound by Google's terms of use (people can mark my blog as inappropriate. Ohhh noes!). And if Google ever becomes the target of a DDOS attack, I assume my blog will be collateral damage. I guess we all take that risk.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Now or later?

I'm trying to decide whether to have surgery "now" (if I chose to do that, I wouldn't get an appointment until into November at the earliest), or wait until the first of the year, when I'll have a whole new set of vacation days to work with. Of course, if I go next year (after January, actually, which is only a couple of months), I will have a new insurance deductible to deal with, but I believe having more sick/vacation days will offset that problem.


I am also avoiding making the decision because of the pretty bad odds of having a bad outcome-- either incontinence (the chance of that is roughly 1 in 3), or impotence (the odds of that aren't well defined, but I believe it's worse!).


There's a voice inside me that wants to have sex every minute from now until they wheel me into the operating room so that I can feel like I gave it a good try. And then there's the thought that maybe nothing of the sort will happen-- that the outcome will be fine, that I'll end up in the majority and have bladder control and the ability to get and maintain an erection and everything will just go on happily ever after. I have to admit that before I just typed it, this possibility hadn't occurred to me. I shall think about that.


Tally ho!!

Cancer

Holy cow, I've got cancer. Malignant prostate cancer. Gleason score 7. PSA over 12. Age 54. Crazy shit-- there are several treatment options, none of which seem particularly appealing. The oncologist is scared shitless of cancer cells, and believes anything that will rid me of the cancer is good. The urologists (yes, there are two!) believe it's a plumbing problem, and want to go after it now, because I'm so "young and healthy" and the whole project fills me with uncertainty. Ugggh... more to follow!

This is the same disease that killed Frank Zappa and, more recently, Merv Griffin. It's slow acting (usually), and the only symptom in the early stages is an elevated (or at least abnormal) PSA, which is only detectable with a blood test, and which is notoriously unreliable. Follow up (anyone with a PSA over about 6, maybe) is a biopsy. My biopsy was positive on one out of eight "cores" (they kind of go around the clock-- the prostate gland is roughly cylindrical-- with a damned core snipper).

Prostate cancer is also the most common cancer in men. The saying is that if you live long enough, you'll get it. Right now, I'm just thinking about it. Ths surgery is actually pretty common, and is proven to be a safe and effective treatment, though there's a damnably high risk of unpleasant side-effects, including incontinence and impotence. Of course, the side effect of not having the surgery is death, which I find somewhat more unpleasant. Jeeze...