gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
Yesterday a man I was lucky to count as a friend and mentor passed away. I only ever met Loren Wiseman in the flesh once, and that was long before we had a professional relationship. But he was one of the architects of the role-playing games that I still love to this day, and as I told my mom on the phone, he was probably one of the guys she wanted to punch in the face when I was a teenager (I was just slightly obsessed with Traveller. Slightly.)

Ah, Traveller. When Craig came home from a local game convention with that iconic little black box and told me that he wanted to run a game for me, I was thrilled. It was the early summer of 1977. I wasn't quite 11 yet, and attention from my big brother that did not involve a pummeling was a good thing. I found out years later I was allowed to game only because his regular group wasn't interested in doing a science-fiction game.

But I rolled up a merchant named Beowulf Schaffer (yes, I was reading a lot of Larry Niven) and Craig had of course figured out a 3-D starmap based on the Known Worlds. I think that game lasted three or four sessions. But there were more to come, and eventually I rolled up the character who would stay with me for years, Captain Sir Arameth Gridlore, Master of the Free Trader Driver Carries No Cash. I played Gridlore in multiple games through the years, and I'm proud to say that the old ethically-challenged merchant has made it into several official Traveller publications.

Eventually, I had my own set of the rules, and used my weekly allowance to gather more and more Traveller stuff. This is where Loren comes back into the story. GDW, the publishers of Traveller and other fine games, started a magazine to support the game. The Journal of the Travellers Aid Society (JTAS) had short adventures, new aliens and equipment, and mostly articles that expanded the growing Third Imperium setting from a vague "there's an empire out there" to a living, breathing place. Loren was editing the magazine, and I didn't know it then, but his work honed my skills as a world builder.

Loren also was a great game designer in his own right. He did a series of war games set in Republican Rome, and was lead designer on a game called Twilight:2000. The setting of the game was central Europe in the aftermath of the Third World War and a limited nuclear exchange. The characters are soldiers in the US 5th Infantry Division who get a message from divisional command: "Good luck, you're on your own."

Needless to say this game was immensely popular at Fort Benning while I was stationed there. A game where all the officers are dead and we get all the cool stuff? Awesome! I still remember the day we were playing in the rec room at Delta, 3/7th Infantry. We had found an intact M109 self propelled artillery piece, and were having an argument over how fast it could shoot. Then we all remembered that right across from our barracks was the 2/10th Field Artillery. After confusing the staff Duty NCO, we eventually got a quick lecture on the vehicle and a spare Field Manual for it. All so we could blow up imaginary river pirates on the Vistula.

Fast forward several years. It is announced that Steve Jackson Games has gotten a license to produce a version of Traveller. Loren was going to be mostly in charge. The intial projects look great, and I'm checking the "writers wanted" section of the SJG website when I see a call for a GURPS Traveller book on the Imperial Army and Marines. With great trepidation I send in a proposed outline and writing sample. And wait. And wait. Finally, I summon the nerve to call SJG and speak to Loren, who remember is one of my idols, and ask him about it. "Oh, yeah, I'm giving you the contract." He may have said more words, but I had stopping having a functional brain.

Writing Ground Forces was a challenge. I had never tackled such a project before. Luckily, I was smart enough to ask for help from my fellow members of the Traveller Mailing List, and brave enough to pepper Loren with questions. Each one of which he answered fully. Ever written for publication? You send in your first draft and it comes back covered in red ink, possibly reeking of brimstone and charred at the edges. But mine also came with a note "You write like a pro! Fix these few problems, and we're all good!" Exactly what I needed to see.

I can never express how it felt to hold that first author's copy in my hands. It was a Traveller book with my name on it. It was a good book, and I'm proud to say that it's always been highly rated by Traveller fans. And it never would have happened without Loren Wiseman's guidance and patience. He'll be missed.
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
As Valentine's Day has just passed, let me tell you about my first love. The one I spent so many hours with, had so many adventures with, and of course cost me a lot of money and eventually left me.

I am speaking of course, about my first car. What, you thought this was about a girl?

I grew up at was the end of the Golden Age of California car culture. Most of my friends had their licenses and access to a car by the time they were sixteen, and freedom was ours! Going to concerts, hitting Rocky Horror and then Denny's for fries and ranch sauce, and of course cruising the El Camino until it was time to head to the Cinema 150 for Rocky Horror.

For those of you under 40, cruising was when you and several hundred of other drivers packed their cars with friends and drive up and down El Camino Real in an endless loop while listening to to either KOME or KSJO. Certain heretics would listen to KMEL or KFJC, but we could drown them out. The key to cruising was at stoplights; where, at random, people would just switch cars. If you didn't ride in five different cars in four hours you were doing it wrong. I recall one night when I told the driver to let me off at the movie theater and only then realized that I was the only English speaker in the car.

Good times.

But I didn't get my own license until I was in the Army, and even then it was for military vehicles. Only when I came home did my father make a deal to get me a car for my own uses. It was a 1973 Datsun miniwagon. It was baby-shit yellow and had terrifying brakes (later repaired.) Of course I had to name it the Yellow Peril. Named after the yellow biplanes used by the Navy to train pilots before and during WWII. It was, in retrospect, not that great a car, but I loved it.

Because it meant freedom. I could get to Grateful Dead concerts and conventions and, yes, Rocky Horror without begging a ride. If I wanted to go to Santa Cruz and hang out at the Pacific Garden Mall for TOTALLY LEGITIMATE, LEGAL REASONS I could do so. I was only tethered by gas money and the mechanical strangeness of my car.

See, some flathead and pushed a Dodge engine into my little Japanese import and did a poor job of it. I guess he wanted a hot rod build, but in that body? The result was an overpowered engine on a under-powered transmission and drive train. It made for some strange looks from mechanics I knew.

But still, I was able to get around, and being me, the Yellow Peril's paint job soon began to vanish beneath a sea of bumper stickers. I've never been shy about expressing myself, and now I had a rolling forum for my views. Most of these views were "The Grateful Dead are awesome!", as Dead stickers were about 75% of the total surface area of stickers, but I also had funny ones and some political opinions mixed in.

Which led to one of the few times I've ever been pulled over. One of the biggest stickers was my white on bright red QUESTION AUTHORITY sticker which was centered right under the window on my back hatch. One night while driving home from a friend's place, I make the left turn onto Los Gatos-Almaden Road from Leigh and get lit up by the cop who had been following me. At first he said that I "cut the turn too sharply" (WTF?) but then begins interrogating me on my plethora of art and opinions, especially that one. I had to explain to a San Jose Police officer that questioning authority is a cornerstone of a free society, and everyone, including him, needs to be ready to stand up when an authority figure says something that sounds fishy.

In the end, I flat-out asked if I was getting a ticket. I got a verbal warning about my "overly sharp" turns and my "bad attitude" and he let me go. I was royally pissed off, as you can imagine, and decided then and there that I would double-down on my questioning of authority. Been doing so ever since.

Sadly, the Yellow Peril began showing signs of age. I had been riding her hard for a few years, and more problems were showing up than I could afford to fix. Shortly after Kirsten and I moved in together, she broke down for good. I ended up selling her for baby-shit colored scrap metal.

Now I have Darby, my Ford Ranger who I love and wouldn't trade for the world, but you never forget your first love. Even if she drank oil like it was going out of style.
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
The winter storms have eaten my spoons.

No, that isn't some password code to my fellow spies, it's a succulent description of where I am right now, and I'm not at all happy about it. For those not familiar with spoon theory, here's a brief synopsis.

Spoon theory (so called because it was first explained in a restaurant using spoons) is the idea that every action you take in a normal day has a cost in physical and mental wear, called spoons. You only have so many spoons to get through the day, and when you run out, you're done for the day in every way.

Here's how it works. Getting up and showering takes a spoon. Getting dressed takes a spoon. Acquiring food, either by making it at home or hitting the Starbuck's drive-thru, another spoon. Driving to work, spoon. And so on, with everything you do whittling away at you stash of spoons. And there's no freebies. Getting up to use the bathroom is a spoon!

Normal folks in general good health have more than enough spoons to survive to the point of going to bed. They may be tired, but they can still manage nightly rituals with minimal competence. But those of us with chronic pain and health problems, well, we start out with a major spoon deficit. I'm in constant pain, which takes away spoons at the start. My thinking is muddied by stroke damage, which makes everything cost more spoons. Most days, I'm lucky to accomplish two or three chores before hitting my spoon limit for the day. At which point I crash on the futon and watch TV, as even reading is beyond me.

What's worse is there are things that can take all my spoons for days. Unexpected stress, mood swings, or sudden changes can derail me as my brain simple overloads. Which is where I am today. I was already stressed because of the trailer project. Kirsten, Halford bless her, has taken to this like a storm. It's amazing to see her get so exciting about something, it's what she's needed for a while. But it's thrown into sharp relief just how little I can contribute to the project. So I was already on edge.

Then we have what is supposed to be happening this upcoming weekend. Last fall we got notice that our village at Burning Man, 404: Village Not Found, was going to holding a planning even in February in Reno. One weekend, at a great little Burner-owned hostel. We decided to go. Now, Kiri has never driven in snow and ice, and the last time I did it I was driving a M113A3 armored personnel carrier, which is a bit easier to handle in those conditions. The decision was made to take Amtrak's California Zephyr from Emeryville to Reno. I've taken that trip once before, when I rode up to meet Kiri after the Burn. Beautiful ride, and quite affordable.

Now most of you know that California has been in an extreme drought for the last five years. We saw no indication that would change. The January came, and with it some of the biggest storms in living memory. Lake Oroville, the dam in the news this week for the near collapse of its emergency spillway? That ale was nearly empty last August. Huge amounts of snow and rain have fallen in the past six weeks, with a few more storms on the way.

The drought left hundreds of thousands of trees dead or dying throughout Northern California, and the wild fires have been devastating. Then add record-shattering rain to the mix. What do you get? Mudslides, rock slides, and closed highways and rail lines. The train we are supposed to be boarding at 0900 on Friday is not fucking running with no estimate on when it will resume. And this has me so off balance because I live by plans these days, and we had this planned.

And when I say planned, I mean down to the path we were going to walk from the Reno train station to our hotel. The exact time schedules of both trains. What exactly to pack. Because doing it any other way would cause me to lose my spoons as I tried to adjust to a new thing.

It's very frustrating, since I can remember when I wasn't like this. I used to be able to roll with the punches and change plans as needed. I used to be a fully-functional human being. Now, I have to keep adjusting to new normals.

I swear I'll be more positive tomorrow.

But we're checking Amtrak updates and if there's no change in status in the next 48 hours, we're pulling the plug and cancelling the trip. Damnit.
gridlore: Army Infantry school shield over crossed infantry rifles (Army Infantry)
Spent the morning at our local YMCA, where we've been members for a bit over a year. I did my full time on the treadmill, 45 minutes at a brisk walk, but cut my weight training short due to a sore shoulder.

Exercise and I have a checkered past. I was a weak kid who was scared of sports and getting hurt. My idea of recess was sitting in the shade and reading a Heinlein novel. Even when enrolled in PAL soccer, I still shied away from the ball, hating every second I was on the field. I think I actually made intentional contact with the ball twice in the few years I played.

That was the pattern through my teen years. I hated physical activity, and associated working out with the jocks who made my life a living hell. As an aside, one of those jocks was Ken Caminiti, a senior at Leigh High School when I was a freshman. He would go on to be a professional ballplayer, reaching the Major Leagues with the Houston Astros in 1987 and earning the National League MVP award as a Padre in 1996. Sadly, he was on steroids, HGH, and massive amounts of cocaine. He died in 2004.

So at least I can say I was pummeled by a future MVP. Baseball street cred for the win!

In retrospect, my attitude towards working out was self-destructive considering that my iron goal in life was to enlist in the United States Army. I had no vision of attending college, despite that being the entire push of the education system, I only wanted to have a bad haircut and run around the woods with a machine gun. It seemed a good plan at the time.

And in 1983 I got my wish. My parents faced reality and allowed me to enlist under the Delayed Entry Plan. My mom made damn sure I had a high school diploma before I left (which is a story in of itself) but still I couldn't take working out seriously.

But finally I reported to Fort Benning, Ga, to begin my training as an Infantryman. Another aside, while still in Reception Station, on the very first day, right after getting uniforms and haircuts, I met General John A. Wickham, Jr., Chief of Staff, U.S. Army. The man who was was in command of all 2 million soldiers in the regulars, National Guard, and reserves. He was literally the highest ranking man possible in my service, and I didn't know how to salute yet. He was a nice guy, probably because he knew we were shell-shocked sheep.

It when I get to Alpha Company, 7th Battalion, 1st Infantry Training Brigade, that my years of sloth catch up to me. Infantry OSUT (One Station Unit Training, we do both "basic" and "advanced skill" training in one go in the same place and unit) began with the Shock Treatment. Lots of yelling, being ordered to move from place to place quickly, constant dressing downs and, wait for it, push-ups.

Looking back, I have to laugh. We were getting dropped for 5 or 10 push-ups at a time, and the Drill Sergeants were being quite liberal with the push-ups they'd allow. The days of perfect form and not having back push-ups count would come the next day.

But I knew immediately that I was in trouble. I couldn't see that others were having the same struggles, I thought I was going to fail that first day. Which is kind of the point of Shock Treatment, to break down your ideas of training and put you on edge.

The very next morning, when it was still dark and already over 80 (yay for Georgia in late summer) we started out daily PT (physical training) sessions. Push-ups, regular and eight-count; side-straddle hops; sit-ups; mountain climbers; and more, followed by a two mile run. We did this six days a week with a voluntary PT session on Sundays, which most everyone ended up doing. We would also do PT in the evenings if training ended early. Add in getting dropping either singly or in groups for minor infractions like existing, and we were being transformed.

Thing is, you don't see it happening. The difficulty kept getting ramped up, so every day was still hard. You forget that while you're doing 50 push-ups today, last week you were only doing 25. You forget that the idea of walking 15 miles with a 50lb rucksack, weapon and all your gear was unthinkable just a few short weeks ago. We changed as a team, 2nd Platoon, A-7-1, Infantry, On The Road!

We only really knew that we had changed when we got our civies back. I literally could not get the blue jeans I had reported in past my thighs. My t-shirt was about to rip at the seams. At least my shoes still fit!

I'm still not a gym rat, and even when I was healthy I still had no interest in playing sports. But I worked blue collar jobs most of my life, and those kept me in shape. Now, when I'm at the gym, I can still hear Drill Sergeants Redding, Colom, Readen, Chin, and Senior Drill Sergeant Rodney Swanson telling not to quit, not to cheat my body.

Nice to know those guys are still on my side.
gridlore: Gold football helmet with red 49ers logo (Football - 49ers helmet)
Another Superbowl has come and gone. Leaving us with the etenral question, is Super Bowl one word or two? I've seen it both ways, honestly, and even the official NFL material seems to be of two minds.

The game itself was amazing, featuring an astonishing comeback by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. I was rooting for Atlanta, as I always want to see a city lacking in championships earn one. That first parade is always magical. But the football gods were fickle, and Boston gets the joy.

The end of football season means that baseball, and my beloved San Francisco Giants, are just around the corner. We're already seeing photos from this year's commercial shoots, and Spring Training opens next week! Rapture! Joy! Beat L.A.!

Seriously, Beat L.A. With a stick. I hate the Dodgers.

But along with the overblown end of the NFL season came something I've come to dread on social media. People adopting elitist, dismissive attitudes about sports. Sadly, some people I consider friends to this. It annoys me no end, and I have to keep from exploding every time I see it. So I'll just explain why here in this space.

Calling all sports "sportsball" and pretending to be confused by the basic concepts of the game are insulting. Refusing to admit that sports are popular to a wide audience of all backgrounds is delusional. Whining about people spending money on watching sports is rude and controlling. If I choose to spend money on a Brandon Crawford jersey and pay to go to a game that's my business.

I have friends, some of whom have done the sportsball thing, who spend thousands of dollars every year to attend science-fiction conventions. I love conventions, but you don't think that someone somewhere isn't rolling their eyes at this? Two men I am proud to call friends have devoted thousands of hours and an equal amount of money to creating fantastic costumes and props, all for their own enjoyment. Surely there could have been a better use for that money, some would argue.

But it's what brings these people joy. So fuck off and let them enjoy it.

So why do I enjoy sports so much? I love watching skilled people do things that I could never do. A Major League pitcher can top 99mph on a fastball. The batter has less than a second to identify the speed and motion of the ball, make a swing/no swing decision, and commit to the act. Literally the slowest part of this action is the signal from the brain to the muscles to move. Yet a good batter will make contact over half the time.

A NFL quarterback has to be away of the position of 21 people at the time he gets the ball. He has to be able to track his receivers and throw the ball into a crowd and get it to the right guy. See how well you do at this when being pursued by guys who are big, fast, and strong. A few years ago my mom and I get great seats for a 49ers preseason game. We were right down by the sidelines near the end zone. We saw exactly how fast these players are, and how hard they hit.

There you go, I love sports because I love seeing amazing things unfold live.

But there's another reason why I love sports, and football in particular. 49ers football is probably my one good memory of my late father. Dad and I never got along. I often say that he wanted children and got Californians. Dad grew up in England during the Depression and WWII in a military family. He simple wasn't prepared for kids with political opinions and a sense of personal freedom. We locked horns on everything.

But on Sundays, we were a family united. I was raised a 49er Faithful. I joke that my first words were "wait 'till next year!" We lived and died by the Niners. Even when all my friends were rooting for the Steelers or Cowboys, the two dominant teams of the 1970s, I held fast to my roots.

My parents had season tickets at Candlestick Park, 45 yard line, right under the press box. Sometimes, I'd get to go to the game with Daddy. I can still remember riding up the long escalator while holding his hand, cheering as John Brodie let the Red and Gold down the field, getting to eat hot dogs and candy, and mainly just being with my dad as we followed the family religion.

Even later, at the worst of our estrangement, I would call him every Sunday during the season to talk about the game. It was the one common thread that held us together. And when he died, I think my first reaction was that I was going to miss those conversations.

In conclusion, if you don't like sports, good for you. But don't think that makes you better than anyone else, and don't be a condescending twat about it.

Oh, and Go Giants! BEAT L.A.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Work continues on the Free Trailer Beowulf. I'm going to straight up admit that Kirsten has been doing most of the grunt work, and she's been stunning.

One thing we learned early is that we suck at backing the trailer into parking spots. To fix that, she bought a hitch dolly. A simple ball hitch attached to a wheeled dolly. Our trailer is light enough to be easily pushed by hand, and using this puts the pivot point right at the hitch point rather than 10' forward at the truck's front wheels. We used it today to correctly position the trailer in its storage yard slot. Along with that, we got a wheel dock to hold the front jack leg in place.

My contribution today was spraying the mold Kiri found with plenty of vinegar and pulling down the contact paper that was serving as wallpaper to see if the fungi had spread. We'll probably end up staining that wood and sealing it with a spray coating. Glow in the dark stars and moons will happen. During the process I found that the previous owner had left a small camp mirror behind. One less thing for us to buy!

Next step is to hook up the trailer and take it back over to Kiri's office. The Manly Men there saw some deficiencies in the front of the A-frame, and there is welding equipment and a stock of steel at the warehouse. The wiring is also a bit of a kludge, and needs to be cleaned up a little. While that's happening, I'll be inside carefully scrubbing the dead mold off the wood and sealing the affected areas.

After we took care of things at the storage yard, we decided to go check out the new Bass Pro Shop in New Almaden. Dear Gods, that place is huge, and so much fun to wander through! A giant aquarium stocked with really big fish, huge selections in every department, and even a well-stocked firearms section. We did buy handles for our 30oz thermal mugs. Prices there were iffy, but we can compare with REI for the best deals now that we know what's there.

The plan had been to hit the grocery store after all of this, but by that point we were both tired and my legs were spiking at seven on the pain scale. I'm planning on doing the Y tomorrow (I expect it to be empty) and I'll hit to store on the way back home.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
(with apologies to Jethro Tull for the title.)

Happy 2017, everyone.

I try to avoid resolutions. I find that over-promising with specific goals is self-defeating. As you slip from the goal, frustration kicks in and rather than rest for better goal, you just quit. This is a cycle I am very familiar with.

So rather than being resolute, I shall share a few plans.

- Make the YMCA a habit. After I recover from my surgery, try to make three days a week.

- Try to write every day. Except a lot more posts here. Even if it's just nonsense, write something.

- Declutter! I'm tired of living in place filled with too much stuff.

- Get published.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Keep Calm)
Saw my surgeon today. It tells you something that I have a surgeon. How many of you have a regular surgeon. Sigh.

But anyway, I'm being scheduled for another surgical biopsy, this time on the superolateral superficial inguinal chain of lymph nodes. There's one there that is suspiciously large and was active in a PET scan I had a few months ago.

So, what will they be looking for? Cancer. Specifically evidence that I'm experiencing a return of Hodgkin's. They'll look for both microtumors and the Reed-Sternberg cells that are the tumor factories for the disease.

Surgery will be in early January, date to be determined. Probably either an outpatient thing or maybe one night in the hospital.
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
I've given up on my NaNoWriMo project. Simple fact is I got derailed by some health issues and the election. Also, I keep trying to make myself write science fiction, and it's really not my genre for writing. I may try my hand at urban fantasy. Without the pressure of meeting a 50,000 words in a month.

For those of you who paid into the Istanbul fund with the promise of being Tuckerized, I'll be in contact about the new project.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Quick update on my progress.

I've stopped the Vicodin and gone back to me regular Gabapentin regime. There's still some pain, mostly when I put weight on my foot, but nowhere near what it was last week.

Das Boot is great. Putting it on feels like I'm strapping into some sort of armor, but the air cushion and padding really helps. Being able to take it off when I'm not moving or sleeping is great.

Walking more without the crutches, although I am pacing myself.

See the bone doc on October 13th. Fully expect a clean bill of health.

Wearing jeans for the first time in two weeks. Go me!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
I, and at least one mobility aid, will be at Convolution. Here's my panels:


The Monsters of Doctor Who
Friday 15:00 - 16:30, Boardroom V

From the Cybermen to the Slitheen- we love them all! Join our panel of Whovian experts as they share their scariest Timelord terrors!

Doc of the Bay (M), Doug Berry

Geek Networking
Saturday 15:00 - 16:30, SandPebble B

How to make something of all these geeky folks you know!

Steven Savage (M), Doug Berry, Ms. Jennifer Carson, Nita, M. Todd Gallowglas

RPG Story Structure- Writing for Playing
Sunday 10:00 - 11:30, Parlor 2036

There's a difference between writing a story for it to be read, and writing one for it to be played through. Our panelists will help shed some light on how to best make your roleplay story playable.

R.L. King, Doug Berry (M), Colin Fisk


Given my broken foot and general health, I'm very happy that I only have one panel a day. Expect me to be planted somewhere mellow when I'm not involved in a panel.
gridlore: (Burning_Man)
So, how was your summer? Mine was great right up until last Monday. And by “great” I mean I had unnecessary surgery, never really went anywhere, and mostly hid in my apartment. But there was one shining beacon on the horizon: Burning Man! Yes, ten days of glorious art and weirdness and. . . and. . . waiting in line for five hours to get in followed by daily dust storms with 45mph winds.

But even at that, I was at the Burn! Me and 70,000 other weirdos soaking up the goodness and fun. I was kissed by not one but two hot European young ladies (one from Rome, the other London), took part in restocking some of the 1,500 porta-potties in a howling dust storm, and despite an apocalyptic storm on Burn Night the Man Burn was a thing of beauty.

Yes, everything was fine until Monday, when we started tearing down our camp. This is where my troubles began. First of all, we brought far too much water. The suggested 1.5 gallons per person per day is aimed at the younger, more active set. As dancing ‘til dawn to crappy electronic dance music wasn’t on our agenda, we ended up with a lot of water. We gave away two 7-gallon containers - filled - to a campmate who just wanted the extra weight to balance his trailer for the trip home. The other two, which we like better ergonomically, were just loaded onto the truck full. That left our 5-gallon water cooler. It was about a quarter full, and kind of gritty (that dust gets everywhere!). So, being the helpful guy I am, I picked it up to carry it out to our greywater evaporator.

And promptly tripped on my hydration backpack. We had been discussing replacing the camelbacks with insulated bottles earlier, and I think the packs heard us. I go flying, and immediately lose proprioception in my right leg. I was a bit stressed. Left foot comes down fine, I drive my right foot into the densely-packed Playa. Hard.

Funny thing about peripheral neuropathy: when it comes to my legs, everything hurts. All the time. So I just shrugged it off and limped over to where Kirsten was sitting. We peeled my boot off to inspect the damage. No discoloration, no swelling. No way I’m getting my boot back on, so we switch to the shoes I’m supposed to wear in Reno. Hurts like a bitch, but with some help from campmates, we get out of Black Rock City and head for Reno!

Which is where I realize things are getting worse. Wednesday, Kirsten had an appointment for a facial, and then we were off to the local ER! I take her to the best places on vacation. After a set of X-rays, the doctor comes in and says “You really did a number on your foot.” Folks, I didn’t break a bone. I didn’t break two bones. No, friends and neighbors, I broke my 2, 3, & 4 metatarsals! Big time! Which is why I have this giant horking splint and a new silly way of getting around. 50 years old and this is the first time I’ve ever broken a bone.

But when I related this story to people, they seemed kind of let down. “Doug,” they said in one collective voice, “that’s so mundane. We expect more from you.”

Right. Buckle your seatbelts and read the back of your ticket.

Twas the night of the Man Burn, and all were drawn as close as we were allowed around the iconic figure of Man, brightly lit in red neon. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a monster dust storm blew up! The wrath of the Playa was upon us! That’s when I saw her: a little blind Girl Scout carrying a backpack of what I assumed were adulterated cookies, being led astray by her guide dog, who apparently broke the first rule of Burning Man: ask what’s in the food. Disregarding the storm, I lept from the truck, racing across the perimeter as gale force winds battered me.

Blinded by dust, I pressed on! But then, disaster! The static electricity from the storm ignited the fireworks on the Man, and the whole thing burst into flames! Now I wasn’t just fighting the wind and scourge of the dust, but fire tornadoes were now whipping across the desert floor. Clothing burned from (most of) my body, I swept the little girl (who turned out to be just 18, lucky me!) and her stoner dog up into my arms to race back to the now-cheering crowd. . .

That’s when the Paiute attacked. Upset about burners using Pyramid Lake without the proper permits, the entire reservation came at us on SUVs and ATVs and other Three Letter Acronyms. Having only Adventure Cane and an encyclopedic knowledge of Errol Flynn movies to guide me, I fought off the taco-selling tribe while forcing my way to the safety of the L3K line!

Where I tripped over some moron’s abandoned bike and broke my foot.

The End.
Brought to you by Vicodin and my clumsiness.


My video of Burn Night: https://youtu.be/M7jmvXfws_E
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Wobble)
Had my surgery. Which ended up being, well. . . weird.

No, not going into more detail. Let's just say there were a few last minute changes to the plan.

Don't remember anything. Although I was evidently at least moderately coherent in a "talking in my sleep" kind of way under the twilight anesthesia.

Now taking it very easy on pain meds.

Going back to bed.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Keep Calm)
OK, to clear things up.

A while ago I had a PET scan. Normal for me, with my medical history. Around that time we noticed an odd bump on my abdomen that would come and go. We thought it might be a hernia.

However, that was when the annual "State Fucks Up My Health Care" festival was scheduled. This year, they decided to transfer close to a quarter of my doctor's patients from our current program to one no one had ever heard of (and one that never answered phone calls or emails) which made it so he couldn't see us or give referrals.

This didn't affect my specialists. My oncologist, seeing some unusual metabolic activity in my lymph nodes, ordered a CT scan. Which showed some slightly-enlarged lymph nodes, but the accompanying lab work didn't show any signs of my body trying to fight a cancer. So that's something we're going to monitor.

But what the CT did reveal was a subcutaneous mass on my abdominal wall. I was sent for a surgical consult to decide if we just wanted to do a needle biopsy or go full chainsaw. As needle biopsies are literally hit or miss when it comes to getting good results; it was an easy choice to slice me open and pull out more bits.

Odds are this is a mass of fatty tissue or a cyst. But getting it out so the lab geeks can poke it with scientific sticks is important. From what I understand, I'll not be under a general, but rather extremely stoned and numbed. It's outpatient, barring complications, and I'll have a new scar.

Surgery is scheduled for August 9th. Offerings to Kamrusepa welcomed.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
And suddenly doctors are interested in me again.

Several weeks ago I went in for a PET scan. This showed some unusual metabolic activity, so a follow up CT scan was ordered. Wednesday I saw my oncologist to discuss the results. No sign of cancer, but there were some slightly enlarged lymph nodes. As always, we're staying vigilant.

I'd also noticed a lump in my abdomen, which came and went. We thought it might be a hernia. Nope, the CT revealed there's a mass of some kind pretty much on the abdominal wall. Referral to a surgeon for a possible biopsy and removal made.

Since I was Dr. Agrawal's last patient for the day, he took the time to give me a guided tour of my insides. So fascinating! Especially when he pointed out internal surgical scarring. What was really amazing was when we got to my lungs. He pulled up a CT of healthy lung tissue for comparison. The lower third of my lungs look like they have thick spiderwebs clogging them. That's cumulative damage from blood clots, multiple cases of pneumonia, and years of exposure to atmospheric pollution. No wonder I have problems breathing!

The final issue was some severe, sudden-onset headaches I've been having. Since I've already had one stroke, I'm always concerned about anything going wrong in my head. I already have an appointment with my neurologist for next week, but wanted to get ground work done. I'm now going in for a head MRI on Monday.

Other than that, I'm doing OK. I was joking last night that I am a complete binary person. I have two states, On and Off. Trouble is I can never tell which state I'm going to be experiencing the next day. Trying to get to the gym and hoping to get more walks in. The new FitBits are great for nagging.
gridlore: (Burning_Man)
Almost all our Burning Man gear is storied in the warehouse at Kirsten's office. Today, we went over to sort it out and build an actual packing list.

This comes from being a solider and a truck driver. I want to know what is in what box, and know what we need to get before we leave. The plan is to have the Playa-only stuff on a pallet and wrapped in industrial plastic wrap. This will increase security if we decide to spend a night in Reno on the way up, and help secure the load. The stuff we'll need access to on the way or immediately on site (the tent box, the 7-day Igloo cooler, and our water and gasoline containers) will be easier to access.

We have four 3.6 cubic foot boxes that are now labeled "Bedroom", "Kitchen", "Consumables", and "Miscellaneous". We'll be taking a roll of pallet wrap with us, so when we pack for home we can put everything in the correct box, put it back on the pallet, and wrap it for home.

Organization is fun.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Fail Black)
OK, so the Fox Network is remaking the Rocky Horror Picture Show for broadcast. Why I don't give a flying piece of toast.

First Red Doritos: Hearken back to when the RHPS was just getting rolling. No one really knew any LGBT people. The closest most came was watching Billy Crystal on "Soap." Same goes for transvestism. So a movie with a bisexual, cross-dressing alien as a lead was edgy. On screen implied sex was edgy. Hell, implied cannibalism was edgy. Today? LGBT people are out and open members of society. And the cannibalism dinner scene? You can find much worse on YouTube.

Second Red Doritos: We were much closer to the source material. The "late night, double-feature, picture show", whether at your local theater or on a local station after regular programming, instructed us in the tropes that the RHPS played with. The two kids with a flat, the mysterious house, creepy butlers, mad scientists, and created monsters. Seeing the RHPS was like a best-of reel from great B-horror flicks of the 50s through the 60s.

Third Red Doritos: It was a social event where we broke rules. When you go to see a movie, you're supposed to sit quietly and enjoy. Not at Rocky! We danced, shouted call back lines, used props, and in most places there was a shadow cast, either ad hoc or a dedicated team acting out the film in front of the screen. You went to the RHPS to have fun with other people. Running around a theater in your underwear screaming obscenities at the screen then going to Denny's and eating fries with Ranch. Watching any production at home alone loses the point. Rocky was something out of the ordinary.

Finally, it was as close to a mystery cult as we could get. There was a fraternity among Rocky fans. The jocks and stoners went to see Song Remains the Same or Wizards, the Metal Dudes lined up for Heavy Metal (once it hit the midnight circuit), and the Art Nerds went to see whatever was playing at the Los Gatos Cinema. But Rocky fans showed up week after week. We'd see each other at school and give the briefest of nods, as our membership in the cult crossed caste lines. It meant something, damnit (Janet, I love you!).

I did Rocky Horror for well over a decade, Friday and Saturday nights for long stretches. Keep this pointless remake.

Because on our world, we'll do the TIME WARP AGAIN!!!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Yesterday I had my first dental appointment in a few years. Yes, people with no teeth are supposed to still see a dentist. This was to address my denture issues.

I got dentures back in 2008, and due to the massive amount of bone loss from my chemo, the lower plates never had nothing to grab onto. As a result, eating almost anything with my teeth in was impossible. I wore the teeth mainly for show, and for comfort when I was still driving for a living.

But after my stroke, and going nearly month without them between hospitals and rehab, I just stopped wearing my dentures. There was no need. I can manage most foods by carefully cutting and using my tongue to mash them up before swallowing. Also, i let my facial hair grow over my lip, which hides the lack of teeth most of the time. I've not worn my dentures in nearly three years. (I do keep them clean, just in case.

But in the last several months, I've been told by multiple doctors that I really need to chew properly to get all the nutritional value from my food. I also discovered that there is in fact a dental version of MediCal, called Denti-Cal which covers many things, including dentures. But not implants as a rule.

Which brings us back to yesterday's appointment. We went back to the same dentist who had done my extractions. They remembered us, which was nice. Got really cool X-rays (there's a machine that circles your head like a scanner; no more film shoved in your mouth!) a quick exam, and a discussion.

Turns out that getting what I need is going to cost close to what the Istanbul trip cost. But there is hope! I'm going to call my doctor to see about getting a consult with a dietician. See if we can't get my medical team to sign off on my getting teeth as a medical necessity to cover at least some of the cost. Also, there are payment plans. We looked at the brochure briefly and [personal profile] kshandra said we'd be making car payments on my teeth. I have an appointment to see an oral surgeon in a few weeks to get his take.

One way or another, we'll make this work.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Fail Black)
I've been sitting here in front of the computer since about 0730 this morning. And I've accomplished absolutely nothing. I haven't eaten. I'm still wearing the hoodie I donned when I got up despite it being warm. I just forgot to take it off. Like I forgot to eat.

The hoodie is off now. I'm wearing my San Jose Sabercats shirt. No idea if I put it on this morning or slept in it. Pretty sure the blue jeans are fresh, since there's no belt and wallet. Based on that, I'm going to assume clean clothes. Go me.

I had plans for the day. I was going to round up all the recycling from home and Earth Baby and take it in. But my brain never clicked on that. I forgot about it the moment Kirsten walked out the door, and by the time they notion wandered back in, I was already done. My brain, dealing with leftover stress from yesterday, is failing to launch. I can't muster the will to do anything, because when I think about doing, my brain overloads. Just writing this a struggle.

Maybe I did eat. I'm not that hungry right now. Don't see any breakfast dishes or crumbs from a sandwich, so I suspect I just closed my 0900 "Eat Breakfast" alarm on the iPhone and immediately forgot that I'm supposed to do something at that point.

Hey! I did remember to take my morning pills! And the anti-coagulation clinic called with a med adjustment and I immediately wrote it down! And put the Post-It where it is supposed to go! Can I get an Army Commendation Medal for that?

I'm dealing with residual stress because yesterday we had to go and beg for money. The state stopped paying my MediCal premium, and I never saw the notice. Even if I had, I can't read bureaucratese anymore. It shuts me down. Kiri, who is a Goddess, got everything organized and did 90% of the talking. Things are looking good, but I'm stressed because it was casually mentioned that there is a MediCal dental plan that might be able to get me dentures that actually work. I've been trying to find this information for months! But I can't concentrate that long.

I should be writing. I'm trying to do two novels -- one SF, the other Urban fantasy -- along with a bevy of ideas for short stories and the Great Church for Pathfinder that I'd love to sell to someone so my sole big gaming credit won't be a book written 16 years ago. But I can't get the thoughts together. Just getting this down is torture. And my aphasia is so bad today that the voice recognition software is I use is pointless. So ideas flit around my head, dissolving when I try to make them come out. Very frustrating.

This is what living with a stroke is like for me. I could take it when my body was trying to kill me, but my brain? It's where I live, and now it's broken as well. I have good days, to be sure. But this is a bad day, and I'm just terrified that it is a sign of things to come.

1519. I've been writing this for close to 45 minutes. And while I had more things to say, they won't come out. So I'll end this here.
gridlore: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
I'm typing this on my new computer. Which I needed because I got Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home Edition for a Winter Gift.

That's when we learned that my old computer was no longer seeing the CD/DVD drive. Thinking the problem was with the drive, we bought a new DVD drive. Same problem. A friend of Kirsten's who was helping us diagnosed the problem as being the motherboard. Which, being ancient would be hard and expensive to replace.

Kiri found a great deal on a HP Pavilion on Woot. We also got an awesome external drive. This first plan was just to copy the contents of my C drive to the new computer. That didn't work, as there was "hardware incompatibility."

Next plan was to identify the things I absolutely had to move and just download replacements of the others things. I was able to slash and burn through my accumulated years of odd gaming bits and pictures to reduce things to a manageable size. Very few actual programs needed transfer. Over the last week Kiri has done the work of making the moves and setting things up. She also spent a few hours cleaning up my iTunes library.

Right now I'm downloading a bunch of games off Steam and double checking to see if there's anything I forgot. Luckily, transferring both my Firefox and iTunes data was easy.

All for a new program which is going to help me write. I'll start playing with that next week.

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gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
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