gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
Fair warning, this will contain so minor spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming. No major plot points, but some notes about characters and setting.

So, Spider-Man has finally come home to the Marvel Cinematic Universe where he belongs. Thank Odin! Because this is the movie that makes everyone's favorite wall-crawler the awkward kid he was for so so long in the comics. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is a brilliant kid living with his hot Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) in Queens, NY. He attends a magnet school for science and technology, and, oh, is secretly the Spectacular Spider-Man.

The movie opens with Peter recording a video blog of his trip to Germany to take part in the airport battle scene from Captain America: Civil War. Despite being told repeatedly that he can't show anyone the footage, he keeps shooting. Because he's a kid. And that's what he is through most of the movie. He's what every 15-year-old boy is: eager to prove that he's an adult, and able to take on the world while not being ready. Having picked up a mentor/father figure in Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr., who has played this character enough times to have bought Rhode Island on the residuals alone) Parker keeps waiting for the Avengers to call him for his next assignment. His only confidant is his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) a fellow geek outsider who thinks Spider-Man nearly getting vaporized is just the coolest thing ever.

What really makes the film work is you believe that these are all high school kids attending a science immersion school. Long-time nemesis Flash Thompson has gone from alpha male jock to arrogant academic jerk, for example. Which works. The writing is painfully accurate on just how awkward this age can be. Seeing Peter stumble with the girl he likes, trying to focus in class, it all works! Which makes the more fantastic elements work as well. Everyone is well directed and written, even a minor hood that Spider-Man tries to interrogate, but ends up getting helpful advice from.

But no superhero film can work without a great villain, and Spider-Man does not let us down. In the comics, The Vulture was a ridiculous figure, a senior-citizen with a flying suit. Here, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is a wronged everyman who takes his revenge on the system by selling weapons based on alien technology to criminals. He is a deep character with a clear motivation and his own set of moral codes. He also has the badass flying suit. In Keaton's hands, the Vulture nearly steals the movie. You believe in him, and oddly, sympathize with him.

The producers managed to stick in enough Easter eggs to supply the White House egg roll. From the classic comic book theme to the Spider-Signal, old fans of the character will have plenty of moments that make them grin. Captain America makes several appearances narrating videos shown to the students, which tie into one of the two post-credits scenes.

The action set pieces, big and small, work, although some are a little too busy. We saw it in 2-D, which I suspect has something to do with that problem. But there were a few moments where the screen was just a mess of flying objects. Spider-Man's advanced, Stark designed, Spider-suit is a character in its own right.

Problems? There were a few. Some of the jokes fell flat, Aunt May was critically underused, and Flash Thompson was never given the moment of humanity needed to make him more than an aggressor, though that they may be saving for the next movie.

As I said above, there are two post credit scenes. The first, coming in the middle of the credits, gives us a view of Adrian Toomes that raises a lot of questions. The second does nothing to tease the next Marvel movie or tie-in Spider-Man to the larger Cinematic Universe, but at our showing it drew one of the biggest laughs of the show.

One of my metrics for how much I enjoyed a movie is how well do I remember the trailers. Since trailers are designed to catch your interest and lodge the film in your head, how well you can recall those trailers shows how deeply you were involved in the feature presentation. In this case, I couldn't tell you what trailers we saw. Spider-Man: Homecoming was just that fun. I give it 4.5 Penguins out of a possible five. Go see it.

The only bad thing about the day was as we were leaving my right ankle decided to remind me that I have hypokalemic periodic paralysis. That was no fun, even though it loosened up pretty quickly.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
It's a common theme, almost an accepted fact, that the hardest thing is admitting you have a problem. I beg to differ. For me, the hardest thing is asking for help.

Last Friday I asked for help.

It's no secret to anyone who has known me for more than a few weeks that I've been dealing with severe health problems since 1995. Stage IV-B Hodgkin's Lymphoma, messed up lungs, peripheral neuropathy that makes it hard to walk or stand, and of course the stroke that left me unable to function for more than a few hours at a time.

But through all of this, I soldiered on. Literally, I credit my time in the Army for my will to survive. After all, I could be in the ICU, tubes jammed into every orifice that can take one, and still think that I'm good, because Drill Sergeant Colom wasn't there yelling at me. I really hated that little fucker.

Yes, my sense of humor has helped.

But as I was saying, every time I got knocked down I pulled myself off the mat and went back to work. Even to the point of causing myself more injury, because I saw my intrinsic value as a person as being tied up in what I did for a living. I've always been a blue-collar guy. I was happiest when I was working jobs where I could say at the end of the day "I accomplished something." Getting people to and from airports, hauling PODS containers, and best of all, tackling the longest, hardest route at Lord&Sons and rocking it every single day.

It couldn't last. There was just too much damage from cancer and chemotherapy. My body was like a car that had been in a serious accident, repairs had been made but it will never work right again. So I lost my job at SuperShuttle to my health, lost Lord&Sons to blood clots in my lungs, and lost my last job, as a dispatcher, to the stroke.

That was almost four years ago. Four years of not having that essential part of the American identity. "What do you do?" is a question I can't answer. I'm not retired, saying that I'm disabled invites questions I don't like answering or scornful looks, and the idea of an outwardly healthy looking middle-aged man being disabled is something not a lot of people can accept.

The worst part is most days I feel fine. To quote the next President of the United States, Joe Walsh, "everybody's so different, I haven't changed." I really think that I could climb back into my truck and drive the Livermore Valley route, or dispatch for a limo or share ride service. But then reality crashes down. I can't work, not even as a grave shift cashier in a gas station because I burn out too quickly and can't handle stress very well anymore.

Which leaves me sitting here in my apartment. I have plenty to distract me; books, the internet, a TV with a Roku box attached (the Xbox 360 gave me a Red Ring of Doom a few weeks back, we need to find a replacement) but it can feel like a prison. I do get out for my writing group and the YMCA, but that requires me to be functional. Not a good bet on any given day.

None of this has been good for my mental state. I've found myself in a downward spiral of late. Getting angry and frustrated far too quickly at minor things. Catching myself falling into destructive patterns of thinking. Not at the self-harm level yet, but letting my inner demons take over and convince me that I am worthless, that I'll never be published, that I'm a drag on everyone around me. These feelings aren't constant, but they are there and they are becoming more frequent.

So last Friday I was speaking with my Case Nurse at Anthem Blue Cross. And I summoned the courage to ask about mental health coverage. I'm just waiting for a call from their Behavioral Health unit for a referral. I have no idea what kind of help I need, maybe I just need a person I can scream about the unfairness of life too, or maybe I need a prescription for happy pills to help me keep my head above water. Or both, or neither. I just know that I can't dump all this on Kirsten. She has her own issues to deal with and has already been a saint dealing with my decline.

I am entering unknown lands here. All I know is that I've probably needed this kind of help for years, but it took me this long to ask for it.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
Yeah, I've been slacking a bit. I promise to be better about keeping up on my writing.

So the news today is that I have an appointment for getting my first tattoo in 32 years on Monday. If you've ever seen my one tattoo, the World's Worst Grateful Dead Tattoo, you'd know why I've been a little wary of adding to my inked hide. Why take the risk? I know the circumstances of the WWGDT were a tad unusual, but you can see why I was a little needle-shy.

There's also my changing tastes. I didn't want to end up with a design celebrating something now passe or downright embarrassing. The Dead art, while horrible, is at least a good story and Deadheads have always been a loyal tribe. There's also my ongoing health issues, which for years made me worry about getting my hide pierced a few thousand times with an ink-injecting needle. But when I asked, the anticoagulation clinic staff only asked what the design I was getting. They did say that working my appointment in to the times I'm off the Warfarin for the ongoing dermatology visits would be best.

So what is the design? Nothing fancy, just a list of the medical issues that have either drastically affected how I live my life or came close to killing me. They'll be down my right biceps, listed by the ICD-10 code, under a header reading, oddly enough, "ICD-10."

We're going in chronological order, so the festivities start off with G72.3, which is Hypokelemic Periodic Paralysis. This is a genetic disorder, so I've had it from the time I was a fertilized egg, but never knew it until a year or so ago. What it is is my body has a hard time channeling potassium properly when I'm under high levels of stress. Rather than sending the potassium to the muscles to help things move correctly, it gets locked up in red blood cells. This causes the extremities to lock up at the joints, mainly.

Looking back, I can see where I might have had an attack and just passed it off as something else. Like when I was running a marathon at Fort Benning, and my legs locked up at the 20 mile mark. I thought I was just not strong enough, or hadn't eaten correctly. But more likely I had put my body under so much stress that the HPP struct. I'm very fortunate that my threshold for attacks is very high. Some people deal with daily attacks of their limbs freezing up.

Next is C81.09. Stage IV-B Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Diagnosed after the removal of my spleen in late July of 1995. Stage IV means that the cancer was all through my lymphatic system and had jumped to my liver. At the time, I was given a 60% chance of living to see my 30th birthday, and that was with harsh treatment.

I made it, obviously, but the cancer and the treatment combined to really wreck my health. I was left with almost no immune system, I eventually lost my teeth, and all the other things on my list can be traced back to the fight of my life against Hodgkin's.

But before I could even start to fight the chemotherapy, I had to deal with I82.401, Deep Vein Thrombosis in my right hip. When I had my spleen removed as part of the lead up to my cancer diagnosis, my platelet count skyrocketed. Which led to an amazingly painful blood clot in the very large vein that drains the right leg. As a side note, I was in this kind of agony when i found out that Jerry Garcia had died. I was beginning to feel a bit like the Biblical Job at that point. Treatment required that I be hospitalized for three weeks. During this time, my weight dropped to 113lbs.

Next up, and this came quickly on the heels of the end of my chemotherapy, is J18.9, pneumonia. I have had eight or nine diagnosed cases of this disease since the first one in February 1996. Probable a baker's dozen more than never got the nod from the medical establishment. The first two cases came damn close to killing me. My lungs crackle when you listen to them, that's the damaged alveoli (air sacks) that were wrecked in my many fights with this problem.

I have never been fashionable. I've never been one to go with the latest trends. But I was on the cutting edge once, and boy did I hate it. This is when I got hit by J09.X2, the H1N1 Influenza. I never quite needed to be hospitalized, but it was close, and I was in the hot zone for people in danger of dying from this particular flu strain. Since then, I get my flu shot early.

After having the flu, my lungs continued to torture me. This one really hurts, because it cost me my job driving for Lord&Sons. I26.09, Pulmonary Embolisms. These are blood clots in the lungs, and are horrifically dangerous. Never mind the fact that they kill off sections of your lung tissue, they can move into your heart (and kill you) or into your brain (and kill you) or just stay where they are and eventually kill your lungs. Which is bad.

This was the point when I first filed for permanent disability, and was awarded it. However, the feds have an interesting idea of what permanent means, and a year later they declared me fit for work! I got a gig doing dispatch and reservation work for a small limousine company. But just over a year later, on July 31, 2013, Kirsten heard a crash in the bedroom and found me wedged between the bed and the dresser, totally unresponsive. A fast ambulance ride and a long two days (which I didn't noticed, due to the induced coma I was in) and we learned what a G45.9 Transient Ischemic Attack is. It's a stroke. My blood thinners just stopped working, and a blood clot made its way into my left parietal lobe. It's called a transient attack because the clot resolves on its own. In my case, I hit my head pretty hard going down, and that might have been enough to shake the clot into pieces.

But afterwards, I couldn't speak clearly for more than a few sentences. My memory was shot, and I had almost no proprioception on my right side. I had to learn to walk again. I had to teach myself to speak. I spent three weeks in between the hospital and the in-patient rehab clinic learning the skills possessed by the average 2 year old child. It was very frustrating. Follow that with about 3 months of outpatient rehabilitation. And sill i was never going to be the same.

Like a good mystery? Then try to explain why I developed G62.9 Peripheral Neuropathy. The sensory nerves in both my legs are dying, leading to near constant pain and sudden bursts of extreme shocks of pain. We call those the "floor weasels", because that's what it feels like most of the time; weasels ripping into my feet. Then there the involuntary muscle contractions. Usually later in the day, I'll get everything from twitches to fell on, kick like a Rockette, leg spasms. Which makes sleeping difficult. None of my doctors can figure out why this developed in me, and why it's so severe. One of the reasons i try to walk as much as I can and do my gym time is that regular exercise can slow the progress of the condition.

At this point, many of you are wide-eyed in horror, and thinking "Oh my God, the poor guy! Next time I see him I'm going to buy him a beer!" Hahahahahahaha Fuck My Life. No beer for me, you see, because about the same time I found out about the Hypokelemic Periodic Paralysis I also found out about my raging case of K85.20 Acute Alcoholic Pancreatitis. After years of moderate but steady drinking (my barracks had a beer machine, I loved the Army) and with all the other slings and arrows it had suffered. my pancreas stopped playing nice with booze. One can of Budweiser could make me sick for days. So I switch to non-alcoholic beers (I still like the taste) and face the world sober.

So that's it, my new tattoo explained. These are my campaign ribbons, showing the battles I've fought and the ones I'm still fighting. The ink will be starting high on my right arm and extend down. That way, I have room for more entries.
gridlore: One of the penguins from "Madagascar," captioned "It's all some kind of whacked-out conspiracy." (Penguin - Conspiracy)
I have no idea what to write. I want to keep my streak alive, but I feel like shit and have no ready subject at hand. Also, I'm on heavy duty pain-killers right now after having yet another growth on my back biopsied. Fun times.

As usual, I've been sent to a new doctor. I had a dermatologist, but she left the area shortly after my first set of skin tumors were pulled off. That was the year the county just decided all on their own that I didn't want health insurance anymore. No that was a fun fuck up to clear up.

But anyway, this is why we need single payer in this country, or failing that, California. A few weeks ago I noticed some rough stops on my back that were painful to the touch. Having had this before, I knew I had to see a dermatologist. But I can't just call a dermatologist. No, first I have to make an appointment with my primary care doctor. So he can look at me for five minutes and agree that I need to see a specialist.

As an aside, almost all my doctors are Asian at this point, from all across the spectrum. This become relevant soon, I swear.

Having done my job in informing the primary care, I wait for an authorization letter from Anthem Blue Cross, who do the paperwork for my version of Medicaid. Now let's recap: I've had benign skin tumors before, but there is no guarantee that this batch will be the same. I, and my doctor, have both said "is cancer? Could be!" to the insurer. Which is why after a long week's wait, I finally called my doctor back to ask where my referral was? Another few days, and I finally get a phone number.

Call that, get an appointment. Place in Milpitas, right along Montague Expressway, where they are building the Bart extenstion. Nice little office block. Find my building and suite, go in, and . . .

It's a clinic that mostly caters to Vietnamese folks getting cosmetic laser surgery. It's an eye-rounding clinic, folks. And I'm in there with my poor-folk insurance. Fuck My Life.

At least the staff speaks English, mostly.

Meet the doctor, who seems a bit brusque. Go over medical history, quick exam, schedule biopsy date. All what I should have been able to do before! In one phone call! This is the part that drives me insane!

Anyway, after several weeks of tumor growth (I'm paranoid about cancer for some reason) I finally go in Monday. Which is when I learn that I really need a new dermatologist. First of all, one of the receptionists, who was very soft-spoken with a HEAVY Vietnamese accent, was trying to get through some insurance providers phone tree. On speaker. Those things don't work in perfect conditions half the time. The better part is I can her the identification numbers the machine is asking for and the numbers she's replying with! This is the equivalent of reading your credit card number out loud on a bus.

Go back, and learn that my skin-care physician isn't brusque, he just has the personality of a bag of wet sand. I'm not kidding. I got nothing close to a human reaction the entire time I was there. Medical robots in Star Wars have better patient skills. The biopsy itself was easy, lidocaine is awesome. But here's where I got mad. After explaining that I'm a stroke survivor and really need instructions written down, he just told me what to do for wound care and sent me out the door. Not even a good-bye.

Luckily, I remembered what he told me. Mainly because it was kind of weird (I've never been given a lesson in how to apply a band-aid before.) Made my appointment for the stitches removal and discussion of what was found, and got the hell out of Dodge.

But I can't help think how much easier it would be with single payer. I'd call Dr. Son and say I need to see a dermatologist, can he recommend anyone? Or just look up a local dermatologist and make an appointment. No fuss with referrals and who is in network and who is out, just calling a doctor when you need one.

Same goes for ER visits and ambulances. If you need to be rushed to the hospital, call 911 and get a cool ride! If you're like me and have a stroke, you shouldn't wake up and immediately wonder how you're paying for it.

We are the only industrialized Western nation that doesn't offer single payer. Let's elect people who want to fix that.
gridlore: One of the penguins from "Madagascar," captioned "It's all some kind of whacked-out conspiracy." (Penguin - Conspiracy)
I don't want to write today. I mean, I'm still siuck, I slept like a baby, eaning I woke up every hour and peed a lot (at least I make it to the bathroom for that.) My perpetually sore shoulder is telling me I might just have overdone it at the gym, and I just don't want to write!

Plus I have two huge library books to read, part of my research for Task Force Singh. These are monstrous tomes on both the race to develop the Imperial Germany and Royal Navies in the age of battleships, and the follow-on book about naval operations during WWI. I really should go back to bed and crack those.

I could even finish the three other books I'm reading. My Goodreads account mocks me daily which the static "what I'm reading" column. I really should update that . . . Or I could do the small pile of dishes. I could do a load of laundry, but I'm not really feeling that adventurous.

There's always Civilization VI, or Madden NFL. I haven't played the Grand Theft Auto game I got at Half-Price Books. But do I want to try a new game when my head feels this thick? I foresee rage quitting. I suppose I should clear off the coffee table, for Kirsten has said we're having pizza tonight.

Maybe later.

But I really dreaded opening my 750 words today. I'm watching the word count in the corner willing it to go higher. Just hit 250 words. 500 to go. Sigh. See, normally I have something to say, something for the book or some writing exercise or personal experience to share. I feel motivated to write, even if it's gibberish. I could go the Spider Jerusalem route and write "fuck" 750 times and claim it's a political article about the Trump administration. I could even cut and paste an older piece and just massage it a bit to fill my quota.

Because on March 1st I agreed to the site's monthly challenge. Write everyday. Even when you don't want to write. And anyone who knows me at all know how I am about living up to my pledges, even the silly ones. I won't even be winning anything, other than a couple of site badges. But it's the fact that I did agree to participate that is keeping me here at the keyboard when I'd rather be doing my part to lower the water level in Anderson Lake by taking a very long, very hot, shower. With the space heater blasting in the bathroom. I like things warm, OK?

436 words. Getting there!

I really should vacuum the filters on the air purifiers. But that's work, it can wait until I've have my live steam shower and a nap. Likewise, I could gather up the stray bits of recycling and corral it for a trip to the recycling place next week. But that involves moving. Later. Procrastination is something I'm always very prompt about.

Just had a sneezing fit. I own Sinuses of Holding. It's the only explanation for what just came out of my nose. Aren't all of you happy that I share these little details with you? Anything for my adoring audience. Send burritos.

The sad thing is that it's only when I'm this miserable that my broken brain decides to click on and show me all the things I've been avoiding in terms of house work. Since I am home almost all the time, I do what I can within my limitations. Dishes, laundry, taking the garbage out, whatever cleaning I can handle. But inevitably my brain gets overloaded with the sheer number of tasks needed to accomplish something as simple as vacuuming the living area that I burn out and need to stop. I really need to nuke this place of all the junk, call in a maid service for a one-time cleaning, and set a schedule for maintaining some order.

I also need to continue the purge of stuff that we just carry around with us. Half-Price Books is my new favorite place for losing unwanted clutter. And dear gods, do we have that.

696. Into the home stretch.

The good news is I do feel a bit better this morning, it's just the terrible night's sleep that has me dragging. I have eaten, and taken all my morning medications in the morning for a change. I think I will pull the two Great Tomes in to the bedroom, take a shower, then nap. Notice the word "read" never figured into that.

764 words. The streak continues.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
And I'm sick again. This is not abnormal, for me, a healthy week is the unusual occurrence to be commented on. Odds are, one of the adorable plague rats at the YMCA was carrying some form of Mongolian Death Yuck and the evil plague spirits, seeing a happy, undefended harbor, jumped me while I was sitting for a few minutes before heading home.

It's a little known fact that the Black Death was spread to Europe by a school field trip. True! Take my word on that, I own lots of history books!

So anyway, here I sit with a scratchy throat, sorer than my recent workout should account for, and in a general mood that should make you all happy that I don't have launch codes. Although in the marathon game of Civilization VI I played today, I did reach the point where I had missile-launching submarines and was using them to support my invasion of Egypt for her crime of sending wave after wave of religious units to my shores. If only we could deal with door-to-door religious nuts in the same way: submarine launched guided missiles. It's be hard on the driveway, and I'm sure cleaning up the mess would be a bitch, but I'm pretty sure the local Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses would quickly get the clue.

I do have to admit that I was past-due for a big sick this year. Usually, by this time in the cold and flu season, I've landed in the ER at least once if not endured a lovely night or two of observation and infusions. Traditionally, my ER visit happens close to if not on Christmas Eve. This is part of my rational atheism at work, really. I'm testing the theory that Santa Claus can find you no matter where you are in the world. If this is true, the fat boy and his flying elk should be leaving stuff in the hospital. So far, nothing. I am forced to concede that I may not pass muster for getting gifts from the elf with a thing for breaking and entering.

It seems like I'm always sick. It's either something like my allergies acting up, and opportunistic swarm of viral life forms, or some body part deciding to ignore its duties in favor of freelancing; I'm in a constant state of medical limbo. By that I mean, how low can I go? Seriously, my first oncologist, Dr. Waltuch, asked at one point in all seriousness if he could have a few words with the medical officer when the flying saucers came to take me home. My Hodgkin's was so unusual that bits of my spleen were sent winging around the world for research. My spleen has seen more of the world than I have, although I doubt you get good cabin service in a medical sample case.

A couple of years ago, I even managed to be trendy with my illnesses! I had H1N1 when it was cool! The actual Swine Flu when it was still making headlines. Which is where I ran into the big wall labeled "people are stupid." Once I had the verified diagnosis, I called work to tell they needed to warn *everyone* that they had been exposed. At which point my alleged boss, a man who made three times what I did, whined about this being a HIPAA violation. Even though I was on the phone TELLING him to warn people. I had to fax in a consent letter!

Sheesh. Remember, I was the one dying of hamthrax at that point. Figuring out how to use our fax machine (we owned one, which now lives at Kirsten's office) was far down on my list of things to do, somewhere below "dying" and "no, really, dying now would be great."

Thing is, I really can't be sick right now. For a guy on permanent disability I have a full calendar coming up. Saturday, Kiri and I are going out to pick up some stuff for the Free Trailer Beowulf; Sunday, we're meeting our moms to see "Kedi", a documentary about the cats of Istanbul; Monday I have some writing class and a biopsy on my back. To quote the former Governor of Minnesota, "I ain't got time to bleed."

Not joking. Go find "Predator" on Netflix or something and realize you are watching the future Governors of California and Minnesota fight a guy in a big rubber suit.

Ah, well. Sick again. I have books, hot chocolate, and plenty of burritos. I'll live.

Though I'm pretty sure I won't enjoy it.
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: 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: (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: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - CAR -15)
I just spoke to our government again.

As I wrote about previously, we got a notice from the Feds that the State of California was no longer paying my Medicare Part B. That's about $100 a month. We filed the appeal. SSA called and said that I needed to talk to the state. Today, I called the number I was given to do this.

After three transfers, 20 minutes of hold and call back time, I finally reached a human being. Who, in her best Resting Drone Voice, told me to call Social Security. Who had previously told me to call the state.

No Kirsten needs to take the morning off tomorrow to call the County Health Office to schedule an appointment because I can't fucking do this! It's 1015 and my brain is already shutting down from stress.

This is why I want single payer. I'd still be getting my $900-something a month disability but there wouldn't be all this drama around my health care.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Exploding)
Earlier this month, we got a fun letter from Social Security. Evidently, this time the glorious State of California has decided to stop paying for my Part B Medicare payments, retroactive to November, and the Feds would now be deducting that cost from my SSDI payment. That payment, by the way, works out to about $5.14 an hour assuming a forty hour work week.

This is an almost $100 drop in monthly income. Which is not acceptable. So we carefully followed the instructions on appealing and sent in the form. Yesterday I get a call from the SSA saying that doing exactly what the government told us to do was wrong, and we need to go to the state to fix this.

This morning, I spent 35 minutes on hold before being able to plead my case. We now have another number to call to set up a hearing. Which Kirsten is going to have to do, because that one phone call fried my day.

What part of "permanently disabled" do these guys not get? I have multiple issues that are not going to get better and that keep me from working. How the fuck are we supposed to lift ourselves up if they keep cutting the fucking rope?
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Glare of Sarcasm)
So, this is a thing my nephrologist is pretty sure I have: Hypokalemic periodic paralysis. In short, I'm a mutant. When under stress from thing like illness, injury, or, well, stress, potassium in my body doesn't do its usual job of making muscles work. Instead it gets absorbed into cells, where it stays until the crisis is past.


This results in temporary paralysis of the extremities to vary degrees. Looking back over my life, I can identify several occasions where I thought my stiff legs or arms were just a normal thing that went with whatever was happening at the time.

Luckily, my HPP appears to be mild. Some folks have attacks hourly. Mine only show up when I'm under extreme stress and can be years apart. I should note that this diagnosis is based solely on observed symptoms and lab work. There is a test for HPP, but nobody wants to pay for the genetic screeening, especially not when the case is not causing any real threat. Dr. Dharwan is going to call around to see if anyone is doing a study and needs more subjects.

sigh... I'm a mutant. Guess I need a colorful spandex suit and a silly code name.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
(crossposted from, and by, [personal profile] kshandra)

I was close; "3pm" in hospitalese turned out to be about 5pm. There was a stop for discharge scripts (a potassium supplement and Medication #3 for the oral thrush), and then we came home. He's in the bedroom now, having just gotten off the phone with his mom.

We are still, as I said in the email to my boss that led to the matching funds for the Indiegogo campaign, "both scared, and both trying to hide it from each other, but we both know each other too well for it to work." But for right now, he's home, and I have to let that be enough.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Wobble)
(crossposted from, and by, [personal profile] kshandra)

I'll start with today's news: [personal profile] gridlore is due to be released around 3pm today. (Which is probably 6pm in hospitalese, but we're used to it by now.) Nothing official yet as to what might be wrong, but he saw a specialist yesterday who had some theories, and we'll say more about that when we get confirmation.

Yesterday, however, was fucking difficult for both of us.

I arrived at lunchtime to discover that Doug was on isolation protocol - mask, gloves, and gown - while they checked him for C. diff. Adding insult to injury, the isolation gowns didn't fit me; the nurse cleared me to go in without one, but it was just one more dig I didn't need.

I got back to the office after a couple of hours with Doug and was immediately greeted with two phonecalls one of my co-irkers had mishandled, a round of Geek Answer Syndrome as both of my co-irkers tried to brainstorm what had happened to Doug that I finally had to shut down before I ran out of the building screaming, and a call to a prospective customer (attempting to do damage control on one of the earlier fuckups) who promptly began trying to railroad me into doing things that weren't physically possible. I wound up staying two hours late just so I had time to myself in the building and could actually get some work done. (I'm still under 40hrs for the week, thanks to Thursday's ER trip, so I didn't mind much.)

I was already burnt out when I got back to the hospital in the evening, and Doug wasn't much better, so I didn't stay long. I knew I wasn't going to sleep when I got home, though, so I found a How It's Made marathon on TV (I was hoping for Bourdain, but it was still nicely soothing) and did a little work on the crowdfunding campaign. (We broke 20% last night/this morning!) Finally crawled into bed around 11:30, but didn't fall asleep right away, which was just as well, because it meant I was awake when my phone pinged:

cut for emetophobes )

Before I left last night, I let Doug know that I was planning to spend the morning at home; the Rock & Roll Marathon has half the streets between home and the hospital closed until 1pm, and I had errands that needed doing. And truth be told, I needed a break - I'm pretty sure I've been in Crisis Mode since his last hospital stay last month, and neither of us can afford for me to crash in the middle of all of this. So I've got more How It's Made on the TV (this time courtesy of YouTube and the Roku player I got for my birthday) and laundry in the dryer (which appears to have actually stayed fixed this time, thank g_d, because I'd be in jail for killing our landlord if it hadn't worked today), and I'll head over once I have a clean change of clothes for him.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

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

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