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: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
If you are reading this and have a LiveJournal, go and delete it immediately. The new terms of service are binding only in Russian, so we have no clue what's actually in them. This is the final straw.

Ever since the sale to the Russians, LJ has slowly become unbearable. Good riddance.
gridlore: A pile of a dozen hardback books (Books)
The title is half of one of my favorite Grateful Dead lyrics.

Went up to Half Price Books today, it what is probably the last load of decluttering books for some time. While waiting for them to tabulate my payoff, I wandered around for a bit.

Wandering the history section, I scored. My friend Bruce Norbeck had suggested two books for me as part of me research for Task Force Singh, "Dreadnought" and "Castles of Steel", both by Robert K. Massie. The first is a detailed examination of the people and events that shaped the naval arms race between the United Kingdom and the German Empire in the decades leading up the First World War.

It's an amazing read, as Massie takes the time to introduce to characters like Kaiser William II and Admiral Jackie Fisher as people. Indeed, the book spends more time on how the personalities of the movers and shakers interacting with each other shaped the balance of power in Europe. This style also gives great insight to these powerful figures as human beings. Otto von Bismarck was a brilliant statesman, but also a petulant, petty jerk. King Edward VII was pretty lost as a monarch, happily deferring to his government on almost everything. And Winston Churchill had the crappiest childhood you can imagine.

All of this is wrapped around the whirl of European politics in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870; the war that made the scattered German states into a single empire while causing the fall of France's Second Empire. It's really fascinating to see how England was stuck in the ideal of the Splendid Isolation, secure in the knowledge that the Royal Navy was a bulwark against any invasion. Even as the age of sail began to fade, the hide-bound traditionalists of the Royal Navy clung to sail. It took true revolutionaries and mavericks to drag the navy into the modern age.

In Germany, the Kaiser faced a similar problem. German had little coast line and limited access to the North Sea, so a navy had never been a concern. Besides, Germany's power was her armies. Vast, disciplined, and well led by a professional officer class, the Imperial German Army could crush any of her neighbors. Convincing the Reichstag to spend huge piles of marks on building battleships and improving the Kiel canal to allow them access to the North Sea was the work of years, and involved no small amount of dishonesty and gambling. Several times, the Kaiser ordered ships to be laid down before the funds had been approved, and then presented the assembly with a fait accompli.

All in all, a fascinating read. But as long one, and quite dense. I've already had to renew the books once, and the Santa Clara library never guarantees endless renewals. "Dreadnought" is almost a thousand pages long, and the next one is about the same length. But there's so much good material in here! I've already cribbed three characters, some setting details, and the casus belli that sets off the who plot.

Since these are library books, I've taken to taking pictures of important passages that I want to remember and emailing them to my self. Rather clumsy, but it works. I tend to do most of my reading in bed lying down, so taking notes would be an act of some contortion, and even I can't read my own writing these days.

So these books must be returned, and possibly soon. Which brings me back to Half Price Books. As I said, I was wandering the store, glancing at this and that, when I spied the Ballantine Books paperback edition of "Castles of Steel", which is more directly on point for the style of warfare I'm hoping to describe in Task Force Singh. New, this book goes for $20. I got it for about nine bucks, which I just took out of what I got for the books I was dropping off.

Now I can highlight, margin note, and page mark to my heart's content! I can take time, reread important bits, and really digest the material. Because I really want the foundations of the novel to be as strong as possible. As I mentioned in my writing group this morning, getting the basics right makes the whole story sing.

My next step in laying that foundation, is to design the Vajra, the Arjun battleship that will be one of the main locations for the events of the book. I'll be using GURPS Starships for at least an initial pass on making the ship more a place than an idea, but will be working out details of the living ship. Because down properly, the ship can become a character in its own right.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
Sitting on this barstool talking like a damn fool
Got the twelve o'clock news blues
And I've given up hope on the afternoon soaps
And a bottle of cold brew
Is it any wonder I'm not crazy? Is it any wonder I'm sane at all
Well I'm so tired of losing- I got nothing to do and all day to do it
I go out cruisin' but I've no place to go and all night to get there
Is it any wonder I'm not a criminal?
Is it any wonder I'm not in jail?


The joys of being retired, sick and recovery from minor surgery at the same time. I'm bored. I have things to do, but between the thankfully lessening pain of the incisions and the general yuck I've picked up, I'm well out of spoons after doing nothing. Even playing Civilization VI seems out of reach today. I've tried doing some writing and research on Task Force Singh, but nothing's there.

To make matters worse, we're currently a one-car household until we can Kirsten's car fixed in a few vital spots. That's happening this weekend, hopefully. But it means that right now I'm at home with no wheels.

Is it any wonder I've got
Too much time on my hands, it's ticking away with my sanity
I've got too much time on my hands, it's hard to believe such a calamity
I've got too much time on my hands and it's ticking away from me
Too much time on my hands, too much time on my hands
Too much time on my hands


But even if I had the truck, where would I go? I suppose I could go sit in the library and read graphic novels, but I'm tired. I'm going to want to lie down in a bit and nap. I do that a lot these days. Dealing with the whole back epic, and trying to get work down on the trailer, and waiting for news about Baycon panels . . . it's all contributing to a spoon deficit that I never make up.

I'm even falling behind on the little housework I do here. I have to get one load of laundry down today. But I feel like the gravity has been set on high here. I am in one of those stages where doing anything at all has become an epic chore. Even writing this, even with the big chunks of song lyrics, is a battle.

Well, I'm a jet fuel genius - I can solve the world's problems
Without even trying
I have dozens of friends and the fun never ends
That is, as long as I'm buying
Is it any wonder I'm not the president
(He's not the president)
Is it any wonder I'm null and void?


While I'm sure there will be better days, the fact is that right now I'm in a bad place physically and mentally. I keep getting reminded that I'm disabled. That sounds odd, I know, but most days I'm at least marginally functional. I can get through a day with a few errands, some creative work, and a little housework. I still have a spoon left when I go to bed, or at least enough of a spoon remnant to make it that far.

But these last few weeks? Whew. Too much happening. And that has forced me to scale back my activities, which causes stress when I see what isn't getting down, which causes spoon loss . . . you can see the cycle.

But this is the reality until we finish with my back. Which will be several weeks at this rate. I'm going to have stitches after every biopsy and removal. Meaning pain, not much activity, and more boredom. I've gotten quite good at adjusting to the new normal. I just don't have to like it.

It's 1537. I guess I'll start the laundry and watch old Law & Order episodes on Sundance until it's done. Then it's nap time. Tomorrow is another flipping day. I'll try for a good night's sleep, see if I can't raise the energy level a little, but as with everything, it's hard.

Is it any wonder I've got
Too much time on my hands, it's ticking away at my sanity
I've got too much time on my hands, it's hard to believe such a calamity
I've got too much time on my hands and it's ticking away from me
Too much time on my hands, too much time on my hands
Too much time on my hands


It's funny. Years ago when I got my job at PODS I wrote a piece like this using Styx's "Blue Collar Man" in a similar fashion. Who knew that this would be the band that wrote the themes of my life.

"Too Much Time On My Hands" written by Tommy Shaw, 1981
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
This one is going to be difficult to write, as I'm rather disturbed about something that happened today.

Kirsten and I were out running weekend errands like any married couple. Couple of stops for stuff surrounding the Free Trailer Beowulf project, although the trip to Home Depot was just supposed to be dropping off old CFLs, we ended up buying what we needed for the stripe painting. Just a normal day.

We were done, with the groceries and other acquisitions in Darby's bed, and headed home. It's a beautiful day here, so I had my window down as Kirsten drove. There was one right turn we were waiting to make when it happened. An African-American man was crossing the street, and I was suddenly seized by not panic, but a feeling of not knowing what to do. Do I make eye contact? What do I do if he moves towards the truck? Should I lock my door?

All of this in the time it took this guy to walk in front of us in the crosswalk and go on his way. I was deeply shaken by my reaction here, because it is so atypical for me. I've spent so many years working with and living in the same areas as African-Americans and other minority groups that I thought I was past such snap panics.

I grew up in Los Gatos and the Cambrian Park area of San Jose, California. Back then I didn;t know about concepts like white flight and racial boundaries, all I knew is I have one Latino classmate, and my best friend's mom was from Peru. We got a double handful of South-east Asian kids when the Vietnamese boat people were finally granted entry to the United States. But still, mine was a mostly white, suburban experience.

But I was exposed to other cultures in music and in books. I was raised to believe that all men were created equal, and that I should judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. But still, I don't think I ever met an African-American until my late teens. I was the model of white privilege.

Then came the Army. While combat arms like the infantry were disproportionately white, my drill sergeants were an African-American man and a Puerto Rican. Later we got a Chinese Drill Sergeant who loved to tell us to "don't cheat your bodies! Do diamond push-ups!" In my first duty assignment I managed to end up in an entirely African-American squad against all odds. As squad mates live, work, and party together, I became, if not part of, at least accepted as a non-threat in the burgeoning rap scene in Atlanta. I also earned the most un-PC nickname in history when our First Sergeant saw us heading out for a Friday night on Victory Drive, announced, "Berry, you're a worse n___r than the rest of them." It stuck. I wore it with pride.

I've even experienced what it's like to be on the bottom of the social ladder due to your ethnicity myself in Hawaii. Get outside Hotel Street and the beaches of Waikiki, and whites are the hated bottom class. At the 25th Infantry Division, we were told never to go into Wahiawa, the town just outside Schofield Barracks, at night or in the day in groups smaller than six. Because the Samoans who worked the cane fields would beat up soldiers for fun, and the cops would charge the victims with disturbing the peace.

Hell, even in the civilian world I've usually been the palest face on the job. My PODS warehouse was mostly African-American, and at Lord & Sons, the place was heavily Latino with two bonus Russians. I should be good at this by now! I mean, our neighborhood has Mexicans (and a lot of NorteƱos living down the street from us), folks of various Asian backgrounds, Indians, and even a few women I've seen shopping in a full Niqab.

So why did this guy freak me out so badly? Was it because African-Americans aren't that common in this little corner of Santa Clara? Was there something in his walk that triggered me? After all these years, I would hate to discover that there's a streak of fear-based racism in me somewhere, I really thought that I was getting past that, and had done so early in life when I jump head-first into the Big Green Melting Pot.

To this random guy minding his own business on a Saturday, I apologize. I owe you and everyone more trust. I'll try to do better next time.
gridlore: A pile of a dozen hardback books (Books)
I was just on the phone with my mom, and asked her what I should write about. As I had just been encouraging her to watch the special musical episode of The Flash next week, she suggested comic books. Good topic.

I can still remember what was probably one of the first comics I really read, That was Avengers #160, featuring the Grim Reaper invading Avenger Mansion. There was another comic, probably bought for me on a long car trip or flight to Milwaukee, that was a Spider-Man comic where he was battling in the Museum of Natural History and all the dinosaur skeletons came to life. (It was an illusion.)

Comics were an occasional thing for me as a kid. I never really got into following them mainly because I played role-playing games, and that swallowed my weekly allowance whole. Every week I'd do my chores, walk down to the bus stop to grab Line 27 and a day pass, ride into Los Gatos where I'd pick up either Line 60 or Line 62 and head for Campbell and the legendary Game Table. Where I'd buy something for Traveller or the latest issue of Dragon magazine.

All of this for $10, including a stop at a taco place.

No, for me comics would wait until I was stationed in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks. The on-base recreation sucked, and Honolulu was too expensive, so I was left with Wahiawa - the town just outside Schofield and Wheeler Air Force Base - for my amusement. That's where I found the most amazing comic store ever. Central Oahu is made up of knife-edge ridges and deep ravines. Wahiawa has several ravines running through it. To get to this store, you had to walk down three flights of wooden stairs to a lanai that looked out on lush rainforest with the sound of a stream rushing nearby. There was the store. I went in that first time looking for gaming stuff.

I came out with issue one of The Dark Knight Returns. I was hooked. I began reading more and more, storing what I could and selling back what I couldn't. I gravitated to the best artists; Alex Ross, George Perez, and the like, and loved the so-called Iron Age of grittier heroes. At one point, my weekly order was about 25 books, plus Comic Relief magazine. Boy, we could use that one back these days.

But slowly I began to grow troubled with the comic universes I was reading. There was no consequences to any actions. Death, a fairly serious life event, was temporary even when we had the body. DC cleaned up their messy multiverse with an epic event with their Crisis on Infinite Earths, then immediate started messing it up again. Change was forbidden.

The RPG GURPS even poked fun at this in their Infinite Worlds campaign. There's a timeline where superheroes exist, but every thirty years their stories reset and change slightly. That really accurate.

The straw that broke the camel's back for me was the bullet that broke Tony Stark's back. Stark, the Incredible Iron Man, had been dating a Hollywood starlet who turned out to be a bit deranged. She shot Tony, leaving him paralyzed from the sternum down. I will note that no time did they mention the actual effects of this sort of paralysis, like needing a colostomy bag and assistance breathing. Being dead from the chest down has severe life consequences. Strike one.

"But great," I thought, "Tony is a known alcoholic. This might drive him back into the bottle. Or he might become addicted to the Iron Man suit since it allows him to walk normally! There are all sorts of great story lines we can get from this!" But know, within a year - 12 issues - Tony had magically repaired his own nervous system using an alien nanovirus. Good as new, story never mentioned again. Strike two.

Oh no! The alien nanos are killing Tony! In a moving deathbed scene he leaves everything to longtime pilot and sidekick, James Rhodes. The he dies. The Iron Man is dead, long live Iron Man! "This is really going to be great this time!" I once again thought, "A new Iron Man, a very different character, and the stories about him adjusting to being rich and the owner of Stark's empire will be fascinating!"

Not so fast. Rhodey was Iron Man for the Secret Wars miniseries, and a limited run of the main book, but then it was revealed that Stark had faked his death while he fixed himself again. He's back, and wants all his stuff again. I was waiting for Rhodes to say "No, you lying SOB, it's mine. Get out." But no, he just passes everything back and goes back to being the bloody sidekick! Strike three, and I was out.

I still read selected comics. We both loved Transmetropolitan, and Mike Grell's "Green Arrow: The Long Bow Hunters" remains a classic. But for the most part I ignore comics these days. Expect for in movies and on TV, which will be another post.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
It's about 1800 on Saturday, and already it's been a long weekend. Coming off a long week, I am pretty smoked. But we're getting shit done around here. Which is good, activity keeps my brain and body working. Anything I do to force my brain to keep making connections, and anything that works the decaying nerves in my legs a little harder equals a longer and better life for me.

Spring-like weather has arrived here in the Santa Clara Valley, and that means that sleeping in was possible due to it not being under 40 degrees in the apartment. All of you who live in places where frozen water falls from the skies can roll your eye all you like, I no longer handle cold well. So it was a good morning to snuggle with my Kiri and the mountain of teddy bears.

Firs thing on my agenda was the bi-weekly D&D game. We play on Roll20.com, and use Skype for communication. It's a fun group, with my friend Allen Shock running things. We're on to a new campaign after the Total Party Kill we experienced in Ravenloft a few weeks back. I'm playing a half-elf barbarian named Digenis Akirtas. The name comes from an epic tale written in the 8th century about a hero born of a Byzantine father and an Arab mother. The name literally means "Two Blood Border Lord", and I figured it was a good for a man born of two races. We're starting at 7th level. This time we remembered to bring some clerics along! Fought and killed a Frost Giant, squeezed through some gates, and found treasure. We start exploring this abandoned Dwarfhold in two weeks. Really happy to be gaming again after such a long break.

After that, a nap. Kirsten had gone out for a blood draw, and wanted to lie down for a bit. I joined her. Because bed. I sleep a lot more than I did before the stroke. It's kind of disturbing because it is one of the more subtle changes I've noticed. It's all related to my mental endurance, I'm sure.

But we rose, because we had to go work on the Free Trailer Beowulf! It was still parked inside Kirsten's warehouse. We had a couple of goals for the day: Remove the back pieces of the platform that made up the bed area, inspect for more mold, install two leveling bubbles (little carpenter's levels screwed into the frame of the trailer, so you can adjust for a level interior when you're camping), and mark out where a really nice window we were gifted was going to go.

Well, we found mold. It was pretty dead, due to our leaving a dehumidifier in the trailer for the past few weeks, but it was there. The awesome man who runs the door and window shop next door to Kiri's work told us the best way to get rid of it. Which meant yet another trip to Home Depot. Luckily, it's not far. We found what we needed, along with one of their job buckets. Back to the warehouse.

I mixed the TSP (Trisodium phosphate) in our new bucket, put on some thick rubber gloves, and went to work with a shop towel. Dear gods, you could almost hear the mold shrieking "I'm melting! What a world!" as I swiped.Where has this stuff been all my life? Hopefully, this is the last we'll see of the mold, as Chris, the door guys, has offered to stain and seal the raw wood parts of the interior. And install the window. He's kind of awesome. Even if he is an A's fan.

After some drama with a stuck drill bit, we got the levels installed in a "close enough for rock and roll and Burning Man" way. RVs need to be leveled for pumps and drains to work properly. We just don't want the inside to look like a villains lair in the 1966 Batman TV show. Most;y level works. This was also the day we tested out two of our leveling jacks. We have four, one for each corner, and their rated for far greater loads than we could possibly get into that small space. They are a good thing.

Tomorrow, we're going to do some exterior work. We have red reflective tape that's going down both sides for that "Little Black Book" Traveller feel. We'll also look for signs of more mold, and clean up a little. Nice thing is, we don't have to tow it back to storage tomorrow, it can wait until Monday, as Tony needs to double check the electrical hook ups again.
gridlore: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
What a day! I knew earlier this week it was going to be a busy one, but I'm really surprised at how much we accomplished. Especially considering how fried I was over the whole Facebook meltdown. And having a biopsy. It's been a stressful week.

But we had things to do, so rather than hitting the snooze button several times, we were up and out the door soon after 0700. Our first goal was the storage yard where we keep the Free Trailer Beowulf. For the locals, We live in Santa Clara and the yard is in South San Jose near the 101/85 interchange. So a bit of a drive. After a stop for breakfast at Jack in the Box, we proved to ourselves that we are getting moderately decent at hooking the trailer up to the truck.

Moderately.

Anyway, Kirsten had drive down, so I took the next leg of driving. Back up 101 to her office in Santa Clara. Normally, this freeway is a parking lot at that time of the morning, but I guess a ton of people were taking advantage of the sudden spring weather to head to Tahoe for some skiing. Very little traffic along the way.

Although there was a little odd movement at first, we quickly concluded it was the road surface causing it, and not the trailer fishtailing. It was steady as a rock back there. I'm happy to have spent so many years driving 34' flatbeds . . . my lane-changing instincts are conditioned to expect the need for a wide opening in the lane I'm moving into and I have the habit of signalling long before I move. This pays off. Hell, I signal in parking lots when I'm the only car there. Good habits, people!

Anyway, the main goal of the day was getting the wiring looked at. Remember, the Beowulf was somebody's shop project, and it shows. It's why we got it cheap. The main concern was the wiring from the truck connector to the tail lights looked sloppy, and the 110 volt power cable that ran inside to two power strips was both hanging loose and had a connection held together by electrical tape. Tony, one of Kiri's coworkers and a fellow trailer enthusiast, has been more than happy to take part in the project. In fact, everyone at Earthbaby seems to be pitching in.

Once we had Tony set up, I headed out to do my "job." There's some weird program that if you are disabled and can get a company to pay you $5 a month to do something, it makes keeping you benefits easier. Don't ask me. But my job is collecting recycling from the break room and taking it to the recycling place. I keep the proceeds. Did that and headed back.

When I got back to the warehouse, work was proceeding apace. It was decided that a run to the nearby Home Depot was needed for a few thing, so Tony and I jumped in the truck and headed over there. To say I got my walk in is an understatement. Find what we need, pay, and head back to the office. Where I need to sit. I was frankly becoming burned out at this point, as it was a tough week for me.

But there was more to do, and this is about the time awesome happened. Next to Earthbaby is a custom door and window place. I've met the owner, a really nice guy, and of course Kirsten knows him pretty well. We had been talking about staining the inside of the trailer. He takes one look, and tells us exactly how he's going to do it. For free. Then he looks at our sad little Plexiglas window and says "I got something." Goes back into his warehouse, and comes back out with an actual window and frame, with frosted privacy glass and just leans it up on the trailer. It means cutting into the trailer wall to make a hole big enough, but damn!

Sometimes even a cynic like me has to admit there are good people out there.

I wasn't just an observer and chauffeur. I helped! One of the first jobs done was adding a new metal support bar to the trailer's tongue. Kirsten had sprayed it was black Rustoleum but wasn't sure if he had gotten a good covering. Being skinny, I shimmied under the body to spray the parts that had been missed.

Even though I wanted to stay to the end of the day, I was beginning to show obvious signs of burning out. Kirsten took lunch so we could go back to Home Depot for an exchange, stopped at Subway for lunch, and then dropped me back here at home. Tonight, I sleep the sleep of the accomplished! Tomorrow, Digenis the Barbarian raids the Sword Coast! (D&D game.)
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: 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.

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