gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
Today, I had to go out and drop off records requests at a couple of hospitals. My new psychologist wants complete records of my treatment for my stroke, which makes sense. One of these hospitals is O'Connor, where I was brought into the ER and did my first week or so of intensive treatment.

[personal profile] kshandra had done the grunt work of filling out the forms, all I had to do was drop them off. I lucked out and got the best disabled slot in the parking structure, walked in, dropped off my forms and walked back. Now, this spot is literally just inside the structure, so I stopped while still in the sunshine to fish my keys out of my pocket. While I was doing this, a human prune walked up beside me.

"Hmph" she sniffed, through a face that had last smiled during the Nixon administration, "look at that. How do you think that asshole conned a doctor into giving him a placard?"

Remember, I'm standing there 5 feet from my truck using a cane with my car keys in my hand.

"I don't know," I said in tones of mock concern, "but judging by the truck and the cooler in the back, I'm going to guess a Transient Ischemic Attack centered in the Left Parietal Lobe causing minor proprioception issues in the right extremities along with related stroke damage as well as Peripheral Neuropathy in both legs, most likely caused by the ABVD chemotherapy used to treat Stage IV-B Hodgkin's Lymphoma. But that's just a guess." I hobbled over to my truck and opened the door, looking up to where she was still stuck somewhere between embarrassed and angry, so I could tell her that the ER could help her with getting her bitchy, judgemental, head out of her sorry ass.
gridlore: (Burning_Man)
Because some of you don't realize what going to Burning Man means in terms of self-reliance, here's what we have packed currently.

2x 7-gallon water containers (1 more needed)
1x 5-gallon gasoline containers (2 more needed)
1x 5-gallon water cooler
1x Camp table
1x Camp kitchen

Consumables Box:
3x 24-pack Pabst Blue Ribbon (camp dues)
2x handles cheap vodka (camp dues)
1x 24-pack Diet Doctor Pepper
(dehydrated camp food from REI)
1x Beef Stew
2x Chicken Teriyaki with Rice
1x Beef Pho
2x Scrambled Eggs with Bacon
3x Scrambled Eggs with Ham and Peppers
5x Biscuits and Gravy
(end camp food)
2x dehydrated Garlic Mashed Potatoes
2x dehydrated Buttery Mashed Potatoes

Kitchen Box:
1x box of Nitrate gloves
1x box of quart Ziplock bags (partially used)
1x dish scraper
1x hanging LED light
1x stock pot
1x kettle
1x 3-quart sauce pan
1x serving spoon
1x butane lighter
4x campfire forks
1x kitchen tongs
1x bottle of Tapatio
1x kitchen shears
1x dustpan and whisk broom
1x camp stove
1x small propane bottle
1x propane hose
2x pot holders
1x 5-liter collapsible sink
2x drink cozies
1x 12-pack shelf stable milk
1x 12-pack orange juice
1x carving knife and fork
1x can of hot chocolate mix

Miscellaneous Box:
4x blinky valve stems (for the truck on Playa)
4x inflatable lawn flamingos w/ stakes
1x package sanitary pads
1x package bathing wipes
2x camp signs
1x bunny ears, white and purple
1x bag misc. batteries
1x bike lock
1x 20-foot extension cord
1x red rope light
1x Mega MadLibs
1x collapsible kite
1x spare goggles
1x compression strap
1x camp lantern
1x camo net (for trailer and shade structure)
1x trash bucket
1x 12-pack Cup o'Noodles (chicken)
4x rolls of single-ply toilet paper
3x neck coolers
1x head-scratching tool
2x collapsible water bottles
1x bag of ear plugs
1x bag of dehydrated Cheese Tortellini soup
3x spatulas
1x set measuring spoons
1x moop bag w. flashlight
1x pair of practice poi
1x bag of random lights
2x 32-ounce drink tumblers

The 4th case of PBR we need for camp dues, the solar panel (which was tested successfully today) and our dolly are all in the trailer.

And we're still not finished.

Burning Man sucks. Don't go!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
It's a new month, and time for some honest self-examination. I have been really, really bad about using this tool for anything. Novel preparation, Traveller world-building, even just blogging stuff. Using it as it was intended as a way to encourage the daily habit of writing 750 words every single day. Even if they are total crap, I have to be better about putting myself in the chair and opening the page and doing it.

It's been hard. My birthday stresses me out, as I wrote about earlier. Hot weather really messes with my system, and we don't have air-conditioning at our place. And my mental state has continued to get worse. I'm going to say it: I think I'm suffering from depression. My moods have gotten deeper and darker like my emotional drive is a pendulum that is slowly losing momentum. I'm spending more and more time in the dark spaces of my head, questioning my basic value as a human being and wondering why the hell they ever woke me up from that damn coma four years ago.

There's another stressor - four years ago yesterday I had a stroke and 22 years ago in late July, I was diagnosed with Stage IV-B Hodgkins Lymphoma. So the happy days of summer are not the happiest for me. Probably why I hate my birthday so much; just another reminder that I am actually past my sell-by date in terms of how Hodgkins survivors do. I am beginning to realize that I'm never going to shout "Hello, Cleveland!" to a capacity crowd at Red Rocks, and my chances of topping Chris Garcia's Hugo Award acceptance speech grows ever dimmer with each rejection notice.

But the hardest thing for me is feeling useless. I used to be things. Light Weapons Infantryman, Training Driver, Truck Driver, Dispatcher. . . all those identities, which are so vital in our culture, have been taken from me. I'm a writer who can barely write. A gadfly at conventions. Someone who is only of the slightest help at Burning Man. I feel all my days of glory have passed me by far too soon and just when I was getting good at life, it was all taken from me piece by piece.

See, that's the real horror. I wasn't struck down in a day and told: "rebuild from the ashes, Berry." No, my competence was taken away in tiny chunks. Bit by bit parts failed, slice by slice I lost chances and doors closed. Did y'all know I was on the verge of working to get my Class B license and a much better paying job when I developed pulmonary embolisms and had to quit commercial driving? Road construction company in Fremont. They wanted me and would help me get that Class B and pay me double what I had been getting at Lord & Sons, plus a per diem for overnight runs. That fucking close.

Closed doors. That's all I can see these days. Except the one marked "exit" and I'm not quite ready for that one, even if some days it's only understanding how badly my death would hurt Kirsten and my family that keeps me here.

But there may be a crack, a light at the end of the tunnel that is not an oncoming train. I finally got some referrals for therapists, with a suggestion I schedule an evaluation meeting with a therapist and they can work with me to decide if I need full-on psychiatric care from an MD or if therapy might be the best bet. Waiting for a call back from one of the offices I was given to look at. Hopefully, I'll hear back soon.

Because when the pendulum isn't down in the dark places, I'm still me. I can still feel some hope, some joy, even have some energy. I want to write the Great American Fanzine Article, I want to finish my novel and sell fifty copies, I want to volunteer at BMIR at Burning Man to see if I can help out and be part of a team again. Damnit, I want to see the 49ers win the SuperBowl and the Sharks take the Stanely Cup.

Right now, I'm just waiting for a phone call and an appointment. No idea what that will lead to, or how long it will take, or if I'm going to be one of the Happy Pill People or sitting in a group. No matter what, I want it to happen because it represents a door opening.
gridlore: Photo: Rob Halford on stage from the 1982 "Screaming for Vengeance" tour (Music - Rob Halford)
Dear person sitting in front of us at the Iron Maiden concert last night.

You are a self-centered ass, and completely ignorant of concert etiquette.

First of all, you skipped the opening act. Sucks to be you, Ghost was amazing. But then, once Iron Maiden took the stage, you spent the entire show with your phone out, taping the entire thing. Which wouldn't be so bad, but you had the camera's light on. You keep turning the phone to take selfies, meaning you kept shining that light right in my eyes as I was trying to watch Maiden.

So I hope that when you got home and reviewed the footage, you'll appreciate the fact that almost all of your selfie shots feature my raised middle fingers waving around behind you.

Up the Irons! And up yours!
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
It's my birthday in a couple of days, and I'm going to ask you all to please ignore it. I have a lot of reasons for not particularly like my birthday, which I'll go into in a moment, but I really shouldn't have to do that. I should be able to ask my friends to be cool about it. But that never works.

We'll go backward. Isn't it grand how every social media site trumpets that it is your birthday to hundreds of people you might not know that well? Well, I hate it. I've removed my date of birth from both Facebook and Twitter, but I have little faith in them remembering that setting. As a result, I have in the past received hundreds of birthday wishes from people I've never met and have little clue about. That reduces a birthday wish to a rote machine action. *Ping* Fred has a birthday. Send cake? y/n.

Screw it, let's go all over the place. I was born on Independence Day. Seems cool, right? All those fireworks and parades for you? Except that when I was growing up it meant my friends - the few I had - usually had plans with family around the 4th. Then I got a little sister for my 5th birthday. Yup, we share the day, five years apart.

So now I was not only sharing the day with the country but with a sibling. As you can imagine, this quickly meant having to alternate who got the big day. I'd celebrate my birthday on the 3rd, or the 5th, every other year. And still, trying to get parties together sucked.

To be honest, the only thing I liked about my birthday was a massive taco feast and my favorite cake. Even presents lost their luster as I grew older. I became extremely cynical about the entire 4th of July thing by the time I was 16.

Then I joined the Army. You think the US Army takes Independence Day off? Ha! I spent my 19th birthday marching in a parade in dress greens then manning a table where I explained the M-16A1 to a parade of goobers. Did I mention that this parade was in Columbus, Ga? It was near 100 degrees and the humidity had to be in the low 90s. And I was there in a freaking suit.

Needless to say, I didn't celebrate that much that year, or any year after that. I just endured my birthday. It's just another day, really. I don't see why such a fuss is made over the simple reality of surviving 365 days.

Because when I think of survival, I look at what I've been through. I've come close to dying several times since 1995, and it deeply affected how I look at like. This was where I started actively hating my birthday. I'll freely admit it was based on a rather nihilistic outlook. I'm doomed to die, why are you reminding me that I'm one day closer to that! It sounds silly, but as someone who is keenly aware of personal mortality, I prefer to look ahead and strive for the new, rather than celebrate the meaningless passage of time.

So on Tuesday, I turn 51. I'll be the same person I was the day before and the day after. Since we got the Omaha Steaks order, we'll celebrate with a nice steak dinner, and the next night we go to see Iron Maiden at Oracle Arena with Ghost opening. The weekend brings the new Spider-Man movie. This would be a great week if it were in June or August.

So this is my request to you all. If you know me personally. If we've spoken face to face or worked on a project together, if you are someone I KNOW, feel free to mention the landmark. You don't have to, but if there is some cultural touchstone that compels you to do so, go for it. If the only reason you know my birthday is July 4th is a notification, and you don't really know me, please refrain.

Look, I know this sounds really anti-social. But it's how my brain works. Last year I nearly smashed my computer over this. It's one of the myriad issues I hope to get into when I get a referral for a therapist. Who knows, this time next year I might be demanding a trip to Reno. After All, I'll be 52 and finally be playing with a full deck!

One birthday present I would like, the California Lottery's MegaMillions game is up to $167 million. The draw is Tuesday.
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
It's not often that I wake up and remember what it is I've been dreaming, but today was an exception. I frankly had a bad night's sleep, caused mainly by some stomach upset and my legs being their usual awful selves. So I was a bit surprised when I woke up around 0645 with a vivid image of a dream still with me.

Having lost too many good ideas to procrastination, I got dressed and headed out to my computer. I was under a bit of a deadline, as I had an appointment for my regular blood work and after that my writing group, so I had to be out the door by 0830 at the absolute latest.

Even though I'm not at all a fast or accurate typist, and my spelling leaves much to be desired, I was able to flesh out the image in my head into a short, but serviceable, story. Printed it out for the writing group (I did have another piece, a long, pretty much complete story that we didn't get to this week. I'll be reading that one next Monday) and stuffed it in the portfolio and out the door.

My good seemed to be holding. I was the only car in the McDonald's drive-thru, there was an adorable baby at the lab, and everyone loved what I had written. Then I found I had locked my keys in the truck and things went a bit downhill. But I hope you enjoy this thing that has sprung from my head.

The Modern Cassandra

Working in San Francisco has many benefits, one of those being exposure to all sorts of lunatics. At least that's what I thought as I emerged from the depths of the Montgomery Street BART station on that June morning.

He was standing on a wooden crate, with a beatific smile and shiny eyes framed by what we used to call "Jesusbro-fro" back in college. What caught me eye was the silver jacket he was wearing, it looked like the cheesy space jacket we all wanted as kids. Seeing the growing crowd emerging from the station, he began to speak.

"Friends, please hear me out. I know I sound crazy, but I have just returned from . . . the future! And I leave for there tomorrow. Hard to believe, I know, but please hear me out, for I must warn you of something terrible. But first, here's Dave with sports." He subtly shifted his manner and spoke with the rhythm of a long-time broadcaster. For a lunatic, this guy was good.

"Thank you, Dave. Tonight, the Warriors will beat the Cavaliers 108-92, taking the NBA Finals in five games." That got a small cheer from to commuters passing by. "In July, the Giants will go on a record-smashing winning streak, take the NL West and sweep the Yankees to win the World Series. Finally, The 49ers will have a chance to make the playoffs as the Wild Card, but fall just short, finishing the season 9-7. Sadly, that's all the sports news left. Now that I've established my bonafides . . ."

At that point, I had gotten my coffee and muffin from the street cart and was hurrying up the street to my office. So I missed the rest of his rant. Once settled in at my desk, I took a moment to write the guy's predictions down.

That night, the Warriors beat the Cavs 108-92.

Then the Giants won 26 straight games in July. By the time the World Series rolled around, I wasn't even watching the games, I was too busy trying to find the man who had made the predictions. A friend got me access to surveillance camera footage of the plaza at Montgomery Street. There he was, ranting away. He spoke for about ten minutes after I left the scene, looked around, and dejectedly went down the stairs into the Muni/BART station. Those cameras showed him entering a station restroom and never leaving.

By the time the 49ers faltered during a late drive in Week 17 and finished the season 9-7, I was a wreck. The words "all the sports news left" haunted me. I even hired lip readers to try to figure out what he was saying and spent thousands on ads trying to contact anyone who might have heard more of his message.

In legend, Cassandra was cursed to know the future and have no one believe her. This man's curse was to know the future and have no one listen.
gridlore: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
Dear gods, my feet hurt. But it was a very good day. I like busy Saturdays, mainly because it lets me spend more time with Kirsten that doesn't involve staring at some sort of video device and they recharge my brain.

But damn, do I pay for it. My floor weasels are running wild tonight, setting my feet on fire, pulling off toes, driving spikes through my feet . . . it's not the pain that bothers me so much, although it can be excruciating, it's that my brain has a library of Things That Can Happen To Feet that translates these random bursts of information from dying nerves into specific sensations.

Like right now, where the big toe on my left foot has just been ripped off. Ow.

My morning started with the bi-monthly Dungeons & Dragons game. Playing over Skype with roll20 for the maps and die rolls is fantastic. We have five players and our DM with me out in California and one in Norway, with the rest in or near Michigan. Today we reached the end of our epic side quest to clear the abandoned hold of the Ironaxe Clan of the fiends that possessed it and return the Ironaxe to the clan's last survivor.

Digenis, my pantless (it's a running joke) Half-elf Barbarian was wielding Fred the Greataxe, who was smarter than Digenis and hated the fiends with a passion rarely seen in sharpened hunks of metal. It is a testament to my love of playing my Chaotic Neutral character that not once did I have to make a saving throw to keep Fred from compelling me to fight. No, I waded right in, screaming my battle cry "Safety Third!" and hacking away. Fred and I made a good team.

Sadly, after we defeated the boss demons, Fred's mission was complete. He left my axe. Luckily, In the treasure trove was a shiny +3 Battle Axe. Mine! I've named it Fred, Jr.

But after all this, I had real world work to do. Kirsten had hooked up the trailer and brought ti to her office so we could do some work on it. She came and got me, and headed back over.

The first task was to deal with some of the drips and oversprays from the painting of the red stripes. Kiri did a great job matching the trailer's color, and you can barely see the newer paint over the old. She also painted the small window frame, and we did touch ups here and there. It looks much better now.

The second task was a bit harder. Hell, it was a stone bitch. The platform for the sleeping area is multiple sheets of thick plywood. We had removed them so the interior could be stained and sealed (it looks amazing now) and today was the day to reinstall them.

One little problem. We had forgotten to mark which holes in the supporting frame lined up with which holes in the platform pieces. There was much cursing and setting of things before we finally got the pieces to fit. We are not taking those bloody pieces out again without a very, very good reason.

After a short break, we tackled the third task of the day: our pallet. Since Burning Man requires that you support yourself for a week, you need to bring a great deal of stuff. The Army left me with a compulsive need to organize and make lists. Since we have the Free Trailer Beowulf now, our packing needs have changed. We wanted to get a feel for what we had, what we needed, and what we can get rid of.

I was pleasantly surprised. Because of my broken foot last year I was unable to take part in our unloading process. But everything was well-organized. We realized we don't need our cots, the spare tent, and a couple of other things. We will be taking the big tent and all its support material as someone will be buying it from us on the Playa.

Doing this has allowed me to better see how our loading is going to happen. A small amount of material can be carried in the trailer, not too much due to weight and stability issues, but it gets some of the load out of the truck bed (and out of the cab for that matter.) Having the trailer means less stuff and time needed for set-up and tear down. It's all coming together nicely.

We do still need a few things, a battery for our solar panels, a spare tire for the trailer, a couple of other minor things. And we still need to get the trailer's name up on it. I'm almost tempted to look on Craigslist for a graffiti artist to do the work.

But after all this, it was time to hook the trailer up and take it back to the storage yard. We decided to take 101 to avoid the rather bumpy roads on 87 and 85. Big mistake. The had been a major accident on the other side of the freeway, and the looky-loos were causing a backup.

But we made it, eventually, and got the Beowulf into its assigned bay. A run through the nearby Jack drive through, back to the office where I had forgotten my cane, and then home.

2,700 steps today. Not bad. But dear Halford, my FEET!
gridlore: Army Infantry school shield over crossed infantry rifles (Army Infantry)
It's a pretty hot day here in the Valley of Silicon. Not terrible, that's still to come, but exceeding warm. Call it about 85 degrees right now. It's much warmer in Offhand Manor (our name for the apartment) and will turn into an Easy-Bake Oven as the summer progresses.

But as much as I dislike the extreme heat, and it's worse since all my health problems, hot days like this always trigger a memory for me, one that explains my fascination with storm gods.

Back in 1984-85, I was a stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. Home of the Infantry, Benning was situated on a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River valley and the city of Columbus, Ga. It is the largest infantry training base in the world. It is also subject to some extreme weather.

The winters were cold, with rain and snow. Spring and autumn were pretty brief. Then there was summer. Summers in the Deep South have to be experienced to be believed. The heat and humidity are unbearable. Moving into the pine forests was like walking into an oven. The sun beat down like an angry god's hammer in some cosmic forge. Smart people retreated to air-conditioned homes and offices or escaped to Flat Rock Park to spend the day lying in the cool water.

We weren't smart, we were U.S. Army Infantry.

But a couple of times a week, we got a reprieve. An even that cut through the muggy heat and renewed our will to live. We were visited by the storm god.

Picture the scene: a company of infantry moving through one of the vast training areas. You are all dressed in camouflage Battle Dress Uniforms, wearing steel helmets, and carrying up to 60lbs of equipment. Everyone's faces and arms are coated in camouflage paint. The temperature has soared past 90 with no sign of stopping. The humidity is also in the low 90s. The air is thick as molasses, and there isn't a hint of a breeze. You feel as if you stood still, you would use up all the oxygen around you.

Your M-16A1 weighed about eight pounds when you started out. Now it weighs a ton. Your shirt is soaked with sweat, and you can feel your socks squishing in your boots. You're limited in the number of times you can drink from your canteen. Every gulp of air burns your throat.

Then you come to a clearing and looking west, you see that someone has stolen the sky. A wall of black thunderheads, towering like the walls of hell, sliding across Alabama towards your position. Flickers of lightning light portions of the clouds in unearthly shades of green and purple. Beneath the cloud, you can see the shifting curtain of rain. The storm is coming, and coming fast.

Around you, AN/PRC-77 backpack radios come to life with chatter. The order comes down: get into the tree line and stack all metal gear at a designated point. Those who have been through this a few times tie condoms around the muzzles of their weapons. Then we disperse. And still, the storm comes.

The air remains still and lifeless. You take off your BDU blouse and use it as an improvised rain cover. Nobody bothers with the issue ponchos, they are useless and hot.

Suddenly, the wind stirs, quickly rising to a steady wind. The temperature drops like a rock, and where you were near heat exhaustion minutes ago, now you're shivering in your sweat-soaked t-shirt. The air becomes like the finest crystal glass. What was blurred in the distance seconds ago is now in perfect focus.

With almost no warning, the sky goes black and an assault of rain and hail comes down. The sky goes blue-white against the black backdrop of clouds with lightning and the near-constant crash of thunder roars in your ears and shakes your bones. Above you, the clouds boil like a living thing. Lightning flashes from cloud to cloud, and slashes down to strike the proud pines standing on the hills and ridges.

And it keeps coming. The red clay dirt turns to mud and tiny rivulets of water around you swell to small streams. You realize that you are actually sinking into the mud, and shift to a solid root. Then it comes.

For the briefest moment, the entire world turns white. A millisecond later an angry ancient spirit, freed from confinement and hungry for vengeance, bellows a war cry that smashes into your entire body. As you blink away the spots, you hear something over the ringing in your ears and the pounding rain and hail.

Cheering. Every man in your company is yelling at the top of their lungs, and you realize that you are as well. You don't know why. It just feels right, and you go with it.

Soon enough, the front passes. The God of Storms allows the Sun God to return. You're a mess, soaked through and coated in red mud. You retrieve your gear and set to cleaning it. But you know this is Fort Benning in summer.

You know that there are good odds that the Storm God of the South will be back tomorrow.

Yeah, sometimes I miss Georgia.
gridlore: One of the penguins from "Madagascar," captioned "It's all some kind of whacked-out conspiracy." (Penguin - Conspiracy)
For a couple of years now I've going to a writing "class" offered by Santa Clara Adult Education. I put class in quotes because the format is more of a writing group, with people reading their works as the rest read along, and then offering comments and suggestions.

It's been amazingly good for me, both in terms of my mental health and in encouraging me to write on a more regular basis. Each session is four weeks, meeting on Monday mornings, with 4-5 sessions a year. There is a core of regulars who come to class after class, some for years. I've made good friends there, and I'm especially proud to call Rafael my friend. He's a 94-year-old retired US Marine who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Never once loaded a weapon, as the Marines realized very early that he could type and had been taking accounting classes. He's an incredible writer, and we have to keep him away from the women, as he remains an incurable flirt.

I am the youngest in the class by at least a decade. Which I don't mind at all, I love listening to the others' stories and memories. I like that my best friend in class is a fellow writer of fantasy and really value the feedback I get from them.

Then there's Ralph. Oh, dear Halford, there's Ralph.

Ralph is a nice enough guy, a retired engineer (like several people in the group) who wants to write fiction. However, there's a slight problem. He can't write to save his life. I wish I was kidding about this, but his work is just jaw dropping.

First of all, he writes like he's still writing engineering papers. Everything is stiff and formal, overloaded with technical details. In a series of stories he wrote about two women rowing across the Atlantic, he detailed every single building they passed while rowing down the East River towards the sea. No emotion about setting out on the trip, no description of the smell of the water, the weather, the sound of the oars in their docks . . . just a monotonous list of places. He does that all the time.

Then there are his characters. Think of the worst-acted movie you've ever seen. That's how his characters speak. Stange declarative sentences that pop out of nowhere, spoken with no emotion. No emotional reactions at all. In his latest masterpiece, a man with his family at the Santa Monica Pier realizes that the Big One is imminent, and races to reach the Mt. Wilson Observatory. At no time in this story do any of the adults question this action. Nor do any of the children react to suddenly pulled from a fun day at the beach in the traditional childish way. No one objects when a near stranger joins them.

It drives me crazy.

But today took the cake. I literally had to keep myself from screaming or writing "YOU ARE A HACK!" in giant letters across his latest. Because in today's installment, the characters, at the conveniently abandoned Mt. Wilson facility, having found the fully equipped arms locker found at all the best observatories, decide to take target practice. Just as two Evil Dudes on horses ride up. Remember, this was happening as target practice was underway. Evil Dudes seem to think that all the gun shots were signs that the people there were easy pickings. Two dead Evil Dudes and a rescued boy.

But afterward, we were confused about how long the Swiss Family Woebegone had been up there. "Oh, several months." Was Ralph's reply.

Several months. Let that roll around your head. He was writing about a quake and tsunami that devastated the Los Angeles basin. WHERE THE FUCK DID HE THINK THE REST OF THE COUNTRY HAD GONE? There would have been National Guard, FEMA, Red Cross, mutual support from fire departments across the state, aid coming in from Mexico. . . he just thought that a big earthquake in L.A. would be ignored.

Niven and Pournelle did it better, dude, and their end of the world novel was a racist, misogynistic mess.

He's no better reading your stuff. He misses the obvious and gets diverted by pointless details. I can't begin to calculate how much time has been wasted explaining to Ralph things that were in the work to begin with. As an example, I wrote a piece about our visit last year to the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul. I included how pleased I was to find a relief of Teshub. I gave his entire history, explaining how the storm god of the Hurrians moved west into Lydia and Greece, becoming Zeus along the way, and giving us the idea of God as a man sitting on a cloud.

Ralph's first comment? "This thing about Teshub, I feel I'd need to know who he is to appreciate it." I almost killed him.

He is the only thing about the group I don't like, and I can tolerate him. But I needed to get this rant out.
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.

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