Sunday, September 25, 2016

Not doing great... thank God surgery is Thursday

Well, the large tumor mass... it's up over 3 inches wide now, and probably about as deep. It's six or so lymph nodes grown together in a neoplastic agglomeration... has grown big enough to be putting pressure on my airway, and on my various nerves in the area.

That in itself is not great, but I'm now up to more than 150 lbs of excess dependent fluid, between central trunk and peripheral edema, and lymphedema... In fact, I haven't stepped on the scale in a couple weeks, let's see what I'm at right now...

... yeah... not good..  I've gained 170lbs since the first of the year.

...Not 70lbs... ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY pounds...

I was at 360 and losing... Still 75-95lbs over where I wanted to be, but going in the right direction. I was active, and mobile, and had my pain under control. 

... I just weighed myself, and was just almost 530 lbs. Which itself is 35 pounds more than I was 2 weeks ago.

The combination is putting continuous pressure on the nerve trunks in my arms and legs, and is also causing them to swell dramatically, to the point where I have reduced range of motion and reduced strength.. and my skin is stretching taught... it always feels like an overfilled water  baloon about to pop.

This leads to a lovely combination of numbness, shooting pains, and general aches.

It's also putting pressure on my heart and lungs, which combined with the airway pressure, and the pressure on the nerves in my neck... not good.

The sleep apnea... that inevitably comes with having a giant tumor in your neck, plus having all your tissues waterlogged, and having an extra 250 lbs weighing you down... is so bad, that it's not just sleep apnea at this point... If I stay still in a "relaxed" position, and I don't actively keep myself awake and functioning, I drift into semi consciousness, and stop breathing.

I was testing it out earlier, and when I zoned out, my O2 sat dropped to 84% but the alarm roused me enough that I started breathing again. I hate to think what it's like when I actually fall asleep. Last time around, I had O2 sat excursions down into the 55% range, with extended periods under 75%, which my have permanently damaged my short term memory.

The diuretics help a little bit, but the cancer... in particular the neoplastic syndrome associated with it... is screwing up my system so much, that none of my drugs are really working, even if I deliberately up the doses.

My metabolic function is so low, that I either have enough energy to digest food, or to actually stay fully conscious... not both at once. If I eat something, I have to lay down and half pass out for a while.

Last time, we figured out that my metabolic function was running between 25% and 40% normal at my worst. I figure it's similar this time.

Basically, I feel like I'm drowning, while having a heart attack, while having my joints forcibly separated, and my skin inflated to the point of near popping, with slight interludes of mere total exhaustion and mild suffocation in between.

... only instead of hurting real bad for 4 minutes then stopping... because either you're dead, or you recover... this is 24/7.

Honestly... Dying would be better than this. Dying would end.

The only reason I can tolerate it at all is for Mel and the boy... I don't know if I could take another month of this... if it weren't for them I know I couldn't... don't think I could have got this far.

Surgery is Thursday... thank God.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Well now...

I'm sick as a dog so forgive me if this is disjointed.

Chris has successfully worked for a few weeks and is continuing to work.

Surgery is still on for September 29th.

Chris's best friend is moving in with us next week.

Christopher continues to be a mini engineer.

The landlord texted me to let me know that unlike that past few months he can't wait for the rent, because he's going to be gone the next two weeks. So rent has become a pressing priority with a shorter timetable.

So we're getting there, but we still need help.

I've still got a GoFundMe set up and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works, as well as Messenger for me.

I'm going to go take meds and pass out for the night and hope my vertigo is gone tomorrow.

Thanks all.

Mel

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Health and other updates

Chris has been working for a week and a half. The entire household is going through an adjustment period, the doggies in particular.

Last week one of the sprinklers in our house fire suppression system failed, resulting in lots of water in a short amount of time. We ended up laying out cash for a wet/dry vac and mold inhibitor.

I've been working on cleaning up the mess and preventing mold and mildew for a week.

Chris's health seems to have plateaued, in that he's not really getting worse (except the lymphedema is somewhat worse) but he's not getting better. The lymphedema is a real issue and causes him quite a bit of pain and discomfort.

Surgery is on September 29th.

I seem to be getting sick, either from a cold or dealing with mildew as it occurs. Frankly it's a challenge to write this post, that's how sick I feel.

Chris will be getting paid soon, but we've got rent, cell phone, electric, internet, meds, health insurance premium, and food to pay for until he does. So while we hopefully won't need much (or any) help soon, we still need it for now.

Anything would help.

I've still got a GoFundMe set up, and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works, and Messenger payments work really well.

Thanks all,

Mel

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A simple test of understanding, to avoid wasting time.



I have a simple test for people, to determine whether or not they actually understand enough about the issue of "Climate change" to have an informed position on it, or whether it's just a question of ingroup identification for them.

I.e. whether they actually know what they're talking about, or whether they're just repeating what "their side" are supposed to say.

Here it is: Explain your understanding of the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change.

Yes, really, it's that "simple"... but their answer will be quite revelatory.

Most people will say something like "greenhouse gasses like co2 emitted by humans are making the climate change, and if we don't dramatically change how much energy we use, the whole planet will suffer" or something similar.

That indicates but doesn't confirm, that they have absolutely no idea what they're talking about; they're just repeating what they were told.

They have to understand that the FULL theory in question is more precisely described as something like:

Ultra high sensitivity, primarily anthropogenic carbon emissions forced, full climatic systemic feedback inversion; from a stable negative feedback system, to an unstable positive feedback system; leading to catastrophic rapid and runaway increase in global average temperature generally, and polar temperature particularly; with a resultant radical variability of global air and sea currents and thermoclines, massive ice melt, and 2 to 26 meter rise in global sea level; on a less than 2 century time scale, originally predicated on an immediate 1.6 to 8 degree rise in global average temperatures over the proceeding 25 to 35 years from winter 1985/86, (as distinct from the historical average rise since the last ice age of 0.8 to 3.6 degrees per century), and a doubling or more in anthropogenic atmospheric carbon in this period, with a global point of no return occurring some time between 1998 and 2008; as predicted by the Mann Hansen model of 1985, revised extended and amended periodically since...

... Note... the numbers have such broad ranges, both because the models themselves have very broad ranges, and because they have been repeatedly revised over the previous 30 years. That said, it's the principles and elements of the theory that are important, not the exact numbers...

.... Oh and by the by, we passed that global point of no return on anthropogenic carbon emissions some time between 2001 and 2008 depending on how you calculate it, and the Mann Hansen model has proven to be non-predictive thus far (in fact no models with high carbon sensitivity have proven to be anything close to reliably predictive), while models primarily driven by solar and atmospheric particulate variability have proven to be reliably predictive...

If they don't know what all the elements of the theory are, and they don't thoroughly understand what those things mean, nd how they differ from the historical record, and more conventional climate theories popular before the Mann Hansen model...

Well then... they don't actually know anything about "Climate Change". They just know what team they're supposed to be on, and what that team tells them to say.

Remington, reliability, and the R51



I thought I'd write a bit about the Remington R51, because a lot of friends really like the look of it (and the original Remington model 51 it was based on) when they brought it out a few years ago, and they were very disappointed when it proved so unreliable that Remington had to discontinue production and recall all the shipped pistols.

Recently, Remington brought out a revised version of the R51, and it has come back to mixed reviews; some stating it had fine reliability, and some that it had better than the first production run, but still poor reliability.

TFB-TV, the video production side of the Firearms Blog, ran a full test of the weapon, on video, with 600 rounds of 8 different kinds of ammo... and really, the quote speaks for itself:
"After 600 rounds of testing, the [second gen.] Remington R51 is looking like the kind of gun I'd want my enemy to have in a gunfight" -- TFB TV
Watching the testing, I think I have a pretty good idea of what's wrong... and I thought I'd break it down here.

Basically, the only ammo it would run cleanly with, was the hot German 124gr NATO round nose FMJ stuff. It had just one total failure in about 200 rounds of that ammo.

That's very good ammo by the way, and my favorite factory load for breaking in difficult 9mm pistols, and for shooting through subguns and 9mm carbines. You used to be able to get it pretty cheap by the "battlepack", but I haven't seen any available lately.

The remainder of 8 ammo types tested were averaging one malfunction per every other mag of brass ammo, and the weapon wouldn't run any steel cased ammo at all, with one or more malfunctions per magazine.

Essentially all the malfunctions with brass cased ammo were nosedives, most of which the slide overrode. This normally suggests that the magazines are the primary issue... as is generally the case with MOST self loading firearm malfunctions.

Given the 124gr nato ran very well, and all of the other ammo did not... most of it was lighter, and if it wasn't lighter it was hollowpoint... It seems the weapon is extremely sensitive to cartridge OAL and nose profile.

The German 124gr nato ammo has a long ogive nose profile, making it a couple millimeters longer over all, than either a 124gr JHP, or lighter FMJ or JHP loads (its also longer than 124gr winchester white box, which has a shorter ogive and a rounder more spherical nose profile).

That NATO spec ammo is also hotter than most ammunition... in between an American +P and +P+... It will result in higher slide speeds and energy, even with the "Pedersen Hesitation Lock" blowback action, because it's a modified blowback system that locks the barrel and breech block together until pressure drops, but it still has much more energy hitting the slide earlier in the timing cycle, than a Browning or Walther style locked breech operation (and because it pressure dependent, it is much more sensitive to ammunition variability).

What this suggests to me (as an engineer, a gunsmith, and a shooter) is a combination of timing, and magazine issues.

Hesitation lock weapons are almost always going to run better with hotter ammunition, and may be unreliable with lighter loads. Also, cartridges that obturate differently, or that have different lubricity and stiction (such as steel cases vs. brass), may dramatically alter the timing of the weapon compared to brass test loads.

If  you tune an action to run reliably with lighter pressure ammunition, with hotter ammunition it's more likely to unlock too early, and possibly malfunction, accelerate wear, or even have a catastrophic failure.

If you tune it to run reliably with hotter ammunition, though it will be less likely to have safety and durability issues, and will wear less; it may be unreliable with lower pressure loads.

It's a delicate balancing act that's difficult to manage even with all other factors being perfect. Adding steel cases which obturate in the chamber very differently, and which have dramatically different friction characteristics, just adds another set of issues to the tolerance stack.

That's the timing issue. But, while the other +P ammunition also ran better than the standard pressure, it still had problems... thus the magazine issues.

Its likely that the magazine lips and follower are presenting the cartridge too far back, and too low, at too shallow an angle, and with too much friction on the cartridge.

This combination would cause the feeding cartridge to tilt nose downward too far... without moving forward, or at least before it moves far enough forward... thus a cartridge with too short an OAL may fail to engage the feed ramp, and instead slam into the front of the magazine.

Since the slide is overriding the cartridges instead of jamming on the rims, it also means it's pushing the cartridge stack down far enough, with little enough effort, to continue its stroke.

The failures with steel cased ammo were mostly nosedives as well, but there were also FTI failures, from light primer strikes.

They had nosedive failures every few rounds with steel, which doesn't surprise me, because steel is going to have higher feeding friction, against the mag lips, mag follower, and the rounds under it. Thus the nosedive problem would be exacerbated.

The light primer strikes are lightly due to inadequate force exerted on the firing pin, rather than any more complicated issue.

Both of these issues indicate to me that they used springs that are either too light by spec, or too soft by QC, both for the internal hammer, and for the magazine.

These spring issues are common failures in quality control for any manufacturer, and common problems with any self loading pistol... and frankly, are not surprising given the state of Remingtons manufacturing and quality control issues over the past few years.

When the geometry and timing of a design are just barely on the edge of being reliable, a slightly soft spring can easily make the difference between a weapon that runs, and one that doesn't.

So... what do you do to fix it?

As a manufacturer or a gunsmith, there some relatively simple changes that might help.

First, I would try a slight revision in the mags and mag catches, to make the magazine sit just a little bit higher could improve feeding function; as could a slight easing of the feed lips, reducing friction on the feeding cartridge, and presenting it in a slightly more nose up attitude, allowing it to move further forward with less pressure; thus making it easier for the cartridge to engage the feed ramp and jump up under the extractor, rather than nosediving (particularly for shorter OAL or steel cased cartridges).

If one has an R51 that is overly load sensitive, and has similar issues, and changing to a stronger mag spring doesn't resolve them, then one could try easing the feed lips slightly themselves, as well as polishing them with emery cloth, to reduce feeding friction.

Other than that... There's not much you can do, except to internally blueprint the gun... polish metal mating surfaces, deburr anything that would be in a feed path etc...; and make sure that your springs are good.

Self loading firearms are all going to be sensitive to timing, ammunition variability, magazine geometry, quality control in springs and mags, and quality control in general; and pistols doubly so over rifles, since you've got much less energy and much shorter distances and time windows to deal with.

Honestly, it's pretty easy to make one unreliable, and pretty difficult to make one reliable.

Using a locked breech design helps reduce the variables, and make them less sensitive, which is why you don't see many full power centerfire pistols that don't have a locked breech mechanism.

Even the original Remington model 51 was only available in .32acp and .380acp. There's good reason why blowback pistols... even modified blowback pistols such as the R51... above .380acp in power are rare.

You're already cutting your tolerances close and stacking them high... when you add questionable quality control on top of it... well... the results are... predictably unpredictable shall we say?

Monday, August 15, 2016

But Maybe It'll be Different THIS Time... Right?

There's a frustrating paradox... People understand that corporations will generally act in what they believe to be their own best interest... as will the people who make up those corporations...
... but then think somehow that government (which is made up of the same people who make up corporations) will not act in IT'S best interest...
... and further, somehow people don't understand, that the best interests of government, are NOT the best interests of the people.
Of course they're not. If they happen to coincide, it is a happy accident, or its because they are catering to a specific interest, to gain support, power, and resources.
Somehow, people seem to persist in this utterly irrational set of beliefs, that government is "looking out for them" against its own interests, no matter how much evidence there is... basically the entirety of history... to the contrary.
Even when they acknowledge that this was "sometimes true in the past", or sometimes they think "now it is anyway",  they blame outside factors like "corporate corruption" and "special interests"; rather than seeing and accepting, that the government simply acts in its own interest, and that when it doesn't, it's an exception, not the rule.
Somehow, they keep convincing themselves, that the "right people" will really "fix it", and  "look out for them".
Somehow, they keep thinking "this time, if we just get people who are good enough and smart enough... this time, it will be different".
No... it won't be.
Never mind the proof presented by all of history, it won't be, because it can't be.
What do I mean by that?
Well... this is going to take a while... but let's simplify as much as possible, and start with breaking down some core assumptions and fallacies.
Like this one...
"The government acts in the interests of the people".
It doesn't. And it's not because of "corruption" or "corporate money" or "special interests"... or at least not as most people think of those things.
The false dichotomy of "Corporations and special interests vs. Government, acting in the interests of the people", is so obvious, I really don't understand how anyone can possibly believe it at this point.
But they do... in their millions and billions.
The problem at core, seems to be that people confuse and conflate the government, with the nation, and the people as a whole, as if they were one thing, or at least always aligned together collectively.
This is entirely false.
They then believe that somehow "corporations" and "special interests", are some kind of other thing, acting against "the people", for which "the government" is their champion, advocate, and defender.
This is also entirely false.
These false notions, completely ignore the fact that the corporation itself, is a special creature of government, created and protected by the government. That without special status granted by government, and the special protection of government, corporations are nothing but a voluntary collective of individuals (theoretically acting in common or aligned interest), with no power or protection greater than any individual.
... That's also what a government is supposed to be right, except the "common interest" is supposed to be "the common interest of all the people", right?
Of course, that's also what a union is supposed to be right? Or a political movement? Or any other voluntary collective institution, which is granted special status and protection by the government. They're collectives of individuals, acting in common or aligned interest. They are in fact protected interests, as much as they are institutions or corporations etc...
... and this is where the fallacy breaks down completely...
Of course, by creating, protecting, and then catering to these protected institutions; the government, and those within it, secure their own positions, and gain power and control. With this power and control, they then create more protected interests and institutions, cater to them, and receive even more power and control in return, in a self reinforcing cycle.
"Corporations" are not opposed by government.
Protected institutions and interests, such as corporations, are creatures of government. Neither can exist, or thrive, without the other. More importantly, neither are acting in the interests of individuals outside of themselves... nor should anyone expect they would... their purpose is to act in the interests of those who make them up.
That's the very definition of "special interests" by the way.
So.. that's corruption right?
No, actually, it's not. It's corruption if there is a quid pro quo of cash or similar value, in exchange for a specific vote... But mostly that's just what politics IS.
People have interests, they gather together in groups, those groups act to further their interests; be it a political party, or a town historical society, or a private club, or a business, or a union. They try to get the government to act in the way they want, and competing interests try to get them act in the ways the competing interest want.
That's politics.
Here's the thing though... Government is just another corporation... another specially protected institution, and "special interest"... composed of the same people who make up every other corporation and "special interest". They are just another institution acting in their own interest, like all institutions do.
Yes, that's right, the government itself, is just another "special interest".
And the government, acts in its own interest. Not yours, or mine, or "the peoples"... It's own.
No-one is acting in the interest of "the people" as a whole, or of individuals, but those individuals themselves; and the voluntary collectives they form and join, in order to specifically act in those interests...
Those would also be "special interests" by the way...
So... how can two "special interests" created by, protected by, supported by, and supporting, each other; be truly opposed to each other, except in competing for power and resources with each other?
How can one "special interest" be acting in its own interest, and the other "special interest"... the government itself... be acting AGAINST its own interest; by instead acting in your individual interest, or in the interest of "the people" as a whole?
It should be obvious that it can't.
Now... here's the even bigger issue though... and this itself seems to be the core conceptual problem:
"The People" don't actually exist.
There is no such thing as "the interests of the people"... because there is no "the people", who all have the same common interest, beyond some very basic concepts and platitudes like "safety" "survival" "prosperity" "happiness" etc...
"The people" is a convenient fiction, to represent all the individuals within "the nation", all of whom have their own interests; sometimes aligned with the interests of others, sometimes opposed to them, sometimes competing with them.
"The Nation" as a whole can have unified interests, such as advantageous foreign policy, and national defense, and the overall safety and prosperity of "the nation" is in the common interest of all the people... but that's not exactly equivalent. In fact, often, what is in the best interest of the nation, is not in the best interests of many of the people.
So, it's not actually possible for ANY government, no matter how well run, no matter how well intentioned, and no matter how well structured, to act for "the people"; except in the broadest possible terms.
Yes, really... no government, of any kind, ever.
That's not a "broken system" or a "perversion of the system"... that's how any system will always be no matter what, because it cannot possibly be other way. There is no other way.
No matter what, that's the way it is, because there is no other way.
As an individual, at best, government can be a disinterested third party... or if you are very lucky, its interests can be aligned with yours for a time, on a particular issue or set of issues.
Often, government is just another "special interest" colluding with other "special interests", against your interests; lying to you about it, and stealing from you to pay for it.
At worst governments interests... or the interests it is catering to against yours, in order to gain more power and control... require you be made powerless, or removed; and it strong arms, bankrupts, imprisons, or kills you... And along the way,  maybe it steals everything you and your family had, and labels you as an enemy of all "good people".
Because that's what government is... it's not just a "special interest", it's a "special interest" that has the power and authority, to take from you at gunpoint, force you to comply with its orders, imprison you, and kill you.
Corporations don't have that power. Unions don't have that power. No other special interest has the power to use force against you, without reprisal, except government...
...Or any other interest, that can get government to do it for them. Which seems to be more common than one would prefer...
The true dichotomy, is the concentrated power and force of specially protected institutions and interests... including the special interests of the government itself... vs. the diffuse power and interests of Individuals.
By the by, this isn't some random theory of my own... I'm just simplifying it and stating it in plain language.
In politics, economics, and sociology; these are known as the agency problem, and the problem of concentrated benefit, and diffuse cost. They're inherent to all governments, and in fact in all other collective institutions and efforts, and they cannot be solved, only mitigated at best.
Unfortunately, we can't eliminate either concentrated interests (and concentrated power) in general, or government in particular. Even if we wanted to, it's not actually possible; because individuals with common interest will tend to act together to concentrate power to more effectively act in their own interest etc... etc...
In the extreme, this means that without some countervailing concentration of power to stop them; the strong will always tend to overpower the weak, and the majority will always tend to overpower the minority.
Also, we actually do need a disinterested third party to resolve disputes (courts), to administer property held in commons, and to coordinate collective efforts for the nation as a whole (such as foreign policy and national defense).
So... we can't get rid of special interests, or concentrated interests and powers general, and we can't get rid of government in particular.
Since that is so... Don't you think it would be best if we would give those specially protected institutions and interests, and those concentrations of power against individual interests... as little power as possible?
Because if we give them the power to act in our own interests today... aren't they just going to turn around and use that power to act against our interests, when it's to their advantage to do so later?
I mean... all logic and reason says that's what will happen... and the entire record of history says that's what will happen...
... but maybe it'll be different THIS time... right?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

An Important Question About Guns

I was asked why I love guns, by someone who has an instinctive revulsion towards them.

That's a rather important question.

Aside from the fact that they are by far the most effective means of self defense, and defense of others, and that I have used them for such purposes multiple times?

Aside from the fact that they are used for such purposes millions of times every year?

Aside from the fact that it is enormously fun and satisfying, to develop skill in using them, and in competing with them?

They are one of the finest examples of both human mechanical craft, arts, and precision... and in their use, of our martial arts.

They're very interesting pieces of machinery. Moreso, they embody a fascinating set of interactions between machinery, chemistry, physics, and human performance.

Aside from what I love about them as objects, and as tools...

... There's the inescapable fact that, before guns, most of humanity, throughout most of history; were ruled by hereditary warlords and despots; trained from birth in, and oppressing the people by, main force; which they maintained a monopoly on (no matter how you might want to pretty them up, calling them nobility and royalty, lords and kings and emperors).

... and if by some means we returned to a world without guns, we would be so ruled once again...

Without guns to secure and protect them... there is no freedom, there is no justice, there is no liberty, there are no individual rights...

...There is only slavery, and the tyranny of the strong over the weak, and the many over the few.

I would love it to be otherwise, but history has proven over and over again, that it is not.

Throughout all of history, the only thing that has ever successfully prevented, resisted, or overthrown tyranny; without immediately replacing it with a different tyranny.... has been an armed, educated, and free populace.

Guns are literally the only reason why modern relatively stable and nontyrannical governments can exist at all.

They are the ultimate protection for the weak, and the minority, against the strong, and the majority.

The gun IS modern civilization.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Good news, okay news, bad news

So... we weren't able to sort out insurance in time for the established surgery date.

Yeah... there's lots to be said about that, none of it good.

It IS being sorted out, it WILL be authorized, and I will be on everyone's case until it is. Once it's authorized we'll get a new date.

Unless we can pay the $40,760 to the hospital before the surgery, which seems highly unlikely.

The okay news is that while Chris is in pain and the lymphedema is really bad, it doesn't seem to be getting worse. We still need to get him a pool and a hot tub for hydrotherapy and exercise equipment, and that's a high priority in order to prevent further muscle loss.

The good news is Chris most likely has a contract that will work with his appointments and time off for surgery and radiation so maybe we can start digging out of this whole.

The bad is we can't make rent and we need to wait even longer for surgery.

But there's a few lights at the end of the tunnel at least.

So we still need help, rather desperately. Anything would help.

I've still got a GoFundMe set up, and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works.

Thanks all,

Mel

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

SOS - help me keep this kid's dad alive

So for all of you that don't keep up with us on Facebook, or don't know us at all...

My name is Melody, though everyone calls me Mel. My husband is Chris. And this is Christopher:


Christopher is 3. He's an adorable little creature, and generally very happy. He's a budding engineer and loves all things mechanical. He's obsessed with tools, anything that has an internal combustion engine, firearms, things that explode. and all things space.

His IQ is somewhere north of 160, quite like his father. In fact he is just plain QUITE LIKE HIS FATHER. I'm not certain whether I actually conceived him, or if I just acted as surrogate to a clone.

Why is this important? Well, Christopher's father is fighting Stage IVb endocrine cancer, and it's looking to be a hard fight. Christopher is in danger of losing his father to cancer in the early years of his life.

Yaknow what hyperintelligent hyperactive little boys who are engineers and obsessed with mechanics, technology, weapons, ballistics, and things that explode grow up to be?

Either awesome forces for good, or...

This guy.

And seriously, I know how Syndrome's mother must have felt, without help from his father. Trying to help a kid who is smarter than you navigate growing up and dealing with the world, while not actually being able to understand him or sufficiently supervise his activities. It keeps me up at night, thinking about trying to raise Christopher by myself.

I know Chris's stories of growing up without his father. I know the struggles. If you've heard the stories, you know why it keeps me up at night.

Which brings me back to the entire point...

Chris's health is going downhill. Sometimes it plateaus, sometimes it gets worse much faster. He's in quite a bit of pain on a daily basis.

He's scheduled for surgery on Tuesday to remove the cancer that can be removed. But... well, let him tell the story in his own words:

"Anybody got a spare $20,000 lying around that they feel like giving us so I can have life saving surgery on Tuesday as scheduled, instead of letting my cancer grow for another month (its already been almost 8 months since we found it, and months of delays before surgery) while we wait for the goddamn insurance company, surgeon, endocrinologist, PCP, and hospital sort things out? That'd be great."

Yes, a few days before surgery we're scrambling to get it paid for. I've spent the past 2 days on the phone juggling 3 different doctor's offices trying to get insurance to pay for this surgery.

If we don't get it fixed through insurance or commit to paying cash before the end of the day tomorrow the surgery will be delayed.

Any delay at this point runs the risk of killing him. Of leaving Christopher without a father.

If we have to pay cash we will. But we need help to pay cash, or otherwise pay for it until insurance gets their heads out of their rear ends and pays for the procedure. The very important, life-saving procedure.

But I couldn't even afford to buy a coffee today without help, so I can't exactly cover a huge surgery bill.

We need your help, so so much.

Help us keep Chris alive, and make sure Christopher grows up with a father.

I've still got a GoFundMe up, and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne always works. For other options ping me at melody.byrne@gmail.com

Thanks all,

Mel

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Zero Defect Culture

The goal of the Frankfurt school, Antonio Gramsci, Saul Alinski and the like, was to implant the notion in society, that everything must be perfect without question, or that it was entirely corrupt and worthless without question, and therefore must be destroyed. That something could not be good and true, but flawed. Any flaw or defect required the institution or principle be destroyed, and replaced or rebuilt to "perfection".

They presumed, that if they were successful in doing so, the system would collapse (and thus "western culture" which they loathed, would collapse with it), as everyone would understand that things were not perfect, and therefore everything was corrupt and worthless... and thus would remove their support from the system.

They have, in fact, been entirely successful. The dominant motive emotion... no thought is involved... in society today, is what we call the "zero defect" concept, and culture.

Where the radicals failed... and what has kept "the system" running as it is... Is that they did not understand that most people, have an absolute emotional need for stability and confidence in authority and "the system".

Thus, rather than rejecting the false and toxic notion of the zero defect culture, or tearing "the system" and thus western culture and civilization down with it... as the radicals believed and desired would happen; a large number of people simply refuse to acknowledge or admit any defect... and attack anyone who claims defects exist, as if they were attempting to destroy the country, and society.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

16 days until the next surgery, and things are awful

The next surgery is on the 26th, and we're not doing at all well.

Chris is effectively bedridden (in that he goes between the couch, the bathroom, and the bed, which are all within 15 feet of each other) and I am absolutely exhausted. I didn't know it was possible to be this exhausted without a newborn in the house.

Christopher is doing well and healthy, so there we count our blessings.

The suprasternal mass in Chris's mass has quadrupled in size since the last surgery, and the surgeon is concerned. Blood tests don't indicate that the cancer has gone anaplastic  (thank God) so while this cancer is aggressive it is still very survivable.

After the next surgery Chris will be undergoing radioactive iodine ablation, and this time instead of the maximum non-emergency dose the dose will be titrated to account for his body mass. He will most likely be taking a dose that would be considered fatal for other people.

So as sick as he was last time... this time will be much worse. At least we have a basement in-law suite he can stay in through the isolation phase so he won't spend that time at the hospital.

Assuming we can keep up with rent and bills, of course.

His lymphedema and pain continue to be very bad, and he's still on expensive meds not covered by insurance, and we still need to get him an above ground pool and some exercise equipment so he can do something to help with the lymphedema.

I'm as depressed as I've ever been outside of hormonal causes, and need to get to the doc to get my meds adjusted, and that's rather high priority.

All our lives have revolved around cancer since right after Christmas and it's really taking a toll on everyone except Christopher, who isn't old enough to understand.

So that's where we are. Things are pretty damn horrible, but still survivable. We'll get through this.

We need help to make this month's bills and get Chris his equipment, and get him to his surgery at the end of the month (and hopefully a few nights in a hotel so I don't drive back and forth to Boston with a 3 year old several times in this process.

Anything you can give would be extremely helpful.

I've still got a GoFundMe set up and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works.

Thanks all,

Mel

Friday, July 08, 2016

Someone Tried to Start a War Tonight in Dallas...

So there's what's right... and there's what's smart.

Someone tried to start a war in Dallas tonight... and I GUARANTEE you, that police around the country are going to react.

Reports are that 11 cops and one bystander were shot... by at least two people with rifles and two more with pistols... and at least 5 are dead right now, with 3 more in critical condition.

At best, police are going to be hyper-vigilant for trouble... Hopefully NOT seeing it where there isn't any and overreacting...

... but it would amaze me if there wasn't at least some overreaction. At least some anger and fear and grief and frustration that spills over into violence...

... and if you don't think there are people who want to exploit that overreaction, you' really don't understand what's going on in this country right now.

Think about it... if you were an enemy of this country... internal or external... If you were a white supremacist, or a black separatist, or an anti-american islamist... Wouldn't it be great if you could get us to start a civil war against ourselves? Set cops against the public, black against white?

... and how much worse will it get if... when... there are more incidents?

Understand... this wasn't a random or spontaneous act of anger or frustration. This was a deliberately planned and executed attack, with pre-planned siting, and a planned evade and exfil, that they executed properly.

That doesn't mean they were professionals, or had any training... but it does mean this was a deliberate act of political violence.

This was a terrorist provocation attack.

The purpose of terrorism is not just to cause direct damage... it is to provoke overreaction from the controlling authority, against the populace, in order to increase internal strife and chaos, and to increase resentment and reaction against the controlling authority.

... and I can't think of any better way to draw such an overreaction right now, than to start killing cops at a black lives matter protest.

Can you?

Smart people... people who really should know better... Are already reaction in anger and fear, and saying things like "this is black lives matters fault', or "the cops deserved this"...

... That's exactly what they want...

... Because that's what terrorism does...

That is the goal, and purpose, of terrorist attacks. It is to create terror, chaos, strife... To draw overreaction and create resentment, that the terrorists can take advantage of.

... and it's working.

So... here's my advice... For everyone, but especially if you are a young black male.

Stay home... ESPECIALLY at night... until next Monday.

It's a heat wave weekend... violence always goes up with heat waves anyway... now this? STAY HOME.

Don't go anywhere there are big crowds. Don't go to protests or vigils or anything else. STAY HOME.

If you DO get pulled over, and you get hassled... don't get visibly angry, don't fight, don't yell, don't scream... DO record the encounter if you can...

...and wait...

Wait until you aren't under the control of an angry scared man with a gun pointed at you... Wait and get a lawyer. Wait, and file a complaint with the Justice Department and the state AG.

Is it wrong... Hell yeah...

But you can't fix it if you're dead.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Too bad about that common sense theory though..."

"But if more people have more guns, then they'll shoot more people, in fights, or by accident... it's just common sense"...

Great theory... common sense etc... except it's entirely incorrect...

The peak of violent crime in the country was the mid to late 90s. Not coincidentally, this is when the rapid growth in concealed carry also began.

... And since the peak between 1994 and 1997, violent crime, and crime with firearms, have fallen by about 50%... While the number of people legally carrying firearms have increased by over 700% (and total firearms ownership has increased by somewhere around 200 million according to production and import records).

*** An Aside: those 200 million new and imported guns sold in the U.S. in the last 20 or so years (18 million just in 2015 alone, 14 million new manufactured, and 4 million imported)? 
About 1/8 of them have been some variant of the AR15 or AR10... you know, the scary black rifle people keep wanting to ban? 
Semi-official estimates are only about 10-15 million AR15s... but that's because there are now literally hundreds of manufacturers of the rifle if not thousands, and most of them call it something else, or sell it in a slight variant, or different chambering, etc... so it's technically not an AR15... but for all practical purposes it is. 
It's not some kind of strange and powerful "weapon of war"... it's just another rifle, like any other... in fact less powerful than most. It just happens to be black and scary looking to some... 
.... and these days, most people who own guns, seem to own one, or two or more... They're like legos... mix and match, and have fun. 
It's by far the most commonly sold, and likely the second most commonly owned (behind the remington 700) centerfire rifle in the country... and the second most common semi-auto rifle behind the Ruger 10-22 ***

As of today, 29 states have "shall issue" carry licensing. That means anyone who can legally own firearms, and meet the basic standards those states require, can get a permit to carry.

... and millions of people have done so...

Before the carry boom, 16 states didn't allow carry at all, and 25 had very restrictive permits, with less than 2 million legally carrying concealed nationwide.

As of today, there are already almost 15 million people legally carrying concealed firearms in this country (12.8 million at the beginning of 2015, and an expected 2 million more since then, but no 2015/16 numbers are available yet)...

... and that doesn't include all the people in the 11 states that now don't require any permit whatsoever, to carry a firearm concealed (and there will likely be 2 or 3 more of those states by the end of the year).

That's 40 states, where any adult that meets the standards and can legally own firearms, can carry them.... and only 10 where they cant...

... Actually... all of those 10 states technically have a permit process... but it usually requires a big "campaign donation" or a good friend in the government, in order to get one... but technically, all 50 states allow concealed carry now, with or without permit.

...and yet... no increase in accidental or criminal shootings... in fact they fell by half.

...Well... except in a couple of those 10 gun control states, where they didn't fall nearly as much... like Illinois... but hey...

There are about 215 million adults 21 or over, and without a felony conviction... there are about 15 million CCW holders, and some number of carriers in those 11 states with constitutional carry... most likely a couple million, given most of them are heavy gun owner states...

... So... on any given day, basically, at least 7% or so of adults may be legally carrying a gun.

Given that very few of those, are in the 10 states with restrictive gun control... which together have a population of about 105 million...

... that actually means, more like at least 12% of the eligible adult population in the shall issue and constitutional carry states... probably more like 15%.

So... 1 out of every 14 or so at the absolute minimum, and maybe as much as 1 out of 6 adults may be legally carrying, in areas where carry is not restricted... on any given day...

... And yet, violent crime, crime with firearms, and accidental shootings, have all fallen by around 50% since the mid 90s...

Funny that....

Too bad about that "common sense" theory though...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"But there MUST be SOMETHING we can do? We HAVE to do SOMETHING!!!"

The core belief behind those who truly and honestly believe in, and support gun control, as a public safety measure; is the notion that there MUST be SOMETHING that we, collectively, as a society, acting through the state, can do, to stop people from doing bad things....

...and, that when people try to do bad things anyway "someone" will be there to stop them, and protect us.

It's the same impulse behind just about every other time anyone says "there ought to be a law"...

... And just as it is with just about every other issue, in just about every other case... it's pretty much always wrong.

Why "must" there be "something" we can do?

Because we wish there was? Because we hope there is?

Sadly, wishing and hoping don't seem to have much if any impact on criminal behavior. Nor do the literally millions of laws and regulations, hundreds of thousands of police, and thousands of prisons and jails in this country.

Laws don't prevent bad behavior, they simply define the punishment for violating the law... and when someone is already willing to commit a crime regardless of the punishment, making it "extra illegal" isn't going to change anything.

Murder is already illegal... gun, knife, baseball bat, fist... the weapon used doesn't matter.

The second part of the error, is the idea that laws will actually stop people from acquiring the weapons they "need" to commit crimes.

Of course... you don't actually need a "weapon" to commit murder... it's just physically easier than beating someone to death... But then again, so is running them over with a car.

You can't control behavior, by regulating an inanimate object, that has little to do with the behavior... Or for that matter, much at all, even if it IS required...

You simply cannot stop people from acquiring weapons... including guns... no matter how "strong" you think your laws are. It's not possible. No matter how strict the gun control, criminals get guns... never mind knives, clubs, bombs, poison...

You can literally make a gun, and it's ammunition, with a few dollars, and access to a hardware store.
You can make the regulated parts of AR15 in your garage with basic power tools, never mind what you can do with a benchtop CNC machine, or a 3d printer, all of which are now commonly available at low cost.

.... and then there's the hundreds of millions of guns already out there... Actually I personally think, and have posted the math and evidence as to why, it's more like over a billion...

It is impossible to stop people from acquiring basically whatever weapon they want, with laws.

It is impossible to stop people from doing bad things, with laws.

They're just about as effective as the "war on drugs" is today, or alcohol prohibition was in 1919.

All laws do, is hobble the law abiding.

If you want to stop people from doing bad things, you have to do so either:
  1. Before they ever want to do those bad things... with education, mental health care, productive employment etc...
  2. While they are attempting them... with opposing force.

... And I don't know about you... but I don't have a time machine to go back and give a criminal a better life  and a good therapist, so they wont try to harm me... and I live in the middle of nowhere, and don't happen to carry a cop around in my pocket. If someone wants to do something bad to me or my family, I don't have time to wait for police.

... Never mind the fact that it is both entirely irrational, and entirely morally bankrupt, to believe it is acceptable for someone else to use force to defend me and my family, but not acceptable to do so for myself...

What I DO have, is a responsibility to understand all of the above, accept it, and be prepared to do something about it if necessary... Not to hide my head in the sand, deny it, and pretend otherwise.

It's my responsibility to defend myself and my family, because no-one else is going to do it for me (and in fact, to burden others with doing so by my unpreparedness, is immoral)...

... and for that matter, if I am able to do so... without undue risk of harm to myself or my family...to defend those around me, if they are similarly attacked... But that is secondary...

Thus, I have guns, and I train with them, and I mentally prepare to use them to defend myself and others, if necessary. I hope it never is, but I would be failing in my responsibilities, if I didn't prepare for the possibility.

Ok...

What really gets me though... Is that I have this discussion with people... and sometimes, they really do understand it and believe it...

... and they still think we "must do something" anyway...

For symbolic reasons I guess?

Seems like insanity to me...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Second surgery coming up, and other updates

To start this off, I'm writing this on my phone while laying down next to the 3 year old who won't let me out of his sight.

Probably because he woke up this morning, turned into Houdini and figured out how to get out of his room, and didn't find Mommy and Daddy in the master bedroom where he expected us to be.

Chris has moved into the in-law suite in preparation for the next surgery and radiation, and because it's cooler down there and there's no stairs for him to force his swollen joints down.

And that's where Christopher found us this morning, in the basement. Clearly I need to replace his door knob with one that locks, add some alarms to his door, or something so he can't easily go wandering around the house.

In the mean time the next surgery consult is tomorrow, with surgery expected next week. I'm going to be spending the vast majority of time going between my two men and attending to the needs they can't attend to themselves between toddlerhood and neck surgery.

In other news, I picked up Chris's new meds and they seem to be helping.

Got the Blazer registered, now we need to finish repairs.

I need to make changes to Christopher's room.

I still need to get to the doc, having prioritized getting transportation and getting Chris to the doc and getting meds and this little thing called paying the bills and eating.

Between the meds and transportation and medical costs, we're down to nothing again, and unfortunately we need to pay for things like parking fees at MGH, gas to get there, the final repairs on the Blazer, bills, food, and alarms for Christopher's room.

But we're getting there. We're gaining ground.

So that's where we are.

I've still got a GoFundMe set up, and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works. and if you want to make other arrangements feel free to email me at melody.byrne@gmail.com or message me on Facebook.

Thanks all.

Mel

Monday, June 13, 2016

This sucks less in some ways, and MUCH more in others...

First, the good.

June bills are paid, transportation has been acquired, doctors have been visited.

Now, the bad.

The transportation needs a couple of hundred in repairs in order to pass inspection.

Chris hasn't slept in 3 1/2 days, his lymphedema is so out of control it's making it almost impossible for him to move (so he doesn't unless it's to the bathroom 4 feet away), and the pain is so bad he's not eating properly or sleeping at all.

He's experiencing pain in joints he hasn't stressed, so much so that I had to go get him some ACE bandages with the last of our cash.

He's not absorbing his thyroid meds properly, so he's extremely hypothyroid. The doc is putting him on a new med with a different delivery mechanism for the thyroid hormone in hopes that will help.

Went to the endocrinologist for an ultrasound and biopsy on Thursday. 5 masses were identified, 4 on the side that wasn't operated on and one rather large one that is suprasternal. Between those and the lymphedema Chris is experiencing sleep apnea for the first time since 2012, when the big tumor was removed from next to his airway.

We've also been told his muscle atrophy is starting to be an issue so the doc is pushing for physical therapy, either at home (about $2k in equipment unless we get really, really lucky) or at a facility (costing much more and not covered by insurance).

So, Chris's sleep is out of control, his pain is out of control, hes not eating, his lymphedema is out of control, he's stressing joints just by living and being extremely hypothyroid is making all of this much worse.

And we're waiting for his next surgery, and while I would love to pick up the meds that would in theory help all of this, I can't because insurance is not approving them, and we don't have the cash to pay for the new one (at over $200 a month) out of pocket. I also can't pay for physical therapy equipment, though at least now I can transport it!

So... some things are better. We paid the bills and have transportation and we now know Chris will be going through another surgery which will be scheduled ASAP.

But Chris is much worse and almost unable to move or sleep or eat, we need to finish repairs on the transportation, and I need cash for gas and to pay out of pocket for new meds.

So that's where we are.

I've still got a GoFundMe set up, and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works. and if you want to make other arrangements feel free to email me at melody.byrne@gmail.com or message me on Facebook.

Thanks all.

Mel

Monday, June 06, 2016

Death, Not Life, is the Default Setting

Several memes and complaints have been going around, along with the usual suspects, that hint towards a rather damaging mindset.

Patients spend too much time taking care of chronic conditions, people shouldn't be going bankrupt just because they get cancer, health care is a human right, health care is too expensive, rent is too expensive, utilities are too expensive, EVERYTHING is too expensive, yadda yadda yadda.

The mindset at the center of all of these is the same: health, wellness, and life is the default setting.

Bullshit.

If you think life is the default setting, go out in the woods in the middle of the winter (or the desert in the middle of the summer) and do NOTHING.

Don't find shelter, don't eat, don't drink, don't build a fire or shade, and just sit there. What will happen?

The same thing that happens to babies who don't have anyone taking care of them.

Death is the default setting, and we've become very isolated from that fact.

Imagine sitting down with someone from the 17th century. Imagine you're feeding your kids lunch and having coffee with this time traveler.

Them: What is this drink you're giving me?
Me: It's called coffee.
Them: Where does it come from?
Me: South America mostly.
Them: Must be very expensive to get it here.
Me: *Explains transcontinental shipping and their eyes go wide.*
Them: What is that you're feeding the children?
Me: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some milk.
Them: I didn't see wheat or peanut plants outside, much less a cow.
Me: Oh I buy it from the grocery store. *Explains stores, commercial farming*.
Them: Well you'd better use the jelly and milk up quick or else it will go bad.
Me: *Explains pasteurization and refrigeration.*
Them: And how much did all of this cost you?
Me: *Calculates quickly* About $2.
Them: Well that's a lot, how long did you have to work to pay for this?
Me: *Assumes minimum wage* About 15 minutes.
Them: *Falls out of chair.* *Recovers* So little work in order to eat?
Me: Well it's not perfect, for example for some kids the peanut butter would cause an allergic reaction.
Them: So they'd die?
Me: Well no, a lot of the time they have what's called an epi-pen that stops the allergic reaction.
Them: That's amazing. How many children do you have?
Me: 3.
Them: So few? How many did you lose?
Me: Um, none. There's this thing called birth control now...
Them: You didn't lose any? Not to smallpox or whooping cough?
Me: *Explains vaccines and germ theory.*
Them: And you didn't lose any infants? Obviously you yourself survived childbirth, but surely some women aren't as lucky.
Me: Well babies and mothers don't die in childbirth quite as often anymore. *Explains hospitals, sterilization, ultrasounds, and about a billions things.*
Them: So how many times have you been in a hospital?
Me: 4. 3 births, and one kidney biopsy to see if I could donate a kidney to my brother with kidney failure.
Them: You can do that?
Me: Yes, it's actually pretty simple. Now that I'm done having kids maybe the docs will clear me this time.
Them: Wait, your brother is still alive? How long has it been?
Me: 10 years. *Explains dialysis.*
Them: So people survive these things now?
Me: Oh yes. People can live decades with kidney failure or diabetes with the right treatment.
Them: So what do people complain about?
Me: Things like people who have cancer going bankrupt going through treatment.
Them: Well that's understandable, you don't want to spend unnecessary money dying after all...
Me: Actually, a lot of the time people don't die, they survive cancer, and some live for decades afterwards. My own husband will most likely survive his second round of cancer and cancer treatment.
Them: Isn't that worth all of the money you have?
Me: It is to me. But people who haven't gone through it think it shouldn't be as hard as it is, and think chronic health conditions should be easier to deal with, and cheap to deal with.
Them: So let me get this straight: more people live, more babies live, you spend less time feeding yourself and your family than any other point in history, people can survive many things that used to kill them, and people are complaining that it's too much work to do so, and that it should be less?
Me: Pretty much.

We've totally lost sight of the fact that without all of our modern methods of dealing with the world, we'd all be back to scraping out an existence and watching people die on a continuous basis.

I'm not saying there's not room for improvement, there clearly is, but for just one second could we just be grateful that there's work to do, because that means we're all still alive and needing to be kept alive?

Mel

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Cleaner, hotter, blacker, better... Charcoal

Humans have been making... and cooking with... charcoal for thousands of years.

It was literally our first processed fuel technology, making a much hotter, cleaner, and more manageable fire than wood, with MUCH lighter and easier to pack fuel.

...In fact, charcoal is STILL the most common cooking fuel in much of Africa and parts of Asia and south America even today.

We've come up with hundreds of ways of cooking, since we started cooking over charcoal... None of them taste any better, and very few nearly as good.

Sadly.. Lots of people thing cooking with charcoal is a hassle and a mess. They prefer propane, or just using their ovens or broilers.. or maybe cast iron preheated in the oven, then used over really hot burner...

... all of which can produce good results of course, especially cast iron....

... and if they've only cooked with "charcoal briquettes"... which aren't anything like actual charcoal (more on that later)... I can certainly understand why they would (mistakenly) think charcoal was not that great, a mess, and a hassle...

Because they've never ACTUALLY cooked with charcoal.

Cooking with natural lump charcoal, is one of the most efficient, quickest, easiest, and least messy means of cooking there is... And of course, one of the tastiest.

Wood, natural gas, and propane (and some types of mineral coal), all make for medium temperature, and very "wet" heat, with lots of, sometimes unpleasant, residues (and odors).

Natural lump charcoal makes for a cook fire, so hot and dry, (because it burns very efficiently and nearly completely), that it lets you get a hard sear, or even char on the outside, while still staying juicy, tender, and medium rare inside.... Even for very thin cuts of meat, or very small pieces like steak tips.

Propane can't do that, nor can any home oven or most home ranges... even with thick cast iron. In fact, it's basically impossible to get anywhere near as good delivery of heat into your food as natural lump charcoal can give you, without very expensive specialty restaurant equipment.

... and if you like cooking in cast Iron, you have no idea how great it can be, until you cook with cast iron and proper charcoal... Propane and natural gas can't hold a candle.

Now... if you're cooking with briquettes, that's another story entirely... They're awful...
Briquettes really ARE a high effort hassle for poor results...

They don't smell right, sometimes food doesn't taste right with them, they're heavy and messy, they are difficult and take forever to light and usually need starting fluid (sometimes even with a chimney starter), they make for low and uneven heating... they can even choke off their own fire and end up going out... and most of all, they can take 30 or 45 minutes before you're ready to cook.


And of course, with propane... or even with an oven or a range and cast iron, you've got to pre-heat for 10 to 20 minutes as well...

Real charcoal is nothing like a hassle...
With a chimney starter, and natural lump charcoal; going from nothing to ready to cook, is very quick, and takes almost no effort.

Literally 20 seconds of trivial effort to load the charcoal and light the starter, and 10-15 minutes of waiting for the coals to get ready...

...and then you're cooking, at a FAR higher temperature than any home oven or burner can get.

How hot can it get?

A natural lump charcoal fire, in a chimney starter, can easily get to over 1400 degrees.

If you use enough charcoal, and let it burn a few minutes longer and hotter, it will get to the point where it is generating its own blast draft, just like a furnace.

When it's blasting like a furnace, that fire can get steel to cherry red, which is over 1500 degrees... even up to a bright cherry red as high as 1700 degrees... (leave it long enough, with enough airflow, and enough charcoal, and it can go even higher, and melt the thin sheetmetal of the chimney starter. With a bellows or blower, you can easily get a charcoal fire hot enough to forge, and even to smelt, steel).

Ok... but how hot can I actually cook with it?

After dumping the chimney into the grill, when the charcoal is glowing bright red on the grate; with good airflow and proper insulation under the fire, you can see a temperature at the grill surface of 800 to 1100 degrees easily... sometimes higher (I've regularly measured 1200 with a non contact thermometer).

... Which means cooking faster, which means getting better texture and flavor, without overcooking.

In fact, if you're just cooking a couple of steaks, burgers, breasts etc... you can just take a grill grate, and cook right on top of the chimney starter, using much less charcoal.

You cook right on the starter, it takes about 3 minutes total to cook a 1" thick steak to medium rare... 90 seconds a side.

It only takes enough charcoal to make the chimney work properly... a few ounces, a few inches, and some waste paper. I light it with a blowtorch to make it even faster and easier... and more fun... When the charcoal is fully ignited... you don't have to wait for an orange hot jet of flame but you can if you like... you're ready to cook.

When you burn it that hot, charcoal burns almost completely... Almost no cleanup... because it's REAL charcoal. No pan, no oven, just a little bit of ash... and really, it's only a little bit.

... and it's not all about the fast and hot...

If you want a lower and slower cook, get your starter to the point where all the charcoal has caught, but not where it's generating its own updraft blast furnace...

Then dump on the grate, and restrict the airflow into the firebox. Everything will slow down, and smolder, for quite a long time.

You can easily sustain a low and slow, or a medium heat, for hours... anywhere from 190 degrees in the grill box, to 400-500 degrees... adding new charcoal as necessary.


With a well insulated hot box, this dry controlled heat is ideal for pizza and certain kinds of bread baking. In fact, it's likely the only way most home cooks can actually get an oven hot enough to make proper pizza (though using a combination of firebrick and a thick piece of pizza steel, and preheating for a long time, can get you close).

... and of course, you can smoke meats this way, with seasoned smoking wood added to the charcoal.

It really is just better...

When I have the gear, and the space, I cook with REAL charcoal year round, rain, shine, snow (just rig an awning)... doesn't matter.


It can actually be much LESS hassle, and much LESS cleanup, than using your kitchen.

It's not like cooking with "charcoal briquettes"...which... and this is the importan't part... aren't even actual charcoal.

Wait... Briquettes aren't charcoal?

No... really... they're not. Not even much like it at all actually.

"Charcoal briquettes" are actually mostly sand or clay, and binders, with a little blackened sawdust, and coal dust mixed in.

Kingsford, the %1 brand in America lists the following as the ingredients of their briquettes:

Wood char (partially charred sawdust and wood flour)
Mineral char (partially burned coal dust from processing of soft brown lignite coal... often high sulfur coal)
Mineral carbon (unburned coal dust from soft brown lignite coal)
Limestone
Starch
Borax
Sodium nitrate
Sawdust


Even the "wood char" isn't really charcoal, it's blackened sawdust and wood flour (often left over from paper and saw mills, which is good), but it hasn't really been pyrolized as proper charcoal.

Basically, they're over 90% stuff that isn't anything like charcoal, and less than 10% of stuff that is sort of like charcoal... but no actual charcoal.

That's why they can't cook worth a damn, why they take forever to heat, and why there is so much mess. They don't light well, they don't burn well, and they don't cook well.

Thankfully, you can get natural lump charcoal almost anywhere now (including walmart), and given how little you actually need, for how much you can cook with it... it's actually LESS expensive than briquettes.

Good natural lump charcoal runs between $1 and $1,50 a pound. "Good" briquettes run between $0.50 and $1.00 a pound.

Initially, that may seem significantly MORE expensive, however, with lump, you never need to use starting fluid ($4 a bottle, which lasts what... 20lbs?) and you don't waste 80% of your heat "waiting for the coals to be ready".

More importantly, because it cooks so much hotter and so much faster, and because you start cooking in 10 minutes not 30-45...

...You can cook more with 1lb of lump, than you can with 5lbs of briquettes...

Yes, really, it's about 5 to 1.

... And of course, because lump burns much more completely and cleaner, and briquettes are literally more than 90% "nothing like charcoal"...when you're done with that 1lb of lump vs 5lbs of briquettes... the briquettes end up making about 10 times the ash, and nasty residues.


So... yeah... grilling with briquettes is a high effort, expensive, messy hassle...


Which, of course, is why you should grill with... you know... actual charcoal.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

God this sucks...

This is going to suck to write.

I'm usually an optimistic person, I need to be. It's the only way I get by.

People call me "tough". I'm not tough, I'm adaptable. I can get used to the "new normal" very quickly. This means I can accept what other people consider hardship without thinking about it too much, as long as I don't compare to other people. This leads to what Chris refers to as "minimizing." It's how I stay somewhat functional.

So this is me, laying it bare.

We're behind on health insurance premiums for Chris.
Chris needs his meds refilled.
I need my antidepressants refilled, and need to make it to the doctor.
We're behind on electric.
We're past due on internet.
I got the minimum amount of heating oil last time, so at some point we will need that.
Cell phones are due soon.
My cell phone is dying.
Chris's laptop is dying.
Chris has very few clothes.
I have very few clothes.
We're getting low on groceries.
We've been low on household goods ever since we left Florida. We have a total of 6 dinner plates.
We don't have much furniture, though at least we have beds for everyone.
We haven't paid the second half of rent for May, and June is coming up.
Stupid car rental company charged us twice what they should have, the rental car is gone, and they think I still owe more.
We have no transportation, and the closest bus stop is 2 1/2 miles away, and won't get Chris to his doctors.

And here's the big one:
Unless we have transportation to take advantage of cancellations, Chris can't get to the doctor for additional testing and radiation before August 9th, and the remaining cancer is growing.

That's just the financial considerations.

Every day I force myself out of bed, feed 5 different bellies, keep the boy from killing himself, make sure Chris has stuff to drink, keep working on potty training the boy, feed everybody again, put the boy down for his nap/ quiet time, think that this is the day that I will attack the disaster that is the house and clean it properly, and instead become an inert pile of exhausted depression.

Then I get up, make dinner, feed people, get the boy cleaned and ready for bed, get the boy in bed, make sure Chris has everything he needs, and collapse again.

I've got a box of hair dye I picked up in January. I've been too exhausted and depressed to use it since then.

Where is Chris in this? Bed bound, between healing, pain, lymphedema, and mobility issues.

I'm doing everything by myself, in the midst of the worst depression I've ever experienced, and I am just exhausted.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. We moved up here before we knew the cancer was back, with the promise of family support. Well, half of the family support disappeared, and the other half is struggling with their own health issues that are incompatible with helping. That was before the cancer.

Before the cancer we also had two different people coming up to help; due to reasons outside of everyone's control, that didn't happen either.

There are 3 bright spots in all of this: we're near some of the best doctors in the world, we really lucked out in our house (in that it's got an in-law apartment, so at least Chris has somewhere to be separate from the family during radiation) with great landlords, and thanks to the kindness of some friends the boy has plenty of clothes and toys and is healthy.

I'm just so tired, and August is a long time to wait to go forward, and we have no idea how much worse Chris will get in this time.

In the meantime we've been working other angles, possible jobs, possible loans, and everything has either been delayed or fallen through.

Without transportation I can't work, I can't put the boy in daycare, and we can't get Chris to the docs when a cancellation opens up.

We're pretty much fucked at this moment, and I feel helpless and like my hands are tied. All for lack of a car and lack of income.

Like I said, I'm an optimistic and adaptable person, and I'm pushed to my limit.

It's much harder and more expensive to survive cancer than it is to die from it. I don't want my husband to die from it just because we seem to have the worst fucking luck in the world, no matter what we do.

I'm going to keep getting up, and keep trying, and keep working angles, and keep watching my husband be in pain and get worse every day, and keep raising our son mostly by myself, and keep doing what needs to be done, but it gets harder every day. I'll never give up, but damn if it doesn't seem much easier.

All for lack of a car, and lack of income.

So as much as I hate it and I was hoping to avoid it (like I said, I've been working angles, they just haven't worked out) I have to ask y'all for help, again.

Please help if you can.

I've still got a GoFundMe up and running, and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works.

Thanks all,

Mel

Friday, May 20, 2016

Turning Circles

Everything in the entire material universe, is circles, squares, lines and arcs.

If you can rotate one piece and hold another piece completely still against it to cut it or grind it, you can make anything perfectly round and concentric.

Once you get a four pieces perfectly round, concentric, and identical, you can find perfect level.

Once you can make four pieces perfectly round, concentric, and level, you can take a piece and make one surface perfectly flat.

Once you can make one surface perfectly flat and level, you can make a second surface perfectly perpendicular to it, and perfectly flat and level.

Once you can make two surfaces perfectly flat, level, and perpendicular to each other you can always find 90 degrees.

Once you can make things perfectly round and concentric, and make two surfaces perfectly flat and perpendicular to each other, you can make anything flat and square on all sides.

Once you know one exact measurement... all you need to do is hold it up to something else you know the size of... and can make something flat, square, perpendicular, and level on all sides, then you can always find a 45 degree angle.

Once you can make something flat and square on all sides, and you can always find a 45 degree angle, you can make anything flat, square, and true on all sides.

Once you can find an exact measurement, and exact 90 and 45 degree angles, you can always find the center of any measurement, and you can always double any measurement.

Once you can halve and double any measurement, find 90 and 45 degrees, and find the center of any measurement, you can find any measurement at all.

Once you can find 90 degrees, 45 degrees, and any measurement at all, you can find any angle at all.

Once you can make something round, concentric, flat, square and true, and can find any measurement and any angle, you can make any spiral or helix you want, and thus, cut any screw thread or gear you want.

Once you cut four threads and four gears to act against each other, you can double the precision of your threads and gears.

Once you can find any measurement, and the center of any measurement, and can find 90 degrees, and 45 degrees, and any angle at all... and can halve and double them... you can double the precision of your measurements... and redouble them to any degree of precision.

Once you can double the precision of your measurements, and the precision of your threads and gears, you can make anything round, concentric, flat, square, and true at double precision.

Once you can make four flat, square, and true objects at double precision, and four round and concentric flat and shafts at double precision, you can double it again...

Then you can double the precision of your threads and gears again, and redouble, and redouble, to any degree of precision.

...and by doubling, redoubling, and halving, and quartering, over and over, you can find any measurement, of any line, at any degree of precision, and make anything round, concentric, flat, and square to any degree of precision.

Once you can find any measurement, at any degree of precision, and can always find the center, 90 and 45 degrees, you can find any angle, to any degree of precision.

Once you can find always find endpoints, and center points of any line, any measurement, and any angle, at any degree of precision, you can describe any arc, at any degree of precision.

... and cut any screw or gear, at any degree of precision.

Once you can make anything round, concentric, flat, square, true, and level, find any measurement and any angle, cut any screw and any gear, and describe any arc, at any precision...

... you can make anything at all...

This is how the entire industrial world developed, and how everything is still made today...

Everything... everything manufactured piece, every machine, everything in this modern world... begins with the lathe.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Better than expected, but not done by a long shot

So the pathology report came back better than we expected.

Only 7 out of 24 lymph nodes removed were cancerous, and it's solely follicular.

So the cancer wasn't growing as fast as feared.

The bad is that the pathologist is the one who counted the nodes, because the surgeon couldn't identify the number of nodes removed during surgery due to several of the nodes growing together.

Right behind the sternum.

Very challenging surgery.

As for another surgery, the endocrinologist will do further ultrasounds in a few weeks (thus allowing for the swelling to go down sufficiently) and biopsies of anything suspicious. Then he and the surgeon will decide if another surgery is necessary.

NO MATTER WHAT, Chris will be going through radioactive iodine ablation again, about 6 weeks after the final surgery (whether that's this last surgery or another surgery). So he's still going to be limited in what he can do for a few months yet.

So we still need financial support, for those things like medical bills, medical premiums, transportation, utilities, oh and food.

I've still got a GoFundMe set up, and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works.

Thanks all,

Mel

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tomorrow, tomorrow...

... he's getting cut, tomorrow.

Yes, bad, I know. But humor is helpful right now.



Tomorrow is the big day.

Apologies to those who have donated who I haven't managed to thank yet, things have been a little crazy with prep and the like. Plus the massive panic on my end.

But the day has finally come.

No idea how long the surgery will be, the surgeon doesn't know the extent of the work needed until he gets in there. Right now the surgeon is only expecting an overnight stay, but that may change due to the extent of the surgery.

I won't be posting live updates here most likely. I'll do a wrap up post here, but most of the updates will be on Facebook.

There's a Facebook group for those who can handle the more gruesome details here: Chris Byrne Surgery and Recovery. Anyone who joins will be accepted.

If you need your details more sanitized, follow me on Facebook 

One day we'll get around to a full explanation of what's going on, but right now I'm busier than the proverbial one legged man, if the one legged man was also taking care of a sick husband, a 3 year old, two dogs, a household, and a ton of medical details.

I still have a GoFundMe set up, and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works.

Mel

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Surgery now on Tuesday

Surgery now on Tuesday, due to scheduling and the surgeon wanting some test results back first.

Details to follow, when we're not as exhausted and can go into medical details coherently.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What I'm Up Against

So... Just so you guys know what I'm in for next week... and the next few months...

The surgeon had a cancellation, and now my presurgical consult is on the 6th, and I'm tentatively scheduled for surgery on the 7th... there may be a conflict with the OR scheduling, in which case it may be the following week, we're not sure yet.

At this point, most of the lymph nodes in my neck are cancerous... at least 9 are over 1.5cm... a couple of them are over 4 cm... it's not great. A couple of them are just under the surface of the skin, and you can actually see them distorting my neck.

I'm going to have what's called a radical neck dissection.

Basically, my entire neck, and parts of my shoulders and upper chest will be cut open and dissected to ribbons, pretty much down to the bone, including at least separating, if not severing, most of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in my neck...

They do this to get room to see and cut out the cancerous lymph nodes, and other masses, and then one or two more lymph nodes beyond the cancerous ones.

That means they'll be cutting up all the muscles that I chew with, swallow with, hold my head up with, speak with... yeah...

They may also need to cut shoulder muscles... and there will be some tendon and ligament damage, even if they don't have to cut any of them... and they may need to cut some of them...

Worst case, they may have to go into my chest, under the sternum, and around my lungs... We know that the lymph nodes around the mediastinal notch are cancerous, so they're going to have to go at least that far... if they have to go more... Well, that's not great. It basically doubles to triples the trauma, and the recovery time.

...and there is likely to be substantial nerve damage no matter what, including potentially some nerves being completely dead permanently.

After my surgery, I will need to stay in the hospital for anywhere from 2 or 3 days, to more than 2 weeks, depending on how my healing gets going.

I won't even be able to chew, swallow solids, speak much, or hold my own head up... for at least 6 weeks, and possibly as long as 3 months.

... and it's going to hurt... a lot... the whole time...

I may permanently lose a lot of strength, mobility, and control, in my head and neck, and may suffer permanent pain, from the damage.

I may also lose the ability to raise my arms... or raise them above waist or chest or shoulder level... or I may need to go through extensive rehab and PT to do so...

It's possible I may lose my voice, in whole or in part, for an extended period of time... Possibly permanently.

Oh and I'll be on a liquid diet for at least the first six weeks, possibly as long as 3 months.
Then, as soon as I am healed enough to be beyond major risk of secondary infection, and I can get up and out of bed without assistance... that's when the radiation starts.

... And that's another three to six months of baseline recovery time, depending on whether I need one or more courses of radiation...

During the radiation, I will have no immune system, and I will also be dangerously radioactive to other living creatures... Including my wife, my son, and my dogs... so I will have to be in isolation... One of the reasons we kept this house, we because it has an area where I can be in isolation.

That's gonna be fun...

... and then 18 months of recovery time for all of the above after that... Recovery from radiation, rehab and physical therapy, and hopefully getting some of my immune system back... Basically all the things I went through in 2012 only worse.

God...

Yeah... I'm really not ready for this again... It was... living hell the first time around... now...
... The only thing that keeps me going, is that I need to be there for my family...

If anyone wants to help out... Melody is handling everything because I'm going to be useless for months... but we can always take donations through paypal at chris@chrisbyrne.com and here's the gofundme link:

https://www.gofundme.com/kdmtkm6k

Surgery and SOS

Remember what I said about having a world-famous surgeon and being a "local" to said surgeon? That it puts you at the top of the cancellation list?

Well... surgical consult is April 6th and surgery is... April 7th. At Massachusetts General.

We are SO not prepared. But we're going to get it done anyway.

We're not ready when it comes to the house, or the transportation, or the financials... but we're going to do it anyway.

The surgery Chris will be going through is called a neck dissection. Essentially the neck is opened up and all of the offending lymph nodes (plus one set of lymph nodes beyond) are removed. Do NOT google unless you have a strong stomach.

The recovery will be what you'd expect from having your neck cut into, pulled apart, and sewn back together. Inability to use neck muscles. Inability to eat solid food. Inability to make sudden movements. Plus the threat of neck lymphedema (backup of lymph fluid causing swelling in the area). Since Chris already has neck lymphedema it's going to be a problem.

So... with limited ability to use his neck muscles, a necessary avoidance of sudden movement, and a need to stay upright, it's not exactly going to be life as normal here.

What we need:


  • A recliner, to keep him upright and supported, as well as comfortable.
  • Another bed, so I can sleep somewhere other than with him.
  • Transportation to and from Mass General, for the consult, surgery, discharge, and visiting him while he's in the hospital for the 2 - 7 days necessary. We're almost certainly going to need a rental car.
  • Cash to pay the bills. We are still short on rent and other bills, and food money will be an issue soon.
We really, really need your help. Anything you can give would be greatly appreciated. If you can't give please share this. It's not just about keeping Chris alive, it's also about making sure our 3 year old has a father. If you know anything about our 3 year old you know just how important keeping his dad around will be.

Any help you can give would get us closer to Chris surviving and our lives going back to normal.

I still have a GoFundMe set up, and PayPal to chris@chrisbyrne.com always works.

Thank you,

Mel

Monday, March 28, 2016

One Hundred Years Beyond the Rising

100 Easters past, the morning of Easter Monday 1916; with these words, read on the steps of the General Post Office...Padraig Pearse, proclaimed the free and independent Irish Republic:

...We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. 

The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. 
In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms.
Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State.  And we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations... 
... Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government, 
Thomas J, Clarke
Sean Mac Diarmada
Thomas MacDonagh
P.H. Pearse
Eamonn Ceannt
James Connolly
Joseph Plunkett
That day, elements of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish Volunteers, and the Irish Citizens Army, took control of various sites around Dublin.

They fought the forces of the British Army and Royal Irish Constabulary... 1,250 men, fighting 17,000... for five days, before being forced to surrender the following Saturday.

66 of the rebels were killed, to 143 of the British... but 260 men, women, and children were killed in the crossfire, most by British artillery and machine guns... Not intentional murder.. but rebellion is bloody business, and in the fog of war, innocent people die.

The day of the rising, the British declared martial law over all of Ireland... It would remain in force off and on for the next five years.

Within two weeks of the surrender, hundreds were imprisoned, and 16 of the republicans (including all of those who signed the proclamation) were executed by hanging, in Kilmainham Gaol...

... The same prison where the British had imprisoned and executed the leaders of the risings of 1798, 1803, 1848, and 1867...

The fighting would continue sporadically until 1919, when all Ireland entered into general civil war for two years; until 26 counties formed the Irish Free state under the Anglo-Irish treaty: December 6th, 1921... and adopted the Constitution of the Irish Free State one year later, December 6th 1922.

Ireland would not be truly free and independent... remaining as a dominion of the British Commonwealth... until December 29th, 1937, with the adoption of Irish Constitution.

Even then, Ireland still officially recognized dominion of the English crown as head of state, until Easter Monday 1949, when the Republic of Ireland was officially declared...

...33 years from the Easter Rising.