Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pregnancy is Not For Wimps

According to our calculations we are on Week 7, Day 6 of Baby Byrne's gestation.

I've determined just why I can't remember the first trimester from my other two pregnancies. Oh, I remember finding out, making plans and all that. Then it's all a blank. If they were anything like THIS pregnancy, I don't remember anything because I spent my time working, being sick, sleeping, and NOTHING ELSE.

First trimester sucks. Oh, I know Chris said I would need him most in the second and third trimesters. Hah. Not even close. But we can excuse his assumptions; this is his first pregnancy rodeo.

If I'm awake I'm nauseous and unable to move without wanting to puke, with an extra special bonus of being severely nauseated by normally inoffensive smells. If I treat the morning all-day sickness I'm half asleep because the medication makes me drowsy. Oh, and I'm stuffing my face at every non-nauseous opportunity.

On the other hand, splitting my time between nauseous and sleepy (and always nearly useless) means that the other first trimester symptoms aren't ruining my life. Imagine the worst PMS/ PMDD you've ever seen. Now magnify it by a factor of 100 and you have first trimester hormones.

I wish I was kidding.

I decided early on that this pregnancy would be as stress-free as I could make it given the circumstances. This means I also decided to avoid any situations that might make my emotions go a bit nuts. And that I decided to avoid making any assumptions about my emotions having any basis in reality at the moment.

Thank fucking God I remembered.

If I'd actually been paying any attention to the mood swings Chris and the doggies would all be dead 10 times over. Touchy? Oh hell yes.

Well, they would be, if I had the energy to get off the couch. As it is, I get irritated and about the time I'm actually tempted to do something I decide that it isn't worth getting up for.

Nature's failsafe. Raise the estrogen levels so the emotions go nuts. Raise the progesterone levels at the same time to ensure there's not enough energy to actually do something about it. Raise the hCG levels so any thought of moving is enough to trigger debilitating nausea. This is how we survive as a species.

Chris has evidently decided that discretion is the better part of valor and has therefore abstained from saying anything that might "trigger" me or make it harder for me to ignore my mood swings. Smart man. It's almost like he read up on the hormones beforehand or something.

So to recap:
Nauseous or asleep.
Constantly tired.
Eating a ton.
Extremely emotionally unstable.
Feel like I've lost about 40 IQ points.

Yep, sounds like a typical first trimester. Good news is that within the next 2 weeks my hCG levels will start dropping and I will start acting like myself again. The second and third trimesters should be a comparative breeze.

Well, except for the whole "giving birth" bit.

Mel

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One small step...

... Further backwards that is.

Neil Armstrong passed from this world on August 25th 2012, at the age of 82.

I have only this to say about his passing:

Only twelve men have walked on the moon. The first was on July 21st 1969 (Neil Armstrong, who was 38 at the time), the last was December 14th 1972 (Gene Cernan, who was also 38).

Of those twelve men, four have died. The youngest of them will be 77 in two months, the oldest surviving will be 83 in January.

Every day that goes by without more men walking on the moon is another small step backward for mankind. Every one of those men who dies is one giant leap.
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. -- John F. Kennedy, Houston, Sept. 12th 1962

Monday, August 27, 2012

The NY Jets are on Crack

So, the Jets acquired Tim Tebow, while keeping Mark Sanchez; and they plan to play them both, picking their starters on game day...

They're on crack.

If you're going to go with a two QB strategy (a stupid idea in general, but there are certain specific situations where I suppose it MIGHT work), you want to pick two players whose strengths and weaknesses offset each other.

In Tebow and Sanchez, they've got two players with basically the same weaknesses and strengths.

Tebow doesn't have a field read, plain and simple; and most of the time neither does Sanchez. Because of their inconsistent read and feel, while they both have natural leadership abilities, they can't consistently be a leader on the field, able to rally the team to a greater performance than they otherwise might have achieved.

THAT is what is needed to be a great quarterback. Not arm strength, not accuracy, not scramble, not just plain natural talent... There have been plenty of first round draft pick quarterbacks who have had all that, and just couldn't make it in the NFL, ending up as busts, or just middling talents (or most frustrating, the "almost" or "coulda been" greats).

Leadership, situational awareness, game feel, and instant read, are what separates great quarterbacks from good ones.

Brady isn't great because of his arm, he's great because of his field read, and because of his on field leadership.

The instant field read is what lets Brady know when he CAN hold it for what seems to be WAY too long (especially behind a mediocre pass protect line) and still make the long yardage pass... or when he needs to dump it off. The leadership and game feel, are what lets him take a team that's down, disorganized, demoralized... Rally them up, and come back and win.

Tebow doesn't have it. Sanchez sometimes shows a little bit of it, but sometimes he's clearly in his own head, or he just doesn't have the situational awareness.

Both of them are still playing college ball; and playing college ball in the NFL is a good way to become a legendary draft bust.

They both try to use their footwork and toughness, to get out of trouble. They both alternate between dumping off too soon, and missing major opportunities; and holding on too long and taking a sack, a down, or a short pitch where they could have had 10 or 15 yards if they'd seen the earlier opening.

There were some great QBs who just had that read naturally from minute one (Joe Montana, Dan Marino)... But most guys had to learn it. It can sometimes take years, but most of the really great guys pick it up pretty fast ONCE THEY UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY'RE DOING WRONG.

Drew Bledsoe could have been one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He had an incredible arm. He threw long passes and quick pitches better than anyone playing with him... But he had inconsistent situational awareness, field read, and game feel. It made him one of the most intercepted QBs, and one of the most sacked QBs (in 1994, his second season, he threw more passes than any other QB had in history, was fourth in touchdowns, but also first (or last) in interceptions).

But he could have had it. You could see it in pressure situations when he wasn't overthinking it, and wasn't second guessing; he was just reading the field and responding fluidly... And he got the Patriots into the superbowl with it.

November 13th 1994, week 11, with a 3-6 record; the Patriots are losing to the Minnesota viking 20-3 at the half. Bledsoe comes out of halftime in two minute drill, firing left right and center, going 45/70 with no interceptions, leading the the Patriots to win the game 26-20 in overtime. In one of the greatest full season comebacks in NFL history, the Patriots then go undefeated the remainder of the season, basically running every game in two minute offense, trying to salvage the playoff chances for the first time since 1986.

The problem with Bledsoe was, he didn't have a strong enough coach/management team to break him of his bad habits, and get him out of his ego, show him what he was doing wrong and make him work to change it.

This isn't to say that Bill Parcells was weak, far from it; but Parcels wasn't allowed to discipline Bledsoe properly, particularly in his first season under old owner James Orthwein. Bledsoe was allowed to become a "superstar", and was handled too gently.

After buying the Pats from Orthwein, Bob Kraft gave Parcells more leeway to discipline Bledsoe in his second season, but not enough, and by his third season the pattern was set... he wasn't coachable anymore (Bledsoe is why for all his subsequent contracts, Parcells insisted on having full control and leeway over personnel).

Thus, Bledsoe may not even make the hall of fame, never mind be in anyones top ten lists (except maybe top ten "could have been an all time great but wasn't" list).

Tebow and Sanchez both need some really great coaching. Tebow in particular should respond well to it... But not if they're splitting duties with each other. They both need the kind of individual attention and focus that only comes with experience at being the starter, and the leader on the field.

Both are salvagable as potentially great quarterbacks... but not in this system.

If this is the extent of your political understanding (and you agree)...

You don't get to be part of the discussion anymore. You have proven yourself incapable of talking with the grownups, time to go back to the kiddy table.

Watch Ron Paul permanently and fatally beclown himself:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Comments were broken for a few days

They're fixed now.

Mel was messing with the template and accidentally killed comments, around Thursday sometime. We noticed last night, and fixed them this morning.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jesse Stone done

Finished all 10 Jesse Stone books. Up to 50 books in 14 days. Now on to Travis McGee

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Spenser project is complete...

...Now it's on to Jesse Stone.

Whoever's writing this script... please call my office, I'd like to make some changes

So...

Had my surgical followup today.

More of our repeating pattern of "good news, bad news, worse news" really...

So, first... the good news...

The surgery was entirely successful, and I seem to have tolerated it well. I'm recovering a bit slower than typical, but I also had a much larger tumor than usual (in fact, much larger than they had estimated on the ultrasound), and there was more surgical trauma than usual. So, it's pretty much as expected, and nothing to worry about.

Also, it appears both of my parathyroids are functioning properly, and I have little if any nerve damage.

The pathology report came back, and according to my surgeon, it's a very good thing that they got it now; because they are calling this an extremely aggressive malignancy.

Actually, the surgeon said it was the most aggressive thyroid cancer he had ever seen (that hadn't gone lymphocytic); and that if they hadn't got it, I would have had at most a year, possibly only a few months, before I was in critical condition.

The other good news is, because of the pathology of the cancer, it's unlikely (though still possible) that I have multi-endocrine neoplasia, which was thought to be a possibility (the symptoms that could have been MEN are most likely due to endocrine microlesions thrown off from the main mass and paraneoplastic syndrome).

Now, the rest of the news, which goes from bad to worse...

They got the primary mass, and they're pretty sure they got 100% of it, because it was well encapsulated...

Unfortunately, there was very extensive vascular infiltration, which couldn't be entirely excised.

Also, as was reported earlier I may have microlesions in my pituitary and adrenal glands (they're so small that even on a contrast MRI the tests are inconclusive without biopsy; they could just be noise)... Well, with the pathology and the vascular infiltration, combined with my symptoms and hormonal levels; you can consider that a probable, not just a possible.

What it comes down to, is that I still have cancer, with near spread confirmed, and distant but limited spread (into my other endocrine glands) probable.

At one point, my care team thought I may be able to get away without radiation... Now, it's clear that will not be the case.

In fact, because of the size of the tumor (10.2cm, and between blood, tissue, and blood loss during surgery, weighing over 3kg), the aggressiveness of the cancer, the vascular infiltration, and the distant microlesions; I am going to have to undergo an aggressive series of radiation therapy.

I will have to take from one to three courses of high dosage oral radioactive iodine (I-131), with injectable isotope markers (very different from the low dose therapy). The first course will take approximately three months (4-8 weeks of pre-radiation preparation, one week of radiation, then one month to recover), with each successive course taking another 4 weeks of preparation, and 4 weeks of recovery.

During each course of I-131 I will need to be in the hospital for 3-7 days, followed by 3-4 weeks of recovery prior to testing for the next course of radiation

The total series of radiation, recovery, and testing, will take from 3 to 7 months; depending on the results after each course of radiation.

So yeah... that's pretty bad... but at least there's a 94-96% chance of eliminating all cancer and preventing recurrence.

And then there's the side effects...

With low dose radioactive iodine, most people are able to work, and function, other than 3 or so days around the radiation doses themselves.

This is NOT low dose radioactive iodine.

For each course, I am going to have to spend 3-7 days in an isolation ward, during which time I will be radioactive enough to possibly make other people ill (as an engineer and someone who knows physics I say "no way, I know how low the effective dose someone else would get from me would be" but doctors are hyper-conservative about that sort of thing); and then 3-4 weeks at home while I recover.

During this time, I will be severely immunocompromised, and radioactive; unable to sleep with my wife, unable to spend more than a few hours a day in direct contact with my wife or children... for up to 30 days at a time.

I will also be extremely weak, experiencing moderate to extreme nausea, digestive distress, nutrient malabsorption, and extreme fatigue. It's likely I won't be able to stay awake for more than a few hours at a time without resting.

Oh and as an added bonus, there is a very good chance it will make me infertile, with at the very least permanently reduced (possibly even reduced to nothing) sperm count.

All while my pregnant wife is going through her second and third trimester.

So while my wife needs me most, I will be literally radioactive and not able to be in close contact with her...

Not sure if that's the worst news, or this is...

I can't work.

I have been medically unable to work for the past several weeks. I'm going to be medically unable to work for the next 3-7 months.

... and I've been laid off.

I was working with my employer as what is called a "contingent employee"; which means that although I was in general treated as a full time employee, I was technically a long term contractor with my employment contingent on my performance of contracted duties to my client.

I was not with the company long enough to obtain long term disability coverage.

I held off on making the announcement public while I was waiting for the surgery, because I didn't want people freaking out even more than they already were; and then until today, because I didn't know if I was going to be able to return to work immediately (in which case I had several very good prospects waiting) or if I would have to have some time off.

So as of a few weeks ago, I'm laid off, paying for COBRA health care continuation coverage at over $1000 a month (for the two of us), I need several hundred thousand dollars of cancer care, and my wife has 7 months of pre-natal care and a baby to deliver...

And I'm not going to even be able to look for work for the next 3-7 months...

So... Yeah...

...you know...

good news, bad news, worse news.

Pulling the Zipper

Well, here's the angry red zipper, pre pulling of the staples


...And post staple pull


You'll note, there's a three inch by five inch prominent swelling there; never mind the irritating from the staples themselves.

The actual scar itself is mostly in the crease and seems unlikely to keloid, but based on my other scars, it's going to be big, slightly ragged, and quite noticeable.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nine Days, One Author, Thirty Four Books, One Character (well... two)

So, for the last nine days, while preparing for and recovering from surgery (my followup is on Wednesday, where they will remove my staples, leaving my new zipper extant only in flesh, with no metal) I have been re-reading the entirety of Robert B. Parkers "Spenser" novels, as well as the 10 Jesse Stone books, and the 21 Travis McGee novels.

As of right now, I'm in the middle of Spenser book 31 ("Bad Business", from  2004); though I actually started by reading the first 3 Jesse Stone books, then switching to Spenser when I realized how fast I was going through them (and would have finished the Jesse Stone books before I even got into surgery).

Yes,  for those who don't know me too well, and think it sounds odd, I've read 34 books in the last 9 days (and four of those days I didn't really read a damn thing I was too laid up).

I'm a speed reader; have been since I was a kid. When I get really cooking and deeply into something I've been known to read over 200 pages in an hour (the fastest I have ever noticed myself reading, was finishing the 368 page Elmore Leonard novel "Rum Punch" in about 75 minutes) , and 120 pages an hour is pretty typical for me.

Frankly that's not that big a deal, they're mostly like 300 page books to begin with (the very first Spenser novel "the godwulf manuscript" ran 208 pages, the rest of them run between 280 and 390 pages); and they're very easy, quick reads. Plus, once you  know an authors style and language, and know the characters and settings really well... You're not actually consciously reading every word anymore, you're sort of absorbing the story and dialogue as you go, and filling in the differences in the descriptions.

Parker published the books, basically one per year, from 1973, until his death in early 2010 (the last two novels Parker wrote in the series were released posthumously in 2010 and 2011); and from the late 80s (1987s "Pale Kings and Princes, the 14th book of the series) I read the entirety of the series contemporaneously (going back and reading the previous 13 all in one burst at my local library one very wet autumn).

At some point later, I was assigned "Early Autumn" as a school book; as were many children in New England (and teachers guides etc... are still available for it... though I doubt a book so politically incorrect would be included in many classrooms today).

I was born in south Boston, and grew up in Boston (and Dorchester, Roslindale, Hyde Park, Mattapan... all part of Boston), the southern suburbs, and New Hampshire. Parker wrote about Boston, and I related to that. He also wrote about... for lack of a better phrase, the manly virtues.

In many ways, I learned about the manly virtues from my grandfather, and from Robert B. Parker (who, were born 13 months apart, both served in Korea, both had somewhat rough early years, and then both educated themselves... even overeducated themselves... and became successful professionals).

My sense of humor is certainly in part a product of that; as is my near constant quoting of literature, song lyrics, trivia etc... relevant to whatever is going on around me.

So, naturally, I don't come at this whole endeavor unbiased...

At any rate...

Parker wrote this character for nearly 40 years, something like 4 MILLION words; and there's an entirely different experience and appreciation of that kind of body of work that you get from reading it all at once, than the experience you would have had reading each book as they came out.

One thing I noticed, which I never had before, is that Spenser really did have a drinking problem in the 70s (and Parker had issues with alcohol his entire life); though no-one would really have thought it so at the time... Men drank. It's what they did.

That reminded me very much of my grandfather. He drank. A hell of a lot. It's what men did at the time.

As the series went on, Spenser drank less (though still far more than would be considered "normal" these days), but the quality of what he drank went up.

One thing that remained relatively constant, was Spensers cultural attitude and general politics. Robert Parker was essentially a 1950s Massachusetts liberal; somewhat socially conservative, but generally tolerant of people if not necessarily accepting of everything about them, slightly leftish, with a melding of blue collar and high brow sensibility... And so was Spenser. By 1973, Parker wasn't particularly pleased with the common culture around him, the coarseness and ridiculousness of it (and only getting coarser), the speed of it, the lack of appreciation for the great things and the little things... and Spenser always reflected that. Parkers politics never really changed, and neither did Spensers.

Also constant, was Spenser rejection of political correctness, and of distorting, rejecting, or devaluing that which was true or real, over that which was politically or emotionally acceptable to someone... This is a constant theme in the series, along with constantly mocking and deflating those who do that sort of thing... or anyone who takes themselves, or their causes, too seriously.

Not all is praise of course.

When I originally read the books, I would always find the character of Susan Silverman somewhat irritating... Now, after 30+ Spenser novels in a week, I can't stand her... at all... I want to skip every part of the books where she is mentioned.

Virginia Heinlein, she is not.

Also... although Parker was still a great writer, and his dialogue and storytelling remained excellent... Basically, he ran out of interesting things to say with Spenser sometime in the early 90s; after which his primary creative efforts went into writing Jesse Stone, and to a lesser extent Sunny Randall.

Frankly... Jesse Stone is the better character. Far more deeply drawn, and far more fully realized than Spenser.

Coming to Jesse at the age of 67 (as opposed to Spenser at the age of 42), Parker had an entirely different base of life experience to write from; and he had the opportunity to define the character better and more deeply, not being limited to the rather rigid mold that Spenser had become.

The last 10 or so Spenser novels... They have some interesting moments, and they are still as well drawn and well characterized as ever... they're just not interesting anymore.

I will of course finish the Spenser series, but at this point I'm more looking forwarding to getting back into the Jesse Stone series (which I actually haven't read all of... I missed a couple in there); and then re-reading Travis McGee (which I haven't done in... ten years maybe? Not since Spider Robinson mentioned Travis in one of the last Callahans novels, "Callahans Key" from 2000)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Positives so far

I'm not back on the diuretics yet, I'm eating tons of pudding and ice cream, drinking probably 2 gallons of fluids a day... and I lost 18 pounds in the last two days.

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's like a creepy smiley

The healing process, five days in:


If it looks unpleasant and uncomfortable, it's because it is.

You can't tell from this picture, but the areas above and below the staples are swollen out like balloons. I have no chin right now... just a bruise from the bottom of my beard to the staples, and then from the staples to the drain scar.

Oh and yeah, some of that yellow is the lighting... and some of it is the actual color my skin is right now.

Imagine someone taking a 2"x2 foot augur bit and running it down your throat a few times... That's about what it feels like.

The neck muscles that had to be stretched out of the way spent a couple days with no strength whatsoever... Which meant I could hold my head up about as well as an infant... but now they're healed enough that it just hurts like a sonofabitch.

The worst thing though is still not being able to clear my throat or cough properly... particularly given that because my throat and lungs are both irritated, that I'm overproducing mucous.

I am drinking HUGE quantities of water and fruit juice, and eating lots of soup, pudding, and ice cream.

I am eating some solid food now, and swallowing isn't too bad, it's just the throat abrasion and mucous that're giving me a problem.

My voice...

Well, let's just say, Wednesday I did pretty good renditions of "Everybody Knows" and "Romeo is Bleeding".

Let's hope next week I have a voice back.

The good news?

Both my parathyroids survived, and my calcium seems to be ok. Also, I'm not back on the diuretics yet, but my excess dependent fluid is already dropping dramatically. That's even though I'm eating and drinking TONS of salty soup, and tons of fluids.

So yay, that's a very good sign.

Overall... Man it's hard to describe how much major surgery takes it out of you... Tuesday, the day after the surgery, I felt like I'd been put in a sack and beaten with ball peen hammers for a few hours.

Today... I feel like the beating only lasted for an hour or so.

Here's hoping Monday sees me feel like it was only wiffle ball bats.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quote of the Day: Politics Edition

If all of your positions on the major issues can fit on a bumper sticker, there's a fantastic chance you have no fucking idea what you're talking about.

From 5 Ways the Internet Convinced Me Not to Vote

Let's call this "Still Good... but BETTER with the drugs"

I'll get us started

1. Robin Williams
2. James Taylor

Now you try it, I'm sure you can think of more than a few

Oh and for those who need clarification: Better with the drugs THEY did, not better with the drugs YOU did.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Now I just need some neckbolts


15 staples, 5" incision. Should be a hell of a scar.

What you can't really tell from this photo is that basically all the tissue shown in this picture is just one giant  swollen and tender bruise.

Basically, I feel like someone stuck a concrete mixer down my throat and turned it on high.

I'm hoping the pathology people got a picture of the tumor like I asked them to. I know they weighed it (I should get the pathology report tomorrow or Thursday) and that they drained almost a liter of blood out of me pulling the damn thing out; and that it was more than 100mm in every dimension, and roughly spherical (but fully encapsulated, mobile, and free. It hadn't infiltrated anything).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Heading home

Nothing pithy to say at the moment, ill just be glad to get home.


Somebody snuck in and cut my throat while I was sleeping

So, I'm alive, awake, breathing OK, I feel like crap, and I look like this:


And up close and personal


So, the tumor was apparently MUCH larger than they thought, the doc having described it a "about the size of a softball", which is about 4" sphere; and having a very extensive network of blood supply vessels. So instead of the usual 2" or so incision, they made an over 4" incision; and they had to install a surgical drain for the blood.

Yeah, it's gonna be a hell of a scar.

I was intubated (with a surgical airway) for the procedure, as planned; and with the large deflection of my airway, and the pressure on it, said intubation was quite rough on my throat (also as expected).

I can speak... mostly... though barely, and croakingly, and it HURTS. Swallowing, HURTS. Breathing isn't exactly pain free for that matter. Coughing... very very bad.

And, because of how much stretching, cutting, and moving things around they had to do, all the muscles in my neck also hurt, and are strained and bruised; particularly the ones directly around my airway.

You'd be amazed at how much you use those muscles for... like, say, holding your head upright, coughing, clearing your throat, moving your body in any way etc...

It's not all bad though...

These people really know how to run a hospital. I'm at Sacred Heart in Spokane, and I've never had as nice a hospital experience in my life. The people are great, the attitudes are great. They let mel sleep next to me last night, even got her a cot... Heck even the food is actually good.

Oh and this is the view from my hospital room:





The doc will be in here in a few minutes, and hopefully I'll be able to go home later today. I'll keep you all posted.




We have been fruitful and multiplied

(note from Mel: Chris wrote this yesterday but we decided to wait until he was clear of surgery and awake before posting)

Holy...


About 5 weeks. Double confirmed, two different tests, two different days, one week apart.

Projected due date is sometime around the second week of April; with a margin of error of -1/+2 weeks, so from April 7th 'til around up to my birthday of April 27th (Mels term has been almost exact to her due dates with the previous two kids).

No, this was not planned. Yes, we were on birth control. Yes, it fails sometimes. Yes we're ABSOLUTELY THRILLED about this... over the moon.

Yes, it complicated our already complicated life infinitely more... So what... We're having a baby!

Yes... I recognize the inherent hazard of releasing a Junior ME onto the world... One of me was already too much. Too bad, the world is going to have to lump it.

Yeah, I've been a dad to two wonderful girls for almost 7 years now (7 years this Christmas actually; and they're almost 9 and almost 11); and yes, my stepkids are MY KIDS dammit, and they always have been and always will be... No different from my birth child in my heart and my mind (though unfortunately not in the eyes of courts)... But this'll be my first actual baby.

Damn...

36 years old, first baby... At least Mel is only 31 and we don't have to go through all the "pregnancy over 35" stuff; and she's been through this twice before, so it's not exactly a surprise to her (and given the number of cousins I have, dealing with babies isn't new to me either... just the actual "reproducing" part).

Damn...

Unfortunately, both of our mothers have passed before they could share in this with us... But both of our fathers are still around, and OVERJOYED at this news.

Damn...

Both our moms are gone, and amazingly enough, very few of our friends are in or recently our of "infant producing" stage (most of our friends either had their kids very young, or are 5 or 10 or 15 years older than us... or are 10 years younger than us), and due to our odd wedding circumstances we never even had any wedding presents never mind getting baby stuff; and our kids are almost 9 and almost 11, so we have NO baby stuff and nobody around to give us any.

And we're broke, and baby stuff is EXPENSIVE...

Mel is working on a baby registry at Amazon right now: http://www.amazon.com/registry/baby/3FTHDCS99TJU6

Damn...

Well... Just about the time we hit toddler phase we'll have two built-in babysitters ;-)

Damn...

I'mna be a babies daddy

Damn...

Full Medical Details

So evidently my phone decided to autocorrect some of the stuff I wrote earlier. Now that I have access to my laptop I need to do an actual explanation.

Surgery was originally set to start at 1:00 - 1:30. When we walked through the doors we were told 2:30 because the case before us took longer. The anesthesiologist took over at 3:15 and that's when I left Chris in their hands.

The doc told me he'd speak to me at about 4:30. I told everyone 6:00. I received a call in the waiting room at 5:50 that things went mostly smoothly, they were closing up and the surgeon would see me shortly.

At 6:30 I received the surgeon's report.

The tumor ended up being bigger than expected, as in softball-sized (damn autocorrect changed that to golf ball, sorry). The size of the tumor meant it had made itself quite a large blood supply so there was 6-7 times the amount of blood as normal, JUST FROM THE TUMOR. Chris did not lose a lot of blood for his size or his blood volume. However with the tumor removed the blood supplies needed to be closed off and diverted so he currently has a drain in place.

The entire thyroid was removed as agreed upon. The surgeon said the tumor came free easily and was not attached to anything (a very GOOD thing). The opposite parathyroid gland seems to be healthy, the same side has some damage from the tumor but not too much however the blood supply for the same side parathyroid was distinguishable which is a good sign. Tests will determine whether or not they are functioning properly and only one needs to function properly in order to avoid problems.


There was no major nerve damage and any minor nerve damage will take a while to show.

If the drain is ready to be removed and his calcium levels stabilize he can go home tomorrow. If not tomorrow more than likely the next day.

He is feeling like crap and looks like crap with nausea and pain, however he came through surgery well. He is awake and unhappy which is always a good sign.

As for the lateness of this post, a friend who was sitting with me while I waited rushed me off to eat (for reasons that will be revealed shortly) and I had trouble with dinner (for reasons that will be revealed shortly) plus once we got here Chris needed some stuff and was sick and....

Well, you get the idea.

But it's all good, and Chris is okay.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Surgery went well

Surgeon said 6-7 times the amount of blood hes used to but didnt lose too much blood. Tumor was size of a softball. One parathyroid looks healthy other looks slightly damaged. Might be released tomorrow.

Closing up

They called me in the waiting room. Closing up now. Went well. Will talk to surgeon soon.

In surgery

Will have update by 6:00 pm pst

Checked In and Prepping

Prepping now and getting set up. Surgery pushed back until 2:30 pm.

My own PERSONAL pre-surgery prep

So the last few days I have been getting myself ready for the surgery and hospital stay (60% are just overnight - or even less in some cases, but my doc says overnight minimum -, 20% are 1 more day, 20% are 3 to 7 days), in my own personal way.

A couple things:
  1. I'm going to be stuck in a hospital room for at least overnight, and possibly up to 7 days.

  2. That hospital room is 75 miles from my home, and my wife will be staying with friends in Spokane overnight.

  3. I'm going to be woogy for at least a week, until my medications start balancing out (having your thyroid removed is a MAJOR impact to your endocrine system).

  4. I am DESPERATELY going to need to keep myself entertained during this time period.

  5. I am likely to be fatigued enough that I'll lose focus and fall asleep a lot during that entire time period.
  6. I won't be able to eat solid food for 3 to 7 days after the surgery (from midnight before the surgery... or about 90 minutes after I write this), and will have to go easy on my throat for at least a week afterwards, including nothing that's going to give me reflux (light on garlic, very little tomato, light on dairy and milk, avoiding onions even harder etc...)
  7. I have not been able to take my normal anti inflammatory medications, or any NSAIDs,  or my hormones, or my diuretics (NSAIDs can cause blood thinning and reduce clotting. My diuretics can cause blood thickening, potassium deficiency, other vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and cause accelerated clotting.) As a result, in the last three weeks, I have gained as much as 60 lbs, and am fluctuating as much as 24lbs in a single day; and my joints have swollen up to foodlike proportions (knees like grapefruits, knuckles like walnuts etc...)
  8. Also, I can't start taking them again until my throat recovers, and my stitches come out (they're giant horse pills, as well as effecting my healing, clotting etc...), so at least a week.
I have a cunning plan...

The first thing I've been doing, is eating everything I REALLY like the last two weeks. Pizza, hot wings, hot chili, hot dogs, meat sauce, bacon double cheeseburgers, dessert every night etc...

I figure if I've gained 60lbs anyway, and I can't eat them for a couple weeks... What the hell, eat whatever I want.

Second thing is, we've been laying in good tasting soft foods that I like, sufficient for next week or two. I'm going to be drinking a lot of tea, beef and chicken broth, eating beef and barley, and chicken and rice soup, mashed potatoes and gravy, some beef stew, some mild chili... Lots of ice cream...

I know... It's going to be SUCH a hardship.

Phase II... the entertainment portion... should be fairly simple... I have completely loaded my phone, tablet, and laptop with ebooks and audio books; and am packing some physical books in reserve, for those "battery emergencies".

The hospital has free wifi in room, which should help as well.

On the ebook front, I have loaded my readers with all 40 "Spenser" novels, and the 10 Jesse Stone novels, and the 21 "Travis McGee" novels, and the entire Monster Hunter series in Audiobook (at least all the ones available as such); and I'm powering through them at high speed.

In fact, since thursday afternoon, I've read the first three Jesse Stone books, then  switched over to Spenser and have read the first 14 of those (up through "Crimson Joy"). I think I'll finish Spenser before switching back to Jesse Stone, and then on to Travis McGee.

I've read all of them before, so if I lose focus and nod off, I can easily pick back up (the good thing about ebooks too. they automatically keep your place).

I am completely ready to stay in bed for a week.

Wish me luck... and pray for Mels sanity.



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Introducing Badger

Remember our unexpected houseguest?

He is a guest no more. He is a fully contributing member of the family.



We put up "found" ads. We looked at all of the lost ads. Nuthin.

On top of that, he seems to have "claimed" me. As in I am his human, there to cuddle him, brush him, and feed him. He even prefers me to Chris for some reason. He's content to hang out with me and purrs just from body contact.


He's gone from wet and starving with a raging giardia infection to hale and healthy with a penchant for hunting mice in the garage. Of course once he's tired and full from hunting he comes in so I can brush another half a cat's worth of fur out of him.

He's still working out his relationship with the dogs. Wash seems to "know" he's a kitty and while he's interested in loving the kitty he seems to understand the kitty has teeth and claws.

As far as Jayne is concerned the kitty is a puppy who, for whatever reason, is refusing to play with him. This causes much piteous whining on Jayne's part.



Zoe... Zoe is funny. She's half coonhound and half Rottweiler so she does the oddest thing. She uses the coonhound hunting skills to scent him out, chase him down, and corner him. Then the Rottweiler part turns on and she tries to LOVE him. This hasn't been working out so well. Kitty doesn't want sharp little teeth attempting to groom him, even out of love. Even worse, the more excited she gets the mouthier she gets and the hissing and scratching starts. We're working on that.


Important thing is though, the dogs aren't killing him and he seems to tolerate them well. In fact he's considerably calmer than they are. He tolerates all the butt-sniffing they throw his way and only objects when the teeth come out.

Yes, we have a low-key cat.

So low-key, and so adaptable, and so unflappable that... well... combine those traits with Zoe's tendency to keep an eye on him (and his silver-tipped guard hairs) and there's only one name that works.

Badger.


Mel

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pre-Surgery Housekeeping

Chris will be checked in for his total thyroidectomy at 11:00 am PST on Monday, August 13. The surgery is expected to start at 1:00-1:30 pm PST and take up to 2 1/2 hours. Therefore I will most likely not have the surgeon's report until 4:00 pm PST and possibly much later. Chris will most likely take until late in the evening to wake up fully.

Total thyroidectomy is a standard, common surgery with a risk of death of next to zero. The other risks are:

Permanent damage to the vocal chords: 2%
Permanent damage to the parathyroids (requiring calcium and vitamin D3 supplements for life): 10%
Risk of temporary damage to vocal chords: 10-15%

He will be in the hospital at least overnight and possibly up to 1 week while his calcium levels are stabilized.

As for contacting everyone I will do what I usually do and call the family information hubs. For the Sterns that will be my dad and my aunt Linda, the Minors my uncle Jim, the Byrnes Christy and Caroline, and the Dinmores Chris's aunt Helen. I will also be posting updates to the blog, the forum, Facebook, and our other social sites as soon as I have updates to post.

If you are looking for an update, either call one of the info hubs or check the blog or other sites. I will have limited cell battery and even more limited patience for repeating the same info over and over again. HOWEVER, if you must call or text please call or text me on my cell phone, NOT Chris's cell or the home line.

Chris will take at least one week to recover. During this time he may not be able to talk. Trying to make him talk will result in your death at my hands. Waking him up at any time (and we don't know when he'll be sleeping) will also result in your death at my hands. So please, if you must talk to him, call me first so he can recover in peace.

Insurance is taken care of and preauthorized. The hospital is ready to go. All pre-surgical tests and consults are done. I have a place to stay and people who will make sure I don't go insane. Every irritating little detail up to and including a week worth's of food where the dogs can reach it has been taken care of.

The US has invaded countries with less preparation than we've done for this surgery. Everything is set.

We'll see y'all on the other side.

Mel

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Irish knew this back in 2001

Borepatch: How Germany caused the Euro crisis

I have dual citizenship with Ireland, and lived in Ireland during the euro transition, and then for the next three years.

It was obvious to us in Ireland at the time, that our economy was going to be sacrificed to Germany, because they needed to keep the euro relatively weak to maintain their exports.

Ireland was EXPLODING with growth at the time, and our exchange rate to the euro was set and fixed several years before the euro transition, when our economy was considerably smaller, and growing considerably less. We got hosed on our initial exchange rate (based on our GDP and currency at the time of the changeover, between 25 and 40 percent depending on who's numbers you believe), and we couldn't have natural variation in our currency volume or valuation to reflect the true value of our economy, so we got hosed again.

We ended up in one of the weirdest cases of currency arbitrage in history; as the true value of our economic production GREATLY exceeded the balance sheet value of our currency.

Ireland also has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world, a relatively well educated english speaking populace, and a considerably lower average wage and cost of employment than the rest of the developed world.

This made Ireland one of the cheapest places in the world to employ skilled workers.

This led of course to a great deal MORE international investment in Ireland and in theory even more prosperity...

But Ireland was in an inflationary trap at that point; because more and more money, at relatively low value (cheap money), was pumping into the country, with a relatively fixed trading and consumer goods volume (small population, small land area, half the countries population lives and works within 20 miles of one city, 80% of the population lives within 20 miles of four cities).

Lots of money, not a lot of things to spend it on, what happens?

This is additionally complicated by the Irish cultural significance of home ownership. The Irish have among the highest rate of home ownership in the developed world (a legacy of their history as poor tenants to foreign landlords), and a very strong internal cultural drive to it.

This led directly to the massive credit bubble in Ireland, as housing inflation took off; at the same time as Ireland was being flooded by capital looking for growth opportunities.

This of course was totally artificial, and totally unsustainable; particularly given that the money coming into the country was almost entirely service based, as salaries to irish workers from U.S. and European multinationals, and services and goods purchased by those same workers (the building trades, consumer goods etc...).

When costs in Ireland climbed, or economies in the home countries of the multi-nationals had downturns (both of which happened in 2001, 2006, and 2008), the services money dried up; leaving Ireland with no real employment base of its own.

Whoops, is that the sound of a bubble I hear popping?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Don't call us, we'll call you

Ok... so, all my friends know that I REALLY dislike talking on the phone in the best of times.

... And these are not exactly the best of times.

In person, you can't shut me up; but over the phone... I just don't care for it.

Right now, I'm stressed, I'm tired, I feel like crap, and I just want to rest and relax as best I can.

My cancer surgery is Monday, and lots of friends and family have been calling... or trying to call... over the past few days.

I have been sending you all to voicemail.

Right now, I REALLY REALLY don't want to talk on the phone... and frankly I have nothing to say.

Things are exactly the same as they were the last time I talked with all of you, trust me. I still have cancer, everything in my life is basically on hold until I recover from surgery... that's about it.

After the surgery, and after my voice recovers (anywhere from the next day, to a week or so after) I'll call everyone back...

I know you're all worried about me, I know you're all thinking of me, praying for me... I just really want to relax right now, and I don't want to repeat the same story... again... for the Idon'tknowhowmanyth time.

K'thanx'bye

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Two libertarians walk into a bar...

Actually four libertarians (and two and a half larval state libertarians), and it was a restaurant; but the potential for humor is about the same.

Mel and I just had the pleasure of dinner (and Coldstone ice cream afterwards) with Aretae and his wife, and children.

No, there wasn't some long winded intellectual libertarian singularity, or formalist/structuralist matter/antimatter type explosion; though much philosophical geekery did most certainly ensue.

The only problem was that they had an early morning flight back to Texas, so we only had two hours or so to hang out, and barely got past introductions.

Aretae's lovely wife ran out of steam just around the time we (just barely) started talking about compatibilism, utilitarianism, determinism, associationism, the veil of ignorance, the social contract, and the fundamental nature of rights.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Farming in an Equilibrium Trap

JayG wrote something today about how this summers drought is hitting farmers very hard; which is absolutely true. And it's already having an impact on food prices, and that impact is just going to grow.

The crop that's being impacted worst is dent corn, which makes up the majority of livestock feed in this country; particularly beef feed. This is exacerbated by the governments ethanol mandates, which take even more of the feed corn crop out of the feed market.

Over the next couple months, we're going to see beef prices crash, as ranchers and feedlots come to the end of their stored feedstocks and slaughter more steer than normal (so they don't have to keep feeding them), and then SOAR to highs we haven't seen in years over the fall and winter.

Jay points out that some are "blaming subisidies" for the state of things... which I think is silly, you can't blame subsidies for weather (well... usually... Microclimate and regional climate adjustments due to overplanting can sometimes be blamed on subsidies... but that's not what we're talking about here).

But honestly, there's something that no-one wants to admit, no-one wants to say, and no-one wants to hear in this country....

We have too many damn farmers.

By far.

Probably by more than half, at least for some crops.

In particular we have too many grain farmers. In even greater particular, we have far too many corn and wheat farmers.

We have a natural market for corn and wheat that would support... something like half... of the farmers that we have now.

All of those people who are only making money because of subsidies; we really don't need them growing corn or wheat.

Either they need to grow something else, or they need to sell their land and stop being farmers.

Even the argument that it "keeps our food prices low" is false; because it actually keeps them higher most years. If there were no subsidies, the market would find its natural level of supply, demand, and price; and the resources inefficiently allocated to subsidized crops would simply be allocated elsewhere (and I'm not even going to get into the second order effects of this regime like obesity, HFCS vs. sugar pricing, ethanol etc...).

But we don't want to hear it.

We are constantly being presented with images of the "struggling family farmer"... And have been for over 100 years.

Shouldn't that tell you something?

There are plenty of very profitable and prosperous farmers in this country, and plenty of large farming corporations that do quite well...

And who are they?

They're farmers that grow crops which don't get subsidies, who have found ways to be economically efficient; or they are farm corporations who have found ways to extract the maximum amount of government benefits.

Again... shouldn't that tell you something?

When a business is failing, that doesn't tell you "we need to subsidize it", it tells you we need to reduce its regulatory and tax burdens and operational restrictions (stop artificially reducing its competitiveness); or we need to let that business die.

Farming is no different from any other business. If it's not competitive, we shouldn't be encouraging people to do it (unless it's of importance to national security, and thus can't be outsourced or offshored; and even then that's an iffy one, and we should still be encouraging competitiveness internally ) and we shouldn't be rescuing or subsidizing it.

Why on earth have we been subsidizing these non-viable crops for 80 years?

Oh wait... I know... it's because to get elected president, you need to win the majority of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio; and to be elected to congress (outside of a major urban constituency anyway) or win those states in the general election, you have to support subsidies for grain farming.

Right now, these farmers are in an equilibrium trap, where because of government subsidies they can just barely get by; but because of inefficiency, actual market conditions etc... they can't get ahead

The way to deal with equilibrium traps, is to break out of them completely. You can't do that by keeping on doing what put you in the trap to begin with; and they've been doing that for 80 years.

If we stopped subsidizing these crops, people would take huge losses in the first few years; particularly as their land prices fell dramatically. It would hurt. A few hundred thousand people would take a big hit...
An aside about numbers: there are about 2.3 million "farms" in the united states. 65% of all crops are produced by 9% of all farms (which farm 59% of the agricultural land), and 85% of all crops are produced by 15% of all farms.

Of the appx. 2.3 million "farms", about 2.1 million are considered "family farms". About 1.9 million of those farms are considered "small family farms", which have gross revenues of less than $250,000 per year, and produce less than 15% of all crops. Of those, about 35%, produce about 9% of the total crops in this country and are generally considered viable. 40% are essentially "hobby" or "part time" farms that produce less than 3% of all crops per year. It's the 25% or so of those 2 million farms, which only produce 3-4% of all crops, and which are basically non-viable, that are the biggest issue.

Oh and 10% of all farms receive 75% of all subsidies, for producing about 25% of all crops. Corn, wheat, cotton, rice, soybeans, dairy, peanuts, and sugar, make up 97% of subsidies. Corn and wheat alone make up 52%, cotton about 14%, rice and soybeans another 23%). 
The VAST majority of those subsidies go to large corporate feed grain farms in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, and Ohio, and to large corporate Cotton farms in Texas (Texas produces 30% of all cotton in the U.S., with Arkansas, California, Mississippi, and Georgia accounting for another 40%); NOT to "small family farmers".
And then, we would be better off as a nation; and THEY would be better off as individuals. They, and their children, would no longer be trapped into a just barely livable, just barely getting by, dependent on the government economic condition for decades. They would move to more productive more useful employment. They would be better off eventually, as would the country as a whole.

The problem? Many of them don't want to. They WANT to be farmers, even though they KNOW it's a bad business. They love being farmers. They've been farmers for generations in their family.  It's all they know, it's what they're passionate about, it's part of their culture and they can't see ever doing anything else.

Well... I want to be an Aerospace Engineer, and design and build airplanes; or even boats (many boat designers are also aerospace engineers. It's a very similar field of study). It's what I trained for, and I love it and am very passionate about it.

But it's not viable for me.

There are more than enough airplane designers out there for the market as it exists today; so I can't find employment as an airplane designer. The fact is, very few new airplanes are being designed.

Now, I'm the first to say that we should get the excessive regulatory burden out of the way of the aircraft industry, and if we did that it's likely that more aircraft would be designed and more aerospace engineers could find jobs...

But would you say that just because I can't find a job in the field I was educated in, that we should subsidize that field just so I could?

...Well... Sadly, some would... Or at least they would, if the field I was in was politically or socially favored... But anyone with any sense or integrity knows better.


We have romanticized the idea of the "family farmer" in this country for far too long.

The fact is, it is no longer economically viable, nor is it necessary, for many of these people to be farmers, and we should stop enabling the equilibrium trap constantly keep them locked into farming, but always on the edge of failing.