Cameron Moll: 10 Things I Wish Every Design Student Knew. I think I’d have to underline #1. The greatest output of your careers will be relationships, #3. I’ve made a career out of pushing myself to do things I was totally unqualified for, and #10. Creativity is storytelling as the three that have shaped my life.

Date posted: October 24, 2017 | Filed under design, shortlinks, teaching | Leave a Comment »

Last week I picked up my bass and ripped through about ten songs, knowing I wouldn’t be able to do it during the later stages of chemotherapy. It felt good in my hands and after the second song I was locked in–which is always a good feeling. As I was playing I started thinking about the basses I’ve had and how they affected how and what I play.

My first bass guitar was a huge Ibanez Blazer that my Dad bought me when I was 15. I’ve recounted the story of buying that bass before, and it was a good instrument to learn on–to a point. Because it was so big, and set up for funk playing, it was long scale (a long fretboard) and built for fat slapping strings. It would have been ideal to learn any Bootsy Collins riff out there. It had a great tone but wasn’t a good bass for learning fast, technical rock pieces (Rush, Metallica, Zeppelin, etc.) that I was playing at the time. Given their length and action, the strings were moving so much I found it hard to stay ahead of them; my fingers were always behind and I’d drop notes and lose the rhythm. I used this bass through high school and into college, but after I bought a Steinberger it stayed in the case.

The Steinberger I bought from my friend Stas, who was (wisely) playing musical basses through high school, looking for the right one. He started out with a Cort, basically a $100 beginner instrument, moved to a Rickenbacker 4001 and pretty quickly traded that (it wasn’t black like Geddy’s and the action was too tall, IIRC) for a 1976 Les Paul, sold that, and got the Steinberger, sold that to me, and then bought a new Precision Bass. We spent a lot of afternoons sitting and swapping instruments on different tracks, so I remember playing all of these basses, but I didn’t appreciate the feel of his P-Bass until much later. I immediately liked the Steinberger because it was shorter scale, MUCH tighter than the Ibanez, and easier to play technical stuff on. Plus it was compact and weird. I’ve had it since about 1990 or so and played it extensively, and what was liberating about it at first became a liability; with the shorter scale and smaller strings, the action was TOO tight. It has a great tone, it’s fast, and it doesn’t weigh four tons. But because the action is tight, there’s no feel. Somewhere between the booming ropes on the Ibanez and the tight piano strings on the Steinberger, there had to be a sweet spot. But because it was a hobby and not a profession, buying a new bass was never a priority.

When I bought a cheap Jazz bass on a whim last year, I figured it would be a fun toy for the right price that I could easily flip on Craigslist. I asked a friend to pick it up for me, as he lived near the seller, and because he’s a musician he knew what to look for. I honestly wasn’t expecting much but when I got it home I was astonished at how good the setup was. The nicotine-soaked strings, while disgusting, felt amazing, played like a dream, and had a killer tone. I restrung it after washing the body repeatedly and while I don’t like the replacement strings nearly as much the feel is still there. It’s the sweet spot between boomy and tight. I rarely get behind the rhythm and I don’t tire out trying to get a feel out of it. And it feels right in my hands. The scale is perfect–somehow it feels wider than the Steinberger but shorter than the Ibanez. I don’t hunt for frets like I did on the Ibanez and I don’t get crunched up on the high frets like I do on the Steinberger. It’s balanced and friendly.

Upon reflection, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed a Precision Bass as much as I enjoy its cousin. I remember Stas’ bass as being looser than the Steinberger but not by much; maybe that’s just 30 years talking. Having played several in the music store down the street over the years, they feel OK but not right. I never really thought to pick up a Jazz because I always thought they were bigger and heavier, but I guess I was mistaken. Thinking about how much I’m enjoying playing the Jazz these days, I wonder if my high school and college musical pursuits would have been different, knowing I had more confidence in what I was playing and how it felt.

Apparently there’s a pick-up dad band around the corner from here, and they need a bass player at some point. When I get past chemo and surgery and chemo again, I’m going to go look them up.

Date posted: October 24, 2017 | Filed under bass, music | 1 Comment »

Day two is just about over. I asked for classic rock from the techs in the radiology lab and got an old AC/DC tune called If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It), Crazy Train, and Enter Sandman. Maybe I won’t ask for classic rock again.

We were able to reschedule all of the rest of the chemo appointments to earlier in the day, basically right after radiation, so there’s about 15 minutes between where we can get a latte and a muffin and then queue up in an (almost) empty room at 8:15–a far cry from yesterday at 12, where it was like a cattle pen in there. We had our choice of bed, got hooked up to fluids at 8:40, and I’m done by 12:30. I’m feeling lightheaded and foggy today, moreso than yesterday, but my stomach doesn’t burn because I took some Prilosec before they started the infusion.

Last night I was up a lot to pee out the radiation, and it was hard to get back to sleep. We are told this is due to one of the anti-nausea medications I’m on, so I’ll have to keep a watch on how much sleep I’m getting and make sure I get enough. Also, having the needle in was no big deal! I didn’t roll over on it, the cats didn’t jump on it, and Finley didn’t hug it out the other side of the vein. So, my subconscious fears were unrealized.

Date posted: October 24, 2017 | Filed under cancer | Leave a Comment »

Lifehacker has a good writeup on how to get Siri to pronounce names correctly. When Finn was a toddler we bought her a doll that talked and played games and responded to buttons; it used a weird pronunciation of her name that I still haven’t been able to get out of my head.

Date posted: October 23, 2017 | Filed under apple, geek, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I’m home after day one of chemotherapy, and I’m still alive. Radiation was no big deal, although it finally caught up with me on Sunday when the Marines stormed the beach in three successive waves. That’s still a good thing, because the way the baby is sitting the doctors have been worried about everything getting stopped up. Luckily that hasn’t been a problem yet.

I am terrified of chemo. Needles, poison, radiation, hair loss, puking, diarrhea; it’s like a smorgasbord of things I hate, all at the same time! Not knowing what to expect, now or five days from now, is equal parts deliberate masochism and mercy. Reading about it on the Internet will only lead down a rabbit hole of “My chemo experience was more painful/disgusting/useless than yours,” and I can’t do that shit right now. I want to know the reality, not the chestburster version of events. The nurses have all been awesome and informative and I’m asking them as many questions as I can think of, and of course Jen is doing the same, but better.

We got into the room a couple hours late due to scheduling mixups, but they knew we were there and got things straightened out. I laid down in a comfy window bed at about 12 and a nice nurse put the line into my port, which hurt for a second but then, oddly, did not. It’s amazing what we can get used to when we need to. They pushed saline into me for about an hour, and then switched over to anti-nausea medication. This was a smaller bag but when it hit it felt like I’d done a shot of whisky: BOOM, right to the head. My mouth went dry and my head floated up off my neck like a balloon tied to my spine. Then, it was time for poison!

They’re giving me two different drugs, Etoposide and Ifosfamide. Etoposide is the lighter of the two. Ifosfamide is more potent, and likes to keep working after it’s made its way into the bladder, so they gave me a third drug that stops the drug from eating away at the bladder wall. Yay! They started the light one first and then hit me with the heavy one. I didn’t feel nausea as much as I felt my stomach–or the place where my stomach used to be–feeling angry. Like heartburn angry, but where the baby is. Only repeated visits to the bathroom helped. This also means I’m sitting down on the toilet so that I don’t piss radioactivity all over the bathmat.

Jen sat across from me on the bench and made sure I was eating from the cooler she’d carefully packed: one of everything in the fridge. She rubbed my feet when I was stiff and held my hand when I was nervous. She checked on me and made sure I was feeling OK. She asked careful questions I’m too dumb to think of: if I had to do this on my own, I’d be one of those guys who wakes up across the border in a bathtub of ice with a scar and a note cheerfully telling me someone stole my kidney. She is my rock(star) and I am so thankful to have her by my side.

After I emptied the bags our nurse pushed another 1/3 bag of fluids in me and then we were free to go at about 5. The nurse listened to my boilerplate “I’m a chicken when it comes to needles” story, and suggested we leave it in. I wasn’t aware we could do that, so I figured what the hell. So I have a needle sticking out of my chest, attached to a plastic tube. Again, it’s amazing what we can get used to. Before we left we rescheduled some of the visits to earlier in the day, when the ward isn’t as crowded, which is great for us, both for getting things over with and avoiding rush hour traffic on a full bladder.

So, four more days of this shit. I’m told it will get much worse on Wednesday, which I don’t doubt. And the weekend is supposed to be loads of fun.

Date posted: October 23, 2017 | Filed under cancer | Leave a Comment »

This is about all I can do to the Scout right now, but it’s a welcome addition. I replaced the missing strap on the left corner of the soft top, sewing it into the seam where the top and rear panels meet. Hopefully it will last longer this time.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: October 22, 2017 | Filed under Repairs, Scout | Comments Off on Strapped

We got an unexpected happy letter from USAA this afternoon telling us we’ve paid off the Accord completely, and they’ll be sending us the new title in the next couple of weeks. Bonus! There’s an extra $175/mo. we can use for other stuff. Now we own three cars outright: one that’s 8 years old, one that’s 11 years old, and one that’s (I think) 41 years old.

Date posted: October 21, 2017 | Filed under cars, money | Leave a Comment »

Nothing new to report on radiation, other than fatigue in the afternoon. I’m sleeping heavily at night and it’s hard to wake up in the morning–although that could be due to our new morning schedule starting at 6AM, and the lack of sunlight at this point in the season. Laying on the table with my arms above my head was tough on Thursday because the port was sore and swollen but today was much easier. One day’s rest made a huge difference.

Thursday after treatment we went upstairs to attend ‘chemo class’ where they explain what will happen and where we’ll go when things start. It’s a smaller waiting room in the corner of a hallway and it was already filled with people at 9AM. The class was short and to the point and aside from some dumb comments by the friend of a fellow patient (I don’t give a shit about pissing my chemo drugs into the storm drains, you dumb bitch, I HAVE CANCER) pretty painless.

At work, I wrapped up as much as I could, logged out of all my sites, and put the “working from home” sign on my computer. I have no idea when I’ll make it back there.


* * *

On a brighter note, we got five presents dropped off at the house this afternoon: new windows for the bathroom upstairs. With all that’s been happening this summer I haven’t been that focused on making progress there, but a fortunate phone call saved the day. I’ll explain. One of the contractors I had come in and bid on the job sent out a window guy to measure and write up an estimate as a sub. I showed him the space and we talked over the plans, and he figured each window wouldn’t be more than $250. He left before I thought to ask him for a card. We got all the estimates and had to punt because all the bids were $15K higher than we expected. I still wanted windows and knew he had measured the openings correctly, so I figured I’d try to find him. I knew he worked for 84 Lumber but not where, so I called around all the stores looking for him with no luck. A week later he called me out of the blue to ask a question, and I told him the situation but I wanted to order the windows. A little back and forth, a look at a sample window, and the deal was struck.

We have a guy standing by to put them in for us, who’s worked on our neighbor’s house and whose work we like. He’s going to stud out the walls, frame up the new closet, cover the unneeded windows, insulate everything, and prep for drywall. The price he quoted is fair and affordable, and we’re going for it.

Date posted: October 20, 2017 | Filed under bathroom, cancer, house | Leave a Comment »

Radiation is pretty much just repetition at this point. The worst part about it is getting the family out of bed at 6AM. Today Jen and I stayed at the hospital for a few more hours to have a port put in my neck, which will make the administration of the chemo drugs safer and easier on my veins. This involved going upstairs to the outpatient wing, checking into a kiosk, checking in at a desk, signing some papers, checking in at another desk, and waiting in a room until they called my name. By 8:30 my head was pounding from lack of caffeine although I’m down to a cup of half-caf so by the time they brought me back to suit up I felt terrible.

In the waiting room we ran into our neighbors again, who were doing a procedure of their own; They wheeled him in about 20 minutes before me. We joked on his way past that I’d hold his hand under the curtain while they worked on us. The phlebotomist was a pro and had my IV in without any sensation at all, and then they wheeled me down a couple of hallways to my OR.

I woke back up in the recovery room feeling groggy and slightly nauseous, and that feeling only intensified the more I stood up. When I had the biopsy I puked in a trash can as I got dressed but this time I was able to wait until I made it home; the act of walking from the car to the front door was enough to send all the crackers and apple juice I’d had right back up. Between my head, the pain from the port, and my heart racing I napped poorly until the girls got home, and then was able to have some bites of food before napping again. Once I woke back up at 6:30 I felt much better and have been moving around ever since.

Having the port is an odd sensation. It feels like I pulled a muscle in my neck until I raise my right arm or twist my neck and then I realize there’s a piece of plastic in there. Ewwwww. But if it’s a simple way to draw blood and take medicine without repeated needle sticks, I’ll live with it.

Date posted: October 18, 2017 | Filed under cancer | Leave a Comment »

Today’s selection in the Radiology room was slow jams. As long as it’s not Norwegian Death Metal, I’m pretty game with whatever they play. Shit, there was a song on the other day that I liked, and when I looked up the lyrics this morning it turned out to be Lana Del Rey. No side effects to report yet, although my radiologist says that’s something that will show up towards the end as a cumulative effect. He seems pretty confident they can shrink it especially as the chemotherapy kicks in; this is in contrast to what we first heard where they said it wouldn’t reduce in size at all–and possibly swell larger. He seems confident and he’s happy I’m not having any issues with my bottom system (knocks on wood) which seems to be everyone’s big concern.

After our quick checkin with him, I had blood drawn upstairs in preparation for both the port install and as a baseline for chemo next week. Tomorrow will be a mostly full day at the hospital. Radiation in the morning, sitting around until 11, then half an hour for the install. After that I sit around for a couple of hours while they observe me to make sure I’m not hosing down the room, and then they kick me loose.

Next week I’m going to be sitting in chemo for most of each day and possibly doing some work in the afternoons, but I’m not betting on feeling up to doing anything. Week two will be the true ass-kicker, and on week three I’ll hopefully feel human again.

* * *

When we walked through the mildew house back in June, one of the things I found in a drawer was a broken diver’s watch that was encrusted in dirt. I liked the dial and thought it was cool so I threw it in a box with the other stuff we took home. A month later I found a jeweler in Baltimore who offered a watch repair service, and dropped it off with them. It came back clean with a new bezel keeping pretty accurate time. I threw a NATO band on it and wore it for a while but I kept thinking about a picture I found of the same watch with a leather band when I was researching it.

In August I paid $30 to a nice woman in the Ukraine to make me a watchband that matches one I saw in the picture. It showed up yesterday and while I’m still getting used to the fact that it’s not a utilitarian nylon strap, I’m growing to like it more and more.

Date posted: October 17, 2017 | Filed under cancer, watches | Leave a Comment »