Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

9/30/2011

Ferromagnetic Liquid and Bubbles

Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:01 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Science is cool.

Okay, let’s be real here; some science is cooler than others.
Seriously, all that stuff about finding faster-than-light particles is awesome, but, it’s mostly invisible to us.  As a kid, one of my favorite places in the entire world was the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.  I loved it because it animated science and taught the principles and ideas in such a creative way that many of them have stuck with me as an adult.
One of the coolest exhibits was around soap bubbles.  Well, soap bubbles filled with natural gas.  From this exhibit, I learned that bubbles are round, no matter what shape the tool used to create them is, because they’re an equalization of pressure inside and outside the bubble, which always forms a sphere.  I also learned that natural gas bubbles explode when they hit a flame.
What can I tell you?  I’ve always loved fire and this museum played to that.

So, in partial homage to that exhibit, here is a bubble display of a slightly different kind: Bubbles and ferromagnetic liquid.
They don’t explode, but it is pretty damn amazing to watch.
Besides, it’s Friday and if you’re reading this, it’s not like you have anything else to do, so go ahead and check it out!

 

9/23/2011

Gadget Trak Really Works!

Filed under: Art,Fun,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is mid-afternoon or 3:45 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Ever lost a camera?

And, by “lost”, I mean, has your camera ever been stolen?  Well, Gadget Trak can help.  And, now we know that it’s not an empty claim!
I’ve mentioned other camera tackers before, but Gadget Trak’s stolen camera finder has been verified by a photographer who used it to recover his camera.

The photographer is a pro by the name of John Heller who “lost” $9,000 worth of equipment he needs to pursue his livelihood while on assignment in California.  He used the tool to find other photos on the internet that had been taken with his stolen camera.  That led him to another pro who had unwittingly bought the stolen camera.  The L.A. Police are still investigating the people from whom the stolen camera was bought, but what really matters is that Mr. Heller has gotten his gear back!

And, yes, that is a free service they offer.  Because, hey, on a Friday am I going to try to sell you something?  Of course not!
Y’all have a great weekend!

9/16/2011

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, not today, but soon!

Monday, September 19th is the official Talk Like A Pirate Day.  It’s an internet holiday, which means you still have to show up at the office, but at least you can talk like a pirate!  Yeah, that’s pretty much the whole thing.  It’s a day to celebrate talking like a pirate, created by the internet.

Happy Friday!

(Hey, what do you want from me?  It’s been a tough week, okay?)

9/14/2011

Finally, A Cure For This Disease

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:43 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, seriously!

It seems that there’s an new, experimental, gene therapy that may cure cancer.  At least, for two of three test subjects, it cured advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  That’s a type of cancer, incidentally, very similar to the diffuse large B-cell lymphoma that I was diagnosed as having back in 2007.  You can read the full story over at the New York Times, but, here’s the rundown in brief.
The researchers took regular, virus-and-tumor-fighting T-cells from the patients and added specially tailored genes to them which let the T-cells target the cancer cells.  Then, they “dripped” the altered T-cells back into the patients, who had already exhausted all other treatment options, including chemotherapy and bone-marrow transplants.  Ten days later, the first patient got the chills.  And his temperature spiked while his blood pressure dropped.  The doctors moved him to an intensive care unit, not quite sure what was happening to him.  A few weeks later, all his symptoms were gone.  And so was the leukemia.  He was normal.

Granted, there have only been three test cases, including the one I just described, with varying results, but two out of the three had an apparently complete cure of their cancer.  For most of us who have had cancer of any kind, those are pretty damn good odds.  They’re odds that I’d take, should I have cancer again, that’s for sure.
And, frankly, it all sounds like a miracle, like science-fiction come true.

When I was getting chemotherapy, I ordered a t-shirt, really without thinking too much about it.  It was a joke, about the future and how we were promised jetpacks and how the futurists lied to us.  But, when it arrived, I read it more closely.  Here’s what it said:
“they lied to us
this was supposed to be the future
where is my jetpack,
where is my robotic companion,
where is my dinner in pill form,
where is my hydrogen fueled automobile,
where is my nuclear-powered levitating home,
where is my cure for this disease
Well, it looks like the future is now.
Thank God.

 

9/12/2011

Another Year’s Reprieve

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:20 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

I’m not going to die.

Well, at least, I’m not going to die of cancer.  Not this year, anyway.
Today, the oncologist told me my lymphoma is in full remission still.  In fact, the scar tissue has shrunk even more, from 14cm to 11cm, which I think is kind of amazing, but didn’t seem to illicit any special notice from the doctor.  Some people are just impossible to please, I guess!
He was a little worried because my blood pressure was high, but, then again, I’d just driven though rush-hour traffic to wait around for more than an hour for results on whether or not I was going to have to let them poison me for another six months.  All things considered, I think it’s pretty normal that I might have a slightly elevated BP!  But, I will keep an eye on it and make sure it normalizes again.
He did say, also, that I’ve made it to the point where less than 10% of the people have a likely recurrence of lymphoma.  And, according to his Physician’s Assistant, the five-year mark is where I can be officially considered “cured”, which is the first time anyone has actually told me that.  Everyone else keeps telling me that I’ll never really be “cured”, per se, but always in remission with a smaller, and smaller, and smaller chance of reoccurence every year.  So, today, I got a little more hope than I had before, which is actually pretty nice.

All in all, a pretty good result.  I’ll go back in another 10 months for another scan, which is not quite as long as I’d like, but, better than going again sooner because they found something to be concerned about.  At that time, they will start me on a course of annual visits for this scan, which I’m not incredibly happy about, but will do until a better option comes along.  And, based on what his PA told me, I think it will be something negotiable.  The doctor may not realize that, but, well, I suspect he’s not quite used to dealing with a patient like me.  My last doctor and I joked about the fact that I wouldn’t pay my bills until I knew she was going to do her job and save my life.  We agreed that it seemed only fair!  Of course, she did, in fact, save my life, so I did pay those bills.  That is, however, one concern I have for the long-term; paying those bills.  This gets to be a pretty expensive process and if I don’t really need to keep doing it every year, I may chose to opt for a slightly modified plan.
The doctor may not be excited by that, but I have ten months to sharpen my bargaining skills, while he’s completely in the dark about my plans.  It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out!

Until then, though, I continue to work on my general health and wellness.  I was pleasantly surprised to weigh in at a mere 216, fully clothed and laden down with my ridiculous “daily carry” of keys and flash drives and over-stuffed wallet and all the other pocket litter, as the spies call it, that I usually have on me.  As I mentioned, my blood pressure was a bit high, but I’ll work on that.  A little Zen meditation, and maybe some yoga, ought to bring that under control again.
Oh, don’t be so shocked by the yoga!  No, I haven’t started doing it yet, but several people have suggested it and I decided to start looking into it.  I’m getting older and starting to tighten up some.  My knees in particular seem to get stiffer faster than they did.  Besides, I hear yoga class is a great place to meet women who are physically fit!

I do still struggle a bit with depression.  Nothing too bad, but, well, it is something that cycles around on a semi-regular basis.  I figure the yoga and meditation would help with that, too.  Speaking about my psychological well-being…
My oncologist tells me I should get married.  I thought it might be better to start with dating, but I’m pretty sure I can work the “doctor’s orders” into a decent and semi-original opening line.  I think a bit of laughing in the face of death might help some, too.  I hear chicks dig that.  Of course, I also hear that magnets can cure joint pain and people pay huge money for the kind of rough treatment my poor colon got last week for “health reasons”.  Frankly, I find it hard to believe that a regular course of high colonics could possible be good for me, so I’ll take the things Men’s Health tells me about women with a grain of salt.  (Though, I have started to edit my Match.com profile again in preparation for stepping out in the wild world of dating again.  Seriously.  Lock up your daughters!  Seriously!)

So, yeah, after all my angst last week about the physical side-effects of chemotherapy, I’ve been spared that.  I even got better than expected news, frankly!  So, I admit, I do feel a bit foolish for getting so worked up about it.  I mean, I should have more faith than that, shouldn’t I?  Well, that’s something else I’m still working on.
Thankfully, it seems I have the time.

 


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"In God we trust. All others we polygraph."

9/9/2011

Apocalypse Moby

Filed under: Art,Fiction,Fun,Movies,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:36 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I’ve never been a huge fan of Moby Dick.

But, I have to admit, the idea of mashing Moby Dick with Apocalypse Now seems like a pretty killer idea to me.  And, that, dear readers, is just what Apocalypse Moby is; an amazing mashup of these two very different stories that comes out amazingly well.  In fact, it almost had a science-fiction feeling to it.  Or maybe that was just my personal experience leaking through, but, either way, it was pretty cool.

Of course, it’s a play, stage-play or screen-play, depending on your bent, which may make it a bit challenging to read, but, I think it’s worth it.  And, trust me on this, it works surprisingly well.  Honest.
It’s just the thing to read on a weekend when you’re too hot to do anything else anyway.  So, go ahead, it’s free!  Go download it and read it!
And have a great weekend!!

9/7/2011

I Had Cancer

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is mid-afternoon or 4:35 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

And, while that IS true, it’s not what this post is about, exactly.

When you have cancer, or have survived cancer, you feel alone.  You feel like there isn’t anyone in the world who understands you or your life or what you went through or are going through now.  But, at the same time, you know there are others.  You’ve seen them in waiting rooms and lines and shuffling in and out of hospital rooms and doctor’s offices.  They are out there.  And, now, a new social networking site aims to help fellow cancer survivors, and cancer patients, find each other.  It’s called I Had Cancer.

So, yeah, I’ve signed up, and even posted a little bit, but I haven’t gotten too far into the “social” part of the site yet, but it’s still in Beta anyway.  So, if you had cancer, have cancer, or know someone who did, or does, check out I Had Cancer.
And, check back here Monday, September 12th, for the next entry in my personal cancer story.

9/5/2011

In Search of Schrödinger’s Tumor

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:52 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I may, or may not, have cancer.

Now, before all my regular readers and, due to my automated update configurations, my Twitter and Facebook friends who might read this, get too excited, nothing has changed in my recent medical status.  However, Wednesday, I go in for a scan.  A regular scan, nothing special, nothing new.  My scheduled, nine-month scan, per the standard protocol.  Or so I have been lead to believe.

The scan, however routine it may be, will not decide if I have cancer, however.
That, I’m afraid, already is.  Or is not.  Either my body has betrayed me again and a cancerous growth has lodged itself in my chest or it hasn’t and I’m as healthy as I feel.  Personally, I’m inclined to think that I’m cancer free, still, and this whole exercise will be a test of the quality of my health insurance.  But, also, as it turns out, it’s a test of my patience and courage.

You have to understand, I’m not afraid of cancer.  Or of death, either, really.  It’s chemotherapy that terrifies me.
Cancer, as such, is just a way of describing cells that have gotten a bit carried away with themselves and aren’t too particular about playing by the standard set of rules.  And death…  Well, death is the one thing we all have in common.  None of us make it out of this place alive.  Not a one.  Death, in its way, is the final answer.  The ultimate solution to every problem I’ve ever had or can ever conceive of having.  So, no, though I don’t know what waits on the other side of that particular experience, death doesn’t frighten me so much.
Chemotherapy, on the other hand, I do know.  It is, I think, the embodiment of suffering.  At least, for me.

I know everyone’s experience with chemotherapy is different, so, let me take a moment and tell you why it is that I fear it.  For me, chemo was about losing all my hair, all my color, close to sixty pounds, and virtually all my energy.  And, frankly, in a very, very short amount of time.
My hair went first.  I remember it coming out in clumps in the shower.  Just like in the movies.  I started to cry when it happened.  Great racking sobs, with tears running down my face, mixing with the soapy water.  No one can see you crying in the shower.  I recommend it, if you have any crying to do in the future and you’d rather people not know.  It’s one of the many useful things I’ve learned from one of my ex’s.  I took my beard trimmer and cranked it down to the shortest setting, then sheared the rest away myself.  My own way of taking a bit of control back, I suppose.  But, I remember that day, more than four years ago, as if it were yesterday.  A few days later, I shaved for the last time in what would turn out to be more than six months.
My eyebrows and ear hair and nose hair weren’t far behind.  You have no idea how important nose hair is until you don’t have any.  Trust me.  My nose ran for weeks and weeks and weeks.  Nonstop.  All those annoying, little hairs filter the nasty gunk out of the air and grip it with that snotty mucous up in there and keep it from getting into your lungs, as it turns out.  Without it, well, your nose just runs and runs and runs like a little kid with a cold on a Winter playground.

The weight and the color took longer.  By the time I was an unhealthy, pallid gray, my goatee had become so thin that I shaved it off.  And, I was a larval, grub-like thing, pale and weak, before the weight started to melt off me.
Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded the weight loss, but it took muscle as much as it took the fat.  And, of course, it involved severe nausea and, yes, actual vomiting.  Not to mention all the other symptoms, like how everything smelled different; how all my favorite food smelled, well, wrong somehow.  And the weird bloating I would get in my hands and arms that led the doctors to proscribe diuretics and force the poor nurses to record how much I peed, by volume.  I was measured and weighed regularly.  Multiple times per day, actually.  Oh, and the drugs!  Pills by the score, a fist-full at a time.  Self-administered injections three times a day, at one point.  All while fighting nausea and trying to find a square inch of flesh that I could still pinch up enough to get a needle into without going all the way through.

Death would have been easier.

But, as a wise, Zen-Catholic almost-monk reminded me recently, without fear, there can be no bravery.
He also reminded me that the test will only show what is, or is not, already there.  It will only tell me if I have just another problem to deal with, or another opportunity to exercise my courage, or, simply, a bill to pay and just another doctor’s appointment to go to and questions to ask and answer.
And, either way, all I can do is live in the present moment.  What’s happened is done already.  What happens in the future is yet to be determined and may not have anything to do with what has come before.  And, regardless of the results of this scan on Wednesday, which I’ll get on the following Monday, I can only live as best I can, as best I know how.  There will, ultimately, be other scans, other tests, potentially one every year until the day I do, finally, make the last great leap into the dark.  In between those scans, however many there may be, I slowly, gradually, have chosen to live healthier.  The past couple years, I’ve been juicing.  Fresh, home-made, organic vegetable juice.  And, this year, fruit smoothies.  Both, or either, instead of sandwiches for lunch, along with yogurt, which has lately been organic as well, and, newest of all, Greek for the higher protein.
I exercise more regularly than ever.  I’d like to be less heavy than I am, or at least less fat.  Pound for pound, more muscular would be just fine at my weight.  Less stiff and less creaky in the joints would be okay, too.  Some mornings when I get up, I sound very much like a bowl of Rice Krispies my joints snap, crackle and pop so much.  Several people have suggested that I add yoga to my exercise regimen, that it would help with flexibility and ease my stiff joints.  And, when I hear a thing three times, from three very different people, I have to at least investigate that or risk the Universe taking offense at my willfully ignoring the suggestion.  So, this conservative, meat-and-potatoes, tough-minded, mostly pragmatic Mid-Westerner has found himself a bit adrift in Texas, more liberal and open-minded toward alternative health practices, eating mostly fruits and vegetables and “crunchy granola”, and, yes, finally, investigating yoga, of all things.  At least I hear the classes are mostly women, so, who knows, maybe I’ll meet a nice, healthy girl who won’t laugh too loudly at my foolishness.

So, regardless of how terrified I may be of having to endure chemotherapy again, or how distasteful I find the radioactive enema I will pay an enormous deductible on, I will face the day, the scan, with as much courage and dignity as I can still manage.  I will do my best to be thankful for the friends and family who support me in my weakness and discomfort, and, yes, for the medical staff who will run me through their gauntlet.  I will try to be patient while waiting for the results of what is already there, or not, like Schrödinger’s cat, who’s state cannot be known until it is observed.
And, when all is said and done, I will try not to let the fear cripple me, but, rather, I will do my best to live more fully.  Certainly, more fully than I have been, more courageously, I hope.  I will still know fear, I am sure, but, as I was reminded, there can be no courage without the fear first.

Of course, until that all happens, I will be more than happy to accept your prayers, good thoughts, and any introductions to nice, pretty, healthy ladies who aren’t more than ten years younger than I.
But, let’s start with those prayers, okay?
Thanks.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else."
   --Booker T. Washington

9/2/2011

DupeGuru, Music Edition

Filed under: Fun,music,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:22 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Do you have a lot of music?

I’m not a huge music person, really.  At least, not in the pop-music on the radio all the time kind of way.  But, I am sort of a digital pack-rat, which means I’ve actually got a surprising collection of MP3 files.  And, of course, moving those from computer to computer means I’ve ended up with a surprising number of duplicates.  So, what to do?
Well, now there’s DupeGuru, music edition.  Pretty much what it says; a program to help you remove duplicates and this one is the “special” edition for music.  Though I have to admit that I’m not sure what the difference between the editions could be, really.

In any case, since I’m sure you’re not working on a Friday, you might as well check it out and get your music sorted for the long weekend!
Enjoy!


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