Three years ago — almost to the hour — I was exiting surgery, cured of colon cancer, and starting a new phase of my life.
It’s hard to believe it’s only been three years… that time in my life was really dark and scary as we led up to the resection that eliminated the evil intruder in my bowels. It seems like a lifetime ago.
And as scary as it was, it was, in the end (no pun intended!), pretty straightforward. Had it not been for the massive infection that followed, it would’ve been almost a non-event. I spent more time recovering from the infection than I did from the removal of a third of my colon.
Now, three years downstream, I think I’m a little healthier — I’ve squandered that opportunity somewhat, although adding running to my life has certainly been a step in the right direction. I think I’ve got a long way to go to fully “get healthy,” but it’s doable, and I know I’ve been given a second chance to position myself for healthier days for the rest of my life. That second chance is a gift, and one I need to take more advantage of.
For the family and friends that made up my support team over the last three years — THANK YOU! You have no idea what it meant to have your support at the time, or what you’ve meant to me since.
Later today, Becky and I go off to lunch to celebrate my NED (No Evidence of Disease) anniversary, and I can’t wait. It’s so wonderful to celebrate my “rebirth” at this time of year when we’re also celebrating the birth of Christ.
In fairness, I haven’t exactly been keeping close track, but recently decided to chronicle my races since I started down this crazy path nearly three years ago.
You see, almost three years ago, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. And while I put on a brave face to everyone around me, to my ears, it was like a death sentence when my gastroenterologist told me there was a two-inch tumor inside me. I was petrified until a few days later when Becky described what the doc had actually said, and it began to hit me just how lucky I was … I had a completely curable Stage I intruder, with great prospects for my future survivability.
Shortly thereafter, I heard about the Undy 5000, which was a fundraiser for the Colon Cancer Alliance. The folks in CCA are awesome, and I knew I had to help support them. So, three months after being diagnosed and subsequently cured through surgery, I ran my first 5K. Having never really run before, this was new territory for me, and I kinda got hooked. This would be part of trying to get me to a healthier place in my life.
And I kept running… and yesterday was #20 since that first race in March of 2012.
This was the first time I’d actually run the course for this race. Last year, there were nine inches of snow on the ground, and I didn’t make it to the site. Instead, I opted to run my North Pole Dash aboard ship while docked in Dominica on my 50th birthday. Not a bad way to run a race, or spend a birthday.
As the race participants lined up, I took my place at the slowest pace sign they had (14 minutes — my pace ended up being about 17:57, which is pretty dang slow, even for me). Conveniently, that was near the only speaker system they had. In fact, the announcer said that he hoped the folks at the front of the race would know when to start, because he was sure they couldn’t hear him all the way up there.
I’d run in St. Charles a couple of times previous (both in the Mo’ Cowbell), but never on the uneven brick/cobblestone roads of Main Street. That was not the most pleasant thing in the world, and by the time I got to the end of Main Street, my shins were barking bad. In fact, if you look my pace through the race, it is substantially different on the bricks than it was on the paved roads.
Aside from that, the course was nice enough, winding past the businesses on Main Street, and then past the homes in Frenchtown. The folks in the neighborhoods were gracious, cheering us on (even the slow turtles like me!) as we clogged the tight roads of their neighborhoods. I know that had to be a pain for the folks that live there!
The one complaint I’d have about the course was that there was no water! I always carry water — I’m usually drinking before the first kilometer is down — so it wasn’t a thing for me. It was surprising though.
And despite having something like 4000 people there, there was very little in the way of fanfare or post race festivities. At most of the races I run, there’s either chocolate milk or beer, and while they had hot chocolate and a pub crawl later, those two niceties were missing. And, aside from a few booths on the Katy Trail, and several more in a parking lot, there just wasn’t much to do after the race. I hoofed my way back to the Jeep, and headed home. But not before pulling the Jenny Craig flyer from under my windshield. Someone must be trying to tell me something.
This was a race I really wanted to do, and I’m glad I did, but I sure was expecting more of that “big race” experience. I’ve seen that with the Mo’ Cowbell, and given the holiday-theme, I expected more. I did get my photo taken with a miniature donkey, though, so that should count for something!
As the year comes to a close, I find myself planning to take off the last two weeks of the year. And of course, I don’t want to just spend the time sitting around. So, why not run?
So, like the nut that I am, I signed myself up for the Operation Jack KC Run/Walk 5K in Shawnee KS on December 27th. Yep, I’m gonna drive across the state, spend the night, run three miles, and then come home. Nuts, eh?
Well, you might wanna hold off on rushing to any judgement…
I also decided I’d like to run on New Year’s. Enter the Last Run / First Run in Lincoln NE. New Year’s Eve at 10pm, there’s a 5k run. New Year’s Day, it’s run again just 12½ hours later at 10:30am. So, I’m gonna drive 6½ hours each way, to run six miles.
Anyone who has been visiting Canapeel for a while (all five of ya!), have seen the old timey theme clunking along. Well, I’ve discovered that there’s something in that theme that was creating duplicate Open Graph tags, which I believe is why posts here weren’t getting published to Facebook (at least; I know they’ve been shuttling to Twitter, and I don’t check Google+ enough to know if they’ve been appearing there or not).
So, enter a free theme from the WordPress folks — “2014” is the name of it. Yearly, they seem to come up with something cool for a free theme, so this may just be transient, depending on just what “2015” looks like. I like it though — slick black and white columnar layout, with loads of room for photos, and a nice, crisp bar on the left.
Anyone who has known me through a long view, knows of my passion around the space program, and the profound disappointment that the future in space that I was promised as a child hasn’t bourn the fruit expected.
Today, we humans took just a baby step farther along the path. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bring tears to my eyes.
This is huge stuff. Big huge stuff. Orion was better than 3500 miles up, making it the first space vehicle designed for human flight to go to high in forty years!
It’s a very arguable point, but I still contend that the best thing mankind undertook in the last century was when JFK put us in the position “of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” in the 1960’s. In my mind, he got it right, and saw the big picture.
Just thinking about the industry, technology and other advances made from the discoveries and research from that era alone, it’s hard for me to look upon the Apollo program as a waste of effort or treasure. Jobs and industries were created. People created things and set in motion concepts and ideas that are still bearing fruit in our daily lives.
My contention has been that, despite the success of the Space Shuttle program, we have essentially sat on our laurels, though, and wasted the momentum brought on by Apollo. We should’ve been figuring out a way to step off this frail little blue marble, and becoming the explorers that we once were as a people. That next step beyond the Moon, or even the International Space Station, is big, and is probably more than any single country on the planet can undertake alone. And there’s the rub. We can’t all stop yelling and throwing stuff long enough to band together as a people — all people — and take a single step together, much less the many that it would take to continue exploring above low-Earth orbit.
I know my view of this is Pollyannic — I get that. But the twists and turns of the last few decades have left us creating a really big “have and have not” consumerist society (and I’m guilty, too … just ask Becky), and in my view, we’ve lost sight of our roots as explorers and creators. We’ve continued to be highly polarized — both on the international and internal playing fields — and it’s paralyzed any movement forward on exploring space, and all the wonders that it could bring to mankind. It’s made all of us protective of our stuff and ideas, suspicious of others, and unwilling to share, regardless of the consequences.
Yes, things continue to be invented, some of which are unnecessary or are unnecessarily expensive, but aren’t things of profound impact. In the industrialized world, we haven’t been able to get ourselves away from fossil fuels in any kind of appreciable fashion, and continue to soil our fragile little nest every day. The poor still don’t get the health care and food they need, even in relatively wealthy nations. And who knows if a child that dies from some simple malady in a third world country could’ve been the next Einstein, Salk, Sagan, Ghandi, King…
So, yes, I’m thrilled about Orion, and the fact that a foundational block has been laid to further the cause of manned exoplanetary voyages. It’s a step. There are so very many more that need to be taken, and an awful lot of them have very, very little to directly do with the exploration of space.
Man, I hate writing stuff like this… Last night, we took the longest ride with our little Emma, taking her to the vet to release her from the pain she’s been in for so long.
Emma came to us from a farm in Wright City back in 1999, just after Becky and I were married. Becky had wanted a Bernese Mountain Dog forever, but had raised a wonderful English Springer Spaniel when she was young. She knew that I was more of a cat-person in those days, and felt that a smaller, “training wheels” dog like a Springer might be just the thing to set the stage for a Berner in the future. So, little Emma came into our lives.
She was a very sick puppy, and I think that’s how she and I bonded so strongly. She’d cuddle up with me, melt my heart, and wrap me around her tiny little paws. In fact, during those days, she used to sleep under the covers, cuddled up against me.
There’s no doubt Emma was a little hound dog, with her nose always on the ground, sniffing out everything that had ever happened on any piece of ground. We trained her, and she showed that she could do pretty much anything we wanted.
A couple of funny memories…
When she was about two, we used to leave her out while we were at work. On one day, we came home to find a puddle of blue ink on our white carpet, and gazillions of little blue paw prints all throughout the house. Emma had gotten bored, and decided to chew up an ink pen. She got tired of that and walked all over the house, leaving these little paw prints everywhere. Her mouth was blue from the ink, and with the carpet well inked, it looked she’d killed a smurf in the living room.
On another occasion, Becky worked with a vendor to get a refund check for some paint that really didn’t work very well on our walls. The check came in, and sat on our coffee table for a while. Emma discovered it one day (again, while we were at work), and ate it, leaving Becky with a rather embarrassing phone call to the vendor to get them to re-issue the check because the dog had eaten it.
Much later, when Em was about seven or so, Becky found out that Starbucks would let you take old coffee grounds to put in your garden. Becky put a couple of bags of these old grounds out in the backyard garden. Well, Emma’s nose found the coffee, leading her to eat a bunch of the old grounds. Emma was ok, but all night, she marched around the bedroom, with every loop stopping to look out the window, and let out a little “bwoof” to anything that would listen, after which she’d march the next lap. We finally crated her, and she slipped into a deep, deep, caffeine-crashing sleep.
In her later life, she began getting stiffer and stiffer, and was in pretty constant pain, turning her last few years into a exercise in pain management. During that time, she grew mostly blind, mostly deaf, and exhibited strong signs of canine dementia. We’ve known for months that we were staring at an inevitable decision point, and finally, her discomfort exceeded what the pain management could do for her. It was time.
Wednesday night, we played with her as much as she’d let us, took some photos and video. We made a paw print. We snipped some of her fur. And we loved on her. We cried, and in the first moment of real normalcy from Emma in a couple of years, she licked the tears from our faces, once again, briefly, being the dog we had known for so long. We gave her some popcorn — one of her favorite treats, and just tried to keep her comfortable, knowing what was coming.
Last night, Becky brought her a little McDonald’s hamburger, and each of us fed her a little bit of it as we waited for time to leave for the vet. Once again, Dr. Hooks helped us take care of one of our dear pets, and let Emma finally rest, relieved of her pain.
We got an email from Dr. Hooks later last night, and he let us know that Emma was one his first patients as he joined the practice he’s still at. In fact, her first appointment with him was fourteen years to the day as her last visit with him.
Becky asked Dr. Hooks if there were any studies out there that Emma could help with. He found a study on canine dementia, and took samples for the study. We were really happy Emma could be helping with other dogs that might face this in the future. Who knows — maybe that research will help with human studies in dementia.
And now she’s gone.
The house is quieter, and has a little less life in it. I’m pretty sure Bailey figured it out. She sniffed where Emma would typically lie, and looked at me last night as we were going to bed, almost asking if I’d forgotten to bring Emma into the bedroom. She’s a smart dog.
It’s tough, but I know we did the right thing. Emma was in major pain, and holding her here just to ease our hearts wasn’t fair, as weighed against her hurting so much. I don’t like that this was the choice we were left with, but I’m at peace with it.
As Becky said last night, Molly and Emma are back together again. They were inseparable for almost ten years, and I’m sure that once again, they’re romping about, being the goofy critters we once knew.
The calendar has turned the page to November, tonight we set our clocks back an hour, and we’ve just come off our first freeze in Da Lou. I both love and loathe this time of year.
October is filled with post-season baseball, something I start looking forward to every spring. This year, once again, the Cardinals were in the hunt, but once again, came up short. And while that was tough to watch, it was just as tough to watch the Royals go down in the World Series, especially to San Francisco. It’s easy for me to root for an underdog, and Kansas City certainly fit the bill of carrying the Cinderella card this year. It just wasn’t to be, despite a crazy ride. Like I said, I love this time of year.
At the same time, there’s another set of games going on … election shenanigans.
I loathe election season. I hate all the yelling and screaming, and seeing the bottom feeding of the human condition on full display. If you listen to the adverts, every person out there running for office is some combination of Hitler and Satan, drowns puppies for sport, sank the Titanic, conspired against Elvis, and is carrying ebola. What’s incredible to me is how little any candidate seems to talk about themselves, their platform and beliefs, and how much they have to say about their opponents’. Add to that adverts spawned by other groups who have hidden agendas that drive their attacks, and the buildup to Tuesday’s election becomes less an exercise in democracy in action, and more like a gaggle of folks just being obnoxious.
Thankfully, the countdown to Tuesday is on, when we can all get back to being semi-civil, and enjoy the onset of fall. With glee, I will cast my ballot, if only to shut ‘em all up!
OK, so I’ll admit it. I’m an Apple fanboy, and have been since making the switch to Macs in 2005. For geek profile purposes, I would tell ya that I’m an early adopter, and a realist about problems that may show up. It’s hardware, and software, and even though there’s tight synergy granted from both sides of that coming from the same complex in Cupertino, I recognize that things will go bump every now and then.
That said, let me introduce you to my latest saga with the Apple ecosystem.
AirDrop is a pretty cool technology that allows Macs, and now iPhones with iOS 8, to create short-lived, ad hoc networks to transfer files. This is pretty cool, especially if you use your iPhone as a primary form of photography (And for Rick and Tom, I’m not naming names here!), and for probably other uses as well. Once I got both Yosemite and iOS 8.1 down, I wanted to give AirDrop a try. The first prompt I got was to turn on the wi-fi card in my late-2013 Mac Pro cylinder.
As a note, I don’t usually keep wi-fi enabled on my Mac Pro. This machine never travels, and does some big data moves across my network, so hardwiring it at gig-e speeds just makes sense for me.
When I tried to turn on the wi-fi on my shiny cylinder o’ fun, I clicked the button on the network preferences panel… and nothing happened. I clicked it again. Nothing. And like any good techie, I continued clicking it periodically over the next few minutes. Nada.
I decided to restart my Mac, and as though by magic, I was able to turn on wi-fi in my system. I played with AirDrop, and then turned off wi-fi.
Fast forward to yesterday. I took a walk at lunch. Normally, I use a Garmin Forerunner 310XT to capture my travels, but for some reason, it was having trouble finding the satellites, so I did my walk, and then wanted to check the distance. My go-to answer for years has been Google Maps, but I figured that since Apple had included this cool Maps application on the desktop, I’d use it.
Well… it barked about not being able to find my position without wi-fi being turned on, which means the app barks incessantly about how it can’t determine my location. I even tried to feed it my location to shut it up, and it still was pretty dang insistent. I know my Mac doesn’t have a GPS device embedded in it, so it’s obviously using my wi-fi network name to figure where I am, based on the network I’m connected to. If I’m out in public, that’s pretty cool. Sitting in my house, that’s a little creepy. TMI, say I! However, that misgiving aside, I turned on my wi-fi.
Or tried to.
Once again, I was left with a wi-fi system that didn’t seem to be active, regardless of what I’d do. Once again, I restarted my machine. I paid close attention this time, and noticed that the wi-fi was on when the machine came back up. Whether I had hit the button an odd number of times, resulting in the post-reboot status being active, or if it just remembered that I was trying to turn it on, my cylindrical Mac came back up with wi-fi happy. Oh, and Maps was much happier as well.
So, what’s this mean? I’m not entirely sure. Except that I need to be planful around when I want to use AirDrop or Maps, or anything else requiring the lil’ Mac Pro to have its wi-fi enabled.
I’ve done a ton of searches on this issue. Unfortunately, there are loads of as-yet-unresolved issues with Yosemite around wi-fi performance and dropping networks, and those are clouding my searches with a lot of wild goose chases. If I had to guess, I’d bet that something is being flagged to turn on wi-fi, but can’t complete until after a restart for some reason. Or, wi-fi is really active, but all the indicators in the network preferences aren’t there. I should probably watch my Apple network gear (using my iPad or iPhone) to see if there’s every anything showing up on the router’s side, which could help narrow things down.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I decided to get an Apple iPhone 6 Plus. It’s arrived, and here’s some of my thoughts. (Granted, there’s probably nothing earth-shatteringly new here, but sometimes, ya just gotta say stuff.)
First off, the device is big. Really big, and that’s something that’s probably important to some people. For me, the way I use my phone is more as an Internet terminal rather than a phone, so the larger size is not all that important. When I need to use my phone as a phone, I’m usually using it with the speaker phone function turned on, so that mammoth physical size is really not that big an issue.
And frankly, while the width and height are generous, the thing is really slim, and doesn’t seem to weigh a ton. And yes, it does fit in your pocket nicely … at least in my jeans. If you’re a painted-on skinny jeans person, first off, I’m jealous, and secondly, it probably ain’t gonna fit in your pocket nearly as well as me in my baggy 550’s.
I love the rounded corners. I tend to vacillate on this quite a bit. When the iPhone 5 came out, I wasn’t a huge fan of the sharp edges, but I grew to like ‘em. Now, the smooth contours of the iPhone 6 Plus have really seduced me. It feels slick, curvaceous, and well molded for your hand. I did buy a case (Spigen Thin Fit A), and while the case nicely fits the phone, and feels very protective, I really like the feel of the phone without it. This case is small enough (but still sturdy!) that if you didn’t know the phone had a case on it, you might mistake it for part of the phone. I’ve run with my phones both naked and covered, and this might be a phone that is prone to running around naked. It’s just that nice.
The new screen is gorgeous. It’s full 1080, and watching HD video on it is a dream. Star Trek: Into Darkness is my favorite film to show off the crisp new display. It just rocks on this device. Really, really sharp, clear images from a well-done HD film.
One of the factors that drove me to this model over the regular iPhone 6 was the optical image stabilization in the camera. On paper, this sounds like a really good thing. In practice, I’ve only shot once where I was rocking’ and rollin’ (in the Jeep, handheld, going over some rocks), and it seemed to make a difference. That’s not very scientific though, and is something I should try in a little more controlled environment against something like a GoPro, that doesn’t have IS.
Battery life seems to be much nicer than my iPhone 5. I’ve found that the Facebook really drained the battery on my iPhone 5, and that seems better with the iPhone 6 (and that was with running the new iOS on both phones). On the iPhone 5, I’d drain out to about 30% across a day of normal usage (including Facebook). On the iPhone 6 Plus, I might drain down to 70% or so across the day.
And I really like TouchId. Being able to identify my via the “belly button” is awesome. I love not having to key in a passcode to unlock, and now having some applications using that as authentication within the application just makes it more magical. Very, very cool!
Now for the ugly… The buttons.
The case redesign moved the volume and power switch, and I’m just not a fan of where they landed. I like the fact that the power button isn’t on top, but my muscle memory always goes to the right side of the phone for volume, and that’s where the power button was relocated. So when I try to change volume when listening to music, I turn off the iPhone. Boo. It’s just retraining, and I get that, but for someone that relies on knowing how to use his tools without looking, I don’t like changes to where controls are. That’s one of the reasons that I tend to stick with the same brand on my toys — Canon cameras, Taylor guitars, etc. — so there’s not much (if any) retraining of my old brain. I’m sure there’s a reason the volume control was moved, but I think you could move the power switch without relocating the volume control too.
One more thing I’d mention is the camera lens. I really don’t like that the lens protrudes beyond the back case. I don’t think you could hurt it, but that’s another great reason to have a case on the thing. It’ll definitely keep it flat on a table.
So… a whole lot of goodness, and just those silly button relocations as a negative for me. YMMV!
A gazillion years ago, when I was a kid — around 1970 — I was a big listener of AM radio. I’d sit in front of my folks’ ginormous ol’ console system, and listen to the local stations — WDXB, WGOW and WFLI. This was well before FM radio represented mainstream music, and so I got to hear popular music, not the talking heads that seem to own AM nowadays.
I can just remember listening to The Beatles on the radio. I knew who they were, and some of their music. When Paul McCartney formed Wings shortly thereafter, I was a little older, and they became a huge part of my listening experience. When Wings toured America in 1976, I can remember talking with my friends about how much we wanted to go see Wings at the Omni in Atlanta (the closest venue to Chattanooga). That never happened for me, but I did do the next best thing.
I bought Wings Over America. On vinyl. Probably with money earned mowing yards.
This was a huge set, on three records, and had many of my Wings favorites, along with some Beatles tunes. I listened to it a ton, wearing the grooves out. I could tell you every moment in that live recording, every comment by the band, every high and low. It was one of those recordings that got in my DNA, and I loved listening to it.
Fast forward a decade or so, and I finally found Wings over America on CD. Once again, I listened to that thing like crazy in its digital perfection. (Yeah, yeah, I know there’s a whole argument out there about the warmth of vinyl, and the harshness of digital. I get it, but the convenience of digital music has made it the right answer for me for a long, long time.)
Fast forward again, this time to this year.
Somehow, someway, I got wind of Wings Over America being re-released in a uber-special box, with extra tunes, video, books, etc. I hounded it on Amazon for months, perpetually having it in my wish list, occasionally moving it into my shopping cart, only to pull back. It wasn’t that I didn’t want this newly refreshed edition, and it was certainly within my finances. I’ve just grown a little weary of all the re-releases of the music of my youth. It seems like every month, there’s some other musical crustacean re-releasing a newly updated or re-mastered edition of seminal music from our shared youth. And some of those are amazing (like the recent Pink Floyd Immersion Editions), and others aren’t exactly all that.
This was different though. This was Macca. He’s “big-three” territory for me, with Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd being the other corners of that triad that formed the foundation of my musical tastes in my youth. So I finally pulled the trigger, and waited for it to arrive. (How did we ever get by without Amazon Prime?)
I watched my phone to see when Brown Santa (aka UPS) delivered it, and dashed upstairs to grab it off the porch practically before the truck sped away. And like a kid at Christmas, I tore into the box, and retrieved my wondrous new arrival.
And it was wondrous.
Packed inside was a really amazing-sounding version of the concert I knew so well. Plus eight tracks from the concert in San Francisco in ’76. Plus a DVD of Wings over the World. And if that weren’t enough, there were four books included: a retrospective of the tour, a scrapbook-like book, a book of photos from the tour taken by Linda McCartney, and a fourth book that collected sketches from the tour’s official artist. I climbed in my comfy chair, and devoured those four books. It was amazing to see that tour through “grown up” eyes, but reflected through the eyes of my youth. It just blew me away.
And like Wonka with his Golden Ticket, there was a little extra something-something inside. I found a little card in the set. This card contained a code to visit Macca’s website, entitling me to pull down ultra-high resolution 24-bit/96khz versions with almost no sound processing. It’s just about as close as you could get to the master tapes… and they’re glorious! The sound is bright, uncompressed, and simply astonishing. There is so much depth — things in the background, subtleties in the foreground — in these recordings that I’d never heard before.
I vaguely remember seeing Wings over the World in the late 70s. The books indicate that CBS aired it back then, but for some reason I have a memory of seeing it on PBS in Chattanooga. No matter — it was here, and I reveled in seeing film from the tour I never got to visit. (And yes, I know Rockshow is out now, and it’ll be hitting my door soon.) I was transfixed, riveted to the screen, watching this crazy second chapter in McCartney’s career unfold through live concert footage
This box set was a time machine for me, carrying me back almost forty years, and giving me a little door through which to crawl every now and then, and re-experience a really significant part of my musical youth.
And now I hear that Wings at the Speed of Sound and Venus and Mars are being released in similar editions next month. I guess Amazon and I have a little more dancing left to do.