January 29, 2014

Before and After (Or, What The Hell Happened To Me?)

I'm going though a process of backing up every single piece of data I have. In doing so I came across some really old photos I shot when my blog was still a baby. Then I made the mistake of comparing then and now.



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January 27, 2014

Your Health, Crowdsourced

You're all familiar with my face. Not in the abstract, been-around-the-internet-for-ten-years sense but in the holy-crap-my-face-is-afflicted, very specific sense. But this isn't about that, not about the forced beard grown, steroids, antibiotics or general angst of not knowing what's going on. This is about apps.

When I'm in Monkeytown looking for a good restaurant, I grab my phone and use Yelp. I recognize that the motivation behind looking for restaurants is sometimes skewed. People feel strongly that the food was great or strongly that the service was abhorrent and there's rarely a middle ground. But the law of averages is at play and I put a certain amount of trust in the law of averages.

On the road I use Waze. It's a pretty cool map app that tells you where traffic jams are, informs you about hazards in the road and warns you about police. It's totally driven by its user-base, a community coming together to inform.

I'm a committed Amazon user and find myself making quite a few of my decisions based on user reviews and recommendations. They are, for the most part, correct. And often not what I would have decided for myself.

In short, while it's important to make your own decisions based on gut, what you think is right and wrong, and personal preference, there's a wisdom to crowds that's hard to ignore.

When I first started dealing with this face thing I did something very stupid. I got online and consulted Doctor Google, M.D. I quickly learned that I had every imaginable disease. If the internet was to be trusted, I had lyme disease, lupus, shingles, folliculitis, MRSA, herpes, contact dermatitis, strep...and cancer. Because every online diagnosis eventually ends with cancer. I don't want to denigrate online medical resources but the problem is that there's simply no intelligence put to them. The wisdom of Yelp, the road-testedness of Waze and the user experience of Amazon doesn't exist. It's information, out there, for consumption. But no intelligence.

I am absolutely certain that there's room in the online world for resources that help you - and people like me who have no earthly idea what's wrong with them - crowdsource their health.

How do you channel individuals' health experience into meaningful information and actions that can help another individual on the other side of the world, the state, your town? I have no idea but I'm willing to listen.

All it would take for me to feel better is for one person to say yeah, I've had that and I know exactly what it is. That would be more valuable than all the blood draws, all the tests, all the steroids, all the antibiotics, and all the many months of uncertainty I've seen. And I can't imagine how important it would be to someone who has actual problems, not just a weird face thing but missing limbs, terminal liver failure, or cancer. How would it feel to them to feel identified with? And how good would it feel to be able to help them figure out what's wrong.

I don't know the answer. I'm not an app designer, a doctor or a sociologist. But I know this is a good idea.

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Haiku For Monday #477

Monday is like a
zombie. You shoot it in the
head. Always comes back.

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January 23, 2014

Tech Addict

I've been a loyal Apple fan boy for a long, long time. I had an Apple II+ way back in the day. I got one of the original Macs when they hit the street, managed to convince my parents to upgrade to a PowerMac several years later then nailed a Mac laptop to take to college. They love affair faded for a while, with the invention of the cheap PC, but the iPhone rekindled our lost love. Because the iPhone and, later, the iPad, were and remain revolutionary products.

The other night Beth discovered that I'd bought yet another tablet. She observed that the tablet count in our house now exceeded the total number of living, breathing things able to use tablets. I think she was including Anderson the guinea pig in the equation but she's obviously never observed Anderson steal a ride in Grand Theft Auto. Regardless, it was a good observation but I'm not sure I saw her point.

I'm a tech geek. This is an incontrovertible fact and will likely not change. I'm at peace with that. But, out of curiosity, I loaded a program yesterday to scan my home network and discover the total number of internet connected devices. It did. I was scared. It listed: my Mac, my desktop PC server, Apple AirPort, FiOS router, five iPhones (two current, three old, used by the kids and as a media remote), Roku, Apple TV, Beth's Windows laptop, my work laptop and an old, coverted Ubuntu linux laptop currently serving no purpose, two Kindles (a Fire and Paperwhite), a Samsung Android tablet, two iPads and my newest acquisition, a Dell Windows tablet.

Yeah. Okay. I see it now. That's sick.

Anyway, my latest acquisition is important because I finally feel like I've tried all 32 flavors of ice cream and I can be judgmental. So I give you those tablet-judgments in reverse order, from crappy to awesome.

#5: The Kindle Fire. I love Amazon almost as much as I love Apple. I order things, they send them to me and I'm at least partially bought into their overall ecosystem (their cloud offering allows me to upload 250,000 songs into the could - accessible anywhere - for $25/year). But the Fire is just okay for reading - the iPad and the original reading-only Kindles are far superior. The operating system is inflexibly and not intuitive. It's not a bad device but it feels like a few generations shy of a polished, prime time model.

#4: The Samsung Galaxy. It's clearly inferior to most of its counterparts. The hardware feels cheap - justifiably so since it was - and Android (even with the latest upgrade) is cumbersome, limiting and feels amateurish at best. Yes, it's highly customizable but there's a cost.

#3: iPad (first generation). I'll admit upfront that part of my complaint is based solely on age. The iPad itself has aged well but it can't keep up with the software that runs it. Later iPads all take advantage of new OS software but the first generation is left out in the cold. And that limits its capability, from function to applications it can run. I understand why but I wish it had a better shelf-life. Still, at this point, it's a great tablet for the kids and you can't deny that it's a revolutionary device.

#2: Dell Vostro. I was wary of buying a Windows tablet but I couldn't deny the appeal of this 8" masterpiece. It's tiny but somehow runs a full version of Windows and a ton of apps. It's an amazing piece of machinery that's small, incredibly well designed and pretty. If you're a PC user, Windows 8 is a nightmare but on a tablet the OS shines. And this coming from someone who's been an active Windows hater for years.

#1: Apple iPad (second generation). I haven't gotten past the second generation iPad primarily because the second generation still does everything I need it to. Yes, it's a closed environment and yes it has a totally homogenous experience for the user. Some might say those are bad things. I say they're good if what you're looking for is ease of use and something that can perform pretty amazingly.

There you have it - confessions and thoughts of a tech geek. Now, don't get me started on cufflinks. I really love cufflinks...

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January 17, 2014


I have to admit that I've fallen off the blogging wagon of late. For ten years I've posted almost daily (minus weekends, holidays and those rare times I just couldn't think of anything to say). The problems? Time and motivation.

I had this odd realization yesterday. It was the first time in the four months since I landed this new job that I walked into my office, felt completely at home, and was totally in control of my day. It was an insanely great feeling. I get up at 5:30 every morning, I'm at work by 7:00 and I pull in the garage most days by 5:00. The moments that aren't consumed by work are spent with my family. I'm not home as much as I used to be. That time is important and my absence has been duly noted. I get every Friday off and I usually spend that day taking the kids to school, going out to lunch and a movie with Beth and getting the kids off the bus, fitting in as much as I can.

So, no, I haven't been around as much as I used to. But I don't think I'm going anywhere. Don't worry.

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January 13, 2014

The Whole Thing

(I have to admit, first and foremost, that I've been typing for days - literally - and trying to find some sort of narrative that describes the last few months in amusing yet poignant detail. I've failed. As my kids say, you get what you get and you don't get upset.)

I've been verbose in my account of my health issues almost everywhere else but here. Which is odd since this is my place, and has been for ten years. It's time to set the record straight.

In September I developed a strange rash on my face. Though rash is really disingenuous to whatever fancy - and insanely painful thing - this has become. In October I finally got off my ass and went to the doctor. In the interim, it caused fevers, pain, general embarrassment, insane irritation and a mostly gray beard. On Thursday, as I was preparing to see another specialist, I tried to piece together my medical history over the last four months and realized that I've now seen eight doctors, been on five antibiotics, rotated through six rounds of steroids, been rendered unable to walk, and totally ruined my digestive system.

On Thursday, I had a biopsy. I didn't see it coming. It wasn't something I was prepared for though the fact that I walked into a room with a weird, low, electric chair should have been something of a clue. But I didn't totally process it. Getting your numbed neck sewed up is, in retrospect, disarming. I don't recommend it. I'm not squeamish but I almost passed out.

On Friday, I saw an immunologist. My back was stickered and more blood than I thought possible was wrestled from my cardiovascular system. I was forced to avoid showering for 48 hours which made the shower last night not only wonderous but absolutely necessary. Beth was forced to draw on me with a sharpie and take pictures of the colorful and slightly terrifying reactions that had taken place on my back. Sweet, sweet testing. Fingers crossed it amounts to something.

On Saturday I woke up at 3:45 in the morning with a basic understanding that something wasn't right. I sleepily made my way into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and saw that my face was about twice its normal size. I was like the kid from Mask without the prosthetics or Cher. Eventually I fell asleep. The kids woke me up the next morning and I did my absolute best to convince them that the Rolling Stones logo was modeled after me but they didn't buy it. I gobbled down steroids with my morning coffee - only barely able to keep it in my mouth through swollen lips - along with the banana which would hopefully keep my legs from cramping - and ended up having a wonderful day watching my kids play basketball (and Mia's game was more awesome than any NBA game I've ever seen) and having my folks over for dinner.

This weekend I posted something about my biopsy on Facebook and a long time friend and reader reached out to me to tell me that she'd just had both her cancerous breasts removed. And if I needed to talk she was there. If I needed to talk. That was humbling.

I don't have cancer. I have something that's insanely annoying and painful but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to die of. I have both legs, both arms, a perfectly functional (though sometimes dense) brain, two wonderful children and a beautiful wife who calls me on every ounce of my bullshit. It this annoying (the face thing, not Beth calling me on my bullshit, though that can definitely be annoying)? Yes. Is it scary? Absolutely. But I will find the answer and I will kick its ass.

Posted by Chris at 7:36 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

January 7, 2014

My Own Private Polar Vortex

It's a blustery six degrees in the nation's capital. Admittedly I made a smooth transition from my warm house to my slightly-chilly car to my office's underground parking garage so my first-hand experience is somewhat limited. But I read it on the internet and I believe everything the internet tells me. Plus people walking the streets of Monkeytown this morning looked fucking miserable.

What's odd is not that I'm at work but that my kids are not at school. No, school was cancelled today. Because it's cold.

Now, I get that six degrees isn't normal around here unless you're inside the heart of a politician. And I understand that school administrators don't want kids going all hypothermic waiting for busses. Blue children rarely learn math well. But, come one, it's cold. It's not like those Game Of Thrones ice zombies have suddenly moved into the 'burbs and are snatching kids from bus stops.

When I was in elementary school and it was cold out, know what I did? I put on five jackets, strapped tennis rackets to my shoes with bungee cords, walked five miles uphill through snow and ice and got myself an education. Okay, I didn't because I lived in Texas, carpooled to school and received a very poor elementary school education at a vaguely racist private school. But still.

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January 3, 2014

The Weeklies #275

The Weekly Affliction. MRSA. I believe that stands for Medically Resistant Shitty Affliction. Though I'm not a doctor.

The Weekly New Years Resolutions I've Already Blown. All of them.

The Weekly Medication. Who knows? At this point, I've lost track. Wait...does beer count?

The Weekly Fruit. Bananas. Yes, bananas. Because at some point last weekend I lost the ability to walk and they help.

The Weekly Color. Brown. As in what brown can do for me. Apparently that's deliver a lot of stuff to my front door.

The Weekly Score. I'm pretty sure I just scored an appointment with a specialist who deals in weird stuff. I'm pretty stoked.

The Weekly Read. Winger. Not the hair metal band, the book. I feel like I've fallen into some sort of trap that I should feel guilty about. I've read more than one so called young adult novel in the last couple of months and Winger is among the best. It demonstrates the counter-argument to a common misconception - that young adult novels are juvenile and poorly written. Winger was the opposite of that. It was a wonderfully, sensitively told story about a boy in private school who, Holden Caulfield-like, figured out who he was. It's easy to write off young adult fiction but I hope this is the type of book my kids read when they're the appropriate age. Well done, Andrew Smith.

The Weekly Realization. After nearly two weeks off I returned to my office and realized something. I really like my job.

The Weekly Music. Is it wrong that I'm a little miffed that Kiss got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Yes, I own every single one of their albums and I've give them a good college try. But Kiss? Meh.

The Weekly Question.

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January 2, 2014

You Say You Want A Resolution

And we're back...

I'm not a resolution maker. I'm really not. I firmly believe that resolutions are things that are almost instantly broken and lead only to a feeling of partial - if not complete - failure. So, of course, I've made some resolutions this year. Three in fact.

1. Move. I'm not talking about buying a new house. We've vowed never to do that again. No, I'm talking about getting up off my ass and moving thus decreasing size of aforementioned ass. I'm not setting some wild goal of running a marathon in 2014. That's crazy talk (and also no fun). But I do need to get in some sort of shape, preferably not my current shape that resembles a sack of potatoes with a beard.

2. Avoid drinking during the week. It's a well-known fact that I love beer the way Lady Gaga loves visible thongs. The problem is that I probably drink too much during the week. I'm not boozing a lunch or pounding shots every night at the local watering hole but, still, I wake up at 5:30 every morning and every little advantage helps.

3. Figure out my health and not stress too much about it. Look, I've been on five rounds of steroids and six antibiotics over the last four months and I have just as much of an idea what's wrong with me as I did when all this started. And I'm anxious about it. Justifiably so. I'm an immediate gratification person but I've started to realize that, where medicine is involved, there's no single silver bullet, no room for immediate gratification.

Sure, there's other stuff I want to do this year but those three are key. How about you? What kind of promises have you made yourself for 2014?

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