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Archive for February, 2009

Screw You, Entropy!!!

Some notes from the past week:

  • On Saturday we go to the marina to go sailing with Mark and Diane but when I start the engine Cass notices a faint whistling from the back of the new engine control panel. Even though the oil pressure and temperature are good, we decide not to go out until we can be more certain why this was happening and whether it’s an issue. On Sunday I go back and check all the electrical connections but the whistling is still present. Hmmm.
  • Otis looks like a miniature Wookie. He is so shaggy. Unfortunately he won’t be able to be thinned until March 10th because our dog groomer is very busy.
  • On Wednesday our hot water heater packs it in. Luckily it turns out to still be under warranty so we get a new one for the cost of the labour to put it in. It’s wonderful to have hot, hot water again.
  • I prune the apple tree. Also, we have a hawthorn which is beautiful with pink blossoms for one week out of the year and a horrid, spiny mess for the other 51 so I decide to get rid of it. I enjoy being the “lumberjack” with my puny electric chainsaw. I am such a man.
  • The horse is well and feeling the spring coming on. He’s enjoying nibbling on the mare in the paddock beside him and regularly has many kiss marks all over his body. Naughty boy!
  • I feel better and better. My cold is gone. I have lots of energy. I weigh myself and I have lost 6 pounds. My belt is in a notch. The tendonitis in my left forearm is improved. My appetite is good. I only have lumps that should be there. Screw you, entropy!!

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It’s been a week since I’ve updated Lumpy’s Diary. The reason is a good one. I am feeling well and I have been much more engaged in my career as an IT professional. It certainly feels good to use my mind for solving difficult problems and be able to follow a thread of reasoning 3 or 4 layers deep without becoming confused. I feel like my mental acuity has largely returned. This gives me a high degree of satisfaction. I’ve discovered that, for me, the deterioration of my physical capabilities is not as alarming as the loss of my mental capabilities. It’s wonderful to realize that the deterioration of those capabilities due to the chemotherapy appears to have been temporary.

I’ve finished jPod by Douglas Coupland. It’s a very wry and enjoyable read though there are some self-indulgent moments that the author allows himself, like publishing 26 pages of listing pi to 100,000 digits and another 26 pages of a 100,000 digit random number. I really found the contrast between the kind of value that is added during work in Canada versus the value that is added in China a little painful to have illuminated. The Canadians (who are working at a video game publishing house suspiciously like EA) are worried about whether a skateboarding turtle is “perky” enough or whether the texture on the goal posts of a hockey game are realistic enough. In China they are trying to make running shoes and light bulbs under workplace conditions that haven’t been seen in Canada since the 1930s. I’m not saying I would want to be working under the conditions described. However, it did make some of what we consider “productivity” here to seem of trivial importance.

I’ve started on “Tropic of Cancer”, Henry Miller’s dense rant about life, living, the universe, women, drinking and everything else that matters. The cancer that he refers to in the title is the cancer that eats at the vitality and beauty of life. He not only sets himself against the cancer of hypocrisy and idiocy but also sets himself to embrace the cancer of ugliness, decay and dissipation. It’s a book that swings from high to low in a matter of paragraphs. It’s my 3rd time through it. I tried to read it during my cancer treatments but couldn’t face it. Now I’m keen.

Saturday night is Valentine’s day. We stay at home, light candles and make a fire in the hearth. Cassie makes a favourite meal I have requested: Chicken Tagine with Cous Cous. It’s wonderful and afterward we snuggle in bed with the dog.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we take the horse to a clinic with an instructor that both Alli and Cassie like and have had a long term relationship with. This involves trailering him there and back (a 1 hour round trip) and a 45 minute lesson at the indoor arena. It’s very pleasant. Cassie and Alli are doing very well and look great. The truck and trailer work well and that’s a great satisfaction for me too.

So, life goes on, work goes on and love goes on.

“To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordion, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing.” Henry Miller

“The humiliations and defeats, given with a primitive honesty, end not in frustration, despair or futility, but in hunger — for more life.” Anais Niin

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Dear Mom,

You considered having children an important and serious business. You had a degree from the University of Toronto as a nutritionist but you also had good common sense about what was good for people to eat. You often told me that when you were pregnant with me you liked to have a beef-steak with streamed broccoli for breakfast. I ate well as  a child and teenager. There was always lots of good food to eat and you cooked from scratch every night. As a preschooler I remember you getting dinner on the go at about 3pm unless you were cooking something Ukrainian, which had to be started in the morning.

You used to tell me about how both your and my dad’s genetic backgrounds were generally good. People in our family live into their late 70s or middle 80s. Heart disease is virtually unknown. Your father had died of cancer at the relatively young age of 69 but you always rationalized his early death with his occupation; He ran an auto repair shop from 1920 to 1965. You would tell me stories about the fumes and solvents that he used without the proper breathing apparatus and ventilation that is now required. Your implication was that my grandfather had “voided the warranty” on his body by subjecting himself to a carcinogenic environment so it was understandable that he didn’t live his full life.

I’m happy to have survived Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, at least so far. Long may that last. I don’t think that my contracting Hodgkins had much to do with either my genetic background or environmental toxins I might have encountered. I do think it relates to a prolonged period of impaired immunity I experienced due to a serious infection in 2007 which I discuss in detail in “A Child’s History of Lumps”. However, I do believe that all of the crap that had to be done to me to put the Hodgkin’s into remission has “voided my warranty”. I’m like a DVD player that had a sticker on that back that said “No User Serviceable Components Inside. Breaking of this seal Voids Warranty.” My seal is most definitely broken.

The chemicals and radiation treatments that were used to kill the malignancy has left a trail through my organs. The Adriomycin has possible heart effects and the Bleomycin has possible lung effects. The Vinblastine has caused neuralgia which I often feel in my fingers. The radiation treatments have increased my chances of contracting other types of cancers including Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. So, I’m sorry mom but, all bets are off on my possible projected life span.

However, I’m certainly happy to have had all the health, both genetic and environmental, that you gave to me. It was like capital that I had in the bank and needed to spend for a rainy day. It allowed me to withstand the cancer treatments. There are many people who are not healthy enough to do so. The doctor’s can decide that the condition (either genetically or due to deterioration) of your heart and lungs are too poor to withstand the Adriomycin and Bleomycin. My immune system could have dipped much farther than it did, exposing me to an infectious illness that might have killed me. There are a dozen times where my body could have failed me in my struggle. But it didn’t.

Thanks mom.

And sorry about breaking the seal… I had no alternative.

Love always, Tom.

Leona Petrachenko, 1924 – 2001

momandme3

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All Quiet on the Western Front

It’s a “regular” week. There are no doctor’s appointments, we go to work each work day and work full days. We come home, eat dinners, walk the dog, spend time with friends, tidy the house and wash dishes and clothes. It’s remarkable in its unremarkable nature.

Work is very busy with issues that kept popping up from everywhere. There’s an acceleration of urgency as we try to bring the development part of the project to a close and transition the role of resolution of issues to the business-as-usual team. As other people on the account whirl around I kept asking people what emergency they were dealing with. Everyone has a different emergency. It’s emergency central.

We attend a movie night at Cassie’s work. We watch the documentary I.O.U.S.A.  and have some tasty take-out from Pagliacci’s. The movie details some of the facts relating to the financial condition of the US: the federal deficit, the balance of payments, the low personal savings rate, the failure of discipline at the Federal Reserve and mainly, the paucity of leadership. There are some illuminating facts and this would certainly be a wake up call for someone who is uninformed on the importance of these issues. It doesn’t really address any realistic routes out of the morass. Maybe there aren’t any? The talking heads in the documentary, all eminent economists, investors and authorities, are only able to offer that the US has to take its medicine: higher taxes, higher interest rates, enforced personal savings (like Australia), and disciplined efforts to balance the budget and create surpluses to reduce the debt. However, the size of the debt, at more than $10,000,000,000,000 USD and growing every day, means that there’s no reasonable way to retire this debt in this generation even if all kinds of draconian measures are taken. I kept thinking about the $0.82 trillion relief package that Barak Obama is trying to pass through the Senate. That will be another amount to be added to the already $10 trillion debt. Much of the $0.82 trillion will have to be financed outside of the US because the savings rate in the US is too low to be of any help. <sigh>

I have to say that the final impression I have is a desire to emigrate and become a citizen of a country that isn’t in such a mess. Wait a minute? I already am a citizen of a country that isn’t in *quite* such a mess. Canada has been running budget surpluses and applying some of them to our debt over the last 5 years. However, the current stimulus packages threaten to put us back into deficits for the medium term and our economy is so closely tied to the crashing US economy that this is going to be a bumpy ride. Fasten your seat belts.

On Friday we have Lucy, Gary and their sons Marcus and Aaron over for dinner. The three chickens we purchase from Costco went bad and smelled of ammonia the minute Cass took the plastic off. Yech. It’s a home entertainment emergency. Cass is dispatched to buy some steaks at Thrifty’s and everything is saved. The boys enjoy chasing and being chased around by Otis and after dinner we send them upstairs where they watch “Wallace and Gromit” while the adults tell each other hilarious off-colour jokes and stories. It’s a good evening.

Saturday we return the offending chicken to Costco, go and ride the horse at the barn and come home for a rest. Mark and Diane give us a call and we invite them over for dinner. They have been slagging curry made in Victoria so we try to make them our favourite recipe. It seems acceptable. “Different but good”. Again, another evening of interesting repartee. I love our friends!

I’ve finished Microserfs and am now reading jPod, another Douglas Coupland novel. Microserfs is set in the early 1990s. jPod is set in the middle 00’s, post-dot com, etc., etc. They both address the same demographic of people but the tone is completely different… understandably.

It’s Sunday morning and we’re enjoying lying in and watching a cute movie. It’s the weekend that still is, but soon will be the weekend that was.

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