Monday, January 25, 2010

Balls

Folks, tonight I'm paying homage to Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" (http://popup.lala.com/popup/576742231816075621). If you can't grok the beauty then I think you're not human. This was probably my favorite Pink Floyd song from 1981-82. I just loved the reckless abandon of the tune. The longer version on Umma Gumma was on a constant loop on my "record player" during my high school years. I sold the LP at my last garage sale and some lucky stiff walked away with a bit of my past for a few dollars. There is a lot of music being turned out these days. My kids listen to it on the radio every day. I'm trying to stay quiet when they prefer to listen to that stuff they churn out. I just wish that they would open their ears. I wish they could give up on what they are listening to and take a few minutes to let this music wash over them. Just for one minute.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Love My iPhone

I love my iPhone. It's perfect. It knows all my music and important data. It gives me access to apps that make me happy. It connects me to the Internet. It keeps me connected to the world. It feels perfect in my hand. I never leave home without it. My iPhone is like Monica Bellucci. I feel great using it. I love it. I will always love my iPhone and Apple.
I hate the AT&T network. It sucks. I don't care what Luke Wilson says. I get dropped calls. When I call people sometimes they can't understand what I'm saying. Sometimes I can't call anyone at all. Sometimes I can't get to the Internet and my apps that make me happy. In the heart of Silicon Valley, in New York City, and sometimes just here in New Jersey the network fails me. I hate the AT&T network.
This week I signed up for a Verizon plan and bought a shiny new Android phone. I'm carrying it with me all the time. It tucked into my left pocket (my iPhone is in the right). I don't love my Android/Verizon phone yet. It's clunky. It feels like high school science project. It's like Janean Garofalo. It's not as sensual or sexy as my iPhone but it doesn't drop calls! (Not yet anyway.) People can understand me when I talk to them on my Android phone. It's been connecting me to the Internet even in places where my iPhone, or rather the AT&T network fails me. Some of the apps that make me happy are starting to show up on my Android phone. They aren't as good as the versions on my iPhone but they're getting there.
I don't like carrying two phones but I need to be able to make calls and not have them drop. I need people to be able to understand me when I'm talking to them on the phone. That is the point of the phone to begin with, right? So now I'm learning to love the Verizon network. It's not perfect either because I can't be on the phone and use the data network. Hopefully they'll fix that and I can surf the web when I'm on the phone. That would make me really love them.
As for this whole iPhone/Android thing right now there is no contest. The iPhone hardware and software are far superior to anything that Android has to offer, today. Yeah, there's an approval process to get into the Apple App Store, Yeah, Apple controls the platform. All true. That may be draconian, but it does keep quality very high. On the other hand Android is very open and they are making progress. I think they will catch up eventually and you know...I've always had a thing...for Janean Garofalo.

Kicking Caffeine

So for the second time in probably two years I'm caffeine free. More accurately, I'm stopped taking any extra caffeine in the form of coffee, soda, or other such stimulating drinks. The last time I did this I think it lasted close to six months. I'm not sure how long this current behavior modification will last but I want to make it a life-long change. I have health issues that could probably use reducing my stimulant intake and my life is not what I would call stress free. It was probably a good idea to permanently eliminate all this extra jitter.

The week before the Christmas break I kept track of my coffee intake and it looked something like:

  • 7 double espressos, my morning pick me up
  • 25 cups of regular "american" coffee (a 5 cup a day habit)
  • 10 Diet Cokes

That totaled about 3050mg of caffeine a week or about 436mg per day. According to some sources you shouldn't have more that 300mg per day. I didn't measure other small amounts of caffeine I may be ingesting in chocolate and other sources. I figured they were noise in terms of the other more concentrated sources. So after Christmas week I went cold turkey. After a week or so of bad headaches, irritability, an just plain feeling lousy, I'm off coffee and other caffeinated drinks. I'm feeling pretty good now and I'm sleeping better. I'm still not sleeping much but what sleep I do get feels more sound and less interrupted.

I'm not sure if this will be a complete and total break with coffee. I mean real coffee. Dark rich creamy espresso. I may still enjoy one after a particularly good meal, but I don't think I'm going to be downing coffee at work to stay alert and active or worse just out of habit. I don't like the feeling of needing to have coffee in the morning just to be able to function. That can not be good. I think that automatic, default, consumption behavior is something I need to weed out of other areas of my life as well. For now I'll start with caffeine.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thyroid Post-Game Show Part 2

Last Friday, about a week-and-a-half or so after having my thyroid taken out, I started my Levothyroxine regimen. My primary care physician and I will work on determining the correct daily dosage. I was surprised at how little was actually required. Right now each pill contains 25 micrograms of the active ingredient. Makes you wonder what's in the rest of that 1/2 gram pill. I will be on this drug for the rest of my life.

Yesterday was my last visit with my surgeon. The final result of my biopsy was in and he needed to do his standard post-op check up. The main reason my thyroid was so enlarged was goiter however the biopsy turned up two small cancerous nodules (measuring 3mm and 1mm) one on each side. The guidelines for what to do next are pretty clear. Do nothing. My surgeon and the pathology report both indicated the tumors were completely contained and there is no indication that the cancer has advanced outside the thyroid. These tumors can almost be considered "pre-cancer" and basically they are nothing to worry about. So I'm not going to worry about them. The only alternate course of action is radioactive iodine treatment. Unless my primary care doc thinks it's worth doing, I'm going to skip it. These types of tumors are actually quite common and usually pose no threat. Later in life there was a chance that these tumors could have evolved (devolved?) into something really nasty but we won't know. Those little bastards are sitting in some pathology lab getting ready to be incinerated or whatever they do to incorrigible organs after they are separated from their owners, chopped up, and analyzed. The biopsy contained some other good news. There was no parathyroid tissue found in the sample so it looks like my surgeon did a good job keeping those calcium regulating babies intact.

So the $64,000.00 question is was it worth taking out my thyroid? Unfortunately I'll never know. I probably could have treated the enlarged thyroid with drugs but there were those tiny tumors in there which later in life could have blossomed into a real problem. If given this information I probably would have taken the same course of action.

This is probably all I'm writing about this unless some really big news comes up. I hope these posts are helpful for anyone facing the same choices. I found it extremely comforting to talk to other people who went through this experience and I'd be happy to converse, publicly or privately, with anyone who's been diagnosed. You know how to reach me.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let's Connect with Friend Connect

Now that Google has added more social features to Friend Connect, I've decided to try a few experiments on my blog. I may try to extend these trials at work as well but for now lets see how this small test works out. The only change I've made is to attach the "Add Members" gadget to the right hand column of my blog. Stop by and sign up if you read my blog and would like to participate in the experiment. I promise not to spam anyone but it may be a way for us to have a two-way conversation as some of you have been doing by posting comments.
Adding the gadget was pretty simple. The first thing I needed to do was to just sign up for Friend Connect. After that the Friend Connect admin page was populated automatically with my Blogger blogs. At that point you just pick the gadgets you want for your site, step through some wizards, and out pops some Javascript code you paste into your template. Pretty drop dead simple.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Thyroid Post-Game Show

For those of you not following my daily tweets, my thyroidectomy was completed successfully and I've been home for about five days now.
It was a long surgery. About four hours from the time I was wheeled into the operating theater, under the influence of a healthy shot of Versed, to the time I regained consciousness in the recovery room. Modern anesthesia is wonderful thing.
In the recovery room, the first thing I noticed was my throat was killing me and not from the outside but from the inside. I figured that was from being inubated during the operation but I'm not really sure. They gave me another shot of something for the pain in recovery but that's the last pain killer I've taken. My voice was unchanged. I was obsessing about this before my surgery and I was furtively testing it our in recovery. The nurse must have thought I was a looney.
I stayed overnight in the hospital for observation. That was fairly uncomfortable. I know that there are all sorts of nasty post-operative complications they have to watch out for (blood clots, internal bleeding, infection etc.) but you would figure there would be some passive way to monitor for these conditions. Nope. The way this is done is a nurse wakes you up every 2-4 hours, takes your temp, blood pressure, pulse, and blood-oxygen levels. It's impossible to rest or sleep. As a bonus, I had the pleasure of wearing what amounts to blood pressure cuffs on both legs which alternately inflated/deflated, right leg, then left leg, every 30-60 seconds. I was told this was for circulation but I think they were meant to keep me awake as much as possible between my vitals checks. But I kvetch. They took good care of me at St. Peters and I'm grateful.
The next day I saw my surgeon. The recap was pretty simple. I had a complete thyroidectomy. They left a little bit of tissue around the parathyroids so as to not rough them up too much. I need them for regulating calcium levels. The thyroid was very big and deep which is why the surgery took so long. What he extracted didn't look like cancer to him but we need to wait for the full biopsy to say for sure. He asked if I wanted anything for pain and surprisingly I turned him down. I wasn't in any real pain. So he released me. After losing my I.V. and signing some papers, I was walking (yep, no wheelchair ride) downstairs to the hospital main entrance where my wife was waiting in the getaway car.
I've been home since then. No strenuous activities but I did drive yesterday, which in the Garden State, can be harrowing. I also walked a bit. No running yet. I've taken a bit of Tylenol here and there when I felt uncomfortable but no other pain medication unless you count the warm soup my wife made. Man! That felt great going down my sore throat and tasted great. I'm going a bit stir crazy and will probably start doing some work from home soon. Another advantage to a career in technology.
I still have not started hormone replacement therapy. Due to the fact that my thyroid has left the building, I'm going to be on Synthroid for the rest of my life. From what my docs tell me I have about a two week window before I really need to start taking it. I'll be going in this week to figure out dosages, etc.
So that's it folks. Not too bad all things considered. For anyone going through this I hope this gives you some idea what to expect and helps to relieve any anxiety you may be experiencing. I've been contacted by friends and strangers who have all been very helpful with words of advice, experience, and well wishes. Thanks, everyone. You have all helped me a great deal.
Of course a special thanks to my family who have been helping take care of me and making home the perfect place to recover. I love you all.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Let's take out his thyroid for 100 dollars!

Close to a year ago my doctor discovered that my thyroid was larger than normal. I was in for an ear infection and after the usual poking and prodding he felt the front of my neck and asked, "How long has this been like that?" That's how this odd journey began. Now, after a biopsy and some further monitoring my doctor and my surgeon both agree it's time for that troublesome gland to go. Funny, the surgeon was the one who initially was opposed to taking a scalpel to me.

The "tumors" are quite large. I can feel them when I swallow. I have two, one on each side of my thyroid. The largest is about six centimeters which is about how long the incision will be across my throat. Kinda makes sense since that six centimeter mass is going to have to squeeze through that small window. A friend recently brought to my attention that I should have scheduled the surgery this week so I'd be out by Halloween with a nasty, oozing, possibly bleeding wound on my neck. My timing was always shitty. I would have made a great zombie.

I call them "tumors" but it's not yet determined if they are in fact cancerous or if they are malignant or benign. My biopsy indicated that I probably don't have cancer, but given the relatively high false negative rate for this procedure, I'm not willing to play the odds. My docs both agree with my decision. My family members are happy too. Some thought we (i.e. my wife and I) were taking this all a bit non-chalantly. We'll know soon enough.

I know people who have gone through this procedure before me and they are all ok. Some have had all or part of their thyroid removed. No one seems to have a nasty scar or long term health issues. Most are just taking a pill a day to replace the hormone normally secreted by their lost gland. I'm expecting to have much the same experience.

I have been counseled on what could go wrong. All of these scenarios have very low single digit probabilities. The worst of which is probably that I could permanently lose my voice. It freaks you out but again very low probability. I've never had major surgery before so I'm a bit unsettled about being under. I'm also not one for staying in the hospital but my wife has delivered three kids, the first by c-section (Yes, that's right the first by c-section.) she's basically telling me to suck it up. She's right of course. There are others I know who are really fighting for their lives. This little hiccup is nothing in comparison.

So gentle reader we'll see how this thing goes. I'm going to try to remember to blog and tweet my whole experience if I remember and I'm determined to ask my surgeon if I can have what's left of my thyroid after my operation. I think it would be fun to keep on my desk and have my kids take it to school for show and tell. It will be fun to have a little bit of myself in a jar even if it is a little bit of myself that has gone slightly haywire.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Playing with Google Wave

Wow. I've spent some time playing with Google Wave over the past few hours. I must say it's a bit overwhelming. My initial reaction is that Wave can fulfill it's design goal. I can see Wave completely replacing email. Traditional email functionality is a subset of Wave functionality. It should be a simple switch with one caveat. Large public waves are like being in a chaotic editing jam session. It's often difficult to keep track of all the conversations going on in the same doc. So if you are sending a Wave to a bunch of contacts that are all online you can probably expect that someone is going to just start typing a response before you've finished composing your message. There is currently nothing stopping them from seeing the inbound wave and just jumping in. That happens frequently in IM/Chat but it's impossible with email. No one sees anything you write in email until you press send. This has all sorts of interesting implications. Drunk Waving is probably going to lose a few of you out there your jobs or your ex is going to want to slap you with an injunction. So waver beware! (Caveat Undo-er?)

The quite side of wave is simply document editing although one could see that you could add some useful robots to your editing session. Robots are bits of code that will watch while you type and trigger some functionality based on an event or by matching some word or phrase. It's not hard to imagine basic utility robots for thesaurus, dictionary, spelling, grammar, etc. You can also imagine more advanced types of robots that would identify addresses, embedded images, and pull up more information via search. Imagine dropping in a bad picture of a painting in a document and having a robot automatically, or at your request, search the web for alternative images of the same painting.

Wave is really going to be all about communicating and collaborating online and in real time. I think that's where things will settle but it's going to require us to learn how to deal with collaboration that happens that fast. There aren't many systems out there that behave this way on this scale. It's going to take some time and it might be some time before your Waving with your mom and dad.

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