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[personal|travel] Leaving Omaha for the last time

More weird, restless sleep, with weird, restless dreams. Something about the weather, or the heater in my hotel room, or my unsettled spirit, has kept me awake nights. This time it was vehicular arson as part of some large coverup, except I was very bad at cleaning up evidence of my misdeeds. The car in question in my dream was my first car, an orange 1976 Datsun 710 station wagon I drove in college. Not hard to interpret what that means, really. All in keeping with the melancholy of my visit here.

A friend who has been out of town all this past week is meeting me for breakfast, then taking me to the airport. American Airlines yesterday cancelled my flight this morning. Getting rebooked involved spending over an hour on hold with the Aadvantage Platinum desk (apparently hold times for the main desk were running closer to twenty-four hours). I am dubious of my new connection through Chicago O’Hare, mostly because of ORD’s chronic problems with delivering timely wheelchair transfers. Basically, in my experience they are incapable of doing so at that airport.

None of that matters so long as I get home tonight. Today is Lisa Costello‘s birthday, the last one I will likely ever be alive for, and I’d like to see here thereupon, and I have two oncology appointments tomorrow. So, yeah, this terminal cancer patient really needs to get home today.

Even so, my weather karma has brought not only deeply subfreezing temperatures and inches of snow to Omaha, it appears to be doing the same to Portland today. Unseasonable here in Nebraska, almost unheard of their in our part of Oregon.

And I’ll have the long trip home to think about how I feel about having been here one last time.

Wish me luck, I’m going to need it.

[links] Link salad gets its kicks above the waistline, sunshine

Dude, Where’s My Accent?Why the California Vowel Shift may have us all by the tongue. Also this. Snerk. (Via David Goldman.)

Lovebible.pl — Charlie Stross is very funny.

Why Do We Call People Redheads Instead of Orangeheads?

Who Put the O in Portland? — More on the ‘round maps’. I was also struck by this comment: [T]here’s scientific evidence for the fact that GPS technology is making us less, rather than more spatially aware. When we rely, as is now so commonplace, on satellite-guided driving instructions tailored to our specific trip, we’re preventing our brain from doing what it should do naturally: making ‘mental maps’ of our surroundings. That’s been exactly my experience of using GPS.

How to Talk to a Live Person: Every Customer Support Number You’ll Ever Need — A holiday calling guide. (Thanks to my Dad.)

Soylent hits its 1.0 formula, nears releaseWe talk with Soylent’s creator on what’s changed since we slurped down the beta. Soylent peen is greople!

You Can’t Get Entangled Without a Wormhole: Physicist Finds Entanglement Instantly Gives Rise to a Wormhole — (Via Bruce Taylor.)

Die, selfish gene, dieThe selfish gene is one of the most successful science metaphors ever invented. Unfortunately, it’s wrong. This is freaking fascinating. (Thanks to AH via [info]tillyjane.)

Animal Locomotion: Reanimating Muybridge’s 19th Century Illustrations with GIFs — Zoopraxography indeed. (Via Daily Idioms, Annotated.)

Tolkien gesture – scientist maps climate of Lord of the RingsMount Doom is like LA and the Shire like Lincolnshire, so says a climate model based on author’s famously detailed maps. (Via [info]danjite.)

The Most Important Command in the Old Testament isn’t what you think — A little linguistic analysis for you. And guess what? It’s not about teh gayz or sex or the abomination of widely available, affordable healthcare. Not at all. (Via [info]daveraines.)

Australia’s first gay marriages conducted — Another bigotry domino falls, at least temporarily. Sadly, the forces of religiously-cloaked conservative intolerance are still very strong.

Iceland in shock as cops kills a man for 1st time in history — Clearly they need more guns to be safe. No, wait, they have more guns.

South Carolina Sheriff Refuses To Lower Flag For Mandela — Stay classy, conservative America. It’s what you do best.

Special Report: Thailand secretly supplies Myanmar refugees to trafficking rings — As Daniel says, this is stunningly evil. Sigh. (Via [info]danjite.)

Apartheid’s Useful Idiots For many years, a large swath of this country failed Nelson Mandela, failed its own alleged morality, and failed the majority of people living in South Africa. Ah, we are again reminded of the much vaunted moral consistency of American conservatives.

A reminder of what Republicans thought of MandelaIt’s a constant theme of conservatism to falsely take credit for the progressive causes of yesteryear while attempting to destroy contemporary ones. You have to give the GOP a break here. When their own record is a nearly unbroken string of failures and policy disasters, they can claim no credit at all except false credit.

Santorum: Fight Against Obamacare Like Fight Against Apartheid — You don’t have to be bone-stupid to be a conservative, but demonstrably it sure as hell helps. Really, what can any rational, moral human being say to something like this?

“History? We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.”The conservative project in general really, truly doesn’t give a damn about human suffering. They live in an abstract universe in which their dedication to their rigid ideology simply trumps all moral concerns about real human beings in the here and now. They just don’t give a damn.

?otD: Where was that one night?


12/7/2013
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 8.5 hours (very fitful)
Body movement: n/a (traveling)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block forging presidential birth certificates: 0
Currently reading: n/a (chemo brain)

[personal] The weekend and me

Lisa Costello and I both continue a bit under the weather. She thinks we have the same bug, I am not so certain, though she’s probably right. I feel more or less okay in the morning, after a very slow start and a night of oversleeping. By afternoon I am fatigued, logey, mildly headachey, and feel as if I have a fever, though I am not hot. Lisa has much the same symptoms, except with rather stronger headaches.

If she wasn’t going through it with me, I would assume these symptoms signal the beginning of my terminal decline, as they’re pretty close to what I’ve been told to expect. Lisa’s had this for about ten days, I’ve had it for about three. So either a slow moving bug, or the hastening of my demise. Cheerful, eh?

We did have a very nice family-and-friends dinner yesterday afternoon. Lisa sat it out at home, due to how ill she was feeling, and I wound up leaving early for similar reasons. Team E— made smoked pork butt, Jersey Girl in Portland made two potato salads, mom made Moroccan sweet potato salad, while [info]tillyjane and AH combined forces for a green salad and some challah bread. Plus various desserts.

Also, [info]the_child came home last night from her East Coast adventures, but Lisa and I had zonked out by then, so I still haven’t hugged her hello and heard whatever stories she has to tell.

Laying low today, we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

[links] Link salad is not too particular, not too precise

America’s 15 best pizzas — Apizza Scholes here in Portland makes the list.

Could Sexual Frustration Lead To A Shorter Life?

Atheists sink to new depths of depravity! — It’s amazing how immoral the irreligious are without the external threat of eternal punishment to keep us in line. After all, no human being could possibly be a moral actor without an invisible friend threatening their very lives and souls. (Via Scrivener’s Error.)

The real cultists are not Maoists, they’re CEOsIt is not only in religious or political circumstances where people are made to follow a leader unthinkingly. Ah, yes. The sociopath in the corner office. (Via Scrivener’s Error.)

The chalice that helped make possible the Iran nuclear dealIn gesture of goodwill that helped lead to talks, the U.S. presented a gift to Iran: a silver chalice in the shape of a griffin that is thought to be an antiquity looted from an Iranian cave. (Via David Goldman.)

Off Siberia’s Arctic coast, the seafloor belches methaneAnd it’s belching more than we had thought it was. Another climate change artifact.

Rooting for FailureFor the entirety of the Obama era, Republicans have consistently been cheerleaders for failure. They rooted for the economic recovery to sputter, for gas prices to spike, the job market to crater, the rescue of the American automobile industry to fall apart. I get it. This organized schadenfreude goes back to the dawn of Obama’s presidency, when Rush Limbaugh, later joined by Senator Mitch McConnell, said their No. 1 goal was for the president to fail. A CNN poll in 2010 found 61 percent of Republicans hoping Obama would fail (versus only 27 percent among all Americans). Now that’s patriotism, conservative values distilled in the best interests of the country consistent with the GOP’s unswerving commitment to the American people. Are you proud of your Republican party?

?otD: Are you just a cheeseburger in paradise?


12/1/2013
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 8.0 hours (badly fitful)
Body movement: n/a (sick)
Weight: 242.4
Number of FEMA troops on my block forging presidential birth certificates: 0
Currently reading: n/a (chemo brain)

[photos] Tri-Met discovers Stargate during Milwaukie light rail expansion

I have no idea what the heck this is, but it’s in the middle of the Tri-Met light rail expansion construction at the north end of Milwaukie, OR. Note the scale with the front end loader — that sucker must be something like 30 feet in diameter. The theory that Lisa Costello and I have evolved is that it’s a Stargate. Or possibly it’s some form of public art, but the project site is early days for an art installation.

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It’s here, though the Google Maps aerial view isn’t current to the construction process.

As usual, more at the Flickr set

Photos © 2013, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

[personal|culture] Me and customer service just lately

Like most white men of a certain height, class and educational standing, I wander through life in a cloud of largely invisible-to-me privilege. This privilege often expresses itself as good customer service. Sometimes it’s earned (for some value of “earned”) such as my frequent flyer status, sometimes it’s situational. I do make a serious effort to notice this sort of thing, so that, for example, if I walk up to a busy deli counter and am called next, I defer to the people who were waiting before me.

Lately the customer service levels which affect my life have been noticeably compromised in various ways. Yesterday I was talking to Lisa Costello about this. As I said to her, am I more needy due to my recent disabilities? Am I more demanding due to being shorter-tempered and fussier? Or am I really just bumping into increasingly weird problems at a higher rate than usual?

Her response was to comment that I’d become a strange attractor for customer service problems. Which doesn’t really answer my question, but was kind of funny. It was helpful to me in confirming that I’m not just experiencing observer bias or enjoying a version of the recency illusion.

I actually think it’s a combination of all three of my theories. My recent travel difficulties with wheelchair service wouldn’t have occurred in the first place if I didn’t need wheelchair service, for example — my recent issues with American Airlines. I am crankier than I used to be, what with the whole dying of cancer thing going on — yesterday’s noisy restaurant problem. And some of the problems I’ve encountered have been categorically weird, outside the usual run of issues — the whole CarMax power-of-attorney thing.

Being white, male and well-spoken didn’t really help me with any of these issues, though it certainly helped me resolve them post facto. Being disabled, well…

One more set of things to burn spoons on and have to deal with.

[cancer] Field notes from Cancerland, Maryland edition redux

Regorafenib

My oncologist has advised me to discontinue my Regorafenib, at least for now. She’s hoping to get me into a Phase 1 trial at my treating hospital in the near future. Plus my science advisory board is seeking other options. In any possible case, I need to be at least four weeks clear of my last cancer medication, what’s called a “washout” period. I may restart it soon if the trials process looks to be taking longer than hoped. So maybe I’ll see some temporary improvement in my side effects at least. Another step closer to end, though, given that this drug is what’s been keeping me alive.

Phase 1 Trails

As mentioned above, there is a Phase 1 trial for which I may qualify going on at my treating hospital. There’s an order in for a genetic test on my tumor tissue to see if I have either of the mutations indicated for eligibility. Thankfully we have tissue stored in the pathology department’s freezers, so this does not require a biopsy. Depending on what my science advisory board comes up with, there may be other tests in my near future.

Happy Side Effects Time

This is my off week with Regorafenib anyway, so I’ve been looping back through the usual array of GI twists and turns. Plus we’re trying to taper me off my sleep drugs as I taper off the Regorafenib. I’ve been a little more focused this week than usual, which is nice.

Burning Spoons

Unfortunately, I’ve needed that additional focus. We had a disastrous day with CarMax yesterday, trying to sell Lisa Costello‘s father’s car. We have a meeting this morning with a CarMax manager which may resolve the problem, but meantime we burned about five hours of both her and my time and attention yesterday on what should have been a reasonably simple process. And we have to burn more time and attention today. (Once I have final resolution, however it turns out, I’ll explain what happened.)

Heading Home

We’re flying back to Portland Sunday. Given my health, I suspect this will be the last non-medical long distance trip I make in my life, though I may try to squeeze in one more trip to Omaha to visit friends there. It will be good to be home, but every step I take just lately is more freighted than ever.

[personal|travel] Wrapping up (for now) here in Maryland

We’re flying home tomorrow, as I have my CT scan on Friday. That means Lisa Costello and I are wrapping our current round of business with her parents today, so we can move to an airport hotel tonight in order to facilitate our early flight in the morning. We’ll be back next week to finalize, or at least complete next steps, on getting the sale of the house moving as well as some smaller issues of property disposition.

Her dad is doing quite well, given the severity of his stroke. Everything has been going far smoother than we’d feared. A trip which might have been very, very difficult has mere been difficult.

Also, as today is my brother’s birthday, and he lives in the DC suburbs of Virginia, we’ll be having dinner with him tonight.

Me, taking my GI pills to get through today and tomorrow.

See some, all or none of you at Orycon this weekend.

[child|photos] In which we visit a neurobiology lab

Over the weekend, thanks to the good offices of our friend B—, [info]the_child and I visited a neurobiology lab at a major area research institution. Her friend S— came along as well.

We had a terrific tour of the project our friend B— works on, along with a pretty good overview of lab procedures and equipments. Plus we got to see actual neurons in their glia-infused petri dishes. As I said, like potato chips for zombies.

Science was discussed, research processes were reviewed, and fun was had by all.

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As usual, more at the Flickr set.

Photos © 2013, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

[links] Link salad wakes up from a bad night

Metastasis: An Anthology to Support Cancer Research — In which I have a reprint piece.

Polemic: how readers will discover books in future — Charlie Stross is as usual smart and funny.

Mark Forsyth’s top 10 lost wordsFrom snollygoster to wamblecropt, these forgotten words just might come handy, says the author of The Horologicon. (Via AH.)

Check Out the 1,500-Bottle Multnomah Whiskey Library — Huh. This is pretty cool. (Via Lisa Costello.)

Memory Is Inherently Fallible, And That’s a Good Thing

Mothers Pass Depression to Kids, Study Finds

A Strange Lonely Planet Found Without a StarAn international team of astronomers has discovered an exotic young planet that is not orbiting a star. This free-floating planet, dubbed PSO J318.5-22, is just 80 light-years away from Earth and has a mass only six times that of Jupiter. The planet formed a mere 12 million years ago — a newborn in planet lifetimes. Centauri Dreams with more on this. (Via Ellen Eades.)

Measuring a superconducting qubit by manipulating its environmentPutting microwaves in the environment lets researchers track a qubit’s evolution.

The mathematician’s defense of Bitcoin: It’s just another option

An Open Letter to the Editors of the Los Angeles Times — Yup. This. Climate change denialism has all the intellectual credibility of Flat Earthism (itself once Biblical position) and evolution denial (also a claim with exactly the same scientific authority as Flat Earthism). Cherished biases are not facts, no matter how desperate the true believer is to convince everyone around them otherwise.

Red Dawn delusions and an unmet longing for real community“The data suggests to us that outrage-based programming offers fans a satisfying political experience,” they write in the journal Poetics. “These venues offer flattering, reassuring environments that make audience members feel good. Fans experience them as safe havens from the tense exchanges that they associate with cross-cutting political talk they may encounter with neighbors, colleagues, and community members.” This is fascinating.

Bachmann: Obama Funding Al-Qaeda Proves ‘We Are in God’s End Times’ — Ah, the measured, rational discourse of your Republican party. If you’re Republican, this is what you vote for. Because if there really are reasonable Republicans in Congress, they certainly don’t do a damned thing to curb this vile insanity in the party. (Via David Goldman.)

What the Shutdown Has AchievedPost-Bush Republicans have managed to achieve what I thought couldn’t be done–they have made their party even more unattractive to the country than it was at the lowest ebb of Bush’s last years in office. I hope this finally means more voters are seeing the GOP for what it really is, but I am very dubious of such a happy outcome.

7 things @ 9 o’clock (10.10)Slacktivist Fred Clark is on fire with a series of links to interesting reporting on the ethics, morality and racist impulses behind the Tea Party-inspired GOP government shutdown.

“A Federal Budget Crisis Months In The Planning” — It’s very emotionally convenient for conservatives to blame Obama for the shutdown, but the shutdown is an extraordinary event which only happened because conservatives drove toward that goal in defiance of over two centuries of Constitutional process, parliamentary procedure, and traditions of the House and Senate. Obama wasn’t the one gleefully planning this months in advance. Republicans were.

?otD: Got cramps?


10/10/2013
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 7.0 hours (badly interrupted)
Body movement: 30 minutes (stationary bike)
Weight: n/a (scale broken)
Number of FEMA troops on my block enforcing laws passed under the Constitutional process and fully subjected to judicial review: 0
Currently reading: n/a (chemo brain)

[personal|food] Restaurant disservice, Outback Steakhouse style

I’m not a fiend for perfect restaurant service. I know wait people get tired, kitchens get busy, and everybody messes up once in a while. Generally, I have a lot of patience and a high tolerance level for eccentricities of table service.

But last night, Lisa Costello and I had one of the worst restaurant experiences I’ve had in quite a while at Outback Steakhouse over here in SE Portland. Comparable to my very bad experience at Papa Haydn about this time last year [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. Much as with Papa Haydn, the evening was sufficiently irritating that I won’t voluntarily go back to the restaurant ever again.

On entering the restaurant, we were seated immediately in an otherwise empty section. There were very few diners in the place, as we had arrived relatively early in the dinner hour. A little more than five minutes later, we had to ask the host to send a waitperson to our table, as there had been no attention at all. The section was simply dead. He rolled his eyes, which I did not appreciate, then headed off to the kitchen. A waitress shortly appeared.

We placed our order, which was simple with no special requirements. It came out very slowly, and piecemeal. Two appetizers arrived about ten minutes apart. The steak arrived about forty-five minutes after we ordered, just after I’d politely complained to the host, who again was indifferent. Others around us entered the restaurant, were seated, ordered, served and finished their meals in the time it took our entree to come to table. The waitress never acknowledged this and made no attempt to explain the slowness, make up for it, or secure us our food. (She did eventually take one of our appetizers off the bill.)

What the heck do you do as a diner in that situation? I respect that food service is a tough job on its best day. The waitress was not being personally rude to us. I’m a little too well socialized to raise hell, though I did speak to the host twice, for all the good it did me.

Restaurant politics are funny. The whole low-wage/tip thing is weird. (There’s some history about it here, in an otherwise fascinating article about a tipless restaurant.) And I know chances are good the problem had little or nothing to do with our waitress. But her job is to be the restaurant’s face to its diners, and her job includes making sure people know what’s going on. Even a plausible lie about some embarrassing kitchen screw up would have been better than the dead silence and excruciatingly slow service we received.

I think that’s what frustrates me the most. That lack of communication, that lack of service in the larger sense of the term. The indifference.

At any rate, this is the first time I’ve set foot in an Outback Steakhouse in years. It’s also certainly the last. My life is too short, literally and figuratively, to put up with this crap. Especially when I am lucky enough to live in a place like Portland with hundreds of wonderful restaurants to choose from.

[photos] McMenamin’s Edgefield

Last week, Lisa Costello and I went out to McMenamin’s Edgefield to poke around a bit. As I said before, it’s a stunning place. Essentially an 80-acre art project converted from the old Multnomah County Poor Farm. We had a great time looking at art, crafts, buildings and landscape, and enjoyed a terrific fine dining experience in the Black Rabbit Restaurant on site.

Highly recommended if you’re hanging around the Portland area with three or four extra hours in hand.

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More at the Flickr sets here and here.

Photos © 2013, Lisa Costello and Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Lisa Costello and Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.