Plugging the leaks

“I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in
And stops my mind from wandering
Where it will go
I’m filling the cracks that ran through the door
And kept my mind from wandering
Where it will go”

The Beatles, “Fixing a Hole” Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

For years I’ve thought of it as ‘plugging the leaks’ and in a mainly poker environment. It goes back to an article I read by a poker writer (it may have even been Daniel Negreneau; to be honest it’s been so long I can’t remember, but he gets the billing) about, fittingly enough, plugging the leaks. It’s pretty self descriptive; basically one has to look objectively at their game and figure out what they’re doing wrong on a regular or habitual basis, and then plug those leaks. Seems simple, right? Well it’s not, for a number of reasons. Mainly, its very difficult for most people to look at things objectively without some outside help. That’s why we all ask for an ‘objective opinion’ all the time. Also, we often don’t want to admit our ‘leaks’ to ourselves. It’s easier for many people to blame the opponent than to take responsibility for losing.

It’s one of the onion layers of poker that makes it such a challenging and rewarding game, and yet another reason how poker mirrors life. In life we have to take a step back once in a while and fix our own leaks, often leaks that have developed through years and years of practice and avoidance. I know some of mine, I didn’t know others, and I hadn’t admitted still others. But I’m 40. I’ve recently had a quintuple bypass, which is a mortality check. A while back I met the perfect woman, and someday soon I’d like to have a family. My career is on the precipice of phenomenal personal success, I just need to actually do it and not drop the ball. So I need to think about growing up a bit.

Some events this week have triggered this thought process, this introspection. Without getting into detail let me just say I’m at serious risk of losing an extremely important piece of my life right now. It may have happened already, and it’s just a matter of time til the hammer drops. But I’m not about to give this aspect of my life up without a fight. So I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to kind of itemize my ‘leaks’ and look at the best ways to fix them. Some are obvious (such as my somewhat cumbersome debt load) with obvious fixes, and for whatever reason i’ve coasted so long on them that the leaks have become huge torrents of paralyzing yuck. Which breeds more coasting and procrastination which feeds on itself to become part of a circle of ugly.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’ve never fixed one of these leaks in my life…I did quit smoking last year and completely turn my diet around this year… I’ve begun an exercise program as well, and just this week I reached a weight milestone I’ve been looking at for a few weeks. But…there are so many other leaks that are just as important as these physical ones; spiritual and soul leaks that over the years have grown into unruly monsters; things that have become almost habitual. I think back to some years ago, and how I had goals and conquered them, how i had a kind of blueprint to achieve them and, although it was somewhat fluid to account for change or uncontrollable circumstances, overall I stuck to it. It got me to Vancouver, got me to a fairly good career in the music industry at a big conference, then after that peter’d out and i wandered for a bit it got me into my telecom career path. I gained some real success in a real short time in the early days of my mobile career… and then…

I dunno…somewhere I fell off the path, hard. Then I got spun around, dizzy, and have spent some time trying to figure out where the path went. This is not something that happened due to any health, substance, or outside influence, at least not that I can really see, but was rather probably a sequence of small things that I didn’t even see happening. Or maybe a sequence of big things that I didn’t realize were connected. I don’t know. All I know is that in the summer of 2000 I was mostly debt free, making a good income, and had a 3 year goal for home ownership (well, mortgage-ship). I had a hefty amount of RSP’s and was an active and somewhat fit guy. I even owned a really nice car, and not a cheap one. And somehow I got from there to here. Things fell apart, and I can’t even see why.

What I can see is that in those almost 8 years I’ve given up doing alot of the things that made me successful. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned other skills in the meantime and they’ve given me some measure of success…but not to where I was and not without their own pitfalls. The key now is to put the old planning style with the new skill set and take myself to the next level. Yesterday I started seeking out some financial planning; not seeing anyone right off that I could say “yes they get where I am and how I live and can merge the two”, I started doing a bit of my own thing today. I put up two spreadsheets on Google Documents. One is a weekly expenditures chart which I’m going to track every day for a few weeks, and the other one is a household budget chart. See the first thing I need to do is figure out how much I make and how much I spend, and where I can cut the dumb spending.

This is not rocket science. Ruth told me to do this months ago. And I had intentions to…but then “something” was coming around the corner to alleviate the financial stress, so I didn’t bother. And of course, as happens in life, that something didn’t show up. Then I was bummed and pissed off. And did nothing. And then “something else” was coming around the corner. Guess what? It didn’t come either. Duh. I’m an idiot. So this time, even tho I think there is something that might come around the corner, fuck it, I’m going to be prepared if it doesn’t arrive. BIG ASSED LEAK: Don’t put off doing something today cuz tomorrow something is supposed to come that negates the need to do it. This is a leak I had even when I was a planning fiend and it’s going to take some discipline to plug.

Obviously that’s not my only leak, but it’s one of them with a readily visible solution.  Anyways, I’m beginning to ramble. The short side of the story is that I see the path again, and even though I’m a couple miles back from where I was, if I can get to the path without breaking my neck in a ditch I should be back going where I want to. It’s going to be a process, and I may stumble here and there, but I feel I’m up for the challenge. Almost a year ago I wrote a post about some of these thoughts, and it’s really taken most of that year to actually get anywhere with it. Correction: it didn’t take a year, it took a life threatening open heart surgery. Anyways, so now everyone who is around me please bear with me as I molt; it may get a bit interesting!

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Back at it…

(Ooh) I feel so good tonight
(Ooh) Who cares about tomorrow
(Ooh) So baby, you’d better believe

I’m back…back in the New York Groove…”

Ace Frehley, Back in the New York Groove

Ahhh Ace Frehley…the space man.  If you were a tween or young teen boy in the 70’s or the early 80’s and liked rock and roll, kiss was the shit.   My sister had Kiss: Rock and Roll Over on 8 track (EIGHT TRACK!!!!) when I was a kid and I loved that stuff.    Interestingly I never actually heard Back in the New York Groove till much later, if not after high school at least the back part of it.  By the time I actually tried to buy the 4 Kiss solo albums they were impossible to find…  I once met Ace at the NAMM show in Anaheim (National Association of Musical Merchants) I think it was 1993 or 94 cuz I was working for Music West at the time.  I was standing outside having a smoke and this drunk smelling old-ish, fattish guy with super skinny legs and way too tight jeans asks me to borrow one. I say sure and give him one and as I’m holding my lighter to his new smoke, I realize it’s a guy who was my guitar hero when I was like 12.  I think it was at that moment when I lost all childhood ideals of famous idols being near flawless and looking like their media images…lol… Anyways, not my point.

I’m two weeks back at work now, and I’m feeling pretty good.  I’m not necessarily waking up as early as I aim to every day and haven’t been in my usually 6:30 to 7 AM time, but that’s ok…I’m feeling like i’m on my game and ready to take on the challenges thrown at me.  During and right after my absence, some changes took place in the office, all for the better.  The direct result of this is that I have a much larger bit of responsibility, but should also have a much larger opportunity to make some income.   And the responsibility that is being put on me feels manageable.  Heck it’s beyond that, I’m downright excited that I’m finally getting the opportunity to show what I’ve always been able to do, but for so long was too tired or dragged out to complete.

I’ve been walking to work every day, and walking home after as well, and that always sets me in a good mindset for the day.  By the time I get into the office the blood is flowing and my brain is working, and lethargy just doesn’t even want to set in.  This is a good thing.  I’ve been jumping at challenges and problems, and trying to build a work patch of a big enough size that it keeps me constantly busy but small enough that i don’t get overwhelmed.  I can add a fair amount more work before I approach that.

The atmosphere in the office is completely different too.  Some of the things that were casting a dark pall over the environment seem to have been removed.  I don’t know if maybe some of that dark pall was my own physical discomfort, but regardless, the people who were making me dread coming into work are gone, and i’m now excited to come every day.  Part of my ‘walk’ in entails sitting on the seabus for 10 minutes, and by the time I get off on the other side I usually have a plan in place for completing my to do list efficiently and correctly.

So, ok…this isn’t a very exciting post to read, I’m sure… but I’m excited about the future here for the first time in a long time.  To me that’s exciting, and let’s face it…the blog is a self indulgent form of expression and I write for me first.  So… 😛

I’m also getting stoked to do some music again.  I’m actively pursuing getting some people together to start a band.  It’s not easy, specially since people of the level and style I want tend to be looking for a pro gig and I’m starting a hobby, but I’m optimistic.  There are some people I know who play various things, and I’m hassling them.  Greg’s into going at any time, but I don’t think I want to spring for rehearsal space and gear rental for just the two of us…we’d just end up playing the old songs we used to play for 4 hours.  Not that that’s an especially bad thing, but it’s a question of my short funds vs. non productive fun.

Speaking of short funds, I’m still arguing with the insurance company.  Critical Illness insurance appears to solely be a way for insurance companies to suck money out of customers and not pay out.  Their wording is such that if you had a hang nail in 1982, it’s a pre-existing symptom to cardiovasular disease 25 years later.  NOT making me a happy guy right now.  And i’m just one peg shy of desperate to receive those funds to recover from 8 weeks of portional income.  Portional meaning a small portion of my regular income.  Sigh.

Anyways, that’s where it all sits today.  I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post!

5, 6, 20, 2, 5, 4-4, 1, 4, and other numbers…

It’s been slightly over 5 weeks since my last post. Sorry…just haven’t had much muse kickin about, and been to into trying to heal things up. Which has been going well.

It’s 6 weeks since my life altering surgery, and the recovery process has been good. On week 2 my parents came out and picked up Ruth and I and took us out to Vancouver island to stay at a resort they know near parksville. Normally I’m just not into the being slow on the island thing, but this was instrumental in my recovery I think. We got out walking in the fresh air lots, and were able to just relax outside the city for a week. When they picked us up on the Sunday I was able to walk about 15 minutes, slowly, at a time before I ran out of breath. By the time we got back the following Sunday, I was in much better shape and closer to functional. My grandma came out on the trip too, and at the start her and I were moving about the same pace.

Since then I’ve been walking every day and trying to increase my stamina. I’ve had a sore neck and shoulders thru alot of this, and found I would get out of breath very quickly if I did anything. Now, I’m finding the neck much less sore and I’m able to walk up the hill to Lonsdale (about 5 blocks uphill) without stopping, and keep a good pace once I’m up there. Which is awesome. And what’s more, for the first time in several years I feel very…uh…competitive I guess. I’m setting physical goals and whupping them, and setting more after. I’m looking forward to kicking ass in other areas too. I can’t even explain how exciting it is, to know that if I have to stop something it’s because of running out of breath or sore muscles, and nothing else. Getting back to weightlifting will be next on the agenda, starting the 9th of April with the Open Heart Surgery recovery class at St. Paul’s. It’s not just physical stuff either; I notice myself having more desire to win and being better at other things too.

Not only that, but I’m down a full 20 pounds from my weight when I went into surgery. At first when I had lost weight I had thought it may be due to the surgery itself and all that trauma, but I’ve kept it off and it keeps going down. I’m 200 lbs right now, and my target weight for 16 weeks is 185, which should be quite attainable. I had to go buy a new belt as I ran outta holes on the old one. 😀

I need to mention here that the support that everyone has shown me thru this has been phenomenal, and I really need to thank everyone for that. Work gave me a nice card signed by everyone, and a bunch of them got together and bought me a future shop gift certificate which came in useful during those times when I wanted something to do. Management supported my time off wholeheartedly, and offered to help as I continue my battle with the insurance company (grr…don’t get me started on the insurance co…). My friends all came out and supported me, some visiting me in the hospital and some visiting me outside. My one friend offered to come get me and take me out for coffee as I didn’t have transportation (I wasn’t allowed to drive for several weeks), and although I haven’t taken her up on that yet, I probably will this week. And I even got a bunch of nice words from my old team at Nokia, comments on my blog. That was a surprise, and appreciated greatly. Of course Ruth has gone above and beyond, basically taking care of me for several weeks and helping me the rest, and she deserves extra special thanks and a smooch to boot. Er…from me… So…thanks everyone.

So 6 weeks after surgery means it’s 2 weeks til I go back to work. I’m actually quite excited about going back, which is also something new…it’s been a while since I’ve been excited about work due to various things, including the whole angina thing. Also it will be nice to do something other than sit on my butt playing warcraft or xbox all day. Heh. The real challenge at work will be to continue eating properly and not fall into the “easy but unhealthy” trap. I think I’m up for the challenge, as my desire to see me hit my goal weight of 185 within 16 weeks will outweigh my desire for fries. I hope. 😉

So today is March 30th. Which means in 5 days it will be 04/04/08. On that day it will be 1 year as a nonsmoker! Even a lot of the desire has even gone away. Occasionally I get a strong craving, but it’s pretty rare since the surgery. It’s quite a milestone and I have a certain amount of pride in attaining it. Obviously, I have very strong reasons to continue now as well; the last thing I want is to need this surgery again. Although the holiday was nice, if not especially enjoyable…

On a non personal note, we are coming to the close of another hockey season. The Canucks have 4 games left, all at home, and it is do or die for them. After an abysmal road trip where they went from first in the division to tied for last, they pretty much have to win every remaining game. It was an embarrassment to watch those last games against Colorado, Minnesota and Calgary… all three of which Vancouver should have won. It’s been alot of years since I’ve seen a Vancouver Canucks team with as little heart as they showed on those games; it’s almost like the wanted to lose. No hitting, no emotion, no scoring…it’s like they’re completely out of gas. If they don’t beat Calgary tonight, they remain outside the playoff race, regardless of whether or not Nashville can beat Detroit tonight. If they win, they may take over 8th place, cuz I don’t think Nashville has the nards to beat Detroit.

So, go Canucks. If I post a rant against them tomorrow, you’ll know they lost…although I don’t think they will. 😉 If they do lose tonight, we can assume they’ve given up and are done for the season.

drainage.jpg

One Week!

It’s been a week since my operation; hard to believe.  It actually feels much longer to me, mainly because I spend alot of time just kinda sitting around, and because my nights are filled with half sleeps and restlessness.  I do my daily exercises, but beyond that I really don’t do much at all except sit around; can’t, actually.  My attention span feels short as well, so it’s hard to get into something like gaming or watching a movie or whatever.  That will come tho.

A week ago right around now I had been awake once or twice in ICU and was slowly being brought around.  I remember very little from ICU; I remember waking up and seeing Ruth, and it making me feel all warm and happy.  We chatted, and I told her to take lotsa pics thru the process.  This is a quite clear memory, and in it the ICU was bright and clear; apparently I was getting excited so they put me out again.  After that…all I remember is bleak.  I remember it feeling like I was on a lone bed with a dim blue light over it, with a short field before pure darkness.  I remember being deadly thirsty, yet every time I drank water or ate ice chips it would make me nauseous.  I remember at one point getting sick; I think they changed the drugs then.  Oh, I also remember seeing my cardiologist in the ICU before I got sent to the ward.  He said that they call the procedure the surgeon did an “operation of a lifetime” because they used all arteries and no veins (arteries last much longer I guess).

Once in the ward, things are kind of blurry too.  I was pretty wacked out the first couple of days, so if anyone came to visit and I said wierd or stupid or even mean things, you know why…sorry.  I also had periods of moodiness and crankiness that would come out of nowhere for a few minutes then go away.  My Mr. Crankypants persona coming thru maybe?  The food was fantastic, by the way.  (uh…sarcasm…)  By Sunday I was starting to feel more coherent.  I had been walking around a fair bit, had taken a shower, had watched the hockey game in the patient lounge the night before.   Surgery did make me feel fuzzy brained, though, and I still feel it a bit.

So here we are a week later.  I generally can sleep for 4 hours at a time, although last night I was excited to notice I slept 5 and a half; perhaps things are getting better.  Other than last night, I usually go to bed quite early.  It takes me a while to fall asleep , but I usually wake up around 2 AM.  I get up, maybe take a couple tylenol if the pain is bad, drink some water as my throat is usually dry, and go back and try again.  The second sleep takes me to 6 or 7 AM, and I get up then.  During the day I take a nap in the early afternoon.

Because of the nature of the surgery and recovery, I’m really quite helpless, although I think I can start washing dishes soon, except for the big pots.  Vacuuming is out though, and laundry as well for another couple weeks.  I set myself goals every day as far as various things to do.  These tend to include amount of exercise, intensity, things around the house and things body recovery wise.  For instance, today my goal was to walk to the end of the block, back and then to the next apartment and back without stopping.  I made it, and funny enough passed an old guy telling his buddy about his quintuple bypass a month previous.  I almost said something, but didn’t.  My other goal is to go have another walk around a mall or grocery store with Ruth tonight.  The grocery store is needed, but the mall might be easier due to all the places to sit.  We’ll see; I just want to be somewhere other than W. 5th St. north van or a doctors office.  I’ve added another goal to wash the dishes in the sink.  Exciting stuff huh?  I’m ecstatic if I am able to exercise for 10 minutes without stopping, and overjoyed to do the simplest task.  Sigh.

There’s a fine line between pushing the recovery too hard and not pushing enough, and I think I still need to discover where that is for me.  I felt that my first few days of recovery were quite quick, and that I’ve stalled a bit the past few.  I know it’s important to not push too hard, but it’s also easy and tempting to get into a habit of taking it a bit too easy and not progressing.  By next Friday I hope to be able to walk a few blocks and feel comfortable about people coming by to visit, but that seems like a distant mark right now.

Anyways, that’s my story on the first week since surgery; I won’t tell the story of the terrifying event I had the other night until another time, or talk about the various doctor visits I’ve had this past week.   Just…it is getting better every day, and I do try and be patient but not lazy.

It really is all worth it…

My neck and shoulders hurt the most right now. It’s from trying to not move my chest when I cough, as that hurts ALOT, and it’s from trying to do most of my body positioning in bed with my head and neck instead of my arms. See, you’re not allowed to lift anything over 10 lbs for like 4 weeks after open heart surgery.

Ten pounds isn’t much; it’s a cast iron frying pan, a back pack with a light laptop in it, a small bundle of clothes for the washer, a 2 qt saucepan with water in it, etc etc. You get the idea. Heck even the door of most businesses have to be opened by the handicap auto door opener thing right now. Of course your body is much more than ten pounds. One of the things they’re very strict about in the hospital is not using your arms to get into and out of bed. Try this at home. Make yourself get into and out of your bed without using arms or elbows; just cross them infront of your chest , and remember you can’t just crash down onto your back cuz your ribs have just been broken. Getting in is a bit easier cuz you can kind of lie sideways and roll, but getting out…it’s a bit of a job. The lower the bed, the harder it is too. My bed is just low enough that it causes me stress, but high enough that I don’t need help. I remember the days of sleeping on a futon though…man…

My chest wound is the next most painful. Its a constant numbing throb around the wound and about 2 inches to either side of it. Those of you who saw me in the hospital saw; it’s a big assed wound too. I’m starting to feel the breastbone heal, which is cool, but still quite painful. It feels like a bruise all around there, and I imagine it will start to look like one soon as well.

The broken ribs themselves only hurt if I happen to twist my rib cage, put undue stress on either arm, or cough or sneeze. But when they hurt, they hurt alot; my eyes generally water up when I cough, and I sneezed yesterday and almost fainted. The crappy thing about this is that I am supposed to cough, alot. It keeps the fluid out of the lungs and is good excercise and actually helps the rib break heal somehow. I have a little pillow that I hug and then I cough. It’s pretty hip if I’m out and about, my little red heart shaped huggy pillow hehe.

The arm wound doesn’t hurt so much unless I curve my wrist a certain way and there is pressure put on the bottom end of the wound. So I try not to do that much. The arm wound is by far the ugliest, but as I said, it hurts the least…just cuz the chest and the neck hurt so much. This is where they took the arteries from, and I can’t even express how glad I am it was the arm instead of the leg…I imagine that would be much more troublesome.

So here I sit. I wake up by 7 AM at the latest cuz the tylenols have worn off and everything hurts. I sleep in 3-4 hour groups, where I wake up in the middle and look around for something to ease my comfort. My left arm looks like Amy Winehouse after a particularly good weekend , and my right arm looks like something from a zombie movie. I’m melancholy in the morning cuz I know I have basically sitting around to look forward to until I go to bed and do it all over again. Of course there are the 19 pills I take everyday, which will go down to 15 in a couple days (they put so many fluids in you for the operation you need about a weeks worth of vitamins and diuretics to lose the extra 8kg or so you put on…maybe I’ll put up the picture of my super fat post surg toes in another blog post…it’s pretty funny).

But at the end of it all it’s all worth it. Everyday I see improvement in lung power and reduction in rib pain, and I am able to move further and further each day. The nurse said it was only the second time in her 23 year career that she saw someone be released from the hospital within 72 hours of that kind of surgery; so my healing curve may be fast (we’ll see how the bone break goes…). But most of all, the reason it’s worth it is that all these healing pains will end, but the angina wouldn’t have if I didn’t do this.

left-arm.jpgright-arm.jpg

The impending re-birth of Victor Schoenmeijer

“I’m made of clay
I fear I’m the only one who thinks this way
I’m always falling down the same hill
bamboo puncturing this skin
and nothing comes bleeding out of me just like a waterfall I’m drowning in

Nine Inch Nails, I do Not Want This, the downward spiral, 1994

 

“Save the salesman…from the kitchen”

Yardbin (my old band), Storm Warning, untitled, 2006

I was sitting at a little table today with 3 other fellas with varying degrees of fear in their eyes. I probably had the least fear showing, but that’s cuz I was in poker mode; inside I probably had the most. We were in the typical generic hospital meeting room; clinical, a bit run down with a cheap brown fibreboard table and cheap chairs of varying colors and decay. The other three guys were substantially older than myself, which makes sense I guess. Two of them had people with them; one guy had his sister and her adult daughter and another had what appeared to be his nurse. It was pretty much a whole bunch of waiting peppered with small amounts of quite useful information.

A social worker, a nurse, an anaesthesiologist and a previous open heart patient all took their turns telling us what to expect, and how to prepare. We also got to watch a movie. No popcorn though. I spent alot of time staring at the walls of St. Paul’s Cardiac pre admission section meeting room, and reflecting on things. Between moments of new information there was alot of repeating of things I already knew, so I was able to get intimately familiar with those walls. I most enjoyed the visit from the Vancouver Open Heart Association volunteer. This is a group of people who have all gone thru open heart surgery and offer support and resources for new patients.

Our VOHA volunteer had his bypass 6 years ago, and seemed quite healthy and happy. He apparently had his surgery at 70. That kind of bummed me out a bit…this is an old man’s disease, for the most part. The flip side was that he was a mighty healthy and happy looking 76 year old dude. Says he does alot of golfing. He gave us all cute little red heart shaped pillows. Not cuz they’re cute, but because they are actually important tools for the recovery process. You need to hug the pillow alot apparently; the rehab people will explain more in the hospital I guess.

The social worker was actually quite informative as well; he mentioned alot of things about recovery process and things you can and cannot do (no driving for 3-6 weeks, no lifting anything over 10 lbs for 2-3 months, no doing any heavy chest lifting for 4-6 months etc etc). He also spoke about the fact that other than the broken ribs, you’re pretty much good to go in a week or two. In most cases.

The nurse did all the scaring. First off, the ol’ waking up after surgery with a tube down your throat trick…apparently a fair number of people panic when they wake up and feel that, and have to be put back to sleep. Then there’s the post surgery dementia bit; apparently alot of people get quite confused and can panic in the days immediately following surgery. She did indicate that that’s pretty much age related, so maybe I won’t see too much of that. Then there’s the depression. I wonder if it’s worse than the feeling of hopelessness and frustration you get before the surgery?

The nurse did say that the younger the patient, the harder it is before surgery and the easier after; that’s apparently the opposite for older patients. I wonder why that is?

I asked Ruth to go home tonight; I just needed some me time before all this goes down; an opportunity to freak out a bit and just try and come to terms with things. There was a moment last night in bed where we both realized that there was a chance that it could be the last time we’re in bed together; it is major surgery and major complications can and do happen. Obviously the chances are very very slim, but still…it was one of those moments where time stops and there’s nothing you can do but have a good cry about it. It really hit home; in two days I’m either going to be completely revamped, or not here at all. Most likely the first. 😉 It’s probably the first time in my life that I’ve really had to stare mortality in the face, and I gotta say it’s not so enjoyable.

So that’s all the negative stuff. Now what’s with the title of the blog? Well, that’s my birth name, apparently. I put that in the title because all of this is a legacy from my birth mother; yes, according to my lipidologist Familial hypercholesterolemia is quite common in the Dutch, not the East Indians so much. Whoda thunk it. Anyways, yes, Elma Schoenmeijer, your son is getting his ticker revamped in 36 hours or so. I’m looking forward to the results. The process…not so much. Don’t get me wrong, though, I don’t identify with my birth name or family at all; obviously my adoptive family is my family. (And hey, the hidden agenda here is that maybe a birth family member will google the name and discover that I’m around.)

I said to Ruth last night that I’m molting. I’ve got an opportunity few people get (well, actually everybody gets this opportunity every day, but we usually don’t do anything with it): a do-over. My life is undergoing a bigger upheaval than I can say I’ve ever experienced before. I quit smoking last March. I started eating uber healthy (well comparatively hehe) last November. And now in February I get new arteries. I may even get a transfusion. Free detox wheee! To top it all off I get an infusion of cash. So I’m molting. But the insides, not the outside. Out with the old and in with the newer, better, me.

Alot of heart surgery patients say they feel 10-30 years younger after it’s done. Being 40 I’m not so sure I want to feel 30 years younger, but 10 or 20…yeah baby! Who gets to feel like they’re 20 again? I mean physically, not emotionally. I look forward to it immensely, even if I only feel a few years younger after.

See, in retrospect I can actually pinpoint the exact day that my energy started to decrease and my pain started to go up. I was still working for Nokia, and I had an early morning flight to Calgary. I was sitting in the airport, and all of a sudden I felt faint, my chest hurt, I had trouble breathing, the whole bit. At one point it crossed my mind that I was having a heart attack. And then it passed, and I didn’t think much of it. I did see a doctor a couple weeks later and we checked the heart enzymes and did an ECG, but there was no issues. My cholesterol was quite high, and we went on a drug and diet regimen to bring it down. This was all shortly after 9-11. So, 6 and a half years ago.

It was at that point when I stopped having joy in doing things. I slowly stopped snowboarding. I stopped hiking. I stopped bicycling. The gym became history. Heck I even slowly ended up quitting having parties and other social events. I wrote alot of this off to depression about my relationship at the time (which was an ember quickly burning out) and even 9-11 itself; that was a life changing day for me. I basically gave it every excuse except that my body was having problems. I blamed external and internal things but never once looked at the physical self and the role it played.

So, anyways, over the past few years I’ve noticed and felt my enthusiasm and excitement for things has sunk lower and lower. I’ve had less and less energy, and it’s been dragging me down, I’m sure of it. My self discipline, my work ethic, my social relationships they’ve all suffered over the past few years. So you can understand if I’m a bit excited about removing one of the major probable causes for this.

So my impending rebirth is coming. 36 hours from now we should be about halfway through the surgery; the molt not yet falling. It will probably be a week or so before I write in here again, unless I get some massive inspiration tomorrow (although I suspect I’ll be too busy fending off panic hehe), so bye for now; worst case scenario I’ve left a 250 post legacy 😉 . And tiff, if you come visit, you don’t have to be wholesome bahhahaha. Wait…yes you do. Buhbye bad arteries and chest pain.

It must be an omen…

(I used to be my own protection)
On a Valentine’s Day,
(But not now)
On a Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day, Linkin Park, Minutes to Midnight

So I’ve been booked for my quadruple bypass: February 14th. Valentines day. There is some poetic sweetness in that, no? I met with the surgeon doing the dirty deed yesterday and he showed me where the various bypasses would be going. It’s pretty hardcore, how much things are blocked up. Also it turns out he prefers to take the graft veins from the arm instead of the leg because apparently they last longer. It may mean less struggle to walk after as well, although just marginally. The surgeon said it’s unheard of for someone to meet with him and be booked in for surgery within a week; his general wait time is 6 months. I can’t imagine another 6 months with this; it would be the most depressing half year imaginable.

While I was waiting to meet with the surgeon I happened to hear his assistant call another patient to book surgery on the 14th. This person, however, was unable to get in at that time so they were booked for the 23rd or something, thereby freeing up a spot for me. While speaking to the surgeon he indicated that that particular person was waiting since 2006! There are many reasons that patients get prioritized; for me I’m young, completely healthy except for this, and completely debilitated right now because of it. That makes me a bit of a priority, so I can get back to being a productive member of society. If I was a 68 year old retired guy who didn’t need to move around much, they would probably let me wait a bit longer, as the surgery wouldn’t make the difference between being able to work and not being able to.

So one week. Valentines day. Wheee. I have two concerns. First, the surgeon indicated that 50% of his patients get bumped for surgery due to an emergency. For me that would be brutal, as I have a hard time with all the waiting to begin with. Secondly, I’m concerned that our benefits/insurance co will be hard to deal with. I’ll be right hooped if I can’t get my short term benefits, cuz I won’t be able to pay rent etc. Sigh. Anyways, this is where we are. I can’t wait til it’s done and I can breathe again, move again! Wish me luck all.

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The anticipation is killing me!

i got tired of waiting for my ship to come in
tired of waiting, waiting for the bus
tired of waiting for my shoes to get fixed
tired of waiting, waiting for my cheque
tired of waiting for a change in the weather
tired of waiting for the water to boil
tired of waiting for the paint to dry
tired of waiting, waiting for a sign
tired of waiting for my big break
tired of waiting for the dam to break
tired of waiting for the bombs to drop
tired of waiting and waiting and waiting
i got tired of waiting for the end
“Tired of Waiting”, No Means No, Wrong LP1989 and reissued in 2005
* Warning: some free association emotional writing to follow; might be a bit of a downer to some. If you don’t understand free association, it basically is subconscious writing and doesn’t always represent the current conscious emotional state, just the undercurrent.*
I wasn’t sure if I should actually publish this blog, but in the end, it’s not a social blog, its a place for my feelings. They don’t get any more real than these.
The fear is starting to become tangible, as I wait until Thursday’s meeting with the surgeon. Each day it gets thicker and thicker, and it’s starting to feel like I’m swimming in peanut butter. I know I shouldn’t have this fear, as this is really a quite common procedure these days, but it’s not the actual surgery or recovery that’s got me all stressed; it’s the wait and the unknown. I don’t know when I’m going in. I don’t know if I’ll have a heart attack before I even get in. I don’t know if I’ll have trouble with the anaesthesia or complications on the table, or if the pain drugs after will make me say something stupid or bad to someone I care about. I don’t know if anyone will come visit me in the hospital, or what I’ll do with my time during the 6 weeks after. I don’t know if I’ll be back in this same boat in 5, 10, 20 years, and how it will turn out then. I don’t know if the insurance will be difficult and the benefits, and how I’m going to survive financially if they are. I don’t know what level of helplessness I’ll be in when I get home, and how that’s going to manifest itself into frustration and depression. I don’t know how I’m going to walk to the salad place for my lunch today.
None of these fears by itself is all that heavy or even all that great a fear, but the combined effect is really starting to get a bit paralyzing. I have no fear of the surgery itself really, at least not major concerns, but all these unknowns are creating stress, and (dare I say it) possibly a bit of depression. I’ve recieved tools from the hospital about what to expect, and done a little research but really, none of these words can alleviate the fact that I don’t know what the results are going to be. I can assume and go by the odds, but there is always that nagging doubt in the back of my mind. It hit home yesterday that I’m royally and truly fucked when I was playing foosball at work and had to take some nitroglycerine in the middle of the game. I’ve got so much nitro glycerine in me right now that I’m afraid if you knocked me over I’d explode!! I haven’t played guitar hero or rock band for weeks, cuz they both require a certain amount of movement and it starts to hurt. This sucks ass! Not because i desperately want to play any of these games, but the fact that I can’t makes me feel old, ridiculous and weak. I know all the logic, and I know that it’s not so bad as all this, but the unknown remains, and anyone who knows me knows that I hate the unknown; it’s why I research things.
These days I often find myself doing a bit of soul-searching and wondering if I’m a bad person. Is it wrong that I am angry about all this? Is it wrong that I feel frustration with our medical system for this wait? Is it wrong that I’m embarrassed at my inability to do simple things? Is it wrong that some days I want to curl into a little ball and hide alone in my apartment? Is it wrong that I don’t have the energy for “physical activity” and don’t even have the desire, cuz all I can see is it ending in a sore shoulder and chest or worse? Is it wrong that I fear Ruth and her family seeing me in the hospital or recovery because I will be at my absolute physical bottom? Is it wrong that I fear even more that they don’t see it? Is it wrong that often the two things I want most are the two things most responsible for my being in this place: a cigarette and a bag of chips?
I’d like to think that after Thursday alot of these stressors will be reduced, but I just don’t know. Ruth has been privy to the stresses I’m feeling, and has been incredibly cool with it all. Her patience has been a bright light in all this darkness and gloom, and I feel bad for exposing her to this. I so look forward to the post recovery state of having energy and being pain free and able to do things I enjoyed once again. But the waiting is difficult for me; it’s not something that I’m very good at, and that, upon analysis, is the root of every fear I have about this whole process.

Why is it always Star Wars? A little linkage, too, btw

Like many dorky types, I’m a big fan of Star Wars. I always have been…when I was a kid I actually had Star Wars wallpaper in my bedroom. Didn’t have the sheets and blankets though…some lines aren’t worth crossing. I, of course, own all 6 movies on DVD and have actually sat through all six both ways (starting from 1 and going thru 6 and starting from 4 and going thru 3).

Star Wars permeates North American culture quite deeply. See if you can go a week without hearing (or making) some kind of Star Wars reference or allusion; it’s probably hard to do. It has become the defacto terminology for any battle. Car Wars. Book Wars. Bar Wars. Etc. etc. Heck I did it here once with Telecom Wars. Friend and co-worker Duane recently had some guy challenge his position as the first entry when once google’s the term “Vancouver Blogger”. So Duane immediately wrote a post about Blog Wars. Blog Wars isn’t new, I’ve seen the term before (even referenced to the movies), and Duane took it a step further, going so far as to utilize that classic opening story scroll in a little video. Awesome! But…

Why is it always Star Wars? Why not, say…i dunno…Lord of the Blogs? He could be Duan-o Bloggins, trying to keep the Google OneSpot out of the hands of the evil Lord who-ever-on. Heck he could even have a cast of friends and enemies helping or hindering. Who wouldn’t want to read about the interesting interplay and parallels between Duano Bloggins and Twitchlum (formerly smeatwich) for instance (actually maybe I’d rather be Twitchdalf the white…well, light brown…).

Or how about Blog-iator? “I am Duane-us Maximus, writer of a dissed blog, creator of stolen pictures, keeper of top google spot and I shall have my revenge!” Maybe Bloglander: “I am Duaner MacBlog of the clan MacBlog, and my site is immortal. There can be only ONE! (number one)” (sorry, maybe alot of people won’t catch that reference…)

Yeah, ok I’ve run out of steam on this…it was so much better a post when it was just in my head…

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Canucks…sigh…again I ask what’s wrong…

At least once a season the Canucks go thru a period that makes me question my fan-ness. Not to sound like a talentless Vancouver Province sports writer who’s only trying to generate controversy, but man they sucked last night. For the last couple weeks actually. Listless, bored hockey, with few players stepping up to the level they should. Play like this makes me wonder if the Canucks can even make the playoffs, let alone win the big prize. It makes me wonder if all the anti-nucks are right, and we are a one trick pony. I don’t want to believe that, but the past few games have planted that seed in my mind. Last night’s game made it sprout. You can’t play just the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes and expect to win, dammit!

A few things are wrong. First and most obvious, John Garrett said it best last night “The Canucks HAVE TO find a way to get production out of Naslund, and soon.” If your superstar is just barely average, you’re in trouble as a team. When I look more forward to seeing Burrows/Cooke/Kessler hit the ice than Naslund’s line, there’s a problem. And I’m a huge fan of Naslund. But something’s wrong with him, and has been for 3 seasons. Is it time to let him go when he becomes a UFA at the end of the season??? I’d hate to see the face of the ‘nucks be traded, but dammit we need some scoring! All season there have been momentary flashes of his former brilliance surrounded by a morass of mediocrity. What’s up Marcus? Come back…we miss you! Second…(and I’m sounding like a broken record here, cuz every post I’ve ever made about the team has included this) put the damn puck in the net! How many games have we lost where we outshot the opponent by a healthy margin? What’s up with that? Message to the shooters: the logo on the goalie’s sweater shouldn’t be your target; you’re trying to get it past him, not to him. And thirdly, our power play is tanking, which seems to be about par for the course with the Nonis era Canucks. Or maybe it’s the Vigneualt era Canucks. I think Alain Vigneault is a great coach and a billion times more likeable than Crawford, but the power play’s been inconsistently bad for 2 years now.

All in all, hockey is supposed to be entertainment. The team can’t go on being entertaining for 20 minutes a game (a recurring theme this season) and continue it’s streak of home sell outs. Not to mention the fact that Vancouver doesn’t have a Stanley Cup, and could probably use one before the Olympics… (and before Trevor Linden retires). The team is in an extremely tight race for playoff positions, and can’t afford to take too many more days off. With the injuries we’ve had to deal with this year, everyone needs to step it up, not just Alex Edler. Heck even without all the injuries, in our conference and division everyone should be giving 120% every night anyways. It’s why they get paid so much! When the only guys earning their pay every shift of every night are the lowest paid guys, I have to wonder what’s going on! Yes, I’m a bit frustrated today after watching that game.

To re-visit my opening sentence, at least once a season they make me question why I’m a fan, but also at least once a season they step it back up and make me remember why I’m a fan. This is what I look forward to…

Update on the surg…

Your smile lights up the hospital room,
please help me
please
During open-heart surgery,
please stay with me
During open-heart surgery….
“Open Heart Surgery”, Sense Field, 1999
I’ll be meeting with the surgeon on Feb.7 and then going under the knife within a few weeks after that…could be the next day, could be 3 weeks. I’ve been doing a little research on the surgeon, the procedure and the recovery, and it’s eased my mind a little bit. Of course, obviously it’s a huge thing no matter how you slice it.
The surgeon is a big player in the thoracic surgery field; he’s a well known specialist in off-pump bypass surgery, as well as part of the teaching staff at UBC med school. There’s basically two types of bypass surgery: off pump and on pump. In the original on-pump surgery basically they hook you up to a heart lung machine and stop your heart for the procedure; in off pump they use devices to control specific parts of the organ while they’re working on them. Off pump tends to have less complications than on-pump, tho neither are super risky anymore. This surgeon prefers to do off pump surgery if he can, and I think from my limited knowlege that’s what I’d prefer as well.
Of course during the surgery I’ll be completely anesthetized and won’t be aware of anything. I did ask for a dvd of it afterwards previously, but they all just laughed; I guess they figured I wasn’t serious. I was; I want to be able to look deep inside myself Bahhaahaha. Anyways. The surgery will take anywhere from 3-6 hours depending on the difficulty and if any complications arise. Statistically, around 5% of patients suffer a mild heart attack during the process, and 5% have a mild stroke, although that does tend to happen more with people over the age of 70. By my very simple and probably wrong math that means I have 45% less chance of either of those issues based on age alone. Plus I’m generally more healthy than alot of patients. They’ve found that 1-4% die on the table, but again this tends to be the older people. Interestingly women tend to have more complications than men.
They will break my breastplate and spread open my ribs to do the operation; this is actually what takes the longest to heal. They will also make an incision in my leg to get the veins they use for grafts. After the surgery I’ll be wheeled into Intensive Care for up to 48 hours, depending on whether there are complications or not. Apparently I will wake up at some point and have a breathing tube in my mouth and not be able to talk. I’ve been told this can be the worst part for many patients; quite disorienting and confusing. However, due to the amount of anaesthetic goop in the system you tend to just fall asleep and then not remember it.
At some point in the ICU I will wake up with the tube removed and my rehab therapy will begin right then. I believe I will get some breathing exercises and have to sit up (perhaps even stand and walk a few steps?) and (as klagenberg said) at my age they’ll be nazis about the rehab. That’s ok by me. I will then be wheeled into my new home for the next 4-6 days, a room at the hospital I’ll get to share with three other lucky sods. I will probably sleep alot and do my rehab excercises. Eventually they’ll have had enough of my snoring and lame jokes, and if I survive the boredom and hospital food they’ll make Ruth take me home.
At home recovery generally takes 6-8 weeks. I’m going to schedule to be back at work after 6 weeks, but may start working from home after 4 or may not make it til 8 depending on the recovery. Full recovery takes 4-6 months, but functional recovery takes 4 weeks. After 4 weeks I’ll be able to drive and move around a bit more. “Other physical activities” will be allowed once I can climb two flights of stairs…sheesh. During my recovery time, the joys I get to look forward to include (lifted for the most part from here, the comments are my own):
  • Many people have a poor appetite for several weeks after surgery. This is normal and expected. I can live with this…
  • Constipation is also common during this time, probably due to decreased activity and food intake and use of pain medications. Oh lovely…
  • People who have a graft harvested from the leg sometimes notice swelling in this leg after surgery. Elevating the leg and wearing compression stockings can help to reduce swelling. Whee…sexy surgical stockings…that’s gonna be HAWT.
  • It is common to have difficulty sleeping after bypass surgery, especially while in the hospital. This usually improves after discharge from the hospital. Well, this won’t be too difficult to live with.
  • Approximately 20 to 40 percent of people become depressed after CABG. Signs of depression include sadness for most of the day, diminished pleasure or interest in almost all activities, insomnia or excessive sleep, or feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Depression can interfere with recovery and increase the risk of heart problems in the future. I’m going to trust that Ruth’s support and love (not to mention the well wishes and support from other friends and acquaintances) will mitigate this. If I do get this, let me apologize in advance to Ruth and others.
  • Subtle problems in long-term memory, comprehension, calculation skills, and concentration. This will be the determining factor in how soon I go back to work; concentration and comprehension are pretty important for sales. Plus it’s gonna put my poker career on hold for a bit.
So all in all it’s going to be an exciting and scary journey. I need to thank Ruth for all her support and understanding thus far and in the next 2-3 months, and want to go out and promise right now to take her on a nice tropical vacation when I can to show my appreciation, even though I know she’d do it anyways, cuz that’s the kind of person she is; its a big part of why I love her.
I’m also receiving a lot of positive support from management at work, and that is definitely appreciated. And of course, again, all the well wishes from friends and acquaintances.

Yesterday, around 1 PM.

I watched my feet wriggle around under the blankets, making little shapes out of the sheet over top of them. My back was starting to hurt just a bit from 4 or 5 hours of lying on this hard bed, but nothing that would make me complain, really. The nurse was talking but I wasn’t really listening. One leg clamped to the bed, the other free, I was restricted somewhat in what movements I could make, and what shapes I could coax out of the sheet. I was numb all over, but not from the procedure, really.

The procedure itself was pretty simple; the prep takes longer than the event itself. First they make you get into the hospital gown and lie on the bed and a nurse comes over and shaves the area about to be toyed with. A bunch of questions are asked, and then you wait. And wait and wait. Finally a nurse comes over with 8 pills and a small cup of water to drink them with. It’s apparently 800mg of some blood thinner drug; it’s so you don’t clot. You get an IV device put in but not hooked up to anything, and some blood taken. Then you wait some more.

Finally they wheel you into the room. The only part of the actual procedure that hurts is when they jab your inner thigh with the local anaesthetic. After that it’s just a series of warm sensations as they pump dye through your body and look at you’re blood vessels on the xray. You’re awake for the whole thing, but unfortunately the monitors are out of your sightline, so you don’t get to see it. The best part is when they put in a different dye for your heart itself; the nurse warned me “you will feel a bit warm for a couple of seconds here, then it will go away”. What an understatement. For about 2 seconds my whole body felt about 30 degrees hotter, from the inside! It was a very groovy feeling; I told the nurse they could market this rush on the street! That part alone kinda made the whole procedure a bit interesting. We look for small victories when we’re in a losing war I guess 😉 .

Afterwards they wheel you out of the operating/xray room back to that waiting room, and a nurse comes over and clamps your leg to the bed. They use a large c-clamp, and basically they want to keep pressure on the femoral artery so you don’t bleed out; it is a major artery and they did just put a tube in it, leaving a small hole… This was really the most unpleasant part of the whole procedure; it doesn’t hurt, but it’s annoying as all get out. After 30 minutes they come and take the clamp off, but you’re not allowed to move that leg or lift your head for 2 more hours…keep strain off the wound… Being someone who hates being completely immobile for periods of time, this created alot of stress for me. Then they tell you to go home and keep chill for a couple days.

The stress was only increased by the results of the test, which were told to me basically 2 minutes after I was wheeled out of the procedure room. I have four major blockages, one of which is 100% blocked. Which means I will be going for open heart surgery sometime in the next couple of months, to get at least 3 bypassed, possibly all 4. The good news is that if there’s one organ which our medical system has had practice fixing, it’s the heart. But still…I’m 40, mostly healthy, and have alot going on…quadruple bypasses happen to old guys not me! I can’t take 2 months off work! Sitting around doing nothing, being bored and punchy…I get bored and punchy after a long weekend! Which is why I was a bit numb and not really listening to the nurse yesterday, around 1 PM.

Open heart surgery…wow…

It’s called what?

“This body…this body holding me…Feeling eternal all this pain is an illusion”

Tool, “Parabola” 2001 Lateralus

Familial Hypercholesterolemia” Basically a genetic disorder in which the liver processes about half of the cholesterol it’s supposed to at any given time. Hence the reason I’ve had such ridiculously high cholesterol for so long. See the way it works is that your body actually produces about 80% of the cholesterol you have, and your diet generates the other 20%. Your diet cannot really influence the amount you have, but it can influence the make up (LDL vs HDL). When you get too much bad cholesterol, it starts to build up as plaque along the blood vessel walls. If for some reason you get enough of that, and then your body starts to think there’s reason to repair something right around that particular plaque build up, the blood clots and BOOM!…heart attack or stroke.

So anyways i have this processing issue, which over the last forty years has quite possibly maybe led to something. Ahhh medicine and it’s directness. The fact is that I can’t walk more than about 300 meters right now, without stopping. The pain starts deep in my left shoulder and works it’s way across my chest until it hurts so bad i have to stop. It doesn’t cause me shortness of breath and the pain is centered in the very middle of my diaphragm, not where my heart is. But…it’s debilitating nonetheless. When the cardiologist I saw yesterday heard this, he ordered me back for tomorrow for another stress test, followed by possibly an angiogram. A stress test is easy; basically they hook you up to a bunch of wires and then toss you on a treadmill for a few minutes. They look at what your heart is doing and then diagnose issues from that; it’s basic chore is to determine if you have actual damage to the heart, which is normal after a cardiac event. I’ve had one, and there’s nothing there, so that’s a good thing.

The thing a stress test can’t really look at is arterial damage or blockage…arterial sclerosis, which we’ve all heard about. For that you need the good ol’ angiogram, which I am decidedly NOT looking forward to. Basically they shove a wire into your groin and up and around your arteries looking for problems. My understanding is that it doesn’t hurt much, but a couple of hours lying on the board or whatever it is creates alot of discomfort for most people. Apparently…I’ll know more tomorrow… Anyways, so after that, if they find a blockage somewhere they will put in a stent. Right then and there. If they find alot of blockages they will probably check me in right away for bypass surgery. Yikes! Of course the chances of actually needing a bypass are very slim, so I’m not too concerned about that, just mildly nervous.

At the end of the day, though, all I want is for this stupid chest pain to go away and to be able to function again. I’ve cleaned up my diet, i’ve quit smoking, now I wish to be able to excercise. And i’m not even that much overweight, btw! Sigh.

Wheee, Christmas


“You’re a triple decker Saurkraut and Toadstool sandwhich, with Arsenic Sauce” –You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
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The Grinch has always been my favorite Christmas special, mainly for the song… second favorite would be a tie between Charlie Brown and the old Rudolph one. Really I love them all tho…I’m such a christmas nerd. Interestingly enough I’ve never seen certain big Christmas specials… I’ve never seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” all the way thru…it’s always part way thru when I catch it on TV and I can’t bring myself to watch part of a classic. I’ve never seen any original version of A Christmas Carol, although I played Marley’s Ghost in a stage version years ago and have seen most of the interpretation versions (scrooged, mickey’s Christmas Carol, etc etc). But most of them I’ve seen and as I said, I’m a total geek about them.
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Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, for various reasons. Mainly, the energy of everyone being friendly and happy and rushing around getting things ready, and buying gifts. People have a love/hate relationship with spending money, but mostly I believe people get a rush out of spending on others. I know I do! Also there are a rush of birthdays around Christmas; a couple of friends of mine and mine are all in the holidays. Generally that’s always fun and good. And then there’s the food. Christmas time is a crazy eating time; parties, dinners, candies and chocolates, cookies etc etc. Yes, all in all I love the holidays.
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Last year my Christmas sucked pretty harsh. I was dealing with some financial things, all my friends were gone, and I just felt very alone and at the bottom. I did not enjoy it much, and to add to my bummed-out-ness, i had no one to gift to, and no money to do it even if I had. Ruth and I had been on one date and she tried to have some Christmas and birthday with me, but I was pretty bummed and didn’t want to subject her to that attitude, so I fibbed and told her I was going out of town for the holidays. I did have a Christmas Eve dinner with Leila and her family that I appreciated probably more than she knows. Then I wallowed in a self pity party for a week, until new years eve, when Ruth and I had another date. Not my most shining moment, last Christmas.
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This Christmas was alot different. I saw my brother and his wife and my sister on different days, and got to visit my friends in Ottawa a few weeks ago. I was also in a much better position and available to make some people smile, which was good, and Ruth went far above and beyond to ensure that I got some enjoyment Christmas morning. We exchanged our gifts and had some Christmas candies and watched the fireplace channel. Christmas dinner at Ruth’s parents place was fabulous (as dinner there always is). We had a non traditional Christmas dinner of roast beef and yorkshire pudding, which to a good Alberta boy who’s not allowed much beef these days is AT LEAST as good as than turkey any day of the week! We exchanged some gifts and had some laughs and then came home.
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I ‘m very grateful that Ruth has come into my life this past year, and the things she’s given me (not the ‘stuff’ things, but the emotional and growth related things) (although the ‘stuff’ things are cool too;) ). She’s a phenomenal person with a massive heart and probably the best girlfriend in the world, and I sometimes wonder how I got so lucky to get her. Besides the emotional things she gives me on a daily basis, she went so far out of her way to make sure my Christmas was better than last year.
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Although of course I would have been happy just to get a card, Ruth got me all kinds of stuff I kind of wanted but wouldn’t have bought for myself. First off, she got me an Xbox 360, which alone was way more than I would have expected her to get. Not that I’m complaining of course ;). But then she went beyond that, even. Not only did she find me guitar hero 3 which was like impossible this year, but she also found me Rock Band, which wasn’t even available in Canada til the 23rd of December (and then only like 30 copies)!! She also got me the DVD of Flight of the Conchords (yes that’s the correct spelling) which is a New Zealand comedy duo that has a pretty funny song they’ve been playing on the fox and a few other things including a couple of awesome shirts and some cd’s. And Q-tips.
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Of course, I got a bunch of things for her too, but that’s for her to write about. But all in all my Christmas was excellent, both with material and non material things, and I feel incredibly lucky to be on the cusp of 40 (yes, in 2 days i’ll be officially middle aged) and feeling like a kid again! Now, to get her off the couch and hit up some boxing day sales… if we can get past the crowds and craziness!

Gretzky for commissioner, Led Zeppelin almost live, Pam Anderson sexy?? how??, and other unrelated thoughts

A few things on my mind today:

  1. Wayne Gretzky for commissioner. Why not? Chris Chelios suggested this like 3 years ago, and I don’t think I’ve heard anything about it since. Let’s look at the facts: A: Gretzky was and is probably the best ambassador hockey ever had. Perhaps any other sport too. Maybe Mario Lemieux comes in a distant second in the NHL, but Gretzky was the guy. B: Nobody knows the game or the fans better…nobody. C: Bettman’s just shy of completely incompetent and will destroy the NHL if he continues on…has this guy made any decisions good for the game? 4 on 4 overtime maybe… D: As a coach, well…Wayne I love and respect you and you’ve been a hockey hero since I was a teenager, but man…coaching is maybe not your gig yet. E: I can’t think of any pro’s who love their sport as much as The Great One. F: Did I mention Bettman’s doing a pretty not great job? So yeah…Wayne Gretzky for NHL commissioner. Start a groundwave people!
  2. Led Zeppelin is doing their big reunion gig. People paid thousands of British pounds for tickets…I heard of one guy who paid 80,000 british pounds…that’s like 160,000 US Dollars people! Ok, so…I love Led Zeppelin…they were a huge influence in my music through my late teens and early twenties, even though the band had broken up by then. They changed rock and roll for the better, and were all in all just perfect. But come on…160,000 dollars?? To me, it wouldn’t even be all that great; what I envision is a bunch of old guys playing Led Zeppelin songs. Not only that, but Bonzo WAS a huge part of the reason Led Zeppelin were what they were. You can’t call it a reunion if you’re missing the quintessential rock and roll drummer, dammit! I was thinking that even if they go on tour and come to Vancouver, I dunno if I’d go unless it was free tickets, and even then maybe not. See, I’m concerned that “old guys doing zeppelin tunes” would just shatter the zeppelin myth I’ve always had in my mind. I’ve seen Plant live. I’ve seen Page and Plant live. Neither of them made me go “ooooooo zepppy!”, although they were great shows. Don’t kill the myth! This is, by the way, why I didn’t want to go see the David Lee Roth Van Halen reunion show in Vancouver the other night… it would kill the memory I have of seeing them the first time, and make it cartoonish, causing me angst. I don’t want angst anymore, I’m almost forty!
  3. I saw in the paper today that Pamela Anderson was voted the sexiest woman ever on a TV show. By who?? Fans of drag queens? The blind? Come on…how she possibly beat Farrah Fawcett (or any of the original Charlie’s Angels for that matter) is a mystery of epic proportions… Or Lisa Bonet or Eva Longoria. Heck, even Eva Gabor on Green Acres was sexier! And how in the hell did Loni Anderson end up 48th out of 50??? Man… maybe I have bad taste in hotties or something.
  4. My cat has a tape eating addiction. I did a google search last night on why cats eat tape, and the best reason I found was that the glue is made of animal fat. First off, eww. Secondly, well ok that explains his need to lick/eat it. However my concern is that whenever he eats tape (or plastic bags for that matter) I end up with an unpleasant carpet bomb in a day or so. Now, besides the obvious health concerns, I hate cleaning up cat puke. So I keep all tape and plastic bags away from him. This is especially difficult during Christmas gift wrapping time. Yes, it was irrelevant, but so was the rest of this post.

So there you go, my post of unrelated thoughts.

Scott Weiland arrested…again…dammit that sucks

Apparently Scott Weiland was once again arrested on a drug related charge.  On Nov. 21 he crashed his car in Los Angeles, and refused to take a blood or urine test while acting all wacked out on the scooby snacks.  This totally bums me out for some reason.  It’s not that I was a huge fan of Stone Temple Pilots or am a huge fan of Velvet Revolver, but still…when I heard this last night it made me kinda sad.

If you don’t know, Scott Weiland has a history of loving drugs.  He was arrested more than once back in the day for crack, coke, heroin etc.  Just before Velvet Revolver released their first album he spent a long time in rehab, and had apparently cleaned his shit up.  He’s been looking healthy and writing better.  Heck, Last Fight was written about his brother who died of a heroin overdose, so you’d think he’d have got the message.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I was really happy to hear that this talented dude got his shit together and didn’t become one more rock and roll tragedy, Kurt and Courtney style.

Scott Weiland was always the guy that everyone wanted to see clean up and get out of trouble; he’s a hyper talented musician and great frontman….much like Amy Winehouse is now, a full out junkie; puking, dying, getting arrested, messed up, crack and heroin and everything else….  And people want her to succeed and clean up as much as they wanted him to.    As opposed to other over the top front men, he’s more of a real figure than a cartoon or icon, and people can relate to his words and troubles.    He wasn’t just a musician drug user like Bowie or Keith Richards or a cartoonish image of a scene like Nikki Sixx, or a crazy genius like Axl Rose.  I’ve never done hard drugs or had any addiction issues besides cigarettes, but I cheered silently for him and Velvet Revolver when it seemed he cleaned up; much like I cheer for Amy Winehouse to get help and out of the crap.  And in both cases, I’m not even a huge fan…heck I don’t think I’ve even heard an Amy Winehouse song.  But I want to see them both get out and not waste their talents in a needless death like Kurt Cobain or Layne Stayley.

Anyways, I heard this news last night and it both saddened and angered me.  Let’s all hope it was something not related to ‘up’ or ‘down’ and if it was, it’s just a bump in the road to recovery.  My thoughts are with him and his band and his family.

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Kevin Dubrow dead at 52…

I was surprised last night to hear “Metal Health: Bang Your Head” on the Fox Rock report; it’s not a “Mullet Madness Weekend” or anything…what the heck?  It turns out they were playing it because earlier this week, Quiet Riot’s singer Kevin Dubrow was found dead. He apparently had been dead for several days when they found him; autopsy reports are still to come.  I was a bit moved by this, not because I was a massive fan or anything, but because Quiet Riot represented the beginning of a long phase of my life.

In 1982/83, Metal Health by Quiet Riot became the first Heavy Metal album ever to reach top ten on Billboard’s charts.  This predated Ratt’s Round and Round and Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil by a bit.  Cum on Feel the Noize and Metal Health (Bang your head) were all over my high school soundtrack, and were kind of the precursor to  all the 80’s “hair metal” acts out of LA.  It’s not that the Crue and Ratt and others weren’t around at this time; Motley Crue had released Too Fast for Love, and I believe Round and Round was already in the can (I think it became a number one album a short time later)  and the scene in LA was going full steam.  But Metal Health kind of did what Nevermind did for the Seattle scene; it made it worldwide.

I was never a huge fan of Quiet Riot…I always thought Kevin Dubrow seemed to go out of his way to be arrogant and belittle all the other bands, and I never found Carlos Cavazo’s guitar playing to be all that great or inspired.  But what Quiet Riot did do, and why it has a special place in my soundtrack, is twofold:  they were the first to introduce me to heavier music; really before Metal Health, I had not heard alot of it.   They also were the band that, ultimately, led to me picking up the guitar, although in an indirect way.  The thing Quiet Riot did was give us the (arguably) most groundbreaking guitarist of the 80’s other than Eddie Van Halen: Randy Rhoads.

The original line up for the band included Randy Rhoads and Kevin Dubrow and a drummer who’s name I don’t know.  Rudy Sarzo, who on bass guitar was a big name in his own right, joined slightly later and was part of the “classic” line up of Kevin Dubrow, Carlos Cavazo, Rudy Sarzo and Frankie Banali.  Randy Rhoads, of course, left the band in 1982 and went on to metal history (and then mythology) as the guitarist on Ozzy’s first two albums, and tragically died in a plane crash before he reached the superstar status he was probably headed for.  At the root of it all, Randy Rhoads really is the reason I play guitar now; when I was 16 and heard the amazing work on Mr Crowley and Revelation, I wanted to do that.

The band’s members all became sought after hired guns outside the band except, perhaps, for Kevin Dubrow.  Randy Rhoads of course had his moment, Rudy Sarzo joined Ozzy’s band for the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman tours and is on the Tribute and Speak of the Devil albums, and then went on to be a big part of Whitesnake during that classic 80’s”still of the night” lineup.  He also played with Ronnie Dio,  Blue Oyster Cult and Yngwie Malmsteen.  Frankie Banali played drums for WASP, Billy Idol, Faster Pussycat and toured with Steppenwolf for a while.

Kevin Dubrow, however, never had much success after Metal Health.  Quiet Riot had a couple more albums which didn’t do a whole lot sales-wise, and then the band split up.  He tried to revive the band name and tour, but they were such a part of the early 80s that they just didn’t translate beyond that.  He faded into what I assume was a career of playing vegas and small clubs as a nostalgia act, and was found dead earlier this week in his vegas home.   I was a bit nostalgic when I heard that; it’s always a bit depressing to hear about a public figure dying alone at home for stupid reasons, but even more so when it’s someone who was a big part of your formative years.  I always felt Quiet Riot was the band that kick started my interest in heavy music, even tho I wasn’t a huge fan and they really weren’t all that heavy.

RIP Kevin Dubrow…

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Double Dipping my Bank Card; Paying for the right to spend money

We get serviced charged up the ying yang these days.  It’s a fact of life; if you don’t like it, carry cash.  In my recent attempt to become more fiscally responsible, I’ve stopped using my debit card for everything and try to pay cash when I need to pay for something.  I get that cash from an ATM of my bank so I don’t pay a service charge there as well.  We all do our best.

But here’s something that really gets under my skin.  If I go to a small retailer and purchase something with a debit card, I pay my bank a service fee for doing so.  The merchant pays a tiny bit as well; it’s part of the ‘cost of doing business’.   Most retailers include that in their business model so that it does not become a separate cost from the actual product they sell.  This is good policy.  With credit card machines there is a slightly higher fee the retailer pays, which is why you will often see signs in small stores that say things like “Cash or debit only under x dollars”.  Makes sense, right?  But here’s the one that get’s me hot under the collar:  merchants who use debit machines that charge me an extra 25 cents or whatever at the machine to use that machine.  Sorry, but that’s a bullshit gouge by the retailer using it.  It’s double dipping, which in and of itself is a bit aggravating to me, and there’s no need for it which makes me madder.  There are several vendors of interac machines, so don’t give me the “that’s what the vendor charges” excuse…find another vendor.

Earlier this week I went to the Salad Loop for lunch, as I often do these days.  I had thought I had 20 dollars in my wallet, but I didn’t; I had forgotten about the coffee and hot chocolate I had purchased for Ruth and myself on the weekend, among a couple other small things.  So I pulled out my debit card to pay.  I was a bit surprised when this chain store had a debit machine that wanted to charge me extra for the right to spend money there.   I generally only see that on tiny little ma and pa operations, where every penny counts, and even though I don’t agree with it there either, at least that makes more sense.  But no, this was a busy shop that is part of a chain, at most a franchise, with a set and finite revenue per month model.  So why are they charging me extra to use my debit there?  Is that 25 cents worth that important to them?  Cuz here’s what I did.  I looked at the lady ringing in my sale (it was the store manager, possibly owner) and said “Is this thing really charging me to spend money here?”  She kinda looked down her nose at me and said yes, so I smiled and said “That’s unfortunate.  Have a nice day.”  I didn’t say the rest, which was “cuz I like your product but I won’t shop here again.  The fact that you charge me again to spend too much on a salad is too hard to swallow.  Sorry, and thanks for the many salads i’ve had here over the past several months.”

I don’t know, maybe I’m out of line in this, but the fact that they want to financially punish me for not having cash in my wallet at the point of purchase is assinine.  So, as with any other store that has tried to charge me to use my debit card, I no longer shop at the Salad Loop in Royal Center Mall.  There’s another Salad Loop down Pender street and a third salad place in the next building; those stores will get my business now, at least until one of them tries to double dip my bank card.  And it’s not the 25 cents…it’s purely the principle of it.

Of Tasers and Immigrants

The story of Robert Dziekanski’s death is all over the local media (perhaps beyond local as well). If you weren’t aware of it, this guy is immigrating to Canada, flies into Vancouver where his mom is going to pick him up at the airport, and ends up stuck in the airport for several hours. All this culminates with an obviously frustrated man having a bit of a freakout, to which the police come to subdue him and end up causing his death with a Taser shot. All this is incredibly sad, especially as the media has completely humanized this man for us, and really brought it close to home for everyone. Everyone can feel his frustration and his mother’s sadness and wonder at the uselessness of his death.

Now, generally I’m not opposed to the Taser. Sure, I’ve heard all the statistics: 270 people in the US killed by police officers using Tasers, 17 in Canada. To me, that’s a miniscule amount. If I’m out of my head and need to be subdued and an officer is fearing for his life, I think I’d much rather take the one in 200,000 chance of the Taser killing me than a bullet to the gut, thank you very much. At the end of the day, any tool that assists our police force in saving lives and keeping themselves and the surrounding citizens safe is a good thing. If the occasional tragedy happens because of that, I guess it’s better an occasional tragedy than a large number of them that include more casualties than one. Not a perfect solution, but until there is such a thing we’re kinda stuck with what we have. My understanding is that officers are trained in the safe use of the Taser, and don’t just run off and fire shots with it randomly.

I also generally support the police when the media gets on them. I believe they have an extremely difficult and more and more dangerous job. We live in a city where kids don’t seem to have any fear of pulling a gun out and shooting someone; for a police officer any situation where someone is out of control must be fraught with danger and stress. Add to that the frustration of knowing that if you actually catch a bad guy, our lame duck justice system will slap him or her on the wrist and send them back out to cause more shit. So, yeah…when the cops in downtown vancouver were pummelling granville str pondscum and leaving them to wander home from stanley park, my first thought was “yay!”…harsh and shitty, but frustration at the impotence of justice has me saying “yay”. I’m not necessarily proud of feeling that way, but as a generally law abiding citizen, i’m sick up to my eyeballs of having to live in a certain amount of fear cuz the bad guys get away with it. Unfortunately our justice system’s mandate of protecting the innocent from wrongful conviction seems to have lost it’s way over the decades. Add to that the fact that we can’t afford to incarcerate people, and you’ve got an environment that is “growth friendly” for a criminal element. There is no simple answer to it, but what can we do? Good on the cops for trying.

So, I don’t think the taser is the devil and I support the police. BUT…this one is different. By now most of us have seen the amateur video of the situation, and I’ve gotta say, it disgusts me that the guy even got tasered. My interpretation of the video is that the guy threw up his arms in frustration and turned away from the cops, seemingly not a danger to anyone. And THEN they tasered him. As he’s down on the ground screaming in pain, one of the cops has another one shoot him again. Seriously, WTF? Then it turns out it took 14 minutes for paramedics to arrive, and they didn’t arrive cuz the police called but because a bystander called them on his cell phone.

Ok, so now I’m wondering what happened here? There’s a bunch of things that went wrong, a symphony of errors, that resulted in an innocent man hoping to start a new life in a new country dying needlessly. I don’t put all the blame on the police here…I have a few questions for YVR (vancouver airport). First off…in this post 911 era, how in the living fuck does an obviously irate and panicking individual end up able to stay in a secure area of an airport for 10 hours without any intervention?? If nothing else, security concerns should be raised by that. Secondly, how can a city like Vancouver which has approximately a billion polish people in it NOT have an interpreter available at the airport? And other languages too. I’m willing to bet that there are at least fifty employees at YVR who are of polish decent, second generation canadians or first even. I work in a 80 person office and we have 3 ffs (or 4?). Why doesn’t the airport have some kind of system in place so that nobody is ever without the ability to communicate? We live in the most multicultural city in the world…this should be thought of. Thirdly, where was airport security in all this??? Off having a coffee? Reading “rent-a-cop” monthly and the latest bullying tactics? Fourth, where was the airport medical personel for 15 minutes as Mr Dziekanski lay dying? Could they have helped matters? I dunno. But where were they?

I dunno, I don’t want to jump to quickly on the bandwagon of accusing the police of being trigger happy bullies, but this whole situation leaves a sour taste in my mouth. And through it all, the human tragedy here is astounding; my heart goes out to the man’s mother who must be having a difficult time right now. One can only hope that the airport, the RCMP, and everyone else involved can learn something from this to limit the chances of a similar thing happening. Did the lesson justify the cost, tho?

Facebook Funwall, you drive me nuts…

I’m seriously thinking of removing this app. I think it’s a good app. It’s one of the few good apps on facebook; it’s one that can be used on a regular basis and is an effective way of transmitting rich media information to your whole network without having to email everyone. Not that I’ve got a pressing need for such a thing, but I may one day. So why am I thinking of removing this app? Cuz it’s the king of redundancy, that’s why.

I’ve recieved the video of the guy talking about global warming 9 times. First off, this guy is boring, not entertaining, and really not saying anything that I or anyone else didn’t already know. So I don’t need to see it. I recieved the lame ass psuedo irish pub guy singing about Remembrance day about 6 times last week. Yeah yeah we get it, the dude is grocery shopping and not thinking about remembrance day and u wanna punch him. I wanna punch him too. But I also wanna punch the guy singing cuz any irish pubster worth his whiskey wouldn’t whine like that. And just as a bonus, I recieved that video a thousand times last remembrance day too, tho not so much on facebook, just as email spam. I’ve recieved the Hinterland (Who’s Who) Spider’s on drugs video a bunch of times again. Heck I was the one who sent that to all my friends when it came out, oh 42 years ago or so…so maybe that one’s my fault. That one is crazy funny tho… The dancing comedian guy tho?  3 times…not funny, mildly entertaining.

What’s really stupid is that at least twice I recieved the same thing from the same person more than once. Why? How does that happen? Short term memory loss? I don’t blame the people sending this so much as the mechanism…Is there not a way to prevent this from multi-sending the same file? I mean, I know enough to know that would be very difficult to do. But even within a network, couldn’t it be controlled? They can show me when I share friends with someone, that’s a part of facebook itself. Why can’t the funwall people find a way to access that, and if person A in my network sends something to Person B and me, Person B can’t send it to me again? That would make me a bit happier. In a perfect world, the application would use a transport that allows it so put a header in front of the file, much like SIP does with a call (could SIP even work as the transport here?). That header could say to my Facebook page “heyyyy I’m sending you this file…you got it yet?” and if my facebook page already received it, I could send back a header saying “Bah, get lost, I don’t need to see that goofy thing again” and then I could get a message that says “So and so tried to send u a file, but you’ve already seen that file” or something. That would be cool…if difficult to do maybe? I dunno enough about coding to know if it’s even possible today (feel free to speak up all you code warriors out there…both of you who read this blog once in a while…)…

Occasionally something useful comes up.  One of my friends sent a video of her daughter in a production of grease…that’s a valid application.  Sometimes people send a message or whatever…it’s a good way to get it out to all your friends at once.  But the useful ones really are rare.

Anyways…yeah funwall…the good, semi-useful facebook app that drives me nuts. If it wasn’t for the one out of ten files I get that make me laugh myself outta my chair, I’d already have removed it. I might anyway.