Journal: News & Comment

This is " January 2007," a page that archives an entire month's entries from my online journal. The latest material for that month is at the top. For my newest entries, visit the home page.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 - newest items first
# 10:15:00 PM:

Audio from my CBC interview is up

If you didn't happen to catch my interview with Priya Ramu on CBC Radio yesterday (on why I'm blogging here about my cancer), you can now listen to the MP3 file (5 MB, about nine minutes) on my Penmachine Podcast page. If you're a subscriber to my podcast, you probably have the file already. Goodbye, January!

UPDATE: CBC has a RealAudio stream of my interview as well on its website.


# 8:48:00 PM:

I'll be calling this Day Zero

Cancer Treatment: Day ZeroRight then. The news is not really bad, but it's not good either. My wife and I met with my gastroenterologist Dr. Enns today. He told me that there is a cancerous lesion (they're no longer using the word polyp) in my intestine, 3-4 cm long, that must be removed. It does not seem to have spread beyond there, but my doctors will only know for certain once it is out and they are able to examine the tissue and accompanying lymph nodes. There is nothing further up my intestine, and my liver is fine. That's the good news.

The next step is that I meet with my surgeon, Dr. Brown, this upcoming Monday, February 5. I presume we will figure out then when the operation will happen—but that will be very soon, likely before the end of February. That is coming the hell out, baby!

It is not minor surgery. Dr. Brown will open me up, cut out a section of my colon, and stitch the remaining bits together so that they will heal. I will be in St. Paul's Hospital (where I was born, incidentally, as were my kids) for at least a week, and Dr. Enns advises me that I will be away from work for something like two months.

No one yet knows whether I will need followup chemotherapy or radiation, or further surgery. I expect and hope that I will be back to something like normal in the middle of the spring, and that I will be able to enjoy the summer of 2007 in fine form.

That, so far, is the plan—a bit of an overwhelming one, but a plan nonetheless. So I'm calling this, January 31, Day Zero of my cancer treatment. It's like Ground Zero, since everything up to now has been diagnosis, and it's convenient to start February 1 as Day One.

There is more to it, of course, and I'll get into that later. I am, needless to say, a little out of breath with all this—something I was not at all expecting even a month ago. But as I always say to my kids, and as Dr. Enns said to me today, it is what it is, and I will work through it.

For those of you who missed my interview on CBC Radio about all this crap yesterday, I'll have the audio posted later tonight or tomorrow (UPDATE: posted!). I said there that I would keep posting, good or bad, and I'll stick to my word.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - newest items first
# 9:54:00 PM:

A podcaster's impression of live radio

Waiting at CBC - Couch AreaFor a podcaster and audio geek like me, being on radio—especially live radio, as I was today—is endlessly fascinating. Even more so this time than when I've been on the air previously, since I wasn't podcasting back then and wasn't as focused on the equipment and techniques of audio production.

When we bring a guest into our home studio, for instance, they show up at our house and come to the basement. Today, as a guest, I approached the massive 1970s concrete slab of the Vancouver CBC Building and stepped into an antechamber where I talked to the security guard, passed through a locked portal, and received a numbered, red visitor badge sticker before I could walk down a long hall and find my way to Studio 31 via the elevator.

Canadian public radio staff dress just as casually as we web nerds do, but there were surprises too. The antiquated wood-panel Sony radio in the waiting area, for instance, which was tuned to CBC Radio One, AM 690—but in irony got absolutely atrocious reception a mere few metres from the room where the sound was being created.

Live radio, also unlike a podcast, is a remarkably efficient assembly line. Craig Lederhouse, who called me this morning to ask me to join "On the Coast," lurked outside the studio door, and then, less than a minute before I went on air, ushered me in, sat me down across from host Priya Ramu, and set up the microphone. I grabbed the headphones myself, since they were optional but I'm used to wearing them as I speak into a mic.

Another surprise was that the microphones themselves were nothing special. You might expect that the venerable CBC would be decked out with multi-hundred-dollar Electro-Voice RE-20s or Heil PR-40s or Shure SM7Bs. But no, mounted to desk arms were several Shure SM58s (or something very similar) with windscreens in simple shock mounts. Not even a pop filter.

For non-audio types, an SM58 is that stereotypical "ball-head" microphone you see on every hotel meeting room podium and pub stage, available at your local music store for a little over $100. I have two myself. The similar Beta 58 runs a couple of hundred bucks. But for AM radio, the sound is solid, and the mics are nearly indestructible and cheap to replace if they do break. Another part of the assembly line.

I was in and out of the studio in ten minutes. Priya and I exchanged perhaps five words when we weren't on-air, but had a pleasant and casual conversation when the light was on. I think I explained my compulsive blogging on every topic reasonably well, but of course as in any live venue, there were things I wanted to say that I never got around to—such as how much I appreciate the support of my employers during all this.

Finally, in total contrast to all the rules of radio, Priya Ramu looks exactly as I expected her to. I didn't think radio hosts were allowed to do that.

We did capture the audio, so I'll have something posted for those of you who missed it.


# 11:42:00 AM:

Have a new Mac? You can make its wireless networking much faster now!

If you have a newer Mac (with a Core 2 Duo processor, i.e. something made in late 2006 or later), you can now get an enabler that activates its built in higher-speed 802.11n wireless networking:

For bizarre U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) compliance reasons, Apple apparently has to charge you $2.50 Cdn or $2.00 USD to download the software, but "The software license for the 802.11n Enabler software allows you to install and use it on all computers under your ownership or control." Presumably, one person at can download it and use it on all relevant machines in the vicinity, therefore.

My MacBook, made last May, is too old to support the faster networking anyway. Sigh.


# 10:49:00 AM:

Derek's talkin' about cancer on CBC Radio's "On the Coast" today just after 5:00 p.m.

I've resisted turning this journal into an all-cancer, all-the-time blog, but nevertheless, it does tend to dominate the conversation round here. To that end, I'll be appearing today (Tuesday, January 30) after the 5:00 p.m. news on CBC Radio's popular Vancouver-area afternoon drivetime show "On the Coast," with host Priya Ramu, talking about my cancer blogging. (I had a brief brush with the same show in late 2005 on another topic.)

If you're the Internetty type, you can listen live to the high bandwidth (direct file link) or low bandwidth (direct file link) streams (Windows Media format, argh!). Feel free to record it starting around 5:00 p.m. PST—I'm going to try to automate that here at my office computer, but I can't be sure it will work.

On a similar techie topic, while I was in the hospital the other day for my colonoscopy, I also ended up getting a CT scan of my pelvis and lower abdomen. In the rush of things it didn't occur to me to ask for a CD of the resulting data, but it turns out that if you can get that, it's quite possible to use open-source software to generate your own images.

I do have printouts from my endoscopic ultrasound, so that's something. Maybe when I see my doctor tomorrow about my upcoming surgery, I can find out if the CT data is something I can bring home as well.

During the CT scan, the instructions printed on the big IV syringe attached to the CT machine (I think I remember them accurately) made me laugh:

  1. Risk of air injection.
  2. Air embolism can result in severe injury or death.
  3. See instruction manual. [My emphasis - D.]

Someone with a less wry sense of humour might resent that the manufacturer put that wording right in view of the patient, instead of on the other side of the device. Also, shouldn't anyone running a CT scan machine know about the risk already? Will the instruction manual really help much at the point of putting the patient into the machine?

Cancer of course makes you look at risks like that differently. We're all in danger of getting hit by the proverbial bus at any time. But right now, it feels like every day I look forward to running across a highway full of speeding buses, and I have to rely on my doctors and luck for whether I'll be able to dodge them all.


Monday, January 29, 2007 - newest items first
# 1:01:00 PM:

Speaking of scary

We're coming up on the 20th anniversary of when these photos were taken, but they're still pretty damn scary:

Bulk Carrier Selkirk Settler (now Spruceglen) in a North Atlantic Storm, February 1987


Sunday, January 28, 2007 - newest items first
# 11:10:00 PM:

It's getting to me now

I had my first major all-out weeping cry about my cancer this morning. I know it's likely to be very early stage and highly treatable and things will probably be fine, but, damn, I want to live, you know?

You can hear my wife and I discuss the topic on last week's episode of Lip Gloss and Laptops, her podcast, on which I was a one-off guest host.

I find out Wednesday what the next step is.


Saturday, January 27, 2007 - newest items first
# 9:25:00 AM:

Worlds in collision

Melanie points me to a perfect confluence of geekery for me right now. Yes, Apple has a page about colon cancer screening using high-definitition endoscopes and Final Cut Pro software.

Be warned: photos of intestines included.


Friday, January 26, 2007 - newest items first
# 10:09:00 PM:

Happy seventh birthday, Miss L

Seven years ago today, she was born at St. Paul's Hospital, the same place her older sister was—and her father too. Happy birthday, our not-so-little one.

Miss L at Seven


# 9:56:00 PM:

Thanks to Gillian for this one


# 9:44:00 AM:

Why I'm getting cancer treatment now

A number of people have asked me how I found out I have colorectal cancer, i.e. what prompted me to get checked out, and what led to the diagnosis? Here's a short version:

  1. In early 2006, around springtime, I started having to go the bathroom more frequently than usual, and was generally gassy and uncomfortable. At first I thought it could be an intestinal bug or reaction to food, since it seemed more like diarrhea than anything else.
  2. That persisted through the spring and into the summer, which was a concern in itself, but nothing too alarming. I did have to go even more frequently, sometimes interrupting other activities during the day.
  3. By autumn I noticed some blood in my stool, sometimes bright red. That was not a good sign, so I went to see my family doctor, Dr. Hassam, in October.
  4. He thought I should not be especially concerned—there were numerous possible non-dangerous explanations—but recommended I see a gastroenterologist anyway. I waited a few weeks to hear back.
  5. Things did not improve, so I went to see Dr. Hassam again in November. He had by this time arranged a referral to Dr. Enns, a good local gastroenterologist.
  6. I saw Dr. Enns in December. He suspected proctitis (an inflamed rectum), and a cancellation let him give me a flexible sigmoidoscopy the very next week. During that procedure, he found not proctitis, but a polyp that had been causing the problems, and the blood as well.
  7. After the Christmas holidays, I saw Dr. Hassam again for the results, and he told me and my wife that it was cancer, and that further treatment was necessary.
  8. This week, I had a colonoscopy from Dr. Enns, and he arranged for a CT scan that same day, as well as an endoscopic ultrasound the next day (which was yesterday). The ultrasound happened because Dr. Enns detected another lump in my rectum during the colonoscopy, but it seems that is both unrelated to the cancer and very unlikely to be anything else to worry about—it's just some tough tissue.
  9. On the plus side, the colonoscopy showed no further polyps or growths further up my intestine, so there's no additional cancer or pre-cancerous tissue to be concerned about. That's a relief.
  10. Next week, my wife and I will meet with Dr. Enns again to go over the results, and plans for surgery and any other treatments after that. My surgeon, I found out yesterday, will be Dr. Brown. Sometime in the next few weeks, Dr. Brown will remove the cancerous tissue, and perhaps the extra lump just for safety, but I don't know more than that.

And here I am. We seem to have caught it early, but this will be my focus for the next few weeks or months. I'll of course still blog about other geeky stuff, but expect plenty more on the butt cancer as well.


Thursday, January 25, 2007 - newest items first
# 9:15:00 PM:


The Guardian (via Kottke) reports that the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, assembled by several thousand climate experts, many with radically differing views, agrees that global climate change is our doing, and it is going to be drastic and swift.

I'm coming to think that the suggestion of The Economist several years ago that we figure out how to live with the climate we have created may be the only option. We may very well have forfeited our other choices.

If so, it will be a wild, expensive, and tragic ride.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - newest items first
# 8:31:00 PM:

Still in the woods

My planned morning-only colonoscopy turned into both a colonoscopy and a CT scan, and now, because my doctor thought there could be something else lumpy in my rectum, I need to have an endoscopic ultrasound tomorrow morning (St. Paul's Hospital couldn't fit that in today). My specialist implied that he had expected some of that could be necessary, but it was news to me. I would have preferred to know that possibility in advance.

I do find it frustrating that, in numerous medical situations, no one tells you why things are happening unless you ask, and even then, their answers aren't always entirely helpful. Nevertheless, the staff at St. Paul's were remarkably friendly, as well as apologetic when a visit that should have had me out the door by 9:30 this morning extended until 2 p.m.

It also turns out that I will have to have proper surgery to remove my pal, the cancerous rectal polyp—the colonoscope apparently wasn't right for the job—at some future date, and again no one mentioned that as a likelihood beforehand, which is annoying. I'll find out more about that next Wednesday, January 31 when I meet with my doctor again.

On the plus side, the colonoscopy found no additional polyps or other growths further up my large intestine. Small joys.

So, it sucks. Treatment continues. I'm still optimistic, of course, but I'm learning not to expect the best-case scenario anymore.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - newest items first
# 11:30:00 PM:

Blowout! Clearance! Everything must go!

I've been on a liquid diet since noon, and twice this evening I had to drink a truly repulsive phosphate solution to clear out my bowels. And, oh yeah, it's been working, as often as every five minutes on a few occasions tonight.

Most likely, by the time you read this, I'll either be in the midst of or finished my 7 a.m. colonoscopy to remove my cancer polyp. Wish me luck!


Monday, January 22, 2007 - newest items first
# 10:47:00 PM:

Tell Darren Barefoot why you blog and win prizes

If you have a blog, head over to, fill out the 10-minute survey, and you could win some cool stuff from your pal and mine, Vancouver Überblogger Darren Barefoot.


# 12:27:00 AM:

I'm on a podcast panel about what the hell is going on in the music industry

Ajay from All Axis Radio and I formed the Canadian Podcast Buffet music roundtable panel, in which we argue/discuss podsafe music and the state of the music industry today, which is a nice followup to the coverage we've been posting about the NAMM Show music industry tradeshow over at Inside Home Recording.


Thursday, January 18, 2007 - newest items first
# 11:58:00 PM:

Look who I met today at NAMM!

Bert and Ernie! - Winter NAMM 2007 Photos_2.jpg


Wednesday, January 17, 2007 - newest items first
# 11:57:00 PM:

Safely in Anaheim

The whole crew of me, my fabulous wife, our two young daughters, and my co-host Paul made it to Anaheim, California, after two and a half hours on the plane and another hour and a half on the Disneyland Express bus. Watch for lots of stuff over at Inside Home Recording's NAMM Show coverage, and keep an eye on the Flickr photos too.

Oh, and you'll be pleased to know that the stuffed animals arrived in fine shape too. That's Peanut Butter the elephant on the left, and Chi Chi the chihuahua on the right:

Goin' Back to Cali - 10.jpg


Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - newest items first
# 10:21:00 PM:

Forgetful and distracted

Forgetful and distractedYou know, I want to pretend I'm fine, mentally. I am not consciously freaked out by the cancer diagnosis, and I objectively know that in all likelihood my doctors will be able to remove it and I'll be just peachy-keen healthy, maybe even one week from tomorrow.

But I think about it all the damn time, and that gets in the way of my normal, somewhat crazy schedule. I manage to do the critical things (get the kids to and from school, pack my tickets and passport for the trip tomorrow, eat). But my last week at work was shockingly unproductive. Usually I pride myself on being reliable, on getting stuff done, on meeting my promises, but I've forgotten numerous important things in annoying ways.

I was supposed to be a guest on the Canadian Podcast Buffet podcast tonight, and I never even thought of it when the time came and went, only remembering when I got the "are you joining us?" email far too late. Last week one of my old freelance clients asked for a bit of editing, and I said yes, and then completely forgot until she phoned me today, so I'm working on it now. I was supposed to arrange for a couple of guys at work to go to the Web Directions North conference, but I forgot to do that too and now it will be more expensive for them to register. And so on.

I never quite understood when people said, "I'd forget my own head if it weren't attached." Now I get it. In fact, I wish I could forget my own colon, but it too remains resolutely attached.

So, sorry everyone, but I'm gonna cut myself a whole big reel of slack on this one. I like to pretend I'm fine, physically and mentally. But I'm not. I'm going to have fun this week, and then I have the minor surgery, and then I hope it's all over.

And yet, you know, there's a chance it might not be. And that's one of the things I'm thinking about, even when I don't notice I'm thinking about it, and that shunts other things out of my brain. Which is why I'm a little off the rails.


# 9:59:00 AM:

Last shovel of January

While there's a chance the snow will return, most likely the half hour I spent shoveling snow off our driveway and sidewalks this morning will be the last time this month. Certainly in the next week, because by this time tomorrow I'll be getting ready to board a plane for sunny California, going from this:

Last Shovel of January? - 1 Last Shovel of January? - 2 Last Shovel of January? - 3 Last Shovel of January? - 4 this:

Snow White's Castle

I'll still be blogging, but most of it will be over here about the NAMM Show. Check for photos at Flickr too.


Monday, January 15, 2007 - newest items first
# 12:00:00 AM:

Chewie the spy

Yup, that pretty much ties it all up (via Kottke). I still think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon really should have been the first Star Wars movie.


Sunday, January 14, 2007 - newest items first
# 10:10:00 PM:


Sledfest '06 - 31.jpgI've been sledding on the same hill since I was about five years old: Forest Glen Park in my hometown of Burnaby, B.C.

Today, when I took my two daughters and their friend for sledding in one of our relatively rare cold, sunny, snowy days, might have been the best one ever. The temperature was just below freezing, so warm enough for the kids to take off their jackets and slide in shirts and snowpants. The snow was compact but not icy, like a good ski run. It wasn't too crowded, but it was fast.

Someone even built a wooden jump ramp part way down one of the hills, which I'd never seen before.

We were there for two and a half hours. When I needed to take a rest, I lay back in my snow gear and looked up into the blue sky, watching planes bound for Vancouver Airport banking directly overhead.

Now I'm sore, and the kids fell asleep extra-fast tonight. And in three days we'll be at Disneyland, at a hotel with a pool. How cool is that?


Saturday, January 13, 2007 - newest items first
# 10:05:00 PM:


Behold, mere mortals, the iPhone...


Via John Gruber.


Friday, January 12, 2007 - newest items first
# 12:33:00 PM:

Mystical comfort from Richard Dawkins

SavannahIf you know of Richard Dawkins even a little bit, my post title here seems impossible. Aside from being a brilliant and groundbreaking biologist, he is also the world's most famous atheist, and quite militant about it, rejecting any form of "magical thinking" or supernaturality whatsoever. (His latest book is the subtly-titled The God Delusion.)

Yet this week, as I inevitably consider my own mortality after being diagnosed with an early stage, very treatable, but still cancerous form of cancer, he has inspired me, and brought me some comfort and mystical joy. And I don't think he would mind at all.

The source is the mind-bending CBC podcast of his recent Beatty Memorial Lecture at McGill University, titled "The Strangeness of Science" (MP3 file, about 52 minutes), originally broadcast on "Ideas" in November 2006. It is not a religious (or anti-religious) talk—he avoids any discussion of the topic until the Q&A at the end, when it of course comes up. Instead, it is a discussion of how we perceive our universe, and how what we understand about it arises from how we evolved into it, and, more critically, simply what size we are.

Only in the "middle world" we inhabit, where things exist in sizes of centimetres or metres or kilometres and seconds or minutes or hours or days or years, does our model of the universe around us make sense. For a microbe, gravity is largely irrelevant, for example, while surface tension and Brownian motion are the rules of the world. For a neutrino, there is no concept of "solid," and indeed our concept of "solid" is merely a useful construct because the forces between atoms in our bodies and other objects prevent them from passing through each other—even though their atoms consist almost entirely of empty space.

Over geological time scales, impossible things—or really, things that are only stupendously improbable—do happen. But we've evolved in the middle world of time and space, where highly improbable and impossible are, effectively, the same. So we treat them that way, even though they are not. Traveling faster than light really is, as far as we can tell, impossible. But a chemical soup turning into DNA, and then life? Simply very, very improbable on our timescale. Over billions of years of contingent selection, that DNA creating a brain that can wonder if that's impossible? Just improbable, or inevitable? That we don't know.

Even within our middle world, who we are defines what the world seems to us. About 28 minutes in, Dawkins says:

What we see of the real world is [...] a model of the real world [...] constructed so it's useful for dealing with the real world. The nature of the model in our head depends on the kind of animal we are. A flying animal is going to need a different kind of world model in its brain from a walking, a climbing, or a swimming animal.

So, despite their distant evolutionary relationship, a monkey, a squirrel, and a tree lizard probably model the world in much the same way. Switching minds, they would probably feel largely familiar and in place. So too would barn swallows and bats, even though one sees with light, and the other with ultrasound. Both need to navigate in the air, in three dimensions, at high speed, and to catch insects to eat.

Thus, we humans model things to match our relationship to our ancestral African savannah, and to each other, because we are social creatures. We make maps that emphasize two dimensions, over which we can walk or ride or drive. We relate to non-human things the way we relate to other people. We berate our computers and cars when they misbehave. We say that weather is "wrathful" or "friendly" when it is no such thing. We see intent in the motions of the stars and planets. We love our pet snails, or pet rocks, or stuffed animals, when they cannot love us back—even when we know that.

How is that comforting? Because the very nearly impossible, evolved, middle world, human-focused, solid-believing, bipedal great ape brain model of the world that I have in my head is my kind of miracle. Not one that anyone made, as far as I'm concerned, but one that simply is. None of the atoms that make me up today were part of me when I developed my earliest memories—of the treads on icefield snow coaches, and a giant steam locomotive, both near Jasper, Alberta—on a trip with my parents when I was two years old. And yet I still remember going there. That is amazing.

I am tremendously fortunate to be a living, world-modeling thing, able to have those memories, to experience the love of my wife and children and family, to write words and to make music, to learn, to have had 37 years of it so far—and, I expect and plan, somewhat more than that many years still to come. Understanding that brings me joy, though I am not a philosopher, and can't quite say why.

This life, however long it is, is my only chance to be part of the universe. And I will take it.


Thursday, January 11, 2007 - newest items first
# 11:36:00 AM:

Ego surfing for Derek

If you just can't get enough of me here for some bizarre reason, there's a podcast interview with me (MP3) at the EdTechBrainstorm podcast that got posted this week, and a written profile of me (PDF) from Antoine, which shows how much information you can glean from online sources when your subject is someone who's been blogging for six and a half years.

It's kind of creepy what you can figure out, actually.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - newest items first
# 1:51:00 PM:

Road trip!

In-N-OutSo now that I'm a cancer patient, I've been understandably a bit out of focus. Still getting work done, but I was far more cheered up (and distracted) by yesterday's Apple iPhone announcement than I had any good reason to be. (Chances that I'll buy an iPhone in the near future, when it won't be available in Canada likely till at least the end of the year and will cost $700 Cdn or something? Pretty damn slim.)

I'm also rather more psyched to be traveling to the NAMM Show in Anaheim next week as part of my first Inside Home Recording podcast road trip. And as of today, it turns out that trip will be way, way cooler than I was expecting even yesterday. I'll tell you about that in a moment.

I'm also quite humbled by the torrent of comments, emails, instant messages, phone calls, blog posts, and other support all of you have sent me. Really, my instincts tell me I don't deserve it—I'm not feeling at all ill right now, and chances are my doctors will be able to eliminate the early-stage cancer during my colonoscopy on January 24. There are many, many people worse off than I am now, so thank you for taking the time to think of me.

In part I may feel that way because I'm still not having a strong emotional reaction: I'm being very type A geeky analytical about the whole thing. Yes, it's cancer, but I'm in a very curable stage, and unless I hear differently from my doctors, I'm assuming it will be gone within a couple of weeks. If things are different, I'll deal with it at that time. I specifically asked my GP if there was anything I should do before my procedure, and he said no—take your trip, eat normally, do what you're going to do. And so I will.

I spoke to my uncle last night. He had a bad bout with colon cancer, much more advanced than mine, this past summer. Surgery, chemotherapy, awful bodily reactions to chemotherapy, huge weight loss, hospitalization, the whole eighteen yards. But as of this week a PET scan confirmed him as cancer-free. And he told me that he too dealt with everything emotionally much better than his wife and the rest of our family. I have to keep that in mind—those close to me are probably taking it much harder than I am. I'm feeling pretty good, but I know my mom felt physically ill when she heard the news, and that my wife feels fragile too.

I just want to take this little adenocarcinoma out from inside my ass and be done with it. I understand the physiology and anatomy of it reasonably well. I believe right now that we can excise it and annihiliate the pieces in the hospital incinerator, where those out-of-control cells deserve to go. I know I might not be that lucky, but I expect to be.

Anyway, the good news about Anaheim: this morning, as another snowstorm hit Vancouver, my wife and I talked about it and decided that we're pulling the kids out of school for a few days. She and they are coming with Paul and me to California, and my daughters are going to Disneyland for the first time next week. I'll try to join them for at least a day, but the NAMM Show is like Disneyland for music nerds, so we'll see which I prefer to do and when.

Screw you, cancer. We're going to Disneyland.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007 - newest items first
# 9:34:00 PM:

More levity

By the way, by far the best "live" coverage of the Apple announcement was, as usual, from Crazy Apple Rumors. A sample:

iPhone will be smart and easy to use. Revolutionary user interface using a pointer we're all born with! Apple is introducing butt-control!

Oh, he's talking about the finger.

iPhone runs OS X.

Whaaaaa! [clunk]

Ah, crap, I fell out of my chair again.

Just as breathless as all the other live blogs, but with only a fraction the accuracy. What's not to like?


# 11:49:00 AM:

On a much more chipper note

iPhone!After all the crappy news yesterday, at least there's...


iPhone iPhone iPhone!

I really didn't think Apple was going to do it, but they have done it in a big, big way. This is the mobile phone of every Apple fanboy's wet dream. I mean, wow. It's actually a phone and a full-screen iPod and a mini–Mac OS X device all in one, which no one was really expecting.

They're going to sell tens of millions of these, even at $500+ USD.

This and this are neat too.


Monday, January 08, 2007 - newest items first
# 9:34:00 PM:

Please excuse the salty language

The GlenlivetGenerally this is a pretty clean blog, safe for kids and other sensitive creatures—as long as you're not offended by long, boring discussions of geeky topics. But not today.


Fucking hell.

I have fucking cancer.

Now, before you freak out completely (somehow, I've managed to avoid that since I found out this afternoon), it's not as bad as it could have been. Today my doctor told me that, yes, the polyp in my intestine is cancerous. More specifically, a moderately differentiated adenocarcinoma. Most simply, I have what is likely a very early stage of colorectal cancer, which may very well be cured quite soon by a minor surgical procedure.

UPDATE: As of October 2007, this turned out to be way more serious than I thought when I wrote this post in January. There were two aggressive tumours in my rectum, and the cells have spread to small metastatic spots in my lungs. Far from Stage Zero, I have Stage Four metastatic colorectal cancer, which routinely kills people. I've since taken both chemotherapy and radiation simultaneously for two months, had three surgeries (one quite major), spent almost a month in hospital, acquired myself what's supposed to be a temporary ileostomy bag, and am waiting for another multi-month round of chemo starting in the fall. But I'm still fighting the fucking thing, and at least now the main tumours are gone. Read more in my various cancer posts.

As a quick primer, cancer is uncontrolled cell growth, which, over time, turns into tumours in your body that can do all sorts of nasty things, including (if untreated) kill you. In biology, a differentiated cell is one that is more developed into the type of cell it's supposed to be. Undifferentiated cells are more primordial, less specific, more "generic." So the more differentiated the cells in a growth are, the less virulent they are, because they are more like "real" cells that do actual work, and less like "generic" cells that do nothing but grow.

So the cells in my polyp aren't completely undifferentiated, but they aren't normal cells either. They are growing, and need to be removed.

There's no change in how I'll be treated: on the 24th, I'll be having a colonoscopy, as planned. My very entertaining gastroenterologist, Dr. Enns, will remove the polyp and look for any others, which he'll also remove. The way things look now, I probably have Stage Zero of the disease, so that procedure may very well be all that's necessary—at this early stage, such a polypectomy can be, as they say, "curative," i.e. the cancer will be gone.

That's what I'm assuming will happen unless I hear differently afterwards. I'm still taking a trip to L.A. next week, and I'm still planning to have my varicose veins treated in February. And I'll need to be monitored regularly to make sure nothing comes back.

So, fuck.

I'm a fucking cancer patient now.

I left work early today, and my wife and I stopped by the liquor store for some of the Glenlivet, of which I've had two servings tonight, neat. Odds are that we'll kill this thing, and I'll go on just fine.

But still, fuck. Hel-lo 2007.

I did want to take time to tell my kids and my parents and in-laws before I blogged it, so they didn't read it here first, which is why I'm posting so late.

Oh, and one more thing...



Sunday, January 07, 2007 - newest items first
# 1:55:00 PM:

In preparation for the colonoscopy I'll be having...

How's that for a nice title?

Anyway, in preparation for the colonoscopy I'll be having in a couple of weeks, tomorrow I find out the results of a recent biopsy. In simpler language, my doctor will tell me whether a polyp in my intestine is likely to be cancerous. I'm optimistic, since demographically my risk should be low, but I won't know for sure until tomorrow.

Regardless of the result, I will be having the procedure on January 24, since my physicians recommend removing polyps no matter what status, and they need to look for any more in the rest of my large intestine too. Everyone I've talked to who's had a colonoscopy—and when you bring it up, you'd be surprised at the numbers—says that the preparation day beforehand, where you need to drink some really pleasant stuff to clear out your GI tract, is actually the worst part of the whole thing.

I'll let you know how things go.


Saturday, January 06, 2007 - newest items first
# 10:25:00 AM:

Video of BC Place roof tear

Mostly from this source, via Darren:

There's some irony that "the BC Contractors Association was booked to have an exhibition in the stadium for the week of January 23."


Friday, January 05, 2007 - newest items first
# 1:31:00 PM:

The roof of BC Place Stadium collapses in the snow

Here's the photo I just took, and what it looked like last week:

The roof of BC Place Stadium collapses from the snow? Before the collapse

There's supposed to be an air-supported white roof in the middle there. Here are the and stories with details.

P.S. Dave has another before and after shot.


Thursday, January 04, 2007 - newest items first
# 4:13:00 PM:

Whole ton o' useful free software

Via Digg, here's the 2007 Software for Starving Students CD—a CD image you can download and burn for free, full of a bunch of useful and cool software that doesn't cost anything. Lots of good stuff for Mac or Windows.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007 - newest items first
# 9:50:00 PM:

I'm trippin' out, man

HRN logoThere's a running joke that every recording studio, amateur or professional, needs at least one lava lamp. Accordingly, when I saw this lovely image at Flickr, I couldn't help but turn it into a logo for the Home Recording Network to which one of my podcasts, Inside Home Recording, belongs.

I was able to do so because the original artist, "und_dann," made his work available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. I made a large version too. So thanks, und_dann. That's very groovy of you.

We've also added a new show to the network today, SonicState Sonic TALK. Go check it out.


# 10:52:00 AM:

Tag clouds hit the front page of the newspaper

UPDATE: Photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward mentioned this post (and Darren Barefoot's) in his talk at the conference 2007.

Tag clouds hit the front page of the newspaperThe tag cloud (or "weighted list") is a hip-and-happenin' visual design trend that's been around for more than a decade, but which has taken off since its appearance in 2004 at Flickr.

I was surprised to see a similar weighted list appearing on the cover of the Vancouver Sun today: larger, bolder type represents greater increases in property values for different Vancouver-area municipalities.

There's a small explanation at the top ("The bigger the letters, the larger the growth in property values for 2006"), but otherwise it's just there, and does its job well.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - newest items first
# 9:10:00 PM:

Is this war?

There's a sad contrast between what governments advised people at home to do during World War II:

It won't be fun. It will mean sacrifice and penny-pinching. But after all, the sacrifice of tightening our belts and doing without is a small sacrifice compared with giving your life or your blood in battle! [...] Use it up/Wear it out/Make it do/Or do without

and what our current "war" prompts:

Do Not Pay for 15 Months!

No economic analysis there. Then again, we can't say everyone was wiser back then.


# 8:52:00 AM:

Northern Voice happens next month

I'll be there. You should too. Check out my photos from last year and 2005.


Monday, January 01, 2007 - newest items first
# 9:12:00 PM:

Free instrumental MP3: "Funkly Dougietude"

Neurotics - Last Show of 2006Happy 2007 everyone. After more than two months, I finally released a new instrumental on my Penmachine Podcast, just under the wire of 2006 yesterday.

Yes, it's only 47 seconds long, but it does have a nice groove. "Funkly Dougietude" (1 MB MP3 file) began when Doug Elliott, who plays bass with my band, recorded a couple of bass parts on my MacBook, layered over a drum loop, during a break between sets of our last show in December. More than a week later, on the day of New Year's Eve, I added three guitar parts and sent it off to Les Thorn to master before the year expired.


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