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31 December 2009

 

I made it to another New Year

2010...new year at Flickr.comWill I survive another decade? I'm only 40 now, but with all this cancer crap in my life since 2007, every New Year's Eve is a gift. And I have already outlived friends I didn't expect to.

Ten years ago, as 1999 ended, things were different for all of us. Yes, I was living in the same house with my wife and daughter, who was close to two years old—but we had another daughter due in a few weeks, whom we didn't know was a girl yet. I had kept the same stable job at a software company for over three years. The dot-com boom had not yet bust. I wouldn't end my five-year hiatus from my band for almost 11 months.

The big news in digital cameras was the Nikon D1, which had a 2.7 megapixel sensor and cost $5500 USD. At work, we had a Coolpix 950, which had similar resolution and took photos good enough to convince me that digital would eventually be the way to go for photography. Eventually.

But even ten years ago, we lived in a world without Mac OS X, iPods, and iPhones, with Napster but without an iTunes Store. "Wi-Fi" was a strange new word—those of us who networked our computers all used plugged-in wires, and I spent a good amount of time running Ethernet cables through our house for that purpose. Most of them are still there.

The term "hanging chad" had yet to be invented. As a society, we were worried less about international terrorism than about the Y2K bug. The World Trade Center towers in New York City still stood, bustling with people. You could take your own drinks aboard commercial airliners, not to mention more carry-on baggage than was strictly allowed. Cockpit doors were nearly always open to the cabin. Almost no one in the West had heard of Kandahar (in Afghanistan) or Banda Aceh (in Indonesia), substantial cities though they are.

The International Space Station was in early construction in orbit, very small compared to its current size. It was sometimes serviced by the space shuttle Columbia, which would only exist for another three years before breaking up on re-entry. Only a few extrasolar planets had been discovered. The Human Genome Project had not yet completed its sequencing.

People were wondering when James Cameron would make a follow-up movie to Titanic, since it had already been so long (two years). Guns 'n' Roses' new album Chinese Democracy was supposed to come out any old time. Justin Timberlake was still a member of N'Sync. The X-Files and Ally McBeal were still on the air; Survivor and CSI had yet to begin. Charles Schulz was still alive and drawing new "Peanuts" comic strips. The Concorde was still flying.

I'd already had and managed my diabetes for almost nine years. My varicose veins were under control. I thought that any form of cancer I might get would be many decades away. There were lots of things I didn't know. And lots I still don't.

I still have a wonderful family. My wife and I both made it past 40, and our kids are now almost 10 and 12. Our family now includes our first-ever puppy. Have a happy 2010. I hope to see you again for New Year's 2011. Fingers crossed.

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27 December 2009

 

Books old and new

When my mother was a little girl, she received a copy of the classic children's book Heidi, printed in 1945. This year, she dug that same copy out and gave it to my older daughter M as a Christmas present.

One gift I received this year from my friend Sebastien was an Amazon Kindle e-book reader. You can, of course, get Heidi for it. The two make an interesting contrast:

Heidi old and new

The chances that my Kindle will still be around and working in 65 years, to give away to a grandchild? Virtually zero, of course.

P.S. I should note that, as public domain works, Heidi and Johanna Spyri's other books are available for free online too. You can put them on your Kindle as plain text files that work just great, instead of spending the $3 for digitally-locked DRM versions.

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24 December 2009

 

Noodlemas Eve

In the spirit of the Pastafarian season, I'd like to say thank you to our friends Tara, Morgan, and Simone for a wonderful last-minute addition to our Christmas tree:

FSM ornament

We're off to a European-style dinner with my side of the family tonight, Christmas Eve, before we join Air's side of the clan tomorrow. I hope you have as much fun as we will.

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22 December 2009

 

Merry Christmas, y'all

The weather at the beginning of this winter has been nothing like last year; the only snow locally in Vancouver is on the mountains. So I'll post our family Christmas card (the first to include our new puppy Lucy) a bit early:

[The Miller family, Christmas 2009]

From left you have my daughter M with Lucy, my mom, me (top) and my dad (bottom), my wife Air, and my daughter L. Oh, and my parents' etchings, of course.

I hope you're all warm and safe, and will be well fed this week.

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17 December 2009

 

The Lip Gloss and Laptops podcast shuts down

Lipgloss & Laptops Photoshoot at Flickr.comYesterday my wife Air and her co-host KA posted their 150th and final regular episode of Lip Gloss and Laptops, the podcast they started way back in 2006. The blog will continue, with frequent updates about the cosmetics and beauty industry, but the podcast had become too much work.

As for the vast majority of podcasters, the LGL show was a hobby, not any kind of paying job, and so was only worth continuing while it was fun. When KA left as regular co-host earlier this year (she started grad school), the podcast became a lot more work for Air, even with other guest hosts in the interim.

And then my latest new cancer growths dropped our family into a yet more intense pit of chemotherapy and medical treatments and side effects and general hell, so that not only takes more of Air's time, but also makes it more difficult technically, since I've been the engineer and producer of the show since the beginning.

Nearly four years and 150 episodes is a pretty long run for a podcast. Lots of people will miss Lip Gloss and Laptops, me included, but it was a good time while it was going. And you never know—some one-off special episodes might yet appear from time to time.

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16 December 2009

 

Lululemon's clever retail satire

toque, toque and toque at Flickr.comLast year, Old Navy tried making some unofficial Olympic clothing, but Vancouver's Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) and the International Olympic Committee shut that down because the jackets were too close to official trademarks for the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Now Vancouver yoga retailer Lululemon has tried a cheekier approach, releasing a line of clothes pushing the line of Olympic trademark infringement, without quite crossing it. The line is called the "Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place in British Columbia Between 2009 & 2011 Edition," which gave me a laugh.

I like the sporting events of the Winter Olympics, but VANOC and the IOC have been overzealous in emphasizing the business aspects of the event, rather than the sport. So I appreciate Lululemon's retail satire. The stuff looks good too, so I might buy some.

I wonder if it will be hard to get into Olympic events wearing the Lululemon clothes in February?

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14 December 2009

 

Picture time

What with all the new cancer and chemo (more this Friday!) and stuff, I've neglected to upload new photos in quite a while; they've just been accumulating on my camera's memory card. Time to fix that. Here are a few of my recent favourites:

Brined turkey experiment 3 Full Moon over Burnaby It's a little Schweber
Air and Lucy Puppy peek
Tree's done S and L 3
Wispy face Belly rub
Lions

Yes, there are many many puppy pictures. Get used to it.

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09 December 2009

 

The top riff

Jimi Hendrix at Flickr.comBritish music site Musicradar recently published one of those visitor-voted lists of the 50 greatest guitar riffs (not solos, or rock songs) of all time. It's pretty much what you'd expect: heavy on the '70s, with plenty of Zeppelin, AC/DC, Metallica, Black Sabbath, and (being British) Radiohead, Muse, and such thrown in.

But I have to say that the top 10 is an interesting result, climbing from "Satisfaction" (number 10?!) through "Day Tripper," "Enter Sandman," "Back in Black," "Layla," "Smoke on the Water" (number 4?!), and "Whole Lotta Love" to "Sweet Child o' Mine" at number 2. Not a surprising list of candidates, though I wouldn't have predicted that order.

Number one, though, I would never have forecast in the top 10, never mind at the peak, even though I personally agree it's the right choice: Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," from 1968. Here, watch the full psychedelicness:

Hendrix and his band basically jammed the song out in the studio while creating footage for a visiting film crew. The song as a piece is like a whole weather system, and it's hard to know exactly what Musicradar's users were voting for—is it Jimi's slinky, ominous solo wah-wah raindrops at the beginning, or the full booming open-string thunderstorm once the full band comes in?

It doesn't really matter. I think either one wins. Stevie Ray Vaughan, my favourite guitarist, used to play "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" all the time, but even the best he could do was basically replicate Jimi nearly note-for-note.

Many music fans might know the song, but the riff certainly isn't among those people hum to themselves, like "Killing in the Name," "Sunshine of Your Love" or "Ticket to Ride." Certainly no beginning guitarist would attempt it, as they would "Satisfaction" or "Smoke on the Water" or "You Really Got Me," which is on the Musicradar list, but shamefully not in the top 10. I can't play a lick of it.

Yet "Voodoo Child" stands apart. (Joe Satriani called it "the greatest piece of electric guitar work ever recorded.") That main thundering riff is both separate from and weaved throughout the song—you never know when Jimi will drag it back out from the maelstrom. It's scary and beautiful and bluesy and futuristic—like Jimi himself in a few notes.

I think I'll go listen to it again.

P.S. Of course I have quibbles with the list too. Three riffs mysteriously missing are the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun," Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," and of course Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." How did people miss that one?

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07 December 2009

 

That weekend suuuuuucked

I'm back in the world of the living again. It was a pretty rough weekend, I tell you. I had chemo like this back in 2007 and 2008, but I don't think I had all three of these chemicals (oxaliplatin, leucovorin, and 5-FU) all together previously, and the infusion bottle I had from Friday to Sunday at home also dispensed more of the 5-FU in it than I'd received before, so I was getting a larger dose than I'd encountered in earlier rounds of chemo.

So, in short, it suuuuuucked. I didn't actually throw up, but I basically doped myself up with prescription anti-nauseants and Gravol so that I slept most of the weekend, and felt like death when I was awake. I was out of commission and useless to my family for three full 24-hour days at least. It was only this morning that I felt anything like normal again, so I'll rest today and may get back to some sort of functional life until I do it again in a couple of weeks.

Chemo is no fun, that's for sure. I recommend avoiding cancer just so you can not have chemotherapy, entirely aside from all the other reasons.

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03 December 2009

 

Back on the train

Today I saw my oncologist to find out about my next round of cancer treatment, but even before that, the chemo ward called me yesterday and said they'd had a wait-list cancellation. My first appointment tomorrow is, Friday, at 2 p.m.

So by tomorrow at this time, I may feel like throwing up for two or three days (or not—some new anti-nausea drugs are now available). On the other hand, I'm ready to get the hell started. This regimen is similar to some of the chemotherapy I've had before, so I have a decent idea what to expect. Unfortunately, it's not much fun.

I'll post more information as soon as I feel like it.

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