Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hmm.... a blue moon tonight.

Tonight is a full moon. In fact, it is a blue moon. A rare event. Rare like PMP!

2009 had, then, 13 full moons, and was therefore a "Year of the Moon." In some traditions a Year of the Moon means bad luck, and the year is supposedly fraught with personal catastrophes. Not sure why that would be, I like full moons. 2009 did suck, though.

[UPDATE: I hated the concept of a blue moon being bad luck so I did some research. Looking forward is the way to go--superstition has it that:
...the occurrence of a blue moon is the perfect time to plant the seeds of long-term goals that will blossom in the sun of a future day.... Any goals planned beneath the glow of the second full moon of the month are thought to have the benefit of a kind of psychic tidal pull of the satellite. Unfortunately, the magic of the blue moon is unpredictably intense. To put in motion your goals for the future underneath the moon at the end of the month is the same thing as making a wish granted by a genie. If you don't use very careful and precise language, the result may very well be a sweet cookie full of arsenic. The potency of the magic of the blue moon is said to be concentrated and passionate; you may get what you wish for but in a way not foreseen if you allow loopholes to dangle beneath the bright reflection of the sun's light against the cold darkness of the lunar surface.
So while 2009 may have sucked wind, tonight is the night to plan for the future! And the internet is never, ever wrong.]

Anyhow, back to other randomness related to a blue moon. Let me throw some things out there to pull all of this together, somehow. Humans tend to look for connections where they don't exist, which is why we (okay, me) love conspiracy theories. This isn't a conspiracy theory, just some interesting synchronicity (causally unrelated events occurring together in a meaningful manner--Jung, not Sting):
  • My surgery--January 8, Elvis's birthday (see an earlier post about Elvis here);
  • A blue moon tonight, on New Year's Eve, ending 2009 and beginning 2010;
  • Travel--I'm flying into Memphis this Saturday, and swinging by Tupelo on my way to Houston (more on that journey over next several days);
  • And of course, I have this whole Joe Versus the Volcano thing going on in my mind these days, as evidenced by my luggage post. (Abdominal cloud. Well, at least my brother will get that one.)
So, with all that in mind, let go and enjoy my absolute favorite Elvis song, one that was, coincidentally, featured in Joe Versus the Volcano:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Very exciting... as a luggage problem.

I'm obsessive about packing, I like to be ready to go a few days in advance of any trip. That way I have time to re-pack. So, I'm already completely packed for my potential one month long Houston surgery trip, other than my toothbrush and a few other minor things like that.

At first, I packed everything into a standard black rolling suitcase that I dutifully dragged out of the closet, but something just didn't seem right. I consulted my karmic advisor (my daughter), and she agreed that such a trip required the use of--nay, the companionship of.... my old blue backpack.

Old Blue is a simple soft shell backpack that I bought when I was in college. It was my constant--and sometimes only--companion on many adventures. Egypt, Spain, Mexico, Haiti, and countless trips around the U.S., including back and forth between my hometown in Minnesota and wherever I happened to be living at the time. Camping, vacations, archaeological digs, business trips, you name it, Old Blue never let me down. A few loosened seams have been sewn tight, and I put a "Key West" patch over a hole, but other than that it has been a true warhorse. I have a collection of other patches from other trips that I have never gotten around to sewing on to it, but he doesn't need to show off all his medals, he knows what he's accomplished.

So it seemed fitting, given the significance of this trip, that I un-retire my old friend. It'll be me and Old Blue, off again on another adventure. Just like the old days! And it's good karma!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

While we're on the subject of cocoons and PMP....

Okay, I think I figured out the source of PMP.

John Hurt’s character had PMP. Think about it. Goo, abdominal pain, rupture, etc., etc. Google “john hurt” alien if you don’t get it.

Offended, are you? Well see this post for my excuse.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Collaborate and listen...

Prepare for a ramble. I'll post some weird, off-topic short nonsense after this, so it balances out the navel-gazing of this post.

I have been fighting this ridiculous notion I have that after my surgery I'm going to "cocoon" for a few months and come out somehow different, changed, better, and in a new world. I mean, will that happen if I just sit there and surf the internet, post drivel on this blog, watch movies, and try to focus enough to read the books I've been waiting to read?

If I just sit there and expect some magical result, and hope that a new, better, different, healed me will chip its way out of the hardened goo at the end of this two month sabbatical, I'll be disappointed. I wouldn't take that approach to a project or to effect change in my professional world, so why would I expect that here and now, in my real life, with factors infinitely more complicated than work?

And can people even change, or is what appears to be "change" really the uncovering (or suppression) of who you really are and always have been, deep down? Maybe you just think someone changes, but really they were just burying their real self all that time and it/they finally came out? (Or vice versa--they seem to change, but actually they are now suppressing their real self.) Either way, why mislead yourself or others? Well, I guess there are a million reasons, and can we even help it?

I do know this: I feel awake. I used to be asleep. I look back at some unspecified time period before August 10th, 2009 (the day the doctor called), and I think of what a dupe I was, never looking at where I was at a given moment, or truly paying attention to what was going on around me. (Have you ever really read the story of Rip Van Winkle? Check it out sometime.)

It wasn't a sudden awakening, and it's not like on August 10th the doctor's call came and then "click" I was awake. It took some time, and I'm not certain when I reached some level of consciousness that was my tipping point. Sometime between then and now, I guess. And I still feel a little metaphorical sleepiness every now and then; backsliding a bit, most likely. But I know I do not want to, and will not ever, go back to that Rip Van Winkle sleep. Don't think I could if I wanted to.

I'm not going to "live life on the edge" or anything crazy like that. I just mean that things seem clearer now that I'm awake. I think I can see where I am right now, and can almost see who I really am, if that makes sense. Sure, I might still do something stereotypically life crisis-ish, like get a small sailboat. No little red sports car, though.

But I know I'll be sleepy (physically only, I hope) for the next 2 months, so I'll do my best to use the time to just 1. rest; 2. heal; 3. play with my kids; and 4. practice focusing on where I am now, regardless of the past or the future. (Yes, that last one is loading a lot into a few words.)

(And oh yeah, one more--5. look for a sailboat!!! A little red one....)

Thursday, December 24, 2009


My parents' anti-zombie defenses:

Just in time, too, here come the zombies....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

It's not plagarizing if you cite the source...

Watch me tie this into Christmas. There is a scene in the Charlie Brown Christmas special where Lucy asks Schroeder to play Jingle Bells on his toy piano. After a few...well, wait a sec (google, google), here it is, only 30 seconds long, just watch it:

Thank you, internet.

Anyhow, I felt like Lucy after I read the below. I'm going to quote a post titled "Acknowledging the Negative" in which a cancer blogger references yet another cancer blogger ("oncoloblogger," I just came up with that. TM, all rights reserved). So today I'm an oncoloblogger about to cite another oncoloblogger who cites another oncoloblogger--so meta! Here's the link, but I'll quote it in full below. This is now the voice of Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik:
I am a great fan of another cancer survivor's blog, The Pastor's Cancer Diary". It is written (well written!) by Rev. Carl Wilton, a man living in a "slow motion crisis". He has a documented lymphoma recurrence that it just there, being constantly monitored, but for now not getting any better or worse. He's in a prolonged period of watchful waiting. Living fully with the uncertainty cancer brings to our lives. He recently did a great post I recommend you read, The Glad Game. This is an excerpt from his post:
"We cancer survivors hear a lot about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude. In many ways, that advice is but a warmed-over version of Pollyanna’s Glad Game. The problem is, no real person can be as relentless in playing the game as the fictional Pollyanna. Feelings of sadness and dejection sometimes present themselves, and that’s OK. They come with the territory.

If we take the “think positive” advice too seriously, we can end up denying the existence of those negative thoughts – which are only natural, after all. Sure, maintaining a positive attitude is important, but that doesn’t mean we can never give ourselves permission to feel anger, or sadness, or frustration or any of the other negative emotions that come from this kind of protracted struggle."

He also in his post quoted a hero of mine, Dr. Jimmie Holland (who I got to have lunch with once!!). She is a psychiatrist who has written books about the emotional aspect of cancer survivorship and who deals with the normal emotions cancer patients feel. She founded the science of psycho-oncology.

I've struggled a lot with the sentiment that we with a cancer diagnosis are always expected to "think positive". I've wondered sometimes why those who experience great physical trauma, heart attacks etc. are not held to the same expectation to "think positive" as we with cancer are. I loved that my mom, when she was hospitalized and paralyzed and disabled was able to tell me how depressed she was. I told her she had every right to feel depressed; life had dealt her a terrible blow, she had lost a lot. In her life at the time, depression was justified. It was a normal reaction to her circumstance.

But people don't say that to cancer patients. Somehow for us "staying positive" is supposed to help us beat our disease. We aren't allowed to feel depressed or frustrated or discouraged at the negative changes cancer has brought into our lives. We are supposed to deny those normal negative feelings. But denying feelings is always bad, I think. We need to be able to feel what we feel. To be honest. We can't move forward until we process those negative feelings; the grief, the hurt, the fear.

We need to be allowed to be who we are, to feel what we feel. To have support when we can't always be "positive". A cancer diagnosis deals us a terrible blow, in so many ways. Yes, we feel negative emotions.

We can't be positive until we process the negative. We need to be able to feel all that we feel. We need to be able to feel hurt and pain and anger before we can move beyond to the "positive". Negative feeling are normal and justified. We can't be "positive" until we process the negative. Posted by Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik RN BSN at 12:31 AM

Okay, this is Dan again, and I'll now quote Lucy Van Pelt:
"THAT'S IT!!!"

Special Xmas blog post....

Over at my church, the Large Hadron Collider (picture at right--hey some guy is standing in my pulpit!!), a Vanity Fair reporter dropped by and wrote a fantastic article about the new religion I am building. A quote from it:
“We have a religion,” an American physicist and cern lifer named Steven Goldfarb confessed one day over lunch, “and that’s symmetry.” As yin is twinned with yang and Christ with Antichrist, so does matter have its equal and opposite anti-matter, and they destroy each other on contact—so that, according to the guiding principle of symmetry, at the moment of the big bang, all the matter and anti-matter should have canceled themselves out, leaving nothing behind. Not only did that not happen—we are among the evidence that it didn’t—but 14 billion years later there is a lot more matter than anti-matter in the universe. Something has to explain that mysterious imbalance, and the betting is that it’s supersymmetry, the idea that for every known particle there’s an as-yet-undetected “superpartner”—and that dark matter consists of those superpartners. There’s a very good chance that the proton collisions at the L.H.C. will create some of those primordial bits—maybe next year, says Jim Virdee, who runs the collider’s C.M.S. experiment, “if nature is kind.” (C.M.S. stands for “Compact Muon Solenoid”—don’t ask.) If that happens, in one stroke “we’ve figured out 25 percent of the universe,” says Gillies.
Full article HERE, it's a great read for the holidays.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Last person here tonight....

Leaving work, for hopefully only a few months at the most. I'm kind of sad, I'll miss my friends. And it makes it seem a little more real now.

That's my office door on the left, the one with the light on. Okay, time to to Christmas in Minnesota, New Years in Sheboygan, and then the new year in Houston.

Smith's 40th, another HIPEC treatment (wine-based), and the limitations and advantages of the iPhone as a camera...

Drove to MN last Saturday for the 40th birthday of my good friend Mr. Smith. Regardless of the fact that driving home Sunday with a whomping hangover and a really sore abdomen took an extra 2 or 3 hours, it was worth it.... It was a great group of people to hang out with, and I was reduced to tears (laughing!) several times over the course of the night. Tim's brother is a really good dancer. (Click on any of the pictures to make them bigger.)

I took dozens of pictures with my iPhone--it takes great pictures in good light, but not so good in the low light you find a bar. But I look at it as recording the evening as I experienced it, with increasing accuracy as the evening progressed--a little dark, a little out of focus, and fuzzy, blurred action. It's like looking through my eyes, like you were there. Sure, I could have used my expensive digital camera with a flash, but the flash would have ruined the moment. Look at the nice picture below of the lovely Heather and the even lovelier Dave. A flash would have ruined that picture. (Or made it better, either one.) And look at the poignant image of Tim and his parents, which I shall title "Tim's Parents Expressing 40 Years of Disappointment." No flash needed to capture the angst on Tim's dad's face.
At least that's my excuse for not wanting to carry around another digital device that night.

All the pictures can be found on my Flickr site, click HERE to see them. Multiple copies of some, since I tweaked the exposure and color saturation in the darkroom.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Many beers later

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Mahtomedi Ave,Mahtomedi,United States

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Building a religion....

I think I am on to something here. In addition to annoying people about multiple universes, I've had this long-running schtick about starting my own religion. Again, around the bonfire, after a few drinks, I would argue that I could start a religion or church, and within 10 years have at least a million followers and a dozen pink Cadillacs for my "church." Gullible Americans would be my flock. Relevant music break time:

Now that I have been reading about biocentrism, I think I have found my calling. It's like I was on the road to Damascus and a bright light shone down upon mine eyes. Multiple, infinite universes, combined with a religion. Perfect for me. In some alternate universe I already have my megachurch. Sorry Ron, no giant inflatable pig.

In my previous post about multiple universes and [non]death, I quoted Dr. Robert Lanza (he's a "real" doctor, as in prominent biologist/M.D., but that doesn't mean he can't be a nutjob). Here is a quick summary of his theory of biocentrism:

Similar to Kant's arguments, what we call space and time are merely forms of our perception, rather than "real" external physical objects. Lanza's updated theory seems to be based on quantum theory, including the idea that observation controls reality. He cites seven principles. You can skim these, they are a little confusing, to say the least:
1. What we perceive as reality is a process that involves our consciousness. An external reality, if it existed, would by definition have to exist in space. But this is meaningless, because space and time are not absolute realities but rather tools of the human and animal mind.
2. Our external and internal perceptions are inextricably intertwined. They are different sides of the same coin and cannot be divorced from one another.
3. The behavior of subatomic particles, indeed all particles and objects, is inextricably linked to the presence of an observer. Without the presence of a conscious observer, they at best exist in an undetermined state of probability waves.
4. Without consciousness, matter dwells in an undetermined state of probability. Any universe that could have preceded consciousness only existed in a probability state.
5. The structure of the universe is explainable only through biocentrism. The universe is fine-tuned for life, which makes perfect sense as life creates the universe, not the other way around. The universe is simply the complete spatio-temporal logic of the self.
6. Time does not have a real existence outside of animal-sense perception. It is the process by which we perceive changes in the universe.
7. Space, like time, is not an object or a thing. Space is another form of our animal understanding and does not have an independent reality. We carry space and time around with us like turtles with shells. Thus, there is no absolute self-existing matrix in which physical events occur independent of life.
Just need three more for a nice even 10, five for each stone tablet. No, I don't understand all seven, but sometimes I get a glimpse of what he is trying to say. After hearing a nonsense poem in Wonderland, Alice said something like "it fills my head with ideas, but I don't know exactly what they are." Same here.

By the way for those of you still looking for that perfect Christmas present for me, click here for a make your own multiple universe kit.

Okay, that's gotten weird enough for now. But I think I have my church. Send money.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Even more Cary Tennis, and what to call your doctor...

I have a lot stored up to blog about. Cary Tennis (I've mentioned him here and here) wrote about his thoughts as he was entering the hospital for his cancer surgery and long recovery. For that latest article, click right here. It's time to "turn it over" to the doctors, and "just heal," he says. Good advice.

Another article, this one from the New York Times, about calling your doctor by his/her first name:

I totally did that with "Keith" (Dr. Fournier) because I felt bad I was calling the female PA and nurses by their first names. I had called every other doctor I consulted with "Dr. [Last Name]" but I decided to go with the first name for the M.D. Anderson doctor. "Keith" didn't blink, I hope he didn't mind. But it kind of demystified him for me, I felt more connected to him.

Crazy Eights

Kids and I hung out tonight at Paradigm (local coffee shop). G kicked my butt at cards.


For when we feel too important, a new picture from the Hubble telescope.... click on the image to make it bigger and stare at it. And then think about how big the frickin' universe is....

Out at the LC

Another clear blue sky today....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, December 14, 2009

The car crash I am preparing for...

Well, let's talk a little about this surgery I have scheduled for Friday, January 8, 2010. Talking about it will help me mentally prepare, and will allow me to break through this denial bubble encircling my head (that's why we need to talk about it, Cary Tennis!!). It's time to deal with it, in concrete, real terms. Without delay or distraction.

But first, let's look at that date, January 8. Of course, it's the birthday of Elvis Presley. Elvis is everywhere. He's in your cheeseburgers.

(Mojo Nixon)

Steven Hawking and David Bowie were also born on that day. Larry Storch from "F Troop," too. And it's "Commonwealth Day" in the North Mariana Islands. Back to the surgery.

But another quick delay, for a warning--these are links to pictures of surgery, so the images are kind of disgusting, at least to me.

A refresher--pseudomyxoma peritonei gets its start in the appendix. Here is a picture of a diseased appendix, ruptured: GROSS PICTURES. This link is to the eminent Dr. Sugarbaker's website. Mucus comes out of the appendix tumor, and the mucus spreads the cancer.

If you scroll down on that page (the above link), you can see how they have to dig around in my belly to look for the mucus and the tumors. This next quote is from the website of Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik, RN BSN:
Appendix cancer has often spread to the peritoneal surfaces of the abdomen by the time it is discovered. The surgery to remove as much of the cancer in the abdomen as possible, reducing the "bulk" of the cancer is called "debulking" or "cytoreduction" surgery. "Cyto" is a word root meaning cells, so cytoreduction means to surgically "reduce" number of cancer cells. Both terms mean the same thing and are usually used interchangeably.

Cytoreduction (debulking) surgery is often long and complicated and is associated with a high rate of post-operative complications. Parts of the large and small bowel along with organs or parts of organs in the abdomen that are cancerous may need to be removed during this surgery. "Complete cytoreduction" or "complete debulking" means that all of the visible tumors are successfully removed during surgery. "Incomplete cytoreduction" or "incomplete debulking" means that all of the tumors could not be removed during the surgery and that visible tumors were left behind.

The factor most associated with long term survival is completeness of cytoreduction, or the removal of all visible tumors. Cytoreduction (debulking) surgery is best done by a surgical oncologist who specializes in these types of surgeries.
Okay, this next link is to even worse images, click if you dare: MORE GROSSER PICTURES. The first image is the "cut along the dotted line" drawing. Self explanatory. Then if you scroll down you see Dr. Sugarbaker (I presume) in action. I understand that all doctors have different techniques, and I'm not sure exactly how my surgeon Dr. Fournier's surgery plan differs from Dr. Sugarbaker's, but this gives you the general idea.

Okay, that's about all I can handle right now. Tomorrow or the next day I'll explain the HIPEC procedure in more detail.

Preparing for surgery is like preparing for an auto accident.

More Cary Tennis...

"...I was at a meeting Saturday, planning to share my experiences and my feelings about going into the hospital for surgery, when the speaker suggested the topic should be what we get out of sharing our feelings and experiences. This sent me on a brain loop...."

Full article here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Was Both Horrified and Amused

Sam says "Look, we're conjoined!" (Note he is reading a "Far Side" book. Maybe that's where he gets these strange jokes from.)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Shevegas, WI


Saw this image, and it reminded me of my post about multiple universes. Was Michaelangelo making a subtle statement about religion or our consciousness on the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel? (Suck it, Dan Brown.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

-1 Degrees This Morning

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:South Dr,Plymouth,United States

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beautiful Day Today

Out at the LC....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Hey Mom!

I'm out drinking again. But I'll take my vitamins, ok?


Your son

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:N 8th St,Sheboygan,United States

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My boy Sammy and me....

Good picture of me and the boy....

(credit: Gobble Monster on Flickr)

A slightly less theoretical kitty...

Nom nom nom.... This should clear your head after that last post about quantum theory and [non]death:

Open the box and the kitty dies. Or does it?

I've entertained/confused/annoyed friends with crazy beer-and-bonfire talk about an infinite number of parallel universes, telling them there is another universe in which everything is exactly the same as in this universe, except that they have two heads. And every time you make a decision, the "split" or fork in the road creates two new universes, one for each alternative that you might have chosen. I don't completely understand the theory and its implications (hence the lame Wikipedia links) but I like to at least ponder it and pretend I do. And I love Schrodinger's Cat--another famous and crazy quantum physics theoretical mindbuster--the cat is neither dead nor alive, until you observe it.

Setting aside for a minute that this means there is a universe in which I do not have PMP (and thus another universe in which I have something far worse), I just read a fascinating short essay by Dr. Robert Lanza. See his bio here--it's probably hard to be humble with that pedigree, heck, the dude was experimenting on the DNA of chickens in his basement when he was a teenager (okay, that makes is sound more creepy than scientific). Dr. Lanza theorizes how the multiple universe theory impacts theories of human consciousness, and, ultimately, the concept of death. Here is an excerpt from the article:
There are an infinite number of universes, and everything that could possibly happen occurs in some universe. Death does not exist in any real sense in these scenarios. All possible universes exist simultaneously, regardless of what happens in any of them. Although individual bodies are destined to self-destruct, the alive feeling - the 'Who am I?'- is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn't go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can neither be created nor destroyed. But does this energy transcend from one world to the other?
Okay, got that? Accept it? Dr. Lanza continues:
...The linkages between these various histories and universes transcend our ordinary classical ideas of space and time. Think of the 20-watts of energy [your consciousness] as simply holo-projecting either this or that result onto a screen....

[S]pace and time are not the hard objects we think. Wave your hand through the air - if you take everything away, what's left? Nothing. The same thing applies for time. You can't see anything through the bone that surrounds your brain. Everything you see and experience right now is a whirl of information occurring in your mind. Space and time are simply the tools for putting everything together.

Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world. In the end, even Einstein admitted, "Now Besso" (an old friend) "has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us...know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." Immortality doesn't mean a perpetual existence in time without end, but rather resides outside of time altogether.

This was clear with the death of my sister Christine. After viewing her body at the hospital, I went out to speak with family members. Christine's husband - Ed - started to sob uncontrollably. For a few moments I felt like I was transcending the provincialism of time. I thought about the 20-watts of energy, and about experiments that show a single particle can pass through two holes at the same time. I could not dismiss the conclusion: Christine was both alive and dead, outside of time.

Perhaps humans, at some subconscious level, have always understood this concept, but could only express it through parables about the various theories of heaven and hell. Just like we used to think planets were gods. It seems the Hindu may have got it a little "righter," or at least explained it better, than "in the beginning" God separated the lightness from the darkness. But it's not a contest.

I find some comfort in Dr. Lanza's concept. I've always struggled to place spirituality somewhere in my life, because since I was a kid I have had problems reconciling those concepts with my geekiness for history, anthropology, and science. Maybe I don't have to struggle, and just accept that it is more complicated than I can understand. Here's the entire article, although I quoted most of it above. In another universe you have already read the whole thing with your 2 sets of eyes.

And if you need more, read this blog entry from Bad Astronomy, written by the always awesome Phil Plait.

Monday, December 7, 2009

tag and release

Daughter is making me wear this PMP bracelet. She and her "bestie" (12 yro girl talk for best friend) are each wearing one. It says PSEUDOMYXOMA PERITONEI (PMP) APPENDIX CANCER. How can I refuse? But I feel like a duck with a DNR tag around my foot.

And I can assure you that the bracelet is functional--it is a constant reminder to me of PMP. But my daughter is so darn cute about it, so I am going to use it as a reminder of her.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:South Dr,Plymouth,United States