Adventures in brain tumors: a frustrated start

I wish I had a copy of the images to show you, because they're kind of
amazing. Imagine a cross-section shot of a head and what isn't brain,
is tumor. In the small gap at the base of the brain, there it is, and
it's huge. Tumor, all of it. So large you can't see my pituitary gland or other tissues in the region
at all. So large I hear it may have caused irreparable harm.

Of
course I'm twice as old as the last time I believed I was truly
invincible, but I'm not so old that I forgot what it felt like. Walking
to the Neurosurgery wing Friday morning, I noticed I'm younger than the
average patient age by 20 years and that just about broke my heart.

My imagined full, amazing, and
speedy recovery was sidelined Friday as I reviewed photos of my brain, took some
blood tests, and got some results. My hormones? Zeros, across the
board. Testosterone? Zeros across the board. Adrenaline production?
Zeros across the board. I'll get to wear a Medic-Alert bracelet for
that last one.

Of course, hormones are replaceable,
as there's a giant body of work stretching decades behind me and pretty
much everything can be synthesized, measured, and replaced. A
sudden fear is subjecting my loved ones that surround me to the rocky
weeks. This can't go perfectly, right? I don't want too much
testosterone Matt to snap at his daughter. I don't want not enough
hydrocortisone Matt to pass out and ruin a weekend. I never wanted to
be a guy that carries pills around wherever he goes, but here we are,
and it all seems too fast, too soon.

Overall the path is up the meds and hope to shrink the tumor a bit because it's actually too big to clean it up in one surgery. The meds have side effects so we're ramping up slowly and I've also just learned a path of total inaction will end with blindness eventually.

So we have to keep on it.

Adventures in brain tumors: part one of many

 Photo on 2009-11-13 at 14.13

You know it's going be bad news when the ER doc slides a chair over to sit on. Good news is quick, a simple "You're gonna be fine! You can go home!" Seeing that chair slide over with her let me know I was in for some long explanations of bad news.

Of course the worst part is that I went to the hospital with a bad flu and two hours later this ER doctor is explaining that during the routine CT scan on my head, a lump was found. She couldn't tell if it was blood, a mass, or a collection of both. She couldn't tell if it was benign or cancerous either. I was immediately rushed to the area major hospital OSHU for MRI scans that could provide higher resolution data.

I finally got to experience the horribleness that a 45min long MRI I've been hearing so much about. That really is a ghastly creation, sliding me into a jet engine whirring to life for 45 minutes with about one inch of clearance above my face and an entire field of white to stare at until it's over? Figure out a way to project a few Simpsons episodes or at least some music to overcome the loud, claustrophobic noise machine that is a MRI.

I forgot to mention that before I got my MRI, I was waiting in their area and a technician asked me to move from my flat hospital bed that I was sleeping on to a waiting wheelchair before I got transferred to the MRI sliding test bed. I remember saying "Ok, I guess…" and as soon as my ass hit the wheelchair seat I said "I'm going to pass out" to the tech. I blinked my eyes and when I opened them six people were above me on a bed with an alarm sound in the distance. The head person in charge asked me if I do recreational drugs "It's cool here man, no judgments, it just helps us help you" and I said no, I've never done any recreation drugs (which is true). When I said I'd just taken a few doses of Codeine cough syrup the night before he rattled off a bunch of what I guess are street names for codeine based highs that were each more hilarious sounding than the next. I was exhausted and just coming back into consciousness so forgive me for not remembering the real names but it sounded something like this:

"Oh you took Codeine huh? You doing Night Rammers? Doing Robot Jammers? Doing some Springboard slammers?"

I had to confess that without a copy of UrbanDictionary.com, I wouldn't even know what he just asked me but that no, I didn't take any more than the recommended doctor's dose.

I'm getting ahead of myself, let me go back to the beginning for the sake of friends wondering what was up with my initial tweet (this is long and exhausting and I don't mind if it's tl;dr for you).

Continue reading

Notes from the Future: SSD instead of hard drives

Ssd I'm writing this on my Mac Pro that feels like a new computer thanks to the SSD (solid state drive) memory that replaced my existing hard drive. A friend of mine used to talk about this idea ten years ago — that someday RAM and flash memory would get so cheap you'd be able to fit an entire operating system on it, making it magnitudes faster than current computers. Thanks to the past decade of ever cheaper and larger memory sticks, cards, and RAM, we're finally at that moment. SSD drives are now available in sizes big enough for boot drives (including your operating system and space for apps), are available for many laptops & desktops, and start at just a couple hundred bucks.

Today I finished putting a 128Gb Crucial SSD drive in my newer Mac Pro. It was simple and the results are amazing. The hardest part was dealing with a new 128Gb SSD drive compared to my current main 1Tb hard drive. Thankfully I had a spare 1Tb drive to move all the music, movies, downloads, and document files to in order to get the operating system and application files down well below 128Gb in size. Next, I took my new SSD drive out of the package, opened my Mac, slid out hard drives, plugged the drive into a spare optical drive connector, and put it all back. Then I used SuperDuper to clone my now smaller main hard drive to the new drive, set it as the new boot drive, and rebooted. I followed the basic approach outlined in this tutorial (ignore the use of apps describe there) and was done, start to finish in less than 40 minutes (attaching the drive took 5 minutes, data copying took 33 minutes).

Overall, booting up takes about 1/3 as long. Applications launch in a second or two (even the bloated ones). Everything feels amazingly snappy, in the way that replacing a 5+ year old computer with a new one feels. About the only tip I'd give is that 64Gb is probably enough for most people if you can get iPhoto, iTunes, and all your large file storage to a separate drive. My SSD is barely using 25Gb for the entire OS, about 10Gb of applications, and assorted other files sitting on my desktop. I bought a larger drive just to be safe but I'm not sure it was necessary.

Currently, I'd put preparing your computer and installing SSD at the fairly technical nerd level but given that laptops with SSD pre-installed have been available for the past couple years it's only a matter of time before desktop computers start shipping with them. To any of my friends considering this, it's totally worth doing.

UPDATE: Jon Deal wrote me an amazing email last night detailing how to move the home directory to a new location using some command-line mojo and a hidden advanced user account feature I didn't know existed. He put it online last night here. It worked perfectly for me and saves a lot of headaches. I actually could have done this before I installed the SSD and before I shrank down the files/directories on my main drive to fit onto a SSD.

Softly relaunching

 Screen shot

So a long, long time ago I decided to both teach myself to shoot photos better and document my quickly changing life by creating a photo blog back on October 10, 2003 with the grand vision of keeping it going for ten years.

At the time, I was pretty busy with multiple projects, but thanks to moving all my photo management to a new mac and this new fangled application called iPhoto, I got my daily photo posting regimen down to about 10-15 minutes each day (which included download photos, select the best, edit in Photoshop, save to desktop, upload via FTP to site, then build blog post around it). It was a tolerable nightly chore, as long as my life stayed somewhat stable.

Soon after having a child a couple years later I started slacking a bit, then a bit more, until I didn't have 15 minutes a day to spare towards a little hobby site. I'd say the whole thing died sometime in late 2005 when I just gave up on daily posts. I streamlined the process further but the uploads and blog posting was too much of a hassle. I kept posting plenty to flickr, thanks to its ease of use with various photo uploading tools. In 2005, I started wishing for a way to make a photoblog powered by flickr entirely, which wasn't an option when I started.

Last year I stumbled upon Flogr, and I'd been wanting to try it out ever since. I finally got around to it today, and so it lives at www.tenyearsofmylife.com.

I'll start by saying I threw this together in about an hour, I tweaked the default template but know it has a bunch of annoying quirks (several I noted in Flickr's new App Garden thread linked earlier). The oldest photo seems to be dying and I haven't imported any of the 2003-2007 content that was previously on the site (I'll eventually do it). Also the feed sucks so I'm replacing it with a tag feed from Flickr. I'm not happy with the URL structure or even the idea of having an external URL for something that actually lives at flickr, but what I am happy about is the ease of use.

It's pretty much just a stream of my favorite recent photos posted to flickr and it really cuts down on the workflow to the point where a photo can go from my camera to iPhoto to the web and to this site in about four clicks within the span of a couple minutes. I'm no longer aiming for daily new photos or trying to make myself shoot one new one per day, I'd rather just keep it to as often as an interesting photo comes along that I feel like sharing which will likely be on the order of 3-4 per week.

Now that expectations are appropriately lowered, enjoy.