June 2008

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I’d forgotten how it is, dealing with Cox High Speed Internet here in Santa Barbara. We got spoiled with Verizon FiOS in Boston. It’s never down. Customer support is solid. And the data rates rock: 15-20Mb/s, symmetrical, for about the same as we’re paying here.

But here we are, back in town for as much of the Summer as we can take in. Everything is beautiful, except for the Net.

First, I’m paying the “premium” rate for the best they can get me. After a long talk with customer service and tech support in San Diego on Friday afternoon, they repeated to me what they’ve told me before: while they offer up to 12Mbps download speeds elsewhere, and plan for more — and while I’m paying for 10Mbps on the download side in order to get 1Mbps on the upload side, my area is only provisioned for 5-6Mbps down. And that, in fact, Santa Barbara is on the bottom of Cox’s list of areas to upgrade. No change there. We heard that two years ago. Santa Barbara is hind tit for Cox.

Second, outages. These happen now and then with Cox, always without warning. Nothing on the website. No emails saying when it’s going to happen.

So one happened today. Fortunately I have a borrowed Sprint EvDO card here. (My Verizon one won’t work on my newer laptops.) I just checked and it gets 1.096Mps down, 533Kbps up. Not bad, considering. Anyway, I used that connection to get on the Cox service website and eventually found a chat interface. I wanted to copy and paste the text, but the interface doesn’t allow that. So I took a series of screen shots and put together the whole dialog as a .jpg, leaving out the personal info that it asked for. Speaks for itself:

Obviously, Edward is doing the best he can, given the narrow and stilted pro formalities he is required to utter. I’m not knocking him. Heck, I’m glad he’s there, and I really do think he’s sorry for the inconvenience. But really, why not notify people that you’re doing work in the area, which is what a “planned outage” involves? Why not send out an email that says something like, “We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but we’ll be upgrading service in your area starting at 1pm Monday afternoon. We’ll work to minimize downtime. Thanks for your patience.” I notice that’s what universities do when they have planned outages. Why not do the same?

And why use a chat client that won’t let the user copy anything? One can guess, but one wouldn’t be kind.

The thing is, Internet service is secondary for Cox. They’re a Cable TV company first, and an Internet Service Provider second or third (after telephony).

There have to be better ways. A small group of us have been working on that here in Santa Barbara for several years. Given the troubles that municipal “broadband” has run into elsewhere in the U.S., it’s probably just as well that we’ve taken it slow.

Meanwhile, here’s an interview I did with Bob Frankston in May. Lots of grist for many mills there.

Here’s what’s essential, and too often lost in arguments over “Net Neutrality”: companies like Cox need to find benefits to incumbency other than the traditional monopoly/duopoly ones. Here’s one: beat Amazon and Google in the offsite storage and compute businesses. Or partner with them to deliver more and better utility Web services.

Essential guidance for that: ‘s .

[Later...] A guy with a hard hat, a tool bucket and a long bright orange ladder just came down from the pole behind our house and told us we should be getting much higher speeds as soon as they finish working on something back up the street. Good to know.

The trip across the country on Friday yielded very little photography, at least for me: a set just 26 shots long. Our 3-person family had row 12 on the left side of a United 757-200. That’s one of the rows with a blank wall where a window might otherwise be. Our only window was usable only if we reclined the seat, and then it was pitted and dusty, and on the sunny side of the plane as well, which makes for terrible aerial photography. (Here is a shot that focuses on the window itself. Amazing we got anything through that.) Also we were on the leading edge of the wing, with the left engine intruding into much of the view of the land below. On top of all that, it was pretty hazy and/or undercast from coast to coast. The main exception was our flight path southwest across the Wind River Range of Western Wyoming, which features more than 40 named peaks in excess of 13,000 feet. Many of those are in the shot above, along with Willow and Boulder lakes on the far side of the mountains. I am sure Gannett Peak, highest in Wyoming, is near the center of the shot, which also takes in the Continental Divide

The Kid shot nearly all the pictures, by the way. He had that seat.

Cacheing up

This was my first piece about The Giant Zero, from October 2006. Holds up pretty well.

Home again

It’s great to be back at our house in Santa Barbara, with our pool and a climate that is almost criminally nice … cool, dry and breezy while most of the rest of the country swelters.

Spent a bunch of time yesterday in Cambridge trying to find a portable 250 Gb hard drive so I could take most of my photo achive west with me to work on here, where I have a comfortable desk and chair and a nice big screen.

After spending much of yesterday evening pulling all the archives together, and putting them all on this nice little new drive, I forgot it. Not the worst bummer, but still a downer.

Could be worse

Sitting with the family between planes while delayed at SFO. One good thing: checked the speed and I’m getting 2841kbps down and 3670kbps up. Not bad for airport wi-fi.

Can’t wait to get back home to Santa Barbara. The Kid calls our Cambridge place “alt.home” or “SHIFT_HOME”. But, much as I love Boston (even the weather), SB is still Home.

Quote du jour

Alpha male philandering is the oldest form of recreational arrogance. — Britt Blaser. From a now-old post. But I think it’s still true.

I’m not a car nut — I could never afford to be, lacking both the money and the time — but I do enjoy and appreciate them as works of arts, science, culture and plain necessity. So, about a month ago the kid and I joined Britt Blaser at the Concours d’Elegance in Newport Harbor, looking at an amazing collection of antique cars and motorcycles, all restored or preserved to a level of perfection you hardly find in new cars off the production line.

We also got to hang with new friends from Iconic Motors, who are making a very hot little sports car designed and made entirely in the U.S., mostly by small manufacturers of obsessively perfected goods. Took a lot of pictures of both, which you’ll find by following the links under the photos.

Days vs. Daze

Maarten is going into Day 10 of chemo. Writes Lori,

  He slept a little, and is finally eating something, but I think this has been the toughest day for him physically so far. According to the nurses, tomorrow, day 10, is when his immune system will be at it’s lowest point in the cycle.

  All of your positive thoughts, messages and love are being recieved and keeping him afloat.

Lots coming from here, big guy. I’m out and getting better. You should be too. :-)

So now it’s time to put lessons to work. The Patient as the Platform is my latest post over at Linux Journal, and it proposes something that goes beyond merely giving patients control of their health care records. (As do, say, Google Health and HealthVault.) Specifically,

I believe that having a data store for health records is a necessary but insufficient condition for the true independence and control required for each of us to be the point of integration for the health care we get, and the point of origination for controlling that care — for getting second and third opinions, for summoning data across bureaucratic boundaries, for actually relating to the systems that serve us, rather than serving as dependent variables within them.

For patients to become platforms, we need more tools and capabilities that are native to the patient. All of us need to be able to walk around the world with the ability to jack into any health care system and drive it. How? I don’t know yet. I’m still new to this. But I do know that these are capabilities we need to add to ourselves, as independent drivers of health care services. And that these must be based on free and open standards and code.

The new health care infrastructure must be built on independent and autonomous patients, not on systems that surround and subordinate patients. Once it is, the systems will be vastly improved, and far more profitable for all.

It’s a angle, of course. And it concludes with the same pitch I’ll give here. If you’re interested in putting a shoulder to this boulder, or to weigh in on any of the other development efforts we have underway, come to the VRM Workshop on July 14-15 at Harvard. That page is short on details, but we’ll be filling them in shortly.

Caught a bit of Michael Krasny’s Forum yesterday on KQED, and heard that George Lakoff will be on the second hour today: 10-11am, Pacific time.  Michael is among the most intellectual and probing of interviewers, and I look forward to hearing how he does with George. If you miss that, get the podcast.

What you’ll hear from George about politics, and especially about the appeal of Barack Obama, is unlike anything you’ll hear anywhere else. And perhaps more important as well, because George’s work has had a deep influence on the Obama campaign, and especially the candidate’s speechwriting.

This first post-primary TV ad by the Obama campaign. Listen to Lakoff and you’ll see exactly how it appeals to deep unconscious meanings of shared values across political divides. Reagan did it in 1980, and by the time the next decade was over the Republicans were the party of traditional American values while the Democrats were the party of tax’n'spend Liberals, fading unions and collections of minority interest groups. Blame talk radio and Fox News for that, if you like (or the Democrats themselves, who certainly deserve it); but it was Reagan’s work. And it was genius. George Lakoff has studied that genius. So has Barack Obama.

In the primaries Obama beat the Clinton machine with a much more modern and functional one, geared to a wider, deeper appeal: one targeted across political divides.

Ignore policy statements for a minute. Ignore “issues”. Ignore race, voting records and the bullshit that gasses up TV news. Look at how Obama appeals. Ask What are the deeper sensibilities he is appealing to? Then look back at what Reagan did in 1980, and through the presidency that followed. Then look at how well Obama is raising money and weakening the oppositional resolve of conservatives like George Will.

The best competitors learn from both their own mistakes and their opponents successes. The Obama Campaign has been doing that for the Democratic party from the start.

In November, the best Reagan will win.

Bye, George

George Carlin, one of smartest and most challenging comedians who ever lived, is gone. Heart failure. 71.

In the hospital I had neither the means nor the energy to get pictures from my little Canon point & shoot to the blog. But I’m home now, so I just put up a small set of shots I took there over the last week. The ones with my face show a happier guy than I was most of the time there.

It’s great to be out. I’m still anemic, jiggling with fluids and amazed at how much my muscles hurt in wierd ways just from climbing stairs. But I’m on the mend and looking forward to getting back to Real Work gradually (I need lots of rest), and to talking and writing about stuff other than sickness.

Meanwhile, thanks to everybody who wished and prayed me well. It worked. Now let’s keep doing the same for our buddy Maarten. Somewhere I have pix of my conversation via Skype with Maarten and Lori this morning, which I’ll add to the photoset.

I’m almost old. Sixty-one next month. But old enough for the wear to do more than show. It’s performing now. The trick to longevity at this point is to dodge the complete failure of any one of many systems that are all wearing down. Aging is fatal, and the number of single points of failure is not small. Combined ones multiply that number.

It seems like ten years ago that I was thirty. Life is short at its longest, and it goes fast, especially if you’re having fun.

Which brings me to my point. Almost.

It’s a matter of genetic luck that I’m not a drinker. A little beer and wine, but that’s about all my body can take before it says No More. Been that way since I was young. Drugs have also always been unpleasant for me. Smoking didn’t appeal in any case, but my father’s addiction to it — and the discomfort it caused the rest of us, for example when sharing a room or riding in a car — made me determined never to do it. And all those are reasons I’m alive today.

The other people in this ward, the one I’ll leave after I scarf one last free meal — don’t look so good. It’s a cardiac ward. When I walk past the nurses’ station I look at the screen of EKGs etching their green pulsed lines, one for each patient. None look good, or they wouldn’t be here. Alarms go off all the time. The patients look terrible. Even if they’re not old, they look it. One more reason I want to get out of here is to stop hogging a room that a needy patient could fill.

So I was talking to one of the nurses. What brought most of these patients here? Smoking and drinking, was the short answer. Reminded me of what a doctor friend told me many years ago. “Without tobacco and alcohol, you could close half the hospitals.”

We can’t get rid of stuff that’ll kill us in the long run. But we can choose not to indulge them.

This last week a lot of people have told me that stuff I say is important to them. Sometimes I’m called “influential”. If I can influence one young person to quit smoking or drinking heavily — for the duration — I’ll be happy.

If you’re lucky you’ll all be as old as the folks here some day. And if you’re smart, chances are you won’t be laying in a place like this.

Got my first “thin” meal with my second breakfast this morning. The first breakfast was the usual broth and tea. Then for lunch I had my first real meal: baked scrod, a salad with strawberries and dried cranberries with a few almond slices and a lowfat dressing. Chicken noodle soup with a few crackers. Generic stuff. But I loved eating it, while watching clips from The Last Waltz on the laptop.

It’s been about an hour since then, and everything feels fine. My bloodwork shows everything normalized. Blood pressure of 120/70, heart rate of 58, oxygen uptake of 98%: an athletic profile in the absence of any cause other than genetics. My liver and pancreatic chemicals all look fine. White cell count is high at 20, but coming down from wherever it was. No fever in days.

Gotta make room here for sick people. Figuring I’ll punch out in a couple hours. Can’t wait.

I discovered JazzFM91 on a recent trip to Toronto, and keep going back. It’s sooo good. Right now Danny Marks is talking to … who is it? dunno, just tuned in. (Later… it’s Terry Gilespie.) But the subject is John Lee Hooker.

The music that follows reminds me of the time John Lee gave one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen. It was in St. Joseph’s Church in Durham, I’d guess around 1980. I was in front pew on the right. John Lee walked in with an orange suit and his guitar, said “Stand up!” to the audience, and all obeyed. There was no way to sit for the rest of the service. It was just amazing. Just remembered I wrote about this, and a funny JLH story, back in ’01.

Here’s JazzFM91′s stream.

Solving the “brand” thing

If I still had a Santa Barbarian blogroll, I’d be quick to add Uncle Saul’s infoChachkie to it. Cool to read in his latest post another piece of the “branding” derivation puzzle:

  The word “brand” is derived from the Old English word baernan, which means “to burn.” For thousands of years, ranchers have branded their livestock to indelibly mark them and thereby communicate to the world their ownership. A marketing brand serves a similar purpose. It declares to the world the underlying ownership (and associated responsibility) to deliver on the brand’s promised value proposition.

I’ve always taken it as a given that the practice of “branding” involved the burning of ownership symbols onto the hides of cattle. But I now see via wikipedia, “When shipping their items, the factories would literally brand their logo or insignia on the barrels used, which is where the term comes from.” If I were a Wikipedian, I’d want to add a little “citation needed” there, but I suspect it’s true.


I still have three of these, my MRI says. So, for the first time, I’m watching The Last Lecture, with absolute intentions not to give my own Last Anything for another few decades. Highly recommended, by the way.


There’s a light at the end of the digestive tunnel. (Sorry, can’t resist.) Four bowls of broth, two teas, a bit of jello, four glasses of water and an Italian ice have all made it past my pancreas, now once again the cooperative beast it was for close to 61 years before it revolted a week ago, dropping me into a trough of pain and inconvenience.

In the morning I get my first solid food, then start careful eating habits for the duration. If my pancreas agrees, I’m outa here by noon.

Which brings me to this comment by my buddy Chip, pointing to Leonard Cohen performing his song Hallelujah on German television, I’d guess in the mid-80s. (Cohen wrote the song in ’84.) It blew my mind. Cohen is a transcendant poet and songwriter, but also a performer of such unusual calm and grace that I’m stunned by how well his schtick works, even in a hokey TV stage setting.

And these lyrics just give me chills:

  There’s a blaze of light in every word.
It doesn’t matter which you heard.
The holy or the broken Hallelujah.

  I did my best, it wasn’t much.
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch.
I told the truth. I didn’t come to fool ya.
And even though it all went wrong,
I’ll stand before the lord of song
with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.

“Hallelujah” has been covered out the wazoo. It’s the Pachelbel Canon of poetic ballads. On YouTube alone, you’ll find outstanding covers by the quartet of Kurt Nilsen, Espen Lind, Askil Holm and Alejandro Fuentes, the Shrek soundtrack, Allison Crowe, Sheryl Crowe, Damien Lieth, Rufus Wainwright, Bon Jovi, Amanda Jenssen, k.d. lang, k.d. lang (again), The OC, Jeff Buckley (many from him) John Cale

I’ve listened to all of them, some several times, and still I like Cohen’s the best, maybe because his is the only one with the lines I quoted above.

Among my resolutions for life after Liberation is to sustain my love of music, rekindled here in the hospital. It’s not hard, that love. We all have it. Maybe that’s why I like the opening stanza of “Hallelujah”, as everybody sings it. Dig.

Bonus song. Another.

Quote du jour

Mike Taht: Some level of realism regarding our energy requirements is called for. I’m not expecting any until we are reduced to watching television by candlelight. Nice back and forth in the post and comments about a Subject That Matters.

Bear with me while I rehabilitate with radio. If that doesn’t do it for ya, tune out now. It’s cool.

Gotta say that I’ve been learning to love WMBR/88.1, MIT’s student station, on Saturday mornings. Been listening for the last half hour or so to Doug Gesler’s excellent “Lost Highway”: Country music for folks without boots, a hat or a lasso… Doug just did a nice job reviewing the last set, while talking over two of the best instrumentals ever recorded, without identifying those, mostly because he uses it as is background fill. But it gives me an excuse to fill in the blanks. Both were from Mike Auldridge, who plays the loveliest dobro you’ll ever hear. The first tune was “This Aint Grass”, and the second was “8 more miles to Louisville” from his amazing Blues & Bluegrass album, now available as part of a 2-album compilation called Dobro.

I’d guess it was in ’74 or ’75 that I was sitting with my neighbor and buddy John Curry, listening to WDBS, the station I worked for at the time, when a song called “Bottom Dollar” came on, and stopped both John and I cold. I called the station, found out it was by Mike Auldridge, the dobro player with the Seldom Scene, a great DC-area bluegrass band. So we both went out and bought a copy of the album. I’ve loved his music ever since.

Great to catch up on his website, too. The style is pure gray-background 1995, and has html an amateur can actually read. More importantly, it has a wonderful sampling of .mp3s from various highly worthy albums. Plus introductions to Mike’s nothing-else-like-it Resophonic guitars. Beautiful things. Check it out. Take your time.

Still no food, by the way. It’s past 9am. Isn’t that a little late for a hospital to be delivering breakfast? Anyway, the listening continues.

Rise & Boogie

Two of the greatest songs ever recorded are both called “Pride & Joy”. Marvin Gaye did the first. Stevie Ray Vaughan did the second. That’s what I’m listening to right now on Radio Paradise.

Wish the “food” would come. I’m so ready to boogie outa here. (Not really, but that’s how I feel.)

Can’t sleep, so…

I’m watching myself on TV. Actually, on the Web, at the site, where they’ve done a remarkable job of cross cutting between the screen and my balding self.

It’s about making each of us a platform. And, of course, .

Bonus vink on why I don’t like web analytics. For me, anyway. Like judging somebody’s creativity by their shoe size.

People have been asking, so here’s the update.

I’m due to start “clear liquids” in the morning. I was allowed to start tonight, but decided against it because if something goes wrong I’m not sure the slim night crew can handle it. (Not a knock on this hospital, just the Way Things Are in the hospital biz.) I have been off food since a week ago yesterday (starting with prep for the procedure that put me here last Saturday). One more night won’t hurt. Also, for what it’s worth, I have not received “food in bags”, but rather various other fluids. The bag closest to me says “5% DEXTROSE and 0.9% SODIUM CLORIDE”. Stuff like that. Yum.

We seem to be past the blown vein problem (blew four in 24 hours, filling my hands and arms with stuff). Both my hands are still puffed up and my right arm is down to about 1.5x the volume of the left.

I have little pain. This is the key, and an important goal. I’m otherwise pretty wasted and very anemic, mostly because I’m already a little anemic in any case and all these fluids have only thinned my blood out more.

My pancreatic enzymes, liver chemicals and other indicators are back in the normal range. For me. I’m not normal, but it’ll do.

And I’m looking to get out of here on Sunday morning. And taking Suzi‘s advice as well, I hope. Her blog, A Pain in the Pancreas, is a big help.

Bonus link: Wierd Al’s Pancreas.

Also a warm shout-out and a big hug for my partner in recovery, Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald, who is now deep in the Tunnel of Chemo. I’m gonna get through this thing a lot sooner. (Though we still don’t know what the “cystic lesions” on my pancreas are. And won’t for another month or more, since I doubt I could tolerate another endoscopy without repeating the last week. Not soon, anyway.)

Here’s a URL, from Live Maps, that goes http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=qtd9g08ttwy7&style=b&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=23698570&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1.

Twitter does a nice job of shrinking URLs to tinyurls, but chokes on that one.

Digression… For what it’s worth, that’s the WABC/770 transmitter in Lodi, NJ. The signal it produces looks like this. I grew up a few blocks north of there. The signal came in on every TV channel when you turned the volume down, and even when the TV was off. That was the old MusicRadio WABC, which dominated Top 40 in New Yawk from the early 60s through the 70s. By day you could get it far up the Hudson, all the way out Long Island, all the way down the Jersey Shore, and nearly to Baltimore. And at all the summer camps out on the lakes in the mountains of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Nothing like that now. The old beast is just another AM talker.

That’s what Hootsbuddy hints.

I thought that Clark was a good candidate four years ago, but he didn’t click. But now… ? Maybe.

What she said

Francine Hardaway:

But I, as the widow of a physician, a mother, and an unlicensed practitioner of American healthcare system mechanics, want to use this moment not only to wish Doc the best, but to draw a lesson: NEVER GO TO THE HOSPITAL ALONE. Take an advocate with you, and try to make sure that person is a New Yorker and very aggressive. Ask a million questions, and get your loved one the attention he/she needs.

I love the New Yorker line. Read the rest of the post. Wise stuff, all.

From hunger

A sure sign I’m getting better: craving food. My wife mentioned taquitos a few minutes ago and my mouth watered immediately. I wanted to walk over to Jose’s right then, barefoot in my hospital gown.

We won’t start until tomorrow, my GI doctor told me yesterday, no matter how good I felt. That’s cool. What’s one more wait after eight days of starvation?

Not everything has gone perfectly. I’ve had three IVs “infiltrate”, and my right arm is still swollen to odd dimensions, filled with fluid that should have gone in a vein. But I slept last night without drugs, which was cool, and I’m clearly on the mend. Can’t wait to gtf outa here.


Sez that here. I’m not so sure. As the first comment puts it, “This doesn’t sound like an Obama MIA issue at all, as this is still in the House and the Senate has yet to weigh in”.

WERS rolls

Finally ready to listen to a little radio. I gotta say that it’s pretty freaking hard to beat WERS. “Music for the independent mind.” Yes indeed. I’m not familiar with most of the music they play, but I like a helluva lot, especially since I’m sure I’m 3x the age of many of its programmers and listeners.

Right now it’s Yo La Tengo with “Take Care”. Take care not to hurt yourself. Be ready to ask for help. Thanks for that. Right now it helps. Before that it was Thao with “Bag of Hammers”. David Bowie’s outstanding “THV 15” ran before that. Was that Dr. John on piano? Before that Coldplay with “Speed of Sound”. Now it’s Gnarls Barkley: “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul”. They’ve been playing that one a few times. Deservedly. And now, for geezers like me, Van Morrison with “Caravan“. Radio. Turn it up. So you know. Radio. Takes me back. Keeps me up. From the Moodance album. 1970. Also The Last Waltz. Gives me chills. Progressive rock stations loved to play that song, mostly because it spoke from original dream of radio. What it was, and what it will be again, better than ever. Thanks to WERS for holding the flame high.

Man, this goes on. Now it’s Leonard Cohen with So Long, Marianne”. Another perfect oldie. Followed by Cat Power, “Aretha, Sing One For Me”.

[At this point I got a call from Steve Gillmor, and we recorded a brief impromptu podcast. I'm fading now, and heading for bed. Night, all.]


Everybody’s different. That’s the problem. Medicine and medical care, however, isn’t about that. They treat templates. Differences are accounted for, such as in my case, where I had a 1-in-20 chance of developing pancreatitis. But I weighed the odds, signed the consent form, and got to be that 1. So differences still matter. None of us is a template.

I’ve always had hunger pains. These were different from the feeling of hunger but they came at the same time. Certain other family members also have them. I’ve looked many places on the Web for answers to what my hunger pains actually are, with slim results. “Stomach acid” is the main suspect. But other people have that when they get hungry too, without the pain. What’s different in my case? The doctors say “That’s a good question”. Whenever somebody says that, they don’t have the answer. Would this condition have suggested that I might be sure to get pancreatitis if the inside of my pancreas was probed? I’d say yes, because that’s just instinct. I don’t know.

I tend to be prone to minor problems with what TV ads used to call “irregularity”. In both the liquid and solid directions, if you know what I mean. Was this a harbinger as well? Especially since I had spent more than a week prior to this event fighting irregularity of the liquid sort? How?

Anyway, pancreatitis in me was manifested, principally (though among other symptoms) by hunger pains in the extreme. Without the hunger. What does that tell us?

And what does it tell me now that my hunger pains (which are now associated with pancreatitis) are accompanied by actual hunger — not a lot of hunger, but some?

So, I have questions. Which means I’m feeling better. I still have a long way to go. Four bags of fluid now drip into my left wrist, and six colored wires run from a heavy portable telemetry unit to sticky tabs on my chest and back. I keep a spitoon by my side and dose my bathroom visits with choreographic precision, since wiring and tubing management — not to mention work with craphats and pisshats — makes every vist a complicated ordeal.

As of tonight I will have gone a week without a meal. And the end is not in sight. Yet.

No jokes

[Note: I wrote this yesterday, 18 June. But the blog wasn't working. Now (1pm, 19 June) it is.]

Yesterday, when I started feeling better, I had dozens of one-liners about the absurdity of hospital life. Crapping in “hats” for example. One’s humor gets low here. Mine especially. It also helped to have friends stop by, chew the fat and joke around.

But by late evening I was at the “one step back” stage, after two forward. Since then, lots of pain, barfing, discomfort and worse.

I’m maybe getting better now, at least in some ways. I also have so much “fluid retention” that I look like the Michelin guy. My weight is now well over 200. I’ve never broken 190 before and was dropping below 185 when I got in here. Given the fact that I’m eating my body rather than food, who knows what my “real” weight is, other than absurd in any case.

Finding the time, and the means, to take or make calls is nearly impossible. Blogging and twittering are hard too. So this is a group message of thanks to all who wish me well (and there are so many of you… I’m lucky that way). Not sure how much more can be done. I am sure that the hospital folks and local relatives and friends will try to do it.

And we’ll see how it goes.

I’m due to be on a panel at Supernova in five minutes. I won’t be there. If I were, I would say the following, and then some. Alas, no time. But, since the Net is essentially spaceless, here ya go:

  If you say the Net is a system of “pipes” and “lines” for “transporting” stuff called “content” that you “deliver” from “producers” to “consumers,” what are you saying the Net is? More importantly, how would you regulate it?

  Now, if you say the Net is a collection of “sites” that you “architect,” “design” and “build,” at “locations” with “addresses” and “domains,” across an “environment” or a “world” or a “space,” what are you saying the Net is and how would you regulate it?

  These are not academic distinctions. These are the very understandings, some of them very contradictory, on which we build businesses and make or apply laws that govern the way the Net is build and used — and who gets to do either.

  For a picture of where this can lead, let me direct you to the FCC Consumer Facts Page on “Obscene, Indecent, and Profane Broadcasts.” Especially this line:

  Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and cannot be broadcast at any time.

  The Supreme Court has upheld the law here.

  Look at the framing of obscenity law, and of the 1934 and 1996 communications acts. They are filled with the language of transport.

  Then think again about what the Net is.

So here I am at 3am for the second day in a row, taking a moment betwen hits of Dilaudid to do something that was for many years normal for me: writing something.

I have a new normal now, and it’s getting old. I’ve lost count of the wires and tubes running from my body to mechanical and electrical instruments. I haven’t eaten in close to a week, and my intake is entirely from bags of liquid dispensed by “smart pumps” that beep loudly and often for what seems most of the time to be no reason at all. I’m creepily cool now with being 90% helpless, even as I’m close to 100% hopeful that I’ll get past this thing, which remains pancreatis, with complications, the latest of which are fluids in my abdomen, with encroachment on my right lung: the same one that took a hit from a wayward embolus a couple months back, when I first made my acquaintence with this hospital.

It’s a Harvard teaching hospital, which means that a procession of young doctors come through, each with a fresh line of inquiry, few of which, when fulfilled, contributes to an institutional memory. Most of the doctors I’ve seen here have been only once or twice. Nice folks, all, however. And all less than half my age, it seems.

My new room is a solo one. I miss the company of other patients, but I do like some of the posh features, such as a toilet that has more than five square feet of flooor space. They moved me here so they could monitor me more closely. I do appreciate that. But the reason creeps me a bit: so I won’t get pneumonia or chronic pancreatitis of the sort Suzi reports here.

Well, that’s about all I have energy for. Look for another report in a few hours, I hope.

And thanks again for all your kind wishes. I’m really looking forward to returning to normal normalcy.

They’re putting me on this now, so I’ll feel no pain and breathe more deeply. Which I’ll need to prevent a slightly collapsed lung from turning into pneumonia. That’s on top of the pancreatitis.

All from an inconclusive diagnostic procedure.

Well, my experiment with staying off morphine didn’t pan out. An x-ray that required laying on my very tender belly this morning put me over the edge.

More reporting (and hopefully on matters other than health) when I feel like it. Pretty spaced out right now.


It’s 3:15 am. This is good news. I’ve mostly slept since the end of the Celtics-Lakers game, which I watched on the little TV suspended over my bed here at the hospital. I’m sitting up on the edge of the bed now, typing on the laptop without getting chills. That’s new.

I still have a lot of tummy pain, but I’ve managed to endure it without morphine or other pain killers. Various nurses and doctors keep telling me I don’t have to put up with pain, but I’d also rather not put up with the extreme wierdness that morphine brings to my body and my consciousness.

I never liked drugs, actually.

A friend called last night and said, “Dude, you’re hogging all the morphine!” It hurt to laugh, but it was great therapy.

I’m not hungry yet, but I do feel like I’m heading toward breaking through this thing. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, thanks to everybody for all your kind wishes. They help a lot. Now back to bed.

Just wondering

How many gallons of drool does the average baseball club spit in the course of a game?

I have three bags hanging from a rolling pole next to my bed here at the hospital. These Y down do a pair of IV needles, one in each arm. The two big bags are for hydration. The third? I dunno. (The nurse just told me it’s magnesium.) Since visiting Amsterdam two Wednesdays ago, I’ve shed a lot of liquid, to be polite about it. Now I can’t take in any liquid, or food, at all, which is one way they calm my innards and stop my pancreas from freaking out, which is what it did yesterday morning as a delayed reaction to the endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (aka ERCP) exam I had here at the hospital the day before.

One in twenty endoscopic probings of a pancreas results in pancreatitis, and it was my misfortune to hit the bulls eye. I woke up with Xtreme hunger-type pain in my belly yesterday, without the hunger. Nausea came later, and a visit to the emergency room not long after that. Now I’ll be here until the pain stops and hunger returns. Those are the Good Signs. So far, not even close. In fact, the pain remains bad enough that morphine doesn’t do the full job. It just reduces the pain to a point where I can do some of this. Which I’m doing between working on some writing assignments. We’ll see how it goes.

Meanwhile, the good news is that This Too Shall Pass. (Better it than me.)

Alas, I shall miss Supernova, and perhaps more than that. We’ll see. I still hve high hopes of flying west midweek or so, although that seems mighty ambitious from where I sit (actually recline) right now.

Two days ago I had a colonoscopy. The doctor found and removed a polyp. Routine stuff. Today it was what I guess is called an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. The first looked up my ass, the second down my gullet, in this case to look inside my pancreas to see if cystic lesions appearing in an MRI were communicating with the pancreatic duct. Nothing was found. Not sure what that means. Probably nothing.

Both involved so much sedation that I remember approximately nothing from either. Well, I remember waking up enough to see the polyp on TV. It looked like a sea anemone. I slept through the second procedure entirely, or forgot it thanks to the drugs’ amnesiac effect.

There is a risk of pancreatitis with the latter procedure. Makes for icky reading. It does concern me that my tummy hurts a great deal — enough that the work I hoped I could get done tonight is nowhere near my mind. My tummy always hurts when I’m hungry, and it hurts the same way now, so I don’t know what the deal is there. All I can eat is sherbet; and all I can drink are broth and water, neither of which leave me feeling filled.

I can’t sleep. And all I can think about is health shit. Or vice versa. So I blog. Comes naturally.

Got a lot of travel coming up. Supernova in San Francisco. VRM-related stuff in Utah. “Home” for a day in Santa Barbara before going to London and Copehagen for business and more VRM-related stuff. (Reboot is at the latter.)

People tell me that travel is bad for me, but the truth is that I love it. The thrill of flying over and studying the Earth never leaves me. In fact it only gets more interesting every time I fly somewhere because every flight is a chance to learn more about what’s on the ground — and whatever else is in the sky. Such as rainbow ice and auroras.

Anyway, all this stuff is about getting older. The failings of the body and the enrichment of the mind. Another of life’s wonderful ironies.

[Later...] Meanwhile it turns out that Maarten’s tumor is a mediastinal germ cell one. It’s treatable, and he goes in for chemo shortly. As cancer goes, that’s good news.

This isn’t pretty. On the other hand, Comcast also says it is increasing upstream speeds. Taking advantage of DOCSIS 3.0. Appears to have promise.

Anybody have any thoughts about that? Experiences? I’ve had zero with them, but I know a lot of the rest of ya’ll have. Just wondering.

Yes, you can vote in the Ugliest Dog Contest.

Even though no pooch will ever out-ugly the late and still great Sam, (above) whom we first vetted here.

I didn’t really know Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald before this last week, except by emails and a delightful interview he did with me at in December. But I fell in love with the guy after he and his associates brought me to Amsterdam to talk at Mobile Monday and do a couple consulting gigs there (which he set up for me). Besides being a smart guy and a great host, Maarten is just a good dude and a true mensch. Gracious, caring, upbeat and much more. You can see it in these two photosets from MoMo. Maarten, his family and whole social network made my visit to Amsterdam a joy from start to finish. It’s a great city anyway, but it’s lucky to be graced with folks as good as this whole bunch.

On Wednesday, the day I flew home, Maarten went to the doctor to check out a coughing problem. Turns out he had a tumor, bigger than his heart, right in front of it. Since then he’s not been far from my own heart, as well as my mind.

I wasn’t going to write about it, because I didn’t know how private Maarten wanted to be. But it turns out he’s both tweeting and blogging what he calls his new journey. So is his wife, Lori. So we’re together with him on this thing. Such is the nature of what Twitter calls following.

He’ll find out more about the tumor tomorrow. I’m praying hard it’ll just be an oddball thing they can cut out and be done with.

Something about 3/4 of the way into this here. From last week in Amsterdam.

Here are my still shots from the show. Also from Maarten’s barbeque the night before. I’ll have more Amsterdam shots up when I’m done dealing with life & stuff.

[Later...] Here they are.

I’ve seen a waterfall of iPhone 3g coverage, but nobody yet has answered the question that actually matters most to a lot of people: How good a phone is it? The original was adequate as a phone, but that’s it. Basically it was very average as a phone. Looked great, worked okay.

My guess is that one reason was the metal back. The celluar signal hasn’t been made that isn’t hurt by metal surronding the antenna. The new phone has plastic in the back. Much better idea, signal-wise.

Be interesting to see how it goes.

Whether report

Says here at Weather.com,

Severe Thunderstorm Warning

… with this picture:

It’s 1212am now, and the breeze just turned into a wind. Lightning in the distance. Ominous sounds.

… And now it’s 1231 and nothing has happened. The story at Weather Underground is very different:

I like the little arrows, which are much more revealing than the moving-blob motion of the Weather.com map. It also contradicts the warning, with motion to the east-northeast rather than the east.

Anyway, it’s still hot as hell here. Even late at night. Relief was in sight, then… gone.

Sooner or later we all have to face the proctologist. My turn is tomorrow. So I’m fasting, sort of. In preparation. Drinking nothing but clear fluids, chased this evening with half a gallon of magnesium citrate. That’s the cocktail I’m having right now at a Starbucks. On ice. Fun.

It’s fairly routine stuff. By coincidence my lower digestive performance has been sub-par since last Wednesday evening, when I got back from Amsterdam. In that time I’ve eaten so little, and so carefully, that I’m sure I’ve knocked off seven pounds already. At least that part’s good.

Or is it vice versa? Dunno. I just think it’s an interesting line.

Nobody gets the idea of Obama, and perhaps Obama himself, better than Dave Winer. I love Dave’s latest post, Blowing Up the Beltway. Step back a year, to when the Clinton Restoration was proceeding on schedule, and Obama was still this skinny dude from Chicago who gave a great speech at the ’04 convention.

Washington, we all knew, was an insider’s game. It was the Politorium, a backslappy blabblosphere inhabited by a few elected officials, vast allied bureacracies, lobbyists, consultants, and center-feeders of the sort that Hunter S. Thompson explained best. There were good people in there too, but they were trapped.

(An aside: would HST have offed himself if he know Obama was coming? How would he have covered this election? Man, we miss that guy.)

I know people who know Hillary, and to a person they all love her. But she played a new game the old way, and lost while leading in popular votes and Heartland America. It was a defeat more decisive and bizarre than Al Gore took when the Supremes railroaded him and the whole freaking Constitution, at the turn of the Millenium.

But we’re done with that. I think even the talk radio addicts who hate all Democrats by reflex know the old gig is up. The reason has nothing to do with partisan politics and everything to do with Democracy 2.0. That’s the one where the threshold of participation narrows toward zero. We’re not there yet, but we’re headed that way. Obama is leading the way, but it’s not just about him, or his candidacy, or his policies.

Sez Dave,

  As much as I believe in the idea of Obama, if he doesn’t live up to it, I’ll still believe in the idea, because I always have. I don’t want to be an insider, I don’t want the insiders to rule, I don’t want there to be insiders at all. I want to distribute opportunity and acknowledge intelligence and goodness where ever it appears. I fought against the centralized Inside The Beltway way of doing things in Silicon Valley, and we won. Of course a new aristocracy pops up but their power is as thin as the people whose power got popped in every bubble that came before.

Then, this kicker:

  The Internet destabilizes every hierarchy it contacts. It erases every barrier to entry. The only way to win is to point off-site, in every way you can think of. Win by offering better value, not by locking users in. People will become instant refugees to escape your clutches. Think you’re immune? Think again.

It’s about the Net. And the Net is us. It’s all outside, not inside.

And it’s not just about elections. It’s about governance. How we do it matters more than what we do with it. And we’ve hardly begun to visit that one.

You fly enough and they bump you up to Business Class whether you want it or not. That’s how United Airlines works, and for most passengers that’s not a bad thing. In my case I often don’t want it because it means giving up a window seat I’ve carefully chosen back in what we used to call Coach.

But that’s what happened last Wednesday, when I flew from Amsterdam to Chicago. I got bumped to an aisle seat in the Business Section. Worse, nearly everybody with a window seat closed their shades. For viewing we might as well have been in the cargo hold.

The “air show” system that displays flight progress on a map was also down, although a couple times I was able to tell where I was with my GPS, which (amazingly) was able to pick up the 4+ satellites required to to quadrangulate our location 38,000 feet over the Earth.

So I knew when we got to Greenland — my favorite place to shoot from on high . I asked my seatmate, who had the window, if she’d mind if I took some pictures of the land below. She said okay, we opened her shade, and that’s how I got these shots here.

The conditions were less than ideal. It’s never good to shoot out the sunny side of a plane in any case, because the direct light illuminates all the scratches, debris depositions and other imperfections in the windows, which are optically awful to begin with. This window was average or worse in those respects, and on this day Greenland was also hazy, with lots of clouds amidst the mountains. Still, I got some decent shots — enough, at least, to slake my thirst for geographic and geological spectacle and knowledge-building.

I took more shots a bit later, after we crossed the white expanse of Greenland’s middle (at just above the 63rd parallel, which is just 3 degrees south of the Arctic Circle), but need to work instead. Meanwhile, if any Flickr freaks want to help me name some of the mountains, glaciers and other features I shot in that series (or any of the others), please do. I found a few details on Google Earth and filled them in.

The caption for the above reads,

The water body is a glacial bay called Norrivig. Behind it is an island in the midst of which is “Azimuthbjerg” lat=63.4333333, lon=-41.6666667. Here is NotSoGreen on the same area, which also points to this Jason Sloan photo on Flickr. This is all in the Tunu or East Greenland, one of four large Greenland counties, or administrative districts. East Greenland is known natively as Ostgrönland. The glacier or gletcher emptying into Norrivig Bay is Thrym. The mouintain beyond is Hvidbjørn Bjerg, at
N 63° 31′ 0” W 41° 49′ 0”, or 63.51667 / -41.81667, with GeoNameId : 3423410.

Hope that helps the curious find out more.

If you’re interested in Greenland — and I would highly recommend it, because it’s not only beautiful but melting — check out NotSoGreen. Wonderful service.

The best thing about the Olympics on TV was, and will always remain, Jim McKay. Loved watching that guy. Sad to learn he’s gone.

Frank Paynter writes,

  Putting the ME in. That’s what this thing is about. So I have my personal secret plan… (not evil, like gapingvoid’s is), but the sustainability piece is missing…. monetizing…. business model… cash… shekels… ducats… does it have to be an advertising magnet? They’re not really talking about that here.
  More seriously they’re talking about the media role in the Iraq war. Amy Goodman, Phil Donahue, Norman Solomon (moderating), Lennox Yearwood (“Make Hiphop, not war”), Naomi Klein, Sonali Kolhatcar… a lot of this is preaching to the choir. The people here already get it. Many of us knew it in 2002. The administration manipulation of media from 2002 forward was a certainty. What we need is for the libertarians like Doc Searls and his ilk to get exposed to this information and find a certainty they’re willing to declaim.

Well, politically I’m a registered independent, though I do have some libertarian sympthies, to the degree that I like business and think we make too many laws and have too many regulations. But I’ve also called myself a “defective pacifist” and have come out squarely for Barack Obama. Also, I’m not aware of having an “ilk”, and I don’t like being accused of having one. But, whatever.

I don’t think I have any areas of disagreement with Frank here. What’s more, I haven’t been silent about it. Look up searls media iraq war and you’ll find plenty.

Among those items is some recent pointage to a talk Forrest Sawyer gave at UCSB last year. I think I reported on it at the time, but I can’t find it. Still, I do appreciate being prodded, because Forrest’s talk is one of the best indictments I’ve yet heard of mainstream media capitulation to the Bush administration’s railroading of the nation, and the world, into a war that was flat-out wrong and dumb to begin with. Forrest also does a great job of stressing the importance of other streams besides the main one. So go watch it. One quote…

  Over the past six years we have seen a failure of the tradiional media to live up to its obligations of oversight and challenging the government, greater than any we have seen in the nation’s history… Those who have not yet come to feel ashamed will feel ashamed of their performance and their letting down of the American people.

(I might be off by a word or two there. Transcibing from YouTube is no bargain.)

Also, for what it’s worth, at we also have some ideas for Frank’s “sustainability piece”. I can’t imagine anything more reforming of media than giving it an easy non-advertising-based business model driven by listeners, viewers and readers — in alliance with journalists and artists on the supply side — rather than ever-more-targeted advertising.

I also recommend hanging at while it’s still going on. Great conference. Wish I were there.

According to the thermometer on the dashboard of my car, it passed 100° in Boston today. In any case, it was pretty damn hot. Made working nearly impossible in an apartment with no air conditioning and little ventilation. But we had a great time hanging out with friends and driving around picking up stuff in the car. One item was a fan for the attic office/guest quarters where I’m sitting now, sweating like a boxer. The new fan is actually two in one frame. You jam it in a window and with a little remote control you can make both fans blow in or out, or one blow in while the other blows out. It has two digits in a red LCD read-out that tells you the temperature. It’s it’s over 100, it just says “HI”. I thought it was broken until I figured out that’s what the deal was.

It just dropped to 97.

I should complain. Most of my life I’ve lived in places with no AC. There was none in our house, and none in any of the schools I went to, except maybe in the offices. Also none in any of our cars. The grace of AC was not afforded to me until I bought cars with it. Most of those were junkers and in most cases the AC was one of the things that didn’t work. The whole time I lived in New Jersey and North Carolina I had two places with AC. One was a garden apartment in Hackensack, with a rattling window unit that served just the dining room. The other was a double-wide in the North Caroina backwoods. I think the AC was the only thing good about that place, other than a location that offered near-absolute solitude, except for the pig farm about a quarter mile away through the woods. Hadn’t thought about that pig farm for a long time. We had it in few of our many California houses, and not at all in the one we have now in Santa Barbara, which is about as close as you’ll find to an air conditioned climate in any case.

So, just as I had to get re-acquainted with the cold this last Boston winter, now I’ll do the same with the heat this summer, which began in earnest today, when it is still, technically, spring.

Anyway, I’m going to bed downstairs where it’s in the low 90s now.

With Google we’ll get Bingo

Twitter and Amazon are both down right now.

Buy George

So we walked into the Boston public library this evening at 6:15 to return some books, and encountered a serendipitous bonus: A sign in the lobby said that George Lakoff was speaking upstairs at 6:30. So we intercepted George a few minutes later, sat in on a great talk (his sixth of the day), and then I enjoyed a long dinner with George and Andrew Dunn, a recent Harvard Law grad doing work on human rights. The whole thing was pure coincidence and lots of fun. I’ve been meaning for a long time to talk to George about Framing the Net, among other things — and here I didn’t need to go to Berkeley or try to sync our two complex schedules.

We covered much ground in the conversation, and I learned a great deal that I’d love to write down if it weren’t 1:08 in the morning and my wrist wasn’t killing me (where it was stabbed for an IV they used during an MRI earlier in the day). So that’ll have to wait.

Meanwhile, George’s new book is out. I already had it on order and look forward to reading it.

While recovering from a pulmonary embolism, more cautions were raised about various things that come up as one gets older. So I went in for an MRI today. Dunno the results yet. I’m a born optimist, so I’m defaulting in that direction.

Then a few minutes ago I heard that a friend half my age has a tumor the size of a fist in his chest. We’ll find out soon the nature of that as well.

Kinda brings up some perspective. Life, a priest once told me, is a miraculous exception. Death is standard. “To be or not to be” may have been a question for Hamlet, but “not to be” is a final fact for us all. If nothing else gets us, aging is still the fatal disease we all share. Mine is more advanced than most, though my elders are still sufficiently numerous to buoy my optimism.

On the way to Frankfurt the other day I watched The Bucket List. It’s the story of a couple older guys finding joy and bringing it to each other before they die. The “bucket list” is of stuff one wants to do before they die.

I don’t think so much of what I want to get done as what I want to get started. Puts a much better spin on “finished.”

NY Times: Red wine may be much more potent than was thought in extending human lifespan…

I’ll be streamed live at Mobile Monday today in Amsterdam. The top link there this AM is an interview Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald shot at LeWeb3 last December. As I recall it was, as he says in his post, fun. I can’t tell because my connection is too slow and flaky, but I trust he’s right.

In the long run paying for wi-fi in your hotel will be like paying to use the toilet or the heater. You won’t. Meanwhile, it would be nice if it were easy, cheap, good, or at least two out of those three.

Right now I’m 0-for-3 at my hotel in Amsterdamn. I just had to call for tech support. The front desk is no help. They punt it to Swisscom, the provider, to which I paid ¤22 ($34.23) for 24 hours, starting this afternoon. When I came back from a sojourn away from the hotel, Swisscom wanted a login and password, and told me the front desk would have it. The desk didn’t, so they got me Swisscom, which looked up my credit card payment and got me a login/pw that the service supposedly gave me on the website the first time around, but I missed it.

Anyway, we’re back up. With a download speed of 384Kbps and an upload speed is 179kbps, I haven’t paid more for less since the worst days of dial-up.

So my main credit card, a United Mileage Plus one, issued by Chase, got rejected on my last attempted purchase, just before I got on a plane at Logan headed for Frankfurt, where I am now, between flights.

Now here I sit, paying $.18 per minute to T-Mobile to “roam” on their system, to which I pay ~$30/month already for wi-fi access, trying to use the website to see what’s up with the card.

I type in my login and password, then get

  404: File Not Found. Could not find file

I try again and get,

  Your User ID is Locked

  You’ve exceeded the maximum number of logon attempts allowed. As a result, we’ve disabled your User ID and Password to protect your confidential financial information. Please click “Unlock User ID” to unlock your User ID and create a new Password. (Error Code AA398).

I’m not going to try. I know my old password. I probably won’t remember the new one.