Friday, January 20, 2012

Star Wars Dogs

This set Captain Jack howling! Dogs performing Darth Vader's Imperial March. It doesn't get much better than this. Call your dog over to listen before you press Play.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

It Ain't Over Till It's Over

Thought we were done, were we? No such luck. Today [now yesterday] I was feeling a strange pain in my chest all afternoon -- not much of a pain, but enough to annoy me. In the evening it started to get a little more pronounced -- still not particularly bad, but enough to make me think about chest pains... men who ignore chest pains, and then drop dead. I sat and took my pulse. 96. Well, that's certainly a little high, isn't it? I went and took an aspirin, just to be on the safe side, and then checked it again, several times. Still 96. Damn. Why so high? The pain felt a little stronger, and it felt more like tightness or pressure than muscular ache, and it was right over my heart. I asked myself: Which is stupider -- to make a probably unnecessary trip to the hospital, or to ignore chest pain, when you know you have family history of heart disease? Allysen wasn't home yet, and Alexandra was making dinner. Take me back to the hospital? I asked her with a sigh.

Then I thought about how long it can take to be seen if you just walk in, and I thought, the EMTs can make a better evaluation of this than me, and the pain was still there, so... Deep breath. I called 911. They were there in three minutes flat, sirens wailing. And soon I was on my way back to the hospital.

Have you ever seen the Star Trek: Next Gen episode where the Enterprise is caught in a time loop, and each iteration is just a little different? (I recently saw part of a sitcom that took off on the same idea.) Well, that's what it feels like to sit in the ER, with someone new coming in every forty minutes or so. Sometimes the new guy is a fresh-faced doctor (or doctorish person) the age of Doogie Howser, and sometimes it's an Indian fellow, and sometimes it's a guy who looks like you might look if you were a doctor -- and each new person starts with, "So, can you tell me what brought you in here tonight?" I swear, it makes me want to record my story and just hit Playback each time.

As I type this, I'm sitting here in my ER room, waiting to be moved to a room upstairs. They're keeping me overnight, so they can repeat some enzyme tests every six hours, because it turns out that the tests that show heart damage become more accurate over time. The most likely scenario is that the pain was caused by inflammation from the pneumonia, and that my heart is fine. But the only way to be sure is to follow up with these blood tests.

I have a feeling I won't be getting much sleep tonight [I didn't]. Pray I don't catch some godawful bug while I'm here.

I'm glad I got some writing done this afternoon!

* * *

I wrote the above on my tablet while in the hospital. I'm home now. The blood work was fine; they woke me at 7:30 for a treadmill stress test, and that was fine. By about noon someone finally signed off on it, and I got to leave. Still with the chest pain, by the way, which is either a side effect from the pneumonia or a pulled muscle from coughing too exuberantly.

It was hard not to feel a little silly about it all. But as the lady who administered the stress test said to me, Would you rather have been like my neighbor, who refused to go to the hospital after his wife called 911, and later that evening dropped dead of a heart attack? I guess not, when you put it that way.


Monday, January 09, 2012


That's my comment for 2012, so far.

For New Year's holiday week, Allysen and I took a long-anticipated trip to LA to visit family. The visit was great. Getting sick, not so much. The first hints of scratchy throat came on New Year's Day, while we were all seeing The Adventures of Tin Tin (fun movie). By the next day, I was a regular plague ship. I began coughing through the night every night. Worst cold in years. I'm sure I was no treat to be near on the airplane home, either. Upon arriving back in Boston, I wondered why my eyes were stinging so much. Could the air pollution possibly be that bad?  No, I had conjunctivitis, probably brought on by the pressure changes pushing the virus through tear ducts.

I went to the docs. It was, of course, the usual "It's a virus; you'll get better." But my excellent nurse practitioner was concerned about the flying, and about the low level of my O2, so she sent me for some blood tests to ensure there was no pulmonary clot. Next day they called and said, "Oops, accident at the lab. We need to draw the blood again." Sigh. I went in again on Sunday, and Sunday night they called and said, "Your d-dimer's high. Go to the ER—now!—and get a CAT scan." I argued, but they argued harder. So I went, and killed hours of waiting time with my daughter Julia and my trusty Droid tablet, Tabula Rasa.

Long wait, with many conflicting advisories (Julia: "Doesn't anyone in this hospital ever talk to anyone else?"), but finally they did the scan. First off, I have to say there was a serious lack of flashing lights and gleaming control panels. Just a guy who could have been from the local auto body shop telling me where to put my hands on the well-worn machine. The dye injection felt strangely weird—a warm flush starting in the face and going straight down my body, with a big hit in the groin and then on to the toes. Good; we're done; we can go home now, yes? Please?

No. Now comes the long, watchful wait for the radiologist's report. Julia and I watch part of Iron Man on my tablet. She makes balloon critters from examination gloves. We play volleyball with the gloves. Time passes.

Well past midnight, the word comes: no blood clot, no embolism. Great! We can go home now, right? Right; just as soon as we figure out why your oxygen is low. (I feel my life starting to ebb away. In space no one can hear you scream.) Asthma-type lung treatments: not much difference, but another hour. The supervising doc is threatening to keep me if she can't figure it out. Finally...finally...they send us home.

Early morning, the phone wakes me. It's a hospital doc saying, the radiologist says you have a low-grade pneumonia. (Different radiologist? Radiologist who finally got some coffee?) I'm to see my doc today and get new meds. The next phone call that wakes me: my own doc's office. They're booked solid, but they'll order me the new meds, something called Avallux.  Great, I'll pick them up at Walgreens. Only when I get to Walgreens, Walgreens says, "We don't take Blue Cross anymore." You're kidding, right? No. They're not. Contract dispute. ("Oh right," Allysen says, when I tell her. They announced it at work, but I never got the word.)

It's now closer to end-of-day, but I finally get my meds from the HMO—but not the ones asked for, because Blue Cross doesn't cover that med. So this new super-antibiotic comes with a drug warning guide that looks like the Dead Sea Scrolls, only denser. They have a "Drugs for Dummies" version that's only a small wad of 8x10 pages. Here's the first thing they warn you about: burst tendons!  Burst tendons!  Who ever heard of an antibiotic causing burst tendons??  Apparently that's what I have to watch out for. Plus skin rashes. (Except I've already got skin rashes from the dye from the CAT scan.) And that's where I stand, or sit. But at least the cough is getting better. I wonder if I can still take my codeine cough syrup with this stuff. (Internet research, here I come.)

This all started with a low O2 level in the doctor's office, and my mentioning, between coughs, that I'd been flying the day before. The takeaway: Don't ever let them know you've been flying.

Update, 24 hours later: The skin rashes got worse, so they took me off the scary Terminator drug and put me on on azithromycin, which seems much more benign. I'm glad.  I'm also feeling a lot better, so things are working. I hope to be back to my bounding, energetic self very soon now.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy 2012!

It's not quite midnight here in California, where Allysen and I are visiting her brother and family, but we jointly decided to call it New Year at 9:00, when we knew the ball had dropped in Times Square. (Well, call it faith; we didn't actually check online to see if midnight had come to the Eastern time zone, but I'm pretty sure it did.) We're having a very nice visit, except that I'm fighting off a cold or something, and hoping I don't give it to anyone else.  We went to see TinTin today, and thoroughly enjoyed it in 3D, after an aborted effort to see it in Imax 3D. (The volume was earsplitting, and the theater people said they couldn't turn it down. We weren't the only ones asking for refunds on the Imax tickets.) Anyway, in regular 3D, and regular volume, it was a fun movie, even if it went on a little too long in the action sequences. 

Two of my good friends are taking the ebook plunge, and I thought this would be a good time to introduce them. First off is Richard Bowker, author of a bunch of novels ranging from straight SF (Forbidden Santuary) to supernatural fantasy (Marlborough Street) to techno-thriller (Replica) to SF-mystery (Dover Beach) to straight-up political mystery (Summit and Senator). He's been out of print for a while, and has just created a website and blog at, where he'll post updates on the progress of converting and self-epublishing his previously published novels. Stop by and check on his progress. When his books go up for sale, I highly recommend them. 

Mary C. Aldridge works a completely different vein: African-folklore-inspired fantasy short stories. One of her stories was a Nebula finalist ("The Adinkra Cloth"), and one won her a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fiction Fellowship ("The Work Leader"). She has five short stories up at, and I hope they'll also appear in the Kindle and Nook stores soon. (But you can buy the needed formats for both the Kindle [.mobi] and Nook [.epub] right now.)  Mary has a remarkable talent that has been expressed too infrequently. Why not give them a look?

And in the meantime...Happy New Year!

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