Thursday, April 23, 2009


Another victim has fallen into the the Sleepschild Radius.

You know... if we're not getting any sleep, it's not Risanna's fault.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hey, look what I got!

I got some big boxes in the mail. Look what was in 'em!

Deborah says this one looks reminds her of Narnia.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Birthdays, age, and how they sometimes go together

This afternoon — for the first time, ever, that I know of — I was referred to as "middle aged." Hey! I just got carded at the grocery store this evening!* I can't be middle aged! Just to clarify...

I'm 34.

Thank you.

I know all this, then, because I just had a birthday. Two, in fact.

The first birthday since last year was the most interesting, given that (a) It's the only surprise party I've ever had, and (b) it was exactly three four months after my normal birthday... to wit, I was 33⅓ years old. Kinda like an old vinyl record, if any of you remember what those were. I think I actually proposed the 33⅓ bit myself, way back when, and then totally forgot about it. But other people didn't forget....

This was pretty much my first indication that something was up — being presented with a cake. Of course, Deborah had also told me (rather than asked) that Paul & Paul (they're roommates) would be coming over to play games. Deborah mentioned picking something up along the way... Just as we were cutting into the cake, I got another surprise, as my parents walked in! I had called my mother earlier to wish her a happy birthday, but I had no idea that they were in the car on the way to see us. We ate and played games, and then just as the party was breaking up, God decided to put on a real show, with thunder, lightning, and a tornado watch spanning several counties. We stuck around for a while longer, as the lightning flashed almost continually for several more hours.

My real birthday was a much more sedate affair.

No, really, it was.

The morning we spent going and redeeming various gift certificates; one was for a much needed new pair of jeans (I was down to one; the new pair is pictured here) and to get some more fish for my aquarium. Fiona drew up a lovely card to go with that one.

That evening, Paul, Paul, Aunt Martha, and all of us went out to eat at Hacienda (hence the hat) Approximately actual size. and gave me a few presents once we got home. Several boxes of chocolate, a green iPod Shuffle (Just what I heavily hinted at!) and a nifty book of "find the difference" photos that Fiona and I greatly enjoy doing together. Monday morning, I also discovered a digital photo frame on my desk at work, and it was several hours before I found out that Paul had collaborated with one of my co-workers to sneak in and set it up.

So yes, I'm another year older. What, I'm supposed to make a speech? Say something wise? Nah! Just reporting the news here. :-)

* To make sure I was at least 21. NOT, as one friend suggested, to make sure I qualified for the senior citizen discount. :-Þ

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Ol' Shoulder (Part 3)

When the nurse called with my diagnosis, I really wasn't ready, and had no idea what questions to ask. There was nothing dramatically wrong with my shoulder she said, although there was some impingement. Impingement? The next course of action was anti-inflammatory medication; they could do cortisone shots right there in the office, she said. I felt befuddled, but thanked her and hung up. There were two important things that stood out to me at that point:

  1. I didn't require surgery; and,
  2. My condition had a name... and a common enough name that they didn't bother explaining what it was.

I took a certain amount of comfort in both these things.

Impingement Syndrome, it turns out, is both complex and simple — simple enough that every medical person I've talked to about it knows exactly what it is; complex enough that I haven't gotten the same explanation twice. What I've pieced together involves the idea that it's a self-aggravating condition: when the rotator cuff (the muscles surrounding your shoulder) swell, they swell up against bone, which irritates them even more, and cuts off blood flow.

The second part is that, even through the shoulder is a ball-and-socket (like the hip), it's a much less stable arrangement — more like a golf ball on a tee than a mortar and pestle. Given that, an imbalance of force is more likely to topple that ball off its perch. It turns out that the muscles on my front side are fairly strong, but that the muscles on the back side of my shoulders are very weak.

So, my treatment has been two-fold thus far: treating the swelling, and treating the weakness.

For the first, I'm on Relafen (or rather, the generic nabumetone) which has the advantage that it's a more effective anti-inflammatory than ibuprofen, costs less (compared to taking 2400 mg of ibuprofen per day, anyway) and you only have to take it twice per day. Win, win, win. I've been on this for about two weeks now.

The second part saw me in to my first physical therapy session yesterday morning, where a kindly older fellow measured the strength of various muscles, and set up a program of exercises that I'm to do throughout the day. I have nicknames for most of these exercises now; Buddhas (sorry, Michelle — that's the name that came to mind, and it stuck!), chicken wings, Superman. The fourth involves a large black rubber band that I hook on over a doorway, and try to pull the house down. I don't have a nickname for that yet.

One thing that struck me while I was there was the very community feel to the place. Most of the people that were there for therapy seemed to know each other, and referred to each other and the therapists on a first-name basis. We were all in the same room, and talked while we had our nerves stimulated, or practiced putting nuts on bolts, or stretched rubber. It felt homey.

So that's where I am now: sore, but happy to be doing something.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tell a story, Daddy!

Every night, I tell the kids a story once I've tucked them into bed. The fun part is, I do it the hard way: I take requests.

Requests typically involve things that we've been doing; games we've played, books we've read, floods we've paddled down the street in, cheeses we've bought at the store. To make things more interesting yet, I try to take into account what both kids have asked for.

Last night, we did (1) Everybody in the whole world going to the moon; and (2) pie. (Why, the story just writes itself!)

The story of Pie on the Moon

Once upon a time, maybe a few days ago, Mommy made some pie. [She did, by the way; it was yummy.] This time, though, she experimented with the recipe, and added just a little touch of something special. Little did we know, that that something special made the pie come alive. This pie could walk and talk, and it climbed out of the fridge where it was cooling, and wandered out of the house into the back yard. "Hey, wow, look at all this!" the pie said, "there are trees, and sky, and a wagon, and... IS THAT A SPACESHIP?

Well, it was. It was the very spaceship that Daddy had built out of a dryer, two rakes, and a few parts he borrowed from the old car, and that Fiona and Aiden had flown to the moon so many times. "Cool!" said the pie, "I always wanted to go to the moon!" So, it climbed in, and somehow worked the controls, and it blasted off from the back yard, flying up, up, up, through the blue sky, until the sky turned black and the stars twinkled and shone brightly all around.

On and on the pie traveled, for three whole days. Then, it got to the moon, and gently touched down. It didn't need a spacesuit like the kids did — it was just a pie — so it got out and started walking around, tasting bits of cheese from the various boulders of colby, cheddar, and havarti. "Hey, look, it's an old camera!" said the pie, and switched it on. Moments later, every television on earth showed a picture of a PIE... on the MOON. [The kids were howling with laughter at this point. It's a wonderful sound.] "Hello everyone!" said the pie, "I'm a pie, and I am on the moon!" And everyone on earth looked at each other, and said, "There is a PIE, and it is on the MOON. Let's go see."

So they all got into their rocket ships, and all blasted off to the moon. Three days later, they all landed — all six billion of them! — and started looking for the pie. "Is it an ALIEN in a flying saucer?" some demanded. "Can we EAT it?" others asked. "Can we get its autograph?" asked still more.

But the problem is, six billion people weigh a lot. That made the moon very heavy, and that also made the Earth a lot lighter. And that was very bad, because one started speeding up, and the other started slowing down! All the scientists started running around, yelling and waving their arms! "Oh no!" they cied, "Now, instead of a month, we'll have mon, and instead of a week, we'll have a wee, and instead of a day, we'll have a d! Oh, no!!!

So everyone jumped back in their spaceships, and went back to earth. And the world went back to its normal speed.

Well, everyone went back, that is, except two little kids. They stayed on the moon, and went and found the pie. "Hello," they said, "you look a lot like the pies that Mommy makes. Would you like to come home with us?" The pie said "Sure!" and they all climbed into their little spaceship, and sailed across the starry sky, down into the dark blue of the upper atmosphere, down into the blue of the sky, and down, down down, until they touched down gently into the back yard. They carried the pie inside. "Oh, there's that pie! Where was it? I've been looking all over for it," said Mommy. The kids just giggled to themselves, and then Daddy came, and he picked them up, and tucked them into bed, and told them a story. And then, he gave them a hug and a kiss, and he said, "I love you! Good night! ....the end."

*  *  *

While I was doing just that, Aiden piped up in the darkness. "What did they do with the pie?"

I paused for a moment. Eat it? No, I can't say that... better go with what the kids know. "I don't know, Aiden, what do you think they did with it?"

"They put it in the fridge." Ah, of course.

"And that's exactly what they did."

Fiona piped up next while I was giving her the requisite hug. "Hey Daddy, tomorrow, tell a story of a HUNDRED pies, and everybody on the planet going to the moon."

"OK, but that — is a different story, for a different day."

Good night!

It would have been enough!

A few days ago, the church that hosts Fiona's preschool was offering a Passover Seder for anyone who would like to come. We didn't go (I didn't know about it; it was my birthday, and I'd elected to go out to eat that night) but Deborah's curiosity was piqued, and she started Googling.

One of the pieces she came across was a Passover song, Dayenu. Dayenu means "It would have been enough," and starts its fifteen verses by outlining God's freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt:

If He had brought us out from Egypt,
and had not carried out judgments against them
— It would have been enough!

If He had carried out judgments against them,
and not against their idols
— It would have been enough!

If He had destroyed their idols,
and had not smitten their first-born
— It would have been enough!

If He had smitten their first-born,
and had not given us their wealth
— It would have been enough!

If He had given us their wealth,
and had not split the sea for us
— It would have been enough!

...and so on, covering five miracles and five meetings with God.

Christians, believing that the Messiah has come, would not want to stop with the building of the temple, but would want to go on (and here, I start making up my own verses):

If he had built the temple,
and had not accepted sacrifices
— It would have been enough!

If he had accepted sacrifices,
and had not given us Messiah
— It would have been enough!

If he had given us Messiah,
but had not let him die in our place
— It would have been enough!

If he had let him die in our place
but had not risen from the dead
— It would have been enough!

If he had risen from the dead
but had not given us the Holy Spirit
— It would have been enough!

It's tempting to stop there, and in practice, many Christians do: "Sure, God saved me from my sins, but what has he done for me lately?" I am as guilty as any man for letting the pressures and demands of life, work, family, and health get in the way of appreciating the spiritual. It's tempting to merely count one's blessings ("If he had given me a wife, but had not also given me three children...") which is good, too, but... but what? How do His blessings fit with His plan? Neither the theology nor the history are written in stone. The next five stanzas are harder to write:

If he had given us the Holy Spirit,
but did not have a plan for our lives
— It would have been enough!

If he had a plan for our lives,
but did not help us live it
— It would have been enough!

If he helped us to live it,
but did not encourage us in our walk
— It would have been enough!

If he encouraged us in our walk,
but did not also bless us beyond measure
— It would have been enough!

If he blessed us beyond measure,
but did not also promise us heaven
— It would have been enough!

It is enough! But we serve a exceedingly, blatantly generous God who goes far and above what's necessary. And that is the mystery to us: why a perfect God would look on imperfect man, and, instead of destroying us, he gives everything to bless us, and save us, and lift us up, and take us to be with Him.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Yes, you are being followed....

...and no, you probably aren't paranoid.

Paul gave me a lift to the motorcycle shop out in Columbia City to pick up my bike after some routine, albeit belated, service. (I should have gotten the valves adjusted about 8,000 miles ago...) On the way home, he got a few pictures in the rear-view mirror.

Paul's not the first person to recognize me in the rear view; a number of years ago, with Strawberry (our beloved, but terribly underpowered Honda CB250) I was out riding while Deborah was attending a function in Ft. Wayne. I paused at a corner café just as a very distinctive set up taillights pulled up to the stop sign. I fell in behind, and followed her for miles until she recognized that it was me behind her. She had been lost for the last hour, and was terribly relieved to finally have a guide home.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Andy needs...

The latest little game to go around... Google “(your first name) needs” and share the first 10 results.

Andy needs a BAD girl to find his focus and replace Mandy.
Admittedly, I'm intrigued. Deborah is practicing her sexiest sneer.

Andy needs to pee!
(Slurps another cup of coffee) ...why do you think that?

Andy needs a new guitar.
If you're buying, sure. I'like an Ibanez JS Custom, and a...

Andy needs a toothbrush.
I've got several. I use this one to scrub off dirty car parts, this one to...

Andy needs a help video.
If it's actually helpful, which I doubt.

Andy needs a reality check.

Andy needs LinkedIn.
Facebook is plenty, thanks. [Although I signed up the other day, trying to find a guy. I don't plan to do much with it...]

Andy needs new guy friends.
Wouldn't complain. I proabably need to be less of a lump, though.

Andy needs a home.
'Cause it's a long way to Betelgeuse. I like the home I have, and it's also the longest I've ever lived in one place.

Andy needs help!
Yes! Someone please help keep me from these silly little games!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Ol' Shoulder (Part 2)

Pricey. Hahaha. What a wonderful gift for understatement. The hospital called me a few days before my appointment to do the pre-registration, and mentioned the actual price: $2500. Ulp. My insurance contracted with the hospital to knock the price down to $1700, and then mentioned a 10% discount if I paid the whole thing up front. Um, yeah, I'll... consider that. I kicked myself once again for not having done this last year, when our deductible had already been met.

The day arrived, and I felt claustrophobic just thinking about the procedure. I was fairly sure I could survive that long in the machine, but the idea of that confined a space made me nervous. I wondered if I could get nitrous oxide, like at the dentist. I hastily wrote back to the alarmed Twitter and Facebook crowds who didn't think my status update was an adequate explanation, and headed out the door to my appointment.

While I was checking in, about thirty firefighters trooped out. "What was that about?" I asked. "Oh, they're just learning about MRIs." I went back to my paperwork for a minute as that processed. "Wait, why do firefighters need to know about MRIs?" The clerk smiled. "I asked the same question. It's in case they needed to do an evacuation, and a firefighter went in there with a fireaxe... it would fly out of their hands and into the machine. And if someone was in the machine, that... would be very bad." Flying axes. I got the picture. (A little digging on-line came up with the MRI safety video that they probably got to watch. Turns out there's more to be aware of than just the magnet.)

While I was on the phone with the bank, trying to arrange my finances, two intense, wiry, black-scrubbed guys kept poking their heads around the corner. "Yes, this is your four o'clock" the clerk assured them. "They're just impatient," she explained to me with a tone of amusement and affection.

Finances arranged, I got to go back into a waiting room where I was quizzed about anything that might make my MRI experience unfortunate. No, no pacemaker, no implants, no screws, I'm not pregnant. I had to stop and think about the question of having metal in my eye. I've made my share of sparks on a bench grinder, and... well, had I gotten some in my eye? I couldn't remember any specks that got in that I couldn't get out. When they offered to to an orbital X-ray, I figured I'd remember something that big, and said we were safe. I hoped I was right.

I made a metal note to always wear eye protection from then on out, in case I ever had to have another MRI.

Next stop was a locker room, where I was lightened of anything metal. My ring and the rivets on my jeans were allowed, but everything else had to go in the locker. No wallet, no keys, no camera, nothing electronic that I wouldn't want erased. We passed from there through two enormous doors with larger-than-life warnings about strong magnetic fields.

There was a room within a room; the outside one was dark and purposeful with glowing computer screens, enormous stacks of music CDs, and a stereo; the inside one, light and restful, with the smooth curves of the MRI machine trying to relax you. The pretty blue fluorescent skylights didn't quite set off the menacing bulk of the machine, but they were a nice touch.

"So, what would you like to listen to?" I hadn't been expecting that question. One look at the two guys and their towering collection of CDs made me think that Styx and 'Stones figured heavily into their musical heritage, but I managed to find a token Third Day album that I'd never heard among their collection, and chose that.

They slipped a coil over my shoulder that looked like a football shoulder pad, and strapped me down with pieces of shaped foam, stretchy fabric, and a blanket. "You have to be totally still for the whole test, and you may as well be comfortable. You'll be in there for about half an hour." I took serious stock of any pressure points, adjusted my pillow, and they slid me into the machine.

At this point, I have to stop and include a photo, because Deborah complains if I have an entire screen of text without a picture.

There wasn't much to say for the view. I was facing up, and I could see bits of the room in my peripheral vision, but the net effect was of staring at a blank wall, or the side of an old beige computer. A bulky set of hearing protectors/headphones were slipped on, and I got a squeeze ball to alert them if something wasn't right. They left.

The music started. At first, I thought it was just the way the album started — vague, echoey, and muffled. Then I realized it was the headphones. Good grief, I thought, a multi-million dollar machine, and they can't put in a decent set of headphones? Then I remembered: I was lying underneath an enormous magnet. Normal headphones wouldn't work here; the sound was being piped in, literally, like the old stethoscope-style headphones they used to have on airplanes. I settled back and listened to the words as the machine fired up.

Well I won't pretend to know what you're thinking
And I can't begin to know what you're going through
And I won't deny the pain that you're feeling
But I'm gonna try and give a little hope to you
Just remember what I told you
There's so much your living for

There's a light at the end of this tunnel
There's a light at the end of this tunnel for you
For you

How appropriate. And I appreciated that hadn't stuffed me into a tunnel with a closed MRI. I couldn't see out of it, but someone was taking my pain seriously, and trying to find answers.

Meanwhile, there was definitely something going on in the massive structure above me. Whirs, clicks, bumps, ratcheting sounds. And then the loud ones: Braaap, braap, braap, braap, braap, like a school fire drill, and then, over there, a rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat that reminded me of playing video games on an 8086, back when they were called "IBM clones." Some of the frequencies made my left eyelid twitch, and I couldn't figure out if it was the sound itself, or the things the machine was doing to every atom in my body. My eye started to burn a bit, and I wondered if I should squeeze the bulb. I wondered for long enough that I decided it must be OK, given that I was still wondering, and nothing worse had happened.

I was also starting to really appreciate how much body-related imagery Third Day put into their lyrics:

This is the body
This is the blood
Broken and poured out
For all of us

Hah, I thought to myself, I can just imagine the guys in there, looking at the screens, saying, "This is the body, and this is the blood, and see, here is where it's broken..."

After quite some time, and a few interruptions in the music to tell me I was doing great, just a little while longer, I was done. They slid me out and unwrapped me, and I was very glad I'd taken the time to make sure I was comfortable. I got to see some of the images (which looked like black-and-white photos of steaks; somehow this was uncomfortable — humans aren't used to thinking of themselves as being made of meat) and zoom up and down my shoulder in tiny sliced cross-sections. They said they weren't allowed to interpret the images, but that didn't stop me from drawing some tentative conclusions of my own — namely, that I hadn't seen anything obviously wrong.

As we were getting ready to head back to the locker area, I asked them how strong the magnet was in layman's terms. "Bigger than the ones they'd pick up cars with," said one technician. The other smiled knowingly, and pressed the locker key back into my hand with a firm instruction that I was not to let go of it. We walked back into the magnet room, and he placed my clenched fist into the machine. It was incredible: the tiny key writhed in my hand and twisted painfully against me as I crossed unseen magnetic boundaries. It took considerable strength to twist it around. Not to be outdone, the first technician then removed his shoe, and indicating that it had a few small staples in it, stuck it to the underside of the magnet, where it wobbled improbably, end over end, dancing about on it's own. "That's 0.7 Tesla," he told me, "some of the 4 Tesla machines, they've got videos of them levitating mice." What I'd been playing with wasn't even one Tesla. Whatever Nikola Tesla got up to, he certainly didn't have a wimpy unit of measurement named after him!

Fun and games (and a lot of very cool technical explanations that I mostly followed) done, we made arrangements for the results to be sent to the doctor within a day or so. Until then, I just had to wait and tell stories. Telling stories is a good way to pass the time.

To be continued...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Fooling Around at Work

Every now and then, I get to have a little fun at work... it's now gotten to the point where people are calling and asking where our April 1 material is when they don't find it early in the morning. So, please, stop for a minute and go enjoy six months of work that were finished in a hurry mere minutes before it was posted:

The pièce de résistance, in my opinion, is the song, which was written by Norm Sherman of the Drabblecast for us. Norm seriously impressed me with the depths he was willing to go to to write this song. Deborah and I have been quoting lines from it ever since we got the file late last night.

In my own humble opinion, the poster came out pretty well, too:

If you're interested, this one actually is for sale. An Andy Kerr original, for $15? Amazing!

The disappointing bit that wasn't for sale, the USB flash drive/cylinder seal, actually has a petition going, trying to convince us to make it. Funny thing is, I want to make it... it would be cool. I even have quotes from manufacturers. But alas, I don't think even I can convince 500 people to part with $30+ for a flash drive, no matter how cool.

Now, how do we top this for next year...?