August 29, 2006

Lyrica Report, Day Two of Trial Two

Took my Lyrica again today. I felt weird again, but as was the case yesterday, not as weird as on the first go-round before the big trip. This could be for several reasons, but I won't be able to really pin that down for a while, if ever due to the randomness of my illness. I was able to work all day today, just like yesterday. Maybe the medicine is a component in that, maybe not. This summer's consistent weather has payed off for me with or without drugs, as I have written several times previously.

Posted by Andy at 11:45 PM to the Health category

I Finally Did It

My design website, Grays Creek Designs, is up and running at last. This has been in the pipeline for a few years now and it's finally done. Well, close enough, anyway. I don't have anything about pricing up there yet, but people can email about that until I get it up there. Hopefully I will be able to tackle the print page pricing tomorrow. Web prices are going to require some research. If you know anything about that, I'd love your input.

This site has it all. Encoded emails without resorting to javascript, an email form (which was tougher than I expected I might add) with custom error and success pages, two kinds of favicons, and all sorts of extra navigation links to navigate around the site. Woo! I feel like I turned a corner with this site in some ways. I had fewer problems with bugs than ever before, and was able to spend almost all of my time tweaking design details and learning new tricks, like installing an email form and providing for all of those favicon perks.

Now go over and buy a few thousand cards to get things going, won't you?

Posted by Andy at 11:36 PM to the Computers category | Comments (5)

August 28, 2006

CFS Article

The September issue of O magazine contains an article about CFS. I understand that several high profile CFS sufferers are featured, including Michelle Akers, second highest leading scorer in women's soccer history. Given that O has a circulation of 16 and a quarter million readers, this could make for a very positive step in the advancement of chronic fatigue awareness in our country.

If you're in a bookstore, give it a look and let me know what you think.

Posted by Andy at 09:55 PM to the Health category | Comments (4)

US Open Begins

The US Open kicks off today. The tennis one, not the golf one. If I have to feel weird from a medicine, it may as well be during an event like this. I've had pretty good luck when it comes to televised distractions taking place during times of ill health. Heck, earlier this year someone decided to kick off the Winter Olympics on the very day I arrived home after my cancer surgery. Now if I can only shift the luck to actually preventing the ill health, I'll be in business!

Posted by Andy at 08:31 PM to the Sports category

Lyrica Redux

I started taking the Lyrica again today. I feel weird, and I'm freezing. These among other things make it hard to be excited about the coming days or weeks.

Posted by Andy at 06:38 PM to the Health category

August 27, 2006

The Lord Works

... and sometimes in not-so-mysterious ways.

If you read my last post, you no doubt recognized that I had some difficulties last evening. That continued, and I got very little sleep on account of both the state of my health and of my mind. The morning today was hard. Part of the afternoon was hard.

... but it's Sunday, and I have made a ritual of reading some of my Bible on Sunday, outside when possible. I am currently in the middle of II Chronicles in my overall reading, but I got it in my head today that I wanted to read something from the New Testament, the Sermon on the Mount if I could locate it. I wandered down to the pier with my remaining lawn chair and I wound up locating it almost instantly as it turns out. I read the sermon and came back inside almost a new man. I then did something at the computer and decided to go back out again to re-read some as well as to flip to another message from Jesus in the "red text" (a random one, but really relevant as it turned out.)

So I did my second reading and was there just long enough to observe a duck mom and her six barely teenager-kids (still really cute but slightly larger than the infant-types) as they meandered into the neighborhood of the pier. Now, it's August 27th. As far as I can recall, all of my duckling observations in the past (and I have experienced a lot of them) have taken place mainly in mid to late July, early August at the latest, but here they were on August 27th swimming all around me. Mom did check me out first to make sure I was ok, but I must have passed. The kids were at the age where they pretty much dictated where they wanted to go on their own, and mom trailed behind patiently.

Did you know that duck moms stay in constant communication with their young, and that the ducklings are perpetually responding back to her? It can be hard to hear because it all happens very softly, in a very non-ducklike manner you might say. Mom sounds something like a squeaky joint as it is being tightened on a pipe, and the kids voice this little "peep" at a much higher pitch. You can barely tell the kids are making the sound unless you are either used to it or very close. Amazing.

So that is my story of the day. I feel a whole lot better now. I didn't necessarily solve all of the world's problems, but they sort of feel less urgent now, or less important even. I most certainly was reminded of how to properly face some of those problems, and how prayers can be answered or acknowledged sometimes almost as they are proffered.

You can read the sermon on the mount in the King James text here here, and in the more readable but somewhat less poetic New King James at this address.

Posted by Andy at 05:37 PM to the Faith category | Comments (1)

August 26, 2006

Day o' Croquet

I ended up winning the GCHTJKCAIPCT today. The prize money was not what I expected. There were only four of us on the field of war today, but in some ways smaller numbers are actually better for such a lengthy game. We had the obligatory cookout after, which was superb - perhaps the best in years, and stuffed ourselves with burgers, corn, soup, and a top flight fruit salad hand made by my mother. If I may say, the mango right now is unbelievable. I thank you, Joe, Mei, and Dana, for coming and joining in the festivities. All in all, I think we had a pretty enjoyable time...

... but I still can't shake the feeling that I am losing another group of friends to distance, time, and other priorities. I've had this feeling before, as I was in the process of losing my first group in the first years of my illness, then the second about midway through. I made it both times with varying degrees of success, only this time I don't have college classes to find new people, office-mates to associate with, or even a church of people mostly 20 and 30 years older than me. This time I fear I may be very much on my own, saddled with essentially a more advanced version of the same health condition that was responsible for losing me the first two groups of friends. The bottom line is that people just cannot connect with someone who is sick, I guess.

I'm not one to give up of course. I've never given up before. I don't plan to start now, or ever for that matter, no matter how bad things might theoretically get in the future. I think I just need a lot of help now. Please say a prayer for me that I might be shown new ways of holding onto people I care about, and new ways of finding people in a world that most often does not extend beyond the walls of this house. I think prayer is about the best option I have, and the dual meaning is quite intentional.

Posted by Andy at 10:17 PM to the General category | Comments (6)

August 25, 2006

New Card Essay

Have a look at this installment in the "I've said all of this stuff myself a million times before but this guy is a professional writer and has done more research to boot" series.

Posted by Andy at 03:40 PM to the Politics category

August 23, 2006

Another Meme Dealy

This time I was tagged by Mei. Let's see what I can do here...

  1. A friend who has blessed me:
    Well, this would have to be Mei. Hey, maybe this is why she tagged me for this thing! She's taken off work on no notice to visit me in the hospital, gotten Bryn Terfel to send me a get well letter, and even come down to visit just before moving to Delaware because she knew it would matter despite the fact that she also knew it would be hard.
  2. An unexpected gift:
    Despite all the cancer treatments I had in the winter and spring, this summer has been better on me physically than those of the past several years.
  3. A kind word shared with me recently:
    I can't remember anything specific, but I have gotten some nice comments from Nic about his website and my design site in progress. During my folks' recent trip, people from my old church kind of came out of the woodwork to offer help as well, even though I really don't see any of them anymore.
  4. Something that makes me stop and praise God:
    A beautiful night sky, reflections on the creek, music with depth... It doesn't take much honestly.
  5. Something I'm looking forward to:
    The Gwen Chiappa Hamster, Twinkie Johnson Kitty and Cancer Awareness Invitational Power Croquet Tournament this Saturday, the 26th. If you're reading this and haven't yet confirmed your tournament status, get to it already!
  6. A particular part of me I'm pleased with:
    I think I have good eyes.
  7. Something in my life that I wanted but never expected:
    This is kinda tough... I must admit I don't get a great many things that I want, expected or not. I'd say "the ability to handle adversity", but that isn't something that you really do or do not expect. It takes work like most things.
  8. A place that moved/moves me:
    My pier. Well, not the pier itself, because it's getting kind of dangerous, but the view from the pier.
  9. One thing/person that always makes me smile:
    I love seeing my little cousins Becca and Connor.
  10. Most recent "love note" from God:
    I assume this is asking for a verse, but I think a bigger truth that I have learned again recently is that the more I dedicate my life to God, the better I feel, not physically, but generally.

    Ok, I'll give you a verse too...

    Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice: and let men say among the nations, The LORD reigneth.
    Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof: let the fields rejoice, and all that is therein.
    Then shall the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the LORD, because he cometh to judge the earth.
    O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.

    I Chronicles 16: 31-34

No doubt I am supposed to pass this along for others to complete, but I already called upon everyone I know with a blog in the last one. If you are up for another, feel free to give this a shot, but don't worry about it too much. :)

Posted by Andy at 05:57 PM to the General category

August 22, 2006

Clear Night

It's such a beautiful night. I wish I could stay outside forever. If you're still up and reading, get out there and check it out! If not, maybe tomorrow will be the same. I sure hope so.

Posted by Andy at 01:14 AM to the General category

August 19, 2006

A Nice Evening with the Dolber

Jess Dolber, a Goucher buddy, flew down to visit for the weekend, which prompted the whole Goucher crew to get together for dinner tonight at the Cheshire Crab. As expected, this was a great evening, and it was great to see Jess, Andy Cole, and the rest of the somewhat more usual gang.

Mei, Pat and I closed out the night tinkering around with youtube and enjoying a few exciting rounds of Dwarf on a Wharf, another one of the little flash games that has caught my eye of late. Feel free to give this one a go instead of doing real work.

Posted by Andy at 10:51 PM to the Games category & General category

August 18, 2006

Book Meme Thingy

This little survey has been floating around on some conservative blogs I read. Nice folks all. I got called out by Anna Venger, so I'm gonna do my best to get on the bandwagon with some answers...

  1. One book that changed your life:
    I'm with anonymous in that I don't really feel like books have that kind of drastic influence on me, but the Bible changes my life because I actively work for it to do so.
  2. One book that you've read more than once:
    Dune. The whole series actually. I'll probably read them again someday, because they are that good. The first book just gets you going, and the others get increasingly better through the final book. I just wish they came in some kind of nice collector's edition. Oh, and don't fall for the trap of buying the newer Dune expansions by Brian Herbert. No comparison.
  3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
    The Bible. Outside the realm of faith, I would probably go with The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. I don't own it, but man do I want to!
  4. One book that made you laugh:
    The Dilbert Principle is absolutely hilarious. I loaned it out and I don't know who has it anymore.
  5. One book that made you cry:
    Xenocide by Orson Scott Card. The ending really reached me in a profound way. On a sillier note, I believe I also cried reading one of the later Harry Potter books.
  6. One book that you wish had been written:
    How to Live and Find Love with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  7. One book that you wish had never been written:
    Mein Kampf
  8. One book you’re currently reading:
    I can't read much right now, but I read two pages of my King James Bible every night before bed, and more on Sundays.
  9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
    There are way too many to list here to be honest. I would have probably read an encyclopedia by now if I had been provided with the ability to do so. One thing that has been on my mind a while is to read the Qur'an. I want to cut right to the chase and see the message for myself.
  10. Tag five others.
    1. DQ, want to give this a shot?
    2. Heather, I bet you could fill this out easily enough once you have a computer again, and your responses would likely be very different than my own.
    3. Joe, here's an exciting new topic for the circle of blogging!
    4. Other Joe, I've seen you cover a lot of similar topics. Care to try this one out?
    5. Amanda, my CFS buddy from Washington state, have at it!

Heck, this survey was a drop in the bucket compared to my mother of all self-imposed surveys, the 100 Things About Me. Maybe some of you guys want to try that out! Not likely, I know, but it's more interesting to embark on that adventure that you might think.

Posted by Andy at 05:23 PM to the General category | Comments (3)

The Clock Strikes Midnight

My parents just walked in the door a few minutes ago, and the house officially has turned back into a pumpkin... or something. I am going to miss my independence, even if a lot of it was illusory. I am kinda happy to even be saying this given my less than stellar experiences during trips over the past few years.

This past week was very rough I must say, but I don't really blame the trip for that so much as a weather shift combined with a taxing x-ray and bloodwork appointment, some difficulties with interruptions during my morning routine the day following, and a few other issues. I have rough patches a-plenty when my parents are here, so I still am coming out of this feeling like I accomplished a little something.

Some assessments about the past month:

  • I had roughly a week's worth of feeling really good over the past 3.5-4. I didn't have it all lumped together. I haven't had really any days of feeling good for a while, maybe years, so this was a big win for me.
  • While I had a few logistical issues with organizing meals and ingredients for meals, on the whole I ate very well and was not stressed out about it. My problem spots mostly fit into the "things going bad before I could use them" area as opposed to the "I don't have enough supplies" area. Times when I had issues with the latter I was able to improvise rather painlessly.
  • Over the 25 or so days of this trip, I was able to complete web updates for sites I maintain in a timely manner, but only on 2 of those days was I really able to work on my own projects, and for fairly limited spans of time.
  • I decided to postpone my UMUC school enrollment largely on account of this trip combined with everything else that has happened this year. I am confident that this was the correct decision, and I hope that I can regroup for the spring semester.
  • I did better on the days when people were not here for the most part. In the long term this would not hold true by virtue of my running out of supplies and ways to eat, keep the house in order, and so on, but given the supplies I had at the outset of this trip, I was, on average, able to expend less energy on the days where nothing was scheduled. I am not really factoring in the other benefits of visitors in this point, and those are significant.
  • I need more tools to help me live alone for a long span of time. It would only take one thing to go wrong for many things to be destroyed, and there were many facets of life that I simply did not attempt to consider, like keeping up the lawn, making sure the water purification system was working, and so on. I discovered one or two helpful approaches during this trip, so that is a plus. I also need way more things to prepare food-wise in order to make the situation viable in the long-term.
  • I really did have fun during a substantial portion of this trip time. I felt good about a lot of things about which I do not often get to feel good, and I was able to carry a positive mindset through many if not all of the harder situations as well.

I thank all of you who came down to help out over the course of this trip. Between people stopping by with grocery orders after work, people hanging out and bringing carry-out, and all the rest, I was able to manage pretty darned well without feeling an exhorbitant amount of pressure to survive. I even feel like I can plan the big (and long overdue) croquet event for next week if that suits people's schedules.

Posted by Andy at 03:59 PM to the General category & Health category

August 14, 2006

In Other News

I may have seen a bear in my yard today. It may also have been a rabbit. It's hard to tell when the grass is this high, but I figure I can't take any chances.

Posted by Andy at 04:51 PM to the General category | Comments (2)

This Trip is Working Pretty Well

At about the 3 week point, I must say I'm feeling good. Great, really, by my standards. Yesterday I washed up some dishes, checked through a backlog of mail that had piled up over a few days of not feeling up to it, worked on my design website, cooked dinner (which took a while), and still had the wherewithal to gain about 10 levels with my healer paladin "Holy Cow" in a Diablo 2 user mod with a gamer friend of mine living in Kentucky. I am usually really hard pressed to have fun and work within the same day, because the pacing of the day gets ahead of me. I felt that pressure yesterday, but not enough to stop or hurt me ultimately. Were it not for my "no work on Sundays" rule, I would have likely done the same today, and in any case, today was a good day too. I feel good knowing that my "core attitude" is still in place, and that it takes very little for me to be content. Sometimes that can be hard to discern when I'm faced with months of punishing health problems.

I think the consistent weather has really been helping me out of late. Despite having to deal with the same old standing problems and aligntment issues, I'm bouncing back really well. It's been a long time coming I might add, because I haven't had a good summer for 3 years at least. I hope this good streak continues, and that I can move into the little house next door, sign up for school, and finish my sites before time itself ends. Either way, I'm gonna enjoy it while it lasts.

Posted by Andy at 12:05 AM to the Health category

August 11, 2006

New Resolution Drafted

It appears the UN has a new resolution ready for vote later this evening. This one moves from a Chapter 7 resolution to a Chapter 6, which sounds an awful lot like intentionally repeating the mistakes that got us here all over again. We'll see how it plays out.

For the record, it seems to me that Israel should in fact return the Shaaba Farms region, not to Lebanon, but to Syria. I do not think it should be part of this resolution, nor should it happen in the near future. It needs to happen seemingly out of the blue in order to solidify it as a true good-will gesture. The region is only 5x10 miles in size, but the return of it would impact world opinion greatly. Yes, I am aware that Israel wound up with this land after a defensive action, but that makes the gesture all the more meaningful, and would clearly and unequivocably place them on the moral high ground.

Posted by Andy at 02:17 PM to the Politics category

August 08, 2006

CNN is Ridiculous

As usual, I listened/watched both CNN and Fox News during my rest period after breakfast this morning. Both networks are giving some airtime to the Lieberman/Lemont Senate race since this is voting day and Lieberman's website was hacked. Here's what CNN reported in a segment about 10 minutes ago:

  • Lieberman's website is down, and his campaign blames Ned Lemont's supporters.
  • Lemont says it wasn't his people.
  • The Daily Kos website is pointing to specific lines on the page that is being displayed and saying that Lieberman's camp may not have paid their hosting bill. CNN closed the segment with this element.

What CNN is not reporting:

  • The Daily Kos personnel have been featured prominently and in person in at least one Ned Lemont commercial.
  • Ned Lemont's supporters have employed dirty tricks before.

I won't even get into the CNN interview a half hour earlier during which an "expert" on the Mid-East crisis goes unchallenged in his view that destructive American and Israeli policies are a factor in the political climate in Lebanon. Which policies? Name a few, won't you?

Give me a break.

Posted by Andy at 02:12 PM to the Politics category | Comments (5)

Full Day

I woke up today after a rather poor night's sleep. I think it impaired my judgment, because here's what I did today:

  • Re-edited the sample pictures from my card line for my design website.
  • Drove to Angel's and got groceries.
  • Handled meals for myself.
  • Attended a 2+ hour community meeting in place of my father.

I guess for most people that amounts to nothing, but for me, it's rather insane. Fitting, since I wrapped up the day a few minutes ago by watching Arsenic and Old Lace. I just hope I don't wake up dead tomorrow, because I have an appointment to keep. Ah well, you can't live unless you take some risks, right?


Posted by Andy at 12:01 AM to the General category & Health category

August 04, 2006

I Remember Me

After a long time knowing about this CFS documentary and not checking it out, I finally remembered to order it from Netflix. It's pretty amazing and accurate. I really hope those of you who know me will find a way to rent it one way or another, whether from Netflix or by asking for it as a rental shop near you. I may see if I can buy a copy to send around to people as well.

Posted by Andy at 12:29 AM to the Health category

August 03, 2006

Something Greater than Moral Equivalence

I sit here and watch the news most days when I get up, and listen to it through my hour-long recovery period. Obviously there has been much to report in the past weeks, but this particular piece of information catches my attention more than all the rest:

As the war between Israel and Hezbollah continues, more and more Lebanese people are converting to the Hezbollah cause. According to the reports I have heard recently, the majority of Lebanese civilians believe Hezbollah is fighting for their safety and freedom.

How is this possible? Does Lebanon have a free press? I have been led to believe this is so. It is true that Hezbollah undertakes many social challenges in addition to the jihad against Israel, but is that really enough to rally support with such a radical military agenda being common knowledge? Would we as Americans support an organization that, say, built hospitals and gave people jobs, then encouraged us to lend a hand while they attacked some Mexican children and attempted to iradicate Mexico completely? I can't imagine such a thing being possible here.

Day in and day out, our media parades on theoretically knowledgeable people who either oppose Hezbollah or do not, which saturates us with political ideology until we want to scream. The trouble is that nobody is asking the right question. When someone interviews a Lebanese-American who supports the Hezbollah, why is the reporter not then asking why it has such support when it might well be using that person's family back home as shields? Why aren't they asking that person how they justify Hezbollah's intentional targetting of Israeli children? If no answers are forthcoming, why is the reporter not then asking why?

The problem in part is that we ask the wrong people these questions. Political pundits and members of Congress always have something to say on those subjects, but what do they know about how the Lebanese mind works, or the mind of the typical moderate Arab in general? I really doubt the majority of them are psychopaths who love seeing people killed. (I find it unlikely that the Israeli and American flag-burning demonstrations we see in the Middle East during crises really tells us much about the views of the typical Arab.)

At the same time, I doubt that they are unaware of the tactics of groups like the Hezbollah. What is it that reconciles their hearts with such tactics? How does the Arab street view the actual formation of Israel or the violence that erupted as a result? Does the typical Arab know about the enormous influence Nazi doctrine has had on the leaders and former leaders of the most oppressive Arab states? For that matter, does the typical American know about said influence?

These are important questions that need to be answered for the benefit of the entire American (and European) public. People, especially those without much vested interest in politics, love to talk about the polarity in our country today. Incomplete and essential information like this is one enormous reason why this gulf exists.

We can unilaterally condemn terrorist groups on one hand while seeking to connect with average Arabs on the other. These choices are not mutually exclusive to a much larger extent than the media leads us (I believe unintentionally, in this case) to believe. Barring a wholesale change in the way the media works, the responsibility (perhaps unfortunately) falls on the individual to learn the history and try to make this connection. Fortunately, the internet provides some valuable resources to achieve this aim. Even a few brief Wikipedia searches on the formation of modern Israel, the Middle East during WWII, and Hezbollah can yield some fantastic information. The History Channel has aired some excellent programming along these lines lately as well if you care to watch.

Give it a try and let's talk about any conclusions you draw.

Posted by Andy at 02:15 PM to the Politics category | Comments (2)

August 02, 2006

More Spam

I just checked my email notification list to find that about 40 spam addresses had been added via my sign-up form. What the heck are these people thinking? Do they figure that their "clients" will make money off of people whose sites they try to ruin? I've sure had to do a lot of maintenance over the past year or so in order to keep this site family friendly.

Posted by Andy at 06:12 PM to the Computers category | Comments (2)

For You Office Gamers

This interesting little site might prove to be a fun alternative to the usual card playing, word inputing, and puzzle building games you're used to.

... and this logic puzzle is pretty neat too, though probably better suited to a home engagement due to the inability to save your place. Don't worry about wasting your entire day - it ends after level 30.

Posted by Andy at 06:04 PM to the Games category

State of the House Address

It's 473 New York Avenue... Wait a minute, that's not where I was going with this.

As my legion of adoring fans* might have noticed, I haven't posted for a few days. This is because I'm in the business of surviving right now, and said surviving has taken a physical toll on me. I've had some rather bad luck at the outset of the big trip that has put me in a rather poor physical state, but for whatever reason my confidence level is still higher than it has been during other long parental trips of previous years. I'm eating well and am working hard to space out my food selection so that I have adequate days of rest. With luck, the random bad luck element will fade away in the weeks to come, and I will be able to spend time working on my websites again.

So come on by! Maybe bring some carry-out with you and watch a movie or something. We'll have the run of the place. Steal what you want, as long as I don't use it. You know the drill.

Note: My legion of adoring fans may or may not consist of 3 occasional readers and a squirrel named Herb.

Posted by Andy at 04:31 PM to the General category & Health category | Comments (3)