December 28, 2013

  • Assorted Tragedy And Woe

    Damn, didn’t realize it’s been so long since I posted here. But there may still be some people who only check this site, not my FB page, so here we go.

    About nine months ago, Beth was strongly encouraged to look into gastric belt surgery. Her medications and other medical conditions make it effectively impossible for her to lose weight, and her weight was causing severe physical and mental consequences (which tended to require more medications and treatments, which induced more complication, etc.)

    She went through an extended battery of tests, forms, classes, forms, required approvals, forms, evaluations, and forms. Finally, around early November, we were told everything was good, all they needed was final approval from the insurance company, and we’d be off. The doctor wanted to do it by Thanksgiving.

    Then followed three weeks of not hearing anything, despite repeated calls. Finally, we discovered the doctor’s office had never sent the forms to the insurance company for approval. According to them, they’d never received them. Now, they were gathering information from several different medical offices and doctors. It is hardly implausible one of those many might have failed to fax, send, or otherwise follow through. It’s extremely implausible every single one of them did. So, point blank, the office lost or misfiled them all.

    Beth fortunately did not have to repeat the tests, but did have to contact everyone involved and get them to send in the paperwork all over again.
    Beth has suffered severe depression for years; the only drug which even partially counteracts this is Nardil, an MAOI inhibitor that is rarely prescribed, despite its effectiveness, because it requires strict adherence to a dietary regimen. One of the many effects of depression is a very poor tolerance of frustration; if something is at all difficult, it will often be abandoned. Getting through all of this rigmarole was not easy for her, myself, or her mother. We kept pushing at it because we believed it was absolutely necessary for Beth’s long-term health, physical and mental.
    So we finally, after far too long, got the final insurance approvals, and a surgery date.

    (In the meanwhile, the company I worked for was being transferred to another company owned by the same uber-corporation. When this was announced back in August or so, we were told it would be mostly a matter of changing who signed the checks and moving the code over to the other company’s servers. Can you guess where this is going? Everyone in my division was a telecommuter; we were all over the place. The new company didn’t want telecommuters. They wanted us to re-apply for our existing jobs, and, if hired, to move to White Plains. Basically, they just tossed the entire accumulated knowledge base and skill set out the window. So, in addition to everything else, I am now unemployed.)

    Friday, December 20th, I got Beth to the hospital at 5:30 AM. (Anyone who knows me will consider this proof of divine intervention, as “not a morning person” doesn’t begin to cover it. Then we got our first Fun Shock. Since Beth hadn’t hit her out of pocket maximum, the hospital wanted us to pony up over two grand, right then, minutes before her scheduled surgery. No one has told us this; it apparently wasn’t something anyone knew until they input her admission data. Fortunately, we had an “In Case Of Extreme Emergency” credit card.

    Then, we got another problem. Despite the aforementioned many months of tests, surveys, forms, and so on, and despite the fact her long list of medications was always, continually, given to every doctor, nurse, orderly, and passing stranger during all of this, suddenly, they decided that they wanted her off the Nardil before surgery. This would take 10 days, minimum, and would lead to a Catch-22 of epic proportions. She was only approved for surgery because she had not been hospitalized for mental illness for a full two years prior. (This is close to a record for us for the past decade.) Without the medication, she would need to be hospitalized within 3 to 4 days, tops, based on what had happened the last time she’d had to go off it — which would mean no surgery. The doctor explained that if there was any indication of problem with the anesthetic, the surgery would be halted, and we were fine with that.

    There were no problems with the surgery. The doctor said everything went fine. I stayed until she was out of surgery and was waiting to be placed in a room. At the time, she was groggy, but seemed to be doing alright.

    It took a long time to get her into a room. Since this was ostensibly an outpatient procedure, we were worried she’d be there longer than 23 hours from admission, which could cause some hassles with insurance.

    I spoke to her later than evening. The painkillers had worn off, she wasn’t being given more. She was in excruciating pain, and was pretty much in tears, saying she wished she hadn’t done it, that she just wanted to go home. I told her it would be for the best.
    Later the next day (12/21), she was discharged. Tests had been performed that showed there was no leakage in her stomach, that the surgery had gone well. She was still in overwhelming pain, and could not keep down anything, or swallow. We hoped bed rest at home would help.
    The next morning, after a miserable night of vomiting and pain, we called the hospital, which told us to bring her back in, as this didn’t seem normal. So she was re-admitted on Sunday, 12/22. That was, and trying not to be too melodramatic here, the last time I saw her conscious, as of this writing (12/28/2013)

    On the 23rd, she was an a BiPap machine, and we were told she was severely dehydrated, was not getting enough oxygen, and between the surgery and her being unable to swallow, she’d been off her meds for several days.

    On the 24th, I called the hospital, and was transferred to her ward, and I got the following response when I asked for her:”Oh, you didn’t know she was transferred to the ICU?”

    No. I didn’t know. Oddly, no one seemed to think that was worth calling us about. Funny, that.

    She was having difficulty breathing and was running a 102.something degree fever. She was basically unconscious, though from painkiller or the fever or the lack of oxygen, I am not sure. They were still trying to figure out what was wrong with her.

    Early in the morning on the 25th (Anyone who says their Christmas was “ruined” because they got the wrong color iThing, please, come over here and say it to my face. I’ve got some repressed rage to work off.), we got another call. Beth had “coded”. She’d stopped breathing. They intubated her, got her going again, but obviously, whatever was wrong with her was very serious and getting worse. We went to the ICU and stayed there.

    Midway through the day, they finally found the problem. Her sutures had been torn out, probably from her vomiting. So for several days, she’d been leaking stomach fluids, etc, into her body. They performed more surgery, to remove the gastric band, and to insert drains into her stomach. The damage done by tearing out the sutures was severe enough that they couldn’t just repair it, or at least that’s the impression I got. I assume they did something to close it up, but they needed the drains because it wasn’t sealed completely.

    She still wasn’t conscious. There were no indications of brain damage (no blood clots, no signs of anoxia), but the doctor was “concerned” she wasn’t waking up.

    We got home, tried (and failed) to relax. I was just barely getting around to accepting that while her recovery (from what was supposed to have been routine outpatient surgery) may now take several weeks, we were probably past the worst of it.

    Then, we got another call. This was from the kidney specialist. We need to give permission to put her on dialysis, because her kidneys were not working. We’d been told there were some issues with her urine, but nothing had indicated she was suffering kidney failure. Then we got a call again, a few minutes later, saying we needed to give permission for something else dialysis-related; Beth was so weak they needed to do the dialysis slowly, through a tube in her neck, to see how she was handling it.

    That was a bit of a breaking point. I’m now at the stage where every time the phone rings, I panic, because I have no more confidence things will either stay stable or get better.

    We are visiting her every day, even though she’s not aware of us. She occasionally partially opens her eyes, or seems to react, but there’s no way to tell if it’s due to our voices or just random neural action. Supposedly, she is showing slightly more responsiveness; we’re going back again tonight (12/28) and we’ll see.

    We don’t know if she’ll have long term problems, short term problems, or no problems. We don’t really know why she’s unconscious. I have no idea, really, what’s going to happen now.

September 6, 2013

May 27, 2013

  • Kickstarter Actually Started!

    So…. the Kickstarter launched Saturday. (I kind of want to apologize for the fact that I’m going to be saying “Kickstarter” a lot for the next 30 days… I’m going to try to not do it more than once every day or two, and, hopefully, will not devolve into “Hey, look at this cute cat! He’s saying “Pledge to Lizard’s Kickstarter!”) It’s doing pretty well starting out, at ~378 out of the 750 minimum, so, just past 50%, which is great for the first two days… I think… I hear all sort of things like “You get 50% of your money in the first 10% of the time, unless you get 25% of the money in the first 78% of the time, then you’ll get 33 1/3% of the money in 45% of the time, unless line B2 is greater than B4 minus A1, in which case turn to Schedule E and divide by how many cats you own.”, and so forth. Frankly, I’m very happy to have come this far. One reason I put off starting it for a year is that a Kickstarter is, to me, nearly as personal as an online dating profile. You are putting yourself out there for very public approval or disapproval.

    But, basically, in the great sea of Kickstarters out there, you need to stand out. We live in an age where, no matter how narrow your tastes in entertainment (“I only read Harry Potter/My Little Pony/Downton Abbey  crossover fanfic!”), there’s more of it being produced than you could ever consume or be aware of.  So, while I am of course hoping to get the attention of some of my FB friends who missed my prior posts, I’m also posting to those who have seen them and have pledged — I am going to need your help in telling others. If you pledged, I have to presume it’s because you want to see this book happen, and for it to happen, I need support.

    And, of course, the link to the KS is at

May 18, 2013

  • Kickstarter semi-started! (Corrected)

    Well, after more anger, frustration, and pain than should remotely be required to do something this trivial, I’ve (mostly) completed my Kickstarter setup. I am waiting for Amazon and KS to finish verifying my tax information, address, bank account, Kenyan birth certificate, genetic code, and favorite videos at Pornhub. In the meanwhile, here’s the CORRECT preview link:

    I am unable to figure out how to enter stretch goals, however — is this something that can be done only after the project goes live?

May 9, 2013

  • Everybody Panic!

    Gods, sometimes, the stupidity — or, rather, active and malicious deception — from politicians is almost physically painful.

    Let’s look here. Let’s pretend I’m a mentally ill terrorist spouse abuser, and I want a gun. I have $8,000.00. Do I:
    a)Spend it on a 3D printer to produce a very dubious, unreliable, weapon, or,
    b)Spend, oh, a few hundred on a decent handgun from a gazillion grey-market sources (or just steal one, since we’ve established I’m interested only in using a gun for criminal porpoises, so it’s not like I’m going to balk at theft if I’m planning murder)?

    Let’s say… b.

    You pretty much can’t ban the data file, or files, needed to produce this gun, or any future gun. In five years, ten years, maybe, the technology will advance to the point where such a weapon might be more likely to kill the target than to make it easier for the shooter to engage in Jamie Lannister cosplay. If/when that happens, it will still be impossible to stop the manufacture and distribution of the *plans*, any more than you can stop people from producing instructions for explosives (Dear Sen. Feinsteinn: You cannot outlaw chemistry, as much as you’d like to. Please stop trying.). So, fine, if it makes you feel all big and tough and manly, ban possession of 3D printed guns. But, again — the only people who will resort to this, who also have the money to BUY a 3D printer in the first place, are those who probably not overly aw abiding in the first place. You have a Catch-22: Those who would just like to print one for the “nifty” factor of “Hey, I made a gun!”, will probably obey the law… but this stops no crimes, as such people would not be using the gun criminally. Those who want a 3D printed gun because they plan crimes they cannot commit without one, and somehow can’t acquire one of the roughly 270 million extant guns in the United States, are not going to be dissuaded by a law against the gun. (A law against distributing the files would be effectively unenforceable; it would be used mostly to tack on some extra charges in another case, or serve to justify a search warrant if the files were detected via a prior warrant and… wait, I forgot. We don’t need no steenkin’ warrants because of the established legal principle of “Wharrgarbl 9-11 terrorism dead babies peas and carrots peas and carrots peas and carrots”.

    Some might argue that stopping the distribution of kiddie porn is fairly effective, so, why not the distribution of gun blueprints? First, kiddie porn is outside the First Amendment, so it’s much, much, easier to arrest and try people for it. Raw factual information — how to make a gun, a bomb, or a virus (digital or otherwise) is not. USING that information may be criminal, but mere possession of it with no proof of intent to use? Legal under most circumstances. Second, just about everyone on the planet is rightfully repulsed by kiddie porn, and those who would produce it or traffic in it, and will tend to cooperate fully with law enforcement in pursuing it, even if they otherwise despise the cops/feds/whoever. There are some things which are sufficiently wrong and evil that you can get widespread cooperation and buy-in from otherwise highly disparate groups and ideologies. Blueprints for a gun? That doesn’t rise to the barest hint of a fraction of a percentage of the outrage factor. Sure, there’s probably some people out there who are more outraged by printed guns than by child abuse, but they’re known, generally, as “morons”. The vast majority of people, even those strongly opposed to firearm ownership, would still be more comfortable with a neighbor hiding a 3D printer than a child porn collection. This is why, of all the things it is technically illegal to distribute on the internet, the only one even remotely effectively controlled is child porn.

    So, we have a politician using people’s innate fear and ignorance over technology to generate a lot of media attention about extremely unlikely and implausible scenarios, in order to promote a certainly ineffective and probably unconstitutional law. (Unconstitutional on 1A grounds for the plans; the state of 2A jurisprudence in America is so random and contradictory I wouldn’t guess at how banning the guns themselves would play out in the SC.) Or, as we like to call it in America, “a day ending in y”.

April 4, 2013

  • Characters

    I filled out a little online writer’s thing about “How Do You Create Your Characters?”. Here’s what I posted:

    For the most part, my characters just crawl out of some part of my brain and insert themselves into my stories. Even when I start with a goal in mind, the characters quickly write themselves, and often act in ways I did not anticipate or expect. For me, writing a story is very much a process of watching the story unfold in my head and simply transcribing what I see.

    I often get an image in my head of a character, and then start asking, “Who is this person? What do they want? What’s that cool sword they’re carrying?” The answers just come to me. I start writing and see where it goes.

    Obviously, all these people living in my head come from somewhere. They’re a mix of different aspects of my personality, bits of other people I know, iconic characters from other fiction or from history. My subconscious takes all these fragments and assembles them into someone. When I try to force a character, to create someone explicitly to fit some role or need in a story, or to serve as a specific foil or plot device, it’s a difficult and painful process. It’s much easier to relax, lose myself in the imagined world, and see who walks “on stage” to take up the part they need to play. The process of editing, correcting, adjusting, and so on, is, for me, something akin to checking my sources and verifying my facts — I realize I’d gotten someone’s family history wrong, or misquoted them in some dialog. I’m not changing the characters, I’m correcting the mistakes I made when I first wrote down the story they told me. When I look back on my writing, I can always tell where I was working too hard to impose my idea of what the story *should* be; those are the parts which are forced, awkward, and unnatural. The best parts are where I was simply smashing keys as fast as I could, copying down what was happening in my head in real time.

    If your characters aren’t alive in your mind, they’ll never be alive on the page.

February 22, 2013

  • If You Don’t Lie When The Government Tells You To, The Terrorists Have Already Won

    Not much to add to this, really. Of course, I suspect that if he had signed it as ordered, they would have seized his boat on the grounds he committed fraud. So long as Americans continue to roll over whenever someone chants the magic words “terrorists” or “children” (even better, “terrorists want to kill your children!”), these kinds of abuses will continue, and 99.99% of the victims do not have the kind of media platform it takes to get them noticed.

January 31, 2013

  • Summarizing And Translating

    So, Slashdot linked to a “great piece” about how renewable energy won’t save us, because, you know, even if we build a Dyson Sphere, eventually, we’ll still expand to consume it all. And, really, worrying if a solution will work a million years from now is certainly the top priority for evaluating it, don’t you think?

    I felt some summary and translation was in order. Here is Ms. Stover’s “great piece”, written to more accurately express her true sentiments and the origin of her beliefs. (Sadly, there’s no comment section on the article itself. Funny, that.)

    “Beware, oh ye sinners! You who consume the flesh of beasts, you who buy trinkets of little worth, you who defile and despoil the Earth! Beware! Your times of joy and revelry will end! Suffering shall come, and pain, and torment, lest ye repent your sinful ways! Repent! There is no salvation in the sun! There is no salvation in the tides! There is no salvation in the wind! There is no salvation even in the poisonous fires of the atom itself! No, none! No salvation but the cessation of your sins!”


    There we go. Much shorter, too. She should hire me as an editor.


January 9, 2013

  • This Has All Happened Before. This Will All Happen Again.

    Please note the date this strip was published. The next time someone (who probably wasn’t born in 1958) pulls out this cliche about “kids today”, point them to this. Then, point AT them and laugh. Or just quote Kipling. You can never go wrong by quoting Kipling.

    The King

    “Farewell, Romance!” the Cave-men said;

      “With bone well carved He went away,

    Flint arms the ignoble arrowhead,

      And jasper tips the spear to-day.

    Changed are the Gods of Hunt and Dance,

    And He with these.  Farewell, Romance!”


    “Farewell, Romance!” the Lake-folk sighed;

      “We lift the weight of flatling years;

    The caverns of the mountain-side

      Hold him who scorns our hutted piers.

    Lost hills whereby we dare not dwell,

    Guard ye his rest.  Romance, farewell!”


    “Farewell, Romance!” the Soldier spoke;

      “By sleight of sword we may not win,

    But scuffle ‘mid uncleanly smoke

      Of arquebus and culverin.

    Honour is lost, and none may tell

    Who paid good blows.  Romance, farewell!”


    “Farewell, Romance!” the Traders cried;

      “Our keels have lain with every sea;

    The dull-returning wind and tide

      Heave up the wharf where we would be;

    The known and noted breezes swell

    Our trudging sails. Romance, farewell!”


    “Good-bye, Romance!” the Skipper said;

      “He vanished with the coal we burn.

    Our dial marks full-steam ahead,

      Our speed is timed to half a turn.

    Sure as the ferried barge we ply

    ‘Twixt port and port.  Romance, good-bye!”


    “Romance!” the season-tickets mourn,

      “He never ran to catch His train,

    But passed with coach and guard and horn –

      And left the local — late again!”

    Confound Romance!…  And all unseen

    Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.


    His hand was on the lever laid,

      His oil-can soothed the worrying cranks,

    His whistle waked the snowbound grade,

      His fog-horn cut the reeking Banks;

    By dock and deep and mine and mill

    The Boy-god reckless laboured still!


    Robed, crowned and throned, He wove His spell,

      Where heart-blood beat or hearth-smoke curled,

    With unconsidered miracle,

      Hedged in a backward-gazing world;

    Then taught His chosen bard to say:

    “Our King was with us — yesterday!”