My Buddy Kevin In Scotland Has Disappeared

Every day or two I see an automated message showing he’s gained or lost Twitter followers, but no Kevin. Creepy. For most pancreatic cancer patients, even Whipple graduates, the result is death — sooner, not later.

Kevin Lyon
I’ve met lots of people during my journey through pancreatic cancer. Kevin Lyon was one. Kevin lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. We met on Twitter.

Like me Kevin had gone through a Whipple and was doing well. And then he wasn’t.

We spoke last the first week in November. He’s disappeared since then.

Every day or two I see an automated message showing he’s gained or lost Twitter followers, but no Kevin. Creepy.

For most pancreatic cancer patients, even Whipple graduates, the result is death — sooner, not later. My outcome is rare. I am very lucky. I was hoping Kevin’s would be too.

In the fairy tale ending Kevin writes to say reports of his death are premature.

Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright

I was in deep sleep when the phone rang. 6:00 o’clock. It was my dad.

I had lunch with a friend in Laguna Beach yesterday. We walked a lot. Steep inclines. Going down nearly as much effort as going up!

It was nap time when I got home.

I was in deep sleep when the phone rang. 6:00 o’clock. It was my dad.

“Why are you calling now?” I asked. “It’s 3:00 AM there.”

See what I did? I subtracted three hours instead of adding two. And I thought it was 6:00 AM. Dysfunction, thy name is Sleepy Geoff.

My father was upset. “I hate calling when you don’t call first.” He was upset he woke me.

“No.”

I don’t want him to feel that way. His calls are too important and I get back to sleep very quickly.

I proved that within ninety seconds of hanging up.

The Day I Pissed Off Cher’s Fans

As much as any straight man in America, I love Cher. Her career speaks for itself. Her eulogy for Sonny Bono was among the most poignant speeches I’ve ever heard and said as much about her as him.

I follow Cher on Twitter along with 3.53 million others. Sunday afternoon (not an NFL fan) she posted:

Would anyone like to play around with a Logo for…
“The Cher Show”
Focus is on letters,
Intricate Designs take attention away from from point

This is a sensitive subject to anyone who makes a living as an artist. It is the stuff memes are made of! For a variety of reasons you shouldn’t ask people to work without offering to compensate them.

I saw Cher’s tweet as it entered the system. I responded quickly enough that it was noted by her fans.

Cher — Please don’t do this. Of course your fans will provide you with designs, but isn’t this something you should be paying for to help support the increasingly difficult job of being a designer? I know you mean no harm.

Let the flames begin!

My reply to Cher was liked 103 times, an astronomical amount for one of my Twitter posts. It was also disliked in a bunch of comments.

Lmao wouldn’t the publicity an upcoming designer receive from something like this be way more valuable in the long run? Think outside the box of monetary compensation

That’s a pretty typical gut level reaction. The designers who responded said, “No.” A lot of people overvalue working for publicity alone.

In the end I hope Cher heeds my message. The best way to encourage artists is to pay them fairly.

Too Many People?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, we’ve got too many people. Have you seen the robot video?

This robot wasn’t designed to do the work of other robots. He’s our competition.

Ditto Elon Musk’s announcement of a new electric semi-truck. It will be able to drive semi-autonomously in convoys. They’re our competition.

Recently a convolutional neural network (just think computer) was trained on 100,000+ diagnosed and annotated chest x-rays. Now it does a better job spotting diseases than a radiologist. It’s our competition.

I run my own TV studio. I do a half dozen jobs, maybe more. I’m your competition.

We’ve lost elevator and switchboard operators, receptionists, three person flight crews and more. Fewer people are needed for nearly everything we do.

Have we become too efficient? Efficiency is a nice way to say “fewer people.”

Do we benefit as shopping continues to move online and retail jobs disappear?

We are about to have too many people. Maybe we’re already there.

How do we handle that? Will we be a nation of poverty and wealth with no in between. We seem to be on that road.

The Sophistication Of The Russians

It’s not like TV where we’re all seeing the same Chevy spot. There were thousands of different ads nearly all aimed at getting people angrier. They wanted us to fight. They wanted us to scream. They wanted us to distrust each other and our electoral process. Their efforts were successful.

Washington Post graphic

I’m waiting for a call back from Mike Sechrist. Bad cell service where he’s walking. We only spoke for a few seconds, but he answered the question I called with.

“Do TV stations and others advertising on the Internet do it with the sophistication of the Russians?”

Mike’s the one to ask. He was the news director who hired me at WTNH in 1984. He went on to be a TV station general manager and now runs an Internet oriented agency.

“No,” he said. That was my guess.

The Russian’s were very sophisticated in their 2016 buys–much more than normal for a businesses. Their goal was to cheapen democracy. Getting Donald Trump elected was an unexpected bonus.

The cost was far more than the Facebook and Twitter ad buys imply. The ads Russian content farms placed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were intricately targeted. It’s not like TV where we’re all seeing the same Chevy spot. There were thousands of different ads nearly all aimed at getting people angrier.

They wanted us to fight. They wanted us to scream. They wanted us to distrust each other and our electoral process. Their efforts were successful. We were gamed.

Here’s an example from Texas.

Last year, two Russian Facebook pages organized dueling rallies in front of the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston, according to information released by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

Heart of Texas, a Russian-controlled Facebook group that promoted Texas secession, leaned into an image of the state as a land of guns and barbecue and amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. One of their ads on Facebook announced a noon rally on May 21, 2016 to “Stop Islamification of Texas.”

A separate Russian-sponsored group, United Muslims of America, advertised a “Save Islamic Knowledge” rally for the same place and time. – TexasTribune.com

What’s obvious today is the artificial intelligence systems running the ad programs for these Internet behemoths aren’t sophisticated enough to see these attacks. Did they even care?

Of course the problem goes beyond the Russian’s. Last week I noticed a Facebook friend had posted a meme about pensions and the military — very political and totally based on made up numbers.

I told her it was wrong, which she acknowledged, but she didn’t seem to care. And the meme is probably still there on her wall inciting anger in like minded others.

We need to return to a truth based society.

The One Year Checkup

Let’s pause here for a second. My threshold for concern has been raised through experience. This kind of repair job instills no fear in me. I’ve been scoped before. No big deal. And, in a hospital setting my port will be used for IVs.

Up early (for me) today for a 9:30 AM appointment with one of the surgeons who performed my Whipple surgery. This is like bringing your car in for scheduled service. My one year check-up.

Dr. Selby walked into the room wearing a suit. I’d never seen him in one before. He’s from Missouri farm country. It’s probable doctor came first, suits second.

With the doctor was his assistant, Shelley. She is the master sergeant of this operation. Call Shelley, stuff gets done.

Dr. Selby brightened as he walked in. He seemed extremely pleased with my outward physical appearance. “You’ve put the weight back on,” he said.

Not all of it, thankfully.

He looked at my scar and seemed pleased by his work. Then I told him about a puffy patch of skin not far from the base of the incision. No pain, but it’s probably a hernia. They get worse with time. It needs to be fixed.

Let’s pause here for a second. My threshold for concern has been raised through experience. This kind of repair job instills no fear in me. I’ve been scoped before. No big deal. And, in a hospital setting my port will be used for IVs.

Even when it’s gone cancer is the gift that keeps on giving.

The Purple Stride for Pancreatic Cancer is coming up in November. Helaine and I will walk with the folks from the office.

Outside It’s A Different Story

It’s so dry the first thing your body asks is, “What’s going on?” Don’t think of sweating on a day like this. It evaporates as it forms! My potted plants were watered yesterday midday then late night and again this morning

Looking down my street toward the Loma Ridge, part of the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains.

If all you did was look out the window this would qualify as another spectacular SoCal day. The sky is a brilliant blue and cloud free.

Take one step out the door and it’s a different story. You’re struck by the heat first, then the lack of humidity. It is windy, making the lack of humidity even more noticeable.

It’s noon as I type and we’re around 100°. It doesn’t feel like any hot day I’ve experienced east of the Rockies. This is a totally different animal.

Courtesy Mesowest/Utah State

It’s dry. Dew points are ~60° lower than the thermometer temperature. Relative humidity is in the low teens.

It’s so dry the first thing your body asks is, “What’s going on?” Don’t think of sweating on a day like this. It evaporates as it forms!

My potted plants were watered yesterday midday then late night and again this morning. Potted flowers can be desiccated in under a day. That freaked me out when it happened a few years ago. So fast.

Sandy headphones after a night on the patio.

Sandy headphones after a night on the patio.[/caption]Because it’s so dry and winds are out of the east (actually north northeast at the moment) they bring in desert sand. I leave these headphones on the patio. That’s grit just from overnight! It’s on everything.

What we’ve got going on are Santa Ana winds. These are downslope winds from our nearby mo.ntains. As they compress they heat up. The effect is so thorough we’re warmer today than the desert areas just to our east!

This is fire weather. It won’t take much for one to start and with these atmospheric conditions, spread fast.

The are special protocols in place for area fire departments. No blaze is considered small, no call routine, until the winds shift and paradise returns to the Southland.

One more day. Things get back to normal Thursday.

I Can’t Relate To That

When I found out I had cancer and thought I was going to die I was surprised little changed. All I wanted to do was live the life I was already living. I was happy with my life and (most of) the decisions I’d made.

There’s an article in the NY Times about Senator John McCain. The article makes the argument McCain’s changed since his diagnosis of what’s incurable brain cancer.

  • the 81-year-old senator has found a new voice.
  • “Do I hear in his voice a little bit more expression of grander ideals? I do,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee.
  • in a dramatic return to Congress after surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye, he delivered a harsh critique of the Senate as he called for Democrats and Republicans to work together.

You get the idea.

It’s possible McCain’s cancer was a sobering moment that changed his attitude. It’s just not something I can vaguely relate to.

When I found out I had cancer and thought I was going to die I was surprised little changed. All I wanted to do was live the life I was already living. I was happy with my life and (most of) the decisions I’d made.

I am saddened by his terrible illness, but if McCain really does have to make radical shifts, I’m also disappointed.

None of us are going to be here forever. Be a good person today.

Twenty Two Trips To The Treatment Center

This was my 22nd IV drip here. Who in their craziest dream could imagine that? It’s not something you prep for. Like most tasks the more you do it the easier it gets. Other than the needle penetrating the skin over my port, I feel nothing.

At the Keck USC Norris Treatment Center in Newport Beach. I don’t think photos are allowed.

I’m told my days at the treatment center are over. We’ll see. I’ve been told I was done twice before, once after chemo and then after my first round of iron.

Surprise!

This was my 22nd IV drip here. Who in their craziest dream could imagine that? It’s not something you prep for.

Like most tasks the more you do it the easier it gets. Other than the needle penetrating the skin over my port, I feel nothing. Even the needle only hurts for a second and only hurts a little.

In two weeks I’ll have blood drawn then visit my oncologist’s physician assistant for the readback. My cancer numbers are perfect. My iron is still suspect.

All the nurses were gathered together today as I left. I stopped by to tell them how important their caring was. Seriously, I can imagine this being a hellish experience without a caring staff.

I know most of their names. They all know mine. Twenty two visits is an awful lot.

It’s Nice To Have Nice Neighbors

Sandra is Bob Vila-like! My question had to do with our door latch. She told me. Then she did it.

Helaine and I are the only empty nesters on our block It was a decision we made before we moved to SoCal. We love having kids around. We’re hoping it keeps us young.

Sandra, Michael and their three kids live at the end of our block. I’d offered to give a weather talk at kids’ school and walked over this afternoon to try and firm it up… and get some advice.

Sandra is Bob Vila-like! My question had to do with our door latch.

She told me. Then she did it.

We entertained the kids by giving them Doppler and some jerky treats. Perfect.

No more banging my shoulder against the door to open it. Thanks neighbor!

When Is The Time Right, Las Vegas Edition

Courtesy: NBC News www.nbcnews.com

I just tried to watch Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue on the Las Vegas massacre. After a few seconds I had to stop. With me he’s preaching to the choir. It’s too painful to be reminded we let this to happen. We choose not to stop it.

How can anyone hear the audio from the shooting and not wonder why this level of death machine is allowable? I just don’t get it.

I have friends who are sportsmen. I don’t want to restrict their fun, but I do ask they allow themselves to be inconvenienced for the common good.

This is the time to talk about gun control. Right now while we’re angry. Right now while we’re grieving. Right now while we can close our eyes and hear that sound.

Love/Hate Relationship With The Thing In My Chest

“The Alien,” I said. “I hate it. It freaks me out” It does! No one wants something the size of a bottle cap embedded in their chest.

This is how the port is placed, but it’s all under the skin.

Yesterday was treatment day. Carrie was my nurse. She is most days.

As she prepared the potion to be dripped into my chest we chatted about my catheter port. It’s how I get IV fluids. It’s a small receptacle under-the-skin below my right shoulder. Small tubes connect it to my central artery. A needle still breaks my skin but it’s orders of magnitude less invasive than a normal IV line.

“The Alien,” I said. “I hate it. It freaks me out”

It does! No one wants something the size of a bottle cap embedded in their chest.

On the other hand it’s been used over twenty times. That’s a lot of times my arms or hands were spared.

“I’m glad you’ve got it,” Carrie said. She wondered how my veins would have stood up to this amount of use?

I have a love/hate relationship with this thing in my chest. I’m not getting rid of it any time soon.

The Nightmare In Puerto Rico Is Just Beginning

Arecibo Observatory, Arecibo, Puerto Rico

It was very difficult for me to watch TV as Irma, Jose and Maria flattened much of what they touched.

Two problems. First, I’d rather get my hurricane data raw, not digested by someone like (gulp) me. Second, I know how this story ends.

You probably don’t look at them too often, but most meteorologists have at least a passing acquaintance with the typhoons and cyclones that rage in other parts of the world. Poor people don’t have the mobility to get out of the way nor the infrastructure to quickly recover. We see it all the time.

Gross Domestic Product per capita, USA vs PR

Yes, Puerto Rico is part of the United States, but a very poor and often neglected part. We’re already hearing about suffering and disease. It will only get worse.

It’s going to be difficult to move supplies and personnel beyond the cities for a long time. I’m surprised I’ve haven’t seen or heard more about helicopters. Much that’s needed will have to be airdropped.

Be prepared. This tragedy is just beginning to play out.

The Crazy Insurance Problem

I’m going to tell you about my insurance problem, but you’re probably not going to believe me.

It is impossible to get a statement of my account! There’s none on the website. There’s none anywhere.

My suspicion is even they don’t know for sure who did what to me and when.

Make no mistake, this insurance policy has served me well. I have paid for drugs and not much else.

Actually it’s drugs where the problem lies. My insurer allows some drug charges directly billed by the provider. The insurer never enters these charges in their books (or so it seems). I’m not sure they’re even told I’ve been billed.

If these outside charges put me above my cap, charges to me should stop. I don’t think they do/did.

And, again, there’s no way for me to see an accounting of the services provided or how much was paid. It’s crazy.

It’s possible I struck gold today in my call with Brandy at Blue Shield. She sounded excited to do the sleuthing. I’ll report back later.

They Hit My Credit Card Again

Today we played the “Addresses From my Past” game. The agent read three addresses then asked which I’d lived at. She did it twice. One was the condo H and I bought in 1984. The other was my apartment in Buffalo. I moved there in 1980!

“New expiration date,” Helaine said while looking at her grey and blue, jet plane festooned, VISA card.

We now expire in 2020. To the best of my knowledge we’ve NEVER had a card last all-the-way through. There’s always a problem, mostly fraud.

Helaine got a text from Chase last weekend. We avoided contact (the way you try and keep an airplane middle seat empty) until they finally stopped a purchase in a store. New cards came yesterday.

One of the stranger parts of this all-too-familiar ballet was convincing VISA I’m me!

Today we played the, “Addresses From my Past,” game. The agent read three addresses then asked which I’d lived at. She did it twice. One was the condo H and I bought in 1984. The other was my apartment in Buffalo. I moved there in 1980!

That’s one complete and scary dossier they’ve got on us. “Creepy,” said Helaine. Yes, it is.

Now comes the tedious job of changing numbers with merchants who keep my card number on file. I hate this part with a passion.

Isn’t there a way to keep this stuff safe? Is tighter security really more expensive than what’s happening today?