April 21st, 2009


[links] Link salad heads for New York City

Sally Forth on the dangers of exposition

Cheese of the Season — Great article on sheep and goat milk cheeses. (Thanks to kenscholes.)

Dark Roasted Blend with early monorails — Some serious cool here.

Military R.R.: 1865Shorpy with a Civil War era railroading photo. Note the very weird depth of field in this image.

Business secrets of the Trappists

Global Warming Predictions — More liberal propaganda from those pinkos at NASA.

Did Pentagon create orbital space plane? — Some cool black project stuff here. (Snurched from Dark Roasted Blend.)

?otD: Did anyone get the number of that jet?

Body movement: n/a (travel day)
This morning's weigh-in: 219.2
Currently reading: The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville

Originally published at jlake.com.


[cancer] The Fear pays me a visit

Settling in on the plane, I made a casual joke to my seatmate about how any day you wake up above ground with no bars on the window is a good day. (No, it's not that funny, but it had context in our brief conversation.) That bit of silliness opened the door to the Fear.

The Fear is never too far from the place behind my eyes where the "I" lives. Legacy of the cancer, for me, of course. I never had it before getting sick last year. Though there are certainly other kinds of fear, this one is my own special brand. My digestion has never been quite the same since the cancer, so even without wisecracks or occasionally noticing my surgery scars in the bathroom mirror, I have an everpresent reminder.

Now, of course, the anniversary of the cancer approaches. I've never been big on special dates. Probably legacy of the moveable feast that was my birthday in childhood. We moved every year or two — the longest we stayed in one place was three years, once — and always right at the end of the school year, where my birthday falls. Even on years we didn't move, we tended to take family vacation or home leave right then. My birthday was celebrated far more often at random times than ever it was on the date of my natal anniversary, often more than once.

So it is with the cancer. No one knows when it first began. I don't have April 29th circled on the calendar to mark its visible onset in my life via ER ambush. In fact, that's a date I have to look up. May 9th, the date of my surgery, is engraved in my consciousness, perhaps because I approached that event with malice aforethought and much worry.

A cancer season has been added to the calendar of my life. Right now and for the next few weeks to come the wind blows out of the sign of the crab. My scar aches in my mind, even when the seam in my body is quiet. We will celebrate this season, my body and I, with observances of the Fear, bouts of unpleasant memory, a continual carrier wave of gratitude, and (on May 14th and 15th) medical tests to ferret out any evidence that my most intimate enemy has not yet left the stage.

Afterwards, there will be a party with my family, a few close friends, and calendula_witch. A way to banish the Fear until the next cancer season. Or, if the worst happens during the tests, a way to celebrate a new cancer season, and launch me on the path of its defeat.

Originally published at jlake.com.


[travel] New York, New York

What a day. Flight from Portland to Dallas was simple enough, with a first class upgrade to ease my tired body and mind from jet lag. I also had grabbed a first class seat to New York, but when I arrived in Dallas, I found my flight had been cancelled.

Several phone calls and a failed attempt to standby later, and I was on a flight about four hours behind my original schedule, which was to be here in time for dinner. Problem is, the seat I got assigned was the one by the lavs in the very back, for which I had lost a first class seat, and had no shot at my usual exit row. Meanwhile, emails to my colleague already in Manhattan and to my department admin generate several calls to the hotel to confirm my late arrival.

Then when it's time to board that flight, we're told we're on a ground hold from air traffic control in New York. Because it's a ground hold, they board us anyway, then go hot rodding around the DFW taxiways for 20 minutes or so before grinding to a halt and waiting for the queue to free up. We'd been advised 40-70 minutes, but they made out a little under 40. More emails ensue concerning later arrival, more phone calls made on my behalf.

Sitting next to a flight attendant on the plane deadheading back from my same cancelled flight, she tells me it was cancelled due to traffic issues in New York. The dead hand of the City has already reached out to freeze my soul, I realize.

We finally get to LGA about an hour behind this flight's schedule, which puts me five hours behind my original schedule. All the airport concessions are closed due to the late hour, so I can't even grab a sandwich. Downstairs in baggage, the English skills of the American Airlines baggage agent are so poor that she can't understand what I'm trying to ask about my luggage arriving on an earlier flight. (Think about that, putting someone in that job who can't understand that kind of question.) She kept pointing to a row of suitcases where my luggage wasn't, then told me to wait for this flight's luggage to appear.

It finally does, not on the carousel marked for it. I walk over there, and presto, another row of old luggage, including mine, which has been waiting for me the whole time I've been following the baggage agent's instructions to wait for the luggage from my late flight.

I go out to the taxi stand, which was designed by an optimist who thought perhaps two people would need a taxi from La Guardia at any time. Forty people in line, forty cabs waiting for them, and it still takes fifteen minutes to get a cab because they can't get in to the freaking stand to pick up passengers. Driver doesn't know where my hotel is, I call for information. Hotel welcomes me to New York, tells me to come on over. Off we go into the madness that is the FDR.

On arriving at the hotel, I am told very apologetically that they have no room for me. They are oversold, and had not been notified of my late arrival. To my certain knowledge, they'd been notified at least five times, starting around noon, but none of the phone calls which ended with "no problem" included anyone making a note in my reservation.

I have a fit. (This is rare for me, I am generally very nice to people in the service industry, who are almost never at fault for whatever idiocy is in play, and even if they are, having a fit doesn't help much.) I apologize for my fit. I am given a top floor suite at another hotel four blocks away at a "very discounted rate." I am given $10 for cab fare. I am given a cab.

Mirable dictu, the new place has a room for me. It is a suite on the 36th floor. Once I get in, I discover the bathroom door is locked and will not unlock, necessitating a call to Engineering. I discover there is no wireless, so I can't sprawl in bed with my laptop, but at least the Ethernet works. I discover room service will send up goat cheese ravioli and an apple-pear-avocado salad with blue cheese.

Basically, a one-day trip to New York has turned into far more hassle than a full ten days of roaming around the breadth of China. On the other hand, I have goat cheese ravioli in a very tall suite. And I have been reading this book on the Beguin heresy in fourteenth century Languedoc, because sometimes one ought to read way outside one's habitual zone.

Originally published at jlake.com.