April 17th, 2013


[links] Link salad's whole world depends on the turn of a friendly card

Reddit Fantasy AMA — On Thursday, April 18th (tomorrow), I'll be participating in the Reddit Fantasy Ask Me Anything.

Badgers, Books and Bacon — Note what this badger is standing on. Heh.

What is the rule for adjective order? — One of those simple looking questions that is in fact fantastically complicated. (Snurched from @elfsternberg.)

Braving End of the Tunnel Blues — Fellow late stage cancer patient (and friend) Janet Freeman-Daily talks about "End of the Tunnel Blues". Though perhaps they should be "Beginning of the Tunnel Blues"?

Hospital finances are broken. How to fix them.[D]etails about why hospitals might not have any financial incentive to follow best practices. A new paper from researchers affiliated with Harvard, Boston Consulting Group and nonprofit health care delivery system Texas Health Resources suggests that, in some cases, providing worse care pays off for hospitals. This has not been my experience at all, but I may simply be lucky in that respect.

Combat juggling — No, really. (Thanks to [info]willyumtx.)

Applicants wanted for a one-way ticket to Mars — Would you go?

Archaeology on an Interstellar Scale — Cool post from Centauri Dreams. Damned cool.

Mt. Hood and a Lenticular Cloud — I have seen these. They are very strange.

What Happens When You Throw Some Glow Sticks into a Waterfall — (Via my brother.)

Ice Caves Around the World — Gorgeous. (Via Lisa Costello.)

An Illustrated Tour Of Australia's Museum of Copulatory Organs — Ah, the bracing cut and thrust of museum science. (Via David Goldman.)

Study backs 'hobbit' island dwarfism theoryA diminutive species of human whose remains were found on the Indonesian island of Flores could have shrunk as a result of island dwarfism as it adapted to its environment.

Barbie Body Would Be Pretty Odd-Looking In Real Life — Whereas I closely resemble a Ken doll myself.

Death Test Reveals Strength of Social InteractionSocial ties between humans are stronger than those between fruit flies or ants but weaker than those between bees, according to a cheerful new ranking based on how quickly creatures die when they become isolated.

200 Strangers Respond To Facebook Invitation For Funeral Of Veteran With No Friends Or FamilyHundreds of strangers attended the funeral of a British veteran after a clergyman, fearing that the former Royal Marine would be buried without mourners, posted a message on Facebook asking people to attend. (Via [info]threeoutside.)

Is the Grand Canyon showing its age?This is science in action—researchers debating a 65 million year conflict between evidence from traditional geological methods and new dating technology. A concept that's hard to understand when your highest value is willful ignorance and rejection of the reality-based world.

Yes, Climate Change Is Worsening U.S. Drought — NOAA Report Needlessly Confuses The Issue — Much like O.J. Simpson's defense team, in the face of an overwhelming preponderance of evidence, climate change denialists will seize on any anomaly in the pretense that it negates all the rest of the weight of the evidence. That's not how science works, and most conservatives leading the denialist clamor know perfectly well better.

Multnomah County Sheriff Halts Washington Concealed Handgun Applications — I'm sure the gun nut conspiracy theories are already rolling, given the calm and rational nature of handgun advocates.

When Hacking Is the Smaller CrimeHere’s a fascinating article in the Yale Journal of International Affairs, by Paul Rexton Kan of the U.S. Army War College, about cyberwar between non-state agents — in this case, Anonymous versus Los Zetas, the Mexican drug cartel.

Top Ten Ways Islamic Law forbids Terrorism — Pretty sure the Christian tradition does likewise, but that doesn't stop clinic bombers.

The Boston Blasts and Terrorism: A Historian’s Take on What It Means

'Toolbox' that shut down Steel Bridge was actually a TriMet fare box — Portland's own contribution to public safety. This is what terrorism does. It makes paranoid incompetents of us all. Viz the entire Bush 43 administration.

Rubio: Don’t Tie Immigration Reform To Boston BombingImmigration reform opponent Rep. Steve King (R-IA) suggested legislation should be delayed just in case the bombing is linked to a foreign suspect. In case you had any lingering doubt that Republicans were anything but complete buffoons, that should take care of it. The stupid, it burns.

Microsoft Excel: The ruiner of global economies?A paper used to justify austerity economics appears to contain an Excel error. Austerity economic is like supply-side economics: a mathematical fantasy that appeals to certain ideologies without any grounding in the real world.

The Willful Blindness of Bush LoyalistsRepublicans are very good at embellishing or inventing Bush’s successes, and they need no encouragement in this regard. What they plainly refuse to do is to acknowledge Bush-era disasters for what they are, accept that the public holds their party responsible for those disasters, and try to find some way to correct the errors made. I will submit that when your entire ideology and your party's political fortunes are based on wholesale denial of objective reality (i.e. evolution denialism, climate change denialism, supply side economics, etc.), it becomes much harder to engage in honest self-reflection. Conservatives have deeply corrupted their own habits of thought. That's the basis of the well-documented conservative epistemic closure.

QotD?: Who could have prevented the fall of the unwise?

Writing time yesterday: 2.0 hours (60 minutes and 1,500 words on Original Destiny, Manifest Sin, plus 60 minutes minutes of WRPA to produce 1,800 words of nonfiction)
Hours slept: 6.25 hours (solid)
Body movement: 0.5 hours (stationary bike)
Weight: 248.0
Number of FEMA troops on my block checking the magazine sizes of gun owners: 0
Currently reading: The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett


[cancer] Field notes from Cancerland, income tax week edition


Things feel complicated right now. (With good reason, I might add.) In addition to my CT scan on 5/7 and my oncology appointment on 5/8, I have an appointment with my primary care physician on 5/10 to discuss the implications of liver failure, and what kind of planning we can do. I'm told by Reliable Sources that one of the best uses of a written care plan is to remind the patient of decisions they made when their head was clear. Irrational behavior and cognitive deficits are a common feature of progressive liver failure. To that same end, we have requested an appointment with the oncology department's staff nutritionist to talk about the kinds of food choices that can help my liver the most as it degrades, while also being compatible with chemotherapy nutrition guidelines. Even if I somehow squeak past the current round of issues without hitting the end game, all these factors will apply soon enough.


The timing of JayCon XIII (June 15th) is such that if we hit a terminal diagnosis next month, I may reconfigure the event to be my pre-mortem wake. That will require some serious logistical thinking, including possibly a hotel contract, which may in turn be impossible to get on such short notice. We shall see. The longer I wait, the harder it will be to plan such an event.

Whole Genome Sequencing

I have a phone consultation later this week with the computational biology consultancy who are performing the clinical analysis and recommendations for the Whole Genome Sequencing. I truly do not know what to expect. My hope is that we identify some alternate treatment paths that might buy me life extension for a year or two. I think we've slid well past the tipping point of being able to cure me — certainly that's the overwhelming medical evidence. This might come to nought, it might be significant. Once again, I want to thank everyone who made this possible.

Awards Ceremonies

We've decided to bring [info]the_child to the Nebula Awards ceremony. This is being accomplished in large part through the significant good offices of Crystal Black. I've also been talking to the Hugo Awards ceremony coordinator about what to do if I cannot make it to San Antonio this ceremony. My suggestion was to have [info]the_child be my acceptor, and possibly also present the Campbell tiara as my representative. That latter is not up to me at all, but I certainly can designate her as my acceptor. My concerns about me not making to San Antonio will depend largely on how my immune system reacts to whatever treatment I go on with this latest round of metastasis. I can fight my way through even pathological exhaustion, but only if I can get on a plane without fearing for my life.

People Doing Things

An author friend recently sent me a story that was a sort of love letter about cancer, writing and death. Another writer sent me an impassioned handwritten note about the friendship they regret we will never be able to fully develop. An online acquaintance did some hilarious art. People are doing things which touch my heart, make me weep and make me smile. This is good. This is also very strange. There's a part of me that keeps expecting to wake up from the nightmare. To discover it's all been a horrible mistake and I am fine. The words and deeds of others help keep me centered and sane.

Death Head

I'm acquiring what I've privately dubbed "death head". That is to say, the imminent reality of my cancer's end game is becoming far more real to me. In point of fact, this has been the case since the rather grim January surgical outcomes. It's just this new evidence of elevated CEA levels has propelled me into the next stage of my emotional journey. In effect, I am learning how to die. And I'm trying to teach the people around me how to help me die. This pops up in almost every aspect of my life, and I'm far from having a handle on it. I'll be discussing death head more over the coming weeks and months. For now, suffice to say I'm rapidly evolving a very different outlook on life, my personal priorities, and what's important enough to require my commitment of attention and resources.


[cancer] How to talk to someone in my position

This is a question which keeps popping up. How do you talk to someone in my position, or an analogous one? Someone with a fatal illness, someone approaching or already within the end stages. I'll say more on this down the line, but here's a few simple tips based on my experiences.
  • Acknowledge what we're saying. Changing the subject or acting like it isn't real doesn't help

  • Don't minimize. We really do have a pretty good handle on what's going on. What may look like emotional drama to you is the hard reality of everyday life for us.

  • Don't project your own fears. Remember that you are losing a friend, but we are losing everyone we have ever known or loved.

  • Don't go into problem solving mode. If we want advice, we'll ask for it. Chances are good we or our caregivers have thought exhaustively about our choices and alternatives.

  • Don't compare. Whatever we're dealing with, whatever is killing us, that is overwhelmingly unique to our personal experience.

  • Listen.

The obvious caveat is that if we ask you something specific, run with it. The patient gets to make or break these guidelines at their own discretion. Likewise if your relationship has a specific dimension, one tip or another may not apply. I want my doctor to problem solve. When I'm talking to another cancer patient, we compare constantly. But these are a good starting point.