Sunday, May 31, 2015

Reindeer Sausages

Anchorage Alaska

When I was doing background research for the first trip to Alaska,  I read about vendors selling reindeer sausages in Anchorage.  I had a few free hours in Anchorage and thought, what the heck, how many times in my life will that option be available.  The  vendor was wearing this shirt, she should have been selling the shirts as an add on to the hot-dog.  I couldn't find one for sale anyplace nearby.  

So how was it, think sweet and slightly spicy bratwurst. In other words actually quite good,  it was grilled and served with grilled onions and a squirt of mustard in a hot dog bun.  No word on the fate of Rudolph.    

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Before and After MRIs

So I have been pretty transparent in this process, the image above is from the first MRI before surgery, and the tumor is in the red box.  The image below is the day after surgery, and the boxed area should be the same area without the tumor (or at least without most of it.)  The post surgery MRI is a little harder for me to decipher, not on the same scale (uses different viewing software that is not as easy to manipulate.) You can see the void, you can also see how much bone was lost to the tumor and the surgery for removal.  That is going to take a while to heal and stabilize.  Isn't technology grand?

I am using a walker, I walked 30 minutes with stopping this morning.  I figured out how to get in and out of the brace without help last night.  That means I can get up in the night without waking anyone.  It takes me longer to do it alone, but it really felt good to gain another inch of independence.  

The first post discharge follow up with the Neurosurgeon is Monday morning.  I will find out what the next step in the adventure is.   

A Safe Bet You Have Never Been Here

The first time I was in Alaska, I took a float plane "flightseeing" tour from Anchorage to Denali National Part and Mt McKinney.  We flew the gorge of the Ruth glacier, I have some great pictures of that with the sheer cliff faces soaring high above the wings in both sides.  I want to go back, K-2 Aviation out of  Talkeetna does tours that land on the glacier on skis, I have to do that one day.

This trip was on Rusts Flying Service out of Anchorage. Time was tight (this was a one day add on to a work trip) and the only way I was going to see the mountain was to fly, and who can resits three hours on a plane that was older then I am.  There were two options for Denali, one was fly out and see the mountain and fly back, and for an extra $50 I think it was they add in a remote water landing on or near the mountain. Being a control freak, I wanted to know what lake for the landing and the answer was the best available on the day.  Grump, I took my chance on the option.  Oh am I glad I did.  The lake we landed on is a glacial melt lake on the side of the mountain.  The pilot said is is safe to land on just a few days each spring when the snow melt brings the level up high enough for the floats to clear the boulders in water.  It is a hard day's hike in and out and few - very few people are there, except for the few people lucky enough to be there on a day when the float planes can land every year.

It was amazing to be in a place to remote and so spectacular.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Frieze of the Acropolis

British Museum, London

Sounds like a good title for a movie.  I mentioned in a recent post that the relief sculptures from the temple on the Parthenon in Athens  are in a museum in London.  Here is a picture of part of them.  They are inside out, here they are in a room about the size of the building facing in, they would have been around the outside facing out.  They are incomplete, a lot of bits and pieces have been lost over time.  

I understand you could spend days in the British Museum, well maybe some people can I seldom last more than 2-3 hours in any museum, but it is huge.  I went there specifically to see this exhibit and it is worth the trip.  On the way in watch out for the Rosetta Stone, the one with the same message repeated in several ancient languages that has been a key to deciphering several long lost languages, I almost bumped into it (I don't want to be famous for knocking it over and breaking it.)  

The original library of the Museum is nearby and worth a walk through for those who dream of amazing library spaces.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Health Update

I am home.  I am working to set up at home physical therapy for a couple of weeks, until I can get into the outpatient clinic at Inova Mt Vernon.  I really had no idea, the inpatient facility is one of the best in the country.  They did amazing work, and I pushed hard and want to get better.  On the way home we stopped at the pharmacy for prescriptions and using a walker, I walked in and waited, we picked up lunch and ate in the car, and we went out to the DMV and picked up a "handicap" parking permit. DMV was the least accommodating space, a bad traffic pattern that requires a lot of walking, no power door openers, and no accommodation inside, stand in line and wait.  But the mission was accomplished.  The parking permit will really help here at the Condo, with parking that is flat (slopes are a challenge) and closer to the lobby doors.  We are coping so far with the challenges at home, it will be a huge load on J for a few weeks.  Each day I get back the ability to do just a little more.  They said by the time I could get myself into the brace without help, I'd be ready to stop wearing it.  Follow up with neurosurgeons on the 15th.  So I have a couple of weeks to heal and build strength.  When the office said the 15th, I said I will be ready to Waltz by then (I never could dance, but might just try.)  

Go and Do When you Can

Near Vravrona, Greece 
I have done some silly trips over the years, cross country to San Francisco for 36 hours on the ground, Amsterdam and Paris in 6 nights from Florida. I like to travel and seize nearly any opportunity to do so (I did pass on Iowa one March.)  About 20 year's ago I was working for a builder in Florida, Scott was the construction manager on the project.  He was young, bright, well educated, attractive and married. This was during the Yuppie craze and they were poster children for Young Upwardly Mobile Professionals.  Scott and I were talking one day and I mentioned that the winter before I had gone to Amsterdam for two nights and Paris for four nights.  He was fascinated by traveling, but kept saying, we are going to wait until we can do it right, you know go for three or four weeks and really see Europe - he had visions of the grand tour.  I stuck with my guns and said, when you get a chance to go, go, even if it is only for a long weekend (at that time there were some great deals on round trip air and three nights in Amsterdam.)

A couple of weeks later, Scott was playing softball on the company team and he collapsed in the outfield.  He was dead before the paramedics could arrive from a burst aneurysm. He never made it to Europe, he waited too long.  When you get a chance, go and do. We regret most what we did not do.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Florida Waters

Merritt Island, National Wildlife Refuge

When people think of Florida they think of the long Atlantic and Gulf beaches, and those are certainly an important attraction. Florida also has thousands of fresh water rivers, swamps, ponds and lakes.  Some of them are springs that can be hundred of feet deep, but most are shallow, warm in the summer, cool in the winter.  Most are home to diverse wildlife.  Turtles are a favorite food of alligators, Florida is home to several varieties of turtle and tortoise (if I remember correctly one lives in the water and the other on land.)  I have vivid memories of encountering an alligator-snapping turtle next to my car one afternoon in Maitland, Florida.

Turtles are easy to spot sunning themselves just above the water level on a cool sunny winter day, and like this one, hanging out in sun warmed shallows on a mild March day.  In warmer weather, they will move into deeper, cooler waters. I can remember lugging five pounds of guidebooks for birds, wildflowers, fish and reptiles when I explored the woods of Florida, today all you need is a smart phone (assuming you can get a signal) and if snap a quick picture and identify what you have seen when you get home.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cactus Flowers - NM

Someplace in New Mexico

I love the high dry dessert.  It is a deep visceral reaction. I just relax and go Ahhhhhhh! It is probably tied to two visits to Arizona as a very young child.  When I was in kindergarten, my family spent three weeks in Phoenix, the following winter we lived in Phoenix from November until March, my first year in the first grade.  Oh, by the way, failing the first grade shouldn't frame anyone's expectations.  I went on to finish in the top 10% of my undergraduate class and my doctorate with honors (top 20% of the class.)  But that is off the topic,  I love the landscape of the high desert.  

I like the colors, the flora and fauna. I like the earthy colors of the land, the contrast of the cactus, mesquite, and scrub grass. In a lot of ways, the colors remind me of Italy, but the light is much brighter with much greater contrast.  The desert blooms, it smells, it is inviting,  A lot of high desert is hot, some of it is higher and cooler.  From Las Vegas to Tuscon to Albuquerque I love the desert.   

Monday, May 25, 2015

The rest of the outfit has arrived

Memorial Day

  1. Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial Colleville-sur-Mer, France
As has become somewhat of a tradition, my Memorial Day posting returns to Normandy, the site of the Allied invasion of France to end World War II in Europe. I have been to Normandy twice, it is a worthwhile trip to understand the challenges and sacrifice that was faced to push back against extremists within our parents life times.  

I am reminded that Memorial Day is not the start of summer, not the date when it is okay to wear white shoes and belts for the season, but a day in honor of those who committed and in many cases died in the wars of the past. I wish we could do a better job of remembering that when we fail to learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.  

So today, watch 'The Longest Day," remember the allied invasion, chuckle at the line "gummy-puppen!"  But remember the reason for the day.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

What Have I Learned

It has been a complicated month.  I have had more medical care in three weeks then I have had in a lifetime put together.  What have I learned?

  • I am a tough old bird. 
  • I am strong in ways I never new I could be
  • My emotional breaking point is not as deep as I thought it was
  • I can be fearsome and vulnerable
  • The show went on without me (I cancelled back to back conferences when the doctors urged me to find the nearest emergency room) 
  • I can delegate
  • I need to develop trust by those I have delegated to
  • Privacy is overrated, want to see my behind,  I don't care, help me get well
  • If your health has you crossing things off the list as things you will never do, go get help.  I am adding things back on the list
  • Money can't fix everything, but good insurance gets you a private room and the best experts.
  • Life is to short to not have fun, be kind, and do good each day.
  • It is okay to ask for help, I can't to somethings today for the first time in 55 years. 
  • It is one thing to recognize stress, another to relax. I could write a book on this.
  • Cherish everyone, when the chips are down you will be amazed at who is there for you
  • Being zen is very important
  • Anything said or done when one is on pain medication should be weighed carefully. Percocet is not my friend. 

Health Update

I should have gotten a sponsor,  this health update brought to you by------.

The picture shows the metal work supporting my spine in the middle.  It is held in by screws from the back.  A quick x-ray and we can now check to see if I have a screw lose.

Physical and occupational therapy are progressing well.  I suspected they are going to kick me out in a  few days.  I still lack strength and flexibly in my knees. And I fatigue easily.  I haven't worked so hard and sweated so much in years.  I am now 23.5 hours without a pain pill. As long as I keep my back straight and don't overdo movement I am comfortable.  My focus is much better without the drugs. I really don't get why people want to live life in the fog of percocet, but then I don't live in their mind and body. Being this close to the edge of my physical and mental limits, I am learning so much about myself. 

On Friday they moved me to a private room in what J described as the good insurance wing. The room is nice, what a hospital room would  look like when Hilon got done. They are attentive.  Room service.  The service is good. The food is boring.  The microwave is across the hall from my room and if I ask they will warm things up.

Brake on - Brake off

A few years ago, we spent a week with friends who live in London in a small village in Yorkshire.  We rented a row house, and Bert rented a car for the week. Driving on the other side of the road is a challenge (I drove in London - once many years ago,) it was nice to have natives doing the driving,  Bert and DB live in London and don't own a car, they rent a car several times a year.  For this trip they rented a French made mid-sized four door, sort of a tiny mini-van type thing.  It was comfortable for four real sized adults.

It had an unusual feature, and electric parking brake.  Now with a manual transmission you use the parking brake, usually a lever on the floor that you pull up and snap down.  I know my car has a parking brake, but with an automatic transmission I don't think I have ever used it. British driver training apparently creates an obsession with parking brakes and the electric parking brake threw Bert for a curve.  At one point, we were parked at the curb, getting ready to go and Bert decided he needed to figure out how the parking brake worked, he was clicking it on and clicking it off, saying "brake on" " brake off'  "brake on"  "brake off".    The last day I was there, he forgot to click the brake off, and discovered that it automatically released, when you let up on the clutch (a feature that Cadillac pioneered before WWII.)

Two other observations of British driving,  a tendency to say "Sorry" with a quick wave at the other driver, and calling out TRACTOR or RABBIT if one was spotted coming the other way or crossing the road.

I wonder what looks odd about our driving to the Brits?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Indy 500

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, Indian

I like open wheel racing, Indy-Car, Indy Lites, the new formula -E-series, Formula One.  My love affair with Indy-car began as a teen, back the wild west days when many of the cars were once of a kind, and the rules were very liberal.  There is something magical about a car going by at 220 miles per hour. 

I have not been to Indianapolis for the big race, I avoid huge crowds and traffic jams.  I have been there a couple of times for qualifying weekends.  Indy is the "BIG SHOW" in the season, qualifying takes place over a couple of weekends before the race.  When I was in Lexington it was only a 3-4 drive to Indy, tickets for qualifying weekends are cheap (as I recall $15.)  The crowds are small and most of the track is open to explore.  The only thing I couldn't get into was Pit Lane - you needed a sponsor badge for that - I tried to buy one of those from a 12 year old ticket scalper in the parking lot one time, but he didn't want to sell, he did sell me sponsor general admission tickets but not the pit passes that went with them.  I dare say he sold those for a nice premium later.  You can get right in behind the pits on the pre-race weekends, areas that are closed on race day. You get close enough to see and hear the drivers talking to their crews, you will be surprised at how small the drivers are.  There is a nice museum in the infield.  

The drivers, teams and owners are extremely competitive spending days working on a fraction of a second on a 2.5 mile track, and yet there is something gentile about open wheel racing.  They make no secret of being the toys of wealth sponsors. There is a graceful elegance in the lines of a car built to push the envelope of speed.  

I detest NASCAR - they talk about the Ford, or Chevy - or Toyota, but not a single part of that car came down the assembly line. The language, culture and tone of NASCAR turns me off, but then I am not their market.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

Up and dressed.

Survived the first day of physical and occupational therapy. I did more than I expected.  But I also discovered the limits.   Lots of work to do.  Simple things.  I was 80% able to dress myself morning.    The brace will present some challenges. 

Concepts I have studied for years are very real.  When you are this dependant on others the attitude and quality of the caregivers becomes hyper critical.  I  called in Wonder Woman and simply said, there are power and control issues with X. WW was well trained.  She knew I felt vulnerable to a caregiver who was being manipulative to those most dependant on her care.

Temple of Aegina

The temple on the acropolis in Athens is the famous one, you know the one someone used as a gunpowder magazine and someone else used for target practice.  Yes, that is why they have spent the last couple hundred years trying to piece it back together.  And even if they do get it back together all of the sculptures from the frieze are in a museum in London.  How did they end up in London, the Turks were occupying Athens, Lord Elgin asked the Turks if he could have them and they said, take what ever you want, and before the Greeks could take back the city, he crated them all up and shipped them off to London.  The British Museum has taken the position that they were a gift from the government in Athens at the time they left the country, the Greeks - have never seen it quite that way.  The Acropolis is worth the climb, but the Temple is fenced off, you haven't been able to get near it for a couple of decades - but then it could be just closed for cleaning for a decade or so.

If you want to get up close and personal with a relatively intact Greek Temple, take a ferry out to Aegina. You can take the island bus from the harbor, ask and they will tell you which one goes to the temple.  The bus leaves when they have sold enough seats to cover costs, as I recall we waited about 20 minutes.  It is a pretty ride across the island, through olive groves and past a monastery.  You can get in and around the temple.  Be careful about getting off into the weeds.  A couple of days after I took this picture I had a terrible rash on my leg.  I stopped in a pharmacy down the street from the hotel.  The pharmacist looked at it and said, "you've been to Aegina - it is the only place that weed grows."  She sold me a cream that stopped the itch and the rash cleared in a few days.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

TBT - Timing

Musée d'Orsay, Paris France

The Orsay was built as a train station - there is  wonderful historic photo of a train that had brake trouble hanging out the end of the building.  It was closed as a train station, sat empty for years and was slated to be torn down.  Fortunately good sense prevailed and it was remodeled and opened as a museum.  The interior is grand.  This clock is on the end on an upper level and is original to the building.  The upper floor contains a billion dollar collection of impressionist art.  Truly and unbelievable collection.  We had a spectacular lunch in a dinning room in what had originally been the first class waiting room, champagne, duck confeit.

Timing is important, the station was built in the golden age of rail travel as an elegant temple of transportation, it was closed when money was tight, or it likely would have been demolished before it could be recognized as worth saving, and saved at a time when the commitment to art collections was sufficient to cover the cost.

Timing plays a big role in blogging also, I write ahead, generally in batches, and schedule posting for days or weeks ahead.  I try to review and edit the day before, but if I miss that I know something will post at 6:00 AM eastern time.  If something comes up that I want to talk about tomorrow, I simply reschedule what was scheduled for tomorrow and post away.  I was recently on the road for 10 days, my daily posting didn't reflect that I was traveling.  Posting online that you are away from home for two weeks, is not the best for security.  I will post about Texas and Florida over the coming weeks.  One nice thing about writing on travel, I don't have to post today, what I did today.  I have a couple of decades of travel experience that I draw on for my daily posts. 

Post script interesting edit.  I  didn't go out of town.  I have spent most of May in the hospital.  But the daily posts went on. Hopefully I am home before the backlog of drafts and uploaded  photos starts to run down.  Otherwise the view will start to change. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Health Update

Slept well.  I am feeling stronger each day.  The muscles in my legs are lose and floppy.  I have very little stamina on my feet. A couple of days I was starting to break the rules and push the limits. A couple of good conversations about the disaster that exceeding capacity and injury could lead to is enough to rein me in. Pain continues to be well managed. I am going beyond the re-done time frames pretty regularly.  The brace puts on a lot of pressure  but is needed to allow titanium bone and muscle to develop lifelong relationships. 

Waiting for insurance pre- authorization to move forward.  A new concept in time, medical time. My overall conception of time is changing.  So much to learn about myself. 


US Naval Academy, Annapolis Maryland

Annapolis is about 35 miles north east of Washington DC.  It is the Capital of Maryland, with one of the sweetest little tiny Capital buildings in the country. It is on the Chesapeake Bay, south of Baltimore near the Bay Bridge - and some of the worst traffic in the region.  The old downtown and harbor area are quaint, fun and touristy.  Annapolis is affectionately known as Nap town as in AnNAPolis.

I had a wonderful soft shell crab sandwich, I think the only soft shell crab I have ever had.  Crabs develop a hard shell, that does not grow as the crab grows, so they periodically molt, or shed the shell and develop a new one.  A soft shell crab has shed it's hard shell and the new shell has not hardened yet.  You eat basically the entire crab, they can be steamed or deep fried.  Very-very good.  You need to be in the right place, near the water that the crabs live in and they need to be fresh, when you find them, try them. You have to be a little brave, they look a little intimidating, but they are good.  They are also rare and moderately expensive (as I recall the soft-shell crab sandwich and fries was about $20.)  

The US Naval Academy is in Annapolis.  You have to show ID and clear security kind of like the airport to get onto the grounds of the Naval Academy, then you can wander around.  You can even pose on the big naval gun.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Los Alamos

Mock-ups of Little Boy and Fat Man at the Los Alamos Museum, New Mexico
I had a free day in New Mexico a few year's ago.  I went to Santa Fe and quickly became frustrated with traffic and the crowds, so I headed north to Los Alamos.  I had heard about it, the role that it played in the end of World War II.  It is out there a way, in the middle of no-where, the kind of place you would imagine putting a team of scientists and engineers working on the worlds most secret project.  There is a nice small museum in town, in one of the original cabins built for the Manhattan project. Very interesting, I looked around, took a couple of pictures and looked at the map.  I decided to go from there to a National Historic site with cliff dwelling remnants.

I programmed the destination into Ms Garmin and set off.  Following the directions, I was headed into the gates of what looked like the parking lots of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, I thought I must have missed a turn, did a U-turn and went around.  I hadn't missed a turn, Ms. Garmin and the maps directed me back to the security gate.  I pulled up and popped the window down.  I told the well armed guard where I was headed and asked how to get there, and he said, "we'll see."  He asked for my driver's license and said "your not from around here and your are driving a rental car, when you did the U-turn I ran the license plate - don't do that again."  Now I have been around our national Capital for a few year's but this was security at a level I have never seen before.  He stuck his head in the car and asked, "how much gas in the car?" Before I could answer he had checked the gauge and said "Three-quarters of tank, good, the most direct route to where you are going is through a highly secured area.  I can give you a pass to drive through but you have to agree to a couple of conditions.  You must drive at least 35 miles per hour, and not more then 60 miles per hour.  DO NOT STOP.  If you have a flat tire, keep driving until a security officer in a market truck with the blue lights on top motions for you to pull over and stop.  The officer will change the tire for you, you can not get out of the car, when you reach the cross road at the other end, turn right and you are on your way. Do you agree to all of that?"  Uh, yes, "good, here is your license and pass - leave the pass here on the dash clearly visible from the outside.  Remember, don't stop until you get to the right hand turn a the end of this road."

I have no idea what I drove through.  I didn't start glowing in the dark afterwards.  I am sure I am still in the database for having made the U-turn.

Health Update

I am making progress.  A little bit each day. I walked more on Monday than I had all week.  Pain management is okay.  I have to watch my stress level.  I am learning the joys of idleness. 

Trying to arrange an active inpatient physical therapy stay. I guess I finally get to go to boot camp.  That will start sometime this week.  Could be hours. Could be days. Medical time. 

The tumor guy said he would have me riding a bike in 60 days.  Then stopped and asked if I could ride before.  You may never forget.  But learning without knowing would be journal time.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Spotting the Tourists in the Crowd

Can you tell the locals from the tourists in this image? Before Blogger and Facebook, I was active on Virtual Tourist,  they have a very active online forum where people can post questions about travel and get advice from other forum members.  Every week someone would post about planning a trip to a foreign land and wanting to dress like a local so they would not stand out from the crowd as a tourist.  I frequently responded, dress comfortably, and modestly and don't try to look like a local.  The locals can pick out the tourists.  We look different, we dress differently in subtle and sometimes not quite so subtle ways. We talk differently, we carry ourselves differently.   I notice differences in foot wear and socks as I travel.  In Europe, printed T-shirt in English featuring "American" themes, frequently are fictional to avoid paying licensing fees to US universities and athletic teams.

The picture above was taken at the bus stop at the Temple of Aegina on the Island of Aegina in Greece.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Denver Museum of Contemporary Art

Love them or hate them, it is hard to miss a Frank Gehry designed building.  Bold geometric shapes, angular, clad in shiny surfaces, they stand out from other buildings while being designed to reflect the landscape.  The shapes appear to defy gravity, I sometimes wonder how they stand up.  They are wonders of engineering, and construction.  To work well the interiors need to fit the shape of the building and defy the traditional boxes of post and beam construction.  Light, heat and air-conditioning need to be designed, installed and maintained to exacting standards for the space to work.

Frank Gehry designed the new Facebook campus.  The design is described as open and industrial, almost unfinished in appearance.  The unfinished appearance was intentional, making the space appear as a work in progress, to remind that the staff that their product needs to be considered a work in progress.  It also has a huge green roof garden.  A great building.

Not everyone likes Gehry's designs, they defy tradition, use non-traditional materials and appear different.  I like them, but then I am a little different.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Produce Boat - Aegina Greece

A couple of weeks ago I shared a posting from a Greek Tourist promotion site featuring the produce boats that visit the islands of Greece.  When we were in Greece we did a day trip to the Island of Aegina. Aegina is an easy ferry ride from the port nearest to Athens, we took the high speed hydrofoil out an back.  I will post about that one day.  The harbor is a center of activity, for locals and tourists, with nearly everything that is imported and exported to and from the island coming in through that harbor (there is a second small harbor  on the other side of the island, but most of the commercial traffic comes in through the main harbor.)

Included in this is the produce boats, there were several of them tied to the wharf with magnificent displays spilling out onto the sidewalk. Greece is a mild, almost semi-tropical climate and very close to the warm climates of the middle east and north Africa.  The variety and quality were amazing.  The boats move from Island to Island, picking up fresh produce and selling it along the way - as they have for centuries in the eastern Mediterranean.  

More about the Island and the Temple sometime soon.

Friday, May 15, 2015

My Brace For the next few weeks

I am out of ICU and feel like a truck ran over me. They say that is a good thing. Decent pain control.  Stood up for a minute today. 

Art in Everyday Life

Milwaukee Museum of Art

What is art? When traveling I enjoy popping into Museums and galleries.  But art is not only in museums. Representations that bring pleasure or excitement are also found in everyday life.  in industrial deign, and packaging.  A few maverick artists have turned the everyday into museum pieces.  There is some extraordinary public art, large scale sculpture, and even large scale paintings.   

Thursday, May 14, 2015


10 hours in surgery on Wednesday. They tell me 90% of the tumor removed.  Good movement in my legs and feet. Sensensattion  about the same or maybe a little better.  Started pain medication a little while ago. They say the pain will get worse over the next couple of days. 

Luray Caverns

Stalactites, Stalagmites, one hang tightly to the ceiling, the other grows mightily from the floor.  This picture is primarily stalactites mirrored in shallow water on the dark floor of the cave.  Luray cavern were discovered when someone came across a hole in the ground venting cool air on a hot summer day.  When people shimmied down the hole, an underground wonderland was found.  Luray is just east of the Skyline Drive in north central Virginia.  Expect a modest wait, admission is charged.  There are considerable steps in and out, but good handrails.  The walking tour at the bottom is largely self guided.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Double Falls Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, Montana

I was in Montana a few years ago, at about this time of the year.  We were presenting workshops on the Blackfoot Reservation in Browning, Montana.  We stayed across the road from Amtrak Station in East Glacier Montana.  I had a free day in the schedule and went exploring the east side of the National Park.  This is a double water fall.  On the right about 3/4 of the way down, you can see water flowing out of a hole in the rock, the second fall on this cliff.

It was an interesting area near Two-Medicine Lake. My training colleague had seen a bear and cub in this area the day before.  At the parking area for the trail back to these falls there were large signs about bear safety, wear bells, carry pepper spray, make noise to the bears hear you coming and run away.  I dearly wanted to see and bear, and didn't.  In the general store they had two printed tourist T-shirts.  I bought the one that read "Bears Love People, They Taste Just Like Chicken."  I wished I had bought the one that said in "In bear country wear bells on your clothing, carry pepper spray and be on the lookout for bear droppings, bear droppings are easy to identify they have little bells in them and smell like pepper."

In this area the road was open, but the National Park was not open for the season, we were a couple of weeks to early.  Up on the mountain on the Going-To-The-Sun Road, they were still working with front end loaders to dig a path through the snow and repair damage from winter landslides.

This is one of my all time favorite travel pictures, a print of it hangs next to the sink in my bathroom.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

May 2015, 12 on 12

A Different Twist This Month,  One image from each month for the past year

May 2014
Made famous by the opening scene of Married with Children, the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago. 

June 2014
National Harbor, Maryland
Hey, why not  

July 2014, A wild turkey on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.

August 2014, street musicians Alexandria, VA  

September 2014
Hilary - will she be? 

October 2014
Main Reading Room, Library of Congress
Washington, DC

November 2014
Keenland Racecourse
Lexington, Kentucky

December 2014
Santa Sheep and Santa Penguin 

January 2015
Huntington Beach, California the view from my hotel room 

February 2015
North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii 
Wonderful surf - a great day out with a convertible 

March 2015
National Cathedral
Washington DC 

April 2015
Jones Point Light House
Alexandria, Virginia 
May 12, 2015
Onward with the Medical Journey.
If all goes as planned the vascular mapping is scheduled for the afternoon of the 12th, and the tumor removal (reduction) and rebuilding the bone on Wednesday.  I will likely be off line for a few days.  The Blog is scheduled through June 6th.  I will supplement as I have a chance, 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Relax and Enjoy Yourself

So many of us, spend so much of our lives trying to live up to the standards of others and focusing on what we think other see as our weaknesses.  Occasionally when we are traveling, far away from home, we will let down our guard and think, these people don't matter to me, I will never see them again and be ourselves.

We should live our lives like that everyday.

Those that will judge, will judge, and I will never live up to their standards.  Those who truly love me will accept me as I am and not focus on my flaws or weaknesses.  And yet, I judge myself.  While this couple was relaxing and enjoying their time at the beach, I was judging myself as unattractive, to chubby to take my shirt off in public. Relax, even with clothes on people know I am chubby, what am I trying to cover up?

The recent hospital stay was a unique event for me.  Grin and bare it time, I joked to a couple of nurses and radiology technicians, I am sure you have seen worse today.   The next round will be even more "revealing."  What can I say, they see it all everyday, nothing but an extra 75 pounds to see here.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Why I am happy and making jokes at this time

I am not in pain going into this. While I was in the hospital they asked several times a day about pain, when you are in the spinal unit that is a normal question, and I kept having to explain,  I have mobility, sensation and balance issues, but very little pain.  Being that things are stable going into surgery, there is not existing pain to stack the post surgical pain on I should have it easier then I would otherwise. That is my theory and I will hide behind it to convince myself that I will have an easier then average recovery. It can be easier if I think it is easier.

The initial list of possibilities included MS and a cancer that had metastasized to the bones. Both have been ruled out.  If it is a cancer, it is a rare bird that only lives on the spine and does not spread, and the tumor doc said he can deal with those pretty effectively the once a year or so he finds one. If it was MS, it would be an advanced stage with limited treatment options.  It does not appear to be.

Another early possibility was a serious diabetic neuropothy.  My blood sugar tested normal.  When I asked about A1C results a couple of days in, the hospitalist said we didn't bother because you readings were normal, but just to be safe, three minutes later the vampire was back for more blood.  It was very normal.  I still need to lose 50 pounds to reduce the risk factors, but I am doing okay at this point. That makes healing from other things easier.

They scanned me literally from the top pf my head to my knees.  And the only thing that kept showing up was the tumor on my spine. Not a good thing to find, but it could have been much more dire.

I have good health insurance, and good short term disability insurance. I am fortunate to not need to worry about go broke while trying to get well.  I have Jay here to be my good helper. I need to remind myself to be kind to him, he just wants to keep me happy, and I tend to snap when he does not read my mind or move faster then my thoughts.

Nothing terminal was found.  The worst case scenario, is that I could lose control of my legs and feet.  That would change a lot of things, but I do work that I could largely do from wheels.  I went for a drive on last weekend to take my mind off of things, and there was a guy in a hand cranked three wheel recumbent rolling down the Mt Vernon trail, at the moment he is getting around better than I am.  John reminded me that paralytics lead full lives.  And they do, I barely beat one out for the job I have (she was  friend of mine.) Well I could die during the process, but people wake up dead everyday. It is dying, not death that scares the crap out of me. A relatively fast death is my idea of the way to go, I don't want to hang around unless I am happy and having fun. Quality is more important than quantity. I would rather fewer full days then decades of vacant ones.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Health Update

The red hexagon marks what is on my spine that shouldn't be there.  I am resting for a few days at home in anticipation of having this addressed.  As promised the medication has given significant if temporary symptom relief. It is are also having the warned about digestive impact, don't get between me and a bathroom 20 minutes after a meal. I am moving better than I have in at least six months, and have less tingling in my legs and feet.  Not 100%, but if we can preserve this level of sensation I will be a very happy man.  Waiting to hear back from the doctors is a pain, but they want to do it right rather than rush, it is urgent, but not an emergency at this point.  I tire more quickly then expected, but it has taken all of my strength for the past few weeks to drag myself through the commute to work and back and I did spend most of three days in a hospital bed this week.

In anticipation of being home for couple of weeks post surgery, I put a TV in my bedroom for the first time since I moved to DC.  Between Jay and I we have sorted out some housekeeping that I have been unable to do for several months as my mobility had declined.

How does this impact travel?  Well I was scheduled to go to Austin Texas on Wednesday to speak at a conference and from there to Orlando this evening.  I was going to spend a little time with family and attend a conference in Orlando later this week. Five fewer hotel nights for the year.  Florida is always nice, but I was not looking forward to Austin, not my favorite city in Texas.  But this is not how I wanted to get out of that trip.  I submitted two really so-so workshop proposals because I am obligated to do so and hoped that they would be rejected.  They were both accepted.  But when the doctors said, if you go, you might not be able to walk when you get back, I got the hint.  Travel can sometimes wait.  

Up-Up and Away

Titusville, Florida

My father was a hobbyist pilot,  I grew up around airports and little airplanes in the mid-west and south-east. I love flying. I have flown in about everything you can think of, from a Piper J-3 Cub to a 747.  I have only ridden in a helicopter once.  I visit family in Florida a couple of times a year, a few years ago I started seeing signs, helicopter rides $40.  The first I saw the signs I looked, thought about it and didn't do it.  One of my mantras in life, is that we regret most - what we didn't do when we had the chance.  The next time I was in Florida, the sign was up, I took the turn and parked.  I went to the desk and said, here I am when do we go.  The guy looked at me and asked if there was anyone with me.  No, I was traveling solo.  He explained that the price was $40 per person, with three people, or $45 per person for a party of two.  He suggested that I wait for a few minutes and see if someone else showed up and wanted to share the ride.  I wandered around for about 20 minutes, got bored, and asked, how about if I pay for two, and go alone?  No problem, I dropped the Amex Gold and three minutes later I was climbing in and buckling up.  

He asked what I wanted to see, I said, north along the river to the north causeway and marina and then back down along Barna Avenue would be fun,  I explained to him that I had gone to High School there and flown from the two airports in town with my father in single engine aircraft, but this was my first time in a helicopter.  

The space is tight, but the view in the glass bubble canopy was unbelievable. The take off is magical, the noise picked up, and just as smooth as sitting in your living room we levitated off the ground.  It is a very unique sensation, when were about 25 feet in the air we started to move forward, gain altitude and turn north along the river.   

NASA Causeway, Titusville, Florida  
It was a short flight, about 20 minutes, we went north along the river, with a wonderful view of the town and the Kennedy Space Center, turned and went back south.  It was an amazing ride, after a few minutes the pilot figured out that I was not afraid of flying, as Igor Sikorsky once wrote to army brass, "the danger lies not in flying through the air, but in striking the ground." Coming back in for a the landing he came in low and fast over a stand of pine trees, blowing the tops of the trees like a hurricane.   

It was a little expensive, but worth every penny.  How many people of modest or middle class means, have every chartered a helicopter? If you ever get a chance, go for it.  Even a Penguin can fly with rotary wings.  

Friday, May 08, 2015

Capturing the Moment

Milwaukee, taking a picture of someone talking a picture of the Milwaukee Museum of Art.  I have always been the one who was out front taking pictures and walking.  I have slowed down a bit, someone might actually get out in front of me today.  Take a moment and think about composition, what is in the image, where it at in the image, how does it fill the space, can it be seen, what does the color, contract and light look like?  Is it focused?  Is the camera set in the best "mode" for the image you are capturing?

I have owned a lot of cameras over the years.  I bought my first 35mm SLR when I was a freshman in high school.  A couple of years later upgraded to the top of the line Cannon professional SLR.  Then I added lenses, secondary bodies, a 6x7 SLR.  At the peak I had four cameras and a dozen lenses. About a dozen years ago I bought my first digital camera.  We were headed out of town on a road trip and I packed the digital and the Nikon 35mm.  When we got home I downloaded the digital pictures and was blown away by how good they were and how easy it was (it was like a 6mp camera with a good lens.)  A year or so later I realized that I had not finished the roll of film in the Nikon.  I have owned two large digital cameras that view through the lens you take the picture with (I'd say SLR, but these are not interchangeable lens cameras.)  Three of four year ago I realized that I didn't always take a camera with me, because of the bulk and decided to try a compact digital.  Again I was blown away, a year later I bought a better compact camera with a lens that runs from wide angle to moderate telephoto.  I used that for a couple of years, and broke it,  I have only broken a couple of cameras in 40 years.  I replaced it with a Samsung, 16mp and a 21 x zoom from the 35mm equivalent of a 24 mm wide angle to a 740 mm telephoto.  I love it. It helps me capture the moment.