Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Ticking Clock

Fooling around with the gofundme site, I discovered that the poster generator doesn't produce an html table graphic, but a real image file. This is good because everything I own, outside of my laptops, is broken. My desktop, busted. My printer, stopped working sometime in November. Even my old minivan needs a tune-up. This is another life-lesson about cancer. It will consume everything in your life. You might end up on the street, naked, alone, and slowly dying. Our government is bound by so many bizarre rules, so much that hinders those who need help, it seems like the palsied aunt who comes for a visit, tries to help with the dishes, and breaks everything she touches.

At least I won't starve. I am disqualified from Social Security's many programs, in part because I am, very slowly, getting better. Also in part because I seem to disappear from their screens. It is caused by the great gift I gave my parents, starting around 1990. I became their part-time caregiver, living in near poverty, driving home every weekend, sometimes during the week, taking crappy part-time teaching jobs at local community colleges so I'd have the time to drive home and help Mom with Dad. Then 2000 came and Mom's dementia symptoms appeared. After that, I was traveling home to help Dad with Mom. Dad had congestive heart failure. We got him out to around twelve years. He was 84 when he died in 2002. Mom, we got her out to nine years, to 93. Average life expectancy for someone after first onset of dementia symptoms is 4.5 years. We more than doubled that for Mom. Seven years with no work, as her 24/7 caregiver. My loving gift to them. How I still miss them!

So I won't starve and I have medical insurance, thanks to the state of New Mexico. They won't help to keep a roof over my head, but they will keep me alive. Without the one, I don't really see why they bother with the other two.

I'm not lazy, I never have been. I do work a little on my laptop every day. I mostly try to get my old comics listed on ( Nobody's buying.

Unless I have to go back on chemo soon, I think if I can make it through the next three or four months, I can get a day job, get back to a halfway normal life. But these next three or four months, that's the problem. I can't tell, my tiny improvements aren't linear. Up one day, down the next. Could be a couple months, could be five. If someone could tell me, that'd be great. Even my doctor doesn't know.

This certainly is a roundabout update. If you can't donate, but you want to help, send me an email ( and I'll send you the poster image. It's a jpg file. You can print it out and post it. I'd deeply appreciate it.  An image of it is below.


Friday, April 15, 2016


Disturbed sleep again. Woke up to vague, half-remembered dream frights. My mind immediately supplied the answer to why I'm this way. I am getting better, very, very slowly. So why all this debilitation? Because I'm not on opiates anymore. It took me almost two months to wean myself off them. I don't need them anymore, because the devastating pain from the tumor isn't there. But these other pains, the cramps, the disturbed sleep, the intense, debilitating fatigue, they've always been there. The opiates kept them masked. Now they're out in the open. Now they are a misery. Cancer really is a curse, a harm that keeps on taking even after it begins to die. My tumor is mostly or completely dead at the moment, but its ghost lingers on, vindictive, capricious, hateful, trying its best to get me dead.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Paths to the Dark Side

There are many paths into darkness. This is only one way.

1. Language. How did Hitler manage to get an entire nation to acquiesce to the murder of millions of innocents? Through the manipulation of language. Calling political enemies and despised outsider elements in society parasites, rapists, murderers, lazy, or dangerous works a malignancy into the moral character of individuals. Repeat them often enough in different venues - fortunately Hitler didn't have the internet, he just had speeches, print media, radio broadcasts, records, and film - that was enough.

2. Passivity. Not to speak out, even a tiny bit, against a great, imminent evil. Not to say no when one's neighbors cry for violence against the innocent. Not to object when the neighbor's shop is vandalized. Not to help but to hide. From here, the steps into darkness are small and easy to make.

3. Action. Even small actions can bring an individual into darkness, can co-opt them. They can be brought over with one enabling act. It can be relatively innocent. Boycott a store because the owner is Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, hispanic, black, Irish, Asian, or any Other. Throw a rock through a window. Beware of those who encourage violence. Even just a shove and the perpetrator is on the long journey down into darkness.

That's all it takes. Even the best intentions, concern for the country's welfare, protection against a perceived threat, or devotion to an apparently harmless ideology, can be used to twist an individual.

There is a powerful moment in the documentary World at War, an interview with an elderly woman. Years ago during the war she was on a train in Germany. An air raid siren wailed. Everyone left the train. The woman was too tired to get off. She and a German soldier sat alone in their compartment. He started to talk. He told her about murdering Jews on the Eastern Front. How, before they mowed down the harmless farmers in an isolated village, the rabbi stepped up to them. "God sees this!" the rabbi said. It echoed in this soldier's mind until he lived in abhorrence of his own existence. He requested a transfer to a combat unit. He told the tired woman that he would seek death in battle. Don't be this guy. Don't travel into darkness. At some point in that dark journey, you, too, might wish for death to remove the stain.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Event Horizon Blues

One of the many negative aspects of cancer recovery is the knowledge that I'm just not ready for prime time. A major tumor, like the one that was in the side of my face, killing it takes a lot out of the body. I'm walking back from it, but the progress is very, very slow.

To keep my mind alive, almost every waking moment of every day is filled with study - even if it doesn't look like "studying." I've been examining Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, the Sith Lords in detail over the last few days, playing the game a little, watching gameplay youtubes, and generally applying the analytic skills I honed in graduate school to a video game.

Why is this game so popular? It was broken and incomplete when released. It took a team of dedicated modders years to fix. Yet it still has problems. So...why? Three reasons. It's great fiction, taken not as an RPG, but as a kind of interactive novel, KOTOR 2 is a wonderful adventure. It is in many ways what Tolkien's books are to the Lord of the Rings franchise, the foundation stones. It has everything Tolkien's books have.

1. It is, in John Gardner's expression, moral fiction. Moral fiction  "attempts to test human values, not for the purpose of preaching or peddling a particular ideology, but in a truly honest and open-minded effort to find out which best promotes human fulfillment." Read Gardner's book back around 1979. It had a profound impact on me. Lost his books in the 2007 Greensburg Tornado.

2. The writing is vibrant and alive, with powerfully realized characters.

3. The story revolves around an epic journey by the protagonist and her allies in search of a great evil that is supernatural and at the same time all-too-human.

So that's one thing I've been doing. I try to write a little each day. I read. Today I've been reading about the Holographic Principle. It inspired today's meme.

Please, don't forget to help out if you can.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

DOS Wasn't Really That Bad

DOS wasn't that bad. I got along with it fine, but it had a bad reputation. But then again, my first programming language was Fortran.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Let Them Eat Condoms, Iron Crosses, and Pepper

Just learned this, and explains a lot about just why Germany lost World War II and why the Americans were such formidable opponents.

In the days after D-Day, American forces rushed into the Cotentin Peninsula, desperate to capture the port at Cherbourg. Very quickly, the German garrison at Cherbourg was surrounded and cut off. The Luftwaffe dropped supplies to them, just as the USAAF later did at Bastogne. Guess what the Luftwaffe dropped to the defenders. Come on, guess. Give up? Medals, Iron Crosses, mostly. That's right, don't send them anything useful, give them damned medals. What did the Americans at Bastogne get from the USAAF? WEAPONS, AMMO, FIELD RATIONS, GRENADES. You know, the stuff soldiers actually need.

As formidable as the Germans sometimes were, especially on the defense, this mindset goes a long way in explaining just why Nazi Germany, despite its occasionally amazing technological achievements in rocketry and aircraft design, was so weak an antagonist that they fell just three and a half years after the entry of the USSR and the USA into the fight. Hitler, in Europe, was in a league that he could fight in, that he could dominate and win. But to win again these new, incredibly dangerous opponents, he would have to cast aside empty gestures and the random waste of resources. That he and the Germans could not do. Sure, they had the amazing Me 163 rocket fighter, all 370 of them. They managed to shoot down sixteen Allied bombers, mostly B-17s. Guess how many B-17s were manufactured by the USA during the war. Around 12,700. That's just one bomber, the Americans had several large four-engine bomber types. 15,000 P-51s, just one of many fighter designs built during the war. To overcome such a dedicated, serious opponent would require the kind of maximum effort the Germans weren't able to produce. Iron Crosses to the defenders of Cherbourg. Condoms and pepper to the German army trapped at Stalingrad. When it came time for the USAAF to do the same for the trapped Americans at Bastogne, like I said, they sent lovingly wrapped presents full of ammo, hand grenades, artillery shells, weapons, bazookas, and field rations. And then they let loose some of those fighter-bombers they had built, you know, part of the 15,700 P-47s or a few of the 10,000 P-38s. Patton came up with a few of the 50,000 Sherman tanks the US had built. The Russians in the east unleashed a few of the 80,000 T-34 tanks they had built. Nazi Germany melted away. The Thousand Year Reich lasted twelve years. If you're successful at beating up teenage girls, that doesn't mean you can take Mohammad Ali and Mike Tyson. Know your limitations.