Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fabulous Snow Sculpture

From the Sapporo, Japan Snow Festival… Click on picture to enlarge.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Prostate surgery - Pre-surgery scheduling

Today I received a call from the hospital where my surgery will be performed. Most of the questions were perfunctory; “What insurance do you have?”, “Did you receive your preoperative instructions?”, etc. But three other questions were also asked;

• Who should we contact in case of emergency?

• Do you want to specify a religion in case you want (?) a visit from a clergyman?

• Do you have a Power of Attorney and Living Will? If so, you can bring a copy of them to the hospital if you want.

None of these are particularly cheery, but you can certainly understand why the hospital is dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s…

I must admit, this thing is starting to play with my head a little bit. Two nights ago I couldn’t get to sleep, going over all my options again, and wondering, again, if I’m taking the right course.

I’ll sure be glad when this is over…

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

'06 World Baseball Classic – Status update

Some random thoughts about the upcoming 16 team/country tournament

The US has reversed its decision and will now allow Cuba to play in the tournament. This is a good thing. I had written before, here and here, about the enormous stupidity we had demonstrated in threatening to not allow the Cuban team to play on US soil. What’s the problem, we don’t want any more defectors?

Alex Rodriguez has decided to play for Team America. Gee, I’m so happy. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great player. But in my book, he’s starting to wear a bit thin. Alex first decided he wasn’t going to play in the WBC at all, then decided he was going to play for the Dominican Republic and now he’s decided he’s going to play for the USA. Yes, he was the American League’s MVP this year, but his abysmal performance in the playoffs (one measly hit) certainly contributed to the Yankee’s getting bounced out in the first round. Then there was that stupid stunt he pulled when he tried to slap the baseball out of Bronson Arroyo’s hand during last year’s ALCS – that’s little league crap. And, I guess I’m just jealous of his $252 Million dollar contract – I don’t think ANYONE is worth that kind of money, not even Babe Ruth in his prime. So, welcome to the team, Alex. I just hope that your bat shows up during the series.

Barry Bonds has decided not to play for Team USA. The guy’s had so many injuries in the last year or so, I can understand it. But the timing is very unfortunate. Sluggers like Bonds (and Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmero, etc.) had a bad year in 2005. Is it just coincidence that this was the year that baseball decided to get tough on steroids? And the WBC has even tougher drug testing – I believe it’s modeled after the testing they do in the Olympics. I have no proof, of course, that Bonds (or Sosa or Palmero) have ever done steroids. But the timing is, as I said, unfortunate, and will lead to further suspicion about them. On the plus side for Bonds, when he was able to return in late 2005, he was pounding out home runs as he normally does and, presumably, he was being tested at the time. I hope his home run totals are honest. If he stays healthy, he should catch Babe Ruth this year and Hank Aaron late this year or the next.

Lance Berkman is now also off of Team USA – this due to upcoming knee surgery. This guy is a clutch hitter and will be missed.

Final rosters are not due to be set until March 2nd. As of now, Team USA has three starting pitchers that I would consider “A list”; Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite and Dontrelle Willis. They also have Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, Roy Halladay, and C. C. Sabathia – all quality starters. This, plus their bullpen of Chad Cordero, Todd Jones, Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan, Scot Shields, Huston Street and Billy Wagner, gives them a pretty solid staff. With the pitch count rules in place, all of these pitchers may be needed. And this is not like the USA Basketball Dream team in the Olympics – such an enormous step up from their competition that the games were not competitive. Other teams, especially the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, have many players that have faced these pitchers and have had success against them. Nevertheless, if the rosters stay as they are now, I like Team USA’s chances in this tournament.

I’d love to see some of these games live, but my upcoming surgery may not allow that. I don’t want to buy tickets unless I know that I can actually sit during the whole game and enjoy it, and by the time I know that, the tickets may be all sold out. Their website doesn’t discuss TV arrangements, but I’m hopeful that all of the games will be televised.

Go USA!!!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Fulla Doll update…

On the Tonight Show tonight, Jay Leno mentioned the Fulla Doll – the Islamic answer to Barbie. I had written about the Fulla Doll earlier

Jay said the Fulla Doll now has a companion; “Osama Ken Laden” - can’t wait to see pictures of it.

Maybe it will be the one of Osama that Jay had on a couple of nights ago, this with Osama wearing a “Hello Kitty” headdress in an attempt to “soften” his image...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Upside Down Bin Laden - Drudge Error?

I really don't think that the picture of Bin Laden was supposed to be upside down. I'm sure they'll correct it soon. Here it is for posterity...

*Update 21JAN06 - Well, I guess it was deliberate but I still don't get it. Drudge had the photo up for a full day, and then a smaller version the next day - all upside down. I read Osama's speech and I didn't see anything about "turning the US upside down" or anything like that. I guess I'm just a bit dense on this one...

Prostate Surgery - Best Wishes

I’ve received several emails and Blogger comments wishing me “Best of luck”, “You are in our prayers”, “I’m sure you’ll do great”, etc. Each and every one is greatly appreciated.

Last night I received a “best wishes” email that I wanted to share with everyone. It was from my friend, Dan O'C. Dan’s a dentist and a pretty bright guy. He’s also a bit leery of authority (saying that he’s a conspiracy buff is like saying that Richard Petty knows how to drive a car). Here’s the email message he sent me;

Hi Ted good luck with treatment you'll need it remember the M.D.s are all quacks. I know, I went to the same diploma mills.
Sure gives you a warm-fuzzy, doesn’t it?

This email reminded me of an incident I experienced in Saudi Arabia many years ago. I was working at the Saudi Investment Bank as their chief technology dude. The day after I had been promoted to Senior Manager, I received a phone call from a fellow employee, Gerhardt Vosshall, a German national. Gerhardt personified all of the negative stereotypes associated with Germans; he was rude, arrogant, overbearing and a real PITA to work with. Like most people in the bank, I soon learned to avoid him if at all possible.

We had little to do with each other, so this phone call from him was a bit of a surprise. Without saying hello, he launched into this long soliloquy about how the Saudi’s really felt about foreigners. The Saudi’s might be all politeness and smiles on the surface, he said, but underneath they hated our guts, resented our presence, and couldn’t wait for the day to come when they would “get even”. Gerhardt told me that when that day arrived, all foreigners working at the bank would be lined up outside the bank building and shot, starting with the Americans. However, this only applied to those of us who were at a Senior Manager level or higher and, therefore, “Congratulations on your promotion!” He then hung up.

More warm-fuzzies…

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Prostate Surgery update - Preoperative Instructions

Today I received my “Preoperative Instructions for a Robotically-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy" in the mail. There are 5 things I need to do/not do before the surgery;
1. For a minimum of TEN days before your scheduled surgery, you must avoid taking ANY aspirin, aspirin-containing products or a variety of other medications that can thin your blood and increase the risk of bleeding (see attached sheet).
The attached sheet contains a list of 50 or more medications that I must be careful to avoid. The most interesting is Vitamin E (>800 U/day). I take Vitamin E as part of my vitamin regimen and obviously will have to go off that for a bit.
2. You will need to call our office to schedule a postoperative visit with your surgeon, usually 7-14 days following surgery. PLEASE specify that this is a POSTOPERATIVE visit so that adequate time will be allowed for the appointment. You will schedule an x-ray exam at Central DuPage Hospital (called a cystogram) on the day of your appointment, and you will need to bring copies of your x-ray films to your appointment. These x-rays will help determine if your urethral catheter will be removed at the time of that appointment.
I’m SO looking forward to the catheter – it promises to be great fun.
3. You should bring an adult diaper, pull-up or other type of absorbent protection to your postoperative visit since your urinary control is unpredictable following catheter removal.
No comment necessary.
4. TWO DAYS before surgery you will begin a CLEAR LIQUID diet. Apple juice, jello, sherbert, cranberry juice, coffee (without milk or cream), tea (without milk or cream), bouillon, soda pop and popsicles are acceptable. You should avoid milk, orange juice, tomato juice and prune juice, and you should not have any solid foods.
Beer is a liquid.
5. On the DAY BEFORE surgery, you will need to take 45 cc of Fleets Phospho-Soda at approximately 8 A.M. and again at 8 P.M. You can purchase this at any Walgreen’s, Osco, etc.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A victory for States Rights...

In a 6-3 split decision (Case 04-623), the Supreme Court today ruled that the Federal Government cannot overrule Oregon’s Assisted Suicide Law. This is a very good thing.

Former Attorney General Ashcroft used Federal drug laws to prevent Oregon doctors from using drugs to help those patients who wanted to end their lives. This decision voids his overreach and returns the decision to the individual states.

It’s so ironic; the same conservative mind-set that opposes Roe v Wade on the grounds that the voters in each state should be able to choose whether or not abortion is legal in their state then opposes these same voters when they say that the Federal Government has no standing in end-of-life decisions.

Conservatives and Liberals are very similar in this regard; they cite the Constitution when doing so advances their agenda but then do whatever they can to subvert it when it doesn’t advance their agenda.

The bad news in today’s decision was that the new guy on the job, Judge Roberts, voted to continue the Federal Government’s War on Drugs (which this decision is a part of). The even worse news is that Judge Thomas agreed with him. Judge Thomas is the only judge that I’ve seen who, in recent decisions, has cited the Constitution in his rulings, rather than precedent. I wish he had done so here – I’m quite confident that he can find no place in the Constitution authorizing the Federal Government’s disastrous War on Drugs.

The Pundits think that California and Vermont will now quickly pass Assisted Suicide laws similar to the one upheld in Oregon. These laws, along with the 11 states (and counting) who have approved some form of marijuana legalization (usually for medical purposes) are on the front line of trying to role back, at least in some limited way, the Federal Government’s War on Drugs. I hope that Illinois joins them soon.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Stardust Returns

I set my alarm for 3:30 this morning so that I could get up and watch the (hoped for) return to earth of Stardust. This was a NASA space probe sent up on February 7th, 1999 with the mission being to collect particles from both interplanetary space and from the tail of Comet Wild-2. As NASA missions go, this was reasonably ambitious. The space probe traveled nearly 2.9 billion miles to and from the Comet to accomplish this mission.

The method chosen to capture these particles is ingenious. There is a very cool, man-made substance called Aerogel. It is like a solid foam, but is very porous and approaches the density of ordinary air. It looks like solid smoke. It has many interesting properties, detailed here, and is perfect for capturing these particles.

Why send this mission? What will it do for us? Comets have been around since the formation of the Solar system, an estimated 4.5 billion years ago. Unlike particles that have formed planets (like Earth) and have been altered countless times by geographic and weathering forces, Comets are still in their original state. This means that these particles are the same as though that actually formed the earth and other planets. Learning about them can tell us more about how the Solar system was formed. This can help us understand the evolution of our system and may point to clues about how other systems have formed or are forming; vital information in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Everything appears to have gone perfectly. It was very exciting to watch, in real-time, the Infrared images of the module.

Picture of returned capsule, waiting for pickup

God, I love this stuff. Maybe I’ll be an astronomer or physicist when I grow up…

Friday, January 13, 2006

A birthday suggestion for your small child...

Playmobil has an Airport Terminal toy that, as Reason puts it, "Prepares Children for Federal Airline Passenger Screening."

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

I first saw this on the Reason Foundation's Reason Report (Winter 2006 issue). Prior to this, they had put in on their blog (Hit & Run), so readers were able to post their own comments. Some of the funniest;
The set needs a little Playmobil drug dog and some contraband for the dog to find on the passengers.
Do their little tiny shoes come off?
What about the children?! The set has parts that are choking hazards. Oh, the humanity!
We need a children's book called "Your First Cavity Search."

Great cartoon...

I just came across this cartoon - I think it's terrific...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Prostate Surgery date set…

My last update on this was several months ago. Tuesday, February 7th, is now set as the day for my “surgical procedure”; i.e. a “Radical Prostatectomy”, i.e. the removal of my cancerous prostate gland.

The particular procedure I’ve chosen is Laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, using the Da Vinci system. In traditional Prostatectomy’s (retropubic and perineal prostatectomy’s), the surgeon makes a long incision (8-10 inches), opens you up, and removes your prostate. In the Laparoscopic method, the surgeon makes several small incisions, usually 5, and inserts robotic arms into these incisions to manipulate and remove the prostate gland. Currently, the most advanced Laparoscopic system is the Da Vinci system; this is where the surgeon controls everything through a robotic interface. The surgeon sits at the robotic console, across the room from the patient, and manipulates the robotic arms. In addition to the operating instrument at the end of each arm, the arms are also equipped with 3-D cameras. Images from these are transmitted to the Console, allowing the surgeon a clear view of what is going on inside you. Because the surgeon is seated during the procedure, there is less fatigue for him/her and the use of the robotic arms allows any hand tremors that might occur to be filtered out. This leads to greater precision and control during the procedure.

The net result of this method, and the reason I chose it, is that it is reported to have the following benefits;

1) Less blood loss
2) Less risk of infection
3) Less pain (post-operative)
4) Less scarring
5) Shorter hospital stay
6) Shorter recovery time
7) Better results with “nerve-sparing” (i.e. lower incidences of incontinence and erectile dysfunction

The only downside with this method is for the surgeon him/herself – the procedure takes longer. But as I will be under anesthetic for the procedure, I won’t notice it. And the surgeon I have chosen prefers this method because he says it allows him to do a better job.

I didn’t (and don’t) want to do this procedure. It IS major surgery. People die from this stuff. One of the potential problems is a heart attack during or after surgery. During a physical I had a couple of months ago, my doctor found an abnormality in my EKG. I was referred to the local Heart specialists who performed a stress-EKG on me. No problems were found, but it makes me nervous. I lost a good friend to a heart-related condition after he underwent back surgery last year. Prior to the surgery, the doctor’s had OK’d his heart, but obviously they were wrong. According to one study, nearly 200,000 people die each year in America in hospitals due to potentially preventable in-hospital medical errors. That’s a big number. But one has to balance that number against another one; 99.3% of Prostate Cancer patients, if the cancer is caught and treated soon enough, survive (i.e., they die of something other than Prostate Cancer).

I’ve spent time during the past several months looking for an alternative that I could, literally, bet my life on. But there are none out there. There was a very interesting study which concluded that moving to a strictly vegetarian lifestyle could actually reverse prostate cancer. But it was only one study and had only a small number of patients. Maybe in 5 years or so, they can validate this approach, but I obviously can’t wait that long. Radiation therapy, too, has its benefits, especially with the “seeding” method now commonly used. But if it fails to stop the spread of cancer, there is no backup – you cannot do surgery after failed radiation therapy, whereas you CAN do radiation therapy (and chemotherapy), if necessary, if the surgery fails to stop the spread of cancer.

There is a wealth of information available about Cancer treatments on the Internet. The best site I found discussing Prostate Surgery is the one from the American Cancer society and can be found here.

So that’s the scoop. I will be posting updates occasionally as the time gets closer and, hopefully, of course, will be posting updates afterwards…

Monday, January 09, 2006

An American in North Korea

I met Don Parrish many years ago when I got involved in Libertarian activities in DuPage County; Don was a founding member of the DuPage Libertarian Club. I’ve spent about 10 years of my life overseas and have visited many countries (probably around 40), but am not in Don’s league as a tourist – he is a long-time member of the Travelers Century Club; an organization of people who have visited at least 100 countries.

He recently returned from a visit to The Hermit Kingdom, North Korea, and has posted an absolutely fascinating account of his travels here. In addition to an excellent description of the trip and analysis of the North Korean culture, Don has also included many, many pictures. I’ve taken the liberty of posting two of them.

Don with two North Korean Sales Ladies

The Arirang Games, with their "Human Pixel Screen"

Visiting his North Korea trip page or just his website in general is a very enjoyable experience. Thanks, Don, for sharing this with us.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Darth Tater

This is just funny...

Merry Christmas – Take 4…

I know its past Christmas, but I found another odd Santa picture, this one posing as a slasher…

I found this picture on the WFTV.com website.

'06 World Baseball Classic in Jeopardy…

From bad to worse... First the United States decides to ban Cuba from the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Now the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) is threatening to pull their sanctioning of the event if the Cuba ban is not rescinded. And if the sanctioning is pulled, the whole thing will probably collapse. John Donovan describes the sad scenario in more detail here.

I’ve written about this before. It’s just insane that our country continues this pointless, stupid, idiotic policy towards Cuba. The Cold War is OVER. We WON. Enough already.

Did you know that if you have a relative in Cuba and want to visit them, you must fill out a request form and have it approved by our government? If you want to send money to someone in Cuba so that they can emigrate to the United States, again, you need to fill out a form and have it approved by our government. There is even a “hotline” phone number you can call to report a “Cuba Sanctions Violation” (786-845-2829). I would expect such an action out of the old Soviet Union or, perhaps, today’s China, but from America?

There is an entire section of the U.S. Treasury Department’s website that is devoted to our Cuban embargo. Along with the other “gems” I’ve previously mentioned, you can find such riveting documents as “Prepaid Tourist Packages are Prohibited” and a “Cuban Cigar Update”. The pointlessness and supreme stupidity of this policy continues to astound me. Cuba is a neighbor, barely 90 miles from our shores. We have real enemies in the world, enemies that we should be concerned about. Cuba is not one of them.

America fought a to-the-death war with Japan, but now welcomes them to this baseball tournament. We can’t invite Cuba? It’s not like Cubans have been flying planes into American buildings or threatening us with WMD. Again, America has real problems in the world with real enemies. Cuba is not one of them.

Cuban athletes participated in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and won several medals. Did that compromise our national security? Will allowing them to participate in this Baseball classic jeopardize our War on Terror? Of course not. Cuba is NOT OUR ENEMY. Our stupidity is our enemy.

The specific arm of the US Government that has instituted the ban is the Treasury Department. It is headed up by John Snow. He can be reached at;

Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20220
Fax: (202) 622-6415
I’m sending him a letter asking that he rescind the ban and ask that you do likewise.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Four sheeps and 100 chicken a week…

During the eight years I spent in Saudi Arabia, I often experienced severe culture-shock. Sometimes this was due to personal experience and, occasionally, there were articles in the local press that were jaw-dropping to say the least. This was one of them. It discusses Mr. Shabab Salim Ajlan Al-Quthami, a 66 year-old Saudi National who was married thirteen times and had a total of 180 children and grand-children. His current family (this was in 1992) consumed “four sheeps and 100 chicken a week”.

13 wives? 180 children and grandchildren? My, oh my, oh my…

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Andrea Arends - Rest In Peace...

Last week I attended the wake and funeral service for Andi Arends – a dear friend for many, many years, and yet another victim of Cancer. She was initially diagnosed with Colon cancer, cancer which then spread to her liver. She underwent surgery to remove a portion of her colon and also had chemotherapy treatments. After months of treatment, she was pronounced “cancer-free”, but the Liver cancer soon returned. This time, the chemotherapy was ineffective, and she passed away just after Christmas.

I used to work with both Andi and her husband, Bob, and was an Usher at their wedding. I’ve known both of them for over 30 years and spent many happy hours with them and their family.

One of my favorite moments with them was a beer-tasting competition held at their house. There were five of us competing; Bob, his brother, Rick, B.D., and myself. Andi was the beer-server and M.C. There were eight beers to be determined; Augsberger, Budweiser, Grolsch, Jewel Generic, Old Style, Stevens Point, Strohs, and a “mystery beer.” You need to remember that this was sometime in the late 1970’s – and there was such a thing as ‘Jewel Generic” beer. It sounds pretty funny now…

We five contestants sat at their dining room table while Andi brought out eight trays of beer, one after another. Please note that this was a classy contest, sparing no expense (remember, one of the beers was Jewel Generic), and the beer was served in plastic cups. After each tray of beer was brought out, the five of us would each sample our servings and, after much banter and deliberation, would secretly mark which beer we thought it was on our scoresheet (see below). At the end of the contest, Andi told us which beer was which and we were able to determine the winner. Modesty prevents me from crowing too much about my victory – obviously the fruits of a misspent youth. It was just a fun time, a time when I was young and the death of anyone was not something I thought about at all. With the three funeral services I’ve attended in 2005, along with my own diagnosis of Prostate Cancer, it’s something I think about all too much now.

Andi was one of the most cheerful and positive people I’ve every known. With some people, you can use the term “Sunshine” as an insult. When used to describe Andi, however, it was always used as a complement – she truly brightened up the lives of those who knew her. I will miss her dearly – she was a wonderful person.

A couple of days ago, my son received word that his best friend’s father had died of Stomach cancer. His friend now has to move to Arizona to live with his older sister - his going-away party was this evening. And yesterday, my youngest daughter received word that one of her teachers had passed away (cause yet unknown to me).

Too many funerals…

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