Elections, Muppets, Hospices, Accents, and More – a link dump.

Don’t have the time (or the patience) to wade through all the political bullshit in the ads to figure out which candidate thinks most like you? Project VoteSmart’s VoteEasy may help you figure out which candidate is more like you.

Kurt Vonnegut motivational posters. One of these days I’ll get around to reading something of his.

Pencil art – but not the way you think.

Have an older iPhone? This might help speed it up.

This article on hospice care is a hard article to read, but worth it.

You know how there’s the American accent and the British accent? Turns out that in 1776, they both sounded the same (no shock there) but over the years it’s been the British accent that diverged, not the American one.

A practical plan for when you feel overwhelmed is exactly what it says it is. Turns out I’ve been using most of these for years without having read them in a blog, but the bit about doing 15 minutes of fast things, followed by 35 minutes of something hard, is worth giving a try I suspect.

An awesome photo of a really bad shot by Tiger Woods.

Grover does Old Spice Guy.

Awesome use of negative space in IBM “Outcomes” campaign

Tilt-shift Van Gogh

This is an important read: a reminder that if you say no to yourself, no one else can say yes. If you want something, even if it’s a long-shot, a difficult chance, something you might not qualify for or might not be able to do even if you do qualify for it, you have to try – apply – do – whatever you can to give yourself the opportunity. You fail as soon as you decide not to try.

Best Drunk Driving Public Service Annoucement for today’s geek ever:

An interesting look at the evils of shoes and not just heels, but pretty much all of them. I’m a big fan of MBTs, which they diss just a bit, but which increased my balance quickly enough that my martial arts instructor noticed. That’s progress. On the other hand, I’m hearing wonderful things about Vibram Five Fingers, and they’re likely to be my next adventure in shoes.

Maybe the universe isn’t so vacuum-y after all?

32 photographs of the solar system by The Big Picture.

Peace

I was up playing card games with family last night until almost 3. I slept until after noon, and didn’t rise until almost 2.

I write this because sometime in the future I’ll be flipping through these archives while in a state of anxiety, wishing life would slow down. Future self, I don’t “have time” to ignore the laundry and the chores and the mounds of to-do items for work. But today, I took the time to stop.

And having done so, I’m filled with readiness to do so many things… I get things done faster when I’m ready to do things than when I have to.

So, future self, stop. You’ll likely say you don’t have time, or someone will be angry, or you will be angry. I understand how important you think the things you doing are. But like a flywheel, you build momentum slowly when you need to keep running for a long time.

Stop for a day.

Stop.

Needs, or, pruning in order to grow.

The world is trying to shake me at my roots, and I’ve been resisting.

I read an article years ago called The Sex & Cash Theory which says, in short, that if you want to be happy with your life you have to balance the things that pay the bills against the sexy, creative stuff. If you let your life swing one way or the other too far, chaos will ensue.

I’ve never had the problem of letting my life swing too far into the creative endeavors.

I get up, take care of the dogs, go to work, try to solve problems and occasionally create things that are useful. I sometimes feel like I’m genuinely making things better. Whether I succeed or not, it’s exhausting work of juggling competing priorities, competing egos, varying interpretations, and menacing deadlines.

When I’m done working, I come home, take care of the dogs if Nighthawk hasn’t beaten me to it (some days run, well, loooong….), source and prepare some sort of foodlike objects, and try to find something that will take my mind off of the work I left and the work I’m going back to the next day.

If I’m lucky, I get six hours of sleep. If I’m really lucky, it’s not filled with nightmares about work. Then it starts over.

(As an aside, have you ever tried to type around a dog? Chance says hello.)

Even as little as two years ago, I had the energy and drive to create after work. I drew a comic. I worked on the five novels I’ve got written in various pieces around my hard drive. I knit. I cooked crazy-ass things. (I’m pretty sure the peanutbutter fish story has never actually made it into this iteration of the blog. Someone remind me someday…)

But slowly those things have been sliding out of my life. The novel writing was displaced by the comic authoring (except for every other November). The comic was displaced by martial arts. That, in turn, has been forcibly displaced by injuries, health issues for Nighthawk, the holidays, more back issues, more health issues for Nighthawk, a conference, family vacation, and just when I thought I’d be going back, a strained shoulder. And a work deadline schedule that pushes and pushes and pushes. Oh, and more health issues for Nighthawk.

Slowly I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m not where I’m supposed to be, mentally, physically, or emotionally.

Nighthawk’s health has recently provided me with an extremely large burst of nervous energy. On May 12th he’s having oral surgery, but not like the nice friendly “let’s pull a tooth” surgery. More like the “let’s put the lung patient on a respirator, do all the work, take you off the respirator, and give you soft foods for at least a week while trying to keep your calorie count above 3000/day and your blood sugar normal” oral surgery. Not. My. Favorite. Kind.

What do you do with a nervous breakdown on the edge of your peripheral vision? Well, if you don’t have a creative outlet for it, you take it to work and try to get it to be useful. This is somewhat akin to putting a bellman’s uniform on the most violent rabid dog you can find, and chaining him up outside your cube, where he’s in charge of greeting everyone. Not necessarily successful, and generally requires a mop.

The universe has decided to combat this insanity by making April into “Kirabug reassesses her values” month.

The first shake-up came from the conference at the beginning of April. An Event Apart re-fired my desire to create, but not my ability to find an outlet. The inspiration-with-no-outlet problem made everything else worse.

The next shake-up came as a Studio Ghibli movie watched on my iPhone while I was feeling burnt out and sick and tired. Whisper of the Heart reminded me that creation is hard work, and you don’t get better from hiding from it.

When I started writing the thyroid cancer part of the comic, which Christ knows I’d never intended to write back in 2004 when I started the comic, it got hard. No, let me reword that. It got haaaaaaard. I lost the enjoyment of the craft because I was frustrated at my lack of skill. And I lost focus when a new sexy toy (martial arts) caught my attention.

But creating stories is what I was born to do. I create stories in the shower, on the way to work, in the comic. Some of my best web design was expressed in a comic strip, not a wireframe. New ideas are literally scrawled in every file and on every note of every piece of paper I get my hands on. I haven’t stopped creating stories, just because I lost time and motivation. I just started drowning them out in news feeds and bad TV and RSS feeds and comic strips and timewasters.

(By the way, Whisper of the Heart is my new favorite movie. It requires two things: one, that you remember how it felt to be sixteen. Two, that you forget how it feels to be your current age. If you get those two reversed you’ll think it’s horribly corny.)

So I threw out a bunch of distractions. I cut from 78 webcomics to comics folder to 36 core stories I’ve been following for years and still love. I threw out all but 15 RSS feeds (down from 50-ish.) Repeat ad nauseum through Twitter and Fark and Facebook ad nauseum.

Progress. Still, I felt lost, like I’m not sure what I’m creating for.

But tonight Nighthawk and I watched Train (or How I Dumped Electricity and Learned to Love Design. Now, Nighthawk turned me on to Brenda’s twitter feed months ago. He happens to know that I’ve wanted to write RPG video games ever since I discovered Final Fantasy in high school. And game design is a bit of a passion for him as well.

Brenda reminded me tonight that I create to grow. Not everything I create is going to be pretty. Not everything I create is going to be valued. Certainly not everything I create is going to be useful. But everything I create helps me step forward.

I have neglected the pruning. The grass has overrun the garden, and the important branches have been left to wither.

I need to walk away from martial arts. It’s a great experience I will return to, but I can’t fit martial arts, work, and my home life all in the same jar. I certainly can’t do all those things and add any other form of creativity into the jar.

I need to leave work at work.

I need to do hard things again, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

I need to reconnect with my characters and find out what they have to say, before I forget how to speak their language.

I need to give this nervous energy someone to chase that doesn’t wear a tie. Figments of my imagination are suitable candidates.

I need to listen to the earth, stop resisting who I am and what I do. At least for a little while.

Adventures in Culinary Experience.

So. Nighthawk is scheduled for a radiation treatment in two weeks, which according to all things thyroid cancer means that now he gets to spend two weeks on a low-iodine diet (LID). (Keeping low levels of iodine in the system now will result in what few thyroid cells he’s got left — the ones we’re trying to kill so they don’t get cancerous — getting really really thirsty for the radioactive iodine he’ll get two weeks fron now. Somewhere, one of my dozen-odd grammar teachers just cringed in pain at that sentence structure, but doesn’t know why.)

Anyway, the low-iodine diet means avoiding food high in iodine, only eating small amounts of food low in iodine, and mostly eating iodine-free foods.

Or summed up differently, no dairy, no seafood, no soy, no egg yolks or foods containing egg yolk, no chocolate, no iodized salt, no bread/bakery products because they’re probably fortified and/or contain iodized salt, no prepackaged food because it might contain iodized salt, or red dye number 3.

He can have six ounces of meat a day, pasta that doesn’t contain any of the stuff in the last paragraph (which means semolina or rice noodles, or yolk-free kosher egg noodles, thank you Manischewitz!), up to 4 servings of bread that we make ourselves following low-iodine guidelines, or other grains like oatmeal and similar grainy things or salt-free Matzos (thanks again Manschewitz!), sugar, jam, jelly, honey, soda, tea, beer, wine, fruit joices, and all the fruits and veggies you want as long as you’re not including rhubarb, marachino cherries, rhubarb, or the aforementioned soybeans.

Now, add to that the fact that with his Cystic Fibrosis and Cystic Fibrosis related Diabetes, he’s supposed to maintain a 3000 calorie per day diet (minimum) to maintain weight, and he needs to do it in such a way that he can keep his sugar under control.

Yeah, we’re screwed.

But so far in the last 36 hours I’ve baked cranberry-applesauce muffins, made LID-safe beer bread, and made tomato sauce entirely from scratch that wasn’t absolutely horrible. I’ve learned that my stonewear loaf pan is not yet seasoned to the point that it’s safe to bake bread without some kind of Pam. I’ve learned that a butter knife is not the optimal tool for prying bread out of a stonewear loaf pan. I’ve learned that sugar will cut the acidity from tomato sauce. Sugar, brown sugar, some honey, and gee-that-still-tastes-acidic-to-me more brown sugar might, in fact, be overkill.

And no, neither of us have any idea how much sugar’s in any of this stuff, so the diabetes, yeah, that’s been fun.

But I’m learning to cook…. that’s good, right?

An Update: He Lives!

Monday:
Arrived at the hospital at 7:30. Pre-op started around 9. I read all of Dragonsblood between 7:30 and around 1. It’s worth the read, and is especially good when coupled with an iPod to drown out the soap operas in the waiting room.

(Side tangent:
Seriously, I swear that hospitals ought to be banned from being allowed to show soaps in waiting rooms. It was bad enough that I was subjected to a couple horrible morning shows and a portion of the New York Columbus Day parade when I was in Philadelphia. But it was followed by absolute horrors on the soaps.

  • First, lots of bawling from this grown man whose daughter was in a hospital bed for Lord knows what fabricated reason. Also: some woman lost a baby, and I don’t mean she misplaced it.
  • Then, the next show takes us into the middle of some dead guy’s funeral. Because what we all really need to see when we’re in the surgery/ICU waiting room, with our own personal levels of drama and trauma to deal with, is a bunch of people mourning with the melodrama dial set on “high”.
  • As if that wasn’t enough, the next show started with some guy being drug to his feet by his daughter after having his head all but bashed in by some unknown assailant, and ended with a nice-looking guy who was just trying to ruin someone else’s relationship collapsing on a porch. Sort of like the woman who’d had the stroke, whose kids were sitting a few chairs away from me.
  • And then there was Oprah, who felt it necessary to tell me things about the human body I didn’t want to know.

NOT HELPFUL.)

The TV update-you-on-your-spouse-in-surgery thing in the hospital indicated Nighthawk was in recovery (post-op) by 1:15, which coincidentally was just a little before his mom and brother arrived. I popped out of the waiting room just long enough to greet them, get some yogurt, and totally miss Nighthawk’s doctor, who instead called me and let me know everything went incredibly well and he should be placed in a room soon.

By 4:00 we were hearing rumors that there were no beds available, so I finally cornered a nurse who invited me back to Recovery to see Nighthawk. He was understandably grouchy that he’d been counting holes in the ceiling for three hours. Since he wouldn’t waste energy being grouchy if he was in serious trouble, I took that as a good sign.

Nighthawk didn’t get a room until 6:30. It made for a long day, and he hadn’t even met his nurses yet.

On the other hand, once he was finally upstairs everything was great. I cannot say enough positive things about Presbyterian Hospital or the staff that we dealt with. They had a lot to manage, between the thyroid removal, the cystic fibrosis treatments, the diabetes treatments, and the fact that Nighthawk was running about 4 hours later than anyone’d expected just to arrive, but they did a great job of making him comfortable, making sure he had everything that he needed, and setting our expectations for the night. Nighthawk’s nurse even hunted down a recliner for me to sleep in, so I could stay there with him overnight.

Tuesday:
We both caught some frequently-interrupted sleep between the end of Monday Night Football and 6:45, when the first doctor arrived to scope him out (literally) and remove the drain in his neck. After some blood work, a healthy breakfast, another check-in by the docs, and the usual rounds of meds they declared him healthy enough to leave, and he was given his discharge papers before I could even finish my (admittedly late) breakfast.

We were in the car and on the way home by 10:30 yesterday morning. Nighthawk was comfy in his recliner by noon, and I was off fighting with an idiot pharmacy where nobody can count until around 3.

Today:
So how is he? He still hasn’t gotten his whole voice back yet but he hasn’t been in any significant pain the whole time (hasn’t even been on pain meds for most of the last two days) and is in a good mood. He’s still pretty damn tired, which I pretty much expect.

To be clear, having the thyroid removed is not in and of itself a cure for thyroid cancer. There’s still much to be done, including treatments with radioactive iodine and scans and balancing of new medications. Whee. But the first hurdle has been surpassed, and we get a short break before the festivities continue.

And how am I? Relieved. And exhausted. Possibly as exhausted as he is. My day today consisted of calling back various doctors to schedule various follow-up appointments, and then visiting my own doctor for another round of battle-the-sinus-infection. (My in-laws, who had awesomely taken JessieDog for the overnight, also stopped by to return her today.) It’s currently just after 11:00, a time I could easily stay awake past two weeks ago, and I’m barely awake enough to write this post.

Tomorrow I go back to work. Tomorrow night I might get working on Saturday’s comic. With luck everything goes back to on schedule from this point forward.

Every day is a new adventure. This week has been a set of adventures I’m glad to say I had overestimated. Thanks to everyone who’d sent their prayers, positive vibes, or whatever, in our general direction.

So. Um. Yeah.

Nighthawk’s been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He’s having surgery to have his entire thyroid removed on Monday.

So now that you’ve picked yourself up off the floor, here are the details. Thyroid cancer itself is rare but very treatable. It was caught very early. From all indications this should be a case of cutting out the thing that went bad, probably doing some radiation treatments that are standard to the disease, and moving on. He’ll be on drugs the rest of his life, obviously, but he already is (obviously), just for other stuff. The CF and the diabetes certainly complicate matters, but outside of the constant challenge of making sure that each doctor understands the pieces the other doctors specialize in, in this case neither issue directly affects the cancer surgery or recovery.

He’ll likely spend about 24 hours in the hospital. He’ll be home for a total of about 2 weeks if everything goes according to plan.

Obviously this is not minor surgery and we’re both very concerned. On the other hand, there are thousands of people who’ve come through this with nothing more than a new thyroid drug or two to add to their regimen. We’re freaking out in controlled bursts instead of constantly.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, for one, the comic is half imagination and half journal comic, and as today’s edition illustrates some aspects of this new turn of events are going to bleed through.

In addition, it should be obvious to everyone that he is by far the highest priority in my life, so there’s a chance the comic will be delayed or skipped for medical events. (Right now I give no guarantees for a Tuesday comic.)

And there is a piece of me that, as an author, thinks y’all are going to think it’s over the top to have the character with cystic fibrosis also get diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Believe you me, I’d've never planned it this way. It is over the top.

Thanks for reading.