7.28.2015

Three Second Epiphany

When I don't know what to title a blog piece, my mind goes almost immediately to Pink Floyd lyrics.  So...that may or may not explain what might be the eventual title of this post.

First off, a shout out. I have some amazingly talented friends. No. Seriously. It's ridiculous. Most I've known since Junior High. Some before that. I'm going to blame the water in Westerville. Whatever they were putting in it in the 70's is probably the stuff of legends or at the very least the stuff of SyFy original series.

Take for instance... friend of mine who writes decided that she would write some smut and self publish..since that seems to be a hot commodity these days. She posted it on the bacefook and it was funny. Because it was like, no shit. That's so true. I mean the whole 50 Shades of Grey phenom. That's one of many self-publishing Cinderella stories. So it was just funny in an irony sort of way.

And then she had a follow up post that led me to believe she did write the piece!! I laughed because it's just awesome. I mean it's awesome that she did, if she did. I didn't read the piece.

Where was I going with that? Yeah. No idea. But I thought the whole thing was awesome. Basically I tip my hat to any one who writes.  Especially when they bang out 8000+ words in the span of a day or two...that's no joke.   I'm not going to bust her out in case she publishes under a nom de plum, but kudos to her for writing.

I meanwhile, am stalled at about 3500 words.  The book took a twist that I didn't see coming, and to be completely honest, I need to stop watching NCIS and/or put the book on hold for a bit. Otherwise, I feel like parts of it are going to have the reader saying, "Hey...didn't I see that on NCIS." I doubt it would be intentional. Just an exposure kind of thing.

I have another piece or 20 I can turn to. I have a folder of story starters, short outlines, short screenplays and other ideas that I can flesh out. I'm thinking of one concerning the power of Prayer with a capital "P."

I had an epiphany at lunch today. I figured out what one of my biggest gripes about Religion is. And when I say Religion, I mean the brand Religion. As in organized and palletized for easy digestion.

Something never really quite sat right with me about the Bible. I mean...here is this book...detailing what you need to do to get to heaven and what can cause you to eagerly dive headfirst in to hell.

And from the sounds of it, those are pretty serious things. It's a big deal. Like for eternity a big deal.

When I'm talking about Religion, and Heaven, and Hell, I mean those of the judeo-christian faith.

So..right....big deal. Eternity.

And then it hits me. The loop hole. Yes, there is a loop hole in the bible.  It's blatant in its mention, but subtle in its role as a loop hole.  Are you ready for it?

Free Will.

Man is given Free Will by the Creator.

Why? There wasn't free will in the Garden of Eden. "Eat anything in except the fruit from THAT tree." There was a father raising children. Until they ate the fruit.

The forbidden fruit.

They were not told, "Hey. You can eat any fruit you want. If you eat THAT fruit, though, bad things might happen--but you have free will to make that choice."

No. They were told not to eat the fruit. No ifs, ands, or buts.

And then they ate it.

And God was pissed.

Kicked them out of the Garden of Eden. And somewhere along the way (New Testament maybe--I need to go back and look to figure out exactly where) humans were given Free Will.

There's Heaven. There's Hell. And there's Jesus. If you want to go to Heaven...take a right turn at Jesus.  If you don't, you'll probably go to Hell BUT IT'S YOUR CHOICE.

Wait. What?

MY choice?!?!  God got pissed at the VERY FIRST HUMANS EVER for eating an apple, but you're going to leave a decision with ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES up to the guy that hates to balance his checkbook?!?

What kind of sense does that make?

None.

It's the loop hole.

I think the people who were working on the Bible looked at what God was telling them to write and thought "Hey....this is pretty heady stuff.  What if I need...you know...a break from all this Jesus Freaking. I know....Free Will and Forgiveness.  I can screw around...pin it on Free Will. Then pick up that Travelodge Map showing the way to Jesus and get on that stairway to heaven. And if I wanna sew some more wild oats--no problem. It's free will and then I just ask for forgiveness. Easy Peasy Japanesey."

Every programmer leaves a back door. At least somewhere in the development process (no...that's not really always true at all. Coding is hard work. Writing in extra code just for a back door and trying to get it past QA is a nightmare. But it makes for fun movie twists and blog posts). So this backdoor.

The author of the Bible--no, not God. God was more of the creative consultant on that project. If you ask me, the Bible was more of a 'story inspired by...'  So no...the dude who first said that God told him to write the Bible. HE put in Free Will. That was the loop hole.

So...God has a plan for my life. And I have Free Will. But God's plan MUST include my Free Will. If God's perfect plan includes all of the times I exercise Free Will, then it's either A) not a perfect plan...or B) my free will is neither my will, nor free.

I just don't see how Free Will factors in to something that has such monumental consequences.

It reminds me very much of a line from a Pink Floyd song.

We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year. 

Gold fish have a 3 second memory.  For 3 glorious seconds, or at some point, they know exactly where they are. And then they forget.  You see, the souls aren't really lost. They're in the fish bowl.

Only they don't have any way to retain that knowledge. So...the brief flashes of illumination only serve to obfuscate the issue.

They have free will.  They could  stop swimming.  Only in less than 3 seconds, they would forget why they stopped. And would start swimming again.

It's all getting deeper.

It's interesting to me. When you set about to try to disprove something like God....the layers that you peel back to get to that 'truth' in and of themselves reveal something so much more divine than human imagination.

Other lyrics from "Wish You Were Here" take it deeper.

So...so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field, from a cold steel rail
A smile from a veil
Do you think you can tell?

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for pain?
Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for the lead role in a cage?



Free Will. God's Plan. I'm just a simple son of a printer...but I'm not sure I can see how those two things would ever reconcile in a way that both parties would be cool with. I know I'm not supposed to know. Or that all will be revealed in God's time.

There's just one problem I have with that.

Time, much like free will, is a concept made up by Man. The Creator has no use for either.

I think my three seconds is about up.

7.27.2015

Tech/Tonic Shift

I can't really believe it's been a whole week since I've written anything in this blog. I'm almost afraid to check my inbox. I don't want to wade through all the emails from the throngs of fans clamoring for my head and 'please, for the love of Todd....when are you going to write something--anything--again?!?!'

Fear not.

That moment is upon you. Or rather me. Because if you're reading this, then that means the moment of the writing has passed. Quite some time ago from the looks of it. Seriously?? I go to all this trouble and you can't even book mark my blog? It's ok... I get it.   Shhhh. No. Don't cry. We'll get past this.  All writer/reader couples go through this.  But seriously...you gotta dial the threatening emails down, mmmmkay? Nobody can write under that kind of pressure.

So. Right. A week. That's not to say I haven't written in that time. I just haven't written here. I have been writing in my paper journal. You know...that ancient thing from forever ago. For some reason, the deepest thoughts go on paper. Or wind up as running monologues in some character I've stuck in a story or screenplay somewhere. But..yeah.

Paper.

Lo-Tech.

Don't worry...it makes me laugh too. I have 2 cell phones. 2 tablets. 2 personal laptops and now a laptop that work gave me. 1 mp3 device and...6...something like that. 6 cameras. Yeah. I think that's right.

So here's the funny part...I am getting to the point where when I come home from work, the last thing I want to do is dive in to the tech. For a while I had shiny thing syndrome. OK...perhaps I'm being a bit too liberal with the use of the word 'had.'

I like gadgets.

But I think I need to start simplifying my life. So...to that end...if you're reading this and you're looking for a Mid-2009 MacBook (white) with a 256 Solid State Drive that has been updated to 4GB of RAM....let me know. I don't know that I need it or will use it much given that work hooked me up with a slightly newer (ok...6 months newer, but still WAY new to me) MacBook Pro. I don't plan on carrying it around everywhere and will be using it mostly for work. Which leaves the Chromebook as the laptop around town choice for writing on the go when I don't need to be able to get in to work. Right. That was a lot of babbling. All that to say, there's a MacBook available if someone is interested. Lemme know. Since most of my readers found me from facebook, you can message me there. OR leave a comment and we'll talk turkey. I'm thinking $350 for it, but let me know what you had in mind and we'll go from there.

Alrighty then...who needs a messenger bag? Got a few that I'll let go for cheap. Couple hold 15" laptops. And 2 are made for 13" laptops.

Whoa! Wait...this is NOT Toddtiques Roadshow.

Yeah no. Not so much. But I do feel that I am going to be simplifying my life in the near future. I need to do less of what society tells me is 'connected'....and spend more time in face to face interactions. This weekend was perfect proof of that.

I hit the All About Autism Car, Motorcycle and Truck Show that Make it Fit Foundation puts on every year (and I won a gift basket--woot woot)!! And it was cool to see a lot of friends I haven't seen in forever. It also kind of surprised me how many of them had been keeping up with the saga of the robot neck via this blog and bookface. Score one for technology.

It was a good weekend. After a rough week back to work after the surgery/recuperation, it was definitely needed.  This week should be no less busy if my calculations are right. Which, in my humble opinion, makes it doubly important to unplug whenever possible.

My former neighbor brought over an easel, so I'll need to get some paints and brushes in short order and get to work creating some masterpieces.

For now, though, I'm gonna finish this tea, check on my laundry and then go run a few errands.

Peace out!!

-AT

7.20.2015

Diffusing the F-Bomb

If you have read more than a few posts on this blog, first off--thank you. I know it's a chore sometimes. And I know that these unchartered, free-flowing waters of my mind aren't always the most navigable. And sincerely, thanks for coming back.

You see, I'm a writer.
And I want you to read my books when I publish them.

I'll come back to why those two sentences are two of the hardest I've ever written in a bit.
But back to the blog.  If you have been here before, you might find that as the years have progressed, my infatuation with a certain four letter word has recently blown up in to a full-on-sell-the-condo-and-move-in-together-in-a-little-starter-home-and-oh-yeah-I'm-allergic-to-cats-is-a-dog-ok kind of thing that Hollywood power-couples envy in their Hollywood PowerCouple hearts.

That's right...the F-Bomb.
At first it was for effect. Could I be edgy? Could I be that guy?  I could...sometimes. Or at least I could get in to that guy's head as I was writing. Much like facebook, a good portion of what's on this blog is a character. And another healthy portion is really me.

Eventually it just became easier. I got lazy.  Why say "when I looked in to her eyes, I found that I no longer had any command of the English language" when I could easily say "wow--she had the kind of eyes that let you know you were f**ked for other women" ?

Both work, I guess. But one is more real-world Todd. And the other is fictional-author-archetype Todd.

Perhaps, that's not the best example, but you get the point. The fact is...it was a good shielding word.

My dad thought that I started using the word in my posts more when I put my weight back on. He wasn't trying to be a dick about it. He likes reading the blog, and the change in tone bothered him. I get it. And I liked his candor about it. There was a time I would have been hurt by it. But these days, that man is one of my closest friends. So, I dug the feedback.

But it's not just when I started putting the weight back on.

The weight started coming back on because I stopped exercising. Summer of 2013. After I got hurt in the Warrior Dash, things started going down hill. That was my first summer as a single man. The divorce wasn't final. Wouldn't be for another 5 or 6 months.

And I was facing the reality of what my life was becoming.

Or rather, I was faced with the reality. Facing it implies I was meeting the challenge. In some respects I was. In others, I was handling it like a whiny punk.  It was quite the mindfu- er...My thoughts reeled in that swirling nothingness that often accompanied a mind in post-coital bliss; void of any logic or reason.

Initial injury to knee....PT...chiro....then through aggravation and repetitive stress, I got arthritis diagnosis in my shoulder/neck. That led to chronic pain. Stenosis in my spine. Bulging disks. And invariably, the surgery I went through 3 weeks to the day of this writing.

I got lazy. Where words once danced in my head, now they shuffled through the cloud of pain that was constantly there. Sometimes below the surface. Sometimes raging like an angst-fueled college kid after a sportsketball match.  But always there.

Thoughts were slower to form. Dropping the proverbial f-bomb was quick and easy and mostly said what I would have said anyway.

It's no excuse.

A pro will always use the tools at their disposal. A master photographer can make art with a cell phone.  A world-class athlete trains with the gear they have. Never do they say, "I can't be the best unless I have the best gear." That's backwards. They get the best gear by being the best. And at that point, the tools enable them to master with ease.

Words are my tools. These pages...my books and stories are my magnum opus. Sure...I can tell a story with the words you give me.

But I am ready again (some would say finally) to use those words that fit me better. The slime of chronic pain is fading with each passing day and I have no doubt that as I have in the past 3 weeks on several occasions, I will continue to wake and face each day.

Time to get to work.

I have worlds to create. And, as Stephen King would say, darlings to kill.

As for those two difficult sentences I mentioned earlier? Hmm. I guess you'll have to come back and see about those, won't you?

-AT

10lb Limit

As you may (or may not) know,  today was my first day back to work in three weeks.

Three long weeks.

Two of those weeks I had a five-pound limit on what I could lift. If you think that doesn't sound like that big of a deal, do something for me.  Lift a full gallon jug of milk.  No big deal, right? That's eight pounds. Slightly more that half of that gallon was all I could lift for two weeks. 

Week 3, after clearance from the doc, that went up to 10 pounds. So, gallon and a quarter. 

My laptop bag right now is probably slightly over that. 

I had to get a small laundry basket so that I wouldn't overdo it when I was cleared for activity again. Because you know, a load of laundry can easily hit 25 pounds and I won't be cleared for that until sometime next week in all likelihood. 

Some of you might think that having three week off work is fantastic. And I would be inclined to agree. Normally it would be enjoyable. But when it's post-op recovery and range of motion and weight limits in effect, it flat out sucks.

But here's the good news about it.

My neck is fixed.

The pain I have now (albeit it minimal by comparison) is POST-OP pain....not CHRONIC pain.

BIG DIFFERENCE.

Did I overdo it this weekend with the laundry and the hair cutting and the what not? Yeah. Probably. But that's why I saved a few percs. :-)

I did have at least one person ask how my vacation was. And, although I didn't quite snap at them, I probably came close. Nope...didn't get any bowling or fishing in.  I'll have to wait until I have some more vacation time built up and try those. Should be a breeze with my new robot neck. 

I was there nine hours. It was a full day. I worked through lunch (quite a bit of email to wade through). 

But in all, a good day. I only thought seriously about taking a nap once through out the day.  I'm sure as my stamina builds, each day will be easier and I'll be back up to 10 hour days in no time. It's only funny because it's true. 

I don't know that I'll link to this particular post or not from Facebook. I gave people the link. They can see if there are any hidden nuggets (hint: there are).

And with that, I'm off to get a tasty beverage.

Have a great evening my friends.

-AT


7.18.2015

Randomness pt.972

Before we get too far in to the randomness...do me a favor.
If you like reading this blog (and I hope you do), do the following--it won't hurt, I promise.

On your keyboard (assuming you're reading this on a computer), hit the control key and D keys (CTRL +D). That should pop up a box on most browsers that will allow you to save the link to this blog.

Well...wait a minute...I guess I should ask first: do you come here via mobile device or...

You know what, it doesn't matter. I'll keep a link up to this blog as one of my final Facebook posts on my personal Facebook page.

Oh don't worry. I don't intend to do myself in or anything. Quite the contrary. I'm limiting my exposure to things that are fairly toxic. And for me, Facebook is becoming more toxic by the day.

I don't need it. It's the same old bullshit day in. I feel LESS connected to people than I did before. It's stupid. I see posts and realize I don't really know the people. Nor, with the way our societal ADD has become a pandemic, do I really care to. I don't want to invest the time to actually go to your wall and find out what really matters in your life. I'll just scroll down the 'News Feed' (as if any of that was News) and pretend to know what's going on in your life by clicking the 'like' button.

To be fair...I have made some friends that way that I may not have made otherwise. It has its place.

But I'm not sure that place is the same place I want to be at the moment.

I'm gonna feck off of Bookfacer for a while. I'll still be around. Just less. Maybe.

I need to work on getting healthy.

I need to spend more time on me and my dreams. And to be completely honest...if I've learned anything the past 3 weeks, it is that Facebook is running out of new shit. Seriously. One of my heavy pain recovery days, I swear I was scrolling for hours. And it was the same crap. Swipe after swipe. The same crap.

That's when it became apparent to me that it was the electronic version of junk mail. And the articles that people posted were 50% of the time links to bullshit click bait sites.

It just got old.

Now more than ever I'm convinced that Social Media is NOT Anti-Social Media as I once thought. There is a need to be connected...the loosest definition of social. But it is arrogant to assume that people give the tiniest crap about what I had for lunch or what particular bar I was making bad decisions in last Friday night.

I don't know how to explain it.

It just no longer feels right. It no longer fits.

So...I'm done for a while. Changing the channel. There may be pix coming through from Instagram on there (Another form of electronic narcissism).  But there will be very few other footprints if I can help it. I just can't get behind it anymore.

So...however you need to, please bookmark this page; the site is http://randomtzp.blogspot.com.

And with that, I bid you goodnight. Oh feel free to poke around. I've had this blog for 10 years or so. There's a lot to take in. Some of it's cool. Some of it's crap. But all of it's me.

Enjoy. Glad you could make it.

We need to catch up soon,

-AT

Sooner or Later

Reality is a funny thing. Not necessarily funny ha ha but more along the lines of funny hmmm, something seems slightly out of place.

The last 15 hours or so, reality has been kind of a punk. I feel asleep on the love seat last night. In NOT a great position for someone who just had neck surgery. Or rather, I didn't fall asleep that way, but when I woke my neck was not happy with me. I don't think I undid benefits of the surgery, but things were definitely aching. I grabbed the muscle relaxer and the Percocets (instead of the Tylenol), because I knew it would help (thank goodness I saved a few of those back for just such an emergency).

Got things situated and put the water in to the CPAP machine.  The display was blank. Looked over. It wasn't plugged in. I remedied that. Still nothing on the display. I was in pain and slightly freaking out. I didn't really need for that thing to be dead. I monkeyed around with it for another 20 minutes and somehow it came back to life. Took the drugs. Hit the sheets.

I dreamt, but damned if I remember it. Probably better that way. The perc dreams are messed up.

Woke up and started the morning routine...oatmeal...Spark...EmergenC...Banana (hey--I know it's not very exciting...reality and all that, remember??).

Got the text that D&D was cancelled.

So...yeah. I was disappointed, but it happens.

Figured it was time to cut my hair. I was going to let my daughter cut it for her class, but I thought twice about the shampoo sinks. As I remember, they would hit my neck right about where the problem area was. So...I decided on cutting my own hair. Been doing it since high school. No biggie.

Only this morning, the clippers died.  About halfway through my cut.  Yeah. I looked like I was suffering radiation poisoning. Half my hair was shaved away, the other half wasn't. I took the clippers apart. Cleaned them. Put them back together. No joy. They were dead.  Well...I guess 15 years was a good run.

I cleaned up, threw on a hat and headed out to Walmart (figured I'd blend in).

Fuck. This is really boring.
I'm gonna go ahead and post this, but probably won't post a link to this shite from Facebook. Lucky you, you found it anyway.

Alright...I'll be back later. I need to check on the laundry.

-AT

7.16.2015

Sneak Peek

Chapter 7

“Fuck.”  You have to know something about me before we get too deep in this Country Tyme Lemonade commercial you’re reading. Fuck is my go to word.  There’s a very good chance the editors are going to strongly suggest I change it, but for now, fuck it is.

The latest utterance was on the heels of realizing I needed to actually leave my apartment.  The lapses of memory and the fact that I may or may not be hallucinating Bob were enough to get me wondering.

“I’m not an hallucination, asshole.”  Bob called from the kitchen, “But you probably should get the brain bucket checked. Something definitely ain’t right.”

I didn’t bother answering Bob. How could I? Imaginary friend or not, he was right. Something was going on. The blackouts were too long. The gaps almost too great to recover from.

Now I just had to figure out how to actually leave.  This wasn’t going to be easy. Not by a damn sight.

"It's your own damn fault," he said, rustling of the Ramen noodle package giving away his activity.

Rubbing my temples, I didn't even bother looking up. "How's that?"

"You could have easily written another kind of book. A sci-fi piece. Rom-Com. Hell after all of those NCIS reruns, you're primed for a crime novel."

I started to counter his argument about the ease of writing when the knock came at the door.

The knock had a purpose. Succinct and serious. Three swift raps on the door.

It was a cop knock.

A pan clanked in the kitchen and Bob ran back to his room whispering "I'm NOT here!" on his way.

I took off my shirt and threw it toward my bedroom as I turned and walked to the door.  The knock came again, slightly more forceful as I turned the doorknob. I got the sense someone was about to check it as I did.

"Uh...yeah?" I said as I opened the door and stared at two uniformed officers staring back at me. The doorman fidgeted nervously behind them.

"Rodney Andrews?" The shorter of the two queried.

I ran my hand sleepily through my hair, at least I hope that's how it looked, before I answered. "Yeah. That's me. How can I help?"

"Did we catch you at a bad time?"

"I just woke up. I had the graveyard shift supporting our Bangalore division."

"Your Banga--"

"Bangalore. It's a city in India. My company has offices there and 4 other international locations. I do tech support, officers.  I'm good at it. And sleep keeps me good at it. And I'm running on very little of that, so can we cut to the chase please? Is there something I can help you with?"

"Mr. Andrews. We're sorry to bother you. But we need your help with something."

"What's that?"

"We need you to come downtown with us."

"Am I in some kind of trouble officer?"

"What? Oh. No. Nothing like that, sir."

I reached for my shirt and shoes as he finished, "You're listed as the next of kin."

I froze.

I looked in the direction of Bob's bedroom and saw the light go out from under the door. I turned back to the officers.

"Right gentlemen. Let's get on with this, then." I glanced at the doorman, who was well aware of my 'condition' in time to see him mouth "I'm sorry" to me. I nodded as I pulled the door shut behind me and headed down the hall, flanked on each side by a cop.

Turns out I was wrong. It wasn’t Angie I was heading back to the outside world for. At least I hoped to fuck it wasn’t her.

_*_

Chapter 8

I don’t remember the ride to the station. Not surprising. I was lost in my own thoughts trying to work out the puzzle of who would list me as their next of kin. I hadn’t done anything illegal that I knew of recently so the scenario of uniformed cops tricking me to come to the station quickly gave way to running down the list of anyone who might list me as the next of kin.

I was vaguely aware of buildings flashing by. Next thing I knew we were there. The 84th Precinct. Things were still in the dreamlike blur as I was lead through a maze of desks and people to a conference room. The officers deposited me and told me that the detective would be with me soon.

Detective.

The word rolled around in my brain. Synapses that had been asleep for the last….20 minutes started firing.

Detective.

What the hell would a detective have to do with anything related to a next of kin? Shouldn’t that be a lawyer or some shit?

I started to stand just as the door opened.

“Mr. Andrews?” The voice was female, but I didn’t really see her. At least not at first. “My name is Jackie Weber. I’m a detective.”

“Uh...hi.” I managed weakly. I shook her outstretched hand and sat back down. She sat across from me and and sat a manilla folder on the table in front of her.

Fuck. The folder.

The folder never had any good news. In any cop show, the folder always had bad things. Dead things.

I could feel my mind initiating the launch sequence for self preservation mode as Detective Weber slowly opened the folder.

“Mr. Andrews. The uniforms told you that you were needed down here as the next of kin.”

“Mm. Yeah.”

“That’s partially true. Fact is, we actually need you to identify a body for us. Your business card was found the personal effects of the victim.”

“Vic-”

“Rodney. May I call you Rodney?”

“Uh...sure. Okay.”

“Rodney. We have a dead body. We don’t know how they died yet. All we know is that your business card is one of our only leads.” She pulled a green business card from the folder.

“Wow.” I whistled slowly through my teeth. “I haven’t seen one of those in years. At least 5 or 10 to be precise.”

“Beg pardon Rodney?”

“That’s an old card. I haven’t used that card in a hell of a long time.”

“Can you come with me, please?”

I nodded and followed the detective out of the conference room. As we were leaving I caught my reflection in the mirror. Turns out it wasn’t quite a conference room after all.

I really didn’t like the way this day was going.

_*_

Chapter 9

7.15.2015

Click Bait This

There is a recent...not so recent, but in Internet terms recent...trend and it annoys the piss out of me.

No. It's not incorrectly using punctuation to keep a blog having more of a conversational tone than--hey...wait. I see what you did there.

No. It's click baiting.

Somewhere along the way people that host web-sites and companies that have websites figured out that they could make money just by making people click additional pages.

Check it out.

Your average web page has between five and fifteen different links that go to external sites. These links and web page space are purchased by advertisers and they pay the host on a click by click basis.

Don't bother checking the stats--it's more of an eyeball guesstimate. But seriously...what you need to pay attention to is the clicks.

It's all about the click.

So...you take a mediocre article. Little more than most of my blog entries (in length...I like to think my content is more enjoyable). With some stock photos. And instead of one page (like these) with maybe a few ads (I can't remember if I let Google put ads on my blog or not) and you split it in to 15 pages. Separated by the dreaded 'NEXT' button requiring you to...yup.. click.

Only the links to get to the next part of the article are many times obfuscated with other links (the dreaded ads). The good pages keeps the ads contained in frames. The shitty pages scatter the ads all over the page. ?Links everywhere.  The target space for the legitimate click is very narrow (even though the graphic might be big) while the target click area for the ads is quite large (even though it's only a link).

It sucks.

But it's all about the click.

And if you're on a mobile device, it's even worse. On the average cell phone (not the 'phablets'), it's quite easy to touch the wrong area of the screen.

I find that pages linked from Facebook tend to be the worst about this, but that's not always the case.

This is about to get part bitchy rant and part pro-tips that can save you some headaches.

But Todd...it's just a few harmless ads. Sure, they're annoying, but if I don't click on anything, no harm no foul, right? What's the worst that could happen?

Let me paint the picture for you.  You surf on a page. A web-site of a college your high-schooler is interested in, for example. You notice some ads on the right side of the page. One happens to be for a barrister in Australia (think 'lawyer', but with a cooler accent). Hmm. That's odd. You think. But you've seen stranger things and maybe that college has some connection Down Under.  You go on your way thinking no more about it.

You turn on your computer the next day.  All of your files are gone. In place of all of your files are TXT files (text) telling you how to pay the $1000 to get the de-cryption key. You now have the CryptoLocker Virus.

*PLEASE* Do me a favor and do NOT Google that. I'll tell you why in a minute

Back to the matter at hand. How did you get infected?  The days of only getting a virus from internet porn sites are long gone. Don't get me wrong, you'll still catch something from those sites if you're not careful, but you'll catch them for the same reason you catch them from sites as innocent as a college web page.

Remember that whole phenomenon about ads being on web pages and how that generates money for the page that hosts the ads? It does, but it's a huge problem. Those web pages have placeholders that point to external sites for those ads. So..something you think should be secure (like MSNBC.com, for example) has a link to some external server NOT hosted by MSNBC that is delivering the ad.

Now...let's say the code is sloppy. Or, let's assume the advertiser doesn't care as much about security as the host. It's very easy for those so inclined to insert malicious code.

Let's play out the college web page example.

So...you just viewed the main page. There were some ads. You didn't click on anything. You come back the next day and your computer is hosed. Only it's not just your computer. It's any mapped drive or resource or backup that your computer was connected to.  And this virus is nasty, folks, trust me on that.

So...you didn't click on anything. You didn't knowingly download anything.
How did you get infected.

It's a drive by insertion. Just by being on the page, the ad content was 'delivered.'  The ad content for the Aussie Lawyer contained malicious code. That was pushed to your computer. And executed. Without your knowledge.

It happens. It happened to my parents. It happened to a friend of mine. It's happened to people I know at their place of employment.

Here is the honest to goodness truth of the matter, and the sooner you accept this, the better off you will be:

IF YOU SURF THE NET, YOU WILL GET MALWARE or a VIRUS. PERIOD.

There are ways to mitigate it and minimize your risk, but the truth is you will get hit. I could right three more posts about how to protect yourself (or I could copy and paste my notes that are used for our company's security awareness course), but that's a topic for another time.

Some basics:

  • Always have an Anti-Virus program that is UP TO DATE running on your system. 
    • Our company uses ESET. I would stick with a well known company. And be prepared to pay for it. Nothing in this world is free.
  • Invest in Anti-Malware Software. 
    • Malwarebytes is a good one. There are others.
  • Never open attachments in emails that you aren't expecting. 
    • And scan the ones that come in emails if you ARE expecting them (or call the person who supposedly sent you the email to verify they actually sent it).
  • NEVER click a link in an email
  • Look in to using Firefox or Chrome to surf the net.
    •  These browsers have plug-ins available that disable ads. 
  • NEVER keep anything on a local disk that you can't afford to lose.
    • important files and documents should be kept on removable storage. 
  • EXPECT to get a virus or malware at some point.
BACKUP your important files to removable drives (And REMOVE the drive when you don't need the file. It's called removable for a reason, it's much more secure if you only connect it when you need to access the file).

UPDATE software through the VENDOR website or program only. NEVER update your software because something on a web page tells you to. This is a very effective way to get infected.


Alright. Now that the lesson is over...

But Todd....you didn't tell us why we shouldn't google CryptoLocker...

Ah yes. Did you know that you can BUY your search results ranking from Google? You can. If you want to be top of the list when someone searches for 'cryptolocker' you can pay to be there. And wouldn't it be cool if you did that, knowing that the page people clicked on would infect their computer just by going to the page?

No. No it wouldn't be cool.  But it happens. Because Hacking is big business. And hackers use viruses to get in to compromised systems. Be ever vigilant. 



Now on to the rant....

  • And what happened next will leave you in tears..
  • You'll never believe what shocking thing this father/mother/sister/uncle/leper down the street discovered
  • You won't believe your eyes
  • The result is shocking
  • What happened next is AMAZING
And many more similar phrases.

If you click on a link to go to an 'article' based on any verbiage similar to that above, you only have yourself to blame. These pages are Click Bait pages. Click on the link. Wind up on a page like the one I described above with very poor navigation all designed to trick you in to clicking in the wrong place.

Here's another pro-tip:
If you're clicking on one of these pages just to see a video, save yourself some heart ache. Go to youtube.com directly and search for the video there. Nine times out of ten, the video that you're going to be watching is hosted on youtube.com or vimeo.com anyway. Save yourself the clickbate headache and just start there. 

I really do miss the days when you could go to a web page and just see what you went there to see. Be it boobs or the schematics for the star ship Enterprise. I don't think we've actually progressed in that sense. 

We went from cleanly designed webpages with clear navigation to pages that look like bad sixth grade science projects. 

I'm gonna be over here playing Atari if anyone needs me.

-AT


7.14.2015

Sweet Relief

I had my first post-surgical follow-up today. While it was pissing the mini-monsoon on Central Ohio this afternoon, I was in a waiting room. They took an x-ray of my neck and dropped me off in the waiting room.

For about an hour.

There's a lot that an imagination like mine can think of in an hour.  And it always starts with What in the world is taking them so long?!?

It just goes downhill from there.  Maybe they saw something bad in the x-ray. And so on and so forth.
It was a fun little diversion, though, when my thoughts spun around to the miracle of x-rays. And by miracle, I mean that somehow, someone figured out what was "safe and acceptable exposure" to a concentrated beam of radiation aimed, in this case, at my neck.  

That was good for a few minutes.

My boss texted me a video clip of the monsoon I was missing outside. And I did a little parenting by phone.

If I had thought ahead I would have put the iPad in the case with the keyboard and got some writing done.

The doctor came in. Took a look at my chart. Took a look at the x-ray. Introduced the high-schooler shadowing him. And talked a bit about cutting the little knot of suture that was still poking out of my neck.

For whatever reason, he decided not to cut it, or "tug at it and make it hurt" as he put it. Thank goodness those doctors take that hippopotamus oath about not harming people first.

He wrote up the orders for my Physical Therapy and cleared me to go back to work.

He declared that I was the poster child for post-surgical recovery success. Or something along those lines. I know that all of those words were there, but I'm a little fuzzy on the order right now.

I feel friggin' fantastic. Not gonna lie.

Dad and I had a nice chinese lunch (that I'm still burping up, btw). After which, he dropped me off at my place. After a quick bio-break I made a shopping list and grabbed the car keys.

Car.
Keys.

You bet your tuckas! I was cleared to drive again.

Dude. It feels amazing. I had only had Elliot for about three weeks when I had the surgery and in those three weeks I had actually started to enjoy driving again. So to not be able to do that for two weeks after the surgery sucked big ones.

I'm just still...giddy...high...relieved...happy... I really don't know the right for it (which, granted, makes me a rather piss poor writer at this point)..all the same--it fucking rocks.  (Sorry Dad. It seemed to fit the sentiment).

Ladies and gents..I give you my new neck. Or rather my existing neck with a couple of upgrades.


The arrow pointing to the two alligators eating sideways equal signs are where the upgrades were put in. Basically my disks were removed and 'appliances' were put in. The alligators are actually titanium screws (3 per) that are going in to the adjacent vertebrae. It's a newer type of fusion. Supposed to promote quicker recovery, less invasive, et cetera et cetera.

Anyway...I'm stoked. I feel like things are falling in to place. Just 4 weeks of PT (paid torture) and I'll be right as rain.

Life is good.

Have a kick ass evening my friends!

-AT

7.13.2015

Fourteen Days Later

Fourteen days ago I was going through one of the most hellishly anticipated days of my life. The day, as it turned out, was not so hellish. The anticipation was the hellish part. I had run through all sorts of nightmare scenarios in my head, not less than 4 of which left me with a little voice-box like those scare-tactic don't smoke lung cancer isn't the worst thing that can happen from smoking commercials.  Hey. I have an active imagination, what can I say?

So. That was the 29th of June. Here we are on July 13th and I'm bored out of my fucking mind. On the plus side, I caught up in my paper journal. and by 'caught up,' I mean I actually started writing in it again. I also caught up on the first 3 1/2 seasons of NCIS and finished Sense8 start to finish. Somewhere along the way I recall getting annoyed by the saturation of color on the NCIS early episodes. I remembered on the Star Wars DVD there was an audio and video calibration tool so I popped in The Empire Strikes Back to find that tool. I didn't find it, but watched Empire and was satisfied later that the saturation was an issue on the Netflix side and not an issue with my TV.

For the record, The Empire Strikes Back is still the best of the Star Wars movies. And no, it's not 'Episode V'...it's The Empire Strikes Back. Almost no true Star Wars geek of my generation will ever refer to the original three by their episodic designation.

And Han shot first.

Glad we cleared that up.

I go see the doctor tomorrow. The hope is that he will clear me to return to work. I'm going out of my gourd. I feel fine. I'm down to taking Tylenol to manage the pain, of which there really isn't any. It's not pain, as such. It's more like stiffness. Like that feeling that you want to tilt your head and crack your neck. I don't dare do that, of course, because my current worse nightmare is doing something ridiculously stupid that will undo everything that the good Dr. Sybert and crew did 2 weeks ago. And I'm not ready for that.

I have a nice healing incision in my neck that's going to grow up to be a pretty little scar someday very soon. It just so happens to be on the neckline of most t-shirts I own. So for the foreseeable future I'll be wearing v-necks and button down shirts to give it a little breathing room.

Which means, I'll need to get some of those. I suppose Polo shirts might work too. We'll play that one by ear.

I'm steeling myself now for the inevitable How was your vacation? Do anything fun?  Why yes. Yes I did. I checked myself in to a surgical hospital, but not for a full day (they charge by the hour, you know), and I let a team of surgeons play Operation with my neck. Fuck. I think the Doc took out the funny bone by mistake. Damn. I hope insurance covers that.

I know I'm going to get that question at least one time because I did not tell everyone I work with why I was going to be off for 3 weeks. And I'm sure my boss didn't either. I know most people mean well. But...truth is...

I was/am bored as fuck.

Seriously. I don't know why anyone would want to sit on their ass all day. It's mind numbing. And I can't do shit. The five pound weight limit pretty much sees to that. Hell, that barely lets me pee (HEYO!).

It was weird. I spent most of the day today reading The Martian by Andy Weir. It was a great book and I highly recommend it. The funny thing was, I found myself in a similar headspace at times throughout this recovery period. I live alone. So...when friends aren't stopping by to check up on me (or leave me art supplies, or books, or soup---thank you for all of that by the way)...it's somewhat quiet. I have neighbors. I hear my neighbors. But that doesn't change the fact that there are times when I feel completely isolated here. Not in a bad way. Just in a 'I feel like I am living out a completely unique existence at this particular moment in time' kind of way.

Good news is....it is FANTASTIC real-world experience for the book I'm working on right now (lead character stays in his apartment all the fucking time after experiencing tragedy in his life).  Not being able to drive anywhere pretty much put me in that state for several days these past two weeks (especially the days it was raining and I was unable to take my walk). So...from that perspective, I can definitely add more realism to the book.

So I guess this whole 'medically imposed mostly house arrest' thing wasn't too bad after all.

And I learned something else.

Canned soup has come a really long way since I last had it. I mixed a can of condensed Chicken Tortilla soup with a can of condensed Chicken Soup With Rice (which I swear is a kids song stuck in my head from forever ago... and we'll be eatin' chicken soup with ri-ice'...oh yes...eatin' chicken soup with rice

No?

Hmm. Maybe it's just me. Anyway, it turned out to be a good combo. Defrosted some Na'an bread to dunk in the soup. Pretty hearty meal.

Did I mention I have a follow up appt with the doctor tomorrow? I did? Yeah. Hoping like balls he signs my release to go back to work. Or at the very least, drive. Elliot is sad. I see her out there every day looking at me all sad like, To-oddddd.....we need to go for a dri-ivve.  I know, Elliot, I know. Soon.

Yeah. I have climbed in a few times and started her up.

What? You wouldn't? Pshh. What'evs.

Alright. I'm about ready to pour out my water and call it a night.

I'll give you an update tomorrow after the doc appt.

Peace out
-A.T.

7.11.2015

Five Pound Hell Revisted

OK. Here's my logic...I'm thinking something along the lines of Hey...I have a follow-up visit with the surgeon on Tuesday. That's only three-ish days from now. What harm would it be to take my instant camera and some film over to Jimmy V's for some Christmas in July pix? I mean, I know a few of my friends will be there. It'll be fine. The bag only weighs 3 1/2 lbs and the strap rests comfortably on my left shoulder and doesn't come anywhere near my incision at all.  Everything should be fine.

Right?

And that's pretty much how it happened. So. Re-capping the facts here.

  • Bag weighing three and one-half pounds
  • Shoulder (messenger) bag configuration
  • Left shoulder taking the brunt
  • Strap easily clearing the incision
  • Walk of less than half-mile one way
  • Surgery was 12 days ago
All of that seems like logically I should be fine, right? 

Erm. No.

What the fuck was I thinking?

So...I figured I was in trouble by about the time I hit Jimmy V's. My shoulder, while not sore, per se, was definitely letting me know that three and one-half pounds wasn't the best idea for a prolonged walk. Because...I'm walking slower, you see. Because, you know...limited range of motion. Yeah. 

Again. Not my finest moment.  As soon as I found my friends and we got a table, the bag was off the shoulder. And luckily I was past due for some pain meds, so those were consumed as well. At least my shoulder wouldn't be completely angry with me. Oh..don't get me wrong...I learned my lesson.

And fuck what a lesson. 

Apparently I missed the ABC After School Special where the moral was Just because you think you CAN do something, doesn't mean that you SHOULD.

And I also learned the difference between LIFTING five pounds and CARRYING any weight for a given amount of time. Not the same at all. Because I would swear that shit gets heavier the longer you carry it. 

And by the time I was done this evening (well, I HAD to go to Dairy Queen and get a Blizzard), I'd be willing to guess I was pretty darn close to the five pound limit. 

Other than that (Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?), I had a pretty good day. And the time I spent Uptown (Westerville doesn't have a downtown, I don't really care what you think--there's Uptown and then there's the rest of Westerville) outweighed the time I spent in the apartment today, so it was a pretty good day I'd say. I'm pretty sure I'm going to sleep well tonight. 

I'm also sure that I need to A)either get a good back pack for everyday work stuff or B) get a bag that's a roller bag. Because this whole weight limit thing is no joke. My hope is that I'm progressing so well on the healing that the weight limit will bump up a bit from five pounds (hoping for 15 or 25). And hopefully there won't be a need for any Physical Therapy.

I can see now why so many people (and some I'm related to) screw the pooch on recovery and wind up complicating things. The thing causing the chronic pain has been addressed. So the pain I'm feeling now is the pain of healing. Of my body getting over the fact that someone was inside of it doing shit that it wasn't really meant to accommodate. And the pain meds deal with that. And everything starts to feel better. WAY the fuck better.  So...the logic is, if I'm feeling better, then I must BE better. When in reality that's not necessarily the case. Oh--I know I'm going to be better. I have no doubt of that. But today was a subtle (not really) way of reminding me that my body still needs time to heal. 

On the plus side...the soreness in my throat is almost completely gone. It will soon be a memory (hopefully one I'll forget very soon). 

All in all, I would say life is pretty fucking good and I'm very blessed. And...I get to go bag shopping Monday or Tuesday. So...it's really win-win. Yeah...I know. It doesn't take much to make me happy.

Alright...gonna call it a night here very soon.

Peace out my friends
-AT

7.09.2015

Multi-Speed Field Trips

So...if you read the previous post, you know this morning got off to a somewhat rocky start.  I did manage to fall back asleep eventually this morning, but in doing so courted a few more oddities in dream land.

They involved being in my gramps's basement. My mom and I were going upstairs. I was tired and needed to get in to bed. This was post-surgery because I was aware of needing to take some pain meds. Dad was asleep in some kind of 60's retro-future wave easy chair and was snoring to beat the band. I was walking past him as he startled himself awake, knocking me in to the door frame. My neck snapped in an odd angle that caused a twinge. Either I passed out or was outside my body as I watched Dad wake up and grab a book of what I assumed to be maps. He settled on a page that looked less like a map and more like a deep druid or possibly Celtic symbol with a post-it note indicating that it might be the basis of inspiration for his next tattoo. He left the book for my daughter to review (as she is supposed to be working on his next tattoo for him, artwork wise).

And from there I don't remember much more of the dream. I woke up from my nap on the love seat. I was still somewhat out of sorts, but went on with the rest of the day.

I'm still in that "maybe this doesn't exactly weigh five pounds" phase. A quick conversation with Mom this afternoon convinced me that it's more critical than ever that I take shit slowly. I'm going to need to get a roller laptop bag. Load my gear...then when I get to the car, unload it. put the bag in car, then load the gear back in the bag after I get to where I need to be. It's going to suck, but unless the doctor miraculously clears me to lift heavier weights next Tuesday, that's the plan. Fortunately I get a pretty good employee discount and I'm sure we have a couple different roller bags at work.

Mom also made an awesome delivery today of pizza and donut holes.

This evening I ventured out of the iTapt with a friend to the East side for some Adult Toy Bingo. I had a blast, but 2 1/2 hours sitting on a folding chair was some healthy insight in to the fact that I'm going to definitely have to move around more often when I get cleared to go back to work.

All in all it was a good day. There was some more pain than yesterday, but not nearly as much as prior to the surgery.

Not quite sure what tomorrow holds, but I'll face the day as it comes.

-AT

What the fuck was that?

I was standing in my bedroom. It wasn't a bedroom I remembered. but it was mine because there was a painting on the wall that was one of those splatter neon 80's paintings with the word 'Todd' on it hanging on the wall. I get the sense that a child had made it or it was a piece of art I had done as a child. There was a series of coat hooks on the wall as well. A plug in back-massager hung from one of the hooks. I contemplated telling my co-worker that he should get one for his wife for mother's day.

Yes. Co-worker, in my bedroom. One of the other Todds I work with was standing in the closet rattling a piece of paper with 3 signatures on it. He was looking at me smiling. Waiting for me to acknowledge him instead of staring at the painting next to the massager. I finally asked him what he wanted. he said he didn't want to disturb me. I said you should have just said something.

We talked about how the brooklyn store was sending back 10 checkout scanners for us to re-program. And started discussing that the queens store would also be doing the same and the units were set to arrive this morning. As we were talking about the logistics of programming 20 wireless checkout scanners, the doorbell started ringing. Much like a child would ring it (like my old neighbor's children used to ring the doorbell in my previous married life).

I was disgusted that no one was answering, so I went to the door.

Only it was the front door from my childhood home. The hallway and path I took to the door had me coming out of my childhood bedroom. Immediately the UPS men (there were 2 and a female supervisor) started bringing in big boxes. And brought them in to the family room of my old house. One of them was the Operations Manager of our Houston Store.

I wondered why they didn't put the boxes in our living room as it seemed a more logical place. The co-worker was discussing this with my second wife, who had come out of my parents bedroom when the boxes started coming in. She was in the same bathrobe she always used to wear.

As the third one was brought in, the supervisor said to me 'have a nice day Todd.' And I closed the door.

I started to have a discussion about how the Supervisor used to work in our finance department and went on to being a route manager with UPS for their commercial accounts with TD and my ex wife.
**
It was at that moment that I felt 3 successive taps on my right leg moving from above my knee to my mid thigh much like someone raps their fingers on a desk when they are bored or waiting.  These were enough to wake me straight away from my sleep, uttering the words "What the fuck?" I was completely awake and cognizant of my surroundings. I tried to go back to sleep, but that wasn't working. So...I got up...took a piss and decided to write this dream down.

As I'm sitting here writing, I can hear my neighbors across the courtyard. And what I hope are fireworks and not gun shots. I may throw on some shorts here in a minute and open the door to see what the fuck. Or I may take another percocet and try to go back to sleep.

Either way it was the most fucked up night's sleep I've had in quite a while. And definitely a trippy dream to remember completely.

7.06.2015

Five Pound Hell

This time last week I was WAY more medicated than I am at this particular moment. I had just had cervical surgery including a new-fangled form of fusion.

That was 7 days ago.  Today I woke with no pain. Some stiffness, and a bit of aching. But not pain. I know that sounds like pain and aching should be the same thing, but they really aren't. Pain is sharp, stabbing, out of no where. A reminder that if I move the wrong way, the dull pain that is constantly at a 3 will shoot up to a 5 or 6.  No. The ache is expected. It's the reminder that shit was done on my insides. The way a bruise feels. And I suppose that's what it is. My throat it sore. Swallowing still isn't such a great thing for me yet. And there is an ache in my neck. Where, I suppose, my body is getting used to the new hardware.

No bending or twisting. Both of those I am complying with, within reason I suppose. There is a certain level of twisting that comes from wiping one's own ass. And I don't think any doctor would be-grudge me that. After all, I don't have too many friends or close relations that I would be able to call on for such duties. Doody duty, as it were.

What's really jacking with me is the five pound rule.

I can't lift or carry anything that weighs more than five pounds. Now...the twelve year old boy in me would love to make a joke about not being about to pee because of a certain anatomical girth that would pass that restriction.

Fortunately for you, I'm above such jokes.  I mean mostly.

Anyway. Yeah.

Five pounds really isn't that much. A laundry basket certainly weighs more.  My ipad in the clam case probably weighs two pounds minimum.

I didn't really think of it until I was at the DQ today. I ordered dinner. And a shake. And started to worry that the tray may be more than 5 pounds. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but a 16oz shake is a pound. And there were fries....chicken strips...the weight of the tray itself. Coupled with the fact that I had my ipad in my cargo shorts pocket. All total I'm sure it was more than five pounds.

I weighed myself with my camera bag, camera, and some extra film (shown here):

It clocked in at about 3 1/2 pounds. If I decided to chuck my iPad in there on my daily walk, it would put it well over the five pound max. Not to mention it's a messenger bag. I'm guessing because of where my incision is and the type of surgery I had, messenger bags will be out for a while. Which sucks because I have a shit ton of them. I have one back pack. And it probably weighs 4 pounds empty. So it's out for a while. Not sure where that leaves me, but meh. I have a few weeks to figure that part out.

This is the part where I definitely have to be methodical. And force myself to calm the fuck down. Because the truth is...I feel fucking great. Sure...I feel like I just went through the wringer, but compared to how I was feeling?  Fuck dude. I feel amazing. I sleep through the night. I wake up refreshed and rested. And ready to take on the world.

As long as I can do that in chunks that weigh under five pounds.

-AT



7.05.2015

Down Day

It's been six days since my surgery. Surgery was Monday. This is Sunday. Six days of adjusting...getting used to things...recuperating...healing...taking it easy...trying not to go completely bat shit crazy.

My spirits up until today have been pretty good. There is, of course, an underlying film of depression that creeps in when one is on any kind of pain medication.  Yesterday the feelings of slight stir-craziness hit me. And then walking Uptown to secure a spot for the parade (that I ultimately didn't stay for) cured me of that.

Today my mom picked me up so I could head to my folks for the bi-weekly family dinner. Is it bi-weekly? Whatever the designation for every other week. Yeah. That thing.

Today was just...off. I can't quite explain it. I broke in to serious sweats throughout the day. I'm not running a fever...just sweating. I want to chop all of my hair off. But there's two reasons I can't. The first is that my daughter will get credit if I wait and let her cut it for class. The second is that I'm not supposed to do any activity that is considered 'overhead.'  Tabletop only. My hands definitely have to go over my head to cut my hair, at least the way I do it.

To be honest, I'm not sure how they expect me to actually wash my hair either. I have devised a ritual that involves walking slowly backward in to the shower stream, but my fingers still creep to the top of my head.  I feel like it's cheating, but I'm not sure how else to do it. The 'no bending/twisting' edict is vague at best.

And not to get too gross here, but...fuck dude. Wiping my ass sucks.

The things we take for granted. And by we, I mean me. The things I took for granted prior to this surgery are ridiculous.  I can't microwave anything. The microwave is above my head. The same holds for the bottles of liquor (which is probably a good thing).

Then there's the whole ass wiping thing. Or even sitting down or standing up. I have gotten much better about doing squats. Since I keep my upper body in the same line when I'm doing a squat, my thinking is that it doesn't technically count as a bend.

But yeah...riding in the car. Less than 3 miles. And I was on edge the whole way there. My mom's not a terrible driver, but I was hyper sensitive to everything. And the no-twisting rule was really fucking with me because that pretty much eliminates my peripheral vision.  It was just...meh. I don't know. I guess I wasn't quite ready for how stressful it turned out to be. I didn't last over there but an hour before I asked them to bring me home.  I feel bad about it, but I'm just off today. I can't quite describe it.  My noon dose of pain meds I decided to try Tylenol instead of the Percocet. Not quite ready for that yet. So, that coupled with the stress of the car...coupled with...well...you get the idea.

My buddy D texted me while I was over at my folks. Wanted to know if I wanted some company. I waved him off. Part of the 'meh' day I think.

And I get it. People are concerned about me. I am thankful to have people in my life who care. I truly am. It's an interesting situation for me, though. When people come over, I feel that I have to be 'the host.' I feel that there is some expectation of what will go down when someone comes over. Like I have to entertain or make sure that they don't think they wasted their time by coming to see me. The further someone is from me distance-wise, the more this comes in to play. Truth be told. I don't feel very entertaining. I don't want to talk about the procedure. I don't want to really talk about the recovery. I don't really want to 'do' anything. My main focus for most of the day is riding the coaster through the med-schedule to make sure that I'm taking what I need to take, when I need to take it to stay ahead of this thing. I can't be on all the time when someone comes over. If you come to visit me...expect that I will doze off in the middle of a conversation. Expect that I will close my eyes. Expect that I will need to stand up every 30 minutes in order to walk around. I don't want to talk. Mostly I just want to be still. Recovery-Todd is not the same as iTod. They are two different people.

That's really the catch-22 of it all. Part of me doesn't want to really be around anyone and the other part of me just wants to know that someone's going to be there when I open my eyes. I know it's kind of fucked up. But what can I say? That's kind of where my head is at.

Speaking of talking...I'm hoping my voice goes back to what was normal for me. For now it feels like a softer timbre. Like Christian Bale's Batman voice whispering crossed with Clint Eastwood. It sounds different in my head. I'm not sure if that's permanent or not. My throat is still sore, so I expect it will be that way until the throat is no longer sore.

It's time for me to get up and stretch my legs...avoid the whole blood clot thing now. So I'll close this little blarp for now.

-AT


7.04.2015

Hellish Limbo

Surgery was this past Monday. That was Day 0 (as I think I may have covered elsewhere, if not-it was at least a nice chat I had with a dose of percocet somewhere along the way). It is now Day 5.

Today was the first day I woke up where there was no pain. Not just a little bit of pain. Or a lot of pain. But no fucking pain at all.  I felt it after I was up and moving around for a bit, but for a blissful 10 minutes on July 4th, 2015, I actually remembered what it was like to wake up and not be in any kind of pain at all.

Yesterday I had it in my head that today was the day I would switch to the Tylenol. A walk or 3 today has convinced me that it may not quite be the day for that.

But dude. No pain.

I know right?!?!

So here's where shit gets hinky. Sorry--Netflix has every episode of NCIS streaming. Which...I have to say is about the best thing ever right now. Not that it was a great show, or groundbreaking in any way what ever, but the fact is--it's a show I enjoy and something that is very easy for me to zone out of when the warm fuzzy blankie of pain-med induced naptime falls over my face.

Where was I? Oh. Right. Recovery.

2 weeks after surgery I'm not allowed to drive. Surgery was on 6/29. The soonest I see the doctor for follow up is 7/14.  I'm on FMLA, so I can't actually remote in and do work (although to be fair that urge only struck me once in the past week). And that's ok. This is Me time. At least it should be.

But I'm not going to lie. There are times when this feels like house arrest. As though I expect to stumble across the hidden camera placed by the scientists studying me.  I'm going slightly stir crazy. I can't drive. I can walk. And am encouraged to do so. And I have been taking walks.

I went Uptown today with every intention of watching the Parade through Westerville. But as I was walking around I was struck by how self-absorbed everyone was. The only thing that mattered was their little group. And staking out their area to watch the parade from. And I get that. My concern was--I am not 100% at the moment. I can't react quickly. I can't turn quickly. My peripheral vision is for shit right now because I'm not supposed to bend or turn my head. Leastwise, if I do either of those things, I'm not supposed to do either of them in any fashion that would be construed as 'quickly.' Even now, while typing this, I am moving my head and body at intervals.  All that to say that I don't trust people in crowd situations. The sidewalks were too crowded for my comfort and at 45 minutes until the start of the parade, I could only expect them to worsen as the parade start time approached.   Instead of taking any chances, I ducked in to my neighborhood pizzeria and ordered a small pie and a couple of tacos to go. By the time I got home, I couldn't be sure if the sweats were due to nerves, the heat, the roids I had just finished taking this morning, or a combination of all of the above.

And I think this is where people fuck up.

I feel good.

Affects of the anesthesia, steroids, and general malaise caused by the opiates I'm on, taken in to account. All things considered--I feel fucking fantastic.

And I'm home.  And I've got shit I want to do. Like clean and organize my second "bedroom." Not being in pain, I can genuinely say that I feel like I could tackle that project.

Only I can't.

Because I can't bend. Or twist. Or lift or carry anything greater than 5lbs.

Five fucking pounds. Are you kidding me? My bowling ball is 16lbs.

My camera bag that I keep my instant camera in (along with 4 extra film cartridges and a second battery) is three and a half pounds. Five pounds is less than 3/4 gallon of fluid.  Don't worry, I split the jug of distilled water in to two containers before the surgery so I would be able to fill up my CPAP machine on my own.

But I know now why people fuck up doctors orders. Why they try to do to much.

I'm in that same boat right now.

There's so much shit I want to do. But mostly I want to be doing anything!! Anything, but sitting on the couch. Or sitting at my desk. Or sitting on my patio. Or sitting at my kitchen table.

The walks help. And I see myself taking more of them. If for no other reason than to get the fuck out of here. I'm going to work my way up to walking to the library. I figure the iPad mini in the Clam Case should weigh less than 5lbs and I can take it to the library and maybe do some writing. Sounds like a plan anyway.

Don't worry. I have no plans to countermand the doctor's orders. But fuck, I tell you what, man, I can certainly see why that happens.

It's insight. The last time insight hit me this strong it was when I was on the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp Tour.

Sometimes you tell the day, by the bottle that you drink. Sometimes when you're alone, all you do is think....

The insight for that line came from being on a tour bus following a rock and roll band's tour schedule. It went a little like this:

  • Roll in to a city
  • Get off the bus at the hotel. Unpack. Unwind.
  • Get on the bus. Go to the rehearsal space.
  • Go back to the hotel. Pack up.
  • Get on the bus. Go to the venue.
  • Play the show.
  • Get on the bus and go to the next town. 

It was about as surreal as it gets. By the 3rd day of a 6 day trip, I literally had no idea what town I was in. So...I totally get the whole imagery now.

And this isn't quite that bad. Except that it is. The names of the days of the week have no meaning to me at this point in time. People have come by to see me. I still don't really know what day it is.  I watch programming on a streaming service so little things like 'this show only airs on Thursday nights' don't really apply.

It's not prison. And I know that's a bad analogy. Because I can walk around. But I can't drive. And to have that mode of transport taken after it has been a staple of my life for 25 years is kind of fucked up. I feel very limited because of that.

Again, I can see someone getting to this point and getting angry. Angry with the doctor for limiting them. It is at this point, if I had no common sense that I would be getting in to trouble. I would be all 'fuck this--I feel fucking GREAT!!! Why should I wait another 10 days to drive?!'

Only I have common sense. I waited too damn long for the day to come along where I could wake up and not know pain.

I don't mind waiting a few more days.

Have a  safe and fun weekend my friends!

-A.T.


7.03.2015

Post-Op Day 4

Went to bed last night about 1030. That's 2230 for those of you on 24hr time (I've recently switched to that on my time keeping devices because, well, it's simpler).

Woke up about 630 this morning. I slept through the night. I only woke up once when I realized that I was about to put my arm above my head. Don't ask me how I knew that in a dead sleep, but apparently I did.

After a few minutes of just laying there and collecting myself, I did the log roll up to a sitting position. Took a quick assessment of the pain and realized that I didn't really feel any. There was a bit of aching...feels more like a bruise than anything--in my shoulder (posterior, near the right shoulder blade).And no pain from around the site of the incision.

Mind you...today is Friday. The surgery was Monday.  It may be too early to call it a success yet, but fuck if it doesn't feel like one!

The no bending and twisting is hard. And to be honest, I'm doing the best that I can, but I haven't quite settled on a way to wipe my ass that doesn't involved bending or twisting...so...there are some minor concessions when I poop. Which...yeah...I've pooped a couple of times since Monday, too. I know it doesn't seem like that big of a deal--trust me--it is.

Sleeping through the night was kind of huge, too. I did some walking yesterday and this morning. And I think I'm going to go to the parade tomorrow, too.

It's all a but surreal. Try walking city streets without bending or twisting. I feel like a  robot that has no neck articulation--the whole upper body has to turn. Much like a body builder who has roided out his neck to the point where his head looks like a fat grape on his sinewy shoulders.

What's funnier to me than all of that is how invisible I felt yesterday.  The incision is apparent. And I am guessing that to a casual observer, it looks like a really bad shaving accident or an after school special gone wrong. But if you are holding a phone anywhere near your face, you become invisible. Obviously with the no bending edict, it makes it tough for me to assume the proper 'cell-phone-engaged-disinterested-in-the-real-world' position, but I can get it close. And just like that, you become invisible. Whether people think you're engaged in your own world or not, that's the one piece of hardware that makes you practically invisible.

I got my malt from Graeter's. Have you ever tried to order from a place that has signs like that without looking up? Not so easy. Luckily I knew what I wanted.   Malt in hand, I did some more walking up State Street.

This morning it was a similar route.

I got up...mostly pain free. Threw on my birthday suit and headed to the shower.

Showering. Again quite the chore with the no bending and twisting. I could make a joke about not being able to lift 5lbs either, but ....yanno...I'm not completely fucking vulgar (all the time).  And warshing my hairs.  I'm not supposed to engage in anything that is considered overhead activity. Which is really kind of a bummer since I've been looking forward to practicing my throw-ins on the pitch. So...yeah...shampooing is kind of a fun little dance with the shower head.

After the fun aqua-antics, I got dressed. Turning one of my t-shirts in to a v-neck a la 80's valley girl style. And some shorts and the treaded footies.  Grabbed a few bucks and headed for my walk about.

But what about those sexy white anti-blood clotting stockings you're supposed to be wearing until the 14th?

Well...good question. I seem to recall the nurse saying I only had to wear them at bed time as long as I was moving throughout the day. And trust me...moving throughout the day is a small price to pay for not having to wear the albino thigh constrictors.

The walk to Schneider's this morning was good. I got a couple of glazed and a couple of chocolate iced-cake donuts. Along with some chocolate milk. And a bendy straw I just happened to remember to throw in my pocket.

Oddly, though, the chocolate milk didn't taste very chocolaty today. Not sure if it's the drugs I'm on for the pain or if something fundamental has changed with chocolate milk. It tasted very much like regular milk with only the slightest hind of chocolate for coloring.

Still sore when I swallow. I suspect that will be the case for a while considering what they had to do to to get to the spine.

I can't tell yet if it's affected my speech or not. Which is to say whether or not I'll have that kind of sexy raspy thing going on all the time or if it's just a temporary thing until my throat stops being sore.

Alright...I'm good for now. I need to get up and walk around about.  Here's one for the archives:

Have a kick ass Friday my friends. I'm sure I'll be around soon!

-A.T.


7.01.2015

Post-Op Day 2

Day 0 is technically the day of your surgery. Like Ground Zero or D-Day or some shit like that. Anyway, that day was Monday. So, it's 2 days after my surgery. 48 hours. And I am now allowed to take a shower (which I'm supremely stoked for).  So I'm gonna go do that.

BRB...

So...THAT was interesting. Showering without bending, twisting, or lifting overhead. Not quite as straightforward as it sounds, but I think I managed to get most of the important bits and baubles cleaned and managed to avert a minor crisis (well, mostly anyway). So the post-op instructions reference removing the dressing and letting the incision air out. And I had a minor moment of panic as I started to peel off what I later learned was the steri-strips over the sutures. I had only started to peel one of the three off...so..after talking to the surgeon to confirm that I should leave those the hell alone, I did. See? Crisis (mostly) averted.

Oh. And I'm sitting at my desk. Figure it's good practice if I want to get cleared back to go to work at my 2 week follow up (which I do).

The pain is really minimal at this point. There is still tightness in my back. And there was some numbness down my right arm/hand yesterday for a good chunk of the day, but other than that it just mostly feels a little tender at the incision site. I'm going to take one more dose of the percoset and then look at changing over to tylenol tomorrow.  All in all, I would say it's a pretty good recovery so far. There's a fine balance of needing to rest and needing to get up and stay active.

I definitely got lucky that we operated when we did.  I think that by getting it before there was any spinal column bruising or nerve damage, the recovery will be a bit smoother than I had thought at first. There is very little if any swelling at the incision site and I don't have to wear a collar or cone of shame, so that's a bonus.

Hopefully it's going to give me a chance to read..relax...write...recharge my batteries as it were.

Or I'm gonna go stir-crazy. One of the two.

We'll see how it plays out.

Happy hump day my friends!!

-AT

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