The Big News

The big news from this past week is that we’re buying a new house! We found one not far from where we live now, and put in a successful bid. So now we’re in escrow. It’s a fairly new house, and both our agent and our house inspector (who did his inspection yesterday) were impressed with the quality of the construction.

I’m being a little coy about details because, well, partly because I don’t want to jinx it – even though I don’t really believe in jinxing things, and there’s not really much that could go wrong. But I think the stress involved in buying a house triggers my irrational paranoia. But we’re really pretty excited, and working in getting everything lined up to close next month, and then to move.

It’s gonna be a busy summer!

Meanwhile, I spent most of the last week somewhat ill. Wednesday (the day we made the offer on the house) I felt unwell enough that I stayed home from work. Mostly I just felt tired and had a scratchy throat and rough voice, but a few mornings I was parched enough that it was actually difficult to talk. I guess it was a cold of some sort, but it was a weird one. I’m feeling much better today.

It’s always something.

Fantasy Baseball 2011

I was able to make it up to Wondercon only for Saturday last weekend because my fantasy baseball league decided to hold our annual draft on Sunday. 5 of our local owners gathered in a conference room at Apple and spent close to 10 hours drafting our teams. I probably put less effort into this draft than any one I’d ever done before.

My strategy, such as it was, mainly involved drafting younger. Last year’s team was awful, though not so much due to age as due to a lot of marginal players with low upside. I think I did well drafting for youth and guys with upside (but I did draft a few old players; I think some old guys are worth picking in the right spots). Secondarily I wanted to avoid drafting hitters in pitchers’ parks and pitchers in hitters’ parks. I didn’t do a great job at that, although I think any choices were fairly defensible.

Here’s the team I ended up with:

Pos Player Team Round/
Age Comments
C Miguel Montero ARI 4/56 28 I’ve been a big fan of Montero for years now, and I’m happy to have him now that he’s got the starting job in Arizona.
1B Albert Pujols SLN Kept 31
2B Neil Walker PIT 5/65 25 I’m not so comfortable relying on a young second baseman for the second year in a row (last year’s guy, Scott Sizemore, was a bust). But many people seem to think he’ll be fine, and a few think he’ll be very good. He’s off to a hot start.
3B Ryan Zimmerman WAS Kept 26
SS Rafael Furcal LAN 7/112 33 Old hitter in a pitchers’ park. Not really what I wanted, but shortstops has really dried up by now.
OF Nick Swisher NYA 3/40 30
OF Carlos Quentin CHA 6/88 28 Pretty happy with this pick. He has breakout potential, but of course he also has bust potential.
OF Adam Jones BAL 7/104 25 This guy was a top prospect just a few years ago. And he’s only 25! He still has a chance to be a star, I think.
C Miguel Olivo SEA 12/184 32 The perfect backup catcher: Gets a lot of playing time and has impressive power. But, an old guy in a pitchers’ park.
C Ryan Lavarnway BOS 11/342 23 Top catching prospect in the Red Sox’ system – and they need a catcher.
1B Daric Barton OAK 10/152 25 Another “was a top prospect just a few years ago”, and maybe this year he’ll add some power. Another hitter in a pitchers’ park.
3B/SS Jhonny Peralta DET 8/120 29 The perfect infield backup: Qualifies at two positions, doesn’t kill you on average, and has power.
SS Zach Cozart CIN 23/368 25 Cozart has a weird performance history, alternating average with power. If either one shows up, he could make the Majors this year and be a quality shortstop.
OF Pat Burrell SFN 14/216 34 Old guy in a pitchers’ park. But also a guy guaranteed playing time and who has power. In the 14th round, this is the kind of guy you want.
OF Kosuke Fukudome CHN 18/280 34 Probably the first guy I’ll cut when someone better comes along. But he has some hitting skills which ain’t bad for a 5th outfielder.
OF Domonic Brown PHI Kept 25 Top hitting prospect starting the season on the DL due to a broken bone in his hand. I’m not sure I entirely believe in his ability, but certainly the potential for stardom is there; it seems like he has to put a lot of things together to achieve it, though.
OF Brett Jackson CHN 19/296 22
OF Eric Thames TOR 21/328 24
OF Matt Dominguez FLO 24/380 21 20-year-olds who hit well at AA are worth taking a flyer on. Unfortunately he got hurt before the season.
SP Cliff Lee PHI 1/8 32 I was surprised he fell to me with the 8th pick. Taking him was a no-brainer, as Halladay and Sabathia had already been picked.
SP James Shields TBA Kept 28 I agonized over keeping Shields or Zack Greinke. Shields has great peripherals but a serious problem with home runs. Greinke is a little more expensive, has moved to the NL, but is on a team (Milwaukee) with brutal defense, and will miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season with a broken rib. And who knows how long it will take him to be back to his normal self after that. Ultimately, Shields’ peripherals made me decide to go with him.
SP Chad Billingsley LAN 2/24 26
SP Jordan Zimmermann WAS Kept 25
SP Derek Lowe ATL 5/72 38 Probably an overdraft. And he’s the oldest guy on my team. But, he’s been reliable for a long time and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
SP Ricky Nolasco FLO 6/83 28 Nolasco is a lot like Shields, and plays for the other Florida team. Again, I was sold on his peripherals.
SP Jorge de la Rosa COL 11/168 30 Pitcher in a hitters’ park!
SP A.J. Burnett NYA 11/76 34 If he stays healthy and is anywhere near his usual numbers, then this could be a steal.
SP Homer Bailey CIN 17/264 25 Frustrating prospect who’s struggled for a few years and is starting the season on the DL. But he’s only 25! Seemed worth taking a flyer.
SP Julio Teheran ATL Kept 20 Best pitching prospect in baseball.
SP Jacob Turner DET Kept 20 Second-best pitching prospect in baseball? That may be overstating things, but the difference between him and whoever’s above him is not huge.
SP Kyle Gibson MIN 15/232 23
RP Luke Gregerson SDN 9/136 27
RP Mike Adams SDN 16/248 32
RP Huston Street COL 13/200 27

Overall I think I executed fairly well. I’d really like to have a better shortstop, and to have found someone less risky than Lowe and de la Rosa to rely on. The outfield has a lot of potential but might not realize it. Otherwise I don’t have many complaints.

Last year’s team was a disaster – I finished next-to-last in the league – and I think this is clearly a better team. But our league is intensely competitive, so finishing in the money (among the top 7 of 16 teams) is not guaranteed.

I’ve been getting burned out on fantasy baseball, so this might be my last season in the league. Then again, I’m more excited about this team than I have been for a couple of years, so maybe I’ll be back. Especially if my prospects start developing.

Teatro Zinzanni

Those of my readers who know I work on Apple’s developer tools may have heard that we recently shipped Xcode 4. But this entry isn’t about that (since, well, this isn’t a work or an Apple blog). Rather, it’s about our ship celebration, which was dinner at Teatro Zinzanni in San Francisco on Thursday night.

Debbi and I decided to take the bus up with most everyone else, mainly because driving into the city during rush hour wasn’t attractive, but also because driving home after dinner wasn’t real appealing either. It only took a little over an hour for the bus to get there, so it wasn’t much of a compromise.

Teatro Zinzanni is – literally – dinner-and-a-show, the show being similar in some respects to Cirque du Soleil, but with a dash of vaudeville and audience participation thrown in. The show alternates a comedy bit – usually plucking an audience member for their involvement and a little embarrassment – with a musical and/or acrobatic performance, and one of the five courses of the dinner. While the style of the comedy bits were not really my thing (although seeing my cow-orkers’ involvement was greatly humorous, which made up for it), the other performances were very impressive. I was particularly amazed at the feats of strength and acrobatics performed by “Les Petits Frères”, which were frequently amazing.

(I’m amused that Zinzanni’s slogan is “Love, chaos and dinner”, since in order to perform these stunts in a dinner setting what they’re doing is anything but chaos.)

Almost worth the visit all by themselves are the available mixed drinks (PDF), of which I think I had one more than I really ought to have had. (Another excellent reason to have taken the bus.) I think the “Bella Donna” was my favorite.

We had fun socializing before dinner. Debbi met many of my cow-orkers, whom she mostly hadn’t met since I moved to a different team last summer, and we caught up with a few people we don’t see very often.

It was around midnight by the time we made it home, but it was well worth it. We have some friends who are big fans of Teatro Zinzanni, and I can see going back sometime.

I’d just rather not be one of the people picked to participate in one of the comedy bits!

Wondercon 25

Last Saturday I took a day to go to Wondercon, the large regional comic book convention that’s been a Bay Area staple for 25 years, and which I’ve always meant to go to but never made it there. The big reason I’ve never made it is that I’m always insanely busy in late March/early April, and by the time I realize when it will be held I already have other plans. But I put it on my calendar this year, and even though I was still insanely busy, I made the time to spend the day up there.

Unfortunately, Saturday is Wondercon’s busiest day; apparently they sold out for the day, probably drawing over 40,000 people, and the convention floor was a zoo, just packed.

And I’m not really a crowd person.

I enjoying looking through the dealers’ booths. I picked up a few comic books from the 70s, and was happy to see that Travis Hanson was there with the latest issue of his comic The Bean. The big booths were impressive: DC is pushing the upcoming Green Lantern film heavily, and they were also promoting the GL animated films and the Young Justice TV series. The small press and artist booths were fun to stroll through, too. I think I’m about 15 years too late to really enjoy the floor, since I don’t really buy many back issues anymore. Most of the ones I want have been collected in paperbacks or hardcovers in that time, so there’s not much I’m looking for.

But ultimately it was all a bit too overwhelming for me. If I’d had more time then I probably would have gone to a few panels (assuming they weren’t packed, too), but I only had the one day. If I go next year Ill try to plan things out better.

I did manage to meet a couple of folks I’ve “known” for years but have never met in person. One was Johanna, whom I’ve followed on LiveJournal for some years, having connected through a mutual acquaintance. The other was Jason, who I’ve known for over 20 years since we were both part of an Amateur Press Alliance together, and who is now the editor-in-chief of the web site Comics Bulletin. I had a good long while chatting with Jason and a friend of his while we were all taking some downtime, but I only had a short while to talk to Johanna while she was on break from the booth she was helping at. But it was good to meet both of them.

I also enjoyed chatting with another congoer when we were eating lunch next to each other at Mel’s Drive-In, talking about the book I was reading, Doctor Who, GalaxyQuest and similar things. A nice semi-random encounter.

Overall it was an okay day. I think I enjoyed APE more when I went last fall, as I found more books I was interested in, and generally found the booths more interesting to peruse. On the other hand, I felt like I got all I could out of APE in one day, whereas if I went to some panels I could probably fill a couple of days of Wondercon. (I might not be social enough to enjoy going to dinner or parties after the con, though.)

Maybe not a ringing endorsement of the con, but I do feel conflicted about it. I wish I felt more comfortable around people I don’t know. But, I yam what I yam.

Health Update

Another big gap between updates. Things have been real busy around here lately, so let’s try to catch up over the next few days.

Last Monday I went to see my doctor about my recent health concerns, and also to get a physical exam. Since I’d gotten blood work done on my trip to urgent care a week earlier, that meant fewer tests to do. I’m in slightly better shape than I was at my last exam 2 years ago, and have lost a little bit of weight, too. I also seem to be about an inch shorter than I thought I was, which is bizarre: I’ve always been an even six feet tall, and now I’m a little over five-foot-eleven. I’m not sure if I’ve shrunk a little (aren’t I a little young for that?) or if their measuring stick is a little off.

I talked about my health concerns with him, and he said that stress could certainly be a contributing factor, but that it could also be a case of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). He said that reflux can result in a phenomenon which feels like chest pain, as well as stomach pain, and the phlegmy feeling I’d developed in my throat the weekend before the appointment. He suggested I buy a 14-day round of omeprazole (brand name: Prilotec OTC) and see if that helps.

And, I’m pleased to say, a week into the treatment I’m actually feeling much better, with all of my symptoms being just about gone. I’m trying to cut down on coffee and caffeine a bit, which should also help. But hopefully I’ll be all better at the end of the treatment.

So that’s all a big relief.

That same Monday was Blackjack’s first chemotherapy treatment for his cancer, and yesterday was his second treatment. The vet said both times that he’s doing very well (though I’m not entirely sure what this means; are they X-raying him to examine his tumor, or just seeing how he physically is reacting to the treatments?), and the staff at the vet all seem to like having him, too. I guess he’s pretty easy to deal with. He is still low on energy compared to how he was before starting radiation treatment, but he’s been pretty friendly, has been up and around (and very happy to have had the back door open during our recent warm weather), and has been playing some.

I do miss the overexuberant Blackjack running all over the house, though. I hope he bounces back to that once we’re done with all the therapy.

But he’s enjoying all the attention, canned food, and extra treats, that’s for sure.

Urgent Care

Yesterday was highlighted by a trip to urgent care.

I’ve been feeling somewhat out-of-sorts for a while. I think it started on Tuesday, when I had a general mid-range feeling of crumminess. I chalked it up to having slept poorly the night before, but skipped playing frisbee anyway. Wednesday I felt better, but not perfect. And in the evening while sitting reading comics I keenly felt my heart pumping and my blood pulsing – not that it was fast, just that it was strong and noticeable. Thursday I was again not feeling great, but had a bevy of meetings in the afternoon (one of which I was running), so I was at work anyway. I came home with a headache, which turned into a debilitating headache – possibly a migraine – by 7 or so, and I went upstairs and napped until 8. I felt better, and came down and had a Diet Coke and some Hormel chili for dinner (Debbi prepared it), and felt better afterwards. (I rarely get migraines, by the way – maybe one every 2 or 3 years.)

But Friday and Saturday I again was feeling kind of off. I had a recurrence of soreness and stiffness in my hip joints which I’ve had a couple of times before, and general soreness elsewhere, including some in my torso. So at this point I’m starting to wonder if I’m on the verge of having some heart problems, or if something else serious was going on. So while we were at lunch yesterday Debbi asked me if I was okay, and I said “I don’t know.” So we headed off to the urgent care center (in the cold, wind and rain).

(Aside: the Palo Alto Medical Foundation uses medical office software from the company I used to work at, Epic Systems. This always amuses me. I make a point of telling people there about this, and I always end up getting feedback about it, even though it’s been 12 years since I left. That entertains me, too.)

This is my first trip to urgent care in nearly 20 years, when I went to the center in Madison the morning after developing an unbelievably painful sinus infection. They gave me antibiotics and told me to go home and sleep. I felt more equivocal about going this time, since it was more a combination of milder symptoms that was making me worried rather than feeling clearly sick. Yet the potential outcome if I was right to worry made me decide to go.

The wait was almost exactly the advertised 1 hour, and I saw a very nice doctor (actually all the doctors I’ve ever met at PAMF are friendly and personable) who ordered some blood tests and took an EKG (the first one I can recall having, but honestly I expect I had at least one EKG and some other similar tests when I was a kid, but I just don’t remember them). We talked about various things that could be happening, but ultimately none of them were borne out by the tests, all of which came back within normal ranges. Here are some of the possibilities:

  • I could simply have an infection, but am not exhibiting any of the primary symptoms for some reason.
  • I could be under stress and it’s throwing off my body chemistry. Given what we’ve been dealing with in house-hunting and Blackjack’s cancer, this is plausible. Plus of course worrying that I’m, developing a really serious problem is just going to increase my stress level.
  • I could be under stress and it caused my thyroid to go out of whack. (The thyroid test came back normal.)
  • I could be developing an irregular heartbeat. The EKG didn’t show anything, but of course if it’s irregular then it could just have not shown up at that particular time. The doctor suggested I contact my primary physician and see about getting a 24-hour heart monitor to see if it happens in a longer span of time.
  • I could have developed a blood clot. I guess they did a blood test which indicated that this isn’t so.
  • It could be neurological. They didn’t have a way to test for this at urgent care. The doctor said they could do an MRI or even sample my spinal fluid (!) to test some theories in this direction, but also that these are much more invasive tests.

The blood tests said my liver, kidney and thyroid functions all appeared normal.

So, as the doctor said, we’re left with a puzzle. He suggested I go home, make sure I eat and drink enough (“Eat a banana” he said, in case I’m low on potassium – I did that), and get enough rest. So we spent the evening lying around at home, watching Harry Potter films and cartoons, and got take-out for dinner.

Today I feel better. So I’m starting to think it was either or both an infection or stress. I do stress out often and easily, I just don’t show it on the outside (I’m much less laid-back inside my head than it appears). But I will still call my doctor tomorrow and see what he thinks. But it’s encouraging that it seems I’m not about to have a heart attack.

Blackjack’s Progress

Today we took Blackjack in for his examination. The vet said she’s very happy with how he responded to his radiation therapy! He’s even gained some weight. We can take him off two of the three medicines we’ve been giving him, which will make everyone in the house happy. (Well, okay, Newton and Roulette probably won’t care that much.) The vet does say she wants to put him on chemotherapy for the next six months, since that greatly improves his chances over the next few years, in her experience. Meanwhile, he gets another week off before he starts weekly visits for treatment.

It’s not the ideal outcome, but it’s not so bad as things stand. And we’re encouraged that she’s pleased with how he’s reacted to treatment so far.

We both took today off for the check-up, but with the rain we’re supposed to get all weekend, plus Debbi having twisted her ankle working out yesterday, we ended up spending the day hanging around at home. We took a nap in the middle of the afternoon, and had all three kitties curl up with us, including Blackjack, who’s been a bit standoffish recently, so we were happy that he was willing to join us.

We topped off the day with an evening of Batman and Justice League cartoons. A pretty good day, really. And the best part is that we don’t have to go back to work tomorrow, because the weekend’s just starting!

After Treatment

Wow, it’s been quite a while since I’ve updated.

We’ve been mostly focused on Blackjack’s treatment for cancer these last few weeks. Two weeks ago we took him in on Wednesday for his CT scan (a.k.a. CAT scan – heh-heh), and then Thursday was his first radiation treatment. The night before each treatment we had to take away the cats’ food when we went to bed. So Debbi and I each woke up to starving, ravenous, whining cats the next morning. It was especially hard for me at times since I then had to bundle Blackjack into his carrier, then feed Newton and Roulette, and then take him out the door while they were eating. Poor kitty!

I dropped him off each morning around 9, giving the technician an update on how he was doing. Then I headed to work, and Debbi picked him up at the end of the day. I understand he was knocked out for the first treatment, but then merely sedated for the later ones. I’m not sure how that worked, but he is a pretty mellow kitty.

He had Thursday and Friday treatments, and then Monday-Wednesday-Friday the next week. There was one more treatment planned for this past Monday, but it was cancelled because he was starting to get some blistering in his mouth and throat, since the mass is behind his throat.

Since then he has been getting a steroid pill twice a day, and a different pill and a liquid rinse in his mouth three times a day each (the liquid rinse contains Maalox as one ingredient). Unlike Newton, who loves pill pockets for his daily pill, Blackjack isn’t really interested, so we have to pill him the old-fashioned way. It’s getting old pretty quickly.

The vet said after treatment that Blackjack might get worse before he gets better. He has been low on energy and been lying around a lot, and harder to convince to play with us. We have a sense that he’s turning the corner, but it’s hard to tell. Especially since all the medications I think make him unhappy.

We have a follow-up appointment tomorrow, where we will hopefully find out if the radiation put the cancer into remission, and whether we have to keep giving him all the meds. Plus whether they want to do a round of chemotherapy with him, which I’m sure will be equally disturbing to all of us.

But most I just hope the treatment works and that he’ll have several more happy years with us.

Positive Indications

So Saturday we took Blackjack in to a veterinary specialist about his cancer. He has feline lymphoma, which is typically not curable but can be treated. The vet took an ultrasound of his body and it appears the cancer has not metastasized, so we are going to be taking him on on Wednesday for a CT scan, followed by several days of radiation treatments over the following two weeks. Hopefully that will put him into remission and we’ll have several more good years with him.

Apparently cats deal with radiation treatment and chemotherapy better than humans do, so he probably won’t be flattened for a long period of time following treatment. (If we’re really lucky, the actual trips to the clinic will be the worst part for him. I expect it will not be so easy, but we can hope.)

The poor guy got his belly shaved for the ultrasound, which makes him look kind of pathetic. On the other hand, it’s a lot of fun to rub his shaved belly – fun for us, that is! Not really for him.

Sunday we drove around to look at some more houses. None of the houses we looked at were ones we had high hopes for – four of the five were actually pretty far afield of where we’d like to live – but we wanted to get more of a feel for what’s on the market. Three of the five were homes which clearly hadn’t been substantially remodeled since the 80s (if not longer) and needed some TLC to make them livable. The other two were more modern and had much to recommend them – except for their location, as far as we were concerned. But hopefully some more places will be hitting the market in the next month that we can take a look at.

Today I took the day off and caught up on a bunch of project around the house. For example:

  • Went jogging. It was a hard run this morning, but I managed to finish it.
  • Washed all the bedcovers, which took most of the day. Also vacuumed around the bed.
  • Replaced a dying bulb in a light fixture.
  • Catalogued all the comic books I’d bought from the last two months.
  • Paid bills.
  • Distributed the minutes from our last homeowners association meeting.
  • Pulled up some weeds outside.
  • Even took a coffee break, walking down to Starbucks and reading for 40 minutes.

A pretty productive day, all around. Still haven’t done my taxes, though. Might work on them tomorrow, so I can send all the data to my CPA this week.