2020 so far

2020 has been a strange year. It started out with my father passing away from lymphoma. Then, in March, my mother-in-law passed away suddenly from (what we believe) was a stroke caused by dementia.

Not to be outdone, as we entered into April, the world was struck by this election year’s virus, Coronavirus. As that was winding down at the end of May/early June, we had a stupid cop kill a black man in Minneapolis.

The protests began. Not to be outdone by protests, people decided that rioting and looting would be a great idea.

Now, in June, some cities are talking about defunding the police. While the government is trying to remove our 2nd amendment rights. Seems like those two things are counter-intuitive. If we don’t have the police, we should be allowed, via the 2nd amendment, to keep and bear arms to protect ourselves.

Facebook has become a cess pool, where you aren’t able to voice your opinion without someone bitching that you are wrong.

Oh well. I’m off Facebook, except to post for my company, which I rarely do, but I do sometimes.

It’s ok 2020. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. We need to be allowed to get back to our lives. Enough is enough.

Apple Music better on Android than on iPhone XR

I have an iPhone XR. I used it for quite a while, and use it extensively (hands free) with CarPlay when in my car.
I also have an Apple Music subscription. But they don’t play well together. Normally, I should be able to use the following command to play a song from Apple Music:

Hey Siri, play Hurricane by the Band of Heathens.

But the iPhone tells me that I need to be connected to wifi or cellular data in order to make that happen. The trouble is, I *am* connected to cellular data when issuing the command.

I also have an Google Pixel 2 XL, which is an Android phone. My car also has Android Auto built in, as well as Carplay.

I issue the command:

Hey Google, ask Apple Music to play Hurricane by the Band Of Heathens.

Starts playing immediately.

I just find it interesting that Apple Music plays better with an Android phone than an iPhone.

Video meetings

Everybody it seems is using Zoom now to do online video meetings. I’d never used it until today, when a former classmate set up a Zoom meeting for our class from 1984 to get together for a virtual ‘drink hour.’

Except Zoom failed miserably. It seemed to change passwords, and not allow people to log in successfully, and it just didn’t work well.

Thankfully, I had set up a Jitsi server (www.jitsi.org) as a test, because I had read so much about Zoom’s security issues, I wanted to see if there was an alternative that I could use for my own ‘online video meetings.’

That worked, after a few little hiccups.

It was nice to reconnect with Erica Webber, Jack Govern, Leslie Bray, Loralee Trujillo-Cortese, Mark Jensen, and Tim , who I don’t actually think was in our class.

But I’m old, I probably forgot him.

Thanks guys. Was nice catching up.

Preparedness – Electronically

On the 8th of February of this year, I went to have what I thought was a boil looked at that was on my neck. Initially, I went to my normal local family care center. But it quickly (after an hour wait) became apparent that I had something that was “above their pay grade” and had to be sent to the local hospital emergency room.

After waiting there for a few hours (patience is a virtue when you are a patient), it was determined that my hydrocephalic shunt and drain had become infected and needed to be evaluated by a neurological surgeon.

Since my local hospital doesn’t have neurological surgeons, I was sent to downtown Seattle to a hospital that had one on staff. There, it was determined that I would need to have surgery to remove the infected shunt and shunt drain.

All well and good. But I had planned for a two to three hour visit at the local clinic. Not a six day hospital stay. Silly me. I had a fully charged phone when I started the day, but by the end of the day, things were looking a little grim on the power front.

Suffice it to say, after I was paroled from the hospital, I decided to build a small bag of pieces that I could easily carry with me at all times that would allow me to keep my phone charged.

– First, on the advice of a world traveling friend, I picked up a power bank
– Next, because you can never have too many cables, I picked up a three pack of braided lightning cables since I currently use an iPhone XR.
– Third, I picked up a wall charger in case I had access to a wall outlet but my power brick wasn’t charged.
– Lastly, I picked up a few micro usb cables, in case someone was with me who needed juice as well but didn’t have a charger with them. Always try to remember others and it was an inexpensive purchase

Today, I realized it would be good to have something to tote this all around in, so I picked up a travel case organizer to keep it all organized and together.

I will keep this in my car, and should I run into a situation where, like above, I’m stuck somewhere unexpectedly, I will have power and be able to help those around me.

1-11-2020 The Day There Was a Disturbance In The Force

For the past couple of years, along with me fighting cancer, my father was also fighting B-Cell Lymphoma.

He went through two rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, and at least one round of radiation.

For about six to eight months, he seemed like he was doing better. Getting stronger, gaining weight, feeling better.

Then, about three weeks ago, he started not doing so well. On the 4th of January, 2020, my mother took him to the hospital because he was dehydrated and hadn’t been eating. She told him that either he went with her to the hospital, or she was calling an ambulance. Ever the penny pincher that he was, he chose to go to the hospital with my mother and not risk a large ambulance bill.

He was in the hospital for five days. They did CT scans, and an MRI. Turns out, the Lymphoma was back, with a vengeance, spreading throughout his body and into his brain. One of the struggles with Lymphoma is that it is a blood cancer. So where the blood goes, the cancer goes too.

The decision was made on the following Tuesday that we would bring him home and he would be place in hospice care. It was a heart wrenching decision.

He came home that Wednesday. He hadn’t really been with it all day, but in the cabulance, he told the driver that she had made a wrong turn. My brother was with him and had a good laugh about that.

We set him up at home, and he had caregivers that came and helped take care of him. I stayed at the house after my brother went back to Maine for a trial that he had coming up.

Saturday morning, I awoke at 4:25am. I could hear my father breathing, which was a good sign. The furnace kicked on and I couldn’t hear him breathe anymore (loud furnace). The caregiver got up about that same time and went to the bathroom. While she was in the bathroom, the furnace kicked off. I couldn’t hear my dad breathing. The caregiver then came out to the living room and said “John, your father is not breathing. You need to get your mom.”

I went downstairs and got my mom, and at 4:33am, my father was gone.

It’s both a blessing that he is gone, as he was in extreme pain, and a sadness. My mother no longer has to worry about him, and he is no longer in pain. But he will be missed by us all.

My brother was here, and we were all able to say goodbye to him before he passed. We stressed that we loved him, and he asked my brother and I to make sure that we took care of our mother.

I have many good memories of him. I remember driving to Colorado in the back of a Pinto Station wagon and having him tell my brother and I to lift our feet so we could get up the hill to the Continental Divide.

I remember going to Disneyland with him, and getting stuck in Carmel, California when the car broke down for several days. Swenson’s Ice Cream, especially the bubble gum ice cream, and the Moonies kept us occupied.

We had many adventures. He always supported my brother and I. Be it sports, or events, or whatever.

We learned early on, never park in front of the mailbox. Also, if you leave a room, turn off the light. Also, turn the heat down when you go to bed. Were you born in a barn?

All I wanted was for my father to be proud of me. I hope he was. I’ll try to be a better person, husband and father moving forward to honor my father’s legacy.

He was my friend. He was my hero.

Rest easy dad. We’ll take care of mom.

Love,

Mike.

589 Days

I had a cancerous tumor in my body for 589 days, that I know of. I know it was there longer, but to my knowledge, the tumor existed in my body from the day I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer on 2/26/2018 until 10/9/2019 when the metastasized tumor was removed after it moved from my colon to my stomach.

From the time I was diagnosed, I was told that I had eighteen to twenty four months to live. I told the oncologist when she told me that, I think I said something like ‘OK. Well, we’ll see.’ I was rarely negative about the diagnosis. I decided that remaining positive about my life was easier to deal with than being a negative person all the time.

I looked at the world with a different lens. When I go into the bank, or the store, I try to get to know the people who are helping me. I almost always greet them by name. I decided to be the positive stage 4 colon cancer guy.

When I would go in for routine, occasional, PET scans, I would see the same technician, Jay. He told me once that I was the most positive stage 4 colon cancer patient he had ever met. I took that as a compliment.

I rarely passed up an opportunity, either standing in line at the grocery store, or wherever, to tell people about my diagnosis. Not because I was looking for sympathy, but because I was trying to make people aware that colon cancer can strike anyone. I convinced the guy who owns my favorite Italian restauant to go in and get a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy wasn’t what found my tumor, because of where it was located, but it would and will find it in most people if they have the cancer.

I made several mistakes along the way. I told my kids that I was going in to find out if I had an expiration date when I was going in to get my diagnosis. To me, it was humorous. To them, not so much. When I first got home from the first colon cancer surgery, I felt great. We had just moved from Bothell to Edmonds, and so I took it upon myself to rearrange my home office. Heavy furniture and all. Wasn’t the smartest move.

On October 9th of this year, I had another surgery. That oncology surgeon removed the cancerous tumor from my stomach. He also removed a mass that may or may not have been a lymph node and may or may not have been cancerous.

I was in the hospital for a week, recovery and learning to poop again.

On the 17th of October, I came home from the hospital to recover there. So far, so good. I can’t lift over twenty pounds until mid December. Initially, I was not going to be able to drive for two weeks, but those restrictions were thankfully lifted fairly soon after being put in place.

I work from home. So I answer email, and I answer phone calls, just like I normally would, if not a bit slower than normal.

I met with the oncology surgeon today, the 28th of October. He’s pleased with my progress. He removed the staples that had been in place and I meet with him again in a week.

I meet with my oncologist on November 11th. I hope to stay cancer free for a while. I know there is a chance it will come back, but in the meantime, I plan on living life.

Get your colonoscopies. Get your blood work done. Your life depends on it. It saved mine, for now. I’d like to think I can encourage one or two people to do the same. You are important. You may not think you are, but you are. Even if life seems difficult right now, it could ALWAYS be much worse.

I couldn’t have recovered as well without the love and support of my parents, my wife, my inlaws and my kids. And my granddaughter, whom I’ve been able to see a few times since coming home.

Thank you all.

Security Cameras

I recently set up security cameras at my house, and had a neighbor ask about them, so I thought I would write a post about them.

I looked for quite a while for some good security cameras. You can never be too safe anymore. I looked at the Nest cameras from Google, but their support costs were outrageous. I look at a few others, then I came upon the Wyze Camera.

HD color, and they have night vision as well. I can view the cameras remotely on my iPad or my iPhone, and the quality is crystal clear. Additionally, they can take thirty two gig micro-SD cards that will allow them to keep a long, long amount of footage, plus 12 second clips that get kept on the web for free.

I bought these housings to keep the cameras from getting wet – Wyze camera housing, they work great.

I don’t have any outside electrical outlets, so I ordered these, Long USB power cords which allow me to string back to where I do have an electrical outlet in the garage.

Political Posts

A funny thing happened the other day.

My wife came to bed and said “I’m really glad you didn’t get into the latest political fray on Facebook.”

I had to laugh a little bit.

Shortly I was diagnosed with cancer, I decided that arguing politics on Facebook was fruitless. My beliefs are my beliefs, and your beliefs are your beliefs.

Arguing for or against isn’t going to change your mind. It’s not going to change my mind.

A few weeks back, I made a backhanded comment that I thought about running for the governor of Washington. While it would be nice to think that I would even have a remote chance of getting more than ten votes, I have zero interest in running for governor. Mainly because the things I would want to change about the state aren’t easy fixes. Nor would they be popular choices. That’s cool. I understand that.

A few years ago, I was at a Thanksgiving dinner at a relative’s home. As sometimes happens, the discussion turned to politics. Because of some things I said, I was called a racist. We left the Thanksgiving dinner shortly after that occurred. We haven’t been invited back. Nor would I go back if I was invited.

I don’t mind if you disagree with me. That’s cool. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. Sticks and stones may break bones, but calling me names doesn’t hurt me, it just makes me angry. I have little room for anger in my life

I have bigger issues to deal with, in my opinion.

So keep fighting with each other on Facebook, and Twitter, and wherever else.

I can almost guarantee you, if you were in person, face to face, you wouldn’t argue with each like y’all do on Facebook or Twitter. Or maybe you would. If you would, I feel sorry for you.

Just one man’s opinion.

Fear

Fear – It’s an emotion that many of us experience.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about fear since I was first diagnosed with cancer a little over a year ago.

I’m not fearful of the cancer. I’m not fearful of the treatments, because they help me hopefully eradicate the beast that is cancer.

I’m not fearful of dying, whether that be of cancer, or old age, or getting hit by a driver in the Lynnwood Fred Meyer parking lot. (Which some days seems more likely than the other two scenarios)

I’m not fearful of standing up for people who are being mistreated. I’ve done it in the past, and would do it again. Wrong is wrong. Period.

I’m not fearful of pointing out shoplifters. Wrong is wrong. Period.

I’m fearful of stupid things. Things that are irrational to be fearful of, in many ways.

– I’m fearful of heights
– I’m fearful of not doing the right thing
– I’m fearful of flying insects. Bees and bee variants especially
– I’m fearful of running out of money and not being able to take care of my family
– I’m fearful of my companies failing, and having the investors think less of me because we failed.
– I’m fearful of disappointing the people that I care about. I’m not a mega successful person, I’m a guy who just gets by. Frequently by the skin of my teeth.
– I’m fearful that in 1989, when I decided to enter the computer field, that along the way, I’ve made so many missteps that I’ll be asking people if they want fries with that, should I need to look for another job.
– I’m fearful that at some point a situation will present itself, and I will look the other way and someone will get hurt, or worse.

Remember Riley Howell. He did the right thing. I pray that given the circumstance, I would do the right thing as well.

Home Automation

I’ve long been interested in home automation. Some people said it was because I was lazy. I prefer to think of it as automating things to make life easier.

The first thing I did was to purchase an Amazon Echo

Then, I bought a couple of Amazon Smart plugs

With that, I set up a fan and a living room light. So I could say ‘Alexa, turn on the living room light’ and the living room light would turn on. I also set up a fan, because my wife, even when it is 14 degrees outside, likes to have a fan going in our bedroom at night. So either one of us could say ‘Alexa, turn on the bedroom fan’ and the bedroom fan would turn on.

Worked well. Was simple.

When we moved into our house in March of 2018, we had a small issue in the master bedroom. The light switch, when it was turned off, turned off the electrical outlet by the bed. So for the longest time, at night, we had to do one of two things:

a) Unscrew the light bulb and leave the light switch on, so we could charge our phones at night
b) Leave the light switch off and use a different electrical outlet.

This bedroom has only two electrical outlets. One next to the bed (controlled by the light switch) and one on the complete other side of the room. So for the longest time, what we did is we just unscrewed the light bulb and left the light switch on.

We rarely used the light in the bedroom anyway. Since we just use it for non-lit activities 99.9% of the time.

But that got kinda old. Yes, we could have an electrician come in and resolve the issue. But that seemed really stupid to have someone come in and rewire an electrical socket when we could just unscrew the light bulb.

Fast forward to November of last year. I was looking on Amazon, which I do sometimes, and found this product The Kasa Smart light bulb . The beauty of this product is that it connected to wifi and could be easily controlled by Alexa. So now, I just say “Alexa, turn on the bedroom light” and we have light in the bedroom. Works great. Never noticed how many times a light in the bedroom is useful. Now, we have once again.

I have many other home automation tasks that I would like to do, later down the road.

I’d like to get an Amazon Fire TV to control the TV with my voice.
I’d like to get a smart lock for the front door. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten up, paranoid that I haven’t locked the front door. It’s usually, locked, but it would be nice if I had something like this August Smart Lock so I can either look at my phone from anywhere in the world and see if the door is locked, or alternatively I can say ‘Alexa, lock the front door.’

I’m sure there are other things that I can do, down the road, but for now, that’s where I have begun. If you have any questions, or would like help setting up your own smart home, I’d be happy to assist. It’s not difficult, it’s not scary, and can actually be a time saver and give you peace of mind.