On the road again

For the surgery backstory, take a look here: http://jesseq.net/category/tags/cabg

(Disclaimer: Don't read this if you are my mom. There is swearing.)

Yesterday evening (earlier tonight, by my perspective), I rode my bike eleven miles. Not a big deal to anyone who rides with any kind of regularity, except that a year ago I was struggling to ride a few blocks. Exactly six months ago, I was sedated with a breathing tube in my throat.

A couple of years ago, my wife bought me a twenty-one speed hybrid (for non-bike-riding folks, that means it splits the difference between a road and mountain bike) for my birthday. The important thing here isn't so much that she got it for me as that she convinced me that I wanted it. Fifteen years earlier, my bike was not just my primary mode of transportation, it was preferred. But not recently. She figured I'd be happier if I went back to that, and she was right, but getting there was a much more circuitous route that we'd imagined.

I knew I was out of shape, so as expected it was a bit rough getting back into it. I started off by riding a couple of miles a day, figuring I'd set arbitrary benchmarks to gradually increase my range. I felt worn out, but good. After a while of doing this, my breathing felt strained sooner, rather than later in my ride. Exceedingly strained, making me nauseous. It got to the point where I could only go a couple of blocks before feeling so miserable I had to turn around and head home. Then I started feeling it if I did something like go down the corridor to get the mail. There was a hopelessness to it all, that I'd never be able to ride normally again.

In retrospect, I know that it was not my breathing that was strained, but my heart saying, "Fuuuck! We've already had a heart attack, what the fuck is wrong with you? Stop this shit right now! You trying to kill us?"

Mentioning that feeling of strained breathing to my doctor was one of the things that sent me to the hospital for bypass surgery. As he said later, I was doing my own stress testing.

So I feel better now than I did a year ago, before I had a clue how lousy I was. Six months ago, though, was a different story. In the days following surgery, it wasn't the pain (which was often immense) that was getting to me. A lot of little things that made me question if any of this was worth the trouble. Laying in the hospital bed, attached to tubes and wires for days, I was ready to have them put the blockages back if I could JUST TAKE A REGULAR FUCKING SHOWER RIGHT NOW.

For the next couple of months, there was very little I could do for myself. Being told not to lift anything heavier than a bottle of milk is more limiting than you likely realize. My wife was having to do everything for me; I never knew how much I'd want to do my own laundry. I couldn't even focus long enough to watch a movie and justify all this free time.

I was pretty sure that none of this was worth it.

When I finally started going to physical therapy, I was feeling incrementally better, but still not enough to balance out the misery I was going through. In December, my therapist let me know that my doctor had said it was okay for me to start riding my bike again (within limitations); I was pretty happy.

Later that day I rode for maybe a mile before turning around and heading home. I felt good. No strain in my chest. The hopelessness had given way to an honest euphoria, complete with a big stupid smile. I finally felt like all the hassle was worth it, that I'd be able to go further - just not that day.

So eleven miles feels pretty good.

Comic-Con lost and found

I was going through my little flash drive thingy, sorting things into a better folder structure and deleting stuff I found to be redundant or otherwise useless, and I ran across a .TXT file that seems to have been written after last year's Comic-Con, and intended to be published as a blog post.

Clearly, I had meant to come back to it later and clean it up, complete some ideas, and put the paragraphs into some sort of order that made sense, and take out some irrelevancies. So I tried. Also, I failed. Some of it makes no sense. I'm sure it would have made some if I'd come back to it within the day I started it, but with several months separating me from the sleep-deprived haze that traditionally envelopes me after Con... Wow, that is some disjointed stuff.

Since I won't be able to make it happen the way I'd originally intended, I undid all my edits to the save point in late July, and now present an un-edited, disjointed, and largely nonsensical reaction to Comic-Con 2009:


July 30, 2009 5:20 AM

Allow me to become a bit of a curmudgeon.

The Comic-Con isn't what it used to be. You're probably aware that it's grown a ridiculous amount over the last forty years. The first one had about a hundred people. This year's hosted about 126,000 attendess. I'd venture that most weren't actually there for the comic books. I know I wasn't. I went because it's a social event.

I've been to the last 22 of these things, and only a few of those years I went for the comic books. It used to be that I went for the shear spectacle, the bizarre cross-section of society that would be there. I would be entertained by the people themselves, the color, the culture.

Of course, I'd always been into generally geeky things, so I would also get caught up in the science-fiction stuff and whatever role-playing games I could find there. Except for the few years that I worked as a comic retailer myself, I had very little interest in the comics. I used to tell people that they should go, at leasst once, explaining that it's not completely nerdy and it's not all about comic-books.

Last year, the largest comic book retailer out there was not sure about returnig (as the owner of Mile High said during the CBLDF auction).

Mile High was not there this year.

It has not gotten less crowded. After the first day, I discovered that I enjoyed the convention more by going out of my way to avoid lines. If the thing I was going to had a line, I found something else to do instead. Much better. Spent quite a bit of time in the Independent Film Festival, which was pretty entertaining.

Attendance was estimated to be 126,000. In 1988, first year I went, total attendance was 8,000 at Golden Hall. For further perspective, Hall H, the largest auditorium of the San Diego Convention Center, where the Comic-Con is now held, is limited to 6,400 people and is constantly full with ridiculous hours long lines. I'm pretty sure Golden Hall could fit inside Hall H.

Overall it was enjoyable. Of course, I think I was more frequently inebriated at this year's Con than previously, which had the indirect side-effect of creating one of the more surreal moments:

Having fish-and-chips, and drinking a beer twice as large as the one I ordered, but having been charged for the smaller - not complaining. As I'm finishing up my Blue Moon with a slice of orange, I look up to see some older Mexican dude walking out to the patio with his order. Edward James Olmos. He goes to sit down at his table, right behind me. Cyndi pointed out that the guy with him was Colonel Tigh. Grabbing a chair from another table was Kali (apparently it's supposed to be spelled Cally, but I think Kali is more in line with BSG's mythological naming conventions). I almost went to her to point out that she really shouldn't be there, having been killed about two seasons back.

Okay, so it was possible to get in to the panel, though it required much more waiting in line than I'd prefer.

Pretty sure it was worth it. Rather amusing bunch - a good balance of writers and actors. The draw to the more "Hollywood" panels seems to be the performers, rather than the creators, who are usually the ones *I* want to hear from.

One of the writers said that when they script the HOWTO voice-overs, he tries to write it the way Matt Nix (the creator) talks.

During the Q&A, someone asked if Nix would be interested in doing a horror project with Bruce Campbell, and he responded, "The thing you have to keep in mind when fighting a zombie with a chainsaw is..."

As close as I got:

I found out about the hunt itself after Thursday night's reveal, so I was clearly out of luck. I blame the glitternecrophiles.

I was in line for the panel that would be discussing Tron (as well as the upcoming Alice In Wonderland). The panel after that was the one for the Twilight series. They don't clear rooms between panels. Some of the Twilight folks were camped out since late Tuesday night.

So we waited in the line for *our* panel, but it was cut off with us pretty close to the door. Because of the people there for Twilight sat through a panel they didn't care about, keeping me out, and away from Flynn's arcade.

I have since been even more grumpy about Twilight than when I found out it had glittery vampires.

Sometime in the last year, I found myself watching Tron on cable. I was surprised at how well it holds up, especially considering the subject matter. Yes, it's a bit silly and requires some suspension-of-disbelief, but it's reasonably enjoyable.


There you go. We will never know where I was really going with all that. Pretty sure it amounts to: Twilight sucks, Tron rocks, and OMG Edward James Olmos!!!eleven!!

Also something about Burn Notice. Hmm.

It came from Switzer Canyon

After several days of having my heart rate monitor mysteriously shut off while out riding my bike, it occurred to me when I got home yesterday that it was happening in the same general area each time - somewhere in South Park.

The monitor is narrow band I wear around my chest, with the display on my wristwatch, connected to each other wirelessly. I have the watch set to beep if I exceed a rate recommended by my doctors; it also will beep to let me know it is shutting off, which it does automatically if it's not getting a signal because I've taken off the monitor.

This lack-of-signal-thing made me think that there is some kind of interference blocking the radio signal from my monitor to the wristwatch - a cell phone suppressor, or secret military technology, probably, hidden among the cafes and taverns.

So today when I went for my ride, it was with the intent of tracking down where this is happening. The ride became a walk as I went back and forth, doing laps around blocks, hoping I'd be able to triangulate the source of the interference. I started recognizing people as I went looping around. I can't imagine what they might have been thinking as I wandered around, walking a bike while staring intently at my watch, but clearly not in a hurry.

This map shows a bit of what I found. (You can view the Heart rate monitor interference map a bit larger.)

While crossing Switzer Canyon between the northernmost marker and the middle one I had no signal, but only while on the west side of the road. When traveling on the east side, there was no problem.

The marker to the south had just a small area, maybe a few yards, where I couldn't get a readout. I'm pretty sure there's a larger patch a couple blocks south of that, but I'll figure that out later.

No mysteries solved today, but now I'm thinking about finding my way into Switzer Canyon.

Apparently I missed something at the opening ceremonies

I can't remember the last time I missed the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. This is not to say I have watched them, just that I haven't *missed* watching them.

But this? This is weapons-grade musical goodness. And fortunately for me, there are these internets, so I still get to appreciate it.

Apparently the Tatars are a Turkish ethnic group that was once part of the Mongolian Empire.

Shotguns & Shuriken

Where in Hell are we?

Maybe it was Kennedy. Or possibly Khrushchev or Castro. It doesn't seem to matter whose fault it was since no one's really heard from any of them in quite while.

Most folks just call it The Crisis.

Actually, that's not quite true. Most folks don't talk about it. Maybe out of ignorance, or maybe out of denial.

What's more important is where we are now. What was once the American West is once again a desolate wasteland.

Once things got (for lack of a more accurate word) livable again, some folks wanted to claim it as their own. Some came from beneath the Earth. Some seem to have come from across the Pacific.

Most of the territory has been claimed by a guy calling himself The Emperor. Seems to be a Japanese guy with a twisted sense of Taoism. Whatever it was that happened to the United States was taken as a rightful restoration of Balance by some who knew about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And some of them were militants who liked traditional Japanese sense of order.

After the attempted colonization, most of them went away when they realized there was not much to colonize.

One of those who stayed behind was…

Okay, if Taoism is about Balance in all things, let's just call him mentally un-Taoist. Somehow, this guy set up a capital in what used to be San Francisco and began amassing power across the region. He's got a pretty good hold on what used to be California. However…

In the south, the area known as Angels is defined by a voice on the radio. Tune to 690 on your dial, day or night, and odds are you'll be hearing from The Werewolf. He's got a lot of imitators, but no one else can match his signal strength or charisma. Some don't like him because they say he's among the feral Afflicted, and trying to bring society down. Most who do listen just like the music he plays. Whoever he is, he doesn't seem to take himself too seriously, even if others consider him a new kind of god.

In the City of Angels, there is a, well, thing called Kitsune. Some say it's the shapeshifting Japanese trickster spirit, some say he's a Ninja. Some say he's just an opportunistic bandit. Some think it's just hysteria. Some think it's keeping society from re-civilizing, and some think he's keeping the Emperor from getting a strong foothold in the former population center.

Further inland is the lively, glowing capital of perpetual hedonism, Vegas. The Emperor doesn't seem to have much interest in this area. Perhaps he's morally opposed to the sort of activity that goes on here. Or perhaps even he doesn't want to tangle with Mr. Chairman and his lieutenants known as the Rat Pack. It's undeniably their city. That doesn't stop radio broadcasts from entering without paying the Chairman's levy.

Stories come in from Back East about The Boss, who makes his living from working men and women. He has a megalopolis of slaves to do his bidding, and may be the most powerful man on the continent. He doesn't seem to have much, if any, sway in the western wastelands. That doesn't mean he won't.

Of course, there are communes and caravans where people band together for mutual support. There are settlements run by the strong-arm tactics of warlords. There are makeshift schools and forgotten military bases. There are lonely travelers, just looking for something, anything. There are hermits who don't want it, or think they already have it. There are temples for ancient religions, and cults of newly discovered faiths. There are roving bandit gangs and vigilantes. There are guns and swords. There is mysticism and secrecy. There is beer. There is trash and ruins.

There is hope.

There is a lot of wide, open space.

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