Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best. Neighbors. Ever.

It's 57 degrees out right now, and I looked out the window a few minutes ago to see...snow! Odd, thought I: it's awfully warm. So I took a better look, and sure enough, white stuff was falling very lazily from the heavens. Really gently falling, like the first few flakes of what will become a Storm To Remember. And I've seen 50-degree temperature drops in a single day, so I don't know, maybe it is snowing.

But the sky is crystal clear.

So I went downstairs, opened the door, and confirmed what I'd already begun to suspect since standing up: fire. And fire in this neighborhood almost always comes from the same source. After standing on the porch just long enough to tarnish the smell of my clothes, I ran up to the attic room and peered out to the southwest, where to my utter lack of astonishment, I saw the perpetrators throwing their trash on a fire whose flames easily reached 6' to 8' in the air.

Now, we all generally accept that fire is pretty much the mortal enemy of civilization, more so than floods, snow, or any other major element. Fire destroys without discrimination, and leaves NOTHING in its wake. So I did what I've done numerous times before: I called the police.

When I explained that these wondrous folks were disposing of their trash on the pyre, the operator didn't pause a second before saying "I'll send the fire department." Burning trash is a big no-no in Henrico County.

Seeing as how this is probably the 4th or 5th time I've had to get the fire department dispatched to that house, the owners have become clever. The truck showed up, I pointed them around the corner to the fire, and the folks doing the burning said they were "cooking". Turns out if you have food and say you're cooking, you can burn all day long without consequence. As long as your trash isn't sitting in a big pile right next to the fire.

So my neighbors are cooking cardboard boxes for dinner tonight. I wonder if I'll get an invitation.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas

I just got hired! The position is contract-to-hire, which means I'll work for a contracting company for 90 days and then be hired directly by... Tredegar!

My first day is 1/5/09.

Monday, December 15, 2008

With apologies, we've been too quiet

I've resisted the temptation to blog on unremittingly bad bouts of pessimism. You see, there hasn't been much to be optimistic about lately. I've been fairly happy, spending time with Amanda and Alastair, but things just haven't been good for a while.

Amanda's typical neutropenic fever didn't happen typically. Usually she gets hit hard by the chemo about 8 days after getting home, and then at day 10 gets pulled back into the hospital with a fever, and stays there for 3 days. Well, this time she's just been bed-ridden on and off for about 2 weeks. Last Monday she went in for an overnight to get an extra dose of the biologic element of her last chemo, and she's been fighting nausea and and lethargy ever since. She's hardly eating, losing weight, and the random bleeding continues.

Yeah, I'm officially worried. I've told her I'm going to start marshalling her: forcing her to eat on time and to consume reasonable portions or switch to a liquid protein diet.

A couple of weeks ago Alastair brought a wonderful case of bronchitis into the house, and the three of us have been passing it around liberally. He and I are mostly done with it, but Amanda seems to be getting worse and worse, often coughing to the point of gagging, and this morning coughing so hard she couldn't breathe.

Now it turns out my stepmother has shared in the delectable soup of bronchitis, as has Amanda's mother. Both have sought medical treatment, and in the case of my stepmother, the test revealed a spot on her liver that may well be cancerous.

Good news all around.

So I've been reluctant to say anything. Generally I like to temper the bad news with some glimmer of hope, but frankly I'm not seeing one.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fast-Track to Political Stardom

I've figured it out: I now know how to get a top advisory position in the US Government, and I should be able to get it knocked out in 2012, if not by 1/20/2009!

All I have to do is run against Obama! Just look at his appointments: rife with former political rivals and old classmates. I can't hope to become an old classmate, but I can run a hopeless bid for office.

So what should I go for? Sec. of State? Sec. of Interior? I like that one. Ooh, maybe DHS?

There's probably not time to mount a campaign for this year, seeing as how the election was last month, but who knows! Put the word out: AHAMOS for president!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bullets -- I mean Bullet Points

  • The 2008 racing season is done, both for the major sanctioning bodies and for me. I didn't end it how I would have liked, but all in all I can't really complain: in 9 events, I averaged 66th percentile in class, 78th percentile in raw times, and 74th percentile in handicapped times. Daniel, my codriver, will have finished just ahead of me in raw and handicapped averages, and way ahead in class. I would have liked to have broken 80 in all 3, but dwindling attendance made that very difficult. Only 2 events had 70 or more participants, and only 4 had more than 60. One had as few as 39 drivers, although I did turn in my best performance in that event, coming in 4th.
  • Amanda is still sick. Really sick. The last couple rounds of chemo have been so uneventful that I'd forgotten how sad she looks when the neutropenia really hits her. She's downstairs right now under 2 blankets and has been there for about 4 hours.
  • Alastair has picked up a little cough that plagues him when he's sleeping. It pretty much goes away when he's up, but I'm starting to get a little worried about him.
  • I am still without an employer, but that doesn't mean I'm unemployed. I've been very busy and have only fallen about 2 weeks behind my typical salary levels, even after 6 1/2 weeks of "unemployment". And I have a lot of work slated for the near future, so I'm not too worried.
  • Gas got cheap, but you already knew that.
  • The stock market and I are in complete agreement about the president-elect. Stocks rose briefly on 11/4, but have been puking on themselves consistently since then. Thank God we don't need to rely on our investments right now...
  • Hillary will be our next Secretary of State. Oh lordy. I thought we got our fill of crotchety old women with Madeleine Albright. Granted, I thought she was pretty cool, even for a Liberal, but Hillary's not stable. Hillary belongs in a stable.
  • Facebook is the new black.
  • Daniel picked the single coldest and most ruthlessly windy day in recent memory to have me help replace his brake pads & rotors. We did it in 1 hour, which might be a personal best. But it was very cold, so we were motivated. We tried to do the fluid, too, but my power-bleeder's European-car cap blew its seal, so that will have to wait. Until warmer weather.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Great Camel Cricket Massacre

It was a normal, boring night 8 years ago. The sun had set just a couple of hours before, and my good friend Domenick and I were headed to the tiny shed out back of our rental house. I no longer remember why we were going out there, and I seem to recall not knowing why after all was said and done, but we were indeed heading to the shed.

The shed at that house had seen some evil moments in our 3 years of living there: I'd been stung by a wasp, attacked by camel crickets, found significant evidence of termite infestation, and been nearly choked by the stench of mold and two-stroke engine fumes.

But that night would live in infamy.

Nothing seemed amiss as we approached the shed. Sticking the key in the lock and opening the door revealed a horror show almost without parallel: camel crickets half-covered the floor, the counters, and the walls. THE FREAKIN' WALLS. The one light in the shed (when it worked) was just sufficient to cast dark shadows, and left half of the tiny building in darkness. But when I turned it on, the floor started jumping. Jumping away from me, jumping at me, jumping everywhere.

The nearest thing to hand was an old broom, which I weilded like the deadliest weapon known to man. I was smashing, bashing, and swinging the broom with abandon. Several deadly blows were rendered to the floor, the walls, and the counters before -- gasp -- the broom broke! Right above the head, too, leaving me with about 3' of stick.

Domenick had by now sensed the panic and desperation in my valiant struggle, and picked up the head of the broom. Pushing past me, he took up his own struggle against the moving countertops while I continued to bring down the broomstick of justice on the minions of Satan.

When it was over (and while it seemed to last forever, I think we realized it was only 30 to 45 seconds total), there was a surprisingly small mass of carcasses, but still numbering well above 15. I recall that with a couple of swings, my feet actually came off the floor.

I never again felt such savagery, but I never again went in to see the whole surface of the building jumping, either. Domenick and I rarely spoke of the Incident.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President Elect

If you promise the moon, and a starry sky to hang it on, all you have to do is point to the heavens and say, "Look what I did."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Voted

And I think I f***ed up.

Not for the presidential race, but for the US Senate race. See, our choices were both former governors: Mark Warner (D) and Jim Gilmore (R). Ordinarily I slant toward the Republicans, since they fit more closely with my fiscal conservatism, but what I remember of Gilmore's tenure as governor wasn't terribly positive.

He promised to get rid of the car tax. Fail. He also sold significant portions of protected land to pay for government initiatives. Now, I had just graduated from W&M when I heard about that, and the land he wanted to sell had the same name as a man-made lake on campus, so I think maybe that just tugged at my heart-strings too much, but I didn't feel like he was taking Virginia's natural resources as a serious priority. True, Green and Republican don't often mesh, but generally Republicans don't seek to expand government.

So I felt like he short-changed us, and I voted against him today. But instantly I was wracked with guilt. Not because I'd voted Democrat, but because I remembered who else represents our Commonwealth in the US Senate: Lunatic Webb. You might remember Jim Webb as the nutjob who tried to take a gun into the Capitol, or as the fellow who refused to shake hands with the President. Webb capitalized on a horrid campaign gaffe on the part of then-shoe-in George Allen to deny a Republican seat in the Senate.

What made me so upset about remembering this is that I think Webb is dangerous, and without a counter-balance in the Senate, Virginia's elected representation may not truly represent her. VA is not a blue state. She's a mix: liberal at the top and boot-tip, and conservative pretty much everywhere else. So voting to put Warner (granted, he's moderate, but he's also the new guy) with Webb may well spell doom to Virginia's economy.

We owe a significant portion of our success in the Old Dominion to John Warner, who as Chairman of the Armed Forces Committee kept Norfolk Naval Yards afloat and funneled great gobs of cash into the state. Will M. Warner and Fruitcake Webb continue to see those as priorities? Will they have the same pull on Capitol Hill?

My biggest concern is that Webb will bully Warner and Virginia will not show her true colors for the next several years.

I still think Warner is a better choice than Gilmore, just not right now.

Oh, I'm so conflicted.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I promise it's not worth the effort

Je n'avais rien a dire, mais je le voulait dire en francais.

In Muenchen steht ein Hofbraeuhaus. Eins Zwei Gsuffa!

Nihongo-wa suki desu. Ichi ni san yon go roku. Miruku-wa suki desu-ka?

Viel Spass damit!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Some numb-nuts tried to steal from Will & Olivia yesterday. He fired a gun in their shop, took off running, and fortunately was dumb enough to fire off a shot at a cop. They caught him (the cops, that is), and with an attempted capital murder charge, he'll be up the river for a loooooooong time.

So take a moment and send some love to our good friends and coffeeshop proprietors. I'm thinking of getting Amanda to apply for a part-time security job over there.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

My Super Duper Uper Schmuper Top Secret Blog

I've had a lot of requests for access to my other blog. Please do not be offended I do not act on yours. Things are a bit crazy right now, and until the dust settles, I have to be extremely careful.

My failure to grant your request does not mean that we are not friends. Unless you're not my friend, but I think they pretty much know who they are.

I will not be enjoined, Martha F.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Vielen Dank

I posted it on my super duper top secret ueber-Blog, but I just wanted to express my thanks to all of you who have rallied to help us put the events of the last couple of weeks behind us.

I'm not angry, and I don't want to go back. I'm looking only at positive ways to go forward, and there are plenty.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Honest to God

Real conversation with Alastair tonight:

We'd been discussing alpacas, since we'd seen them at the State Fair of VA. Amanda or I made some silly comment about having an alpaca, and where it would be kept.

Alastair: He could stay in the FRONT YARD! (he tends to yell his punch lines)
Me: But how could we keep him from going in the road?
Alastair: He could stay in MY ROOM! No no no: that's silly. He could stay in the COMPUTER ROOM! It'd be hard to check your e-mail!

He's two.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Ich hab' seit immer versucht, Ihnen die Wahrheit ueber mein Leben zu erzaehlen. Das kann ich nicht mehr. Von jetzt hoeren Sie nur die gewoehnlichen Geschichten des Lebens: was mein Kind gemacht hat; Erzaehlungen der Gesundheit; wie es meinen Kaetzen und meiner Frau geht.

Wahrscheinlich wollen manche die Wahrheit nicht lesen. Sie fuerchten sich davor, ihren eigenen Namen in diesen Zeilen zu lesen (obwohl ich keine Namen genuetzt hab').

Sie koennen dies uebersetzen, wenn Sie wollen (obwohl beide Google und freetranslation.com meine Punkte ganz vermisst haben!). Mir ist's scheissegal. Aber die Wahrheit ist tot. Zerreisst aus den Haenden. Und Sie haben noch nur dieses uninteressantes langweiliges Blog.

Wenn ich Ihnen gern hab' (und besonders wenn ich mit Ihnen nicht arbeite) dann werd ich vielleicht Ihnen die Gelegenheit geben, mein neues Blog zu lesen: http://ahamos2.blogspot.com.

Wenn ich Ihnen nicht vertraue, dann werden Sie noch nie meine Worte lesen. Und Sie koennen sicher sein, dass die ganze Welt Ihren Name nie wieder lesen kann.

Seien Sie gewarnt: mein anderes Blog ist nicht fuer Jammerer. Wenn Sie glauben, dass Sie ein Jammerer sein koennten, bitte meine Posten gaenzlich nicht lesen.

Seit etwa 11 Jahren hab ich nicht so viel auf Deutsch geschrieben!

They're gone

Here's some nice white-space to enjoy:


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Health Scores for 2008

I totally started the year off with a Woe-Is-Me approach, bemoaning my string of illnesses and putting off any significant testing lest anything dreadful should be found. Yeah, I look pretty petty in retrospect.

Amanda's HSCT has been bumped up by 24 hours. She's now going in for her port on 9/30 and being admitted 10/1 for The Big Suck. We're going to try to get to the fair at least once (if not twice) before then, enjoy our friends and our time together, and blast the holy hell out of some paper targets. I shaved her head the other night (my first time doing my wife's hair) since she was making a big ol' hairy mess everywhere.

Lucy's all better! She ran her full course of meds, finishing her last antibiotic on Monday morning. Now she's all ready for her battery of shots!

Vivienne is now overdue for her shots.

I'm well, thanks for asking.

Alastair is doing great. He's getting over a string of little colds that have kept his nose runny for over 2 weeks, but is in great spirits and seems to be loving the cooling weather.

Work sucks.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Insurance: Auto v. Health

It occurred to me late last night that there's a fundamental difference between auto insurance and health insurance: if Amanda were a car, she would have been totaled at the first mention of leukemia. Right now I'd have a new wife and Amanda would have been either sent to the crusher or sold at auction.

Granted, with 8 years of depreciation, I might not have gotten a significant settlement, so I might have to settle for a wife with less power and fewer features, but then in the last 8 years, maybe some of the highly desirable features that I specifically optioned are now de rigueur. Maybe the power windows that I paid an additional $500 for are simply a standard feature these days. Heck, my new wife might even have come with XM or HD Radio at no additional cost!

Last year's BMW might be this year's Kia.

But then a fundamental similarity also occurred to me: when the car insurance company totals your car, you have the option of buying it back from them. You get a salvage title, and re-insuring the car is almost impossible, but if you're willing to put in the considerable time and effort, you can get your old beloved jalopy back to running condition and even restore it to pristine showroom shape.

So I'm going to be operating a wife with a salvage title. And while she won't have that new-car smell, I think she's well worth the time and effort to put her back together.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

And Me?

No fewer than 4 migraine headaches in the last 2 months (which is 4 more than I'd had in the last 10 years), and an occasional searing headache right above my left ear.

Other than that (and a sore throat), I'm fine.

And Lucy comes home today. She's accepting the syringe-feeding very well, and may have nibbled a little bit on her own last night. She's not snotty any more, and her eyes are clear. She'll still need medicine for a while, but just having her home will be a big improvement.

Of course, she'll have to go right back in for her rabies shot. Poor girl...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

It's a daggone sickness competition

So Lucy manages to be just as sick as Amanda. If not slightly more.

Two weeks ago she was wheezing a little bit, right before Amanda went in for chemo #5. I kept an eye on her for a few days, and while her condition worsened, it just looked like a bad kitty cold.

By Monday of last week, her eyes were all gooped up with sticky nastiness. I took to cleaning her eyes 3 or 4 times / day for a couple of days, and scheduled a Wednesday morning vet visit. Before we went in, I did some research and found that she had conjunctivitis, which is often brought on by feline herpesvirus and generally accompanied by an upper respiratory infection. It seemed a perfect fit, and required medical attention.

So we took her in. We got medicine to put directly into her eyes, and amoxicillin to shove down her throat (Amanda and I are both allergic, so it would be really fun to get scratched or bitten while handling that stuff!). We also learned that she'd lost about a pound, which wasn't too worrying since we'd switched their diet to a lighter formula a few months back.

So we went home, medicated our girl, and watched her condition improve overnight. And then worsen over the next several days. She wouldn't eat. We couldn't force-feed her.

Monday morning, I called and asked if I could hospitalize her. She was super-weak, super-snotty, and has been blowing bloody snot-chunks all over the house.

I took her in and she'd lost another pound in 5 days. She is now hospitalized, being syringe-fed, on a full course of slightly different antibiotics, and receiving IV fluids.

She was severely dehydrated, showing signs of liver damage, had a white blood-cell count of 30,000 (it should have been 19,000) -- don't worry, it's not leukemia. Another couple of days and her liver would have been irreperably damaged.

So it's kind of close, and the vet is being guarded on her chances. Just like the VCU doctors do with Amanda.

And our poor other cat, Vivienne, was left to wonder just what in the hell is going on. With Lucy, Amanda, and Alastair out of the house last night, she was extra clingy this morning when I had to leave for work.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Quarantine at Casa Amos

Amanda's back in the hospital as of this morning. She woke up with a fever of 101 and was horribly depressed at the aspect of spending more time in the slammer.

Alastair is still generating his fair share of snot, and sounds pretty good and congested.

I'm sporting a sore throat and periodic light-headedness.

Lucy is going to be admitted to the kitty hospital this afternoon. Her wheezing has not improved, and she hasn't eaten in days.

Poor Vivienne is the only one who's well, and while she's a really good nurse-maid to all of us, 4 patients is just too many for one well-intentioned cat.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ask me about my birthday

Well, I got to see Amanda, though she was in the hospital. I stayed home from work that day and played with Alastair, had cake with him and Amanda, and got to go go-kart racing that night.*

I brought Amanda home from the hospital Saturday night and had a relaxing(ish) day with her Sunday. I bought myself a truck-box and mounted it (woohoo!).

Then our black cat Lucy got pink-eye (not from Scott Baio) and Alastair threw up twice at dinner. He's now getting over a cold, and has passed it on to me.

Giftage for Birthday '08 (#33, if you're counting):
  • Chocolate Cake†
  • Cheesecake*
  • Batman Begins†
  • Target gift card‡
  • Best Buy gift card†
I'm really not grousing: Amanda is still with me and moving rapidly toward her transplant. Alastair is getting better, and Lucy (after seeing the vet on Wednesday morning) is getting better, too. All-in-all it's what any adult should actually hope for on his/her birthday: (relative) health and necessities.

And I made a big space in the shed from all the stuff I was able to put into the truck-box.

†Thanks, Leigh!
‡Thanks, Peggy!
*Thanks, Randy!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What is that thing in the road?

My drive to work this morning was rather exciting. It began on the James River Bridge, where I started getting pelted with little chunks of tire. It was everywhere, little shreds scattered here and there for well over a mile, far longer than I'm accustomed to seeing.

There was a rock-truck ahead, and I figured getting in front of it was going to be the best way to keep my car from getting banged up. So I sped up to pass him, but while I was passing him I noticed that all of his tires were intact. Then I saw something very large and out of place on the road: a tractor-trailer's wheel hub, complete with outer wheel, inner shredded tire, drum-brake, and axle stub. All in all probably around 700 lbs of steel and rubber coming to rest under the Bells Rd. overpass. I swerved, made sure the traffic behind me also passed it successfully, and put the pedal down to find out who had lost it.

Since it was still moving, I knew it had just recently come off. I hit about 100mph before finding the culprit: a big semi rolling down 95 S with a serious tilt to the right.

I got up to him, verified the damage, and pulled up beside him to flag him down. I waved him to pull over, which he did, and I told him about the damage. We went around to the back of the truck to inspect, and he said he didn't feel anything strange about the truck (ok, maybe, but it was leaning over significantly, and blocking his right-side mirrors).

Anyway, I have to assume that he got off the road, because he was clearly disturbed by the amount of damage. I wish I'd taken a picture, but I was kind of shaken up over the whole thing. That was the first time I'd ever pulled someone over on the highway.

View Larger Map

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wireless Power

I just read this article about Intel's new R&D toy that transmits power wirelessly and safely.

Pretty cool stuff, but before it comes to market, they'll have some challenges to overcome: how do you protect your power from being stolen? I'm assuming in this future utopian society that we'll still have to pay for the power we consume, so how do I keep my neighbor from just turning off his power and living off my wireless feed? Will every lamp, phone, computer, appliance, and ceiling fan require some sort of communications security package?

With my wireless network, only recognized MAC addresses are even allowed to connect. So buying a new electric razor might some day involve taking it to a power console, copying a serial number or other unique identifier into the console, and then connecting it. Will consumers accept the inconvenience of security or the higher bills of stolen power? Or will all electric consumers have to get pushed to a flat fee? Government involvement? Power as tax?*

Don't get me wrong: I'm excited about never having to charge my cell phone again, but there will have to be some very carefully orchestrated infrastructure development and policy-planning before this takes off, or else we'll be constantly struggling to legislate after-the-fact.

*Please do not get excited about the prospect of guaranteeing citizens' rights to power through taxation or direct government involvement. Subsequent questions arise about what level of government provides the power: federal, state, or local. Each has its ramifications and implications:
  • Federally-guaranteed power would require similar levels of taxation from all Americans, which either puts undue strain on under-developed localized economies that might not need wireless power service, or puts undue strain on the wealthy to shore up the nation's infrastructure.
  • State-level subsidization might leave some states without any infrastructure, and complex power-sharing/purchasing schemes would again hurt local economies during periods of high consumption (see California's constant need to buy power from out-of-state, and New York's super-badass power outage from a few years ago).
  • Local wireless sets up stiff competition between adjacent municipalities and functionally encourages theft of power by those who live close enough to demesne borders.
But then, any subsidization comes at the additional cost of either significantly over-priced power being sold by corporations to the government, or significantly under-performing power being produced by inefficient government agencies. So yeah, free enterprise is the ticket here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

King's Miff - King's Demiff - King's Dominion

Yesterday was Little A's first ever trip to King's Dominion. We went after 4pm to get discounted tickets, and wound up spending just over 3 hours of blissful evening at the park. Alastair loved every single thing he did, right down to stealing daddy's french fries.

We started with the Eiffel Tower. Ever the little engineer, Alastair quickly lost interest with the sheer size of the tower and focussed his attention on the machinations of the elevator. Of particular interest to our little 2 1/2 year-old son were the counter-weights. We rode to the top, spent a few minutes looking down on humanity and explained that all those tiny things below were actually really big up close, and then came back down. He was fascinated with the phenomenon of items growing with our descent.

Then we went and drove the antique cars. He was a super little boy while waiting in line, and "helped" me drive the car all around through the woods. He was a little disappointed that he couldn't actually drive the car, but he didn't gripe about it.

He and Momma went from there to the Flying Eagles, Alastair's first actual thrill ride. He and Amanda soared above me in their eagle, and he didn't show a hint of fear. Rock on, kid!

From there we went back to the front gate for food, and he chowed down on my french fries and shared a hot dog with Mommy. Our little shy guy was shouting "Hi" to all the patrons of the restaurant.

Then off to the children's area. First up were the little jeeps. This was his first ride without either Mommy or Daddy at his side, and while this sort of thing usually elicits fear, he just sat there and drove his little jeep, clanging the bell from time to time.

From the jeeps to the 4x4 pickups, which he also rode solo around a big meandering track. This one had him completely out of sight from us, and yet still he soldiered on. I don't think he'd ever experienced such bliss: he was driving a car completely on his own!

On the other side from the 4x4's are little Corvettes on a similar winding track. He drove an orange one (just like Daddy's race car!) twice during the evening, and told us the whole way home that he beat the green car that was behind him.

Then there were little race cars that just moved in a circle. Again: bliss. Alastair is absolutely enamored with driving (score!).

I convinced him to ride the miniature Berserker, and that gave him his first taste of negative G-loads as the boat rocked back and forth.

Our final big event of the evening was his first real roller coaster: the Taxi Jam. We waited very patiently in line for about 3 or 4 minutes, all the time Alastair was telling me that he didn't want to ride. But when we were at the front of the line, his tune changed quickly. I rode with him, and his little face was plastered in the biggest grin I've ever seen throughout the whole ride. Awesome.

While life couldn't get any better than the roller-coaster, he still wanted one last driving experience, and how better to finish than how he began: one last turn on the little jeeps.

At 8:30pm, his usual bed-time, we made our way to the front gate and began the 20-minute drive home. Amanda was terribly disappointed that we couldn't find any ice cream in the park, so we stopped for a milk-shake on the way. She and Alastair shared it in the back seat, and at 9:25pm, he was down without a sound. No late-night muttering, no kicking the wall or wrestling with Monkey, just deep sleep.

Kid was worn out.

Our favorite detail of the whole experience was that, throughout the day (throughout the whole weekend, actually), Alastair never quite mastered the name of the park. He kept saying "King's Miff" or "King's Demiff". With coaching, he'd get it right, but always revert back to "King's Miff" after a few minutes. Where in the world did he get "Miff" out of "Dominion"?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Remission: Yes, No, Maybe, Circle All!

Amanda is technically both in and not in remission.

Her blast count is below 5%, the chief determinant of remission. Normal blast cell counts are 3.2%, whereas leukemia can be (but generally is not) diagnosed at 3.4%.

However, more modern testing of that <5% shows that her blast cells are "abnormal", which is the new gold standard.

So she's both, which has implications for her treatment options. Transplant is not off the table, but now we're just looking at managing the sickness in preparation for the transplant (transplant on patients with active leukemia are generally not successful as it takes 2 - 3 months for the new immune system to start working, and post-transplant chemo is not an option).

So she was given 3 choices:

1. HIDAC (High-dose ARA-C), aka consolidation therapy -- what she's had the last 2 times.
2. FLAGG (fludarabine / idarubacine), aka induction therapy -- what she had the first 2 times.
3. Clinical Trial

The argument against the first two is that they've both failed to keep cancer at bay. FLAGG didn't work the first time at all, and HIDAC hasn't kept the cancer away long enough between treatments.

The argument against the 3rd is that it's a trial. There are no proven results, no statistics, no way to predict the future. But the trial offers the hope that a new set of tools presents an attack vector the the leukemia doesn't know.

The trial would take 2 weeks, and she'd be in the hospital the whole time (except weekends), and she'd take 3 pills / day and one 4.5 hour transfusions on days 1 and 8.

If she forgoes the trial, they can try to use FLAGG and/or HIDAC to keep the cancer in small enough enclaves to have no real effect on her transplant. Either way, she can move from one treatment option to the other at her choice.

Amanda has just over a week to ruminate on the options, but the medical staff will also discuss and make recommendations next Wednesday (they have a weekly meeting on Tuesdays to discuss all patients).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Manda's Sick - Blood Test Blues

You've probably read Amanda's post. If not, take a moment and do so. I'll wait.

Yes, a blast cell was found, and yes, it probably means remission is no more, but nothing is definite. Amanda is having a biopsy right now and will not have results until Friday.

Her blood-counts as a whole, however, are higher than they've been since any of this crazy crap started. Blasts, from what I've read, do exist in normal healthy people, just not in large numbers. And that's why nothing is definite: it's possible that one of these random rogues was detected, and that she's fine.

Either way, she's scheduled for another round of chemo next week, and the biopsy results will help the medical team decide how best to proceed.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Of all the activities on God's green Earth, the activity I think I hate the most is painting. Roller, sprayer, brush: it doesn't matter. I hate painting.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Evidently I wasn't clear.

I want one of these:

Not one of these:

Thanks, Marissa, for making me realize how silly the previous post seemed. I'm not looking for burly love.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Bright Lights, Big City

I want a welder. Of course, I want to learn how to weld, but I want a welder.

There are a bunch of projects that I want to undertake, and one that I need to.

Mmmm, welder...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Updates, because I suck

Amanda did the whole hospital in-out-in-out thing over the last two weeks. Out from chemo #3, in for a neutropenic fever, and back out on Saturday. She's been better at keeping her blog up to date, but it was a big ol' mess. Seems that every time she goes in with a neutropenic fever, she winds up having some serious plumbing issue. Eeeewwwww.....

I got the MINI (mostly) repaired. I took it to Crown after about a week of staring at it in the driveway, and $1600 later had a new clutch. I took the opportunity to buy all the parts necessary to return it to perfect running condition, and now I just need to have some of that evanescent "free time" that I keep hearing about.

Which isn't entirely true because I managed to find several hours yesterday to wash, clay-bar, and wax the Miata. I dread actually applying the stickers, but that's going to happen some time this week, probably after I get the trailer inspected tomorrow.

My shingles are pretty much gone. I took my Valtrex for a week like a good boy, and now I just have some residual pinkness on my neck.

Work is terribly boring.

Alastair is starting to show signs of strain from the whole mommy-go-round, but he's a tough little nut, and last night he performed for ~200 people (most of whom weren't watching, but he was on stage and dancing like a madman).

I think that's about it. Rock.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Manda's Sick - This just in!

8 preliminary matches! Now they have to be contacted, confirmed as willing to donate, and brought in for further testing.

Amanda apparently also has a rare antigen that will probably preclude a 100% match, but we're told that a 95% match is likely and good enough.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Another day, another problem

Monday afternoon, after getting the good news that I have shingles, my beloved MINI told me that we are no longer friends.

When idling in gear (clutch depressed), I can feel gear gnash. Shifting is very difficult. The car whines and groans. Boo.

We drove the car like that to Amanda's parents' house, and it was so bad by the time we got there that her mother suggested we borrow her car. I had to go back later with the truck and retrieve the car (thank God for my new winch!).

I put the issue out to the Internet last night, and the only suggestion I've gotten so far is that it's probably the throw out bearing. Frankly, that's better news than I'd expected, since the '02 - '04 Coopers use a piece-o-crap transmission made by Midlands. MINI switched over to Getrag in '05, but will not allow service departments to retro-fit the new unit to the old cars. I'm on my 2nd Midlands unit right now.

So the fix for the throw out bearing is to pull the entire front end off the car, pull the tranny, and spend the better part of a weekend nervous about forgetting something crucial. While I'm down there, I might as well replace the clutch.

But then there are some other problems with the car:

1. The driver-side sun visor is broken ($50?)
2. The left rear wheel-hub needs to be replaced ($230)
3. The windshield is cracked in 2 different places ($500?)
4. The front valence is cracked from an impact a couple of years ago ($400)
5. The steering rack is popping and grinding ($???)
6. The steering wheel is pretty badly worn ($350)

Now, I could luck out and find someone with a used front valence, or maybe the front from a red Aero Kit. I could also find a stock steering wheel from someone who's swapped to a racing wheel. But I'm figuring the total cost to keep my car running (and return it to near-new condition) is right around $2000. Yuck.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I must be getting a new roof!

Last year I had scabies. Awesome!

3 weeks ago I had what looked like a recurrence on my left arm. I treated it, and the bumps went away.

Last week I got a hot rash on my neck, and a swollen lymph node right above it. So I just dealt with the hot rockin' awesomeness of having an exposed rash on my neck for a week. I lanced a few of the blisters that showed up, and once tried applying the scabies medicine to the area, thinking maybe it had transferred through my pillow from my arm to my neck.

Yeah, no good. At some point the open blisters started to scab over and spread a little, and people started commenting on how beautiful the affected area is. Kind of looks like a vampire bite.

Then yesterday I started to notice itching around my upper back and chest, and matching little red bumps. Time to see the doctor.

I was #6 at Patient First this morning, and a very nice pregnant doctor recoiled slightly when I showed it to her. Perhaps she just didn't want any of my flesh-eating bacteria. Wuss.

So she lanced a few blisters herself, took a swab sample or two, and told me she thinks I have...wait for it...shingles! And do you know what shingles is? I didn't: it's herpes!* Hot snot: my wife is waiting for a bone-marrow transplant, and I develop a highly contagious skin condition.

So now I'm taking Valtrex. It's the single biggest pill I've ever seen, and I get to take 21 of them.

Thank God Amanda's not neutropenic right now.

My favorite part of the whole doctor-thing this morning was that after she took a few swabs, I started feeling seriously nauseated. I was trying to listen to her and hoping she'd be done soon so that I could get outside for some fresh air. I quickly realized that wasn't going to happen, and apparently she realized the same, and they made me lie down on the bed, put a stool under my legs, and placed a cold washcloth on my forehead.

I think having seen the needle and knowing that someone else was poking my skin did it to me, but I was sure I was going to retch.

Here's a shot of the sexy needle (the one on the right). Just looking at the picture makes me feel queasy:

*Ok, so it is herpes, but more specifically it's a recurrence of Chicken Pox. Read about it here (with charming similar-to-mine neck-shot goodness).

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Manda's Sick - The Future

Yesterday we had THE BIG MEETING with the staff of VCU Health System North 10: the bone-marrow transplant team. They were late, and by late I mean more than an hour late, but the information they gave us was invaluable. I'll try my best to recite it here, in some vague semblance of logical order.

Yesterday they drew her blood to begin allelic matching. This is a matching process that uses 10 markers instead of the usual 6. As there are approximately 7 million people on the bone-marrow registry, and she's caucasian, there's an 82 - 85% chance of finding a matching donor. That donor must be contacted to ensure that he/she is still interested and available. One complication here is that a significant portion of the registry is currently serving in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

We discussed having a bone-marrow drive, but there's really no point, at least not explicitly for Amanda. Anybody who gets tested now wouldn't be on the list for about 2 - 3 months, and we're expecting that she'll be preliminarily matched within 10 - 14 days (that's just with the results of her blood-test and a basic screening of a computer database). She should have a definite match by 6 - 8 weeks--but maybe as many as 11 weeks.

We still encourage as many people as are willing to sign up. There is a cost, but the payoff is potentially enormous.

In the meantime, Amanda will continue to receive chemo-therapy treatments. The transplant team wants to minimize the number of successive treatments since she's in remission, but her particular flavor of leukemia (monosomy 7) is both aggressive and intelligent. Too little chemo and it returns, taking her off the transplant list. Too much chemo would actually enable the leukemia to learn about the medicine and take steps to defend itself (WTF???!!!). The particular method will be FLAG, most likely, as it's a medium-dose Ara-C, and hers has proven tougher than what a low-dose Ara-C can handle. They don't want to go high-dose as that would destroy her GI track, and they need her to be eating healthily.

Then, right before the transplant, she'll go in for 6 doses of full-body radiation, followed by 2 days of chemo. Then she'll receive the transplant (interestingly, she'll probably be participating in a clinical trial to determine which is more effective for her particular flavor of AML: stem-cell or actual marrow), and begin a 4 - 6 week process of intensive monitoring and anti-rejection medication.

When she comes home, she'll be taking literally dozens of pills daily, enough that prior patients have joked about just pouring some milk over them and eating it like cereal.

From what I recall, the first 100 days after the transplant will be the most important time. She has been explicitly instructed to be a weepy whiny complaining hypochondriac. Important subtle clues into potential issues like Host-vs-Graft disease can include loss of appetite, so I'm supposed to snitch on her if she doesn't eat well.

All of this continues for 6 - 9 months, minimum, and will also involve an utter lack of house chores. She is not to cook, vacuum, dust, otherwise clean, do yard-work, go to the grocery store or drugstore (she can use the drive-up window). But the bad news is that she can't really play with the kitties. All the furniture will have to be covered, so that the cats can lay where they want, and then uncovered for us to use, and then re-covered when we're done. If she pets either cat, she'll have to immediately wash her hands, and if she wants to lay with one of them, there will have to have a sheet between them.

Amanda will require a care-giver for at least a year, if not slightly longer, and if she has any neutropenic fevers or other issues, she is to call the clinic (open 24/7!) and get to the hospital within 15 - 30 minutes. Everybody who comes into common contact with her will have to have a flu SHOT this year (no nasal sprays), and she cannot be around anybody with an infection.

But looking beyond that, things get much better. She should slowly be able to re-integrate herself with society. One curious thing she'll have to do is get re-immunized for all her baby shots. She'll then be able to start going to the movies, eating out, and all that normal stuff other folks do.

Then the only things we really need to worry about are long-term secondary sickness markers.

We asked about survival odds, and the doctor told us that they should have a mortality rate of 20 - 25%, but that North 10 generally has a 12% mortality rate.

If you're curious about what the transplant is actually expected to do, the doctor described it thus: "Do you have a best friend? Do you and your best friend generally see eye-to-eye on most things? If you swapped houses with your best friend, would she redecorate? Because that's what we want." They're taking a portion of someone else's immune system, using it to replace her own, and then asking that immune system to leave things pretty well as they are, but to take care of things that just don't fit, like leukemia. They are encouraging this new immune system to take issue with the leukemia and get rid of it, but not expand the operation into any serious renovations. Thus they're looking for a matching donor of roughly the same age, with roughly the same historical exposure to disease.

So there it is, in a nutshell. I'm not really worried for Amanda--she's rough-tough. I'm worried about whether or not I can perform to the level required. I'm worried for Alastair, and how we'll deal with child-care (we can't do daycare, as that would bring too many potential germs into the house).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Crazy Neighbor

We've lived in our house a little over 5 years, now, and today was the very first time I've ever spoken more than a single sentence with one particular neighbor. The conversation was not pleasant.

The joy began while Amanda was on the phone with my stepmother, Randy. Amanda was looking out the window, watching this guy (hereinafter "4TCREWS", after his license plate) ride his lawnmower around his scorched yard. Now, it's worth pointing out that this guy mows about 6 times a year, generally waiting for the grass to get waist high before the first cut, and then cutting it right down to the dirt to prevent any chance of the yard surviving. He also likes to cut about 8' into our property.

So the guy's mowing, and Amanda's chatting away. Then I hear her exclaim that 4TCREWS has just tossed a beer bottle under one of our bushes. She's getting worked up about it when she sees him pick up more trash from his yard and deposit it similarly.

I needed to go out front and bring in the recycling bins, so I went out, chucked the bottle back into his yard (it landed right beside his driveway!), retrieved the bins, and came back to see him darting a very nasty glance at me. I stepped inside and resumed my good time playing with Monkey-Boy, figuring the guy might realize that we didn't want his trash.

Oh, no. Lazy sack o' shite rides his mower over to (what he perceives to be) the property line, and strolls up to my front door. I let him ring the doorbell 4 or 5 times before casually sauntering up to the door with my child and a nice hot cup of tea. When I opened the door, he was fuming and asked me if I was trying to make some kind of statement.

I told him that my wife had witnessed him throwing trash into our yard, and that we didn't appreciate it, all while calmly sipping on my tea and smiling at Alastair. He replied strangely that it wasn't his trash: he doesn't even drink beer! Oh, well, that makes it all better...

So he prattles on for a while about how he doesn't want to hit the bottle with his mower, that he was going to come back and get it, along with all the other trash he'd deposited, and that he didn't appreciate me throwing it back. He went into the trials and tribulations of having neighborhood hooligans target his yard for their trash (hey, they get everybody).

I just let him rant for a bit, and told him that if it was truly his intention to retrieve the trash, then in that case (and I carefully implied that ONLY in that case) I would apologize, but that our yard was not an appropriate receptacle, even temporarily.

Now, I'm not a calm person under fire. I get all trembly, but I did my very best to keep that cup of tea from revealing my nerves. I think I pulled it off, as he just sort of muttered and wandered off.

I've spoken with other neighbors about this guy before, and they've all told me that he's an ass. We've had summers when he waited long enough to mow the grass that we got ticks. We've had to endure his curious arc-sodium lamp on the back of his house, we've had to endure his constant warfare against our grass, and inherited his leaves every Autumn. I'm inclined to agree with my other neighbors, and now I can kvetch with the grumpy old man across the street, who positively foams at the mouth whenever 4TCREWS comes up in conversation.

With apologies to Sesame Street:
O an asshole is a person in your neighborhood,
In your neighborhood, in your neighborhood,
O an asshole is a person in your neighborhood,
A person that you meet each day.

Monday, June 30, 2008


I just got the Miata painted.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Manda's Sick - w00t!

Amanda is being curiously reticent in posting that she's...in remission! So suck it, leukemia!

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Honestly, people: how the hell am I supposed to choose?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Manda's Sick - Fever


We're waiting for a call back from the hospital, confirming a single-room. Then we're off.

Prayers and strength.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Noises are scary, Part 2

Found it. Wasn't the monitor. Wasn't the ceiling fan. Wasn't in the floor or in the attic. It was in the closet.

Ready for it?

Care Bears Bedtime Bear's Caring Dreams. A book. One of those books with the buttons on one side, where you're supposed to play the sounds along with the story.

But a freakin' Care Bears book--one about good dreams, at that--was causing the most nightmare-inducing sounds I've ever heard in my own house.

I never liked the Care Bears.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Noises are scary

A couple of months ago, my son developed an intense fear of unknown noises. Thunder. Clanks. Cars outside that he couldn't see. The scene in "Cars" where Lightning McQueen scares the tractor-cows.

For the longest time I thought it was all bogus, that someone had made him think he was afraid of those sounds by asking him if he was afraid of them.

Then he started telling us that he heard sounds at night, so we told him to talk to his monkey (who sleeps with him) whenever he heard the scary sounds. He tells me nightly that Monkey makes the noises go away, and it's just become part of our routine.

I thought my boy was getting kind of soft. Not any more. I hear the noise, and it's creepy as shit. And I can't find where it's coming from. But it's definitely in his room.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

That's a neat playground

Saturday morning, Family Amos went to the great evil: Toys'R'Us. We were shopping for ideas. Alastair loves to play outside, and he loves the playground at the church across the street. He loves it so much that he pitches the most horrid fits whenever it's time to leave.

We weren't necessarily going to buy one, but to investigate our options. There were way too many to choose from, so we enlisted an expert opinion: Alastair's. We showed him a few options and asked if he liked any of them -- of course he said no to all of them -- but then settled on the Step 2 Woodland Climber because of one feature: a steering wheel (Alastair's obsessed!).

We got it home after a false-start (the box was way too big for the CR-V, so daddy had to come back with the truck), and it was assembled in less than 10 minutes. After his nap, we brought Alastair straight outside for his first romp.

The look on his face as he saw it for the first time was priceless, almost like the people on Extreme Makeover Home Edition when the bus is pulled away, and his first words were "That's a neat playground!"

He's in love with it. There are steps, rock-wall sides, a sliding board, the afore-mentioned steering wheel, and a cave that he uses as a garage for his Radio Flyer car.

Saturday afternoon and Monday -- pretty much all day -- were spent outside at his new playground. Up and down, up and down, throwing balls up the sliding board and driving around it in his car.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A little rain must fall

Over the last month and a half, my capacity for emotion has been checked. I can't quite explain it, but it was sort of like watching my son being born: the situation was absolutely terrifying, but I was completely detached from it, almost like watching it on TV.

That's how I've felt throughout most of this ride: like it's a TV show. Amanda's not really sick: that woman on the show is sick.

But every once in a while the emotion freight-train comes through town, jumps the tracks, and hunts me down. It did so last night, and with good reason.

Amanda got bad news yesterday. By now you've probably read about it on her blog, but the genetics came back, and she has a chromosomal deficiency: -7. That's one of the big baddies, along with -5 and Q3, which, according to the all-knowing wikipedia, has a 5-year survival rate of 15% and a 78% chance of relapse. It's considered to be in the "adverse" category.

So last night, on our 8th anniversary, we were dealing with these emotions while watching the season finale of House. If you saw it, you know that Amber died. We were wrecked.

Here's how it breaks down for us right now:

Amanda will have biopsy #5 tomorrow. She'll then go in for a follow-up on Friday, and probably be re-admitted early next week. At that point she'll undergo chemo #2, the specific course of which will be determined by the results of tomorrow's biopsy.

Things are not good.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Manda's Sick - Furlough

Manda's Home! Manda's Home!

Ok, now what?

(More treatments, but she's home!)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Amos Family Fuel Economy

I had some time today, and remembered the wonderful EPA site for fuel economy. They've revised all their ratings for vehicles back to 1985 (although most of them are extrapolated, and not actually tested with the new methodology).

I put all of our vehicles in and verified the obvious: the MINI is tops! I'm actually averaging much higher than the site estimates, with my last tank running at 34.4mpg, and the one before it at 33mpg. I'd estimate that I'm averaging 33mpg for this year, with 31 or 32 / year prior to 2008 (I've started driving slower).

Actual miles / projected fuel usage / vehicle:

MINI Cooper (17000 miles / year @ 33mpg): 515.15 gallons @ $3.80 = $1957.58
Honda CR-V (~3500 miles / year @ 22mpg): 159.09 gallons @ $3.60 = $572.73

Total general fuel budget: 674.24 gallons, $2530.31

Racing (I pay for this outside of the family budget)
Ford F250 (~1800 miles / year @ 10mpg): 180 gallons @ $3.60 = $648.00
Mazda Miata (miles and mileage unknown): ~100 gallons @ $6.00 = $600.00

Total racing fuel budget: 280 gallons, $1248.00
Total Amos Family Fuel Budget: 954.24 gallons, $3778.31

All of this completely ignores external factors like repairs, general maintenance, insurance, payments (Amos family is loan-free!), titling, taxes, and other fees.

Interesting, especially as I start looking for new cars, I see that I can actually save $70 / year by getting a 2008 MINI Cooper S, but I'd spend almost an extra $900 / year fueling a MazdaSpeed 3.

If you're in the market for a new car, spend some time looking at that site!

By the way, there really was no point to this whole post.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Manda's Sick - One Month In

I just realized that tomorrow is the one-month-iversary of Amanda's incarceration. It was the afternoon of April 5 when we went to the St. Mary's Emergency Room, and now we're just waiting for her neutrophil counts to stabilize before she can come home. They might biopsy her hip one more time, just to make sure she remembers that she is, after all, still sick.

Of course, the way they've been dangling carrots and yanking them away, they might just surprise her tomorrow morning with a fresh round of chemo and 3 more weeks in lock-up.

Tomorrow is also her head-shaving appointment. Alastair and I will go and see her after it's done, and I can only hope he repeats one of his first ever complete sentences, uttered at 20 months to me the morning after one of my own head-shavings: "Daddy hair look funny."

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Hypermiling - If you do it, I swear to God I'll smack you

This article greeted me this morning in my round-up of the web. Interesting read. Interesting ideas. Only one of the ideas is a moderately good one: that of over-inflating your tires. The other ideas are REALLY REALLY BAD.
Among the other ideas were running low-viscosity oil, "drafting", and a curious technique that must be intended solely for hybrids called "pulse-and-glide".
I've come across others in the past, like accelerating to speed, briefly lifting, and then holding the accelerator very lightly, which supposedly leans out your fuel mixture. This, if true, would reduce the amount of fuel burned. But a lean fuel mixture runs much hotter than a stoichiometric (~12:1 air:gasoline) mixture, so engine-temps skyrocket. In front-rear mounted engine designs, the rear-most cylinder takes a beating from this type of driving, and over time that cylinder will lose compression, which means your engine will ultimately need expensive service. The lean mixture technique thus falls into the VERY BAD IDEA category.
Low-viscosity oil dovetails into the whole lean-mixture argument. As engine-mileage rises, greater tolerances are introduced. There's fatigue and scoring in the metals. Things wear down. Higher-viscosity oils tend to stay where they're supposed to, and help shore up weaknesses in older engines. They are highly recommended in higher-mileage trucks. Mine, for instance, is ticking. I've done a bunch of research on the issue, and most of the folks who've experienced mild engine trouble in high mileage trucks recommend switching from 5W30 to 10W30.
I have a coworker with a 200K-mile Toyota Avalon. He switched from 5W30 to 0W30 and picked up 2mpg. But at 200K miles, that motor is tired. It's never been over-bored or sleeved, so he's begging for blow-by, a condition where pressurized oil under the cylinders seeps (or sometimes blasts) up over the cylinder, filling the chamber and hampering combustion. This makes those beautiful blue-smoke clouds you see behind old Chevy Caprices and Novas.
Drafting is illegal. Period. It's stupid and dangerous, and as a result, it's illegal. Don't do it. If your fuel economy improves by 100% but your potential for a life-threatening accident increase by 1000%, you lose. Plain and simple.
Over-inflating tires is something I've experimented with. I've had marginal results, generally picking up a mile or two per gallon, but nothing amazing. There's a danger here, too: abnormal tire-wear. Over-inflating your tires can quickly lead to bald-spots on your tires, or if you inflate them to the maximum, you can wind up with bulges on the tire, which indicate that a moderate bump could explode the tire. I generally inflate to 10psi over the recommended cold pressure. The ride is a bit stiffer than normal, but that doesn't bother me too much, and the wear-patterns don't change.
But consider the "savings" of inflating to maximum versus the cost: if you inflate to save 2mpg, but run off 20K worth of potential mileage from your 50K-mile rated tires, then assume you'll need tires every 30K miles.
If your car generally gets 30mpg, then over 30K miles you're putting 1000 gallons in the tank. That's roughly $3,490 in today's prices. Improving that by 2mpg saves 62.5 gallons, so you'd spend $3271.88 on fuel. That's $218 in savings, or about half the price of a set of tires. Not worth it.
You'd have to gain a real improvement of 5mpg before you'd actually save money, and even then you'd have to keep your tires in good condition for at least 50% of their intended life-span. That's not going to happen.
Re-run the numbers with el-cheapo Pep Boys 80K-mile rated tires: in 60K miles, you'd put 2000 gallons in the tank at 30mpg: $6980. You'd put 1875 in at 32mpg, again using $3.49 as a standard gallon, you'd spend $6543.75. That's a fuel-savings of $436.25 (this number actually surprised me!). This time you come out about $100 ahead, but only if fuel prices remain constant. And it will have taken 3 - 5 years to have saved that $100.
Meanwhile, you can save $600 - $1800 / year by getting rid of cable TV. 4 times the savings in 1/5 the time!
I watch my fuel-economy on every single tank of gas that goes into the MINI. The on-board computer tells me that I generally get about 31.3 mpg. Quick back-of-the-napkin calculations tell me that the OBC is not always right: last night I got 10.008 gallons and had gone 330.1 miles. The OBC said 31.3, but it doesn't take a genius to realize that 330/10 = 33mpg. That's combined city & highway, and the car's rated 28/37 (32 combined)*, so it's right in line with what it should be.
A month ago, Amanda and I drove the MINI about 150 miles to and from the Northern Neck of VA, and keeping a constant speed of 64mph (engine turning at 3000rpm, a happy and fuel-efficient speed for the MINI) the OBC reported 39.8mpg average. I didn't get to finish that tank on highway driving, and it came down considerably, but at 39.8 (if accurate), I could have gone 517 miles. I suspect the economy was actually closer to 42mpg. Not bad. And the tires weren't even over-inflated.

*These numbers are based on the old EPA estimation method. Based on the new EPA ratings, the car is actually rated 25/33 (28 combined).

Edit: Evelyn didn't understand it, and I got distracted, so my conclusion was forgotten. Hypermiling is retarded and dangerous. It introduces unnecessary risk to your vehicle for the possibility of saving a few hundred dollars on gas. Those savings are lost in the replacement of other consumables and potentially monumental repair bills (and/or hospital bills). Just drive reasonably, stay in the slow-lane, take the more efficient vehicle if you have more than one and can choose, and do not, for the love of God, run fuel in your tank that's not intended for your motor. More tips:

1. Have a steep driveway? Back out with the car off and in Neutral.
2. Don't start the car until you're buckled in and ready to drive away.
3. Here's another surprise: accelerate quickly but reasonably to speed and then maintain speed. You'll burn more fuel accelerating, but for far less time than by driving like a grandma.
4. Use your cruise control; it's more stable than your foot.
5. Coast down hills.
6. Keep your speeds up on exit ramps. You'll save fuel by not having to accelerate into traffic, and it's fun!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Manda's Sick - OMG WTF?

Are you sitting down? Amanda might get to come home on Friday!

The results of the 3rd biopsy are still inconclusive, but her numbers are coming up to where the average patient would be sent home if in remission. So they're going to schedule another biopsy for Friday (#4!) and, if her numbers are where they need to be, she'll probably get sent home.

The respite may be brief, as negative biopsy results would mean she'd go right back in for more chemo, but the prospect of having Amanda home, sleeping in her own bed, having breakfast and playing with Alastair, is more than I can wrap my mind around right now.

I'm trying not to get too excited, though: the doctors have yet to render a final word.

Cross your fingers, and keep up the prayers and love!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Manda's Sick - Upgrades

Sinusitis is the order of the day, and for the pain she started with percocet. Now she's on oxycodone. Oh, yeah: hillbilly heroine!
I spent about 3 hours with her tonight, or maybe I should say I spent about 3 hours near her. She'd be in the middle of flipping through the channels and drift off for a minute. Toward the end of the evening she was more off than on, so I figured I'd let the drugs do their job and head home to fold laundry.
I got to see my dear college friends Maureen and Kate. Maureen flew in from NY to see Amanda, and Kate drove her to town. I wouldn't have recognized Kate at all, had she not stepped out of the same car as Maureen (who hasn't changed one iota!). It was great to see them, and I wish they could have stayed longer.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Manda's Sick - Biopsy #3 in the Series--Collect them all!

Today was the big test. The one that determines the next phase of treatment for my darling wife. The one for which the church elders came and prayed over her last night. The Big One.
I showed up just as the doctor was rolling her back onto her back in the bed and the nurse was cleaning up: as usual, I missed a biggie (to be fair, though, I wasn't expected to be there; it was coincidence that I showed up during the time of the procedure at all).
Almost immediately after the doctor left, a pair of Radiology Transportation folks showed up to cart her downstairs for another head CT. She had noticed a lump in her neck, reported it to her doctor, and he had called for a CT. He suspects it's a swollen lymph node, which is a little weird, as that's generally evidence of the immune system functioning. Amanda's not supposed to have a functional immune system.
Anyway, almost as soon as she got back to her room from that, they came back with results from the biopsy. The results?

Drum roll please....

Inconclusive! Yes, while the leukemia cells seem to be "almost entirely" gone, there are some curious blast cells that need further examination. They're either the remaining undead that Zombie Warrior missed on her last rounds, or they're regular white blood cells that simply haven't had time to finish developing.
Obviously we're hoping for the latter, but we won't know for sure until Monday, when the additional results are expected. If we get bad news, it's back to the chemo for a bit.
Meanwhile, Amanda's thunderdouche* GP sent us an non-itemized bill for $200. Apparently he thinks he should get paid for failing to order even the simplest of blood tests that could have revealed Amanda's disease almost a full month prior to her ER visit.
*Thanks, Pajiba!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Like a giant dildo crushing the sun

So, yeah, if you read about it on Manda's blog, you already know that I've been sick the last couple of days. I spiked a fever of 103.4 on her birthday and watched the entire Matrix trilogy on Wednesday.
I took the opportunity of being unwell yesterday to finally get some blood-work done (that I'd been putting off since October). I think there's a reasonable chance they might find something interesting. I've had 5 fevers in 2008, which is about 4 more than I usually have in a year, and for the past year or so, it's taken up to two months for simple scrapes to fully heal. We'll see.
The fever broke mid-afternoon, and I went down to the hospital and spent the evening with my darling wife. We did nothing in particular, and it was great. I helped her wash her hair in the shower, and supervised the whole shower process lest she should have another orthostatic hypotension episode.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Manda's Sick - Hospital Birthday Blues

Yeah, so the first person to call and wish Amanda a happy birthday was my mother. Great. Mom regaled her with tales of an amazing root called bloodroot. Read about it here! Nothing hotter than disfigurement!
Anyway, it's Amanda's 33rd birthday. She just got platelets yesterday, and now has a platelet count ~18,000, up from 48 when she first entered the hospital, and 38 a few days ago. That's a pretty dramatic difference.
I spent some time yesterday afternoon getting our new wireless camera installed, so now she can watch Alastair whenever he's in our den. Now I just have to get her a camera so that we can video-conference at night, and blow mommy kisses!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Manda's Sick - Post Chemo Recovery

I just published 6 comments on Amanda's blog. She's not really up to browsing the webs at the moment.

Amanda's chemo ended unceremoniously on Saturday. She'd felt great through Friday afternoon, with the exception of a mild intermittent cough.
Saturday, she felt crummy. She had a fever of about 101 and just felt puny. I took Alastair to see her in the morning, and she looked terrified when he coughed (he's been struggling with allergies at Casa Amos). We left, and I talked to her a couple of times throughout the day, culminating in our Date Night. At some point during the day, the good doctors came and performed a chest X-ray and took blood to see if antibiotics were necessary.
Our date consisted of watching an episode of Battlestar Galactica (we're half-way through Season 2) and me watching her sleep. She just had no energy at all.
Sunday we didn't see her at all, but apparently her fever broke in the night.
Today the fever is back, and she's on antibiotics. She's reading, resting, and trying like crazy to avoid my mother, who's been persistent in nagging us to death. If you Pajibans want to fire up the MT, I've got the ideal target. Mom likes to make every problem relate to her absurd life, comparing Amanda's leukemia to her divorce from my father over 30 years ago--a divorce that she lies about at every opportunity.
Enough about Wacko-Mom: keep the love flowing with all the positive vibes you can muster. Amanda's in the "side-effect" stage of things now, and she'll feel like absolute crap for about 2 weeks.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I, Criminal

I got home late(ish) last night to find two pamphlets in my door. Both were from Henrico County's Community Revitalization department, and were left by a neighborhood inspector. One pertained to trucks, trailers, and other commercial vehicles, while the other was dedicated to "inoperable vehicles" and their storage. A handwritten note on the commercial vehicle pamphlet suggested I read the section on trailers and "other pamphlet".
Here's what he was after:
Sec. 24-102. Trailers and trailer parks.
No trailer of any kind shall be parked or stored in any district except as follows:
(2) In any district used for residential purposes, one travel, utility and/or boat trailer, as an accessory use, may be parked or stored in the rear, side yard or in a carport or garage on the same lot with the principal use, provided it shall not be occupied for living or business purposes. The wheels or other transporting devices shall not be removed, except for repairs, nor shall the trailer be connected to any utility service or to the ground or other structure in any manner that would prevent its ready removal.
Cute. The fines for this curiously-defined crime are steep:
Sec. 24-110. Violations and penalties.
Any person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be fined not less than $10.00 and not more than $100.00 if the offense be not willful; or not more than $250.00 if the offense be willful. If the violation is uncorrected at the time of conviction, the court shall order the violator to abate or remedy the violation in compliance with the zoning ordinance, within a time period established by the court. Failure to remove or abate a zoning violation within the specified time period shall constitute a separate misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine or not less than $10.00 nor more than $250.00, and any failure during any succeeding 30-day period shall constitute a separate misdemeanor offense for each 30-day period punishable by a fine of not less than $10.00 nor more than $1,000.00.

As provided in Code of Virginia, § 15.2-2286(A)(4), a notice of violation involving temporary or seasonal commercial uses, parking of commercial trucks in residential zoning districts, or similar short-term, recurring violations may be appealed within ten days. If no appeal has been filed within ten days, the notice shall be deemed final and unappealable.

(Code 1980, § 22-110; Ord. No. 954, § 1, 7-23-97; Ord. No. 1005, § 1, 10-10-00)
So I could be looking at thousands of dollars in fines. But wait: there's that little clause about temporary or seasonal commercial uses, which is exactly what I'm doing. The trailer is out front because it is a seasonal use vehicle. The racing season is in full swing. But ok, sure, whatever: I'll move the trailer into the driveway as soon as the Miata's upgrades / repairs are complete. (I hope it's enough, because I'd hate to see the guy behind us get similarly fined for the big boat parked in his driveway, or the person who owns the little utility trailer around the corner.) Which brings us to the law governing inoperable vehicles:
Sec. 10-3. Inoperable motor vehicles.
(a) Restrictions on inoperable motor vehicles. It shall be unlawful to keep more than one inoperable motor vehicle outside a fully enclosed building or structure on property zoned or used for residential purposes, or any property zoned for, commercial or agricultural purposes. For purposes of this section, "inoperable motor vehicle" means any motor vehicle, trailer or semitrailer, as defined in Code of Virginia, § 46.2-100, which:
(1) Is not in operating condition; or
(2) Does not display valid license plates; or
(3) Does not display an inspection decal that is valid; or
(4) Displays an inspection decal that has been expired for more than 60 days.
(b) Shielding or screening required. One inoperable motor vehicle may be kept outside a fully enclosed building or structure if it is shielded or screened from view. As used in this section, "shielded or screened from view" means not visible to someone standing at ground level from outside of the property on which the subject vehicle is located.
(c) Exceptions. This section shall not apply to a licensed business which is regularly engaged in business as an automobile dealer, salvage dealer or scrap processor.
(d) Enforcement. The director of community revitalization shall enforce this section.
(Ord. No. 922, § 1, 5-22-96; Ord. No. 945, § 1, 5-14-97; Ord. No. 986, § 1, 7-13-99; Ord. No. 1069, § 1, 8-10-04)
State law references: Authority of Henrico County to restrict keeping of inoperable motor vehicles on residential or commercial property, Code of Virginia, § 15.2-905.
Ok, the car runs, and runs very well. It's inspected, licensed, and current for all its immunizations. It's just up on jacks. The race tires we bought for the 2008 season are so soft that they'll get flat spots just from sitting. It's also fairly common practice with race cars to get them off the tires to relax the suspension: no sense wearing out 700 in/lb springs just sitting in the driveway. The tires could be mounted and the car driven in under 10 minutes. Probably 5 minutes.
I have an old set of racing tires that I could (and probably will) mount just for "storage" purposes, but I see no law being broken here.
Granted, I have no intention of re-inspecting the car this year, or for paying to keep the plates on the car, but putting the cover on the car would prevent any of those details from being known. The pamphlet, however, over-steps the legal bounds outlined in the County Code, and adds:
Solid wood fences, walls and dense evergreen plantings of a sufficient height to screen the vehicle, are acceptable methods of shielding of screening when located in side or rear yards. Covering inoperable motor vehicles with tarps or car covers does not meet the requirements of the ordinance.
Yeah, ok, but how the hell are you going to know it's not licensed when there's a cover on it? And wait: where does the authority come from to make that determination? It's not in the code at all!
So now I have a question. What happens when you decide on a beautiful sunny day to change your oil in the driveway? The moment you pull the oil-drain plug, you have an inoperable vehicle. You are a criminal. To get really pedantic and focus on the semantics of the word "inoperable", I'd say even opening the car door makes the car inoperable. Certainly popping the hood, having a flat tire, or checking the oil would qualify. Adding washer fluid. You name it: the moment you place the car into a condition that renders it momentarily undrivable, you have an inoperable vehicle. Part of the reason the car is on jacks is also because we're changing brake pads, rotors, and fluid. Normal standard maintenance, no more or less involved than an oil-change. Criminal.
So here's my plan: I've scoured through the laws, and can't find any reference to it being illegal to store my "inoperable vehicle" on my trailer. I mean, what makes the Miata any different from a lawnmower at that point? So I'm going to just put the old race tires on, drive it up on the trailer, and park the whole rig in the driveway. It sat in the driveway for weeks like that before, and now it can live there. And you'd best believe I'm going to incorporate ahamos racing, LLC to qualify for the seasonal commercial use clause.

After getting all fired up about this crap, I did some more research into the County Code of Henrico. The ice cream man, whom I famously "threatened" by speaking sternly to him while wearing my .45 holstered to my hip, is also a criminal:
Sec. 22-39. Unnecessary noise in operation of vehicle.
(a) Generally. No vehicle shall be loaded with materials likely to create loud noises by striking together, without using every reasonable effort to deaden the noise. The use in, upon or attached to any motor vehicle operating on any street of the county, of any radio, phonograph, musical instrument, bell, whistle, loudspeaker, amplifier or device of any kind whatsoever whereby sound therefrom is cast upon any street to promote or advertise the sale of goods, wares or merchandise, or for the purpose of advertising auction sales, sporting events or other business or things advertised thereby, is prohibited.
I'm actually pretty jazzed about being able to call the cops on this jackass. He only drives down our street when Alastair is napping, and seemingly only when school is open. WTF? Who's buying the ice cream? Is it a front for a drug operation, like we saw in Athens, GA? The ice cream man there used the truck to vend heroin and crack.

Keep your kids away from my house: I'm a big bad criminal.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Manda's Sick - Date Night!

Yesterday afternoon, I left work and went straight to my darling wife. We spent the whole evening together, and I got to tuck her in at 11:00pm before going home. It was wonderful.
We curled up (as much as we could) in her bed and watched Sweeney Todd on the iBook. Manda passed out about 10 minutes from the end. I hadn't gotten to watch her sleep in what seems like forever.
Jamiesmitten came to visit, and I got to hear all about her dad's wild ride through life.
I ate overpriced food from Blimpie, prepared by a curious fellow who seemed to be scoping out every single breathing female in the cafeteria. I overheard him expressing his lack of concern about body-shape, hair, or basically any other distinguishing traits other than sex. Very curious indeed. And the woman who took my money might well have been blind, since she reached well past my hand with my change.
But it was a fabulous night. Best I've had in weeks. And I get to do it again on Saturday!

I love my wife.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Manda's Sick - Hey, can I get some of that tasty sickness?

I haven't updated like I said I would. ("Really?", you say? "Hadn't noticed...")

I was coming home to update the blog Friday night when I was stricken with a strange combination of belly cramps and hunger. I wolfed down a whole diGiorno personal pizza (900 calories, thank you very much), did a little work on the Miata, and went to bed.
At 3:30am, I was up with a belly that was distended and hard. At 3:50am, I realized there was no holding the pizza down.
I lost the second round of belly-warfare at 5:30am, and the 3rd round around 6:15. Round 4 was unceremonious at around 7am, and my stomach declared total victory.
Then came the fever. It climbed and climbed throughout the day, peaking at 102.6 by 7pm.
Does it help to mention that I felt like hell? I watched, and in my feverish, sleepless state actually really enjoyed Night at the Museum, and while waiting for the NASCAR race to start at 8:45pm (we don't have the cable, and I felt too crappy to move over to the DVD shelf), I actually watched about half of a hockey game, a few innings of baseball, and even a single hole of golf, interspersed with random cooking and home-improvement shows on PBS. Even NOVA sucked on Saturday.
What's my point? Certainly not to detract from Amanda's illness, but I missed the beginning of her chemo. It felt like missing the birth of my child. I broke down and sobbed several times throughout the day, but there was just nothing I could do about it.

The event, as I understand it, was anti-climactic.

Amanda is still doing and feeling well on her 3rd day of chemo. I've been by twice to see her, but I don't feel like I get to spend nearly enough time with her. Each time has been less than an hour, and I'm running around after Alastair to keep him out of trouble. I so didn't see this week working out like this.
But, on the bright side, I am finally getting some time with him. I didn't see him from Friday morning until noon on Sunday, when he (and my dad and fantabulous stepmother) showed up at the autocross for my last run.
I got to work from home today so that I could give him some semblance of normalcy.
Tomorrow he's back to his grandparents' house, and I'm back to work, further lamenting my separation from the most wonderful woman in my life.
Woe is me, right?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Brief Update

Chemo will now start Monday. Apparently the good doctors have found several markers for AML, but they've also found one confusing marker for ALL. They want to take the weekend to figure out where that marker came from before proceeding.

The next two days should be pretty uneventful for her: no bi-carb, maybe a transfusion or two (hemoglobin has gone back down to 8.3, white blood-cells to 2.4, and platelets at 48).

Call or come by if you can.

Unless something medically interesting happens, there probably won't be any more updates over the weekend.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Manda's Sick - MCV Day 2

My wife is a smurf. I didn't think to ask why they painted her blue, but blue she is, and covered in painfully sticky saran-wrap-looking tape with a bloody mess of a hickman line.
She was ordered not to eat after midnight (or get wet, or exposed to water) since she was scheduled for catheterization and another bone marrow biopsy today. The hope was that these things would happen early in the morning so that she could eat.
Both occurred after lunch, the catheter some time after 3pm.
I got to the hospital around 4:30 to find her in good spirits and recently fed (Chick-Fil-A, courtesy of my stepmother and SuperWoman, Randy - a cancer survivor and tremendous support). She's online, as some of her beloved readers know, but might be a bit loopy from the percocet.
After Randy left, Amanda was really really ready for a shower. She got in, washed, and nearly collapsed. After squatting for about 2 minutes in the shower from lightheadedness (and refusing to let me get a nurse), sitting in the chair beside the shower for another 3 or 4 minutes (and refusing to let me get a nurse), and finally having me dress her and comb her hair, I was allowed to go get a nurse.
So now we have new terms to add, along with new restrictions. Orthostatic hypotension, a fancy term for a head rush, caused her blood pressure to drop to about 82/42, with a pulse of 60. Crazy Pants was put into a wheel chair for the 10' ride back to the bed (seriously: she couldn't move on her own), and had her recently-granted ambulatory rights revoked.
Instead she gets a fancy pumping machine that wraps around her legs and massages her to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis. She looks like a Storm Trooper.
To top it all off, she was in pretty serious pain from the surgery and biopsy, hence the percocet.
But, she did get to spend some good romp time with Alastair this evening. He came down and climbed all over her, only reaching for the hickman line a couple of times. Both Mommy and Boy were having a great time before I had to bring him home.

Edit: Forgot to add that an ophthalmologist came by and assessed her vision issues. She found leukemic retinopathy to be the cause of her grayed vision, and described it as being similar to bruising, that it will come and go, and that it's very common (in leukemia patients).

Manda's Sick - MCV Day 1

We got the big spiel last night from 8 to 9pm. Special thanks to Dr. Kate Kimmelshue (our inside man) for sticking around and helping explain some of the pathology stuff.

We met our team of doctors:

Faculty (Attending): Dr. Shaw - jovial 50-yr-old with the answers
Fellow: Dr. Rome
Resident: Dr. Appert - reminds me of my cousin Cory, except with big red curly hair. And an MD.
Intern: Dr. Hoffman - youngest of the bunch; has an 18-month-old and an 8-month-old. Do the math.

Amanda's under the knife right now, getting her hickman line. She had her second bone marrow biopsy this morning (this time heavily anesthetized), and hasn't yet been allowed to eat since midnight. But she seems to be in pretty good spirits, and you can expect to see her online this afternoon, as my stepmother took her a laptop.

Pajiba at large: you guys rock! (But no marijuana, please)

So, anyway, the gist:

Amanda suffers from Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, and until further differentials are complete, is being treated as having M0: Undifferentiated. Untreated, she would have been dead within 4 months.
7 days of chemotherapy, starting today. 3 days of cytarabine and idarubicin, 4 additional days of cytarabine. The following 18 - 22 days will be recovery. She will lose her hair, have mouth sores, feel crummy, and probably not be very good company. She will lose her appetite. Her birthday (the 22nd) will suck.
After the 2nd week (can't remember whether it was 2nd week of hospitalization or recovery), she will have another biopsy to see if the cancerous cells are gone. If so, she is considered to be in remission. If not, "we'll go from there".

Amanda is a strong and beautiful woman, but she's going to be tested.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Manda's Sick - Interlude

Thanks, everyone, for the well-wishes, the gifts, treats, visits, care, love, and concern you've shown over the last few days. This has been a real challenge, and we feel absolutely bathed in love.

Amanda got a brief respite from hospitalization today: her transfer from St. Mary's to MCV came by way of our house. She got a hot shower, time to play and build towers with Alastair, and an opportunity to love on the kitties before I had to take her back.

It was the worst car ride of my whole life. Having her home felt, even just for a moment, like everything was ok. She looked great (hemoglobin was back at 9.7 after 6 units of blood), too, and when she went up the stairs, she had no palpitations. For a little while, at least, our life was normal.

I'll get into her care at MCV tomorrow. Right now I'm emotionally spent. She's getting started on chemo tomorrow, and aside from new names and faces, there's not too much to report.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Manda's Sick - Chapter 4: The St. Mary's Conclusion

Acute leukemia.

She's being transferred tomorrow to MCV, where she'll spend the next month undergoing chemotherapy, losing her hair (she's planning on shaving it anyway, since she hasn't been able to wash it for the last 3 days), and getting matched for a bone marrow transplant.

Pray pray pray.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Manda's Sick - Chapter 3: Room 618

Late Sunday afternoon, we gathered Manda's worldly hospital possessions and trucked upstairs to the Oncology ward. There was a patient wailing two doors down. I heard more wailing and a fellow bellowing for a nurse later in the day. But at least she got a single-occupancy room with a great view.

No sooner had we gotten into the room when a doctor knocked on the door. He was the on-call eye doctor and did a curious super-voodoo looking dance in front of Amanda's face for about 5 minutes. His gadgetry required him to physically zoom in and out rapidly, but at the end of it (and after anesthetic had been applied to her eyes) he could find no sign of a detached retina, which was a concern when the vision started failing. He found no major problems of any kind, but suggested that -- at her convenience -- she could come downstairs and do it all again with the big machines.

He left. Blood came. More blood came. More doctors came and went. Fabulous nursing staff. Friends and family began to visit with more regularity (love you guys -- all of you).

Hey, it's a Sunday: what're ya gonna do?

I came and went as Alastair required. He got to see his mommy, which was great for both of them.

By the end of the day, she'd received another 2 units of red blood cells, a slightly wavering temperature had settled back to non-feverish levels, and she was allowed to sleep without her IV.

Then came Monday, the day of The Biopsy...

She started the day with a bit of good(ish) news: her hemoglobin count was up to 7. We're targeting 9 for dismissal. She was also told that she didn't have to wear a hospital gown if she didn't want to (who exactly wants to wear them?)!

The biopsy came shortly after noon. Amanda described it to me as feeling like being kicked in the back, only from inside. They numbed her up and extracted marrow and a core-sample of something very technical and complicated sounding. A pathologist friend later explained it with no better success. They also took the opportunity to biopsy a small hardened spot on the back of her leg (forgot to mention that in the original symptom list, sorry).

The echocardiogram was done, and really nothing else has happened.

We're waiting on pathology now. We've been told to expect somewhere between 24 and 48 hours for preliminary results, but there's to be a "family meeting" with the hematologist to discuss treatment options once the results are back.

I'm home with Alastair. His grandparents have been great, watching him, entertaining him, and keeping his spirits up.

We're hoping to have Mommy home by tomorrow or Wednesday, but I don't think they gave her any blood today, so I'm not sure.