Pointsman

Name:
Location: one hour from Suffolk, Rockingham, and Scarborough, United States

I'm one of the co-authors of Point of Hopes, Point of Dreams, and The Armor of Light (which, contrary to some reviews is NOT a Points novel). Proud member of CoastLine SF, Piscataqua Obedience Club, and admin for Horseboard.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Another Interlude

43 degrees out there today, boys and girls! Sweater weather!

Tomorrow my partner goes in for her hysterectomy, so we've spent the day tidying, making sure things will be pleasant and comfortable for her when she comes home. A nesting instinct, to be sure. Last year, on New Year's Day, 2004, I had a fit of Queer Eye Meets Sensible Chic and set up a little reading nook in the bedroom using an old chaise we had. It's a very cozy corner now, and I think she'll be using that quite a bit. We had a sensible shopper moment this morning and found a handsome throw for the end of the chaise marked down from $40 to $12.00.

I'm not sure if this is especially blogworthy, but, hey, it's what's going on in my life right now. That and tapering off the damn steroids. I'm down to 4mg a day, total, 2 mg AM and 2 mg PM. I just have to remember to take the second dose way before bedtime, as I get a few hours of sleep and am then inescapably awake.

Oh, the interesting thing about the steroid I'm on? It's what they give folks on Mt. Everest who are suffering from altitude sickness -- and most of those people take a lower dose than I was taking. Small wonder it makes me cranky!

Wish us luck tomorrow.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Interlude

While it got colder last night than it was predicted to -- it was -2 at 8:30 this morning! -- today, temps reached the mid-30s this afternoon. And that was just enough inspiration to order my first seeds of the year!

I missed last year's growing season with the brain lesion (which, if you will recall, was a sanctuary site metastasis of the original breast cancer, NOT a brain tumor), and I am determined not to miss this year's. I'll be ordering a couple of different kinds of basil for pesto. I'm trying a mini-cabbage at my partner's behest, which will luckily take up less room than last year's volunteeer mini-pumpkin! Hopefully the new Hidcote lavenders I planted last year are enjoying the blanket of snow and will come back better than ever. And I'm getting more flowers in -- cosmos, a new mallow, and nasturtiums.

I've no idea what the early spring garden will look like, except that there will be chionodoxa, since there always are. But I didn't get any tulips in last fall, so this year might be a good chance to start re-arranging things. You have to realize -- the whole garden is 5 feet wide and 25 feet long! A challenge, to be sure, and much smaller than the "small gardens" discussed in magazines. Hah, Roger Swain, you think THAT'S a small garden?? Come on in and help me design this one.

Part of me would like to get a designer in, I don't know whether it would be as grand as a "landscape architect" or simply a real honest to goodness gardener who knows a lot more than I do about putting plants together. It'd be fun to see what an outside eye could suggest.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Next up ...

Well, we're back from Dartmouth. We drove up last Saturday to get ahead of the storm, which we did, very nicely, thank you. The snow started just as we were coming out of the Food Coop with dinner supplies (we had already been to the liquor store). So we holed up all day on Sunday with books and the Australian Open. We only got about 10 inches up there.

Monday morning, the day of my third treatment, dawned with a temperature of 21 degrees below zero. Without the windchill. We basically stayed around the Lebanon area, had lunch at the Seven Barrells Brewpub, always a pleasure.

I discovered, too, that the editorial summit I was missing was cancelled due to the blizzard.

Tuesday we headed up towards Stowe, and stopped at the Cabot Creamery Annex. Stocked up on interesting flavors of their cheeses that we haven't seen down here yet, and also picked up a large jug of a local maple ale. There seems to be a beer theme going here, doesn't there? Then we decided we really wanted lunch at Simon Pearce again, so we forewent Ben & Jerry's for the restorative sun, warmth, and beauty of the restaurant and its food. There's just something very soothing about sitting there on a quiet weekday afternoon, no one rushing you, enjoying the play of the sun on the ice below and the tumbling of the spillway.

Wednesday was the final treatment, and we headed home, in a small, niggling snowstorm. They key to successful winter driving is to take it slow and steady, which is what we did. 45-50 on the one clear lane on I-89 was more than sufficient, as was evidenced by the people who passed us... and whom we then passed after they spun out! And it took a deal of effort to drive that badly in a snow that wasn't even accumulating. It took us an hour longer to get home than usual. It took those folks a lot longer.

It's great being home. And I was blown away to get home and realize that my friend Eric had been by and had dug out our back walk! That's above and beyond, my friends.

Vixen came back from the Bark & Run rather hoarse.

So, what's next? My partner's hysterectomy this coming Monday! Do we know how to have fun, or what?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

On the Fly

So, ok, I went up to Dartmouth-Hitchcock for a mapping MRI last Tuesday, for the planned stereotactic radiosurgery on Thursday.

Turns out the damn tumor had grown 3 mm in 5 weeks! So, change of plan: fractionated radiosurgery, five treatments for the full dose of 20 grays.

I feel absolutely confident. The karma has been very positive. One, we caught the damn thing. Two, as it turned out, there was an open time slot in the sim lab, needed to get the measurements for the radiosurgery, right then as we were meeting with my radiation oncologist. And we were able to start the fractionated treatments on Thursday. The other thing is that if this little expletive deleted grew 3 mm in five weeks, then it's pretty fast growing, and cancer treatments preferentially attack the fastest growing cells. So, imagine if you will a spindly tomato plant, damping off.

This fucker is OUTTA HERE!!

This being January in New England, the weather always adds an interesting fillip. Besides the extreme cold, now we're looking at a major snowstorm which is supposed to drop a foot or more of snow on us tonight into tomorrow. Which means instead of going back up there tomorrow for Monday's treatment, we have to go back up today. Laundry gets done really fast, the dog goes back to the Bark & Run (we call it that because that's what she gets to do out there), and we grab some groceries, since our hotel room as a kitchen and no way are we driving out to dinner tonight!

All in all, quite an adventure.

We're calling it Vacation with Fractionated Radiosurgery. After my first treatment, we had lunch at Simon Pearce; we had a table overlooking the spillway of the dam that powers (or powered) the old mill, and it was quite spectacular, with all the ice. Then we went to the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences to see their raptor enclosures. Absolutely magnificent! The birds in the enclosures have all been injured in some way that makes their return to the wild impossible. It was a privilege to see them up relatively close.

Over the next few days, when the snow winds down, we're hoping to get to the Shaker Museum, the Montshire Museum of Science and of course, that vital spot, Ben & Jerry's. It has been postulated that Ben & Jerry's is efficacious in treating the full range of female health issues. I have little doubt it is an effective adjuvant therapy in breast cancer treatment! :-)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Count Fleet

Last year, the Court Fleet really was the start of Smarty Jones' march to Kentucky. What did we learn from this year's renewal? Is there another Smarty lurking in there?

Probably not, but we did learn that Naughty New Yorker stepped up in class very nicely, even though he didn't pull off the win. Scrappy T, as more or less expected, went to the lead and stayed there, after putting away pacesetter Lakeville Rush. Naughty New Yorker drew the outside post, which was a tough break as the inner track hasn't been kind to wide, sweeping moves this meet and the bias has been to speed. He certainly also proved to be more versatile than Killenaule, the multiple stakes winning Fusaichi Pegasis colt, and proved himself seven lengths better than Tani Maru. Maybe Killenaule simply had an off day. But while there may not be another Smarty in here, I think I'll keep an eye on Naughty. And congrats to Pat Kelly, his trainer, who also trains the extremely popular and game Evening Attire.

Dog as Ink Blot

Vixen is a kind of Rorchach test of a dog. She's a mixed breed, and people who stop and ask what kind she is almost invariably see whatever dog they own in her. Sheltie -- yes, we're pretty sure of that. We also think there is some whippet in her. Other guesses have been Border Collie, Australian Cattle Dog, Corgi (facially, she looks a lot like my friend Maura's Corgi, Maggie), Lab (!), Toller, Canaan Hound, shepherds of various kinds. She is really a kind of Ur-dog. It's clear that neither of her parents were pure breed anythings... so I have to wonder why her original owners had her dewclaws removed. I can't imagine they were going to use her as a sporting dog, and I can't think why else they would have done it. Like so much about Vixen, it's a mystery.

She really is a very doggy dog. Type-y, as they say. For a mutt.

Ice, Ice, Baby

That's what it was like here this week, when snow was followed by snow, sleet, and freezing rain. Thank heavens, this year, we actually had a January thaw -- it was Friday morning -- and virtually all of the mess has melted and gone away. A win win situation, really -- we don't find ourselves facing a snow drought, but Vixen and I are also able to get out for long walks. For the record, Vixen likes powder, but hates the crusty stuff as she is just heavy enough to break through it, but light enough that it takes a second or two, and she finds that disconcerting. However, the crusty stuff is enjoyable for digging.

What I enjoy about having no snow on the ground is that it's so much easier to hear things, especially things like the hiss of oak leaves still clinging to branches. Bird calls travel more clearly over bare ground. There was a great article in the Boston Globe some years back that called December the time to hear "what the earth is saying," because we usually don't get snow, substantial snow, til January. So far this winter we've had a few decent snows, but we've also had periods in between of warmer weather that lets us start over again.

Oh, and I have spotted a pair of buffleheads on the Mill Pond, a sure sign that January is here.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Oh, bother.

I got a phone call from my radiation oncologist up at Dartmouth-Hitchcock last night, saying that the scan I had done on Friday had come back "slightly positive." Which means there's reason to think there's been a little bit of tumor re-growth.

Yeesh.

The good news, and it truly is, that the tumor is "an order of magnitude smaller" than it was when we first treated it; that it has moved off the brain stem, it has shrunk so much; and because it is no longer on the brain stem, the radiosurgery this time can use the full 20 grays of radiation rather than the more conservative 16 grays it received at the center, 12 at the periphery. There is no sign of edema or vascularization. And if it is tumor re-growth, this is the time to hit it. And I absolutely agree with that.

So we're going to do another radiosurgery. Which is quite a fascinating procedure, the only thing I dislike about it is that I have to take steroids afterwords, and decadron really truly sucks. I know, I know, it's better than edema, but the side effects, for me at least, were lousy. Ah, well, I'll only be on it for a couple of weeks probably, as opposed to the month and a half I was on them last year!

But golly gee, I had hoped 2005 would be a wonderfully boring year! My friend Victoria suggested that 2005, for us, will simply begin February 1. A new leaf, a new year, no more of this shit.

I believe very strong in the powers of anger and humor. Both are enormously powerful weapons in one's arsenal. And bless his heart, Richard (he of the alternate spelling for fru-fru), made me laugh out loud this morning with the following:

Best wishes, Lisa. Somewhere in this thread there is an allusion to MacBeth waiting to come out. I'm not sure if it's

Out, out, damned spot.
Or something along the lines of

Tumorrow and tumorrow and tumorrow . . .

but it's in there somewhere. If I wasn't half asleep, I'd find it. But my alarm clock tells me that it's time to step into tights and sashay through the snow to a lifetime first: a step aerobics class. I'm not sure what evil deity possessed me long enough to think that this might be a good idea, but if there is not at least one spandex-clad cutie be-bopping her way to tighter buns alongside me, I may just turn around and go back to bed.

Tell you doctor that we are expecting a clean bill of health when he's done mucking about in there. In an earlier, more barbaric period when my mother underwent extensive brain surgery for a tumor, they just took stuff out by hand and then closed one up and took an x-ray or two. She would (PhD in hand) proudly report back afterwards, tapping her skull:

"There's nothing up there at all, and I have the pictures and a neurosurgeon's testimony to prove it."

Thanks, Richard, I needed that!

My friends on Horseboard are good at keeping me in stitches... and the nice thing about radiosurgery is that those are the only stitches I'll have!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Moody Bluegrass

A number of years ago, at my surprise 40th birthday party, our dear friends in the band Say ZuZu played a kick-ass bluegrass version of "Nights in White Satin" for me, an unregenerate Moody Blues fan. Now, for all they might not really like the Moody Blues, the Say ZuZu guys were and still are damn fine musicians, and it rocked.

And darn it, they might have been onto something, for I found out today about a CD entitled Moody Bluegrass, with an amazing roster of talent: Harley Allen, Alison Brown, Sam Bush, Fred Carpenter, Lionel Cartwright, Daniel Carwile, Larry Cordle, John Cowan, Barry Crabtree, Charlie Cushman, Stuart Duncan, Andrew Hall, Aubrey Haynie, David Harvey, Emma Harvey, Jan Harvey, Alison Krauss, Keith Little, Tim May, Patty Mitchell, Bob Mummert, Tim O’Brien, John Randall, Calvin Settles, Ira Wayne Settles, Odessa Settles, Tom Shinness, Russell Smith, Jill Snider, Todd Suttle, Andy Todd.

As you might guess, it's from Rounder Records.

I bought it and downloaded it via iTunes. This is some fine work here. Amazing how well "Ride my See Saw" works! I shouldn't actually be surprised. For all the lush orchestrations, the music of the Moody Blues was always as much about lyrics, and "Ride My See Saw," written by John Lodge, could as much be about living and looking for work in West Virginia:

I've worked like a slave for years
Sweat so hard just to end my fears
Not to end my life a poor man
But by now I know I should have run

Left school with a first class pass
Started work, but as second class.
School taught one and one is two
But by now, that answer
Just ain't true.

"Your Wildest Dreams" seems to have been crying out to be a bluegrass song all along. Right now, my favorite track is "It's Up To You," which I realize always had those bendy notes that seems to lend it to bluegrass. (My friend Cliff would probably cringe at my terminology there.)

I'm loving this. I'll try to post something more coherent later. You know, musicological.

Way back when these songs were first recorded and performed, they were no doubt listened to accompanied, sometimes, at least, by substances designed to, umm, increase enlightenment? Oh, heck, even more recently than that, a summer outdoor concert we attended was perfumed by the battling aromas of Skin So Soft (for the bugs) and pot. Now there's a bit of moonshine to them...



Being Bilingual

I'm more or less resigned to being a second class citizen. (We won't talk about marriage issues... yet.) By day I work on a PC. By night, I work on a Mac. And for all their protests that most of the Blogger staff use Macs, well, those protests obviously don't register with the suits. The Mac version of Blogger is very bare bones indeed. No nifty little shortcuts or tags for inserting links or emphasizing text. Nope, it's raw HTML or nuthin'. And I'm not working on some six year old Bondi Blue iMac (not for the past two weeks, at least), I'm working on a spiffy new, sleek, elegant, powerful sexy iMac G5. The latest available version of IE for Macs. All frightfully up to date, contemporarily, as Flanders and Swann would say.

I used to be quite fluent in raw HTML. But it got so easy using WYSIWYG editors and the like. Those muscles got lazy. So I'll write and publish my blog entries from my Mac, but if they need any enhancement -- links, italics, and the like -- I find a PC and go in and add those nifty tags.

I'm bilingual. I speak Windows and Mac. I even still speak un peu HTML. But Blogger, stubbornly, like the province of Quebec or English Only advocates in this country, has its one language and is sticking to it.

Maybe I should emigrate?

Don't get me wrong, I love the simplicity of Blogger. I love the elegance of the available templates. I love the fact that it's free. And in a way, I do like the fact that all the bells and whistles are unavailable to me on my spiffy new iMac, because it forces me to be less fru-fru (alternate spelling: frou-frou, according to my friend Richard) in my formatting.

Speaking of Macs, I think Steve Jobs is brilliant (I'm sure he's relieved to have my validation). There was talk that any attempt by Apple to introduce a sub $500 Mac could cannibalize their higher end machines (thank you, like the one I just bought) and would throw them into a market fray they are not best equipped to handle. But what Jobs introduced was not a cheaper Mac -- it is the Mini Mac. Jobs understands that computers are not just hardware and ones and zeroes, but are also about language. And he's played this little semantics game masterfully. A Mini Mac is just that. Not a lesser Mac, but its own entity. And since computers have been in the home for so long now, I would be willing to bet that a lot of people have extra keyboards and monitors lurking around, especially since disposing of old computers is so difficult in many areas. My partner is threatening to try to hook up the Mini Mac to the old Kaypro. But we do have a PC monitor that has been gathering dust. We have an extra keyboard. I would not hesitate to say that in the next few months, we'll be welcoming a bouncing (well, I hope not) Mini Mac to the local area network at home.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Withdrawal is Good...

I spent almost all of yesterday away from the computer and though I hesitate to say anything, for fear of jinxing "it" or scaring "it" away, it seems to have done some good.

I dreamed about a couple of the characters from the Points books last night. In such a way that I had a nice little sketch of a scene to write today. I was surprised that it was the character of Caiazzo who should kick things off, but not put out. And Rathe, one of the two main characters, was also in the scene. I tell you, I woke up with a smile on my face. It's not a bad little sketch. I have no idea where it's going to lead. It involves another pointsman, a rather venal one (as, alas, so many of them tend to be), and his getting raked over the coals by both Caiazzo, on one side of the law, and Rathe, on the other. This new character is an unpleasant little tick which could, of course, work beautifully as a character and as an adversary to both Rathe, the honest pointsman, and Caiazzo, the less than honest "businessman."

Maybe there's something to this blogging stuff, eh?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Friendly Encouragement

A friend recently told me he'd be eager to read my blog because I would doubtless be writing on substantive issues.

Which would be a bit of a conversation killer, did I not know that for him, substantive issues include not only matters of social justice or injustice, but also a really nice Saturday card at Gulfstream Park. On which topic anything he would care to post would be far more substantive than anything I can write.

It's also his expectation of seeing something from me that has me here at my computer this morning. My goodness, it really IS like exercising. Something that needs to be done, something that is good for one... and something that ends up, almost surprisingly, being enjoyable. That I am finding the enjoyment in again.

Still isn't fiction, though. Nico and Philip and all the others from the two Points books are still waiting, patiently or not, for that part of my imagination to be coaxed out of hiding.


Friday, January 07, 2005

Not a New Year's Resolution

This wasn't something I intended to do. It was not on my short list of new year's resolutions. But somehow, a bunch of things came together, there was synchronicity in the spheres or serendipity was cultivated, and here I am.

My colleague Danny Miller said something in his blog that got me thinking. He says his blog is helping him get back to his own writing. Well, boy howdy, could I use some of that. Something has to prime the pump. It's not that I'm facing writer's block, it's just it seems as though my imagination has gone into hiding. Not that I can blame it! Two years of dealing with breast cancer and the single (thank god!) brain metastasis would seem to be ample cause for ANYTHING to go into hiding. So maybe this blog will help coax it out of hiding. Not so much blogging as therapy as blogging as exercise for muscles long unused.

Of course, as I think about it, to some extent, I am mighty grateful that my imagination ducked and covered. I certainly did not need my imagination running rampant when I was going through treatment. Inflammatory breast cancer is scary enough without a writer's imagination poking into its dark corners to see what might -- might - be lurking there.

It needs to know it's safe to come out now. I need to know it's safe for it to come out now.