Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Our Old House

Our Old House
Karen and I bought this house a year or so into our marriage back in the late 1980s. It was our first house and the first home Colleen came back to as a baby. We sold it when we were getting ready to expand our family and add Christina.

This is a sweet little place. Two bedrooms and a bath and a half. It sits about a block from the main business district of Lewes, Delaware, and just down the street from Town Hall. I stopped to take this picture on my way into a Town Council meeting this evening.

We bought this house from a nice gay couple who had done some admirable fixing-up. I am a terrible householder and did not live up to their standards, though I didn't destroy it.

It has sold at least once since we sold it back in the 1990s. I think the last sale was for about twice what we sold it for. I asked the real estate agent whether we couldn't get a percentage of that sale, but he said no. It was worth asking.

The place has been painted to bring out that red trim lately, and the trees and bushes are so much larger. On the right there is a lovely Japanese Maple. It was only half that size when we were there. I loved that tree and am pleased to have a similar tree at the new place.

It's nice to stop by and look the old place over, from time to time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Moving Day for Jazzy

This evening, we moved Jazzy to his new home at Serenity Acres. He's lived at the Milton Equestrian Center for many years, so we were concerned that the move might be troubling, but he seems to have handled it well.

Jazzy trailers well. He was once a racehorse, so he may have gotten used to it.

Milton Equestrian Center is down-sizing, so we needed a new spot for Jazzy. Serenity Acres is a lovely small farm nearby that has a handful of horses, at least one of whom Jazzy knows from sharing a stable in the past.

I have a good feeling about the place and I think it will work our well for Jazzy and for Colleen.

"Even flesh-eating ghouls, it seems, want to be on TV"

No matter what you do, the zombies will absorb you.

According to a story in the Daily Texan -- Zombies descend upon Erwin Center -- a group of college kids dressed up as zombies invaded the American Idol auditions under way in Austin.

Their goal? Apparently it was good-natured consciousness-raising. The young man who organized the zombie-ing is quoted as saying it was to "raise awareness about the brain-melting nature of television by pretending ... to be a zombie, and terrorizing throngs of vapid pop-star hopefuls at the 'American Idol' auditions."

But the American Idol producers are good at what they do; they had spotted the on-line postings used to organize the invasion.

The coordinating producer is quoted as saying, "we've been on 24-hour zombie watch. We thought it would be fun to have them on the show."

So, out came the release forms, and the zombies were absorbed.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Anyone Here Speak German?

This is the cutest picture I've seen in a while.

The caption reads:
"Unser August-Kind. Er hat diesen Hut die ganze Zeit aufgehabt. Ein richtiger Party-Hengst"

Which BabelFish renders into English as:
"Our August child. It has this hat the whole time coming up abbott. A correct party Hengst"

Life is rich.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

An Evening Out

I had the chance this evening to visit two of my three favorite stores this evening. Colleen is off on a sleep-over, so Karen, Christina and I went out to Staples for their Open House for Teachers. After a quick dinner at a local eatery, we also took a swing through Michael’s, a craft and hobby store.

I may have mentioned before how inspiring and almost spiritual I find certain stores; stores that represent a sort of potential for doing, creating and changing things in creative and positive ways.

I first noticed this about Lowes, and I guess it holds true for Home Depot. I wondered why I was happy to just wander through these places, looking at the stuff on the shelves and imagining all the things I could do in and around my house with them. It’s not that I ever would do any of these things, but that the potential is there. I also noticed other people wandering dreamily through Lowes.

I started to also notice this behavior in Staples, where the potential is for a more organized and productive office, with new and shiny staplers and in-boxes and computers and shelving. Michael’s is a font of crafting potential.

Anyway. This evening we wanted to visit the Staples Open House, as they were offering some nice back to school deals for teachers, which Karen could use to her advantage, and I always enjoy a visit the electronics section.

Of course, given that it was an event for teachers, we were running into friends and co-workers around every corner. We must have been in there for an hour, at least. We spent about $10, but had a great time.

Ironically, one couple we spoke with had also recently dealt with blood clotting problems. The wife had had to spend a week in Beebe; her clot was a bit more serious than mine. She told me had just finished her course of blood thinners. She looked hale and hearty.

I took it as a good sign.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

It is good to be home

I was released from the hospital at about 11 this morning. The fact that I am competent to – and willing to – give myself regular injections means that I can come back home. Yay!

I have just been out to the pharmacy to get my supply of blood thinners. These are in pill form – the long term medicine – and syringes that I’ll use for the next few days.

The blood thinners must be working. They are said to increase bruising and I’m sprouting all manner of interesting bruises around the injection sites. One is fairly striking; I think it was the first spot I tried injecting myself and I was not as steady as I have become.

So for now I am an invalid at home. More comfortable but still advised to go easy and keep my leg elevated. I have a variety of things to watch out for and responsibilities to take pills, inject medicines, go in to the blood lab, call the doctor’s office, and the like.

I hope to head back to work on Monday. I have no major activity restrictions, though I’m not meant to work-out, play golf, or mow the lawn for a week or so.

I’m sure there are valuable life-lessons here. I will try to process all this and note them when I can!

And thanks for all the kind thoughts, folks. Both in comments and in e-mails and calls.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Now, Here's a Surprise

I am writing this from a hospital bed in Beebe Medical Center, in Lewes Delaware. It’s Wednesday, August 24, in the afternoon. I had expected to post this when I get home again. I find, however, that Beebe has a wireless network, open for guests, patrons and I assume patients, so I might as well post it now!

I’ve been here since yesterday afternoon with a blood clot in my left calf. Technically, this is known as a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Apparently, small bits have broken off in the least week or so and settled in my lungs. This is known as a Pulmonary Embolism.

As a result, I have been hospitalized overnight for the first time in my life. But I have to admit that I feel slightly guilty about the whole thing. I feel fine, while all around me are patients coughing and groaning in the night. They are bandaged and broken and I feel like a complete fraud.

Just this moment, the nurses brought an older gentleman in and put him into the other bed in the room. One of the nurses transporting him looked at me and said “What are you doing here? You look fine!”

That’s the problem.

It seems likely that I’ve been suffering, if that’s the right word, with this clot thing for a few weeks. I went to see my doctor this past Monday because of a lingering soreness in my calf. I guess I’d noticed soreness in that leg in the week or so before that, but wrote it off as part of the aging process.

Last week, I noticed tightness in my chest for several days. I felt like I might be coming down with something; like I might be getting bronchitis. But it didn’t last. I also noticed a slight fever a few days later, but that didn’t last.

In fact, I felt well enough on Sunday to walk and play 18 holes of golf. I need to go back and edit my write-up of that game to insert the excuse for my terrible play; I had a Pulmonary Embolism! Of course I played like crap!

But the soreness stayed in my leg and on Monday afternoon I went to get it checked out at my Doctor’s office. I saw the nurse-practitioner and had the possibility of a blood clot in my mind. But the symptoms didn’t quite fit and she thought it sounded more like varicose veins, though we decided to get an ultrasound scan to check for a clot, just in case.

Tuesday, I went in for jury duty and, when I wasn’t picked for the one trial that day, I called the hospital to set up an appointment for the scan for that afternoon. I will admit that I was uncertain whether I wanted it to be a clot or varicose veins; varicose veins would probably be preferable, but they also seem to signal middle age and I’d really like to hold that off as long as I can.

In the event, the technician looked up from the scan and told me she had found a clot, that I should grab a seat, and let her call my Doctor. That was a rough moment.

It wasn’t long before Dr. Robinson was on the phone. She was apologetic, but let me know that I would have to be admitted and start a treatment of blood thinners for a while. The hospitalization is to make sure that, if anything bad were to happen with the clot; they could take care of it. At that point, we didn’t know about the embolism.

So I checked in and was wheeled up to a room on the third floor. An elderly gentleman pushed my wheel-chair for me. I had the sense that it was a strain for the poor guy. I could have walked but do understand why I shouldn’t.

Now I have a valve inserted into the back of my left hand, to allow intravenous stuff when needed. I have several wrist-bands on my right hand, outlining who I am and what I’m allergic to. A switchboard’s worth of wires are connected to sensors on my chest and stomach and connected together to a sensor pack the size of a Steven King paperback – from early in his career, when he had a lot to say.

This thing broadcasts my heart rate and other signs to a control room somewhere. If something bad happens, I assume this will cause all manner of alarms to go off. From a practical standpoint, this is just something I have to juggle as I move around. This is even funnier when you understand that, for purposes of measuring inputs and outflow, the nurses have asked me to use a hand-held urinal. Thus, I have a regular job that requires three hands, and I have only two.

But this is not really all that uncomfortable. When I think of what some of these other folks are going through, I just feel guilty.

Anyway. I’ve had several productive visits with Dr. Robinson, who is a very young woman, a new mom, but a good doctor. I think she is somewhat struck by my lack of overt symptoms. I have gone back over the last few weeks with her to dredge up anything I can think of that might be related.

When I told her about the chest-tightness, she ordered a CAT scan, which is an interesting process. An iodine solution was injected through the valve, to provide contrast. The technician warned that this would likely make me feel warm, and to did. Like a quick flush of fever in the skin.

The CAT scan confirmed the embolism; I have one in each lung. I wonder if I can get a copy of part of the CAT scan. I could use it as an on-line icon for myself.

Based on my talk with Dr. Robinson this morning, I should be okay. The drugs I’ve started on will thin my blood and reduce its ability to clot. This will both reduce the chance of bits breaking off the clot I have and reduce its potential growth. That should allow my body's natural processes to break it down and get rid of it. My lungs may have some lasting scars from this episode, but nothing too terribly worrisome.

The more interesting question is why I got the clot. It may be the case that a whack on the ankle at some point started the process. Our long drives too and from the Tyler Place last month may have played a role. It’s also possible that here’s a genetic reason. My father tells me he’s had a DVT incident – following a surgery – and that his father had had some bouts of what was then called Phlebitis but that might have been a thrombosis.

She’s sending off a large amount of blood for tests that may shed some light on that question. If there is a genetic predisposition, I will probably have to take blood thinners from here on out. In any case, I expect to be on them for he next half-year or so.

So here I am. I hope to be able to go home tomorrow. One question controlling that was whether my insurance would cover the cost of a series of syringes with which I will need to inject myself over the next week or so. I didn’t think I’d be willing to try that, but I did one of them this morning and I think I can handle it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Is It Time for a Naming Ceremony?

In two weeks and one day, this weblog will turn one year old. Back on that first day, I did a Google search and found some 700 "Mike's Musings" out there.

I wish I had either a) checked before naming the dang thing, or b) immediately come up with something else. I didn't.

I just checked again, there now appear to be about 7,000 Mike's Musings. Oh dear.

Over the next two weeks, I want to think about maybe finding a new name.

What do you think?

Four Trumpets, Four French Horns, Two Trombones, Two Bass Trombones and a Tuba (With Percussion)

Last night, Karen and I attended the second concert of this summer’s Lewes Chamber Music Festival. This was a performance by a brass ensemble called Brass Engine. They played a mix of composed classical and modern music, church music and renaissance dances.

The Festival is organized by Sheridan Seyfried, a conservatory student, musician and composer and the son of our friends Steve and Elsie Seyfried. Last night included the premier of Sheridan’s Mad Jack’s Revenge, a new composition commissioned by Brass Engine.

Sheridan is the eldest of five. His younger brother is entering his second year (I think) at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. His younger sister, a high-school student, has just started a year of study in Thailand. The two younger siblings also show promise of creativity and individuality.

Karen and I feel that, if we can do half as well with our kids as Steve and Elise have done raising theirs, we will have done well.

By the way, if you ever have a chance to hear a brass ensemble this good, take it. What a full, rich, sweet sound.    

My Little Car and I In The Newspaper

An article in yesterday's News Journal on the rise in demand for hybrid cars as gas prices rise -- More drivers turning to hybrid options -- included several quotes from yours truly.

I was slightly disappointed that the reporter did not pick up on my thesis that the low emissions from these cars are also a big reason that many of us wanted to buy them. There is a mention of the low emissions factor, deep in the article, but I wanted to make the point that that factor meant more -- to me at least -- than the gas savings.

I was just as proud of my car when gas was at $1.98 per gallon as I am at $2.56 or whatever it is this morning.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Ninth Golf Game in 2005

I played 18 holes with Andy Southmayd at the Heritage Golf Course today. I played abysmally; absolutely abysmally.

It may have been the heat. It may have been the fact that I’m fighting a cold. It may also have been the crappy condition of the course. But the abysmal-ness of my golf game remains.

Golf Green (Theoretically)
The course was in bad shape. The heat this summer has made course maintenance very hard. But this course is being let go a bit, I think. It is slated to be shortened and a set of townhouses put in and I think hey aren’t putting quite the same energy into taking care of it that they once did.

A shame, really.

Update: I have an excuse! Yay! Turns out, I was playing that game with a blood clot in my leg and in both my lungs. Given that, I think I played ... okay.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Big Flame Update

We were back at Tokyo Steak House this evening. Our waiter was Tom, who we’ve had before. We were comfortable enough to ask him why the Big Flame no longer bursts above the mid-table grills at Tokyo.

According to Tom, the flame is gone because… someone complained. The flame scared their small child. So management decided to douse the flame.

I would have expected someone to have been singed, at least. But, scared?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Visit to Moore's Lake

I took my lunch hour at Moore's Lake today, and took along my camera.
Moore's Lake 6
Moore's Lake is a state-run fishing/boating access point just south of Dover. It includes a very cool dam/spillway and fish ladder.

I found it a very pretty place.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Jury Duty!

I reported to Sussex County Superior Court at 9:00 a.m. this morning to start my latest round of jury duty.

Here in Sussex, we serve in the jury pool for two weeks. During that time, we’re on-call to be picked for a trial. If we get picked for a long trial, we’re there for the duration. Otherwise, we’re back into the pool.

My jury duty started on August 15 and runs through the 26th. We call a special phone number each evening and a recording tells us whether to report or not the following morning. We were not asked to come in until today and today appears to be our only day of duty for this week. Next week? Who knows?

We were there today for a quick orientation to jury duty and for 40 of us to sit as a jury pool for the Court of Common Pleas. I wasn’t among the 40 chosen randomly and so by 10:30 I was headed north to my office.

I looked around the courtroom this morning at what is meant to be a random cross section of Sussex County residents. I think it was. A few young folks, a fair number of retirees; some African American, some Latino, the majority Caucasian.

I would be willing to wager that I was the only – or at least one of the only – folks there who was hoping to sit in the jury box for a trial. Most folks are resentful of an intrusion into their routine; they spend the time worrying about work or wishing they were back home.

I think it really is a part of our duty as citizens to serve on juries. We should vote. We should speak up on issues (after first learning about them). We should serve our jury duty. The legal system really does depend on us; I’m glad to serve.

Also, from a selfish point of view, I’m fascinated by the legal process. I’d like to watch a trial from up-close, without being a defendant, a witness, or a victim.

So, we’ll see what next week brings. If I do get on a jury, though, I won’t be blogging about it. Maybe I will post about it after it ends, but then only about the experience and not about any details of the trial. I think that that would be inappropriate.    

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Where Did the Big Flame Go?

We went out to dinner this evening with my brother Matt and his wife and kids. We went to Tokyo Steak House, which is one of our favorites.

Tokyo Steak House is a hibachi-style restaurant, with table settings around a large central grill. The food is cooked in front of you by a chef who mixes-in showmanship, knife tricks and egg-juggling. He slices. He dices. He sprinkles-in spices. The food is very good; the chef’s show is a large part of the fun.

It used to be the case that that show started with a great cloud of flame. The chef would create a puddle of some flammable liquor (Sake?), light a smaller puddle off to the side, and connect the two with a final squirt of the liquor. A flash of flame would rise up into the vent-hood starting the show off with a bang.

This evening, and the last time we were there a few weeks back, there was no introductory flame. I have to wonder, why?

Are there safety concerns? Was there an incident? Did someone loose a substantial hank of hair to singeing? I just don’t know.

I have to say that I miss it. They won’t lose our business; we like the place very much.

But I do miss the flame.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Because You Never Know What the World Will Offer You

Stump Truck?
Question: Why do you always carry your camera with you?

I found myself behind this truck running lunchtime errands in Dover the other day. Thank you world.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Dead Bug

Dead Bug
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie.

When I got into my car this afternoon, the car's thermometer read 102 degrees. It had been sitting in the sun in a barren parking lot for four hours, so no surprise.

When I got in I found this insect lying dead, spreadeagled on the armrest between the driver's and passenger's seats. It appeared to have been overwhelmed by the heat.

I think it was a mosquito, in life, so I didn't shed any tears.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Portraits of Bert

Bert Looks Over
I've been trying to capture a decent portrait of our older cat, Shoe (aka Shubert or Bert).

He's a handsome cat, but that glossy black coat is tough to photograph.

Finally, I went to the Canon web site and downloaded a copy of the PowerShot S30 User's Manual (I have one on a shelf somewhere; I'm just not sure where). I think I found some settings that might work.

So I took a few photos and added them to my cat collection.

A Return?

The person who was behind Delatacit, which shut down and almost re-started under curious circumstances last year, is apparently sitting in as guest blogger while Mike, author of Down with Absolutes!, goes on vacation.

It's an interesting idea: bringing in someone to keep things going while you refresh and recharge.

I don't think it would work in my case here at Mike's Musings. Who else knows enough about the minutiae of my day-to-day life?

Monday, August 8, 2005

Where's Christina?

Camp Pecometh
Sunday afternoon, we dropped Christina off at Camp Pecometh, a Methodist summer camp on the Chester River, outside of Centreville, Maryland.

Camp Pecometh seems a nice place. Colleen had done a few sessions there and Christina did her first sleep-away -- a mini-camp -- last year. She's a perfect camper; she jumps right into the society in the cabin and makes friends easily. I think she'll have a very nice time.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Odometer Milestone

An Odometer Milestone
I rolled 22,222 miles on my Prius today. I noticed while on a back road, so I was able to safely snap a photo. When I rolled 20,000 the other week, I was out on the highway and not able to pull off in time.

Declaration of Revocation, by John Cleese

We can take refuge in humor, and satire such as John Cleese's Declaration of Revocation is a good example. In it, he revokes our independence and provides a prime example of poking fun at both sides of an issue. In this case, the common language that divides the US and Great Britain, along with other factors.

It appears to date from the innocent, pre-9/11 days after the first Bush election. It should be taken as nothing more than a pleasant bit of biting social commentary.

Found by a Fountain

Sailboat at Sunset
I was taking photos of the fountains in the courtyard at Delaware Technical and Community College, in Georgetown, when I found this sailboat. It was one of two that someone had been sailing in the fountains before I got there.

I wonder what knowledge and notes were soaking away into the paper as it sat there?

I was at Del Tech to pick Colleen up from her first Academic Challenge class. This is a program for Sussex school kids that lets them take advanced level courses and, if they stay with the program from eighth though twelfth grade, earn college credits.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Some Lyrics I Like

I like music with tight, poetic lyrics in language that sings even without the music or the vocalist.

Here's an example that's been in my head lately. It is the middle section (give or take) of Sarah Harmer's Lodestar:
Out in the night,
out on the water,
We pull the boat back to shore.

Breathing the air
in the stillness of the bay.

Intensity of stars
reflected in the water,
Silently ignite.

The oar dips in
to oil like water
and we,
Are away.

Under the moon,
In the great black night
with no lodestar,
In sight.
It helps that the music and the singing are lovely, but I think these lines stand pretty well on their own.

Gannett News Makes an Error

It is a small one, but I think worth correcting.

In a story on Joe Biden's appearance last night on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Biden raises his hipness quotient, reporter Jennifer Brooks writes:
Stewart broadsided the state of Delaware: Isn't it time, he wondered, for someone to "buy the entire state indoor plumbing?"

Stewart asked if someone shouldn't buy everyone in Delaware "indoor carpeting." Senator Biden responded something like "I thought somebody already did." To which Jon Stewart replied with something about "that spring-y feeling underfoot" in the state.

I think Miss Brooks was projecting her own prejudices about the First State? I'll give her credit and assume it was a Freudian slip.

UPDATE: I sent Ms. Brooks an e-mail this morning calling the error to her attention. Here's her response:
I was in the studio and mis-heard Stewart, then got stuck in a hotel room that didn't subscribe to Comedy Central. Weak! Carpeting makes a lot more sense than plumbing, actually. A correction is already on the way to the paper. Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. I'm going to go bang my head against the wall now.
Good for her! Though I don't think she should bang her head against anything. Also, I hereby strike-out and retract my catty remark from this morning. I shouldn't post before my first cup of coffee.

By the way, I think the whole exchange was really about DuPont carpet products, but that part of it got lost in the banter.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Local Dolphin May Get SAG Card

According to the News Journal, Hollywood stars may be filming in Lewes!

The paper reports that Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker are planning to film a scene at Cape Henlopen State Park on Wednesday, August 3, and may also film in a shop in downtown Lewes.

Parker, star of HBO's "Sex and the City" will only be in town briefly. Mayor Jim Ford is quoted:
"“She'’s just here for a day trip unless she falls in love with Lewes and stays. Who knows?"”
Why not? Lewes is, officially, a City.

The scene at the State Park is to be a converstion between the two stars while they are sitting on surfboards on the ocean. According to Mayor Ford, "a dolphin pops up and grabs his foot."

I think you have to have a speaking part to get your SAG Card, but maybe foot-grabbing is "speaking" among dolphin actors?

Kidding aside, this is cool. I wish I were taking the day off.

Boots on the Prowl

Boots on the Prowl
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie.

Despite my uncertainty, below, I plan to keep taking digital photos. Sometimes you get lucky.

This is Cool, but...

The Flickr site has a neat new tool for exploring the multitude of photos that are posted there each day.

They've come up with a way to measure what they call "interestingness." They use that metric to find the most interesting shots on the site.

This is great. The photos this finds are inspiring and fascinating.

But they are also, frankly...daunting.

Monday, August 1, 2005


I'm saddened by what's happened with Raphael Palmiero of the Baltimore Orioles. I tend to believe him when he says he didn't knowingly use steroids. But, according to the news guy just now, so does President Bush. So, now I just don't know....

Meanwhile, Karen and the girls and I have been watching Hell's Kitchen this summer. This evening was the finale, and the winner was ... Michael. harrumph.

Clearly, this kid can cook, but his approach to the game of this contest was disappointing. In short, he wasn't averse to sabotaging his coworkers to get ahead. Yes it was a competition. Yes, he was trying to win. But I just don't like seeing him get ahead by being a jerk.