Pi Time

It’s 3:14 am as I type this.  Pi time.  It’s shift change time.  Linda has had a few hours sleep in bed, taken care of the dog, and returned to the hospital to tag me.  She will now be with Mary Ellen as she sleeps and I will get some sleep here at home.

Mary Ellen has been recovering well, but she has had very little “awake time.”  This is probably for the best, as she has a lot of fresh pain to manage.  The very good news is that her breathing has not been so shallow his time around, which means she has not been awakened frequently by alarms and parent’s reminders to take “deep breaths” so often.  Morphine has been her friend.  When she does wake up, it’s to say “ouch” and gladly press the green button again.

Mary Ellen has had some nausea to deal with this time, which is no fun at all.  But the second anti-nausea medication they tried seems to have done the trick.  She still hasn’t really had anything but a bit of water since before midnight on Monday though.  We ordered a cup of tea for her dinner.  It’s all she wanted.  But, it grew cold while she slept and she never had an opportunity to enjoy it.

There is much more to tell, but it’s for Mary Ellen to tell, herself, when she is awake again.  So far, she’s made two brave attempts to scribble something down for me to transcribe to her blog.  However, she faded after a few partial sentences each time.

And so, like Linda and I, you must wait patiently for Mary Ellen’s recovery.  Thanks so much for all the kind thoughts and prayers.  It’s what we can do for now, and it’s enough.

Focusing on the Essentials

As I write this, my daughter Mary Ellen is in second surgery for a tumor in her right femur.  She is writing about her experience this time in her own blog, which you can read here.  My other daughter is 1000s of miles away on a wonderful trip to Africa.  Although I am much closer to Mary Ellen, I feel just as helpless to help her at the moment as if she were also on the other side of the earth.

Right now, all my training and experience is no help for her.  Her health and safety is entirely in the hands of Dr. Lin and the good team of professionals at MD Andersen Cancer center.  I am left to be supportive in other ways.  In basketball, we used to refer to this as “working away from the ball” by which we meant that you had an important job (getting open, being ready) even when you weren’t controlling the action moving the ball yourself.

Today my job is to focus on the essentials.  I have the second bedside shift in recovery, so my job this morning was to sleep in so I would be ready.  My jobs this morning are feeding myself, taking care of the dog, and leaving the house in a reasonable state.  I am also doing some praying.  Later today, my job will be just to be there for Mary Ellen and to do whatever is needed.  Despite how I spend the bulk of my days usually, these really are the essentials.  It’s a bit challenging to really have a grateful heart at the moment, but I am grateful for the opportunity to focus on the essentials.  It helps me remember what is really important.

A Twisty Maze

Completing the Maze

Anyone who’s been around computer technology for a long enough will immediately recognize the phrase “A Twisty Maze” as being from the early computer game called Adventure or Colossal Cave.  This was a text game where the user wandered through a great cave by typing simple instructions like “go north” and the computer program would describe what you see in the vast underground labyrinth.  At a certain place you could wander into “a twisty maze of passages all alike” and it would be very difficult to find your way out from there.  The usual trick was dropping some things you were carrying so that they would be added to the description of the room if  you managed to go in a circle and come back to the same place (which wasn’t hard to do).  You can read more about Adventure in this Wikipedia article.

When I was an undergraduate at MIT, I clearly remember spending hours and hours playing Adventure on the MIT timesharing system using a line-printer terminal in the back hallway at my fraternity (Chi Phi).  This could have been considered research into the current state of the art of computer intelligence, but was actually just a way to avoid doing the reading and problem sets I was always supposed to be doing.

When I started this blog, the “Twisty Maze of Passages” was the obvious theme.  I have a variety of interests: computer technology, astronomy, photography, poetry, faith.  I will probably end up blogging on all of these eventually, and the only thing that really connects them is my own twisted brain.

I hope something here might be interesting to you.  If so, drop me a line or post a comment.  Perhaps we can find our way by what we leave for each other, just like an Adventure in the Colossal Cave.

About the Banner Picture

My current banner picture is a photo of the recent transit of Venus. I took this while I was visiting Beijing on a business trip. I carefully created solar filters for my binoculars and camera lenses and took these along so I would be ready. I arrived the evening before the transit and selected a position near the hotel with a nice low horizon, since the transit would happen early the next morning and I would try to get some shots before I went into the office.

When the time was approaching, I found that I could barely see the sun through the clouds and haze in the eastern sky. Although I could see the sun OK with my naked eyes, it was so dim that I couldn’t find it at all through the solar filters. Eventually, I decided that I would stop the camera down and try it without using the filters. This proved to work pretty well, and I was able to get several photos of the transit using only the hazy, polluted Beijing air as a filter. My banner picture is one of the better shots. You can see the Venus clearly enough, The texture of the clouds is also faintly visible at the edges of the sun image.

You can see the rest of my Venus transit photos in my Flickr sethere:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mike_knewtson/sets/72157630003488557/