Confirmed: Waiting is the Hardest Part

I feel better now than I have in a long time. My back is bothering me less, and my shoulder is almost functional. The fact I feel better is the only tangible evidence I have that I’m gravely ill.

Monday, medical science is going to address that issue, by making me feel like shit. The plan is to drip a chemical into my bloodstream that almost kills me, to make me well. Six times (at least to start with). In the next half-year I will suffer greatly to defeat a disease I don’t feel at all.

The Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas has been preparing. Ice packs for hands and feet; apparently during the infusions extremities can ache like hell. Calcium for bones. A bin to puke in while in bed. Preparation for whatever happens in my gut (it could go either way). I got a shirt with sleeves that open up to allow access to my veins. Beanies to cover my bald head.

Today we officially ran out of ways to prepare. We laid out the changes to my medications for the next few days in my big weekly pill organizer, and from here on, at least for a while, we will be reacting, rather then preparing. It’s all crazy and I would be so lost in all of this without The Official Sweetie by my side. In conversations with the health industry, I introduce her as my manager. This maze is bewildering and confusing, and without her I would likely spin in circles and fail.

But preparation is a big part of how Official Sweetie copes with shit and now the preparation is done. Monday big things happen, but that’s not until Monday. We are both rudderless as the river sweeps us along. We have nothing left to do but imagine the future and pass each other incredulous looks about the present and cry a lot. Tomorrow I will smog my little convertible and Try Not To think About Stuff. I think I will shave my head, because it may be years before I have a long beard again and I want to see myself with that look. I’m also curious about the scars I have up there, from past foolishness.

But tomorrow the ticking clock will be especially loud.

9

Health Insurance is the Same as Health Care

At least in this country it is. The care you get is entirely based on the insurance you have. Better insurance, better care. Because of that, the care you get in the United States is entirely dependent on where you work.

Where you work should not dictate the health care you get. Maybe I should say that louder. WHERE YOU WORK SHOULD NOT DICTATE THE HEALTH CARE YOU GET.

You don’t have a job? Tough shit, Skippy. Maybe you can get enough care to survive and let the bankruptcy courts give you a chance to move on. But probably you can’t. Even if you had a job but the insurance was inadequate you are hosed. Maybe you leave your widow in an impossible situation, struggling for years to catch up with the bills, only to finally give in.

I am not well, and it is impossible to imagine facing this if I didn’t work where I do. I just read more than one opinion that my insurer sucks in the biggest way, but my employer has paid extra for the “suck-less” version of the plan.

It is a privilege I’m happy to have at this moment, but it is absolutely privilege. It should not be. Staying alive when sick seems to fall under the inalienable “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”. It’s even the first one mentioned! And while the Declaration of Independence is not legally binding, that phrase is an anchor of Who We Are.

We all have the right to live. And that means we all have the right to health care. I am wealthy, so I get better care than most. That is wrong.

There are people who want to change this. They want everyone in this land to have equal access to health care. Ironically, they are blocked by voters who generally would benefit from the change.

Insurance companies make absurd bank off the current system. They want it to continue. Maybe a few people die needlessly, but the money is bigly. Look past their sponsored candidates, look past the strange vibe that only worthwhile people should have health care, and the worthwhile are employed by big companies.

The biggest losers in the way things currently work are, in order: people, and small businesses who can’t afford the suck-less level of care.

Let’s just stop this whole thing. Tying health care to employment is demonstrably disastrous.

4

Sparkle and Fade

It is late now. The house is quiet except for Sleater-Kinney abusing me through my headphones. Before that was Airbag, and before that, Hog. It will probably be the Raveonettes next.

Tonight, I can feel the glow of the monitor as I type. It almost hurts — it wants to, maybe, but it can’t.

Here and there, throughout my genome, there are genes that tell each of my cells, DON’T BE CANCER. You have them, too. In each cell, DON’T BE CANCER is a constant struggle between the interests of the individual and the interests of the whole. It is best not to forget that the alliance between the cells that compose our bodies requires billions of independent contractors to take the long view.

But if you take the brakes off, any of those little fuckers will run wild and consume you with their voracious hunger, forgetting their role in the greater organism.

It just takes one.

As we age, our cells are copies of copies of copies. Sometimes the copy isn’t perfect. Mutations creep in. If one DON’T BE CANCER gene is compromised, that’s all right, they come in pairs. But if in subsequent generations the co-pilot gene also mutates, then the cell throws off the shackles of civil society and Mad Max enters the building.

I am Thunderdome.

In my prostate, one goddam cell lost both sets of brakes. The odds of a mutation are tiny, but the number of cells is huge. I don’t even know why my goddam prostate exists, let alone why it should be such a hotbed of insurrection. As far as I can tell, it’s a janky-ass clamp. I should probably read up on that.

[Everclear is now punching me in the eardrums.]

But tonight the house is dark, except for the aggressive glow of the screen I’m typing this on, and quiet, except for Sparkle and Fade in my headphones, very loud, and I wonder, what the fuck? That is the question I have no answer for.

We are, ultimately, composed of billions of wild animals. These wild animals have accepted genes to enforce constraints that benefit the larger organism. But they are always pulling at the leash, and if one gets loose then, well, you have cancer.

I have cancer. Still working on figuring that out.

6

A Picture I Took

A partial eclipse passed through town the other day. Perhaps someday scientists and astronomers will be able to predict these things, but on that morning I was woefully unprepared. But I have a nice camera, a steady tripod, and a ND-100000 filter that makes it safe to point a camera directly at the sun.

In my rush to set up the camera to catch the eclipse at its eclipsiest, I didn’t use the tripod mount on the lens, which made my setup pretty front-heavy, but fortunately my ball head was up for the task with only a little cursing.

In my previous tests taking pictures of the sun with the ND-100000 filter, I found that autofocus was pretty helpless. I’m pretty sure there are focus points on the sensor that are suited for this, and I had intended to read up on focusing on the sun with my camera, but then the clock was ticking and I just did a manual focus bracket.

Hanging in the middle of a black sky, a partial eclipse is actually pretty boring without some context. Had there been any warning that the eclipse was coming, I could have planned a shot with some terrestrial context. Luckily for me, there were some high clouds visible even through the black glass when directly backlit by the sun.

There were shots with really interesting clouds, but the sun was out of focus. Then there were shots with a tack-sharp sun and boring (or no) clouds. Yawn.

This shot, however, was pretty ok. The clouds excuse the slight softness of focus, and they’re doing interesting things.

I like that there are layers of darkness, and there is a feeling of motion. It takes a little thought to realize that no crescent moon could ever look like that. Still, in a way, it is a picture of the moon.

4

Many Years

For those catching up, I have cancer. Recently I went though a science-magic machine and the cancer in my body was mapped in 3D. After a frustrating delay, I had a conversation about the results with the urologist who had done the biopsy and established the need for the scan.

“As we expected,” he said, though to this day I’m not sure who we includes, “the cancer has spread to…” I won’t get the rest of the quote right and it doesn’t matter anyway. I’ve got cancer up in my shit. My shoulder that has refused to get better? It’s got cancer in it. Suspect vertebrae? Cancer.

Doctor One, the urologist, spoke briefly about the cancer busting loose from the prostate, and then very quickly turned to reassurance that what I was going through was ordinary. Missing was the connective, “You are in mortal peril,” part.

Doctor two, the oncologist, did not miss that step. After a week of relative optimism, Dr. Two set the level. “You are stage four, the worst stage. We are not going to cure you. The goal is to give you more, better years.”

Well, fuck. Stage four. In cancer jargon, that’s when the shit’s got loose. Medically, you’re not trying anymore to defeat the cancer, you’re playing a delaying action, buying weeks or years. Doctor One, the urologist, knew this, but didn’t square up with me.

Of course now I’ve turned to the internet for answers. Everywhere it says, “[people in this state] often live many years with treatment.”

Many years. HOW MANY? Can you give me a mean and a standard deviation? This is really important. What are the odds I am going to retire? I have plans for that. Lots of plans. I know that there is no crystal ball giving the exact date of my demise, but any sort of range would be helpful.

But to all the Muddleverse, I promise I will keep shouting into space for many years.

4

My Life-Threatening Illness is Frighteningly Ordinary

After delays and frustrations, the results of the PET scan have reached the proper experts, and now I have a clearer idea what I am facing. There is an irony here – after two weeks of delays, accompanied by gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, the conclusion is… carry on.

The cancer has traveled from my prostate, in a pattern familiar to all who follow that sort of thing. From a medical point of view, I have a very boring sort of cancer

Prostate cancer cells gorge on testosterone, so step one is shutting down the supply. In my head, while this would shut down the cancer at the source, it seemed like wherever the cancer had spread a prostate-specific treatment would have no effect. Happily for me, that was not correct. Wherever the cancer spread, it brought that hunger with it.

The doctor who has been running the show up to now is a no-nonsense sort of guy, and his approach is entirely unemotional. Here’s the data, here’s what happens next. My disease is entirely routine and the path I am on is well-worn. Just another day at the office for the cancer crew.

That works pretty well for me, but the Official Sweetie has now been with me in a few meetings on the subject of my mortal peril and would prefer that emotional health be at least acknowledged in a conversation like this. As medicine and engineering continue to merge (which is a good thing), the emotional gap is likely to get more pronounced.

(I have been contacted by my insurance company by an oncology nurse who oozed empathy over the phone, and is pointing me to support resources, and other helpful stuff — so perhaps Official Sweetie isn’t the only one to realize this.)

So. I have been on a roller coaster, and now I get to the point where the ticket guy is waiting, and he’s telling me that the ride was flat all along. My legs are still wobbly, but sure enough the ground feels firmer now.

6

Through the Magic Donut

Thursday, after some delays I don’t fully understand, I spent an afternoon in the realm of science fiction. I was given a dose of a chemical from a heavily-shielded syringe, then put in the Radioactive Person Quiet Room for an hour, then my body was passed three times through the hole in a large, whispering machine.

The technology is amazing, and I will enjoy telling you about that. The experience of the technology is a bobsled ride down into your own head. I will tell you about that too, but it won’t be as fun.

As I describe the procedure to people, I get excited. The procedure is pretty amazing; the stuff of science fiction only two decades ago. Starting with the question “how can we detect where cancer cells are inside someone without cutting them open?” you quickly get to a place that has been a long time coming.

Medicine, you see, for the last century or so, has actually become a science. Cancer is now treated by the medical equivalent of engineers. Big Physics had its day, with massive particle accelerators and whatnot, but the priority has changed to using what Big Physics yielded to improve lives directly.

Take antimatter, for instance. Here’s the sequence of steps that led to PET scans:

  1. We need to find concentrations of cancerous cells.
  2. Cancerous cells are in overdrive, and consume lots of energy.
  3. If we can find cells consuming abnormal amounts of energy, we can find the cancer.
  4. Hungry cells demand lots of energetic molecules like glucose.
  5. Follow the money: if we can trace where the glucose is going, we can find the hungry cells. But how do we track the glucose?
  6. We can detect the source of gamma radiation very well, right through any intervening tissue. So if we had gamma-emitting glucose, we could follow it around.
  7. Hello, Fluorine-18. It is an unstable isotope, but its magic is that when it decays, it emits a positron. Antimatter! That positron won’t get far before it runs into an ordinary electron, and sure as you can say e = mc2, the m of the two particles becomes e, a gamma photon that can be detected.

After I waited for the tracer to make its way through my body, I was called into the Chamber of the Magic Donut. It is a room that is terribly ordinary — linoleum floor, fluorescent lights, standard drop ceiling — a surprisingly drab setting for the machine that filled the middle of the room. The machine itself, I didn’t stop to inspect when I got there. I had other thnings on my mind.

I thought perhaps there would be a bin where I could put my metallic belongings, but instead the Guardian gestured to a chair. “You can leave your stuff there.” I was a little bothered by the informality of it, but I put my stuff on the chair. I guess I was expecting something more planned – people will need a place to put their belongings. Or perhaps I was expecting something entirely more ceremonial.

I had been told to dress warmly, so I had worn sandals so I could put on winter socks when the time came.

“Don’t take off your shoes,” the very nice man said. He was large, and a little hunched over, and reminded me of a mythical creature tasked with guarding the sanctity of the chamber. “Your sweat is radioactive, and if you get it on the floor it could throw off the measurements.” It was not as cold in there as I had been led to believe, so I forwent the socks, and climbed up onto the Great Tongue Depressor – the platform that would pass me though the Hole of the Magic Donut.

So, loaded with 18L I lay down and allowed the Guardian of the Bridge to strap my hands to my side. I took a breath and closed my eyes.

The first two passes were quick; the first was just so the machines could measure my position. The second was a CT scan. Pf. That science fiction is old news now. Both those scans were over in a couple of minutes. Then came the PET.

It started from my thighs and worked its way up. By now many people had reminded me that it was important to hold still. So I did.

Another fun fact you might not know about me is that I have a skin condition on my face that can get itchy. It was only a matter of minutes before an itch on my face, unscratched, grew into something else. Like something was hollowing out a part of my cheek and replacing it with an ache designed purely to annoy.

But I held still, and every few minutes I would be moved a few inches. It was impossible not to think about where I was inside the donut and what the data it was gathering at that moment might mean. My pelvis, where there is certainly cancer – but has it reached bone? Then the gut, then the thorax (does my breathing make those images less reliable?) and finally the brain.

Shit. Please not the brain.

Each time the Tongue Depressor moved me within the Magic Donut, I had nothing better to do than imagine what it was seeing at that moment, and what that might mean. Imagination is a curse, sometimes.

There were at least two people in the control room; they probably shared knowing glances as the scan came to life in front of them, deciding when the image was good enough to move to the next slice.

But that was Thursday, and the weekend arrived before the radiologist could sign an assessment, so I have been waiting, less or less patiently. Tomorrow I hope I will learn the results, and see what the next phase of Science Fiction holds in store for me.

5

I Will Tell You if the Waiting is the Hardest Part when the Waiting is Over

Tomorrow I was scheduled for a true science-fiction medical procedure to find out just how bad things are inside me. As this reckoning has approached, my situation has become progressively more real to me. The outcome of the PET scan informs everything in my life going forward. I am emotionally incapable of making even the smallest of plans.

My appointment was canceled, less than 24 hours before go-time, for supply-chain reasons. Now I have to go to the back of the PET line. I’m told that the testosterone-killing therapy I’m already under will pretty much stop the threat from spreading, but it’s entirely unknown how bad shit is in there, and what I will be facing to get to the other side.

For now, I wait. The Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas waits. This is rough on her, as well. Maybe rougher. As the Big Day got closer, my own anxiety rose with it. Now the Big Day is pushed out for weeks, and I need to reel back my emotions.

Not sure I can, though.

Thanks to all you friends who have expressed your support. It helps. I thought I wouldn’t say more about this until I knew more, but the Not Fucking Knowing is what I have now.

2

Turns out I have Cancer

Not sure where to start with this, so I’ll just start talking. A year ago I was only a few weeks of commuting away from crossing the magical ten-thousand-mile mark on my workhorse bike. Now, I am barely any closer. After a ride, I would lose two days to a seized-up back.

After one ride, as I lay in bed with the heating pad underneath me, I reached around to adjust the pad and a muscle near my shoulder blade seized up into a knot you could see through my shirt.

I could not sit, I could not stand, I could not lie down. I would seek brief comfort on my hands and knees, my face pressed into the carpet, then pace the length of the house. After a sequence like that I would check the time and see that I was ten minutes closer to my appointment with the doctor. It didn’t help that parts of my right arm were numb as well.

It remains to be seen, but that agony may have saved my life.

That afternoon, I went to the doctor. She looked me over and prescribed me a larger dose of the medicine I was already taking. To make sure my body could handle it, she ordered some blood work. That was all well and good, but “I just want to be unconscious,” I told her. She relented and gave me an injection of a stronger variant of the anti-inflammatory she had already prescribed.

It helped some, I guess, but did not deliver me from disfiguring pain. (Literally – somewhere in there x-rays were ordered for my upper chest, and the images showed my spine was being pulled significantly to the right. Thus the numbness.)

Still, “muscle spasm” was the diagnosis. It happens.

A couple of days later, I got a call from the doctor. Could I come in for more blood work? The first results were fairly alarming. Back I went.

The results of those tests were apparently even more alarming. The back-of-envelope calculation they used said my kidneys were functioning at about 10%. Were I not lucid and upbeat, emergency dialysis was a likely recommendation.

I’m pretty sure I’ve left out some steps above, and I’m absolutely certain that I have left out the help and support not only of the Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas, but other family and friends nearby. The story doesn’t even get this far without them.

Multiple doctors followed, and after I stopped taking the pain meds, the lingering question was, “what’s with those kidneys, anyway?” Tests and specialists ensued.

I had heard enough stories about slow urine that I had thought little of it. A fairly normal old man thing. Something I would mention in my next checkup. But an enlarged prostate can put pressure on the kidneys, so that became an organ of interest.

And here is a Very Important Thing You Should Know: An enlarged prostate can be caused by exactly two things — infection or cancer. Infection can be cleared up; cancer is not so straightforward but the sooner you act the better. Men: if your pee is slow, don’t fuck around. See a doctor.

My prostate, it turns out, is chock-full of cancer. I’m not even sure why I have the fucking thing — it seems like a janky solution to a fairly simple engineering problem — but I have a prostate and it’s busy cooking up tiny little cellular death seeds to send through my body. The million-dollar question now is, where have those seeds taken root? It will be almost a month before I lie very still for a PET scan (the P is for positron – antimatter!) and then probably a few days after that to hear from a professional what the scan revealed. I would rather not wait that long.

But if you’re going to choose a cancer, prostate would be a good choice. Medicine has long focussed on Man Problems, and on top of that the prostate is an organ easily accessed by medication. I have good insurance, though to be honest I feel a little queasy about that. Everyone should have good insurance. I reserve the right to rant about that further at a later time.

By a couple of metrics, I’m pretty lucky. Lucky the cancer has been detected, lucky I have access to science-fiction-class care, lucky I can afford that care. The next month of uncertainty is going to be a grind. After that, I don’t even want to guess. Some therapy will follow that will be designed to destroy the bad cells in my body, while minimizing harm to the good cells. I have very consciously avoided reading the internet about these things. There will be plenty of time to sweat that shit later.

What seemed at first like a rough journey turned out to be the boarding platform for a train to the unknown. I’ll keep you all informed of my progress, if I feel like it.

5

A Tale of Two Cars

It is entirely possible that the members of the Muddled Enclave will never buy another automobile again. But still, I have many happy memories of challenging roads, a nimble car, and the top down so God can hear my laughter.

Good times, man. And while the challenges of clutch and throttle and stick go away with an electric, the joy of the turn, the climb, and the air in your face still remain.

For the other 99% of your time behind the wheel, all you need to do is get there. It’s just more pleasant to get there in a convertible.

And so it is that occasionally I look around at the electric convertibles out there that I might imagine owning. Not long ago, that list was empty. Now, the entrants are starting to pile up. After a recent review of upcoming offerings, two stood out.

In Europe this car will be called FreZy Frog. You can read more about it here. I looked at the odd proportions, and then called in a second opinion. “Is this adorkable?” I asked the Official Sweetie. After checking the video, and looking at the rest of the photos, she agreed, but only provisionally. Clearly this is a car for zipping to the store – is there room for grocery bags somewhere?

Funniest part of the description: They say it has four seats.

Honestly, though, I could imagine owning a car like that. They’re selling in China for the equivalent of $15K, a bargain if you ignore currency manipulation and slave labor.

And then there’s this:

For roughly the cost of twenty of the above vehicles, you could have one of these. If you visit Weismann’s Project Thunderball (yes, really) you will see many more angles of this simply gorgeous design. I do have some quibbles — I look at the tail light configuration with squinty eyes — but overall, day-um. And maybe the tail lights echo the instrument panel, where there are far more gauges than an electric would ever need. Battery, speed, and no one cares about the rest. But hey, it’s not a touch screen.

There are other electric convertibles on the way. MG’s horribly-named Cyberster and VW’s electric Cabrio are getting notice. There are other supercars to compete with Weismann – Fiskar and Bently and maybe even Maserati are getting into the game. (Uninformed reading makes me think the Maserati and the Weismann are sharing tech.)

Those are all fun and cool, but at the end of the day, I can more readily imagine myself bonking around town in a FreZy Frog. I’ll pay an extra 30% for a non-slave-labor version.

5

The Music in Our Heads

Recently someone in my orbit asked (something like), “Does anyone else have a song in their head every moment?” It had honestly never occurred to me before then that there could be any other existence.

It’s a tricky question to ask, I suppose, because if I ask you “is there a song in your head?” the answer will be yes. Even if there wasn’t one before, there will be one by the time the question lands down in the thinking-zones.

This question wouldn’t have stuck in my head so much, I think, if it weren’t for a comment someone made to me forty years ago. “You always have a song for the moment,” she said. Or something like that. Back then I would let my inner sound track leak out through my mouth, I think. I was not conscious of it before, but sure enough, for any dang topic I had a little musical quip.

The music in my head is situational and responsive, but given lack of stimulus will fall into a few deep grooves. As I type this, I am turning up the headphones to NOT THINK OF one of my most hated bonded tracks.

While I try to control what is playing in there, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, there is no off switch. I have always assumed that is the natural human condition. I’m pretty sure I’m right. I’m pretty sure the answer to this episode is “well, duh.” But I’d never even asked the question before, so I thought I’d say it out loud. Is it possible to live without a soundtrack?

4

Growing Upwards

Where I live, the cost of housing is absurd, traffic is terrible, and suburbs have spread so far they are now exurbs. Land that used to absorb rain has now been paved – not a good thing for a boom-or-bust climate cycle.

These things are obviously connected. When the cost of housing in town goes up, people move to near town, and commute. The definition of “near” expands daily, and we have thousands of talented people spending dozens of hours each week collectively doing nothing more than sitting in cars and pumping carbon into the atmosphere, rather than doing something that adds to the economy (or, in a few outliers, something that might actually be useful).

The obvious (to me) conclusion is to pack more people into the middle, so the edges can be spared. This is a running battle in towns like Cupertino, where almost every attempt to increase density is shot down. The opponents to increased density generally attack the developers who want to do the project, rather than debate the merits and challenges of increased density itself.

The fact the developers and the local politicians in their pockets are universally awful makes this misdirection pretty easy.

But we live in a city here, and it’s time to start accepting that fact. More places to live in the middle takes a lot of stress off many systems.

But not without a cost. Here’s a cool old diner about to be destroyed. You have to appreciate the roof line — that is pure Americana:

I would rather an iconic building like this not be demolished. It’s part of the city’s history. But I would also rather another development of McMansions in Morgan hill never happens.

The building is to be torn down, replaced with deep excavations (to accommodate cars — this would all be simpler without cars), and then twenty-nine stories of apartments will be built on top, a needle poking into the San Jose skyline. 520 apartments of varying size.

Across the street, an ethnic market is closed and fenced off, I suspect for a similar project.

I wonder, idly, if at some distance over the ground the two towers could be joined, to add living space for a few hundred more people. That seems the ideal small-footprint, maximum-dwelling-space solution. I’m sure it’s too late to bring that up for this project.

This is probably the place to note that adding 500+ high-end dwellings will not have a measurable effect on the housing market, and will not in any way address homelessness in this area. It would take a hundred fancy-ass, expensive towers like this to change the market enough to help the downstream people who are really hurting. Ninety-nine to go, I guess.

But at least the occupants won’t be in the burbs, watering lawns and driving ninety minutes to work and back each day.

4

I Just Solved the Ferris Wheel Problem

Ferris wheels, for all that they are a non-adrenaline amusement park ride, are pretty cool. They have two things going for them – the feeling you get as you move through the air, up and down, and the spectacular view you get from the top.

I remember as a kid riding the wheel at the state fair, rising up to see, well, Albuquerque. The ride went in three phases: getting everyone on, spinning around a couple of times, and getting everyone off. (Obviously this was also the getting-eveyone-on phase for the next riders.)

When you’re at the top and barely moving, that’s awesome. But most of that time you’re not at the top, and it kind of sucks as you wait just to be set free.

One of the most famous Ferris wheels is the London Eye. That thing has gondolas that hold 25 people each. But rather than stop the wheel to reload the gondolas, the wheel moves so dang slowly (roughly two revolutions per hour) that passengers can unload and reload without stopping the wheel (usually). But this terrible slowness means that riders are condemned to long periods crowded with strangers when there is nothing to see out the windows.

What we need is a way to keep the wheel turning, but at a rate where the rotation itself is fun. Especially on a huge wheel, the lift and fall would be (dare I say it?) mildly adrenaline-inducing.

Imagine if the London Eye went four times the speed it does now, and never stops, and every passenger got four revolutions. Easy Peasy! You just have to be able to swap out gondolas. One gondola filled with cheerful people is lifted off its harness, and immediately another gondola filled with eager patrons is whisked away. The off-wheel gondolas calmly move to a debarkation station, then to a loading station, and then queue up to join the wheel. Clockwork.

And people with special needs can get on and get comfortable with everyone else, and not worry about holding things up. Boarding the gondola or the chair or whatever it is can be relaxed.

I am quite confident that what I described here is technically in the realm of “not easy, but certainly doable”. Before long there will be a new super-giant Ferris wheel somewhere (probably an oil state) that boasts this feature. Remember: you heard it here first.

(filed under Get Poor Quick because that’s the place for innovation)

4

The Real Mission: Impossible

There was a time, back when I was a kid, when I would get home from school in the afternoon, let myself in, set myself up with graham crackers and a tall glass of milk, settle into the bean-bag chair and watch Mission: Impossible.

From this distance I don’t remember all the circumstances that combined to create this quiet time between me and Peter Graves, but it was special. Each show ended with some bad guy walking through a door, knowing they had absolutely fucked themselves, while the MI team drove away in a nondescript van, peeling off latex masks and sharing a chuckle.

The beauty of the whole thing was that after the success of a ludicrously complex plan, that required flawless performances by a group of spies and actors with varied skills, Mr. Phelps and his team would vanish. Even then, the bad guy couldn’t be sure they ever existed.

The episodes didn’t end with shooting, or even confessions. They ended with moments. That’s how you write a story.

Many years after that, yet many years ago, when I heard they were making a Mission: Impossible movie, I was very excited. This was gong to be MY kind of thriller. Plenty of action and even more intrigue, when half a dozen people work in perfect harmony to achieve psychological dominance and destroy an asshole with minimum outward fuss. Winning a quiet war.

Nope. Just another superhero movie. No ensemble. No mental game. As antithetical to the source material as I, Robot was (well, almost — I, Robot was filmed on opposites day). But there’s money in the franchise; they keep making more. Tonight I saw a promotion for another Mission: Impossible superhero flick, this one shamelessly bearing “part one” in the title.

Honestly, I don’t begrudge them the franchise. They are making movies people who are not me will pay to watch. What angers me is that they burned the name, without paying it any respect. Now it will not be possible to make a Mission: Impossible movie true to the source and use the name to sell it.

4

This is What We’re Left With

Remember when the Internet was big? Remember when you would explore and find fun things — fun people — and tiptoe into their worlds?

The internet, the web, they are smaller now. I’m guessing you have five places you go. I’m guessing that you have no RSS feeds.

Me, I have four places. Two sites I pay for (Defector.com is the pinnacle of journalism), and two I visit. One of the two I visit is this very blog. There are a couple of other places like Wkikpedia that are useful resources, but not destinations.

There was a time when I would think, browsing bleary-eyed late at night, “shit, I’ve got to get out of the wormhole and get some sleep.” That doesn’t happen anymore. In fact, it’s the opposite: I’ve read the articles, checked the scores, rolled my eyes at the idiot congressmen and then… I’m done. Nothing more to see here. Gone is Dr. Pants. Forgotten is Izzy. FaceTwitaGram invited us in but left us on the stoop.

There are nights I stare at my computer, sure at a biological level that there is some entertainment to be provided if I knew where to look. But it’s all dead. The world wide web is now just six places with a bunch of people shouting.

This humble blog is just a shadow of its former glory; we all know that. And even its glory wan’t all that much. It’s a dinosaur, but one I like.

6