Sunday, December 31, 2006

Barberic Times

Last night I received a request from my Mother In Law: she wanted to see the complete execution of Saddam Hussein. It was easy to find on the Internet. I have seen it and I find no pleasure in it. I have also seen the documentary on the gasing of Halabja, the crime he was accused of and caused his execution. What a repulsive act against humanity!

The question in my mind is: have we not evolved enough as a species to stop these atrocities? Whether it is the killing of one or thousands, it is a barberic act. Sadly, more of the same is in the horizon. We end 2006 at war and we will start 2007 at war. Shame on human beings everywhere that kill for money, power, thrills. These are barberic times, indeed. Let's work on fixing that, shall we?

Tracey's Update: December 30, 2006

We can count Saturday as a very good day for Tracey. She really wanted to be released and sent home. Dr. Assad, the on-call Oncologist, told us she could leave only after she was taking all her medications orally instead of through the IV and if she started walking regularly.

Tracey received several visitors today and was delighted for the company of our great friends -- thank you all!

In the evening Tracey and I went for a "drive" (using a wheel chair) around the hospital and even a little outside. The night was gorgeous and the fresh air seemed to help Tracey. She and I are planning on several small walks tomorrow. It will be a different way to spend our 8th wedding anniversary -- but we are still together and that's what matters.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Tracey's Update: Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday came and went with Tracey still in the hospital. Dr. Madden is concerned with her headaches and nausea, so he is keeping her in the hospital until she is more settled down. She was able to keep more food down -- a good sign. But her body is very weak and she could not walk out of the hospital even if they would allow it.

Two of my co-workers came to visit her after lunch. She was very talkative and she was fairly sharp despite the medications. Shortly after their departure she appeared spent -- the effort of keeping a resemblance of normalcy in front of my friends was exhausting and her words got a bit harder to understand and her headache intensified. Around 3 PM the nurse administered a set of meds (including some for pain) and she was ready for some sleep.

Jenny and I returned in the evening. Tracey was somewhat coherent, but many common words just would not come to her. She appeared very anxious, restless and unhappy. I look into her eyes and see so much confusion, fear -- is there some fight in those eyes? I often think so -- sometimes I wonder. This evening I saw none -- maybe it is a small break to regain her strength.

Tracey's Update: Wednesday and Thursday (Dec. 27 & 28)

Wednesday was an OK day for Tracey. Her mental state seems to be more altered, possibly by the medications they are giving her, maybe by the swellings in her brain. She had more nausea and headaches. The hospital is adjusting her meds accordingly.

Thursday morning brought more nausea and vomiting. Doctor Madden still anticipates a Friday release. The kids have visited her almost daily and "the girls" (Jenny and Kayla) have spent several hours with her.

The nausea, dizziness and headaches continued throughout Thursday and Thursday night. Her hearing is now distorted -- for example, you may tell her that "Jane called to say hello" and she repeats it as "Jill went to the Zoo". :-( Communicating with Tracey has become very difficult and it brakes my heart to see the look of confusion in her eyes.

It looks like Friday's discharge may not happen.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Secret

If you have ever wondered why some people are successful and others are not, then you may be interested in what is called the biggest secret in human history:

The Secret - Part 1
The Secret - Part 2
The Secret - Part 3

The above are great videos if you have high-speed internet. Please let me know if you are still on dial-up or if you have trouble reaching the videos.

I hope you will enjoy learning about the very important law of attraction!

Tuesday's Update for Tracey

Tuesday was a fairly good day for Tracey. She received her first radiation trreatment in the afternoon. She started to feel hungry, but lost her appetite fairly quickly (could have something to do with the hospital food being bland). She is also hungry for human company and is very bored. Tracey's memory is improving, as is her BP (with the help of medication). She is still receiving anti-seizure and anti-nausea medications to prevent a re-ocurrence of last Friday's events. And she is still getting steroid treatment to control the swelling.

This morning Tracey talked with Dr. Madden and it looks like she will be in the hospital until Friday. This will allow her to receive four radiation treatments before she comes home for the weekend. Let's see what happens.

Thank you for all the phone calls and email -- we appreciate your thoughts and prayers more than words can say!

More news as soon as possible.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Breast Cancer - Part 3 (Round 1)

My wife, Tracey, has been fighting breast cancer since she discovered a lump on her right breast in May 2004. She underwent very aggressive chemotherapy and radiation to prevent a reoccurrence. The treatment started with a bilateral mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, and then a hysterectomy. We though we had things under control as far as the cancer-causing hormones. The side effects of the treatment were very serious. Tracey ended up with neuropathy affecting her hands, arms, legs and feet. Quality of life has been greatly diminished for Tracey. Some medications have made her gain weight, putting even more stress on her joints and increasing the pain level she experiences.

In April 2005 Tracey's back pain increased substantially. Medical imagery revealed that her T5 vertebrae had collapsed due to a reoccurrence of cancer. Radiation seemed to take care of the cancer part, but the collapsed vertebrae and associated pain lingered on.

This month Tracey began having dizzy spills that mimic panic attacks -- something she began experiencing around the time of her chemo therapy in 2004-2005. This past week her blood pressure began to climb -- something that was also part of anxiety in the past. She also began experiencing headaches that would not go away -- they would subside when she was laying down and after taking pain medications. However, on Thursday, December 21, the headache would simply not go away. The BP rose to very dangerous levels. Tracey and I went to her Oncologist and they ordered urgent CT scans of her head, neck, and chest. The tests showed that there were two significant masses (0.6" and 1.1") in her brain. She was admitted to the hospital to begin steroid therapy to control brain swelling. Friday morning (December 22) (approx. 4 AM) she suffered a seizure and was transferred to ICU. She gave us a scare Friday and Saturday; her vitals went from stable to unstable. Her breathing was very labored and she developed pneumonia. She was, literally, fighting for her life.

Being the fighter and strong person that she is, and with the help and support of so many of you, she has won the first round of this fight. She is now back in a normal room at Lexington Medical Center and in much better shape. Her breathing has improved greatly, and she is a lot more aware of previous events. Her blood pressure is still high and the headaches are still there (all under control with medications). We firmly believe that radiation therapy will give her more permanent relief and get her on the way to remission again; this will start on Tuesday and run for ten days.

At one point we had hoped that she would be released to be at home for Christmas dinner -- but that was not to be. She told me this morning that she will be in the hospital at least two more days.

The kids are doing well -- they visited Tracey once in ICU (which was very scary to them) and once in her regular room (which was reassuring but still worrisome to them). The older girls, Tracey's mom, my mom, and I have been staying with Tracey as much as possible. Friends have been dropping by to be with her. Tracey definitely feels everyone's loves, thoughts and prayers! We all thank you for your support in these tough moments!

I will continue updating everyone as much as possible. If you have not received the updates and want to be added to the mailing list, please send me an email and I will add your address. If you want to send a message to Tracey please email me and I will share them with her. Please use my Gmail account (vgascon at gmail) for your correspondence.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Catching Up: Being Grateful

Being grateful is one of those basic emotions that build relations. It is perhaps one of those very basic instincts we also share with all other animals. But, as humans, we often forget to show our gratitude. Perhaps we are too busy with life's constant bustle and hustle, or perhaps we have lost some sense of basic manners. That is why I was impressed when I learned of Xerox's efforts to "Let's Say Thanks" to the US Troops. Whether you agree or disagree with the war, the Troops still deserve our messages of appreciation.

Catching Up: Black Friday

This post should have appeared shortly after Thanksgiving:

In the United States, Thanksgiving is now over. And so is the now famous "Black Friday," the official launch of the Christmas shopping season. For the first time, Tracey and I did the crazy thing of being in line all night at one of the major electronics retailers to catch the great sales they have on Black Friday. It was an experience of a lifetime. The weather was mildly cold for our area -- I cannot imagine doing this kind of thing in the colder states. The people were great -- we made some friends and had lots of fun. And the bargains were well worth the long lines and long waiting. The shopping did take a toll on us -- but the joy we brought to the family made it all worth it. Email me if you want more details on our shopping experience this Black Friday.

Catching Up: Microsoft and Linux

It did not take long for Microsoft to prove many of us right. Yesterday, Steve Ballmer clearly identified Microsoft's true intentions towards Linux and the open-source community. His comments are a clear picture of what Novell has gotten itself into. This is not a Win-Win situation for Microsoft and the open-source community. It is, in my opinion, yet another heavy-handed tactic from Microsoft to scare people away from Linux under the false pretense of lawsuits. Microsoft learned to use FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) from IBM -- and as with the latter's case, the former will eventually suffer the consequences of its actions. They have tried every possible soft-handed method to steer users away from Linux, but the open-source OS' popularity continues to grow in both the server and desktop environments. This displeases Microsoft and now they are trying other ways of preventing further loss of market share. Please don't be fool by their FUD tactics. As with SCO, Microsoft will be unable to prove violations of patents or copyrights by Linux users. In the end, the smoke will clear and the mirrors will be smashed -- and Linux will continue to be the most attractive option for a PC OS.

Catching Up: Danger ahead!

Danger! Danger! If you are a SciFi aficionado, you may recall the robot in "Lost in Space" issuing its warnings to its humans. That is the same sense of impending danger I get when I read that Microsoft has an agreement to work on open-source Linux through Novell. Microsoft has made it clear that it is in its best interest to destroy open source. They soften their stand on the matter only because they realized how much market share they were losing. But their basic philosophy has not changed -- in order for them to continue making money they need to charge for products. And I believe it goes beyond that -- it is a matter of corporate pride to dominate every market they are in. They have gone to great lengths to destroy any competition. They have tried to bury the Linux and open-source movement under tons of FUD. Although Microsoft has slowed down the adoption of Linux in the desktop arena, there is no doubt that they have finally realized the tidal wave is getting too large for them to stop from the outside. So they will try to do so from inside Linux. Is Microsoft's strategy to provoke a Linux war, as suggested by John Dvorak? Or is there a lot more than that, as written by Kevin Carmony of Linspire.

Catching Up: Moving

The following entry should have been posted at the beginning of November 2006:

My family and I are moving this weekend. We are not going far -- only 25 miles south of our current location. But we are all looking forward to the new life the change will bring. Despite the great efforts and inconveniences that moving can represent, we consider this our own version of "Extreme Makeover - Home Edition." We are moving from a very unhealthy environment to one where we will again feel happy and strong. I share these thoughts because it became obvious of how our focus was different this move from others. In previous instances we always looked at the pain of moving and concentrated on that more than the joy of being in a new place. We also took for granted that the home we were moving into would be safe and healthy for us. Our attitude is very different this time. We have learned many valuable lessons over the last eight years. And one of them is to approach the move with love and positiveness, focusing on all the good to come (for many years) and not the minor pains (short term) of the journey home. I hope you are all safe and happy in a nice home!

Catching Up: The wonders of technology

Technology is wonderful -- but it is often underused or misused. So it was refreshing to see news that Sun is providing their employees with online access to 5,000 volumes through "Safari Books Online." This is the best example of effective technology use I have seen in quite sometime.

Catching Up: Is bigger really better?

Is bigger really better? Is it even needed? Those are some of the many good questions being posed on David Morgenstern's eWeek article. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the hard drive, it is worthwhile to stop and think about the many issues that larger drives bring with them. Not only are we constantly pushing the physical limits of these devices -- with the resulting negative effect on reliability -- but we are also affecting the data management equation at an unbelievable rate. Larger hard drives pose as much a problem for neophytes as it does for seasoned IT staff. Give someone a Super Sized Hard Drive and they will surely fill it up -- just like we gorge on the Super Sized fast foods that have so affected our health. And when that hard drive fails, then all that data tends to vanish with that dreadful "click-click" or metal-to-metal scratching sound. There go all the music, photos, letters, emails, tax returns, websites and everything else we entrust to the device. Backup? Yes, well, that's a whole other story, isn't it? Is bigger really better?

Catching up: IT Certifications

It has been a while -- avery long while -- since I have blogged. Shame on me! Actually, I have written lots of "stuff" but it never made it to the blog. So here are a few of them:

To many of us in the IT world, the concept of certifications invoques a mix of feelings and opinions. Some people completely dismiss the whole thing as worthless, and some continuously add certifications to an already lengthy list. But do these certifications really matter? Some say no, some yes -- I say it depends. Certifications for the sake of themselves are worthless -- there are too many "paper MCSEs" out there to prove the point. Certifications in addition to real-life experience certainly can have value. But the certification itself must reflect real life in order for it to be worthy of the time and expense it requires. Therein lies the problem -- real life in the IT world is too complex to be similarly experienced by thousands of candidates. In order to bring things to a common point, certification exams sometimes have to bring their scope to the least common denominator that they can establish from their experience. And thus the testing can be significantly diluted and lose its value. I suggest a better system: revive the apprenticeship concept. Only through a healthy mixture of experience, theory and time can we prepare future IT generations to do quality work with better efficiency.