Daily Log Archive

2008 2007 2006 2005

Archived entries

This page contains entries that previously appeared on the main page so that a little bit of the history of this site is maintained. I particularly wanted to save the entries where I described my treatment for colon cancer so that perhaps others may benefit from my experiences. All of those entries are included below. The first entry in the series was on October 10th 2007.

19th December 2008

School's out for Winter!

I apologise for not having posted here since December 4th as I have continued to be extremely busy finishing up work for the year and then getting stuck into the many tasks that have been sitting patiently on my non work to-do list. So this entry is a quick update on life in the Lawrence household as another year draws to a close.

Because I spent almost half the year on chemotherapy, and also as I am still dealing with side effects from both my surgery and the chemo, we didn't take much family vacation time this year. Consequently,  given that, as with most companies, my vacation is on a "use it or lose it" basis, I started December with about 19 days of vacation left to take. As a result, I have been off work for over a week now and will not be back officially until January 5th next year. I say "officially" as I am still checking my e-mail and attending the occasional meeting by phone as I just cannot stand to be out of touch for a whole month at a time when things at work are so busy.

As you may have guessed from the title of this entry, today is the last day of school for the year. The kids should be home soon. I have been enjoying the quiet at home the last week or so as I worked on my various chores and projects - oh well, it was good while it lasted!

As far as the household projects go, among the more notable are my daughter's bedroom, which I have remodeled and emptied out substantially  (something she has been begging me to help her do for ages) and I am part way through converting one of the other rooms in the house into a workout area (something I very much need). The meds I am on to combat the neuropathy left behind by chemotherapy have added about 30 pounds to my post-surgery weight. I don't seem to have a lot of control over this but I am trying hard to lose a few of those pounds somehow. I usually find it very easy to lose weight but not this time. I am going to have to work out extra hard. The pedometer that Lorna got me shows I am averaging over 3 miles walked a day and many days lately I have walked five miles or more but it doesn't seem to be enough. Hence I need to get into some sort of regular workout regimen as I fear I'll be on these meds for a while yet. I tried coming off them for one day a week or so ago and the pain was unbearable by mid-afternoon. Generally on the medical front I am doing quite well - neuropathy aside. I have no more tests scheduled until February.

This week I am trying to get more into Christmas activities. I cannot believe that Christmas Day is only a week away. I feel very unprepared this year - although we do have the gifts for the kids both purchassed and wrapped. Our tree is up, the lights are on, but we still need to decorate it. Part of the reason for the tree delay is that the new tree we bought last year (a large 10ft self lit one) seems to have shorted out and after wasting an hour trying to fix it Lorna and I decided to cut our losses and go buy a replacement. We have not even tried to send Christmas cards this year. Apologies to all of my friends and family that we usually send one too. We've just been too busy with medical appointments and other unexpected health issues with other family members to manage to send Christmas cards. We'll be trying to contact everyone either by phone or e-mail over the holiday period. I bought a Christmas train set to go under the tree (I saw it on sale and could not resist it - I'm still a kid at heart) and I shall be putting that together later today.

In amongst all of the house projects I have been trying to have a little fun as well. I have spent quite a few hours playing video games (both alone and with the rest of the family).  Our most played game right now are Wii Fit and Guitar Hero III - Legends of Rock (I have finally almost mastered the most basic level!). I have also been trying to get caught up on my reading. I have a lot of books sitting in the queue waiting to be read. I'm currently reading Hawke by Tedd Bell (I really like his books so far) and next on deck in the 1000 plus page Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (I have not read any of his books yet but I am told that is a good one).

As I type this I am in shorts and it is 71F outside (apologies to my friends in the North Eastern US that are buried in snow). A few days ago the temperature was in the 20's and it actually snowed a few flakes. The day before that it was 80F. This weekend it is supposed to get cold again before warming up again next week. The weather here can only be described as crazy!

Last weekend my trusty Mac Book Pro, which has worked flawlessly for the past year, froze and I had to forcefully power it off. After that I could not get it to reboot. I was however able to restore the machine using the wonderful Time Machine backup program that comes as part of Mac OS X. Thankfully I had been keeping regular backups so I was able to restore the machine to the state it had been in right before it froze. However, the disk was now making very odd noises and experience told me it was dying and would soon fail for good. I made an appointment to go and see the folks at the "Genius Bar" in the local Apple store on Monday morning and even though my machine was two weeks out of warranty (go figure) they offered to replace the disk for free (I didn't even have to do any begging or groveling) . They didn't have one in stock but said they would order me one. Wednesday evening they called and said the disk was in. On Thursday evening I dropped the machine off at around 7pm and went with the family to have dinner. Right after dinner, around 8:30pm,  they called me and said the machine was ready to pickup. Today I restored the computer using the same Time Machine backups I had used before and I now have my system back just as it was but running on a brand new disk. The combination of the great service from the Apple store and the ease with which I was able to restore my machine truly impressed me (and that's not easy with this type of stuff). I will definitely be buying more Macs as the other machines in the house grow older and need replacing. I have really developed a liking for my Mac Book Pro since buying it to be my companion during the seemingly endless hours of chemotherapy treatment, but this just experience further convinced me that they are worth the premium price charged for them.

That's it for now then. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all of my friends and family around the World a very safe and happy Christmas.  To all of my friends that celebrate other holidays, all the very best to you too. I hope you all find peace and happiness in each of your endeavours.

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December 4th 2008

Can it really be December again already?

Things have been very busy both at home and at work with it being the holiday season now. I took last week off to spend time with the family and to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States. This week (as always happens) I am trying to get caught up on the backlog of work and e-mail that builds up whenever one takes a few days off!  That said, given I spent almost half the year undergoing chemotherapy, I have not used much of my vacation entitlement for this year. Consequently, Friday (as in tomorrow) will be my last day at work for 2008. I will not return to work (officially) until January 5th next year. I say "officially" as I will still be checking my e-mail while away to avoid having to deal with a mountain of unread mail when I get back to work in January. It's hard to believe it's that time of year again.

Last week we took the kids to see the movie Bolt in 3D. I enjoyed the movie and thought the 3D technology used was a lot better than I had expected it would be. In general (aside from what I regard as specialist environments such as Disney and Universal Studios) I have not enjoyed broad release 3D movies. Bolt definitely is an exception to that and I would recommend it as a good family movie.  Meanwhile, the weather here in the Austin area has been gorgeous. Blue skies and very warm temperatures. Yesterday our daytime high was 79 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, last night, as often happens this time of year, a cold front blew through and this morning we woke up to a chilly 35 degrees. It was cold enough that my son ran from the car into the school at full speed - not his usual MO at all !

I have not posted here for a few days but I have been making regular posts both on Twitter (my ID is @gfxman if you are a Twitter user) and on Facebook. Somehow I find it takes me a lot more effort to sit down and write a (hopefully) meaningful blog post than it does to quickly update my status on Twitter and Facebook. Many of my friends and colleagues have made the same observation. I still enjoy both reading and writing blog posts (and I particularly like having a nice journal of things I can look back on - such as my treatment log here) but I must confess that I am able to keep up with most of my friends and some of my family these days via Facebook. I have been using Facebook for quite a while now but I am fairly new to Twitter and still not exactly sure if it's for me but I am persevering with it for a bit longer. I find it much easier to find people I know and want to keep in touch with on Facebook than on Twitter. To be fair though, a lot of people I like following from a computing/IT perspective do seem to be on Twitter so maybe that is just a different community. In fact the overlap of people I follow who are both on Facebook and Twitter seems to be quite small.

At any rate, it's hard to believe that December has crept up on me again and that another year is almost over. I will write a "look back at the year" post closer to the end of the year but for now let's just say I have a lot to be thankful for in 2008. My family, my friends, my doctors, the fact that I have no more medical tests until February, the list seems almost endless. It truly has been a year unlike any other. TTFN.

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November 17th 2008

Preliminary biopsy results

Last Wednesday I went into the Round Rock Medical Center for a bone marrow biopsy.  I have had a lot of new experiences during the past twelve months and this was another first! For those who are interested, the procedure is done while the patient (me) is face down on the table with his backside stuck into the CT machine. They sedate you thankfully before sticking big needles into your pelvic bone (at the Iliac crest). It was sort of interesting to see the doctor dressed up in a special protective suit that to me made him look like something out of Power Rangers! It was also interesting to ponder how come he gets a suit and I don't :-)

As I mentioned in my prior posting, this was to see if the chemotherapy treatments had damaged the bone marrow badly enough that it needs treating. I called the doctor's office about an hour ago to see if they had the results back. They did. I am hugely relieved to say that his preliminary reading of the results is that everything looks normal. As far as I know this means I don't need additional treatment and I just have to be patient and let my body heal itself. Thanks everyone for all your messages of support and encouragement in the Guest Book and elsewhere once again during this period.

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November 9th 2008

Test results good but more tests needed...

We met with the oncologist on Friday to get the results of the blood tests and CT scan that I had earlier in the week. The good news is that there continues to be no further signs of any cancer. This is a huge relief. I was extremely nervous going into this test cycle. My spleen continues to be enlarged so next week I am going in to the hospital for a bone marrow biopsy. The theory is that the chemotherapy damaged my bone marrow causing the spleen to pick up the slack. We need to find out how badly the bone marrow was damaged. Depending on the biopsy results, I may need treatment to help the marrow recover. All things considered I am doing well and for the most part still on the mend. My blood levels are the best they have been in over a year.

I am grateful to everyone who has been calling me and writing to me to ask about the test results. Sorry it has taken me a few days to update the status here. I had a good friend in town staying with us for the weekend. Yesterday we went to the UT game (against Baylor) in the morning and my kids both had soccer games in the afternoon followed by an end of season pizza party. Just another quiet Saturday. I am trying to get caught up on my web and e-mail backlog today!

So that's the medical update for now. I'll post again after the biopsy. The results will take over a week to come back, so it will be Thanksgiving here in the US before we know the outcome most likely.

Meanwhile, the weather here in Texas has been gorgeous. Cool overnight (40's F) and then warming up to almost 80 during the day with not a cloud in the sky so still wearing shorts in mid-November and yesterday Arsenal beat Manchester United, what more could I ask for?   :-)

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November 3rd 2008

A "testing" week ahead

No, I'm not referring to the US elections tomorrow unfortunately. Instead, for me it's time for the next round of post chemo medical checks. Tomorrow after a scheduled 7am work meeting and a trip to the local school to vote, I have to go to the Oncologist's office for blood tests and then on Wednesday I have a CT scan scheduled. We are due to meet with the doctor to get the results on Friday. So while by tomorrow night one way or another millions of people here in the US will be celebrating, I have to wait a few more days to get the result that I most care about - I know, call me selfish!

Meanwhile I do plan to stay up late tomorrow night and watch the results come in on what may well be an historic day in American history. I will however be glad when the whole election process is over. I am so sick of the endless TV coverage, the annoying commercials that say nothing about what their candidate would do and instead just focus on why the other guy is even worse as well as the phone calls and visits to the front door. I just hope and pray that the balloting process passes without any major mishaps this time around and that by sometime on Wednesday, we have a clear winner.

Living in Texas, my vote, sadly has little meaning (no matter which way I vote this state will stay Republican), but at least I can go to Starbucks after the doctor, tell them I voted, and get a free cup of coffee!!  Hopefully I can also tell them I voted for the guy who won :-)

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October 28th 2008

One year on from surgery that saved my life

One year ago, I was in the Seton hospital here in Austin having just had most of my colon removed and was waiting for the tests results that would determine how seriously ill I really was. We knew from the prior biopsy that I had cancer but what we did not know, and needed to find out,  was how advanced it really was. We also knew that the tumor that had just been removed was about the "size of the surgeons fist" (his words not mine). It was a nervous few days waiting for the test results on the lymph nodes to come back. The surgeon (unbeknownst me) had told my wife he feared I was at stage three based on his visual examination of the nodes. My wife had to worry through this time a lot more than I did as I was heavily sedated and not fully aware of what was going on.  Thankfully, all 37 lymph nodes that were tested came back negative and I officially became a stage two cancer patient. So began many months of recovery from surgery and chemotherapy to (hopefully) kill any cancer cells that had escaped prior to, or during, surgery.

I am very grateful that due to the skill of the doctors that diagnosed me and performed the surgery on me as well as the oncologist who subsequently blasted my body with chemotherapy that I am still here to type this text today.

I think I'll keep this post brief and reflect on how blessed and how lucky I am to have such great doctors, who are still looking after me, and such  great friends who have helped me keep my spirits up through the last twelve months. Also, if you have been thinking about, but putting off, getting a colonoscopy done - do it now - it could save your life!

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October 21st 2008

Colorado Software Summit

I'm spending the week at the Colorado Software Summit.  It's my favourite programming conference bar none and one I try to attend whenever I can. As always it has been great to meet so many interesting people from around the World and to have so many really useful discussions about emerging technology.  I have attended several really good presentations and tonight I'm running a BOF around the subject of building rich web applications which should be a lot of fun. Tomorrow night I am running a BOF on social networking applications which I also hope will provoke some interesting discussion.

The conference is held in Keystone, Colorado. It's about a 90 mile drive up into the mountains from the Denver airport. After a couple of uneventful flights on Sunday morning, the front right tyre on my rental car blew out at about 70mph while driving through the mountains. I very nearly lost control of  the car and only just avoided going off the side of the road. After all I have been through in the past year the last thing I expected was to be suddenly faced with another life threatening experience !

By the way, if you use twitter, I'm posting regular updates during the week. You can find me as @gfxman and please feel free to follow me.

The second day of the conference is now well underway and I'm off to join Denise Hatzidakis as she talks about REST so I'll end this post now.

PS - Sorry I have not posted for a while, life has been very busy. I'll try and post more updates soon.

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October 5th 2008

One year post cancer diagnosis

A year ago (actually on October 2nd 2007) I heard the words that no one wants to hear from a doctor "I'm really sorry but I think it's cancer". And so began the journey I have been on for the past twelve months. As I have documented here, I had major surgery followed by about six months of chemo and to say the least it has been a very stressful time for me and my family. Last Friday I went for yet more blood tests and I am relieved to report that for the first time all of my tests (white cell count, platelet count and haemoglobin) are back in the normal range. I have more tests scheduled for November (including another CT scan) but as far as we can tell, for now, I am finally on the mend. I still have horrible neuropathy in my hands and feet (caused by the chemo meds) but that is a small price to pay for still being here a year on from my initial diagnosis.

Meanwhile a lot of things that I need to blog about have been going on. I'll try and get that done soon. In summary, the kids are doing well at school and enjoying playing soccer. We adopted a dog, a four year old Golden Retriever called Rocket. He's a great dog and it feels really good to have been able to give him a nice home. I have been able to finally make a couple of business trips. I went out to San Jose, CA a few weeks ago to attend the SHARE conference and a couple of weeks ago I flew up to Boston to attend some IBM Academy meetings. That was also the first time I flew on Jet Blue. I really liked them and will definitely use them again. Being able to watch the Ryder Cup golf live while on a plane was very cool. American Airlines, with whom I have in excess of two million miles on my frequent flier account, need to do some serious upgrading if they want to win me back as a customer on domestic routes out of Austin.

Finally, in a couple of weeks I am off to the Colorado Software Summit. I am really excited about that. I love the conference. I think it's the best programming conference around. I missed the conference last year as it was right before I went into the hospital for surgery. I made a more detailed posting about the conference on my work blog a few days ago and Simon Phipps just did a nice writeup on his blog as did Dave Landers on his blog. Please let me know if you are reading this and planning to be at the conference.

So that's the update for today. As always a big THANK YOU to everyone that has supported me and my family through this whole ordeal and for all of your messages in the Guest Book. I feel very blessed to still be here one year on.

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September 26th 2008

Dion Gillard (5th May 1967 - 25th September 2008)

My dear friend Dion Gillard died this week after a courageous fight with melanoma. Dion was loved and respected by friends and family around the World. He had a great sense of humour, was a brilliant computer programmer, was a businessman, a husband and a father. Basically, he was just a great person to be around and he had a positive impact on everyone he met, myself very much included.

Dion and I first met at the Colorado Software Summit conference years ago (I forget exactly which year) and have kept in touch ever since.  In fact we were due to meet  at the conference this year, towards the end of next month.  The event won't be the same without him, he has so many great friends there besides me.  I have always admired Dion's technical breadth and know how and willingness to share, but it was his terrific sense of humour I think that endeared me to him even more. We also spent countless hours debating why Australia were better than England at cricket! We had even discussed meeting up in the UK next year to watch the Ashes series together to (we had hoped) celebrate both of our battles with cancer.

I send my deepest condolences to his wife, children, family and friends around the World.  You have a lot of people reaching out to you at this time and sharing your sense of great loss. The World is a less good place without Dion, but we are also blessed to have had, and celebrate, the time we did have with him.

Rest in peace "dIon" you will be truly missed but never forgotten.

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September 11th 2008

Tests, tests and more tests

Last Friday I was back at the oncologist's office for yet more tests. This seems to be a recurring theme for me at the moment. As much as I wish I could put it all behind me I have to accept that these tests are for my own good and the doctor is just being thorough.

The good news is that the lab work continues to show no signs of cancer. My haemoglobin levels are also back to normal so the fatigue/anemia is gone and my energy levels are definitely up!

The bad news is that my white cell count and my platelet count remain abnormally low. The oncologist says he is puzzled by this and he has me in his "requires more investigation" pile. His best theory is that the chemo damaged the bone marrow so badly that my body is just taking longer than average to recover from it. The recent CT scan shows that my spleen is enlarged. Again this could be because it is trying to help offset the weakness of the bone marrow. Lorna asked him if this could be evidence of Leukemia. He said he does not think so as the blood work does not show that. However, if my white count has not recovered enough in four weeks from now he wants to do a bone marrow biopsy on me (I hear they are painful so hope I can avoid that). I have another CT scan planned for the first week of November. If my spleen gets too far out of whack they are also saying that removing it is an option - oh joy!

On top of this my neuropathy (numbness/pain in hands and feet) has become (at least by my measurements) severe. I'm periodically in a lot of pain and cannot feel anything under my feet and my fingers hurt when I type.

So while I am happy that the tests seem to indicate we are heading in the right direction I remain nervous about the overall state of affairs. I guess that is why they make the little blue pills! I am trying very hard to just get on with my life and forget about all of this between doctors visits but I have to admit it is hard.

Meanwhile, this weekend Hurricane Ike is coming to visit so that should certainly keep me preoccupied!!

Both kids have soccer games this weekend but Ike may have a say in that. The UT Football game we were hoping to go to has already been cancelled.

That's it for now. I'll post again soon with an Ike update and other news, including my first bad experience with the Mac Book Pro - my battery died after less than eight months of use! That's it for now, I'm off to bed...

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September 3rd 2008

Is Summer really over?

Having grown up in England, where August is the height of Summer, it still feels odd to hear people in Texas talking about Summer being over by the time we are less than midway through that month. Moreover, the temperature in Central Texas as we enter September is still in the high nineties Fahrenheit almost every day - feels like Summer to me! That said, the kids have now been back at school for almost two weeks and in fairness people here tend to view Summer as over once school starts.  I was hoping we might get a little rain as a result of Hurricane Gustav but it has gone inland well to the North East of us. We have not had a lot of rain recently and the garden is looking a bit parched in places despite my best attempts to keep it watered.

Looking back, I am really pleased that with all of the medical things going on we have still managed to do a lot of fun stuff this Summer as a family. It feels a bit strange not to have the kids around today as I work from home in a very quiet house. I do feel more productive though - imagine that !

This is a short work week due to Monday being the Labor Day holiday here in the US. We had a fairly lazy "long weekend" and I spent a lot of time either swimming in the pool or trying to catch up on my reading. It was really nice to not have a full agenda of things to do for a change. On Saturday evening Lorna and I went to the opening game of the University of Texas (UT) football season. The stadium has been enlarged yet again during the off season and now has a capacity of around 100,000. Indeed the official attendance for the game on Saturday was 98,053. I hear they are talking of adding even more seating in the future! This is a stadium that apparently pays for itself and yet hosts an average of just six (yes six) games a year!! As someone who played both Cricket and Soccer at University in England where it was a good day if five people turned up to watch us play it still blows my mind to observe the sheer immensity of collegiate sports, especially football (not to be confused with the kind of football/soccer I play), here in the US. It must be an amazing experience for those lucky enough to compete in such an environment. Apart from perhaps Wembley stadium in London, I cannot think of any other venue in England that compares in sheer size to the UT stadium - and this is (non professional) college sports!! We had a very enjoyable time at the game and we're both looking forward to the next home fixture in a couple of weeks.

Another indication that Summer is actually winding down is that our local baseball team (the Round Rock Express) have now played their last home game for the season. While the major league parent team (the Houston Astros) still has a fair number of games left to play, the triple-A season is now over and the NFL is about to get underway. Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic the English Premier League has started (seems like that season gets longer every year) and the cricket season is winding down. We also have the Ryder cup to look forward to of course.

So I guess perhaps, at least in this part of the World, Summer is "officially" over - now if someone could please tell that to the weather......

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August 26th 2008

I'm "Port less" and "Polyp less"

Sorry for the title. My sense of humour can be a bit weird at times but it has also helped me get through the last eleven months. Yesterday I had surgery done to remove my chemotherapy port. It feels weird to finally have the port removed as it has been an ever present part of me since it was surgically inserted back in November of last year. The surgeon who performed the procedure is the same one who did the five hour colonectomy on me last October and he will also be responsible for monitoring what's left of my colon (which is not much but it's enough!!) for the foreseeable future. As such, he was kind enough to also do my first follow up colon check since the major surgery while he had me sedated yesterday. I am happy to report that for now at least I am polyp free. I don't recall if I mentioned this in earlier posts but in my case polyps are a lot more dangerous than they are for an average (more lucky) person. On average my doctors tell me a polyp will go cancerous if left untreated in about ten years. In my case that time is about one year. So they'll be keeping a close eye on me for the rest of my life. As I have mentioned before and I'll say it again, if you have been sitting there thinking "I really should get a colonoscopy done" then please go get it done. It really is not a big deal and it could save your life. It's one of the reasons I'm still here to type this today - makes you think doesn't it? My next colon check will be required in six months, so that is one thing I can check off my todo list for a while at least. Now we just have to get the blood under control, the neuropathy contained and the swelling reduced and life will be good. I'm starting to sound like a bad country song so I'll stop rambling on about the medical stuff for today.

Back to school day

Meanwhile, today here in Texas is "back to school day". Apart from the agonising sounds coming out of my iOmega external hard drive (I think the fan is going - this will be he third one to die on me in about three years) the house is silent. The kids left early for school today and won't be home until after 3pm so I have a very quiet work environment indeed - I almost miss having them around but don't let them know I said that ok! It probably seems odd to my friends and family over in the UK that school is back so soon but we broke up in May whereas I think you all still break up for the Summer in July. So we've actually had the kids home for about 3 months. It's time for them to go back!  Jack is starting First Grade this year, and hard though it is to believe, this is Robyn's last year before moving up to Middle School as she starts out on Fifth Grade.

Guest book issues?

A few of you have again written to me saying you have had problems posting to the Guest Book. As far as I know, this only ever happens if you are using Internet Explorer 6. I do have a message on the Guest Book launch page that warns about this known problem. I have confirmed with one of the people that recently had problems that they indeed were using IE6. If you are seeing Guest Book problems with other browsers, please do let me know.

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August 24th 2008

Tests, tests and more tests

I'll keep this post brief as I have to be up early tomorrow to get ready for surgery and it's already quite late. I went in to the oncologist's office again on Friday for more blood tests. My white count and platelet count remain quite low but not low enough that they need to treat it directly. They did however give me a prescription for some pills to fight the swelling (and weight gain) that is being caused by the meds they have me on to fight the neuropathy caused by the chemo meds - you with me?

I have to go back again in two weeks to be tested again to see if things are improving. My haemoglobin count is thankfully continuing to improve and is now almost back to the typical range for male of my age.

Tomorrow morning at 9am I am having surgery to remove my chemo port. It will be weird after all of these months not to feel it there. I am also having a follow up colon check which I am nervous about but it's something I'll have to get used to as this will be a regular part of my life over the next few years.

I'll post another update once I am recovered enough from surgery.

August 19th 2008

Chemotherapy aftershocks

I'm trying to get caught up after a week away- consequently, two postings in one day - I think this may be a first for me!

Anyway, here's a quick medical update as there is still quite a bit going on. It has now been over three months since I ended chemotherapy. As I have documented here in detail, during chemo I suffered through a whole collection of different side effects at various times. Many of those went away fairly quickly after chemo ended. A few have stuck with me however. By far the worst is the neuropathy (numbness and pain in my hands and feet). Interestingly, the neuropathy only began during the last week or so of chemo but has since then become incrementally worse. It is caused by the Oxaliplatin (one of the three drugs that make up the FOLFOX chemo regimen). I am on medication that is supposed to suppress some of the pain that the neuropathy causes but for the most part I just have to be patient and wait for it to take care of itself. My oncologist has told me that it can take over a year for the effects to fully wear off. For the benefit of the many other folks that have found my web site and have been kind enough to contact me, all of whom are fighting their own battles with colon cancer, and all of whom seem to be having the same basic experience as me, the doctor has tried a couple of drugs to help relieve the neuropathy pain. At first we tried Cymbalta which did help a little but had nasty interactions with other medications I am taking (primarily the Paxil) so I had to stop taking it. I am now trying Lyrica which again seems to help some but seems to itself be causing some nasty side effects that I am not enjoying. The biggest issues to date are weight gain (just what I needed!), trouble concentrating and swelling of my feet, legs and hands (the swelling is also in part, I believe, caused by the Oxaliplatin). So, while I am really excited by my test results from a week ago, I still find myself with a lot of issues to handle on a daily basis. Don't get me wrong however, you won't find me complaining too much for if the chemo and surgery have done their job I'll live with the rest for as long as it takes to resolve itself.

Talking of tests, just when I thought I was almost done it turns out to not quite be the case. My oncologist's office called last week while I was in San Jose. They want me back for more blood tests this Friday as after further thought they have decided that my white cell count and platelet count really are a bit too low and they want to check me again and if necessary take steps to help those numbers improve.  I'll keep you all posted as to how that goes.

Also, next Monday I have an appointment to see the surgeon who did my colectomy back in October for a check up. I'm not going to go into details but I think you get the picture (or at least I hope he will!). He is also going to take out my chemo port (a fairly minor surgical procedure) at the same time. So I'll be back at the hospital again next week for I think the fifth time in the last 10 months. I'm a little nervous about the checkup as if he finds any polyps we are going to have to take immediate steps to try and prevent them from becoming cancerous. Hopefully everything will be OK.

So that's the medical update, I'll make another posting when there is anything worth sharing.

I'd like to end this posting by sending my very best wishes and prayers out to all of the people who have contacted me during the past several months to thank me for sharing my experiences and for telling me that in doing so I had also helped them as they faced their own struggle with cancer. It is not always easy to share something so personal in such a public fashion but my goal in doing so was in large part to reach out to others in a similar situation to myself. I am both happy and more than a little humbled to have heard from so many of you. Good luck all of you, and please keep in touch. I have made many new friends in the last six months which has been one of the good side effects of this whole experience.

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August 19th 2008

A week in San Jose, California

Last week I flew out to San Jose to speak at the SHARE conference. I am the IBM rep to one of the Projects at SHARE which means I help find speakers, set the agenda for the project, do a little speaking myself and also chair sessions given by other speakers. This was the first time I have been on a plane since March of 2007 and I was a bit nervous how my body would react to the stresses of air travel but thankfully, everything seemed to go fine.  Interestingly, nothing much seems to have changed in terms of the overall travel experience while I have been away and I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly and efficiently the check in process went at both Austin and San Jose. Of course it helps to be a multi-million miler on American Airlines which enabled me to jump the queue for the security checkpoints in San Jose, which can get really busy at times. My flights left on time, the weather was great and as a result the flights were smooth both ways. My checked baggage even arrived quickly after arrival. I guess it was just a good week to be travelling!

An odd side effect of the medication I am still on is that I don't remember too much of either flight but I took some nice photos of the Grand Canyon and some interesting video of the approach into San Jose so I guess I had a good time !! This was also the first time I have done any public speaking in quite a while. This is something I really enjoy and it was great to be "back in the saddle" as it were. It was also really nice to see so many good friends and colleagues, many of whom I had not seen since before my surgery last October. San Jose as a city has also improved immensely as a place to visit since I first went there in 1987. I decided not to get a rental car and basically just walked everywhere. The conference was at the Convention Center and the hotel is very close to there. Plenty of places to eat are just a short walk away and there is also the must see "Tech Museum". Among the many restaurants is Gordon Biersch, a place I always try to visit at least once when in San Jose. Garlic fries and a glass of locally brewed Heffeweizen out on the back patio - sweet!!!  If you want to get merry in a hurry then drink the Blonde Bock (7% alcohol with an o.g. of 16.5) but just don't do what I did the first time I went there and ask for a Guinness!

The conference hotels (Marriott,Hilton and Fairmont) were all sold out when I made my reservations so I ended up staying, for the first time, at the Sainte Claire hotel. The rooms were clean and felt modern, the WiFi was free and they have a great Italian restaurant (Il Fornaio) on the ground floor. What more could you want?......well a bar or at least somewhere to hang out in the evening would be nice but in general a perfectly OK hotel to stay at.

For those who want to read a little more about SHARE and what we do there, I have posted a few times recently over at my work blog on the topic.The next SHARE conference is actually going to be in my home town of Austin, Texas next March so I won't have far to travel for that event!

On the medical front I am still suffering through some really annoying and painful side effects from the chemotherapy and also the medications I am on that are supposed to help suppress the first set of side effects have their own set of side effects! I'll make another posting soon on the overall medical situation as there is still quite a lot going on.

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August 7th 2008

Test results

So, as I mentioned in my last post, this week I underwent a series of tests to effectively see how well my treatment (surgery followed by FOLFOX chemotherapy) has gone. I had several tests done including a lot of blood work and a set of CT scans as well as the usual vital signs checks etc. During chemo I had my blood tested every other week so I should be used to it by now but for obvious reasons I found myself much more nervous than usual this time around. I think in part it's knowing that as well as looking at the using things such as white cell count, platelet count and haemoglobin number they are also looking for cancer markers or CA's (cancer antigens) which would indicate that treatment had failed. So at 10am this morning Lorna and I went to meet with the oncologist. We sat for a few minutes in one of the patient rooms waiting for him to arrive and you can imagine my sense of total relief when, upon entering the room, the first words he said even before he said hello were "no cancer".  My CT scan showed nothing unusual except for a slightly enlarged spleen which could well be due to the chemo drugs and my blood tests were all negative. The doctor is going to do another CT scan in three months time to make sure that the spleen issue is not getting any worse, mainly as a precaution at this point. So from his perspective, as of this moment in time I am cancer free. In about two weeks I am meeting with the surgeon who did the colonectomy back in October for my first follow up exam and to get my chemo port removed. Hopefully those tests will be negative also. So I'll see the oncologist again in November and begin a series of fairly regular checkups, at least for the next year or so but I am not going to worry about that tonight.

I cannot begin to express my feelings and emotions right now. No one knows what is in store from one day to the next but tonight at least I am going to go out and do something fun, actually I'm hoping we can go to the movies and see Dark Knight which I still have not seen.

As always thank you everyone so much for your continued support, e-mails, phone calls, visits and messages in the guest book during this ordeal. It means the World to me.

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August 4th 2008

A week of medical tests ahead

It's hard to believe but it has been three months since my chemotherapy ended. A standard part of the treatment process is for me to now have a set of follow up tests. Tomorrow (Tuesday) I have blood tests scheduled. On Wednesday I have a CT scan and then on Thursday I meet with the oncologist to get the results and to discuss where we are. Although, apart from the neuropathy in my hands and feet which is driving me crazy, I feel pretty good, I am still nervous about these tests and I will be glad when this week is behind me. It's hard to ignore the fact that they are looking for any continued presence of cancer in my system. I'll post more updates as the week progresses.

Meanwhile, I want to extend my best wishes and prayers to my good friend Dion down in Sydney, Australia who is in the middle of his own battle with cancer and starting out on chemotherapy tomorrow. I hope he will get the same level of support from his friends and family around the World that I have been lucky enough to receive. If you are so inclined, please include Dion in your thoughts and prayers.

As for my kids, this continues to be a very busy Summer. Robyn has Karate camp this week and both Robyn and Jack spent last week in "British soccer camp". A bunch of great lads from the UK come over every year and run the camp at a nearby park. It's a lot of fun and the kids had a great time. Robyn is also continuing to appear in the local community theatre production  of  "The Witches".

So that's it for now.  I'll post more later in the week.

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July 30th 2008

Resurrecting my work blog

Just a quick pointer to/reminder about my work blog. I try not to discuss much work related stuff here except for maybe some travel and conference related items. I keep a separate blog over at developerWorks that I discuss my work related activities in. However, during the height of my chemo treatment I found it hard to maintain both this site and the work blog. Consequently the work blog has been quiet for some time.  Now that chemo is behind me I have started trying to post frequently to the work blog again. Several of you have commented to me that you had forgotten I even had a work blog! Therefore I am posting this entry as a reminder that the work blog exists and that it is active again. Please feel free to pop over there are see what I am up to work wise and leave a comment or two if you feel so inclined.

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July 24th 2008

Bike riding for cancer relief - your help needed

In recent years I lost my Mum to cancer as well as a very good friend here in Austin. As you all know I have also now been in a personal fight with cancer and I just found out that another good friend is starting his own fight. On top of that, I have been contacted by numerous fellow cancer patients who found me through this web site and I have also got to know many of my fellow patients at the local cancer center where I am being treated. I am therefore, as you would expect, a strong supporter of genuine efforts to help fund cancer research. A colleague of mine, Don Harbison,  is about to embark on such a fund raising effort and asked if I would mention it here. Of course I agreed. Rather than try and explain it in my own words I asked him to provide me a short description of the event which he has done below. If cancer research is important to you, please consider supporting Don's efforts. Here is his description of the event.....

By way of introduction, for those who don't know me, I work with Kelvin in IBM's Open Standards organization. Like you, I was first shocked to hear news of his cancer diagnosis late last year, and then extremely pleased to learn how successful his treatment program is going now.

Cancer has also directly affected some of my family and friends. For the past three years I have worked to raise funds to support cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. I do this by signing up to ride the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a 2 day, 192 mile ride here in Massachusetts. By signing up I commit to raise a minimum of $4,000 but I aim higher. This year I'm targeting $8,500.  Please check out their web page ...you'll see it's an amazing event that attracts participation from all across the country and the world. This year we are aiming to bring in $34M, so you can see what a huge impact this has on supporting the excellent research programs at Dana-Farber that benefit us all.

Many PMC people ride in honor of a friend or family member directly affected by cancer. This year I am pleased that Kelvin accepted my request to dedicate my ride in his honor.  Like you, I've been incredibly impressed with his courageous approach to beating his cancer. I can't think of a better way of expressing this than to continue to work hard at the fund raising, and then go out and break a sweat by riding with 5,500 others from Sturbridge to Provincetown here in Massachusetts.

This year the ride is on August 2nd and 3rd. Please join me in this effort by sponsoring my ride.

To do this, just visit this site

Click on 'Sponsor one rider with one donation', then open up 'Select a person by eGift  ID'. You'll see my name and the field to enter the amount you wish to contribute. It's very quick and simple. The PMC staff run a lean operation. As they say: "Not one cent of each dollar raised through riders' sweat and determination is used for administrative and organizational expenses." Using the web is a major component of this success.

If you work for IBM or a company that has a matching gift program, this is an excellent way to double your gift. Last year, almost $2,000 was directly matched by IBM. Here's the link for IBM's Matching Grant form

Just fill in your employee serial number and the amount of your donation. Then snail mail it to me at:

Don Harbison
3 Thoreau Dr.
Chelmsford, MA 01824

 I will take care of mailing it in to the PMC/Dana-Farber team.

I'm looking forward to the ride, and re-connecting with the amazing community that comes together once a year. When it's over, I'll post an update on how it went.

Thank you for your support!

Don Harbison

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July 16th 2008


Toby, April 2007Yesterday we lost a very dear and very loyal friend when one of our two Golden Retrievers, Toby, passed away. He was 12 years old. Lorna and I got Toby and his twin sister Brandy (who is still with us but very confused as to where Toby has gone) in 1996 just after we were married. Over that long a period of time it is hard not to build up a very close bond with such a great dog. As any book on the subject will point out, Golden Retrievers make great companion animals and Toby was the epitome of that.  He just adored people and was always beside one of us as often as he could be. Many times he would quietly creep into our bedroom at night and go to sleep at the end of the bed. More than once I almost fell over him during the night! As I mentioned in my prior posting, we knew that his remaining time with us would be limited but we were expecting it to be measured in months and not days. Sadly, the cancer had apparently metastasized further and faster than we realized and he was a lot worse off than we had hoped. His passing has affected all of us, especially Lorna and I as Toby in a way was like our first baby. We raised him from an eight week old puppy at a time when we were not exactly sure what we were doing and in a way he trained us as we tried to train him!  The kids seem to be handling it better than we are which is actually a good thing. They were sad for a while but have rebounded quickly and are already wanting a new puppy to get the dog count back up to three. They even have a name picked out already! We still have Brandy and our three year old spaniel, Scamp and I think Lorna and I need a little time to get over Toby's departure before we give in to the puppy idea but I'm sure it will only be a matter of time. I am fortunate that I have had a lot of great friends and companions around me in my life and Toby was definitely one of them. No matter how bad a day I had at the office or whatever my mood, Toby was always there with a smile (see photo) and a tennis ball. We are very grateful to have had him with us for as long as we did and we all miss him very much.

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July 10th 2008

A few quick updates

Since we got back from our trip to Dallas things have been fairly hectic around here and consequently I am behind in my postings. This weekend, adding to our worry list, one of our two Golden Retrievers (Toby) collapsed on the floor and we had to rush him to the emergency animal clinic. To cut a long story short he had lost a lot of blood due to an internal tumor on his spleen and needed emergency surgery to remove the spleen. Given his age (he was twelve this week), it was very touch and go for several days and we honestly did not expect him to make it. Happily, yesterday he perked up a lot and managed to get up and walk and started eating food again and we were able to bring him home. The other dogs Brandy (his sister) and Scamp were very glad, as were we, to have him back. Sadly, the doctors tell us that the cancer they found in his spleen is likely to spread to other organs over the next few months and that they don't expect him to last more than about another six months (nine at the outside). Toby has been a truly terrific companion and we all plan to make the most of the time we have left with him. It goes without saying that we are more than a bit sick of having to deal with cancer related illness in our house.

Also on the worry list at the moment is the house roof which was damaged by a hail storm several weeks ago. Some of the pieces of hail were larger than a golf ball. We had to have the entire roof replaced back in 2005 after another hail storm and my roofing contractor says we need to replace it again now. I am currently in a debate with the insurance company over how much of the roof they are willing to pay for. I'm still hoping that they will pick up the entire bill but we'll see. This is one piece of stress that I could well do without but I guess is a common problem living where we do. Lorna's car also need some repair work as a result of the same hail storm, and yes you guessed it, the car is insured by the same insurance company!

On a happier note, the kids are having a great Summer. Thankfully Lorna was smart enough to sign them up for a variety of different activities including a soccer camp, a soccer tournament, a cooking class, karate camp, a ceramics class and several play dates with friends. Despite all of this plus having the pool to swim in, a large selection of books to read and video games to play, we still have heard more than once "I'm bored" - you just can't win!

A few weekends ago we put two teams (made up of girls from our regular 8-a-side team that I help coach and a few others) into a 3 v 3 soccer tournament. Both teams did very well and in fact one of them won the event and has qualified for the national finals. Suffice to say Robyn (who was part of that winning team) is very excited about this.

We have also managed to see a few movies in the last few weeks. Lorna and I went to see Indiana Jones and The Incredible Hulk, both of which we enjoyed. Lorna and the kids went to see Narnia - Prince Caspian and they enjoyed that. On Sunday we all went to see WALL.e and yesterday we took my son to see Kung Fu Panda. I liked both of the animated pictures but of the two I think I preferred WALL.e. I am still trying to keep up with my reading and since chemo ended I have definitely noticed an improvement in both my eyesight and my ability to concentrate which has helped a lot.

As I have documented here in prior posts, I have more or less continued working full time throughout my treatment regimen as much as I can and with chemo now behind me I have been able to really get re-focussed on work. Several people have asked me why I did not just take a leave of absence for a while but to be honest work has been a very good distraction for me and it helps that I really like the people I work with and am fortunate that the company I work for, IBM, has been so understanding and caring during this time. However, with many people out on Summer vacation I am at times a little too busy right now!

There is not a lot of other news to report on the medical front (which is basically a good thing). The neuropathy (numbness in my hands and feet) continues to really bug me. I visited the oncologist's office and chatted with them about it and they have changed my medications a little but so far I am not sensing any real improvement (no pun intended!). They did tell me it can take more than a month on this medication for things to start to improve so I guess I just have to be patient. My next round of tests (CT scan, blood work etc.) is now only about four weeks away. I am trying not to get too wound up about that but I will be glad when it is over. If the tests go well then right after that I can schedule the surgery to have my chemo port removed.

On the technology front, I have started upgrading all of our computers here at the house (both the Mac and the PCs) to use the new Firefox 3.0 browser. So far I have been very impressed with it and I congratulate all of the folks at Mozilla that have worked so hard to achieve this significant release.

I continue to be very grateful for the messages of support for myself and my family that continue to arrive via e-mail, the guest book, Facebook and many other channels. Thanks as always it really helps keep my spirits up.

That's about all the news for now. It continues to be a very hot Summer here and I have already caught myself looking at the calendar to see when school starts again for the kids!
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June 24th 2008

The Great Wolf Lodge

I took last week off from work and we drove up to Dallas (actually to Grapevine which is effectively a Dallas suburb). We stayed at the recently opened Great Wolf Lodge. Situated, adjacent to the DFW airport, the Lodge is actually a combined hotel and water park, with both indoor and outdoor water parks. They claim that the indoor water park is in fact the largest of its kind in the World. The hotel also has all kinds of other things for kids and grown ups alike to do, such as the Magi Quest which has you running all over the hotel looking for clues to gain runes and solve magical puzzles. I think the kids enjoyed the quest as much as they enjoyed the water parks. In fact we all had a great time and are thinking of going back again at Christmas time. If you follow the link above you can read a whole lot more about what the Great Wolf Lodge has to offer. I would thoroughly recommend it as a great place to let off steam for a few days.

The weather here in Central Texas continues to be very hot. Every day for the past several weeks we have been close to (or above) 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This week I am back at work while Lorna and the kids are having fun at vacation bible school at one of the local churches. I have also been trying to keep up with the Euro 2008 matches and with Wimbledon (both of which are being shown live on TV here). This coming weekend Robyn has a 3 v 3 soccer tournament which should be a lot of fun although it is likely to be very hot during most of the games.

On the medical front, the numbness in my feet and hands continues to be quite painful, in fact, typing has become very uncomfortable for me so I will keep this posting brief. I am visiting the oncologist's office on Wednesday to get my chemo port flushed and I am hoping they can do something more for the numbness. The meds they gave me have so far not improved things at all.

Anyway, that's the news for now, I'll try to post again soon.

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June 13th 2008


I have not posted here for a couple of weeks as things have been a bit hectic, so here are a few updates.

Last week I had business meetings in Orlando. My wife and I decided we would drive there with the kids so that they could have some fun while I was working. Even with the price of fuel at its current level,  driving is still cheaper than flying the four of us and to be honest I am still a bit nervous of taking a plane ride given some of the lingering chemo side effects (my legs seem to swell up really easily at present). In any case, I really enjoy driving and the drive to Orlando from our house, a trip of about 1150 miles each way, is quite a pleasant one and almost all on freeways. We have done the trip many times before so we know where a lot of good places to stop for breaks are and we usually break the trip into two days, spending the night in Gulfport which is almost exactly half way between Austin and Orlando. As a side note, I really feel for the people of Gulfport. Even two years after hurricane Katrina, there is still a tremendous amount of evidence left of the devastating effects of the storm.

Anyway, it was nice for me to get away for a few days, even if it was primarily a week of business meetings for me. I had not been out of the state of Texas since before my surgery last October so a week away was really quite a treat. I did not manage to make it to the them parks with the family but we did get to spend a fun evening together at Disney Quest (a five storuy building full of all types of video games both old and new and some really cool virtual reality rides). On the night before we started driving home we all had dinner at the Arabian Knights (you eat while watching the horses and actors perform). By all accounts a fun time was had by all and I feel refreshed just from being out of the house for a while.

This week I had a series of business meetings at the office and it was really nice to meet so many colleagues, many of whom I had not seen for many months due to my ongoing medical issues.

Talking of medical issues, it has now been five weeks since chemo ended. Some of the side effects have definitely improved, others however are lingering on. In particular, the numbness in my fingers that had just started by the end of chemo has now also spread to my feet and has generally become quite a but worse. It has reached the point in fact, where driving the car feels strange as I can only barely feel the pedals. I called the doctor and he has put me on some meds that are hopefully going to help with this (yet more pills to remember to take!). Apparently this numbness can take many months to fully go away and is caused by the Oxaliplatin (one of the chemo drugs) which messes quite badly with the nervous system.

The kids are already well into the various camps and other activities that we planned for them this Summer and seem to be having a lot of fun. The weather has been extremely hot here in Texas. We have already had multiple 100 degree days in the Austin area. Heaven only knows what August will be like at this rate. Thankfully we have so far escaped most of the severe storms that have all passed to our North. Anyway, that's all the updates for today. I'm taking next week off so I can spend some quality time with the family and forget about work for a few days. After that I hope to get back into a routine of more regular updates here as the Summer progresses.

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May 29th 2008

Quick updates

I haven't posted for a few days in part because there has not been a lot of news to share on the medical front (which is fine by me). It has now been 22 days since my last chemo session ended (on May 7th). The "fog" seems to have left me now finally for which I am very grateful. It has been replaced however by a feeling of total exhaustion - I think I have finally let myself relax a bit and it's past time to catch up on a lot of missed sleep. Most of the other chemo side effects are still with me which is no great surprise as my doctor told me to expect it to take between four to six weeks for them to subside. The thing that is bugging me the most right now is a constant feeling of numbness in all of my fingers and toes - it actually makes typing and even walking bit uncomfortable. This is a known side effect of the Oxaliplatin medication, so I hope it goes away soon. I visited the Oncologist's office yesterday to get my chemo port flushed. I have decided not to have it removed until August so that I can have all of my interim blood tests done via the port (rather than having to endure a lot of needles being stuck into my arm). The port has to be flushed every four weeks to prevent any risk of blood clots. The next major medical milestones are scheduled for August when I'll need another CT scan, a lot of other tests and an exam by my surgeon. When all of that is done I'll need minor surgery to remove the port.

So let's see, what else is going on? Well, we had a very nice and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. The weather was (and continues to be) very hot and we spent a lot of time out by the pool. The kids had lots of friends over and had fun in the water. I spent a lot of time in "slug mode" sitting by the pool and reading.

Today is Robyn's actual birthday (although we held her party several days ago). I cannot believe that she is ten years old already - how time flies. She doesn't know it yet but we're planning a surprise dinner with one of her best friends at her favourite restaurant tonight. School ends on Friday so this will be the last week I have a quiet work from home environment! Thankfully the kids have a lot of Summer camps and other activities planned already to help keep them busy during the long Summer break. I'm a little concerned about just how hot this Summer will be as temperatures in Central Texas have already been in the high nineties Fahrenheit for the last couple of weeks. Well above average for the time of year. We've also seen some nasty storms come through already. Our roof (which was replaced in 2005 after a hail storm) has again been badly damaged by hail and Lorna's car also needs work done on it to get the hail dents removed. In the USA in general this looks like being one of the worst years in a long time (maybe ever) for damage, and sadly deaths, caused by Tornadoes. I don't know if this is due to climate change or not but suffice to say the weather here this year has been pretty unusual in many ways.

That's about all the news for now. I'll try and post again in a few days time.

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May 15th 2008

Cleaning up after a stormy night

Last night, multiple storm lines containing several super cell clouds (the type that frequently generate tornadoes) went through this area. This led to a very rough night and some very frightened kids. Multiple funnel clouds were reported in the area, the closest one passed less than three miles from here. As a result, we experienced strong winds, heavy rain and a lot of hail. A few of the pieces of hail were about the size of a billiard balls. The hail was so bad it even killed a duck which sadly we found dead on our back porch during one of the breaks in the storms. This morning we began the cleanup. There were leaves and twigs everywhere and several pieces of our shingle roof had broken free and were laying on the ground. We had our roof replaced in 2005 after another major hail storm. Today I called the roofing company again and they are coming out to assess whether or not we need to again replace the roof. All day around our neighbourhood you could here chain saws and other power tools being used as people cleaned up the mess. Several trees nearby have lost limbs or have become uprooted. Thankfully our trees are mostly large and well established and all seem to have survived the onslaught. I got a few good photos of the piles of hail on the back porch, I'll try and post one or two later.

Luckily, we managed to host my son's soccer team pool party during the afternoon and early evening yesterday before the storms arrived. There is no way we could have hosted it today. When we awoke the pool was full to overflowing (the emergency drain seems to have become blocked by all the tree debris). The pool was also full, and I do mean full, of leaves and twigs. We have been cleaning it out off and on all day and we are still not done.  Later today I need to figure out what is blocking the drain and fix it and do more raking up of all the leaves and twigs that are spread all over the front and back yards. It really is quite a mess. I wish I had more energy but at least this will keep my mind of my other worries for a while!

The past week or so we have had several big storms (although this was by far the worst) and it seems we have had a lot more tornadic activity (even this far South of "Tornado Alley") than usual.  When I moved to Central Texas, while the realtors were busy telling me how great a place it was to live in I think they somehow forgot to mention how much "fun" Spring can be!

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May 9th 2008

End of round twelve, end of chemotherapy

It's hard to believe but I have made it through my scheduled twelve rounds of chemotherapy. The treatments officially ended on Wednesday but I have been too wiped out to post until now. The fatigue still has me firmly in its grasp but I am hopeful that it will wear off in a few more days from now (although lately it has been taking almost a full ten days to clear out). The staff at the oncologist, who have been great all through this process, showered my with confetti and gave me a certificate of achievement to send me on my way. I was very close to tears, they have all been so terrific in the way they have treated me. I will not be meeting the oncologist again now for three months at which time he will test my blood and do a CT scan to make sure nothing bad is trying to creep back into my system - that will naturally  be a nervous visit. I also have a call into my surgeon to see when he wants to take out my chemo infusion port (minor surgery) and do my physical exam. So while chemo is behind me for now, I still have some more near term worries to get past but we have for sure reached a major milestone now with chemo ending. When the "fog" wears off I am sure I will feel happy about where I am. I am not up to writing a long posting right now but I do want to close by again thanking all of you that have stuck with me throughout this whole ordeal. I could not be where I am now without the fantastic support of my family and friends around the World. As always a big THANK YOU to you all.

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May 5th 2008

Seconds out, Round Twelve - ding ding.....

So here we are. It's Monday morning and I am sitting in my chair at the oncologist's office beginning my twelfth and final chemo treatment! My first treatment was back on December 26th of last year and since then the time seems to have (for the most part) flown by. I must admit that I am now more than ready to be done. By all accounts my body has handled the treatment very well but the fatigue in particular has reached the point where it never fully goes away so I'll be glad in about four to six weeks from now when the side effects are supposed to fully subside and my system will hopefully become "normal" again.

After this week we go into a monitoring mode at approximately three monthly intervals where I will be tested for any signs of the cancer coming back, both by my oncologist and my surgeon who will be monitoring things too. So those visits will be nervous times for me I am sure but I am not going to worry about them right now as this is a major milestone and I plan to celebrate a little once we get through this week.

In about two weeks I'll need to schedule surgery to have the chemo infusion port removed from my chest , yet more hours of blood tests and filling out CYA forms at the hospital, for what is hopefully a 20 minute procedure. At the same time as the port is removed, while I am sedated the surgeon plans to do an initial internal exam to see if there are any signs of the polyps that can turn cancerous coming back. If there are that will have to be dealt with as my genetics are such that the average time it takes for a polyp to go cancerous is one year or maybe less. I believe the average for a person that does not have my genetic makeup, is 10 years (quite a difference).

When I started writing about each of the chemo visits, I made the analogy to a 12-round boxing match. I wondered at the start if my opponent (the chemo meds) would be too much for me. For sure he landed a few good blows but my blood levels and other numbers continue to improve and we have not had to delay any of the rounds so I think when all is said and done I am hoping for a "points decision" in my favour !!

I'll post again soon but for now I need to sign off as I just got a shot of Ativan (Lorazepam) and I am getting drousy!

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April 25th 2008

Rocking with Rush

A couple of nights ago (Wednesdsy), along with our good friend, Brian, my daughetr (Robyn) and I went to the Frank Irwin Center here in Austin to  see Canadian rock legends Rush in concert. This was the first time they had come to Austin in 14 years! My wife is not a big Rush fan so I had taken Robyn to San Antonio to see them last Summer and she had enjoyed it so much that when the Austin date was announced we did not hesitate to go looking for tickets. I think we enjoyed this show even better than the prior one. The set list had been changed and I think it was a better blend of their newer and "classic" music. The nice thing about the 2008 tour is that the band are only playing venues that they have not played in at least ten years. I am really thankful that the side effects from my ongoing chemo treatments held off long enough for me to enjoy the show. The band played for close to three hours with a short intermission midway through. I'm also glad the show was Wednedsay and not Thursday or Friday as the chemo has definitelky hit me quite hard the last couple of days. Anyway, as promised in my prior post, here's what I think was the set list from the show:

Part 1
Part 2

Limelight Far Cry One Little Victory
Digital Man Workin' Them Angels A Passage to Bangkok
Ghost of a Chance Armor And Sword YYZ
Mission Spindrift
Freewill The Way The Wind Blows
The Main Monkey Business Subdivisions
The Larger Bowl Natural Science
Red Barchetta Witch Hunt
The Trees Malignant Narcissism
Between The Wheels Drum Solo
Dreamline Hope

The Spirit of Radio

2112: Overture / The Temples of Syrinx

Tom Sawyer

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April 23rd 2008

End of round eleven

So I'm home from the oncologist and chemo round eleven is now officially over (side effects over the next few days notwithstanding). That means I have only one more round left to go commencing on May 5th. So as far as the chemo phase of my treatment goes we are almost there.

As I mentioned yesterday my focus for the evening now is fighting off the fatigue long enough to enjoy the Rush concert that starts at 7:30pm at the Frank Erwin Center here in Austin. I'll try and write up a bit of a post conference report tomorrow. I am interested to see how much they have changed the set list since we saw them last year (apparently there are going to be some changes).

April 22nd 2008

Chemo round eleven and anticipation building before the Rush concert

As I type this I am in the nice comfy chair at the oncologist's office getting my second day of infusions as we are about mid-way through round eleven (the penultimate round - yay!!). So far the fatigue has not hit but I expect, based on the last couple of weeks, to start sometime Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.  The later the better - read on to find out why.....

Rush come back to Austin for the first time in 14 years

Hopefully I will be in pretty good shape still on Wednesday evening as Canadian rock legends Rush are performing in Austin for the first time in years. In fact I was not even living here (and I have been here since December 1995) the last time they were here. One of the local papers did an interview with lead singer Geddy Lee about coming back to Austin, you can read it here. Last year they came to San Antonio and I took my nine year old daughter Robyn. It was her first concert and I was not sure how much she would enjoy Rush but she loved everything about the show and has since learned the words to most of the songs on the tour album (Snakes and Arrows). I have been a Rush fan since my university days when my good friend Mike introduced me to them. Since then I have seen them in concert multiple times both in the USA and the UK and I honestly think they are playing better now than they ever have - and they were always good. The Austin date was added as part of some extended venues that were not part of the original tour. I am hoping that they jiggle the set list a bit but even if they don't I am really looking forward to the Show. In San Antonio they played for about three hours with a short 15 minute break in the middle. Certainly great value for money.

Express baseball

The professional baseball season is now well under way here in the US. We renewed our season tickets this year to the Round Rock Express (the AAA affiliate of the Major League Houston Astros). Their stadium is less than 10 minutes by car from our house and it's a great night out for the whole family. We went to the game last night as I am keen to do as many things as I can before the fatigue hits for this round. Last night the Budweiser Clydesdale horse team were their outside the stadium and we all enjoyed meeting the horses and their trainers. They told use they are on the road touring 300 days every year! The game itself was also very exciting last night, aided by the fact that the home team came out on top. So we had a fun night of baseball and ball park food plus a visit to the in-stadium kids play area.

That's my updates for now, I need to get back to working on my e-mail in box and some other work tasks. The oncologist has a better wireless network than I have at the house so it's actually a great place to get work done!

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April  19th 2008

A productive Saturday in Central Texas

The weather here today has been just gorgeous after some nasty storms passed through on Thursday night and left us with a beautiful but cooler day on Friday. Today we have been in the mid 80's Fahrenheit under clear blue skies. Jack and I have the house to ourselves as Robyn and Lorna are off having fun at a Girl Scouts camp for the weekend. The campsite is at Inks Lake which is about about two hours West of here. They have a ton of things for the girls to do (most of it outdoors) so the great weather is a real plus.

Meanwhile, It's been good for both Jack and me to have some quality "guy time" together. Last night we spent some serious time working together against hordes of evil aliens trying to save planet Earth from imminent doom - or put another way we played co-op mode in Halo 3 for about four hours before (a very extended) bedtime! Today Jack has been helping me with some house chores and he has also been trying to teach me how to play Super Smash Bothers Brawl on the Wii. Somehow I don't think I'll ever give him any decent competition at this game but he seems happy enough beating me into the dirt so what the heck!

I woke up this morning finally feeling less foggy from the last chemo round. This is the longest amount of time it has taken so far for my fatigue to subside between rounds. Of course round eleven starts on Monday so I had better enjoy it while it lasts. The doctor had warned me that the amount of fatigue tends to be cumulative and that certainly seems to be true in my case. Given I felt a bit more with it, after watching some of the English soccer on TV this morning and doing a bit of housework indoors, I decided it was time to take on the huge mess that used to be my nice tidy garage!  The garage had somehow become our dumping ground for a lot of stuff over the past few months and the mess had really started to bug me (even over the effects of the "chill out" pills they have me on so you know the mess was bad!!).  Thankfully I managed to get it mostly cleaned up but I could not believe how quickly I ran out of steam. I had to take lots of breaks.  Hopefully when chemo finally ends my energy levels will return to something like they were back last Autumn (pre-diagnosis and pre-surgery).  As people who know me will tell you I am not good at sitting still. I need to be busy and it's starting to frustrate me how weak I still am. I guess I have to keep reminding myself I have been through a lot and my body has taken a pounding the last five months or so. I also need to remind myself to just be grateful for what I have as things could easily have been a lot worse than hopefully they are.  On the plus side, the fact that I am getting frustrated is probably a sign that at least in some small way I'm getting more back to my old self!

As an aside, I am typing this entry using the Apple Mac Book Pro laptop which I now use for almost everything I do computer wise. I continue to be really impressed by this machine. I originally bought it as an early Christmas present to myself so that I would have something fun to play with and learn to use during the long hours in the "chemo chair". As you may recall from some of my prior postings, I have never before owned an Apple machine of any type but this laptop has quickly progressed to being my principal machine. I just love how reliable it is and I really like the "feel" of the machine and it's applications and I am unquestionably more productive on this machine than I am on any of my others.

So anyway, that's my update for today. As I mentioned above, chemo round eleven starts on Monday (just two to go now) so I'll try and post some more updates in the early part of next week. Now I need to go power up the XBOX 360 as Jack wants to see if we can kill a few more aliens before bedtime tonight!!

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April 11th 2008

End of round ten

Round ten finished on Wednesday and as with the last couple of weeks the fatigue has hit me almost instantly. The last day or so it has been a real struggle to get much done. On a happier note, with ten down I only have two more chemo sessions to go before we go into more of a maintenance mode and my body has a chance to recover from all of the chemicals it has been subject to the last few months. I'm certainly looking forward to the second week of May now (when chemo will hopefully be behind me). Given how tired I feel right now I will keep this post very brief. As always I appreciate all of the messages I continue to get from people keeping tabs on me - it really means a lot and my thanks to you all as always.

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April 7th 2008

Chemo round ten and other updates

I am sitting at the oncologist as I type this, about two hours into round ten. I met with the doctor this morning and we chatted for a bit. He is pleased with my progress to date and we discussed some of the next steps that he has planned for me post chemo. The net is that I'll need to get another cat scan once chemo ends to re-establish a "baseline picture" of how I look and then I'll start seeing him on a frequent but more periodic basis to keep tabs on how I am doing. This is more or less what I expected. He is hopeful the treatment plan will have done the job but I'll still need to be monitored closely for the next five years at a minimum in case (Heaven forbid) of a recurrence. I know I am going to be nervous every time he tests me but he is being very positive so that is as much as I can ask for at this stage.


Kite Runner Cover PhotoThankfully my eyesight seems to be improving even though I am still in treatment and I am finding it much easier to keep up with my reading than had been the case during the earlier weeks of treatment. I have managed to read several books in the past few weeks. I just finished reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I have not yet seen the film that was recently released but having read the book I definitely want to see it now. The Kite Runner was a refreshing change from my staple diet of action/suspense and science fiction books. I won't spoil the plot here but I will say it gives a great perspective of life in Afghanistan over multiple decades from the time before the Russian invasion all the way to the present day. I found myself really attached to the main characters and I found myself suffering along with them as I read the book. If you have not read this book yet, you might want to add it to your reading queue. In many ways a sad story about people trying to make the best of their situation but also uplifting at other times, definitely well written and well worth reading.

I also recently finished The Broker by John Grisham. This was different from his normal style in that it was more about spies and espionage than it was about court rooms and lawyers. That said, I really enjoyed it, although I have read reviews from Grisham purists who viewed it as one of his worst books. The book is mostly set in Bologna and other parts of Italy and by the time he is done describing the place you are left wanting to hop on the next plane a go visit. So while definitely not a typical Grisham book, I enjoyed it - I guess I am not a purist!

Video Games

I hadn't had much time to play video games lately nor the right state of mind probably given how "foggy" my head has been. That said this weekend between lots of outdoor activities I made time to sit down and finally finish the single player missions of Halo 3 (XBOX 360). This is a thoroughly enjoyable and well engineered game. I am really grateful to my friends who gave it to me as a get well present back in the post surgery days. It has been one of many useful distractions that have helped keep my mind off things. I have now started playing BioShock which was a birthday present from the family back in February. So far this looks like another very interesting and high quality game but more violent than Halo 3 I would suggest based only on about two hours playing time. With Summer weather already here I need to keep my gaming to a minmum and set the right precedent by doing a lot of things out doors and thus, hopefully, encouraging the kids to do the same. That said I do have my PSP sitting here with Metal Gear Solid loaded and ready to go should I need a fix during the five hour long chemo session today!

Summer is almost here

This weekend, the weather was gorgeous, blue skies and temperatures rose to the high 80's Fahrenheit by Sunday afternoon. Both Robyn and Jack had soccer games on Saturday and I played on Sunday. We all are a bit sun burned today. It's supposed to be in the eighties each day of the coming week. The kids decided that the weather was so nice that they were going to jump into the pool which they duly did and I must say despite the water being barely above 70 degrees, they had a great time. So I guess this means the pool is now officially open for business for the 2008 season. I would usually have jumped in there with them, anything above 68 degrees I will swim in happily but the meds I am on right now make me so sensitive to cold I am going to need to run the pool heater for a couple of days before I'll be able to join them in the water.


In my prior post I mentioned I was hoping for an Arsenal win against Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions Leage match. Sadly the match ended in a 1-1 draw which gives Liverpool a definite advantage as the teams head into the second leg of the tie. With the away goals rule, Arsenal have to score at least once at Anfield as a 0-0 draw would hand the match to Liverpool. Having also watched the teams tie 1-1 in the league right after the first leg, I am not confident Arsenal can pull this one off but I guess we'll see. For sure they need to rediscover their goal scoring ways from the earlier part of the season. On a related topic, I really enjoyed watching the FA Cup semi-finals from Wembley this past weekend. It's great to see the FA Cup magic is still alive with many of the big clubs having been knocked out by lower division opposition. I look forward to the final, which has the unlikely lineup of Cardiff vs Portsmouth. I'm really happy for my friend Graham who is a huge Pompey fan. I hope he can get a ticket for the big match.

Mac Book Pro - update

It's been about three months or so now since I got my Mac Book Pro laptop. I continue to be really impressed by this machine. The fact that every night I can put it to sleep and in the morning open the lid and have it wake up and start downloading my mail without me having to anything is really great. I have re-booted the machine twice since the start of the year and one of those time was just part of installing a major OS update. This really is a robust platform. By contrast, if I put my Windows XP laptop to sleep (hibernate) more than about 3 times in a row I have to reboot the system to get it working properly again. I'm not a Windows hater it's just that with the Mac I have found a machine where I feel very comfortable, a machine that I trust to work the way I expect it to and most importantly of all, a machine where I am definitely more productive. As I learn more and more of the Mac's features I'll keep on posting updates. I will also note that the one negative thing I have observed lately is that if the processor is working hard, the metal casing gets very hot and if you have it sitting on your legs while wearing shorts it can get pretty uncomfortable - of course this is just what you need on a cold night flight across the Atlantic - so that could be viewed as a plus!

So that's it for this round of miscellaneous updates. I'll try and post again soon as I progress through round 10.

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April 2nd 2008

Six months post diagnosis

Hard though it is for me to believe, it was six months ago yesterday that I underwent the colonoscopy that discovered the cancer in my colon and changed my outlook on life substantially. At that time I wrote about it here . A lot has happened since then but I guess the overall summary is "so far so good".  I have three chemo rounds left to go now which really is not that bad but the side effects, especially the constant sense of fatigue, do seem to have become cumulative. My last chemo treatment is scheduled for the week beginning May 5th so I can at least see the light at the end of that particular tunnel now. Round ten begins next Monday (April 7th) and at that time I have a meeting scheduled with my oncologist where I want to have a "what happens next?" type discussion. As far as I know I go into a sort of frequent checkup maintenance mode at that point (both with him and my surgeon) but I have several questions I want to ask him. I will also need another (minor) surgery at some point to remove the "power port" that is used to infuse the drugs into my system. The one question I really want an answer to is the one question he cannot answer. That of course is "am I cured?". All he is able to give me, and this is not his fault, it's just the nature of the beast, is statistics and a prognosis based on experience in treating similar cases. In spite of this, and I try not to dwell on it, it is frustrating having undergone all that I have in the past six months that there is no definitive test that can tell you how well the combined surgery/chemo treatment plan has worked. As I have joked with him in the past, the bottom line is that if I am still here for my checkups in five years then he has cured me! That said, my spirits are pretty good and I am not wasting too much time worrying about things that I really cannot do much about. Of course the little pink pills help there too! On a positive note, an experience such as this really helps remind you of the things that are truly important in life. I feel that I am closer to my wife and kids than ever before (and we have always been a close family) and I have been reminded how many wonderful friends I have all over the World that have been there for me these past six months. My oncologist commented to me that years from now I will actually look back on this as a positive experience on many levels. I think he is right. Not only have I been reminded of how much my family and friends mean to me I have also bonded with so many brave fellow patients that I meet week in, week out at the oncology clinic. I am humbled by many of the stories I have had told to me by other patients describing what they are going through - it really does stop any small amount of self pity from rising to the surface when you are constantly reminded that things could be a lot worse. It has also been hard lately to see a few people who are probably still in high school being brought in for treatment. Sadly cancer is a very indiscriminate predator.

On a lighter note, Spring is in full bloom here, and although we have had several cloudy and rainy days lately, Summer is clearly just around the corner. Even on the cloudy days our temperatures are getting into the high 70's or low 80's Fahrenheit and the water in the pool out back is now up to 70 degrees and the kids are begging me to turn the heater on so they can start swimming. Last year I started swimming when the water was 68 degrees but one of the side effects of the meds I am on is that I am very sensitive to cold so I suspect they won't have to twist my arm too hard on this one. I could certainly use the exercise!! Talking of the kids, they are already counting down the days left until the end of school (which for us happens at the end of May - much earlier than for my friends and family back in Europe). We have started discussing what we want to do this Summer which has been great fun. We are already planning a few fun things to do with the kids in June once I am done with chemo which really is a pleasant change in dinner time conversation from some of the other daily issues we have been dealing with the past six months.

Oh and completely off topic, hopefully Arsenal will beat Liverpool later today in the Champions League which will definitely raise my spirits! The match is being shown live on TV here so I'll probably record it and watch it after work tonight (apologies to any Liverpool fans I just offended but I have been a mad keen Arsenal supporter since I was about five years old).

So with that, I'll close this somewhat more philosophical than usual posting.

 I'll post again soon, probably after I talk to the oncologist again on Monday if not before.

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March 27th 2008

End of round nine

Yesterday marked the end of my ninth chemotherapy cycle. So that's nine down and three to go. My last one will be the week of May 5th so not so far off now. The side effects (mostly the fatigue and some annoying bouts of nausea) have hit me quicker than usual this time so I'll keep this update brief. Hopefully this means I'll be more with it by the weekend when both of my kids have soccer games that I very much want to be at. I am both excited and anxious to see the chemo treatments getting close to done. On the one hand I will be glad to be rid of the side effects but on the other, seeing my oncologist on a weekly basis and having him re-assure me that things are going well has, to some extent, become my safety blanket and I think it will take some getting used to being off the treatments once we reach that point. Of course, having said that I'll be going in for regular monitoring so I guess I'll get enough interaction to keep my spirits up. I really love the oncology team I am working with they really are a great bunch of people and they are so up beat that it definitely rubs off on me and as far as I can tell the other patients as well.

I'll post more updates soon, once the "chemo fog" clears again.

I continue to be very grateful for all of the e-mails and messages in the guest book and the messages I have been getting on Facebook. You guys out there have done more than you probably realize to help keep my spirits up. As always, a very big Thank You!

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March 24th 2008

Chemo round nine

Today I started round nine of the chemo treatments and I also got some good news on the blood work front. While my platelets are still on a bit of a roller coaster ride, my haemoglobin level is up to 13.1. This is the highest it has been since I was diagnosed back in October 2007 and the level was down to a frighteningly low value of eight. For an adult male "normal" is considered to be between fourteen and seventeen so I am tantalizingly close to the normal range now. Because of this, my medical team are suspending the weekly iron shots and are going to let me fend for myself for a while to see if my blood levels continue to hold their own without help. I'll still be getting the chemo meds as normal but I won't have to go in on the "off weeks" for iron, unless of course the numbers start going in the wrong direction again. I was hoping to post this from the oncologists today but for some reason their network was not able to connect to the internet at all today so I am posting from home instead with day one of round nine now behind me (except of course for my little IV pump full of 5FU that goes everywhere I go for the next two days! It seems a bit hard to believe but after this week I only have three chemo treatments left.  My last scheduled chemo visit is the week of May 5th. If all goes well I should have chemo behind me before the kids break for the Summer in mid to late May.

On Saturday Robyn took the first part of her Tae Kwon Do black belt test (called a mid-term) and we believe she passed. She will take the final part of her test either in May or August depending on the scheduling. We are very proud of her as this is a non trivial achievement.

This weekend the weather here was wonderful and it looks set to stay that way all through this week. We have clear blue skies and temperatures are forecast to be in the  60's today and up to the eighties by the end of the week. Spring is a wonderful time of year here (except for the days when the super cell storms come through!). We had no soccer matches this week as we were all off for the Easter break but both kids have practices and games this coming week so I am going to be quite busy in the evenings and on Saturday with that.

I had promised to post some of the San Antonio photos here. I haven't yet had the time to work on doing that but here at least is a photo of the Alamo. Please ignore the man pushing a trash can. I took this photo in a hurry while my son was having a melt down and did not have a lot of time to think about perfect composition !!

The Alamo, San Antonio
The Alamo, San Antonio, March 2008.

I am feeling very tired today so I'll keep this post brief and aim to post again soon as the week progresses. I hope everyone has a great week.

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March 17th 2008

Spring Break in San Antonio plus the end of round eight

Chemo round eight officially ended last Wednesday (March 12th) around 1pm. After that we rounded up the kids, loaded the car and set off for San Antonio for the remaining few days of the week. We knew we were taking a bit of a gamble not knowing what kind of shape I would be in from the chemo the days before but thankfully the main side effects held off until we were back home a few days later and did nothing to spoil our trip. From our house, it's less than 100 miles to San Antonio and we probably do not make the effort to visit often enough as there is a lot to do there. Most people think of the Alamo when they think of San Antonio but that is just one of the many fun things available to go and visit. For this trip, our main reason for going was that we had tickets for travelling performance of "Saltimbanco" by Cirque Du Soleil  at the AT&T Center on Thursday night. We decided it would be more fun however, to get a hotel and turn the trip into a mini-vacation. We got to our hotel (the Doubletree Suites) around 6pm and after enjoying the free snack buffet the hotel provides each night we went for a very pleasant stroll along the River Walk to get some fresh air and to explore some of the local shops along the way. This hotel, by the way was perfect for a family with kids. Each room has a separate living area with kitchen and a very respectable breakfast as well as the sizeable happy hour buffet are included in the room rate. There is also a very small pool on the roof but our kids still managed to have fun splashing about in it a couple of times during our brief stay. On Thursday moring we got up early, had breakfast and walked along the river to the IMAX theater where we all enjoyed "Dinosaurs of Patagonia" in 3D. After that we had lunch at the River Center Mall and took a guided tour boat ride around the river. It's very "touristy" but still fun. If you have never been to San Antonio, the River Walk is great. Whether you circumnavigate it on foot, by tour boat or by river taxi, there is no end of historical sights and restaurants to enjoy along the way. After the tour we walked back above ground rather than along the river (which is actually set down below street level) so that I could take a few photos of the Alamo. Although I have been back several times since, The last time I had been to the Alamo with a camera was in 1989 when I was still carrying my trusty old Canon 35mm SLR. I wanted to get a few digital shots this time. I only had time to snap a few though, as by this time, given the very warm Spring weather, my six year old son Jack was both literally and figuratively melting! We finally got back to the hotel and rested for a few hours (the kids took the chance to visit the pool again) before heading off to find the AT&T Center in time for "Cirque". We had been to Cirque Du Soleil once before, in Orlando and thoroughly enjoyed it. That time we had seen the La Nouba show which has the advantage of being on a permanent stage and feels considerably larger in scale than this show. However, Saltimbanco was still very good and well worth seeing.

On Friday morning we got up and packed, had breakfast and set off for the San Antonio Zoo. However, on arriving at the Zoo we realized this had been a bad idea. All of the parking lots were full and even though the San Antonio Spring Break is the week after ours, we could see that the Zoo was packed full of school parties getting off to an early start on their Spring Break plans. In the end we did not even try to park, we just got back on the freeway and started to head home. Our daughter, Robyn, was not at all pleased by this turn of events as she had really been wanting to see some animals. Clearly we needed a plan B. Luckily my wife knew of a wildlife park near New Braunfels called the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. The park is just  a few miles west of I35 and more importantly right on our way home. We had seen the signs by the side of the road before but never been there so we decided to give it a go. It turned out to be a great idea. The park was not that busy and the main attraction is a "drive in your own car" safari tour. The highlight for all of us was when a group of Zebra came up to the car and stuck their heads in and let us feed them some of the animal food we had been given as we entered the park. Despite the warning signs about not hand feeding the animals both by the roadside and in the guidebook, the animals are clearly used to cars and people and expect to get fed! We saw several animals walk up to a car, wait to get fed and then on realizing the car had no food walk on in disgust to the next car. OK so it wasn't quite the full African experience but it was a lot of fun. That said, we decided not to try hand feeding the osteriches as they all just looked too cranky to take the chance!  While in New Braunfels, we also took the opportunity to enjoy a really nice lunch at the famous New Braunfels Smokehouse - the food is great and if you are ever passing through I recommend it for a lunch or dinner stop. They focus on barbecue but they also serve salads and other lighter fare.

We arrived home around 5pm on Friday afternoon, by which time the crazy Texas Spring weather was up to 97 degrees Fahrenheit!  Weather wise we have been on a real roller coaster ride (as is normal for the time of year) with high temperatures ranging from the mid sixties all the way up to almost 100 degrees. Today as I type this it's in the eighties outside but very cloudy and we are under a severe weather watch with the chance of both hail and tornadoes before the end of Tuesday - such is life in Texas during the Spring time. A few years back we lost our roof to a Spring time hail storm so you learn rapidly down here to take these weather notices seriously.

On Saturday the "chemo fog" finally caught up with me, and today (Monday) I am still struggling to shake it off.  Consequently, I stayed at home to rest on Saturday while Lorna and Robyn got up really early to go to a 3 v 3 soccer tournament. They came home tired and sunburned but as best as I can tell they had a good time despite by all accounts having had to play some very tough teams in the competition. Sunday was another rest day for me although I forced myself to go and play soccer during the afternoon just to get myself out of the house. Suffice to say my reactions were not that sharp and I mostly stood in the goal without too much to do but it was nice to get out for a bit.

Today I was back at the oncologist for my iron shot and other (non chemo) meds but at least I have a few days now before round nine gets underway next week. Sadly two of the meds make you sleepy - just what I needed !!

That's all the news for now. I took a lot of photos during our brief trip to San Antonio. I'll try and post a few over the next few days, but I need to do a little cropping and Photo Shop-ing first!

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March 10th 2008

Chemo round eight and the start of Spring Break

Today is the first day of Spring Break here in the Austin area so naturally the weather is lousy. We awoke to thunderstorms and driving rain, and given we started Daylight Savings Time (DST) this past weekend (earlier than in the past under the new rules that recently went into effect), it was still almost dark outside at 8am this morning! Getting the kids out of bed was a real challenge, but we had to wake them up as they start a three day Karate Camp today. At least that will give them a chance to have some fun indoors out of the rain and away from the TV and video games - works for me!

On the topic of DST, for the benefit of my friends and family in the UK, given that your clocks do not go forward until the end of March, I am now one hour closer to your time for a couple of weeks. So, for example, 12pm (midday) here is currently 5pm in the UK where it is normally 6pm for most of the year.

As well as getting the kids up early, I also had to leave the house at the same time as round eight of my chemo treatments starts today - again what a great way to Start Spring break! I am currently sitting in one of the comfy reclining chairs at the oncologist's office as I type this (which is no mean feat I might add given all the meds they pumped into me a few minutes ago that have made me very dopey). They tested my blood an hour ago and I just got the results. Thankfully my platelet count has gone up again and there is no need to adjust my treatment plan at the present time. I am very happy about this. I'm into a routine now and as a creature of habit I am hoping I can stay on my routine until May when my chemo treatments end.

I'm looking forward to Wednesday when this round ends. I am taking the rest of the week off so that I can spend some quality play time with the family.

I'll post again soon as I get through this round. Only four more to go after this one!!!

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March 7th 2008

Miscellaneous updates

It's hard to believe that it's already March. We have had a very mild winter here in Central Texas. We did not have a single "ice day" this year so far. The temperatures the last few days have been all over the map which is fairly typical for early Spring here. On Wednesday when I went to pick my daughter up from school I wore shorts as it was right around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I really like living here! Yesterday it actually rained a lot and today has been cooler but all in all the weather remains, for the most part very mild. Yesterday I was speaking to a colleague who lives in Toronto and he was moaning about "yet another snow day" so I guess for large parts of the US and Canada it's not quite Spring yet! Today a cold front blew through and it was somewhat cooler even here but it is supposed to be back into the 70's again over the weekend which is good as both of the kids have soccer games on Saturday and I have a game on Sunday. Next week is Spring Break here. For my friends and family in the UK it's basically the same concept as half term. The kids are off all week and I am going to take part of the week off once I get done with round eight of chemo which is on Monday, Tuesday and a small part of Wednesday.

I have been trying to keep up with my reading as it really does help me relax and thankfully my eyesight seems to have improved a bit in the last couple of weeks from where the FOLFOX cocktail had taken it to during the first several weeks of chemo. This week I finished another of the Harry Turtledove books in the Colonization series. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately started reading the next one which is in fact the last in this set of three (although it's really book seven in a series of eight related books). I am grateful to my friend Roger who introduced me to this author and I have really enjoyed every book in the series. The books are science fiction in nature but take place in an alternate view of history where an alien race invades the earth right in the middle of the Second World War and the various human nations have to put their differences aside to confront the high tech invaders. If that concept for a story line appeals and you have not read any of the Harry Turtledove books then I highly recommend these.

Some of you may have noticed that the Guest Book has changed. My web hosting company recently upgraded their server software and replaced the guest book tool with a different one. I have had a few people tell me that they have had trouble posting to the new guest book but as far as I know it is working  correctly. I am a bit nervous however, as since I switched over no one (except my wife and I who were testing it) has posted. If you feel the urge I would appreciate a few of you posting to let me know it is actually working correctly. All of the old messages are still available in an archive that I have created and provided a link to on the main Guest Book page.

While speaking about hearing from people, I would like to mention that I have been contacted by several people who found my web site while doing web searches for information on colon cancer treatment. I am both humbled and pleased that these people have contacted me and also hopefully found some of the information I have been posting useful. As I have mentioned before here, one of my goals when I decided to be very open about my diagnosis and ongoing treatment was to provide some relevant information and perhaps also a little hope and encouragement to others that find themselves in a similar place to me. I am glad that people have found this site and I am grateful that it has proven useful for them to be able to compare notes with me. To all of you who have contacted me, we're in this together, try to stay positive, the treatment for colon cancer these days has come a long way even in the last ten years or so. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Keep up the fight!

On the sports watching front this has been a mixed week for the teams I follow. I was really happy to see Arsenal beat AC Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday but I am not quite so happy with the way the England cricket team is performing in New Zealand this week. Still you can't have everything as they say.

For my Mac owning friends who ping me regularly to ask about the (still fairly new for me) Mac Book Pro - it's official - I'm in love. This week I did not even open up my Windows laptop once. I was able to do all of the things required by my job as well as a bunch of personal projects during the evenings solely on the Mac. I have only found one program so far (Quicken) for which the Mac native version will not work for me. This is because for reasons I do not understand, the makers of Quicken decided that the file formats used by the Windows version of Quicken and the Mac version would not be 100% compatible. As I like to share my files between my machines (for backup purposes as well as pure convenience) I decided to try installing the VMware Fusion product this week that lets me run Windows applications on the Mac. So far, after two days of using it, I have to say that this seems like the perfect solution. I do 90% of the things I need to do using native Mac applications and  then run Quicken using Fusion when I need to. As one of my good friends commented after I had been saying how much I was enjoying using the Mac - "I told you so". For the technically minded, I installed Windows XP Service Pack 2 in the VM and so far it seems to work just fine. So now I have the best of both Worlds as far as I am concerned with Mac applications and Windows ones running side by side on the same desktop without me ever needing to re-boot the Mac to switch to Windows or go to another machine to run the Windows applications that I need to run. I guess you can sign me up for the Mac fan club at this point. I really do like this machine a lot.

So anyway, that's about it for now. I'm looking forward to another busy weekend with lots of time hopefully being spent outdoors. Chemo round eight starts on Monday but at least next week is Spring Break as I mentioned and I have a few days off with the family to look forward to at the end of the week.

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February 27th 2008

End of round seven

I just got back from the oncologist having been unplugged from my portable pump which marks the end of round seven. Only five more rounds to go - yay! Apart from the setback on my platelet count (that I described in my prior posting) I'm feeling pretty good overall. Later today I get to go and coach my son's soccer team and tomorrow I get to go and help couch my daughter's team. Both teams have their first games this coming weekend. Hopefully the fatigue will hold off enough to enable me to actively take part in and enjoy all of these activities as the weather here continues to be fabulous. Mostly blue skies and temperatures during the day that have ranged from the high 80's F a few days ago to the mid sixties today. Right now it's about 66 degrees and just about perfect weather for being outside and running around with the boys (which I shall be doing around 5pm today).

Several of you have written to me asking how I am liking my Mac Book Pro now that I have had it for a couple of months or so. In short I love it. It is by far the most reliable computer that I have ever owned. I still use my trusty IBM Thinkpad during the work day to get some work specific things done but even most of those I could do on the Mac now that I have the appropriate software installed. In the evenings when I tend to try and find time to work on more personal things like surf the web, my non work e-mail  or working on the web page I have been using the Mac almost exclusively for those tasks. I just installed the Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5.2) upgrade and it seems to be working well. I particularly like the new Time Machine enhancements.

As a side note, my web hosting company just upgraded all of their server side software. As far as I can tell the migration has gone without a hitch but please do let me know if you see any unexpected behaviour from the web site over the next few weeks.

That's about it for right now then. More updates to follow soon and as always thanks for the continued messages of support. Although as far as I can tell things are going pretty well this remains a very nervous time for me and all of the e-mails, calls and messages in the Guest Book really do help me a lot keep my spirits up.

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February 25th 2008

Chemo round seven

It's 10:41am here in sunny Round Rock Texas as I type this. I am currently in my chair at the oncologists office commencing round 7 of  the planned 12 chemo treatments. I just finished all of the regular blood tests that they do at the start of each cycle and they have now started pumping the prep meds into me before they serve the "main course". A couple of the meds make me very drowsy so I hope that this posting stays somewhat coherent!

Today for the first time since we started working with the oncologist my blood test results are heading in the wrong direction. This is another side effect of the FOLFOX cocktail that they have me on.. My bone marrow is not keeping up with production needs and consequently my platelet count is significantly down. My haemoglobin level is slightly down. While these side effects are often to be expected and are a common occurrence with chemotherapy patients, it is still a bit depressing to have any kind of setback. If my platelet levels get much lower they may have to suspend treatments until they rise again. Among other things, platelets help the blood congeal (clot) and stop bleeding from occurring. If my count drops much lower I will be told to suspend all of my physical activities that involve any chance of me getting cut - this would mean no more soccer for a while and would be really depressing. I have really started to look forward to my weekly Sunday soccer match now that I am back into the routine and that my body seems to have enough stamina to get through a game OK. I played again yesterday in fact and felt more alert than I had the week before - which is good given I am the goalie!

In other news ......the Girl Scouts cookie drive which has been running for the last five weeks finally came to a close yesterday. I think Robyn has sold something in the region of 500 boxes of cookies so I think she has more than done her part for the cause! It will be nice to see more of both Robyn and Lorna again now that they won't be rushing off all the time to man a cookie booth.

That's about if for now, and given the meds really are making me sleepy I'll close this posting. 

As a footnote, you may have noticed that a few days ago I archived all of the remaining 2007 entries from this page. They are all still available in the archive.

Happy Monday everybody!

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February 18th 2008

No Jack that is not how you make a wireless mouse!

This weekend I heard my wife call from the other room to see if I could figure out what was wrong with the mouse on the new computer (it turns out she already knew what was wrong but wanted me to see first hand!). My six year old son had been sitting by the computer and had found a pair of scissors lying nearby and for reasons known only to him had decided he wanted to turn the corded mouse into a wireless mouse. When I got there I found, to admittedly a mix of horror and, yes, amusement, that he had cut the mouse completely off it's cord using the aforementioned scissors! For those who may be wondering this does not turn a corded mouse into a wireless mouse - so don't bother trying it! Note to self, do not leave Jack and scissors alone EVER ! I went off to the local Wal-Mart and bought the cheapest replacement mouse I could find and he has promised never to do it again (of course he actually swears it was an accident and not on purpose this last time!).

On Friday evening the kids were invited to an indoor skating party so I broke the roller blades out of retirement and decided to have a go too. When I lived in Florida I was a mad keen in-line skater but since moving to Texas (which is not flat like Florida) I have not skated so much. That said it all came back to me pretty quickly and while I didn't push myself very hard it was fun to skate with the kids and also to find another way to start getting a bit more exercise. Meanwhile, the weather here this weekend was a real mixed bag. A front came through on Saturday and it rained and stormed all day. Meanwhile, on Sunday it was a gorgeous blue-sky day with temperatures right around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This is not unusual for this part of Texas as we get close to Spring. Luckily, both Robyn and I got to play our soccer games as hers was indoors on Saturday and mine was outdoors on Sunday. I played in goal this weekend (my usual position). My family came to watch which was great and the kids had fun playing outside and burring off some steam. I could tell I was a little timid in goal, my wife told me she could see a difference too (those who know me might find that hard to believe as after all you do have to be a little crazy to play in goal as they say). Hopefully as I get a few more matches under my belt both my confidence and my energy level will return. Despite my feeling a little sub-par my team won handily as we have an extremely good set of on-field players in front of me this season - thanks guys for carrying me!

On Saturday morning I went over to some other English friends for a wonderful, full English, cooked breakfast to watch the Man Utd. vs Arsenal FA cup match live on the BBC. I am ashamed of the way my Arsenal approached the match and the 4-0 thrashing they endured was no more than they deserved for the "we don't care" way they seemed to approach the game. It seems that with all of the money tied up these days in the Champions League and the Premiership that a lot of clubs are not taking the FA Cup seriously. This really breaks my heart, as when I was a boy growing up, the FA Cup was the competition everyone wanted to win and I used to love getting up early every year to watch all of the festivities leading up to the FA Cup final, played each year at Wembley Stadium in May. As far as I can tell the FA Cup has lost its magic and a whole generation has grown up since I left the UK not able to enjoy the passion and excitement that we all  felt watching the matches - if this is progress you can keep it!

On Sunday evening we went to one of my Sister's-in-law for dinner and they surprised me by throwing a little "half way through chemo" party - which included my own personal and extremely delicious carot cake. This was really nice of them and it did help lift my spirits which have been down a little lately purely because the fatigue seems to be getting more prolonged each week. To be fair, the oncologist had warned me that this was likely.

This week is going to be busy both at work and in the evenings after work. Both my son and daughter have their first practices of the new outdoor soccer season and as coach of Jack's team and co-coach of Robyn's I am going to be busy. The good news is that this weekend sees the end of the Girl Scout cookie selling season so I will be seeing a lot more of my wife and daughter!

Today is President's Day here in the U.S.A and while I am not off work a lot of people are. My e-mail in-box has been noticeably quiter than average today and I am ok with that.

So that's about all the news for now, wherever you are reading this I hope you have a safe and pleasant week.

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February 13th 2008

End of round six

I just got back from the oncologist again which marks the end of round six. So I am halfway there! May 5th still seems like a long way off but at least it's downhill to the finish line from here on. The fatigue has already started to hit me but other than that this round seems to be progressing much like all those that have gone before. I don't have much other news today so I'll keep this posting brief. Thanks as always for all the messages of support in the Guest Book and elsewhere that I keep receiving and very much appreciate.

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February 11th 2008

Chemo round six

The weather in Texas this weekend was truly beautiful. While much of the country is still fully in the grips of some severe Winter weather, we were able to enjoy clear blue skies, cool breezes and temperatures in the mid 70's Fahrenheit. On Sunday I played soccer again. This time for my outdoor 7-a-side team. It was a great day to be outdoors and I came through the game fine (albeit still lacking in stamina). I feel a lot better for having had some exercise and also having spent some time "with the guys" again. The kids soccer teams (both of which I help coach) will also both be starting up again for the Spring season in another week from now.  So I am going to be busy weather permitting. It gets really hot here in the Summer but I don't mind that and I love how moderate the Winter weather generally is which allows us to start doing a lot of outdoor activities quite early in the year. We have not even had the usual ice storm or two this Winter, which, admitedly is unusual. The forecast shows that we will have a lot of days of 70 degrees or higher over the next ten days. So it would seem that Winter may be winding down already for those of us that live in this part of the World.

Today, I am back at the oncologist to begin chemotherapy round six of my twelve planned rounds. So by the end of this week we will be half way there - yippee !! 

I'll keep this posting short as the meds they just gave me are making me sleepy!

Happy Monday everyone

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February 4th 2008

FOLFOX (Chemotherapy) side effects

One of  the reasons I decided to be very open about my colon cancer diagnosis and treatment plan here on this site (starting with the October 10th posting) was of course to keep my many friends and relatives around the World updated as to my progress and in return I have been extremely grateful with all of the support and encouragement I have received. However, I had a secondary goal ,which was to share with others who may be faced with a similar diagnosis some of my own personal experiences and perhaps in some small way to help them also by allowing them to compare their notes with mine. I was looking at the statistics that my web hosting company keeps for me this weekend and noticed that a lot of the traffic coming to this site is as a result of people doing cancer treatment related Google searches. In particular I seem to have a lot of people looking for others sharing insight into the side effects of the FOLFOX chemotherapy. With the caveat up front that all chemotherapy treatments are tailored to the individual patient and that the medicines used vary depending upon the type of cancer being treated I decided I would make a dedicated posting here discussing the side effects that I am experiencing now that I have been on the FOLFOX regimen for 5 cycles (of a planned, 12 cycle, one week on, one week off, program). I described the specific medicines that I am receiving in the January 2nd entry so I will not repeat that here.

Every time I visit the oncologist, which for me is at least once a week, they run down a list of possible side effects and ask me if I am getting any of them. I decided I would try and replicate that list here and share my current view of which ones I am seeing and which I am not (there's not a lot to be squeamish about here but if medical stuff is not your cup of tea, skip to the last paragraph of this entry now).

UPDATE: I updated this entry on January 5th 2008 as I realized I had left fatigue, probably my biggest symptom, out of the original list below:

About two or three days after each chemo cycle I get hit with fairly severe fatigue that usually lasts about two or three days. So, as I typically do my chemo on Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday I usually find myself getting very tired by mid afternoon of each of the following few days. Usually by the Sunday I am back to normal again. The only way I know to deal with it is take a sleeping tablet or a Xanax as needed and go to bed and sleep it off. I rarely make it past 7pm before "crashing" on these days.
Hair loss With this chemo there is not supposed to be much hair loss if any. I am maybe seeing minimal thinning of my head hair but basically I am not experiencing any hair loss so far and in fact I need a haircut right now.
I have had minimal nausea. The worst was the first week. I have not even come close to vomiting.I have two different prescriptions for nausea but I don't find myself needing to use them too often and then only the weaker of the two.
This one I am experiencing. Sometimes it can get pretty rough but there are medicines like Limotil that can be prescribed (as was done for me) that really help. I also find eating lots of yogurt really helps too.
Apparently the meds can cause a hardening of the cornea which can effect eyesight. Even with my new glasses, in less than very bright light, I am noticing some problems reading books for more than a few pages at a time.
I have not experienced any bruising but I do notice that on a few days right after chemo treatments that some parts of my body, often large muscles, are a bit more tender than normal if I bump into things.
Heartburn has been fairly common. Generally I find a few "Tums" or equivalent antacid tablets take care of it.
Sensitivity to cold
This one was the biggest surprise. One of the three medicines, the  Oxaliplatin,  effects the nervous system and has had a lot of odd side effects. The good news is that this drug is credited with a lot of the recent successes in treating colon cancer and also it's worse effects wear off a few days after each chemo cycle. Fundamentally it makes me incredibly sensitive to cold. Both food and drink and also to things that I touch  I learned early on to only drink warm (or at least room temperature) drinks for the first few days of each cycle. Drinking cold liquid leaves me feeling as if my throat were swollen - trust me on this one, it's a very odd feeling. I also find it hard to hold on to anything cold (say a pot of ice cream from the freezer) and I never put my hands into cold water.The oxaliplatin also causes my jaw muscles to hurt (quite severely) from time to time a lot like I imagine TMJ pain would be.
Mouth sores
They always ask me about this one but so far I have only had one and I am not convinced the chemo caused it (I think I may have burned my mouth on hot food). Either way their are good meds to nip this one in the bud if you experience them.
Rashes and/or breaking out
From time to time I have experienced something like being a teenager again in terms of my skin but generally it has not been that bad and it seems to always clear itself up pretty fast.
I have had no abnormal bleeding thus far.
From time to time I have experienced some shaking in my hands but as I type this I am actually back to normal again - it seems to come and go.
I have not experienced any unusual pain that could be attributed to the chemo.

So there you have it. That's my summary of what five cycles of FOLFOX has done to me. I hope those of you that got here by way of a Google search found this useful. If things change over the next seven rounds I will post an updated version of this table.

As always thanks to everyone for their support and especially for all of the birthday wishes I received over the past few days. I had a very nice birthday on Friday. The Wife and kids took me out with some good friends to the local Tokyo Steak house and a good time was had by all. On Saturday I was pretty tired but my energy came back in time to enjoy the Superbowl on Sunday.

Finally, if you are reading this as a fellow patient I wish you all the best towards a cure.

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January 31st 2008

End of round five

Five down, seven to go. Thankfully so far this round the side effects have been a lot less. Maybe I am adjusting finally or maybe I am just lucky this go around. Either way I am not complaining. Tomorrow is my birthday as I mentioned in my prior post. Maybe I'll get to celebrate on the actual day after all!  I'm looking forward to the weekend, especially the Superbowl of course and my usual fix of soccer from the UK. I managed to catch the Arsenal vs Newcastle match on TV here earlier this week, now if only Man Utd. would lose a couple of matches life would be almost perfect on the soccer front!  It's Girl Scout Cookie season here in Texas for the next few weeks which means Robyn and Lorna have been off sitting outside various stores and other venues trying to sell cookies to the passers buy to raise funds for their troop. The weather here has been a real mixed bag lately with temperatures all over the map (70's F one day 30's the next) so I really feel for them sitting out there trying to sell the cookies. At least I think when people see a bunch of cute girl scouts out in the freezing cold they make a few sympathy purchases. Meanwhile I think Jack and I have the better end of the deal. We sit at home and play video games or watch TV while the ladies are off freezing!

I don't have a lot of other news to share today other than I am trying to work a full day today which is keeping me busy so I'll keep this update brief.

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January 27th 2008

Chemo round five

I would be lying if I said I was not dreading the coming week to some degree. I have really enjoyed how "normal" and productive I have been the last several days (the effects of round four having worn off). I have likewise started to hate the way I feel during the chemo weeks. However, as my daughter reminded me this evening, it's for a good reason. Talking of my daughter, today I really enjoyed coaching her indoor soccer team. All six girls played their socks off and we  came out on top 8 - 5 in a very exciting match.

Tomorrow (Monday) chemo round five begins. If the last round is anything to go by, it will probably Saturday or Sunday before the effects ware off. The really sad part is that this coming Friday is my birthday and I don't think I'll be up to much celebrating. I promised the kids we'd go out for a fun dinner but just a few days late. They seem OK with that. At least I should be able to enjoy the Superbowl on Sunday.

Anyway, life goes on and I'll just have to tough it out again this go around as I have done in the prior four. The good news is that we are getting close to halfway through the planned twelve rounds.  As I have said many times before, I really appreciate that so many of you are keeping in touch by IM, e-mail, phone or the Guest Book to offer support. It really does help and I really appreciate it.

I'll post again soon.

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January 24th 2008

A productive "off week"

This week is an "off" week for me, meaning no chemo treatments, my head is clear, my energy level is high and as a result I always try and get a lot done. I have caught up well on the work front this week, in fact I have my business in-box down to just seven e-mails still requiring my attention. I have also been trying to work through my to-do list at home (which has been growing longer and longer lately as I only have so many days a month when I actually feel like trying to shorten it). One of the focus items this week has been dead light bulbs. I cannot believe how many light bulbs seem to need replacing (I think it's a conspiracy but I haven't figured out how they are doing it yet, but when one goes, boy the others seem to love to go too!). I have also been spending some time doing some much needed software upgrades to the (way too many) computers we have scattered about the house. Sadly, the new Vista PC we bought the kids for Christmas continues to cause me grief. It has crashed more times than I can remember since we first set it up on Christmas Day and even basic tasks like copying files over my network have caused it to hang up so hard that I need to hit the power switch to recover. This week I decided to install my version of Quicken 2005 on it (big mistake). After two hours and many Google searches I finally found the magic spells needed to get it working but boy oh boy what an ugly experience that was. I think it's finally time to just take that machine back to XP for a while - at least that way the kids can play their games, which is, after all, why I bought the thing in the first place. Worse yet, my new toy (the Mac Book Pro) had its first fatal crash this week. Nasty one too. For the technologically curious it took a Kernel exception, crashed hard and after rebooting phoned home to tell Apple all about its problems. I'm not sure what caused the crash either. I had left the machine unplugged from the power and in sleep mode on the coffee table (but I know the battery was almost full). Before opening the lid I plugged it in to the power and the minute I did that it woke up all by itself, spun up it's disk, displayed the password prompt and before I could do anything crashed. Odd indeed. I'm actually wondering if I had a power spike. From now on I will plug the power cord into the wall with the other end of the cable disconnected from the Mac and then connect the power cable to the Mac just to be safe. Up to this point, I was starting to think I finally had a machine that never crashed. Oh well, I have used it a lot and have not rebooted it much so maybe I was asking for it but I guess we'll see if this was a fluke or an indication of some other problem over time. Overall I am still more than happy with the Mac.

My other big news this week is that, for the first time since September last year, on Tuesday night, I played soccer. Now I don't want people to get excited thinking I am pushing myself too hard and I certainly took it very easy first time out. I asked my doctor if it would be OK to try and in fact he supported the idea saying some increased activity would be good for me and he re-assured me that my chemo port was unbreakable (now that sounds like a challenge if ever I heard one!). So this week I decided to have a go at playing for one of the three teams I belong to. This particular one is a co-ed team that plays in a very friendly (read not overly competitive but fun) 6-a-side indoor league. The matches are 40 minutes long divided into two 20 minute halves. It's a fast moving format but players can sub in and out at any time. Over the course of the whole match I doubt if I played for more than a total of 15 minutes but it was great to "have a go". My stamina was very low but at least this time it's as much due to lack of fitness than it is oxygen in the blood. My oncologist did warn me that I will still be lacking for energy for quite some time and he was right but I really enjoyed seeing my teammates again and doing something a little more energetic than walking. To be honest, if you had told me back in October that I would be able to play ever again, yet alone in mid-January, I am not sure I would have believed you. So, while I did not contribute very much to the team and I am certainly not going to push myself too hard, I at least feel like a very important part of my life (playing sport) is coming back to me and for that I am extremely grateful. Now if only my energy level would come back enough to give me the confidence to go and tidy up the disaster area that is our garage. Oh well, baby steps!!

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January 20th 2008

End of round four

It seems each round has taken a little more out of me than the prior one. Today (Sunday) my head finally feels clear and the fatigue that seems to start almost immediately the chemo cycle starts has finally left me again - what a relief. I should now get a few days where I feel as close to normal as normal gets at present. On Friday I went into the office for the first time since before my surgery back in October. Several of my colleagues were in town for a meeting and I was really keen to see everyone. I have to say that making it through the day was a struggle for me but it was great to see everyone. Yesterday (Saturday) I managed to struggle through watching my daughter's indoor soccer game but I was very grateful that some of the other parents were on hand to coach the team as I was just not up to it this week. By 7pm I was worn out and collapsed into bed. This morning, thankfully I woke up feeling a lot better. Hopefully, then, this coming week will be a better one and I will be able to get a lot done both at work and at home before the next round starts on January 28th.  Today I am having a lazy, domestic day. I got some housework done and paid the bills this morning while watching the English Premier League (Man City vs West Ham) on TV. This afternoon I am "vegging" on the couch watching the NFL playoffs and trying to get some reading done. The latter is still a big challenge for me as the chemo has very much affected my eyesight as I have mentioned before. My oncologist assures me this is a temporary state resulting from a hardening of the cornea caused my the chemo meds. Lorna and Robyn are off selling Girl Scout Cookies (yes it's that time of year again!). Jack is off being Jack (which right now means he is locked in combat with Mario, Luigi and other of his best Game Cube friends).  So other than that, it's pretty quiet around here, which is fine by me.  I hope you are all having an enjoyable weekend.

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January 14th 2008

Chemo round four

Due to the fact that my last round only ended on January 4th (because of  the New Year's day holiday) I have had a few less days to recover than normal between rounds. Suffice to say, I felt pretty good this weekend and was really not looking forward to going in this morning knowing that the side effects would all start coming back by this evening (which they indeed have as I type this). My visit today began at 11:15am and after the usual vital signs and weight checks we spent about 30 minutes talking with the Oncologist to take stock of where we are now that we are almost a third of the way into the treatment program. He is basically very happy with my progress. My haemoglobin count continues to rise and is now teasingly close to the normal range. Lorna came with me today and she asked more questions than I did (I tend to not like questions as they usually result in answers - and answers can be either good or bad!). Today the answers were all very good. We discussed a lot of statistics and probabilities and the like but the bottom line is that right now I am doing about as well as can be expected and no one can predict the future but the treatment is giving me the best possible chance of having one! I also learned a lot about microscopic cancer cells and the difference in resolution between a CT scan and a PET scan. If you are interested in more details of that I'll leave it as a Google exercise. My treatment ended around 3L:15pm but they were kind enough to let me hang out there for another couple of hours so I could finish my e-mail and wait for Lorna (who left mid afternoon) to return and pick me up. I don't like driving on chemo day one in particular as some of the meds they pump into me make me quite dopey (yes, more so than usual!).  So anyway, here I am again, 9:23pm, just me and my portable chemo pump blogging away together as we get into round four.

The oncologist was packed today. In fact, when I arrived, I got the last remaining empty chair, which as luck would have it was at the far end of the room in a quiet corner. This was handy as for the first time I had planned to do some work phone calls from there today (with a headset and a quiet voice of course - I cannot stand overhearing people yelling to their colleagues on cell phones in planes and such places so when I absolutely have to take a call in public I always try and be as unobtrusive as possible). So basically I worked a full day today, in fact I have reached the point where I can pretty much ignore everything going on around me and to me and just work (or sometimes play) during the visits and I find that helps the time pass a lot faster. 

So tomorrow I go back for day two of this round. I need to get there before the pump runs out which should be around 1:15pm (it needs to run for 22 hours before they can start their next drug set). The day two visits hopefully end up being about three hours. Hopefully tomorrow will keep to that pattern.

As a side note I have heard from three people who went to have colonoscopies done having read my blog here and in each case the doctor found treatable pre-cncerous polyps. So if nothing else, by being fairly open about what happened to me I have in some small way helped influence the lives of a few others in a positive way. For that I am very grateful. Once again we see the power of the Web when used sensibly.

Depending on the side effects, I'll try and post again tomorrow, but if it's like last round, I may be off the air for a day or too. Right now I am going to go and watch the second episode of the new Terminator series on TV ("The Sarah Conner Chronicles") which the DVR hopefully recorded earlier. Episode one was yesterday and I really enjoyed it. A much better sequel than the recent attempt at resurrecting the Bionic Woman in my humble opinion.

So that's the update for now. As always thanks for all the support in the Guest Book and elsewhere. Despite the fact that things (touch wood) seem to be going well for now I still really appreciate all of the support at what remains a very nervous time for us.

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January 11th 2008

Friday update

This has been a busy week work wise but with the kids back at school (and the house quiet) I have managed to get a lot done. These days I work predominantly from home (and a lot of that time it seems I spend on the phone) but next week I am actually planning to go in to the "real" office for a couple of days towards the end of the week. This will be the first time back in the office since before my surgery so it will be great to see a lot of my friends and colleagues "in the flesh" again. Before that I have to get through chemo round four which starts on Monday at 11:15am. As of course is always the case (or so it seems) I am finally feeling "normal" again just in time to get my next "cocktail" dose on Monday!

While talking of work, I have also started posting to the work blog again finally after many months of almost total silence. I tend to post  items on the work blog that are more technical in nature and discuss things I am doing on the work front. Consequently those entries are not of as much interest to everyone that comes here to this site. If you do check out the work blog you will notice I have been experimenting with Facebook quite a bit. Thank you everyone that sent me friendship invites recently during my post-surgery recovery period. I think I have now accepted them all and have started sending out additional requests of my own.

I'm continuing to really enjoy the Mac Book Pro. I'm planning on taking it with me to the chemo office for the first time on Monday as I now have enough applications, music and other goodies loaded on to it that it should prove to be an able companion for the planned five hours I will be "in the chair". I also ordered (and just received) an Apple Bluetooth keyboard so that I can plug the Mac into the 42inch wide screen HDTV that we have the Wii plugged into and use it from the couch. This should be very cool (as long as the kids ever let me have the TV that is).

If you follow my Books and Magazines section you will know that I finally finished reading Harry Turtledove's Colonization: Second Contact this week. This was a another good book in the multi-book series that I am working my way through. It has taken me several months to finish it. My reading speed has slowed down a lot in recent months with everything I have going on but it has been made significantly worse by the fact that the chemo seems to have negatively affected my eyesight to the point where my eyes get very tired after reading just a few pages. Thankfully, I just called the eye doctor and after almost a month of waiting (the frames I picked were back ordered it turns out) my new glasses are ready. I am really hoping they help as I am struggling even working here at the computer all day yet alone reading books in the evening.

By the way, for those of you that like to keep up with the kids, I just posted three photos taken on Christmas Day to the Family Photo Journal over in the Family & Friends section.

That's about it for now then. I'm glad the work week is almost over. I plan to try and enjoy the weekend and eat and drink all the things that I know I won't feel like eating and drinking next week in vast quantities over the next two days! This weekend the weather is supposed to be superb here so I am planning to try and divide my time between playing with the kids outside and watching the English Premier League and the NFL playoffs inside. I'll need to get up fairly early tomorrow (for a Saturday that is) as the Arsenal vs Birmingham match starts on TV here at 9am I think. I hope everyone has a pleasant and restful weekend.

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January 8th 2008

Back to school and back to normal

The kids went back to school today. I think we were all ready. I know I was. Yesterday (Monday) was a bonus day off due to teacher training. We had the hardest time getting them to go to sleep last night and as a result we had two little "growly bear cubs" to wake up this morning. After we got them bundled off and on their way Lorna and I went to visit the oncologist so they could give me a nice big dose of iron and an few other things and I must confess that I am feeling much more my old self again this afternoon. The "fog of war" one gets into from all the chemo meds has finally worn off again for another round. After school Lorna took Jack to the park to let off some steam but he was still being growly. At one point he apparently got so mad that he told her "fine I'm just going to drop my pants then" , and he did. Hmm, I don't think that would work as well in the business environment - but you never know! Could be an ice breaker in an already ugly meeting! Yesterday Lorna and Robyn went up to Dallas for the day so that Robyn could visit the huge (two storey)  American Girlshop they have there. As a typical male this is all alien to me but apparently this type of quest is quite the thing to do these days. Suffice to say we have a new addition to the family as of last night. Complete with matching outfits of course and accessories. Oh well that takes care of the Santa money for another year!  Robyn is already working on me to fly her to LA so she can visit the (even bigger) Beverley Hills store!  Oh and in case you were wondering about the Central Texas weather, it's like Spring here this week. A few showers, lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 70's Fahrenheit - gorgeous.Apart from the time I needed to take to go get "infused" this morning I managed to work a full day today and in general (for a day or two at least), things are back to normal.

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January 7th 2008

End of round three - well almost

I finished the treatments for this round last Friday but even today (Monday) the side effects are still hanging around a bit more severely than it seems they did for either of the prior two rounds. Consequently I haven't felt like posting here for a few days and I had a very low key weekend. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be more back to normal again. Unfortunately due to the schedule being a little out of routine, due to the New Year break, I have to start round four in just a few days time (on the 14th). I'll hopefully be back in a day or two with a longer update. I hope that all of you are off to a more pleasant start to the year.

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January 2nd 2008

Chemo round three

Having enjoyed a nice eleven day break since my last chemo round finished, I had to get up bright and early today to get to the oncologist's office by 8:30am to begin round three. I was there a total of almost five hours this time and the office was very busy as usual. The first day of each round is always the longest as they run blood tests on me and have to wait for the results before they can commence giving me the actual chemo meds. The good news there is that my haemoglobin level is significantly up from where it was pre-surgery and is continuing to rise. As a result I am much less anemic now than I was two months ago which really helps my energy level among other things.  The oncologist has been giving me massive amounts of intravenous iron which is definitely helping bring the number up. As well as the iron, they also give me a fairly broad range of additional medicines on day one, which naturally makes the visit take longer. These are mainly to help prevent major side effects from or reactions to  the chemo meds and the iron. Hopefully tomorrow I will only have to be there for about three hours. One of the meds they gave me today is an intravenous anti nausea drug, that I had not had before, and has the instant effect that about three glasses of red wine would have. As a result, it's actually quite easy to relax during the day one visits!!   All the medicines go into a "main line" vein via my power port which means they go straight to the heart (do not pass go, do not collect $200) and shortly thereafter reach all other parts of the body including the brain!.  There is a good photo here of how these ports work although the device type shown is not the same as the one I have everything else is the same in terms of placement etc.

Thankfully the wireless network was performing well (as usual) today and I was able to get a lot of e-mail and other work done while they worked on me (despite being mildly drunk!) and to be honest the time went by quite quickly.  If my wife or my boss are reading this, don't worry I didn't sign any important papers or other documents while "under the influence" !! Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before, the treatment does not stop when I leave the office. In fact the infusion process runs almost non stop for 48 hours. I am sitting here at home on the couch (yes watching more English football) as I type this with my "take home" battery powered pump buzzing away next to me giving me regular doses of the Fluorouracil (commonly known as 5FU) medicine. It even comes with its own (not very stylish) shoulder bag. I think there is money to be made for someone here who designs a trendy bag that turns this thing into a bit more of a fashion accessory!

The other of the two specifc chemo drugs that I get on a "day one" visit is called Oxaliplatin (OX)  It is the one that I find has the weirdest side effects. It messes up the nervous system to the extent that I become very sensitive to the touch for anything cold. So much so, in fact,  that if I put my hand in cold water (as I did without thinking, to fish some leaves out of our pool during round two) it feels like I have had a significant  electric shock followed by prolonged tingling in the fingers. I also find it close to impossible to swallow any cold drinks for several days after getting a dose of "OX". It's a good thing that English beer can be drunk and enjoyed at close to room temperature :-)

I received several e-mails today, from many parts of the World,  wishing me all the best for round three. I really appreciate the fact that so many of you are keeping up with my schedule and are continuing to send me messages of support and encouragement. Lorna and I also really look forward to checking the Guest Book every evening for new messages and we often also go back and re-read the prior entries.

Tomorrow I don't have quite such an early start. The portable chemo pump needs to run for 22 hours before they start "day 2" in the office. I think that means I need to be there at around 11am or so.

So that's the update for today. I'll post again soon. On the bright side, after this round I will be 25% of the way through the treatments.

December 31st 2007

A lot to be thankful for

About this time of the year I like to reflect upon all of the things that I have to be thankful for. I suppose I could be forgiven for looking at 2007 as a year to rapidly forget. On the contrary, despite all of the medical issues that I have had to face up to, I truly do have a lot to be thankful for and also have many fond memories to look back on from the year. Among the highlights were being with my family to watch the space shuttle Atlantis launch from the Cape back in June and taking my nine year old daughter to her first rock concert. I took her to see Rush (one of my long time favourite bands) and she loved it. We also got to enjoy our new swimming pool for the first time and I traveled a lot less than usual and as a result got to spend a lot more time with the wife and kids. Lorna and I did some fun things too, including a weekend break to Houston to watch the Astros play which was a lot of fun. So all in all we had a lot of fun in 2007. When October arrived and I was diagnosed with cancer, I will admit that I did for a while fall into a brief pit of self pity. However, due to the amazing support of my wife, other family members and all of my friends around the World I was able to (for the most part) rebound and keep my spirits up. I am truly thankful that my family doctor was on the ball and caught the cancer at what we hope was a fairly early stage. I am also extremely thankful that we found such a skilled surgeon to operate on me and that the surgery went by without major incident. I am also grateful to all of the nurses and other staff at the Seton Medical Center in Austin for the care and professionalism they showed me during my time as their "guest". I am also more thankful than simple words can truly express, for all of the e-mails, other messages of support, gifts, cards and deliveries of food that arrived (and continue to arrive). In times of crisis you really do need your friends and you have all been amazing.  Thank you all so much. So as we head into 2008 I have regained much of my optimism and am looking forward to whatever the year brings. I still have some unknowns in my future, but hey, which of us doesn't?  I also know that I am not alone in having had to face up to some severe personal challenges in 2007. Several of my very good friends have lost loved ones or had to face up to their own medical challenges. All of you remain in my thoughts and prayers. I pray that you each find strength and happiness in 2008.

Wherever you are reading this, I hope that 2008 is full of good things for you.

Happy New Year!

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December 29th 2007

Enjoying a few days off

As well as having some time off work to spend with the family over the last week or so, which has been great, I have also enjoyed having a block of days with no chemo treatments. I have had a lot of side effects from the previous two treatments so I really need this time to recover from those. My next round starts next week on January 2nd so I am trying to make the most of the time between Christmas and the New Year. On "Boxing Day" (December 26th) I spent a lot of time in front of the TV watching the English Premier League before I had to go see the oncologist for my "off week" checkup/iron infusion visit. . As many of you know I am a huge Arsenal fan and the match between Portsmouth and Arsenal was one of the many I enjoyed watching (despite the Arsenal performance being extremely flat). Of the matches I watched, the game of the day had to be the 4-4 draw between Aston Villa and Chelsea. We are fortunate here in the US these days that the Premier League gets a lot of TV coverage so I am able to keep up really well with the matches. In fact, as I type this I am watching Chelsea play Newcastle live on the TV and after this match is over the Arsenal/Everton match is on so I guess I'll be glued to the TV for a few more  hours yet.

A couple of nights ago our kids had a sleep over with some of their cousins and Lorna and I were able to go to a movie. We have not really managed to have a "date night" since my surgery so this was a real treat. There are currently several movies on that we would like to see but in the end we chose National Treasure: Book of Secrets and we both really enjoyed it

I have also been trying to get back into my reading again. I still haven't finished any of the books that I started before my surgery back in October. This has nothing to do with the quality of the books, however. It's more a case of I have had trouble relaxing enough to read and lately the chemo seems to have negatively affected my eyesight such that my eyes get tired after just a few pages. Thankfully I just had my annual eye exam and my new glasses should be ready next week.

Given I still get tired pretty easily, I have had to spend a fair bit of time stuck on the couch resting. Consequently I have finally managed to spend quite a bit of time playing with the new Mac Book Pro laptop. I remain really impressed with this machine. The operating system and all of the preloaded applications seem really well done. I'm planning to start maintaining this web site using the Mac fairly soon. The only complaint I have is that the iWeb program that came with the machine (as far as I can tell) can only be used to create new web sites and not to edit/manage existing ones - so this for me is not very useful. While talking about computers, we bought the kids a new PC for Christmas, primarily to stop them destroying the machine in the office here at the house (which is the only one we had previously that could run their favourite games). The machine we got them came preloaded with Windows Vista. Sadly, of the three games I have tried to install so far, not one of them has worked. They all worked fine on the other machine, which is running Windows XP.  So I'll either be putting XP on the new machine this weekend, or I'll end up giving them my home office machine and putting the new machine in there.

As my friends outside the US may not realise, this is a big time here in the US for collegiate football. There are seemingly endless "bowl" games on TV between Chritmas Eve and New Years Day. This year, our local team, the University of Texas Longhorns were in the Holiday Bowl, played in San Diego a couple of nights ago. They were not expected to win but in fact did win and convincingly so (52 - 34) over Arizona State. Lorna and I enjoyed watching the game on TV. After an average season by their standards, it was nice to see Texas end the season in style.

Later today (if he ever wakes up!) I promised Jack we would put his new Hotwheels track together. I'm not sure which of us is looking forward to it more. After that I have to help Robyn download some more music into the new iPod that she got for Christmas. In fact Lorna and Robyn both got new iPods so I think I am going to be busy loading up iTunes with large chunks of our CD collection over the next few days.

That's about it for now. I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season as much as we are.

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December 25th 2007

Merry Christmas!

The kids were up before the Sun at about 7:30am this morning and I guess once again they managed to keep off the naughty list as Santa appears to have been very good to them.  The living room floor is covered in new games, toys and debris! I must admit I really enjoyed watching them have fun and go nuts ripping into packages this morning. We just had breakfast and are now taking a few minutes to catch our breath while the kids play with their loot before worrying about the next round of activities!

To all my friends and family around the World who celebrate Christmas I wish you a very special "Merry Christmas" and to all my friends who celebrate other holidays I wish you likewise nothing but good things at this festive time of the year. All of you have done so much to support me these past few months for which I am extremely grateful. In spite of the tough things we have endured recently I am constantly reminded of the all the good things in the World that I need to be so very thankful for.

From me and my family to you and yours, I wish you peace and joy.

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December 21st 2007

End of round two

I finished my second (of the 12 planned) chemo rounds this week. So far the side effects are much the same as last time but I have been a bit more proactive with the medicines that help fight the side effects and also got a few good suggestions from my oncologist which have helped. So far, overall, I think I am coping a little better this time than the first. The oncologist hopes this trend will continue. We are trying to have as normal a Christmas as possible and the focus now is on all of those last minute (non medical) items that go with the season While I have a checkup visit next week I have no more chemo sessions until January so this will help me enjoy the break a whole lot more. As I said we have a lot to do here, so I will be brief today but wanted to post something as many of you have been asking after me (as always thanks for all the support and messages in the Guest Book).

I hope wherever you are reading this you have a very safe and enjoyable holiday season.

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December 17th 2007

Jack turns 6

I'm actually sitting in the oncologist's office beginning round two of my chemo treatments as I type this, but I wanted to make a posting today that is not about me for a change! Today, is my son Jack's birthday and he is turning six (where did the time go, they grow so fast). He went off to school very excited this morning with a plate of cookies that Lorna made for him to share with his class mates and he seemed to be really enjoying being the centre of attention. On Saturday we held his birthday party at a local place called Pump it Up where the kids get to bounce around on all manner of large inflatable toys. We had about 20 kids show up and a good time was had by all. Here's a photo I took of Jack with his sister (Robyn) enjoying himself at the party.

Jack and Robyn having fun
Jack and Robyn, December 15th 2007

Jack got several fun presents from his friends at the party and the two of us spent a lot of time on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning opening packages and putting things together. I think one of his favourite toys is the pump action nerf gun that fires table tennis ball sized nerf projectiles at high speed. Luckily for me his aim isn't too good yet!

I'll post some more updates about me as the week progresses and I get further into chemo round two but for now I just want to enjoy watching my son be the centre of attention for a change!!

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December 12th 2007

The new Mac, Halo 3 and me

I finally started feeling "normal" again on Sunday (December 9th), and have been trying to get caught up on a number of things since.  Consequently, it has been a few days since my last posting. The good news is that since Sunday I have actually been feeling pretty good. I visited the oncologist's office on Monday for my "off week" checkup visit and they told me all of the symptoms I am experiencing are pretty normal for the drugs they are giving me and that it is likely that this pattern of good days and bad days will repeat itself as we progress through the treatment program. From my point of view, at least knowing there will be several good days will make it easier (I hope) from now on to adjust to the bad days. The other good news is that my haemoglobin level (which if you read some of my postings from October) was dangerously low for a while, has improved significantly. This will certainly help with my energy level and I am really happy to see it rising.

Given it took me several days to recover from the first chemo round, I have not had as much time or energy to play with the new Mac as I would have liked. However, today, I met a good friend who is a Mac guru for lunch and he was kind enough to give me a crash course in some of the cool features and also help me setup some of the key software that I want to run on the machine. I hope to spend more time over the next few days exploring. My ultimate goal is to be able to use the machine for both work and fun. Even in the short amount of time I have had to play so far, I have been very impressed with both the machine itself and the new Leopard operating system software that came preloaded. 

I mentioned in my previous posting that I would comment on the amazing journey the Mac took to get to me. I guess this just shows what a global economy we live in. I ordered the machine from the Apple web site which I assume is in California but have no real idea where it is. I naively assumed the machine would come from California too. However, when I got the FedEx tracking number and went to track the delivery I found the machine was being assembled and shipped from Shanghai in China. It was a lot of fun to follow the journey from then on. I managed to figure out which FedEx flights the machine was on by cunning use of flight trackers and the FedEx web page. I was able to follow the machine as it made its way to me across the Pacific. In the end, before being delivered  at my front door, the machine visited the airports in Shanghai, Anchorage, Indianapolis,  Memphis and Austin - quite a journey! What I found even more amazing was that the machine arrived within 25 minutes (early) of the originally scheduled delivery date and time that had been given to me when I placed the order a few days before - pretty impressive I think.

This week I have worked a full day each day so far and that has been really nice in terms of giving me a strong feeling of normality. I also managed to finally make time this week for my annual eye exam (which was months overdue) and I was glad to see that my eyesight is more or less the same as it was last year. I have been told that the chemo may negatively affect my eyesight so I wanted to get my new glasses ordered before the chemo has a chance to distort everything too badly (no pun intended). While my energy is definitely continuing to come back, in the evenings I still find I need to spend quite a lot of time taking it easy by relaxing in front of the TV or doing other low energy things like playing games. This week (admittedly with help from my kids) we managed to complete level 8 of the solo player missions in Halo 3 (there are ten in total). We are now fragging our way through level nine! Halo 3 is a very enjoyable game but also a very pleasing game in terms of the overall graphics and production quality. Once I am done with the single player missions I am tempted to try playing on-line but I am also more than a bit worried that that could turn out to be a really big consumer/waster of time - but right now maybe that's OK!!

I'll try to post again soon with more updates. My next chemo round starts on Monday (December 17th) so I am going to try and enjoy the next few days before the anticipated next cycle of "feeling lousy" starts.
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December 5th 2007

End of round one

The chemo program I am on feels to me a lot like the way professional boxing must feel. The two participants pummel each other over the course of 12 rounds. Only in this case, the 12 rounds are spread out over six months and the other guy does all the pummeling and my job is to basically "hang in there" and wait for the bell. Today I ended round one. I'd say we're maybe about even on points but I am certainly dealing with a formidable opponent!  I have experienced a lot of side effects. None of them are major when taken independently but when taken as a whole they have left me feeling pretty wiped out. Thankfully I have until December 17th before round two gets underway. At least, unlike professional boxing, the opponent is pummeling me with the intention of leaving me better off at the end and not out cold on the mat. I don't have the energy to describe the exact regimen and how it works but I believe it is known commonly as FOLFOX. I found a site based in the UK that seems to describe it quite well. Here is a link to that site. If you read the summary at that link you will see I am getting treatment both in the oncologist's office and also at home (via a pump that stays with me during the rounds). They remove the pump between rounds. It will be nice to be able to sleep tonight without the pump. I had hoped to post an update yesterday but at least for now I have been struggling to keep up as much as I have been recently. Hopefully I will adapt to this and do better over time.

On a happier note, I bought myself a new toy, an Apple Mac Book Pro laptop that I hope to use to keep me occupied during some of the upcoming chemo visits. I have never owned a Mac before so I am excited to start exploring all of the cool features. I'll make a dedicated posting in the next day or so to talk about the Mac and my first impressions. I'll also describe the amazing journey the machine took to get to me.

I continue to be grateful for all of the kind messages I continue to receive via the Guest Book, e-mail and so many other ways. I really appreciate and continue to need all of your support.

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December 3rd 2007

First chemo visit

Just a quick update as I am wiped out from today and off to bed in a few minutes. Today was my first chemo appointment. I arrived at 8:30am and was expecting to be there about 4 hours maybe 5 at most. As it turned out, mainly due to this being my first visit but more due to volume of patients and I think some staffing issues I ended up in my chair for 9 (yes nine) hours. I was in fact the last patient out the door and it was already getting dark outside when I left. All of this said, I love the staff at the office where I am being treated and they made my time there as pleasant as could be. Also, having a WiFi network really helped pass the time. I used my laptop to do quite a lot of work, pay my bills and talk to friends and colleagues via instant messaging. They sent me home with a pump that keeps infusing more medicine into me over night which will make sleeping a bit odd tonight I think. So far I have not noticed much in the way of side effects but I am expecting a few over the course of the treatment based on my "education" today. I'll post more tomorrow but wanted to just get a quick post up tonight as many people have been contacting me to ask how it went. I certainly appreciate all the support. OK off to bed for me. More updates soon.

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November 30th 2007

More surgery and more football

I spent yesterday afternoon back at the hospital to have the surgery done to put in the port-a-cath that will be used to infuse the chemotherapy meds starting next week. The procedure itself was very quick but we (my wife and I) still ended up spending several hours at the hospital (by the time you factor in the waiting room, paperwork, surgery prep, surgery itself and finally recovery). Before they put me to sleep, I had a chat with my surgeon in the OR and he again checked the status of my previous repairs and he gave me the all clear to ramp up my physical activities. I am very pleased about this but of course will ramp up slowly so as not to overdo it.  My surgeon will see me again in six months, after the chemotherapy is over at which time he will remove the port (yet another minor surgery) and begin the three monthly monitoring process that I discussed briefly in my last posting. We left the hospital around 5pm and by then I was extremely hungry having not been allowed to eat since midnight the previous day.

Thankfully the sedation wore off pretty quickly and I actually felt pretty good almost immediately I woke up. Given I was both hungry and as always very open to any and all distractions I was able to accept a friend's kind offer to to join him at 7pm for dinner while watching the Dallas Cowboys vs Green Bay Packers game at another friend's house (this specific game was a very big one and was only available via satellite - something we don't have at our house).

Today I am a little more tired than I have been in recent days but I slept well last night and otherwise feel OK. The area around the new incision is pretty sore as is to be expected but I'm sure that will calm down soon.

I forgot to mention in my prior posting that I got the all clear to drive my car again too. While I don't yet feel confident driving long distances as my mind tends to wander sometimes, it has been great to be able to make a couple of very short trips by myself to local shops. Even the small things mean a lot right now.

This weekend I mostly plan to take it easy and maybe do a bit of Christmas decorating around the house - the kids are getting desperate to make progress on that. When I was a kid growing up in England I am sure we didn't start this early but it seems these days (at least around here) as soon as the Thanksgiving holiday is over the Christmas trees start appearing. On Saturday evening, assuming I feel up to it, I am going down to San Antonio (which is about 90 miles from here) with one of my brothers-in-law as we have tickets for the Big 12 Championship game. For the benefit of my friends and family outside of the USA, this is a fairly major college (American) football event. We were hoping that the University of Texas (which is based here in Austin) would make it to the game but they fell short this year. Given we already have the tickets and that it should still be a great game anyway we are still planing to go and hopefully enjoy the game. This is a fairly big deal for me as this will be by far my biggest adventure since before the surgery - and in case you were worrying - no I will not be doing the driving!

That's the update for now. I hope you all have a pleasant weekend.

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November 27th 2007

A few days of normality

As I mentioned in my prior posting, last Thursday was the Thanksgiving day holiday here in the United States. For many of us, that meant a four day weekend. Despite the weather here in the Austin area being really nasty (cold and wet) it was nice to have a few days in a row where no one was pushing me, prodding me or sticking needles into me! We went to my brother-in-law's house for a fairly large family gathering on Thursday which was a great distraction for me and it was also great that I was able to enjoy the wonderful meal that had been prepared without too many worries. That said, I'm still learning which foods my new digestive system does best with and which ones mess me up. This will be an ongoing process for some time yet I think! On Friday we had a gathering at our house to watch the Univerity of Texas vs Texas A&M college football game (that's American football for my friends outside the USA). I am also getting a bit more confident about going out in public now so on Saturday we took the kids to see the Bee Movie which we all enjoyed. On Sunday we went to visit my wife's mother. So all in all I had four days of family time with lots of distractions. I also found some time to play Halo 3 which I am rapidly becoming addicted to.

This week I have to get back into the medical routine. Today I went and got my flu shot so that is taken care of before chemo starts next week. On Wednesday (tomorrow)  I have to go to the hospital for my prep visit for the small surgery I am having on Thursday to place the port into my chest that will be used to deliver the chemo meds. It's supposed to only be a half hour procedure and is being done as day surgery. Chemo is due to start next week. I am also due to see my surgeon again next week for another checkup. If he likes my progress I should get the all clear at that point to resume a few more physical activities (once I get my strength up some more anyway). I'm actually going to be seeing a lot of my surgeon over the coming months as at least for the time being he wants to monitor me at three monthly intervals. At least the monitoring can be done in his office without the need for all of the nasty preparations that go with a full colonoscopy. I guess eventually I'll get into the routine of all these appointments but right now, and I guess this means I am feeling quite a bit better, I am about ready for a break from the seemingly endless visits to one medical office or another! As always I'll just have to deal with it. The mess my kids make around the house (which can be substantial) has also started bugging me again for the first time since before the surgery so I guess that is another sign that I am feeling a bit better !!

Many of my neighbours have already put up their exterior Christmas decorations and my kids are on my case to do the same. I told them that if I feel up to it that maybe we'll make a start on that later in the week (energy and weather permitting).

Apart from a little time off for medical appointments I am planning to try and work pretty much a full week this week unless but I am being careful and will take breaks as needed.

I continue to be grateful for all the messages in the Guest Book as well as the e-mails and calls I am getting from people checking on me. All in all, I think I am coping fairly well. I still have a long way to go, and I am definitely a bit nervous about chemo and how I will react to it, but for the most part I have a lot more good days than bad ones at the moment. I'm trying to keep my attitide positive which I manage to do for the most part but I still have my moments!

Anyway, I'll post again soon, probably after the surgery on Thursday.

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November 21st 2007

The plan moving forward

This week I learned a lot more about the next stages of my treatment. On Monday I met with my surgeon for my post surgery follow up. He is happy with the way I am healing from the surgery and I think he is pleased with my overall level of activity, energy and enthusiasm. He has however told me to remain on a program of very limited activity for another three weeks. Primarily to risk causing any damage to the area of the surgery. I have to see him again in early December and at that time (not that I am probably going to be up to it physically) from his point of view I should be released to restart more normal activities - even some sports if I want to.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I met the oncologist for the first time. I was extremely nervous going into that appointment as I know that these guys deal largely in statistics and probabilities and I knew it was time to face up to some numbers specific to me. However, the doctor could not have been nicer and explained everything nicely, clearly and even with a bit of humour. I took to him immediately. We discussed options, statistics and all manner of related things and he laid out for me his treatment plan. Even though my cancer was caught fairly early, and is officially being classified as a stage 2 cancer, he still believes that a course of chemotherapy adds quite significantly to my chances of a cure. I am not going to go into the numbers here (they really aren't that awful but I just prefer not to dwell on the stats too much). So I will start chemotherapy on December 3rd and it will take six months to complete the course. I will have to go to his office on two consecutive days every other week for a total of 12 visits (hence six months). I will also have to go back briefly on the third day of every "on" week to have the pump they send you home with removed. He has assured me that the chemicals used have improved a lot over the years and that I should not get nauseous or lose much (if any) hair. There are a few possible side effects, the biggest one being fatigue, but none of them sound too terrible. The office visits are going to be a little longer than I had realized. I think (memory fails me a bit here) they said 240 minutes on the first day and 180 minutes on the second (but I may have got that wrong). The good news is that this is a pretty high tech oncology practice and they have wireless internet in the treatment room - maybe you'll see a blog post from there in the future!!

As some of you may know, the prefered way of "plugging me in" to the chemo machinery each visit is through a port that is installed in my chest. This means I have to go back into the hospital next week (Thursday November 29th) for a minor surgery to install the port. The same surgeon who has been treating me can also do this procedure and he says it takes about 30 minutes and they will send me home the same day. I'm a little down at having to have yet more (albeit minor) surgery, but I'll deal with it.

So that is the update. I am glad I have got through the visits this week and that the plan both makes sense and also gives me a certain amount of confidence. Nothing is certain in life but I feel I am getting the best possible treatment and being given the best possible chance for a full recovery. In many ways my future is out of my hands now so I am going to try to just keep up as normal a life as I can over these next six months and try not to worry about the  future and things that are out of my control.

As always thanks for all of the continued support and encouragement. It really helps. This is still a scary time for me but having all of you with me (I feel  a bit like the guy in the Verizon phone commercial who has his network following him around) is really helping keep my spirits up.

I'll post again soon.

To all of my friends in the USA, a very Happy Thanksgiving. To all of you in other countries have a wonderful rest of the week.

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November 14th 2007

Slowly getting my strength back

Hi everyone. I had hoped to be able to post here long before now but the surgery took a lot more out of me than I had expected it would. This week for the first time since leaving the hospital (on November 2nd) I have actually felt like looking at a computer for more than just a few minutes. The good news is that I have been doing what I was told and getting lots of rest.

Lorna has been using the Guest Book as a bulletin board to try and keep everyone up to date on my progress so hopefully most of you know roughly where things stand.  The Surgery went well but I ended up in the hospital for a full week to allow me enough time to be ready to go home. I finally got to come home on November 2nd and it was great to be back in my own "space" again. My appetite is slowly coming back but I have lost about 30 pounds since going into the hospital (some diet plan!!). I still have some pain but really it  has not been that bad and I have had to use surprisingly few pain pills.  My energy is also slowly coming back (as I mentioned above the surgery took a lot more out of me than I had anticipated it would). I have been able to take a few (very short) walks and also watch a couple of my kids soccer games. This week I even dialed into a couple of work meetings and started reading some of the 1000 plus e-mails that have accumulated during my "down time". It was great to both be doing some of the things I would normally be doing on a work day and also to hear some of my colleagues voices again. I am also trying to adjust to the physiological changes that my body has undergone - let's just say that remains a work in progress!

I am seeing my surgeon for my post-surgery follow up visit next week and I am also meeting an oncologist who will decide if I need a (hopefully limited) course of chemotherapy.

We have been overwhelmed with the number of gifts, meals, cards, messages in the Guest Book, e-mails  and other wonderful things that people have sent us over the last few weeks. I am trying to thank each of you individually but to all of you a huge THANK YOU. It really has helped keep my spirits up to know that so many of you are out there cheering us on.

I'll post again in a few days when we know more about my next steps and any additional treatment plans. For now I am just working on getting my strength back and not overdoing it too soon. I am hoping that if I do need chemotherapy that we can wait until after Thanksgiving here in the US (which is a big family get together time) before we start.

Thanks again everyone for your support. You all mean the World to my family and I.

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October 25th 2007

Almost there...

So the waiting is almost over. My surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning (Friday) at 11am Central Time (although we have to be at the hospital around 9am to check in). For those who know the Austin area, I will be in the main Seton hospital on 38th Street. We're not sure yet how many days I will be in the hospital but I am guessing at least three and maybe a few more.

Obviously I will not be posting many more updates here for a few days (at least not from the hospital anyway - but don't think I haven't been trying to think of a cunning way to pull that off!).  After surgery, as soon as she can, my wife Lorna, is going to put an update in the Guest Book  as she can do that easily from any web connected computer she happens to find near the hospital. So if you want the latest news please keep an eye on the Guest Book for the next few days.

Last night I coached my U6 boys soccer team (probably for the last time this season) and enjoyed being out in the fresh air one last time before I go "under the knife". After practice we ordered a bunch of pizza's for the boys and the parents and had a few laughs. Not quite the final pre-surgery  meal I had originally intended, but in a way, it was perfect. This morning I managed to make one final trip to Starbucks before my pre-surgery special diet kicks in.

Talking of the special diet, I'm not allowed to eat or drink anything else now except for clear liquids (sadly I don't think vodka or gin counts) until after surgery. I also have to start taking the medicine that "prepares" you for surgery. I'll leave the details of that to the imagination. If you have ever had any kind of colo/rectal procedure you'll know what I am talking about!

So, that really is about it for now. Thanks again to you all for your endless support and help in keeping my spirits up these past couple of weeks. I am hoping that now I truly can start on the road to recovery how ever long or short it may be, and at least I feel like we are moving forward again.

As the waiting is at last (almost) over and we start out on that road forward, I am reminded of the words spoken by a  famous countryman of mine back in 1942. "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Thanks again everyone for all your support, I hope to be back here in a few days with some more updates.


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October 22nd 2007

Quick update

I spent all morning at the hospital today getting "prepped" for Friday. If you have ever had surgery you will know the pre-admission routine: Answer lots of questions, meet lots of people, have an EKG, give (yet more) blood samples, give other samples, more tests and so on. Then there is the seemingly endless paperwork. I signed so many forms today I probably missed something in the small print stating that the hospital now owns my house and car! I have also had to give blood samples so often lately I am starting to feel like a pin cushion. I also spoke to the surgeon again today and I think he's all set to go so I think we are almost there - I just hope my Xanax supply holds out for a few more days! I feel noticably more nervous today than in recent days but all in all I think I am managing to "hang in there".

Over the Summer I had been actively trying (and succeeding - albeit slowly) to lose a bit of weight.  The last few days I have been trying as hard as I can to put it back on again! I figure that post-surgery my appetite is not going to be back to normal for a while and I am not really sure how soon I'll be eating normally again so the last few days I have been trying to eat things that I love without worrying too much about what they are doing to me. On the way home from the hospital today my wife and I stopped at Dave and Busters and I had a really good (and probably my last for a while) hamburger. This is one of the few pluses of my current state of mind - if it sounds good, eat it!

This past weekend we made the most of the beautiful weather. I helped coach my daughter's soccer team at 1pm on Saturday and then coached my son's team right after that. On Saturday night we went to visit the same friends we saw last weekend to watch the Rugby World Cup Final. Sadly, this time, England came second but a good time was had by all. On Sunday I went and watched my soccer team play as the anemia has kept me from being able to keep playing myself  but I wanted to spend a bit of time with the guys before the enforced downtime I have coming post-surgery.

Today, a first blast of Winter arrived in Central Texas. Over night a cold front blew in. Yesterday it had been in the high 80's Fahrenheit, today so far (as of 3:45pm) I don't think we have managed to get above 56F here at the house. It has also been raining off and on all day. This type of 30 degree swing is typical for Texas. It's supposed to be back into the 70's again by mid-week after this front has done its thing.

Finally, I continue to be very humbled by the continued flow of cards, letters, e-mails and postings to the Guest Book. Thank you all so much for your continued support. I am also very grateful to several of my work colleagues who got together and sent me a wonderful basket full of goodies. You are all extremely kind.

I'll post again soon with any more news but I think, for the most part, I just have to make it through until Friday morning now.

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October 19th 2007

It's hard to feel bad when the weather is this good

The weather here in Central Texas this past week has been, in a word, awesome. The overnight lows are in the 60's Fahrenheit with a few places dipping into the 50's. Right now at 9:20am it is 61 degrees outside of my home office and I am working with the window open - quite a luxury at the end of a long Texas Summer. During the day it has been warming up into the high 80's or even low 90's and it is likely to do that again today. There is a cool breeze and the sky is clear blue. Just about perfect. This weather pattern is predicted to continue for some time yet so we will be looking at another busy weekend of coaching kids soccer games. My Surgeon wants me to stay active until the surgery and while the anemia is preventing me from being too active (playing soccer would be out)  at least I can take some gentle walks around the neighbourhood and enjoy this wonderful weather.

There is no additional news to report today on the medical front. I'm still waiting for the test results to come back that I described in my posting on October 16th but other than that we are proceeding pretty much according to plan. I have to go to the hospital in the early part of next week for the pre-surgery work up (to make sure I can handle the anesthetic etc.) and then of course Friday next week is the big day.

I am still receiving loads of e-mails from all over the World  wishing me good things and I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciate that. Also to those of you that are filling the Guest Book with messages - you are very kind, thank you.

I'll post again here as we get more news and as we get a bit closer to the 26th. For now I'm going to sit here, get some work done, and enjoy the cool breeze that is blowing in through my window.

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October 16th 2007

Change of plans

The surgeon who is treating me called last night and we met briefly in his office again today. As I mentioned in my posting on October 11th , he had met with the doctor who performed the colonoscopy on me and was calling me after having had that conversation. Unfortunately he now feels we need to adjust from current "Plan A" to a somewhat more radical "Plan B".  Before I discuss the new plan I should perhaps explain how we got there. The doctors believe the root cause of my current problems is a genetic condition called Attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis  (AFAP for short). I am not going to try, nor am I qualified to, go into a lengthy explanation of what AFAP is. Heck, two weeks ago I had never heard of it. In short, however, it means someone my age is likely to have a large number (more than 20 but less than 100) of polyps in their colon and has a much higher than normal predisposition to these becoming cancerous in a relatively short amount of time. Today I went and had yet more blood taken so that a genetic analysis can be performed to prove for certain that I have AFAP (the results will be several days coming back) but I apparently have all of the classic indications of it and my medical team seem pretty much convinced on this one. My bigger worry, as a parent of course, is that there apparently is a 50% chance of this being passed on to my children. That, however, is a bridge we do not have to cross today.

So now for the change of plans. Plan A had been to remove a large part of the colon, Plan B (I am told the recommended procedure for AFAP cases like mine) is to remove the entire colon. The logic is along the lines of if you leave part of the colon behind, because of the AFAP, in a year or so we'll be right back here again and in the meantime I'll be almost living in the doctors office getting checked for a recurrence (I'm exaggerating obviously but not that much). However, to an "average man in the street" like me, this whole new plan, at least at first, sounds horrific and I have to tell you that last evening after the surgeon called, I found myself feeling like I had taken a huge step backwards. Today, however, after meeting with the surgeon in his office and asking all kinds of questions about quality of life and future preventative care needs I think I am (slowly) coming to terms with it. If all goes according to (the new) plan, I still believe I can live a fairly normal life. I am not going to go into the gory details of what it means in terms of living without a colon but I am sure you can find a lot more information about it on the internet should you so desire!!

Surgery is still scheduled for October 26th. Suffice to say, I am a little shaken by this change of plans but as I had more or less adjusted to things under Plan A I am sure I will rapidly adjust to Plan B.....

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October 15th 2007

Keeping distracted

This weekend, with the help of many friends and family and a very busy social schedule for the kids, we managed to keep me extremely distracted and I can honestly say I had a really nice weekend. On Saturday we had to get off to an early start as my daughter's U10 soccer team had a game at 8:30am in Georgetown, which is about a 30 minute drive from our house. At least at that time of day it was still nice and cool outside (by Texas standards) . In the low 70's Fahrenheit at most. They play 8 a side (7 on the field plus a goalie). I had fun coaching the girls and watching them try really hard against a team that had been together a lot longer than us and were in many cases a lot bigger than our girls were. For a team that has only been together a few weeks, to do so well against a team that has been together for three years, in my opinion, was excellent. It was indeed inspiring to me to see them all try so hard against a very strong opponent. After that we drove home for a couple of hours of "down time". This gave me the chance to experiment with a surprise present that a a couple of dear friends had sent me on Friday. A package from Amazon.com turned up on my doorstep, out of the blue, on Friday afternoon. When I opened it, inside I found a copy of Halo 3. Now if that doesn't keep me distracted I am not sure what will. Look for more on my Halo experiences in future posts. I got to play for about an hour before it was time for us all to pile back into the car and drive to my son's U6 soccer game. This was a fun game too. At this age it is 3 versus 3 with no goalies and teams have 6 players. We play 8 minute quarters. I usually sub all 3 in or out once a quarter so everyone plays 4 times. It's great to see the little guys trying to do all of the things we have worked on at practice like (talk to each other, pass the ball, look where the goal is before you shoot at it and so on). This week we faced a tough team who focussed on defending their own goal and like  the great soccer managers who have come before me (OK well I can dream) I had to devise a plan to break down this stoic defense. I called the boys together at half time having observed the opposition strategy throughout the first half and shared with them my visionary thoughts on this issue "OK boys", I said, "go out there, have fun, run hard, and score a bunch of goals".  Inspired by the depths of my coaching insight that is exactly what they did!!  We don't keep score at this age - the focus is correctly supposed to be on fun and learning the game but a couple of our parents who apparently had been casually counting the goals said we edged it! To me, no matter what the score, we've won if six tired but smiling faces come trotting over after the game is over to dive into their well earned snacks!

On Saturday evening we had a baby sitter come watch the kids so we could spend the evening with some English friends and watch England play France in the Semi Final of the Rugby World cup. Aided by the result ( England 14 - 9 France), the good food and great company we had a really nice evening.

On Sunday I spent most of the morning and part  of the afternoon playing video games with my son as my daughter was at a birthday party. We had some quality boy time together which I think we both needed. Sunday evening we went to visit some family members and it's impossible not to be distracted when you have so many excited kids all getting together after a few weeks apart! Again we had more good food and conversation which included a deep discussion on the topic of Doctor Who between myself and one of my brothers-in-law which was excellent!

As I mentioned in my previous posts, I am trying to keep up with my reading and on Sunday I finished Dark Wind by Clive Cussler. It's another of his Dirk Pitt adventures and was pretty much par for the course compared to other books of his I have read. Definitely a "page turner" but perhaps a little formulaic and (in the books I have read ) the bad guys always seem to come from the same part of the World. I'm starting to wonder if the author has a secret grudge to bear. That aside, it was still an enjoyable read.

Today a couple of my long time good friends from work (who I have actually not seen a lot of lately)  took me out to lunch (thanks Mike and Mike) and again seeing them was a nice distraction.

 I have continued to receive a large number of cards, phone calls, e-mails, IM's and postings to the Guest Book. As always thank you all so much for that. You guys are doing a great job of keeping my mind off of my troubles.

That's about it for today.

Eleven more days until surgery - I'm going to need all of these distractions for quite a few days yet.

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October 11th 2007

The waiting game

Those who know me well probably have noticed that I have trouble sitting still. I need to be busy and I hate to wait. I hate to wait for planes, buses,trains, people who are late for meetings and in this case necessary surgery. The next few days for me are going to be the ultimate test of my patience (and probably of many anxiety related prescription drugs!). We have spoken to all three of the doctors treating me in the past few days and all have reassured us (multiple times) that it's OK that we are not doing the surgery until the 26th.  For me though it still doesn't make the waiting any easier. I am trying to focus on work quite a bit and attending several meetings by phone. The worst time is definitely the evenings when things calm down and my mind starts imagining all of the amazing disasters that might befall me next!

However, many of you have sent me things to keep me pre-occupied and for that I am truly grateful I am indebted to my friend Tom Glover who pointed me at the following piece of colo rectal surgery humour! Thanks Tom, that gave us all a good laugh here at my house- I think I'll e-mail my surgeon the link (AFTER he operates on me!). Talking of my surgeon, he and the doctor who did the colonoscopy on me are meeting to consult with each other today. I am not expecting any major plan changes but I'll let you all know if anything should change.

Several of you have asked about the kids so today I removed the password on the family section of the web site (click on Family & Friends in the sidebar). Those of you that want to can take a look and see how fast they are growing up. I'll try and add some more pictures in the next day or so. That will be another good project to keep me busy.

I am managing to relax enough to keep up with my reading and have also been working on my skills at Madden NFL 2007 to help keep me busy when I just need a little mindless distraction (mostly in the evenings after the kids are asleep). Also, and this really was good news to me, the medical folks say it's OK for me to keep coaching the two soccer teams I am involved with right up until the surgery. I coach my son's U6 team and I am the assistant coach on my daughter's U10 team. A little fresh air and exercise is in fact, JUST what the doctor ordered. We have practice three nights a week and games on Saturday. Being able to stay involved with these is a major plus for me.

Several of you have sent me cards in the mail - thanks so much for that very kind and very much appreciated act. Thanks also for the continued stream of e-mails, IM's and postings to the Guest Book. It really does help.

That's about it for now...

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October 10th 2007

Health scare and a lesson for us all

Warning if you are squeamish about medical topics you may want to skip this posting.

Over the latter part of the Summer I had been having trouble sleeping, mainly because my legs were becoming so restless at night. If you have never struggled with restless legs it's hard to describe but it is sufficiently annoying enough that it can easily keep you awake half the night (and for me it was doing so). I had become so restless my wife had to find another room to sleep in for fear of being karate kicked to death before morning!! Another symptom that I was having that I did not realize then but do realize now to be related, was a lack of stamina when playing sports (drastically more so say than a few months ago). So, given all this, a few weeks back I went to see my family doctor to ask if I could have some tablets to help me sleep and to ask if I needed some of this new Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) medicine that is being advertised heavily on the TV here in the US at the moment. He did give me something to help me sleep but also took a blood sample to check my iron levels as low iron can contribute to restlessness . For those of us that remember our human biology from school, you will recall that, iron helps maintain the haemoglobin level in the blood, or put another way,  haemoglobin is the iron-containing protein attached to red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.  When my blood tests came back the levels were way below normal. So low in fact I was borderline for a blood transfusion right then and there. This immediately explained the restlessness and the lack of stamina - basically I did not have enough oxygen in my body . So I was diagnosed as anemic but now we needed further tests to find out why.  My doctor's opinion (which proved correct) was that I was losing blood somewhere - basically he suspected some form of internal bleeding (maybe a stomach ulcer or a colon polyp that was bleeding). I was referred to a Gastro Intestinal clinic. On October 1st they performed both a colonoscopy and an endoscopy on me (basically they checked my colon and my stomach for signs of trouble).  My stomach was basically clear but the news in my colon was not so good. The GI doctor found several polyps, one of which looked "extremely suspicious" (English translation "we think it's cancer but need a biopsy to be sure").  For  the colonoscopy I was heavily sedated and it was many hours before I really came around enough to comprehend that  even at my relatively young age (42) and with my very active lifestyle and high fibre diet it was still likely that I had colon cancer.  When this all sank in I was a mess. I don't recall a day in my life when a single piece of news has hit me quite so personally and quite so hard. I did not find myself thinking so much of my own future but much more so of my young kids (5 and 9) and my wife.  Thankfully the doctor sent over a prescription for something to help me relax that night and the next morning we began the process of more tests and preparing to fight back. On October 2nd I went and had a CT scan and had my blood cross typed in case I did end up needing a blood transfusion (given I still was very anemic). On October 3rd (Wednesday) we started to get the results back. The bad news was that the biopsy has confirmed that I do have cancer in my cecum (bottom of the ascending colon if you again remember your human biology). The better news was that the CT scan and additional blood work had found no evidence of spreading and that we believe (I am a pessimist and always have trouble with good news) that the cancer is localized to the colon.

Yesterday (October 9th) I met with a colo-rectal surgeon to discuss my options. Based on the collected test results, he has developed a surgery plan for me which will require quite a large part of my colon to be removed but if all goes well will enable me to eat and perform other digestive system related activities pretty much normally after that. The surgery is planned for October 26th. I'll post details about the hospital and other relevant information closer to that date. After the surgery they will again test the various parts of tissue and lymph nodes that get removed during surgery and we will know much more about what this cancer has been up to. At that point I will meet with an oncologist to see if I need chemotherapy or not and I will likely also get a PET scan. I am encouraged by the fact that the medical team is comfortable waiting a few days to schedule this surgery on a non-panic basis but I'd still rather have this over with. If an earlier date opens up on the surgeon's schedule I will most likely take it for no other reason than to reduce the wait time.

That then...minus a few of the nastier details, is pretty much the full update. The lesson for us all in this (especially us stubborn men) is go see your doctor even for little things that are bugging you. If I had ignored this we would not have caught it as soon as we hope we have. I am also very grateful to my family doctor who did not just give me meds to help me sleep but was thorough and did that blood test that helped me get a proper diagnosis. I know that doctors get a lot of pressure to prescribe certain medications from the reps selling them. Any drug reps out there reading this please take note - treating the symptom does not always equal finding the cure.

I know several of you have already found out about this from the blogoshpere and other contacts and I truly appreciate all of the prayers, thoughts, e-mails ands other messages my family and I have received at this time. To be honest I am still in shock but slowly getting my energy back to prepare me for my road to recovery. I'm hoping it's not too long a road but there remain so many unknowns only time will really tell. Please do keep sending me those e-mails they really help - sometimes even surrounded by family and friends one can feel very alone at a time like this and knowing that you are all out there cheering me on is giving me amazing strength. It's also somewhat surreal, to have been following the courageous fight of Robert Jordan (see my prior posting) against a truly evil disease to now find myself in the middle of my own fight.

Finally, as several people have asked about it, I have turned on the Guest Book at this web site. Please do feel free to leave us a message if you are soon inclined.

My wife Lorna has been a rock by my side through this. It all came out of the blue and we have shared  a fair amount of tears together  but we are feeling stronger now and ready to start out on the road towards getting me cured. My kids are doing OK but not great. Jack (he's 5) is actually fine. We told him daddy will get better and due to his nature he just accepted that and keeps on trucking. He is  however mad at me that the doctor won't let him have my colon in a jar for show and tell at school (go figure!). My daughter, Robyn (she is 9) has taken this hard. She is blessed with about 500% of the empathy found in an average person. This can be both a blessing and a curse. She has figured everything out very quickly and she is hurting. We are taking steps to make sure she gets what she needs to get through this too.

I will keep responding to e-mails as quickly as I can but I will also post a message here whenever there is any news to share.

I have always felt one of my greatest gifts in life is having so many wonderful friends and family around the World. Thanks for sticking with me through this.I need you all.


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September 17th 2007

Robert Jordan

I read with great sadness today, that James Oliver Rigney, Jr. (known to most of us by his pen name of Robert Jordan), author of the extremely popular Wheel of Time series of books has died. He had been fighting illness for some time and I had been following his blog and always hoping for good news. Sadly today the news is that he has lost his battle.

His books have kept me company on many a long plane ride and I have met many others while traveling who were also carrying copies of his books.

My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

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September 16th 2007

I'm still way behind

Despite my best intentions, I am still way behind in my postings here. I am managing to keep several of the other sections up to date and I really am hoping to get back to a regimen of regular postings here soon.  We have crammed a lot of interesting activities into the Summer break but I have to confess that now that the kids are both back at school things do feel a little calmer around here and hopefully that will let me get back to my long planned web site overhaul. However, with both kids now playing soccer (both insisted they would only play if I helped coach), a lot of my free time after work and at the weekends is taken up with that. We have practices three nights a week and games every Saturday and even a few on Sunday! For those interested in my work activities, I have been making some (fairly regular) postings to my work blog. One of the things I have managed to do over the Summer is make more time for reading which has been particularly nice.

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June 18th 2007

Watching Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-117) launch

I am way behind in my updates here, so over the next week or so I am going to try and get caught up. What better way to start than with a brief description of attending a Space Shuttle launch!

I felt both extremely lucky and privileged to be able to attend the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-117) a few days ago on June 8th. It was even more fun to have been able to have my wife and kids with me. Hopefully this is something that my kids will never forget. I know I won't.

I used to live in South Florida (about 200 miles from the Cape) and I have seen several launches from there. However, from that far away, you only see the Shuttle on very clear days and only when it has climbed fairly high into the sky. By pure chance, I found myself able to be at the Cape for the recent launch and seeing a it up close is just waaaay better!

I was in Orlando for a short vacation with the family and had not even realized that a launch was planned anytime soon. When we heard that the launch was scheduled for 7:38pm on Friday evening (June 8th) and that there was an 80% chance of good weather, we decided the chance it and drive the 60 miles out to the Cape. The roads were very busy, clearly a few other people had the same idea :-)  The whole way there and the whole time we were waiting for the launch, I kept saying to myself  "try not to get excited, something will probably delay the launch, this probably won't happen today" - but could not hold back a sense of great excitement and it did launch!

Atlantis blasts into space
We watched the launch from the lawn alongside the Astronaut Hall of Fame which is about 8 or 9 miles from the launch pad (on the mainland side of the causeway). We got there several hours early but NASA did an excellent job of keeping us both informed and entertained during the wait for launch. They had a big screen setup with up close shots of the launch preparations and they also had a stage setup. Former Shuttle Astronaut Col. Bob Springer made several appearances on the stage and spoke to us about where things were in the launch. He also took questions (many from young children) and answered them all very well. What a great role model he was (if only other people kids look up to were such good advocates for believing in your dreams). NASA also had setup a food tent, toilets, and gave everyone who had paid the small fee to park and attend the launch there unlimited access to the Hall of Fame and Museum (which my wife and I and the kids really enjoyed).

The picture below shows pretty much the view we had. Not knowing there was any chance this might happen when we left home for our vacation, I had left all of my bulky long lenses behind so this was taken with my small 35-90mm lens but it still captures the moment pretty well. Unfortunately there were two launch pads visible and I had positioned myself with a great view of the wrong one! Right before launch I heard that the Shuttle was actually on the launchpad behind the tree (and power lines) that were right in front of me - but hey - I was not looking for a professional shot, just a few great memories and we sure got that. The only thing that this picture cannot convey is the sound wave that we both heard and felt a few seconds after launch.

There was great feeling of community during the wait and the few thousand of us there all counted out loud for the final few seconds before ignition. There was also a noticeable moment of quiet when Atlantis reached the point in it's takeoff where Challenger had suffered the malfunction that none of us will ever forget.

As I said at the start of this posting, I felt both lucky and privileged to be part of this experience -  WOW!
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April 20th 2007

Things that make me feel old #27

During the mid 1980's while I was at university and during the late 80's on into the early 90's while enjoying having a real job for the first time and a bit of money to spend I was quite a big collector of music CDs (which at the time were fairly new and we still called them albums!). Consequently, I have a fairly large and extremely diverse CD collection covering most forms of music popular during those years. I'm already feeling old as a large chunk of what I bought back then is now only played on radio stations that include the word "Classic" in the name but this week I found myself feeling even older - want to know why? Read on...

One band I was really into during my university years (and before) was The Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O). I think I own all of their albums on both vinyl (many bought during the 70's) and on CD . I even (I think) still have a few cassettes of theirs laying around as well  (yeah I know that's pretty hard core). I had not listened to much E.L.O stuff for a while but this week I felt like listening to a few of the early E.L.O albums while working. For some reason I decided to (foolishley I now realize) look up on the web when "Face the Music" by said E.L.O (which I was listening to at the time) was recorded. Well the answer, if you can believe this, is 1975. Can it really be that long ago? 32 years? Wow!

I think I'm gonna go listen to one of my Cold Play CDs for a while. When I look up when they were recorded I feel much younger again (and a bit more with it as well!!!)
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March 12th 2007

Spring Break, DST comes early, and other updates

Things have been very busy both at work and home. As a result I have not posted here (to the home page) for a while. I have been keeping some of the other sections of the site updated but I still have a lot of updates that I need to make waiting in the queue. Work wise I have been traveling quite a bit (just inside the US so far). On one of the trips (a week in the Raleigh Durham area) I passed over the 2 million mile mark in the American Airlines frequent flier program on the way home. While a lot of my colleagues fly substantially more than I do, this was still a stark reminder of just how much I have been traveling the last few years. I am more than ready for the amount of travel to slow down. Sadly, travel is the price I pay for choosing to live in a place that is remote from many of my co-workers and customers.

While on the subject of travel, last week I had to go to Chicago for the day to attend some meetings. It was amazing to see the difference that a few hundred miles makes to weather conditions (Chicago is just under 1000 miles from here). I left Austin at 6:00am on a beautiful clear sunny day (the high that day was in the high 70's F). When we landed in Chicago it was a scene from mid-Winter. Frozen lakes, snow, planes being de-iced and a high temperature of 29 degrees Fahrenheit. This was a good reminder of why I live as far south as I do! I got back to Austin around 11pm the same day – tired but happy to be back in warmer climes!

The other reason that I have been posting a bit less here than usual is that I have started working on a prototype for a completely re-designed look for this site. My goal is to switch over to that later in the year (yes it's time for the pink to go!).

We have had drought conditions for a long time now as well as some fairly warm temperatures. In fact it's been sufficiently warm that the temperature of the water in the pool has been hovering around 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) for the last few weeks without needing to use the heater. I think I was the first one in the pool in mid February aided by the fact that I have a very high tolerance for cold water. I think this is due to growing up in England where the English Channel was often this cold even in the midst of Summer! Both kids have also now been swimming several times now, but Lorna has yet to “take the plunge” !

This weekend in the US, we switched over to Daylight Savings Time. This is considerably earlier than usual due to a change in the law that came into effect this year. I spent most of Sunday morning making sure that all of the computers and other electronic devices in the house had realized the time has changed. For the next few weeks we find ourselves only 5 hours behind the UK which will make working with my colleagues there just a little bit easier. Of course getting the kids out of bed while it is still dark outside is not so easy (that's the downside of starting DST so early!).

In the sporting world, this week sees the start of the Cricket World Cup. I'm keeping my expectations extremely low for England's chances but of course I wish the team all the best as they head into this two month long event. Hopefully the successes they enjoyed towards the end of the recent tour of Australia will give them some momentum going into this competition. As with the football World Cup, one of the interesting dynamics is that as well as the big name cricketing nations you also get some other countries playing in the event that are not known for their cricketing prowess. It will be interesting to see if we get any surprises. What odds for a Scotland vs Holland final I wonder ? :-)

This week the kids are off school for Spring Break so, naturally, drought notwithstanding, it's pouring with rain and supposed to be wet until at least Wednesday.

Anyway, that's the update for now. I will try and get into a more regular pattern of posting over the next few months.

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January 16th 2007

The downside of working from home - no ice day!

Wherever you are reading this I hope that your year is off to a good start. I took a large part of December off to recharge the batteries after a very busy 2006. Consequently I have not posted here at all since early December. The new year for me is already off to a busy start but at least I feel somewhat rested and ready to go. Over the holiday period in the Austin area we had a mix of warm,cold and wet weather. The new year has started in much the same way. It was 75 degrees Fahrenheit here last Friday but since then it has become quite cold. Today we awoke to temperatures in the low 20's Fahrenheit with a mix of ice, freezing rain, sleet and snow. A few minutes ago we had about 30 minutes of snow but not enough for the kids to have a good snowball fight. Around here the kids don't see snow very ofter so as soon as it starts they all run outdoors . I think the last time we had any snow that settled was in 2004 and even then it only stayed on the ground for a few hours. The weather forecast I just listened to says we could see a few inches of snow before the week is over. All of the area schools are closed and most businesses are shut and I just looked at the airport website and am really glad I am not trying to fly anywhere today. This is definitely a day for not going anywhere if you can avoid it. Those who live in colder climes would be taking a day like this in their stride but this far South the place basically grinds to a halt when we get a rare day of real Winter. So while many people are enjoying an "ice day" off work - yours truly is at his desk working away as usual. I work from home a lot but one of the few downsides is that when we have a really bad weather day I can't say "sorry I can't look at that today as the office is closed". That said we have started having some power and gas outages and that could certainly slow me down a bit.

I'd like to express my best wishes to all my many friends and colleagues around the World for a safe and prosperous 2007. I hope I'll get to meet many of you during my travels in the coming months.

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December 31st 2006

Taking time to reflect and be grateful

As another year winds down, I find myself reflecting on the fact that I have a lot to be thankful for. My wife, my kids, a stable job, many wonderful friends and family members all over the World. Wherever you may be reading this, I wish you all the very best for 2007.

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December 11th 2006

"Beam me up....err....Anthony"

Over the weekend I was with my wife and kids in a store looking at a large display of Christmas tree ornaments. There was the usual collection of novelty ornaments to hang on your Christmas tree. Among them was a Star Trek one showing Kirk, Spock and Scotty standing in the transporter. My son, on spotting this one unpromted by me, says, "Dad, let's buy that one, look...it's the Wiggles"

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December 6th 2006

Welcome to my new home!

If you are seeing this message, you have already found me at my new home!

I created this web site in the Summer of 2004. At that time it was mostly done to give me a way to experiment with different aspects of building a site and to allow me to post a few articles of interest to friends and family around the World. Until this week I was using the limited web site hosting service offered by my ISP, which has served me well enough until now. However, I have finally reached the point where I can no longer work towards building the type of site that I ultimately want to build within the constraints imposed by my ISP. They only give me 5mb of disk space and do not allow any server side scripts (including things like PHP) to run. As I look back at the site and how it has evolved over the last few years, I am actually amazed how much I have been able to cram in to that 5mb allocation. This week I signed up with a real hosting company and I now have more disk space at my disposal than I know what to do with (at least for now!). This will allow me to upload a lot more photos and also (over time) to enable more features than I have been able to in the past. I also finally got around to registering the "kelvinlawrence.net" domain as part of this fairly major upgrade. Initially the new site will look a lot like the old one but over time I hope to add a lot more here....as they say..."watch this space".

While migrating everything over to the new hosting company and the new domain name I have tried to be very careful and adjust any links so that they correctly reference the new site and not the old one. If you come across any broken links with the new site please do let me know.
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November 30th 2006

Here we go again...that crazy Texas weather!

Yesterday evening before we went to bed it was in the low 70's Fahrenheit and during the day the temperature had been up as high as 80 degrees. Overnight a very strong cold front came in and we awoke to find ice on the windows and temperatures down in the 20's. I have written here many times about the crazy Texas weather but you never quite get used to it. Yesterday we sent the kids to school in shorts and t-shirts and today we sent them off in heavy coats and sweaters! Along with cold front last night we had an interesting selection of severe weather alerts (hail, wind, thunder storms, tornadoes) that kept the program on my PC that monitors the weather chirping out warnings all night.

I have been maintaining my effort to keep up with my reading. This month I read Tom Clancy's The Bear and the Dragon (all 1100 plus pages of it) which I enjoyed a lot. I also read The Partner by John Grisham which I also thoroughly enjoyed. I am now reading Deception Point by Dan Brown and Hyperion by Dan Simmons. When it comes to books, one of my bad habits is that I tend to buy them in batches and then go back and read them. The net result of this is that some books have sat on my bokshelves for a very long time before I get around to reading them. Hyperion is a prime example, as I bought it while still living in tyhe UK back in 1990 and I am only now getting around to reading it in November 2006!

Last week the kids were sick and this week I have been very much under the weather as well but other than that things at home are going well. The pool project is coming along quite nicely (I'll try and upload some photos soon) and what looked like a large muddy hole in the ground a few weeks ago is now starting to look a lot more like a swimming pool as each day passes. If the weather cooperates, I am hoping it might be finished and ready for water in about two or three weeks.

I would be remiss in posting this update if I did not comment on the Ashes series that has just got underway in Australia. If any of my Australian friends and colleagues are reading this, what can I say, it looks like revenge may well be yours unless things change drastically after England's less than stellar performance in the first test!! That said, back in 2005, I recall feeling like this after Australia easily won the first test at Lords so maybe history can and will repeat itself - we'll have to wait and see. Either way, I hope it's another great series and as much fun to watch as the 2005 one was. Keeping up with the matches is hard from here in the U.S. The coverage starts at around 6pm in the evening here (which is not too bad considering that equates to midnight for those following the matches in the U.K.) but almost all of the regular internet feeds are blacked out due to licensing restrictions. The second test starts this evening (Friday morning for those in Australia) and I'll be doing my best to follow along and hopefully will not be made to suffer as much as I was a few days ago listening to Australia make record scores at the Gabba.

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October 27th 2006

Miscellaneous notes from a busy week

Most weeks are busy these days between work and family commitments and this week was no exception. Several days I stayed up late (and into the next day) to dial into some business meetings in Asia (but that was better than having to travel there given how crazy things have been at home).

In spite of how busy life has been, I have made a promise to myself that I will somehow find more time to read than I have been managing of late. This week I managed to read a couple of fairly short books. The first was Digital Fortress by Dan Brown and the second was the Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton. I enjoyed both and found it easy to get through them but neither were in my opinion that great. If you look at my Books and Magazines page you will see that I gave each book a score of 7 out of 10. Digital Fortress is the third of the four Dan Brown books currently in print that I have read. The other two being Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code. Of the three I enjoyed Angels and Demons the most. His other book Deception Point is in my queue of books sitting next to my desk waiting to be read. The Great Train Robbery is one of Crichton's first books (written I think in 1974). To be honest I didn't know it even existed until I saw it in a discount rack at the local supermarket a couple of weeks ago. Given my background (being born and raised myself in the UK) I picked up a copy as it looked like a storyline that I would enjoy. To be honest, it reads as much as a history book as it does a novel but it was none the less quite readable. I enjoyed his portrayal of events in Victorian England around the middle of the 19th Century and found it easy to relate to the period having studied it in detail while at school. The book was enjoyable enough but not as compelling a read as some of his other works. I guess, for me, it was a bit like watching the movie "Titanic", you already know the punchline before you get there, which for me, has never worked as well as a style of storytelling as one where suspense is maintained until the final chapter.

Other than being busy and finding time for a bit more reading, there has not been too much of note to report this week (which is just fine). We had quite a bit of rain during the week and so there has not been any progress made on the pool. The weather has been the usual mixed bag for this time of the year. A cool front (the tail end of a storm that left 18 inches of snow in Colorado earlier in the week) finally came in last night and we haven't yet quite managed to reach 70 Fahrenheit here today. It's also been quite windy here all day. The forecast is good for the weekend so hopefully I can spend a lot of time outdoors with the family and the dogs.

Finally, the dreaded annual test of willpower (also known as "how the heck am I going to stop myself eating too much Halloween candy?") is just a few days away. Luckily I have a soccer game on Sunday to try and run off a few calories first!

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October 19th 2006

Kakuro puzzles, the new pool and other miscellany

Towards the end of last year I got quite hooked on Sudoku puzzles for a while. They can be quite addictive. I ended up writing a small computer program in Java that solved them and that helped cure me of that particular addiction! Recently while checking out at my local grocery store I spotted (and bought) a new book of Kakuro (also known as Cross Sum) puzzles. Although I believe that these puzzles are quite popular I had not come across them before. In my spare time I have been trying to teach myself the Python programming language and so last weekend I decided to write a Python program to help solve Kakuro puzzles! I decided not to let the program fully solve the puzzles but to be more of a solver's aid (listing possible combinations of numbers that achieve the desired sum etc.). So for now the Kakuro puzzle book is remaining a fairly regular companion!

Life at home has been very busy (I think we've visited just about every flavour of kids doctor and dentist in the last two weeks!) and so I haven't been able to update the pages here too much lately. You may have noticed that I have been trying to keep up with my reading and I just finished World War: In the balance by Harry Turtledove which was a good read. I'm grateful to my friend Roger for introducing me to this author, whose work I had not read before.

Meanwhile, we finally broke down, after living here for 10 years, and decided to put in a pool. Today I am working from home with all the windows shut (despite the nice cool weather) as the guys are outside spraying the gunite. There is so much vibration that my car alarm goes off about once every 10 minutes! Yesterday it was almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit here but today (after a cold front came through last night) we are in the 50's....I don't think we'll be using the new pool for a while!

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October 5th 2006

Google Gadgets for web pages

I was interested to see the announcement by Google yesterday that they are making their Google Gadgets available so that people can embed them (via a simple script tag) in their own web pages. This is particularly interesting for people like myself, whose web sites are hosted by their ISP with limited space and features enabled (as in my case).If you missed the announcement you can find it here. The list of available gadgets is here. You should see a clock gadget below.

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September 25th 2006

Has Autumn finally arrived in Central Texas?

We awoke this morning to temparatures in the 50's Fahrenheit. It's wonderful to be able to open all the windows again and let in some truly fresh air. This Summer we have endured in excess of 30 days where the temparature was over 100F. It's supposed to warm up into the high 70's or even mid 80's by mid afternoon but at least the evenings and mornings should be cooler for the next few days. We had a very strong storm front go through this area on Saturday (it was severe enough to cause the Univerity of Texas to suspend play in it's football game for over an hour). Now that the storm has passed through we are getting our first real relief from what has been a very hot Summer.

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August 22nd 2006

A long week on the road and now two weeks off

Last week I travelled to Baltimore to speak at the SHARE conference. I left home before dawn on Sunday (August 13th) to get to the airport in plenty of time given the new security procedures in effect. Apart from it taking longer than usual to check-in (due to a lot more passengers than normal checking bags) I did not encounter any other unexpected delays. Given the recent events in the UK, I was happy to see that the planes were full and that the airports were busy - people are just getting on with life, which is good to see. I arrived in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon and left on Thursday afternoon for New York to attend some business meetings at our corporate headquarters before finally flying home from New York (via Chicago) on Friday evening. I did not have as much spare time in Baltimore as I would have liked but I did at least get to walk around the harbour and take some photographs. It was hot and at times quite humid during the week. I didn't sleep well at all in Baltimore. I think my hotel must have been either close to a fire station or a police station as all night I kept getting woken up by one siren after another. From Baltimore I travelled to New York for some meetings on Friday (I actually got off in Stamford CT as it was more convenient for my friend who met me at the station). I travelled by train for the first time in a while in the US as it was both cheaper and more convenient than flying for that particular leg of my trip. I have to say it was a very pleasant experience. I took the new Acela Express service that Amtrak runs between Washington DC and Boston. I would definitely take this train again. It was very comfortable, with plenty of space to work and even had AC power that I could plug my laptop into. I got the impression that a lot of people were taking the train for the first time to avoid the travel delays being reported by many of the airports in the North Eastern United States. The train was full. I stayed with my friends and his family in Connecticut on Thursday night and I slept really well (no sirens - or any other loud noises for that matter). It was great to not have to check-in to yet another hotel and spend the night with some good friends that I don't see as often as I would like. I'm very grateful to them for putting me up for the night.

I got home about 1:30am Saturday morning after getting delayed in both New York and Chicago by a mixture of bad weather and an Instrument Landing System (ILS) failure on one of the runways at Chicago O'Hare airport. The weather in New York was bright and sunny but we could not leave on time due to the problems at O'Hare.

I haven't taken much vacation time yet this year so I am taking the next two weeks off (I'm not going back to work in fact until after the Labor day holiday here in the US). We're in the middle of a really bad drought in Central Texas. I wish some of the heavy rain I had to deal with in Chicago last Friday would find its way here. We have been over 100 degrees Farenheit every day for the past week or so. I played soccer on Sunday afternoon (August 20th). It was 97F when the game started and 103F by the end of the game (yes I know, mad dogs and Englishmen etc). My daughter went back to School last week. I still have trouble getting used to how early the schools go back in Texas compared to what I was used to growing up in England where August is considered the height of Summer.

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July 19th 2006

Started working on updates to Family & Friends section

For those of you that follow the Family & Friends section, after a long delay of about seven months, I have started getting some more recent photos of the kids posted.

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July 15th 2006

Started working on various updates

Enjoying a period of almost two weeks since I last had to travel, I have finally started making updates to many sections of the site. I still have a lot more photos from my recent trip to Europe that I want to get on-line as soon as possible, but if you care to look around hopefully you will notice a lot of updates. For folks that monitor the Family & Friends area I promise I will get some new kid photos uploaded soon!

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July 2nd 2006

Finally home after a very busy June

June was a very busy month for me. I travelled to Europe for 15 days of business meetings that took me to Prague, Vienna and various parts of the UK. I did manage to see a lot of friends and family members in between meetings and that was great. I will try over the next week or two to update the various parts of this site with some photos and other information about my recent travels. Upon my return from Europe I had to go out to California for a couple of days so I'll not start working on the updates until my head gets a bit more back into the correct timezone!

As a temporary measure, I have placed a few photos from Prague into my Yahoo! photo album. Note that the resolution of the pictures is greatly reduced from the original by the upload process but at least (hopefully) you can get an idea of what a beautiful city Prague is.

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May 11th 2006

A really stormy Spring in Texas

I have been incredibly busy at work (including quite a bit of travel) and things at home have also been busy and as a result I have not been able to post as often as I would like here in recent weeks. I have, however, managed to find a little bit of time to update other sections of the site. As has been reported in the news, May has so far been incredibly stormy in Texas. We have had numerous Thunderstorm Warnings and Tornado Watches issued by the Weather Service and sadly some areas of the state have suffered major damage as a result. We have also seen a lot of hail and very heavy rain. Mixed in with this it has been very hot. Just south of Austin, it hit 106F yesterday. Today it was cooler when we woke up as a light cold front moved through the area over night. Certainly a pleasant break from the recent very muggy conditions. The next few days are supposed to be more pleasant both in terms of temparature and calmer weather.

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March 23rd 2006

A day at the Johnson Space Center - Houston

One of the consoles in the former Apollo 13 Mission Control room

As I mentioned in my prior posting, a couple of weekends ago I finally was able to make the time to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston. We took one of the tours that included a visit to one of the two former Mission Control rooms that were used during the Apollo program. It is fascinating to think that the total computing power in the room was about the same as that found in a modern day cell phone (at least that is what the tour guide told us). Note also the plastic tubes on the left side of the console. There was no e-mail in those days so if you wanted to send a message to someone else anywhere in the building you sent a note on paper in a tube to them through a system of pipes like those used today in many banks and other businesses! We have come a long way since then but I bet the didn't have the spam problem then that we have now! As I mentioned in my prior posting, if you are at all interested in the space program's of both the US and Russia, this tour is a must. There is another tour that takes you into the current mission control room but we did not have the time to do that tour as well. We also got to go inside many of the other buildings, including the one that contains the training areas for the Space Shuttle and for Space Station Freedom. You will find some more of the pictures that I took in my Yahoo! photo album.

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March 13th 2006

Spring has sprung - in Texas

Things have been so busy that I have not posted to the homepage here in almost a month (although I have been keeping many of the other sections of the site up to date during that time). I spent last week in Seattle where it is still very much Winter, in fact it was snowing the night before I flew home. Here in Texas this week the kids are on Spring Break and Spring has definitely arrived. We have have had almost no Winter this year and last Friday the high temparature was 90 degrees Farenheit where we live. This week it's a little cooler but still very mild. Many of the trees in our garden (mostly the Red Buds) have already bloomed. Over the weekend we drove to Houston to tour the Johnson Space Center and to visit the really excellent visitors center called Space Center Houston (a fabulous day out by the way) and along the way we saw many Texas Blue Bonnets along the side of State Road 71. I'll try and get a few of the photos I took at the Space Center posted here over the next few weeks.

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February 17th 2006

Crazy Texas weather - again!

As you will know if you have explored this site at all, I have lived in the Austin (Texas) area for a little over 10 years now. Despite that, the frequent and often dramatic shifts in weather here never cease to amaze me. Yesterday afternoon it was 81 degrees Farenheit and I was wearing shorts and playing with the kids outside. Overnight a cold front blew in and today (at 11:00) it is 39 degrees Farenheit and it has just started to rain and apparently ice storms are a possibility for the weekend. If you've ever had the pleasure of driving through or even flying through this area on an "ice day" you'll know just how much fun that can be! My friends and colleagues in the North East of the USA probably wonder why I am complaining given they are burried under snow at the moment but even so, a more than 40 degrees temparature swing in under 12 hours is amazing! The Freescale Marathon is being run here in Austin on Sunday and sadly this weather looks like making that a tough run for those involved. I am supposed to be playing soccer on Sunday afternoon and that should be fun too. Forecast highs for Sunday are in the low 30's. Despite growing up in the UK I haved most recently lived in predominantly warm areas and it's always a shock to the system when this kind of weather literally blows in. Looks like being a weekend for movies, video games and reading!

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January 30th 2006

A busy start to a busy year

As I suspected, 2006 has indeed got off to a busy start. I have already had to travel on business three times (all within the Continental USA) and we are not yet out of January. So far I have found myself in Raleigh, Las Vegas,and San Jose. I had not been to Las Vegas for a few years but it did not seem to have changed very much. I think the airport however, may make it onto my unofficial list of the "top 10 airports I least like to fly through"! Arriving is not too bad but departing is a different story. I arrived at the airport at around 5am (maybe even a little before that) for a 7am flight. I guess to an extent I was a bit naiive and expected the airport to be somewhat quiet at this early hour (I guess I have become spoiled getting used to calm early departures out of Austin). Far from being quiet, the place reminded me of LAX at four in the afternoon (LAX would also make my list). The teminal was mobbed. Long lines were everywhere, at check in, security, even for the train to the gates. In fact, even the automatic ticket kisok machines had long lines in front of them. Mental note to self, Las Vegas never sleeps and this includes the airport! The one saving grace was that there is a separate frequent flyer line for the security checkpoint. It appeared that 90% of the people leaving Vegas at that morning either were not frequent flyers or did not realize that there was such a line available. I estimate that this saved me more than 30 minutes if not more. The other saving grace was that after finally navigating all of the lines, squeezing into the train and walking through the "last chance to win" gauntlet of slot machines that I found myself right in front of a Starbucks! Oh well, enough of my complaining, 2006 is indeed off to a very busy start.

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January 11th 2006

Another busy year ahead

So the holidays are over and 2006 is here. One of my resolutions for the new year is to spend a bit more time on this web site. We'll see how well I actually manage to do that as the year progresses. As I look at my calendar for 2006 it is already filled with both personal and business commitments. Looks like being another hectic year. First day back after the break I found myself on a plane at 6:50am to attend some business meetings in North Carolina. This week I seem to have managed to catch a really nasty cold or the flu. So between work, kids and feeling under the weather, I'm already in need of another holiday and I have only been back at work for a week and a half! I hope that your year is perhaps off to a calmer start.

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December 22nd 2005

A time to reflect

At this time of year it is important for me to stop and reflect on all of the many things that I am thankful for. I am blessed in that I have many of them. Most of all I have a wonderful wife, two fantastic kids and a great extended family. I also am extremely fortunate to have such a large collection of friends and work colleagues all over the World. To all of you, here's wishing for a safe and merry Christmas/Holiday season and a very happy and successful 2006.

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December 2nd 2005

I can't believe it's already December

Where has the year gone? Time just seems to be flying by. We put up the Christmas lights outside the house last weekend. Indeed our entire street is now looking very festive. The last few weeks both work and family life have been extremely hectic so I have not been posting here as often as normal. We had a restful Thanksgiving break and the weather here in central Texas has been great recently. Clear skies, highs in the 60's Farenheit and overnight lows in the 40's and 50's (once or twice even into the 30's) over the past couple of weeks. It's supposed to be warmer again over the weekend. I have a soccer tourament to play in on Sunday and the forecast looks great for that. A friend in the UK sent me the official set of 3 DVDs containing all the highlights of the Ashes series from this Summer. I am hoping to make some time to watch those soon. Another good friend who just visited the UK brought me back the "Botham's Ashes" DVD which has all the highlights of the 1981 Headingly test on it. I did force myself to find time to watch that and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was great to relieve those few days again. I remember being home from school part of that day (but not why) and watching Botham's epic knock on TV live. Taling of how time flies, I cannot believe that that was 24 years ago now.

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November 23rd 2005

RSS Feed now tested and live

I finally added RSS support to this web page. For those of you that like using RSS readers or live bookmarks (in Firefox) the RSS feed is now available. For the time being the RSS feed is just for the main page.

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November 18th 2005

I'm ready for a rest

I haven't posted for a couple of weeks. Work has been busy, the kids have been sick, I had to have surgery (nothing major but surgery is never fun) and my wife has been looking after us all. Suffice to say, we're all hoping to get a few days rest at the end of next week during the Thanksgiving holiday (long) weekend here. In the meantime some cooler weather finally arrived here in Texas. As recently as a week ago, we were still in the 80's Farenheit but then a cold front arrived and finally we have some sweater weather for the first time since last Winter. The daytime highs have been in the 50's and 60's and at night it's been getting down into the 30's. The cooler weather is supposed to stay with us until at least the middle of next week.

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October 30th 2005

Colorado Software Summit 2005

I spent last week in Keystone (Colorado) at the Colorado Software Summit. I have put few photos into the Travel journal and also into the Yahoo! photo album. For those interested, I put some technical details into the dW Blog and I also added a few details to the Conferences section.

The mountains rise in the distance above Keystone Village

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October 27th 2005, OK So the Astros didn't quite go all the way...!

...But we're still really proud of them, especially all of our Round Rock Express alumni. Hopefully the experience gained this year will take them all the way next season! Go get a well earned rest
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October 20th 2005, The Astros finally are going all the way!

We sat on the edge of our couch in front of the TV on Monday night hoping the Houston Astros would manage to win against St. Louis and get to the World Series for the first time ever. Then, in the bottom of the 9th, with two men out and two strikes in the count, disaster struck and the Astros lost the game and the NLCS series went back to St. Louis with Houston still holding a 3-2 lead. As a result, last night we were back on the same couch, in front of the same TV as the Astros convincingly won game 6 and finally booked a place in the World Series. So why is a guy from England who is usually writing here about Cricket and Football (Soccer) so much into baseball? Well, before I moved to Texas in 1995 I liked basebal, had managed to learn most of the rules and would go to some of the Florida Marlins games (I was living in South Florida at the time) and I would watch games on TV but I did not really follow any single team that closely. Since the Astros put a minor league team in Round Rock a few years ago (the Round Rock Express) I have been following baseball a lot more closely. As I have said in prior postings, we (my wife and I) have become fairly serious Express fans in the last few years and we go to many of the home games. What made last night's Astros win so special is the fact that many of the players on the team are former Express players that have progressed to the Major league team. People in Round Rock have sort of adopted the Express players and we are extremely happy for them and what they have achieved. We're of course also happy for some of the long time Astros players that have waited a long time for this chance at the World Series. We'll be back on the couch again Saturday cheering them on in game 1 of the World Series. Good luck guys, a lot of people here in Round Rock will be cheering for you!
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October 10th 2005

Things at home and at work have been fairly hectic so I have not had a chance to make many updates to the site in the last couple of weeks. On Saturday I got together with another friend from the UK and we watched England barely qualify for the football World Cup finals with a not very inspiring 1-0 display against Austria. For the $25 it cost us on pay-per-view we were hoping for a few more goals!! Other than that, not a lot to report right now.
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Septmeber 27th 2005

In keeping with my English heritage I am again posting about the weather. I heard on the news here this morning that the official high temparature yesterday was 108F, which apparently broke a record for that day set in 1923. We have now had highs over 100F for the last six days. Again today it has already hit 100F. Global warming, I see no evidence of global warming!
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Septmeber 26th 2005

In the end, Rita passed us by here without so much a drop of rain. It was sort of eerie that we could see the edges of the storm if we looked to the South East but it never quite reached us. While other parts of Texas and Louisiana were sadly not so lucky, the only evidence we saw here of Rita was that it was a little more breezy than usual. There were not even many clouds in the sky. The weather here in Central Texas has been, and continues to be very hot. Records have been broken on more than one day recently. On September 21st, as Autumn officially arrived, we experienced temperatures around 103F (39C) and it continues to be very hot. Today, at 2pm it was 101F (38C) and by 2:30pm it was right around 104F (40C). We could actually have used some of the rain from Rita that others definitely did not need. Call it global warming, climate patterns or whatever you want, all I know is that the Texas Weather has been more weird than usual of late (and that is saying something!).
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Septmeber 23rd 2005 - Hurricane Rita update

It appears the storm has changed track somewhat to the North. This would mean that here in the Austin area we will not see anything like the bad weather that was predicted as recently as yesterday morning. These storms are fickle so we're all monitoring it closely of course. We'll keep you all posted but if the storm maintains its current path we believe that we will be fine here. Thoughts and prayers of course are with those in the direct path of this thing.
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Septmeber 22nd 2005 - Now It's Hurricane Rita

With Hurricane Katrina still very much in the news here, now we have another, potentially even bigger, storm to deal with. First of all I would like to express my thanks to our many friends that have written to us over the last few days from around the World to ask if we are doing OK given the fact that Hurricane Rita seems bound for Texas. Here in the Austin area we are well over a hundred miles from the Texas coast where Rita is likely to make Landfall. So we will not see anything like the brunt of the storm here, neither will we see any tidal surge type of damage given we are not near the coast. That said, the storm is sufficiently large, that we will likely get rain and winds consistent with a Category 1 storm here (so sustained winds in the 75mph range are possible). Sadly, the news stations here have probably created an unnecessary state of panic in the Austin area. We went to the grocery store last night to get some things and people were panic buying and all of the water had already gone. The newspapers and TV stations are trying to make sure people are prepared for a few days without power etc but in my opinion a lot of people are over reacting. It's likely we will lose power here for a bit but other than rain and wind we should be ok (famous last words right!). There is of course a risk of tornadoes being spawned by a storm such as this. The real focus here should be, and is, on getting people in the coastal areas of Galveston and Corpus Christi and the areas around Houston evacuated as necessary. Down by the coast it looks like things are going to be very rough. Our family members that live down there have already relocated thankfully. We'll keep you all posted over the next few days (assuming the power stays on!).

Maps:Several people who are not familiar with the Texas geography have asked me how close Austin is to where the storm is supposed to make landfall. You can get a Google map showing the area if you click here.

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Septmeber 20th 2005

I spent most of last week in Los Angeles. It was a very busy week for me and as such I have had little time to post anything new to the site here. Every day the hotel placed a copy of the Los Angeles Times under my door. I haven't read the LA Times much in the past but actually found it to be a quite readable paper. Moreover, imagine my surprise upon browsing the September 13th edition when I found an almost full page article on the Ashes entitled "Cricket Victory Lifts Spirits of a Nation". I was more than a bit surprised to see this much real estate devoted to the cricket (not exacly a game that is followed closely over here by the majority). Maybe there is hope for the World yet! The story (without the photos that were in the printed version) are on the LA Times web page.
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Septmeber 12th 2005 - The Ashes are coming home!

Those of you that know me will know that I am an almost fanatical cricket fan. If you don't like cricket, or have no clue what I am talking about then feel free to stop reading now! As far as I am concerned, today is one of those "I remember where I was when..." days. I don't think I have felt like this since I watched England win the Headingly test match in 1981 on TV. As it turns out I was sitting in the airport today listening to the final day of the 5th test match between England and Australia from the Oval over the internet. It was so tense for a while that I just could not listen. With five English wickets down I actually thought Australia were going to snatch it. But at the end of the day, against most predictions at the start of the Summer, England have prevailed. My hat is off to both teams. This series was nothing short of excellent. Brilliant entertainment. Yes of course I am happy that England ulimately won, but as I have said in sevral prior postings, the real winner here was the game of cricket itself. I cannot recall a series during my lifetime, except maybe the 1981 series, that has been so completely and utterly compelling to watch. I'm sure there will be a lot of second guessing in Australia over the next few days, but you know what, if a few catches had been held and and a few decisions not given, this series could easily have gone the other way. It was that close. I am also deeply indebted to a friend in the UK who sent me some highlights on DVD of a few of the matches. I would also like to express my thanks to the folks that allow the BBC Test Match Special radio broadcast to be heard around the world over the internet. To those of us that find ourselves living in other countries and unable to attend the matches this means a lot. I would also like to thank the folks at foxpsorts.news.com.au that put video highlights of each day's play on the internet. To both teams, all I can say is, thank-you for a brialliant summer of enthralling cricket. I cannot wait for the next series in Australia in 2006/7.
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Septmeber 11th 2005

I don't know about you, but all of the endless news coverage of events along the Gulf Coast and the fact that today a lot of time is being spent remembering 9/11/2001, can start to get a little overwhelming. So, all I can say is thank Heavens for sports! Here in the U.S. the Baseball season is nearing the playoffs, the National Football League (NFL) kicked off this week and College Football is into its second full week. The game last night between Texas and Ohio was a thriller. Today it was great to see the folks in the shelters in Baton Rouge cheering on the New Orleans saints while they watched on TV. Meanwhile over in the UK, the Premier League is under way and the cricket series between England and Australia which has captivated so many people's attention is going down to the wire. The bad weather may have robbed us of a really close finish to the final match but with a full day of play left and given what has transpired in the series to date I believe it's still anyone's game. So, as I said at the start of this posting, thank Heavens for the various sporting events that can, at least for a little whlie, give many of us a much needed outlet (and in my case at least, a break from my CNN/BBC addiction!).

Of course, all this talk of sports events, does not in any way imply that we are not trying to do all we can to help those left greatly in need by Katrina. Earlier today, my wife and the girl scout troop she helps run, went up and down our street collecting food donations for the folks being sheltered here in Austin. I'm happy to report that our big SUV is jam packed with supplies (we had to fold all the seats flat) and we'll be taking this to the drop off point soon. As far as I can tell the people here in Austin and all over Texas have really stepped up and its great to see.

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Septmeber 4th 2005

Yesterday my wife and I managed to find the time to attend the University of Texas football game. We don't get to go to many games and this one was a rather emotional affair as the opposing team was from Lafayette, Louisiana. The players, cheerleaders and fans who made the journey from Louisiana were given a warm reception by all those present. During the game it was announced that 7,000 refugees from Hurricane Katrina will be coming to Austin and that overall, the state of Texas is now housing approximately a quarter of a million refugees. This includes official shelters, churches and private homes. I'm glad that Texas is steping up to help so well, but I also hear that most of the official shelters are now full.
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Septmeber 3rd 2005

The news here of course remains dominated by the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all of those affected in any way. I am glad to see our home state of Texas stepping up to take in large numbers of refugees in several cities. We all feel a bit helpless as we watch the coverage on TV but we're doing what we can by way of donations etc. We believe that Austin will start taking in refugess from the storm soon. I'm sure there will be a lot of finger pointing and politics as the immidiate emergency turns from a rescue mission to a damage assessment exercise but for now we just hope and pray that the focus remains on getting all those still stuck in the affected states to safer locations.
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August 29th 2005

I spent all of last week in Boston on business. It was a very busy week and as a consequence I haven't posted much here of late. It was nice to experience the cooler temperatures (80's by day and 50's overnight). I did not have a lot of free time in Boston but I did get a few nice sunset photos of the city and the harbor. The photo on the right, shows the USS Constitution in its Boston Harbor dock right before sunset last Thursday. The ship, also know as "Old Ironsides" is still an active vessel of the US Navy, in fact it was due to go out into the harbor for a two hour voyage the following day. You can read more about the ship here. I got back to Texas last Friday afternoon and it was 102F. Summer may be officially over and the kids are back at school, the local baseball team just played its last regular season triple-A game, but the weather right now is as hot as it has been all year. As I have been all Summer, I was up early again on Saturday and Sunday to listen to the 4th Cricket test between England and Australia from Trent Bridge. Has there ever been a more exciting series than this? England seem to be on top right now, but as I have said in prior posts, whoever wins this series, the ultimate winner is the game of cricket itself. A friend of mine over in the UK taped the third test highlights and sent them to me. That has to be one of the most exciting drawn tests ever. Today I have been working with one eye on the TV as Hurricane Katrina came onshore. It remains to be seen exactly how bad the damage and loss of life will be. Thoughts and prayers go out to all of those involved.
USS Constitution, August 25th 2005
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August 16th 2005

The last 10 days or so have seen two of the most amazing test cricket matches ever played take place back to back. With the Ashes series tied at 1-1 after 3 matches, I scarcely have any energy (or finger nails) left from sitting on the edge of my seat listening to the broadcasts over the internet from the BBC. To all my friends in Australia that sent me nice little e-mails predicting a 5-0 thrasing of England, all I have to say is "game on!". I'm glad we have a few days before the next Test starts so that we can all catch our breath (and I for one can catch up on my sleep as the brodcasts start around 5am here in Texas). I have not updated the site much in the last week or so but prior to that I did do a lot of updating of the pages. Summer is almost over for us here (despite it still being very hot and only mid August). The kids go back to school in a week from now and my Fall/Winter soccer season started this weekend. It's a far cry from when I played in the UK. Playing when it's 100 degrees Farenheit is quite something.
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August 6th 2005

I just added a few of my favourite landscape photographs to the site. You'll find links to them in the Photo Album.
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August 1st 2005

Earlier this year we took a long drive all the way to California and back. I still need to get that journey chronicled in the Travel Journal. Along the way we stopped in Tucson, Arizona for a few days. One of the big attractions for me (given I am a bit of an aircraft nut) in the Tucson area, is the Pima Air and Space Museum. I took a lot of photos at the museum and on the bus tour of the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC), referred to by locals as "the boneyard", but as my current ISP does not give me very much disk space(and as my camera takes very high quality, meaning large ,photos) I have not been able to upload them to the web site. As an interim measure, until I find time to move to a new hosting service, I have just created a photo album over at Yahoo! that has the pictures I took at the museum in it. The photos in the album get quite substantially shrunk when they are viewed but you can still get an idea of what the museum has on offer. If you are at all interested in aircraft (mostly military in this case) then I highly recommend a visit to the museum. I'll try and upload some pictures from other parts of the drive soon as well. By the way, if you want to read more about the Pima Air and Space Museum you can visit their web page.

The entrance to the Pima Air and Space Museum

Meanwhile, I cannot believe August is already here. For us in Texas that means only a few more weeks until the kids go back to school. I still have not fully adjusted to the schedules here. It still seems odd to me that just as we hit our hottest month of the year and just as most of Europe is getting into the swing of Summer, we here in Texas are all getting ready for school to start up again!

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July 28th 2005

It seems so much has happened since I last posted only eight days ago. I've been busy at work, so sitting at the computer in the evening to update this site has been a bit more than I have been up to so I haven't posted for a few days.. Sadly, London was again a target of an attack but thankfully, this time at least, the attack did not achieve its apparent goals. In the cricket, the Ashes series finally got underway and after a fantastic start to the match England collapsed to a heavy defeat. I must confess that at least part of my excitement from the successes in the one day matches has now faded into hoping this is not another case of "here we go again". Interestingly, many of my good friends in Australia have e-mailed me about the cricket in the past few days to get their own back on some of my earlier (perhaps overly optimistic) comments!! The weather here in the US (for those of you reading this from other parts of the World) has been brutally hot. Earlier in the week, around 200 cities reported record high temparatures. Here in Central Texas, it's actually been about average for the time of year, with the frequent cloud and storms we have been experiencing keeping the temps from getting into the hundreds. It was great to see the Space Shuttle blast off this week. I used to live in South Florida, and even though I lived about 200 miles south of the Cape, whenever there was a launch we would all go outside to watch. On a clear day it was still an impressive sight even from that far away. Otherwise, not too much going on. Found time to go and see "War of the Worlds" and "The Island" in the last few days. I enjoyed both but neither struck me as that good. I wish "War of the Worlds" had been a bit longer. The story seemed to be told at a bit of a rush, and I guess I am a bit of a traditionalist and would have preferred the action to be centred around Horsell Common in England and set in the 19th Century. I have also made some (mostly small) updates to various parts of the site in the last few days.
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July 20th 2005

Between work, the kids and everything else going on in our lives, my wife and I seldom get to go see a movie these days. However, in the past few days we've managed to go and see three. We saw, "Batman the beginning", "Fantastic 4" and the remake of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". While I enjoyed all three, my favourite was definitely, Batman. This was a surprise for me, as I have not been that keen on several of the other Batman movies. Fantastic 4 was another good Marvel comics romp and fun to watch but of these style of movies I much prefer films such as X-Men. As for Charlie, well the kids enjoyed it and I thought it was OK but I just could not get past how much Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka reminded me of Michael Jackson. Some cool special effects and definitely the Tim Burton influence was there for all to see. That said, I still prefer the original. Sometime this week we're also going to try and see another remake, "War of the Worlds". However, I must admit am getting more than a little tired of how many of the movies coming out are either sequels to previous movies or remakes of earlier ones. It seems that the decision makers in Hollywood are trying to find the most likely path to potential success by remaking old stuff than by taking a few risks and doing something original. Oh well, here ends my brief diversion into the world of the movie critic.

As expected the weather here in Central Texas has remained stormy this week. Hurricane Emily came ashore a long way south of us earlier today around the Texas/Mexico border. There are forecasts for continued storms throughout the night and maybe even a few funnel clouds here and there (again mostly south of here). Even with all the cloud cover and storms around we have not had as much rain as we would have liked to top up the local lakes. The good news is that the cloud cover has kept the temparature in the high 80's (or at worst low 90's) Farenheit rather than in the high 90's or even low 100's where it had been recently. The downside is that the air is a lot more humid than normal (currently around 50%).

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July 18th 2005

We had quite a bit of rain on and off over the weekend as a series of scattered thunder storms passed through our area. In fact, more storms are forecast all week and depending upon how close hurricane Emily gets to Texas we may see quite a lot of rain before the end of the week. The good part about the rain was that I did not feel too guilty spening quite large amounts of time on both Saturday and Sunday morning sitting in front of the TV watching the live coverage of the British Open Golf from St. Andrews. I guess I'll also be getting up early on Thursday this week to listen to the coverage of the First Test from Lords. After the last couple of ODI matches it looks like the Aussies are now more into form. I think the Ashes series should be really exciting. As good as the BBC radio coverage is, I still wish we had some video coverage over here that was easy to get at. Work remains busy and family life has been busy so I have not been making updates here quite as regularly as I would like to but I keep hoping to find more time to get some things done. I hate to admit it, but my wife and I were overcome by "Potter mania" this past week and along with several hundred others, we camped out at the local Barnes and Noble book store to get our copy of the latest Harry Potter book just after midnight on Saturday morning. We are still following the less pleasant events in the UK closely too and thoughts and prayers remain with all those who have been affected.
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July 7th 2005

Before going to bed last night I watched the recording on the BBC web site of the presentation made by the London team at the ICC meeting in Singapore and also the announcement that London had been awarded the 2012 Olympic Games. I went to bed, filled with a sense of happiness and pride for the folks in the UK that they had pulled this off. I woke up this morning expecting to watch some of the celebrations and to listen to the cricket from Headingly. Instead, we were greeted with scenes of horror and destruction from the capital city. As proud as I was to watch London win the games, I am even prouder to see all the people in London and elsewhere around the UK demonstrate a strength and resolve to get on with normal life and to show once again that they will not shy away from anyone or anything that may mean them harm. All of our thoughts and prayers go out to our many friends and family members and to everyone else in the UK.
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July 6th 2005

I haven't updated the web page in a couple of weeks as we just took a nice family vacation and drove out to California and back with several stops along the way. I hope to find some time to upload the summary of the trip and a few of the photos in the not too distant future. I took 1.6GB of photos so I'll only be able to upload a few here!
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June 18th 2005

Another busy week at work and consequently not much progress on adding to the web site. Given the 6 hour time difference between Texas and the UK, I have been enjoying listening to a lot of the cricket commentary from the BBC over the internet during my early morning hours here. I have listened to the international matches and also a few of the county matches that BBC London covers. It's been particularly fun to listen to the English victory over Australia in the 20-20 match last week and today the win by Bangladesh against Australia in the ODI was incredible (apologies to my friends in Oz that may be reading this, I'm sure I'll come crashing back down to earth soon!). It would be naiive to think that this set of recent setbacks for the Australian team sets the tone for the entire summer but I think England have a good chance of winning a few tests in the Ashes series this year. Of course when Australia play England tomorrow we'll see how well the English team has really progressed. Either way, listening to the cricket has made me very homesick. I even got my old bat out of the cupboard this week, which was a mistake, as my son, who had never seen it before, got a hold of it and almost hit the TV for six! Well, I am now going to take a couple of weeks off work to relax and enjoy some of the beautiful summer weather we have been having. The official temparature today was around 98F but in the parking lot at a local shopping mall today, our car was registering 109F (which is probably about how hot it ws with the sun reflecting off all that concrete). Thank heavens for air conditioning is all I can say.
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June 11th 2005

This past week was a very busy one at work so I have not had the time or truthfully the inclination to spend more time at the computer adding entries here. I'm writing this on Saturday morning and I for one am glad that the weekend is here.
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June 4th 2005

On Saturday, we took the "Austin Duck Adventures" tour of Austin. This is a fun ride in a converted Rolls Royce powered British Military "duck". You drive around Austin for about 45 minutes before plunging (quite literally) into Lake Austin for a few minutes of boat ride before driving back onto land again and finishing the tour. For anyone visiting Austin I highly recommend this as a thing to do. I took the picture of the State Capitol building while leaning out the side of the duck boat. You can read up about the tours offered and see a lot more photos of the duck boats by visiting their web site here.

The Texas State Capitol building, June 4th 2005
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June 2nd 2005

Finally found the time to go and see "Revenge of the Sith" last night. Thoroughly enjoyed it. It was not on the larger screens any more (that honor has now passed to Madagascar which the wife and kids also just went to see).
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May 31st 2005

It was hard getting back to work today after a few days playing around in boats on one of the lakes not too far from here. The weather for the long weekend was kind to us. We had several large storms, but they all came either very early in the morning or after dark. We had nice sunny weather for all of our outdoor activities. As always happens I also ate too much so now I have to be good again for a while, but we had an excellent weekend and a much needed 3-day break from work stresses.
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May 28th 2005

I got up early again, but not early enough. The cricket match had already been won by England. Again, I have to remind myself that the real test (Australia) is yet to come - only about 50 more days to the First Test between England and Australia. Late in the day we headed off to spend the Memorial Day long weekend with friends at a nearby lake.
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May 27th 2005

I got up early again today to listen to the cricket. Play usually ends around 6pm in the UK which is only noon for us here in Texas. The day again belonged to England and it looks as if the match will end quickly tomorrow.
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May 26th 2005

I got up early today to listen to the live radio commentary (over the internet) of the First cricket Test between England and Bangladesh from Lords. As a kid, during the summer, I always had a small radio with me in my briefcase so that I could listen to Test Match Special on the radio on the way home from school. Thanks to the internet, even though I now live nearly 5000 miles away from there, I can still keep up with the cricket during the English summer. England dominated the day's play but the real test will come later in the summer when the Australians arrive for the ashes series. At least this year I think the matches have the potential to be close. Memories of 1981 come flooding back!
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May 24th 2005

Today I gave a keynote speech at SD Forum in Santa Clara. I added a few more words about the event in the Conferences section in the conferences table.
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May 23rd 2005

I flew out to San Jose, California this morning. I have some meetings out here and on Tuesday I have a speech to give at an all day seminar on Web Services hosted by SD Forum. It's a quick trip and I will be returning home on the 25th.
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May 22nd 2005

Well it may only be the middle of May and technically still Spring but Summer is already here in central Texas. The last couple of days it has been in the high nineties (Farenheit) and that is in the shade. The temperature guage in my car in the front driveway of our house was reading 105F at 4pm today.
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May 21st 2005, FA Cup Final Saturday

I got up early today to watch the English FA Cup Final on TV. Here in the Central timezone the kickoff was at 9am. I was in no danger of missing the start as my mate from England turned up at 7:45am having lost track of time and rang the doorbell which made sure I didn't oversleep! Those who know me know that I have been a mad keen Arsenal fan all of my life so today's match between Arsenal and Machester United was of more than passing interest. People say the FA Cup is not as popular as it used to be back "when we were kids" but watching the faces in the crowd and of the players during the tense final moments of the penalty shoot-out I'd have to disagree. As the winning penalty went in I leapt of the couch and I think I frightened the kids! Oh well, now we have a full day ahead but I shall be smiling for the rest of the day and most people around here will have no clue why. I'll also be wearing my Arsenal shirt for the rest of the day and I'll probably sleep in it too!
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May 18th 2005

Haven't had much time to work on the web site this week, it's been a very busy week both at work and at home. The weather here continues to get warmer. It's in the high 80's today and supposed to reach 90 by tomorrow.
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May 11th 2005

Not much new to report. The weather has been typical for this time of year. Quite warm but with lots of clouds about and a thunderstorm here and there. It's supposed to get into the mid 80's Farenheit today.
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May 9th 2005

For the first time in my life, today I went to the local court house to take part in jury selection. I was actually looking forward to seeing the inner workings of a jury trial but unfortunately I was not one of those selected. There were about 200 people there as candidate jurors. They picked pools of potential jurors for three cases. They took groups of 20, 36 and 60 respectively. About a further 40 or so people were excused for hardship reasons. That left about another 50 of us in the room to go home early. Stil I did my part and was ready to serve if needed. I hope I get called again some day.
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May 8th 2005

Last night my wife (who is finally feeling better) and I went to see The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy at the local cinema. We both enjoyed it. Although we each grew up in very different parts of the World, the book had had a strong following in the towns where we went to school and university. I remember one of the professors at my university in England wearing a t-shirt with the words "Don't Panic!" written on the front. She would usually wear it while she was moderating exams! I still think the original BBC productions take some beating but the movie was quite well done. It was almost "Pythonesque" in parts (especially some of the scenes that take place shortly after lading on the Vogon planet). It's been years since I last read the books but now I find myself wanting to go and read them again.
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May 6th 2005

TGIF...My wife has been laid up most of the week with some nasty virus so I have been doing my normal day job as well as a large part of hers (which means taking care of the kids and driving the family school bus). I'm worn out...she will never, ever, again hear me say "I wish we could switch jobs - I wish I had your job!"
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May 5th 2005

Well I have been trying to follow the voting in the UK general election today on the BBC web site but it seems I am not the only one. The polls closed about an hour ago and as of right now I cannot even get the BBC web page to respond to me. I think a lot of others must also be hammering on the site!!
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May 2nd 2005

We had a nice weekend. After some rain early Saturday, the weather improved and remained mild for the rest of the weekend. I wore myself out Sunday afternoon playing football (soccer) and then running all over the neighbourhood park trying to help my daughter fly her first kite. Suffice to say I am sore today!

I also uploaded a few more pictures of my trip last December to Brisbane, Australia, into the Travel Journal today.

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April 30th 2005

Yet again I find myself writing about the weather. I have lived in Texas for nearly 10 years but I never ceased to be amazed by the weather. Another cool front came in over night. Having ended the afternoon yesterday in the low nineties Farenheit, we awoke today to thunder storms and rain and temparatures in the 50's. As I write this, at 10:48am Central time, it's down to 48 degrees!
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April 29th 2005

Well the cooler weather we had been having didn't last too long. At 4pm today it was 92 degrees outside.
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April 28th 2005

It's a mystery - well to me at least. As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I made a brief trip out to Los Angeles last week. On the way home (April 21st) We left LAX later than scheduled by almost an ahour, at about 10am or so. I took this photo at 10:44am Pacific time. So about an hour into the flight (plus or minus 15 minutes I wasn't keeping a close watch) I saw this out the window. I have not doctored the photo in any way in PhotoShop except to adjust the brightness a bit to make the details easier to see....I fly this route frequently but have never seen this before....Again, I did not fake this, I really saw this out the window - there is probably a boring explanation but it's still interesting to ponder, even if someone just did this for fun to get people like me excited! In order to save space I am just uploading the low resolution copy of the photo. The detail is a lot clearer in the higher resolution version.

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April 27th 2005

Wow, it actually flies! I was up early today and managed to see some of the first test flight of the new Airbus A380 on an internet feed. What a monster! As a regular traveller, if this beasty does go into service in the Summer of 2006 as planned I suspect I may find myself on one sooner rather than later. I remember back when the 747-400 began rolling out and the fact that several airports could not take it initially. I wonder how much it's going to take for this plane to make it into major hubs around the World. When the 777 was in flight trials it came into Ft. Lauderdale back when I was living down there and I got to see it before it went into full service. I'm wondering if the A380 is likely to make any pre-launch visits to the USA. Somehow I doubt it!

I started adding some words and pictures from my trip to Brisbane in December 2004 into the Travel Journal last night. Feel free to take a look.

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April 26th 2005

The weather continues to be mild. It's been in the 50's in the mornings and barely getting into the 70's during the day. It's also been cooling off quickly after the sun goes down. We just found out that the most recent of the two hail storms we had has damaged our roof and we need extensive repairs. Such are the joys of the unpredictable weather this time of the year. Things have been so busy at home and at work that I am not making as many updates and improvements to the web site as I had hoped but I am still planning to add a lot more material to each of the sections as soon as I can. Well, it warmed up quite a bit today. It reached 78F on the back porch at the house by 4pm.
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April 23rd 2005

Brrrrrr, a cold front came through and when we awoke it was cloudy and barely 60 degrees Farenheit outside. For parts of the US this would not be that cold but for us it's pretty chilly for mid April. By 5pm it had warmed up considerably and was in the low 70's. Such is the weather this time of the year in Central Texas. Blue skies once again.
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April 21st 2005

I Flew back to Austin from LA this morning. The flight was late leaving LAX as the plane's compass had broken on the prior flight so we had to wait while they fixed that. Other than that short delay, it was a beautiful morning for flying in Southern California. The skies were clear blue and the view during the climb out was very nice. I wish all travel days could be as pleasant as this one. Even though I have only been away for a couple of days it's nice to be heading home again. That said, the weather forecast for this coming weekend is for more of the severe weather that we have been having lately. A lot of our neighbours are having to have their rooves repaired after the recent hail storms.
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April 19th 2005

I haven't needed to travel much lately but today I am on a plane to Los Angeles to attend the Gartner conference. If I have any spare time (which is doubtful) I'll try and take a few photos and post them in the Travel Journal. I spent a few minutes on the plane ride (to get a needed break from work e-mail) working on the Round Rock section of the site.
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April 18th 2005

Not a lot of new things to report. The weather was fine all weekend and we got to do a lot of fun things outdoors. I played soccer on Sunday and was again reminded this morning that I don't heal as fast as I used to. I spent a bit of time working on the web site in the evenings over the weekend. I mainly focussed on the conferences section. I had fun going back through my records piecing together a list of all the conferences that I have attended since 1993. Brought back a lot of happy memories!
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April 14th 2005

We are continuing to enjoy a run of beautiful Spring weather. It's been cool in the mornings but in the 80's Farenheit by mid-afternoon. I have not added much to the web site in the last few days as I have been busy with work and family stuff. I still plan to add some photos of "Spring in Texas" soon. The one thing I did make time to do is to start creating a page dedicated to the Austin and Round Rock area.

I have also created a new Daily log archive and have started moving some of the older entries from this page to the archive.

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April 10th 2005

Well we're definitely into Spring here in Texas. The blue bonnets have started to appear all around and the weather has definitely warmed up appreciably. It was in the mid eighties Farenheit today. Of course, as Spring arrives so do the severe thunderstorm watches and warnings. In fact we're under one right now as I type this. I'll try and get out with the camera and get some pictures of the blue bonnets and post one or two in the coming days. It was kids day at the Round Rock Express baseball today and I'll post a few photos of that in the coming days as well.
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April 7th 2005

A busy week at work. Not a lot of particularly exciting things to report - which is Over the last few days I have tidied things up a bit and started getting some photos and text into the Travel journal. fine with me. The highlight of the past few days was the Houston Astros visit to Round Rock last Friday to play an exhibition game. You'll find a photo in the Photo journal.

Middle of the night update: We were awoken around 1am by the sound of thunder and hail. I went outside to check on the cars (which were thankfully OK) and found hail about the size of an American quarter (coin) falling in significant quantity. This hail was quite a bit larger than that which fell on March 31st.

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Contact me. Last updated March 31st 2009