Welcome to my web page....mostly a journal of the events taking place in my life...please feel free to leave a message in the Guest Book...

Welcome!

This site is very much a work in progress as time permits and has morphed over time into a journal of the things going on in my life.  In October 2007 I was diagnosed with colon cancer so it will come as no surprise that several of the entries below (and also in the archive) document my experiences as I went through surgery, chemotherapy, recovery and continue to go through remission.

When I started putting this site together there was no Facebook or Twitter and in general no one was using the phrase "social media". However, now that we all live in the "Facebook era" I have found I tend to make updates in those venues more and only post updates here when I have something specific I want to record. In the left hand sidebar you will find links to the social sites that I frequent.

Older entries (including a large part of my cancer journal), that previously appeared on the front page of this site have been archived into the Archived entries section. Please feel free to leave a message in the Guest Book. Please take a look around and feel free to send me an e-mail if you have any comments or suggestions.

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14th November 2016

We all need to spend less time on Facebook and more time "down the pub"

For the purpose of this short essay please feel free to substitute any other metaphor that represents your favorite meeting place where you can go and chat with your friends for the phrase "down the pub".

I use that phrase as I was born and raised in England and the British Pub always provided a place where people of differing views could get together, buy each other a round of drinks and discuss World events without ever worrying about it going beyond a bit of friendly banter at worst. The pub was in many ways our local debating society but there were unwritten but well understood codes of proper behavior that we all lived by.

Currently, I live in the United States, I am a citizen of both the US and the UK and I love both countries dearly. Harder to find a good pub over here but there are plenty of good alternatives!

When I was in my early twenties, both as a student, and as I began my professional career, I shared a house with another chap of about my age and in a similar position to myself. He remains someone I consider a dear friend to this day. We were both lucky enough to be well educated, we were in the same basic field of employment and had many other things in common. We also had several different interests and opinions and quite diverse tastes in music and politics. We did not discuss politics that often but when we did, we did it cordially. Politically we were pretty different and we used to joke with each other about how each election we would cancel each other out. However, we always got along and I look back very fondly at those times. I am also very aware that I changed my views on many topics as a result of our discussions. I even developed a liking for certain music that I could not have imagined ever even listening to before!

When groups of us got together, often on Monday and Friday nights at one of our local pubs we discussed any number of topics. We all knew more or less where each of us stood on the issues of the day but we were able to discuss them in a civil manner. I will even go so far as to admit I had my opinion changed on a topic when confronted with rational arguments on more than one occasion. The Internet as we know it today did not exist back then so we really needed to talk to each other to better understand how we all felt about things. Talking is also good therapy by the way. You can get a lot off your chest by sharing your views with people willing to listen and likewise listening to their thoughts and concerns.

Move the clock forward thirty or so years. We now live in a World where "Facebook addiction" could easily be classified as a medical condition. We have numerous other web sites where people can share their views and it is easy to find dozens of web sites that line up with our particular way of thinking (who knows if half of what you find there is actually true but we all feel vindicated by reading words that we agree with) - but are we better off for this abundance of information at our fingertips and easy access to social media? My answer is both yes and no.

On the one hand I think that especially Twitter, but also Facebook, has given a voice to those around the World living under oppressive regimes to get their voices heard. On the other hand, social media platforms have enabled us to forget about too many social norms, to not bother about "going to the pub" and have allowed us to just yell past each other from the comfort of our armchairs while gloating as we strive to have the last word. Sadly that last word is often "idiot" (or worse).

I’m sure, like many of you, I have been called names, been told I was an idiot and more than once been told "if you don’t like it here you should just leave" by people who disagree with my opinions on various topics. Sadly more than once by people who actually know me. I’m not going to get into a debate over whether or not I am an idiot, but I like to think I am always willing to have a reasonable discussion with anyone who is willing to reciprocate the courtesy. I also think we all have a duty to challenge things we don’t like. Challenging something does not have to be in the form of "you are wrong and I am wright". It can be in the form of "I am confused" or "please help me better understand your view".

It’s also perfectly OK to challenge something, understand the other person’s point of view and modify your opinion - in fact that is the ideal outcome in many cases. However, name calling and labeling people will not get us to that stage. Hiding behind the pseudo-anonymity of social media will not get us there either. People who have never met, who might actually really like each other if they met in person can daily been seen hurling abuse at each other over Facebook and Twitter - surely folks we can do better than that. I don’t know about you but I love meeting people and learning about their lives no matter where they live or what beliefs they hold.

I also believe in something Winston Churchill once said along the lines of "When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home." He was not suggesting we all become anarchists or always be anti government or anti the view of others but he was reminding us that we have a duty to challenge things we do not agree with or understand to force dialogue. With dialogue comes understanding, with understanding comes insight and with insight can come meaningful compromise.

If you made it this far I appreciate you taking the time to read my latest ramble.

Maybe one day we can discuss it over a pint, as I think that today, more than ever, we could all do with a bit more time "down the pub".

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27th October 2016

Nine years post surgery

On this day in 2007 I went in for the surgery that was a major reason that I am still around to cause trouble nine years later!

I always try and take a moment on these very special anniversaries to recognize the friends and family that supported me through that time and the months of other treatments that followed.

I also try to remember that I am only still here today due to the skill and dedication of multiple doctors and nurses that took such great care of me and have dedicated their lives to helping others.

Finally I am also really grateful to all the people who give up their time on a regular basis doing charity work to help fund the essential ongoing research into diagnosing and treating cancer.

Taking time to remember how lucky I am and that I am the beneficiary of the love and skill of so many wonderful people helps put a lot of other things in the World into perspective.

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5th January 2016

Time marches on!

How time flies! I have had it on my to do list for a while to make another posting here but clearly it never made it to the top - until now! When I put this web site together, the vast array of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram did not exist and this gave me a way to document a few things going on in my life or on my mind. I still keep several parts of this site current such as my SVG samples library and my BIO but aside from that I seem to post mostly to Twitter and Facebook these days (links to those are in the left sidebar should you care!).

It's now been several years since my cancer diagnosis, surgery and chemotherapy. I still feel some of the side affects of the chemo but other than that I'm doing well and just so glad to still be around. It's hard to believe that my daughter will start University this coming Summer and my son will be moving to High School. Oh how that time does fly by!

Anyway, should any of you find this post, all that remains is to wish you a very peaceful, safe and successful life in 2016.

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8th December 2015

Have we really learned so little from history?

I have resisted commenting on all the election, Donald Trump, guns and other heated debates going on right now in America as frankly I dislike so much of what I see in the country at the moment that I find it hard to comment without getting upset and I also fear every time I post anything I will just get the nuts from each side of the debate spamming my feed. So please, read what I write below as the writings of a parent. Not a voter or someone with political aims, just a parent who loves his kids. I fear for my kids and their kids that will hopefully one day follow and the kind of World that they will inherit. My grandparents and my parents lived through the Second World War in Europe and I grew up there. My grandfather was even sent to Berlin after the war and saw first hand the aftermath of some of the atrocities. I think he shared stories with me that he did not even share with his own family. They instilled in me a tremendous feeling of responsibility that we, the future generations, must learn from history and try to do whatever it takes to avoid the tragedies of the past. So while I am always somewhat afraid to post on any heated topic, I realized we all have a duty to those that gave their lives for our freedom and those who suffered unimaginable cruelty to speak up and try to be the voice of reason. In the 1930s too few people spoke up or were in denial until it was too late. That is one of the mistakes that we must not repeat. Over the years, thanks largely to all the stories that my grandfather shared with me when I was a kid, I spent quite a bit of time learning about how Nazi Germany came to be. If you look at the fear mongering, the rabble rousing, the bans on various freedoms, the specific rules that people were told to live under, the general rhetoric and ultimately the disgusting "final solution" you just cannot ignore the parallels between what was said then and what is being said in some quarters now.

Have we truly learned so little from history? Now is not a time for fear mongering nor is it a time to be afraid. As a people we need to work together, not against each other just because of religious or political differences or race. I don't care which party you vote for, what race you are or which God you pray to - as a human being, if you are not outraged by what is being said right now about your fellow human beings, then frankly, I pity you.

We all have a responsibility to those that have gone before us to speak up.

Don't take my word for it, do your own research, and please don't let the evil that was Nazi Germany not the acts of hatred that were done in its name ever be seen again in civilized countries.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I care a lot about this subject.

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18th November 2014

25 Years of the Worldwide Web

I have been so busy that I am a few days late putting this post together but hopefully better late than never!

A few days ago, hard though it is to believe, the Worldwide Web, that so many of us take for granted these days, celebrated it's 25th anniversary. Created in 1989 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee , for many of us, "Web" has become as essential in our daily lives as electricity or natural gas. Built from its earliest days upon the notion of open standards the Web has become the information backbone of our current society. My first exposure, that I can remember, to the concept of the Web was in the early 1990s when I was part of the OS/2 team at IBM and we put one of the earliest browsers, Web Explorer, into the operating system and shipped it. Back then, an HTML web page was little more than text, images, animated GIFs and most importantly of all hyperlinks. I was also involved with the team that did some of the early ports of Netscape Navigator to OS/2 and I still recall being blown away by some of what I saw that team doing upon some of my many visits to Netscape in California what seems like a lifetime ago now!

 From those modest but still highly effective beginnings, the Web and most importantly perhaps, the Web browser, has evolved into the complete business and entertainment platform that it is today.


The Web, and open standards, have been part of my personal and work life ever since. I am honored to have been a small part of the evolution of the web myself. I have worked on a number of different projects with great people from all over the World under the auspices of the W3C for longer than I care to remember! I have done a lot of fun things in my career, but one of the highlights was definitely working with so many talented people on the original Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) specification which is now supported by most of the major browsers and of course you can find my library of SVG samples here on my site.

It is also so fitting that the latest evolution of Web technology, the finished HTML 5 specification was announced to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Web.

I could write so much more about what the Web has meant to me but most of all I think my fondest memory will always be all of the great friends I have met and the large number of very talented people that I have had the good fortune to work with through our joint passion to make the Web a better and even more open, place.

Happy (slightly belated) Birthday Worldwide Web and here's to the next 25!

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13th November 2014

Asian Tiger Mosquitoes

The weather has been unusually cold for the time of year the last day or so. I was actually hoping that if we get a hard freeze it will kill off for now the Asian Tiger mosquitoes that we have been overrun with this year. However I have my doubts as apparently, unlike other mosquitoes, their eggs, which they lay in vegetation and standing water, can survive a harsh winter. They apparently got into the USA in a shipment of waterlogged tires (tyres for my UK friends) some time ago and they are now spreading more broadly. They are covered in black and white stripes and look quite different than the regular "brown" colored mosquitoes we are used to seeing here. They are also a lot more aggressive. They bite all day long (not just at dusk) and even bite animals but definitely prefer humans. It has got so bad that we have had to pay to have our yard sprayed regularly almost all year so that we even have a chance to sit outside and enjoy our yard. These nasty little guys also transmit the chikungunya virus for which I currently believe there is no vaccine. It's not usually fatal but does have some nasty symptoms if you are unlucky enough to catch it. Here's a link to a WebMD write up on these little nasties.

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12th November 2014

Pink Floyd's Endless River - The End of an Era

I just purchased the new Pink Floyd CD from Amazon which includes a free digital download as well. I have been listening to it while I work today. Given the way the album was put together (using material the late Richard Wright recorded almost 20 years ago during the making of The Division Bell) much of the music is immediately familiar. I definitely also hear flashbacks to Wish You Were Here, Dark Side of the Moon and many other albums as well. It's mostly instrumental and there is a lot of it - four sides if you buy the vinyl version!! A lot of the music has an almost eerie tone to it - definitely a good one for the headphones with the lights off. It's a really good listen but left me feeling sad in a way, in a good way I guess, as much of their music has been the backdrop to the last 40 years or so of my life and this is definitely the end of a musical era as supposedly this is the last album the band plan to release. It has a bit of everything for Pink Floyd fans, especially those who like some of the "more recent" albums. Don't expect a bunch of rocking songs that you will be humming along to all day but as a complete work, listened to end to end, I found it very moving. Very much not your modern day pop tune and thank goodness for that!

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26th October 2014

Seven years post cancer surgery

Today marks another big milestone for me. It has now been seven years since my cancer surgery. As always, I am grateful for all of my family, friends and doctors and every minute that I get to spend with them.

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20th May 2014

A few thoughts from a fairly social, open source and standards guy.

Computer superimposed on the Earth in spaceSoftware development has always been a field where there is something new to learn. To be honest, if it wasn't I would probably have found a new profession a long time ago. Like many people I love to learn new things. That said, these days, more than ever before, I find myself not just wanting, but needing, to learn new things to keep up with the rate and pace of change in our industry.

Development teams are no longer confined to the walls of a single building or even a single country for that matter. In fact, almost every major software venture these days seems to involve virtual teams of developers whose geographic location is of only minor importance compared to the content of the contributions they make. Product release cycles are now counted in days and weeks rather than months and years and what used to be a walk has become a sprint (pun intended).

One of the key driving forces behind this change is undoubtedly the ever increasing acceptance of and reliance upon open source software coupled with the advent of “app stores” and “web downloads” that make it easier than ever to get that “latest version” and install it.

Taking myself as a use case, a large proportion of the projects that I am involved in on a daily basis are either building upon open source or donating back to open source and, in many cases, doing both.

Against this backdrop I am often asked questions like “So what about open standards given this more open source centric approach to software development?”.  This is a reasonable question to ask and it is one that comes up regularly in conversations. My belief is that we definitely need a strong open source ecosystem but we also continue to need the rigor,  consensus and most important of all, the guarantee of interoperability that we gain from writing things down in a specification and taking the time to make that specification a standard.

Moreover, few solutions embody just one standard. Typically a useful solution brings together multiple standards and so we could, somewhat lyrically, say that open source is the canvas upon which multiple standards are assembled to build a meaningful solution.

However, given the rate and pace of software development, neither developers nor their end users have the patience these days for long drawn out standards process cycles. Just as open source developers have learned to be nimble so must standards creators. In the good old days (circa 2001) it was still quite common for a specification to take anything from eighteen months to three years between first draft and final standard. This model clearly will not work today. A standards process still needs to be inclusive, it still needs to generate consensus and of course the resultant work must be useful or we are all just wasting our time, but it must be able to achieve all of those goals in an efficient and nimble manner.  Some of this nimbleness will come from standards development organizations (like W3C and OASIS) continually refining their processes and tools but it will also come from the way that people interact today. There will still be e-mail conversations and “face to face” meetings but in a World full of people comfortable using social networking tools, we need to exploit those tools to effectively enable global software communities to work together at speed.

Social tools can do more than just improve communication however. They can enable faster decision making, faster consensus, virtual workshops, greater visibility to the work and when needed, more efficient and transparent voting.

By combing open source software development techniques with nimble and modern standardization processes, glued together by contemporary social tools we can enable best of breed innovation regardless of the geographic location of the participants.

Last, but by no means least, for both open source and standards communities, open governance and transparent administration is key, and often an aspect that is overlooked and undervalued.  But for “open” communities, it's important that the principles of good business design be taken to heart.  Sensible IPR policies and open  governance are the foundation for broad community engagement if that's the intent of the effort and a determining factor in the success or failure of any open community


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7th May 2014

Six years post chemo and another checkup done!

Today was another day of milestones. I ended my chemo six years ago and today I also went for my latest six monthly checkup with the colo-rectal surgeon. I am pleased to report that the checkup went well and I can breathe easily again for a few more months. As always thanks for the support I continue to receive from you all.

I am also grateful to be able to enjoy all the achievements that my kids continue to make. Robyn has been challenging herself regularly and always striving to improve and Jack is doing so much better since we took him out of his previous school that just did not seem to be a good fit for his personality type.

One side note, as I was looking at my diary I realized that today is also the anniversary of mt grandfather Arthur Robert Emerson's death in 1988. I spent a lot of time with him during my childhood years, especially over the Summer months and I have so many happy memories of our long walks together with the dogs through the countryside of Southern England.  I also learned to drive on his ride on lawn mower at a very young age! He would always have a story to tell me and I learned so much from him.

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24th December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Work has wound down, the presents are mostly wrapped and another year is almost over. This year has been a blur and I am left with the feeling that most of it was spent ferrying kids from one place to another! Such is the life of the parent but I would not trade it for anything. It was wonderful this year to be able to meet up with so many friends and family members in parts of the World that I have not been able to visit for far too long. I hope to catch up with many more of you in the coming year as I am more able to travel again. I am so thankful to have been able to celebrate many significant anniversaries on the health front, not least of which was passing some major remission milestones during the year. As always I am humbled to have been the beneficiary of so much goodwill from so many of you and some wonderful messages of support and encouragement as I shared my milestone news. For this I am extremely grateful. All that remains, on this Christmas Eve 2013, is to wish you, wherever you may be in the World, from my family to yours, a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

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4th November 2013

Six years in remission (post surgery)

A little over six years ago, on October 26th 2007, I underwent the surgery that began my fightback against colon cancer and started my remission clock ticking. It's hard to believe that time has flown by so fast. So much of what happened back them, especially during the months of chemotherapy,  seems almost a blur to me now. That was one of the reasons I started keeping the journal here. Every year about this time I look back through that journal and am reminded how lucky I am to still be here and how thankful I am for the family, friends and medical practitioners that have been with me along the way. I have met so many brave fighters over the past six years, many who are winning their battle and some who sadly were taken from us. Cancer affects us all in one way or another during our lifetimes either directly or indirectly through others that we care about. I truly believe that one day we will overcome this awful disease but until then we must keep up the fight. Every year I donate to many different research charities and urge anyone who will listen to get screened for the most common and most treatable (only if caught early) cancers. As I always do about this time of year, I shall issue my not so subtle reminder - go get checked, it could save your life!

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2nd October 2013

iOS 7 and nausea

I have not posted since June, mainly because of a very hectic Summer schedule of both work and non-work activities. During this time, among other things, I found myself camping in Southern Colorado with the Boy Scouts, working in San Francisco and attending a wedding in London (my first time back since 2006 and my diagnosis in 2007). I hope to find the time to make separate posts about the travels soon but for this post I want to focus on something that I thought was probably just a silly rumor until I experienced it first hand yesterday, namely, that iOS 7 can cause nausea and motion sickness in some people.

I should preface these next remarks by saying that anyone reading this should treat it as a data point based on a survey of one (me) nothing more, nothing less.

Last night while waiting with my son for an appointment I got the chance to borrow an iPad Mini running iOS7 and play with it. I have an iPad mini of my own but for now it still has iOS 6 on it. However, I have played with my daughter's iPhone 5 running iOS 7 quite a bit and not had the issue I am about to describe at all (I think the bigger screen on the iPad is likely why).

So anyway, after about 5 minutes of playing with the iPad, opening apps, closing apps, changing views, basic stuff, I realized I was getting just a teeny bit "motion sick". After 20 minutes or so I was actually feeling kind of queasy (like I sometimes do after a fairground ride) and I had to put the iPad down.

Now, I will totally admit, I am a bit of a weenie when it comes to this kind of motion sickness. Certain video games, Minecraft being the worst, I simply cannot play with my kids as I get queasy far too easily. As I get older it seems to get worse. I have never done well on roller coasters either so clearly I am a bit susceptible to motion sickness but I was not expecting this with the iPad.

For sure, I had read the reports, and posted one or two on my Facebook timeline and to be honest, like most who commented on those posts I was skeptical. But, I was frankly shocked at how much this iPad messed me up. I was still feeling a bit nauseous some 90 minutes or so later. I guess, for those of us that are motion sickness weenies, there really is some truth to the iOS 7 motion sickness stories. I basically found out tonight that I will never be able to put iOS 7 on my iPad which, despite my iOS 7 misgivings, makes me sad as I fully expected to upgrade at some point.  I should add that even turning off as much of the motion as possible still left too many moving parts for my poor brain to handle. Weird eh?

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24th June 2013

Quick medical update

During the last couple of weeks I have had a full series of checkups. I met with my colo-rectal surgeon who gave me a full "inspection" under sedation. I next met with my oncologist who did a full series of blood tests and finally with my family doctor who gave me a full physical. I was a bit nervous going into this checkup period as the last time a polyp was found and for me polyps are particularly dangerous (mean time to cancer of under one year). I am happy to report, that with the exception of, for the first time, my cholesterol levels being a bit high, everything else was fine. No more tests for another six months. So now I can relax a bit and enjoy Summer. As always thanks to everyone for all of your support - it means so much.

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8th May 2013

Five years since chemo ended!

Just a very small update to record another personal milestone in my journey through life. Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my final chemotherapy treatment back in 2008. It does not seem possible that five years have passed by since then. While I am still dealing with some of the after effects of the treatment (primarily I still have a fair bit of neuropathy in my feet) I am so glad to still be here five years down the road. However, to keep me grounded in reality, I collected the mail last night and there waiting for me was a reminder card from my surgeon that it's time to schedule my next full service and oil change!   Regardless - here's to the next five years!

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2nd April 2013

My SVG examples collection

SVG, short for "Scalable Vector Graphics", is an XML markup language designed for bringing 2D artwork and drawings to the Web and other places. As well as vector graphics (lines, circles, paths, etc.) SVG supports text, images, animation, scripting, colors, gradients, filter effects and many other things. It is a very rich (declarative) graphics language which can be just as easily hand coded or machine generated.

Back in 1998/9 and the years following I became very active in the SVG community. As far as I know, I was the author of the first known SVG rendering engine back then which I wrote in Java using the new (at the time) Java 2D API. I was also a very active member of the SVG Working group at W3C that produced the SVG 1.0 Specification. Over the years I have compiled a large collection of my own SVG test cases and examples and used them in lectures about SVG at various conferences around the World. The recent adoption of SVG by the major Web browsers, both on traditional desktop computers and on mobile devices, as well as many people asking me about my examples has prompted me to collect all of my material into one place.If you ever attended one of my talks on SVG over the years you may already have some of these but this is the first time I have tried to collect everything into one place.

These examples are not meant to be works of art, I would by no means claim to be an artist. I view them more as a learning aid. You will find most of the major SVG features used somewhere in these files. If you are interested in learning a bit more about the power and ease of use of SVG, I encourage you to look at the source for the files as well as the "artwork" as some pictures may look the same but might have been created using different SVG techniques behind the scenes!

With a few exceptions, all of the examples were either hand coded (by me) or produced using Ruby scripts that I wrote to generate SVG output. One or two of the examples were produced using Inkscape.

You will find a link to the samples in the left hand side bar.

Anyway, I hope that this material is of interest and useful. I certainly had fun walking down memory lane while putting it together.

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26th October 2012

Five years in remission!

Today is a day that I truly believed might never come. As most of you know, a little over five years ago, on October 2nd 2007, I received the news  that no one wants to hear. I had cancer. Moreover, I had a type of cancer at just 42 years of age that I always thought of as "one of those cancers people much older than me get". I shared the news publicly on October 10th 2007 and from then on used this web site to document my journey. I had surgery on October 26th 2007 to remove the tumor (and lots of other things!) and began six months of chemotherapy, after the surgery had time to heal, in December of that year. Early on in my treatment the oncologist informed me that the "remission clock" begins ticking on the day of the "curative procedure" (surgery). Today, I am celebrating the fact that I have reached a major milestone. It is five years to the day that my remission began. I have had regular (currently six monthly) checkups ever since my surgery and so far so good. A couple of weeks ago, for the first time since my diagnosis, a large polyp was found during my scheduled checkup but it was removed and found to be benign. It was a scary few days waiting for the pathology to come back but all remains well. In medical terms, I believe that I am now officially considered "cured". However, given what I have learned about my genetics during this process, I shall always be nervous when I go in to see my surgeon or my oncologist for a checkup.

There is an old Chinese proverb that goes something like "To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping" and what a journey this has been. The support I have experienced from family and friends around the World has been unbelievable and you have all stuck with me for the duration. I am both blessed and humbled to have you all in my corner. I have also have had such an amazing medical team looking after me. Especially Keith Morrison, John Mangione and Darren Kocs but also so many wonderful nurses and other doctors whose names in many cases I do not even know. Your amazing quality of care and professionalism are the reason that I am still here today and that my kids still have a father.

Thank you all once again for your incredible support.

As I often do, I shall close with my little reminder to you all. If you have been putting off getting that colonoscopy that you know you are overdue for, make the appointment today. It could save your life, trust me on that one!

Kelvin

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27th August 2012

The end of another Summer - the start of a new era!

So, by the local school calendar, Summer ended yesterday. Of course you have to ignore the fact that the high temperature today will be somewhere around 95F! Both kids went back to school this morning. Jack is starting his final year at Elementary school (going into filth grade). He had to be at school before 7:10am today so that he could do his bit on safety patrol (opening card doors and welcoming kids to school). He was so excited he went off to school with zero fuss. We'll see how long this lasts! Meanwhile, Robyn (drum roll please - and a stiff drink for her Dad) is starting High School today (hence the new era I referred to in the title of this post). How did my little girl grow up so fast. Before I know it she will be driving and off to college. I know going to a new school can be a bit daunting but I am sure she is in good hands at her new school (Cedar Ridge High School). The school only opened a few years ago (in fact this will be the first year they have a senior class I think) and it is a state of the art facility. I wish my IBM office building was as plush as that school is! She also gets to start school at 9am rather than the Middle school time of 8am which of course to a teenager translates to "more time in bed yaaaayyy".

We have had a good Summer. For the first time in too long I got to have a real Summer vacation and spent a lovely week at South Padre Island on the Texas Gulf coast. The beaches down there are really nice, soft sand underfoot all the way out into the waves. There was so much to do we only scratched the surface really. We found a lot of great restaurants and an amazingly good brew pub. We definitely want to go back and are grateful to our kind friends who rented us their beach front condo with amazing views of the beach and the Gulf.  As well as swimming in the surf and boogie boarding, we got to meet some amazing seat turtles that are being nursed back to health after accidents (with people), we got to watch the dolphins at play from a sunset cruise ship, we got to laugh our heads off at SchlitterBahn water park, we had a great time at the nature sanctuary and of course made a lot sand castles. I did not get to go para-sailing or ride the super fast jet boat or jet ski so I definitely have a lit of things I want to do next time we go down there. I was a bit apprehensive having been spoiled by the Florida beaches during my time there but South Padre was every bit as nice. The town itself is older but behind some of those less fancy walls you can find amazing food!

I have also been managing to make time to read a lot more this year, which was one of my New Year resolutions! If you look at my reading log you will see that I have done, I think, much better this year than in recent years. I am convinced that my almost total transition to e-books has made the difference. Another resolution was to get into really good physical shape. Let's just say I'm still working on that one!

So what about the medical stuff? Well, earlier in the Summer I underwent a full battery of tests with the oncologist and the colo-rectal surgeon. I am happy to report all tests came back clean. I am just two months away from achieving five years remission. A landmark that when I was diagnosed back in 2007 seemed an awfully long way away. It has been a journey with ups and downs but despite ongoing side effects (of which I shall spare you the details), as my daughter says, "Dad, at least you are still breathing!"

I am sure there are a lot of other things I have forgotten to list that we did this Summer. For now I am going to concentrate on work and adjust to the very very quiet house and the sound of the dog snoring on the couch in my home office!

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1st March 2012

Spring is in the air

My how time flies! We are already into March and 2011 is well and truly disappearing in the rear view mirror. I cannot say I am sorry to see 2011 go. It was not a year that I shall remember with a lot of fondness.  I need to get back into making more regular posts here. I have been good about posting to Facebook but that has made me incredibly lazy about updating this journal. I have, however, kept the various sections (such as my reading log) up to date.

I hope that everyone reading this is so far having a safe and happy year.  I have several friends and colleagues that have already been touched by cancer this year. My thoughts and prayers go out to them and indeed, to anyone dealing with the effects of this awful disease.

By the way, March is Colo Rectal Cancer Awareness month. If you have been putting off getting "scoped" now would be a good time. Also, remember I was only 42 when I was diagnosed so don't put it off because you don't think you are old enough to have to worry. It could save your life.


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26th October 2011

Four years post surgery, four years in remission!

Today is the fourth anniversary of my colon cancer surgery. As my oncologist once explained to me, the remission clock starts ticking from the date of the "curative procedure" (surgery). Therefore as of today I have now been in remission for a full four years. Much of the time since the surgery and the subsequent months of chemotherapy remains a bit of a blur and loking back, the time seems to have flown by.. I am so thankful to all of the wonderful doctors and nurses that have cared for me so well and that I am still here to enjoy life and watch my kids grow up.

As always I am incredibly grateful to all of my family and friends around the World who have been there for me the past four years. I could not have made it this far without you. The recent sad news about the death of Steve Jobs reminds us that no one, no matter how rich or poor is immune from cancer's evil reach. I encourage all of you to support cancer research in any way that you can. Likewise, to anyone reading this who has also been touched by cancer, I would just like to say keep up the fight and that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

PS - If you have been putting off getting a colonoscopy, get one. It could save your life!

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23rd August 2011

The (official) end of Summer

By the school calendar, which around here is the one most people live by, as of today, Summer is officially over. This is despite the fact that this week we will most likely break the old record of 69 one hundred degree days in a calendar year. The high yesterday was around 105F and it is forecast to be about the same again today. I forget when we last had serious rain but it has been months. Unless we get a tropical storm come ashore soon it may be many more weeks until we do get some rain. I love the hot weather but in my fifteen years here I have never seen a drought like this one. We usually get some good storms, especially during the Spring to top up the lakes. This year that did not happen.


Robyn and
        Jack leaving for school
Robyn and Jack about to leave for school

Anyway, my kids happily (yes happily) went back to school today. They even got up at 6:20am and woke me up! Robyn is going into eighth grade and Jack fourth. They have grown so quickly. Robyn is thirteen now and Jack will be ten in December. Where does the time go? Anyway, above is a photo, which has become a bit of a tradition now, of the kids going out the front door on the first day of a new school year.

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4th August 2011

25 Years at IBM

In 1986, August the 4th was a Monday and it was my first day as an IBM employee (at Hursley Park in the UK). Twenty five years later, I'm still working at IBM (these days in Austin, Texas).  It's been an incredible journey both emotionally , technologically and geographically (from Hursley to Austin with seven years in Boca Raton, Florida in between). I have worked with some fantastic people on some very cool projects and been lucky enough to make great friends all over the World.

The 25 years have flown by!

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19th July 2011

Where have I been hiding?

Those of you that check-in here from time to time, and the site statistics tell me that there are still a lot of you, for which I am grateful, may be wondering what I have been up to and why I have not been posting of late. In short I have been busy at work, very busy with the kids and also had to have a spot of unexpected (and very painful) surgery from which I have been recovering since mid June.

Anyway, here is a quick update on the Summer so far...

Things medical

At the end of May I met with my colo-rectal surgeon and he performed my (now semi-annual) internal exam. Everything looked good. However, while he was checking me out he told me that I had a cyst that needed to be dealt with surgically (not cancerous). More on that in a minute!

On June 9th I met with my oncologist and he ran all of the usual tests. While I always hope for the best, this is always a nervous time for me. None the less, I am happy to report that all of my tests came back clean. Still no evidence of further cancer. I can now go twelve months before he wants to check me again. This is significant progress.

On June 10th I had surgery to take care of the cyst. The procedure ended up being a bit more involved that I had hoped it would be. Without going into details it was in an awkward place and for several weeks it was really hard to sit down and I was in a lot of pain. The wound is still healing but is in much better shape now. Hopefully in a another week or so it will have finished healing. The surgery really knocked me out of my stride for a few weeks and even now I do not feel that I fully have my energy back.

On top of a few other stresses in my life at the moment I really feel like I cannot catch a break. I hope to take a couple of weeks off soon and find a beach to lay on somewhere or something equally restful!

The Kids

Despite the intense drought and soaring temperatures we have been enduring for well over six weeks now, the Kids are having a great Summer and spending a lot of time in the pool. Robyn was able to escape the heat mid June, when she left along with 40 other kids and four adult leaders on a People to People expedition to the UK and Ireland. They visited an amazing set of places all over England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. She got to do many things that even I, growing up there, have never done. She got to hit golf balls at St Andrews, ride the London Eye, watch a Trebuchet catapult launching a fire ball at Warwick Castle, she got to abseil down the walls of another castle in Bangor (Wales) and so many other amazing things. She took over 900 photos! I think this trip will leave her with fantastic memories and hopefully a few new friends as well!

Work

Work is very busy which is a good thing and has also helped keep me distracted a bit from other things.

Finally, less blogging more tweeting....

Finally, I will observe that while I have not been posting here much lately, that I have been making regular posts to both Twitter and Facebook and more recently Google+ as well. If you have not already done so, feel free to find me at one or more of those venues.

That's the update for now. Take care all!

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9th May 2011

Three years post chemo!

I realized this morning as I was looking at what is on my schedule for this week that it is three years ago since I underwent my final chemotherapy treatment. The time has flown by and finally (a while ago now in fact) the "fog" that was in my brain has fully cleared. Every now and again I suspect my memory is not quite what it was and I still have neuropathy in my feet - but hey - small price to pay right?

As always a special thought and prayer goes out to all of the people who are currently in their own battles with cancer.

You will probably have noticed that I have not posted here in quite a while. This is largely due to the fact that I am incredibly busy at work (which is a good thing)  and have a tremendous amount going on in my personal life. I do post regular updates however to Facebook and Twitter.

I hope everyone is having a good year so far. It won't be long until the kids get out of school for Summer here. Robyn has a huge Summer coming up. The highlight of which is a 21 day trip to the UK and Ireland with 41 other kids on a People to People Ambassador program.

I am keeping other sections of the web site updated as appropriate and I will try and get back into posting here more often!

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1st January 2011

Happy New year!

Just a quick post to wish all of my wonderful family and friends around the World a very safe and prosperous 2011. I have not been updating things here on the web site as often as I used to but I have been posting regular updates to my Facebook page. I am very happy to report that in October I had a full series of medical tests and everything looks good. Unbelievably I am now three years into remission. We did some fun things in the second half of 2010. One of the highlights for me was when the kids and I got to take a seven day cruise on Carnival cruise lines around the Eastern Caribbean. Lorna and the kids are all well although I don't think the kids will want to go back to school next week after the long Christmas break.  Work starts back up for me on the 4th.

Again love and best wishes to all, from our family to yours for 2011

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21st August 2010

Father and Daughter surgery

What are the odds that both my daughter and I would end up having surgery from the same doctor at the almost exact same time in adjacent rooms? Well that is exactly what happened this past week! Robyn had already been scheduled to have her lower wisdom teeth removed Monday morning so that part at least, was expected. The unexpected part is that right after we met with the surgeon to prep for her surgery, a few days prior to the scheduled date for the procedure, I started getting a lot of pain in my upper right jaw bone. An x-ray from my dentist revealed that some screws in my jaw from reconstruction surgery in 1998 had moved and allowed the area to get infected. The required "fix" was to have the offending screws and bone plates surgically removed. So, in an exercise in efficiency, we scheduled my surgery at the same time as my daughters so that Dr Gallagher (my long time oral surgeon and great doctor) could emulate Bobby Fischer playing chess against multiple opponents at once and fix us both (almost) in parallel!  We turned up at 7am and Robyn got to go first. While he was operating on her, other nurses started prepping me. When he was done with her, the doctor appeared and basically said "OK all done with her, she did great, let's get started on you"!! I woke up as she was also waking up more in the adjacent recovery room. How surreal is that?

Anyway, we are both doing well, I think at this point her swelling is going down faster than mine (behold the power of youth) but at least the severe pain I was in before the surgery has gone away.  She gets a nice present for being brave, I get a few days of being on an ice cream diet so all in all not too bad!

Certainly a week to remember!

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30th July 2010

Misc updates

There has not been too much to report lately (which is a good thing) and hence I have not posted here. I have been posting small updates to Twitter and Facebook and as a result have not felt the need to duplicate those here. On the medical front, my latest round of tests are now behind me and both my oncologist and surgeon have switched me to a "once a year" checkup schedule now. This is real progress!!

Yesterday Lorna and I went down to Houston so that we could watch the MLS (soccer) All Stars vs Manchester United.  We had a great time. Reliant Stadium was a great venue for the event and the match itself did not lack action, with Man Utd coming out on top 5 - 2.

The kids have been off school for several weeks now and I am definitely counting the days until they go back! That said, I am taking next week of so that we can do some fun things together as a family. I really need a break from work to recharge my batteries as things have been extremely busy. So, as I said, no major news to report, at the moment but I will try and get back into making more regular postings again soon.

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9th May 2010

Two years post chemo - wow!

It's almost impossible for me to believe, but two years ago yesterday I finished chemotherapy. The time has flown by. Aside from some remaining neuropathy in my feet I feel great and all of the other side efects have long since worn off.  I have a checkup appointment with the oncologist next month and will post another update after that. Thanks as always to everyone for all of their incredible support.

Here's to more milestones like this one!

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15th March 2010

Quick medical update

I have again taken way too long between posts here. My thanks to all those of you that have contacted me to ask if everything is OK. As far as I know things remain good. A couple of weeks ago I met with the surgeon who is keeping an eye on me and performing my regular exams. I'm happy to say that no new polyps were found and I have no more scheduled exams until I meet with the oncologist again in a couple of months time.

This week the kids are on Spring Break and I am taking the week off work so that we can spend some time together as a family. If the weather stays nice we are going to try and make it to the Austin Fairgrounds for the Rodeo. In the 15 years I have lived here I have never been so I hope we can make it this year.

I'll try and post again soon but at least as far as the medical stuff goes, having less to post for a while is fine by me!

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27th January 2010

Belated Happy New year!

I have been very bad about posting here recently. Things are going well and I have just been very busy with family and work activities. I hope everyone is off to a good start to 2010 and I would like to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year.  I'll try and get back into making regular updates again vey soon.

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3rd December 2009

Latest test results still look good

Yesterday I went to the oncologist to get my latest round of tests done. They called me five minutes ago to say that everything continues to look normal. My cancer antigen test is even down a bit from last time and my haemoglobin number remains solid. I continue to be plagued by neuropathy in my feet but it has mostly gone away now in my fingers. The Lyrica I am taking works wonders on the neuropathy pain but I think is the major contributor to the weight I continue to gain. We agreed yesterday to again try reducing the dosage in the hope that we can reverse this unacceptable trend!

I have not posted for a month mainly because I did not have to much to share - which is a good thing. I hope everyone is having a safe and happy start to the holiday season. As always thoughts and prayers go out all fellow cancer patients and their families at this time.

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27th October 2009

My second anniversary

Today marks the second anniversary of my cancer surgery.  Is it really possible that two years have already passed? It seems like just yesterday. Thanks to all the wonderful doctors and nurses that treated me I am still here to type this and to bug my family and friends! I owe my life to you. Special thanks today (as every day) to Keith M, John M and Darren K, three amazing doctors, without whom I would just be a memory.

I think I have more blood work scheduled in the next few weeks which as always I shall be nervous about but all continues to be well as far as I know. I have not posted here lately as we have all been very busy between work and school, soccer games, boy scouts, girl scouts, dance and camping trips.

I'll try and post a longer update soon but I could not let this milestone day pass by without a quick post.

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9th September 2009

Quick medical update

As many of you know, I had my latest internal exam last week, or as my son calls in my "butt check" !  The procedure itself is nothing that I worry too much about but I do worry very much about what might be found. I am therefore pleased to report that all remains clear as far as the surgeon can tell. I do not have to see him again for another six months now which is great progress!

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8th September 2009

Brandy

Sadly, we had to say goodbye today to another of our dear animal friends. Brandy, now over 13 years old had been with us since we got her and her brother Toby as puppies from a friend as a wedding present back in 1996. We lost Toby just over a year ago and now Brandy has joined him at the doggie park in the sky. She was a great dog, in her younger days extremely atheltic, more recently a lady of leisure and sadly even more recently pretty much unable to get up and move without our help. We are extremely sad to see her go and all miss her very much. I'm glad we still have Rocket, Scamp and Shadow to keep us on our toes (as well as the kids!). I need to update the pets section with some new photos and will try and get to that soon.

Picture of Brandy

Brandy during happier times - July 2008


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1st September 2009

Kids, Dogs and the end of Summer

So, while the days remain extremely hot, Summer is over for the kids who went back to school last week. I work from home a lot and am having to adjust to a quiet house again! Robyn is starting sixth grade (Middle School) this school year and is very excited. Last night we went to a meet the teachers evening. It was fun. We got to experience her day. We went to each class for eleven minutes, attended a presentation from the teacher and then had four minutes to make out next class - the same way she does! As well as the traditional subjects, Robyn is taking Choir and Band this term. She has chosen to try the clarinet as her instrument. I hope she likes it as I am still trying to get over my almost heart failure when I saw the price of even a used one!  Meanwhile, Jack is starting out on second grade. We have spent a small fortune this Summer on consultations with specialists as we continue to try and get Jack the help he needs for his Aspergers and ADHD. Lorna is right now having to sit in the school with JAck during the morning classes to try and keep him calm. This is unacceptable and I shall be coming down on the school like a ton of lead bricks (backed up by advocates and other medical professionals) if they do not get their act together fast. He is supposed to have a teacher's aid in class and he is not getting one. We also have some new medication for Jack that we are just starting him on that may help with his morning moods but I am not going to give the school what they seem to want which is to have me medicate him into passive oblivion.

None the less, both kids had a great Summer. They both attended lots of day camps and had numerous parties, play dates and sleep overs with friends. Robyn's Summer ended on a super high as she passed her Tae Kwon Do black belt test. Her graduation ceremony is on Thursday.

Picture of ShadowOne of the things we have been doing lately is volunteering at the Williamson County Animal Shelter. As well as being a good cause anyway, it also is helping Robyn get one of her Girl Scout badges. However, those that know me well, know I love animals. Every time I go to the shelter I find it hard not to bring a dog home with me. Well a few weeks ago, my resolve broke and we now have a new member of the family. He is (we think) a four month old puppy. We are not sure exactly what breed he is. The shelter staff wrote him up as a Black Lab/Great Dane mix. Our vet says he sees some Sharpei in him, I think this may just be due to his "room to grow" wrinkly skin! Whatever breed he is, he is loads of fun and it is clear he is going to be BIG! The other dogs, after a few initial barks and warning growls to establish the boundaries and the pack order have now fully accepted him. We get to watch some fantastic play fights on a regular basis. This reminds me that I need to go and update the pets section of this web site and get updated photos of all the animals posted.

The weather here continues to be brutal. Every day during the Summer the high temperature reached or exceeded 100F and it has hardly rained at all. We are now (not before time in my opinion) on mandatory water controls.

On the medical front, I met with an Orthopedic Surgeon yesterday (not related to my cancer treatment) to get his opinion on my elbow which continues to be extremely painful after I whacked it against a plastic pipe at a water park back in June. As far as he can tell from the X-Rays and MRI pictures that have already been taken it's nothing more serious than an acute case of tendinitis (good old fashioned "Tennis Elbow"). The Cortisone shot that I got for it two weeks ago has so far not helped so they are going to start me on Physical Therapy later this week and a course of meds. We were joking that "Tennis Elbow" should really be called "Computer Mouse Elbow" these days as that is when it hurts me the most. The surgeon suggested I stop using the mouse and get a trackball instead. "Gee" I said, "what a great idea". I am supposed to be the computer guy but I think that the doctor is on to something there and it never occurred to me (sigh). Of course I am not the first patient with a bad elbow he has ever seen either!

On a slightly less "humerus" note (sorry I couldn't resist the pun), I am scheduled to meet with my colo-rectal surgeon tomorrow for my next round of checkups and my internal exam (yep, yuck!). I always get nervous when I go in for this one as this is how it all began almost two years ago and we all know where that went (wow time flies).

This weekend I went and paid the $29 for my copy of Apple's new Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) operating system upgrade. I installed it on my Mac Book Pro laptop over the weekend and so far it seems to be running well and living up to the advertising. Lot a great deal of new visible features but definitely a bit faster and uses less disk space. I'll report more as I play with the new OS some more.  I know many of the folks that follow my web updates are Mac users. Please let me know if you are also upgrading.

That's about it for now. I'll post more after my tests this week are over.

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27th July 2009

More on the Pan-Mass Challenge

Further to my prior posting, I just received the following words from Don.  I am extremely grateful that he is riding this year in honour of my dear friend Dion Gillard, who died way too young, from cancer last year. Cancer is such an evil disease and none of us are immune from it. Please help support Don if you possibly can.  Here are Don's words...

I ‘met’ many of you through a post I made here thanks to Kelvin, last Summer. Now it’s time to renew our friendship and launch our 2009 campaign to raise funds for cancer research.

This year, I am again dedicating a large investment in time and sweat to ask as many people as I know for their support in my effort 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 bicycle ride here in Massachusetts. By signing up I commit to raise a minimum of $4,200 but I aim higher. Last year with your help, I was able to ferry in $9,385. 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. All told, we raised $35,000,000 for cancer research in 2008. Not bad!

This year’s PMC fund raising goal is anybody’s guess given the impact of the economic crisis. Billy Starr, the executive director, said recently, “It’s a whole new world.” That said, we all know that cancer strikes without consulting the latest econometric data. It affects all of us, all too often.

Many PMC people ride in honor of a friend or family member directly affected by cancer. This year I will honor Dion Gillard, Kelvin’s friend who lost his battle with melanoma last September.  I can't think of a better way to do this than to continue to work hard at the fund raising, and then go out and break a sweat by riding with ~5,000 others from Sturbridge to Provincetown here in Massachusetts. It’s an amazing community action, and one that has made and will continue to make a major impact on developing new therapies and treatments to curb and ultimately, defeat cancer.

For a detailed description of how PMC contributions have made a difference in the fight visit this page.

This year the ride is on August  1st and 2nd. Please join me in this effort by sponsoring my ride. Contributions may be made as late as September 30, 2009.

To do this, just visit my eGIFT 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 manage 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, more than $2,500 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
dpharbison@mac.com


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24th July 2009

The Pan-Mass Challenge - Bike riding for cancer research

You may recall that last year I was proud to support my friend and colleague Don Harbison in his efforts to raise money for cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute by riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge. Don is riding again this year and needs our help to reach his goals. Despite the tougher economic times, cancer has not taken a break, and I feel strongly that we need to continue to support research into defeating this evil disease. As well as my own fight, I have lost my mother, an aunt and several close friends to cancer. This is a cause near and dear to my heart. Don asked me if I would again advertise his efforts this year by way of a posting here and of course I agreed. I hope some of you can join me in supporting Don. Every little helps.

You can sponsor Don by visiting this link.

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23rd July 2009

The Hot Summer Continues

It is always hot in Texas during the Summer time but this year is off to an even more brutal start than usual. In June, we had something in the order of 20 days where the temperature met or exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit. July has been following a similar pattern. I for one, do not mind the heat at all but what we do need is some rain. We have not had a good, prolonged, rain shower for weeks.  Yesterday some promising looking storm clouds formed around 5pm but produced very little in the way of useful rainfall where we live.

A couple of weeks ago we spent a week at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine (right by the DFW airport) and had a great time. We went there last year and enjoyed it so much that we decided to go back again. This year I finally found the courage to ride the Tornado! It was a lot of fun and a much needed break for me from work, which, of late, has been extremely busy. On one of the water slides, I hit my arm very hard on the plastic side of the tube. It hurt so much that I went and had it X-rayed when we got back but there was no sign of any fracture. It still hurts a lot though!  We were also able to visit with our great friends Rhonda and Terry and their kids Elizabeth and Chip while in Grapevine.  They also visited us here in Round Rock last week for a day and we had a great time.You cannot put a price on such friends.

Thanks to the Internet and the BBC Radio broadcasts, I have been keeping up with the Ashes cricket series between England and Australia. So far it has been every bit as exciting as the series in 2005. I had planned to visit the UK with my good friend Dion Gillard (from Australia) this Summer to watch the cricket live. Sadly, as many of you will know from my prior posts, cancer took Dion from us way before his time a few months ago. I know we would have been having a great time and I think about him often.

Talking of absent friends, this time last year we lost one of our Golden retrievers, Toby. His sister Brandy was 13 on July 8th. She is not doing so well and I fear will not be with us too much longer either.  While we know that 13 years old is well beyond average for a Golden, it will still not be easy to see her go.

We have tried to find the kids lots of things to do that get them out of the house during the long Summer break. Robyn did a ceramics camp this week and I am taking Jack to a sleep-in at the Johnson Space Center (Mission Control) in Houston in a couple of weeks. I keep trying to get them to play outside but given the heat, all they seem to want to do when they are home is sit in front of the TV or the computer. School goes back on August 25th this year so we need to keep them busy for a few weeks yet!

On the medical front, my tests continue to look good but the neuropathy is proving extremely stubborn and I am still dealing with a lot of fatigue attacks. I have been doing some reading of medical papers on the Web lately, and it appears that many of my symptoms seem quite common among chemotherapy patients. I read with interest that some doctors are now describing the after effects that chemo has on people like me as "chemo brain". What is interesting is that I had myself been using that phrase to somewhat jokingly describe what I have experienced to people. Now it seems that maybe "chemo brain" will become a more formal name for the results of chemotherapy medications on the brain and neurological system of the patient.

That's it for now. As we head in to August in a few days I wish my many friends and family in Europe all the best as they start their prime Summer vacation season.

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15th June 2009

Patents

I discovered by accident today (I promise I was not doing a "vanity search") that Google now offers a way to search issued US patents. Having found the site, I will admit that I keyed in my first and last names and it gave me back a ton of hits. I then remembered that patents carry my full name so I added my middle name to the search and was impressed to see that it found almost all of my issued US patents (I think I have about 77 now). I also discovered that some of my issued patents have my name spelled wrong (Kevin instead of Kelvin) so a few don't show up in the search on my actual name!

If you are curious, you can find my patents, courtessy of Google, here and here. In case you are wondering (having looked at my search results), no, I did not invent the system for organ placement during surgery!).

Anyway, if you have patents yourself or are just curious to see what you can discover I recommend doing a few searches.

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8th June 2009

Graduation, Summer and More Tests!

I have been so busy at work and at home that a month has flown by, it seems, in the blink of an eye, since my last post. School here in Texas is now out for the Summer. Robyn (who turned 11 in May) is no longer in Elementary School. When school goes back in late August she will be in Middle School. The Elementary school held a graduation ceremony for all the fifth graders which, while cute, to my mind is a bit over the top.  Jack meanwhile will be in second grade when school goes back.Where does the time go?

So now that school is out, I am wondering once again if I am going to be able to work from home as much as I usually do now that my work environment has become very LOUD!!  I have turned on parental control on the playroom computer which forces them to unplug for at least part of the day. We are instigating a rule for the Summer that a certain amount of time must be spent outdoors. We also have the kids signed up for a few camps that will hopefully keep them distracted (and out of the house) for at least part of the time.

On the medical front, last week I had my latest scheduled round of blood tests. As far as they can tell, everything continues to look normal.

It's already in the mid to high nineties Fahrenheit here, it's going to be a long, hot Summer!

Best wishes to all

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8th May 2009

My "End of Chemo" Anniversary

I realised yesterday that this week is exactly one year on from my last chemotherapy treatment (May 7th 2008). While I am still feeling some of the side effects of chemo (neuropathy and fatigue mainly) I am still alive to play with my wife and kids and enjoy spending time with my friends, family and colleagues. For that I am very grateful.

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30th April 2009

Test results

When I first began posting here about my cancer diagnosis back in October of 2007 I adopted a policy of being very open about my "adventure" in the hope that I might be able to provide some comfort and information to others embarking on a similar journey. By far the highest proportion of visitors to my web site get here as a direct result of colon cancer or chemotherapy related searches. I have made a lot of new friends along the way, most of whom I have never met in person, and I continue to wish them all the best for successful outcomes in their respective battles with this evil disease. I am very humbled by the number of people that have written to me or posted a message into the Guest Book telling me about their battle with cancer and thanking me for sharing my information which helped them better understand that they were not alone in terms of symptoms, side effects of treatment etc.

Thankfully my tests continue to show that I am (as far as can be determined using current technology) cancer free. However, my journey is far from over and I am continuing to run into additional issues that were most likely caused by the FOLFOX chemotherapy that I underwent between December 2007 and May 2008. Chemo has become a lot more effective over the years but for all the good it does it definitely comes at a price, but as my wife constantly reminds me, I am still alive to gripe about it!  Most recently, as I mentioned in my prior posting, I have been suffering some fairly bad fatigue. A week ago I went to see the oncologist and they ran a set of tests on me. All of my basic blood work (white count, platelets, haemoglobin) came back fine and there was no sign of any issues with my Thyroid. The only test that seemed at all off was my Testosterone level which was at the low end of normal ("is that chemo or my age?" I ask myself!!). Anyway, the oncologist has decided to put me on a regimen of monthly testosterone shots for a while to see if that helps. I had my first shot last week and it may be my imagination but I already seem to have a bit more energy!

Anyway that's it for now. Thanks as always for all the messages of concern. It's great to know I have such a great set of people cheering me on.

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18th April 2009

Fatigue

Just recently I have been suffering fairly chronic fatigue. I start the day with plenty of energy but by about 4pm I'm ready for a nap. This is not like me at all. My legs have also been somewhat restless again, which if you remember how my journey began back in October 2007 is a bit scary. My next scheduled round of tests is not until June but (hopefully using an excess of caution) I have scheduled an appointment with the oncologist for Monday morning to get checked out.  The fatigue seems to have been getting slowly worse each day for about the last two weeks and I want to make sure nothing unusual is going on. Suffice to say I'm a bit nervous.I'll keep you all posted as soon as I have some results.

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2nd April 2009

World Autism Awareness Day

Today is World Autism Awareness day. This is a subject near and dear to my heart as my son Jack is on the Autism "spectrum" and has been diagnosed with Aspergers and ADHD among other things. We have other family members that are also dealing with autism on a daily basis. Whether you are a parent of an autistic child or a person dealing with the austism spectrum disorder (ASD) on a personal level, today is a day on which we can show our support for each other.

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31st March 2009

Entries from 2008 are now in the Archive

I did a little Spring cleaning of the web page today.  All entries from 2008 have now been moved into the Archive. Please let me know if you run into any broken links or other problems.

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18th March 2009

Spring is here in Texas

I can't believe that a month has flown by since I last posted here. Things have been very busy both at work and at home. For the kids, the outdoor soccer season is again underway. I am the coach of my son's team and the assistant coach of my daughter's team. This means I am involved in three practices a week and they each have games every Saturday now.

Although Spring does not officially start for a few more days (March 20th), as I type this it is close to 80F outside and the Red Buds are in full bloom. This week is Spring Break for the kids. Robyn is at a Girl Scouts camp all week and Jack is enjoying a series of extended play dates with some of his friends. I have a lot of work to get done (which is bad planning on my part) so I am hiding in my home office a lot, with the door shut!  Last week we finally got some much needed rain as a cold front arrived and stayed for a few days. I think we are still below where we need to be and if we don't get some good storms during the Spring we could be in for a very hot Summer. As is typical around these parts at this time of the year, the week before the cold front hit, the temperature was in the 90s F. Several of my colleagues were in town that week to attend the SHARE conference which was held in Austin for the first time. I'm glad they got to enjoy some nice weather while they were here and in these times of reduced travel, it was great to see them.

This past Sunday, we went to see the Broadway touring production of "Spamalot" here in Austin. It was excellent. Richard Chamberlain was great as King Arthur and it's hard to believe that he is now 75 years of age. This coming Saturday we have tickets to see Elton John and Billy Joel live in concert. I have seen them together before and am hoping for another great show. We don't get out that often so having two great events on back to back weekends is a real treat!

One of the reasons I have been posting here a bit less is that I have been trying to give more real time status updates on both Facebook and Twitter. I have to say though that the recent changes made to the Facebook web page (I think it's a real mess now) probably mean I will be spending less time there in the future

On the medical front I am continuing to get my strength back but lately have been feeling a bit more tired than usual and I think I have overdone it a bit both in terms of trying to get back into shape and also in terms of housework and other errands. Lorna and I debated buying a treadmill but after researching how much a decent one costs we ended up joining a local gym which offers a pay by the month plan. I have been trying to get to the gym one or two times a week. I feel like I am in hand to hand combat right now with the drugs that help with my neuropathy. I love that they cure the pain but I hate that they help me gain weight!


That's it for now then - I hope you are well as you read this.

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13th February 2009

Another year older - and that's a good thing!

A few days ago (February 1st), I celebrated my 44th birthday. I was overwhelmed with all of the nice messages that I received. Thank you all very much! When the journey that I have been on began back in October 2007, I had serious doubts I would still be here at this time and I am so grateful and blessed that I am.

A few days after my birthday it was time for my next round of blood work and physical exams. The worst part about the blood tests are that they can give you you basic numbers (white count, platelets, haemoglobin) almost right away but it takes a day to get the "CEA marker" test back (and those are the ones that can indicate a recurrence of colon cancer). I am happy to report that all of the tests (both blood work and physical exam) came back clean and as far as the doctors can tell, I remain cancer free. I have no more tests scheduled until June (so I get four months to try and relax a bit). The neuropathy continues to be an issue. As an experiment, n discussions with my oncologist, we agreed to try reducing the amount of Lyrica I am taking to see if the pain remains under control while hopefully stemming the weight gain that I have been experiencing since I started on this drug. For the benefit of fellow patients that I know are reading this blog, the Lyrica has done a really good job with the pain but it seems to be the main cause of my weight gain. I'm also trying to focus on exercise and fitness to see if I can win back a few pounds. I'll keep you all posted on my progress!

I hope everyone is off to good start in 2009 and I particularly want to send out best wishes to all of the other cancer patients out there that I have met because of this blog.


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29th January 2009

My use of "social networking" tools

While I still like having a journal of significant events here (especially the medical ones), and I fully plan to continue making regular updates, I have been finding that lately I spend a lot of time posting updates and communicating with people using so called "social networking" tools and web sites. Specifically I find my self using four web based tools a lot. For me each one fulfills a different and yet interesting, role. One thing I like is the real time nature of these tools. When I write a blog posting (such as this one) I try to put a lot of thought into it and I have to carve out a fairly substantial chunk of time to do it. By contrast, it takes no time at all to update my Facebook status or to post a quick "tweet" on Twitter in answer to the basic question of "What are you doing now?". So whereas I may update this blog on avaerage about once a week. I will update Facebook and Twitter multiple times a day typically. Below is a table of the four sites I use the most. If you click on the links you will get to my specific page on each site. Alsongside each entry in the table is a brief summary of what I use each one for. If we are not already connected on any or all of these tools please feel free to reach out and make a connection!

Facebook I view Facebook as the primary place that I interact on-line with my family and friends. Facebook is also the tool I have been most actively using for the longest time. While I also do find work colleagues there, the discussions, at least the ones I am most involved in, tend to be more about non-work activities. Unlike some, but like many others, I also enjoy many of the games that are available on Facebook. I tend to play mostly word games and puzzle games and for the most part avoid collecting fish! I tend to  know most of the people I am connected to on Facebook. I am less likely to accept a friendship offer from someone I don't know unless the person is recommended by a person I trust. I mostly interact with Face book using their web page but I also use their Blackberry client. The facebook tools for finding people you know seem pretty good.
Twitter I am fairly new to Twitter. I have been using it since last October. I view Twitter as a mix between so called "micro blogging" and instant messaging with persistence. Unlike Facebook, I do take part in many technical discussions with people on Twitter. You can chose to have your messages be open to all or just to your followers/fiends. Each message you post is limited to 140 characters. I have many people that I "talk" to via Twitter and many of them I have never met before or even knew of before we found each other on Twitter. These type of connections work best when people have a common interest. You will find all types of people on Twitter including many celebrities. Many of the people follow tend to discuss technical things related to computers but I also follow people discussing topics like autism, local events in Austin and of course people that I just find interesting. Twitter has a lot of applications that you can run on your computer or handheld to read and post "tweets" but I tend mainly to use the twitter.com web interface. I do however run a couple of Twitter clients on my Blackberry. The one I use the most at the moment is TwitterBerry. I find it quite difficult to easily find people I want to connect to. I usally have to rely on spotting a conversation between people I know or stumbling upon an ongoing conversation that looks interesting. The tools provided fot finding friends need some work in my opinion.
LinkedIn I view LinkedIn as my primary on-line resume/CV and business contacts database. Sadly in recent weeks I have been getting a lot of requests via LinkedIn to recommend people who are tidying up their resumes. My best wishes to all of them. I almost always interact with LinkedIn using the web page interface. As a general rule I will only accept a connection request from someone I have either met in person or on the phone. Likewise, I am very careful with my recommendations. I try to view LinkedIn as a very professional environment and treat it and the people I find there in that way. The LinkedIn tools for finding people you know seem pretty good and I have even managed to find old university class mates from the 1980's using the tools provided on the web site.
Plaxo Of the four,Plaxo is the one I use the least. I am not 100% sure what Plaxo wants to be and I am still trying to decide if it should be on my list here. It is sort of a mixture between Facebook (without the apps) and LinkedIn. One thing that Plaxo is very good at is aggregating information from multiple sources (blogs, del.icio.us,Flickr, etc) into a single place. That is the primary reason I use it. I have very few connections on Plaxo that I am not also connected to elsewhere (typically on LinkedIn or Facebook). I only use the web interface and don't know if other options exist.


There are a lot of other sites that offer similar facilities, but these are the four that I currently use and  they, I think, cover my personal life connectivity needs! I do also use sites like del.icio.us and Digg to store my bookmarks on-line but I am not including those sites in this list. I also use photo sharing sites like Flickr and Picasa but for now I am not listing those here either. I am finding that I use e-mail and dedicated instant messaging tools less these days, especially since Facebook added an instant messaging facility. Of course I also use a lot of additional tools for my day job including the more traditional tools like e-mail, instant messaging, news groups and discussion lists, as well as some of the more interesting web conferencing and collaboration tools but the the web sites listed above I view as more the ones I use in my personal life. I could also get into my use of virtual worlds like Second Life but that deserves a whole posting of its own at some future date.

An interesting footnote to this posting is that I feel so well in touch these says with my friends and family around the World that I think Christmas cards, at least for us, are probably a thing of the past (sort of sad but also the reality of the times we live in).

By the way, if you are reading this at my web site rather than via an RSS reader, then you will see links to many of the sites that I use in the side bar on the left hand side of the home page. You may have to scroll the side bar down a bit to see them all.

That's it for now then. Apologies to folks who don't come here to read technical stuff. I'll be back to talking medical and family stuff again soon as my next cancer screening is just a few days away but this is a posting I have wanted to make for some time.
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18th January 2009

Brief medical update

I haven't posted a medical update for a while and several of you have been kind enough to inquire as to my status. So, here is a very quick update. I have no more tests planned until early next month. As far as I know the next round of tests will just be blood work. The biggest problem right now is the neuropathy left behind by the FOLFOX chemotherapy (that ended last May). Specifically this is caused by the Oxaliplatin drug. I am told that it can take a year or more (from the day chemo ends) for this to go away. I am currently taking Lyrica which does a really good job of reducing the pain but seems to have the unfortunate side effect of causing substantial weight gain. Lately I have been exercising regularly (riding the bike, walking, in-line skating, lifting weights) but no matter what I do I am finding it impossible the weight I have gained since I started taking Lyrica. Usually I find it very easy to lose weight so this is, to say the least, a bit frustrating!  A week ago, I decided I would try an experiment and stop taking the Lyrica. Three days after I stopped the pain in my hands and feet became unbearable and I started taking it again. The pain almost immediately subsided. So I feel as if I am stuck in a situation where I can be in pain but losing weight or pain free and heavy!  I plan to talk to my oncologist again next month about this. That said, my wife keeps reminding me that my body has been through a lot in the last year or so and that I need to be patient. I know she is right but it really bugs me that most of my clothes are tight!

I continue to be humbled by the fact that I am still being contacted by fellow cancer patients (usually colon cancer patients like myself) who have found  my web site while searching the internet for reassurance as they start their treatment. That was one of the main reasons I started keeping the journal here of my treatment and I am really pleased that it has been useful to others. If you are a cancer patient reading this, e-mail me and I will always reply and I will help in any way I can by sharing my experiences. You can reach me by sending e-mail to gfxman@yahoo.com.

That's the medical news for now. All in all not too bad. I am, as ever, extremely grateful for all of your support.

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5th January 2009

Happy New Year and now it's back to work!

First of all I would like to wish all of my friends and family around the World a belated "Happy New Year".

I'm back to work today for the first time in several weeks and the kids are back at school. The house feels extremely quiet.  I took an extended break to burn off all of my unused vacation time and I feel a lot more rested as a result. I have spent a lot of time over the past few weeks playing with the kids both indoors and outdoors and finally catching up on many house projects and also on my reading. Our video games and our bicycles all got an extended workout too andI even got both my daughter's bedroom the garage tidied up!

We celebrated Jack's seventh birthday on December 17th. I cannot believe that he is seven already. I need to upload the photos from my camera and post a few here.

Looking back, 2008 as far as I am concerned, was truly a year unlike any other. I was in chemotherapy for the first 24 weeks of the year and then recovering from the side effects for a long time after that. In fact, I am still dealing with some of them and probably will be for some time to come. I'm not complaining however. I'm still here for my family and that's all that matters.  There was also the seemingly endless schedule of blood tests, CT scans, surgeries and other fun stuff. Thankfully I have no more tests or other medical procedures scheduled until next month. I can finally feel my energy returning and I have started trying to exercise regularly. Over the holidays I spent a lot of time riding my bike and working out with weights. I also want to get my Rollerblades out of retirement once it stops raining!

One of the  post chemo side effects I need to address somehow is the weight that I gained due largely  to the medications I still have to take daily.  Right now I weigh about 50 pounds more than I did a few weeks after surgery in October 2007 (which of course caused me to lose weight) and about 30 of those pounds seemed to appear very soon after I started taking a specific drug back in August. So, to a large degree I had little control over the weight I have gained but I have decided to draw a line in the sand and try to fight back!  Check back here periodically for news (hopefully) of my progress!

Meanwhile the weather here has been crazy. It was 83 degrees Fahrenheit two days ago and I was out in shorts. Today it's raining and barely above freezing. It's supposed to be back in the seventies by midweek - such is a Central Texas Winter !

Anyway, this has been a nice diversion but I need to get back to work so here's wishing everyone all the very best for a safe and happy 2009.

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Browsers and stuff

As far as I am aware, this web site should render correctly using most of the popular desktop browsers. I test all changes I make using the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome. I also regularly test against  Internet Explorer, Safari , Sea Monkey and Opera.  I do most of the editing by hand but I also use Mozilla Composer (part of the Sea Monkey suite) quite a bit. Note, that on systems running Internet Explorer under Windows XP SP2 I have noticed that parts of this site do not appear correctly unless you allow script to run (you'll get a popup if and when you run into this). I use script to drive the side panel. Without this you won't see all of the menus. Again, you will only see this behaviour if running IE 6 or IE 7 on Windows XP SP 2 systems as far as I am aware.

Get Firefox!

Original goals for this web page

I am very interested in computer graphics and I was one of the authors of the original Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.0 Specification produced by the W3C. I am no longer a member of the SVG Working Group but I do still try and keep up with SVG developments which, if you are interested, you can follow here.

When I originally created the web site I intended to create a site dedicated to SVG but I never quite got around to that.  I was also well along the road to getting an SVG book published but that project got put on hold by the publisher. I am still going to try and publish some SVG stuff here sometime soon. In the meantime, part of the unpublished manuscript for my book was published by Manning on their web site. You can take a look at what we had done and see what you think. I think we had the makings of a very good book, but I am a little biased!

However, finally after about 13 years of waiting (as of June 2012) the popular browsers are finally well along the road of adding a lot of great SVG support. You can find some of my samples here (I recommend you open the link in a new tab or new window). They currently work best on the latest versions of Chrome and Firefox (12 Beta) but most of them work on IE9, and the latest versions of Safari and Opera.

So for now this site is a bit of everything but mostly still very much a work in progress and in many ways exists to give me a place to try out various HTML ideas and experiments. And in case you are wondering how this site is edited, it's mostly done by hand using a text editor. I also use Composer (from the Mozilla Sea Monkey suite) to edit some of the pages. As I mentioned above, I mostly, use Mozilla Firefox to review changes I make before submitting them to the server. Anyway, please do check back from time to time as I plan to try and make regular updates.

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Contact me. Last updated November 14th 2016