blog

…just for a change.

As of yesterday, I’ve been cleared to discontinue the “workaround” and go back to peeing fully on my own! To celebrate, here in just a few minutes, I’m going to have my first cup of coffee since this nonsense started. It’s only been 1 month, 1 week, and 4 days since the last one, but who’s been counting? (Other than me, I mean.)

In kidney/surgery news — still nothing new to report. Pre-op doctor’s appointment on 01 June, so I expect to know something after that.

I talked to my urologist today. (Oy vey, I have a urologist, this is my life now…) She called to discuss next steps. She had been a little concerned about the odd area in my kidney seen on the CAT scan, and had wanted to research it a little and consult with some colleagues before making a plan on how to move forward.

Fortunately, that’s all completed now. She’s decided the odd area is probably just some old scar tissue or something like that, not anything to worry about. Consequently, we’re going to go forward with the heminephrectomy — which is doctor for “cuttin’ out about half your kidney”.

This is kinda good news, because ending up with 1.5 kidneys is better than having just one. (It turns out, if something goes wrong with the other one, you can eek it out on half a kidney and clean livin’…)

But it’s also kinda bad news, because in order to take out part of the kidney, she’s going to have to open me allll the way up, using something called a “flank incision”. According to Dr. Ganeshappa (my urologist, y’all, keep up), this is one of the more painful surgical incisions when it comes to healing. I’ll be in the hospital for 3 to 5 days after the surgery, and I’m probably going to have an epidural for at least part of that, because the pain will be that bad. (The epidural is preferred for pain management because it doesn’t have the constipation issues you can get with narcotics.)

As you can imagine, I’m eagerly looking forward to that phase of the process. (Only, not so much.) I bet I end up with a bitchin’ scar out of this though, so I’ve got that going for me.

Now, the really good news: she also confirmed that, assuming that the tumor is stage 1 (very likely, due to the relatively small size), once it’s cleanly excised, that’s it — I’m done. No chemo, no radiation. I’ll have periodic imaging follow-ups (on the order of once a year) for the rest of my life, but that’s it.

I still don’t have a date for the surgery — other than “some time within a month” — but I will share it when I do. Between then and now, I have to do a bunch of pre-op stuff (blood work, X-rays, and an MRI (to give Dr. G. a better idea of where things are, tumor-wise and kidney-wise)), and I’ve got a “pre-OP” appointment with Dr. Ganeshappa on June 1st, so it will be after that — but how much after, I’m not yet sure.

Thanks again for all the messages of support and offers of help. <3

Thank you to everybody that responded on Twitter, Facebook, sent email, or called in the wake of Friday’s post. I really appreciate the support, and particularly people’s willingness to volunteer to help in what is probably going to be a fairly crappy, trying period. Love to you all.

Damn, it’s all dusty up in here. Last entry in 2012?! Kee-rist, I’m a poor excuse for an olde skööl blogger…

So, as some of you are aware, or may have inferred from my social media postings, I’ve been having some health issues lately. It all started around the middle of April, when I sort of … lost my ability to pee. That’s lead to a massive upswing in the number of doctor appointments in my life, and has greatly increased the number of people that have handled my junk.

That’s sort of mostly okay at this point — I’m still not peeing all that great, and the workaround for that is not the most fun I’ve ever had, but it’s manageable, and every day I pee a little bit better. Hopefully soon, I won’t need the workaround anymore. (Email me if you really want details about the “workaround”, but trust me, it’s probably not your scene.)

But, that’s not really important to this post…

During the course of getting the not peeing thing cleared up, I found out that I have diabetes. This is also not turning out to be a huge deal — I immediately went on a low carb diet and some drugs, and a few weeks later my blood sugar levels are looking really good. I saw my primary care doc on Tuesday, and basically all he said was “keep it up” and “come back in three months”. I’m a little disappointed that I’ve eaten my last sandwich ever, but hey, them’s the breaks. I’m even pretty confident that, in time, I can get off the meds and manage things entirely with my diet.

Of course, the diabetes isn’t really what’s important to this post either…

During the course of getting the whole “Johnny can’t pee” thing evaluated, one of the tests they did was an ultrasound of my bladder and kidneys. And that ultrasound showed what the doctor calls a “renal mass” — which is doctor for “a chunk of shit in your kidney that shouldn’t be there”. The ultrasound was followed up with a CAT scan, which confirmed that the chunk of shit is indeed probably a tumor. (There’s a 5% chance it’s something else, which just looks like a tumor, but … it’s probably a tooo-moor.)

There’s also something else odd, in a different part of the same kidney. To quote the very experienced urologist that I’m seeing, “I’ve never seen anything like that before!” Could be the remnants from an old injury, could be … well, who knows.

So, right now, the plan is: cut some or all of that kidney out. The doc is going to put her head together with some other docs and see what the consensus is on the other weird stuff, and that’s going to determine whether they take out the whole kidney or just the part around the tumor. In general, from what the doc said, they like to remove as little as possible, but if it seems like the other stuff is going to be an issue, fuck it, let’s get the whole thing out. (I may be paraphrasing a little there.)

From her description of the alternatives, I’m actually kind of hoping for the “take it all!” route, because that can be done laparoscopically, which will make for a much easier recovery. If they decide to just take the tumor, I’ll have to be opened all the way up and will end up in the hospital for about a week.

So, obviously a shitty situation — but, looking on the bright side: this was completely unrelated to the issue with my inability to pee. The only reason it was caught was the ultrasound — and the only reason the ultrasound was done was because I happened to mention than an urgent care doc had said she was going to order one, so the urologist ordered it. She said normally, with my symptoms, she probably wouldn’t have bothered if I hadn’t mentioned it. The tumor is still pretty small (around 2.8 cM, which I guess is small as far as renal cell carcinomas go), which means the long-term survivability after removal is really good — 95-98%. This could have gone undetected for years, until I started pissing blood or something. So, while shitty, things could have worked out much, much worse.

Now, short-term consequences: I will not be at this year’s YAPC, I am very sad to say. I am also not going to be able to do {REDACTED VERY COOL THING}. It’s probably fortunate that my OSCON and OSB talks didn’t get accepted, because it saves me the trouble of canceling them. Instead of doing those things, I’m going to having surgery, probably in late May or early June, and then focusing on recovering and healing up, so I can do all those things next year. Because fuck cancer.

I intend to post updates on my condition here, but feel free to drop me an email, or poke me on Twitter or Facebook, and ask how things are going if it seems like it’s been too long since I’ve updated. And now … I think it may just be time for a nap. 8^)

Skotch.app

Like many, I haven’t been very pleased with the recent 2.x versions of Skitch. My main use for that app was to be able to right click an something — generally a screenshot — upload it to a remote server, and have the resulting URL put onto my clipboard so I could paste it into a chat channel or an email message. The new version doesn’t really support that workflow, and, further, the URLs have gotten incredibly ugly. Finally, while I use Evernote, I really don’t want my temporary scratch pastebin files getting imported into the same app where I keep stuff I want to annotate and search long term.

I realize I’m not alone in this position, as there’s been a moderate amount of grumbling on Twitter and in $WORK’s chat channels about the deficiencies of the new 2.x Skitch. Several replacements have been proposed, but none of them really had the ease of use I was looking for, and so one afternoon I finally broke down and wrote some Applescript. (I know, I know, I took a shower immediately afterwards.) Since I’m lazy, I’m really leveraging Sartak’s nopaste script to do all the hard work. I call the resulting conglomeration Skotch. (Insert your own “taped together” joke here.)

Skotch has two parts, an Applescript based app and a shell script that calls nopaste with the appropriate environment variables set. If you’d like to play with Skotch, grab the two pieces of code from this gist. Use ‘Applescript Editor’ to save the first code as ‘Skotch.app’ (and make sure to change the ‘File Format:’ dropdown to ‘Application’, and uncheck the two checkboxes). Use a plain text editor to save the second chunk of code as .skotch in your home directory. Modify the environment variables to match your path and server names, make sure you have the nopaste utility installed, and, finally, make sure you have SSH key-based auth working so you don’t get prompted for a password.

In order to get ‘Skotch.app’ to appear as an option in the ‘Open with…’ context menu, you need to modify the Contents/Info.plist file inside the application bundle. Add additional <string> sections inside the <key>CFBundleTypeExtensions</key> array (see here for background.) You may need to restart the Finder to get new entries to be recognized.

I was also asked for the recipe for the tomato balsamic soup I made for dinner last night. Here it is:

Creamy Tomato Balsamic Soup

(originally from Pinch Of Yum, but currently AWOL…)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 4 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Cracked black pepper

Directions

  1. Combine 1 cup of broth, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl.
  2. Place onion, garlic, and tomatoes in a 13 x 9-inch Pyrex dish coated with cooking spray.
  3. Pour broth mixture over tomato mixture.
  4. Place dish onto foil-lined cookie sheet and bake at 500°F for 50 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.
  5. Place contents of dish, including all juices, into soup pot (4 qt is sufficient).
  6. Add remaining 1 cup broth and cream, and process with stick blender until smooth. (You can use a conventional blender or food processor if that’s all you have; if you do, you probably want to strain any remaining solids out before serving.)
  7. Top with grated cheese and garnish with cracked black pepper to taste.

Chili

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This time of year, I end up making a big pot of chili about once a week. It’s great, because it keeps well (in fact, it gets better as it sits in the fridge) and it makes for a quick and easy to reheat lunch. A couple of people have asked for my recipe, and I keep saying, “Oh, I’ll post that on the blog!” and I never do — so here we are.

I don’t really have a “recipe” for this as much as a decision tree — “chili” as a dish composes a very wide variation of preparations, so there’s a lot of room to play around. Generally I’m working in the ground-meat-plus-tomatoes section of the chili realm, so that’s what I’ll focus on here. My decision tree was heavily inspired by both Ürb’s chili con carne recipe and The Clothes Make The Girl’s “My Favorite Chili” recipe.

Genehack Chili

Ingredients

  • Meat: you want around 2 pounds of ground meat of some sort. I generally use a pound of chorizo pork sausage and a pound of whatever strikes my fancy and/or is on sale at the grocery store that week. I’ve tried beef, chicken, turkey, and more pork, and it all works. Still on the todo list: buffalo, lamb, ostrich…
  • Tomatoes: I use Muir Glen organic canned tomato products; you could use fresh but that’s generally more washing, slicing, and dicing than I’m looking for. You want somewhere between 20 and 40 ounces of tomatoes and juices. I generally use one 28oz can of whole peeled plum tomatoes, roughly chopped plus one 14 oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic OR two 14 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic and/or green chiil OR one 14 oz can of diced tomatoes plus one small can of tomato paste
  • Beans: Some people have strong opinions about beans in chili; I tend to alternate between with beans and without. Depending on taste, add in one or two cans of black and/or pinto beans. Drain beans before use and rinse well. You want to rinse them until all the can juice is gone and the foamy stuff has rinsed away.
  • Other veg: One or two medium to large white, yellow, or sweet onions, roughly diced. Red onion would probably work too, if you have some you need to use up. A seeded, diced yellow or green bell pepper or two can provide some color and texture. Garlic to taste — which for me is somewhere between 4 and 10 cloves, minced. I also generally throw in 2 to 6 hot peppers — jalapeños, seranos, poblanos all work well. Make sure to remove all seeds and cut into a fine dice. You may want to wear gloves for this step.
  • Other ingredients: Depending on how much liquid you like in your chili, and what your tomato composition was, and how long you’re planning on simmering the chili, you may want to add some additional liquid — any where from 14 to 28 oz of a combination of beef broth, water, and/or wine generally works well.
  • Spices:
    • 2 to 4 heaping tablespoons chili powder
    • 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • salt to taste (i generally give a pretty good sprinkle)
    • black and/or red pepper to taste

Directions

The basic procedure here is: brown the meat, add in the veg, mix in the spices, add any additional liquid, bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer. I generally do this all in one pot, a 4 qt cast iron Dutch oven. If you’re planning on a long simmer, make sure you have a lid.

  • Brown meat: if you’re using a low-fat meat, add a tablespoon or two of coconut or olive oil to your pre-warmed pot, then brown the meat. Since I almost always have a pound of chorizo in the mix, I generally start cooking that first, and then add the other meat once some fat has come out of the pork. You could stop and drain the meat at this point, but I don’t — all that fat is going to help fill you up on small portions.
  • Add veg: chuck all your vegetables in the pot and stir it up
  • Add spices: toss in all the spices and stir everything up well
  • Add extra liquid: if you’re adding in extra broth, water, or wine, it goes in now
  • Bring to a boil: I generally just crank the burner all the way up. Give it a good stir every 3 or 4 minutes, particularly if your pot isn’t well-seasoned yet
  • Drop to a simmer: Once you’ve been at a boil for a minute or two, crank the burner down, put the lid on the pot, and let it be. You can stir it up every hour or so if you think you need to, but it’ll mostly be okay just sitting there on the stove

You can simmer this anywhere from 2 hours to overnight — I’ve gone as high as 25 hours once, due to a scheduling mistake (started chili going when we had a previous dinner engagement that evening, and just let it go until the next day). For longer simmers, depending on what you put in, you may want to adjust the liquid levels to keep things from drying out — you can always chuck in a cup or two of water. As it gets closer to serving time, if you find it’s too liquid for your tastes, uncover and elevate heat as needed to reduce.

Serve with grated sharp cheddar, raw white onion, additional hot sauce, and/or sour cream, to taste. Goes well in a bowl, over hot dogs, or with tortilla chips. Keeps well, can be frozen.

Here’s last night’s dinner. Based on popular demand — okay, based on one person asking — here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3-4 strips thick-cut bacon
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1-4 cloves garlic, minced (to taste)
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 pkg mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Cook bacon in cast-iron pan over medium-low heat, turning as needed, until well-done and crisp. Remove to paper towel to drain.
  2. Brown chicken in bacon fat with chopped garlic and diced onions.
  3. Puree tomatoes and bacon in blender.
  4. Put chicken in baking dish with lid. Add oregano, basil. Pour pureed tomatoes over chicken. Top with thick layer of mozzarella (I use most or all of a 16oz package).
  5. Bake, covered, at 350° for 45 minutes or until chicken is done
  6. (Optional) Finish for ~5 minutes under broiler to brown cheese
  7. (Optional) Garnish with basil leaves

Notes

  • If you don’t have bacon, don’t eat bacon, or would rather save 10 minutes off the front end, you can just brown the chicken in butter or oil (or use some saved bacon fat)
  • I’ve substituted garlic scapes (chopped fine) for the minced garlic, and it works out fine.
  • I’ve used white and yellow onions in the past; not sure it makes a difference
  • If you omit the bacon, add some taco seasoning to the chicken when browning, swap out the mozzarella for a cheddar/jack blend, and garnish with chopped scallions instead of basil, you have the “Mexi-Melt Chicken Surprise”.

As of earlier this afternoon, everybody that needed a 1-on-1 delivery has been talked to, and I’ve been cleared by @MrsGenehack to talk about this more widely. So here’s how our summer just got a whole lot more interesting and chaotic.

First, in the “interesting to me and a few other people, but probably not so much you” category, I’m thrilled to announce that effective Monday, I’m working for Infinity Interactive. I think it’s going to be a whole lot of fun and I’m expecting to learn bunches of new stuff. From external appearances, not a whole lot will change; it’s still a work-from-home programming pants-optional-unless-meeting-clients type of gig, just like the one I’m leaving.

Second, the much bigger news, is that due to a change in @MrsGenehack’s employment — hit her up for details, she’ll share more if she wants to, I’m not going to say more than she has a new job that she’s just as excited about as I am about mine — we’re going to be re-locating to the Salem, OR area, ideally before the start of the school year there (basically the first of September).

We will certainly be seeing all our local friends as much as possible before we leave — amongst other fun things like selling our house, finding some place to live in Salem, and dealing with the logistics of moving stuff, cats, and kinder across the continent — so if you’re a local friend, please bug us about having dinner, getting a drink, seeing a show, or otherwise spending some time together while we’re still in the area.

Not to get overly maudlin’ — still plenty of time for that — but while we’ve loved our time in the DC area (very much more than either of us expected, I think), we’re ready for our next adventure and very grateful to all involved that we’re getting this great chance to kick it off.

And week 4, the haul looked like this, and consisted of:

  • 2 tangles of garlic scapes
  • 1 bunch tatsoi
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 heads leaf lettuce
  • 1 head red romaine
  • 1 bag red chard
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 1 jar applesauce
  • 1 box strawberries

(The last two items are from our fruit share, which started up this week.)

The menu plan:

  • Wed: chorizo/kale/collard/garlic scape stew (yes, leftover from last week’s menu, I said we went off the rails…)
  • Thu: salad with radishes, mushrooms, leaf lettuce, red romaine, cherry tomatoes, garlic scape balsamic vinaigrette
  • Fri: grilled half chickens and grilled prosciutto-wrapped asparagus
  • Sat: garlic scape-chard pesto pasta with grilled chicken breast
  • Sun: chilled wilted tatsoi salad with ginger-sesame dressing and stir-fried tofu with broccoli

and then Monday and Tuesday we have evening activities that will keep us out of the house — but we should be mostly out of CSA produce at that point anyway…