Then and now. Me at the end of the decade.

So I saw something making the rounds on Twitter the other day where in honor of making it through yet another decade of life, folks are asking others to share pics of themselves from the start of this decade and now. I thought to myself, “Self, this would make an excellent blog post. We should do this.” And so that is what I am doing now.

Then, in my usual tendency to overthink things like this, I wondered if I should try to find more than two pics (the original meme only stipulated two) and if I should try to get them from around the same time of year or throughout the year or whatever. I’ve decided to go with the tried and true method of just winging it.

So, in the spirit of the original thingy, here’s two pics of me. One from July 2010 and one from November 12th. I went with July because I don’t have a lot of good pics of me from 2010.

Clearly the two biggest changes are the amount of grey in my beard and the number of wrinkles on my face. I was fat back then and I’m still fat now. One other big change is the first pic was taken in our townhouse apartment in Ann Arbor where we were living at the time and the other in the basement of my home in Westland. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever manage to purchase a house, but was finally able to stumble my way through the process just before I hit 50.

We lost Melvin in September 2012 and Cuddles graduated to Official SEB Cat with Jasper as the Emergency Backup Cat in the event that Cuddles was unable to fulfill the duties of the position. Today, at 9 and 8 years old, they are quite regal in stature and are doing well.

I don’t know that I’m any wiser than I was 10 years ago, but I’m definitely older and it shows. You can definitely tell that camera technology, particularly in cell phones, has increased significantly in the past decade. The portrait mode effect alone is an impressive development.

Not really sure how to wrap this up. I don’t have any great insights to offer other than “Hey, I’m still on the right side of the grass.” So I’ll wrap up with one last selfie that I took just this morning because I thought the early morning light in the car looked pretty nifty.

Today is my 18th wedding anniversary.

In addition to being the day Christians think Jesus took a 3 day nap and then vamoosed back to Heaven, today is also our 18th wedding anniversary which, to me, is a much more significant occasion. No one is more surprised that I’ve been married for 18 years than I am.

Here we see the judge pointing out how my receding hairline will only get worse.

To say that I was apprehensive would be to put it mildly. Not long before Anne and I tied the knot, two of my good friends — people who seemed to have their shit together way better than I had and seemed to have happy marriages — got divorced. Their marriages ended around the five year mark and I worried that I, someone not known for having his shit together, would end up following a similar path.

My mother, Mary, with my sister-in-law, Deborah, and my niece and nephew, Jasmine and Dakota. In the background is the back of my brother, Wes, a bit of my dad, Jay, my mother-in-law, Kathy, and my sister, Cindy.

To be sure, there were some rocky points early on were it seemed like things would not hold, but somehow we managed to keep it together. True to the vows, we’ve had our share of in sickness and in health and richer and poorer. There were days that we had no idea what we should do so we did the best we could and hoped for the best. So far that seems to be working.

I swear I haven’t fallen asleep in this pic.

I have nothing deeply profound to offer on marriage other than to remember what it was that brought you two together in the first place and keep working at it. Some days she’s going to need to lean on you and on others you’re going to need to lean on her. I think that’s part of what marriage is all about. Finding your way though life with the help of your best friend. (Note, replace him/her with appropriate pronouns for non-hetero marriages.)

My daughter, Courtney, and my father-in-law, Aral.

It’s weird how it both does and doesn’t feel like it’s been 18 years. I love you, Anne, and I’m so happy we’ve had all this time together. I’m looking forward to many more years to come.

My social networking expands.

With the pending shutdown of Google+ and my growing concerns about Facebook, I’ve been looking around trying to decide if there’s any other social networks I should consider making use of. I already have a Twitter account, but that’s a different beast than G+ or FB in my mind. I did set up a MeWe account, but I’ve not touched it in forever because the lack of an API to make sharing stuff to it easy is a sticking point for me. You’re welcome to follow me there if you wish, but I can’t say I’ll be doing too much there. So the search continues.

I’ve been following the development of Diaspora project for awhile, but hadn’t signed up for it until today. The basic idea is that it’s trying to be similar to Facebook, but without all the data mining and advertising. I tend to think of it as the Open Source Facebook and, much like Linux, there’s a whole bunch of different “pods” that are setup and run by folks for different reasons, but they all talk to each other. The upshot being you have to choose which instance of Diaspora you want to create an account on, but once you do you can communicate with and share stuff to anyone on any of the other pods. Most importantly, you own your data and you have control over whom you share what with.

I finally signed on in part because Dave Hill of ***Dave Does The Blog did it and I wanna be like the cool kid. Plus he found a node that was specifically set up for folks who were previously G+ fans called Pluspora. If you’re using Diaspora, either on Pluspora or one of the other nodes, you can find my profile here.

I’m still figuring out how it all works and I can’t promise I’ll be any more active there than I am at MeWe until I get a handle on it, but the fact that there is a WordPress plugin that will allow me to crosspost new entries from here to my profile there at least points to an API that may make it more enjoyable to work with than the previously aforementioned MeWe. In other words, there’s a fairly decent chance I’ll be active. At least with crossposts from SEB, if nothing else. I’ve not set up the plugin yet, but will be looking into it.

Oh, I just find a bookmarklet on my Pluspora profile page to “Post to diaspora” that lets you easily share webpages on your profile. So I already like it better than MeWe.

I’m hoping this will help me refocus on blogging more regularly too as now what I write here will go to Twitter, Facebook, and Pluspora. I’m already starting to take things that would’ve been a quick share to Facebook (the previous entry) and seeing if I can’t turn them into short, but amusing blog posts. So all of this is just a long way of saying, “Hey! You can now find me on yet another social media platform!”

Random Shower Thought.

Just something that occurred to me while showering this morning.

SEB is now old enough to vote.

UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that my math skills suck. SEB is actually 17 years old, not 18. 2018-2001 = 17. That’s what I get for posting about it in 2019 and doing the math based on the current date instead of, you know, the actual date of the anniversary itself. Still, we’ve been around longer than a lot of other way more popular websites so that’s still something to gloat about even if I do need remedial basic math tutoring.

I missed my own Blogiversary. I started blogging on December 2nd, 2001 with a stupidly simple post that only said:

Well, it took awhile before I found a layout I was happy with, but I now have a home page up and running and some of the links even work. Seems like the part I have the hardest time with when making pages is the layout and coming up with some graphics that won’t cause visitor’s eyes to bleed the instant it comes into view. I’m still not certain what sections I plan to put into place, but the page as a whole will reflect my interests and opinions.

And that was it until January 10th, 2002, but it was a start. At the time I was creating pages by hand which is probably why there wasn’t much activity until we got into January when I got a script called Coranto set up to make updating a little easier to do. It was the crudest form of not-really-a-database system that updated flat HTML files to make the site. Then on February 3rd I made the move to the MovableType blogging platform and things really took off. For awhile there I was blogging quite a bit, but these days my output isn’t too dissimilar to what it was in those early days.

I had no idea what I was going to do with it back at the start and I assumed it was going to be a lot like many other endeavors I’ve undertaken over the years and only last a few months. Frankly, no one is more surprised that I’m sitting here 18 years later blathering away about whatever catches my attention. There were a couple points where it looked like I was going to have to shut it down either due to unemployment or just growing too big for the hosting services I was using at the time, but we squeaked through and a lot of you were with me during some pretty rough times.

Eighteen years is particularly amazing when you consider that Facebook didn’t exist until February 4, 2004 and YouTube wouldn’t arrive until February 14, 2005. Hell, MySpace wasn’t even a thing yet (August 1, 2003) and I beat Friendster by a year (March 22, 2002). You’ll forgive me for being somewhat impressed with myself.

I’m not as active as I was and my audience is not as big, but I’m still plugging away. Looking back and seeing the stuttering start I made at blogging makes me feel a little better at the similarly rough start to vlogging and streaming I’ve had. There’s a lot more involved in these new ventures which means it’ll take me longer to get into the swing of it and perhaps I’ll never manage to do as well at those things as I have at blogging, but that would be OK too. Much like when I started, I don’t know how much longer SEB will continue, but I’ve not run out of things to babble on about yet so if I had to guess then there’s probably still a ways to go.

Until then, a big thank you to those who have dropped by over the years to see what I had to say. You’ve made it all worthwhile and I am still amazed and humbled by it all.

Yaaaaay!

Happy New Year 2019!

We somehow managed to make it through yet another year and, boy, am I beyond happy that 2018 is over. Last year started off with me headed to the hospital in the wee hours of January 2nd where I’d spend 5 days while they figured out I had a disc extrusion that was pressing on my L5 nerve root. I really learned to appreciate morphine during this time.

Me in the hospital in one of the few positions I could be in that didn’t make me wish for thermonuclear war.

That was a shitty start to the year and, while it wasn’t the WORST year I’ve ever had, it didn’t improve a whole helluva lot in the coming months. Thankfully, I managed to complete my eighth full year of employment without issue making it the longest I’ve been at one job in a very long time. Alas, Anne was let go from her job in late spring and didn’t get back to work until just before Christmas about a week after her unemployment benefits ran out. She’s only had a few days or work total because of the holiday and this job doesn’t look like it’ll last more than a couple more weeks, but she will be returning to the data entry job she was let go from last spring for a couple of months worth of work so at least that’s something. Made for a very lean Christmas this year.

Holidays can be tough even for the best of us. Napping becomes a necessity.

Still, we have managed not to fall behind on mortgage payments meaning we have a very nice roof over our heads, food on the table, and cats who keep us on a regular schedule. I am optimistic that 2019 will be an improvement over 2018, though given the political climate right now I’m not sure I could articulate why. I didn’t do as much vlogging or streaming as I had originally planned to, but I’ve decided not to beat myself up too much about that. Instead, I will attempt to seize the moment whenever inspiration strikes rather than sit and endlessly agonize over how to do it.

I’m not much for New Year resolutions as I learned a long time ago that I will just end up disappointed, but I do intend to try and improve on the things I need to improve upon (diet, exercise, etc.) and continue to be awesome at the things I’m awesome at (mostly just being me). Here’s hoping 2019 is a better year for ALL of us.

A quick update.

Apologies for being away for so long — I just realized I didn’t get a single post up in February — but I am still alive and kicking. My recovery from the pinched nerve issue has been slow, but steady with my pain levels being mostly background noise these days. I had my second steroid injection into my spine on February 19th and it has helped considerably. I doubt I will need a third one.

Sitting in most chairs and on the toilet isn’t much of an issue anymore and I can bend over to pick up stuff from the floor without too much issue as long as I’m careful in how I do it. Putting my sock and shoe on my left foot is still a struggle, but I can do it on my own most days. I still have weakness in my left leg/foot/toes with numbness in the calf, big toe, and pinkies of my hands, but pain-wise I’m close to being back to normal. I can also sleep more than three or four hours at a time.

Now, of course, my hospital bills are rolling in and I’ve definitely hit the $4,000 deductible on my health insurance for the year. I fact, I somehow owe almost $4,500 to the hospital and various others involved in my treatment in spite of my deductible being $4K. I’m going to have to call Anthem and ask them how the fuck that’s possible. Thus stress over being in pain constantly has given way to stress over how to pay my hospital bill. Not sure how I’m going to do it, but I’ve been in spots like this before and have made it through.

Other than that, I’ve been working and sleeping a lot. I missed seeing the latest Star Wars movie in theaters and I’m more than a little bummed about that and I still haven’t seen Black Panther, but I hope to rectify that this coming weekend. Thanks to some help from my sister-in-law and her husband and my buddy Greg, we got the last of our boxes out of my mother-in-law’s basement. Now our basement is back to looking like this:

It really is amazing how much stuff we’ve accumulated over the years.

I’ve started digging through the boxes and a lot of them are full of books. So much so that I may need to buy a couple more bookcases if we decide to keep them all. We have to dig through all of this soon as we’re going to need the room to hold a going away party for my daughter, Courtney, who is packing up and moving to Phoenix, Arizona to take on a new job at her company that will be a big step up for her career.

Needless to say, plans to sit down and blog, vlog, and/or stream have not been working out for me lately. Not because I don’t have the time, but I’ve been lacking the motivation/inspiration. You hear all the time about how chronic pain is exhausting, but it’s another thing to actually experience it. Fortunately, I appear to be getting better and I’ve started actually exercising a bit (25 mins or so of walking a few times a week) in yet another attempt to improve my health and alleviate some of the issues I’m having. I’m hoping to buy a bicycle soon, but with the hospital bills coming in I’m not sure I can justify the cost.

So, I’m still here and I have every intention of getting back to posting more often. I can’t guarantee that I will, but, much like trying to get back into exercising, I’m going to try.

Happy New Year 2018!

Yes, I know I’m a bit late with this, but I have a good excuse. My new year started off poorly with the onset of excruciating pain in my left hip/leg after eating lunch at a local Olive Garden. It got worse on the ride home and attempts at sleeping it off did nothing to help. By 4:30 PM it was so bad that I couldn’t get into the car to go to an urgent care center. After deciding against calling for an ambulance I continued to try and rest, but the only position that didn’t cause immediate pain was laying on my belly, a position I never sleep in, or standing straight up, which is also not conducive to sleep. Still, I managed to doze off a couple of times and by 2:30 AM things had improved just enough for me to fold myself into Anne’s car for a trip to the ER at Saint Joseph’s Mercy hospital in Ann Arbor.

This is me in my hospital gown standing up in my room because it’s too painful to lay down.

I was admitted pretty quickly and had an IV stuck into my arm whereupon I was given healthy doses of morphine which helped in making my immediate situation bearable. Over the course of the next day and a I half I had a couple blood labs done, an x-ray session and, ultimately, an MRI. By Wednesday evening they had worked out what my issue was. Despite it being the location of all my pain and misery, my hip and joint were ruled out as having any issues other than some minor arthritis. However, upon looking at my spine they noticed a problem:

L4-L5: Moderate-large size central to left paracentral disc extrusion. Slight caudal migration. This results in compression left anterior/lateral thecal sac with moderate to severe narrowing of the left lateral canal. Encroachment on the expected left L5 nerve root. Mild left foramen stenosis. Right foramen patent.

Which is to say that I have a partial disc herniation that is pressing on the root of one of the major nerves in my leg resulting in, to put it more collequially, “sonofafuckingbitchthatfuckinghurts.”

The first time I was able to lay on my back in over 24 hours and only because I was very doped up on that sweet, sweet morphine. You can tell it’s only slightly dampening the pain in my expression.

Near as I can figure, this is the result of a fall on my stairs that I took nearly three weeks prior just as I started my annual end-of-the-year vacation. Stepping down the two steps from my kitchen to the landing in front of the side door of my house, we had a small rug there to collect debris on shoes as we came in and I slipped on it falling backwards and smacking my ass and right arm into the edge of the step. I thought I had only bruised my ass badly (and, indeed, there was some sign of that in the x-ray), but I thought I’d come closer to breaking my arm than my spine.

After much more waiting around, I finally got word from the neurological surgeon that was consulting on my case that they wanted to try giving me a lumbar epidural steroid injection Thursday morning and then they’d keep me around until Friday evening to see if it had any effect and if it didn’t reduce my pain by at least 50% then I’d be scheduled for spinal surgery on Saturday morning. Considering that I had already missed most of the first week I was supposed to be back at work and that surgery would mean four to six weeks of recovery time, I was seriously hoping that the epidural would work.

Fortunately, it did. This is me sitting up on the edge of the bed eating my breakfast Friday morning.

Mind you, I’m on a healthy dose of percocet in the picture above, but it was still more than I’d been able to do for three days. They kept me around into Saturday, but I was finally let go with a prescription for more percocet and ibuprofen (to reduce inflammation). After a weekend spent sleeping off and on, I went back to work on Monday.

I’m far from fully recovered, but I’m at a point where I’m able to stretch out how often I take my pain pills from the recommended 6 hours for the percocet and 8 hours for the ibuprofen to as much as 10 or 12 hours depending on if I’m sleeping through it. I’m able to sleep on my side again, but I can only manage sleeping (in any position) for at most 4 hours before I have to get up and walk around to get my leg to stop hurting enough to go back to sleep. The pain still manifests in my hip and the calf of my leg, the latter feeling like the muscle is just this side of going into a full charley horse. Additionally it causes numbness in the pinkies of both my hands and along up the edge of my arms. The medication keeps it down to an annoying roar, but I can definitely tell when the pills have worn off. Walking is a bit rough at times as all this also makes my left leg somewhat weak hence why I have my cane handy.

But, I am able for the most part to function. I’m on restrictions with regards to lifting heavy things and bending over too far, which makes putting on socks and shoes fun. I am also scheduled for another injection in February with the possibility of one or two more depending on how much progress I make in the coming weeks. It may be that I’ll end up having to have the surgery in the future anyway, but at least this offers some hope of avoiding that for the time being.

So, yeah, my new year is not off to a great start. I’m hoping this means things can only get better from here on out. I’m not looking forward to the bill for all of this and finding out how much of an additional pain in the ass my insurance company is going to be about this. They’re already refusing to pay for more than one week’s worth of percocet and only once a month at that leaving me to pay it out of pocket, but that’s a rant for another time. Here’s hoping your new year was pretty good or at least not as eventful as mine has been so far.

My first vlog.

I’ve been talking about trying to get into vlogging for awhile now, but I’ve allowed my trepidation to get the better of me and have kept putting it off until I had a better webcam and then a better mic and then a better Internet connection and so on. Fact is, I don’t know what I’m doing. Then again I didn’t know what I was doing when I started blogging 16 years ago and I’ve done alright with that.

So here it is. It’s short, doesn’t have anything particularly interesting to say, but it’s something and works well as a test of my setup if nothing else. Oh, there is a surprise camo by Jasper the cat:

As you can tell, I’m nervous and not well spoken. I’m assuming that’ll get better in time. I also made this via Google Hangouts because Windows 10’s built-in camera up won’t allow you to choose what mic to record from and I can’t seem to find anything better to use. I’m open to suggestions on what you’d like to see from me.

 

Ding! Achievement Unlocked: Reached 50th birthday!

Today I am officially a half-century old. Which feels really weird to type out and read. I both do and don’t feel 50. Physically, yeah, I’m feeling it. No doubt in part because I’m not in great shape. Mentally I’m still wondering when all the wisdom is supposed to show up so I can fulfill my role as a mentor to the younger generation.

Heh, as if.

Frankly, I’ve been winging this adulthood thing all along. If I have any wisdom at all, it’s the realization that there’s an alarming amount of time in my life when I don’t really know what I’m doing. Most of the time I got this shit down pat. Then I do something I’ve never done before, like buy a house, and suddenly I don’t know what I’m doing again.

I have a lawn that I am responsible for. It was stunningly green and free of weeds in the real estate listing. Yeah, it’s not so much that anymore with me in charge. I’m looking forward to winter if only because my yard will look as nice as everyone else once it’s buried under an inch or two of snow. I own a lawn mower and a leaf blower and I’m looking at weed trimmers as a serious purchase. Hell, I own weed killer. Not that it seems to be killing weeds all that well. Followed the instructions and the weeds just laughed.

I have, for the first time in my life, replaced electrical switches in my home. That turns out not to be as hard as I thought it was going to be, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to sweating a bit more than usual on the first attempt. I can only assume all the incandescent light bulbs in this place were bought all at the same time because they all seem to be burning out within a short period of time since we moved in. I’ve replaced most of the ones in the basement with LEDs (hence the switch replacement), but now 2 of the three in the bathroom fixture have died, two of the five in the dining room fixture died, one of the two in the fixture over the back door died, and three of the five outdoor fixtures all died. The outside fixtures have new LEDs, but I need to pick up more for the others that have given up the ghost. In the dining room this will mean swapping out another light switch as it’s dimmable and old enough not to support LEDs properly.

So, yeah, lots of new stuff to learn at 50. That said, it’s been a pleasant birthday. I took the day off and have spent it alternately playing video games, getting the house tidied up for the party tomorrow, and napping. Got a few birthday gifts already too.

An early gift from my mother-in-law.

Speaking of new things outside of my comfort zone, my mother-in-law bought me a charcoal grill so I can have hamburgers and hotdogs at the party tomorrow. I’ve never grilled anything in my life. I have a basic understanding of how these things work, but I’m sure there are details I’m clueless about. Fortunately, I have friends who think about such things.

Thanks to Stan Pedzick I will have some help with the grill.

This book is amazing, though you have to go all the way to the end for the basic tips on using a grill. 309 recipes from around the world many of which I already know I won’t ever try because they are spicy and I can’t handle spicy. That said, there were several that sounded damn good. However, I doubt I’ll try the Ultimate Hamburger recipe considering it asks you to do things such as grind your own chuck and purchase sea salt from a very specific region of the world.

Speaking of books, someone bought me this and I still don’t know who.

I have many of the Calvin and Hobbes collections already, but here is every strip in one spot with commentary from Bill Watterson. I’ve wanted this for a long time so hopefully I’ll find out tomorrow who it’s from so I can thank them.

Speaking of speaking, my wife got me a Blue Yeti microphone, shock mount, and pop filter!

This thing is so sensitive that even with the gain turned all the way down it picks up the hum from my computer sitting on the desk as well as my tortured breathing, but it makes my voice sound soo good. Only thing left that I need is an arm to mount it on so the shock mount can isolate it from things like the PC and any typing I do. I guess I’m going to have to get serious about vlogging and starting the podcast with Dave back up or something. Vlogging, now there’s something else that I don’t have any real clue about what I’m going to do.

Anne also got me a funny book about turning 50 and a BBQ apron that says MADE IN 1967 on it. The apron is a bit small, but it’ll always work well as a bib if nothing else.

Lastly, my sister-in-law Angela and her husband Rob bought me a wicked cool Hawaiian shirt plus the movies Live Die Repeat (formerly Edge of Tomorrow) and Pacific Rim. I don’t have a pic of me in the shirt yet, but that’ll probably happen tomorrow.

So a little time off from work, some new toys to play with, and a party still to go tomorrow. As birthdays go, this one has been pretty good so far.