Itching. No Laughing Matter

I found this article on itching on the NPR website. Here are a couple of selected passages.

Gawande describes some itching horror stories. Like the woman who was “so tormented by an itch that would not go away that she would scratch during her sleep,” he says. One night, she scratched through her skull and into her brain.

And there are people who are so tormented by constant itching … who can scratch incessantly and feel that they’re itchy for years on end to the point that they can’t work, they can’t function, they can’t concentrate.”

Like most things, comedy is tragedy happening to someone else. I might have snickered at the idea of someone scratching through their skull. That is until 2 years 8 months and 13 days ago. That is the day i developed hives. They have not gone away yet.

Ever see the look in the eyes of a woman who had a very hard childbirth when you ask about it. Even years later the trauma will instantly appear on her face. Those memories have been burned into her brain.

That’s how I am about itching. Most days the twice daily dose of antihistamines takes care of it. Every now and again I have an itchy day. But those first few weeks were torture. In fact as the debates on torture at Guantanamo were  happening I was joking that one sure way to find out any information was to induce hives and don’t treat it. Within a day or two people would confess to anything. Water-boarding is for sissies next to untreated itching.

It took six weeks to find a medicine that worked and did not put me to sleep. For two weeks I tried working with a “healer” and took Chinese herbs while rubbing stuff on my skin that made me smell like bad Chinese food. I was waking up in the middle of the night wanting to rip my skin off. The worst side effect was that I could not stand to eat Chinese for weeks.

Even the best allergist in the area is not positive of what caused the hives and does not know when they might stop. In the meantime I travel nowhere without several days doses of my medicine. I am hoping that no one discovers some side effects from long-term use of antihistimines. Personally I blame them for my huge appetite and my inability to lose the 12 extra pounds that I have been carrying. If you are going to have to suffer with hives, you should at least get a good excuse out of them.

Talk About Dedication

I have complained from time to time about the people at work. Never was this about Kelly. Kelly is good and works very hard. Does whatever is needed to make sure the client work gets done and done well.

She is 8 months pregnant. Last night I left her to finish up some work. Normally I do not leave before the pregnant lady gets to go home but I had an important family event. Last one out takes the reports for our Monday morning meeting.

Phone rings this afternoon. I do not recognize the number or the voice. Kelly’s husband. She went into labor this morning. What is Kelly worried about that she has her husband call me when he should never be leaving her side? She wanted to arrange for me to get the reports. She was worried I would not have them for the meeting.

I told him to thank her profusely but I would take care of getting additional copies and they should go concentrate on having a healthy baby. Oh and btw was she going to make the meeting? (JUST KIDDING! I would never have said that.)

That is dedication above and beyond the call. I haven’t heard anything yet. My thoughts are with them. The baby is a few weeks early. I will let you know how it goes. The baby, not the meeting.

Hit The Wall

That’s what I did. That is how I feel. I have been going very hard this month. Lots of long travel, 13 -15 hour work days and short weekends. No time to recover.

On Thursday I left the house at 5:30 am and got home at 10:15 pm. Then on Friday I stayed at the office until 7 and went to my Mom’s to celebrate her 76th birthday. Mom is not doing well. In a relatively short time she has shriveled up and she can hardly walk. I know she enjoyed having her children over. I ended up staying late.

Set the alarm for 7 am to go riding. My family is gone for the weekend so I thought that I could sneak in an extra day of riding. But then I hit that wall. I turned the alarm off and the next thing I knew it was 9:30. Got up did a few errands and began to change into riding clothes. Wall. Next thing i knew it was 4:30.

Even with all that I am exhausted. Stopped by Mom’s again to give my step-dad a little break. I have not been able to do that much this month. Went shopping. Cleaned up my bike. Now at 9:30 the wall is falling on top of me. Hopefully another decent night’s sleep and I will be myself again. Need to be. This next month should be work hell again.

George Carlin: From Buttoned Down To Hippy Dippy

George Carlin was the uber-seinfeld long before anyone ever heard of Jerry. His work was sharp, topical, insightful and clever. But most of all very, very funny.

The tributes I have heard the past few days often discuss his keen devotion to his craft. He worked hard at being funny. That may sound like an oxymoron but it ain’t. I would guess that most great comedians are naturally funny but the best work at just the right phrasing and tinker with the timing until it is perfect.

Few remember Carlin in his early days. The quotes throughout are from an interview with George printed in a story on the NPR website here.

His early act was marked by clever wordplay and spoofs of popular culture. He showed up on Ed Sullivan or The Tonight Show in his suit and tie throughout the 1960s. America loved the clean-cut New Yorker.

“I went through about eight or nine years of what essentially were the extended 1950s, sort of a button-down period. But that was when the country was changing,” he said.

Once he changed to embrace the times, he became part of the change. Certainly his Seven Words That You Cannot Say On Television became the focal point of his attack on hypocrisy and stupidity. Heck, they  got him arrested for disturbing the peace and later became part of a Supreme Court ruling. Even though the Court ruled in favor of FCC control over when that bit could be to be aired, I have this image of the Justices playing the tape over and over while laughing their asses off in chambers.

This is how George thought of his  later work.

“I like to find out where the line might be drawn and then deliberately cross it,” he said during an NPR interview in 2000. “There are an awful lot of taboos. … I just enjoy squashing them and stepping on them and peeling them apart and trying to expose them to people. For some reason, it makes me happy.”

While not controversial, I always enjoyed the Hippy Dippy weatherman bit.  In fact every time I heard him I cracked up.

Unfortunately there will be no new George Carlin material. Fortunately he left a treasure trove behind.

Thanks for the laughs George.

One Fine Friday Night

Last Friday my wife wanted to take me out for my birthday which had been two days earlier. I had been traveling to Pittsburgh, TX that night which made a family celebration impossible. While my wife often asks if she can travel with me the requests tend to come when the destination is a place like Santa Fe not Pittsburgh, TX.

I am often overwhelmingly tired Friday nights. It is not uncommon on a Friday night for me to collapse on the couch and not move until bedtime. This week had been a hard, tiring week. At one point on Friday I expressed to a colleague that my body felt as if it had been hit by a truck. So during the several times that day I was asked what I wanted to do that night I did not know what to say. I had hoped to spend time outside. No aspirations beyond that lofty goal.

The weather cooperated as did my body. After a day of intermittent rain it was clear and pleasant when I arrived home. I no longer felt like hell. We we decided that for the evening’s entertainment we would take a walk. This is something we do not do enough of. We walked and held hands on our way to downtown Evanston. No particular route in mind. I like it that way.

We talked. Even though we are on the phone several times a day, these are typically short focused conversations. On our walk we had time and no interruptions. It was leisurely and yet I was upright and moving. Almost like exercise.

We started after 7:30.  I can never get home early it seems. It is somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-2.5 miles to downtown. I wasn’t particularly hungery as we passed a multitude of restaurants on our stroll.  Lots of good food choices in Evanston.

Eventually we had something light at a sushi place. BTW I never would have guessed that an avocado and banana smoothie would be good. It was, though the tapioca balls at the bottom of the glass were a little weird.

We walked, talked and held hands on the return trip. What a simple and yet wonderful night.

Oh, I almost forgot. She really scored with my birthday present. She took  a photograph I had taken, printed it as an 8X10 and framed it. Photography is something I enjoy and I know I have a few truly great pictures. I have wanted to see what they would be like big. Now I know. Spectacular. It will hand in our house. I am very happy.


P.S. For those of you who read my piece on Paul McCartney and were wondering about the weird references, Sir Paul and I share the same birthday. He had it to himself for 14 years before we began to share it.

Fathers Day 2009

(I am very behind in my writing so bear with some late news.)

Let’s start with the positives. I have a son who is basically a good kid, can be sweet and loving, and generally works hard. He stays out of major trouble—no drinking, drugs, arrests, etc. He is fun, funny and very well liked by kids his age, adults and little kids. Many people are not able to say those things about their children. I am.  

He can’t completely control the fact that he is a seventeen year old male with all the pressures, angst and hormones that come along with being that age. And yet….

I am looking forward to Fathers Day 2009. I am working on forgetting 2008. There were some things on the plus side of the ledger. We went out to a nice breakfast at a place we had not tried before. We saw the Hulk which I chose over Indiana Jones. I got some very nice cards and some presents as well. (Back to those cards later.)  I was with my son and wife from morning through night.

However, the one thing I wanted most I did not receive. I wanted a great day with my son. In an earlier post I commented that my sweet son had showed up at an unexpected time. On this day the expectations were high and missed…by a mile. The details are unimportant. Suffice it to say that his best that day consisted of indifference and at worst he complained, argued and wanted things done his way not mine.

For as long as I could I took a calm approach hoping the tide would turn. By mid afternoon I lost my cool. The message still did not get through. At the end of the day I went to my room rather than continue to be with him. He later came up and apologized. He was clearly sincere. I felt a bit better.

Back to the greeting cards. He must have had some premonition that Fathers Day was going to be trying for him. On both cards interwoven with some very nice sentiments he wished for me a happy day and “hopefully I will not get on your nerves.” Irony defined.


Yes there is one. I have been there several times including today. Don’t know where it is? Its next to Mt. Pleasant. 20 miles from Paris. West of Texarkana. 140 miles mostly east of Dallas. When you go, and you will want to once you get to the end of this post, stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Mt. Pleasant. It is by far the best hotel in the area. Be aware that it tends to fill quickly Monday through Friday.

The Pilgrim family led by Bo Pilgrim have had a significant influence on the Mt. Pleasant/Pittsburgh community. Bo and his brother started Pilgrim’s Pride, a chicken company with revenues now at $8 billion. The Pilgrim family also own one of the banks in town. Besides being one of the primary employers in town the family has donated much including parks, a cancer center, and other local landmarks.

That is why if Bo wants to have a 34 foot statue of himself wearing a Pilgrim’s hat then I say more power to him. In case you can’t think of any other reason to go to Pittsburgh, TX. Here’s one. Go Bo.


Bo Pilgrim

Its Paul McCartney’s Birthday

Paul turns 66 today June 18, 2008. I have been celebrating Paul’s birthday since he was 14 years old. It was that year that he gave up his dream of becoming an electrician, picked up a used guitar and began singing. Soon instead of writing sonnets (he also considered being a poet at one time) he had tunes pop into his head while in the shower and found himself writing lyrics on the back of napkins.

I had always surmised that he was the lesser half of the Lennon-McCartney song writing duo. To a large degree I believe that Wings bears this out. Yet, he has become a living legend, former husband 3 times over and accumulated wealth beyond my wildest dreams.

I will always celebrate this day. Happy Birthday Sir Paul!

Good Help Is Hard To Find

Work is harder for me than it needs to be. Far too many of the people I work with can’t do their job properly. Its not that they are unwilling to work hard. They either do not know enough and/or are not smart enough to figure it out. My frustration overwhelmed me Friday when one of my best people, someone who usually thinks about what he does, gave me a report that that cut and pasted pages from prior reports on the same topic. I am all for efficiency but not at the expense of quality. Data on one page was inconsistent with and even contradictory with conclusions on another. It was enough to make this hardened road warrior cry.

I spent the day down in Dallas at the expense of my free time, not all travel time can be billed to the client, in order to work with a young staffer. He was to have done some pre-work so that we could focus on the big issues. We present to the client this week. The pre-work sucked. I spent part of the day telling him what to do, part of the day waiting for him to do it and only a small amount of time doing what I had come for. It was back on the plane and home at 10 pm on a Friday. On my way home from working with this well intentioned but clueless young man I realized that I rarely get to work with the “wise son”.

During the Passover Seder one of the traditions is to tell the story of the four sons (in today’s PC world it typically becomes the four children but I am a traditionalist). These sons represent different types of children requiring different ways of telling the Passover story. The wise son asks to be told the meaning of the holiday as it applies to him and his people. The wicked son knows to ask questions but believes that none of this applies to him. The simple son only knows to ask “what’s all this then” (at least that’s what the Monty Python version of the simple son asks). Lastly there is the son who does not know enough to ask a question.

I tire of working with simple sons and those not even knowing how to ask a question. I try to get our people to recruit and hire more wise sons and daughters but to no avail. Maybe its time to wander in the desert for awhile. Or at least on a beach again.

Beautiful Biking Day

Yesterday was very close to perfect biking weather. The sun was warm, the air had a touch of coolness, and the wind was minimal. It was a joy to be out there.

53 miles. 3.5 hours. Average speed of about 15 mph.

I am right where I would hope to be at this stage of the summer. Of the 50 or so miles I felt strong for 45 and had a little kick left for the last one. I biked hard. For me that means being aware of pushing the pace as often during the 3.5 hours as possible. I am working on my cardiovascular training and speed (speed being relative to me not the world) in addition to endurance. My goal would be to take 30 minutes off the 8.5 hours it took me to complete the 107 miles of the North Shore Century in September. Only 3 months away.

Some day I will figure out how to get a ride or two in during the week and still get my work done and see my family. Others do it I know. This one long ride a week is far from an optimal training regime. 

Someone asked me if I am one of those people who get sore the next day or the second day after a long ride. I just looked at her quizzically and said, “I am sore all the time.”