Oct 12 2015

Presidential Takeoff

I knew President Obama was going to be leaving San Diego around 1:00 so I started watching live local news video feeds from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on my computer. Watched him greet some people and then board Air Force One.

Once the aircraft started moving I switched over to my iPhone and Twitter to continue watching the live feed from the backyard so I could be ready to take some photos of the custom Boeing 747 carrying the only president I have ever voted for take off and head back to DC on this warm, muggy and overcast day.

Air Force One with President Obama onboard

Air Force One with President Obama onboard

Oct 07 2015

A Shot In The Arm

My resilient mom getting her annual, high-dose flu shot. I have another shot of her grimacing but it was mostly in fun. A short while later she was enjoying her beloved grilled cheese sandwich from the surprisingly good hospital cafeteria. (I had grilled salmon in a mustard sauce.)

Earning her lollipop

Earning her lollipop

Enjoying her actual reward

Enjoying her actual reward

Oct 04 2015

Planning For Comic Fest 2016

Monthly meeting of the San Diego Comic Fest organizing committee. Planning all things awesome for February, 2016.

San Diego Comic Fest Organizing Committee

San Diego Comic Fest Organizing Committee

Mar 05 2014

I, And My iPhone, Have Arrived

After waiting for eight years, and two days after ordering it from a local T-Mobile store, my much anticipated iPhone 5s finally arrived in a larger than expected, unassuming brown package.

The package

The package

 

Then came the unboxing, which produced a smaller than expected iPhone 5s box.

iPhone box

iPhone box

 

Opening the box, I could hear an angelic choir somewhere above me as I gazed at my new treasure.

First sight of my very own iPhone

First sight of my very own iPhone

 

We turned each other on as it greeted me with a friendly…

iPhone 5s Arrival04 03-05-14 lo-res blog

Hello, Peter

 

Saying goodbye to my old phone was a little bittersweet since I’d used it for years. But the anticipation of a whole new online world quickly dispelled with that sentiment.

Out with the old, in with new

Out with the old, in with new

 

Watch out Internet! Here comes Peter and his new iPhone to conquer all that is online!

Guess I need to charge it first.

Syncing it might help as well so it knows who I might be conquering.

Wait, there are setting I need to adjust?

Holy cow I have a lot apps I need to learn to use.

 

This conquering thing may take a few days.

 

 

Mar 03 2014

Ordering My iPhone…FINALLY!

Ever since Steve Jobs announced Apple’s iPhone during his keynote at Macworld on January 7, 2006, it has been the one piece of electronic equipment I’ve been craving more than any other.

Today, more than eight years later (really?) I am finally putting in my order for one. At first I waited because I was on T-Mobile and didn’t want to switch to AT&T. Once Verizon started carrying it in February of 2011 I considered switching, but decided to wait. I always knew T-Mobile would eventual sell it as well. But I had to wait for Sprint (October 2011), Cricket (June 2012), and even Virgin Mobile (also June 2012) to start carrying it before T-Mobile would in April 2013. By then rumors of the iPhone 5s started swirling about, so even more waiting was needed. I wanted to have the latest model.

When I drove to the local T-Mobile store I was giddy with excitement. Walking in I was still trying to decide on either the white, slate grey or even the champagne. They didn’t have any champagne models to look at, so I finally decided on black, realizing it just looked the coolest.

Then came the next hurdle. I knew the 16GB model was too small and the 64 GB was more than I needed, plus it was $100 more than I wanted to spend. I told Robert, the store manager who assisted me, that I wanted to get the 32GB black model. He told me they didn’t have any 32GB models in stock. I would have to order it.

I already waited eight years. A few more days wouldn’t matter.

So we filled out all the paperwork, changed my phone plan from what I had for years (finally adding data), put down a deposit, and almost two hours later walked out of the store…without my iPhone.

 

Feb 28 2014

Dr. Gupta, Revisited

Had to return to see Dr. Gupta so she could look at my mom’s fungal infection again after my mom started developing a rash from the cream that was prescribed. Dr. Gupta said that the original infection already looked much better but that my mom somehow become infected with a different kind of yeast infection on her skin.

This time she prescribed a medicated powder thinking that my mom wasn’t keeping the area dry enough, making it easier for the infection to spread and to make sure my wasn’t reacting to the original cream. She also prescribed one antifungal tablet.

Except for the waiting (to be seen by the nurse, then by the doctor, then to get the post-exam papers) the visit went fairly quickly. Just how both doctor and patient like it.

As before, next stop…CVS (for convenience).

 

Feb 26 2014

Much Needed First Haircut Of The Year

Went to see Sylvia, my best friend for the last thirty years, to get my first haircut of the year. She does such a great job each time that afterwards I usually even forget that I have hair.

Haircut03 - Before and After 02-26-14 lo-res

Feb 21 2014

Fungus And Blood

Back again at Perlman, this time to have a large red spot on one of my mom’s frontal fat bags checked by Dr. Gupta, a very nice, young doctor who has fat bags of her own.

This time it was her nurse, Princess, who took my mom’s vitals. Yes, her name really was Princess. Absolutely no pressure on her when her parents named her that. (By the way, in my own opinion…they probably should have given her a different name.)

They gave my mom a gown to put on and asked her to remove everything above the waist. When Dr. Gupta came in examine her I stood behind some curtains so that I could still help answer any questions the doctor had. Almost immediately she told my mom that it was a fungal infection and it could easily be taken care of with some antifungal cream, which Dr. Gupta put in a prescription for.

After the exam we walked over to the lab for a scheduled blood draw for my mom so Dr. Romero could check her levels like he usually does. That took maybe ten minutes.

Then we casually meandered over to the main Hospital building to have breakfast at The Cove where I ordered the vegetarian omelet, but with bacon bits that the chef talked me into. That was a good omelet.

Next stop…CVS, to pick up some tough actin’ Tinactin…generic style.

 

Feb 13 2014

Piping Plover Project Presentation

Attended a wildlife lecture at the headquarters of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, my first time there, adjacent to SeaWorld here in San Diego. It was jointly presented by the San Diego chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers and the Avicultural Society of America.

The presentation dealt with the Piping Plover‘s critical habitat recovery and conservation project around the Great Lakes area of the U.S. and was given by Ann Knutson from San Diego Zoo Global and current president of SDAAZK.

Her lecture had some really good and important information that can just as easily relate to other animal conservation issues and have become very familiar to both professional and amateur wildlife conservationists everywhere, such as climate change, loss of habitat and the introduction of non-native species of animals and plants. Unfortunately her talk was a bit choppy and unnatural. She wasn’t very comfortable presenting in front an audience, small as it was. (There was only about 20 of us in attendance, and four of those were her family members.) And every time I see one of these lectures my years of creating support graphics for these presentations bubbles to the surface and I want to go up and tell the speaker how to improve their slides.

Her presentation focused on the duties she and her team had while out there, which included handing rescued eggs and the subsequent chicks that emerged. She showed slides of the indoor enclosures as well as the outdoor habitats they used to rear the birds. She said the Plover’s numbers have been steadily dwindling over recent years mainly because of fewer viable eggs and the low success rate of hatchings, but that she and the other aviculturists feel like they are starting to make a difference.

After the presentation I waited around to ask her about two slides she showed, one which had a very young chick standing next to a mirror in it’s enclosure and another one of a clutch of eggs all with their pointy ends facing each other in a circle. During the lecture she made a point of mentioning how important it was to have them laid that way in the sand.

I asked her first about the mirror and she said it was so the chick, which couldn’t recognize itself, would feel like it was not alone, as if it were part of a group. About the eggs pointing inward she said that it was to make it more comfortable for the chicks to hatch since they emerge from the easier to break, larger ends of the eggs.

It felt good to attend another informative, free lecture where I learned stuff. Especially since this one had snacks.

 

Feb 11 2014

Voting For A Mayor Of The Non-Harrassing Kind

Today was the day San Diegans like me voted for a replacement mayor after the disgusting and rubber-faced Bob Filner was forced to resign late last year amidst multiple allegations of sexual harassment and for having a creepier smile than the Joker.

Voters had a choice between David Alvarez, the Democratic candidate for the people, and Kevin Faulconer, the Republican candidate for big business.

The polling place was close enough to my house where I just walked over (with my mom who wanted to go along for the exercise), just as a strong breeze and incredibly thick fog bank rolled in and dropped the outside temperature by about ten degrees. Really hoping that wasn’t an omen for my choice because it cleared right up and the sun came out again just as I got home. Honesty, if I could have voted for both I probably would have because I think they both can help San Diego in their own ways.

When I arrived there was one guy who walked up ahead of me. What happened next just stunned me. I haven’t been voting for very long because I personally don’t like politics. But at least I take some time to try and understand the issues or candidates. I don’t want to vote stupidly. This guy took his ballot behind his cardboard booth, peeked his head out and asked the pollsters which one was the Democrat and which one was the Republican. So, he was just voting along party lines with no idea who was even running? Even to me, someone who genuinely dislikes politics, that was a wasted vote. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the pollster he asked that question from just shook her head and, believe it or not, quietly said, “I don’t know.” I had to tell him who the candidates were. Me. The guy who up until about a year ago never voted because he’s so anti-politics.

As I write this the polls are now closed and the election results are slowly starting to come in. So far it seems that the fog may have been right.

 

Feb 05 2014

The Future Of Treating Cancer As A Manageable Disease

I nervously attended a lecture at The Scripps Institute in La Jolla on the future of cancer treatment grandly titled, “Are We on the Way to Curing Cancer in the Era of Genomics and Proteomics?”. At first I was worried I wouldn’t understand it at all. Wearing shorts and a nice t-shirt while walking alongside a flock of men in ties and suits that probably cost more that I made last year past a lot full of Porsches, Maseratis and Ferraris did nothing to relieve my “What am I doing here?” apprehension.

The title of the lecture was a little misleading because it was more about the future of cancer treatment, not the curing of it.

The evening began with an introduction by Michael Kalichman, co-founder and Director of the Center for Ethics in Science and Technology, who admitted that he had recently been diagnosed with stage three colorectal cancer. It was understood, if not openly announced, that his treatment was being overseen by Dr. Soon-Shiong, the evening’s presenter.

After Dr. Kalichman’s opening remarks he introduced Razelle Kurzrock, Senior Deputy Center Director for Clinical Science at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, as moderator for the evening.

She introduced Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong who has way too many titles to list here and is estimated to have a personal wealth of $9 billion. Suffice it to say that he is probably the most successful individual I’ve ever been in the same room with, with the possible exception of the even wealthier Bill Gates. Not only has he started and sold at least two pharmaceutical companies and now chairs a philanthropic foundation, but within the previous two weeks he had personal meetings with President Bill Clinton at his Clinton Foundation, with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, as well as with the President of Thailand, all to discuss his direction on cancer treatment. He will also be going to a few other countries including China in the coming months.

His cancer regimen incorporates a joining of multiple technologies that include diagnostics, supercomputing, a network model of sharing data on tumor genes, as well as a personalized mixture of a combination of cancer drugs for multi-targeted attacks. His latest company, NantHealth, (along with NantMobile under the umbrella company, NantWorks) works to target individual cancer patient treatments with specific cancer drugs based on sequencing 22,000 protein-creating genes that directly affect cancer cells. The supercomputing technology that his company uses has dramatically decreased the computing time needed for this kind of diagnosis (less than a minute), also bringing the cost way down to less than $1000. He said that 80% of patients today are getting the wrong drug treatments for their specific cancers.

He gave the example of one of his patients who was diagnosed with cervical cancer and prescribed the usual chemo-drug therapy with terrible results. He and his team took her on as a patient and were able to target her treatment with an available breast cancer drug regimen that put her cancer into remission. He also showed a slide of a patient who had metastasized pancreatic cancer, affecting their entire abdominal and chest cavities, and who was told they had at most three months to live. He then showed a comparison slide of the same patient, fourteen months later, with no sign of cancer, after he put the patient on a targeted treatment with currently available drugs. He said his company can boast of an 84% success rate.

He is a big advocate of the FDA, working closely with them in this new endeavor. He said the scientists who work there genuinely want to help patients. On the other hand his biggest hurdle is the insurance industry bureaucracy. He said that until the insurance companies change their business paradigm from costly disease treatment to one of being rewarded for disease prevention, they will keep doing what they’re doing and making it more costly to the patients each year. Dr. Soon-Shiong said that, thanks to his efforts as well as those of others, he sees a dramatic change in worldwide healthcare within the next ten years.

What I thought would be a presentation I would be completely lost in turned out to be a fascinating lecture that I couldn’t stop being interested in and thinking about afterwards.

The evening ended with an onstage discussion between Dr. Soon-Shiong and Dr. Kurzrock, along with some very intelligent sounding questions from a few audience members.

I came away from the evening’s event feeling a little smarter and more hopeful for the future of healthcare and disease treatments.

 

Feb 04 2014

Frozen Facial

Drove my mom to another doctor appointment this morning to have them check a couple of suspicious patches of skin on her face. To me they looked guilty. The patches, not the doctor or his staff. And by staff I mean his receptionist and nurses.

There was a little time between when the nurse took my mom’s vitals (bringing them back when she was done with them) and when Dr. Romero came in, so I spent the extra time studying the wall chart of muscle structures of the anus and rectum. I may need to have my inferior rectal valve checked if the doctor can get past my anorectal line.

Dr. Romero came in, we exchanged pleasantries, he asked my mom the usual questions about her general health, periodically looking at me for the answers that he couldn’t get from her, and then proceeded to freeze her face. At least small portions of her face that appeared to be pre-cancerous.

Unfortunately no cafeteria visit on this trip.

 

Jan 28 2014

Biodiversity In Baja California

Attended what turned out to be a really entertaining presentation about a multidisciplinary expedition to Sierra Cacachilas in Mexico’s Baja California Sur by some of the staff from the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park here in San Diego.

SDNHM Baja01 01-28-14 lo-res

San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park

SDNHM Baja02 01-28-14 lo-res

San Diego Natural History Museum lobby

San Diego Natural History Museum lobby

The trip occurred last October and November but only recently has the team been able to label most of the specimens they returned with. Most of the total specimens stayed down in Mexico, at least for now.

When I first walked into the lobby I right away noticed the life-sized pirate figures that the staff had brought out to help promote the upcoming “Real Pirates” exhibition in February.

Lobby pirates

Lobby pirate

Lobby pirate

Lobby pirate

Lobby pirate

 

At about quarter to 7:00 we were allowed to start heading into the Kaplan Theater to take our seats. I even spotted a pirate figure sitting in the seats, patiently waiting for the presentation to start. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed once the presentation began.

Charmaine and Maurice Kaplan Theater

Charmaine and Maurice Kaplan Theater

Theater pirate

Theater pirate

Presentation title

Presentation title

The show kicked off with a few remarks by the museum’s President and CEO, Dr. Mick Hager, who always introduces himself as the museum’s oldest fossil. The actual trip tales started with Rob Rebman, curator of the museum’s botany department. His enthusiasm for all thinks flora made his portion of the evening’s presentation very enjoyable. And it really showed me how amazingly little I know about plants.

After Dr. Rebman had finished his twenty minutes, my friend, Michael Wall, took the stage. He is the curator of the museum’s entomology department as well as VP of Research and Public Programs. He began by speaking on behalf of the herpetology department about some of the reptiles they found, mainly snakes and lizards, before switching into his comfort zone of insects and arachnids. There were some cross-over stories. For example, he showed a slide of a large rattlesnake whose diet consists of mainly eating giant, venomous centipedes called Skolopendra gigantea.

He also showed on image of a large, immature male spider which they as yet cannot identify. I noticed that one of its legs was a lighter color than the rest, which I asked him about afterwards. It took 55 years on this Earth for me to learn that spiders, when they molt, have the ability to regenerate limbs they have lost.

Both presenters stayed for a while afterwards to answer some questions and show a few of the museum’s samples of what was talked about tonight.

Post presentation

Post presentation

Showing sample specimens

Showing sample specimens

 

It was a fantastic night of edutainment. A smaller team will go back for a less detailed follow-up expedition in May and I’m already looking forward to what they will present when they get back.

 

Jan 28 2014

Loud And Slow, And Lighter Than Air

Sitting at my computer by an open window every day I get to learn the sounds of all the regular aircraft that fly over the house. Matter of fact there’s one going by right now as I write this post.

Airliners, sightseeing biplanes and small, personal planes, along with Coast Guard, military, police and news helicopters are the usual disruptors.

But this morning there was a different sort of rumble. It was slow in its approach and higher pitched than what I’m used to hearing. Having lived enough years where I’ve heard this in the past, I recognized it as a dirigible of some sort. And it was getting really loud. I went outside and watched as the 192-foot long Goodyear blimp “Spirit of America“, based out of Carson, CA, casually floated past at about 30 mph on its way to getting aerial coverage of the Farmers Insurance Open taking place at Torrey Pines.

I think they are fun for people to watch because a) they are so big, b) they fly relatively low to the ground, c) they are slow, giving you lots of time to check them out, d) they are colorful, e) they just aren’t seen very often, and f) “blimp” is such a silly sounding word.

And it’s amazing how loud these airships can be with such small motors. Maybe the hollowness amplifies the vibration and resonance. I can’t be sure since I didn’t major in blimpology.

Goodyear Blimp  01-28-14 lo-res

Spirit of America

Jan 14 2014

Checking Mami’s Bones and Boobs

Drove my mom to her double appointments today, first for a bone density test followed immediately by an annual mammogram, fortunately both in the same office in the Moores Cancer Center building in La Jolla.

After successfully completing her two exams we once again went to The Cove, Thornton Hospital’s really good cafeteria. This time we just had side orders. She ordered fries and I had the fried zucchini.

 

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