Tuesday, April 30, 2013


So last Thursday (five days ago) I had this thing done to my eyes called CXL because I had a bad thing happening to my eyes (details at the links).  Before the procedure, they gave me three prescription eye drops to get and after the procedure was finished, I started using them.  They said one was a steroid but I didn't think anything about it.  They indicated the steroid was important (more about that later).  So I dutifully instilled all three eye drops four times a day.

Friday I started feeling a little . . . off.  Irritable, mostly.  But I was also tired from not being able to sleep in a motel bed so I wrote it off as being extra tired.

Saturday I was feeling really pissy.  I was down on everything ("everything about my life sucks") except when I was feeling angry and irritated.  The slightest frustration would set me off angrily.

About early afternoon Saturday I was looking at my eye drops and started wondering exactly what they were.  One was an anti-biotic that I used when I did LASIK seven years ago so I knew what that was.  But the other two were mysteries.  So I googled the name of one of them.  Now, this was simply curiosity, I hadn't made any connection between my feelings/behavior and the eye drops.  The first one I googled seemed innocuous (so much so I don't remember a thing about it now).  Then I looked at the second one.  The name of the drug was Prednisolone acetate.  I thought "That looks an awful lot like Prednisone."

Some history: I'm bi-polar (also known as manic-depressive).  I'm mildly bi-polar and was usually down unless I had a manic episode when I would be either really too happy or (more common with me) too angry.  I also didn't deal well with frustration and was the road rage king.  But I got on some meds and now my bi-polar is well controlled.

Before I knew I was bi-polar, a doctor put me on Prednisone for arthritis pain.  Oh, it killed the pain but what I remember most about that was driving 90 mph and wondering why I was going so damn slow.  What I didn't realize was Prednisone makes me cycle.  That is, I'd go waaaay up then waaaay down.

So I googled Prednisolone acetate and learned (from Wikipedia): "It is the active metabolite of the drug prednisone."  Oh, lovely, I thought.

Suddenly it all made sense.  But, since they had told me the steroid was important (my corneas could "cloud over" without it) I kept taking it.  I explained to my family what was going on so they would know.  Even so I snapped at my youngest son when he teased me a little.  At Starbucks a man was taking what to me seemed too long and I could feel the anger building.  Driving to Starbucks I got behind a couple of slow moving cars.  Now normally I'd say, "Well, the stop sign is coming up soon and maybe they'll turn or I can pass them after the stop sign if they go straight" but that day I HAD TO GET AROUND THEM.  So I did.

I also noticed that I wanted to drive fast.  Normal speeds seemed way too slow and when I'd accelerate, such as pulling onto the interstate, I couldn't judge my speed.  I'd be doing 85 when I thought I was doing closer to 70.

I went back to the doctor yesterday (had to drive to Spokane) and explained the situation.  He gave me a prescription for a different steroid which, it is hoped, I won't have a bad reaction to.  And so far, I haven't.  I'm feeling nice and evened out and mellow.

It was interesting to feel my bi-polar again.  I hated some of it (the downs, the anger) but the happy ups were fun.  I've been told that some people stop taking their meds because "being manic is fun."

At least I didn't buy a car during a manic stage.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Six: We're Going to Make It

Today's Sunday Six comes from Chapter Seventeen of Rock Killer:

We're going to make it, Chun thought.  The air was stuffy and Alex noticed he found exertion becoming difficult.  The partial pressure must be dropping, he thought.  But they were going to make it.  "How long until the Kyushu can match orbit?"
Naguchi said, "Fifteen minutes."

Friday, April 26, 2013


So I was thinking about writing a post about my eye "procedure" and use a picture I illicitly took during it.  I texted it to a friend and she said the picture was "very disturbing" (I paraphrase).  If you want to see the picture, go here.  The room was very dark and my wife had to digitally manipulate the picture so there was actually something to see (she's the photographer, I'm the writer).

You know that scene in A Clockwork Orange where they prop Malcolm McDowell's eyes open so he can't shut them?  They did that to me.  For an hour and a half.  Well, there was one break after an hour.  Every two minutes they put riboflavin on my eyes and every five minutes they numbed them.  During the first hour they had white disks that the tech called "sponges" on my eyes and most of the time they were over the pupil so I couldn't see anything.  It was strange because I'd have this automatic "let's open the eyes and see" reaction and, of course, when I tried to open my eyes, nothing happened.

I do want to say the tech whose name I didn't catch was very nice and very professional and very pleasant to work with.

During this part I listened to Bach on my iPhone earbuds.

Then after a short break they put me in a room where they do LASIK but instead of zapping my eyes with lasers, the tech lined up two bent black finger-like devises over my eyes.  She measured the distance to my eye saying it had to be precise.  Then for a half an hour the lights would come on for 15 seconds, then go off for 15 seconds.  They were blue and almost hurt to look at.  This was the UV to cause the riboflavin to cross-link the collagen fibers in my cornea.  Every five minutes she'd put more riboflavin in my eyes (it was yellow) and every ten minutes numb them.  Sometimes all I could see was yellow riboflavin and blue light.  The room was chilly and they had a blanket over me.

At the end she washed my eyes with water (it was cold) and put contacts in my eyes (as of this writing, they are still there).  The doctor checked my eyes, said they looked good, and I was told to come back the next day.

The way they had talked I thought I wasn't going to be able to see much at all for a few days.  But I could see quite well right away.  Bright lights hurt and glared badly.  And my eyes felt as if I'd been out in the sun and wind all day but no worse than that.  By morning they were feeling almost normal.  I still am, 28 hours after the procedure, occasionally putting artificial tears in my eyes to keep them from itching.  I assume that will lessen over time.  This morning at the one-day follow up, the doctor was amazed at how little pain (basically none) I experienced and how well I could see.  This isn't supposed to improve your vision except maybe a little as a side benefit.  It is just supposed to keep it from getting worse.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Beautiful Day

It's a beautiful day here in Central Washington State.  First thing this morning I noticed I could see Mount Rainier, which is 121 miles away but at 14,410 feet dominates a lot of the state.  The sky is blue with nary a cloud.  It's still a bit crisp outside with temps in the mid 40s but it's expected to reach nearly 70 today.  And, miracle of miracles, the wind is not blowing.

When I left the house I also saw Glacier Peak but I can't see it from the house because my neighbor's tree is in the way.

It'd be a perfect day to go for a drive but my car is making a funny noise.  And it doesn't sound like the kind of noise you want to ignore.  I called my mechanic on Friday and he said he'd get me in as soon as he could.  I'm seriously thinking of having it towed there because I'm not sure how good it is to drive it with the awful noise its making.

I'm having my wife read my WIP (work in progress) to me now that it's pretty much finished and been through four proofreaders (including me, and I'm a lousy proofreader).  I'm finding this very useful as I hear things that I don't notice while reading it.  Such as word repetitions and awkward constructions.  We got through Chapter 2 last night, or about 15.8% of the total novel.  I tried to get her to continue this morning but she wanted to do other stuff.  And for some reason she didn't want to do it at Starbucks.  The novel is titled Gods of Strife and it's the fourth book in the Adept Series which includes Hammer of Thor, Agent of Artifice, and Book of Death.

UPDATE: With the help of my son, I took the wheel off my car and found a rock jammed between the brake caliper and the brake disk.  Removed the rock, problem seems to be solved.  And my wife has read to me through chapter five, now.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Six: Warm Up the Missiles

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Sixteen of Rock Killer:

Knecht looked at the monitor that showed the view though the rear-facing telescope.  She could see the asteroid.  She smiled and looked at her computer.  Less than 15 minutes.

"Cole," she said.  "Warm up those missiles."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

An Amusing Anecdote about Being Nearly Blind

Yesterday when I wrote my post about what is happening with my eyes, I thought about adding this story about the frustrations of not being able to see well.  Now I don't want to compare myself to people who are actually blind or have lost a significant amount of their vision.  But still, without glasses, I was pretty much helpless.

Case in point: I was on a business trip, traveling alone.  I spent the night in a motel room.  In the morning, I couldn't find my glasses.  I searched everywhere and could not locate them.  Of course, it didn't help that I could barely see them.  At home I would always put them in the exact same spot every night.  But in this motel, I apparently just put them down in some random spot.  I got in late, I was probably tired.

I was about to call the front desk for help ("Could you please send someone to my room to find my glasses?") when I remembered where I put them.  But they weren't there.  But "there" was right on the edge of a low dresser.  I got on my hands and knees and looked under the furniture.  And there they were.  They had somehow fallen off the dresser and then bounced under it.

I was very relieved and I didn't lose a bunch of time so I wasn't late for my seminar (which is, I think, what I was there for).  That wasn't long before I had LASIK and you can see why being able to open my eyes and see was such a revelation.  That and I didn't need glasses.

The good news is, even though my vision now is not perfect, it is nothing like it was before LASIK.  I can actually do most "life functions" without glasses.  Glasses just make it less blurry.  And driving sure is easier, now, too.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Eyes Have It

My eyes, dilated
Rather than explain a million times what's is happening with my eyes, I thought I'd blog about it.  This will be a bit different from my usual blog post.


I've always had eye problems.  Other than a slight color blindness that sometimes makes me see pink as off-white or gray, I do not remember a time when I wasn't almost functionally blind.  On family car journeys (there were no other kind) my parents or siblings would say, "Hey, look at that!" and I'd look but never see it (usually wildlife beside the road), earning the disdain of my parents and siblings.  Finally, in first grade they decided I needed glasses.  And they were thick glasses.  And the older I got, the thicker they got.

Now delicate optical instruments and a 6-year-old boy are not a good combination.  I was always breaking glasses or losing glasses, earning the ire of my parents.

When I was fifteen or sixteen I got contacts.  These were amazing!  One: no more glasses and two: I could see better.  But because of my astigmatism, I always had to have hard contacts (that may have changed in the past 20 years).  I wore contacts for nearly 20 years, stopping in 1994 (the last time I wore them was when I went to see Independence Day, which was a waste of both money and discomfort).  Because of developing environmental allergies, the contacts would within a few hours of being put in get a nice coating on them of the same material eye boogers are made of.  This made them uncomfortable to wear and my vision blurry.

So I went back to glasses, for about twelve years.


I had a cancer scare in 2005.  Two doctors told me I had Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  I didn't.  But I told my wife that if I lived through this, I would get LASIK.  Since I didn't have cancer, I lived through it.  So I got LASIK, in 2006.  Well, they screwed up and put the wrong prescription in my right eye so I had to have it redone.  But when it was done it was amazing.  I could see 20:20 without glasses.  I bought a nice pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers (in Las Vegas) and enjoyed my new vision.  I had zero problems that people report.  The only thing was at night point sources of light (like car headlights) had a sort of halo around them.  But it was still better than glasses where you had to deal with glare that was worse.  Also, I sometimes had to wear reading glasses depending on how big the print was.  Before, I'd just take off my prescription glasses and hold the document close to my face.  But that was no big deal.  I loved it.  For about five years.


A year or a year and a half ago I noticed my vision was getting worse.  At first I thought diabetes (I'm rather overweight).  But that wasn't it.  My local eye doctor was perplexed.  He said the shape of my corneas (the clear part of the front of the eye) were changing and he didn't know why.  My mother recommended I go to an eye doctor in Spokane (about an hour and a half drive away).  So I did last July.  They were shocked at the shape of my corneas.  They wanted to get my pre-LASIK records before making a decision.  So I signed a slip to allow them to get those records from the LASIK folks.

And then 6 or so months passed and my eyes got progressively worse.  So bad I probably shouldn't have been driving (I was) especially at night (I was).

The clinic in Spokane kept using an auto-caller to say I needed to make an appointment and for some reason this just annoyed me so I kept hanging up on it.  Finally, deciding the only way to stop the calls (to my cell phone, no less), was to make an appointment.  So I went back about three weeks ago.  They gave me a prescription for distance-only glasses and now I'm wearing them and I can see while driving, watching TV, using the computer, people watching, etc.  And they are not nearly as thick as my old glasses were.  In fact, they seem to be about as thin as glasses can be.  So I don't mind them . . . much.

Kerataconus and Corneal Collagen Cross-linking

I was informed at this appointment that I have Kerataconus.  This is a "common disease" suffered by about 1 in 750 Americans (according to the literature I was given).  The only choice use to be have your vision get progressively worse, needing stronger and stronger glasses, until you eventually need a cornea transplant.  But in 1999 someone developed Corneal Collagen Cross-linking (CXL).  (CXL sounds like a Cadillac car model.)  It's been done in Europe and Canada for over a decade.  And there is a clinic in Spokane preforming these procedures.

Yesterday I went to that clinic.  The good news is I'm a good candidate for the CXL procedure.  The bad news is, it's not FDA approved, yet, so insurance won't cover the cost (but it beats going blind).  In fact, my procedure will be part of the data gathering they are doing in attempting to get it approved.  It is already approved in Europe and Canada.  They put vitamin B in your eyes and then hit it with an UV light which causes the collagen fibers in the cornea to link together so that they will stop moving and your cornea stops changing shape.  (Cross-linking is a common procedure in the polymer business to make plastics stronger by binding the long-chain molecules together chemically.)  The procedure takes about two hours because the vitamin B has to soak into your cornea.  I'm doing it next Thursday.  They say I will have difficulty seeing for about a day.  And I have to wear a contact on my eyes for 4 - 5 days.  I assume all day and night because they take it out.

The doctors at the clinic were perplexed.  They said LASIK can cause Kerataconus but usually it shows up a year after LASIK, not six years as in my case.  They thought perhaps I was predisposed to getting Kerataconus when I was older and the LASIK just quickened it.

The bad news is, it could change my vision (for the better) and I just spent a crap-load of money on two-pair of very nice glasses, clear and sunglasses.  The good news is, this will make it so my vision doesn't change anymore.

Now you know everything I know.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Six: Out of Juice

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Fifteen of Rock Killer:

"Why'd they stop?" he asked.

Freeman looked down into the car.  A red light blinked on the instrument panel.  Freeman started laughing.

"What?" Palmer asked.

"They ran out of juice."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Public Reading

I and four other local authors did a reading yesterday in a public library.  It was interesting to hear every one's writing style.  I read from Chapter One of Hammer of Thor.

The problem was that due to the library's small size, we did it in the children's section and there were children around.  So I bowdlerized my work a bit.  I took:

However, the guard at the door took one look at her and said, "No niggers, chinks, or Irish."

And changed it to:

However, the guard at the door took one look at her and said, "No Orientals."

(The hero's love interest is Korean.  The whole reason of having that line was to show the prejudices people had to deal with in the not-too-recent past.)

Which brings us to an interesting point.  My novel was set in 1932 and people spoke differently back then.  While the "n-word" is now the worst thing you can say, when I was a kid 40 years ago, we thought nothing of it.  And I wasn't raised in the South (well, Idaho, but that's not quite the same thing).  When I was a kid, "Negro" was the polite word for what is now supposed to be "African-American" (and between the two we went through "Black").  People from the eastern side of Asia were called "Oriental" and now it's rude not to use "Asian."

So at the risk of offending people, I used "Negro" (and some characters said the N-word) and Oriental in 1932.  But I wasn't going to have my characters talk as if they lived in 2013 when they existed 81 years ago.  And if someone is offended, I'm sorry.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Unfinished Work

Having just finished a novel that I sent off to a friend to be proofread, I'm kinda feeling out of sorts and adrift and all sorts of unpleasant things.  I'm wishing I had a new novel to work on.

Then I remembered something I wrote years ago and never finished.  It was tentatively titled The Black Hole Treasure, was science fiction (sorta), and I tried to write it like a Sam Spade novel set 10,000 years in the future.  The only problem is, I don't remember the plot I had in mind for it.

Here's an excerpt:

I unplugged when I heard Rose thrashing in the antechamber.  I stood up as she smashed through the door, sending its shattered pieces across the room, and was running on her four bottom legs straight for me.

"Rose--" I tried to get out of the way but she jumped, grabbed my shoulders in the claws in her bottom legs, which hurt like hell, and dove out the window, smashing the supposedly shatter-proof plastic, and dragging me out into the sky with her.

"ROSE!" I screamed as we fell toward the street.  I could see people looking up and pointing.
Her carapace snapped open and translucent wings extended.

An explosion slammed through the air, coming from my office.  The wall where my office was disintegrated and fell away.  Rose's wings were beating furiously, moving so fast they both were a conical blur, the downdraft hitting my face.  We swooped toward the street, I could see a frighteningly great deal of detail of the hard surface, but just before it seemed we were doomed to slam into the ground Rose must have gotten the lift she needed as we started raising through the air.

She kept climbing until we were high enough that the people below were dots milling around as if under the effects of Brownian motion.  She dropped me on the roof of the structure across the street from the Carter building.  As she landed beside me I looked back at the smoking hole where my office had been.

"What?" I asked, breathlessly.  "What happened?"

"An M-36-victor bomblette, sir," she said calmly, as if discussing the weather.  "The door opened and it was thrown in.  I knew it had to have a significant delay to allow the being who threw it to get away.  I hoped I had time to get us out of there."

"Did you see who threw it?"  At the time I was too upset to notice my secretary seemed to know a lot about high-tech ordinance.

"No, sir."

I let loose a string of profanity between big gulps of air.

"Sir?" Rose asked interrupting me.

"Yes?" I looked at her; her exoskeleton was shimmering with purples and blues in the sunlight.  Her carapace was closed and her wings hidden.

"Why would somebody do that, sir?"

I was still breathing hard.  "I don't know, but I intend to find out."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Six: In the Hospital

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Fourteen of Rock Killer:

The door slammed open and Beatty stood in the frame, back-lit by the light in the hall.  He walked in the room slowly.  Charlie held her breath and fought to stay on her feet.

He walked close to the gurney and into the puddle formed by her still-dripping IV bag.  He studied the floor and the plastic tubing for a moment, then looked at the read-out.  He was about three feet away from Charlie and she hoped the brightness of the screen would make her hard to see behind it.  She could feel and hear the blood dripping off the end of her finger onto the floor.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Almost Finished

It's at 85,168 words, exactly, not counting chapter headings or anything else that isn't story.  (I go to a lot of work to figure that out.  Excel helps).  It is the fourth novel in the Adept Series, titled Gods of Strife.  I started seriously writing it February 22nd.  That was 38 days ago.  And it is finished.  We'll they are never finished until they go into print.  Next comes proofreading by anyone I can con into doing it for free.  That usually includes my wife.  Then I'll send it to my publisher and they will send it to an editor.  Assuming they want to publish it.

I had two brief periods of writer's block.  One when I realized my villain wasn't interesting enough to be the main villain.  So I made them a minion the the main villain.  Then I had a couple of days when I just couldn't figure out  how to end the novel.  I kept writing stuff leading up to the ending but I couldn't decided where to have the climax.  I had said my villain was in Johannesburg, South Africa (why, I don't know).  But I've never been to Johannesburg.  I had no idea where a good place would be to stage a climax.  Not like Agent of Artifice where the climax was at the Space Needle in Seattle, and I could go there and research it.  I didn't want to spend the thousands of dollars and hours on an airplane visiting Johannesburg.

But as I was writing the preliminaries for the climax it hit me.  I won't give away the location but suffice it to say, it's generic enough that I could make it up and build the venue to my specifications.

So now the long, arduous proofreading process.  I've never written a book this quickly.  I'm hoping it is up to my usual standards of perfection.  Which is, as perfect as I can make it.