Monday, March 30, 2009

Information Overload

That's not a joke. Nor a line from a poorly written television show. It's the real thing. And the effect it has on me is rather interesting. You might might find it interesting too, which is why I'm writing this.

I'll assume you know about the cancer and, if not that it's mere mention will be enough for you to track these entries back and come up to speed. Or perhaps not. In either case the cancer is the baseline. The projects -- do-it-yourself airplanes and the engines to power them -- were here first, beating out the cancer by more than a decade. Other projects too, ones not suitable for chatting about over what is basically a party-line telephone. Did you ever have one of those?

Back in the Good Ol' Days, whenever that was, the phone company decided who got telephones and who did not. If you lived on the fringe you might get Party Line Service, which meant you shared your telephone with a number of other people. The way it worked was that you were given a coded ring. Two longs might be the Mason family who lived about a mile farther out of town. In theory, with a two-element code -- a long ring and a short ring -- and a maximum of say four elements you could end up with a lot of 'telephone neighbors' but in practice it didn't work out that well and most Party Lines had only a few subscribers. One reason it didn't work very well was because everyone listened in. The more people to pick up the receiver, the lower the signal strength until it reached the point where you couldn't hear anything.

It took some seriously deep thinking to come up with the Party Line system. And to make it work. A basic tenet of making it work was that the Telephone Company was Always Right. And if you didn't agree, they would simply disconnect your telephone.

When you are the only game in town you'd be surprised how many people found themself agreeing with the Phone Company and overlooking the fact that a whiff of competition would probably have turned things around a lot quicker than any system based on Ma Bell's superiority. In fact, you'd probably have a system pretty much like what we have today, with a cell phone in every pocket.

In a sense, my projects are something like the Party Line in that everyone can listen in. I'll leave you to figure out the other ways my projects are similar to a party line. And the ways it is dissimilar.

Right now the Cancer Project is taking up a steadily increasing share of my time. I'm a bit old to be sending myself back to medical school but when you see the stuff I've been researching and the truly enormous amounts of stuff I've been reading, it would be hard to say I am not a student of medicine. That doesn't mean I'm a good one -- my interest is too narrow -- but my interest should give you some idea of my dedication, as well as my ability to ask the right questions as I come up to speed on the subject. :-)

I'd better put in a smiley there. Because anyone with a lick of sense knows that a few months of reading does not a doctor make. But it can make a patient who is liable to scare the pants of a few physicians.

The point of all this is that medically, I'm coming up on a fairly critical time, one that will impact the amount of time I will have to keep playing with my projects. Wrong decision and it's time to pack my sea-bag.

Making decisions -- good ones -- takes quite a bit of time. I'll leave you to work out how that is impacting the projects that don't have to deal with cancer.


Up-side stuff: I weighed about 230 pounds when I was diagnosed. (Yeah, I was pretty fat, most of it gained over the last ten years or so.)

Within a matter of weeks I was down to 200, still slowly drifting south. About a month ago -- nine months after I was diagnosed -- my weight was at 164. Which isn't all that bad because it had been at that level for a couple of weeks. Then it started coming back up. I'm now about 175 and the trend looks pretty good. Plus, there's a couple other Gross Indicators that are looking better than they did. You can't say I was on the mend -- there's no cure for multiple myeloma -- but there were signs I was holding my own, all thanks to my wife (seriously) and the team of physicians Dr. Alberto Bessudo had gotten to be part of my Cancer Team.

Down-side stuff: Working undetected, possibly for years, the tumor had honey-combed a couple of the vertebrae in my spine. It had done such a good job of it that one of my vertebrae was a mere shell with so little structural strength that something I did -- some entirely innocent behavior, probably something I've been doing all my life -- caused the muscles to literally crush the vertebrae. It's called a compression fracture and it isn't unusual with multiple myeloma but in my case it is. Because whatever it was I had done (probably picking up an engine) not only crushed the vertebrae, but crushed it so badly that the normal fix simply would not work -- there wasn't enough healthy bone remaining. ( On the MRI scan you can see the remnants of the vertebrae, a sharp-edged scickle of bone. )

I'm still mobile but.. you know that pain thingy I've mentioned a time or two? Well, crush a vertebrae and Pain pretty much takes over. But even that's not going to last much long if I don't get this thing fixed, and the fix is akin to jacking up the boat and putting a new hull under it... if you're familiar with ol' fashioned Navy-type humor. They need to virtually replace the vertebrae with prostetic made of titanium or perhaps carbon fiver. Then they need to plate it with something my body will accept as bone -- and grow to it, creating an inflexible -- but pain free -- Super Vertebrae.


Care for some applesauce? No, you go right ahead; I've got tons of the stuff. Eating some now as a matter of fact, even though it's a quarter to midnight Getting the munchies is something the doctors take as a Good Sign. (Which should tell you that doctors haven't eaten a lot of applesauce :-)

The Chugger has had me trying to figure out a practical way to make a near-perfect leading edge out of fiberglas, three or four feet at a time using vacuum bagging. Which I can't say I've ever done to any extent but which I think I can figure out.

Basically, you start with a perfect mold of a leading edge. Not just good but perfect. Then you drape it with fiberglas, cover that with a sheet of plastic, suck out some of the air and let it cure. Perfect leading edge skin, easy as that. ( And I'm sure you can see the Great Big Smiley that goes with it. )

Now those of you who have done a bit of plastic-bagging are rolling around on the floor, pointing at the computer screen, laughing so hard it's coming out snort snort snort while your family is wedged in the doorway trying to figure out: a - What happened to the old man? b - Should we dial 911? and c - If I help him up, will he let me use the car?

Well, I did make a pretty good mold. You see, the mold has to be strong. Chord of the nose-skin is twenty-one inches, span is 48. That's over a thousand square inches. And I ain't no dummy... made it nice & strong... better than six layers of fiberglas on top of foam. Beautiful finish with provision for over-lapping ends, channels for peeler strips... all that neat stuff.

Turned on the vacuum pump and in the time between turn it on and looking back at the mold it had folded itself up like a fiberglas taco. (No, not a regular taco... they're way the hell & gone too crunchy.. one of them fish tacos, like Pilar sells down in Todo Santos. Or did, back when you could drive to Todo Santos.) And of course, you've used a resin that will set-up nice & quick (see how smart I am?)

That was a few years ago but I didn't give up. Made the next plug outta Portland Cement. (Don't laugh! Inexpensive and can take an impression accurate to thousandths of an inch. Howard Huges used tons of the stuff making the molds for the 'Spruce Goose.') Skreeded nice & neat (See? A regular genius) Made the finish-coat nice & thick. Slow-setting (Little house for it and all so's I could keep the plaster-coat moist. Lotta thinking went into that puppy.)

Weight? Oh, I donno... couple hunnert pounds I guess. ( Now you can see where the bad back comes from :-)

Okay, so I've managed to outwit myself a few times. Chalk them up as Learning Experiences. And then hide them suckers to keep your friends from laughing themselves silly.

But I haven't given up. Until I caught this cancer thingy.

I'm about down to the Sanding stage on Mold #3. No thinking required, so mebbe I can keep working on it now & then. Along with that propeller. And those two engines over there. (Usta be five.)

Progress. It's our most unexpected product.