Home again. That alone is cause for celebration. But the “clean out the blood” journey is far from over. For once in my adult life (OK, maybe 2-3 times), I need to become a disciplined person.

The only long-term discipline I ever showed in the last 30-40 years was the willpower to get up every day, get cleaned up and ready for work, make the commute in time for first company meetings, deal with people and problems for the next 10-ish hours, then make the reverse commute home. Some years you could add an air flight or two to that day. I did this every day, without fail, for about 40 years.

But I developed a lifestyle wherein when I was away from work, anything goes. Food, wine, sophomoric evenings spent with drinking buddies, golf days…the pressure valve was off. Party time, and then back to the work discipline for five days.

That lifestyle eventually caught up with me and my changing metabolism. Since retiring from full time employment, I’ve struggled to find a new, better cadence for my days. Turns out I’m going to have to learn to be a daily disciplined person for the first time, fast.

My days for the next three weeks are highly regimented. A detailed 15 minute process for self-administering IV antibiotics is the framework. At 6am, 2pm, and 10pm, I have to go through this process. That means it’s the last thing I do before bedtime and the first thing I do upon rising. With a bonus round at 2pm.

The other part of the discipline impacts the 23 hours per day I’m not self-medicating. No exercise, nothing that will make me sweat and muck up the IV site attached to my arm (a midline, in RN terms). No alcohol. No swimming. No air travel with the midline. And because I can’t exercise, I’m going to need to eat a calorie-restricted diet – otherwise, I’ll trade a bacteria problem for an almost as bad weight/diabetes problem.

On one hand, it’s only three weeks. After that I go to once a day antibiotic pills. On the other hand, it’s an extreme lifestyle change and imposed discipline that starts now. No easing into this. Wish me luck.

Middle of night

I never do this (write in the middle of the night), but being stuck in a hospital bed/room calls for some extraordinary measures to keep my mind off the situation. Plus, the sticklepoker is due here soon.

Sticklepoker: noun, refers to a nightmarish creature that wakes one up at 4am each morning with a creepy laugh and sticks one with a myriad of devices designed to suck blood from your body. Particular evil sticklepokers are not happy with one penetration of the skin; they poke and stick at multiple sites before settling on a spot for their leechy pleasure. Once finished, they cackle and scuttle away to their next victim.

I’m having a hard time getting interested in current events, political or otherwise. SCOTUS needs a hard reset, the Republican “party” is now nothing more than a Trump cult, Biden’s economic policies and actions continue to benefit Americans (Democrats, please get a media/comms consultant), and celebrities…meh, who the fuck cares.

We watched the latest Marvel/Dr. Strange movie yesterday, and I was underwhelmed. Put off, in fact – the movie sucked. Give me some real drama with real people, please.


Weary. Just weary. That’s the highest state of being I’ve achieved since checking back into the hospital Monday evening. This morning I’m a little more alert (hence the blog post).

I thought I might be able to use the time for some novel writing, but so far it’s a bridge too far. Nice thought, but nope.

I always had sympathy for him, but I have new sympathy and empathy for all the weeks my Dad spent in hospitals through the last years of his life. It’s no longer hypothetical – now I really know a little of what he went through. Poor guy. I hope he’s at rest in whatever part of the multiverse his consciousness ended up in.

That last sentence is a direct result of reading Observer last week. That book has me thinking a lot about consciousness – consciousness is the whole ball of wax. What is it, exactly? Does it require a brain of sufficient complexity as its host, or do all living things have consciousness to some degree? Does consciousness require organic life, or can a sufficiently complex machine host a consciousness?

The idea that the universe is created by the conscious observer(s) is mind-blowing. It makes a lot of sense to me, and the idea that entanglement of millions of conscious observers to create the reality that we consensually experience is beautiful.

Heady thoughts for a weary morning.

Nothing clever to say

Well, shit. Back in the hospital. This time with a bacterial blood infection. And looks like I’ll be here 2-3 nights. Or longer. Turns out a blood infection is a big deal…I mean, I kind of knew, but directly experiencing the care involved is an eye opener.

Nothing clever to say today. Too busy being poked, prodded, imaged, etc.

A few insights on health care

I’ve been trying to decide what, if anything, to write about this week’s unexpected health problems. This blog is part travelogue, part essays about politics, culture and sports, and part just musings about my interactions with the world. That last part can be called a diary, and I’ve no illusion about the world needing to know anyone’s innermost thoughts (though I would make an exception for Einstein and Hawking). So I’m trying to vector away from being a diarist.

But this was a BIG experience for me. Most likely life-changing. So it deserves some storytelling.

One big lesson/insight was the availability of health care facilities in our remote CA home – it’s not good. There are no hospitals in our little town of Fallbrook and the urgent cares nearby are awful and close at 9pm. The only places I would want to go for urgent care or ER are 30 to 60 minutes away, respectively. Not good as you age and need more care more frequently.

Another insight is that the Kaiser Permanente healthcare system is fabulous, especially as you get closer to its center – hospital care. Their outer rings – education, preventative care, lifestyle training, are all excellent and designed to minimize the odds of their patients needing care deeper in the system. KP really gets it – spend a little money keeping you healthy and out of the inner, more costly rings of care, is good for them and good for me. Win-win. Their middle ring – the primary care docs and specialists – are still good, but are more bureaucratic and harder to get access to. Scheduling is a pain. This is the part that gave managed care a bad name, and Kaiser is till working to find a better balance for everyone.

The next ring, urgent care and ER, I’ve only had the one interaction – this time in the ER. It was actually quite good, though it was an hour away from me, meaning I had to wait until K got home from camping to get her to take me to the ER. I was too sick to try and drive an hour. The Kaiser ER was spacious, efficient, clean, and after I got there, VERY crowded. I arrived before the rush, so I was checked in and triaged in about 30 minutes, received an initial consult, a CT scan, urine sample acquired and blood drawn for tests in another 30 minutes. After a 45 minute wait the ER docs were ready to give us the news. So about 2 hours after arrival, a very somber MD told us that I had a serious kidney infection and needed to be admitted to the attached hospital. That was a bad surprise. He went on to describe the procedure they recommended and its possible complications in fairly nauseating detail. His delivery was almost funny, as he would pause a while in the middle of a sentence, leaving you wondering what the punchline was going to be. “Mr. Nichols, one option is for us to not perform the surgery and treat the infection with strong antibiotics. We don’t recommend that course, as it has a high risk of poor outcomes, including…<long pause>…kidney failure leading to removal, sepsis, even more severe pain, and…<another pause>…well, a significant chance of death.”

I was amused, and answered “Well, that all sounds like fun. Let’s not choose that option.” K was horrified and had gone pretty white. The discussions around the recommended option – inserting a stent into the urethra and up into the ureter (the pipe that connects the kidney to the bladder), allowing the kidney’s accumulated wastes and infection to drain – were fairly graphic. The possible complications included significant mangling of the unfortunate wrapper around the urethra (the penis), long-term urinal and/or sexual dysfunction, potential for needing a urine bag on the outside for weeks or months, etc. These are all low-probability complications, in the 1-2% range, but they needed to be discussed. I was less amused, being the subject of said complications of the recommended procedure, and K was once again horrified. This consult was much harder on her than on me.

All that said, we made the decision to take KP on on the recommended course of action and I was swiftly admitted into Kaiser’s inner ring of care, their hospitals. Kaiser’s new hospitals are simply amazing. Spacious, efficient, luxurious, and very high tech. My room was large with floor to ceiling windows, a gigantic TV that functioned as entertainment and their way of communicating with and educating me, complete access to my medical record and test results via the TV. A spacious bathroom and shower was attached to the room. And the system of care around me mirrored that high tech/luxury approach. I asked if my room was so nice because this was a med-surge floor, and the nurse told me nope, every single patient room in the hospital was just this nice. I have limited experience in such things, but based on my experience if I’m going to need hospital care, I want it to be in a KP hospital. Good news – a brand new one is opening up in San Marcos this summer, only 30 minutes away. Bad news – Kaiser has no services in Kentucky or Indiana. That’s a problem to be solved another day.

So that’s probably enough for one blog post – the insight about Kaiser’s ring of health services and the extremely high quality of their inner core, their hospitals. My surgery occurred that same night, went very well, no mangling of tender bits, and I was well enough to be released at noon the next day. So far so good, and I can’t say how thankful I am for their expertise.

Life is short

What a difference a day makes. With a combination of acidic water (vinegar, citrus), some OTC pain meds, and lots of support from my wife, my medical problem seems to have passed. This was a wakeup call – I’m changing some lifestyle habits so I (hopefully) never have to go through that again. It was…horrific. Still going to the MD today for a checkup.

Lots of wakeup calls lately, actually. Life is short. Time to start acting like it.

Meanwhile, out in the world, billionaires acting like children. These dudes are just toxic.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. We need ethics clamps on SCOTUS, ASAP. Alito is a monster who needs to be caged.

Finally, I’d say this is some very bad news for Trump. Pretty much exactly the same crime, and she got four years prison time without parole. Precedent, anyone?


I won’t write much about this, but I had a rough night and morning. Kidney stone(s). Worst pain I’ve ever experienced, and it went on for hours. I don’t think the episode is over, but I’m a little bit functional now.

Visiting the MD tomorrow. Was minutes away from going to the ER last night.

Wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Pretty big design flaw in the human body.

Jet lag

It’s 7am on the Left Coast and I’ve been up quite a while. Not surprising. Yesterday’s travel day went well aboard two 100% packed Southwest flights. I dodged a bullet on the second flight when a Mongo-sized guy (had to be 6 foot 8 and wide) decided to sit somewhere else after he eyed the middle seat next to me. I ended up with a normal-sized seatmate, a nap and a good book.

So back to Board meetings, exercise, chores to take care of, and June gloom. No more T-ball for a while (picture below). And hopefully a restart on creative writing. There’s a contest I’d like to enter that will require me to write a complete novel in 75 days. I’m in.

The big news this morning is that the President’s son Hunter the Disheveled plead guilty to a couple of federal charges, tax evasion and unlicensed guns. This should end the saga of MAGA-land shouting about Biden family corruption, but it probably won’t. For me it says a lot about Biden’s commitment to “…no one is above the law”. His own DOJ is prosecuting his son. And it should reduce the volume of the what-about-ism when discussing Trump’s crimes.

On Trump, it sure seems he’s headed for a reckoning. It’s taken a long time, but I hope the walls finally close in around him. All career politicians have a sleaze factor, but he’s the Sleaze King.

Westward ho

After two and a half weeks in KY this trip, I’m exhausted. I thought this would be a quiet-ish trip in which I could get a lot of writing done. Not so. Massive amounts of time with the kids, dinners out, adding a pool to the backyard, adding shelves to the basement, visits with friends and family, special events around Fathers Day, quite a few business meetings online, laundering sweaty clothes…it all adds up. The only writing I got done was blogging, and while that’s something, it’s not what I had in mind. The backlog of stories that need to be written is piling up.

My flights west today will be a minor relief – I can just sit back, relax in that sardine-can Southwest seating style, and let someone else do the transportation. Seven to eight hours, door to door, with six hours in flights, including connection. Not bad. I’ll be in the west for three weeks, not back here until shortly after my birthday. Maybe I’ve had things backwards – living in the west gives me time for R&R, and living here is a scheduled whirlwind. That makes sense, given the number of friends and family here. Over time I’ll find a balance.

The weather in KY has been amazingly good, not as hot and humid as you would expect for mid-June. That’ll probably change in July. It rained last night, a warm rain of the type we just don’t get on the Pacific coast. Tomato weather.

So many great memories of this trip, it’ll take me a while to ponder it all. In the end that’s all we have – memories and experiences. In the immortal words of Pink Floyd, from the 1973 song Breathe:

Breathe, breathe in the air
Don’t be afraid to care
Leave, but don’t leave me

Look around and choose your own ground

For long, you live and high you fly
And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be

Words to live by.

Summer daze

Great Father’s Day today – breakfast at Haymarket on River Road, a solid nap at lunch, then golf at the Standard Club with cousin Chris. Finally dinner at Em’s house. Great weather, great day. Very happy that I changed my flight to Monday.

Haymarket is awesome, with a huge selection of gourmet food and ingredients. Didn’t even know it existed, but I’ll be back there. It’s on the same level as Lotsa Pasta.

Yesterday’s lake trip was also excellent. I hooked a fish and Hudson got to reel it in, so that’s a first. It was nice to see brother Mike’s clan, and the boys had great fun swimming. Turns out Mike and I go to the same tailor (picture above).

All in, a solid summer weekend. Tomorrow, I head west for a couple of weeks. Adios.

Perchance to dream

I had a very, very vivid dream this morning. I dreamed pretty much an entire science fiction story, and woke up speaking the lines of the main character. I mean, the words went straight from my dream to my voice. Like reading a script. Weird; never had that happen before.

The details are slipping away even now, but the main idea and key events remain. I’ll try to hold on to those.


I don’t think anyone saw this coming. We’ve changed the tilt of Earth’s axis by almost three feet, just by pumping groundwater out of aquifers. Damn. Changing the axial tilt of a planet…that’s some god-level, straight out of a Marvel comic shit right there.


Speaking of water, today my clan goes to Taylorsville Lake for a pontoon boat journey Fathers Day event. The weather looks fine, and a day or even a morning on a lake won’t suck. It’s not clear if the grandsons will go – they’ve been sick – but it’ll be fun nonetheless. Life gets real simple floating around on a slow boat.

Friday notes

Michelle Bachmann is evil. She must think she’s somehow saving the kids’ souls (that’s the most generous interpretation), but she’s not. She’s torturing them with fear. I have 3 and 6 year old grandkids, so I know what I’m talking about. This is straight-up child abuse.

A slow motion version of this happened to me and my brothers, week after week in Baptist church, where we heard how all sinners burn in hell, and we’re all sinners. Scared the shit out of me when I was young. This Bachmann story just disgusts me.


This sounds like a lower-stakes version of Jurrasic Park. I hope the barriers work, but as Jeff Goldblum said, “Life finds a way.”


Our commercial truck on the street problem may be over. Enough neighbors have complained that the police have put a citation on the trucks and told them to park elsewhere. Law and order prevails.


There’s a lot of news about tipping lately. And I have to concur – tipping culture has gotten messy and uncomfortable. I don’t like the turn-around screen at every transaction, asking me to tip with the recipient staring me in the face. It’s passive-aggressive. And tip for what, exactly? In many cases (takeout food) it’s for the service of taking my money. At one sit-down place recently, I ordered at the counter, paid up front including a 25% tip on the turn-around screen (I’m a good tipper, I think, but I’m reconsidering that). Then I sat down and waited forever for my food, then when it arrived it was cold and the order was wrong. The waitress was too busy helping the cook and other customers to be bothered with my order. So I tipped large-ish for bad service and a bad meal.

It used to be a simple equation. Good service, good tip at the end of service. Now, not so much. And we’re all getting guilted by hearing that servers/cashiers make no money and tips are their lifeline. That may be true, but there’s got to be a better, less passive-aggressive way to deal with that.