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This past week I acquired a new piece of art for my home office – “Apples of My Eyes” by Julie VandeBerg.

“Apples of My Eyes” by Julie VandeBerg

Our friends know that my wife Kim and I are really into art for our home.  This past summer, we met Julie VandeBerg, a local Des Moines artists whose eclectic art style we really enjoyed.  At the Artfest Midwest we purchased a large painting for the living room of our new house, and this got me thinking I should look for a piece for my home office.

In 2006, I commissioned a custom piece for my office by Sarah Kargol, a similar artist, and I’ve always been happy with the results.

Monsterboard by Sarah Kargol

With this in mind, I approached Julie about doing a new piece for my office.  She asked if I had any ideas, to which I replied:

In the process of setting up my new home office now, so not much to look at, but maybe if I tell you what I do?  I have a small development company that creates apps for iPhone/iPad (and some android coming soon) as well as websites.  I also consult for  communications companies on new consumer products (think things like online backup, email, streaming video, etc).
So most likely something inspired by communication, or mobile, or something like that.  Or something generally techy, or sci fi or even maybe steampunky.  I don’t want to give too much specific direction as I know the best art requires personal inspiration, and I like your style and other pieces you have done, so I don’t want to lose the “you” in it.

From this, she went to work and produced the following sketches a few weeks later. (Click any to view larger).


From these a few things stood out to me:

  1. I liked the “flying as communication” metaphor
  2. I liked the inclusion of apples and robots representing the mobile development
  3. I didn’t feel that my company name (Nolasoft) needed to be incorporated into the piece.

A couple of months later, I received the piece.  She also sent me these photos of the piece under construction. (Again, click to zoom).

As a guy, there are probably few medical procedures more cringe-inducing than a cystoscopy – when a urologist uses a scope to look up the urethra and into the bladder.  Having just gone through the process myself, I decided to blog about this private experience.  Why?  Because people, especially men, have a tendency to not get medical issues checked out when they are worried about an uncomfortable test, and because the overall experience was much worse in my mind than it ended up being in reality.

Let me go back to the beginning…

A couple of months ago, my wife and I applied for some new term life insurance.  As part of this process, we were asked to give a blood and urine sample.  About one month after the test, I was called by the examiner to give two more urine samples, though she could not say why.  A few days later I received a letter from the testing company saying that they had found a small trace of blood in my urine.  The amount was so small it could not be seen with the eye, but under a microscope there were definitely red blood cells.

Blood in the urine can sometimes be an indicator for a larger problem.  Kidney stones are most common, but it can also mean bladder cancer or other issues.  It’s no joke – if there is blood in your urine, you need to get checked out.

So I went to the doctor, and they did another test.  At this point it was approximately one month after my initial sample, and sure enough, there was still blood detected.  hematuria is the technical term for it.  She referred me to a urologist and told me they would likely need to scope to take a look.

Two weeks later I had my urologist appointment.  At that appointment, they did yet another urine sample, once more found the trace of blood, and at that point scheduled me for a CT scan of the kidneys (to check for stones) and a cystoscopy (to check for bladder cancer and other internal issues).

Over the month between when my doctor told me I’d likely need scoped and when the procedure actually took place, I did quite a bit of looking online as to what was involved. Responses ranged from “uncomfortable” to “excruciating”, and at that point I just wanted the whole procedure over with.  To be honest, if it wasn’t for the fact that I feel that ignorance is just rolling dice with your health, I would have been tempted to not go through with it.

After Steve Jobs died last year, it was reported that he waited nearly a year between being diagnosed with cancer and having it operated on due to a combination of hoping it would just go away and feeling like surgery was a violation of his body.  He later said that he regretted that decision.  On the chance that there was something bad going on, I did not want to look back later and regret not getting it taken care of due to worry over a procedure.

The day of the procedure finally came.  I was told not to drink or eat for 4 hours prior to the procedure, and since it was schedule for 9:30a, that was not much of a problem.

First up was the CT scan.  A nurse took me back, had me drink a full glass of water, and then explained that they would be putting an IV in.  The IV would be used to inject a contrast dye into my blood part way though the scan.  The scanner they used was more of a donut, not a tube like I’ve seen on TV, and it looked a lot like this one:

They had me lay with my feet towards the scanner.  I was told I could keep fully clothed, though they had me push my jeans down to my knees but keep my underwear on.  I was given the IV for the contrast dye.  They first tried with my left arm, and while the needle insertion was very smooth, the nurse was concerned that it was too close to the skin.  Apparently the dye can be very painful if injected into the skin instead of the bloodstream.  She switched to my other arm, and while the needle itself hurt more this time, she didn’t see any issue.

The tray slid me into the scanner, an automated voice gave me commands as to when I should hold me breath and release, and it scanned two or three times.  The nurse then came in and injected the contrast dye.  It was a very odd sensation, warming my entire body from head to toes.  They ran me through the scanner a second time, had me wait 8 minutes during which time the IV was removed, and then they ran me through a third time.

That was it for the CT scan – I was sent back to the lobby and up to my urologist.

(I’m going to go into a bit of detail here – this way people know what to expect.  I’ll try not to be too graphic.)

At the urologist’s office, I was taken back to a small exam room.  I was told to remove my pants and lay back on an exam table with a foot rest that came up.  The nurse used a needle-less syringe to inject a cold anesthetic gel up into the penis.  While not painful, exactly, it was a bit cringe-inducing feeling something go up “the wrong way”.  The nurse then left and told me the doctor would be in after a few minutes.

Time passed and I couldn’t help but think “here I am, soon this will be over.”

The doctor came in and showed me the CT scan results from earlier.  My kidney were clear – I had no kidney stones.  He then proceeded with the cystoscopy.  A flexible scope was inserted up the penis (I did not watch – I didn’t care to).  Due to the anesthetic, this wasn’t painful other than an odd interior stinging feeling for a moment and a general “this does not belong” feeling with the movement.  That was just a couple of seconds, and then he said “this is the worst part” while liquid was pushed up into my bladder (this is so they can see inside better).  That stung a bit more as well as gave the sensation of needing to urinate, almost as if you were going but without anything coming out.  Again, just a few seconds.  He then said “a quick loop around” where I felt an odd twisting in the groin followed by “that’s it”.  It was out, and the whole process took maybe 30-45 seconds.

“That’s it?” I asked?  “Yeah, it’s pretty quick,” he replied.  “Wow, that was much worse in my head.”

He found no issues in my bladder.  I asked him if that was the case, and with there being no kidney stones, what is causing the trace of blood in the urine.  Basically, it just happens some times, but it’s best to check it out in case it is something serious.

I was told to drink lots of water and that urinating would initially be mildly painful (burning/stinging) but that the more I went the better it would get.  From my understanding, it feels somewhat similar to a bladder infection.  While the first time stung a bit at first, it did not hurt nearly like I expected, mainly at the point of “catch” if that makes any sense.  By the third time, it was barely noticeable at all.

So there you have it.  All in all, the procedure was FAR worse in my mind than in reality.  If the choice comes down to going through a cystoscopy or ignoring a potentially very painful or fatal disease, do yourself a favor and get the cysto.  I can pretty much guarantee you it’s worse in your head than in reality.

I’ve been going through the process of moving my landline phone numbers to Google Voice and wanted to share my experience with others who might want to do the same thing. Technically I am moving from Vonage (having ported there from a wired landline a year ago) but the process is the same regardless of whether on Vonage or an actual landline (as both are treated the same from a porting perspective).

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Kim and I carved Jack O’Lanterns for our family today!

Pac-Man Ghost Pumpkin
Pac-Man Ghost Pumpkin

Kim's Pumpkin
Kim's Pumpkin

Olivia's Pumpkin
Olivia's Pumpkin

You can see some of our pumpkins from previous years by clicking here!

And for good measure, here’s a photo of the cutest duckling in the world!

Can I Have Some More?

I caught some cool video of the polar bear swimming underwater at the Lincoln Park Zoo a couple of week ago.

We went to the Field Museum in Chicago this past weekend.  Olivia loved the dinosaurs – before I filmed this, she was sitting in her stroller, legs up against the bar, saying “Roar!” over and over.  It was so cute!

Finally made it to 100 floors in the iPhone game Tiny Tower.  Now it’s probably time to walk away from the game.  ;-P

Photo after the jump.

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Last winter I spent some time working on an LED lighting rig for my AR.Drone.  I had to teach myself more than I had expected regarding electricity, wiring, using resistors, etc, but it was pretty fun.  It took several weeks, but when I finally completed my working prototype, I made this quick video with my webcam.

Unfortunately, I found the Drone to be pretty unstable on my first test flight with the rig.  I’ve been working on reducing the weight to help compensate for the weight of the lights, but I haven’t had as much time to work on it lately.  Hopefully I can get back to it one of these days, as I think it would be AWESOME to see this flying at night.

Dryer Cross Wedding - DSC_6556

Five years ago today I married the love of my life and my best friend.

Relive the moment with photos here and a video of the shortest wedding ceremony ever!