Nobody cares where you went to school

Dave graduates from DukeExcept that if I went to Duke University, I had better mention it, even if I didn’t love my time there and don’t bleed Duke blue now. I had better mention that I’ve worked for Duke and for Cisco…and done work for start-ups and government agencies, even if I wasn’t loving what I was doing most of the time. I had better mention that I designed, developed, deployed, supported, maintained, and upgraded help desk and other service management applications for a decade-and-a-half, even if I would have rather been doing something else and struggle to adequately explain why I didn’t.

None of this matters to me, in the sense that I’d like to put it all behind me. I just want to be a damn good front end engineer.

But I did do all that stuff. I was a smart guy and maybe I still am (even if I cannot extemporaneously describe my career body of work more gracefully than by referring to it as “all that stuff”.) I was often told that I was doing a great job, even if I didn’t think so myself. Imagine what I could do if I really enjoyed my work.

All of this matters. Somebody will care. Many will not, and that’s fine. But if no one knows because I don’t bother to mention it, no one has the opportunity to determine if they care. (I just reread this paragraph. Yes, it’s horrible writing. I shall leave it in as a monument to horrible writing).

And perhaps somebody will care that this guy Dave is a bit too self-deprecating and too honest for his own good. That’s fine.

Bungalow ’12 (8-26) quick thoughts

Broken record.

Listening to music on my stereo at a volume inappropriate for 12:45AM is the only way to drown out the “quad chatter” from the porch two houses down. And I still hear that chatter, those shouts to those getting into their cars, those drunken bellowing cackles, whenever there is a lull. Really, I don’t want to be listening to music right now. I won’t hear the frat noise as much if I retreat to my bedroom, but this is my $*(#*$ house, and I’m not going to change rooms.

This is untenable. And, as I said before, there’s nothing to discuss with them. They’re not breaking any laws (well, they could be, but I don’t give a shit if anyone under 21 is drinking). This is an issue with my low tolerance for unwanted noise and for…(I’ll refrain from name-calling). The only they could do to satisfy me would be to use that house for sleeping and studying. They’re actually living there is the problem. Though we are a block-and-a-half from Duke. Scratch that. My actually living here is the problem.

Bungalow ’12 (8-25) quick thoughts

I won’t tiptoe around this.

Instead of spending the summer refinancing, had I known in advance that I’d be living two houses down from a frat house, I’d have spent the summer trying to figure out how to get out of this house. 15 years after graduating, have spent two of those years living among frat houses (actually, quads, and I’m not including my own in the offending parties), why in the world should I be tolerating it now?

It’s not your parties. It’s you. It’s that you have frat-guy-voices, and you don’t modulate. You don’t need to be blaring music to be piercingly annoying at 10pm or 1am or 2 in the afternoon. You don’t know how not to be obnoxious, and you will be from now until May. It’s not a violation of an ordinance or the terms of your lease just to be yourselves. And I don’t know how to be tolerant of this, nor do I have room on my to-do list to try.

It was bad enough having the house three doors down be a frat’s off-campus base of operations for four of the last five years. They’re still here. And now there’s you.

Why should I invest one dime into this house of mine? I can’t imagine finding it pleasant to live here. This WAS a block that already tended to be a bit too loud and disorderly for my liking, with another family’s kids who are usually out-of-control and bass-thumping cars that use this as through street. But I could tolerate it just enough to re-commit for another couple of years. Now, I’m quite sure I don’t want to be here anymore.

I’ve got 18 other problems I’d rather be writing about.

Speaking of yearbooks…

In my piles of stuff, I have three Duke yearbooks. Three editions of The Chanticleer. Yearbooks from 1994, 1995, and 1997. Yearbooks are free every year to Duke undergrads.

Who wouldn’t alumni want to keep these books, chock-full of memories from their college days? I don’t think I care to keep them. They’re mostly full of photographic profiles of accomplished students and professors and candid shots of people I didn’t know. There may be only one or two pages in each heavy volume that I have any interest in.

People keep their college yearbooks prominently displayed on their bookcases, at least the one commemorating their own class. I’ve had them in my pile for several years now. I’m keeping a lot of my college stuff, mostly a bunch of papers, returning them to some fresh boxes. But these yearbooks, I don’t have any use for them. I have my own photographs to remind me of any positive memories I have of my time at Duke. Like I said, most of the photographs in The Chanticleer don’t do this for me.

So I actually looked online for people who buy up yearbooks. If I can get pocket change for them, I’ll gladly apply them to my still-active student loan balance. They were free, after all. Anything I get is pure profit. Maybe someone I know wants one; if so, let me know.

Interestingly enough, most recent graduates of Duke or any other college have no interest in their printed yearbooks either.

Raw follow-up

That was a bit unhinged. But, guess what? I am completely overwhelmed and exhausted, and there’s not an ounce of relief in sight. So I vented in here, as I am prone to doing. And I’m sure I’ll do so again. And maybe I’ll do it a lot. If it seems like a sudden turn toward the pathetic, you just need to sift through years of blog/journal entries to find plenty more of the same (not that I’d recommend or wish for anyone to do so).

I spent an hour earlier doing yard work. I applied mulch to some dying emerald green arborvitae. These two pathetic trees should be really easy to take care of. But I’ve just about killed mine

I spent a good deal more time trying to deal with the insidious vine plant that dominated my front yard. I used to think it was cool, how it would grow so fast, and I could wrap it around stuff–a couple of years ago. But since I’ve had zero energy for yard maintenance, the vine plant has taken over everything. It’s swamped my baby crepe myrtles and my azaleas and my juniper. You won’t find one yard in an inhabited Durham home with such ridiculous overgrowth. So I just started pulling and pulling and pulling. And now I can see the other things that I’d actually like to take care of. But I have no idea how to kill this stuff and make sure it doesn’t keep growing.

The vine plant is an apt metaphor for life. I can pull away a ton of it, but there’s still a ton more that I can’t rid of it, and it’s just going to keep growing back. I don’t see how I will ever get a handle on it.

Back to last night’s rants…I’d only publicly write about my bitterness towards Duke Health if I had an alternative, and I do. Before the recent near-transplant mess, I had been on a path to getting on the Carolinas Medical Center list, and my assumption was that I’d inevitably get transplanted in Charlotte. I’m ok with going back to that plan. I have been going to Duke for healthcare for nearly 18 years, and overall, I’d say they haven’t gotten it right. And so, at my greatest moment of need, I’m so disappointed that they’ve put the burden of worthiness of care on me. Can I cope with what’s required of a transplant patient at Duke? I cannot get the thought out of head, “Where was this interest in helping me cope for the past 18 years?”

Why have I remained a patient at Duke so long? Why wouldn’t I? Who would not trust one of the premier medical centers and health systems in the world? There were lots of blips along the way, but as my kidneys failed and I approached dialysis and transplant lists, I’d be wise to live close to Duke Hospital so I could easily take advantage of that world-class care.

Boy, do I feel like a moron. I had no idea that I wouldn’t get to actually go to “Duke Dialysis”, that I’d be sent to facilities that sorely lack professionalism, skill, and empathy. I had no idea that the transplant team operated in a bubble outside of the rest of the health system, and that I’d be treated like an uneducated, undisciplined child. I had no idea that there’d be no dialysis options that could easily co-exist with a full-time work schedule. I had no idea that there’d be no one capable of meeting my mental health needs as I dealt with this end-stage renal disease, that social workers will be more concerned about you having post-transplant rides to the hospital than emotional support over the years you wait and your body deteriorates and life is a daily struggle.

Then again, I also thought it would the best possible job to work at Duke in the years of kidney decline. If I was going to have an IT career doing something I was good at but had no passion for, at least, if I did it at Duke, I’d be helping my alma mater, and it would surely be a fantastic place to work.

So wrong. And after five years, I so could not stand not being able to make the most of my potential in my field, to have my expertise routinely ignored, and (to be honest) to be paid far less than I thought I was worth, I took another job. While struggling to balance dialysis and chronic fatigue and chronic pain with working full-time, I decide to switch jobs. And I went to a global company, with far more complex systems, with a far more distant management structure, and, as I’ve discovered, a similar lack of appreciation for my very specific expertise. It probably doesn’t seem like I’m busting my ass, and I wouldn’t think I was from an outside perspective, but I am. I am, because I have no choice. I simply don’t know how I’d survive if I weren’t working.

I know people who have overcome far more. They’ve had physical challenges I cannot imagine. They’ve faced death and the sense that their dreams would not be attained. And, yet, they’ve persevered and survived and thrived.

I don’t see myself becoming one of those success stories. The best people will be able to say about be someday is, “At least he’s not suffering anymore”.

I know this is not the tone that anyone wants to see in my blog. No one wants to read this. And I certainly don’t want to be a burden.

Nephrectomy and aftermath summary part 2

I’m writing this from my regular dialysis facility. My friend C whom I’m staying with was nice enough to drive me from Apex all the way here this morning. The 10:30 time works much better today than my usual 3:30, and I’m glad DaV could accommodate. I requested my most-trusted tech, to minimize the potential for any issues. I was in control of the conversation of how much fluid we should take off. There’s no definitive answer, since we just don’t know what my body’s baseline will be for another few days or weeks. For now, I’m having 2.0 liters taken off, given I feel very bloated, my BP is a bit higher than the low readings I’ve been getting used to post-surgery, and the nurse hears a small bit of fluid on my exhales.


Part 1 | Part 3

Saturday, 1/22, 6pm – I leave Duke Hospital.

6:20pm – My father, stepmother Janice, and I arrive at the Rite Aid on Broad and Guess. It’s pharmacy closes at 6pm on Saturdays. I am flabbergasted. Apparently, many other local pharmacies shut down at this time, too. I had hoped to hit Costco by 5:30, but the check-out delays prevented that.

6:35pm – We head to the Rite Aid off Hillsborough Rd in Durham. I had stopped going here years ago due to lousy service. I don’t remember exactly why they were so bad, but I recall how it was amazing how bad their service was considering how many people they’d have milling around back there.

I was in too much pain to go in with Dad, who brought in my prescriptions, including one for a controlled-substance painkiller, and my prescription card. He came back shortly after explaining there was no problem. Everything was in stock, and we should return in 20-25 minutes.

We went to Kroger to pick up a few things, and this took 20-25 minutes. We went to the drive-through. At this time, the train-wreck of poor Rite Aid service begins. First, we’re told it will be another 15-20 minutes. Dad explains that his son just had surgery, and we were told my stuff would be ready. Rite Aid says they’ll get it right away.

Then Rite Aid says that they are out of oxycodone, my principal painkiller. They have a few, to get me through 3 days, perhaps. We are livid, considering Dad was told that everything was in stock. Since this is a controlled substance, I cannot simply pick up the remaining pills in a few days. Nor can I simply have the doctor call in or fax in a new prescription. I’d have to physically obtain a written prescription from the doctor, which would be a little difficult given the next day being Sunday and with me staying in Apex after that. We ask where the closest pharmacy is that has the medication and will be open. There’s a 24/7 Walgreen’s by Southpoint. It’s not too far, except Dad is tired, doesn’t know the area, and doesn’t like driving at night. I curse Rite Aid out a few times, but we decide on the Southpoint option.

7:00 – 7:30pm – Dad and Janice drop me off at home. I get to see my critters. I pop some pain pills. They program their GPS for Walgreen’s at Fayetteville Street. After they leave, I look at my Rite Aid receipts. They processed my prescriptions against my old Duke prescription benefits instead of my new ones. I did not get my prescription plan discounts. What should have been about $40 in meds cost $180. Now I need to return to Rite Aid at some point to try to straighten this out.

(I meant to just write a summary of events, but this incident deserves it’s own write-up, and I’ve got more time and less discomfort typing than I had a couple of days ago.)

9:30pm – Dad and Janice return from their South Durham mission with the meds. I hobble into my bed, where Aremid joins me. I take my nighttime cocktail of pills, which are guaranteed to get me asleep shortly, and they do.

Aremid, Healer, yet again

Sunday, 1/23, 8am – I awake after a good 9-10 hours of sleep. My petsitter has come to do all the critter tasks. Dad and Janice arrive soon after. I have peanut-butter-and-jelly for breakfast.

8am – 2:15pm – I relax in the living room, watching some Modern Family, 30 Rock, and Real Time With Bill Maher, and getting in some overdue snuggle time with Herman. I have a Jimmy John’s sub for lunch, which is tasty and goes down fine, but may have been a bad choice, in retrospect.

2:20pm – sleep – Dad and Janice drive me to Apex, where I’ll spend the next few days with the S’s. Pain remains controlled, but I am feeling increasingly bloated and queasy. I am not able to eat much at dinner. Bowels are on strike.

Monday, 1/24, 10am-2pm – I awake from another restful night of sleep. I don’t remember if I eat anything. But the bloat and queasiness are joined by nausea, and eventually, I reach a tipping point.

I vomit up roughly 72 hours of food and drink. Fortunately, C gets me a bowl just in the nick of time. I produce quite a colorful jambalaya. This is no a pleasant 5-10 minutes.

I feel a bit of relief. But I am also feverish.

I call the number that my release instructions tell me to call–the main Duke number–and ask for the transplant coordinators, who are listed as my contacts to reach out to. The transplant department is confused as to why I am calling them, since I did not receive or nor offer up a transplanted organ. I am annoyed that I received poor instructions. Nonetheless, I leave a message on my transplant coordinator’s voicemail.

Then I call my surgeon’s office, where I reach the surgeon’s kind and helpful assistant. She takes down my symptoms.

My surgeon calls me a little while later. Without hesitation, he instructs me to go to the emergency room. I ask if they’ll know he’s sending me. He assures me that they will. I’ve been to the Duke ER about five times, and four or five of those times have been downright miserable, due to the extremely long wait times and lack of coordination and communication between departments.

C is able to arrange childcare and generously drives me all the way from Apex to the Duke Hospital.


And that’s all the recapping I feel like doing right now. Far more detailed than Part 1, I’ll need to do a Part 3 at some point soon. But I don’t want to think about what’s in the past right now.

Comedian Richard Dawkins

Lecture etiquette FAIL?

I would be happy to bless your animals.

– Renowned biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins to his audience at Duke University today. He was responding to a comment following his lecture that the upcoming Q & A with the audience would end at 3:30 sharp since the Chapel Quad was hosting the annual Blessing of the Animals at 4:00.

That lousy cell phone photo is illustrating what I think was the very poor etiquette of two Duke students who clearly didn’t care much to be at this event. They must have been getting class credit or something. Like cell phones in a movie theater, laptop screens at this lecture, particularly screens that kept flashing between baseball scores, Facebook, and a variety of websites, are really friggin distracting if you’re sitting right behind them.

Purpose, or lack thereof

My freshman roommate* oversees web properties that receive 10 million unique visitors monthly according to a web article I just read. That’s 6000-times what my site gets.

*He was only my roommate for about four weeks. He was the most horrible roommate I could possibly have during my first month at Duke. He was several degrees of asshole higher than anyone I had ever met. He helped make my first weeks there hell. When I play the “what-if” game, two interesting scenarios are that he wasn’t my roommate, and that I was somehow able to cope and not have to demand a room change.

Of all the people in the world regarding whom I’ve wished to feel schadenfreude, he’d be near the top.

Well, he’s ridiculously successful. There’s no “yeah, but”s to qualify this. He is the epitome of a great Duke success story.

I won’t try to describe what I am. The unique-web-visitors statistic isn’t the point. Comparing myself to this dickweed isn’t the point.

If I had ANY idea what I wanted to do with my life, none of this would bother me one iota. But I really have no idea. I am desperate to have a clue, if it’s not already too late.

Aremid loves me
Something no one else has

Moving back to Raleigh

Bob Schmitz/Duke frat house a few doors down already gets police on their second night. Drunk freshmen run past my house, aimlessly into the scary Walltown night, presumably so they can escape being written up and preserve their chances of running for Congress, or, more likely, to avoid upsetting Mom and Dad, who just a moment ago parked the Lexus LX570 in the Greenwich, CT garage after the grueling drive back up from Durham. I’m too tired to be annoyed. Hope there’s no broken glass for Herman to step on tomorrow.

No, I’m not moving back to Raleigh.