Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Thoughts

My first thought about today’s holiday honoring fallen American soldiers was not about their sacrifice, I’m sorry to say. Instead it was muted surprise that the date had advanced so far into 2014. Time flies when you aren’t having fun. Thoughts did turn toward the real meaning of the day, but more on that later in the post.

Yesterday was a rough day starting out with another minor emergency with my cancer stricken father. After the overnight feeding through his nasal tube, it stopped up completely for a good hour after finishing. I’m supposed to flush it with a 60ml syringe and it back blasted after 10-15ml of water. Second attempt blew open the secondary port on the tube. Talking to the nurse on duty, I was told to bring him in to the ER again within four hours of the failed flush.

There went plans to teach Sunday school at church and we ended up at Gundersen again. He had about 8 inches of tube coiled in his stomach, yet the end was in the right place in the small intestine. The nurse called from home had no problem flushing him and pulled the extra length out leaving the tube dangling quite a bit. That’s actually turning out to be handy in regards to flushes and feedings.

She also gave me smaller 20ml syringes that generate more pressure plus adaptors to get a more snug fit into the port. With that, we headed home and I collapsed in bed from total exhaustion.

When the same thing happened again this morning, I was not pleased. Multiple failed attempts to flush complete with water blasting out the secondary port had me stewing. This time I didn’t call in or take Dad to the ER, choosing to wait and see if things would change after an hour.

Turns out it took a little more than an hour, but I was finally able to flush the tube. Something odd is going on with it and it may be related to Dad sleeping on his back rather than at least 45 degrees upright like he should. As it is, my plans of going back to bed and getting some rest didn’t pan out this A.M. which means I get to inflict this post upon the virtual world.

Back to the title topic!

In the spirit of Memorial Day, I’m going to list the war films that I own that accurately depict the sacrifices of our service men. I recommend them to anyone who wants to understand the sacrifices made to protect our country and aid others.

In no particular order:

  • Patton
  • Tora, Tora, Tora
  • Blackhawk Down
  • Hamburger Hill
  • The McConnell Story
  • The Bridges at Toko-Ri

Three television series also make the cut:

  • Victory at Sea
  • Band of Brothers
  • Dogfights.

I do own other war movies, but these are the realistic or factual ones. Sorry, I don’t think watching the superb Kelly’s Heroes qualifies as observing Memorial Day. It should be a day of sober remembrance, not just an excuse to cook outside with family and friends.

PARENTAL NOTE: Blackhawk Down, Hamburger Hill, and Band of Brothers are all R rated for good reasons and contain nudity, prolific profanity, and realistic gore. They are unflinching in showing the horror of combat and immoral behavior of soldiers.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Gamera the Giant Monster (1965) Review

Only one giant monster series managed to compete with Godzilla -- and it took a flying turtle to do the job. Done on the cheap amid a great deal of internal doubt about the project, Gamera spawned a franchise that lasted for years to the delight of many children. The American edits are the ones most have seen, but the original Japanese version turns out to be a slightly more serious film with Cold War themes. It also portrays the life of one very disturbed little boy. UPDATED with HD screen captures and Blu-ray details.

Gamera HD Title

When Toho’s Godzilla series suffered a false start in the ‘50s, many a movie studio tried to horn in on the big monster action including Toho themselves with Rodan and Mothra. But it was not until the head of Daiei Studios saw a turtle shaped cloud while flying across the Pacific Ocean that the only true rival emerged. With none of the accomplished directors at the studio wanting to make the movie, it fell on struggling young Noriaki Yuasa to make the mad idea work. Equipped with a quiet agenda of his own, he led a production crew into uncharted waters for Daiei had never made a movie like this. Did he succeed? Oh, yeah he did -- and then some.

Thanks to Shout Factory, we finally can see what the Japanese audiences originally saw in a completely restored and remastered version. Please join me for a slightly less snarky review than that of the NTA version, Gammera the Invincible. If you want to see what professional mockery can do with the Sandy Frank version, check out my Gamera: MST3K review.

Gamera HD Eskimo VillageGamera HD Soviet Bombers Buzz Ship

Gamera the Giant Monster starts with Soviet bombers flying over the Artic ice and a Japanese scientific expedition arriving at an Eskimo village. I may have missed it, but the reason to be there never seems to be fully explained. It is more important that our three main characters just happen to be there to witness events. They are Dr. Hidaka (Eiji Funakoshi), his assistant Kyoke Yamamoto (Harumi Kiritachi), and news photographer Aoyogi (Junichiro Yamashiko).

Buzzed by the Soviet bombers which look suspiciously like British V-bombers (specifically the Victor), Hidaka makes a comment about the Cold War going on. The fears and tensions of the not so hot clash between East and West forms the backdrop for the film, unlike Gojira where it was the simple reaction to the atomic bomb drops that ended World War II. Eleven years had gone by with new concerns replacing the old which is perfectly understandable given Japan’s geographic location. They were smack dab between the two superpowers of the Soviet Union and the United States of America.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Delays in Reviews

At least I got the Godzilla flicks promised earlier posted, though the bonus one was a bridge too far to complete. That’s my sole consolation because there is nothing in the pipeline due to how things have gone with my father’s health the last few weeks. His having taken up residence in the living room, I can’t evaluate any movies with 5.1 sound until he starts feeling better and can stay awake for two hours of film.

Note: A sure way to put him to sleep is to put on a movie. Only exception is if it is loud, which is a characteristic of most surround movies these days.

At the moment, I’m thinking of going to the older classics in my film library for material to review. Monaural sound is something I can do on the PC with headphones, ditto for stereo. There are a few older reviews that need rewriting and better screen captures, so maybe that will be a way to get some writing done.

It’s Always Something

“All in all, it was a good day.” – My father.

Yesterday turned into a minor crisis event when Dad’s feeding tube malfunctioned. First clue something wasn’t right was the slower than normal rate of liquid food being pumped into him with it taking an hour longer than usual. It was his vomiting up the horrible stuff that caused alarm, because it meant the tube might be in the stomach, not the small intestine. Flushing it resulted in water back blasting the syringe out of the adaptor on the tube which would indicate a blockage or crimp somewhere.

Phone calls to the oncology and nutritionist departments followed with the latter responding. Checking the tube for crimps discovered none and the recommendation was given to bring Dad into urgent care, which we discovered is a department of the emergency room. Before leaving, it checked the tube one last time since Dad was choking and gagging on it.

It wasn’t long before he was uncontrollably heaving and unable to catch a breath. One thing about emergencies that fascinates me is the time dilation effect experienced. Thoughts race at faster than normal speeds, at least for me, which leads to an increase in calculations – not to mention movements. Slipping on the last pair of vinyl gloves in the box we have, I carefully and very quickly pulled the tube out so Dad could travel while still breathing.

With that done and him no longer in distress, we headed for La Crosse and the ER. After a long wait, he was wheeled to the clinic building and the fluoroscopy unit to have a new NJ tube put in. After briefing the RNs involved, I went to the waiting area expecting it to be awhile due to difficulties involved the first time compounded by the possibility that the night’s feeding had ended up in the stomach.

Sure enough, it took a great deal of time and effort including pumping his stomach which was filled and unable to drain. But the new tube is in. We’ll be monitoring it closely since we suspect that if this happens again a surgically implanted one will be necessary. Last night’s feeding went well according to Dad and was the most restful one in days. We’ll be modifying his feeding routine to shorten it from being 12 hours straight at night. The new schedule will be 11PM to 7AM nominally, then noon to 4PM.

If you are wondering why my father said what he did at the beginning of the post, it has to do with the fact of how well he physically handled the day. While it was “a challenge,” he got outside under his own power and even burned trash. He was up and down going to his PC transplanted to the dining room as well. Energy and activity levels were up despite the major malfunction.

Silver linings, to be sure.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Second to Last

Normally the three words “second to last” has a negative connotation ameliorated to a mild mercy by simply not being “last.” Yet there are exceptions to that wretched feeling and that’s when the words are used to describe being near the end of a series of trials. That’s where Dad is after his second to last chemotherapy infusion yesterday.

Make no mistake about it, he’s still miserable and terribly, terribly weak. Side effects from antibiotics have made things even more challenging than before to the point of his discontinuing them two days before the end of the course. I’m not happy with that, but as he slowly gets stronger he gets harder to deal with. It’s ironic that when he’s at his lowest he’s the easiest to deal with when caring for him at home.

Some progress has been made in that he’s gained a couple of pounds despite the side effects, his white and red blood cell counts have improved into acceptable ranges, and he’s more ambulatory now. My father has walked to his appointments at the clinic rather than having to be wheeled everywhere like earlier in the month. After such a steep decline, any regaining of lost ground is most welcome.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Godzilla 2000 (1999) Review

Radioactive Rage Month continues with the movie that started the Millennium series of Godzilla films. After the disappointing American attempt at Japan’s iconic monster, Toho Studios decided to bring the big galoot back years ahead of schedule. The hastily put together result was a messy mash up of ideas from previous decades, special effects experimentation, and the occasional spectacular scene.

Godzilla 2000 Title

Toho originally planned to make a new Godzilla movie for the 50th anniversary of the character in 2004, leaving the franchise temporarily in Hollywood’s hands. Though profitable, 1998’s Godzilla was a large disappointment. Consequently,ideas for a trilogy were scrapped. A mere year after that turkey posing as a kaiju skittered onto the silver screen, the real Godzilla returned to fight another monster on Japanese soil.

This review covers the American edited and dubbed release, one of the very rare ones to hit theaters in the States. It only made $10 million in North America, so it was here and gone again in the blink of an eye. There were some good reasons for this…

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Going Backwards


Dad is home and we await results of a chest x-ray and the ultrasound. The EKG wasn't a perfect reading, but didn't reveal anything significant from what I can decode.

We're back to feeding at a lower rate per hour to see how that goes.

Then there was a big discovery once at home that I made. Tessalon Perle is the medication prescribed to quell the hiccups. On the prescription, it says to take 1/2 or 1 pills up to 3 a day as needed. Guess what pill should never, ever be cut or ground up?

The known side effects at WebMD and Wikipedia read like a check list of many of Dad's symptoms that currently prevent him from drinking or swallowing anything. So that one will be out of the rotation to see if certain condition improve -- especially since it has failed to suppress the hiccups the last few days.

As a side note, my father's voice is getting a little better and had been up until yesterday. After the transfusion, it seems to be slightly stronger. He's been anemic due to the chemo, so no wonder he's been weak.

Update 2:

X-ray results show the feeding tube is where it is supposed to be. Unfortunately, it also revealed a mild case of pneumonia. Going to have to pick up antibiotics tomorrow.

Original post:

Dad is in terrible shape and the scheduled chemotherapy has been canceled. That doesn't mean we are free from Gundersen Clinic today.  At the moment, my father is receiving a blood transfusion due to a low red blood cell count and a host of debilitating symptoms.

Prior to that an EKG and ultrasound tests of his heart were done to assess whether there is a problem there. Results are pending, so the waiting game has returned.

The deterioration has become alarming. Almost as alarming as Dad's appearance. Doctors, nurse, and staff who've seen him before get such a look on their faces -- I'd describe it as a mix of shock and dismay.

Between his appearance and the hiccup induced weird sounds he makes, he had the other cancer patients looking very uncomfortable in the waiting area. My father was probably a reminder of how bad things could get.

He's as weak as a newborn kitten and has to have help dressing himself. This is a radical downturn after a promising Tuesday where he overexerted himself. Not that he really did much, but going up and down the stairs was a bit too much. Yesterday I moved his PC downstairs to reduce temptation.

Though last night's feeding through the tube failed at the halfway point, we will continue the regimen. No choice in the matter since he's become unable to orally ingest anything without choking. Everything is like pulling teeth, it seems.

Somehow I've managed to keep from falling apart health wise. The last two weeks have been brutal and flirtations with lower respiratory problems have shut me down at times. Since Dad has become such a handful, the realization that there can be no more time or efforts devoted to my health or interests has become something that cannot be ignored.

Last night illustrated that when I played a video game and couldn't figure out why my father was trying to slam shut the bathroom door repeatedly. Because his behavior has been erratic, my assumption was that he was having trouble with the humidity swollen door.

Then he showed up at the doorway to my room trying to shout with his fried vocal chords. He'd somehow managed to unplug the pump from the feeding tube and had been trying to signal me for help. Apparently part of it involved thumping SOS in Morse code.

So no more gaming, watching movies, or listening to music will be possible until he gets much stronger. If he does, the latest setbacks make me think that end game preparations need to begin in earnest. No matter what the outcome, contingency plans need to be made.

More later as the situation develops.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Just What I Wanted: More Spam

While the blog hasn’t been hammered with referral spam recently, there have been a few drive byes. Also in the mix was an attempt at comment spam that shows how the Web 2.0 emphasis on social media makes it easy to establish a false identity on the Internet, thereby lending an appearance of credibility to a post.

Remember not to click on suspicious links, folks. Leave that to crazy people like me who use layers of security and virtualized computers to poke cyber hornet nests.

First up is from Russia, without love:

Trust Combat Spam 01Trust Combat Spam 02

Trust Combat’s spam came in as http: // www . trustcombat . com / faq . htm and appears to be an SEO (search engine optimization) outfit wanting money to help boost your web page ranking. They want to help you so badly that they accept Bitcoin, Litecoin, Nextcoin, Primecoin, and Paypal for payment. Links to proxy services are also found on the site.

trustcombat Blog Spam 01trustcombat Blog Spam 02

UPDATED: Taking advantage of Blogger’s ease of setting up blogs to fake a legitimate presence is nothing new. What’s new is trustcombat . blogspot. com showing up in my referral data, complete with a Google Plus account. Tips and tricks for link building and creating a fake social media presence along with every single link going back to trustcombat . com fill the page.

I’d steer away from them, nothing good would come of doing business with what looks to be a fly by night operation. While neat and tidy, this is a barebones site that probably was set up in an hour or so of work. Avoid clicking on this link if it shows up on your Blogger stats.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Pumped Up

Normally being pumped up is considered a good thing. However, when you have to have your food pumped into you it isn’t an ecstatic mood that is felt. After many delays, clerical errors, and suffering, my father is finally hooked up to a feeding tube and pump here at home. Osmolite 1.5 Cal is the liquid food of choice. Good thing it is bypassing the tastebuds and even better thing that I had already eaten before opening the cans.

First feeding is 16 hours overnight, not counting any breaks. Since he’s far too weak to set up, maintain, or flush the tube, I’m going to have to keep an even more constant eye on him. If things go well for the first two hours, I’ll sneak out to buy some cat food at Kwik Trip.

Now that the regime is laid out, I’m wondering how anything is going to get done outside of the house. Up to 18 hours of feeding a day is on the schedule for the first week! Much of this is due to slowly ramping up the milliliters per hour rate to something faster. If not done, the body may not handle the fluids well.

I’m going to have to check with friends to find a urinal, there’s no way he’s wheeling the pump all the way to the bathroom or disconnecting from it himself. This house is not designed with invalids in mind, having been built in the 1800s. The last two days have been exhausting in every way possible, but I hope that he can gain some strength now.

Right now he looks like an animate cadaver. This all took way too long from the last ER visit thanks to the ridiculous hoops that have to be jumped through to meet rules and regulations. Dad is so weak now that I wonder if he’ll ever recover.

However, I have seen seeing starving animals make a turnaround into bright eyed critters. I can only hope and pray that this will be the case here.