Sunday, October 21, 2007

Return to Normality...

Well, as time goes on, life around here is getting back to normal. My radiation therapy is finished, although the chemotherapy will continue for some time. I'm happy to report that all signs so far look very positive! (Well, except for my perpetual bad hair day... but that's a minor concern, and anyway will probably improve eventually...)

My posts to this blog will probably become less frequent, but the blog itself will remain up, so that you can go back to old posts and view the highlights (for example, a video of an "old" man trying to shoot free-throws, etc.)

For those of you who are interested in keeping up with our regular daily lives (probably only family will be interested in this!) and occasional trips to exotic or not-so-exotic places, you might try my other blog (

And remember, as far as this "brain" blog goes... no news is good news!

Now that's what I call a party!

Last Sunday (October 14) I had the greatest birthday party I have EVER had! (OK, maybe it does mean I've just passed the half-century mark, but other than that it was fantastic!)

To those of you who were there, thanks so much for taking the time from your busy schedules to celebrate with us! And to those who couldn't make it but kept us in your thoughts - thank you too!

I've got some (actually lots) of pictures of the big event. (Who's the guy with the "punk" haircut?) If you'd like to take a look, go to and select one of the 3 party photo albums).

Special thanks to Toni Morrissey and Huayang Zhu for taking so many great photos!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Radiation Therapy

I have been in radiation therapy since my surgery. The idea is that the radiation (in combination with chemotherapy) kills the microscopic bits of tumor tissue around the edges of the tumor cavity that were too small for the neurosurgeon to see or remove surgically. The process lasts 6 weeks, and so this is my last week. To mark this occassion, I brought my camera in yesterday. Some of the results are shown below...

View of yours truly as seen on the video monitor. (I didn't know they sold these machines at BigLots! The price is certainly right...)

For each patient, they make a mask out of a plastic mesh material that can be pressed to fit the contours of the patient's head, and then cured (somehow) to harden it in this shape. This allows them to precisely position the patient's head each time, so that the beam irradiates the same spot every time. Didn't Hannibal Lechter wear one of these things?

The radiation source is a linear accelerator that generates X-ray radiation at specific energies. The entire machine can be rotated on several axes so that the beam can come from any desired angle, depending on the location of the tumor, and the locations of important things that shouldn't be in the beam path (eyes, etc.). This is a lot better than the alternative of rotating the patient!

I must say I have been very impressed with all of the people who work in the Radiation Therapy department at Huntington Hospital, from Dr. Lam, who heads the department, to the expert physicists who design the procedures, to the technicians who actually run the machines. One of the positives of this whole thing has been meeting this great group of people!

Monday, October 8, 2007

On the Road Again...

The biggest news of the last few days is that I am once again permitted to drive a car! My first trip was straight to the carwash, to remove the thick layer of dust that had accumulated over the last few weeks. Then on to OSH, Starbucks, and other local haunts I had missed going to...

No more need to risk my health by bicycling down busy traffic-filled streets to get to Caltech... I do want to thank my team of "drivers" (you know who you are) who so generously gave of their time to shuttle me between home, hospital, work, doctor's offices, etc. I appreciate it very much, and if you ever need anything that I can help with, just let me know!

Feeling in a very good mood, I was an easy mark when Tim mentioned that it sure would be nice to have an electric guitar... (or maybe I mentioned it first to him?). In any case, Saturday morning we drove over to our local Guitar Center to look over their large selection of electric guitars and amps. We found a Fender guitar that seemed to be just the thing we were looking for... Classic Stratocaster style, cool two-tone paint job... what more could we want? So, feeling generous, and thinking that maybe there is still time to become a rock-and-roll star, I agreed to purchase it. Tim is kicking in some from his own money too, so it will officially belong to both of us...

So our house, where normally one hears sounds of classical piano and guitar, now reverberates with rock and roll... or at least it did until we added headphones to the amp so that it is possible to "rock on" without disturbing others. For my part, I can't quite figure out how to hold the thing. It is very heavy, and my normal classical guitar posture doesn't seem to work at all. It seems one needs to wear a strap, and stand up (preferably in a defiant, rebellious stance) to play it. I have played it a bit, but don't really know what I am doing, although I have learned that classical pieces are not particularly enhanced by lots of overdrive and reverb...

I think my loyalty will remain with classical guitar first, with only occasional forays into the wilder world of rock guitar. I think Tim, however, will take to it, and might even take lessons.

Now that I am driving again, the rhythms of daily life are resuming, which is a very good thing. After this week, I won't have any more radiation therapy treatments, and so I will resume driving the kids to school in the mornings. Then since I'll be just across the street from Caltech, I might as well go into the office and actually get some work done... I am aware of several deadlines approaching (program review meetings, kick-off meetings for new programs, proposals to write, a new energy course that I will offer starting in January that still needs lots of preparation...) so it is time to get moving, and make up for the last few distraction-filled weeks.

One unfortunate consequence of returning to "normality" (whatever that is) is less time for blogging, and fewer blog-worthy events. My issues with balance, memory, and other things that were the subject of much blog discussion, are now largely receding, as the healing process proceeds, and the dosages of various strong medications are ramped down (and for some, discontinued when no longer needed). So as a result, my posts to this blog may become less frequent, and perhaps less interesting... anyway, I'll keep posting as long as there are things that are interesting enough!

But if you don't hear from me in a while, have no fear... I'm probably just out picking up the kids from school, or driving them to soccer, or holed up in my office writing a proposal or paper, or in some committee meeting at Caltech, or doing one of the many other things that define my "normal" life....

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Old Photos

Well, since I'm spending a little more time at home than usual, I noticed that some of our old photo albums are starting to slowly deteriorate. So I've embarked on a new project to photograph all of our old paper photographs to create digital versions that are easier to share, won't deteriorate, and show us as we wish we still looked but don't...

Here are a few of the results so far (not in chronological order!):

I'll post more old photos as I get more of them digitized!