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Sunday, November 29, 2009


UCLA rocks, dang it!

Growing up, I was a big professional sports fan. My dad would bring me to Dodgers, Lakers, Raiders, Rams and Kings games. I mostly remember the Dodgers and Lakers games - those were numerous, and always eventful as they were big winning teams when I was watching them. I collected baseball and basketball cards, thinking their values would last forever.

As I entered college, though, I began to have more appreciation for college level sports and a more "for the love of the game" playing style. Perhaps I had become disgusted and disenchanted with pro player attitudes - the 1994 baseball lockout that ended the baseball season, the rampaging fights on the field, the snottiness of players refusing to autograph anything unless they were paid - made me look for some other sports that would be more in line with my philosophy.

Enter college sports. Besides my penchant for volleyball, I was paying attention to college football (UCLA, Notre Dame, and Miami Hurricanes to name a few) college basketball (UCLA, Duke, Kentucky), and hockey (Minot, Wisconsin, Boston College). Players were no-name - but they were no-names with talent to get into the pros. It was exciting to watch players that weren't dominating their sport, but had to play hard to get recognized to get into the upper echelons of the next level up - and to get paid!

UCLA was my favorite, the home team, basically - right in my backyard, I went to a few Rose Bowl games, tailgated, what have you. They didn't even allow tailgating for the Raiders/Rams games anymore - "too much risk of fire" in the dry parts of SoCal. Hmph. So college games were a haven of fun, of getting out and getting fired up.

Now that I'm a Kansan, I cheer for KU. KU as a school has a lot of things I like - compared to the other big name college across the border, which shall not be named, as they ungraciously robbed KU of a big win yesterday. Sad! But even today, I will cheer for UCLA when they play against KU - of which hasn't won me many friends around here. Of course, everyone around here takes sports sooooo seriously. ;-)

Go UCLA basketball! We'll see who wins on October 3rd and 6th. Hehe!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Slake's limbo

There are a number of books I read growing up that have had a profound impact on my life. For some people, they cite some literature they read when they were in high school, maybe some classic novel, or a series of books by a single author; My adventures and imagination stems from the "Just for Boys" series of books in the Weekly Reader Books series published by Charles Schriber's Sons. My grandparents got me some subscription as a Christmas gift at least one year, and I still have a lot of those books.

One book that I identified with heavily was "Slake's Limbo," a story of a teenager who was basically a target of bullying and who escaped into the subway labyrinth of his modern-day city. It was a fantasy I played with as a kid, running away from my troubles and being able to survive on my own. There were a number of parallels in the book that mirrored my life, so I figured maybe I could do it... if I lived in a place with a subway. Little did I know that L.A. actually did have subways! ;-)

Basically, the idea of independence resonated with me from that book, and so I still carry it to this day.

Recent NYC events prompted me to get it out again. Sometimes real life imitates art - not precisely, mind you, but the events of this story about Francisco Hernandez Jr. with Asperger's sure make me think of the book. Social anxiety, surviving in the subway, scavenging, etc.

I'll be loaning the book to Kel shortly, in exchange for her snowboarding book. Oh boy! Colorado's a month away!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Looking for hearing loss stem cell evidence

What proof is there that stem cell treatment for hearing loss will work for everyone?

Where's the peer reviewed journals? Where are the clinical studies with control groups? Where are the observations on the "placebo effect" and real treatment results?

There's a fair amount of hype going around about an U of A student who was supposedly treated over the summer in South Korea for some kind of auto-immune hearing loss. A single press release was put out over PRNewswire, a infomercial-style video interview of the patient and parents, and a slick website for the company are the only publications out there.

A number of people have rabidly latched onto these morsels of information and are lining up to get treated. Makes me think of the whole "I'd rather be dead than deaf" survey that was going around.

Maybe some people feel that way. Their life is on hold, nothing can happen, no success will be had, until that cure is found. I used to think that for myself too. Until I realized that hearing loss isn't the end of the world. There are tons of avenues open, opportunities available, doorways to success that I can enter. I am unique and stand out, and I can use it to shape my life however I want.

My life isn't going to stop until I get treated. So I feel bad seeing all those people who, day in and day out, obsess over their hearing loss. One tiny thing consumes your life, just makes the rest of it all seem so... hollow.

For those who will stop at nothing to get treated - I came across this article which was a fascinating read on just how far companies that are defrauding others will go:,1,1036275.story

Ask yourself - what proof is there that this stem cell treatment is the real thing?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ow ow ow

I knew I was gonna pay after last night... but it's been a while since I've woken up all stiff and feeling glued together.

Let's recap:

I'm entering week 5 of my exercise program, P90X. I've mentioned it here and there during previous posts, but I don't think I've gone into how I've revved it up from only a once a week thing supplementing my gym workouts, to replacing my gym time entirely with this "about an hour a day" routine. It's grueling... and it sometimes doesn't seem to be getting easier.

I play volleyball as often as possible - down to once a week right now during the holidays, but picks right back up again after until summer. I'm still practicing with the Deaflympics in mind - so I'm making sure that stays in progress, raising the bar on my talents and abilities. I want that gold medal!

Last night, my deaf rejects flag football team (labeled the "Meet the Favres" team) played our last game of the season. We missed two practices in a row, so I wasn't real sure how we'd play. Sure enough, the other team kept scoring and we kept making silly mistakes. All of us, myself included. We played hard, though, ended up getting 3 touchdowns. Kel even made her first touchdown catch! Way to go, girl!

I'm in the most physical period of my life right now. For the last two years or so, the whole Deaflympics volleyball goal set into motion the need to be in tip-top shape, to stay sharp, to never skimp on practice and form. It's only been recently that I've been able to enjoy time with people I can hang out with after a game - instead of "game over" then "bye!" it's over then we chill for a bit in the clubhouse... even though I was freezing my butt off after getting splashed "gatorade style" after the game last night. Some people are gonna learn..... oh, there will be blood!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey Sunday!

Can you see the big smile on my face? If you were at my place sometime between the hours of noon and midnight of this past Sunday, you definitely did. I just had the best time ever hosting a hexadecimal group for a thanksgiving potluck. These people are definitely the closest to me in my life right now, and I hope all had a fantastic time. I know I did!

I was talking with a couple of them during the dinner and it was the first time for many to really celebrate thanksgiving without feeling left out - spending time with friends who were able to clearly communicate with each other, either through sign or speaking - and I think it went off with nary a hitch. I like hosting but I gotta admit, I was nervous as heck all week - at times, my organizational abilities can be hit or miss and I had the biggest responsibility of all -preparing the iconic turkey dish! This was a daunting task for a first-timer who has only eaten the end result, never taking part in the actual cooking process. I didn't even know that you're supposed to thaw a frozen turkey for several days before actually roasting it. So this year, I got educated - picked up some pro tips by someone in the know, got things right and planned out several weeks in advance - and it still came down to the wire. Heh.

I picked up a 20lb turkey four days before cooking it. Let it thaw out in the fridge set at about 40 degrees F, any colder than that would have made it thaw slower. I took the bird out of its wrapping (contrary to the written instructions on the package) and stuck it into a big ol' roasting pan. Sat there in my fridge, looking back at me.... taunting me.... mocking me... oh wait no that's the bowl of jello next to it that's looking mighty tasty. Yum. Anyway, last night I got the turkey out in its mostly unfrozen state and took out the neck and giblets. Then I slathered it with some cook-able margarine mixed with lemon herb for flavor. Smelled great! Let that soak in until the morning... set the fires for 325F, plugged in Scotty-bird and set ablaze for 4 1/2 hours. It quickly turned brown so I put on some aluminum foil over to focus more cooking....

So why I am detailing the boring parts of the cooking? 'Cause, dang it, I want to do this again. Not this year, mind you (I'm so glad it's over!) but because I think writing down what I did right will lead to greater success the next time I make it! This, coupled with the one-plate-per-person potluck gave us OMG plenty of good eats!

There were so many leftovers that people were telling me to keep the munchies and have 'em for food this week. Looks like turkey's on the menu for a few weeks now....

I wanted to give a big shout out to the kickass helpers of the event - Alex, for doing awesome mid-event clean up without even asked; Seth, for guiding me with advice and direction about food when needed, and making some of the whooaaaaaa greatest hot chocolate ever; Kel for being her wonderful self, and being superbly helpful and staying late after; and everyone else who helped make the time pass so quickly!

I am now officially zzzzzzonking out....sweet dreams all!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stem cells used to cure hearing loss

I've been keeping mostly silent on the issue of stem cells lately. I usually take a "wait-and-see" approach to technologies that I don't fully understand, especially tech that generates intense emotional reactions, such as things that reduce a person's privacy or makes it impossible for me to enjoy music that I own on various devices.

Now, I'm not a geneticist, but I have been getting quite a bit of education regarding genes lately. On top of that, I really like the field of biotech and have been watching it extensively since I was in college. Biotech is one of those fields to be in right now - there are a whole host of factors such as an aging 1st world population, lower birth rates, trends towards recurring treatments instead of one-time cures, and more and more research being done by for-profit corps instead of research universities. If you want a good paying career, biotech's where you want to be.

Over the summer, I participated in the Hearing Loss Association of America national conference. It was an exceptionally enlighting conference - I blogged pretty much every day I was there. The landmark presentation was on hearing loss treatments by stem cells. This was a widely attended seminar - the enormous room was pretty full, I'd estimate at least 500 people attended. I took notes, and the consensus of the 4 presenters was that it'd be at least 25 or so years off before we'd see viable treatments. That prompted a whole line of HOT, aggressive questioning to the panel - "where's a clinical trial I can join now?" "if I pay you will you let me in?" "how soon will you start a trial?" "what's taking so long?!"

Keep in mind, only animal testing is going on with regeneration. Chicken and mice are the two main test subjects at this time. Human testing in the US is not expected to happen any time soon. Funding is a major issue, as always.

However - after this summer, a South Korean company released a video out onto the web. It supposedly showcased a certain University of Arizona student who had lost her hearing 3 years ago. This video touted an unbelievable amount of success, "90% hearing improvement in one ear, 50% in the other!" Never mind that percentages aren't supposed to be used as a way to gauge hearing loss, but that video was SLICK. Infomercial slick, I tell ya. But where were the papers, the journals, the peer reviewed submissions? There are none yet. Clearly, this suspicion is shared by many others with hearing loss, and HLAA hosted a webchat last night.

The speaker was one of the presenters from over the summer, Dr. Douglas Cotanche. He's got more than 25 years in the field of hearing loss and regenerative treatments with Boston University. An excerpt I'll quote from the webchat:

Question: There has been an individual promoting this youtube video on hair cell regeneration as being proof that [stem cell treatment for hearing loss] is happening now. Is this true?

Where should we go for credible updates on hair cell regeneration?

Dr._Cotanche: Hi,
Thank you for pointing out this video. I am very suspicious of this testimony because they give no details of what therapy they are talking about. And when I go to the company website there is no information on this case or for using stem cells to treat hearing loss. I would be very cautious about believing that testimonial, even if both her parents are MDs. They need to provide more scientific data and show it happens more than once to demonstrate that the therapy she got was actually responsible for her recovery of her hearing. There may have been other things going on or other therapies she got that contributed to the recovery.
A good resource for reliable information would be the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders ( at NIH in Bethesda, MD.

I'm more willing to believe a presenter that I've met in person and can review his research at length than some video that plays like a TV advertisement.

Other strikes against the stem cell treatment announcement:

1) The only news release I can find about it is actually just a press release. People are misquoting that this press release (which is released from the company itself, not a news site) as "being reported by Reuters, a reputable news company" which is NOT the case. Reuters is simply reposting what was written by the company itself, no verification or reporting is done by anyone. I know this for a fact because my company has done the same - put out product press releases and Reuters picked it up. You can tell by the "PR Newswire" heading.

2) Prior to the video being released, quite a number of people were already contacting that stem cell company months before due to rumors being spread that they had proof of treatment. That gives the company an incentive to create advertising to drive more business to them. A number of statements I caught at the HLAA conference were basically "I would give anything for this to be cured!" Who wouldn't want to take advantage of bilking you out of your hard earned money without you seeing proof of success?

3) People are throwing themselves at this and believing there will can be no downside. "Either I'll get some hearing, or nothing, but I'll keep my residual hearing." Bold statements when there have been no clinical trials and cases are starting to come out stating that yes, even stem cells can cause tumors:

So, while I want to give stem cells their chance to prove themselves, this is one organization that isn't gonna get me as a customer until they give us verifiable results. I sure hope they don't start taking peoples money and run. Be safe!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


It's getting colder and colder, and that means one thing to me - long pajamas!

Yeah, why the heck am I talking about long pajamas? Because every time I put a pair on, it actually makes me think of my cochlear implant.

Yes, I'm serious. I closely associate my CI with pajamas. I never wore anything like a long pair of flannel pants until I got implanted. Growing up in balmy Southern California, there was no need for wearing anything resembling pants to bed, and so I grew up not even knowing what they were, or even why those characters I see on TV wear them so often. Y'know, like the kind you see on the dad in the TV sitcom when he's walking around in his PJs and robe. Example:

I always kept thinking, "Who in the world wears stuff like that?! Those prudes!" Due to the comedy shows I watched, I actually came to the conclusion that people wore that stuff only so that if they get locked out of the house fetching the newspaper, that we locked out looking somewhat decent...

Well, when I had my CI surgery, I was not permitted to wear pullover shirts or sweaters post-surgery. Apparently your melon swells up and it's not good to have to force yourself into those kind of clothes. So, my mom, who was taking care of me, got me my first real pair of button up flannel pajamas, and.... it's been my kind of "CI wear" ever since.

I still haven't added in the wearing a robe and slippers yet, though. ;-)

It snowed for the first time this season last night. Normally the snow happens right around Thanksgiving, so it's right on time this year. Too cold for my blood! I was really enjoying this past summer, so I hope warm weather comes around soon!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm surrounded by geeks (and a geekette!)

Do people tend to hang out with others of similar personality? I.e. do birds of a feather flock together? I used to not think so... even though I made friends who had one or two things in common, I didn't meet people who "got" me. Even in groups that I was looked up to, or was a role model in, I was still an outsider, a special breed, I guess. What was that? I am a geek, a nerd, a brain, versus the non-socially awkward fellas and gals I hung out with in college. They were mostly sports types, who didn't have the patience to read the latest in gadget news or understand what relevance biotech has in our lives. So even though I made good friends, they weren't... reflective of who I am.

Where I am now, has much better representation about my character and my true self. Just the other day I was yakking with Vic about his CompSci projects and the latest in phones and gadgets - animatedly exclaiming our joy over remembering LISP or determining if the Blackberry Bold was the next best Blackberry out there. Toys and serious business. The last time I can remember doing that was when I was swapping tech support stories with this guy ten years older than me in St. Louis...

On top of that, it's fun to see that there are even girl geekettes out there who ooh and ahh over the silliest things - my friend Tara on Shakespeare and RenFests, or Kel on her analyzing people in fast food restaurants to determine if they have Turner's syndrome or not.... ;-)

It's just nice to feel like I fit in with people who are on my level, to be enjoying things.

Anyway, I'm rambling, and this blog is actually a day late. Off to work!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dave & Buster's

Dave & Buster's is like one of the most fun places on earth. Totally.

Last night, my entourage hit up a restaurant to watch the KU men's basketball season opener. To be honest, I didn't watch the game much, spent most of the time chatting with my buddy Vic. Truly, it's nice to have a friend who can completely relate to the finer points of computer geekitude - while I couldn't immediately place the language SCHEME, I was familiar with LISP and we detailed some of the finer points of computing...

But the real fun didn't begin (yes, geek talk is fun!) until we took off to catch one of my CSUN friends who was in town for another KU sport, the Saturday college football game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. She's a Nebraska fan. I'm surprised my cadre didn't... dispatch her on the spot. ;-) We can be a pretty rabid group of fans (except when I'm supporting UCLA.... oops I said it!). But games can bring everyone together, and so my group of deaf people got to game on!

That makes me think a bit. Am I hanging out with people like me too often? Am I getting enough diversity in my life? Kel sometimes talks about how she feels she isn't getting enough exposure to hearing people, situations where she has to lipread, stuff like that. I get plenty of exposure to hearing people in professional situations - but is that enough? It's almost as if I've segregated my hearing and deaf lives neatly into business and pleasure. Quite so, actually. The businesses I deal with, the companies I call, the management in my company, all pretty much are not in the deaf culture, and are maybe mainly exposed to it through me. Even though I'm not culturally deaf I do carry around the ability to interact with those who are deaf...

I'll have to meditate on that further. Now I'm off to a baby shower! Well, the kind where the guys get to goof off together shower... need to plot some excitement for tonight! :-D

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hot cocoa!

It's definitely hot chocolate weather outside.
I'm one of those oddballs in my choice of drinks. Everyone in the office goes for coffee. Me? Hot cocoa. Heck, I bring in my own mix and hot water jug so I can refill at my desk. How's that for productivity?!

I guess the same goes for my other beverage habits. Most of my friends are beer and wine aficinados. Not me, I can't really stand either. I'd rather have a soft drink or something that can get set on fire. ;-)

I was talking with one of my old volleyball teammates last night when the new league season started up. She was going on and on and on about her recent Hawaii trip. It's definitely one of those places I miss now that winter's getting near, during the times when it's getting dark as I'm leaving the office at 5pm. Almost makes me want to move down south, closer to where the waves and sand are. I worry that I might be one of those snowbirds as I get older, migrating south for the winter. ;-)

Then again, I wouldn't have any excuse to drink yummy hot chocolate if I did!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The holidays

The holidays used to be a time of dread for me. Man, oh, man, did I hate having to shop and travel and deal with snow and cold and darkness and.... let's just say I used to have a greater appreciation for the Nov-Dec timeframe when I didn't have to deal with those things.

Ever since I moved to Kansas City, I've been spending my Thanksgiving with friends who are kind enough to make a spot on the table for me. One year was with a deaf family and friends, and the next was a group of hearing people. I did enjoy both meals, but I had a much more interesting time with the deaf family - I was more involved in the chatter, aware of what was going on, having a blast and feeling like I belonged. Not that I didn't appreciate the other family's effort and they adored having me there - I just never had that full-on, involved in everything family thing. Made me realize that's something I want in my future, for my family.

In about two weeks I'll be hosting a big turkey roast at my place, turning my home into a crazy restaurant of flying fingers and food fights. At least at this one I'll be armed with the 20lb fowl! Twenty people are expected to show up - the size of which I've never hosted a meal for. Thank gawd Kel really wants to lend a hand and help out - you rock!

Looking back, I've really never been much included with my family at events. Most of the they'd want to include me but I'd never know what was going on. When I first started having my deaf fraternity celebrations of things like holiday exchanges and spring break in Vegas, that's when I knew how much I was missing out. So I'm looking forward to turkey sunday and being included!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Getting back on track

Sometimes I feel like everything's been squeeeeeeeezed into such a short period of time. This past week has definitely felt that way, both for personal and for my professional life. There was an article I read on Sunday (the "fall back" day for us Americans who choose to set their clocks back to get more sun in the morning than after 5pm) where we seem to give up more and more of our lives to cramming everything in, using every nanosecond of our life for something, anything. It's like we've become slaves to our mobile phones, our electronic calendars, our emails, our instant messengers. We wait for the next message to affect our lives - one second, I gotta take this.

... done. Where was I? Oh, yeah. That message can come any time, and we even interrupt our in-person activities to rush and read that message. When I was playing flag football recently, I was listening to someone tell a story and then I got distracted by someone else asking me a question. The person telling me a story got extremely irate, like I was disrespecting them on purpose. But you can get away with that behavior on the phone or computer - how does the other person know you're being interrupted by someone else, or if you're just distracted, or busy?

So does online behavior make one more patient? Or less? Did anyone read the rest of my blog after I took a short break? Is anyone reading this? Bueller? Bueller?

Ooops, there's the horn... off to worky work! Half day yay! Gonna go see Paramore!