Safety Patrol

School Safety Patrol Crossing Guard
My daughter, Kaylee, was selected to join her school’s safety patrol. On her first day on duty as a crossing guard I decided to pay her a visit. It went something like this….

#schoolsafetypatrol #crossingguard #elementaryschool #parentingfail #parenting #kids #comic #drawnandcoded

My job search …

“Guess what girls? As of August 1st I can get you all of the free bubble wrap and boxes that you want!”, I joked. “I just accepted a new job at UPS!”

“Which store will you be working at? The one next to CVS?”, Kaylee asked.

“Uh….no….”, I laughed, “No, it’s a management role. I’ll be managing other engineers.”

“Oh…..”, they said in unison. Almost disappointed.

More than a few of my friends have also suffered through a similar lack of enthusiasm from their own kids. Working for Apple does not mean you work at the Genius Bar, nor does working at Qualcomm mean you hustle popcorn and beer at football games, although admittedly, the latter is a bit stale given the closure of the prior home of the Chargers football team.

As a manager I’ll be herding engineers rather than the 1’s and 0’s that have been the hallmark of my prior positions. It’ll be a change of pace for me, but one I have been working towards for a while. Over the last couple of years I have been reading books on management strategies, interviewing past co-workers, and enrolling in classes. This year culminated with a Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM) certification, a Certified SCRUM Master certification, and, of course, this new job.

“To be honest, there are faster, smarter, quicker engineers than me…”, I admitted to my soon-to-be boss during my interview.

He raised an eyebrow at me.

“…I mean, I’m no slouch!”, I corrected quickly. “But, over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing people, and, given my own experiences, I feel like I am in a great position where I can guide and motivate them to become what they were meant to be.”

“‘I’m a ‘People Person’, too”, I laughed, “You know, like Tom Smykowski from Office Space? You know, Office Space? The movie?”

A questionable stare. I guess not. Probably a bad analogy anyway, though, given that Tom was anything but a people person.

For me it’s all true, though. Between a one-two punch of a cancer diagnosis and COVID lockdown, I need to be working with people again, not staring at a computer screen. There will still be problems, of course, just of a different, more “people-y” nature, and I am so looking forward to it.


So, before I go, some job search statistics for those who are interested:

  • I submitted at least 80 job applications over a 3-month period. The first of which was on 4/17/2022, the last of which was on 7/15/2022.
  • I interviewed with 12 different companies. This equates to 15% of the companies that I had applied to. The majority of the interviews were split into three different parts – an HR screen, an hour-long interview with the hiring manager, and, finally, a half-day panel interview with the team. I am still waiting on responses from some of the interviews that I participated in.
  • I received 3 offers, which is roughly 4% of the companies that I had applies to and 25% of the companies that I had interviewed with.
  • The most responsive of the larger companies that I applied to were BD, Sony, and Amazon. The bad news is that BD, after several rounds of interviews and over a month-and-a-half of waiting, cancelled the requisition altogether. Meanwhile, two months and three interviews later I am still “waiting” to hear from Sony. As for Amazon, I almost felt I had to beat them off with a stick. I was contacted by so many of their recruiters over the course of my search that I lost count. I can’t help but think I was just a quota as follow-up calls were few and far in-between. An engineer with a heartbeat, yup, that’s me.
  • The least responsive large companies were Intuit and HP, both of which I submitted multiple applications, but never received a single follow-up. Intuit was by far the most frustrating as I attended not one, but two career events – uh, I mean, mixers.

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life.

-Scott


#jobsearch #recruiters #careerfair #mixers #jobs #indeed #linkedin #monster #techrecruiter #hiringmanager #jobseekers #jobsearch #jobs #job #hiring #recruitment #jobsearching #jobseeker #career #jobhunt #employment #jobopportunity #nowhiring #jobinterview #careers #recruiting #jobvacancy #resume #hiringnow #jobshiring #jobopening #work #interview #vacancy #jobhunting #hr #business #recruiter #jobfair #staffing #drawnandcoded #comic

Camping

A relaxing evening in front of the campfire
On the upside, the smoke kept the mosquitos away. No one complained of a single bite!

William Heise Campground. Seven families. Thirty people. And one bathroom, at least for the first night. 

Apparently, at some point in my distant past I was a camper, because I surprised myself and my much more outdoorsy neighbor, Missy, the organizer of the expedition, by the sheer amount of camping equipment I had stuffed into the deepest, darkest corners of garage. It was almost as if I never wanted myself to find it again. Planning ahead I had bought a brand new tent in celebration of Amazon’s Prime Day, only to find two more hidden in my garage during my excavation.

“This new tent will work out better“, I insisted, “It’s bigger and we’ll all be able to sleep together!”

Mistake.

On the first night I realized that our massive 6-person tent was a tighter squeeze than I expected. Worse, I shared an air mattress with Kaylee. Being heavier, I created a depression that she couldn’t help but roll into and subsequently, on top of me. I escaped to the van and spent a sleepless night reclined in the driver’s seat, sleeping for maybe an hour or two in 15-minute spurts. I wasn’t the only one, either. Jodie ended up reading through the night. As for my other daughter, Ashley? She rolled off the air mattress she shared with Jodie and slept, face-planted on the bare vinyl floor of the tent. To each her own.

The toilet and showers gave out early the next day. Suspiciously, the outage coincided with our fearless leader, Missy, contracting a very nasty stomach bug. Being the trooper she was, she insisted on toughing it out, to the extent of trying to follow along on a 3-mile hike in 90+ degree weather. Mercifully, she retreated back to camp only to be voted “off the island” and chaffuered home with a crate of Gatorade and saltine crackers.

A trip to Miner’s Diner in Julian and heaping scoops of ice cream cheered everyone up. Heck, I would have paid good money just to sit in the air conditioned splendor. As luck would have it the diner had an entire basement full of candy which each of the kids took turns exploring.

Survival Instincts
Some campers truly roughed it, if only by keeping their car’s A/C above 78 degrees.

“Hey, Kay! “Check these out!”, I called to my youngest, Kaylee.

“What are those?”, she asked.

“Sugar candy cigarettes!”, I announced.

“I haven’t seen these in years. Pretty inappropriate for this day and age.”, I reminisced.

She nodded in agreement.

Later that night, back at the campsite, we dined on packaged ramen, canned beans, and store-bought tortillas in an effort to hedge against any more food poisoning stemming from the BBQ’d  burgers we had eaten the night before. After getting the campfire started my friend, Mike, strummed guitar while the kids all lined up on a squat fence bordering the campsite.

“Uh, what are they doing?”, Jodie asked.

“Smoking cigarettes.”, I said.

I averted her eyes.

“Don’t worry, they’re sugar. I couldn’t resist.”, I smiled. “It’s nostalgic”.

The second night was quieter. Unsurprisingly, many campers decided to hoof it rather than risk stumbling through the brush in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. My bedroom, the van, was commandeered at least once to make the journey to the remaining operable bathroom a half mile down the road. Sleep was elusive, even more so when Kaylee popped her head in.

“I can’t sleep in the tent”, she moaned, “Can I sleep in here with you?”

“You can try”, I laughed. “I haven’t had any luck.”

She was out cold within minutes in the passenger seat next to me, snoring. 

I would say I was up early the next morning, but as I never really went down it’s kind of a misnomer. We managed a pretty good spread of pancakes and scrambled eggs before everyone decided to cut their losses, beat the heat, and head home early.

“Next time? Cabins.”, Jodie suggested.

“Right?”, I agreed absent-mindedly. My exhausted mind theorizing where in the garage I could re-entomb my collection of tents and camping gear so that they would never, ever, be discovered again.

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life.

-Scott


#Camping #Campfire #Smoke #Parenting #CampingWithKids #Julian #WilliamHeiseCountyPark #CuyamacaMountains #IHateCamping #IReallyDoHateCamping #RoughingIt #SurvivalInstincts #DrawnAndCoded #Comic

Paddleball

Paddleball
In my defense, she did encourage me to swing harder.

My family and I were recently introduced to Paddleball by Jayme, my sister-in-law. Jayme and my wife, Jodie, were avid racquetball players before the onslaught of our children. A few months ago Jayme started playing a similar sport, called Paddleball, with a group at the local High School on Saturdays. She invited me to join her, and, naturally, I said “maybe”. My history with racquet sports isn’t a pretty one. I was the kid in high school that spent more time fishing tennis balls out of the bushes than hitting them. I was also the dude who screamed like a girl every time I played indoor racquetball with Jayme or Jodie. Simply put : They’re good. I’m not good. But, it’s more than a machoistic thing…

“I’m really not a fan of claustrophobia, 80mph balls, and swinging racquets in close quarters”, I told Jayme.

“It’s not a racquet, it’s a paddle”, Jayme encouraged me.

“And, it’s outdoors”, she continued.

“And, the ball is softer and doesn’t travel as fast.”, she finished.

“Maybe.”, I replied.

I eventually did join her, not to play, but because my youngest daughter, Kaylee, who had been going with Jayme, wanted me to meet “Grogu”, the “cutest puppy in the whole world” that frequented the courts. And, Kaylee was right, of course. Grogu absolutely was the cutest puppy in the whole world. But, I ended up playing a couple rounds of Paddleball, too, and, as expected, hit several balls over the wall in the process. But, everyone encouraged me to keep playing and had tips on how to improve my game. I remember coming home, sore and tired, but excited to tell Jodie all about it.

Fast forward a couple of months and Jodie and I now have our own paddles, made by Gearbox, a set of balls, portable chairs, and lots of new friends. We play Saturdays with the San Diego Elite Paddleball Group.

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life.

-Scott


#paddleball #gearbox #racquetball #paddle #tennis #comic #drawnandcoded

Mochi, the Axolotl

Mochi, the Axolotl
I’ve often caught Jodie staring into Mochi’s aquarium, wondering, I assume, if the clumsy, pink, legged fish staring back through the glass has developed any sort of affection for her. I can only guess….

An unintended but unavoidable result of our trip to Vegas a few months ago was our new pet, Mochi, the Axolotl. Axolotl’s are almost extinct in the wild and illegal to own and sell in California, but quite plentiful in the city known for loose slots, loose women, and ( as we found out ) loose pet restrictions. After experiencing Mochi firsthand, I’m honestly surprised that Axolotls still exist in the wild at all. They’re clumsy for starters. Mochi, of course, is also bright shade of pink, a color that does everything but scream “here I am, come eat me” to any predator with more than an ounce of intelligence.

Although Mochi is my oldest daughter, Ashley’s, pet, my wife, Jodie, is her primary caretaker. Honestly, I am more than a little jealous of the amount of attention she gets, too. Every morning Jodie and her sister Jayme, who adopted an Axolotl of her own while in Vegas with us, compare detailed notes of water conditions, bowel movements, and the number of worms their respective legged-fish ate the day prior. The nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia levels all have to be just right as well as the water temperature. Since we got Mochi Amazon has chartered entire truckloads worth of fans, filtration devices, sand, rocks, blood worms, and nightcrawlers, water testing kits, etc… to our house – oh, and Jayme’s, too, of course. Mochi only cost about thirty dollars, but we’ve easily spent ten times that keeping her alive.

I’ve often caught Jodie staring into Mochi’s aquarium, wondering, I assume, if the clumsy, pink, legged fish staring back through the glass has developed any sort of affection for her. I can only guess…..


On a side note, you might have noticed that my artwork has changed. Up until a month or so ago I drew the majority of my comics and illustrations digitally on my Microsoft Surface Pro 7 using Clip Studio Paint and Gimp. I’ve since gone back to basics and started using pencils, inks, and paper. My reasons are threefold. First, after spending an entire day at work in front of a computer screen, it was getting more and more difficult to motivate myself to spend even more time in front of the same screen to do my art. Second, although drawing digitally allowed me to make corrections easier, I found myself taking it to extremes. I found myself obsessing over every detail and, in the long run, I felt my artwork was loosing some spontaneity. Third, I found myself not improving as much as I would of liked. Drawing digitally was making me sloppy. Paper can only be erased so many times before you wear a hole through it. Computer pixels aren’t so limited. While using pencil and ink I find myself carefully planning each stroke.

Admittedly, I’m still working out the details. My lines aren’t as crisp, my colors are streaky, and the scanner I’ve been using somehow manages to wash everything out, but I’m enjoying the whole process a lot more. I haven’t completely ruled out digital arts, either. I just needed a little change.

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life.

-Scott


#axolotl #pets #parentingfail #vegas #clipstudiopaint #gimp #surfacepro7 #backtobasics #comic #drawnandcoded

Three Months Later

Prostate Cancer Hormone Therapy Vacation

Two years ago today I had my prostate removed as a result of being diagnosed with prostate cancer a few months prior. Surgery or no it was one of the crazier days of my life. The “novel” coronavirus had just made headways into the United States and hospitals were beginning to enforce visitation limits. Jodie wasn’t allowed to stay for my surgery, or even visit when I woke up. It was probably a good thing because my daughter, Kaylee, broke her arm while I was being rolled into the operating room. In some twist of irony Kaylee and I both had operations on the same day, and likely the same time. Jodie and Kaylee were so worried about upsetting me that neither wanted to tell me what had happened, although I eventually found out. It’s incredibly hard to hide a bright pink cast, after all.

We recovered together. We had lots of time to recover, too. What eventually became known as COVID took a lot away, but it also gave Kaylee and I a lot of time to do nothing. And nothing is exactly what it takes to recover from surgery – I mean surgeries, plural.

I’d like to say that was the end of my cancer story, but it wasn’t. Less than six months later I started radiation treatment. This was in addition to two years of testosterone-eliminating hormone therapy, too.

Fast forward two years to today. Today marks three months since stopping all treatments. I had my quarterly blood work done today and it indicated that my cancer is still undetectable. Better yet, my testosterone has returned to normal levels as well. This is all good news.

I’m still not in the clear, and honestly I may never be, but every good test results inches me closer to – what? A cure? No, not cure. My doctor has made it clear that “cure” is not in the vernacular for people in my situation. At best people like me get to stay in remission. Long, happy, grateful, normal, live-life-to the-fullest remission.

Thanks for all of your support.

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life.

-Scott

Previous : That’s no moon!

Next : Six Months Later

Prostate Cancer PSA
My PSA ( ng/mL ) as of 03/16/2022

#prostatecancer #cancer #prostatitis #psa #prostate #urology #oncology #radiationtherapy #radiation #ebrt #proton #radicalprostatectomy #chemotherapy #hormonetherapy #surgery #lupron #leuprolide #radiationtherapy #radiation #ebrt #photon #hormonetherapyvacation #psma # #drawnandcoded #iwillbeatthis #abiraterone #zytiga #prednisone

Bowl Half Empty

Parenting Fail Dogs Pets Healthy Dog Food Kids
Ever get the feeling that you feed your pets just a little better than you feed your kids? Sometimes I do … and then I see my dog eat a rock and all is right in the world again.

#ParentingFail #Dogs #Pets #HealthyDogFood #Kids #DogLover #StuffDogsEat #JunkFood #DrawnAndCoded #Comic

Viva Las Vegas

Las Vegas Cheer Competition Jam Rancho Bernardo Broncos Dead Van Chrysler Town and Country
My family and I may have lost a minivan, but we gained an adventure.

A van full of seven.
A cheerleader competition.
Through the desert to Vegas, let’s go!

With twenty miles left.
The van ran out of breath.
Worried, we grumbled, oh, no!

We rolled into a gas station.
And shouted exasperations.
As the van barfed up it’s engine and died.

And then a stretch limousine.
Rolled onto the scene.
And offered us all a ride.

We couldn’t believe our good luck.
The kids were awestruck.
We raced to meet the rest of the team.

Guess what? They won second!
And it was worth it I reckon.
I guess things are not always bad as they seem.


#LasVegas #CheerCompetition #Jam #RanchoBernardoBroncos #DeadVan #Chrysler #TownAndCountry #BadPoetry #Comic #ParentingFail

That’s no moon!

Prostate Cancer Star Wars Death Star
For my most recent appointment with my oncologist Jodie and I decided that we should wear our ugly Star Wars-themed Christmas Sweaters. My oncologist laughed when he saw us and, knowing that I draw, remarked how he would like to see the prostate as the Death Star. Well, here it is in all of it’s glory : Male reproductive organ, destroyer of planets, and 2nd most common cause of cancer. Now stop laughing and go get checked, guys!

Previous : The last pills ( almost )

Next : Three Months Later

Prostate Cancer PSA
My PSA ( ng/mL ) as of 12/08/2021

#ProstateCancer #StarWars #DeathStar #DrawnAndCoded #IWillBeatThis

The Last Shot

Prostate Cancer Hormone Therapy Lupron Shot
In retrospect trying to get the nurse holding the horse syringe to laugh moments before she sticks it into your butt is probably not the best idea.

“There’s a very high probability that your cancer will return.”  

My 3-month checkup with my oncologist, Dr. Stewart had just ended. Jodie and I were waiting for what hopefully would be my last shot of Lupron before going on a hormone therapy “vacation” and I couldn’t get Dr. Stewart’s voice out of my head. 

“What are the odds of …(pause)… you know what? Never mind. I don’t think I want to know.”, I responded.

And I really don’t.  If someone told you that it would be nearly impossible to succeed at something, how hard would you try? I need hope and it’s friend, optimism on my side – even if it’s unfounded in reality. 

To quote Jim Carrey’s character, Lloyd, in the movie, Dumb and Dumber: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

But Dr. Stewart is right. Statistics don’t lie. So,  for the rest of the appointment I refocused on what treatments I could expect if I were to relapse after being taken off of hormone therapy. Unsurprisingly, I would be put back on hormone therapy immediately. If my PSA level, a blood marker used to detect prostate cancer, were to exceed .5 ng/mL, a PSMA Scan would be performed on me. If the acronym PSMA sounds familiar it’s because Dr. Stewart wanted me to undergo one two years ago at UCLA when I was newly diagnosed. At the time the scan was going through FDA approval. Recently approved, UCSD had one installed just days before my appointment. The upsides of FDA approval are that insurance would probably cover it ( it was $3000 out-of-pocket two years ago ). The downsides are that I might not want to see what the scan has to show me. It’s incredibly precise and has the potential to pick up metastasis missed in my prior CT and MRI scans. Ignorance is bliss, right?

“And if my PSA were to rise and the PSMA scan were to pick up something? Then what?”, I asked Dr. Stewart.

“If there’s not too many spots we’d radiate them.”

“…and if it’s in a place that has already been radiated?”, I pushed.

“Then we’d have a longer conversation with your radiation oncologist. Dr. Rose.”, he replied.

“It’s like ‘whack-a-mole’.”, he continued, using an analogy.

“And we’d just keep hitting the new spots over and over?”, I asked.

“Yes, as long as the cancer responds.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Then we look at other therapies.”, he replied.

Dr. Stewart also told me that I had the option of staying on hormone therapy. I quickly dismissed the idea. 

First off, my body needs a break. In my last post I wrote about how hormone therapy can cause bone loss. Well it can also cause muscle loss, fatigue, and liver problems. In addition to 3-month Lupron shots I’m also on Zytiga, another pill-based form of hormone therapy used for advanced prostate cancer, and a steroid, Prednisone – both of which require monthly blood panels. A month hasn’t gone by where I haven’t seen an abnormal reading. 

Second, by staying on hormone therapy I’d never know if I was really in remission, or if the hormone therapy was just suppressing the cancer. No, it was time to pull the blocks and take the prostatectomy-ied, radiated, and “hormone-therapy-ed” “car” out for a drive and see what happens.

Third, hormone therapy becomes less effective over time. Hormone therapy works by stopping your body from producing testosterone. Initially, prostate cancer requires testosterone to thrive, but eventually the cancer adapts and starts producing it on its own. The clinical term for this is “Castrate Resistant Prostate Cancer”, or CRPCa. CRPCa is much more difficult to treat and the longer I’m on hormone therapy, the greater the chance my cancer will become resistant to hormone therapy. 

( Knock! Knock! )

“Ready for your shot?”, my nurse asked from behind the exam room door.

“Yup! Come’on in!”, I replied, grimacing.

While my nurse donned her protective gear and prepared the shot I fumbled with the exam table’s foot pedal to raise it up to white-knuckled-grabbing-position. 

“This is my last shot!”, I said, and then stumbled a little, “…. hopefully…”

“I hope so, too.”, she replied, smiling.

It was my seventh time getting stabbed in the ass with a horse needle full of Lupron. My first injection, a different but similar medication called Degarelix, was administered to both sides of my belly almost two years ago. This time I barely felt it at all. 

The Lupron will remain in my system for three months. In December, for the first time in two years, I won’t receive a follow-up shot. I will stop taking Zytiga, too. A week or two later I will go off of the steroid, Prednisone, and then my hormone therapy “vacation” will begin. I am looking forward to the vacation, but I’m more than a little scared. too. Currently my PSA is .01 ng/mL, or undetectable. If my PSA were to increase it would indicate a recurrence; that somewhere inside of me the cancer is still alive and growing. It would also imply that, until there’s a cure, I’ll likely be fighting it for the rest of my life. 

In the past I’ve referred to the whole cancer journey as a trip down a dark tunnel. It’s scary. It’s dark. And it seems to go on forever. As with any tunnel there is light at the end. Those are your family, your friends, and your supporters waving flashlights and urging you forward. The thing is there’s light in the tunnel, too. You just need to look harder for it. This light is from cancer survivors who continue to fight. Although they haven’t made it out yet themselves, they, too, urge you forward. They’ve been down the same path. The path forward is possible. It’s been done. You just need to follow the light to find your way. 

So wave those flashlights, people – and tell you what, I’ll wave mine, too.

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life.

-Scott

Previous: Walk the Walk

Next: The last pills ( almost )

My PSA ( ng/mL ) as of 10/11/2021
Prostate Cancer PSA

#prostatecancer #cancer #prostatitis #psa #prostate #urology #oncology #radiationtherapy #radiation #ebrt #proton #radicalprostatectomy #chemotherapy #hormonetherapy #surgery #lupron #leuprolide #radiationtherapy #radiation #ebrt #photon #hormonetherapyvacation #psma # #drawnandcoded #iwillbeatthis