Monthly Archives: February 2012

Wounded Knee

It’s time.

I don’t like going to the doctor and I’m very allergic to surgery, but I may be tolerating both very soon. It may be time to finally fix my knee.

My right knee went out yesterday while I was bending down to look at furniture at IKEA. If I tried to build it, it would probably be fatal. So, I’m back to limping around and no male my age likes to hear the word “limp”.

A bit of back-story – I hyper-extended my right knee in soccer practice in high school, either 1977 or 1978. I’m pretty sure it was junior year, so 1977. It hurt like hell when it happened, but the pain diminished rather quickly over time.

It was a stupid injury. I remember it like it was 35 years ago. I was playing fullback, chasing down a ball, cut back around one of my classmates, slipped and landed full-force on my right knee. I landed so hard, I kicked myself in the butt. This is known as “hyper-extension” and it is very bad. In exotic dancers, it’s called “flexibility” and is much more popular to watch.

I spent a couple of days at home with ice or heat (who remembers?) on my knee and spent the rest of the season on the sidelines. I was on the JV anyway, so it wasn’t that much of a demotion.

My mom took me to see an orthopedic surgeon and he said it wasn’t hurt badly enough to fix. Apparently, in the 70’s, there were knee injuries and then there were real knee injuries. He invited me to come back if I ever really hurt it. So, I finally had a knee injury after six or seven years of playing soccer, which would be cool, and it wasn’t worth fixing.

So, I can still say, “Yeah, tore up a knee playing soccer”, but there’s no cool scar to show off, and if you played soccer in Texas, it meant you couldn’t make the football team.

Over the years, it would go out every now and then. I would limp for a couple of days, and then it would straighten itself out and I’d be back to normal. So, I never really saw a reason to have it checked since a) it didn’t cause pain very often and b) it wasn’t bad enough to fix anyway. The most annoying part of the recurring pain was that it was completely unpredictable and it didn’t help determine the weather, like some injuries. Maybe only bad hips can tell when it will rain.

Fast-forward to December, 2009. My knee went out again. My wife convinced me to go see her knee specialist – she has a guy for almost every part of her body, which is not as slutty as it sounds, it just means she gets injured a lot.

First question – “When did this injury occur?” “Uh. That’s a good question – either 1977 or 1978, I’m not really sure.” Dramatic pause. “Why are you coming to see me now?” A clever answer would have been “Because now I have insurance and can afford you”, but I told the truth – it only went out sporadically and I had an existing (approximately 32-year old) medical opinion that it wasn’t worth fixing, anyway.

Dramatic pause. “Somebody told you it wasn’t worth fixing??”

“Yes, I had it checked right after the injury happened.”

“Ah. 1977. Well, back then, it might not have been worth it. Now, we can fix it.”

I assumed this meant prices have risen enough to cost-justify the doctor, hospital and related costs associated with out-patient surgery. (I also wondered if it was the same doctor, since he was not exactly young.)

So, then the questions went on – had I considered rebuilding it? Would I use my own tendon or a cadaver’s? (“Wow. Literally a dead man walking.” Even the doctor smiled.) It sounded painful, but doable – just a matter of scheduling. Then he mentioned the one major problem – no travel for up to six weeks after surgery.

Remember, this was in December. I was still in Lotus. January is Lotusphere. I was presenting. So, no surgery in December or January. February I had customer visits scheduled. March was end of quarter and completely unpredictable as to travel. By April, I had forgotten my knee had gone out.

A few months later, I received a lovely card from the doctor, as did my wife. He was retiring. “Oh, shit. I was going to have him fix my knee.” So, I forgot about it.

A couple of weeks ago, my knee went out. Ouch. I hobbled a bit, and it went back. Then, my left knee popped.

An unsettling thought occurred – “Hmm. Which knee did I actually injure in high school?”

If you can’t remember which knee you hurt in high school, perhaps your time there were not your “Glory Days”, in spite of what the Boss may say.

Both knees straightened themselves out in a couple of days.

Yesterday, I knelt down to look at the back of an entertainment unit my wife wanted to purchase and when I straightened up, BOOM! My right knee (“Dammit! That’s the one I hurt!”) popped out. It hurt. A lot. It was excruciating. It was much worse than usual. At first, I could barely wobble, and even though we were in a furniture store, there weren’t any chairs around to get off of it. So, I staggered around drunkenly until I found the proper limping motion to keep the weight off my leg, and then I was able to walk. Barely.

Bravely, my wife continued shopping. It’s why I love her so.

Eventually, we loaded the five boxes of the entertainment center parts into the car. Ouch. We drove home. We unloaded the five boxes of the entertainment center parts. Ouch. Ouch. (I dropped the end of one of the boxes on my foot. Try hopping in pain on a bad knee. It’s redundant.)

We went out to dinner. We parked uphill across the street from the restaurant. Ouch.

We went home. We walked the dogs. Ouch.

Finally, I tried to just lie down and put my leg up, but I couldn’t find a comfortable position. Luckily, I had dogs pushing me in various directions, trying to help me find the right way. Ouch.

I thought, “The last time this happened, I slept it off. So, I should be better in the morning.” That was last time. This time, notsomuch. So, for the first time in years, I called in sick – although I can actually just work from home, so I’m not really out sick, I’m just not in the office. Technically, it was more calling in “can’t drive“.

I had to tell some of my team why I wasn’t in. I’m sure the word has spread on the floor, so now everyone at the office knows why hiring the elderly is a risk. Also, I weigh slightly more than I did in high school, so nobody believes the “tore up my knee playing soccer” line, anyway.

Tomorrow, I go to see the orthopedic surgeon. Not my orthopedic surgeon, of course, since he retired. His replacement. I have a feeling my knee may have a replacement, as well.

If they fix one knee and not the other, I hope I don’t walk in circles.

Hard Times

So, we’re living in hard times – I hear that all the time. Constantly. It’s a battering ram for one political party against the other. It does seem like there is less of a lot of things these days. (Saying there is more of less just seems wrong.)

However, maybe it’s us. Maybe, just maybe our priorities are screwed up.

This occurred to me last night while we were at a Lady Antebellum concert. Three acts – Thompson Square, Darius Rucker,  and Lady Antebellum played a sold-out show at the American Airlines Center. We had tickets through the Darius Rucker fan club, but we had still paid over $100 for a pair of floor seats. A $59 ticket is a full day’s work, given a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

(This is not meant as a rant against Lady Antebellum or the other acts. It was a good show. This basic thought occurs to me every time we attend a concert.)

So, there were 21,000 people in attendance, since the band announced it was a sell-out and that’s what Wikipedia says the AAC holds for concerts. (Two unimpeachable sources.) I’m pretty sure we got a deal on tickets, since the box office was selling someone tickets for $99 (“good seats”) while we were at wll-call, and a scalper was selling his floor seats for $300. Each.

That’s a lot of money.

There were an amazing number of iPhones in attendance, which are not free, plus you have to pay to use them. There were some fairly sluttily-attired women, and from my understanding, looking slutty can be expensive.

The Spousal Unit and I had two cheeseburgers, a large Dr Pepper and a bottle of water before the show. That was another $29. We saw enough alcohol being consumed to require an AAC staff member to make the rounds with a mop. Seriously.

My point is that there was a lot of discretionary spending going on in the AAC and these are not the 1% that are supposed to be universally hated.These are the 99% that are constantly being told they are suffering. (This is not based on any specific research other than my understanding is that very few of the 1% actually own gimme caps.)

Maybe we are spending $200 a night plus $800 for a phone and $100 or more a month so we can take photos for Facebook to try to forget we’re poor. That might be the problem.

Now, I’m sure that some of these people will attend this one show this year and nothing else. However, it’s still a lot of money.At $59 a seat (and many paid more), there was over a million dollars of seats sold last night. The band announced it was their sixth sellout of the tour, so it’s not just Dallas.

Jimmy Buffett will be in town this summer, and he wants $136 EACH for tickets. Four hours after the show was announced, the only tickets at that price level were in the second tier. (To be fair, seats on the lawn – i.e. no seat at all – are only $36. We’re not going. I can’t see spending $300 to hear a bunch of songs I heard live when I was in college.) It should be noted that Jimmy Buffett probably does not set his own personal ticket prices. However, he reaps the benefits.

[Based on attendance at the last Buffett concert I attended, some of the Parrotheads are the 1%, trying to relive a life they never had. Doctors and lawyers make bad pirates. Well, doctors, anyway.]

We have a lot of money for concerts and concert accessories, apparently.

I’m as guilty as the rest, too – so I’m not just pointing fingers. There’s a certain list of artists who I will go see when they come to town, regardless of price (mostly.) I won’t pay $300 for Jimmy Buffett. I’ve paid more than that for Sir Paul McCartney. We paid close to that for Tom Petty floor seats after his Super Bowl show.

I can almost understand the price levels when there are only 21,000 seats available, since there are a lot of fixed costs involved with moving three bands around the country and setting up the stage and the light show. However, the prices don’t go down when you get to larger arenas (Cowboys Stadium, which has shit acoustics, seats five times as many people.) In fact, some times the prices go up.So, economies of scale don’t enter the equation.

You know, this started as a rant about the economy, but it’s turning into a rant against the music business.

Here’s how to help the music business – next time a touring band comes to town, and you wince when you see the ticket prices, just go down to your local bar, pay the cover (if any) and throw $10 in the band’s tip jar. You’re helping a small band, the local economy and you’re saving money. (If they don’t suck, buy a CD. Buy two. If they really don’t suck, ask if they’re on PledgeMusic or Kickstarter for their next project. Pledge.) Find your local community radio station, like KNON. Pledge. A lot.(Really. We’re in the middle of pledge drive at KNON.)

When you do see a local band, take the CD home and play it. See how it sounds very close to how they sounded live? That’s because the band plays the music, whether live or recorded. Now, do the same thing with a big touring act. Does it sound the same? It depends on how many musicians they have on stage with them. Also, you’ll never notice because the thousands of dollars of light show distracts you.

Maybe popular music should take a hint from classical – when you go to an orchestral concert, you have the music. I’ve never seen a cellist rise up from the middle of the stage at the Dallas Symphony. There isn’t a light show. The violinists don’t dash across the stage to trade solos. Why? Because people are there to listen, not see.

So, as always, the fundamental problem with the universe is MTV. I’m glad we got that cleared up.

A final note to national touring bands – you can stop telling us you appreciate how we’re spending our hard-earned money on you. We get it – you’re grateful. You’re also rich, so you don’t have to remind us that we’re not. If you’re really grateful, why not leave drop $20 off the ticket prices. Either that, or buy everyone a beer.

A final thought – yes, this is contrary to my earlier post, and yes, we had screamers behind us last night. Sigh. How many times has Barbra retired?

Home Again

One day next week, I’m changing jobs. I’ll be moving back to Developer Relations from my current technical sales job.

I was never meant to be in sales. In a way, I’m surprised I survived as long in technical sales as I did. I took the job because two people I trust recommended that I do so, but I really didn’t get what I expected.

I’m a geek. I admit it. I keep score at baseball games. My favorite part of a cruise is mapping the captured GPS coordinates when I get home. I love computers because they will do something repeatedly if you take the time to teach them to do it once. I love programming – I always have. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more pure programming jobs I could apply to do – without relocating, anyway.

I finally realized today why I would never fit well into a sales organization – this story happened a long time ago, back when I was a real programmer. I’m surprised I didn’t recall it until today, although my brain may have been trying to protect me from the knowledge. It’s a warning to anyone in a technical field that thinks sales looks like fun – not a warning to never do it, just a warning that the mindset is completely different, so be prepared.

I was working for a company that sold a Lotus Notes-based customer relationship management system – my job title was “consultant”, and my actual job was to customize the system for each specific customer. In this case, our customer was a heavy equipment manufacturer. We went to one of their largest dealers to ask the staff what features they required in a CRM system, besides what we already had.

Two of the interviews stand out – the parts manager who ran the depot and the senior sales manager. I talked to the parts manager, and his suggestion was to add an inventory of all the equipment that the customer owned, so when he looked at a customer’s record, he could easily find what they had, which told him what parts they might need. This sounded like a reasonable request to me – in fact, once I heard it, I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it before.

The sales manager said that would be nice, but what he really needed was a section for the customer’s secretary’s name, her birthday and what type of flowers she liked.

That’s the key difference between technical and sales. Technical is concerned with the problems that may need to be solved and how to solve them. Sales is concerned about accessing the right person and schmoozing them.

I can schmooze with the best of them when absolutely required, but I really don’t want it to be the centerpiece of my job.

I’d rather talk to machines than people. They talk back less.