31 December 2010

New Year's Eve

The Guy and I are welcoming in the New Year alone at his parent's house in Louisiana. This will be his last New Year celebration in the home where he grew up. We've been busy all day (well, I've only been supervising) getting things organized and packed. Still a lot to do, but I think we will get finished in another couple of days.

I hope the new year brings health and happiness to all of you!

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Mama, they took my Kodachrome away...

Yesterday marked the end of an era. I've known it was coming. Photographers all over the world have known it was coming. Kodak made the announcement over a year ago in June 2009. The last roll of Kodachrome film was processed in a little lab in Kansas.

Kodachrome was THE film. It's the film I first learned to use with my first Canon 35mm camera. Kodachrome 64. It's the film my grandmother always used, especially on their yearly trips to the Southwest and Colorado. I have all of her slides, as well as my own. My grandmother is the one who got me in to photography in the first place. This is the film that saved Frank Lloyd Wright's Arizona Rose Parade Float (from 1957) for posterity. Although with the rest of the world I have moved to mostly digital photography, I still have one uprocessed roll along with half a dozen unshot rolls of this film. RIP Kodachrome.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Phoenix, AZ float in the 1957 Tournament of Roses Parade

Rainbow at Cade's Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Kodachrome Basin State Park

From the New York Times:

For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas
PARSONS, Kan. - An unlikely pilgrimage is under way to Dwayne’s Photo, a small family business that has through luck and persistence become the last processor in the world of Kodachrome, the first successful color film and still the most beloved.

That celebrated 75-year run from mainstream to niche photography is scheduled to come to an end on Thursday when the last processing machine is shut down here to be sold for scrap.

In the last weeks, dozens of visitors and thousands of overnight packages have raced here, transforming this small prairie-bound city not far from the Oklahoma border for a brief time into a center of nostalgia for the days when photographs appeared not in the sterile frame of a computer screen or in a pack of flimsy prints from the local drugstore but in the warm glow of a projector pulling an image from a carousel of vivid slides.

In the span of minutes this week, two such visitors arrived. The first was a railroad worker who had driven from Arkansas to pick up 1,580 rolls of film that he had just paid $15,798 to develop. The second was an artist who had driven directly here after flying from London to Wichita, Kan., on her first trip to the United States to turn in three rolls of film and shoot five more before the processing deadline.

The artist, Aliceson Carter, 42, was incredulous as she watched the railroad worker, Jim DeNike, 53, loading a dozen boxes that contained nearly 50,000 slides into his old maroon Pontiac. He explained that every picture inside was of railroad trains and that he had borrowed money from his father’s retirement account to pay for developing them.

'That’s crazy to me,” Ms. Carter said. Then she snapped a picture of Mr. DeNike on one of her last rolls.

Demanding both to shoot and process, Kodachrome rewarded generations of skilled users with a richness of color and a unique treatment of light that many photographers described as incomparable even as they shifted to digital cameras. 'Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day,” Paul Simon sang in his 1973 hit 'Kodachrome,” which carried the plea 'Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away.”

As news media around the world have heralded Thursday’s end of an era, rolls of the discontinued film that had been hoarded in freezers and tucked away in closets, sometimes for decades, have flooded Dwayne’s Photo, arriving from six continents.

'It’s more than a film, it’s a pop culture icon,” said Todd Gustavson, a curator from the George Eastman House, a photography museum in Rochester in the former residence of the Kodak founder. 'If you were in the postwar baby boom, it was the color film, no doubt about it.”

Among the recent visitors was Steve McCurry, a photographer whose work has appeared for decades in National Geographic including his well-known cover portrait, shot in Kodachrome, of a Afghan girl that highlights what he describes as the 'sublime quality” of the film. When Kodak stopped producing the film last year, the company gave him the last roll, which he hand-delivered to Parsons. 'I wasn’t going to take any chances,” he explained.

At the peak, there were about 25 labs worldwide that processed Kodachrome, but the last Kodak-run facility in the United States closed several years ago, then the one in Japan and then the one in Switzerland. Since then, all that was left has been Dwayne’s Photo. Last year, Kodak stopped producing the chemicals needed to develop the film, providing the business with enough to continue processing through the end of 2010. And last week, right on schedule, the lab opened up the last canister of blue dye.

Kodak declined to comment for this article.

The status of lone survivor is a point of pride for Dwayne Steinle, who remembers being warned more than once by a Kodak representative after he opened the business more than a half-century ago that the area was too sparsely populated for the studio to succeed. It has survived in part because Mr. Steinle and his son Grant focused on lower-volume specialties - like black-and-white and print-to-print developing, and, in the early ’90s, the processing of Kodachrome.

Still, the toll of the widespread switch to digital photography has been painful for Dwayne’s, much as it has for Kodak. In the last decade, the number of employees has been cut to about 60 from 200 and digital sales now account for nearly half of revenue. Most of the staff and even the owners acknowledge that they primarily use digital cameras. 'That’s what we see as the future of the business,” said Grant Steinle, who runs the business now.

The passing of Kodachrome has been much noted, from the CBS News program ”Sunday Morning” to The Irish Times, but it is noteworthy in no small part for how long it survived. Created in 1935, Kodachrome was an instant hit as the first film to effectively render color.

Even when it stopped being the default film for chronicling everyday life - thanks in part to the move to prints from slides - it continued to be the film of choice for many hobbyists and medical professionals. Dr. Bharat Nathwani, 65, a Los Angeles pathologist, lamented that he still had 400 unused rolls. 'I might hold it, God willing that Kodak sees its lack of wisdom.”

This week, the employees at Dwayne’s worked at a frenetic pace, keeping a processing machine that has typically operated just a few hours a day working around the clock (one of the many notes on the lab wall reads: 'I took this to a drugstore and they didn’t even know what it was”).

'We really didn’t expect it to be this crazy,” said Lanie George, who manages the Kodachrome processing department.

One of the toughest decisions was how to deal with the dozens of requests from amateurs and professionals alike to provide the last roll to be processed.

In the end, it was determined that a roll belonging to Dwayne Steinle, the owner, would be last. It took three tries to find a camera that worked. And over the course of the week he fired off shots of his house, his family and downtown Parsons. The last frame is already planned for Thursday, a picture of all the employees standing in front of Dwayne’s wearing shirts with the epitaph: 'The best slide and movie film in history is now officially retired. Kodachrome: 1935-2010.”

And you knew there had to be a tee shirt:

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30 December 2010

Thursday Medical Update - Roseannerosannadanna

The Guy and I had been planning to come to Louisiana after we got back from DisneyWorld to try to finish going through things at his Mom's house so that we can get it ready for the estate sale. After I saw the doc on Tuesday, I asked him would it be OK for me to make the trip. He said as long as I didn't get any worse and avoided people it would be fine. The Guy and I would be alone at the house with no need for me to see anyone, so this morning early we set off. I figured I could lay in bed and feel bad in LA as easily as I could in AL.

About mid-morning I got a phone call. It was my doctor's office. The test results from Tuesday came back. I have the FLU. Does this not make you wonder why you get a flu shot??? I had begun to wonder why I was feeling so crummy with just a regular upper respiratory infection. We had some discussion and decided that since the Guy and I were already enroute, the trip might as well continue. They wanted to call me in a prescription for Tamiflu. That required me to look up a pharmacy here in LA and call them back with the number. (Don't smart phones make life a lot easier?) When I called back we had discussion about my chemo. It seems I need time to get over the flu. I'll get the picc line next week, but not start the Vidaza until 10 January. After getting all psyched up to start it this week, it's a little bit of a let down to wait two weeks, but seriously, I don't want to risk getting sicker. So I'm looking at this as a slight reprieve.

Gilda Radner wrote a book about her journey with ovarian cancer and she personally recorded it as an audiobook. In the introduction she talks about when she was diagnosed and says, "Suddenly I had to spend all my time getting well." I can so relate to that! The story chronicles her inspiring attempt to keep an upbeat attitude during her illness, and the title is It's Always Something. Cheers to you, Gilda. and thanks for all the memories.

And remember,

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28 December 2010

Tuesday Medical Update, Odds & Ends, Disney, etc.

I am so blessed. My friends, both cyber and IRL, are the best in the world. I just can't tell y'all how much your care, concern, love and support mean to me.

Today's medical news: after I had blood tests and saw the doctor, he decided to wait until next week to start my treatment. I am running a low grade fever and have an upper respiratory infection. He doesn't want to give me the chemo, crash my immune system and have me get pneumonia. My neutrophils were quite low today. Sigh. I'm neutropenic, as a matter of fact. My instructions were to come home, go to bed and avoid going out amongst strangers, people who might be sick, etc. So that is what I have done and am drinking a nice cup of green tea, eating a biscuit baked by DD#2, and working on this post.

Odds and ends:
I love my doc at Vanderbilt. He's VERY good. He knows I am a reasonable, thinking, intelligent person and tells me everything and all the options. Good traits in a doctor.

Two weeks before we went to DisneyWorld, my doc took his family there. (He has a wife and two little girls.) The girls love everything Disney, but my doc's very most favourite thing at WDW is (are you ready?): Turkey Legs.

Smoked Turkey Legs, Mickey Ice Cream Bars, and Dole Whips are the signature snacks of Disney. Though how a 1 1/2 lb leg of poultry is considered a snack is beyond me! Anyway, at my appointment right before their trip, he told us how much he was looking forward to eating a turkey leg again. Fast forward to my next appointment. He was back from his trip and we were about to leave on ours. Lo and behold, horror of horrors, he had missed getting his turkey leg.

Smoked turkey legs are available in all the parks. At the Magic Kingdom you buy them from a cart in Frontierland. Epcot sells them at the Fife and Drum Tavern in the American Pavillion. You can buy them at Toluca Turkey Legs at the Disney Studios and Animal Kingdom has them available at Safari Turkey Legs on Discovery Island. They're everywhere, they're every where! Turkey leg snobs think it is lame to get them anywhere but the Magic Kingdom, but most people seem to think they taste the same, no matter which location sells them.

The Guy and I discussed the situation and took a couple of boxed styrofoam coolers with us to Florida. Just before we packed to leave Disney, he and I went over to Epcot to get my hands hennaed in Morocco and buy some Turkey Legs at the Fife and Drum. (My hands/arms look fabulous, btw. I got the Healer and Health designs, figuring that every bit of good karma helps!) The cast members packaged up three turkey legs for us and we immediately took them back to the room and iced them down in the coolers. Today we delivered one to my doc. The other two are in our freezer to eat another day. It really was funny to see the doc's face when he opened the box and realized what he had.

2. Last night when we were leaving the hotel to go to dinner, my car wouldn't shift from park to reverse. On the second try it shifted OK, so we thought it was a fluke. Then when we were coming home from dinner it again wouldn't shift. Got out the book and did what it said, using a key to unlock the shift. The last line of the directions said, "Something is wrong with your car. Take it to your dealer for repair." Duh. I figured that out on my own.

However, we still had things to do in Nashville today. We used the key to unlock the shift every time we had to move the car. As soon as we got home and the Guy got the car unloaded, we took it over to our dealer. They called around 4:30 and said that something had gotten spilled in the gearshift (Coke, coffee, etc) and gummed it up. Now I don't drink soft drinks. I do drink coffee, but I always have it in a travel cup in the car. I think something got spilled in it previously and the bitterly cold weather last night caused it to get all sticky. Luckily they can get it fixed by tomorrow. I'm glad it was something that simple. Whew!

3.This past week a very unusual astronomical event occurred. Full moon, lunar eclipse and winter solstice all happened on the same night. This is the first time that has happened since 1638. I went outside our room at the Polynesian during totality and the view was amazing! The Magic Kingdom was open late that night for Extra Magic Hours. If it hadn't been so cold I would have gotten on the launch that went from the Poly to MK and watched the eclipse out on the water. Earlier in the evening as the full moon was rising this was the view that many visitors saw.

Isn't it magical?
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27 December 2010

Medical Update: Eat, Drink & Be Merry...

for tomorrow I start chemo again.

Those of you who have been reading the last couple of weeks know that our family went to Walt Disney World for Christmas. We had a wonderful time seeing everything decorated for the holidays, meeting with the wedding planner, visiting our cousins, and in general enjoying ourselves. The girls were sick for a few days, but Docs on Call came to the room and took care of them. I had a small incident on Christmas Eve and had to go to ER to get my eye checked (flashing lights and floaters), but all in all, we'd much rather have these things happen at DisneyWorld where everything is magical instead of at home where it was grey, cold and snowy.

Given all that has been going on the last few months, it is time for a medical update. And hence the title of this post. My bone marrow transplant was on 18 July 2009. When I passed the one year mark, I moved to what Vanderbilt calls "long term care". Normally that consists of going every month at first for a check-up and bloodwork. Then it moves to every 2 months, every 3 months and eventually to every 6 months until I reach the FIVE YEAR mark - 18 July 2014. At five years the docs consider me cured.

I was doing very well and had graduated to the every 2 months schedule and was about to move to the 3 month schedule. My hair has grown back in great, and darker than it was before. (Still not the black that I always wanted, but a very dark brown.) Then my chymerisms (how they measure the percent of donor bone marrow to my original bone marrow) begin to drop. It was not dramatic, but the doc moved me backward to the 1 month schedule and we were watching the counts. The chymerisms dropped a little lower. Still not dramatic, so we were still watching them. Then the last time there was a somewhat dramatic drop. The counts had been at 100%. Then they dropped to 97%. Then 95% and maintained there for a while. The last time the drop was to 80%.

This is not a good trend. I had another bone marrow biopsy and they discovered a few dysplasia cells in the DNA line that controls my platelet production. So something needs to be done about that. There are two options:
1. Give me a boost of my donor's T-cells.
2. Give me Vidaza (chemo drug) and plan for it to get rid of the dysplasia and give my donor cells an opportunity to come back and knock out the original bone marrow cells.

Giving a boost of donor T-cells carries a somewhat significant risk of graft vs host disease that is easy to get out of control. Giving the Vidaza will knock down my counts and I will have to be really careful about germs, sick people, etc. while taking that.

Every Monday afternoon, the doctors in the transplant unit have a big confab where they discuss all potential patients and current patients with any problems. They discussed me there before ever deciding I was good transplant candidate. So two weeks ago, my case was back up for discussion. The consensus was that they think it would be better for me to take Vidaza. Long time readers will remember that I had four rounds of Vidaza before I had the transplant and it made me worse instead of better. Now it is a whole new ball game. Back then I was really sick and deteriorating rapidly anyway. Now I have been doing very well and have my donor's healthy bone marrow to take over when the dysplasia is eradicated.

THE PLAN: Tomorrow morning I check in at Vanderbilt for lab work, a picc line insertion, and the first infusion of Vidaza. This will take most of the day. As I have a cough and very slight fever, that may change after they look at my bloodwork in the morning, but so far, this is what is expected. I will get Vidaza for a week, skip two weeks, and get another round of Vidaza. They will be checking my blood counts regularly. As long as the counts don't get too low, I will skip another two weeks and then have a third round of Vidaza. Within another two weeks, I will have a bone marrow biopsy to see where I stand. The hope is that the treatment will have worked perfectly, that I won't need any more Vidaza and that I won't need a T-cell infusion.

So the eat, drink and be merry part was what I was doing at DisneyWorld the last ten days. And chemo should start tomorrow.

Dear friends, once again I would be grateful for any healing thoughts, prayers, good karma and expressions to the universe that you would be willing to send. At The Monroe Institute they have put me on their DEC healing list, too. I continue to think positively and plan for the best.

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25 December 2010

Christmas @ Disney ~ 8: Christmas Comes but Once a Year

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Not my photo - was sent to me in e-mail.

From the Happiest Place on Earth
Walt, Mickey, Minnie and all the gang.

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24 December 2010

Christmas @ Disney ~ 7: Happy Christmas to All!

Happy Holidays, Joyeux Noël, Merry Christmas,
Feliz Navidad, Mele Kalikimaka

I want to wish everyone a most joyous celebration this year. May Santa bring everyone exactly what you wanted. My card started out as a vintage mid-century modern card that I bought on eBay. I loved the pink and turquoise as those are the colours we use to decorate the house in town. They go perfectly with our mid-century silver aluminum tree that the Guy's mother bought back in 1960.

Several years ago I scanned the card and used it as the basis for my digital Christmas card that year. This year I decided to revisit the pink tree card with my new digital image editing program - Kaleidoscope. What fun this program is! I've had the greatest time playing around with it. And after I kaleidoscoped it, I did some more editing of the image in Photoshop to produce this year's card.

And it just so happens that my pink Christmas tree card is just the thing for Pink Saturday, hosted by Beverly at How Sweet the Sound. She loves pink and graciously invited the rest of us to play along. Check out her blog to see who all else is enjoying this week's pink Christmas party.

This is day seven of our Christmas vacation in DisneyWorld. I'm thinking we may go over to the Magic Kingdom and do something totally decadent, like eating a turkey leg and watching the Very Merry Christmas Parade. Tonight we will watch the electric boat parade and Wishes fireworks from our room here at the Polynesian.

Now don't stay up too late tonight. Cause you know who is comin' to town!

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