Quick update…

It’s been a while since I’ve written an update on my leukemia journey. The primary reason for that has been that there hasn’t been much to say. And that’s good news!

I’ve had a handful of followup appointments, and I’m on a every-other-month schedule now. Next month I actually celebrate my 6 months since chemo milestone. It’s a big deal!

Unfortunately, over the past weekend I started experiencing a few concerning symptoms. After contacting my oncologist/hematologist at UCLA, he decided that I needed a few tests, to rule out any problems. There are not clear results yet. I will get feedback tomorrow or Wednesday.

I’m reporting this to you all, first and foremost seeking additional prayer. Please pray for my nerves and my attitude. I want to remain grounded enough right now, to fulfill my responsibilities as dad and husband. But also, please pray that I will glorify The Lord, no matter the trajectory of this journey, as it continues.

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2014 Challenge, Week 14: RULE OF THIRDS + a little bit more…

My other blog, PhotoChallenge.org, has weekly themed photography challenges. Each week myself, or one of the other 3 contributors, writes a post. Last week’s was a landscape theme, with a focus on a vanishing road. This week’s is focusing on the technical tool of the rule of thirds.

I blended to two into one image!

Vanishing Road

Vanishing Road

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Cameras for sale!!!

My handful of regular readers already know that I’m looking to condense my existing camera gear, from two bodies and numerous lenses, into a single Fuji X-T1. I’ll start with their kit, and slowly acquire the lenses I need/want. Below you’ll find all the gear I’m offering for sale, and a few details about each. The photos I’ve included are stock photos of each item. I can send you actual photos of any of these items, just ask. :-)

Nikon J1 – $400

Nikon J1

So, first up is my Nikon J1 and two lenses; a 10-30mm and a 30-110mm. This camera is the perfect choice for someone ready to upgrade from a point-n-shoot/pocket camera. This will take fantastic photos, automatically. Then when you’re ready to start learning about taking more control, you’ll have access to nearly every option you’d want.

The focus is rapid, and automatic. They call it live focus. It can take quite rapid shots, which is one of the most desired features that most point-n-shoots don’t have.

Here’s the highlights:

  • 10MP CMOS sensor
  • Hybrid AF system with both phase and contrast detection
  • 60fps at full resolution (with electronic shutter only)
  • 1080/60i video
  • ISO 100-3200
  • Built-in flash

There’s plenty more, you can read all about it at the link above, or more here. I’m including a filter set, that fit on both lenses, and a silver/white camera bag for the whole kit.

Nikon D7000 – $700

Nikon D7000Nikon D7000

Next up is my dSLR Nikon body, a D7000. Farther below you’ll also find several lenses and a speedlight.

The best review on this camera is found at KenRockwell.com. (In fact, go there for almost any camera review!)

Here’s a few highlights of the Nikon D7000:

  • 16 megapixels
  • SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • 6 frames per second
  • ISO 100 -6400
  • up to 1,920×1,080 / 24 fps HD video
  • 3.0 in. diagonal rear display

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 – $75

Nikon 50mm

Most of these items are self-explanatory. I’ve included a small photo, just for reference.

This lens, the 50mm, should be the kit lens with every digital SLR camera. And it should be the first lens every dSLR owner should get when their cheap plastic kit lens isn’t cutting it anymore.

Nikon 85mm f/1.8D – $350

Nikon 85mm

A great portrait lens!

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 – $275

Sigma 30mm

My first prime lens. If I only had one lens, this would be it!

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 - $350

Sigma 10-20mm

This has been my go-to lens for all things landscape. I will miss it terribly. I also used this for interior architectural photography for quite a while.

Sigma 70-300mm macro – $125

Sigma 70-300mm

It took me a while to realize that a macro lens is not really a distance zoom. Once I embraced that, this lens started really shining!

Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye – $250

Rokinon 8mm fisheye

This is one of those super fun artistic lenses. I avoided a fisheye for quite a while. But I’ll probably get one for my next camera second or third.

Nikon SB-700 speedlight – $300

Nikon SB-700

Once I started enjoying off-camera lighting, a speedlight like this became a necessary tool. I don’t know how I ever functioned without one.

This comes with a base for off-camera use, a built-in diffuser, and a clamp on diffuser. There’s also a green and orange plastic clip on, for tinting the color of the light.

If you’re interested in any of these items, please contact me. Feel free to email me, or message me on any of the social media platforms, if you’re already connected with me there.

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dSLR too big? Go mirrorless!

I think I’m ready to make a serious effort to reduce the size of my dSLR and accompanying lenses and gear.

Here’s the picture, pun intended. I sport a Nikon D7000, with a handful of lenses. I can cover from 12mm to 300mm, with a few small gaps between prime lenses. I also have a nice SB-600 speedlight.

My set up is great is many ways. I can shoot almost anything I want, other than decent zoom. That 70-300mm zoom is a macro lens, so it’s crap for things far away. I have several wants, but only one real complaint. My gear is bulky.

Toting around the body and a few lenses commits me to a large bag, that really can’t be blended with another bag, especially a backpack. So, if we go on a hike, I’m stuck with picking one lens, and maybe one in a pocket; because I need the backpack for water, snacks, etc.

I see the solution as either…

  1. Getting another lens, that is a much better all-around-lens.
  2. Rethinking my whole setup.

The first solution is easy. Get a 24-70mm f/2.8. That bad boy is over $1800 though. Yikes!

The second solution is taking a step back, and looking at my whole system. I see no point in converting to a traditional dSLR setup, with another manufacturer. Doing that is just swapping one set of gear for another, without changing my strategy. The whole idea is to address my largest complaint, the size and weight of all the gear together.

Ultimately I don’t care about having a cropped frame camera. If I ended up with a full frame sensor, that would be great, but I do not really believe that it’s necessary…for me.

When Nikon launched the 1 Series, their first mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera (MILC), we got one, and really like it. However, it’s not the path I want to go. I’m more excited about Sony’s a7 or Fuji’s X series. Those seem to keep the pro features of dSLRs, with serious lens options. I had hoped for Nikon’s DF to fix the 1 series’ error, but that missed my mark.

Side note: I’d consider Nikon’s DF, if it didn’t shed video! The only way I’ll be able to convert my setup would be to sell my existing gear. No way I could justify spending all the money, without generating some capital with the gear I don’t want to use anymore. So, selling my D7000, would dump my great video camera.

I’m glad to follow all the pro photographers with the extra income to not toss their gear, as they all acquire their favorite MILCs. Reading their reviews, following their short posts on social media, and seeing the fruits of their labor, I’m able to get a decent look at what’s available, and what’s worth my money.

So, as I’m considering all my options, I figured I’d do it out loud. It can be quite helpful to get input from others, whom I hadn’t considered already.

Those platforms I’m considering, in no particular order…

The requirements:

  • interchangeable lenses + a diverse selection of available lenses
  • minimum 16 megapixel sensor
  • HD video recording
  • hot shoe
  • 5-6 fps shutter
  • bracketing

Preferences:

  • optical viewfinder (not common with mirrorless cameras)
  • flash sync port
  • audio in/mic port (for video)

As you step back and understand what I’m talking about, maybe you have some thoughts you’d like to share? Please do! I tend to think out loud, especially with expensive items like this. Over the years I’d like to think I’ve been helpful to friends just getting started with a serious camera. I’m hoping now that others will see their ability to lend me some of their own experience and wisdom.

At the end of the day, I really cannot justify spending more of our limited income on yet more camera gear. This conversion will really only work if I can sell my existing gear, then use that capital to start building the new system. And that DOES mean that I’m inadvertently suggesting that I no longer be a Nikon guy.

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2014 Challenge, Week 10: DEPTH OF FIELD

For many of my newer readers, you might not know that I’m a contributor to PhotoChallenge.org. We post themed or technical photography challenges every so often, most of the time they’re weekly. I don’t always blog my own submissions to each week’s challenge, and I don’t always submit one at all. However, I’m going to try to post them here more regularly.

This is my submission for this week’s theme, which is a technical challenge focusing on “depth of field”. You can read about this week’s challenge here.

300mm, f/11, 0.4 sec, ISO 100

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Anyone got a new engine?

Traversing the last year I’ve acquired a handful of new readers. Blogging your cancer journey will do that. Most of you would agree, I yearn to focus on those things praiseworthy, and not just complain.

If you’re one of my readers who cares to pray for our family, please read on. In the midst of being on a disability income, we continue to praise the Lord for how He cares for us, in spite of the pitfalls of life; financial or otherwise.

With that said, I’m currently thankful to the Lord for giving me the clarity to see his hand of provision and care, in the midst of a slowly dying automobile.

Our family vehicle is a 2002 Honda Odyssey. We bought it new. We paid it off. We’ve driven nearly 180,000 miles in it; once to Texas and once to Washington. It has served us well. It should have served us well, we paid more for a brand that is considered dependable and long-lasting.

At about 130k miles, we had a new timing belt installed, but the tensioner was not replaced and failed very quickly thereafter, thus resulting in a seized engine. So, the dealership and Honda of America picked up 88% of the tab, and we kicked in the rest…for a top-end rebuild.

From then on, our loved Honda never had it’s telltale Honda purr, coming from under the hood. The engine sounded more like a redneck’s tinkered-with ol’ pickup truck. Fast forward 4 years and 50k miles, and the unhealthy sounds have turned into a legitimate knocking.

I should take this chance to mention that we have at our side a longtime friend of the family, with legitimate professional experience with these matters, and he is advising us and guiding us. Please don’t read this post and think I’m solely complaining or lacking in wisdom about our choices.

With the super loud knocking, and a check engine light on again, I took the Honda to another shop in town. They determined that the engine was misfiring all over the place, and that one of the cylinders appeared to have lost compression.

With more information, I returned to the dealership. I now had the knowledge that our engine was near its end. We spoke with the service manager, and laid out our problem. He committed to having our van properly diagnosed, and we left it with him over the weekend. (That was last Friday.) They determined that indeed our van needs a new engine. It’s what the factory-trained technicians refer to as “toast”. Because Honda of America had taken some responsibility for the last rebuild, they were given the opportunity to help again. They decided to commit to a portion of the rebuild, because of our longtime Honda loyalty. Considering our loyalty to the dealership, they decided to help offset the costs as well, resulting in our responsibility being much lower than if we’d footed the whole bill…to get a new engine installed in our beloved minivan. Seems like a good deal!

Once again, the Lord has brought us into an extended community of people willing to help us out, while we’re in this tight spot. Dealing with several people in a dealership, with the back and forth, can be frustrating. However, I sat down with Fabian, the General Manager, and I believe that he took the time to listen to me, and consider our situation. Sometimes, the best business decision is considering your customer’s unique situation and doing the best you can to accommodate.

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Jesus, Healer

Recently I had the blessing to speak about my journey with leukemia, at my church. If you’re interested, here’s the video.

JESUS, The Healer from Element Christian Church on Vimeo.

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You can be a blessing

Let me tell you a story. This story is about the burdens of a single-income home, when the single-income earner gets leukemia. The home consists of a husband, wife, 4 kids, and Oreo the border collie.

There’s a number of important factors that I’ll toss up to providence and empowerment to be good stewards. Some of these are the blessing of a well paying job, that provides decent health insurance and a fairly good long-term disability insurance. One important factor that fits here as well is the prompting of the Holy Spirit, to land at a local church that embraces teaching the Bible and truly living in gospel-bathed communities. In this local church, there are the official gospel communities and communities we erect around us. Sometimes they are one in the same, and other times they’re unique. Both are wonderful, and provide their own portions of what it means to BE the Church.

When dad got sick, he was whisked away to a month inpatient, to be poisoned with chemotherapy and recover. The wife stuck by his side, but 4 kids and a dog can’t fend for themselves.

Now, there’s no way to easily explain how it all went down, even with charts and graphics.

So, first I’ll tell you how the larger treatment plane went. The first treatment, called induction, was a month in the hospital. That put him into remission, and yet 3 more rounds of chemotherapy happened, called consolidation. Those 3 rounds were each a week of poisoning, a short break, then back into the hospital for 2 weeks.

See, I told you.

Right off the bat, family acted like family. That’s relevant because in 2013 western culture, we really don’t give a crap about family anymore. But not this family! Retired parents immediately adapted and took the 4 kids in, and sick dad’s stay-at-home sister simply added 4 to her 2, folding them into her daily routine. (“simply”, hah!) Then in-laws adapted, blessed by a teacher’s schedule, and cared for the kids as well. Homeschooling continued, and they were fed each day, sleeping somewhere safe. What more could one ask for?

The following consolidation rounds became more confusing, for all but the kids. They pretty much kept a decent routine. This is where a gospel-oriented community spreads its wings!

You see, they kept a decent routine each day, hanging with one family’s mother. The dog ran free with their dogs, and the kids kept up their homeschooling. Then, get this, each night the kids slept in their own beds! From within this gospel community, several volunteered to spend a night at the family’s home, allowing the kids to keep to their regular evening routines.

Once you think it through, you’ll begin to see not only what a fantastic sacrifice this was for a group of people, but what a fantastic blessing it became for the family.

Mixed in, throughout all this, there were meals delivered, to help keep the burdens low. There was thousands of dollars donated, to help the family bridge the gap from sick time at work and long-term disability kicking in. There were gift cards, to help with hospital parking. There were gas cards donated, to help with the 3 hour trips to and fro the hospital. One return from the hospital it was noticed that the new fire-alarms, purchased months ago, had been installed by one bald-headed handyman. And that’s not the only story of around-the-house fixes that happened.

As Christmas approached, the family resolved to forego the effort of decorating the house. It wasn’t unwanted, just not a lot of time or budget for such things. That was not a problem for the gospel community, they decorated the home, and even got them a Christmas tree.

For most, this effort wasn’t a burden or even an effort. It was an extension of who they’ve become. This little gospel community is somewhat diverse, and not really all that much the same…other than Jesus. When Jesus saved them, he began a work to transform them into Himself. Their character began a shift towards a common end goal.

That’s what unites this whole community. So, it was with little second-thought that they rose to care for one of their own. Not one blessed effort is minimized, as I look at the whole story arc, thus far. So many have helped, with their time, talent, and treasure.

Yet, the collective work of this gospel community cannot be seen detached from the overwhelming blessings from God. It is these very works that are God’s work, with Him choosing to use them.

The brokenness of cancer can destroy. But the work of the Lord, brings about care and comfort through it all. No matter the endgame of leukemia, blessings continue to roll in.

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My first post-hospital milestone!

Hey friends, I should have posted this yesterday, but I was busy celebrating.

In the progress of treating and healing from leukemia, there are several milestones that patients can look forward to, and celebrate. The longest one, is 5 years. Apparently that’s the first time that the word “cure” is even allowed to be uttered.

But for peeps like me, we need a few milestones to look forward to that are a bit closer. I spoke with my Nurse Practitioner about those yesterday. Working backwards, the one year mark (from my last day of my last chemotherapy, which was 11/26/13) is another milestone. Apparently the first year is the highest likely time for a relapse.

The next milestone is 6 months, from my last chemo. That’ll be 5/26/14. I think I’ll have a party then. However, there’s one more milestone…

The first real milestone, after my final hospital day, is the day that my blood lab results recover to normal ranges. They’re looking at my white blood cell count, my accumulated nucleated cell count, my hemoglobin, and my platelet counts.

That day was yesterday! So, I’ve hit my first milestone worth celebrating!

And I did. Dad and I visited a new craft brewery in Camarillo, and tasted their whole flight of beers. It wasn’t a big party, but it was a party. Actually, it was quite nice to celebrate just my dad and I. Of course there was a celebratory tone over dinner with my parents and their besties. And I’m sure to keep celebrating over the next few days and weeks!

I think I’ll go for a bike ride now.

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Headaches suck.

I’m on a roll, and feeling much better!

The past few days have been rough, here at the UCLA Medical Center. I’ve had the most horrible headache/migraine, almost worse than the month-long migraine I had just prior to my leukemia diagnosis.

By yesterday, late morning, I could not even sit up in bed. I was taking the max pain med, and had constant ice on my neck and lower head. The docs really aren’t sure about this symptom. They’ve been helping me beat it back, but where it’s coming from, we don’t know.

Honestly, it could be as simple as me nearly going off coffee. (That’s why I’ve been drinking coffee like Steve Mann today. And it’s helping, I think.)

Anyways, it’s been a rough few days here, but I think I’m pulling out of it.

My numbers are mostly bottomed out.

As you may know, I track my daily blood lab results on a spreadsheet, that makes a chart for me. Seeing a visual representation helps me get a better idea of where I’m at in my neutropenic period. The gist of my time here is that my numbers are falling as I arrive. Then they bottom out. Then they recover. Once they recover to a certain point, I go home. So comparing the current numbers with my last post-chemo neutropenia, I can make educated guesses about my progress.

So, being bottomed out, I have hope that I’m now transitioning to the back end of my stay here. Since this was my third and final round of chemotherapy, I am also approaching that time when I return home…for good.

Praise God.

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