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Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Metacarpal Mitosis

"Aieeeeee. Garrett* told me about your traumatic hand breaking incident. Has the swelling gone down any yet?"

"Only in my wallet."

I finally made it back to Tahoe, set up my room and office in prep for a good month of productive work ahead, and then took one last detour to the bay area to visit some friends and to attend Aaron's fourth annual house-warming party. Friday night after dinner I stopped by Aaron's to say hello since I was in the neighborhood, and there was already a sizable pre-party composed of many of the out-of-town folks crashing at Aaron's for the weekend. I headed home (Tom's sofa) at 2am, party sated, and realized I felt no need to go to the real party any more but knew I would anyway.

Saturday I called my friend Mike who I haven't seen in forever, and happened to catch him home with a little time to spare so he fed me cheese and crackers and we tried to catch each other up on all that has and hasn't happened in the last many years. His appearance and bohemian character have hardly changed since he hired me as a computer graphics hacker at the San Diego Supercompter Center back when I was eighteen. A year or so after we first met, he moved up to the bay area and hired me on as a consultant for a graphics company there, where I eventually met Richard, which in turn led me to Apple, other ventures, and eventually Megacorp. So whenever people ask me how I got wherever it is that I am, the story usually starts with Mike.

I headed back to Tom's and we mozied over to the seemingly continuous party.

Shortly before sunset some of us wandered out to the lawn to do cartwheels and stupid human tricks, only to find ourselves joining a rapidly growing contingent of folks who'd had the same idea.

In what is perhaps a subconscious strategy to avoid living through old age, I passed my annual diagnostic and verified that I can still do a standing back flip. Yay, I get to live another year. Unfortunately, it's the seemingly harmless things that can surprise you:

That last trick proved truly stupid when on the way down in a twist something in my left hand made a loud SNAP! accompanied by, shall we say, pain. I quietly excused myself from the human circus and wandered off to poke and prod at my hand to see if I could figure out what I did to it--with the unfortunate conclusion that I'd broken the metacarpal bone of my left ring finger.

Not wanting to repeat my last boondoggle with E.R., I spent most of the rest of the party with a tie-dye pillow case wrapped around my arm to hide the splint Aaron and friends improvised for me, seemingly successfully hiding the fact that I was in excruciating pain. Strangely, only a couple of people even inquired why I had my arm wrapped in a pillow case. Rion and I even practiced two-person two-handed (one hand each) club juggling with some success.

I later wandered into one of the rooms to find people dancing to YMCA:

We headed off around 2am again, and come morning I called a few urgent care clinics who all eagerly wanted me to come in so they could charge me hundreds of dollars to replace my splint with a comparable one (none offered a permanent solution). So Tom and I had a yummy dinner at Mango Cafe and I hit the phones again Monday, wherein I had, repeatedly, the most remarkable conversation: "I think I broke my hand." "Ok, we can see you mid July." There honestly was not a bone doc within 50 miles who would see me in less than two or three weeks.

Tom wisely hid in the lab and got some work done while I was busy beating my head against the phone book.

Having run out of options, I went to Palo Alto Medical Center's urgent care so I could at least get an x-ray to find out if I was just being a wuss. I asked for copies of the x-ray on the spot, knowing they'd be hard to get later. The tech said she'd take the primaries first and copy them if there was anything wrong. She copied them. (It proved fortuitous later that I was holding my own copies--it got me in to see the orthopod same day instead of three to five days later...)

Apparently this sort of break is a common consequence of twisting a hand. First time I've actually broken a bone. I fractured a wrist bone once skateboarding, but it was just a crack, not a bifurcation.

Before I could protest, there was a nurse in the room making up another temporary splint, no better than the one I had walked in with. God knows how much they'll charge me for that one, or for the slightly longer half-plaster one the ortopedist upstairs made me two hours later as he amusingly chewed on his protruding tongue while cinching down the wrap so tight that half way back to Tahoe my fingers turned purple and my hand started cramping (you can bet that felt good; I had to drive the rest of the way with my hand over my head until I got home and re-wrapped it myself). So, basically I got a set of x-rays and a slightly better splint for... I am guessing $800 to $1000? (I wonder how this would have transpired in New Zealand?) So I'm missing a hand for the next month or two, and I'm told to expect my ring finger to be a little shorter than it used to be. Oh well, it's all getting recycled eventually anyway.

Speaking of New Zealand, this arrived a few minutes ago:

Thought you might want to know about what was going on in the building you took a photo of in Wanganui (with the criss-cross pattern--otherwise known as the "Ziggurat of Love" ;). It's the current home of the Wanganui School of Design... and probably what was going on inside were lots of people working their butts off designing stuff (24/7)... and playing computer games... and whizzing around the large corridors on chairs... and having handstand competitions... and playing hacky... etc. It probably would have looked the same at about 3am in the morning as it did when you took the photo--there is always something going on inside.

Damn this entry took a long time to type one-handed. So much for my coming month of productive work. :(

I obviously won't be emailing much for a while, but I'm here through the end of July so can be reached by phone (email me for the #).

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com