Neil Kandalgaonkar

hacker, maker of things

Spine operation cancelled

Long story short, but my spine operation has been cancelled, or maybe just delayed, depending on how you want to look at it.

Last year I had a lot of back pain, but nothing at all this year. Given that I haven’t had any trouble in the last few months, and have never made the symptoms they look for (like a loss of coordination) my surgeon decided the risk of operating was greater than the risk of doing nothing. There are many people like me who have a spinal stenosis, who never have symptoms, who never get surgery.

However, we only had a really clear look at it last year, in a couple of scans. If it’s growing quickly, maybe surgery is a good idea after all. So, I just got another MRI done. The surgeon will review the results pretty soon.

But the surgeon seems to think that I can go about my business until I notice something wrong, which could be decades in the future.

I suppose I should be happy, but it’s more anticlimactic. I feel a lack of closure more than anything.


UPDATE: The operation was cancelled.

TLDR: I’m having a spine operation in May. Wish me luck.

When I left California in 2012, I thought I would be doing a little traveling over that year, and preparing for a quick return in 2013. Instead, I had a number of health issues that delayed that.

The biggest problem is that I have what they call a spinal stenosis. Stenosis is a fancy doctor word for “narrowing”.

This is from one of my MRIs. You’re looking at a couple of slices of my body, perpendicular to the spine. In the segment on the left, the spine is mostly normal. But a few millimeters away, the backbone is squeezing the spinal cord. Instead of a nice round conveyance for nerves, it looks like a Fig Newton that’s been stepped on.


I love explaining things. One day, after all this computer madness is over, I’m going to have to make that part of what I do.

In the meantime I content myself with explaining things to myself. Seriously, when I’m learning things, I am continually crafting little rhetorical tricks to explain and re-explain something.

Luckily I have a girlfriend who thinks this is kind of sexy. She’s an actress and administers a local theatre, so for her, algorithms are exotic spices from the Orient.

When she came over last night to take care of me (I’ve been sick) she thought the whiteboard looked really cool, and demanded to know what it was. So….


I’ve been thinking about the idea of the Minimum Viable Product a lot over the past six months. Particularly the notion of validation.

It’s rapidly become the new dogma for people doing technology startups. And yet, I’ve been privileged to know the founders of a lot of successful startups, or people who’ve created similarly impressive things. None of them did anything like the MVP, and it doesn’t seem to be the philosophy that guides their actions.

Dr. Sketchy’s

Dr Sketchy Vancouver Lola Frost 11 by Neil

I tried Dr. Sketchy’s for the first time. I expected it to be hipstery and ironic, but I found it to be intense. Lots of pro or semi-pro artists in attendance, and despite being in a bar where drinks were served it was quiet. I wore my crappy colored pencils down to nubs by the end. The performer, Lola Frost, has such presence - I’ve never seen anyone like her. She also did a strip-tease at half-time - sexy, artful, generous, and powerful.

I want to do this again. I’m generally a digital guy, and in some more flippant moods I might dismiss sketching as an obsolete skill.

But there is a value to it – one I didn’t expect – of staring, intently, with permission, for hours, at one person. It was like a kind of meditation.

SF neighborhoods

Happily busy

No Vacancy by taberandrew
There has not been the slightest bit of vacancy for upwards of six months. Not because there are tourists or anything, but really just because I think they like the sign to say that.

Brandywine WV

I took down the sidebar that says I’m looking for contracts or other work - I am happily all booked up, if not overbooked.

I should update the resume, but here’s what I’ve been doing:

Shame tactics

My friend Ari Lacenski just wrote a short piece on some tactics she saw developing in the reaction to sexism in the tech industry. Go read it - “Shaming, Doxxing, and Making Culture”, but if you’re impatient, the conclusion is:

I see that at least three Double Union participants believe that shaming and doxxing are good ways to get men to work with, sympathize with, and value women. I dissent, and believe that culture can only really be changed with kindness.

First of all, I want to recognize how much courage it takes to dissent with fellow dissenters, on principle, and in public. I had a similar test in my past, and I didn’t do so well. And maybe that incident will be illuminating for people who think that having a shame-fest is going to bring about change.