Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Bit Of Perspective

I just read a news story about the NRA filing a suit against the NOPD claiming they didn't make a "good faith effort" to find the owners of guns confiscated after Katrina. The NOPD managed to return about 100 out of 1000 guns. The NRA's hired private investigators were able to find 75 of the 300 owners they identified for their suit. "Finding these folks has been a nightmare," they lawyer is quoted as saying. I say the difficulty the NRA is having in finding these people just leads me to believe that the NOPD did in fact make a decent "good faith effort." Here's the story.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Story Of A Squishy Gift

I got some nice things for Christmas this year. What I'll likely enjoy most are the DVD sets of Superbad (from my wife,) the complete Blackadder series (from my in-laws,) and the second season of HBO's Rome (from my parents, who apparently didn't notice the first season was still on my wishlist. Oh well. My birthday's not far off.) The most memorable, though, was something much more ephemeral, but it's not memorable for the nature of the gift itself, but rather on what happened to it.

My parents sent us a box of gifts for us, my in-laws, and our niece & nephews on my wife's side. We opened the box yesterday and among the individually wrapped gifts inside were a couple small round-ended gifts for me. They felt soft and I squeezed them a bit, guessing they were socks or some such thing.

This morning my wife and I opened our gifts from each other and from my parents. I squeezed the soft ones again, still speculating they were socks. I opened the first one and found that whatever it was was wrapped in bubble wrap. That was a good thing because it turned out to be a chocolate Hubig's pie. Oops. The other was the same thing. I opened and ate the softer-feeling of the two and it turned out fine, if cracked in one or two places. I think being surrounded by plastic kept the crust a bit moister than it would have been, and therefore a bit less prone to crumbling. That was fortunate. I can only imagine their condition had I squeezed them like I did if they were wrapped unprotected.

Maybe I'll post more later. For now I need to work on some Secret Headquarters business to prepare for tomorrow.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Another Outlet For My Genius

Okay, maybe that's overstating things a bit, but we all do have our moments of genius and near-genius, don't we? Well, I'm hoping one or two of mine will occur through the lens of a camera because I've signed onto another print-on-demand site. This time it's, which is focused on high-quality art and photo prints with a large assortment of frame and mat choices. If you have image files big enough, you can get prints up to 60"x45". The size selections for each image are automatically limited by the resolution of the image.

It's pretty easy. You sign up, pick an account type (they range from free with a 1-gallery/200M/24 image limit, to $11.99/month or $94.99/year unlimited Platinum plan,) create & name your gallery(s), and upload photos to them or import from Flickr. After that you can set names & descriptions and tags (if you want your images to be found in the on-site search,) and set your markup if you want more or less than the default 10%. And of course you should set up your profile and payment information so you can get the checks they should eventually be sending out.

It's fun! You can find my stuff, currently a dozen photos, here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

For The Record

A few of you may have already heard. Our second IVF cycle failed. This time we didn't even see a chemical pregnancy, though we may have just been lucky to catch it the first cycle.

We're regrouping now. We still have two embryos frozen so we can try again at a lower cost than a full cycle, though there is a chance neither will survive being thawed. My inclination at this point is to let my wife's younger sister try carrying them, or at the very least have a more thorough examination of my wife, perhaps a scope of her uterus, to determine if there are any factors preventing implantation. If there are, and it's just something correctable, we can do something about it before we try again. If there's something that's not fixable, we'd pretty much be left with my sister in law as a carrier.

If that fails, we might consider IUI with donor sperm. I'm thinking since I do have some fair-enough sperm, though admittedly not much, I'd like to see if we could do IUIs with a mix of my sperm and that of a near-lookalike donor. At least then any child to come of it could be genetically mine.

For now, we're taking a little time off to get some distance from the disappointment so we can make good rational decisions to maximize our chances for a baby. It's not that difficult to take our minds off it at the moment, actually, since we both have bad colds. I'll be getting back to blogging about other things as well.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Post-Transfer IVF Update

We transferred four embryos Wednesday, all graded 3+. (Yes, that's actually them in the picture.) We talked to the embryologist afterward and he told us he tends to be a little tougher in his grading than the other embryologist who graded the three we transferred last time, and she probably would have given three of this batch's embryos a 4-. Last time we had a 4-, a 3+, and a 3, so we have more and somewhat better embryos transferred this time around. As it turns out, a tenth fertilized embryo was spotted, though it was less developed than the others. A late fertilization apparently.

It was kind of rough on my wife. She was rather bloated from all the fluid built up before and after the egg retrieval, and the ultrasound nurse had a very firm hand. She feels now like she may have a bit of bruising from it. It was the good nurse at the clinic this time (she was off the day of the transfer last time) so they were able to use the ultrasound to guide the transfer and verify the placement. Last time they had to resort to dead reckoning based on the measurement taken in the mock transfer.

After a rest in the bed and an hour-long talk with the embryologist that my wife said reminded her of being in college (she was a biology major) we headed home. The next day, after doing one or two essential things at Secret Headquarters to get the rest of us started, she headed home to the recliner for the day.

I called the clinic Friday to check on the progress of the other embryos. They said one was in a pre-blastocyst stage and could be ready to freeze Saturday. The others were still in the multi-cellular stage and had a bit to go before being ready. Hopefully more than one will make it to freezing. There's always a chance an embryo won't survive the freeze and thaw cycle so you want more than one to help ensure there's something to transfer if you're working with frozen. We'll call again Saturday or Monday, I guess, and find out what happened.

Meanwhile, the embryos we transferred should be reaching blastocyst stage and hatching from their zona (the jelly-like shell human eggs have) about now. It'll be another week or two before we know if we had one or more implant. Part of me is hoping for twins, but that would most certainly make for a rough pregnancy. So I guess I'm hoping for an unusually smooth twin pregnancy. I'll readily settle for a single, though.

Wish us luck!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Nine Eggs Fertilized

We went in for the egg retrieval and sperm collection yesterday and just got the fertilization report this morning: Nine fertilized out of an attempted 18. If I recall correctly, last time we had five out of about a dozen, so we're doing better.

The retrieval and collection went about like last time, except for being cold and rainy and my wife's recovery from the anesthesia taking a bit longer. They used a bit more this time because, and we just learned this Sunday, she was moving around a bit during the procedure last time. After she came out of it she was fine except for her blood pressure being a bit low. They monitored her for a while to make sure it was at least stable and finally let us go around 1PM after a call to our doctor for approval. The procedure had been around 9:30.

The sperm collection went a bit better than the first time, or at least the scrub-up before was much less messy. I left a bit of water on the floor the first time. I also don't recall being instructed to scrub to the elbows last time. Hmmm. It didn't seem to hurt things that I didn't then. The collection was in the same room as last time. (Did I ever post the pictures I took of te decor? I'll check and edit them into this post tonight if not.) They had some of the same magazines and some new ones. I went with the new ones, settling on a recent Penthouse. Black Tail also gets credit for an assist.

After they released us we drove to a nearby mall and ate at Panera. We both had some hot soup. It was good to get some food in our stomachs. I hadn't had anything but a glass of orange juice all day, and my wife hadn't had anything at all since the night before. (Though they did give her a few crackers and some ginger ale after the procedure.)

We had been planning for me to do some painting in the house, finally finishing a room where access to one end is blocked by our computer desks, and all the junk that naturally accumulates around them. With the long recovery and heavy post-Thanksgiving Sunday traffic, though, we didn't get home until after 4:30 so I didn't get much more done than mostly cleaning off my desk. I'll do some more tonight, but save the computer removal for last.

The embryo transfer will be Wednesday. We're still waiting for the time. They're supposed to call us tomorrow once they know which couples will be doing what that day. Hopefully we'll have enough develop well to leave us some to freeze. If they all do well I'm inclined to put back four to maximize our chances this time. Embryos don't always survive the freeze and thaw process, so having the other five frozen should give us enough for another try or two if we need it, or want another child later. It should be significantly less expensive and uncomfortable to do another cycle with frozen embryos.

Things can still go wrong, but so far it's better than last time and we've corrected what problems we can that we identified from the first try. I think our chances are good.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Further IVF Developments

Well, we've had a couple more progress checks since my last entry, Wednesday and Thursday. Yes, we went in for a check on Thanksgiving day. The appointment was for 11:30, but we had to get blood drawn by 8:00AM. It's an hour drive away and not a heck of a lot of stores are open that early on a normal day, much less Thanksgiving, so we brought the books we are currently reading. (Mine is The Years of Rice And Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson.) Bob Evans was closed, but IHOP was open, so we had breakfast there. After that we went to the doctor's office and hung out in the lobby until they opened the door. By then, a few other patients had arrived, but since we were the first there we got to see him first.

Things are coming along. We have another check Friday at 11:00. I guess we'll do a little shopping or something between the 8:00AM blood draw and then, but frankly I'm a little afraid of the "Black Friday" crowds. We normally work or just stay in that day. I guess we'll bring the books again. The follicles look good. There are a few more follicles than last time, I believe, and their development is much more in sync so we expect to get more good eggs out of them. In reviewing and comparing the first cycle with the doctor today we learned that of the nine eggs they had attempted to fertilize then (with ICSI) only five were mature and expected to fertilize, and all of them did. The others were immature. There were more follicles than that, but the others were apparently overripe and the eggs broke during retrieval. We put back the best three, and the other two then lived on and developed further than expected. What all that tells us is that with eggs at the right development we get good hardy embryos. As long as we're not "cooking" them too long, we should get plenty this time, hopefully with enough left over to freeze for a third or further attempt or a try at another baby down the road. We expect to be triggering tomorrow for retrieval Sunday and transfer Wednesday. Then comes the hardest part: the maddening wait for that positive pregnancy test.

Monday, November 19, 2007

IVF And Tooth Update

We went in for another progress check. The follicles are still growing, and still very close in size, but still a bit small. The doctor thinks we'll do the retrieval most likely Saturday, Friday at the earliest. My wife is feeling very bloated and is worried about what it will be like after the retrieval. We found a couple drinks that should help: SmartWater and Fruit2O. They are similar to Gatorade, which helped last time, but don't have sugar. They gave us (though will no doubt charge us for) extra doses of her meds for some of the extra days, and will be having more mailed to us.

Well, as far as I can tell I've done everything I should, or at least according to instructions. The first morning after the extraction it looked like there was a swelling toward the rear of the site. It didn't hurt, so I thought nothing of it.

The second morning I checked it in the mirror and noticed a pink-red object resting on the tooth below. I took it out and it looked to be a piece of soft tissue about the size of half a pea. I put it in a zip-lock bag to show the dentist if I decided to go in for a check, but my wife convinced me it was probably normal. (I think she was just trying to allay my fears.) I tossed it in the trash, which has since been picked up. The swelling I had noticed before was gone, presumable in the trash.

This morning while rinsing with mouthwash I felt something floating around in my mouth. I spit it into the sing away from the drain hoping to see what it was, but naturally it swished right down the drain with the mouthwash. I got a glimpse of something dark, maybe black, and narrow and maybe twice the length of a grain of rice. I figured it was a stray bit of food, but then I felt what felt like one of my stitches dangling against my tongue. Uh oh. I began to think it was maybe a bit of the thread or the knot I had just spit out. I looked at the site with a flashlight and a Craftsman inspection mirror but everything seemed okay.

This evening at Secret Headquarters it was aching a bit. I looked again and it seems like the gums have shrunk back a bit. Also the stitches seem looser. Back home just now I looked with the inspection mirror again and saw a bit of white in the middle. We're calling the dentist tomorrow morning.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

IVF Stimulation Progress Check Yesterday - Tooth Extraction Today

Yesterday morning we went in for our first stimulation progress check of this our second IVF cycle. There looks to be ten or eleven follicles, but they're all a bit on the small size so it looks like we'll have to go a bit long again. That means we probably won't do the retrieval on the 20th. (Hopefully it won't be on Thanksgiving day, although my wife's mother's turkey tends to be a bit dry so it wouldn't be a total loss.) This time, though, they all look about the same size, so hopefully they'll all grow at closer to the same rate than last time. Looks good so far. My wife is still her worried self, of course. We go back Monday for another look.

This morning I had a tooth extracted. Saturday we ate at Joe's Crab Shack, and when I bit down on a particularly hard nugget of fried batter that was on a piece of fish I felt a bit of pain. At first I thought it was a bit of fish bone, but after further tongue probing it felt more like a loose filling. My wife called in and made a dentist appointment for today. I went in figuring I would get a replacement filling, or the initial work for a crown. Nope The tooth had cracked down the middle and had to be pulled.

The dentist numbed me up - the shot in the palette was the worst part of the whole procedure - and started to work. It broke apart easily enough at first, but as he got down to the root it got harder. I guess that was a good thing, since it turned out the bone is in good shape. After the tooth was all out he put in some freeze-dried cadaver bone to promote bone growth in the socket. (Grrrrr! I'm Frankenstein!) He put a plug of collagen fiber on top and closed with three stitches. It occurred to me as he was moving around to improve his angle to put in the stitches that a mouthpiece with tiny teleoperated arms and a camera could make that sort of work easier. Maybe I could work with someone on that and get a patent.

Anyway, it's been a couple hours now and the novocaine is largely worn off. They gave me a kit with gauze pads I'm supposed to change every 15-20 minutes until the bleeding stops, and an instant cold pack that lasted nowhere near the 6-8 hours called for in the instructions they gave me. Luckily we had one in the Secret Headquarters first aid kit. My wife is off now getting more and a reusable one, along with my vicadin prescription. I don't know if I'll really need it, but if I do I want it on hand. Tonight I'm supposed to sleep with an old towel on my pillow in case I drool pink. Being married I have no problem with a little blood on the sheets and mattress now and then, but I'd rather not have it on the pillowcase, so I guess I'll use the towel.

I go back in a week to get the stitches out. The dentist says I can opt for a bridge or implant any time I want down the road. I told him with the IVF money is tight right now, and he said I can wait and do it years from now with no problem. I'm hoping someone will have figured out how to grow a new tooth from stem cells by the time I'm ready. Heck, I'd be half inclined to do my whole mouth if they come out good enough. They say teeth are likely to be the first whole organs to be cloned from stem cells, so who knows. I'm tentatively scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, but the IVF schedule is still unfolding, so there could possibly be a conflict. We'll see.

What a week.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

First Office Visit Of Our Second IVF Cycle

We went in to the doctor this morning to plumb the depths of my wife's womb and take soundings of her ovaries. That is, she had a mock transfer where they measure how deep her uterus is with a catheter to gauge how far in to place the embryo(s), and did an ultrasound of her ovaries. There were no cysts this time, so that's an improvement over the first cycle. We asked a few questions and reviewed the adjusted protocol.

Some highlights:

  • Soy protein should be no problem. The estrogen in it shouldn't be enough to have any effect.
  • Exercise is fine as long as she's comfortable. The main concern is jostling her enlarged ovaries during the stimulation period and twisting a blood vessel.
  • Her weight loss and much better controlled blood sugar should make a difference in egg quality.
  • The stimulation has been adjusted to try and get more mature eggs at once. Last time their formation was spread out a bit. Their were plenty eggs, but many we immature or overripe.
We are optimistic about the changes and their potential effect on our chances. The doctor is very low-key and very reluctant to make predictions in any circumstances, but even he seemed optimistic to us.

Next appointment is next Wednesday, I believe. The estimated date of retrieval is the 20th with the transfer back in on the 23rd. Off we go!

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Belated Dad Update

We went to visit my brother and his family in Tennessee the weekend before Halloween. We usually visit earlier for our nephew's birthday party, but since My father couldn't make the trip we decided to wait until my parents' next visit. They're there this week. My father is looking better than we had anticipated, and is getting around pretty well. He used to look a bit like Justin Wilson, but he's leaning a bit more towards Larry King now.

Anyway, we all went to the zoo for a Halloween event they have for the kids. Basically they decorate the zoo and have a path you walk along and get a bit of candy and cheap toys at several stations along the way. My dad had to sit down a couple times along they way, but he got through pretty well. (He was a bit tired the next day.) It was fun, though a lot of the animals were tucked away for the event, lest the costumed crowds upset them. I got a few pictures and will be posting some to Flickr soon, possibly tonight.

So what did you do for Halloween?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

One of the pumpkins at my sister-in-law's house.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Celebrity Spotting

John Lithgow(sp?) at Pier 1

Monday, October 15, 2007

Another Week Another T-shirt Contest

Griled Cheese T-shirts
In case you missed it, I won last week's Swaggy Challenge. The topic was "grilled cheese" and this was the winning entry. I think it took me about three hours to make. It's not without flaws. The lamp has no switch, though I guess that could be on its unseen base. The light cone ends abruptly at a curve near the bottom of the dark frame. It's a bit subtle, I suppose, so I guess nobody took significant notice of it. The cheese is floating in mid-air, or at least the light isn't hitting whatever it's sitting on. I could pass that off as a minimalist design choice made for the purpose of minimizing distracting elements, but to be honest it's mostly because I just plain forgot to put a circle of light under the cheese. I thought of it after submitting the design, but either in hindsight or in a fit of self-justification, I convinced myself the existing design was the better direction. Good enough, I guess.

At first when I saw the topic of the contest, I hadn't a clue what kind of design I could come up with for "grilled cheese", but soon my twisted little mind hit on another meaning of "grilled." The wheels started turning as I played out the surreal scene in my head. When I imagined the cheese ratting out one of his cheese buddies, I knew what I wanted to do, but I wasn't sure I could do it. I initially pictured a full interrogation room scene, with table, light, crappy walls with barred windows in the background, or maybe a big presumably two-way mirror. I didn't think I could pull it off, but I thought maybe if I took a photo of a block of cheese on a table, lit by a desk lamp, with my finger pointing threateningly at it, I could at least fake a blurred background. The props never came together, so just to see what my limits were I started doing a rough drawing on the computer.

As it came together I soon realized that a simple cheese & lamp scene would be able to convey the whole idea. Throwing the frame and black background behind it let the lamp show up on white shirts and dark, while placing the cheese in a really dark scary place, but partitioned off from our amusing view of it from the outside. (How's that for analyzing art?)

Anyway, the entrants were revealed and I figured on maybe making the top three, perhaps with a tight race for second. The voting went on, seemingly forever. And finally the results were announced. It was a tight race all right, but I had just nudged into first. Wow.

So that brings us to the current contest. Again I will not be revealing my design here until the voting is done, but I can tell you the topic: Bionic Turkey. I think some heavier hitters among the designers selling at Cafepress are taking interest this time around, so my chances might not be so good, particularly since I did another last-day entry but this time not one I could minimalize so well. It was actually my second favorite idea. I'll tell you about my first choice later and about why I didn't go with it. Meanwhile, take a click over to the Swaggy Challenge website and rate the designs.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

IVF - Take 2

My wife called in today to alert the doctor of her period, and we have our schedule set for this our second cycle of IVF.

This time around the meds have been tweaked a bit to hopefully tighten the time spread of the developing follicles. In the first cycle the development of the follicles were spread out a bit and several eggs fractured during the retrieval. On the theory that those were the older follicles which fractured because they were overripe, we're pushing for a tighter spread to hopefully come out with more eggs to fertilize. If that doesn't pan out, we'll likely still do as well as the first time which was well above average for our age. (The doctor says that's because my wife is PCI-ish and as a result responds a bit better to the stimulation.)

We're also in a better position in regards to implantation and after. It turns out my wife's blood sugar was not nearly as controlled as we had thought. After posting some pretty good A1C numbers in past testing she got a bit lax about testing herself. It was something like double what it should be. She's now on slow-acting overnight insulin to get her morning number down, and we are both exercising and eating better. The control is very good now, and we are confident it will remain so. High blood sugar can interfere with implantation or cause a higher incidence of miscarriage, so this is an important factor. As those of you who have read my precious entries know, our first cycle ended apparently with what is known as a chemical pregnancy. We got one hint of a positive urine test, then nothing. False positives are practically unheard of, so we're pretty sure at least one of the three embryos we put back in started to implant then failed. With the blood sugar in control we've removed at least that one big obstacle to a successful implantation this time around.

In our first cycle we had five embryos of varying quality, the two least of which were not put back and subsequently survived longer than expected. We have discussed it and even though there is a risk of multiples we have decided that if the number and quality of embryos were the same this time we would want to put them all back. If the quality is higher, though, we may limit the number accordingly.

We had been talking about having my younger sister in law carry for us, but my wife really wants to try this time on our own. Also my SIL is having some tight finances at the moment, and taking the necessary time off might be a bit of a stretch for her. We'll see how things go if we need to do a third cycle. I don't think we could afford any more tries beyond a third, though, so if we do a third I'm inclined to push for at least a tandem transfer to her and my wife if possible to maximize our chances for that final shot. But like I said, we're optimistic about this cycle.

So that's how things stand. The retrieval is estimated to be around Nov. 20th. Hopefully the cooler weather will help a bit with the sperm quality. If all goes well we should be having a baby next summer.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I've Entered A T-Shirt Design Contest

A fellow designer at Cafepress issued a quick-design challenge this weekend, challenging all comers to come up with and submit a themed design by Sunday night midnight, US central time. (The site says CST, but I think they meant CDT.) Winner gets bragging rights and, if desired, a link to their shop on the challenge host's web site.

The theme is: Grilled Cheese

Yeah, that's right. We had to come up with a design with the theme of grilled cheese. I came up with one, with what I think is a strong concept, but I'm up against some seasoned veterans and I only started on mine mid-day today.

I can't show you the design since the voting is, I think, open to anyone and that would be cheating.

Anyway, here's the design challenge web site if you want to take a look. I haven't seen the other entrants yet. The site is supposed to automatically switch over to displaying the entrants and accepting votes after the deadline, and voting should go on through Friday. This is the first such contest the host has put on, so there could very well be a technical glitch here or there. He seems to be quick about fixing what has come up so far, though. So take a look, and rate the designs. And maybe if the host issues another challenge you can step up and enter too.


Friday, September 28, 2007

A Stranger Pranked

I've taken a few pics with my phone lately. I'd meant to post them but just never got around to it. Let's see if I can catch up this weekend.

Here's the first one. We spotted this car at the mall Saturday, but I didn't think to take a picture until we left. It's hard, if not impossible, to see in this pic, but written on the window is "This is our last prank." Also, there are mylar "good luck" baloons attached to the wheels and antenna. I'm guessing the victim works in the mall somewhere, but that was their last day on the job. Or maybe there's another explanation. Anyway, the cups and bowl weren't on the roof earlier in the day.

More pics later over the weekend, maybe one or two tonight. I could do more now, but I'd have to post them via the phone and I'd rather transfer them direct from its card to my home PC and save my messaging allowance. I'll likely put some of these in my Flickr photosteam, maybe with additional angles.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Another Weird Dream

Last night I dreamed I was at a chalk board writing a short poem for a contest sponsored by Scientific American magazine. It was supposed to be about toilets. I was writing one about flushing. I don't remember the whole verse - I believe I was reworking it when I was interrupted somehow - but I seem to recall some of the rhymes being "yellow and brown," "flush it down," and "swirling around." I also recall thinking the editors at Scientific American who would be judging the contest would no doubt be impressed with my work.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What's Your Shopping Cart Footprint?

What is your shopping cart footprint?

Shopping Cart Apathy

While you aren't doing as much damage as you could, you aren't really making a difference either. Meh.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz

Quizzes and Personality Tests

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Celebrating The Smile Emoticon's 25th Anniversary

I created this Original Smile Emoticon Anniversary Edition T-shirt to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the classic computer text Smile emoticon, created on September 19, 1982 by Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman. Thank you Professor Fahlman!

It's available in several long and short-sleeve styles for men and women, and in kids sizes as well. Plain Smile edition t-shirts also available.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Playing With Yourself

(My wife just sent this to me.)

This will boggle your mind and you will keep trying over and over again to see if you can outsmart your foot, but, you can't.

It's preprogrammed In your brain!

1. WITHOUT anyone watching you (they will think you're GOOFY......) and while sitting where you are at your desk in front of your computer, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise Circles.

2. Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right Hand. Your foot will change direction.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Strange And Disturbing Dream

I had a weird one last night. I dreamed I was peeing but even though I had a normal aimable stream going I also had a spray that was getting on the rim of the bowl and a little bit on me. I investigated and discovered my penis was springing leaks along the bottom, as if a seam was coming open. Then I started to get blood coming out. It scared the hell out of me. It wasn't the sort of scare that has you waking up screaming - I've had those - but it was more of an extreme concern and worry about my health. I think I recall looking up and telling someone I thought I needed to see a doctor, but I really don't remember anything beyond that.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oh! Forgot To Post My Dad's Home Now.

He finally got sent home this past weekend after some insurance issues were cleared up. Seems he has to have morning and evening IV antibiotic drips and if his insurance wouldn't pay it would have cost a few hundred a day. A home healthcare worker came by and showed them how to do it, and how my mother is giving them to him. He has a PIC line so she doesn't have to stick him with needles or anything. They have to do this for something like a month.

Take care of your heart, folks, or this will happen to you!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Deer In The Headlights & Cable Outage

As we approached our neighborhood, we had to stop for this deer and two fawns in the road. We rolled forward a little more and they ran off. When we got home the cable modem wouldn't connect, an entirely unrelated matter, I'm sure.

Martina Navratilova Dressed In Our Hotel Room

I work up in our hotel room to the sound of voices. Several young women were there, putting on jewelry and doing their hair for a party. I turned to look around and saw one was wearing a very low-cut open back dress. She bent over to reach for something in a dresser drawer and her dress, which I guess wasn't fully situated, drooped in the back and I believe I caught a glimpse of her anus. I quickly looked away and said "Hey, watch that!" Everyone giggled about it, including my wife. When I looked away, though, I saw a program or guest list or something on the night stand, and seeing her name on it I realized the woman in the more-revealing-than-intended dress was Martina Navratilova. I looked back to confirm that. She was looking over her shoulder at me, smiling, and dropped her dress again even more than before. I groaned and dropped my head back to the pillow and covered it with the blanket while everyone laughed.

After they were all gone, and my wife with them, I grabbed my phone to post a quick blog entry about it, figuring you all would be interested. I had managed to key in "I think I just saw Martina Navratilova's butthol" when some guy walked right into the room, looking confrontational. I quickly, but a bit fumblingly, cleared the message and closed my phone so he wouldn't see what I was doing. He got up into my face and warned me about the possibility of crazy people getting into my room. Well, no shit!

When he left I locked both the hall door and the door to the adjoining room (where the women had come from) and called the front desk. They sent a guy up, along with the maid. I complained to them about the poor service and slid out a drawer to reveal that it was actually a cooktop, which had several Popeye's style fries strewn about on it. Several were stuck together, though, so I suspect they were from a frozen bag of them and never cooked. I complained about the maids not doing a thorough job of cleaning up after the previous guests. The man apologized.

At that point I realized it was all a dream and woke up. I felt very disappointed that my celebrity encounter hadn't been real, and that all I'd be able to post here for your reading enjoyment was a recount of a dream. Oh well.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Our Tuesday Morning Greeter

When we arrived at Secret Headquarters Tuesday morning, this bird was sitting on the gate. I assume it is a hawk. If you know what kind, please post a comment. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

About The Kyle XY Season 2 Finale (HERE BE SPOILERS)

To put it simply, the climax this season, much like the first season, was a bit anticlimactic. I can totally understand why, though. In an episodic sci-fi that's as high-concept as Kyle it's hard to write scripts that both propel the mysterious storyline and endear the audience to the characters. You haven't watched it? Why did this make the season ender anticlimactic? I'll tell you.

The big climax came at the end after the female clone (yeah, Kyle's a clone) betrays Kyle against her own will due to the instructions downloaded into her head. The betrayal consisted of reading some piece or collection of information from Kyle's mind, which Kyle had apparently downloaded from the zzyzzx(sp?) computer system while he was still living in a tank of fluid. She's all upset about it and runs off. After a brief struggle showing off their enhanced physical abilities and Kyle's head start on training, she jumps off a cliff, killing herself.

I think at this point we are meant to be shocked at her suicide, feeling bad for the poor clone who never had the benefit of the sort of loving family that has taken in Kyle. But in a sci-fi there are just too many whiz-bang neato plot developments and emerging details of the whole mystery of Kyle's developing abilities and family relationships and what that evil corporation wants to get out of his head. The audience just can't get emotionally invested in a character that quickly, particularly one who was just introduced this season and who started out as such a dangerous and menacing individual. Sure, she grew into herself as the season progressed, but it still takes a while. When Spock was killed in that Star Trek movie everyone was shocked and dismayed. If he'd been killed off at the end of the first season of the show nobody would have batted an eye. (They might have raised an eyebrow, but not nearly as many people would recognize the gesture.)

I think Lost provides a counterexample. When Walt was taken by the Others it was a much bigger deal. First off, it was a cliffhanger instead of a cliff jump. But even if they had killed Walt, it would have been even bigger if anything. I think the difference is in the character development. In Kyle it's all about Kyle and his origins and destiny and the obstacles and villains in his way. Kyle was in a tank for most of his life, so if he's a bit stiff it's understandable and an interesting part of his character. But everyone has been a bit stiff. That's not unusual for a plot-driven mystery sci-fi show, though. I think Lost succeeds at better character development in large part because of the nature of the situation and the way it's presented: everyone is searching for answers, not just one or two characters, and their past is revealed in flashbacks which add depth to the characters. We understand them better.

Kyle XY did try to add some depth to the supporting characters. But they attempted it mainly through having the bad guys try to induce some conflict in the family to destabilize Kyle's support base. (I don't think they ever actually said it, but I think that was to get him to let his guard down around the female clone so she could get into his head.) The only one with any backstory was the dad, and that was only to serve as a plot device to introduce Kyle's mind-reading ability.

All in all, though, I do like the show and will continue to watch it for its strengths, while overlooking its forgivable weaknesses. Hopefully, though, there will be a bit more character development next season, along with all the inevitable plot twists.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Extreme Cobweb

I just read a story about a state park in Texas that has a 200-yard section of trail surrounded by cobwebs. Here's the story. Be sure to click on the blow up photo link to get a full appreciation of the thing.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

My Latest Design - Senator Craig - Gone Pecan

Down in New Orleans, and likely the region surrounding it, we had an expression: gone pecan. It means someone or something is doomed, on the way out, destined for failure.

Senator Larry Craig is being forced to resign today by his fellow GOP homophobes. For his hypocrisy in opposing gay rights, Larry Craig deserves to be a Gone Pecan. If you share that view, have a look at my latest design on Cafepress: Larry Craig - Gone Pecan.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Another Operation For Dad

My father is having another operation today to close his chest. He says they will probably put in a plate and some screws. I asked if it would make him bulletproof and he laughed. There is also a possibility that they will have to move some chest muscle around to hold things together. The operation is supposed to take about three hours. I haven't heard anything more today. I'm sure my mother will call later to tell me how it went.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What if the internet had been invented 100 years earlier?

This YouTube video explores that very question.

Dad Update

I just realized I haven't posted an update on my dad for a little while now.

He did end up going into surgery. And they did end up opening up his chest to drain the infection from around the bone, though the surgeon said the bone looked strong. They have a tube in him now pumping him out, and aggressive antibiotics. He's eating, though not as much as they want him to. It's a bit chilly in the ICU and his food gets gold fast. They've had him getting up to use a potty chair, with an assist from the tilting bed. The surgeon will be checking the wound soon and he should be getting closed up either tomorrow or Thursday.

A while ago I read about a study that found that heart surgery patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of complications. Did anybody pray for him and tell him about it? Come on, fess up!

Back Online Again

As I mentioned yesterday, we got a replacement modem, but were told that there was an outage in our area. In hindsight, maybe taking the new modem wasn't such a good idea. I'd still make the same choice, though - the old modem could have been bad and if it was that would have cost us another day. We need home access for our business & banking.

Anyway, when we got home around seven or so I hooked up the modem. It still wouldn't connect. Well, they did say there was an outage, so I looked at its diagnostic screen via the web browser to monitor its progress. Almost right away it started progressing through the connection sequence, though much more slowly than normal. Then it reset. It did that a few times then stopped, then finally connected. Yay!

Or not so yay. Nothing would resolve on DNS. Nothing but the web site, anyway, which was showing a welcome message and instructions to download installation software. (That link didn't work, by the way.)

I called in and the technician who answered tried to activate the new modem. She said there was something blocking it and she would forward me to billing so they could clear the blockage then send me back to her. I thought that was odd since we currently have a $40 credit on our account, but in a large corporation there's no telling which department will need to stick its fingers in when so what the heck. She transferred me over and after listening to an increasing annoying piano piece that apparently has no ending I got a menu. There was nothing on the menu that sounded like what I was told I was needed, so I hit 0 to try to talk to an operator. After a little while waiting for someone to pick up I hung up and called in again.

This time I had better luck. The woman I got seemed a little slower going through the routine questions, but in a methodical way, not like she was "slow" if you know what I mean. She tried to get the modem activated but ran into an error. Instead of transferring me she contacted the provisioning department and had someone there set me up. While waiting for that to be done I asked where they were located. Turns out she's from New Orleans, but still displaced by Katrina. They're waiting for their electrical system to be inspected so they can put up their drywall. The modem reset itself again, I reset our router and released & renewed my computer's DHCP connection. (See instructions below - much faster than a reboot in such situations.) And it worked! I had my wife release & renew and she was up too. I thanked the woman and wished her luck getting back home soon.

How to release & renew your connection instead of rebooting...
(These instructions are for Windows 2000 and XP.)
1. Bring up the Command Prompt. You'll find it in Start > Programs > Accessories
2. Enter "ipconfig /release" and wait for the prompt to return.
3. Enter "ipconfig /renew" and wait for the prompt.
You're done! You can check your connection by pinging something, like "ping"

Monday, August 27, 2007

Again Comcast Sucks

We brought the cable modem in to the local Comcast office today. The woman who helped us said they didn't do testing there, but they could swap us a new one. That was nice and quick. However, when she went in to associate the new modem's number with our account she found that, lo and behold, there was an outage in our area. So apparently either the person I talked to last night didn't know what the heck they were doing, or Comcast's outage alert system is dog slow by any modern standard, or everyone in my area was out all day and evening or else didn't bother to call in about their difficulties until today. That last possibility really wouldn't surprise me much. Cable customers seem to take extended outages in stride, just assuming that somebody else will call in.

Anyway, we went ahead and got the new modem. It won't hurt anything and there's always the possibility that the old one went bad at the same time, maybe due to a power surge or something, or that the outage really didn't happen until today. Hopefully we'll be up and going when we get home this evening.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I called Comcast again to see if they had gotten any more calls from my area, but they hadn't, so it's almost certainly a problem with our modem. We're thinking of bringing it in ourselves tomorrow to get it checked out at their office. Maybe they can give up a replacement right away that way.
Meanwhile, here's a pic of a rhinocerous beetle one of our employees found around Secret Headquarters.

Comcast sucks. :P Still down.

Comcast sucks. :P Still down.

Our cable modem is out.

Our cable modem is out. I called in and they said a tech can come tuesday morning. :P Hopefully they will find and fix an outage.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Dad Update

No surgery, at least for now. The CT scan didn't show any involvement of the bone in his infection, so they're sticking with the IV antibiotic for now. They will be watching it to see if they will have to go in and drain it after all.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dad's Back In The Hospital

Just got a call from my mother. My father is back in the hospital with an infection in his incision. He had noticed some pus this weekend and when the doctor took out his staples Tuesday they put him on Cipro. That didn't work well enough, though, so he's back in the hospital. They're doing a CT scan to see if the bone's involved. If it is they'll have to do surgery, to drain it I guess.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More IVF Developments

Last week my wife went for her regular gynecologist appointment and was told that because of her weight she would have a high-risk pregnancy, and they don't handle those. And when she told the doctor that her sister would be willing to carry our baby for us, the doctor said that would probably be a good idea. She says the doctor wasn't mean or anything about it, but it still comes as a cold slap of reality. She could lose some weight and easily come in under their limit, so she's already started on that. (We're going to the gym this evening, and planning to make a regular thing of it.) But it underscores the need to find a doctor who does handle high-risk pregnancies.

We went to see our fertility doctor this morning for a mock transfer and to ask a few questions. He agrees that we should have a high-risk specialist on the team and put us in touch with one. We have an appointment with him for a consult week after next. We also asked him about having my sister in law carry for us, and he described the prep she'd have to do. Depending on when her next period is supposed to start, we may be able to sync things up to have her carry this time. We've contacted her about it and she's game, though I'm not sure she's clear on it being my wife's eggs. (Right after my wife messaged her she called my mother in law who called my wife and, in the course of the conversation, asked her if it was going to involve me having sex with my sister in law.)

Anyway, the plan as I understand it now is to figure out if we have a window to start syncing her up, and if so transfer our best embryos to her, however many the doctors are willing to put in. Then if there are any halfway decent ones left, put those back in my wife. Our budget is rather limited, so if we can get more tries at once like that we'll go for it.

I may very well in a couple months have both my wife and my sister-in-law carrying my children. This is going to get interesting.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Big Bang or Big Boot?

I just browsed (via this blog entry at the Scientific American web site) an interesting site exploring the question of whether we are all living in a computer simulation: The Simulation Argument.

Don't laugh. I did at first, but it's an interesting question. It is put forth here in a very interesting paper written by the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, Nick Bostrom, and published in Philosophical Quarterly. Okay, you can laugh if you want to, but you really should read the paper.

One thing you should realize, though, if you're thinking otherwise at this point, is that Bostrom is not actually claiming that we are living in a simulation. He only claims that if humanity or its descendants survive long enough to develop the required computing capability, and there are not barriers in the way of such simulations sufficient to prevent their being run in significant numbers, this world we are living in is much more likely to be one of the many simulations than the one true original history of humanity. Or at least that's as I understand it.

Personally, I think that there is, at least currently, strong societal pressure and barriers against running such simulations. You see it in the recent frenzy of anti-human-cloning laws and in countless examples in both literature and reality of the vilification of those who would dare to "play god." But, of course, there are always those who want to play anyway, and they often find ways to do it.

I invite comment, but first make sure you read and understand the paper, at least in its essentials if not the math.

Friday, August 17, 2007

New IVF Cycle Begins - First Speedbump Encountered

My wife started the suppression phase of this our second IVF cycle a couple days ago. At this point that pretty much consists of birth control pills, but not the low dose stuff most women take. Unfortunately, they can increase blood sugar in diabetics and that's what's happening with my wife. She's called the doctor's office and they say she'll have to switch to another drug, but my wife has heard that it can conflict with another one she's supposed to take later, and the doctor is out this afternoon so she could only talk to the nurse, and it's Friday, so it's kind of a mess. The nurse is supposed to call back. We're hoping to get this resolved and the drug switched as soon as possible so she can get her blood sugar back down.

This one's going to be interesting.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Your Next Eatin' Out With The Guys Shirt

I'm not sure how I was struck with the inspiration to make this one. I think it may have been sparked after my wife and I had one of out occasional playful exchanges of numerous obscene gestures. Anyway, the concept came to me and worked as an eatin' out shirt so here it is: "Not An Obscene Gesture". The border around the text is a bread texture, and is not present on white shirts. The font was chosen because it looks a bit like it could have been drawn on in sauce squeezed from a bottle. (I may actually revise this a bit, adding some highlights to the text so it looks more like sauce.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is This Progress? or The Post Office Pisses Me Off!

I just mailed out a package. That should be a simple proposition, but in this case I had two different zip codes for the recipient so I had to check which one was correct.

In the past I've just fired up a handy little program called the USPS Shipping Assistant. It's a free program downloadable from the post office web site. I'd been using version 2.2 for a while and it worked great. It was much faster and more convenient than using the web site for such things. This time, however, it wouldn't run. It told me I had to run 3.0 or later.

Okay. It had been a while since I'd had occasion to use it so it was understandable that there was a later version. I'm not so sure why the old one should stop working, though. Anyway, I downloaded the new version 3.1 (over 7M compared to 2.2's 225k - that should have been my first clue) and installed it.

What a piece of crap.

It takes forever to load, which is only natural since it's built on .NET and Internet Explorer. (Damn, I hate lazy "programmers". No better that "script kiddies" if you ask me.) Every time a new dialog comes up you can watch it draw all the controls and graphics. I kid you not - it's that slow. From the looks of it, whoever "programmed" it spent most of their time doing graphic design for the interface. I'd characterize it as putting lipstick on a pig, and stand by that as being 100% accurate. If this is the sort of thing the money from the postage rate increase is going to I want a refund!

Also, when I closed it it didn't stop running! It just minimized to a little icon in my tray next to the clock. I had to right-click on that to tell it to finally exit. Why? Do they perhaps know that the thing is dog slow to load and decided that the "solution" to the slowness of loading this bloated piece of crap is to keep it running? Get an actual programmer to actually fix the thing!

I emailed the following to the USPS on their contact page, specifying in the form that it was a technical issue regarding Shipping Assistant:

Please! Please! Please! Reactivate 2.2!

I tried to use it today and it wouldn't run. I had to use 3.1 and it is PONDEROUSLY slow.

Failing reactivation of 2.2, please include the following changes in 3.2 or 4.0...
1. Drop .NET so it won't require so much memory.
2. Drop the IE interface and do some actual UI programming so it won't take forever each time you switch dialogs, or switch fields for that matter.
3. When the user closes the program, close the program. Don't leave it running in the tray.
4. Get rid of the gingerbread/bells & whistles. Fire the designers and whatever postal official let his ditzy trophy wife approve the interface while you're at it too. If the programming & design were outsourced, get someone else this time because the people who made 3.1 padded the project with useless crap.

In other words, get rid of all the crud that just slows the thing down, defeating its purpose of *assisting* our shipping. It doesn't assist if it slows us down. The changes from 2.2 to 3.1 only serve to further cement the USPS's old reputation for slowness.
I doubt it will get any action, but maybe if enough people read this blog, agree, and decide to stop settling for crap software and complain, maybe together we'll make something happen. I will post about this again when and if I get a response.

Meanwhile, I also intend to see if I can't hack 2.2 into thinking it's 3.1 so that just maybe it will work again. If I have any success with that I'll post instructions. If you have already been able to do it, please reply with instructions - no sense reinventing the wheel.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Information About A Nokia Battery Recall That Just May Save Your Family's Lives!

Okay, I couldn't resist a bit of sweeps-style hyperbole there, but the story is real and if you have any Nokia devices you should look at the story and check your device(s) against the list of those affected. Otherwise, your battery might just asplode!

Nokia recalls batteries; at risk to explode by ZDNet's Larry Dignan -- Nokia on Tuesday issued a product advisory for its BL-5C battery. The problem: The battery, which may affect as many as 46 million devices, could explode. In the advisory, Nokia said the battery was manufactured by Japan’s Matsushita Battery Industrial Co. between December 2005 and November 2006. The BL-5C battery is one of 14 used [...]
Be sure to come back here and post a comment with your harrowing story of escaping death by exploding battery.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dad's Home

My father went home Sunday. My mother doesn't drive, so my brother's father-in-law gave them a ride.

He called us today, but we spoke only briefly. He has a bit of a cough from some fluid in one lung, and has to hold a pillow he was given on his chest when he coughs. It also has a velcro strap to attach it to his seatbelt shoulder strap. I think this is about what he described. It's necessary to cushion and brace his chest while the sternum knits back together. I'll have to ask him how they fastened it together in the meantime.

He's still got a bit to go before he's back up to speed, but I think he's just glad to be home. Now the hard part will be keeping him from taking on too much while he heals.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Quick Dad Update

My parents called me today. My dad will likely get out of the hospital Sunday. He's got a little fluid in one lung they want to keep an eye on, but once he's more up and around it should clear up. He's also looking forward to taking a shower.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Willie Nelson Follow-Up

Well, I'd like to be able to tell you that Willie Nelson saw my previous blog and was amused, but I haven't heard anything from him or his people and seriously doubt he's even aware if it.

Instead I'll just share this song that's been going through my head since posting about the dream. It brings back some memories for me besides the obvious.

If you like it and don't have the CD yet, I encourage you to go out and buy it right now. (Hopefully if Mr. Nelson stops by he won't make me take this down now. :) )

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Last Night's Dream

I had an unusually extended dream last night. It started with my wife and I driving home. On our way along the main road we take an airliner swooped down overhead and landed ahead of us on the road, but I guess it hit too big of a bump because one wing broke and fell down, sparking an explosion of the fuel that was in it. I recognized the plane as belonging to Willie Nelson, and was distraught at the prospect of the world losing his music. I called 911 and told them that Willie Nelson's plane had gone down near us and asked them to send help quickly to save the music. After that I grabbed a laptop out the back seat and sat by the side of the road, intending to blog about what was happening and get a scoop on everyone. The first thing that came up, though, when I booted up was a chat site dedicated to Willie Nelson, on which he himself had just posted that his plane was going down. I was even more upset by losing the scoop than him crashing.

At that point my wife woke me up with a snuggle, and our real day began.

I'm not what you'd call a Willie Nelson fan, but I don't dislike him and I have enjoyed his songs when they play. All in all I'm glad he's not dead. If the events in the dream were to happen in real life, it would probably go about like I described, except I would post with my phone, and I would be much more freaked out and saddened by his post than upset about losing the scoop. (If you're reading this, Mr. Nelson, may all your landings be happy and safe.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

So Friggin' Hot!

I'm eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby. The car thermometer said 103° when we left to drop off a package, and 106° when we got back. I allow myself one of these a month, and, dang it, this is the day for it. I also got a Snapple raspberry iced tea to go with it.

Dad Update

My father was moved to a regular room yesterday. He's impatient to get out, and everyone thinks it's going to be a problem getting him to stick with better diet & exercise habits.

My wife and I were discussing what kind of get-well gift to send him. I thought of how much he loves his native Cajun food and how bad it is for him and did a search. I found a cookbook of Cajun recipes modified to be heart-healthy. It was written by a woman who had written other Cajun cookbooks, after her husband's bypass surgery. It'll be perfect. I found it in an ebay store - it's apparently out of print - so I won't post a link lest anyone else grab it before I can. (I'll add a link afte I order.) We'll probably order him a non-flowering plant as well - something to add a little oxygen to the air without making him sneeze. I can't imagine sneezing while healing a split-open chest would be very pleasant.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ambiguous Headline

Consider the headline for this AP story:

Reading the story it's obvious that "Aids" is the verb. Out of context, however, "Collapse" could be parsed as the verb, with "Technology Aids" being the subject phrase. The latter is how I parsed it at first glance, though in my defense it was first thing in the morning and I was a little sleepy.

So what would be better?

"Technology Aids In Collapse Investigation" - Definitely better, but some folks familiar with the word "aides" but not its spelling might think it meant some aides were involved in investigating the collapse. It's plausable since some government aide specializing in technology might very well be sent to do some fact-finding on the technical failures involved and offer input on what to look for in designs for the bridge's replacement. At least that's what one might imagine is happening if one parsed the headline that way.

"Collapse Investigation Aided By Technology" - Now we're talking. Sure, it's passive voice, but if that's clearer than what you can do in active voice doesn't that serve the purpose - informing your readers - better? I'm thinking, however, that if the editors at the AP were presented with this as a possible headline they most likely rejected it because of the extra characters for "By". Back in the old teletype days that sort of savings could add up. In this day and age, though, it's kind of an archaic practice.

Anyway, that caught my eye this morning. I hope we all learned something.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Dad's Surgery Done

I got a call from my brother. My dad's surgery is done. Only three bypasses, but the damage from the attack was a bit more than they had thought. The doctor seems to think he'll do okay, though. In about a week they'll let him go home. They say most patients are driving again in about three.

Right now the family is discussing how to keep him away from the bad food so he doesn't have to go through this again. He's going to have to be on a short leash.

My Father's Surgery

It started at 7:30 central. He'll be almost three hours into it now. My mother has to have the phone turned off while she waits near the operating room, so I won't hear how it went until later. I'm immersing myself in work until then.

Police Discipline In Thailand

Spotted this in the news today. Click for the full story...

I wonder if the female officers are at all bothered by this. Do they also object to being treated like little girls? If they're cops I guess they might at that.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A Day At The Pool

It's pretty hot today so we headed over to my in-laws' house for a swim in their pool. It's our first time since summer before last since we were so short-handed at Secret Headquarters last year. Maybe it's lie stuff, but I especially enjoy skimming along the bottom in goggles and flippers. It's like flying. I'm feeling pleasantly fatigued.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Mishap At Saturn

Some years ago, a good decade now that I think of it, I bought a program that I very much enjoyed: Microsoft Space Simulator. It was very cool for its time, particularly for a DOS program as you can see from these screen shots. It's been a while since I've run it. I may still have it stashed away, but I really can't remember if I got it on 3.5" or 5.25" floppies. My current computer has neither so the point is moot. (For now, anyway - I plan to snag one off of an older system before I junk it.)

So, curious to see if Microsoft has followed up with a version that can take advantage of modern computers, I did a search. I didn't find an updated version, but I did find mention of Orbiter.

Orbiter is a freeware space flight simulator that looks a lot nicer than MS Space Simulator, as you can see from its screen shots. Unfortunately, it, or my computer, has a problem. When I tried to load the Saturn scenario from the demo section it instantly reset and rebooted my computer. That's just plain annoying.

I do play to try it again, perhaps with nothing else running, but I would like to hear from other users who have had the same problem with it and hear how they fixed or avoided it.

Anyway, if you haven't seen it, give it a look yourself. It looks pretty cool.

A Pre-Lunch Snack

My wife picked up a pack of roasted pepper hummus and mini-pitas this morning to have as a snack today. She finished the pitas but the hummus was only about halfway finished. I'm finishing it off, dipping my whole grain cheddar Goldfish crackers in it. It's all I've got. It's actually not bad.

What do you dip in your hummus?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

This Morning's Dad Update

The surgery's been pushed back to Monday. He's still bleeding too long to avoid needing a transfusion. He's talkative, though. My mother called this morning and put him on. We talked about a quarter hour about how they collect the vein and how hearts are so spongy and stuff. He sounds optimistic. I am too.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Another dad update

They're saying the surgery will likely be Friday. Apparently he's not considered an emergency case at this point so they're taking a day to get him into better condition for it.

The doctor says he won't know how many bypasses are needed for sure until he gets inside, but they think three to five. He also says the surgery has about a 98% success rate. They're running other tests in the mean time, no doubt to make sure there are no surprises once they begin.

It looks like he had a silent heart attack some time ago. (How long ago? During Katrina? That could certainly precipitate something like that.)

He'll recover for 24 hours in the CCU after the surgery, then a week in the hospital (or maybe a week total. I guess whatever's needed.) After that he'll go home to mostly normal activity and go in for rehab. They say it takes about six to eight weeks to fully recuperate.

He is able to walk around a bit but it hurts a bit when he's active. He's being his stubborn self about it, though. Hopefully he'll get some sense knocked into him by the time spent recovering.

More news about my dad

My mother called and it looks like my dad has one full blockage and a couple partials. He'll have to have a triple bypass, probably tomorrow. The cardiologist says my dad's system did manage to compensate at least partially for the blockages, and the muscle is strong, so that looks good. (He's stubborn to the core.) He'll have to watch his cholesterol now, and get control of his diabetes. I should tell my mother to take a picture of him in recovery with his cell phone and set that as his wallpaper as a reminder. Of course the "zipper" will hopefully suffice, but it doesn't hurt to have a backup.

I didn't even think to ask my mother which hospital they were in. And my wife has called since so I can't even do *69. Well, I'm sure I'll hear from them again soon, and I can always call and see if my brother knows.

My Father's In The Hospital

We got a call early this morning. It was my mother. My father was having chest pains and is now in the hospital. She said the EKG & blood tests indicate there's something going on. He was scheduled for an angiogram at 7 central, after which the cardiologist will be talking to them.

I hope he comes out of this okay but scared enough to realize he's eaten his fair share of andouille sausage and it's time to let others take on that load.

My uncle, my father's younger brother, had the same sort of thing happen and now has a stent and seems to be doing fine.

I just realized I have no idea which hospital he's in. My mother didn't mention, and I have no idea which hospitals are now open in New Orleans that can handle cardiac patients.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

For The Bigfoot Lover In You

I was putting together a collection of sex feet designs (I believe they're "officially" called "happy feet") and was playing with the positioning of them. It occurred to me that it would be funny to do a bigfoot version. At first I had it without the text, intending to just say it was bigfoot in the product descriptions, but then I realized the large+small feet combination could be mistaken for a pedophilia design. I very quickly added the text.

The text is, by the way, in a font based on the title text in a Gamera movie. I thought it worked just as well for bigfoot.

Anyway, if you like it it's available on a variety of gift items and women's clothing: I Love Bigfoot t-shirts and gifts.

Monday, July 30, 2007

An Embarrassing Mistake

I'm having Lean Cuisine shrimp & angel hair pasta for lunch today, but when I took it out of the microwave I was scandalized to find some of the shrimp were not cooked. I figured they were supposed to be pre-cooked. I decided to contact Stouffer's and had taken this picture to send to them. I was looking at the box to find their web site when I noticed the step in the instructions I had skipped. I was supposed to stir it and put it cooking longer. Oops! I finished cooking it and it's just fine.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Important News Alert

Friday, July 27, 2007

And this is our cute little kitty.. Aaaagh!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

One For The Kids

Here's a silly little design I doodled tonight just for the kids. Well, playful adults can get it too. Who wouldn't want a ride in a rocket-powered monkey-driven car? Well, a shirt with one on it is the next best thing. This is already one of my favorites. :)

What it's all about

I've had a blog on Yahoo for a bit now, but it's starting to be a bit constraining. I looked around a bit and found that seems to let me do more in the way of customization, etc., so here I am. I do have friends on Yahoo, so I'll likely continue to post there, but anything not specific to Yahoo will likely be here too. In time I'm sure this will become my primary blog, once I'm used to the new power - I hope it doesn't go to my head. :)

I see there's a spot on the posting form for entering the time and date. If that works like it seems it aught to I may backfill with some old informative posts of mine. So if you're seeing older posts than this one, other than one or two test posts, those were added later. They're still interesting, though, else I wouldn't bring them over.

See you all later!

Groundhog Day!

This is mostly a test post, but I may as well post something a little interesting. This is a groundhog that has been eating fallen apples from our trees. I tried to get closer by pretending to eat some leaves i picked up off the ground, but he (or she) would have nothing of it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Note On Using A 2Gig MicroSD In An LG VX8300 Phone

I just got a pair of SanDisk 2-gig MicroSD cards for my and my wife's LG VX8300 phones. I had some misgivings about buying them, since I had read a review somewhere on the interweb that noted that the phone only can read up to 1 gig. I had also read that they will format a 2-gig to 1 gig and use that. That was okay, since CompUSA had (and maybe still has, as of this writing) 2-gig SanDisks on sale for less than the same brand of 1-gig card, so I was still getting at least the same storage for less money.

Later I read in another review that it will actually format the card with two 1-gig partitions, but that if you format it with another device that supports 2 gig partitions and create certain directories (folders for those of you with no pre-Windows95 experience) it will use the full space with no problem.

When the cards came in I decided to see for myself what the phone would do with them if I didn't format them. Well, lo and behold it just created the needed directories on the existing 2-gig partition and used them without complaint. I checked the card memory through the phone's menu and it's seeing and reporting the full 2 gig. I have all my new pix, flix, and sounds bing recorded to it now, and have switched the camera resolution to its full 1280x960.

Another thing I saw in reviews was that Verizon had disabled playing MP3s on the phone, but that a menu trick would let you switch it on. You then had to create a specially-named directory just for MP3s for the phone to see them. Then others said that later versions of the firmware had disabled that trick. Still others noted that the latest version played any MP3 you care to place in the normal music directory. I am happy to report that on our phones the news is good: they will in fact play MP3s placed in that directory. I'm now listening to a shuffle of the several I've initially loaded on it. (With no headphone and on the lowest volume - decent little speakers for their size. Now playing: Lithium by Nirvana.) The headphone jack takes a smaller size plug than normal, but I should be able to find adapters at Radio Shack or somewhere so I don't have to limit my choice of headphones.

One additional caveat about playing music: if you are playing music and pause it the phone's battery will, for some reason, keep draining as if you were still playing music. Hopefully that's something Verizon can fix in a future firmware update, but meanwhile if you have one of these phones be sure to exit the music player altogether if you're done listening for a while.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Cooler Monitor

My wife's new monitor, a Samsung Syncmaster 971p, just came in. (Sans memory cards we also ordered, but that's another story.) I'll be setting it up tonight and maybe posting a review here later.

Anyway, she wants to replace her ginormous (it's officially a word now) corner desk with a smaller one. I was doing an image search on "corner computer desk" to find her old one and show an employee just how big the thing is (well, I couldn't very well tell them it's the same one the girl on JenniCam had) and along the way found a blog mentioning the two displays above.

They're pretty cool. The one on the left, manufactured by Sharp, displays three different images at once. Which one you see depends on which direction you view it from. Their press release on it suggests it be used in a dashboard display, allowing the driver to see directions, the front passenger to look up destination information, and the kids in back to watch a movie. I think it would also be cool in a crowded house where arguments over what to watch are frequent and heated. Just add headphones (bluetooth stereo, anyone?) and a couple extra tuners with independent remotes and you're good to go.

The one on the right is very cool too. Back when I was playing more FPS games I would have been drooling over the thing. The company who makes it, Seamless Display, makes flat display panels that fit together seamlessly (or at least with a small enough seam so you can't see it in the example pictures.) If you can't tell from the picture, the monitor is made of three panels, with the side panels joined to the center one at an angle to arc around the user. Sweet.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Helpful Things You Can Do On The Internet

Apparently there are several sites on the interweb where a body can sign up to contribute their time to those sites' projects. Here are a few I already knew about or recently heard of, followed by a list of others.

Distributed Proofreaders
I have this on in my blogroll already. Basically it's a site where you can help proofread, one page at a time, scanned and computer-transcribed public-domain texts to be included in the collection of Project Gutenberg. You get to pick from a list of current projects, some of which can really suck you in. (Yes, I have participated in this one.)

The Stardust probe traveled to a comet and once there held aloft an extremely light gel block (aerogel, the stuff is called) to gently catch bits of interplanetary & interstellar dust. They then put the aerogel under an automated microscope and took over a million pictures, scanning the position and focus depth along the way. Volunteers scan through the pictures, noting tell-tale signs of dust impacts so that the scientists can retrieve the captured dust for analysis.

Galaxy Zoo
An astronomical photographic survey promises to reveal a good million or more galaxies. The astronomers want to find and classify them all, but while computers are good at finding possible galaxies, they aren't nearly as good as humans at verifying that they are in fact galaxies and noting their characteristics. You can help by looking at the pictures they have gathered and noting whether each is a galaxy, what type, and the direction of rotation for spirals. They say that as a participant you may be the first human to see these galaxies.

And here's a list of others (more details at Distributed Human Projects at
Have fun!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

400th Design On Cafepress - and Another Gratifying Sale

My 400th design - Will Work For The Weekend just came online yesterday in the Cafepress Marketplace. The inspiration for it should be fairly obvious.

I also got my first sale of Untimely Ripp'd, on a toddler shirt. I knew someone out there would get it.

Thanks to everyone for your support!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Catching Up On The IVF, and This Weekend


Okay. If you've been keeping up with my blasts on my other blog you know what happened, more or less. I suppose somebody might come this way via a web search on "IVF blog" or some such, though, and wonder how the cycle ended, so here goes for the record.

My wife had ordered a bunch of El-Cheapo™ pregnancy tests, with the primary purpose of monitoring the drop-off of the trigger shot, whose presence in the body will give a false positive on a pregnancy test. Once you see that fade to nothing you can be more sure of subsequent positive tests. She has been participating in online IVF communities and more than one person there has said that those tests will drive you nuts - particularly if you get all negatives and then finally get a positive blood test.

Well, she went ahead and did the tests, and kept taking them a couple times a day after the trigger faded. They kept coming up negative, putting her into a bit of a funk, until one came up just barely positive. She was ecstatic. She did another a couple hours later. It gave an even fainter positive, but we chalked that up to dilute urine and I talked her into not doing any more until morning. We figured the urine would be more concentrated and the pregnancy further along so the result should be a darker line. She got up to pee in the middle of the night and got nothing. Then again the next morning - nothing. The same that night and the next day. Well, as you can imagine, she and I were in more of a funk than she was before the positive test. I got her to agree to not take any more tests until we got the results of the blood test. She tried, but couldn't hold out and took one the day before the blood test. Negative again.

She did a little research, and found that the positive test followed by negatives is most often indicative of a "chemical pregnancy" which is when an embryo starts to implant then fails. It was a totally unknown thing until recently when the tests began to detect pregnancies early enough to see it. We both went through a bad time then, each of us breaking down in turn over it all. By the next day, we had pretty much gotten our grieving over it done and took the news of the negative blood test calmly since we were expecting it. We had been holding out a sliver of hope, that maybe the urine tests were defective, or her chemistry odd (as mentioned above, they don't work so well for some women for some reason), or that maybe it was a second implantation that had kicked the chemistry up into detectable levels before failing while the first continued. In the end that proved as false as it was unlikely.

While on the phone with the doctor (I was on another line with a customer who called at the same time) my wife told him that if we do another cycle we'd want to do a full workup on her to see what might have gone wrong that we could correct or compensate for. He agreed, of course. We'll be calling in some time this week for an appointment to discuss our options.

The Weekend

This weekend we devoted to getting away from things - a break in the routine activities & surroundings to give us a breather before getting back to dealing with all this.

Saturday we drove to Williamsburg and Jamestown. We had lunch at a decent little deli in Williamsburg next to the William & Mary campus, near the historic district, after driving from there to Jamestown and back looking for a good restaurant. (We had found a place in the guide book that specialized in pies - meat, dessert, & pizza - and were looking for that. Turned out to be basically a shack along the road, so we decided to skip it until we could hear more from someone else who'd tried it.)

After lunch we decided it was just plain too hot to walk around town and headed back to Jamestown again to the museum there. Once there we parked and went in, to discover that what looked like a big air-conditioned museum was actually just a ticket counter, cafe, and gift shop, as far as we could see. The settlement museum and replicas of the three ships that brought the colonists were, of course, outside in the heat. We decided to skip that and take a look in the gift shop. We got some hat+t-shirt bundles. My wife plans to give her hat to her dad. We had planned on staying in a hotel that night and doing more touring the next day, but it was supposed to be even hotter so we decided to go home and try to tour some nearby caverns the next day.

Sunday I was awakened by my wife telling me the internet connection was down. I got up and checked it out. Sure enough the lights on the cable modem were fewer than normal. I reset it with no improvement. I reseated the cable - again nothing. I called their tech support and was put through some voodoo manipulations (part of which - the shutting down of the computers - I skipped since I know that makes no difference to a cable modem when you're using a router) which again had no effect. The phone tech scheduled a visit by a technician monday between 8 and 5. That done we headed out.

We had picked up pamphlets fir various interesting attractions at a rest stop the day before, and there were three caverns with tours within a day trip distance. Two - Luray Caverns and Endless Caverns - are very near each other so we figured on taking the shorter-length tour first then the other if we felt up to it.

We went to Luray first. The web site said the guided tour was about an hour. I think it may be out of date. The tour was an at-your-own-pace walk along a brick path (with the entrance down a pre-OSHA flight of stairs), with guides stationed at interesting points describing them periodically. It took us almost two hours.

Three highlights:

The Princess Collumn, near which some of the bones of a teenage native american girl were found by the man who discovered the caverns. (According to the guide there are two theories as to how the bones got there: either she wandered in and got lost and died there, or she had been buried in the ground above and her bones were gradually washed down a sinkhole and fell through cracks in the rock. Since only some of her bones were there and there wasn't enough light for scavengers large enough to take them away, the latter theory is favored as most likely true.)

A giant stalactite that fell from the ceiling about 7000 years ago. Dripstone has formed over parts of it since, indicating how long it's been lying there.

The Stalacpipe Organ. A man from nearby noticed that the stalactites each vibrated with a different pitch when struck. He went through the stalactites in one room of the caverns and found one for each note on an organ keyboard, then fitted them with electricly triggered rubber hammers connected to a keyboard. For years they had a guy who played it, but he retired several years ago. Now they have it rigged to play automatically and only have it played live for special occasions. The tones are quiet but very nice.

We took lots of pictures, many of which I'm sure were shaky in the low light, but I'll try to pick out some good ones to put in my album here.

After that we went to a local Pizza Hut for a late lunch. We decided we were too tired from Luray - and we had leftover pizza - so we decided to head home. It was still a little early, so we took a scenic route.

Now we're back home, and it's back to the old routine at work and home. I think we will try to make more of these day trips in the future, though.

Oh, and when we got back the cable modem was working again. Probably an outage that we were just the first to report. If we had cable TV too instead of DirecTV I'm sure that would have given another clue. I guess I should call and cancel that technician's visit. :)