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.