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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Life in the ER

Sorry about the lack of updates, especially since I've been working on a long post for a few days (which will never be able to live up to whatever expectations may have accrued to it).

I had a softball double-header Friday night, and in the 3rd inning of the second game I stumbled while rounding 2nd and sprained my knee. Aside from the risk of serious injury, the worst part was writhing helplessly in the base path while they tagged me out.

I thought it was going to be ok to ice it and go to the doctor on Saturday, but as we were getting into the car, it buckled rather painfully (and frighteningly), prompting me to scream a mild obscenity and convincing me that maybe more immediate care was warranted. So off we went to the ER at Washington Regional....

After 2 hours and some x-rays, the doctor said there was no evidence of tearing in any of my knee ligaments, which was wonderful news. He did say I should watch it over the next couple of weeks to make sure it keeps improving, and that if it continues to bother me, I might need to see a specialist, since I could have some torn or damaged cartilage, which is harder to see on x-rays.

So for the time being, I'm just elevating and icing it it. As it turns out, laying on the couch with your right leg above your heart isn't the easiest position to type in, thus the lack of updates.

Sitting in the waiting room, though, it became embarrassingly obvious to me that even with the worst-case scenario for my knee, I would've been worlds better off than most of the other patients. I wasn't bleeding profusely, I still had all my fingers, I wasn't brought in unconscious on an ambulance, and my family wasn't huddled in the corner, weeping with fear and grief.

Getting ignominiously tagged out suddenly seemed like a pretty minor problem.

I spent all day Saturday resting, then last night we went for dinner and games with our friends Genet and Joel in Bella Vista. That was really a lot of fun!

This afternoon Heather Marie and her fellow bellydance instructors are meeting to practice at our house, so Magaidh and I are cloistered in the office. I'm taking the opportunity to finally install the new hard drive in my desktop. It looks like that's going to fix the problem so far, but I still suspect there may be more to it than a bad hard drive. We'll see after I finish reinstalling, I guess.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Post Delayed

I know I said yesterday that I had a good post lined up for today, but as it turns out I didn't have time to get it finished tonight, so it'll have to wait until Friday.

I didn't get home until nearly 10:00 tonight. Heather had a bellydance rehearsal, and
when I left work at 8:00, I went to Best Buy to take advantage of the sale they have on 120 GB hard drives for $50. That's about 42 cents per gigabyte -- not bad! I think that should get my desktop fixed up.

I guess I'll have to call it Gecko 3.75 now or something.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Time for the Next Gecko?

I went into my home office today to check something on my desktop, and found a big, fat Windows system error message. Following standard Windows procedure, I rebooted, only to get the same error again. Not good.

My current desktop is affectionately known as Gecko 3.5, following my long-time naming scheme. The first Gecko was a custom-built Win95 computer I got in 1997 to replace my first personal desktop, a Gateway 486DX2. The second Gecko was a Win98 Pentium II from Gateway, back when they were Gateway 2000. It's now my parents' computer, having been handed down to replace the original Gecko. Gecko III was an AthlonXP system that I built from parts in 2002. Gecko 3.5 hasn't been dubbed Gecko 4 because it was really just a non-upgrade rebuild of Gecko 3 to replace a bad motherboard, plus it was off-track for my typical four-year cycle.

Which brings us back to today's problem: Gecko 3.5 is ailing. I've been planning to replace it for some time, but the plan was to wait for Vista's release so I could just get it pre-installed. If I need a new system immediately, though, I won't be able to wait -- which raises the question of whether I even want another Windows system at all. An iMac or Mac Pro would do pretty much everything I need, and dual-booting with Windows would do the rest.

Normally right now, with a non-functional desktop, I'd be in full crisis mode. I'd be taking meals at the computer desk and planning a likely all-nighter to try to get it fixed ASAP. If we weren't in crunch mode at work, it's not inconceivable that I'd take a sick day. Since I have a laptop that's now my primary computer, though, the pressure is mostly off. In fact, the only urgent reasons to fix it are that it's our household file and print server and it works better for remoting into work.

Fortunately, I'm fairly certain that a complete rebuild or replacement isn't in the cards. Right now it looks like a simple DLL restore, with a worst-case scenario of a new hard drive so I can install Windows on it fresh without losing my data, but it has caused me to start thinking about Gecko 4.

One interesting statistic is that I've pretty much followed a version of Moore's Law on my systems. My first computer (Gecko 0?) had a 66 MHz CPU. Gecko 2 was a 4x+ power increase four years later (Gecko replaced Gecko 0 when it died prematurely after 3 years). At 1600 MHz Gecko 3 was a 4x increase over G2. The primary reason I haven't been in a hurry to upgrade is that 1.6 GHz is still a pretty decent machine. I could put in a better graphics card and run pretty much anything I want. Here we are four years later, and where's my 6.4 GHz processor?

The answer, of course, is that Moore's Law caught up with the limitations of atomic physics, so we're a little stalled at the moment. Everything is dual-core and multi-processor now, which is a nice segue into tomorrow's post. :-)

Now I'm off to do some computer Windows maintenance....

Update: In all fairness, I have to say that I really can't blame Windows for this one. After some testing, it's obvious that what I'm dealing with is actual hardware failure. It seems to be just my main hard drive, but I'm going to check tonight to make sure it's not the IDE controller on the motherboard. Luckily, I just made a full backup to the new USB drive we got last week, so my data is safe for now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mid-week Reportlets

Halfway through the week, and there's really nothing major to report, just a lot of small stuff, so I hereby inaugurate the reportlet:
  • Following up on a comment in response to my last shaving post, it's good to know that Target carries a lot of the supplies I've been using. That's a lot more convenient than mail-order, which makes it much more feasible to continue with the double-edged safety razor.
  • Also on the topic of shaving, while we were in Eureka Springs I used the Fusion again with modern shaving gel. It did seem to work better with the gel, but the razor bumps around my neck, which had almost completely vanished while using the DE razor, came back with a vengeance after only one shave with the cartridge. After a week of shaves with the DE razor, they're gone again.
  • We got a 250 GB Lacie USB drive today to store archives of Heather's podcast, big media files, and backups. Gorgeous design, but what really excites me is how cheap storage has gotten. For perspective, this single 250 GB drive (which is about the size of a couple of DVD cases) has more storage capacity than the sum total of every computer she and I have ever owned. And now terabyte drives are expected out this year? Awesome.
  • Included in the Amazon order with the new drive was also a test prep book for the first of the new Microsoft certification tests. I love Smalltalk and Ruby, but there's not much space for them in my day job, so it seems reasonable to focus some time on .NET. I'm mostly looking at preparing for the cert tests as a way to force myself to get up to speed on .NET 2.0 before we transition to it for development at work.
  • Maczot finally gave me an offer that was too good to refuse today. Heather's been using Skype Recorder for her podcast interviews, and Maczot's price was essentially half-price.
That's pretty much it for today. Off to bed!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Lazy Weekend

I wish I could say that we did great, inspiring things this weekend, but we mostly just lounged around and watched season four of Gilmore Girls. That was really good, though, since we were pretty worn out by the end of the week.

One funny bit of synchronicity with Gilmore Girls came in an episode where two characters went to Florida for spring break and spent most of their time in their hotel room watching The Power of Myth. As it happens, I have the Power of Myth DVDs checked out from Netflix right now, and I'm finishing the last episode as I write this.

I first saw the series when it aired on PBS, but at the time, I was most attracted to it due to the use of Star Wars in the early episodes. I studied the basic principles, especially the hero cycle, throughout school, but I haven't watched the actual series interviews much since they were on PBS. I've been really surprised, though, by how much I remembered. It's hard to say how much was recalled from the original airing and how much was from school lectures, but it seems to me that I simply internalized and absorbed many of the ideas. Time and again Campbell has told stories or described concepts that I've long been familiar with, but didn't remember learning, and I've realized that his books and interviews were the sources.

Magaidh seems to have made a full recovery, much to our relief. Unfortunately, I'm still suffering from an outbreak of the weird, hives-like allergic rash I get once a year or so. Still no clue what causes it, either. Before you ask, yes, we've eliminated all the usual suspects, from food to laundry detergent. For all we know, it could just be stress. At least it's nearly gone now, with just a little itching and redness on one hand, and hopefully that'll be gone after a good night's sleep and a dose of Benadryl. I think I'll go get started on that now.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Long Dark Night

No post last night, sorry. Sunday night turned out to be a looong night.

Beginning about 4:00 Sunday afternoon, Magaidh started itching and scratching something awful. It got worse and worse as the night went on. As previously advised by our vet, we gave her a little Benadryl at about 5:00 or so, thinking that it would help if she was having allergy problems. Her itching only got worse, though.

We tried brushing her and spraying her with doggie anti-itch spray, but nothing helped, and her whining and scratching kept us away until 1:00, when I gave her a cool bath with anti-itch dog shampoo. Far from helping, the bath itself caused her so much discomfort that she literally started howling.

At about 1:45 we gave her some more Benadryl, but it still didn't help, so about 2:15 we started another examination to check for fleas and other pests, but we couldn't find any sign of them. We did notice, though, that she'd nearly licked/chewed/scratched several raw spots on her hind legs, and she had a red rash on her belly.

So thus it was that we found ourselves at the emergency vet clinic in Springdale at 2:45 in the morning. The vet said her symptoms were consistent with an allergic reaction to an insect bite of some kind, so she gave Magaidh a couple of shots and prescribed an increased dose of Benadryl for the next five days. They were really nice, patient people there, and my hat is off to them. They're on the job overnight and on weekends so animals can get immediate care whenever they need it -- that takes a special attitude and love.

Happily, the treatments seem to have done the trick, and Magaidh is feeling much better since then. Unfortunately, though, they didn't kick in immediately, so I was awake until after 5am, when Magaidh either started feeling better or exhausted herself scratching.

Last night wasn't enough for me to fully recover, and tonight's not looking so hot, either, but at least I'm going to go give it a shot.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

2191 Days and Counting

Heather Marie and I just got back from a weekend vacation to Eureka Springs to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. Wow, it really doesn't seem like it's been that long! Knowing and loving Heather has been the greatest adventure of my life.

We had a good trip, even though we actually didn't do a whole lot. All we really needed was a chance to get away for a little while, to break out of our routine, and Eureka is a great place for doing that.

One of the things I love about going to Eureka Springs is that it's sort of a trip back in time. Not in the cheesy, touristy, Victorian Eureka way, but in the sense that it's sort of a time capsule for 20th century road trips and vacations. Highway 62 from Rogers to Eureka Springs is a smallish scenic byway now, but for most of the 1900s, that was the type of road that connected the whole country.

On the drive over, I'm always struck by how the businesses and attractions harken back to the kitsch of the 50s and 60s driving vacations. The road is dotted with dozens of roadside motels and cabins whose signs haven't changed since the Johnson administration, and it seems that every little road leads to a restaurant or diner of some kind. How is it that I've never heard of these places? There's a crowd, and it's a fairly big place, but I've never heard it, even though I've lived 30 minutes away for the past 12 years. Weird!

There are also some great roadside attractions, like Dinosaur World (which, unfortunately, was closed when we went, perhaps permanently) and Blue Spring. Of course, the main attraction is always Eureka Springs itself.

There's something about the city. Situated as it is in the deep valley between two ridges, the skyline is dominated on one side by Christ of the Ozarks and on the other by the Crescent Hotel. Because of the morbid history and spooky reputation of the Crescent, I've always thought of that as an interesting juxtaposition between the sacred and the profane. (Nothing against the Crescent, by any means, just an observation.)

I've always loved wandering and getting lost in explorations, which I think may be one reason that I like Eureka so much, since I've never been there when I didn't get lost at least a little. At the very least I usually feel lost when I'm there, which is a good feeling in our strictly controlled, mapped, scheduled world.

We stayed at the Bavarian Inn, which does a great job of providing an intimate, romantic retreat. We also ate at the restaurant on the grounds, which has probably the closest thing to really good German cuisine available in Northwest Arkansas.

To get around, we bought trolley passes for the day. Parking can be a serious pain in Eureka, and the trolleys are a good way to avoid the hassle. During the ride back to our hotel, though, I discovered that an added benefit was the ability to actually look at the town as we rode through. In the past, I've always been to preoccupied trying not to get lost (or trying to get unlost) to truly notice many of the city's features. On the bus ride, though, I saw all sorts of interesting places that I want to revisity. In fact, I think for my next trip over, I want to plan on exploring the city by either bike or hike in order to really see and visit the sites I've only ever driven by.