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User Journal

Journal: Windows 7 grips

Last week I got a new company laptop that had Windows 7 pre-installed. Today I finally figured out how to turn off all the fancy GUI stuff: Go to Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Ease of Access Center\Make it easier to focus on tasks. About half way down is a checkbox labeled "Turn off all unnecessary animations (when possible)", checking it gets rid of all the visual junk that happens when you try to navigate between windows.


Journal: Needed: a Bluetooth-enabled chair cushion

In an effort to encourage people to lock their workstations, my place of work has decided that anyone leaving their system unlocked will send out an email volunteering to buy donuts the next day. Of course, the poor saps usually don't realize that they've sent that email until they start getting replies thanking them. I've decided that it would be cheaper for me to purchase (or build) a seat cushion that reports to my laptop if my butt is resting upon it, and have an app that activates the screen saver whenever I stand up. While this seems like a natural for ThinkGeek, I can't find anything like this in their catalog (although the BluAlert bracelet looks interesting). And I don't need something expensive that measures my exact weight. Can anyone please help?

User Journal

Journal: Turning someone's blog into a flat file

I recently found an interesting (and relatively small) blog, and to get caught up I'd like to read the whole thing chronologically. Like most blogs, its archive sorts each month's entries from newest to oldest, which forces me to do a lot of scrolling if I want to read them the other way. Also, navigating is a bit of a hassle without first/previous/next/last links at the top and/or bottom of each page. What I'd really like is a way to turn the whole thing into an ODF/PDF/whatever file and read it offline. It isn't my blog, so I can't get any database dumps or install any plug-ins; it looks like any solution needs to screen-scrape. I've looked at Blurb, LJBook, Lulu and even the departed Blogbinders, but none of them do what I need. The only FOSS solution seems to be, but it also falls well short of what I need. Before I bite the bullet and roll my own, can anyone point me to a solution? Thanks.
User Journal

Journal: Missing posts?

I was writing a reply to Retroactive Telco Immunity Opponents Buying TV Ad, and I wanted to refer to a post I'd made earlier in the month. After the bill passed, I'd spent some time making a list of how many Dems votes on each of the amendments, but now I can't find that posting anywhere. I've checked out Senate Passes Telecom Immunity Bill and can't find my reply there, nor does Google find anything if I search for my username in Am I going crazy?

User Journal

Journal: Eliminate Presidential term limits

I'd like to eliminate term limits as they currently exist; instead, each term spent in office could count as 50 negative votes (one per state) in the Electoral College. This would avoid lame-duck status, at least until the nominating conventions. Looking back only as far as the Civil War, the only elections that this rule would have changed would be those of 2004 (Bush v. Kerry) and 1916 (Wilson v. Hughes).

Internet Explorer

Journal: IE7 problems 1 1

Today my family's computer (running Windows XP Home) told us that an automatic update was available for installation. I gave permission for the update to be installed and wound up with a new installation of IE7. Unfortunately, after the required reboot I quickly discovered that we could no longer access the web. DNS resolved everything that I gave it and I could ping the resulting IP addresses, but I couldn't open HTTP connections outside of my local subnet. Telnet'ing to port 80 also didn't work, so it apparently wasn't just a problem with IE7.

Fortunately, IE7 did provide a nice diagnostic tool that decided that the ports for FTP, HTTP and HTTPS were all unavailable and suggested that I investigate my firewall settings. Interestingly enough, it turns out that I'd disabled Windows Firewall some time ago, because I trust my dedicated router/firewall to keep the black-hats out of my home. Turning to my work laptop (which could still access the outside world), I quickly found a web page that strongly recommended leaving the firewall on during the install. Need I say that I wasn't very surprised by the implication that IE7 can break other programs' access to the Internet?

The good news is that uninstalling IE7 fixed everything. Until I can get more information about what happened, I've told Windows Update to not try re-installing IE7.

User Journal

Journal: My Tonsillectomy

It's almost 4am, Monday morming, and the jury is still out on the success of my tonsillectomy last Wednesday. Not for the first time, I hope that I haven't made a terrible mistake.

This all started about four years ago. In mid-1999, I started showing the classic symptoms of sleep apnea: I began falling asleep at work. At first, I thought that it was due to life-style, so I tried going to bed earlier, but that just got me up earlier. Finally, two events happened within a couple of days of each other that convinced me that something had to be done. The second trigger was my boss telling me that he had received inquiries from clients who wanted to know "if they had to pay for the time that I was asleep". I hadn't realized that things had been so noticable, and promptly told him about the other, primary trigger. As I was pulling into the office park where I worked, I had dozed off for just a couple of seconds and run over the stop sign for a pedestrial cross-walk. There wasn't any damage to the car, or much to the stop sign, but I thank God that there wasn't someone crossing the street at that preciese moment. As soon as I got into the office, I started looking for someplace where I could have a sleep study performed. The warning from my employer kicked things into high gear, and on August 15, I spent the night at Barnes Hospital in St. Peters, MO. To make a long story short, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and wound up with a CPAP machine on September 1st.

Some people have trouble adjusting to a CPAP, but I didn't. In fact, I loved it: Suddenly, I had my life back.

Well, life wasn't all roses. I found that I was tied to a 110 volt outlet whenever I wanted to go to sleep. This meant that I had to drag the thing along on business trips. It also meant that I largely gave up trying to sleep on airplanes, but that wasn't such a big deal, since I was never more that a couple of hours away from anyplace I needed to go. But it also meant that I had to give up camping out, and that was a real annoyance. Starting in college over twenty years before, I had gone on week-end camping trips at least twice a year. That now seemed out of the question. More importantly, two years earlier I had fulfilled a life's ambition and hiked a small section of the Appalachian Trail. The experience left me wanting to do it again, and that, too, seemed unlikely while I was teathered to the nation's power grid.

On the other hand, my wife liked to point out that for her, growing up on a farm had destroyed any mystique that might be attached to "roughing it". She saw no point in sleeping anywhere except in a bed in a house. I was allowed my hobbies, but once our daughter was born in 1998, I had given up camping and hiking, at least until she was old enough to accompany me. Besides, I thought, this was mostly my own fault anyway. I'd put on a fair bit of weight since college, and weight-gain was a leading cause of sleep apnea. Let's face it: I needed to spend some time losing weight before doing any more camping, and that might cause the apnea to reverse itself.

So things sat for two years. In early 2001, I realized that I had been gaining weight, not losing it, so I started to make some noises about getting my tonsils removed. I had gone so far as to make a doctor's appointment, when I lost my job in the general economic downturn. I canceled the appointment and spent the next couple of months looking for work. I found a job soon enought, but my new employer was small, only 75 or so employees, and I was much too busy trying to help them stay in business to think about surgery for a while. And just when I did start to think about it, they laid off half of their employees, and I lost that job, too!

This time around, I did things "right". First, I went to work for a Fortune 500 company. Both of my previous jobs had been with small companies, and I had always worried that getting the surgery could seriously impact their operations. Second, I decided not to delay. As soon as I had been working for six months, I made the appointment. I didn't want to have things all set up and ready to go, and then lose my job yet again for some reason. And, there was another reason to do things quickly.

Back on my previous job, my wife and I had decided to adopt a Russian orphan or two, because it appeared that we weren't going to be having any more children of our own. The adoption process would obviously require a lot of travel outside the US, and I didn't want to lug the CPAP along. I knew that I couldn't fly for two weeks following the surgery, and as the first adoption trip looked like it would be in May, April 9th was quickly established that the best date to do it.

Of course, the Russians surprised us. Since we were willing to adopt a toddler, we wound up starting our first trip on Monday, March 31st, returning the following Monday. I decided to wait until we were in Russia to decide what to do about the surgery. It wasn't an easy decision. On the one hand, the CPAP worked just fine in Russia, and I seemed to hold up just fine skipping two nights of sleep while on airplanes. On the other hand, checking the CPAP as carry-on luggage was at least as much of a hassle on international flights as on domestic, and for our second trip I'd need extra room in my luggage for children's clothes and toys. I decided to go for it.

Now, it's been four days since the surgery, I feel like hell, and I haven't been able to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time. I've been saying "tonsillectomy", but I really got three procedures done at once. First, there was the tonsillectomy proper. Second, I also had a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) peformed. In this procedure, excess tissue is removed from the back of the throat. Supposedly, UPPP is successful in curing sleep apnea approximately 30 to 50 percent of the time. Lastly, I had a turbinectomy, which is a surgical procedure that opens up the nasal passages by removing bone and soft tissue. The idea is that they all have similar, but independent, chances of success and they all have similar recovery periods, so why not do them all at once?

This evening, I tried hooking up the CPAP, and quickly discovered that it's too strong for me to use in my current state of recovery. On the other hand, what's left of my soft palette seems to still flop around like before, making me wonder if I'm in that part of the population for whom a UPPP is not a success.


Journal: Privacy in the global village

I grew up in a small town. Privacy does not exist in a small town. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing, if not immediately then at the speed of gossip. This is what happened to Laurie. She said something to someone, they repeated it to someone else, and the next thing you know everyone in the village knew about it.

This is the natural state of humanity. It's only recently that cities were invented, where I define a city to be a group of people large enought that the "everybody knows your name" property fails. Privacy doesn't exist in villages, but then again neither does crime. In this sense, cities are a temporary aberation, because mass communications is making the world into a global village. Soon, we will be able to identify everyone we casually pass on the street, maybe by wearable webcams and facial identification algorithms, maybe by bluetooth-enabled id badges, quite possibly by a combination of both of these and more.

If you see someone on the street corner selling drugs, you'll be able to identify them. Ditto if you see them entering an adult book store or an abortion clinic. And just as quickly, you'll be able to pass the information along to people whom you think would be interested, be they the police, a spouse, or a faith-based group. At that point, crime and privacy will again cease to exist, and the "good old days" will return.

User Journal

Journal: Enlarging our family

Lots of people know this already, but for those of you who don't know, Mari and I are preparing to adopt two children from Russia sometime this summer. We had originally thought that we could only afford one, but it turned out we were wrong. Here's the hard financial facts.

At this time, I'm not going to get into the emotional side of the adoptions. That can wait until we finish the process. Instead, I'm going to talk about how we can afford to do someting that's hideously expensive.

Last year, the federal tax credit for adoptions was raised from $5,000 to $10,000. That's a credit, not a deduction, meaning that you get that much back on April 15th. It's also per-child. And Missouri as had a $10,000 tax credit per child for some time now. Finally, my employer reimburses some adoption expenses as well. Put it all together and we'll eventually get back $44,000 for a two-child adoption.

There are several costs for an international adoption that are fixed, such as round-trip tickets for Mari and myself. Also, Russia will charge lower fees for each child after the first, provided you adopt them all at the same time. Add it up, and it may wind up costing us less to adopt two than it would to adopt one. (Of course, all of the "regular" child-rearing expenses will be higher with two, but I've got almost twenty years to prepare for college.)

That's it for now. I'll post again when we're actually home with the kids.

User Journal

Journal: April Fool's at Slashdot


I managed to have moderator access today. What to do, what to do. I know, I'll not mod anything as "Funny". Instead, I'll try to find things that I could honestly rate as Insightful, Interesting, or Informative.

Now we'll have to see if I get meta-moderated down.

User Journal

Journal: Warp funeral

(This is a copy of a posting I made today.)

I'm in the process of moving, so I spent the weekend cleaning out my basement. I paused for a moment of silence before tossing my old copy of Warp.


Warp was a thing of great beauty. With Rexx (IBM's in-house Perl-like scripting language), you could do anything. Windows still hasn't caught up, although the scripting shell extensions come close. And the multimedia/real-time support... *sigh*

I still remember seeing a laptop (I think 486 based) showing a movie in one window while the GUI remained responsive. There was never a flicker or stutter as windows were moved and resized and compiles ran in the background.

Tossing those CDs left me feeling depressed about the state of personal computing, and then this article shows up just as I was feeling better.

User Journal

Journal: the Hyatt Rickey's in Palo Alto

I suspect that only someone who, like myself, lives in a seventy-year-old house can fully appreciate the Hyatt Rickey's in Palo Alto. It appears that most of the rooms were built in the 1940's. I can certainly believe it. My room has the feel of my late Uncle Mac's summer house on Reelfoot Lake, which was built around that same time frame: solid wood construction, with exposed beams and trusses, and no thought given to the modern wonders to come. For example, the only way that I can plug in my laptop computer is to unplug one of the room's lamps. Large bundles of telephone and coax cables run under the eves of every structure. And there is a heater built into an interior wall of my room with a thermostat near by. The thermostat has a sign that reads, "This unit controls the heater. For additional heat and/or air conditioning, please utilize the wall mounted unit." Said unit is a more modern device, identical to those found in hotel rooms nation-wide. And the curtains are difficult to fully close.

Still, the place has a certain charm. Yes, it is old, but it offers amenities that no one building today would ever even think of including. For the most part, every building is only one story tall. The buildings are scattered almost haphazardly on the 22 acres of land that the hotel occupies. There are several paths lined with wooden benches that wind their way around a large number of marble statues and a smaller number of fountains. There are several locations where lounge chairs face the afternoon sun, and a gazebo stands at one side of what was once a very large croquette court. (Unfortunately, some later landscaper decided to run a sidewalk through the center, neatly halving the largest open space.)

In 1750 Issac Newton became discouraged when he fell up a flight of stairs.