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User Journal

Journal Journal: The bionic mom 2

My mom's been a long time sufferer of MS. She must not have a "bad" case of it as I know people who've had it for a shorter time that are in worse shape, but it still sucks. I think that in her case she maintains at a given level for a long time, but then has "attacks" that knock her down a peg or two.

MS eats away at your nerves and makes movement difficult and messes with your sense of touch. One of the issues that this creates is that your normal walking gait is altered because you loose some control of your lower legs. This is the case with my mom.

On Friday, she was fitted with a device that fits on her leg like a knee brace. It has a pickup above the knee and an output below the knee to help transmit the nerve impulse to the lower leg when walking. In trying this out, she apparently walked normally for the first time in years.

The device is not cheap, but it is on par with a set of hearing aids - and for what it can do to help restore normalcy to someone's life it is well worth it.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Pheasants 1

are actually pretty tasty.

I'm not a big outdoorsman, but last year my brother brought a bunch of guys up to northern Iowa to hunt pheasants and invited me along. The nice thing about being the local is that my hunting license cost about $60 less than theirs :) While up here, he invited middle child (my oldest son) to hunt this year.

Last spring, the middle child attended hunters safety and passed it. I've been out pheasant hunting with him 4 or 5 times and he's actually pretty good. So good that, should it now be a negative connotation in my house, I'd give him the name of "Hawkeye". He doesn't shoot much, but he brought down two birds this fall. One day he came home with a pheasant shooting only 3 times, last week he got one only shooting twice. I've got two pheasants this fall as well, but by God I've use much more ammo!

He did get to go hunting with the Oklahoma guys this year and did a good job. It's kind of tough to get a good flush without a dog, and I was the only guy to get a bird this year while the southerners were up here. My brother thought I was a good shot, but I know who's better :)

Tonight we had our first pheasant meal! I soaked the bird overnight in salt water and then cut the meat from the bones as much as possible, floured the meat, browned it, and put it into the crock pot all afternoon with some cream of mushroom soup. Ate it tonight with wild rice. Damn good! Kind of a turkey taste from a smaller bird.

The boy and I were planning on hunting this afternoon, but a snow & sleet storm thought differently. The pheasants will be there next weekend.

I think that we'll try roasting a bird next week to see how it tastes!
User Journal

Journal Journal: TykeClone's Shoulder

I'm probably going to be having shoulder surgery at some point in the near future.

My right should has been bothering me for quite some time - about a year. It's ached a bit, but mainly it's been "clicking" and just not feeling right. I've changed my workstation set up and slowed down on my after hours work over the summer, but neither thing helped. I told my wife that I'd have it checked out after the move, so I stopped at Fairmont for an MRI on my way to Fargo a few weeks ago.

I went back there to see and orthopedist about the MRI's. I apparently have a 2 inch cyst - kind of a void or "rotton spot" (my words, not theirs) at the end of the arm bone where it's connected into the rotator cuff. This is apparently is not uncommon, and most people find out about it because it breaks. I guess that I was lucky that the clicking and "not being right" conditions forced me to have it looked at.

The guy in Fairmont has referred me to the Mayo Clinic at Rochester where I'll likely be having a surgery yet this year. I'm supposed to "take it easy" on my shoulder - especially lifting and not falling on my right arm. I'm going in on 11/29 - but I'm not sure what will happen afterwards. I don't think I'll be having surgery that day, but it might be shortly thereafter.

From what I gathered from the guy in Fairmont, the surgery would involve "scraping out" the cyst and probably doing a bone graft. I'm really not looking forward to this as I believe that it will hurt. Badly.

I don't expect to be out from work too long. I can do a lot 1 handed - but I'm very slow at typing with only one hand. I have found a 1 handed keyboard and will probably get a couple of them for work and home. I can avoid lifting and using my arm a lot in my job, so that will be ok. Rehab, on the other hand, will suck.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Heck of a game! 2

I took the kids down to Des Moines today to watch the girls high school basketball team play in the 1A (small school) state tournament. This is the first time in about 17 years that our community has sent a team to state, and the first time since all classes of girls' basketball went "5-man" instead of "6-man" and the first time since we started whole grade sharing with a different neighboring school district.

They played a heck of a game and eventually beat Highland (a small school near Iowa City) by 8 in overtime. They were well ahead going into the fourth quarter and should not have allowed the opponent to get back into the game, but they managed to win in overtime. They will be playing a conference opponent in the semi-final round of the tournament - the only team that beat them in the regular season and a team that they wanted a rematch with.

On the way down, we took I35 from Highway 20 to Des Moines. This was part of a stretch of interstate that was closed on Thursday during that big blizzard that swept through the state. We counted 25 vehicles still in the ditch, some upside down, but most just in the ditch.

The game was played in the new Iowa Events Center. The arena is nice and parking was easy. Playing in a big venue like that is very rare for 1A teams. Most of the small school gyms are glorified Morton buildings where the backstops are a stage on one end and a wall on the other. Real arenas have vast amounts of open space behind the baskets - that must take a bit of getting used to for small school teams!

From looking at the audience, it seemed that a great proportion of our three communities were at the game - and many expatriates who live in central Iowa.

On the way home, we took a somewhat different route and drove through Ames and Clarion. There is a huge windfarm off of Highway 69 that is always pretty to look at while driving by. Evidence of the ice storm from two weeks ago were still visible. I saw about a mile of wooden electric transmission poles snapped like toothpicks and still down. I read that everyone in Iowa has had their power restored - so this must have been rerouted - but I've not seen power poles snapped like that even after a tornado!

I'd like to wish the girls well for their next game at state and hope that they have a shot at the title!
User Journal

Journal Journal: Congrats to the high school girls basketball team!

Our girls basketball team beat the #2 by 10 points team in their class to advance to the state tournament tonight! They've had a great season when it was thought to be a bit of a rebuilding year.

The game was originally slated to be played Saturday night in the new McLeod Center in Cedar Falls. Our team made it there, the opponents (who live 15 minutes from the game site) didn't. They ended up playing tonight in Mason City and our team was able to withstand the Grinnell College style of basketball and beat them.
User Journal

Journal Journal: A good ending to a bad night - a rollercoaster 4th of July 5

I think that I've said before that I'm a volunteer fireman (that's as close of a thing to a hobby as I have :) ). My wife is an EMT on the volunteer ambulance service. On Monday evening, July 3rd, we were paged out to search for a 3 year old girl who wandered off into a corn field.

We're from a small community. My youngest child is in this girl's sister's class in school. I know the family - and have since I was in school. As a fireman (and my wife as an EMT), we don't do many traumatic calls. I can count the number of calls that have haunted me on one hand. This could have been one of them.

I think that the newspaper article did a fair job of reporting the facts (missed some things, but got the gist of it) - I'm cutting and pasting because I'm not sure how long the page will be available:

Archived Local Stories
Published: Wednesday, July 5, 2006 12:10 AM CDT
Girl, 3, OK after night in field
By PEGGY SENZARINO, Of The Globe Gazette

TITONKA -- Titonka Fire Chief David Trunkhill is grateful for the hundreds of volunteers who turned out to help search for and ultimately find a missing 3-year-old girl.

Alandra Schutjer, daughter of Greg and Amy Schutjer, went missing from a family gathering about 9 p.m. Monday.

She was located by two neighbors riding all-terrain vehicles at about 8:50 a.m. Tuesday after apparently spending the night in a cornfield with the family dog. Searchers estimate she was only 300 feet from the family's acreage when she was found.

Gary Uken of Titonka was in the group that first spotted the missing child.

"She leapt into her daddy's arms. She was really glad to see Greg. She was really glad to see her daddy," Uken said.

"It was a fantastic outcome. When you get that long into it, you hear stories that don't turn out as well," Trunkhill added.

He said Alandra was "kind of tired and dirty" but otherwise OK when she was found.

He said she seemed confused and said she couldn't find her mom or her dad.

Trunkhill said Alandra told them she slept with her dog in the cornfield and the airplane woke her up in the morning.

He said she asked about her horses and was wondering why all the people were at the family's farm.

Her parents took her to the Kossuth County Regional Health Center in Algona as a precaution.

She apparently went missing after her father went into a cornfield to retrieve a ball which had rolled into the field sometime earlier. He told the kids to stay out, but from what authorities have been able to piece together, Alandra must have followed him in.

The family was heading to a fire pit for a bonfire when they realized the little girl was missing.

More than 150 searchers scoured the area Monday night. An Iowa State Patrol plane equipped with thermal imaging technology was dispatched to the scene.

"It wasn't working as well as we hoped. It was picking up the adults but it wasn't able to penetrate the corn," Trunkhill said.

"Honestly, we didn't think she had gone more than a few hundred feet. She was found in an area we had walked several times."

The little girl must have been between groups of searchers, he said.

The number of searchers looking for the little girl grew to some 350 on Tuesday.

"I just can't thank everybody enough that came to help out," Trunkhill said.

He said the Titonka Food Center donated flashlights, batteries and food. Volunteers from the Hy-Vee store in Algona brought sandwiches and water for searchers.

"It was just unbelievable," Trunkhill said.

Law enforcement agencies from Woden, Wesley, Buffalo Center, Bancroft, Burt, Algona, Forest City, Hancock County and Kossuth County Emergency Management assisted at the scene.

The Titonka School District provided buses to transport volunteers and opened the school for use as a staging area.

I was out there from when the call went out until a bit after 4am. My wife was there for the duration (she was stationed with the ambulance, I was walking the fields).

If you've ever heard that corn should be "knee high by the fourth of July" - I'd like to see that guy. The corn was 8 feet tall in most places. After midnight, we started searching row by row - sets of 10 people walking across the field. If the guy on your left or right was more than 15' from you, you couldn't even see their light. An adult - any adult - could easily have gotten disoriented and lost in the field.

Thankfully she emerged from the field the next morning. It was truly a joyous outcome to a long night.

User Journal

Journal Journal: 2005 Tax Year review

Just a couple of thoughts after finishing up 2005 taxes

- If you live in Iowa, check your withholding. It's rarely "right on" in the best of circumstances, but in July of last year the state treasurer adjusted the withholding tables to "allow you to keep more of your money." I guess that was meant until taxes were due.

- Check your W-2's when you receive them - make sure that they are sane. I saw a couple this year where the state wages reported were much different than the federal wages. There may be a good reason for it, but make sure that there is! The state deparment of revenue has just about as good of a sense of humor as the IRS.

- If you need to replace a furnace or a hot water heater (or a couple of other of those kinds of appliances), 2006 is a good year to do it as there is a tax credit available for that. Double check that the model that you're looking at is eligble though!

- If you're in college and you have a choice between a job in your home state and one in another state, choose the job in your home state if all other things are equal. If you have income in more than one state, you'll likely have to file returns in more than one state.

- If you need to ask your tax preparer how to get "more of a refund" next year - don't. Unless your situation changes (by having a kid or by getting married), your taxes (and therefore your refunds) will not change substantially from year to year. When someone asks me that, I tell them to either do estimates or withhold more.

- The child tax credit is a very nice bone to throw to parents. But it sucks that it gets turned off at 17 (when kids are getting ready to go to college). And it sucks that it doesn't offset self employment income.

- If you are earning a small amount, look into investing in a 401k (if available) or an IRA. There is a retirement tax credit available to "low income earners" that actually goes to a pretty good income for married people. If you are close to the border line and can afford it, you can put some money into a traditional IRA which can reduce your income to the point where you can get that credit.

- HSA's (Health Savings Accounts) are a very nice idea - but poorly implemented. They should be available to everyone (no matter what your insurance status is). I did one return this year where the taxpayer had an HSA as a benefit (as opposed to a more normal insurance), but the tax forms that we needed to complete the return were not ready until well into February (good job IRS).

User Journal

Journal Journal: RAGBRAI

I live and work in a small town in northern Iowa (population around 600), and today RAGBRAI came through town.

RAGBRAI is a bicycle ride across Iowa that has been sponsored by the Des Moines Register for about 30 years now. From what I understand, about 10,000 riders participate in the event.

This is an exciting event and gave us a chance to sell breakfast and do some fundraising, but it is a lot of work! They come through in a group, eat their way through town, and then move on - like a horde of locusts.

We got through the day fairly well. The only real SNAFU that we ran into was that the transformer leading into the EMS building was smoking. We had a waffle guy in making waffles and we were also serving eggs - everything drawing pretty good current. By about 9am this morning, the transformer was smoking and we had to shut down power to the building. A farmer brought in a generator so we could continue serving, but we lost some sales because of that.

It's the end of what's been a long day, but it was (as it usually is!) an enjoyable event!

User Journal

Journal Journal: I hate lightning

We had a nice little thunderstorm pass through the area at about 5am this morning. We got about an inch of rain before it stopped raining (before 7am) - and we needed it. The farmers call this type of rain a "million dollar rain" - because it came at exactly the right time as far as the corn is concerned.

It also brought some fairly sharp lightning.

I live and work in a small town, and at my place of business we have a "time and temperature clock" that falls under my purview as the computer guy. When I got to work, only the hour digits were working. This is an old Daktronics unit and it means that one hit of lightning popped one of the boards. Not too big of a deal as I have some spare parts (somewhere - got to find them now!). It also knocked down my WAN to both remote locations - a hassle, but not a real big deal.

That strike also apparently affected two other downtown businesses (across the street!) blasting an air conditioner and much of the network equipment in one of them. Yuck.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Thoughts on a Homeland Security meeting 2

I am a volunteer fireman and ambulance driver in my hometown. Last night, we had one of the state fire marshals in town giving a talk on homeland security, terrorism, and bombings. One may think that this has no place in small town Iowa, but he did have some stuff to look out for.

Let me make it clear - I don't think that small town midwest is or will be the target of middle eastern suicide bombers. But we have been the target of various attacks - ALF stuff and that kid from Wisconsin trying to draw a smiley face with pipe bombs.

We have a couple more pressing problems in the midwest that made this class good.

- The first is meth - and the associated labs and booby traps that go with it. Many of the devices that the fire marshal showed were pulled from meth labs.

- A second is the ready access to the components of fertilizer bombs (nasty) - any nutjob could get their hands on enough explosives to cause serious damage (see oklahoma city).

- A third (almost uniquely rural) issue is that there is still old explosives laying around in various outbuildings. They're not everywhere, but it is good to have an idea about what you're looking at if you come across them.

Say what you will about the whole Homeland Security thing, but this class I went to last night was well worthwhile.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Government Banking Regulators weigh in on open source

This week, the FFIEC and the FDIC issued an interagency guidance on the use of open source software in financial institutions.

This is important to those of us who work in IT in banks. The guidance will be used by your IT examiners to grade you on how you are mitigating the "risks" as shown in the guidance. Where these examiners aren't IT professionals (they're more like auditors with no IT experience), they go by the book on looking at your infrastructure.

As guidances go, this one isn't too bad - issues (whether you agree with them or not) are clearly laid out and terms are explained in words that the examiners can understand.

The guidance breaks down the risks into strategic (compatibility, forking, maturity, and TCO), operational (code integrity, documentation, contigency planning, and external support), and legal (SCO - enough said).

The legal section of the guidance is right on - there are legal issues that are still being hashed out - see SCO vs. IBM.

The strategic risks aren't too badly written. They're basically saying to use the right tool for the job. Hopefully the examiners will read it that way.

The operational risks are way off. They talk about a lack of support and documentation for open source projects - which is bullhockey for the ones that I've used. They also spoke of contingency planning - and thought it would be difficult to replace your software in the event that you needed to - also not entirely true. The operational risks section looked like it was written from a press release by Microsoft.

User Journal

Journal Journal: TykeClone's First Commandment 1

Thou shalt reboot thine hardware from time to time.

Meaning: It is indeed right that one should, from time to time, reboot his IT hardware for it cures all manners of ills. Furthermore, if one is experiencing problems with the device, one should reboot the hardware and see if the problem continues before calling technical support.

This doesn't just apply to computers. I was called in to look at a fancy speaker phone that wasn't working properly. After looking over the connections, and everything looking right, I pulled the power plug from the wall and plugged it back in. Behold! It worked!


Journal Journal: Of Firefox and Slashdot 1

I've been running the Firefox browser for a while and have had the same issues with Slashdot that everyone else is having.

Yesterday, when trying to load a freaking page correctly, I tried something different. Normally, I'd either been refreshing the page or going back and re-clicking the link.

Yesterday, I hit the "page back" button followed by the "page forward" button and everything loaded correctly. It's worked 100% since then.

Don't know if anyone will read this or care, but it works for me.

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