Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fizzle

Or perhaps that should read FIZZLE! Ernesto has become a non-event. However, state and local authorities as well as citizens used this as a dry run for the real thing, so it makes for good preparation. (One of the local news stations had an interview with an old woman. She had put her new storm shudders up not because she thought they were needed, but just to see what kind of glitches might develop. Smart.)

But Ernesto will not be a total waste. Ernesto will be a big, wet, sloppy kiss from the tropics to the state's lawns, swamps, lakes, rivers, forests and aquifers. It's been a dry year and the remnants of a tropical system can make up for a lot of lost rainfall.

And as a bonus, I get to go to work tomorrow and run my reports. WA-HOO!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tropical Storm Ernesto

Ernesto got hung up in Cuba and his path shifted eastward, so now he will miss the warmest waters of the Straits of Florida. So we will get wet and windy on Wednesday, but no hurricane. Obviously concerns for Orlando are now much lessened.

Regardless, I went over to Mom's tonight and secured a few things around her house. Her place should be good to go now. Our place is practically Cat 3 hurricane ready at all times. Fifteen minutes is all it would take to get ready for a big storm, so a tropical storm will only require five minutes of prep, if I stop to listen to the tree frogs. I will take care of that stuff tomorrow evening. If we're going to get a tropical weather event, this is the kind to have. Now the concerns are for the Bahamas and the Keys, and the coastal communities. Probably the greatest concern now is for the Carolinas. See Bill's post for more on that.

More later, if events warrant the attention.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hurricane Ernesto

Coming soon, to a blog near me! If I have the time over the next few days I will add some posts about this storm. It SHOULDN'T be too bad, but a Cat 1 hurricane is still a big storm worthy of respect. Unfortunately, my brother has disappeared again, so I will need to go take care of Mom's house as well as my own over the next couple of days. Time, and power, permitting I will be blogging the first hurricane of the season as it is set to track directly over my house sometime Thursday. More later....

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Speaking of Things That Suck

Fox has decided to ruin their football broadcasts. A little musical florish now sounds whenever the down and distance graphic appears. It is EXTREMELY annoying. What in the name of Sid Gilman are they thinking?

The Reason Al Gore Sucks

Wherein: Finally!

In my last post I stated that Al Gore sucks and Global Warming rules. Now for some explanation.

From July 2000 until August 2003 my wife and I lived in Baltimore, Maryland. Given that I had previously lived my entire life (from conception!) in Florida, and that my wife had lived her life in similar climes, this was a BAD IDEA. But necessity (i.e., jobs) forced us north.

In February of 2003, Baltimore was hit by the biggest snow storm in recorded Baltimore history. Over 28 inches of snow fell over President's Day weekend, on top of several other inches that were still on the ground from the previous weekend. We lived on the northwest side of Baltimore in a townhouse in Reisterstown, so we probably had closer to 36 inches than 28.

Unfortunately for me, we had bought a second car the previous December. This meant that when the snow stopped I had to dig two cars out of the snow bank. Worse yet, the parking lot was at the bottom of an embankment, which meant we had to shovel the snow UP the embankment.

Around mid-day on Monday, everyone in the complex that had a shovel came out, and we started to dig. We spent several hours moving that frozen water up hill. At the end of the day, my right arm and shoulder were sore. I thought nothing of it. After all, I was a desk jockey and not prone to great physical exertion.

As the weeks passed the pain and weakness only got worse. At the start of April I finally went to a doctor. I got referred to an orthopedic specialist fairly quickly. He determined that it was probably a small tear in my rotator cuff, and he put me on a physical therapy routine. (An MRI to confirm the diagnosis would have been nice, but my insurance company insisted that I had to do everything up to and including an arm transplant before they would pay for one. Bastards!)

The therapy worked, sort of. The pain eased, strength returned, and so the therapy ended. I could have followed up, I should have followed up, because the pain never went away completely. But after that big snow storm we had had enough. So I spent the summer (clandestinely) looking for work in Florida instead of worrying about my bum shoulder.

I finally got a job back in Florida, and we moved back in September. For most the next three years, I just ignored my shoulder and arm. Sometimes it would get worse, and sometimes it would get better, but the pain never went away. I decided this spring that when work slowed down in the summer that I would finally get it checked out.

But during the busiest part of the work year, the pain suddenly became almost unbearable. So I finally went to another doctor last June. She quickly figured out that the problem wasn't with my shoulder, it was with my neck. She referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. Seven weeks later I finally got to see the ortho. Looking at x-rays, he surmised that I had probably damaged the disk between between my C-5 and C-6 vertebrae, that damage had never healed, and that bone was now growing between them. This situation would aggravate the nerves and potentially my spinal cord. (This also explain why pain killers never worked.) An MRI a week later confirmed that the doctor had surmised correctly, and that there was additional damage between C-6 and C-7.

Unfortunately, this condition is permanent. The disk will never repair itself, and the bone growth will always be there. But I do have three treatment options.

First, I have started a physical therapy routine designed to strengthen my neck and shoulders. This routine coupled with better posture should ease the pain and hopefully prevent things from getting worse. The second option is cervical epidural injections. Steroids would be injected into the epidural space in the damaged region. These injections can provide pain relief for weeks or even months at a time. Plus, steroids so I can Hulk up on 'roid rage!

The third option is ye olde spinal fusion. An incision would be made on the front of my neck, the damaged disk would be removed and bone graft would be inserted into that space. Eventually the bones would all grow together and I'd have one gigantic vertebra in my neck along with several normal sized ones. Unfortunately, this procedure leaves a very tiny scar on the front of the neck. I had hoped for a big, ugly, Frankenstein Monster-type scar, but no such luck.

For now, I'm just doing therapy. Less than two full weeks in I can already feel improvement. My neck and shoulder feel better. But now that I'm not focused on that pain, I'm realizing that my elbow feels like the funny bone is getting continuously whacked. Still, it is improvement. However, if I'm this decrepit at 38 I can't help but think that a spinal fusion lies in my future.

Which brings me to Al Gore and Global Warming. If we had more Global Warming there would be less snow. This implies less snow shoveling. Since shoveling snow leads to broken necks, snow is bad. Therefore Global Warming must be a Good Thing. And everyone knows that Good Things rule. You can tell by the capitalization and the bold font.

But Al Gore opposes Global Warming. Therefore Al Gore wants more snow, and by implication more broken necks, more pain, and more suffering. (I'll bet his fat ass never shovels snow. He leaves that for the little people while flying around in private jets and driving SUVs. Environmentalist my ass.) I'm not certain why Al Gore wants more broken necks (although I'm working on a few theories), but he clearly does. Therefore he sucks.

Really, it's all very simple.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Al Gore Sucks, Global Warming Rules!

More later. Suffice it to say that Al Gore wants people to break their necks, and Global Warming will save us from the evil threat of frozen precipitation.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

It Is Finished

We've bought a new computer. After going to an Apple Store and trying out a Mac, we decided to stick with a PC.

The Mac OS X environment was just ... off. For example, the little min, max and close buttons were on the wrong side of the upper bar. On the left? That makes no intuitive sense. Most people are right-handed, and are likely to move the cursor off to the right to get it out of the way. Therefore, having those buttons on the right side makes sense. Possibly that can be customized, but I looked at five or so computers, and they all had that same annoying feature. And that little tool bar hide button? WTF is that about? I don't really need a specialized feature for that.

Other annoying features:

1) The email program would indicate when a word was misspelled, but it wouldn't make any suggestions for the correction. (The word processing program did have that function, so all was not lost.)

2) I tried out the Mac version of Microsoft Office. Excel was so strangely configured that I had no idea what the hell was going on at first. Pages laid out side by side like a bunch of loose leaf notebook paper? I practically live in Excel spreadsheets for 40+ hours a week, and I had never seen that kind of lay-out before. Not to mention that getting the toolbars set up correctly was a hassle. (I am very particular about my toolbars in Excel.) That was a definite minus.

3) The Safari web browser refused to expand beyond a certain dimension.If you're going to have all of that screen but not use it, then what's the point.

Perhaps we could learn how to do all of these things, but why bother? Frankly, the inutuitive nature of the Mac is over-rated.

On the plus side, the Macs are a nifty little package. Very compact, although the keyboard looked like a toy. I'm not sure how I felt about the mouse. We were standing the whole time, so the angle made using the mouse uncomfortable. (Not to mention that it was almost as hot in the store as it was outside, and much stuffier. Sweating like a football player in training camp didn't enamour me of the whole "Apple Experience" (tm). Have those primitives from California not heard of that fine invention the air conditioner?)

So a general feeling of being in Bizarro Computing Land coupled with physical discomfort made us decide "The Hell with this!" So we took the advice of the IT guy from my wife's job, and went with the PC he recommended. Now all we have to do is wait for it to arrive.

Conversational Snippet: Physical Therapy Edition

Wife: I don't remember... Did you break your neck and back in the car wreck?
Me: No, just my back.

(No, the wreck in question is not of recent vintage. The conversation was earlier tonight, however.)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Old Computer Blues

Last night our main comp finally died, five and a half weeks shy of its fifth 'birthday'. So, we need to buy a new computer pronto. We need to be able to run MicroSoft Office on the new machine, and would like to save some of our old games, all Wintel programs.

So, does anyone have any advice they would like to give?

UPDATE: Okay, I should have really put more about specifics up, but I was in a hurry this morning. In a new machine there are certain requirements that just have to be met, program-wise:

1) MicroSoft Office (at least Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and probably Access and Outlook
2) Must be able to run certain chess programs, namely Chess Assistant or ChessBase
3) Hopefully play old games dating back to 2000
4) Must be capable of handling online poker clients (a sometimes hobby)
5) Must be compatible with our HP printer

Additionally, being Citrix compatible would be nice, although I don't think that is an issue for anything newer than a Commodore 64.

So, points (1), (2) and (4) and probably (5) mean that I need a Windows machine.

In the past, my wife and I have adopted the strategy of buying the most powerful widely available home computer (meaning, we haven't done the quad Xeon processor type thing) and using it for five years. Actually, that's worked fairly well for use, as I'm typing this on a ten year old Pentium Pro machine.

We will keep using this strategy, more or less. I still need to check Bill's suggestions about the Mac that does Windows machine, but I'm wondering what's the point in buying an Apple clone of a WIntel machine. At the moment, we're leaning towards buying a Dell. (Another point: my wife and I are end-user types, not interested in building our own hotrod.)

Hopefully this better defines the problem, and we do appreciate the comments. (And thanks Reader for the email.) But one way or another we will be making a purchase by tomorrow evening.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Most Important Story of the Day

Here. It's a fun little story about how the Feds are basically cheating on their accounting. Enjoy!