Sunday, March 18, 2018
My mom was a remarkably bad photographer, which given her artistic sense was a bit of a surprise to me. It's the mechanics of the camera she never seemed to understand, from the zoom lens to the focus. I'd guess that of the 400 or so photos, less than a dozen of them are properly exposed and in focus. Probably 90% of the photos are of flowers; the remainder are split between people, bugs, and dead bats.
There was a surprise for me near the end of the photos, though. Unbeknownst to me, she had taken a dozen or so photos after she arrived here in Utah. Most of these were of people: some friends of ours who visited her to welcome her to Utah, the staff at the assisted care facility (she loved those folks), and so on. One, however, was the photo above. From it's placement in the camera's sequence, I'm pretty sure one of our friends took that photo, almost certainly at mom's request. What you see there is how she looked during her happiest time here, just after she arrived. It gave me a real start to see that. In a good way, though.
Miss you every day, mom...
The answer: hell, yes!
At this point I've been using this for over three years, and I've got just over 4,000 documents scanned. The process of scanning and transferring numbers to my bookkeeping (for which I use Moneydance) has long since been burned into my “muscle memory” – I no longer have to think about it at all. All those 4,000 documents are just electrons, and not occupying file cabinets and boxes like they used to. Since I got my iMac Pro in December, the OCR time has dropped to something insignificant – a second or two unless I scan something like a 20 page legal document in fine print.
Best of all, finding a document is now just a matter of a Google-style search, with effectively instantaneous results. This took a couple of years to become a reflexive habit, much like it took me a while to think of the camera on my smartphone as a way to remember or record things. Just recently I've started yet another use of DEVONthink: I create .pdf files containing notes (and optionally drawings or photos) and import them. DEVONthink is happy to accept .pdf files from anywhere, and indexes them just like it does scanned documents. Being able to do Google-style searches on these is very useful, and basically infinitely faster than the file search built into OSX.
At this point I consider all this part of my minimally-acceptable computing environment. If one of them dies, I will have to find a replacement...
The two videos below are of our dogs. The first one shows all five dogs enjoying their morning bananas. I'm going to try re-shooting this one with a wider field of view, as this attempt doesn't show them actually catching the banana slices, except for Ipo. The second video is showing off a skill that Ipo has acquired. All three of our young field spaniels have thoroughly learned that when they come in from outside, they're to run directly to their crates and wait for a treat. We trained this behavior in the possibly forlorn hope that when they come into the house during mud season (just started) we won't have pounds of mud to clean up in the kitchen – it will all be contained in their crates. This all works great unless the crate doors are pushed to the closed position. Even unlatched, this stops the dogs cold – except Ipo. All on her own she learned how to grab the wire of the door with a front claw and whip the door open, so she can run in and make preparations for Milk Bone consumption. In this video it happens so quickly you really can't see how she's doing it...
Friday, March 16, 2018
And I left the best for last. The iPhone X's camera is superb. My videos are notably less shaky, and I find myself using the 2X optical telephoto very frequently. The camera is enough better that I'd be happy with the iPhone X even if the camera was the only new feature. But it's not!
So what has to line up, and why does it happen only rarely? For starters, to our east are the Wasatch Mountains. Generally by the time the sun climbs over the mountains in the morning, the angle is already high enough that my wall won't be lit up. The point where the sun comes up varies over the course of the year, as the seasons change. Within the range of sunrise points there are two “notches” from the perspective of our property. This morning the sun rose in the bottom (lowest point) of one of those notches. The other notch (which the sun comes up through in the summer) is so far north that the patches lit up in my office on those mornings don't strike any walls. The sun rises through the other notch in late November and mid March. Then there's another bit that needs lining up: the patch of sun has to strike the wall where nothing is hanging. That's about half the possible time. Finally, it has to be a nicely clear day – even haze will diminish the brightness enough to ruin the effect.
A good start to my morning!
As for which ad blocker: at the moment I'm using Ublock. I'm happy with its performance, it eliminates virtually all ads, and it's available for both Chrome and Firefox (I still use both browsers about equally). It's also available for Safari, but I can't speak to its performance there as I almost never use Safari (because of compatibility issues on several sites I visit daily).
Thursday, March 15, 2018
What bothers me about my theory is that I haven't seen this before!
The groceries I was carrying in were a bit different than our normal fare. Our local Boy Scout troop is having a food drive this week, specifically asking for canned goods. When I took some cardboard up to Hyrum to be recycled this morning, I noticed that our local grocer was having a “case lot” sale on canned goods. I'm sure it's not a coincidence that the sale is during the same week as the food drive. It's easy to imagine here that the Boy Scouts were clever enough to hold their drive on the same week as the sale – but it's equally easy to imagine that the store manager decided to contribute to the food drive by holding the sale on the week of the drive. However the coincidence happened, as I picked the canned fruit, vegetables, and meat I noted that all of the items on sale were of the right type for the food drive – and that all three of the other shoppers choosing with me were buying for the food drive as well...
We love living here!
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Along the way on this trip we passed the 25,000 mile mark on my Tesla Model X. The last time I was in for a routine service the technicians there told me they don't see very many Teslas with that kind of mileage. That surprises me, as in our household the gas-powered car (a Lexus SUV) gets driving about 1% of the total miles we drive. Basically it only gets used if Debbie wants to go somewhere on her own. If I'm driving, we go in the Tesla. Now it may be true (I have no idea, actually) that we drive more miles than the average retired couple, and that might be contributing as well. It's still true that I have had no major problems with the Tesla; just a few almost trivial issues that were all quickly resolved by the Tesla service folks. At 25,000 miles that's also true of the last four or five Toyota products we owned, too...
Sunday, March 11, 2018
On the way in we saw just one small group of deer, about six animals. We parked in the visitor center parking lot and scanned the hills, and found a herd of several dozen elk, and a group of about 25 deer. Then on the way home we were seeing deer around darned every bend! We probably saw over a hundred deer in all. We didn't see any birds, unless you count turkeys and magpies (they're a constant here)...
Saturday, March 10, 2018
I have suffered from insomnia for my entire adult life – almost 50 years now. Over the years I've tried just about everything one could imagine to address it, including two overnight “sleep studies” at clinics, both over-the-counter and prescription medications, meditation, and probably 30 other things. Nothing worked. Nothing.
Something like 30 years ago I got into a rough pattern of having 3 or 4 nights of little-to-no sleep (probably averaging 4 hours) followed by one glorious night of 7 or 8 hours of wonderful sleep, repeated ad nauseum. A few things could predictably cause variations in this. If I drank some alcohol a few hours before going to bed, I'd go to sleep easily – and then wake up 3 or 4 hours later with no possibility of further sleep. A big meal too close to bedtime would keep me awake. Watching an exciting movie before I went to bed ensured a sleepless night. Working hard, physically, for a few hours would ensure a good night's sleep. Other than those things, though, that pattern was what I could expect.
The first sleep study I participated in (about 25 years ago) identified one thing unusual with me: I responded to opioids backwards from most people. Instead of making me drowsy, it's more like I drank 5 cups of coffee. If I took even a small dose of any opioid after about noon, there was zero chance of me sleeping that night. From what I've read more recently, this backwards reaction is true of 5% to 10% of adults (the proportion depends on what study you read).
The second sleep study I did just two years ago. This time they had me wired up with about a bazillion sensors, and I didn't sleep at all – not one wink. The technician who monitored me wrote of my sleeplessness in her report. The doctor who reviewed the results diagnosed me with sleep apnea – something that, by definition, you can't exhibit the symptoms of if you're not asleep! My GP tried her best to persuade me that I should try a CPAP machine, but I refused on the basis that the diagnosis couldn't possibly be right. I wonder, actually, if there's some incentive for the sleep center to make sleep apnea diagnoses...
About six months ago I was feeling achy, as I had been working hard that day (shoveling, as it happens). I did something rare for me: I took a couple pills of a “nighttime” pain medication that we had lying around for some reason. It was concoction of acetaminophen and diphenhydramine. To my knowledge I'd never had diphenhydramine before in my life. It's most commonly used as an anti-allergy medication; it's an antihistamine and the active ingredient in Benadryl. I slept like someone who had been knocked out, for ten hours. Further, I woke up groggy as hell – it took a couple hours, a hot shower, and two giant mugs of tea for me to be even barely functional. I don't know how unusual that sounds to you, but for me that was a stunning result – I hadn't slept for ten hours straight for at least a couple of decades.
That, as you might imagine, got my attention. I started experimenting to see how often I could take that drug and have it still work. I quickly figured out that if I used it three nights in a row, the third night it hardly worked at all. That was repeatable, too. More experimentation and I figured out that I could take it one or two nights in a row with good effect, and then I had to lay off it for a couple days. That means I could get 3 or 4 nights of good sleep in one week. This was the first miracle for me – the best sleep, overall, of my adult life. But it gets better!
About a month ago, I started worrying about the effects of regular use of diphenhydramine, so I started researching it on the Internet. If you've ever tried to research a common medication on the Internet, you can probably already guess what I ran into. I'm sure I could have found a paper whose conclusion was anything between “essential for life” to “potent poison”. However, in general the papers were very reassuring: there don't seem to be any generally recognized horrible outcomes of regular diphenhydramine. Great!
But in the course of that reading, I ran across one paper (and I can't find it now, dang it!) that noted something that resonated with me: a significant percentage of people with “backwards” opioid reactions (like me!) were unusually sensitive to the sleep-inducing effects of diphenhydramine. Furthermore, these people often could reduce the bedtime dose of diphenhydramine to as little as 5 mg (I was taking 60 mg). At the lower doses the quality of their sleep was actually better, and most of them could adjust the dose to eliminate the early-morning grogginess.
I suspect you would have to be a long-term insomnia sufferer to understand why that was so exciting to me. :) I immediately started experimenting with lower doses, and within a few nights I had positive results. I'm still experimenting, but I have a relatively narrow window to refine: my optimal dose is somewhere above 7.5 mg and at or below 15 mg. I've tried as many as four nights in a row at 15 mg, and it still works just fine. My morning grogginess is very mild at 15 mg. Next up are some tests at 10 mg.
But the bottom line is that for an entire month now, I've been able to sleep well most nights. Quite literally, I cannot remember another month like that in my life. I've completely stopped my old pattern of waking up at 2 or 3 am. This morning I slept like the proverbial log until 7:30 am – something that until this past month was something I only rarely experienced. It's probably to much to say that I'm sleeping “normally”, but this is by far the closest approximation I've ever made to that!
I can still scarcely believe that this common, cheap, over-the-counter drug could have such a profound effect on my life. It's undeniable, though. Now I have a new fear – that this miraculous change in my life will somehow disappear or become ineffective. I'm being stingy with its use because of that, and if I see that starting to happen I'll back off even more. But in the meantime ... not suffering from the effects of insomnia sure feels good!
One word of caution for any fellow insomniac reading this: from my research, it appears that my reaction to diphenhydramine isn't the most common one. It's also, apparently, not exceptionally weird. If you decide to try this, your results might be anywhere from the opposite of mine to merely wildly different. In other words, your mileage may vary. But for me (so far, at least) it is well into miraculous territory...
Thursday, March 8, 2018
“Basically, if everyone has a vested interest in believing that they understand everything, or even that people are capable in principle of understanding it (either because believing this dampens their insecurities about the unpredictable world, or makes them feel more intelligent than others, or both) then you have an environment in which dopey, reductionist, simple-minded, pat, glib thinking can circulate, like wheelbarrows filled with inflated currency in the marketplaces of Jakarta.”I'm re-reading Cryptonomicon for the third time, and (as usual with Stephenson's writings) discovering things I never noticed before...
Stephenson, Neal. Cryptonomicon (p. 629). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
There was one telling event, though. When she first came out to see us after the surgery was done, she was trembling and oh-so-incredibly affectionate. That continued for a couple of hours after we got her home. It was as if she was asking us “If I’m really, really, good will you NOT take me back to that place?” Hopefully we won't have to, at least not for anything related to her spaying.
This morning she was her usually bubbly, spinny (she likes to spin at the door at approximately 4,800 RPM before we let her out), spanielly (if you own a spaniel, you'll know what I mean) self...
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
And, interestingly, a vindication of Trump's approach to the NoKos...
She was all excited when I took her in this morning, though. First, she loves the staff there (all of whom came over to pet her). Second, another dog was waiting with us: Bailey, a six month old female German shepherd. The two of them got along famously. There was much puppy-bowing and gentle play, entertaining all of us waiting. She's a happy girl, especially as she has no idea what's about to happen...
Monday, March 5, 2018
Saturday, March 3, 2018
After living her for four years, I'm not sure why we're still surprised at this ... but we were. We walked into the ER, Debbie on crutches. We were checked in immediately by a very friendly (of course) clerk. We waited for three and a half minutes, and then an ER nurse called us in. In under five minutes, the ER doctor – cheerful and confident – carefully questioned us about what happened, checked Debbie over, verified that no pain meds were needed, and ordered a set of X-rays. A bubbly, friendly radiology intern came over to get Debbie less than five minutes later. The X-ray equipment is state-of-the-art, with all electronic imaging – we were out of there in three minutes. Back to the ER, where a couple of minutes later the ER doc was back and showing us Debbie's X-rays. There was no visible bone break; at the very worst she has a hairline crack invisible on the X-ray, and he thought that was unlikely. The main symptom he had to go on was some very localized pain, which was consistent with an injury to either one particular ligament or (less likely) the meniscus (the cartilage “washer” inside the knee joint). He asked again about pain meds, we declined, and then we were off with a “If it’s not better in a couple of weeks, see your GP.” Huge relief for both of us (but especially for Debbie) that there was no bone breakage.
The overall experience at that ER was so different than the (unfortunately many) visits we've made to California ERs. Friendly, competent, cheerful people. No long waits. No giant waiting rooms filled with people who should have gone to a clinic or their GP. No triage (with no queue, it's not needed!). Spotless, organized ER rooms. Top-notch, modern, working equipment in every room. No feeling that you're actually a resident of an impoverished third-world country.
I've been busy the past couple of days taking care of Debbie and the animals (with some help on the latter from our friend Michelle H.). She already looks better to me, getting around the house pretty easily on the crutches, and able to put some weight on her left leg without pain. Hopefully this incident will be behind us very soon...
Friday, March 2, 2018
I can't believe he really decided impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. It's probably the simplest way he could torpedo the economy unilaterally. Doing so just as his other policy initiatives were bearing positive economic fruit is so stupid I have trouble wrapping my brain around it. The stock market, I see, is interpreting this the same way I would – the Dow is down over 700 points since yesterday morning.
The unions are crowing about “their” victory. That's a sure sign that you've messed up, Donald.
I see that some (possibly unreasonably) hopeful pundits are noting that Trump still has a week or so to change his mind. Try as I might, I can't feel hopeful about that...
Thursday, March 1, 2018
If you know me, then you most likely know I'm not a “joiner” – meaning that I rarely even think about joining an organization. Part of that is a result of being an introvert, but a bigger part is that I just plain don't like most organizations – in the sense that I don't want my membership to represent an endorsement. Last year I joined AARP, but only with great reluctance, as there are many things about AARP that I don't like at all. But ... they have the best Medicare supplement plans, according to my trusted health insurance agent, so I set my qualms aside and did it. Their sticker is not on my car. :)
Yesterday, though, I joined another organization: the NRA. I'm now a life member. The NRA does some things, and has some stands, that I think are borderline crazy. But ... nobody does a better job at defending the second amendment, and that's something I care deeply about. They're also extremely good with their firearms safety training and range training; very commendable activities that should be supported if you're supporting free access to firearms.
So I joined, hoping my financial support will help the fight in some small way.
I'm now pondering a couple additional steps.
First: for both Debbie and I to get concealed carry permits, and to get a suitable carry weapon for both of us (most likely one of the Glocks).
Second: to acquire an AR-15 and learn how to use it.
I want us to be ready if someone comes for our guns. If that day arrives, it will likely be another “joining” moment for me.
So Debbie called our vet's office (more on those wonderful people below) while I kept pressure on the wound. There was blood everywhere – in her crate, on her bedding, and (especially) all over the kitchen floor. The paper towel I was using to apply pressure was soaked in it, and my hand looked like it was made of blood. Ipo looked totally unconcerned, other than being curious why her papa was holding her on her back and pressing on her stomach. She obviously wasn't in any pain The vet tech who answered the phone at the vet's office got just enough of a description from Debbie to ascertain that this really was something that needed urgent attention, and then gave us the go-ahead to bring her in immediately. Debbie had the brilliant idea of putting an old washcloth on her belly and holding it in place with an elastic male incontinence strap that we had for Mo'i a few years ago; this worked very well (and impressed the vet a little later :)...
One of the things we love about living here is that our wonderful vets are just 3 minutes (and I mean that literally) up the highway from us. Their clinic is on the same road we live on, less than three miles north of us. So about eight minutes after we first noticed the bleeding, we were in the vet's office. By this time we know most of the people there, both vets and vet techs, on a personal level. I take them flowers once in a while (just did last week, actually) when we think they need cheering up. So when we walked in with Ipo in my arms, it was a bit like walking into a friend's house. At this point the bleeding had slowed down to a seep. The vet techs got everyone notified right away. Dr. Clark happened to see us in the lobby, and came over to check Ipo out. He was obviously unworried (a relief to us) and said he'd see us as soon as he'd finished with the patient he was working on. A few minutes later, we were in with Dr. Clark and he gave her a quick check before telling us what was going on – and to assure us that there was nothing to worry about.
It seems that when they do the spay, they actually make two incisions. The first is through the outer skin layer, the second through the muscle layer that's just inside the skin. When they're done with the surgery, they make two sets of stitches: one to close the muscle incision the other to close the skin. Sometimes the dog will accumulate blood and plasma in the area between the muscle and the skin. That's what happened to Ipo: there was some fluid (probably on the order of a cup's worth) buildup there, and when the skin incision split open, that accumulated fluid started flowing out. None of this is harmful to the dog. He made sure she didn't have any sort of infection, then put one staple in the place where the incision had split and sent us home. That's it!
The competence and proximity of our vets is a great source of comfort to us. For many years, when we lived in Jamul, California, we were a 45 minute drive from our vet. We always worried about what would happen if we needed a vet urgently. Fortunately for us, that need was never tested, though we did have a few incidents that were rather too close for comfort. The fact that we like all the staff there is just some very nice icing on the cake...