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I Hate Linux

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The new ‘blue balls’?

When I was young, some every so bright (solely in their minds) guys would occasionally claim a medical condition so as to have better luck with the ladies saying:

If you don't… they might explode

I'm afraid now that the young folks may see this story and get ideas:

    If you don't... I might become a skinhead

Democratic People’s Republic of Minnesota

Having family finally returning from Ireland (after living there for nearly 11 years), I've been forced to once again return to the DPRM for a time while they hunt for a new car before they begin the process of moving back to Bismarck, ND.

Aside from getting to see family who I have not seen in the longest time, one of the few upshots of this visit will be getting to listen to Joe Soucheray and Garage Logic (even though I have a shamefully low cylinder index of 6) live on the local radio instead of having it relegated to podcast form on the odd chance I remember to DL it and listen to it.

I'm happy to say that in the 24 some hours I've been in the state I haven't seen any complete ridiculousness yet... however given that I'll be here for a week or so... there is still plenty of time. Here is hoping that I'll be able to meet members of Minnesota's for Global Warming and shake their hand and maybe even buy a shirt.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Boredom

You know you've got too much time on your hands and are far to bored when you've got the time and interest to start watching the Prime Minister's Questions weekly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

2 weeks closer

After a quick call and call back (received while I was in the shower (blast them for their efficiency and speed)), I've been able to get my appointment moved up by 2 weeks from June 29th to June 15th to see a new orthopedic surgeon.

Wahoo? Not really.

Sure, 2 weeks sooner sounds nice, it still means that I'm in for a 3 week wait... so I will of course be calling from time to time to see about cancellations even though I'm on their cancellation list.

I made clear to them this morning that despite the fact that I live an hour away, I need at most only 70 minute notice given that with all of the free time I've got, I'm more than willing (and able) to drop everything and head down.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Time for a second opinion

This morning saw my much anticipated appointment with my orthopedist where he'd decide on the next step for me after going over the results and notes from the rheumatologist visit of the week before and after a minute of looking at my chart said:

Your test results look normal... I can't explain......... what's causing your symptoms.

The next step would seem to be visiting another orthopedic surgeon... one who works for the competing hospital system in the area before a possible trip to the Mayo Clinic if the second orthopedic surgeon reaches the same wall as the first one (and everyone else who has seen me on the subject) has.

Nice right? When the appointment was first made I freaked out a bit when I was told the soonest they could see me was July 29th, nearly 10 some weeks out. Luckily for me an error was made (possibly due to July 29th being a Sunday), they had meant to say June 28th... only 5.5 weeks out (because that's so much better).

So now the waiting game begins again... being low on funds and having the pleasure of writing a check to the insurance company every month for $207 to maintain my insurance under COBRA for... nothing but the privilege of being eligible for coverage the next month.

One obvious concern I have is that if orthopedic surgeon #2 can think of nothing and I get referred to the Mayo... I'm going to be in for an even longer wait than anything I've seen previously.

The one good thing about all of this waiting is that it is making me an even bigger opponent to any kind of nationalized or single payer health care system as I figure, if things are this bad in a private system dominated by HMO's... I can only imagine how much worse it'd be if the federal government ran things.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Engagement Congratulations

A quick shout out and congratulations to Dan of tdaxp and the Lady of tdaxp who today formally became engaged and did so via the blogsphere.

The rumor was that part of the reason they waited until now was in part so that Dan could ask the Lady of tdaxp's parents for their permission, something that was best done in person with their daughter translating.

Upon hearing this I was concerned and said:

I dunno Dan, there seems to be an awful margin for trickery there... for all you know when you ask "Will you give me permission to marry your daughter?" She very well may ask "Do you like pie?" and the following monologue you hear from the parents, something you think is them expressing their happiness for you both, their hope for a long and happy life for both of you with plenty of kids, their own memories of such a time and finally their blessing... is in fact nothing but a 15 minute epic on why they like pie and what their favorite kind is.

So either the Parents of Lady of tdaxp have given their blessing... or really like pie. In either case, congratulations guys!

I do feel sorry for Lady of tdaxp though... the DeBeers backed tradition says that the guy should spend 2 months salary on the engagement ring... only for a college student like Dan that likely means that his wife to be will be wearing an onion ring or twist tie for many months to come.

Back to waiting

Just now getting home from my earlier visit to the rheumatologist... I'm back to waiting as she couldn't find anything wrong with me in a rheumatoid arthritis sort of way but for one last check they took 6 vials of blood for a series of tests to see if there were any other indications that could point to a cause.

I really wont know more until next Tuesday when I got into see my regular orthopedic doctor to see what the next step will be... a bone specialist. Here's hoping I don't have to wait a month to see them as well.

The wait is over…

After a long month of waiting, today I get to see the rheumatologist and see what she has on the subject of my hands.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Restitution

A quick follow-up on my break-in of July 2004...

After being released in September the first restitution check has arrived.

Restitution Check

The funny and sad thing about this is that the final amount I thought I was out $60 is likely only 1/3rd of what I was really put out by her... but then I didn't know that she had been a repeat visitor to my house.

Interesting note about all of this that I forgot to blog about when it happened... back in the August or September 2006 timeframe I was chatting with some random person on Yahoo and midway through he conversation she noticed the break in link on my Yahoo profile and was shocked to see that she knew the person in question and said:


and her story is wayyyy different then yours...she told me you were her moms boyfriend
Small world eh? Care to take a guess as to how this random person knew my burglar? As it turns out she was in the clink with her... in the next cell no less.

During a brief conversation on the topic, the woman I was talking to got a phone call from someone else she knew from the clink and asked if she knew when my burglar was getting out... as it turns out she was getting out just the next week.

Not long later I had a quick chat with the local State's Attorney and even my burglar's parole officer to be to confirm what I'd heard... sadly it was true however I did get some assurances from the parole officer and was told that the burglar would be living in Sioux Falls with her mom... so chances are I wont likely be seeing her again.

LOST: Taking the lesson from Star Trek to far?

My name is Brendan, and I'm a trekkie.

I admit it. Sure, I've never had a uniform, but I've been to the conventions, read quite a few of the books (less so in later years) and even wrote a few episodes (never submitted them) and know my trivia pretty well.

One of the truly amazing things about Star Trek (like most good science fiction) was the moral stories it told each week, enabling it to deal with contemporary issues in a way that might not otherwise be possible.

One way it would do this would be to explore the humanity of non-human characters. Spock, Data, Odo, The Doctor, T'Pol (just to name a few) were the primary avenues for this... only there was one direction they'd take from time to time.

The enemies.

Remember the Borg? The ultimate evil right? Na, they were just misunderstood and trying to achieve perfection, that's all. It's not evil, it's noble. The Dominion? They just want to subjugate the galaxy under the rule of The Founders... but so what? They are nice folks and have their own problems... persecution of the Founders by the solids, genetically engineered slave races and a whole quadrant of folks who don't see eye to eye. How about Species 8472? They are only defending themselves against the incursions from the Borg and whatever they do in self-defense is quite alright, after all, they hate the Borg about as much as we do. The Xindi? They were just misled. The Hirogen? They are just trying to hold onto their culture. The Klingons? Sure they started out bad, but later we all became one happy Federation.

Each of these groups started out as the ultimate (or really scary) enemy and threat to all that we knew and loved... and yet though some exploration of their humanity we came to know them more and like them... even if they were still 'bad' we would move from "oh no, it's the ____" to "awe, it's the ____. Sure they look scary... they are just misunderstood."

What does this have to do with LOST? They've been doing the same thing from the start. We get to know a character on the island and come to love or hate them but then get a more... balanced view of them after their back story airs.

Just this week we had one of those where the island's very own super villain Ben is found out to be not that bad of a guy... after all, his father was pretty emotionally abusive which lead to Ben's having a rotten childhood.

Whenever they'd do this on Star Trek it'd annoy me a bit because it assumed that we could understand the motivations of some alien group and that we could in some way relate to them... something we may not be able to do with a truly 'alien' race/people. Call me crazy, but I like the idea of dealing with a total and pure evil or at least unrelatable enemy from time to time and something we don't often see in science fiction... with the one exception being of Stargate SG-1 where they did a great job of maintaining the 'evil' aspect of the Goa'uld and the Ori in ways that Star Trek never did and unlike what LOST seems to want to do.

Sure we don't know anything about him, you just know we are going to have a Jacob episode that makes him seem like a sympathetic character, no matter how bad he might be (if he is bad)... of course, I'm still waiting for a Predator episode.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Wanted: Suggestions for a new job

What kind of job can a guy like I do that doesn't require much (or any) use of my hands, doesn't require another 2-8 years of schooling and pays enough for me to live off of, even if not at the level I was while working as a software engineer 3 months ago?

Background:

As many know, I've been having some major issues with my hands for the last many months and it now seems safe to say that the carpel tunnel surgery fixed nothing and only made things worse overall... the next step is to see a rheumatologist, someone I'm scheduled to see a week from today (I'm told it is a miracle that I was able to get an appointment with one only a month out).

The way my luck has always run is that when I have a problem, it's never a simple fix. For as long as I can remember I've never had a problem where the solution has been 'just take this pill', 'install this patch', 'make this slight modification' and given events with my hands, this issue is shaping up to be similar and chances are I will not walk out of the rheumatologist fully cured and healed.

When I first left my development job back in February, my expectation (and that of my doctor) was that I'd be able to go back to work very soon after... just days later in fact, sadly that doesn't seem to be the case and it's now time for me to start looking for alternative full time employment (either temporary or permanent) so as to get me by.

This all began with me having a problem doing much in the way of typing or mousing at the PC, which seemed to be an extension of a long running problem of certain kinds of clutching (pens, pencils, or any other small instrument). About the same time I had a problem at the PC I noticed that almost* any kind of clutching became uncomfortable and then finally painful be it a steering wheel, cell phone or even a tv remote... so any kind of job where my hands have to do any clutching would seem to be out.

For the first 6 weeks after surgery I had a weight restriction from my doctor of lifting no more than 6 lbs (with my hands) which was no problem as I made it a point to carry bags (ie at the grocery store) with my wrists... unfortunately I still have a bit of a problem lifting anything more than 15 lbs, partially due to pain on the palm of my hands but also due to a massive reduction in muscle strength in my arms (which is funny considering I didn't think I had much there before surgery)... which means that any kind of job requiring lifting or pushing is out as well.

Teaching a bit more at my part time job is an option that I'm pursuing however am very concerned given the need for demonstration in a programming class which didn't feel all that good in my class back in November or more recently in April.

What does that leave? Phone bank operator or receptionist? Sure I've got a good voice, however I suspect that there'd be plenty of button pushing required.

I suppose there is always modeling or acting. Ha!

There is always governmental handouts isn't there? As far as I can determine, I do not qualify for state based unemployment as I am not 'physically able to work in your usual occupation or in other work for which you are reasonably fitted', nor do I qualify for SSDI as I have not been out of work for more than 6 months and I'm not likely to get a doctor or two to certify that I'll be unable to work for at least a year.

I'm honestly out of ideas and dare I say it, am starting to get a bit concerned as the financial pressure of having virtually no income, mounting medical bills, maintaining health insurance under COBRA, continually putting my student loans into forbearance and living on credit cards is starting to take its toll and I need to find some income sooner or later.

Anyone have any ideas?

*The funny (and sad) thing in all of this is that the one thing I've found I can clutch for extended periods is an Xbox 360 controller… just so long as I don't hold down the Left Trigger button for 3-5 minutes at a time... and unfortunately there is not a lot of money to be made playing the 360 without other typing involved (ie reviewing games and/or filing bug reports).

Note: Like my last extended blog post, this post was written over the course of a few days so as to reduce pain and discomfort.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Flooding out back


Flooding out back
Originally uploaded by BrendanGrant.
Sure it hasn't come near my house yet (100 feet away)... a little more rain (like what is expected today, tomorrow and thursday) could bring it closer. Weeeee!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Vista speech recognition

So given the ongoing problems with my hands at long last I decided to give the speech recognition software built into Windows Vista a try.

I've always been one who thought that I spoke quite clearly, sadly Vista disagrees… That or the microphone I'm using sucks a bunch or I haven't trained it well enough.

While I have no doubt that the software is far better than I'm seeing, I'm rather let down as it seems to be worthless to coder like me as I need something that can understand c# take the following attempts to write the beginnings of a for loop.

For all been privacy is int X equals one; ex less than 10; ex plus plus)

Four (int X equals one; ex less than 10; ex plus plus)

For (int X equals one; X less than 10; Expos' plus)

Four (in tdaxp equals one; ex less than 10; X plus plus)

For (int X equals one; X less than 10; Expos' plus)

For work (int X equals one; ax lists than 10; ex plus plus)

For (int ex equals one; ex less than 10; ex plus plus)

If I have time later and am feeling particularly anal I might just have to record my voice several times saying the same thing over and over again and see how the speech recognition system takes that because I cannot believe that of those previous attempts I was speaking so differently each time but then what do I know?

I will say this though this blog post took a good 5 minutes to dictate, something that even with bad hands I could've written in about a minute.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

My weight loss experience - 1 year in

I am pleased to announce that today is the 1 year anniversary of my beginning the Nutrisystem program and since starting I've lost 123.8 lbs.

And now... the requisite before pictures:

Before - Front Before Side

And today (taken just this morning):

Year 1 - Front

Year 1 - Side

The back story:

So a little over a year ago I decided I should try something else to lose a few pounds. Why? I wish I could give a grand overriding reason such as not liking small children (or woman) looking at me in horror, more expensive clothing, not fitting into most airline seats, difficulty finding cars that fit well (partially due to being 6'4") or something else so motivating... instead one day I just said "lets give it another try".

So a year ago I gave into one of the many Nutrisystem commercials I'd hear on the radio, see on tv or see as banner ads online and with that... it began with my first day being Wednesday May 3rd, 2006 and in that time, have lost 123.8 lbs bringing me from a starting weight of 415.2 down to 291.4, a long way towards my perverted goal of seeing sub 200.

(Want to learn more about Nutrisystem? Shoot me an email and we can talk and if you'd like I can also send you a $30 coupon)

If you are not familiar with Nutrisystem, the basic idea is that each month they send you a box of food, 28 breakfasts, lunches, dinners and deserts and as it turns out... I made a little mistake towards the beginning. I didn't quite read this instructions and didn't know that I was supposed to add in my own food. Why is this important? The Nutrisystem plan (which is more than just a bit of calorie counting (a big thing for me as it turned out)) revolves around eating ~1800 calories a day and what they send you... is only about half of that.So my first week wasn't very fun as I was only eating what they sent... but once I started adding some fruits and little 80 calorie fruit and yogurt things all was well and I began to lose pretty rapidly, take these graphs:

Weight loss since starting:

YearHistory

30 day average:

30DayAverage

Unfortunately the overall rate has been slowing down a bit, but that's to be expected just how much I've lost and how much I've got left but thankfully with the recent repair of my exercise bike and air conditioner installation, I'll be able to do something I haven't been doing for quite a while... work out.

The funny thing is that since beginning this weight loss... I've had more problems because of my weight (change) than I ever did previously. Crazy I know. Care to guess what the worst part (in my opinion) about massive weight loss is?

Clothing.

Back on May 3rd, 2006 I tipped the scales at 415.2 lbs, wore pants with a 52 inch waist (that were a tad tight) and wore 5xlt shirts. Today, I'm down to wearing pants with a 46 inch waist and 3xlt shirts with 2xlt shirts being likely only a month away and 44's about a month later.

Six inches and two x's I've gone down so far and have had to buy some intermediate clothes.

Many say that they love getting to buy new 'skinny clothes' and throw out the old 'fat clothes'... only I'm not all fond of that just yet for two reasons:

  1. New clothes cost money... and I am notoriously cheap on many things including clothes. I resist going in and dropping $25 for a pair of jeans, and $17 for a simple t-shirt and at least $35 for a work (dress-ish) shirt.
  2. Any clothes I buy today will be retired in 6-8 months just like all of those clothes I started off with.

To raise a few dollars for new clothes as well as get rid of some of my older clothes, I've taken to selling them on eBay to mixed results. First auction of 15 shirts netted me $100 while the second of 10 only earned me $18.50. In fact right now I've got two more lots up on eBay (Lot 1, Lot 2).

So as bad as street and work clothing has been... specialty clothing is also going to be a bit problematic, take my deer hunting outfit for example:

Deer 2005

When I purchased the jacket and bibs (the bottoms) I dropped $225 for a setup that fit like a glove back in 2005, however in 2006 when out chasing Bambi I was 70lbs less than the year before, things were noticeably loose to me but not as much on film:

Deer 2006

Although a quick shot looking inside of the jacket does show a fair bit of extra room:

Hunting clothes

I can only imagine how bad things would be today, let alone during deer season 2007... so I'm definitely going to need to drop another small pile of cash on another setup that will hopefully last me a little longer as frankly, I don't think I'll be losing another 123.8lbs anytime soon unless I get a leg sawed off (granted another 70 is still a possibility).

One hopes that my current setup that's only been out a few times will still fetch a few bucks on eBay... but I don't think I'll list them until this summer when more folks are in the market for that kind of gear.

Another interesting thing I've encountered due to the weight loss... reduced alcohol tolerance.

Back when I was in college I might be found at the bar once or twice a month with friend and back then I could drink beer like water without a problem. Even after college when my low desire for drinking became even smaller, that tolerance was still in place... today though, I can feel alcohol a heck of a lot quicker than I could even a year ago.

I rather liked being an expensive date/drunk.

Why this has happened I cannot say... but I expect it's either due to the lower body weight or more likely (in my mind) my increased abstention as I don't drink as much these days as I did a year, two or even three ago... partially due to lack of interest, but also due to finances and calories (maybe if I can find some decent tasting calorie free beer).

Despite all of the complements I've received since this all began... I'm sad to say that I haven't noticed things as much as others. Sure, I see a massive change in the way clothes fit, I've noticed some differences when looking at pictures or looking at the scale every morning... but also every morning when I look at myself in the mirror, I look just the same as the day/week/month/year before and when I look down when not wearing a shirt I see the same belly I've seen for as long as I can remember.

Sure, I'm the least suited to judge the difference in body size as I'm not exactly the most impartial or objective observer... I do hope though that I will see the day in a year or two when I can look down and see less flab.

So that's it really... in 1 year I lost 123.8 lbs out of 220lbs I'd like to lose. Will I make it? I don't know. Perhaps in another 50/70/90 I'll be happy enough with where I am at, however I certainly cannot say for sure today as I still know I've got plenty to lose, but it is nice to know that I am more than halfway to my goal and have done a great deal of successful work in achieving it... and in recognition of it I have a small collection of Nutrisystem bears sitting atop my curtains in the living room:

Nutrisystem Bears

For every 10lbs you lose on Nutrisystem they send you a little stuffed bear to help note your progress and help make the entire quest a little more manageable. Instead of focusing each and every day on the final goal of losing some insanely large number... one can instead focus on getting their next bear... unfortunately from the sounds of it they do not do any bears beyond 100lbs (ignoring the Goal Bear you receive if/when you reach your goal) so I may need to pressure them into making some larger ones as I'd really hate to have to wait another 96.2 lbs.

Funny... despite knowing that my current loss is more than half of my total goal... it wasn't until writing the previous paragraph that I realized that I only had 96.2lbs to go... me thinks I may need to start calculating that as well, have that as a number just as handy as how many lbs I've lost as sure, a high # of lost lbs is a nice thing to be able to brag about... it alone doesn't mean as much as being able to say as well "And I'm only ___ lbs away from my goal!"

Note: Knowing that this happy day was quickly approaching, this post was actually begun on Monday morning so as to give me an opportunity to say everything I wanted without utterly killing my hands come Thursday morning.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wahoo! My Airdyne is fixed!

So a couple of years I got one hell of a deal on a used Schwinn Airdyne exercise bike and unfortunately, late last summer I broke it, a break that only today, some 9 months later has been remedied.

I'd had the misfortune of breaking off a key bolt flush with the surrounding area making it impossible to remove without a great deal of work... and today I visited a buddy's father who'd first offered to help me fix it back in November. While there today he broke out his welder and added some extra metal to the part making it possible to grab on to and remove... and not 10 minutes after I got it home this evening I had it fully working again.

Woot!

Shame I don't think I'll be spending any time on it tonight.

Also on the plus side... me thinks it's going to be pretty nice that from no on when I use it, I'm no longer telling a big ole fat lie. No longer will I be forced to enter my weight as 300lbs (it was as high as it could go), instead I'll be able to be more accurate... but more on that another time.

Now though me thinks I should start looking into a better seat as the one that is there causes some discomfort in my nether regions after only 10 minutes of use.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

George Tenet Guilty?


George Tenet Guilty?
Originally uploaded by BrendanGrant.
Monday morning during the intro to America’s Newsroom on Fox News, this unfortunate shot was taken while they were discussing the recently convicted terrorists in England. Sure the next story they talked about (at which point the subtitle changed) the new Tenent book, surly there must be something more to this.

I’m rather surprised that we haven’t heard any screams from Media Matters or other leftist groups about how the evil right-wing Fox News group trying to slander George Tenent, a man whose only crime (aside from some possible ball dropping) was having the balls to call out the Bush administration on their desire to go to war with Iraq and not letting reality get in the way... not while head of the CIA mind you, but only after a 4 million dollar book deal.