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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Too cute not to share

We took Ellie out to eat last night. It was just a spontaneous thing. End of the week, a fresh paycheck, that kind of thing. If we had planned ahead, I would have hired a sitter. But Ellie was pretty good, if you allow for her introducing herself to every person in Il Spazio.

Interestingly, there was one waitress there that Ellie completely attached herself to. It was unlike any other stranger. She had been like that only one other time, in Pizza Hut a month or two ago with some college student who was there with her boyfriend.

I said to Ellie, "Is this your friend?"

Then the waitress said, "Is this my friend from Pizza Hut?" I about fell over. It was the same girl. I suppose Ellie remembered. I had no idea.

The cute moment

When we came home, there was lightning in the west, so we decided to sit out on the porch and watch the storm come in. I went into the house to turn off lights so it would be nice and dark. When I came out, Ellie was snuggling on Linda's lap in the rocker. Ellie professed bravery, but Linda said she was afraid of the lightning.

While we were watching, Ellie prompted Linda. "Rock. No, rock bigger." So Linda rocked the rocker. Then Ellie said, "Say 'Rock-a-bye Baby'". Linda was doomed to rock and sing over and over. OT and ST, and probably a bit of PT all in one setting. Don't kid yourself, she loved it, even if her singing is dreadful.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Why I gain weight

I mentioned to Linda that I had discovered the reason I was gaining weight. Obviously, because I consume more calories than I need. In illustration of the point, I mentioned, "A Milky Way has 240 calories. Did you know that a Mountain Dew has only 170."

I think she took it the wrong way, "Oh, I don't know. That makes a Mountain Dew sound pretty reasonable."

Something about the way she popped that comment off made me laugh for a long time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

5 month checkup

It was back to Columbia for Linda's 5 month checkup. We both realized today that we have been out of Rusk longer than we were in it (by more than a month already). It was fun and funny to be back. Linda commented that this was the first time that things looked smaller. The gym was smaller, the hallways were shorter.

Everyone was pleased to see her of course. Dr. R was appropriately impressed by Linda's progress. He was very satisfied with the progress she has been making in therapy. He tested her balance, and her reaction time, and some of her reflexes.

He commented that her tone is still a bit strong. When he tested the reflex in her knees for example, she really kicked. Not like a front snap kick, but not just the little bounce you usually see either. He's going to change her medication slightly to help calm that down some. That should help some, although he did comment that she can expect to always have some tone from now on. As she gets stronger it will continue to be less of a problem.

We asked a few questions (the tone was going to be one of them). He said we were pretty much pursuing the right course and doing the right exercises to keep improving. So we are pretty happy.

Free software update

Someone managed to get the computer in the gym a bit out of whack, but had I expected that and planned for it. While we were there, I took about 10 minutes and corrected things. Go free software!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Seeing better every day

We went to the eye doctor today to get a new prism fitted for Linda's glasses. She now has a 4 diopter prism, down from a previous of 5 (and 6 before that). Just to remind you, that means that the image from one of Linda's eyes is shifted up (or down--I guess it depends on which eye you think is correct) by a slight bit; enough to make an object one meter away look off by 4 cm. I've looked through her prisms, and it is a disconcerting feeling.

They didn't charge us for the fitting, only the prism. That was nice, although in the end it turned out to be appropriate too. The clinician put Linda's prism on upside down which made her double vision worse. I realized it in the car and turned it around. We trimmed the prism a bit at home so it would fit right in the correct orientation. So really, we did our own fitting anyway.

Now she's seeing great and looking forward to the next, next, next prism, and eventually... HER CONTACT LENSES, YEAH! That will many months yet, but it looks like her vision will continue to improve. It just takes a long time. As I was thinking about it in the car, I quoted to her from a movie, "Small moves, Ellie, small moves." Perhaps you wondered how my daughter got her name?


Linda felt ugly, so we stopped at the hairdresser to get some bangs. She feels less ugly now, which is not exactly the same thing as pretty. She is growing her hair out after all. I couldn't believe it only cost $3. I didn't think you could open the door without spending $12.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Got flu?

I managed to run down a flu shot for Linda today. It looked at first like only the nasal mist might be available, so I called her doctor from Rusk (knowing he would be doing rounds and I could probably catch him). He felt that she could do the mist, which uses a live virus, if there were no shots available but that he would prefer the shot to the mist. He emphasized that she should be vaccinated and said to get the mist if necessary.

But it turned out not to be necessary. It appears that some other patients have been opting for the nasal mist, and that freed up some of the shots. There are some advantages to the mist which will be attractive to reasonably healthy people. No shot for one, and supposedly a stronger and longer-lasting immunity.

Friends and babies

Ellie was in the homecoming parade with her day care. Linda and I went to watch, which turned out to be therapy. We parked at Violette because Linda thought she could walk from there to Centennial. Too far. We made it to the corner stop sign. But that was close enough to see the parade and wave at Ellie.

After the parade, I did a little singing with Cantoria and met some friends I hadn't seen since college. That was fun. I miss singing that kind of music.

Some former students were also back for homecoming, although we didn't see them until later at the football game. It was nice to catch up with them. We were going to meet them for lunch, but Linda wanted to watch the marching band (and didn't want to be late for pre-game), so I called our friends and had them go to the game instead.

We stayed until after the half-time band performance. Ellie was eager to go home, and Linda was tired from the parade, so we left. Our friends had to go about then anyway. From what I hear, the end of the game was heartbreaking anyway.

Sunday, we drove to Des Moines to see my sister's new baby, Jack. He's tiny and round and cute. We got to hold him, and Ellie played with her cousin Gwyn. That makes the longest trip I have taken with Linda since the stroke, and she seemed sort of pleased to get so far from home. It went very well.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Ellie's new best friend

Linda is stiff today. Her lower back has hurt for the past few days, but it is really wearing her down today. She finally got so tired of it this evening that she started crying. I was helping her to the floor to rub her back when it happened.

Ellie was right there, and she immediately came to help. I told her to give Mom a kiss, and she did, "I kiss it and make it all better." That made Linda laugh right in the middle of her crying. I told Ellie it might take more than one kiss.

After a bit, Ellie sat down and laid her hand on Linda's forehead. "My hand make you feel better?" Linda said it did, so she left it there. Somewhere during this whole process, Ellie burst out, "You're my best friend!" That was so unexpected that Linda really did start laughing.

After a few minutes, Linda was fine. I stretched her legs carefully and she seems to be feeling better now. I'll stretch her again when we go to bed. Hopefully tomorrow she'll feel a lot better.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Better alive

This morning as I was about to pull out with the car, Ellie noted that Linda was not buckled in yet. Sometimes she has trouble with the buckle, and it is worse now that our clothes are getting bulkier. As Ellie says, "We don't want her to go bumpy."

"Bumpy" is how Ellie refers to accidents. It has been the word she uses ever since she and her grandmother drove off the road this summer.

It was kind of charming. This little girl who is prone to saying, "Daddy is my friend. Mommy is not my friend, only Daddy. I don't like Mommy," was this morning saying, "I don't want Mommy to die. That would make me mad. I would be mad if Mommy died." I asked her if that meant that she likes her Mommy now.

Apparently she doesn't like her Mommy and would be mad if Mommy died. Both. How complicated it must be to be a 3-year-old.
I didn't feel well yesterday, although I didn't really figure that out until I was driving to work. I was supposed to proctor a test in the morning, but didn't feel up to that. So I postponed my test until Friday (you can't believe how relieved my students looked). I figured that if you don't feel up to proctoring, about the easiest task in the world, you should go home. So I went home and went back to bed. I slept until lunch time and felt much better, if a little tired still.

I'm a good bit better today.

Here's something to consider. Pontine stroke survivors, like Linda, are particularly susceptible to pneumonia. It is the most common lethal complication of the stroke. Linda has had a pretty remarkable recovery, and is a generally healthy person, so her risk is probably not as dramatic as all that. It will probably be impossible to track down flu vaccine this year, even though we are some of those generally sensible people that get our shots every year. If I could manage it for her, I probably should.

Should I try to get shots for Ellie or me? Ellie is the most likely person to bring that kind of thing home, although I am not far behind working at the university. As an asthmatic, I am sort of prone to developing those chest things that end up needing treatment, although I've never been hospitalized for one (I came very close in college once). But now more than ever, it would be difficult for me to be sick, since I have to take care of everyone else.

It all makes me wonder. Why is there always a shortage of vaccine? It's worse this year, but I can't ever remember a year when they didn't say that there is a shortage. What I read suggests that this is because it is difficult to gauge demand, and manufacturers don't want to over-produce and get stuck with product they can't sell.

So, is this one of those "big things" that should have more government involvement? When too much corn is produced, the government buys excess corn and pays to have it stored, ensuring a minimum price. Why? Presumably because it is better to ensure a steady supply of corn than to run out of food. The gov doesn't produce corn, they just safeguard the price to make private production feasible.

Would it be so bad to guarantee a minimum demand of flu vaccine? If we buy too much serum, then some money is wasted, but is it more beneficial to prevent waste or more generally beneficial to have vaccine? That's not so easy to measure. You have to compare against the costs of extra sick people and that gets complicated. How much does it cost the economy for us all to get the flu each year?

Supposedly we're on the edge of a manufacturing breakthrough where the flu virus can be cultured in bacteria, and that will streamline everything. Maybe this is a problem which is about to go away on its own. But if it isn't going away, surely something about the process can be improved.

I don't think government is the answer to everything, but for big things sometimes it is. The environment is one of those things. It always pays for the individual to trash the environment--it's cheaper. Collectively that's a pretty lousy philosophy. It takes the collective to impose on the individual to safeguard the environment; it's one of the "big" problems, too big for just you or me. Maybe the flu is like that too.

I guess in the meantime, we must do as Jane Eyre, who knows how to avoid the fires of Hell, "I must keep in good health and not die."

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Adventure music

The soundtrack from Pirates of the Caribbean was playing on the CD player tonight. Linda told me that it reminds her of Rusk.

She told me, "It always makes me think of physical therapy. One time when you weren't there, Fred came into my room for therapy, and it was playing. I turned it off, and Fred was excited (that I was able to do that). It is a nice memory."

We went to a play last night, Murder by the Book. Linda's sister and brother-in-law were two of the stars. It was in a round barn, which posed some real challenges for Linda. First, the farmground around a barn leaves something to be desired in terms of levelness. Second, the bathrooms are quite a walk.

But we had a lot of fun. Some of Linda's family was in Kirksville for the play. We talked and laughed a lot. Linda was more easily understood than at previous times with family. They were quite surprised by how easily and how largely she laughs. Some of that is a bit of lability playing out, but no one minds.

Family was over this morning too, and that was a bit harder for her. I cooked breakfast, and she was tired from last night. The combination meant that she was more difficult to understand, and I wasn't free to translate. Her family also gets a bit boisterous when together and she can't compete with the loudness.

As such she's a bit grumpy this afternoon, but a lot of that is just tiredness and will probably go away when she rests up.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Happy and Sad

I'm cheerier than yesterday. I finished the depressing chapter in my book even, and it didn't get me down. I decided that I would look into inviting the author to Truman to speak. The computer clubs sponsored a speaker last year and it was very successful.

In the book, Lessig points out that the public domain is disappearing. But I'm a member of the free software culture, and we are, in effect, building a new public domain inside the confines of copyright law. That's a bright thought. Don't tell Congress, they'll probably label us anti-business terrorist anarchists.

You can help build what's left of the public domain if you like at one of my favorite sites, Distributed Proofreaders. All you need to be able to do is read and type. This is a totally great project.

Linda is a bit sad. She tried to walk with one cane at the coffee shop today and fell down (I caught her). She cried right there in the shop for quite a while, but finally Priya came by and distracted her. Linda seems to be feeling better this afternoon and we plan to go out for dinner tonight.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Cranky ... grouchy ... crotchety

I'm a bit grumpy this morning. I shouldn't be. Linda's speech therapist was sick this morning, so she kind of has the day off. You'll be unsurprised to learn that we decided to celebrate by having a leisurely visit to the coffee shop.

I took the book I have been trying to read lately, Free Culture, written by a conservative named Lawrence Lessig. It's a nonfiction book, unlike the usual fantasy novels that I read for fun. I really recommend this book, and you don't even have to buy it. You can download it from free-culture.org. The cover of the book is dead-ugly, but there's a point to it which you'll understand when you read it.

Near the end, he talks about a case he argued in front of the Supreme Court. It was a court case that I followed a few years ago, and I really cared about it. Unfortunately the good guys lost, and in the book he explains what they did wrong and what they should have done that would have won. Basically he failed because he had faith that the supreme court would "do the right thing" when presented with the facts of the case. After all, they're professionals and know the law. In the book, explains that he should have gone for the big sell, he should have mixed in politics.

That is so disappointing on so many levels. It's heartbreaking to have your faith betrayed. It was personally disappointing to me because I cared about it. It is disappointing to see that characterization of the highest court made by someone who had had so much respect for them.

I suppose it's easy to be disappointed in your country when elections approach. I don't even have television, so I don't know what the attack ads look like this year, but I've had plenty in my mail box. All of the candidates know what they have to say to get elected. There are only two parties to choose from, and both are pathetically conservative and backward. If you break a stereotype, you might offend someone.

I never make mistakes

I was reading some candidates' answers to questions posed by a geeky news site at slashdot.org. As usual, they were generic, and quite clearly not written by the candidates themselves. My favorite question was,
When is it appropriate for a leader to change their opinion? Both sides have been accused of flip-flopping on important issues - President Bush on establishing the Dept. of Homeland Security and steel tariffs, Senator Kerry on the Iraq war. But changing opinion due to thoughtful reconsideration ought not to be derided as flip-flopping. Tell us about a time when you had an honest change of opinion on a topic of national importance.

I suppose it is no big surprise that no one answered that. Nader talked about eating hot dogs, Kerry attacked Bush, and Bush declined to answer that question.

Would it be so hard for Kerry to explain something about how his experience in the military made him anti-war? He's getting hell for it anyway. Would it be so hard for Bush to say that he thought Iraq was an imminent threat only to discover that they were a developing threat? Surely Nader could do better than hot dogs.

I can do better than hot dogs. When Linda was in the hospital, and she refused a feeding tube, I didn't help her with the decision. I felt like it was so important that I should respect her decision and not pressure my opinions onto her. I later realized that this was a mistake. We were never people to make decisions alone. I should have talked to her and helped her.

What I thought was respect was a kind of neglect. I don't persecute myself for it, it was a hard week and people make mistakes. Linda doesn't even remember it, so she isn't angry.

Everyone changes opinions. When I was in high school I remember talking to my dad about flag burning. It didn't seem like a big deal (to me) for the law to prohibit burning the flag and he didn't agree.

Now that I'm older, I see it, right along with the pledge and any number of other things, as a way for one group to exert itself over another. If the pledge weren't about coercion, then the phrase "under God" wouldn't be so damned important would it?

So people change. In high school I never imagined growing up to be embarassed for my country. If I owned a flag, I could imagine burning it today.

And now I've written that in a mass medium, and in doing so I am resolved that I can never run for president. No one who has said such a thing can ever be president.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Bits and bobs

The Linux installfest went well on Saturday. It looked at first like it might be a dud, but people just came late. We had several successful installs and a few real glitches. The worst was probably when I lost all of the data on one kid's hard drive. That's why we always start with the question, "Is any of the data on here precious to you?" We've never actually lost anyone's data permanently, but I was pretty close this time.

I told him that I would fix it personally if he brought his laptop to my office this morning. He did, and a combination of research and black magic got things back in order. I understand hard drive structure in a way I never did before.

Linda has been doing pretty well. She fell yesterday but seems to be fine except for a couple of new bruises. She said she was just too tired. Doing more than she should. Unfortunately she doesn't usually realize that she is doing too much until she has already done too much.

Ellie goes back and forth between being a snot with Linda and being reasonably nice. This evening she has been OK, but this morning she yelled in her best teenager voice, "Leave me alone!" That made Linda cry.

Linda will be going down to twice a week in physical therapy at the rehab center. Her speech therapist also suggested dropping one session a week, so Linda can have a bit more of a break. I think the OT felt like he would like to continue at the same pace, but he'll be dropping back so we don't come in just for the single therapy. Linda is pleased. The PT wouldn't suggest scaling back unless she was pleased with how Linda is progressing.

It's a good thing my head is attached. This morning I walked past the newspaper bin and said (out loud), "Is today Thursday?" Then I remembered, I had just come from class that I don't teach on Thursday. "It must be Wednesday." A girl was getting the paper, so I looked at her and said, "What day is today?" She had heard my previous two sentences, so you can imagine the look she gave me before she replied, "Today is Monday."

I just thanked her and said, "Boy is my life inside out." She must think I'm completely off my rocker (where the heck does that idiom come from?).

Friday, October 08, 2004

It's a party

The Free Software Club is having a Linux installfest tomorrow from 5pm-9pm in Violette 1010. Bring in your computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse. We'll delete your data and install Linux!

Options for not deleting all of your data exist too. I'm really looking forward to the install party; I'll be bummed if it's a dud. It would be a shame to plan and have no one come.

Call me if you want to come but have questions.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The circle of life

You can't stay down forever. Linda seems to have cheered up quite a bit. Last night we watched The Lion King. It's funny how many of the jokes are for grown-ups. Ellie was just sitting there absorbed, while Linda and I were laughing like crazy.

Linda even tried singing several of the songs. She's terrible of course, but I thought it was great that she felt comfortable enough to try.

She told me today that her range is about an octave now. It's a really low octave (like a tenor instead of an alto) to be sure, but she used to only have a few steps. She works on it a bit each day with an electric keyboard. She also does a lot of pitch work with the computers at Truman. That is really helpful, because she can see on the screen exactly what is going on. There's no trying to cheat by substituting loudness for highness.

I really enjoy watching her do speech therapy at Truman by the way. I usually bring work to do behind the glass, but I would say about half of the time I just find myself watching them work. It's kind of weird. Speech therapy is about as tedious as you can imagine. It was the one therapy I decided I could never specialize in right away. So I don't know what is so appealing.

Monday, October 04, 2004

More of the same

Linda is a freak.

I am giving a night exam tonight. Linda hates it when I give night exams since she has to go all day and doesn't get to see me. So I promised her that I would hurry home and take her out for coffee between all of my things today. It wouldn't be a lot, but it would be a bit of time for us to spend together.

You're wondering what this has to do with Linda being a freak. And thinking maybe Don's anti-depressant is wearing off. Why does he keep saying that?

When I arrived home, all excited to go out (even for a short time), I found Linda in the livingroom crying. As always, I asked her first if she was hurt or fell or whatever. Not that. She wasn't hurt or scared.

She's tired of being a freak (her words).

Well you can't talk a person out of an idea like that. I did manage to get her to stop crying, a small miracle. And I did take her to the coffee shop. I had to skip a committee meeting--I'm probably the chairperson now. Linda was very brave. She wanted to cry the whole time and she didn't.

It doesn't matter how far you have come. When things are gone that you used to have, you want them back.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Sorry, I don't have a title for today.

Linda cried this afternoon over the way Ellie treats her, or rather the way Ellie ignores her. Well that was part of it. She was also folding clothes and everything was turned inside out. The frustration at that was overwhelming.

I had water in my yard again. Since I just paid to have a plumber out last week, I figured I could call for some free advice, even on Sunday. We talked about what the problem was likely to be. Then I went out to work on it. I'm getting a bit tired of sticking my arm in sewer water up to the shoulder, but I think I've really got it this time. I pulled a 4-inch wad of saturated toilet paper out and suddenly there was this great sucking sound. Then everything drained right down.

I stuck a garden hose in the sewer pipe and flushed it out carefully where the block was, so there's hope that things are finally cleared out for good.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

No rest for the wicked

Ahh, it's Saturday. I went to bed relatively on time, looking forward to sleeping in this morning. Unfortunately a loud crash in my bedroom woke me up at 5:45am. There is something distinctive about the sound of a human hitting the floor with her walker around her. That will bring you right out of sleep.

In general, Linda's walking is becoming more solid all of the time. She must be tired this week. She hasn't had a fall in over a month, but she's toppled twice in the last three days. This morning she couldn't sleep, so she was getting up early to take a shower and start her day. She cried for a while, but that doesn't seem to be because she was hurt.

Our week has been pretty good. Linda couldn't stand the idea of therapy on Wednesday, so we called and canceled. There was also no speech on Thursday because of testing for Head Start. Thursday especially felt like a day off, and we spent most of it together.

We went out last night. Linda told me that was the first time she has been out at night since the stroke. We went to the Dukum to listen to a music group. She really liked them, so during the intermission I bought both of their CDs. We've already played them, and they are certain to become favorites.

I think our babysitter must have forgotten us last night, so we took Ellie with us. She charmed everyone as usual and then had a complete breakdown when it was time to leave. Yes, that's my daughter.