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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Cookie night

Ellie and I are making cookies tonight. Sugar cookies and chocolate chip. I'm no dope, so we're making them from store-bought dough. It's just easier that way, especially when you have help.

Linda worked hard in therapy today. I used the time to run errands which took longer than I expected. When I came back, she told me that she fell off the balance beam but that the fall was quite graceful, graceful for her at least. It sounded like the PT caught Linda and then Linda started laughing. That would really be enough to do her in. When Linda starts laughing, it's as likely as not that she'll collapse into a ball.

She's been really giggly lately. I have no idea why. I don't think she knows either. But as she says, "It's better than crying."

All of my friends seem to have caught "the cold" from their children. At least I hope it's the cold. I'd like to think I have my immunity now and not that I'm going to get another one.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


My cold seems better tonight, but I can't really say for sure. I had enough sense to take some ibuprofin before my head started pounding. It hurts a lot less tonight in any event. I'll know in the morning.

Linda had a hard time in PT this morning. She worked on some new exercises. She did various things while lifting an anatomy textboox. Things like: from sitting, lean over and grab the book from the floor; stand up and lift the book at the same time. Or: bend down and lay the book on a chair at the same time. Or: move the book from place to place, bending slightly each time. It made her cry. She was doing a good job, but new things are always frustrating.

All of rehabilitation is like that. As soon as you are good at something, it gets put away and you have to work on some new hard thing. You're always working on things you can't do well.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Big shoes

I have big shoes, big shirts, a big coat. I'm a big guy. I could live with some small things. Like, why don't they make small colds? I could go for a cold that didn't make my head split once in a while.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Some things have to be shared

Many of you know that Linda and I are die-hard Babylon 5 fans, and science fiction fans in general. We've probably been to more fan conventions than you can count on your fingers.

I recently read on one of my favorite "nerd" web sites a series of comments that went something like this:

  • Babylon 5 is best science fiction series ever made for television.

  • That's true. Actually, that would be true if they never made Firefly

So, I've borrowed the DVDs of this failed series from a friend, and Ellie and I are watching it together (Linda is still absorbed in Zorro stuff). I was in love with the characters after the first 2-hour episode. I want to meet these actors/actresses.

Imagine my excitement when I learned that there is a (sequel) movie called Serenity coming out in theaters this September.

I have to get Linda to watch this.

Paid up for the year

Have you ever put the wrong check in the wrong envelope when paying bills? I apparently sent my day care check to Southwestern Bell this month. Naturally they cashed it, even though it was made out to someone else. Figures I would send it to someone dishonest. Oh well. It looks like I'm not going to owe a phone bill for some time.
I found a target for my listlessness. I wrote to Linda's medical equipment company. They still seem to have some delusions about Linda's wheelchair despite having received payments totaling the full purchase price of the item.
What is your definition of bored? Mine is, "Don't want to do anything. Don't want to do nothing." It helps if you have several things hanging over you that you should do but you'd rather avoid.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Ahh, Thursday. One more day to the weekend. Don has a cold. So does Ellie. Who gave it to whom? Unknown. She went to bed well tonight which made me happy. I wasn't up for a battle.

Linda's tired too. Another hour of PT this morning. I went to the grocery store (without Ellie). When I came back, Linda was walking up the hall with a single 4-point cane. Interestingly, she is a bit slower but has a better gait with the 4-point than with her two single-point canes. They let her have it to borrow over the weekend for practice.

In some ways the 4-point is easier to work with. Because it sets flat on the ground you get faster feedback through your hand about how your balance is changing. That's why she walks a bit better with it.

Linda is tired tonight, so she has mostly gone back to her familiar canes. She did practice some earlier, and I expect she will over the next few days as well. Mostly I think she's just taking it easy. The long workouts make her left knee hurt. When she gets fatigued, she locks the left knee so it doesn't buckle. Doing that over and over makes the joint hurt. It's something that she has worked on since she was at Rusk even, so it'll take a while to defeat.

Fun bleeds into work

My work on Linda's DVDs has turned into work, in a good way. I was mentioning to my colleagues that you could grab custom clips and write a custom menu for them. It would mean easy use of video clips in class. No cueing ahead of time, and being able to watch the same clip a second time without rewinding to an index. I may have created a monster.

And it may technically be illegal (in some cases). Is that cool or what? Well, maybe not cool. Maybe the law sucks.

Maybe people ought to do more noble, illegal things.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Good hard workouts

Today was Linda's first hour long PT session, but she held up well. In fact, her speech therapist commented that she didn't sound tired as she often does when speech comes last (as it was today). I think Linda was pleased with how things went all around.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Not much news

We're still counting down to the first day of class. I'm putting together my calendars of the semester. I never feel ready until they are mapped out even if I change things some later.

Linda's physical therapist has started making plans to adjust for a visit maximum of 24 visits. For one thing, her 45 minutes sessions are going to be extended to a full grueling hour. We'll eventually have to schedule them less frequently.

It looks like 24 visits may really be it. I won't be sure until I've got "the book." I called benefits to have them run it down a week or so ago, but they haven't called back. That seems to be my usual experience lately.

Thank goodness we didn't have this insurance last year. I suppose we would have negotiated something with them. At $700/day, they would want to get you out of the inpatient rehab hospital.

Linda has been thinking about a set of parallel bars for use at home. If she could be secure, she would practice more as part of a daily routine. She already does for her other therapies and it makes a difference. She does scales on the keyboard although she's been a bit lazy about it during the break. She has hand weights that she leaves next to her favorite chairs to work her arms.

She would like to be able to do some of her PT activities at home, maybe some balance work or squatting. But of course you have to worry about falling down. So I looked into parallel bars. You can get a small set for a bit less than $500. We'll have to talk to her PT and see what she thinks.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Keeping busy

Well, it's that last weekend before school starts. We've been keeping busy. I have been going through some of those things that need to be done before school restarts. I've also had a fun project to work on, and I'm so proud of my results I'm going to tell you about.

Linda has some episodes of the old Family Channel Zorro series on DVD. They don't sell (this) Zorro, so for years she's been playing VHS tapes that she made of the show when it was still on. But tapes wear out, and hers are. So, we had some episodes converted to DVD by a woman who has one of those DVD-recorder machines.

Unfortunately we had some problems with the DVDs. There were some problems with the menus. There are 4 episodes per disk, but we could only start the first one then play straight through. Fast forward and rewind were quirky so it was hard to get to the place you wanted quickly.

I decided that I would re-author the DVDs. My goal was to remake the menus and digitally cut out the commercials, hopefully without having to re-encode the video streams. Every time you re-encode, it reduces the quality of the copy. I had my first prototype ready on Thursday, and my first disk done on Friday.

It was hard. Surprisingly difficult. There were spare, barely helpful directions scattered around the Internet. There were directions that were just plain incorrect on at least 6 different authoritative-looking sites. That's why I'm so pleased. I figured it out anyway.

I'm particularly proud of my menus. When you start the disk, the first title is highlighted. After you play that title, I made the menu smart enough to highlight the second title, and so on. I also made a "Play All" selection which plays all 4 episodes straight through. It works great.

I also understand what some of those buttons on the DVD remote do, like the difference between "Title (menu)" and "Root (menu)".

Oh, and I should mention: I used Free Software to do all of the authoring.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Trekking to Columbia

We made our trip to Rusk today. It was a pretty nice visit, although it always seems a bit short compared to the about of driving you do. We went to lunch at the Mexican restaurant just down the street from Rusk. It isn't the most accessible of places, but we got a nice blue parking space next to the door. We reminisced about going there before and having to get the wheelchair in and out of the place.

Pretty much all of the therapists Linda wanted to see were at Rusk today. Her 4 main therapists were all there, and we ran into many of the others too. We didn't catch all of the nurses, especially the evening nurses who hadn't come on shift yet.

I popped into the little computer room they have and checked out the computer. It didn't run at all when we were there, so I put Linux on it before we left. I like to check every month or two to see that it still works (it does). Today I updated the web browser on it, because everyone always likes to have new stuff. I left Linda in the gym where she could visit (without being interrupted by me).

After Rusk, we went to Boone. We didn't run into quite as many people we knew there, and there wasn't a lot of time, so we didn't page anyone. Linda walked from the parking lot to the NeuroScience ICU, then from there to the floor where her room had been. If you don't remember, that's a pretty long way, and it came after we walked all around Rusk. The nurses were particularly impressed by that little feat.

Linda demo'd a bit of walking for the nurses and chatted with them some. Told them she was doing well, and all. Then we borrowed a wheelchair to go downstairs and headed for home--after getting coffee at the Lakota coffee bar in the lobby. It seemed like that place was never open when Linda was patient, so I never got coffee then.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

No title

It's vacation, so I feel like I don't have to think of a title today. Actually, I'm starting to feel like Calvin. You know vacation is nearing its end, so you can't really enjoy what's left. I suppose part of that is because I'm starting to plan my classes for next semester, so actually I'm working already.

Linda mentioned that we haven't seen the therapists at Rusk for quite a while, so we're going to go down tomorrow. I remind myself that we couldn't do that so spontaneously if we weren't on vacation. Today Linda was practicing her spitting in the car, so she can spit for Fred. It's pretty funny. When she does it well, she starts laughing and then she can't do it at all. I almost called this entry "Stupid Human Tricks" in honor of the effort.

Otherwise, things are quiet. We did decide to go to Violette yesterday and practice walking, since we haven't been to therapy in about 2 weeks. Linda's posture has been a bit sloppy, so I, ahem, prodded her to do better. It's not fair, but I can be a lot meaner than Linda's actual therapist and somehow it isn't mean.

I made Linda do punches and blocks this morning when her OT was late. We also played patty-cake. Just about anything can be therapy really. We got her all warmed up, then her OT really gave her a session since the PT was sick and we didn't have to hurry. He really challenged her.

One exercise was screwing and removing bolts up on a wall. This worked on fine motor in combination with endurance and balance. Then he had her lift a bar weight up in a frame. The idea was to work on some of that strength she would need to pick up Ellie.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Averted disaster

Linda opened one of her word processing files, only to find large deletions in it. This hasn't happened for a couple of weeks consecutive now. The last time it happened, I created a virtual drive D: for her and told her to save backups there regularly. I take 5 minute snapshots of it and copy them to another computer. So today, when she told me she lost data, the first thing I did was open the change history from her backup directory and look at it.

I had the revision software display her most recently changed paragraphs in color, so she could look at them. The most recent version was still there. Then I compared it with the version she usually edits on drive C:, and the changes were missing there.

So what happened? She was faithful about saving a backup on drive D: and then forgot to go back to her original file. All morning, she was updating, changing, revising, and it was getting saved on D:. Then she came back this evening and opened the old C: file and got worried. It's the classic mistake of working on two files and not realizing which is current.

Really, it was the best possible mistake to make. Because of the ongoing snapshots, she can hardly lose anything she saves on D:. She could even have accidently copied the old file there and because of the revision history the mistake could be undone. I'm feeling pretty smart about the whole thing.

The only thing that might be better would be if the word processor automatically saved the backups for her. She wouldn't even have to think about it. Linda's wordprocessor can actually be dynamically reprogrammed (can't say that for Word) so I'll probably look into it eventually.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Too hot in the kitchen

I did something tonight that I've always wanted to do. I bought one of those live lobsters at the grocery store and had them steam it for me. I gave Ellie the privilege of marking the poor sap that was destined for the cooker, although I don't think she realized the one we ate was the one she picked out. We had lobster, green beans, baked potatos, and crescent rolls.

I also cooked last night. We had Pad Thai, from a recipe I found at lorenkohl.net. Last night was actually the third time I have cooked from that recipe, but it was the best yet. It was exactly like being in a restaurant. I've changed little things each time to get it the way Linda and I want it, and I am almost ready to rewrite the recipe permanently for my recipe box.

Linda and I actually prefer our noodles prepared differently. I like mine spicier than she likes hers. So when I say it was perfect last night, it was actually perfect for me. What I really need to do is figure out the recipe at her level and then add a little bit more when I fix my plate. I'm confident that I'll have it soon.

Ellie, of course, eats peanut butter and jelly on these nights.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Pet project

No real news today. The snow makes things a bit hard. Canes slip on ice just like feet do, so Linda has to be careful when we are out. But she's been fine.

I was talking to Jen, about one of my favorite pet projects--no, not Free Software this time--and she said I should mention it on the blog. She said lots of my friends, like you Becky, would be interested in it.

Many of you may know about Project Gutenberg. They take books that are out of copyright, scan them, and convert them to usable text. You can get pretty much any old classic you think of from Project Gutenberg; Shakespeare, Austin, whatever. I like to think of it as a huge repository of free knowledge.

But books don't get in there by themselves. It takes a lot of volunteers to make it happen. Sure, you can scan a book and OCR it (have the computer read the text). But the print on old books varies, and computers are only so accurate. So it takes real live people to proofread the results. Real live people just like you.

Distributed Proofreaders is a web site made solely to bring people together for the task of proofreading. It is one of those stunningly well-done web sites on the internet, and I don't say that lightly. It is one of the finest uses of web technology I have ever come across.

Anyone can make an account for themselves there and volunteer. You pick out one of the texts available for proofing and the system shows you both an image of a scanned page and next to it the OCR text. You check the text against the image and fix any mistakes, then submit it back to the project. You can do one page or 20, as many as you like. The system keeps track of how much you've done. Every page gets proofed a second time by an experienced proofer to catch things you may have missed (so you shouldn't stress about it).

Here are my statistics if you are interested.

You, Becky, can do this too. Just go make an account and get started. The same goes for the rest of you.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

You'll fall over

You'll fall over when you learn that the insurance company paid for Ellie's (Apr 1) blood test. I had been getting my materials together to talk to an attorney. I was pretty much reconciled to that necessity. The only reason I didn't specifically put that in my last letter to them was that I didn't want to completely shut the door on negotiation.

Something tells me that the insurance people are glad the end of the year has come and they can expect no further claims from me. I know how much work it has been to remain dogged from my end about resolving claims. It can get really demoralizing.

As far as I can tell now, everything is paid through October or November now. I actually believe everything is going to work out smoothly to the end of the calendar year.

In any event, it's an expense I can finally relax about. New there's just this little collection agency to square up with (i.e. they'll have to square up with me).

Monday, January 03, 2005

Not funny fact of the day

I'm going to be particularly unimpressed if the University really contracted for a medical plan that has unlimited visits for occupation and speech therapy but only 24 visits per year for physical therapy.

Good frustrating new year news

I have been afraid to open the mail lately. I kept expecting that the insurance would deny our appeal on Linda's medical equipment. I didn't think they should, but I thought they would anyway. Well, today I got the notice that it was paid.

It was paid at 100%. That means that the 20% co-pay that I sent to the collection agency makes my account over-paid. Now they owe me money. They've been so mean so far, somehow I think the next conversation is not going to be so fun. It's too soon to call them. The payment hasn't even posted to Linda's account with the medical equipment company.

I'll call the equipment people again in a few days or a week. I can't really expect to make any progress until that payment arrives. Then I suppose it will be time to call the collectors.

I really, really tried to pay only amounts that I was certain that I owed. But I'm over about $65 on this one. My guess is that I'll get about $30 of it back, and they'll want to keep the other $35 because I returned that check they cashed when they weren't authorized.

On the bright side, the evil collector people are probably going to lose money on my account overall, just because we've gone around and around on the telephone so many times (more to come) and the account was ultimately worth so little.