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Sunday, July 31, 2005

More quotes

Ellie: My nose is leaking.
Dad: It's because you're crying. If you would quit crying, your nose would stop running.
Ellie: But I'm not happy yet.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Logic you can't argue with

Ellie (after not going to bed with her 3rd excuse): Why you mad, Dad?

Don: Oh, because I'm tired I guess.

Ellie: Why don't you just go to bed then?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Little achievements

Ellie announced today that she can tie her shoes. Just to prove it, she showed me. The result is pretty rough, but she can indeed do it. I asked her, Who taught you how to do that? She said that I did. It's probably true, she and I have been talking about it lately. I was so slow to learn to tie shoes that I still remember how I was taught. Ellie seems to be a lot quicker on the uptake than I was.

I know there are little things happening lately that I should have posted, but they've left my mind. I've finished the last Harry Potter book for a second time. I have a few different impressions than the first time around, but I still think it is probably my favorite.

We're still slugging it out at therapy. I'm reminded sometimes of the movie Contact where the main character, Ellie Arroway, is frustrated by slow success. Her father tells her, Small moves, Ellie, small moves. Things take time. A long time, and the improvements are subtle. If you've not seen the movie, learning that my daughter was named after the main character might make you inclined to check it out.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Running around

I've been running around a lot for my car. When I was getting estimates this week, one of the repair guys said that paperwork was likely to hold things up more than the shop. That's turning out to be the case for me. The other guy's insurance company hasn't been able to get a hold of him to take the claim, but his parents hinted that he was going to say it wasn't his fault.

Well it was his fault, and there should be enough evidence in the police report to convince the insurance companies. Unfortunately all of this delays everything. I'm going to go ahead and fix the car on my own insurance and let the two insurance companies haggle over the claim. My claim rep told me that it can take a long time to resolve, but I'm sort of used to that kind of thing now. Linda has had her wheelchair over a year and that is still being worked on.

Momentary panic

Yesterday, one of the ITS workers showed me a piece of free software for doing speech analysis; i.e. pitch and intensity and so on. I had a few moments of panic, thinking I've been working all summer to duplicate an existing program. Luckily that turns out not to be the case. Their application has a completely different focus than mine and works differently. Now that I don't have to worry about that, the discovery is actually a plus. Since their work is free software, it could become a resource for me, a place to look for ideas to borrow.

Boring parents

Ellie wants to play with a kid today. She was quite specific about it, so I'm arranging something. These grownup people are just so boring.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A night out

Linda and I actually hired a babysitter and went to dinner last night. Jen asked us over a week ago, so we had time to plan. Dinner was originally planned for 7:30, but I asked if we could do it at 6:30 instead, since Linda gets hungry early. Jen said that would be fine.

It turns out that Jen and Derek got married yesterday. I admit that I didn't see that one coming. So, when I asked to reschedule dinner, I was sort of rescheduling her reception dinner.

We had a nice time. Linda talked quite a bit, especially at the beginning, although she got tired after a while and switched to listening mode. Restaurants are very hard because of the background noise, and last night was a bit more noisy than usual (you notice these things with practice).

He can sing

After dinner, there as an actual reception of sorts at the Dukum Inn's karaoke night. I wasn't really planning to go, and just took Linda home. Ellie was tired and cranky, even for the babysitter (which is unusual), so I asked her if she wanted to go to bed and have a story. She fell asleep almost immediately, so I went out.

The down side of karaoke night is that it takes place in a bar. After a little while, I found myself feeling excessively jittery and just a bit fuzzy in the head. It was the cigarette smoke. The smoke was definitely the worst part of the evening--it is just so gross. So I stationed myself in the door that they opened to let out the heat and it was a bit better.

The up side is that it's pretty fun. For the record, I sang two songs, and it was pretty fun. I did the Can You Feel the Love Tonight, the Elton John song from the The Lion King. I also did an old Charlie Rich song called The Most Beautiful Girl. Both went well enough that I wasn't embarrassed. I was impressed by how many people could actually sing. Karaoke has such a reputation for public embarassment.

I got home a bit late, but my timing was very good. Ellie had woken up and was asking for her mom and dad. Linda was just calling me on the cell phone when I came in. She calmed down pretty quickly and went back to sleep.

I can still smell the smoke this morning even though I left my clothes in the laundry room and took a shower right away. It must be in my nose or something; I smelled it all night. I'll have to run my clothes through the wash this morning in case it's that.

Monday, July 18, 2005

A very Zorro evening

We watched Zorro re-runs this evening, while I made albondigas soup, a specialty of Victoria Escalante (Zorro's/Diego's beloved). It turned out predictably, I liked it, and Linda thought it was too spicy. Still it was fun. It left me a bit too tired to put up with Ellie's whining but she'll live.

What to say to those people on the phone

I got a very unexpected call this evening. It was apparently from the company hosting an opinion web site devoted to survey research. I don't usually get too many junk calls these days, although I suppose you could classify this as a survey call of sorts.

On about the third sentence of the script, they asked for an email address. Now there's no way that I'm giving my email out to some random person who calls. I get plenty enough junk mail as it is. So instead, I asked carefully who the company was. She listed the website for me. After I was sure I had it, I told her in a grave I-think-you've-really-messed-up kind of tone that I'm on the national do-not-call registry and I don't have a business relationship with them. I think they are not supposed to call me and they should add me to their own do-not-call list and not call me again.

I think I unnerved her, but she politely agreed to comply and ended the call. Whether it was actually illegal for her to call in the first place is hard to say; my brother Dean knows all of the loopholes. I get other surveys, so they'd probably argue that angle, but the truth is that they were promoting their web site business.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Tired of the music

I'm hoping one more post will push the itsy bitsy spider off the end of the queue.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

I'm done. We can talk about it.

If you have no one to talk about the new Harry Potter book because you read faster than all of your friends, you can call me. I believe this one is my new favorite of the series. I'll probably read it again now for those details you miss the first time.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The sad things that happen

Drilling holes in my kitchen cabinets so I can install knobs is one of the things on my summer todo list. Today was the day I actually intended to do it. About noon today, I started searching for masking tape. I intended to mark each door carefully, take it down, and haul the whole pile to a friend with a drill press. That way each hole can be perfect and each knob straight.

We didn't have any masking tape. So I drove down to the gas station to get some. They don't have any. They have electrical tape (which you can't write on) and duck tape (which gets all gummy). So I left without anything. When I was pulling out, a man in a Red pickup truck looked down at his ringing cell phone and hit my car. I had pulled to the right, stopped, and honked. He couldn't react fast enough.

No one was hurt. Both cars are driveable. But it did mean a hot hour in the afternoon sun calling the insurance companies and making a report with the state patrol. I really tried to do everything by the numbers. I know how insurance companies can be, and I don't want any problems. It looks like it will be pretty straightforward, since the offending cell phone was mentioned to the officer at the scene and will be in the official report.

It looks like the rear driver's fender and rear door will need fixed. It'll probably take a few days to get the claims rolling before I can look into getting it fixed.

In the meantime, I'll be just a bit sad that my new car is officially not so new.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Therapy update

I know I haven't posted much about therapy lately. We're still going twice a week, and the actual content of her sessions stays about the same, although the intensity gradually increases.

I always walk in with Linda, and we do what we refer to as the choo choo. I stand behind Linda and walk in step behind her. We hold a cane in each hand. At first, I moved the canes so her hands moved correctly with respect to her feet, but now I try not to interfere at all. I just go where she goes.

We're not fast, but we slowly make our way down the hall and around a left turn. Linda will usually lose her balance once or twice on the way. I can tell immediately since I feel it in the canes. If she starts falling forward or to the side, I stiffen the canes so she can catch them. Otherwise, I try to let her catch her own balance--sometimes she does, and sometimes she falls backward (no big deal since I'm behind her).

Speech mostly works on her nasality. She does exercises to work on palate closure, like blowing bubbles with a straw in a cup of water (an activity that was my idea). And she does lots of words and phrases. Things like bee, bay, bye, bo, boo and dee, day, die, doh, doo. Or saying the same phrase as a statement and question, It's raining. It's raining?

Today I made a list of something very hard for Linda, differentiating g and k: bug, buck or balk, bog. That kind of thing. She works on breath support, tongue coordination (count your teeth with the tip of your tongue--now do it on the outside of your teeth).

Physical therapy has focused on balance a lot lately. She does a lot of standing on balance cushions which are just these spongy rectangles that are hard to stand on. Then balance and twist, or balance and shift your weight back and forth, or balance and move your hips like a hoola hoop. There are plenty of variations. Then there are stepping exercises for strength using one of those short steps from cardio workouts. She does all of this in the parallel bars.

Occupational therapy usually includes doing fine coordination stuff with wrist weights on. Often she'll do e-stim to strengthen her left arm muscles. Every day includes the arm bike--today that was especially challenging because he raised the resistance on it. Sometimes she does tactile exercises, like finding popcorn seeds in a ball of putty. Today she did finger fanning exercises. That was particularly tough since her tone was higher than usual.

She walked back to the car with her canes, and we put the air cast on her right ankle because she was pretty tired. She did fine, although by the end, her right ankle was really bothering her. It looked pretty good to me, but apparently it was really fighting her. She said it was a good thing she had ankle support.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Songs in the car

We retrieved the little munchkin from Grandma's house today. She's my daughter, so naturally she didn't sleep in the car (like a normal kid would). We had a lot of fun singing though. Ellie likes to make up song stories, so we did a lot of that.

If you're not offended by people making fun of themselves, we had one gem. Linda helped write new lyrics for The Itsy Bitsy Spider. It's a bit blunt, but it was really funny to us. She said I should put it up, but don't read on if you're squeemish.

The itsy bitsy stroke survivor tried to walk about.
Down went the walker (and) she almost got knocked out.
Out came the care-giver and scraped her off the floor, and
The itsy bitsy stroke survivor walked about some more.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

No good deed

No good deed goes unpunished they say. I went to Columbia to update the gym computer at Rusk, the one they use for rehab. It had been broken for weeks when Linda and I were there, and eventually I installed Linux on it. A month ago I asked if they would like it updated, and the OT team leader said that would be great. So yesterday I took a hard drive down with a shiny new set of programs on it, ready to go. I figured I could have it updated in an hour and still get to lunch on time.

Last week, the work order for the broken computer (that was put in over a year ago) was finally filled. They apparently spent all day working on the computer. It has a brand new, working, installation of Windows on it. Well, I'm not going to reconfigure a perfectly working computer, even if it has lost its freeness, so I left it alone.

I took the opportunity to visit with the therapists. I got to have a really nice visit with Tori especially. Lyndsay wasn't working, but both Fred and Molly chatted for a bit.

I also went out to eat with a friend and galloped over to the mall. Since I had neither Linda nor Ellie with me, I had all the time I wanted to peruse the boring books at the bookstore. Luckily, they had none of the books I might have impulsively snatched up so I saved a little money.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

My letter

My letter must have worked, because I recently got an EOB saying that the insurance company paid for Linda's February wheelchair rent. Now we'll have to see about March, April, May, and June. Soon the chair should be paid out.

Getting out the message

I was reading Consumer Reports this week. They had two articles, where they really got things right, and it was nice to see.

The first article compared alternative medicine treatments to established drug therapies for a variety of different maladies. Unlike a study, it was based on questionnaires, so it measured people's impressions (including the placebo effect) rather than therapeutic outcomes. Still, sometimes if you feel better, that's what counts.

They found that chiropractic and massage both tended to score better than medications for back pain. The same was true for neck pain, but CR was very specific to point out Chiropractic manipulation of the neck significantly increased the risk of stroke by causing the lining of a neck artery to break off and block blood flow to the brain. The arteries that run through the neck bones are the vertebral which join at the basilar artery on the way to the pons. If you need a picture, refer back to brain lessons. Linda's stroke may have started that way.

The second article was about remodeling your bathroom. They had a very nice bottombar about including accessibility into your design. They got most of the basics; lever door handles, tall toilets, open toilet paper holders, grab bars, low-rise tubs or showers, lever faucet handles. Two ideas I hadn't seen were having both a tall and short sink, and putting 3/4" plywood behind the drywall where you will want grab bars (so you can place them firmly where ever you like without having to find a stud).

These articles are both in the August 2005 issue if you are interested.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


For those of you who think Don is a smart enough guy, but he doesn't have any mechanical sense (and I know there are a few of you); I'd like to report that I took apart the carbeurator of my non-functioning string trimmer, cleaned it out, reassembled it (including one spring-loaded part) and made my string trimmer work again. And I did it without directions, because it didn't come with directions for fixing it. I suppose they want you to bring it back.

I immediately used it to trim in the yard. I wasn't sure how long it would run, and I thought I had better sieze the moment.

To tell the truth, it was a pretty long process, with a few mis-starts. I'll be much faster next time. I kept finding more parts that could be opened up. So I immediately found a bit of dirt, and thought I had it, only to reassemble and find out I was wrong. Eventually I realized I was going to have to encounter some obviously gunked up part before it worked. No little bits of black were likely to be the culprit.

So I peeled away layer after layer. Eventually I was cleaning off this kind of membrane and noticed that it had a little tab on one side. The tab looked like some place you would grab, so I pulled. It distinctly felt like the wrong thing to do, and I was certain I would do permanent damage, but I peeled back that thin layer and my gunk was underneath it. Yea!

I reassembled, set all of the screws, and checked around quickly for unused parts. Then I started it. Not on one pull of course. String trimmers never work like that. But reasonably quickly.

It still runs too lean. If I open the choke all of the way, it dies from too much air. So I had to leave the choke mostly on. I think I'm going to go ask the mechanic guys at Farm and Home about it. I'll bet I can get them to tell me what's wrong without having to pay to have it fixed. I've noticed that people like to talk about what they do.

Sidebar: That's how I learned to cut hair. Every time I went to the barber, I asked about the art. Where do they get their scissors, how do you get the underside of long hair the right length, how do you keep it even across the top, how do you get the hair to taper away from an edge gracefully. People love to tell you about what they do.

You can take the skill one step farther. People will often divulge things they shouldn't, say at work, in order to be helpful. Getting them to do it is called social engineering. There is a whole book on it written by the worlds most famous hacker called The Art of Deception. I found it a very interesting read. But I'm part hacker.

I'm feeling quite proud about the whole thing. I am male, hear me roar in words too loud to ignore. I really paused when I saw a spring under one part though. I still remember taking a clock apart as a kid. My story ends like everyone elses. The thing exploded and I could never get it back together.

Friday, July 01, 2005

How small is your world?

Linda and I went walking on campus today. I believe we may have reach a new distance record for her. Perhaps 500 feet. It took a long time, and we stopped part way to put her air cast on (to support her right ankle).

She decided she would like a picnic on the concrete bench just north of Kirk building, so I went to Main Street and got sandwiches. While we were eating, a blond woman crossed the quad in our direction. Linda said, Look, it's Karen.

I have better eyesight than Linda, so I said, That's not Karen. But she looks familiar, I wouldn't be surprised if we know her when she gets closer.

She came right up to the doors of Kirk, then decided they were not what she wanted. She looked lost, so I asked her if she needed directions. She looked up gratefully, then paused, You're Don Bindner. I was impressed.

I'm Mandy B. It was quite literally the girl who grew up next door. Imagine that. She just took a job at Truman and was picking up her ID.