Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Dad, what's a 'DVD'?"

Blu-ray Disc Originally uploaded by piesto
Business Wire | Toshiba Announces Discontinuation of HD DVD Businesses
Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders.
The long national nightmare is over: The next-generation home video format will be blu-ray.

As one of the Gizmodo commenters said, when was the last time Sony won a format war?

Monday, February 18, 2008

I'm a shock absorber

This time, I put the update on my LiveJournal page first, so I'm just linking to it from here. No new traumatic events, just a little more information about the last one.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jove's Own Hiccups

Originally uploaded by mandolux
Don't you hate a story that starts out "Don't worry, I'm fine now"?

My defibrillator fired off late Tuesday morning, nine times within five minutes or so. Anyone who wishes to know what this feels like can easily simulate it at home by licking a 9-volt battery and, at the same moment, having your mortal enemy smite you with a sledge hammer.

Nine times.

Failing that, remember the little bird in Shrek that tried to hit that high note?

Spare a few thoughts for roommate John, who wasn't sure anything was going on until he heard me break the toilet seat.

I had just experienced one jolt and was sitting on the closed lid. I had mostly reassembled my wits when I felt another one, and the next thing I remember I was sitting *in* the toilet on pieces of shattered plastic.

He: "Do I need to call 9-1-1?"
I: "I'm not sure..."
I: "Yes!"

Sorry, no pictures.

I will say that lying naked on the bathroom floor having Jove's Own Hiccups every fifteen to thirty seconds made me feel as helpless as little else has or can.

I know now that the first few were 5 joule charges, and the last one was 35 joules. I sorta thought it might have been a bigger wham than the ones before, but it also could have just been the emotional reaction of "Oh, God, another one". (The nurse confirmed this: People generally can't tell the difference. A shock is a shock.)

The manufacturer says that someone who's touching me when it goes off might feel a charge of about 2 joules. (This is conveyed in answer to the questions everyone asks, "Can I still have sex?") But what I hadn't been able to learn is "What does 2 joules feel like?"

I thought about that when John was looking for my pulse. I was half afraid it would fire off while he was trying, and, I admit, half hoping it would. It didn't.

Well, now I know what 5 joules feels like, and can extrapolate. It ain't like touching a metal doorknob. It's ultimately harmless, but you'd know you'd been slapped pretty good.

By the time that 35 joule kick happened, the novelty had completely worn off.

I had finally had the sense to lie down on the floor, modesty be damned. I was in the middle of the hall, having made barely a token attempt to get my pants on, when John returned from the 911 call and found me. I'm afraid he thought the worst before I had a chance to speak and tell him that I was still awake and (relatively) lucid.

That 35 joule kick was, it developed, the last. Laying on the floor had helped calm my heart. It never did happen that John was actually watching when I received a jolt. It's a shame. I wanted to know what it looked and sounded like. It sounded like thunder to me, but I suspect it was silent. Except, of course, for me yelling.

Something In The Blood

I'll have to skip over the blur of the arrival of the ambulance and the trip to Emory Crawford Long (where my doctors are). I traveled alone in the ambulance, but I hadn't been there long before my wife (with my daughter) and John (with my son) caught up with us. By then, with the liberal application of modern pharmaceuticals (let's hear it for modern pharmaceuticals!), I was feeling well enough to be snarky about my own condition (it's a coping mechanism), something the nurses and doctor picked up on and responded to. If it's possible to have fun in an ER, I think we did.

One of the really unexpected things discovered in the ER was that my system was all but depleted of potassium. The nurse there had mixed a "cocktail" with the potassium supplement in its liquid form, ice and orange juice -- at least she said it was orange juice, but the potassium liquid must have a really powerful taste. It tasted like-- well, like nothing I'd ever had before. The medicinal equivalent of a Lovecraftian creature that the human tongue cannot describe because it exists in dimentions we cannot perceive. The Pharmaceutical Horror, the Drugg From Out Of Space.

I Have Been Assimilated

Now I have a fourth doctor writing prescriptions for me, another cardiologist, Dr Whelan. He was present when the nurse with the australian accent downloaded my ICD data. That's the only reason I know it fired nine times: I had lost count.

The doctor's official description of the incident was that the ICD had fired "inappropriately". (Not quite the word I might have chosen.) By this he meant that the situation to which it was intended to respond, ventricular fibrillations, had not occurred. It was confused by my rapid heart rate at the time, although there is no particular explanation for the rapid rate in the first place. (Probably the combination of low potassium and a missed dose of toprol.)

After it had fired once, the anxiety it created kept my heart rate elevated, which served to convince the ICD that its job was not yet done. It's programming giving it no alternate course of action, it kept firing.

That won't happen again. While she was reading the ICD's records, the doctor and nurse-tech tweaked the unit's programming to allow it to more easily tell the difference between atrial fibrillations, ventricular fibrillations, and "mere" high heart rate, and react accordingly. The unit's logs stored detailed information about my heart's day-to-day activity not available any other way: They used that information to recalibrate some of the defaults the ICD uses to decide what an extraordinary event is.

That is, the ICD is pretty capable straight out of the box, but the better configured it is to its particular circumstances and environment, the more effective it will be. As a computer geek myself, I find this fascinating, and not just because the gadget is in my chest. I'm awestruck that not only is this degree of care possible, but it's available to pretty much anybody who needs it.

No sense of rhythm

My heart rate was not just elevated, but irregular. As the machines reported a "rolling average", the numbers jumped all over the chart, from 90 to 160 beats per minute. Which is not to say that a minute ever went by in which my heart beat 160 times. My heart sounded pathetic when I was hooked up to a monitor that actually sounded each beat.

And all of this we learned before we ever left the ER. By the time I had a room, it was pretty much all over but the shouting. They kept me topped off with medicines, to keep my heart rate controlled until my system recovered from the trauma and my heart calmed to a regular, normal at-rest rate (60-70 bpm). There was talk of a "plan B" if it didn't do so, but the doctor was confident that it would do so after a night's rest.

And it did.

That's about all there is to tell.

Oh, and there's a new champion. The potassium supplement I now have to take is, without question, the biggest pill I've ever had to swallow. It's about an inch long, the circumference of a piece of chalk, and not half as yummy.

Some of my pills I can just pop 'em down without water. This one, I'll need a *lot* of water and a bit of mental preparation too. I almost didn't manage it in the hospital, and the nurse had broken those in half.

But it is over and I am here to tell the tale, and even laugh at parts of it.

SEE ALSO: LiveJournal.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Triple Threat Traffic

Stempunk Atlanta
Originally uploaded by mjn9
It normally only takes one road disruption to completely immobilize Atlanta traffic. Today we had two and a half, I guess.

The half is pictured, although the photographer made it look much worse than it was by adding sepiatone. Looking at that you'd think Sherman was back.

But it's a beautiful picture, ain't it?

It's a fire in an abandoned carpet warehouse in outer Fulton county, just a hop and a skip from Six Flags Over Georgia. The smoke plume wasn't quite that dark, but certainly was that big, and enveloped most of intown Atlanta because, well, that's just the way the wind blows, which sounds like some kind of homily but is literally true in this case.

Today was also the day that work officially begins on the 14th Street bridge project. Here, we see the view looking south towards downtown Atlanta from the bridge... What? Wait a minute. What the hell is that?

I'm only joshing. I thought it looked wrong. That's not rush hour.

No, seriously, that is the view from the 14th Street bridge -- in 1953. If I recall correctly (which is a pretty good trick, considering I wasn't born yet), that highway isn't I-75 yet: It's still just US 19. The link will take you to a slightly more current image.

The third incident in today's traffic trifecta was a collision on I-20 Eastbound between Boulevard and Moreland Avenue, involving two dump trucks and a MARTA bus. This accident blocked all eastbound lanes, and traffic poured -- well, oozed -- off every available exit ramp onto my front porch.

Well, okay, not literally.

Monday Media: Hydro Train

Just a little something to spice up that morning commute. I don't know if it makes you wish you rode the train, or makes you glad you don't.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What is a hero?

The gentleman pictured right is Thomas J. Tauke, executive vice president for public affairs at Verizon. He may look like the love child of Don Rickles and Voyager's "Doctor", but just at this moment he looks like a hero to me.

"Hollywood" (by which the New York Times means "the entertainment industry") has been asking the big players in home internet service to "stand alongside them in their fight against online piracy" (by which they mean "monitor what your customers download and tattle on 'em if it's our music and movies").

The big players in home internet service, for their part, have seen where their civic duty lies (by which I mean "quake in fear of Congressional oversight bought and paid for by the entertainment industry"). Comcast is reportedly going so far as to actually alter the data the user thinks he's downloading with the intent of making torrented (by which they mean "illegal") material download so slowly that it won't be worth the time.

"AT&T ...is talking about developing a system that would identify and block illicitly copied material being sent over its broadband network," says the Times. By which AT&T means "We still remember what happened the last time somebody said 'boo' to us." Or, more succinctly, "You got it, boss."

But Verizon, through its spokesman Mr Tauke, says this: “We generally are reluctant to get into the business of examining content that flows across our networks and taking some action as a result of that content.” By which, surprisingly enough, he appears to mean "No."

Yes, there's a healthy percentage of self-interest in his reasons. But at least the customer's privacy is on the list. It may not be the reason, but it's a reason.

(See also the Consumerist.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

He must be running, all the papers say so

Project for Excellence in Journalism | Clinton Finishes Third in Battle for Campaign Coverage (But it’s Bill!!!)
The man who would be First Spouse made more news last week than any Republican, or than the other Democratic contender, John Edwards.
Well, that sort of begs a question, to say that Bill Clinton "made news". What exactly did Mr Clinton do that was newsworthy? Stick his nose in the Presidential campaign? No, ex-Presidents have done that before. Say something unexpected? Not really.

Couldn't it be said that the mass media's news editors would rather cover Bill Clinton than any of the Republicans in the Presidential race? That they consider him more interesting than, say, Mitt Romney? Or than even the liberals' favorite Republican, John McCain?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Presenting: Our Nation's Future

WPBF-TV | Teens Unremorseful After Stealing From Girl Scout
BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. -- The State Attorney's Office will decide whether to charge two teens who admit they robbed a 9-year-old Girl Scout selling cookies outside of a Boynton Beach supermarket.

"I thought that it was a really mean thing to do, and I was sad after," Girl Scout Gracie Smith told WPBF News 25.

Authorities said that a 17-year-old girl in a hot-pink sweatshirt approached Smith outside of a Winn-Dixie supermarket at Hypoluxo and Jog roads in Boynton Beach Wednesday evening and asked the girl what her favorite cookies were. Police told WPBF that, while Smith was telling the teen about her favorite Cinna-Spins, the teen snatched an envelope containing about $167 off of Smith's table, hopped into another teen's car and drove away.

...The girls, whose names are not being released because they are minors, told WPBF that they were not remorseful for the crime, and that they did it because they "needed money."

"We went through all that effort to get it, we got all these charges and we had to give the money back. I'm kind of pissed," one of the girls told WPBF.

The other girl told WPBF that she was upset because police found them.

"I'm not sorry, I'm just pissed that I got caught," the girl said.
Words to live by. Don't they belong by her senior picture in the H. S. yearbook? Sure they do.

Friday, February 01, 2008

But that wasn't the point...

You mean Mythbusters actually did the airplane-on-a-conveyor-belt thing?

Wait, the pilot didn't think it would fly? That's not very reassuring. Look, dude, the plane doesn't get its forward motion from the landing gear. The wheels don't drive the plane, OK? The propeller does. That's why they call it that. It propels the plane. The plane won't sit still just because it's sitting on a moving surface. I thought the Navy doped this out years ago before they spent so much money building aircraft carriers.

(While filming "Six Days, Seven Nights", Harrison Ford [who actually can fly a plane] had to explain this to the director, who wanted Ford to taxi around without starting the propeller. He's good but he's not that good. While you're at it, see about holding the tide back too. Let me know how that goes for you.)

The question I thought this was about, which I think probably still is a good question (and is probably what some people thought the stunt was actually about), is whether the propeller, all by itself, can move enough air over the wings to generate enough lift to fly the plane without actual forward motion. I'm reasonably sure the answer to that one is "heck, no", but wouldn't it be neat to be proven wrong?