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Archive for 2011

Blood on the glove in the town of Ville Marie

So there I was, pitching softball in the top of the first.

The batter swung and hit a line drive right at me. I moved my glove to catch the ball and protect my belly. Normal human reflexes would have caught the ball, but my superhuman reflexes brought my glove past the ball. The ball hit the back of my glove, or would have had I not had my index finger sticking out the back of my glove, as is my custom.

Oh crap, I just bled on the Q key.

The ball hit my fingertip flush. It crushed my fingernail and bent it about a third of the way down. The edge is digging into the nail bed and it’s bleeding. Worse, I think my finger broke. Under all the blood, the last segment of my finger is purple and swollen. It may even be crooked.

Here, you tell me:

I included a normal halfling finger for comparison here:

So, who thinks it’s broken? I’m off to spend the rest of my weekend in the emergency room with a low-priority emergency. I’ll let you know when I get home.

I feel like a grown-up

Long time no write.

I’ve been busy. I should be carving pumpkins instead of writing. I should be grading assignments instead of carving pumpkins. It’s been that kind of month.

My CPAP therapy is working. It’s no miracle, but I have more energy these days, and I’m using it up. I’m napping less, but my sleep doctor says the naps aren’t a problem; they’re “nothing pathological”, in his words.

I need the energy, because I’m expending it. I am teaching two classes this semester. It’s Jour 202, which I’ve taught before, but the class has evolved from an introduction to the Internet and desktop publishing into an introduction to digital tools. It means more work for me, as I have to prepare quite a few classes from scratch, but I’m eager to do it.

Freelance work has also picked up. I’ve been training folks who throw around terms like Agile and .NET, turning them into newbie journalists for InfoQ. My computer and Web consulting has also picked up. I’m not doing as much writing as I’d like, but I will tackle that when the semester ends in early December.

In other news, I am once again the figurehead atop a team of hard-working kids (the Cougars). Child Three cracked the A-level of Peewee in his first year, and he’s doing well. All the boys on the team are. We have a good group this year and I will be disappointed if we finish lower than third in the league.

Children One and Two, meanwhile, have a new hobby that may involve the maiming of other parents’ daughters. Here’s a preview:

That’s Child One in yellow and Child Two in black.

My own physical activity has picked up. I’m playing hockey as a spare roughly once every two weeks. I’m playing softball once a week as long as the weather holds up. I’m even back to running hockey practices.

The big news is that today I finally ordered a cell phone. Siri, who was the only 45-year-old in Canada to own a home but not a cell phone? Yes, I’ll be getting an iPhone 4S. It’ll be white, at least when it shows up. I’m thinking of not giving out my number. If I do give it out, people will call me and I can’t have that.

Bonus bullshit:

The Journalism Department invited a speaker to speak to all the first-year students on search-engine optimization. One of her pearls of wisdom was to write numbers in ciphers (e.g. 7) instead of in words (e.g. seven). Guess what? Google doesn’t give a crap which way you express it. The cipher and word are synonymous in a search. I wonder what other 15-year-old advice she had for the students….

Carpenter produces miracle

Chris Carpenter saved his best start of the year for the last day of the year. His two-hit, one-walk complete game capped a spectacular month of pitching by the hurlers on my fantasy team and gained me two points in WHIP. Those two points moved me from fifth to sole possession of third place. I finish in the money.

My final stats:

.2686 batting average (3rd, up one place in the month)
230 HR (1st, post to post)
930 runs (2nd)
936 RBI (1st, post to post)
126 SB (4th, down one place in the month)
3.74 ERA (8th)
1.2628 WHIP (5th by 0.0001 – literally the difference of one hit or walk over the entire season – up from 7th)
1279 K (2nd, up from a tie in 3rd)
90 wins (2nd up from 4th)
5 saves (10th)

In September, my pitchers threw 287 2/3 innings and produced 259 Ks and 341 hits and walks, a WHIP of 1.185. Latos and Carpenter were as untouchable this September as they were decrepit a year ago.

That’s all I have to say about this for now. Sorry, Liz.

A danger of outsourcing journalism

I think newspapers need to focus locally to survive. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, here. Newspapers need to focus locally to survive. See? I just said it again.

On June 2, Postmedia papers announced that Christie Blatchford had joined the company and would publish a column. Here is a selection of Postmedia papers’ announcements:

Montreal Gazette:

Columnist, feature writer and award-winning author Christie Blatchford is coming to The Gazette and Postmedia.

Blatchford was named National Columnist on Wednesday. She will bring her inimitable style of news reporting and opinion writing to the Postmedia chain of papers as of June 13. She will write on issues ranging from crime and courts to politics, from native affairs to Olympic sports, and whatever else catches her fancy.

Saskatoon StarPhoenix:

Columnist, feature writer and award-winning author Christie Blatchford is coming to The StarPhoenix and Postmedia.

Blatchford was named National Columnist on Wednesday. She will bring her inimitable style of news reporting and opinion writing to the Postmedia chain of papers as of June 13. She will write on issues ranging from crime and courts to politics, from Native affairs to Olympic sports, and whatever else catches her fancy.

Calgary Herald:

Columnist, feature writer and award-winning author Christie Blatchford is coming to the Calgary Herald and Postmedia.

Blatchford was named national columnist on Wednesday. She will bring her inimitable style of news reporting and opinion writing to the Postmedia chain of papers as of June 13. She will write on issues ranging from crime and courts to politics, from native affairs to Olympic sports, and whatever else catches her fancy.

Although I could, I need not go on.

OK, so Blatchford is a national columnist writing on supposedly national issues. So what does Postmedia’s Canada get today? Blatchford wrote about a murder trial in Toronto that is of practically zero interest outside of Toronto.

It’s a trial for second-degree murder. It’s not even first-degree murder! Seriously, though, Blatchford’s column is simple court reporting. She puts forward no lessons, draws no parallels, and starts with a cheesy lead: “After lunch at a Toronto McDonald’s on a sunny spring Saturday last year, a six-year-old girl was tucked safely into her booster seat in the family car, pink knapsack at the ready, when her parents began quarrelling.”

You’d think that a lead like that would start an article talking about the effect on a child of her mother killing her father, but no. Like I said, this is a straightforward piece of court reporting.

My lead above? My lead states that newspapers need to get local to survive. None of this is local, except to Toronto. It’s just another cost-saving measure gone wrong. It’s cheaper to pay one occasionally irrelevant columnist than to hire an eager reporter in each client city.

Can someone at Postmedia please chime in and tell Montrealers and other non-Torontonians why we should continue to pay for content like this? Me? I’ll be grading the work of journalism students who I hope can get work some day.

Catching a breath

Elvi has pneumonia and has spent pretty much two and a half weeks in bed.

I’m doing a lot of seeing doctors, a lot of preparation to teach, a bit of teaching, a lot of chauffeuring children, and a bit of taking care of Elvi.

The CPAP machine is tolerable, but I don’t see too much benefit from it yet. I still need a nap, although that nap is earlier than it used to be. For some odd reason, I only sleep four hours with the mask, wake up for an hour or so, then go to sleep again. Also, the mask has made me break out in pimples on the bridge of my nose.

New disorder

In spring, Elvi noticed a poster for an upcoming sleep study. I love bending the path of future medical science in my direction, so I signed up. In return for an evening in a sleep lab, I would get an assessment of my sleeping and $50. What’s not to love?

I went in the night of August 11. I had electrodes on my chest, head, and legs, along with a blood-oxygen sensor on a fingertip and a microphone on my forehead. Bands around my abdomen and chest recorded expansion and contraction. They don’t let you sleep naked, so I wore boxers that, I later discovered, were somewhat crotchless. I went to sleep around 11:30 p.m. and at 2:00 a.m., the tech woke me to hook me up to a CPAP machine with a nasal mask. They woke me and kicked me out at 6:00 a.m. The group offered me another $50 for a follow-up experiment in which I’d hook up a home-based kit with the bands, microphone, and oxygen sensor – I did that, too.

So, here I was, $100 richer off the fat of the scientific land. I had a hunch something was up with my results since the nice lady running the study said I should soon hear from a sleep doctor. Today, I saw him.

The doctor showed me my results and the squiggly lines were dramatic. I have pretty bad sleep apnea, so bad that I never entered Stage 3 deep sleep. With the CPAP mask on, my sleep was normal and deep. He measured my 18.25″ neck and looked in my throat, which, he discovered, is unusually narrow. (Sorry, boys, I’m taken.)

He suggested a host of possibilities, from a fitted mouthpiece through CPAP through surgery. He says I’ll live another 40 years and thinks surgery to remove my tonsils and widen my throat is worth a try over 40 x 365 = 14,600 nights hooked up to an air tube. For now, though, I’m going to try CPAP – starting next week, when I have an appointment for a fitting.

The doctor said it’s possible that my sleeping problems have been causing my depression rather than the other way around. Once I start my sleep therapy, he told me, I may be able to stop taking the citalopram.

And into the stretch

There’s a month left in baseball’s regular season and when it ends, so does the Irrational League.

I’m still in fifth place, but inching inexorably toward the money. My pitching is finally approximating what it should and as go its fortunes, so go mine. Paul Maholm got hurt in time for me to ride Randy Wells’s hot right arm. Time is still my enemy, but all the trends are pointing in the right direction. The additions of Hiroki Kuroda (4 wins, 27 K,2.16 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) and Jose Altuve (.292, 3 SB) have helped. Compare these stats with last month’s.

.267 batting average (4th but only .0009 out of third)
199 HR (still 1st by 23)
782 runs (in 2nd 36 out of 1st and 23 ahead of 3rd)
793 RBI (1st by 55)
108 SB (4th but four out of 3rd and four ahead of 5th)
3.82 ERA (8th but now only 0.02 out of 7th)
1.28 WHIP (7th)
1012 K (tied for 3rd, rising from 7th in a month)
73 wins (4th but two out of 2nd)
5 saves (10th)

That’s 65.5 points, but I’ll only need four to show. It’s been worse. My last pick-up of the year was Kevin Kouzmanoff. I’m hoping for a batting average north of .275 in Colorado.

Dad-tastic voyage

My dad is stable. He’s steady at a poor quality of life and bedridden, but things aren’t any worse.

He’s on the waiting list for a long-term-care facility and meanwhile spends his time in a bed at the Royal Vic.

We know what’s wrong with my dad. I hinted at it, but to my surprise I never posted it. He has a blockage in the vein that drains the thalamus. At this point, no one has any hope that he’ll recover at all.

A month and a half ago, my brother Jeff played with the results of my dad’s various imaging tests. He’s produced some amazing 3-D models from them (QuickTime required).

Here‘s my dad’s bones, kidneys, heart, and major abdominal blood vessels.

This one shows my dad’s skull. I don’t think it really has wood grain.

This last image shows the veins that are causing the problem. It’s kind of zombie-riffic.

Is your iTunes not syncing?

Several friends and clients have lost automatic syncing in recent iTunes updates on the Mac. It even happened to me.

Somehow, the updates to iTunes 10.4 misconfigure iTunes Helper, which is behind-the-scenes software that, well, helps iTunes weave its magic.

Here’s how to fix it on Snow Leopard. This fix may or may not work in Lion, too.

Plug in your device and open iTunes. On your device’s Info page, uncheck “Launch iTunes when this iPhone/iPad/iPod is connected.”

Unplug your device and restart the Mac. Launch iTunes, then connect the device. Put a check back in the box next to “Launch iTunes when this iPhone/iPad/iPod is connected.” If this is solving your problem, iTunes should ask if you want to install iTunes Helper. You do.

That should do it for you.

Bonus reading:

Growing up, my favourite book was “Arty the Smarty”. It was about a small, wiseass fish who outsmarts everyone. I wonder what I saw in that. You can read its acid-browned pages for free online. My copy looks exactly the same.

August and I still hate my pitchers

Yep, it’s time to go over the middling Angels with Crystal Balls this month.

I made a trade, sending away Ryan Ludwick and demoted starter Kyle McClellan for Hiroki Kuroda and Juan Uribe. I’m not as fond of Uribe’s numbers as I am of getting rid of Ludwick’s low batting average, which may or may not improve a bit in Pittsburgh. For the August addition, I took Houston rookie Jose Altuve. We’ll see.

So, how is the gang doing? Middlingly well.

.263 batting average (5th but only .004 out of third)
160 HR (1st by 23)
639 runs (2nd but nine out of 1st)
652 RBI (1st by 88)
91 SB (5th but only five out of 3rd)
3.96 ERA (8th)
1.30 WHIP (8th)
755 K (7th)
55 wins (5th but three out of 2nd)
5 saves (9th)

I’m running out of time.

At least I can now sit Randy Wells and Barry Zito.

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