Sunday, May 24, 2009

Are my kids as messed up as me?

A while ago, the kids had physical exams. One of the topics that evidently came up in that exam was my WPW and as a result, the kids all had orders for EKGs. Saturday morning, I took them to the hospital for the EKGs.

Like most Saturdays, there was swim practice, so my wife and I came up with a plan how we would get all three kids to the hospital and swim practice. When I woke up, I realized that it was a dumb plan and would require 3 separate trips to the hospital, during the other kids' practices. So, with less than 15 minutes before we needed to depart I woke up Kid 3 and then realized that I should bring Kid 2 as well. She only had 5 minutes between wake up and depart.

I rifled through my wife's purse and found the medical cards, got everybody and their swimbags in my MINI and we were off. Kid 1 was dropped at practice and we headed to the hospital for the quick EKG and then some breakfast (and coffee for me). We got to there and Diana in admitting asked if I had the Doctor's orders; which I didn't. I assumed that they had been faxed ahead of us.

Diana checked her computer and then called the EKG lab to see if there were orders; there were none. About the same time, Heather had woken up and called me because she couldn't find any of the kids. After letting her know that I had them all, she told me that the orders were on her clipboard on the kitchen island. Arggh. Foiled by a small blue piece of paper.

So, before getting dressed and coming, she used some free e-faxing service and sent 1 of the orders to Diana. It came through, but it was entirely unreadable. The small page was blown up to full page and with the blue background it was useless. Foiled by a little blue piece of paper again. Heather concluded that she would drive into the hospital - only about a 30 minute drive, but not one that she was expecting to have to make.

By this time, the EKG tech had come out and since the orders were on the way and EKGs are fast, she decided that they would just give us the EKGs now and we'd take care of the rest of it when the orders arrived.

The four of us, the tech, Kid 2 and 3 and me went to Echo Room Two for the test. The tech asks who wants to go first, and Kid 2 and 3 simultaneously point at the other one and offer up their sibling as the trial run. I tell them it is quick and easy and neither of them budge. I don't think that either of them were scared, but just being humorous about it.

The tech proposed that I go as a demo run which was okay by me. In about 3 minutes, I had a new EKG. As expected, my EKG showed abnomal results, but it reassured the kids that they wouldn't get electrocuted.

Kid 3 hopped up on the bed for his test and it was quick and easy. Kid 2 got up on the bed and while the tech was placing the leads, Kid 2 leaned forward and whispered in her ear. I overheard and he said, "It hurts." But he explained that he was referring to pulling the leftover adhesive off afterwards.

Later, Heather and I came back with Kid 1 after his swim practice. While the tech was hooking him up, Heather did make a zapping sound after two leads were connected. I was thinking it, with Kids 2 and 3, but she did it to Kid 1. Thats how we roll.

So, results...

Kid 1 and 3 were normal and Kid 2 was abnormal. Thats what the machine said. But it needs to be read by a professional and we'll see what they say.

Its pretty amazing, but even hearts are fixable these days. When I was first diagnosed, it was one of those conditions that you just lived with and changed your lifestyle as things went on.

So, thats what we do. Just keep going.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lessons learned

A few weeks ago, my messenger bag was stolen. I left it in the front seat of my wife's car, underneath my sweatshirt, when we stopped for lunch after a swim meet. When we returned to the car about 1 hour 45 minutes later, the messenger bag was gone and the sweatshirt was on the seat.

The thieves did the screwdriver in the lock trick and opened up the door. They even locked the doors behind them (the key lock is on the driver's side, my bag was on the passenger).

I don't want to sound materialistic, but everything was in that bag. I'd take it with me where ever we go for extended periods of time: it was my office on the go, it was my entertainment center on the go, it was my productivity on the go.

Timbuk2 Medium Messenger Bag and a lot of stuff

That's what I mean when I said everything. There was altogether too much personal information on my laptop. There were photos on the camera that I hadn't downloaded yet. The iPod was chalk full of music and movies. My property tax bill was in there.

While I dealt with the police, Heather canceled credit cards. There were a few cards that we didn't know the phone number to, and by the time we got home, the thieves had tried to make 5 purchases on my American Express card.

The creepiest thing, though, happened a few days later. I received an anonymous package which contained my moleskine notebook, the expired credit cards, my hotel frequent-stay membership card, the property tax bill and a stack of low-value BART tickets. It was addressed in one handwriting, but on the back, in that perfect Grandmotherly cursive, "If unable to deliver, please deliver to police."

That doesn't cry out Good Samaritan to me. All of the things that are useless to anyone else were in the package. There was no note saying the stuff was found in a garbage can, no way to even give a reward, if it actually was an act of goodness.

This act of thievery really indicates the weakness of locks. If I'm going to keep all those critical things in one place, that place should be with me, even if I'm at a restaurant. Its been quite a PITA dealing with the insurance - not that the insurance is unpleasant - but it takes a great deal of effort to find replacement costs and when things were originally purchased. I'm still working on collecting the information.

Heather has said that I can't start to replace the purloined items, until we've been paid by the insurance. It's part of my penance. I had to do some homework by hand last week and needed a pencil. I found one of the kids' Lightning McQueen mechanical pencil and used that. Its a far cry from my Pentel P205 mechanical pencil.

Another important point that his highlighted was the importance of a good backup of data. Other than the fact that my data was in the hands of ne'er do wells, I had daily backups of my computer. Or so I thought. Unfortunately, the backups had failed about a month prior, so there was some loss of data. Somethings were on flickr, some were in email and some are just gone.

However, and this will be the topic of another blog posting, with the data that I did have, it was quite easy to reinstall Ubuntu and be back up and running.

So, as the final note: don't let your stuff get stolen; it sucks.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A script to check network status

A few weeks ago, my ISP was having some issues. Every afternoon at about 3pm, their connection would die. It was quite annoying and their typical issue resolution is to recommend that I power cycle my router and cable modem.

To speed through the issue logging, I wrote a small script to ping my router, Comcast's gateway and their Domain Name Server. It's nothing big, but I thought I'd share it. I meant to do this a few weeks ago, but neglected to. I lost many files (more on that later) and I needed to reconstruct the script, as I find it to be useful.

My wife recently got a new Vista laptop and I modified it for her. Windows batch scripting has some differences, so it wasn't a 1 for 1 conversion.

Here is the shell script - copy it to your favorite text editor and make it executable. You can change the ROUTER, GATEWAY and DNS variables to which ever ones you would like to use to check.


## Network status checking script

### configuration



### Starting Checks

echo "Starting Network Checks"

echo ".....Checking Router for $TIMEOUT seconds"
ping -c $COUNT -W $TIMEOUT $ROUTER > /dev/null

echo ".....Checking Gateway for $TIMEOUT seconds"
ping -c $COUNT -W $TIMEOUT $GATEWAY > /dev/null

echo ".....Checking DNS for $TIMEOUT seconds"
ping -c $COUNT -W $TIMEOUT $DNS > /dev/null

echo "Network checks finshied"

### Reporting output

if [ $ROUTERCHK -ne 0 ]
echo "The router needs to be reset. Unplug it the power, wait 30 seconds and plug it back in."
echo "Router responds okay"

if [ $GATECHK -ne 0 ]
echo "There is a problem with Comcast. Power cycle the Cable Modem and try again."
echo "If you are seeing this message again, call Comcast for a credit 800 COMCAST."
echo "Gateway responds okay"

if [ $DNSCHK -ne 0 ]
echo "There is a problem with Comcast. Call Comcast for a credit 800 COMCAST."
echo "DNS repsonds okay"

exit 0

For those of you using Windows Vista (Vista seems to have different ping arguments than XP does), here is a similar script. Again, copy it to your favorite text editor and make it executable. You can change the ROUTER, GATEWAY and DNS variables to which ever ones you would like to use to check.

@echo off

echo Starting Network Checks


echo .....Checking Router for %COUNT% responses
ping -n %COUNT% %ROUTER% | find "TTL" > nul
ECHO You have %CONNECT% active connection to the Router

echo .....Checking DNS for %COUNT% responses
ping -n %COUNT% %GATEWAY% | find "TTL" > nul
ECHO You have %CONNECT% active connection to Comcast's Gateway

echo .....Checking DNS for %COUNT% responses
ping -n %COUNT% %DNS% | find "TTL" > nul
ECHO You have %CONNECT% active connection to the Domain Name Server

ECHO If the Router is not connected, check your wifi connection, then power cycle the router
ECHO If the connection to the Gateway or Domain Name Server is down, power cycle the cable modem
ECHO and repeat the test.
ECHO If it is still down, call Comcast to report the problem and request a credit at 800 COMCAST
ECHO Power cycle = unplug the device for 30 seconds from AC power, plug it back in and then
ECHO wait 1 minute for it to reconnect.
ECHO I love you Murph