Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Cute things kids say

Our three year old has been enjoying the extra attention she's been getting with grandparents staying here to help us with the new baby. One recent morning Grandma got up with her and they had been playing in the basement by the time I came downstairs. I heard Marney shout up the stairs "I want juice!" Being the annoying sort of dad who is always trying to teach my kids, I responded "That's not a very nice way to ask. Can you ask more nicely?" Marney paused a moment as she considered her response before yelling "I want Grandma!"


Via Critical Section, see what a Mac SE running MacOS 7.0 (circa 1991) looked like -- but now it runs inside your browser!

Friday, May 14, 2004

New Arrival

Kevin Frederick Harris
Born May 12, 2004 9:07 am
8 lbs. 9 oz., 20" long

Monday, May 10, 2004

New look

Blogger has updated their interface and presented some new templates. I decided it was time for a change. Like it?

Gmail mini-review and an offer

Micro-review: It's definitely a beta product and there are some big things missing, but it has potential to be very cool.

As I posted recent, I'm pretty excited about being able to test Gmail, Google's free webmail client. Since my friends and family have other addresses for me, I changed my preferences at eBay and Parent Center to send news and alerts to my Gmail account so that I could start getting some messages.

Because I haven't had direct human interaction via Gmail, I haven't been able to take advantage of Gmail's "conversation" interface -- which rolls up messages in a threaded discussion into individual tabs -- the screenshots look nice on the help page (see item #2 on Gmail's Learn More page).

From what little I have done, I see definite room for improvement. What is there works well, but there are some significant features missing.

Before I can start using gmail on a more regular basis, I'll need more addresses in my gmail contact list. Gmail doesn't make this easy. I can export addresses from my Yahoo address book or from other email programs, but there is no facility for importing addresses into Gmail so I'm stuck. (A email from Gmail support says that address importing is in development now.)

Gmail does save addresses from messages composed within Gmail. It'd be nice to do this for incoming mail too, Yahoo has a "Add to Address Book" link next to the "From" line. Google should do at least this, but it'd be even better to have a "save addresses" link which would identify everything that looks like an email address in the body text or in any header.

Another significant issue is that Gmail's spam filter identified all the messages I received from ParentCenter as spam! I have subsequently clicked on each and suggested to Gmail that they aren't spam and I assume that Gmail's spam filter adapts with user input. The next message I receive from ParentCenter will tell me how well this works. (Update: It didn't work well. Email from Gmail support says that if I add the sender to my list of contacts, it won't be flagged as spam. But, as I mentioned above, it's not trivial to add a sender to my contacts.)

The next annoyance is that I must click "Show External Images" every time I open a message with graphics. While having this as an option is a nice security feature, it'd be nice for Gmail to remember which messages I've already approved. Better yet would be an option such as "Always show external images from this sender". Since the main email I receive on this address now is HTML formatted newsletters and alerts, this is quite noticeable.

One final word on all of these gripes - gmail is still a beta product. I'm willing to bet that most of these missing features will eventually be implemented. Google's history has shown that they tend just do things the Right Way. Even more than that, they'll probably do something more. Gmail has shown innovative new ways of handling things like replies to replies to replies (show clickable tabs for each reply).

The Offer: Sound interesting? Want to try Gmail yourself? A new link has appeared on Gmail: Invite a friend to join Gmail. It looks like I can invite two people at this time. If you'd like to try Gmail, send email to my gmail account explaining why you should receive one of my two invitations. I don't want bribes, I want good reasons such as:

  • "I'll be a great beta tester for Google."
  • "I helped you solve a major problem on some project when we worked together."
  • "I'm your wife and I'm going to deliver your baby in a few days."
  • "If I sign up early with Gmail, I might be able to get"
I'm the sole judge of this. If my wife truly wants an account early, that'll probably bear some weight, but the second invitation will still be up for grabs.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Cicadas and Prime Numbers

The cicadas are coming. The map shown has Washington on the edge of the "Brood X" area. I was around during the Brood X's last visit in 1987 and remember that they were everywhere. If Washington is on the edge, I can only imagine what the heart of the area will be like.

The Economist has a science article about the current brood which discusses with a model that suggests

that prime-numbered lifecycles could help cicadas avoid damaging “resonances” with the two- and three-year population fluctuations of their predators... over a 200-year period, average predator populations during hypothetical outbreaks of 14- and 15-year cicadas would be up to 2% higher than during outbreaks of 13- and 17-year cicadas. That may not sound like much, but it is enough to drive natural selection towards a prime-numbered life-cycle.

Health update

The pain is now basically gone, but I'm still experiencing some fatigue. The visit to the doctor on Monday confirmed that I was suffering side effects of the lumbar puncture. I'll still take it easy over the weekend and hope to be at full strength by Monday.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Health, cont'd

Every doctor, nurse, and paramedic at the hospital on Wednesday night asked me to rate the pain of my headache on a scale of 1 to 10. When I got in, it was around 7, it dropped to about a 3 after the percocet kicked in. As the resident was prepping me for the spinal tap, I turned the tables and asked how much the procedure would hurt. He assured me that I would feel no pain, just pressure. He was right.

What he wasn't entirely clear about was the lingering effects over the subsequent days. He mentioned that I'd be in some pain and by Saturday I was pleasantly surprised that I felt (and still feel) no pain around the spot where the procedure was done. Some time later on Saturday, it occurred to me that since the headaches and neck aches I was experiencing weren't identical to the initial nasty headache, maybe it was related to the extraction of cerebrospinal fluid. Discussions ensued and a google search for "lumbar puncture neck pain" found this description of the procedure with these notes about side effects:

You may experience side effects caused by the removal of some of your cerebrospinal fluid. The most common side effect is a headache that persists for several hours or up to several days. Symptoms that may accompany a headache include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or tightness in the shoulders, base of the neck, or lower back.
(emphasis added) A doctor in my neighborhood confirmed that this sort of headache can last four days (or more!). As of Monday morning, I can remain upright for about an hour and a half before I need to rest my neck again. I see my doctor later today. We'll see what he recommends.

Saturday, May 01, 2004


It's Saturday morning and this is the first I've been online since Wednesday afternoon. Around 4:00 pm on Wednesday I started getting a headache which grew in intensity and was soon joined by cold sweat and blurred vision. I tried to leave my office, but couldn't imagine getting onto the Metro or into a cab to get home; I just wanted to lie down. I returned to my office, closed the door and did just that.

I phoned my wife and she started driving downtown to pick me up. She also called a co-worker and asked him to check in on me. He came into my office and apparently I looked lousy enough that he called an ambulance. The appearance of two building security staff, four paramedics, and a stretcher made certain that everybody in the office knew that something was going on.

My wife arrived at my office about the same time I got into the ambulance. The paramedics checked my vitals (ok) and gave me an IV (to treat apparent dehydration) and we rode the six blocks to the ER. Between the fluid injection and some prescription pain killers, I was soon feeling better, but still a little weak. I got a CAT scan on my head to make sure there wasn't any bleeding or other serious issue there and I got a spinal tap to make sure that I didn't have meningitis -- both negative, thankfully.

I checked out of the ER after about six hours with the good news that nothing serious was wrong with me and the bad news that it was still unclear just what happened. The doctor's diagnosis on the discharge form was "Headache; Atypical migraine".

Two days later and I've got prescriptions for pain and migraines but neither helps much. I feel pretty good when I'm lying down. But if I'm sitting up or standing for more than a half hour or so, my head starts aching and I get a little dizzy. The general consensus seems to be that this is stress related and that I need to find a better way to handle my stress. I don't dispute that.

Meanwhile, members of my family having been helping paint a room in our house and doing other things as we prepare for the birth of our second child in less than three weeks. Yes, my wife has been helping me through all of this while 8 1/2 months pregnant. We've had a couple friends who have heard through friends that we were in the hospital on Wednesday and naturally they've assumed that my wife had pregnancy complications or early labor! Sorry folks, it just her stressed husband getting something out of his system -- hopefully I'll be fully recovered in time to help with the new baby.