Lost, Angry, Confused, Helpless, Hopeless

From www.caringbridge.org:

Thursday, October 30

Scans yesterday revealed that the cancer in Ben has aggressively progressed since the end of July. There are four new tumors – three on his brain and one on his liver.

We will be starting full brain radiation tomorrow at UW Hospital. They will do this for two weeks – in the hopes of reducing the swelling in Ben’s brain and slowing the cancer from metastasizing to his other organs. In two weeks they will scan him again and from there we will make some very difficult decisions.

We are lost and in complete despair. At this time we ask that you please respect our privacy. We will not be taking visitors. Thank you.

Jeff and Carin

Lost, angry, confused, helpless, hopeless. Just some of what I’m feeling. I really don’t know where to begin.

1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
2O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.

-Psalm 22:1-2

For a long time, I’ve dreaded the though of seeing a post:

“Ben passed away last night…”

This isn’t that post. In some ways, though, I think it’s worse. I don’t think people are afraid of death, people are afraid of dying…the process of death. The process is what haunts us. If we just went to bed one night and the next morning we woke up in heaven, I think everyone would be pretty happy with that. So to see a post like this, that is what makes me sad. Ben is dying.

How can I keep putting off the what is surely the inevitable? I’m having to reject every ounce of logic in my being just to hold out hope for Ben.

What do I pray for now? A miraculous healing? A merciful and peaceful passing?

What do I do?

Post script: The world seems very small now. Politics. War. Homework. School. Halloween. They don’t seem relevant now. For God’s sake, a child is dying! How can anything else matter?

A Photo Book

I was reading a post on a blog1 over the summer about how digital photography has change the way people take photos. One of the primary benefits of digital photography is that every picture is essentially free. Take as many photos as you want and it really won’t cost you a thing.

Being able to take photos for free2 does great things for the learning curve. Had I paid for all 15000+ photos I’ve taken with my D70 since I bought it four years ago, I would have spent over $2000 on developing photos alone. The benefits of digital are clear.

However, there is a trade off with digital. Digital photography is, by its very nature, a form which has no physical product. It’s just a series of 0’s and 1’s that make up an image. There is no negative and there is no final print, at least in the traditional sense. For the last year, I’ve been shooting in RAW format, which is the digital equivalent to a negative – if there ever was one. However, I rarely make physical prints.

When I do make prints, it’s usually when A) someone asks me to; B) I’m giving them as gifts; or C) I’m framing them for an art show. Of all the 10000+ photos I currently have on Flickr (which represents my body of work), I’ve printed no more than 125 photos, and most of those where for a Christmas present I made my Mom a couple years ago.

The post I was reading indicated that the author wanted to print more of his photos out because he had an incomplete feeling of the photo process. He wanted to be able to touch and hold them. And while I don’t share exactly the same feeling of incompleteness – most of my “career” I have been shooting digital and have never had the chance to even use a darkroom (although I’ve been inside several) – I do like the idea of being able to touch, hold, and see the physical results.

In particular, I’ve had this urge to make a photo book. Moreover, I would like to share the opportunity to purchase this photo book when/if I produce it.

The Idea:
My current idea is a history of the college years as seen through my lens. It would probably contain about 40-100 photos. Each photo would contain a story surrounding the events of the photo, probably no more than 300 words per a photo. I would suspect that many stories would be edited forms of blog posts, however I also anticipate that I’ll have to write several new stories as well.

I’m currently looking at both soft and hard books. Hard covers are obviously more expensive, but are also much nicer and will last longer. Since I want to keep prices low, a hard cover version would probably contain less photos than a soft cover version. I want to keep the price below $50, ideally around $30, but I haven’t run all the numbers yet.

My question to you is, is anyone even interested? Leave your comments and/or a simple yay/nay. You are not committing to anything at this point. I’m simply trying to figure out if there’s an interest. *wink* It would make a good Christmas gift *wink*

If there is enough interest, I’m looking to partner with either QOOP or Costco to have them printed as-needed. While this may raise prices a bit, it prevents me from having to bulk order the books and then hope that enough people want to purchase them.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a couple of photos I took up on the “M” a couple weeks ago:

Nikkor @ 50mm || 1/1000 || f/2 || ISO200 || tripod

Nikkor @ 35mm || 1/250 || f/13 || ISO200 || tripod

  1. …although I can’t remember or, for the life of me, find which one it was. If I do find it, I’ll update this post. 

  2. i.e. essentially free 

Numb Hand: Update

I got a call back from the Neurologist yesterday and insurance has denied the request for a MRI. Instead, they would like me to get four weeks of physical therapy first.

I’m not sure where I’ll find the time to fit PT in, my schedule/life is pretty full at the moment.

Marathon Exam: The FE/EIT

I’ve been getting a lot of support and questions about how I did on the exam. So I suppose that I should file a report on my FE/EIT exam experience, which I’ll reference just as the EIT herein.

I’ve been slowly preparing for this exam since the beginning of the semester. Most weeks, I went to a 2 hour EIT prep course offered by Mines. About a week and a half ago, I checked out one of those large test prep books from the library: Fundamentals of Engineering : The Most Effective FE/EIT Review : For the Morning & General Afternoon Tests. I mostly thumbed through the book in my free time, familiarizing myself with the exam format and types of questions that might be asked on the exam.

I went to bed early on Friday night and woke up early on Saturday morning – 4:30am. I stopped at Perkins on my way in and grabbed breakfast.

The exam was at the Colorado Convention Center. There were three of us getting extended testing time. This meant that instead of 8 hours of testing, I could theoritically be testing for 12 hours.

After about 30 minutes of instructions and bubbling, I finally got my first glimpse of the exam. The AM section had 120 problems each worth 0.5 points. Six hours of time to complete the AM section meant that I had to complete each question in three minutes on average. We were also supplied with an EIT Reference Handbook which was over 100 pages of all the equations we would need for this exam. I flipped through the first few pages of the exam and was pretty excited to see that I was familiar with just about everything.

Most questions were along the lines of:

A jet aircraft is flying at a speed of 1700 km/hr. The air temperature is 20 deg C. The molecular weight of air is 29 g/mol. What is the Mach number of the aircraft?1
(a) 0.979
(b) 1.32
(c) 1.92
(d) 5.28



It was just a matter of looking in my handy-dandy book and finding the equation, pluging the numbers in, and bubbling in A, B, C, or D. And that’s what I did for five hours in the morning.

I got an hour and half break for lunch before returning for the PM section. The PM section is a bit different because you get to pick the topic you want to take. For me, that meant either General or Electrical exam. After looking through both sections, I decided to take the General exam. This basically meant more of the same. The questions were a bit harder this time, which was reflected in the fact that we only had 60 questions, each worth a whole point.

Four hours later and I was done. Nine hours of total testing. I had been awake for almost 14 hours. I was mentally, emotionally, and physically drained of energy. It was the ultimate marathon for an engineer.

And despite the fact that I was completely worn out in every metric, I enjoyed the challenge. I enjoyed proving to myself that I could do it. I hope I don’t ever stop challenging myself – although I hope I continue to pick reasonable challenges.

I also want to thank all those who were praying for me. I don’t think I could have done it without you guys.

  1. http://www.cyberbuzz.gatech.edu/tbpi/docs/FE/Fluid_Mechanics_SP2007.pdf 

  2. http://inside.mines.edu/fs_home/knelson/EIT Electrical Review Solutions 2006.pdf 

Numb Hand

This post is for those of you who in the medical field, know someone in the medical field, or enjoy the medical field (even if you aren’t in it).

Starting last Friday (about 6 days now), the back of my left hand has been numb. The feeling is markedly different than if I had hit my funny bone. I would not describe the feeling as a tingling or pin pricking. It is similar in feeling to when the dermis is numbed with Emla Cream. There is little or no pain associated with it and there was no history to indicate why this might happen. The only other symptom is an on-again/off-again pain in my elbow.

I had a similar experience with the same hand over the summer, so this is the second time this has happened. In my previous experience, it resolved it self in a few days.

Taking ibuprofen has not had any discernable effect.

The area highlighted within the red region are where I notice the numbness. The area highlighted within the yellow region is where it feels the most numb.

Source: Henry Gray (1825–1861). Anatomy of the Human Body. 1918. The mucous sheaths of the tendons on the back of the wrist.
Click image to embiggen.

I’ve been to the health center to see a doctor. She has no idea what it could be and recommend that I go see a neurologist. I was somehow able to setup an appointment to see a neurologist tomorrow, so that’s what I’ll be doing in the morning.

My Kind of Town, Chicago Is

Chicago1 was awesome. I drove out with my Uncle Kit on Thursday and we got in Friday night. The was pretty much uneventful, lots and lots of flat land. We did stop by the Mississippi and take a picture!

We spent most of Saturday working on building a bookshelf, with a side trip to buy a $102 extension cord. The extension cord was actually only $7, the pet rabbit and cage was $95.

We went into Chicago proper on Sunday. I saw The Bean (aka Cloud Gate) and we stopped at Wired’s NextFest. Giordano’s World Famous Stuffed Pizza for lunch. We made a quick stop at the Museum of Contemporary Art before heading back.

On Monday, I rode the L the airport (took about two hours :-/). Not entirely sure where I’m going, I walked over to a United Departure screen and looked to see what gate my flight was departing from: Gate B17.

I go to the ticket kiosk and get my ticket, which says gate C25. So, thinking that the gate was updated, I went to gate C25. I get there and the gates been changed, predictably. So I check the monitor again: Gate B17. So I walk over towards gate B17. I get to about Gate B10 when I realize that I’m an idiot! I’m not flying to Seattle, which is what Gate B17 was for, I’m flying to Denver! So I go back to the monitor and the flight to Denver is at Gate B22; disaster averted.

Nikkor @ 18mm || 1/4000 || f/3.5 || ISO200

See more photos: My Kind of Town (Chicago)

1 When I say Chicago, I actually mean Chicago and Evanston

Talk to Your Parents About McCain, The Make-Believe Maverick

Please note that I’m not advocating voting for Obama as much as I’m imploring you to not vote for McCain.

I also just finished reading a story in Rolling Stone called Make-Believe Maverick by Tim Dickinson. I thought it was an interesting piece and really left me with no plausible reason to vote for McCain. It’s a bit long, but, if true, provides a rather damning account of McCain’s life. Especially interesting to me was the section entitled “He is Hotheaded,” mostly because it shows how little McCain has changed and what a terrible President he would be:

At least three of McCain’s GOP colleagues have gone on record to say that they consider him temperamentally unsuited to be commander in chief. Smith, the former senator from New Hampshire, has said that McCain’s “temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him.” Sen. Domenici of New Mexico has said he doesn’t “want this guy anywhere near a trigger.” And Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi weighed in that “the thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded.”

I’d be curious to hear any rebuttals to the piece if anyone has one.

BURL Source Code

In a former life, I wrote a small program that created shorter URLs, it was called BURL: A Better URL. It was very much like TinyURL or any other URL shortening service, except that I wrote it. It was a proof-of-concept URL shortening SaaS that attempted to provide more context to the link by embedding the registered domain name in the shortened URL. It lived a short life before spammers found it and I had to shut it down.

The source code was released under a GNU GPL license, however I never reposted it after I took the site down. I received an email today wondering if I would share the BURL code (the answer being, “Of course!”).

Long story short, here is the long lost BURL source code:

There’s an included readme file, but setup is really simple. There are two files (index.html and rpc.php). Put them both in a folder. Create the mySQL database (details are in the readme file) and setup your .htaccess file (again, details are in the readme file).

I would like to strong point out that this is code that I wrote 3 years ago. I would have been 19 at the time. I would like to think that my programming ability has matured since then.

Otherwise, enjoy!

My Hatred for Unbounded Volume Shadow Copies

I’ve been running a bit low on disk space the last few weeks. I thought part of might be because I was taking more photos and at 5MB a photo, those add up pretty quick. So I started moving some of my old pictures from my internal hard drive to my external hard drive. That solved the problem in the short run, but I was still running with very little space left:

So I decided to track down where all my space was going. I used the rather helpful (and free) JDiskReport and came across something interesting:

JDiskReport was only finding 74.7GB of data on my drive, even though I have 104 GB.

So I did a Google search for: windows vista drive space

I came across an article at The Problem Solver called Windows Vista and low disk space:

From msmvps.com:

Anyway back to the disk space usage. When I started I was surprised but everything went well. But the C drive kept on filling up even though I wasn’t installing new software and I kept the temp directory in check. Yesterday the bar the Explorer indicating how full the disk was even turned red so some action was needed. I fired up WinDirStat, a great utility for finding where your disk space went and reported 14Gb as . That is quite a portion of a 50 Gb disk, a whoping 28%, so I decided to focus on that first. It turns out it was in use by Windows Vista System Restore.

Could this be my saving grace? The symptoms seem to fit. I checked the Shadow Copy Storage by running “vssadmin list shadowstorage” from an elevated command line:

Shadow Copy Storage association
For volume: C
Shadow Copy Storage volume: C
Used Shadow Copy Storage space: 30.113 GB
Allocated Shadow Copy Storage space: 30.364 GB
Maximum Shadow Copy Storage space: UNBOUNDED

There, ladies and gentlemen, was the grail of my quest. The used storage space was 30GB and the maximum allowed was unbounded. Who thought that an unbounded maximum storage space was a good idea? Because I sure didn’t.

Fixing the problem is pretty trivial. Just execute

vssadmin resize shadowstorage /for=c: /on=c: /maxsize=6GB

from the elevated command prompt and all your troubles will be fixed. Of course, you might need to change c: to actual drive you want to affect and you can also tweak /maxsize= to be the actual maximum size you want.

I thought 6GB was good since I don’t rely on Volume Shadow Copies for my backups (I have a different solution).

And that’s how I made 30 GB in less than 3 seconds.

There’s also some more information on vssadmin at Microsoft TechNet.