Sunday, October 02, 2011

Picture Post, Sunday October 2, 2011

Been a long time since I've had a Sunday Picture Post.

I used to do this every Sunday, with no shortage of photos.  I was always shooting new photos and had the time and energy to re-size the images for the blog, so, no problem having new photos to show every Sunday.

Shows just how much chronic pain can take from a person.  I've barely posted on this blog in two years.

That's two hobbies down the drain because of my ruined back and always being in pain.

A person just doesn't feel up to doing much of anything.  I know I sound like a whiner here, but if I didn't mention the pain and the problems that result, I would have nothing to say.  It has pretty much been my life the past few years.  So bear with me.

This pain pump has helped the pain some, but right now I'm just at a point where the pain pump's pain relief is about equal to all the oral pain medicine I used to take's effects.  Pain Doc and I have a ways to go yet in getting the dosage adjustments ideal for me and my life.  You have to walk the edge between how much pain you can deal with and how much you can function with morphine in you.

There's a good thing though.  A pain pump literally puts into my spine on the order of 1/100th the amount of pain medicine I once took orally.  Same pain relief, less pills to take, easier on my liver and kidneys.

Lovely Wife and I went yesterday, October 1st, for an afternoon drive.

Visited a beautiful local park, the Atlantic Ocean, and walked for a little way along 5th Avenue in Indialantic, Florida.

I had my camera, and had the first photography excursion I've had in at least a year.

I enjoyed it so much, being with my wife and seeing this beautiful area up close for the first time in way too long.  Yeah, it made my back hurt like crazy and my left leg was hurting and ended up numb, and I could barely get out of the car on my own when we got home after only a couple of hours of mostly riding.  But then I kicked back in my recliner for a while and slowly the pain lessened somewhat.

Such is a life in pain.  Gotta get up and struggle like crazy just to have a short walk and a car ride with my wife and my camera.

It was worth it though.  I was going stir crazy in the house.

I've seen many, many AMAZING sunsets in fifteen years in Florida; yesterday's was certainly one of the most beautiful.

These photos are fresh!  Less than 24 hours old as of posting time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Gold Rolex Oyster (Thinking about my Dad)

(I've copied here, my most recent post from my photography blog. The photos are of my Dad's Rolex that I took this week. I was thinking about him a lot.)

My father worked on off-shore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico in his career.

He was born in 1934, growing up during difficult times in America, and in a poor part of Louisiana.

He was of what I consider to be the last generation that a man or woman would work for one company most of their lives.

Working off-shore, seven days on the drilling rig, and then seven days off, he ended up missing a lot of holidays and birthdays. He was there for a lot of them, but not for a lot of others too.

There were times, like working for any company, when he had to swallow his pride and keep his mouth shut to keep his job when the company would try to take advantage of him or others.

Then, when he had twenty-something years with this company, they called all the twenty-plus-year employees to a big banquet in New Orleans.

The company presented to him and all the other long-timers, a gold Rolex watch.

I don't know if it still is, but for decades, the official United States time was determined by an atomic clock at the US Naval Observatory.

So after he was given this watch, and I'd talk to him on the phone (from Dallas or Atlanta or wherever we were living during those years) I'd ask if the Naval Observatory has called yet that day to get the official time from him and his Rolex.

It wasn't something he left in a box, he wore the watch daily up until he died in 1994.

I took a few photos this week with my new/used macro lens.

You can see a few nicks and marks here and there.

Those nicks and marks are from him wearing one of the only tangible representations of all the years of hard work he put in, as well as not being with his family on some important days.

Some people would think he was being pretentious wearing a Gold Rolex, and sometimes complete strangers would say something like, "I wish I could afford to buy and wear a gold Rolex!"

He would always tell them, "I didn't have the money to buy one either. This was given to me by the company I worked so hard for, for so many years. I wear it because I EARNED IT."

That never failed to shut them up.

I don't wear it as much as I'd like to, mainly because my wrist is way bigger than his was, and even at the last notch, the watch is too tight to wear for more than just a few minutes.

One day I'll go ahead and plunk down the money to have an extra gold link or two put on the watch so I can wear it more.

But I look at this watch a lot, and suffer wearing it on important days for me and my family.

It helps me remember that he's with me in spirit on those important days to me and my family.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Guitar String Vibration

When I was in college, we had to do a couple of experiments in Physics lab class to study string vibrations.

Frequency, nodes, etc.

When a guitar string is pressed against a fret and that string is plucked, it sets off a pretty complex set of vibrations.

Since they are not plucked in the exact center of each string, guitar strings vibrate both at the fundamental note's frequency and also there are a whole host of harmonic vibrations at frequencies mathematically related to the frequency of the fundamental note.

The physical construction of the guitar influences the vibrations of the strings in response to the string's vibrations making the various pieces of the guitar vibrate. Even a solid body electric guitar can have it's tone greatly enhanced by being crafted of as few solid pieces of good wood as possible, and these tone woods will impart some harmonic influence back to the strings and out through the amplifier.

This is why guitars can be SO EXPENSIVE. The highest quality, large pieces of tone woods are as expensive to buy as they are resonant and beautiful to look at.

Yeah, there are a lot of cheap guitars in the world, and a surprising number of them sound good and play good too, but when a guitar is constructed from high quality pieces of properly dried woods, this wood can impart back to the strings even richer harmonic content resulting in a great sounding guitar whose tone is thick with harmonic content that is pleasing to the human ear.

For me this following very short video is mind blowing. I love this kind of stuff.

Although I knew the principles of string vibrations, I've never seen them in real-time action.

This video was simply shot with a camera with a high speed shutter, so that when the video is watched at the normal speed of the song, you can hear AND see the dramatic ways in which the strings vibrate.

Notice that the fingering and plucking of the strings are in time to the sound of the music. Although it almost looks like slow motion, it's not.

I wish we had been shown a video similar to this in Physics lab, studying string vibrations would have made a lot more sense, a picture (video) painting a thousand words and all that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Have A New Hard Drive, Sort Of

WARNING: Boring computer geek post ahead...

With all the photos that I have on my computer, I was really nervous about a hard drive failure robbing me of all my digital images.

So a couple of years ago I bought an external hard drive, a 500GB one. That was massively huge two or three years ago, but now you can get 2TB (TeraBytes) hard drives for a reasonable price.

Then, about six months ago, I became worried as my external hard drive was filling up with 35mm slide scans, digital photos, and print scans from the flatbed scanner.

I bought a second external hard drive, this time a 1TB one. Pretty huge.

Then about two months after getting the 1TB hard drive, the original 500GB external drive I had bought stopped working.

I was so glad that I had bought that second external drive. I lost no photos.

When we got some tax money earlier this year, I got a subscription to Carbonite, an online backup company that claims to have unlimited backup for a certain price per year.

They truly have unlimited backup, but if you are like me and want to back up a pretty massive amount of data somewhere other than your own home for the ultimate backup, then the backup takes a LONG time.

See, Carbonite works in the background on your computer and only can upload about 4 GibaBytes per 24 hours. But I let it do it's thing and haven't heard any complaints from Carbonite about me having too much stuff to back up.

Lately, as I have felt better after my surgery, I've been spending time at the computer here and there as pain levels permit, and have organized and thrown away a bunch of computer files so that my Carbonite backup will be as small and convenient as possible for both them and me.

But that 500GB hard drive dying on me bothered me a lot, so I began looking for web sites where folks mentioned the problem I had with this particular hard drive and it turns out that one major problem was a recent firmware upgrade release that I, and others apparently, put on our external hard drives.

This latest firmware (similar to software but used to program a particular chip on the circuit board that controls things, in my case how the hard drive operates) killed mine, and anyone else's who upgraded to the latest revision.

But I had noticed that even though I couldn't use that external hard drive any more, I COULD hear it spinning when power was applied to it.

I began to think that the hard drive itself wasn't dead, but just the control interface within the cover of the external hard drive case.

Now you know engineers LOVE taking things apart, so I broke out my tools and went to town and freed the hard drive from the enclosure. I have to say that Western Digital makes a first-class, rugged hard drive enclosure for their external drives.

I turned off and unplugged my desktop computer, opened the case, stole the SATA cable from my CD/DVD reader-writer (which I don't use much) and installed the "broken" 500GB hard drive into my desktop computer.

I turned the computer on and what do you know, I had a 500GB internal drive show up with all my old files still sitting there pretty as you please.

Now I have the original 250GB internal drive, another internal drive which used to be an external 500GB drive, and also a 1TB external drive.

I have all my files backed up at home, and many of them backed up on Carbonite too, in case something drastic disaster happens to my home computer.

I'm still sending stuff to Carbonite as it finishes each batch I sent it previously.

But I won't be through worrying until I have all of my digital images uploaded to them as well.

Since I have a copy of every file I have on that one external 1TB drive, if something happens while I'm at home, I can just grab that one external hard drive that's the same size as a hardback book, and skee-daddle.

P.S. I bought another SATA cable that allowed me to reattach my CD/DVD drive and now have my complete computer again. I know you were worried about that temporarily unconnected CD/DVD drive.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Dodge Vicious Angry Killer Bird to Get Egg Photo!

Lovely Wife was out on our back patio yesterday evening reading a book on her much-loved Kindle.

We have a mockingbird out there that yells and squawks at us whenever anyone goes out in the back yard.

She noticed that the bird kept flying to our crepe myrtle bush, and realized that there's a nest in there.

She and Number One Daughter are too short to see into the nest to look for eggs. They called me out, and I could barely see over the edge and saw at least two eggs.

Lovely Wife's camera battery was dead so I got my camera and did a paparazzi style hold-the-camera-up-high-and-point-and-shoot-and-hope-you-get-a-good-shot impression.

The resulting egg pic came out OK, and as you can see, there are four of them.

Pretty cool. I hadn't seen real, wild bird eggs in many years. Probably since I was a kid.

Here's a pic of the Mom/Dad (don't know which) up on a wire right above and behind the crepe myrtle and nest.

I can hardly believe it's beak is closed in the photo, this rascal yammers on incessantly.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Don't Buy Expensive HDMI cables for Your TV

...or, Let Me Save Y'all Some Money

OK, there's lots of hyperbole out there about cables for computers, for TVs and whatnot.

But as a digital engineer, let me tell you a little secret that Best Buy, Target, or even Walmart won't tell you.

It's a fact, if you buy a TV at Best Buy or similar place, they'll try hard to sell you on buying a high dollar, high quality HDMI cable.

If you have bought or are about to buy a new television set, you will actually need to purchase a HDMI cable iffen you want to see high-definition programs and movies on your new TV.

H-D-M-I means high definition multimedia interface.

Here's the secret: Just buy a cheap HDMI cable that has the correct length for your needs. A cheap HDMI cable works EVERY BIT as good as a $100 Monster brand HDMI cable.

Why? How?

Glad you asked.

Here's a couple of simple truths about electronic signals traveling on a cable:
1. Digital signals, or pulses on an electric cable such as an HDMI one are either on, or off, there's no almost in digital. So, if the cable, no matter how cheap, actually carries the digital signal from the cable box to your TV, it will be presenting to your TV a signal every bit as good as a $100 Monster brand cable. One digital cable either works AS GOOD AS the next digital cable, or it isn't working at all. Period.
2. This wasn't necessarily true with analog cables. A better-built, nicely shielded from interference analog cable could possibly give your TV a clearer signal than a cheap cable, resulting in a better, less fuzzy picture on the screen.

The rationale they will throw at you at Best Buy is that you don't want to buy a cheap cable to go with your new $700 TV. But in the digital world, in which all new TV's firmly sit, if the cable works at all, it will give your TV as good a signal, and therefore screen picture, as any other cable, regardless of price.

When you buy that next TV, and you will need an HDMI cable to actually see programs in high definition, just buy that $14.99 cable and don't worry your pretty little head about it.

If your new HDMI cable happens to be faulty and not work, just exchange it for a working one just like you would with a new shirt you brought home and then found it was torn somewhere. (We do live in an imperfect world where you sometimes buy something that doesn't work, from the git-go.)

Now, go forth and buy a cheap HDMI cable of the correct length. Use the money you saved to buy a Blu-Ray DVD or three.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Color Photos of America's Depression Era

Kodak's Kodachrome 35mm slide film still is, in my opinion, one of the great inventions of man. (Photo is copyright Library of Congress)

The UK's Daily Mail has published a page of stunning color images from America's depression era (just after Kodachrome was invented). Please go see these photo's.

They offer a totally different perspective than the harsh-but-compelling black and white depression photos we've seen all our lives.

Kodachrome images look so "thick" and dense with color.

Lord I miss the look of Kodachrome, but I love and have totally embraced digital photography. (I spent many hours in Photoshop Elements one weekend to come up with my own process for making digital images have the look of Kodachrome.)

Note: I hate linking stuff from online newspapers, the link may be dead fairly quick. So take a minute to go look at these images.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Goodbye Mr. Surgeon

Had my second and last post operation visit with the surgeon who installed my pain pump.

Said my incisions (all three!) were looking healthy and that unless they somehow get infected or I start having some of the bad side effects some pain pump recipients get, that, well, it was nice knowing me.

I see Pain Doctor next week for my first visit with him since the surgery.

Pain Doctor will use a remote control device that communicates through my skin to the pain pump to adjust the dose. (That's a photo to the right, of the same pain pump and catheter I now have, and the gizmo Pain Doctor will use to program the rate of medicine release.)

Ready to crank this puppy up a bit.

I received a medic alert type card with my pain pump info on it in the mail a couple of weeks ago, but yesterday finally read all the material that came with it.

I had carefully inspected the card to ensure all was correct, but after reading the associated letter, I needed to change the doctor's name and number on the card from the surgeon's name to Pain Doctor's name and number.

The card needs to have the doctor's info for the doctor filling and adjusting the pain pump instead of the surgeon.

I got an email today telling me my new implant ID card is on the way.

I thought it might be a good idea to get a medic alert ID bracelet or necklace and put the fact that I'm diabetic and that I now have this pain pump on the necklace or bracelet.

On several sites they mentioned that most paramedics are trained to look for a medic alert necklace or bracelet, and don't look in people's wallets.

That's good to know. I guess I'll have to buy me some BLING in the near future.

So much for my spiffy medic alert card I put in my wallet, eh?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New Body Parts Installed or Been a Long Time Since I Posted

I can summarize my life pretty quickly since my last post in September of 2010.

Lots of back pain. Trying to work, sleep, live with lots of pain. I pretty much stunk at everything, work, relationships, life in general.

Last summer (2010) I did the trial for a "neurostimulator" or more simply, spinal cord stimulator, or what is basically a TENS unit where the electrodes that zap you are inserted in your back close to the spinal cord. This device is effective for some, but in me, they could never get the device to "buzz" in the areas where I hurt, lower back and outside left leg/butt. There are electrodes for the final two inches or so, and it's this section of the electrical cord which is implanted along the inside of the vertebrae close to the spinal cord. The Here's a brief run-down of these devices on, one of my most frequently visited sites (

So for me, the spinal cord stimulator trial was a failure, and my Pain Management Doctor and I started talking about one of the final tricks he had up his sleeve.

Intrathecal Pain Pump. Or just Pain Pump to many. Similar idea to the spinal cord stimulator, but with a pain pump, a catheter is inserted into the intrathecal space of the spine. This is the same protective sack where the spinal cord lies and in which our spinal fluid flows slowly from lower back, up to and around the brain, and back down the spine.

The idea is to deliver minute amounts of pain medication directly into the spinal fluid, allowing it to flow up and down with the spinal fluid and delivering some of the most powerful pain relief that can be given these days.

All along this path, work really sucked. I just hurt too much to be a great engineer, and I couldn't really take high enough doses of pain medicine to really cut the pain without drastically cutting my brain power, which is essential in the engineering world.

I've been on disability since earlier this year, and I have slowly gone through the process with my Pain Doctor to have a pain pump trial (it was deemed successful in me), visit a neurosurgeon he referred me to, get all the pre-surgery health checks done, and to have surgery to have the pain pump and catheter installed permanently.

First, the pain pump trial. in February, I went into a day-surgery center and Pain Doctor and crew sedated me a bit, and then using a fluoroscope, which is basically a live-action x-ray machine, gave me a tiny shot of morphine straight into the intrathecal space in my spine.

I've had so many shots and surgeries in my back that from the middle of my back down to almost my rear end is mostly scar tissue. But one of the beauties of the pain pump and the flow of spinal fluid up and down is that they can inject the medicine in any place along the spine and the medicine will flow with the spinal fluid, hopefully delivering sweet pain relief along the way.

I stayed at the surgery center for several hours for them to make sure that I wasn't having serious side effects from the bolus of morphine in my spine and during that time felt my pain levels really decrease. They sent me home and I was to keep a journal of sorts and to stay off oral pain meds as long as I could.

I lasted about 36 hours, but I left it too long before starting my oral medications again.

I got a good bit of pain relief for the first 24 hours and then the pain slowly started increasing again. When I took my first oral meds at the 36 hour mark I didn't know it, but the pain pendulum was swinging back to serious pain really, really fast.

It took me a couple of days to carefully dole out to myself doses of oral pain meds until the pain was back to where I could even sleep.

But the initial pain relief of the directly applied morphine was what they wanted to see, and after weeks of doctors visits and pre-surgery checks had my pain pump installed in late April at Sebastian River Medical Center in Sebastian, Florida. That's near the neurosurgeon's office and about 15-20 miles south of where we live in Palm Bay.

I had an incision along my spine for the surgeon to put the catheter tip into the intrathecal space push it up in there a couple of inches along my spinal cord.

Then they "tunneled" around my side to create a path for the flexible catheter to reach around to my front left side where another incision was made to implant the actual pain pump filled with morphine.

They also had to make a small incision on my left side to help continue the tunneling for the catheter to reach around from my back to my front.

Total, 3 incisions to heal from. Though I was able to get up easier than after my previous surgeries since they hadn't actually worked on or ground away bone, I've had a heckuva time with three incisions healing.

I'm still a week away from my first visit with Pain Doctor since my surgery, but the surgery incisions have healed enough that I can feel the pain pump having a little bit of positive effect on my pain level.

The surgeon filled the pain pump, but only set it at a super-low release rate, enough to make the pump work until Pain Doctor could see me and I had healed enough to start ramping up the the delivery rate of the pain pump.

As of today, I'm slow moving, but doing pretty well. The incisions have been slow to heal and are still pretty sore, even three weeks on.

I'm basically still in the same pain situation as before the surgery, but the fact that I can now feel the light effects of the pain pump helping gives me hope that in the coming months we can get the device adjusted to where I don't have to take much oral meds.

The initial goal is to stop taking my long acting pain meds and then only have to occasionally take a quick acting pain medicine for "breakthrough" pain as needed. Getting off the long acting stuff will be a big relief to my liver and kidneys from the years of daily oral pain medications.

The pain pump can possibly give as good relief as long acting oral pain medications, but at the rate of only 1/200 or so of what I would take orally.

In other words, you have to take a pretty big dose of oral pain medicine to help lower serious pain levels, but with the pain pump's direct delivery to the spinal fluid, many patients get the same pain relief with 1/200th of what they were taking orally.

Just tiny, tiny amounts are delivered by the pain pump in a 24 hour period but with the same effect as hefty doses of oral pain medications.

Anyway, if anyone is still out there, and you've read this far, I'll throw you a bone and stop here.

I'm still not out of the woods yet, but the pain pump system is successfully implanted in me. It seems to be giving a bit of help to my pain levels, and should help more and more as I resume visits with Pain Doctor who will fill the pump and adjust the release rate of it's medicines from here on out.

If you are interested, follow this link for a short video on the pain pump ( Just click on the "Play animation without narration" link in the frame, and then start clicking the "Next Step" button to continue the very short animated views of how the pain pump system is installed. It's only about a minute long. A picture will make all that I wrote here come clear with just a glance as to how the pieces are placed.

I seriously hope to resume blogging, I miss it very much. It's a great release valve for me.

Until next time...God bless you.