Monday, November 24, 2008

Movie: Phantom of the Opera (1989)

The famed story, without the lush music, without the stylized idealism, and with all the horror it can muster. Fall for the other version before letting this (albeit good) one terrorize you.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

News: doing great

Just to allay any concerns (which have been expressed): I feel great! Recovery went very well, and aside from a mild bout of periocarditis and distinct over-doing-it limits, I could not ask for better. We are blessed to have such a GOOD health care system in this country.

Movie: Pitch Black

This Chronicles of Riddick tale is surprisingly restrained for our ├╝ber-cool sci-fi action anti-hero. As dazzling daylight fades to indefinite night, the story just can't quite pull off the terrors of the dark, or even quite the totality of the dark itself. An entertaining, if shallow, story.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Rant: Palin vs. Obama

Dems can't complain about Sarah Palin's experience because Barack Obama has less time in office than she does, and she actually has executive experience.

Dems can't complain about her gender because he's playing the race card with only half a deck.

Dems can't complain about her debating skills (as some are claiming Biden will trounce her) because he can't function without a script.

Dems can't complain about her staunch views because his VP is a hardcore long-term DC insider.

Dems can't complain about her hotness because his charisma is about all he's got.

Dems can't complain about her position on guns & abortion because he doesn't have any position (meaningless waffling & "that's above my pay grade").

Dems can't complain about her getting the single-issue female vote because his biggest appeal is the single-issue black vote.

Dems can't complain about her coming from an obscure state because he doesn't seem to think there's life outside Chicago.

Dems can't complain about her coming from an obscure state (twice over) because it's not even clear he's from this country.

Dems can't complain she's too weak to be VP because every complaint squarely reflects back on Obama running for POTUS.

Sarah Palin: McCain's knockout Judo move.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

News: Home

They finally kicked me out of the hospital! Everything is progressing very well. Karen brought me home this afternoon. So good to be home...

You don't realize how much effort it takes just to be a passenger in a car. Trying to stay centered in that seat takes a surprising amount of muscle activity!

We are amazingly blessed to live in a society where someone can literally put a hand through my chest and stop my heart, and just a week later I'm casually having dinner with my wife at home. Thank God!

In a twist, you might want to look at Labor Day's copy of the AJC newspaper. In a confluence of events:
- one of my nurses had quad-bypass surgery in the same facility 8 years ago, and the experience so moved him he changed careers from journalism to nursing and is now working at the same floor
- the AJC is doing a story on his heartwarming tale
- the AJC wanted a picture of him with a patient, and happened to arrive when it was time for him to do my discharge processing
- baby Kirsten had arrived, and was sitting on my lap while all this came together.
Ergo, the pictures must have been wonderful, and may very well accompany a section lead story in the area paper! (And quite possibly the only picture ever of me with a beard.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

News: The cyborg is in

My pacemaker was installed around noon today. Having just completed a walk around the recovery room block, my heart rate is about 100 - a wonderful sign. The natural pacemaker had been running the upper part of the heart, but the lower half was not getting the signal and was making things up to continue (usually running about 45bpm). Now the artificial pacemaker takes the natural signal from the upper part, delays it slightly, and tells the lower half to pump.

Between properly-coordinated beats, and functional one-way valve, I can tell things have improved greatly. For now, though, that energy is being sapped by great efforts of healing, draining, and pain management.

At some point when all this has largely passed, I will have write at length about the incredible process of waking up from various kinds of sedation and anesthesia.

It's so good to see people visit. Karen and Bonnie are at dinner now. Karen is good to me for having been here so much despite many difficulties.

I miss my little girl! Hopefully she can come here tomorrow, and then I will go home. I don't know how long I will be in recovery. Kirsten needs her daddy...

Awright, that's enough activity (walk, dinner, writing, visits, medical tasks, relocating). Time to distract myself with a movie and then go to bed. Sleeping is hard here; maybe they won't wake me up every hour now. Good night ... call me!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

News: ICU

Surgery went well. I went in, talked, blinked, and then woke up (which I won't describe right now -

yeech). I now have an artificial valve implanted in my heart. I can hear it ticking! And I think I can

already feel the increased energy; it's just hiding being chest pain.

I am scheduled to have the pacemaker installed on Monday. They could have implanted it on Friday; I'm

glad they're giving me the weekend to recover first. Normally I would be in the Intensive Care Unit for

one or two days, but since I now have an external pacemaker hanging on a pole next to me, it's better

that greater care be taken. I am breaking records as the healtiest person ever in the ICU.

There is pain, but it is usually managed pretty well. Morphine is lousy; it works fast, but has really

boring hallucinations. Percocet takes a little longer, but works well with no wierd effects.

Thank you all for your support, visits, and prayers.

More later...

- Carl

Thursday, July 31, 2008

News: Surgery

Word seems to be getting around!

On August 7 I will be undergoing open-heart surgery to correct a congenital heart defect. After 40 years of natural compensation, it is time to replace my bicuspid aortic valve with an artificial "ball-and-cage" valve. Due to a side effect of this flaw, a pacemaker will also be installed.

The story...

Where this natural valve typically has 3 flaps to control blood flow from one heart chamber to another, mine has always had 2. This defect allows backwash from the second to the first chamber, causing inefficient pumping. To compensate, the second chamber has significantly expanded, and the valve flaps have stiffened. While a sufficient solution for four decades, this can only work so long before the expansion interferes with itself, most blood simply gets washed back and forth between chambers instead of pumped to the body, and congestive heart failure follows if left uncorrected; that time is looming, and once reached is irreversible. When discovered some 24 years ago, I was told the defective valve would need replacing in about 20 years.

To complicate matters, the stiffening of the valve has diffused thru heart muscle and has caused an electrical blockage. The upper chambers naturally pulse, and this pulse is electrically relayed to the lower chamber for a subsequent delayed pulse. The blockage is preventing the signal from reaching the lower chambers. Demonstrating the human body is wonderfully made, a secondary natural pacemaker has, to the delight of my cardiologists, developed and is functioning well. Unfortunately, the two halves are now operating independently! The upper chambers run about 80 beats per minute, and the lower chambers about 40. While this is keeping me in relatively good health (relative to what is commonly a terminal disconnect), the situation is seriously inefficient and unreliable. Ergo, an artificial pacemaker must be implanted.

Fortunately, God's providence and manipulation of my human fallibility has led to both situations being timely presented to some of the best cardiologists and heart surgeons in the country. I have recently been subjected to EKGs, echocardiograms, MRI, cold stethoscopes, and much poking & prodding. Several more tests are scheduled to assure safe surgery. My boss has assured me that personal health is far more important than project delivery dates. The implanted medical technology involved is designed to outlast a full life.

August 7 I will check in to Emory Crawford Long Hospital in downtown Atlanta at 5:30AM. I don't yet know the exact procedure and duration. Hospital recovery time will be 5-7 days, with another week or two at home. Diagnosis is "bicuspid aortic valve with severe aortic insufficiency" coupled with "complete heart [electrical] block". The corrective actions for both issues are well understood, with recovery rates exceeding 98%.

Let me assure everyone:
- I feel fine. I have long gotten used to my decreased energy levels, and short of vigorous exercise can do what I like. The only concern is that the future drop-off in health will be abrupt and likely terminal if left uncorrected. For now and in the uncorrected near future my health remains normal.
- I am calm and confident of the near future. God has blessed our culture with medical wisdom and the wealth to implement it; I am additionally blessed to be so near such advanced doctors and facilities. Success rates for this operation exceed 98%, improved by my being in relatively excellent health. I find myself spending time calming _others_ about the situation.

- We will need support of friends for about 2 weeks starting August 7. Please coordinate support via Barry Hasenkopf, Carrie Clement, and Cindy McBrayer.
- Karen & Kirsten will especially need companionship at the hospital on the 7th. Carolyn will start things off early, and Cindy & family will pitch in later; subsequent support may need arranging.
- While I will certainly welcome visitors, understand I will also need rest and quiet during the first week. Drop in if you like, but don't feel compelled to battle Atlanta traffic to do so.
- Meals will be appreciated, especially if leftovers can be frozen. Coordinate this with Carrie.
- Stay calm. I realize news of "open-heart surgery" is a shock to most, I assure you little about it is a surprise to me, and all indications are everything will turn out fine.
- Prayer is needed above all else. God has certainly and clearly guided my long path in this issue; this time is the culmination thereof.

Pardon the length of this email; I've tried to cover everything people tend to want to know. I certainly have not managed to include everyone who should get this; if you know someone you think should know, please forward this email.

Thank you for your care in this matter. Thought you might want to know the details.

- Carl, future cyborg

Rant: $1 = 9.16 minutes of sweeping

I just had an epiphany:

Lacking the “gold standard” – or any other official connection between the value of a dollar and a stable physical commodity – the government needs to fix the value of a dollar to something to have any sort of “value”. Thus, thru the march of greed & idiocy, the US Government has fixed the value of a dollar to the value of someone sweeping floors. This fiat value is commonly called “minimum wage”.

Every company needs someone to sweep the floors. The inherent, ethereal value of this is largely consistent across economy, geography, and time – it simply needs doing, takes about the same effort regardless of who is doing it and who it is done for, and thus is the “gold standard” for paid labor insofar as the value is universal, uniform and unavoidable. Interestingly for this discussion, it is also among the cheapest labors for which companies will hire.

Our government, in (or despite) its infinite lack of wisdom, has declared that this unavoidable – yet minimally valuable – activity shall be paid a minimum amount ($6.55 starting this Thursday). Thus, a dollar is officially worth the effort of sweeping a floor for 9 minutes 9.6 seconds.

…which explains the current price of gas. Gasoline is a universal commodity: nobody really cares where it comes from, it comes from basically anywhere and is used everywhere in roughly equal amounts, the price is universally uniform (local taxes aside), and its use/replacement cycle is fast enough that prices fluxuate (sp?) daily to reflect not so much the “price” of a gallon, but the value of a currency in terms of units of product. To wit: $4/gallon doesn’t mean so much that gasoline is worth $4 for a gallon, but that $1 is worth ¼ gallon of gas; thus, the fluxuation in price reflects not the price of gas, but the value of the currency.

A dollar, being no longer based on physical commodity (silver per the original Constitution, gold by practical value-per-density efficiency, and ultimately nothing at all under Nixon), is now fixed by fiat to the value of someone sweeping a floor for 9.16 minutes. Given the inherent ratio of the value of 1 hour of floor-sweeping naturally to an inherent value of 1 gallon of gasoline will not change, and the newly-Congressionally-mandated equation of 9.16 minutes of floor-sweeping to $1, that leaves the only unknown in this equation being the number of dollars required to buy one gallon of gasoline … which, due to the Law of Supply and Demand, will work out to something approaching $5/gallon.

I predict that if one runs historical statistics involving “minimum wage” and gas prices, you’ll find that the cost of 1 gallon of gasoline has always equated to about 40 minutes of floor-sweeping. As the government-mandated wage for floor-sweeping (aka “minimum wage”) increased, the international value of the dollar has decreased accordingly, as reflected in the price at the pump. Short of rare and extraordinary and narrow social variations, floors must be swept, and cars must be refilled with gas, and economic laws mandate the relative value of the two remain largely constant … the currency used to transfer value from one to the other, however, is subject to change depending on what silly mandates people subject the currency to.

The epiphany: $1 is worth, by law, 9.16 minutes of floor-sweeping; the price of gas reflects this.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Trip: Myrtle Beach

For our fifth anniversary, Karen & I went to Myrtle Beach. Friend Bonnie was profoundly generous in offering us use of her oceanfront condo!

(Moonlit scenes)

...and it was baby Kirsten's first time at the ocean!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Movie: Over The Hedge

The comic strip comes to life in a slapstick tale of forest critters encountering the sudden onslaught of suburbia. If the thought of a squirrel blowing canned spray cheese out his nose makes you laugh, this is for you ... and if it doesn't, it's not.

Movie: The Wedding Date

Well done insofar as standard chick-flicks go.

Watching people deal with the embarassingly painful consequences of mundane stupidities just doesn't work for me. In this case: on the verge of a wedding, we are to be entertained by the assorted clashing permutations of a failed engagement, a gigolo hired to make an ex-fiance jealous, who had what now-defunct relationships with whom, who finds out about those relationships when, who wants what relationship de-defunctified, etc. and somehow it all just works out into a happy ending.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mead: a bubbly first batch

After the first bottle, I found I had overlooked what was really the first bottle! Made with common honey from Sam's Club, and fermented using Lalvin EC-1118 yeast, the result was shared with visitors in a progressive dinner. Rather bubbly, the cork needed almost no assistance in opening, and the result was more champagne-like than akin to a sweet white wine. Those partaking seemed to rather like it, being bold & peppy.

Today I opened another bottle made the same but fermented longer (6 months). Fortunately the opening had been wrapped, as when unwrapped the cork popped on its own (to the surprise of guests). Still a bit yeasty, samplers liked the bold bubbly taste. This was sampled alongside a professionally produced mead, very clear and likable and flat. Obviously the home brew requires considerably longer fermentation time, and filtration would be wise. Remaining bottles must be stored so they won't make a mess if the cork (or, moreso, glass) blows.


Kirsten Alexandra Emily Donath was born on 4/28/2008 at 9:30PM, measuring 7lbs 2oz and 20.5". YAY!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


My first bottle of aged mead finally got uncorked - and it was worth the work & wait.

Made from "Mountain Gold Wildflower Honey" purchased in Dahlonega, and fermented with "White Labs Sweet Mead Yeast WLP720", I mixed 1 part honey with 3 parts boiling water, cooled, then add yeast, pour in glass jug with airlock (gasses escape, nothing gets in), let sit at room temperature for a month, then rack to wine bottles (siphon off clear fluids from settled sediments), cork, and let sit. Total cost was somewhere around $2/bottle.

First bottle sat 6 months. Opened and served a the first meeting of the Grove Park Wine Club, it went over surprisingly well. The clear, slightly golden liquid had a pleasant, slightly sweet taste with a mild bite. Certainly worth the effort, which was wasn't much considering the very simple recipe - it was just a matter of spending a little time actually doing it.

Movie: Rambo III

By this point they've figured out that in the audiences' mind, the name of the series is "Rambo", not "First Blood".

Having made a pile of money off the first two movies, a third was created. The result was something halfway between its predecessors: less story and more action than the first, but without the extreme disparity in the second. Still, the point is to build on the enduring memory of the first movie: strong action hero takes on enemy forces, practically single-handedly, and wins. That the final enemy is what seems the whole Russian army is, indeed, going a bit far.

Here's hoping that the fourth installment, recently released, manages to get the high action and meaningful story due a big-budget movie descended from the first Rambo.

Movie: Rambo - First Blood Part II

OK, so the first one was a hit for good reason. Decent story, acting, etc. Appealing to the visceral nature of men.

Given that success, they had to do a second one. They shouldn't have.

While the first Rambo movie had a sane, consistent emotional arc which made for a good story, this second one was just a bunch of action scenes stuck together - and not particularly well done ones at that. I'd suggest they fire the continuity director, except there obviously wasn't one.

Movie: Rambo - First Blood

A pretty good guy movie from its time, capturing the visceral essence of men standing their ground - right or wrong.

Simple premise: walking north along the west coast, John Rambo is just passing thru town and wants a bite to eat ... but the local sheriff escorts the apparent drifter to beyond the city limits, not wanting "his kind" around, and subsequently applies strong-arm measures when our hero doesn't take the hint. The situation escalates into a mental & physical battle of the will.

FWIW: I watched the first 3 Rambo movies back-to-back. They shoulda stopped here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Wine: Almaden Blush Chablis

It will do as a cheap table wine, but simply does not live up to the almost disturbingly drinkable Almaden Mountain Rose. A bit watery and slightly sour. Better options are available.

Movie: Bourne Ultimatum

Not necessarily following on the previous, and apparently unnecessary, installment of the Bourne series, this episode sees David go home to where "Jason Bourne" began. Frenetic filming & action drills home the skill, strength, and relentlessness of this super-agent while seeking what created him. Good solid pop action.

I just wish they'd stop with the sound of cocking guns every single time one gets pointed at someone - especially with the guns that cannot be cocked. Glocks just don't make that sound.

Movie: True Lies

Schwarzenegger as James Bond ... married ... working for the USA ... and she finds out ... while falling for a James Bond wannabe ... when terrorists kidnap both as part of a plot to nuke several US cities. Whee! Great date movie: she gets romantic intrigue, he gets a shoot-em-up. One of the few easy-watching movies worth seeing again.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Movie: Beowulf

Finally, a fairly faithful cinematic take on the ancient English poem. ...yet even this version should have been titled "Beowulf: Wiglaf's Secret", for the scriptwriter & director could not restrain from adding to the classic tale a non-classic subplot, which with a few overt tweaks changes much. Fans of the old tale will be thrilled at the detailed depiction, and dismayed at the added twist - at least until the end, where the "Wiglaf's Secret" comment makes sense.

3D. You gotta see this in 3D. Oh ... you do realize that the classic story of Beowulf is mostly about three very graphically violent fights, right? Not for the squeamish.