A life in the day


Comment Moderation

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:43 am

I’m recently getting tons of comment spam. Until I get some time to investigate the techniques available in WordPress to get rid of it, I will have to moderate comments. I’ll try to look at this in one of the next few evenings.

Update: I’ve also turned off trackbacks for the moment. I’ll figure this out soon.



Filed under: — site admin @ 7:33 pm

Blackfive quotes an entire Baltimore Sun article by Thomas Sowell about the media reporting on American casualties in Iraq but not enemy ones, then talks of Ted Kennedy, saying:

Ask yourself: How can a US Senator denounce our actions in Iraq and call for troop withdrawls just days before a historic Iraqi free election when he knows that fueling doubt about our resolve will embolden the terrorists and possibly create more violence and murder?

Isn’t it the job of the Congress to decide when and where we should be at war? The President is the Commander in Chief, but Congress is supposed to make the decisions about war. We’ve gotten away from that, but it’s what the Constitution says.

As to a Senator emboldening the enemy, I really don’t think there are a lot of Iraqi fighters likely to decide to fight harder because of a loadmouth politician in Washington. Anyone who says that it’s unpatriotic to publicly condemn the actions of our administration doesn’t truly understand what this country is about.

And as to the article itself, I think the author is to some extent correct in that the reporting on Iraq is mediocre, and way too focused on the deaths of Americans. What’s missing is the more balanced picture of what the war has meant to Iraqi civilians. The number of enemy combatants we kill is almost impossible to get given that the Pentagon refuses to make such estimates, and by all accounts, reporters do not have safe access to other sources of information in Iraq. But the lives of ordinary Iraqis could certainly be analyzed. I think it would probably be clear that in the short term the war has made their lives worse. Do Iraqis think their long-term prospects are better and do they think the short-term damage is worth it? Those are questions I’d have our media address.

One other note: the notion that the media has substituted the bland “insurgents” for “terrorists” is preposterous. I’m equally annoyed that the media is using “insurgent” but that is because (I’m pretty sure) the term is coming from the Administration and the military. The neutral term would be the “resistance” but I’m guessing that our government does not want there to be any chance the term is conflated with the French Resistance, who are viewed as heroic. “Insurgency” presupposes that the fighters are opposing a legitimately established government, which the fighters there certainly would deny. (See the Wikipedia entry on Insurgency for more information.) As to calling these people terrorists, perhaps some are. Many, though, consider themselves freedom fighters who are opposing an occupying force, attacking only Coalition military and the security forces of the Coalition-imposed government. Those are not the actions of terrorists. If the United States were invaded by a superior military force and a new government were imposed upon the country, there would certainly be people attacking both the invaders and the imposed government. These people would not, for the most part, be terrorists.


No WMDs — anyone still surprised?

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:21 pm

The New York Times is reporting that the Bush Administration has called the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq over. “A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, […] rejected the suggestion that the administration’s credibility had been gravely wounded in ways that could weaken its future response to perceived threats.” Of course he did. How many more years did they say Bush still has in office?


Diabetes-Hypothyroidism Link

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:50 pm

Go away. You probably don’t want to bother reading this.

Still here, huh? Well, I just had a doctor’s visit, and I want to record what he told me before I forget it. If you care about the link between diabetes and hypothyroidism, go ahead and read on.

Dr. Lampugnale’s office referred me to an edocrinologist, Dr. Abourizk, who directs St Francis Hospital’s Diabetes Care Center. I was referred because after I was diagnosed with diabetes in May, I was diagnosed as hypothyroid in December; we want to find out if there is some underlying issue causing my endocrine glands to malfunction.

We don’t yet have answers to that question (I have some tests scheduled), but I did learn a bit about the potential link between these diseases. First of all, the type of hypothyroidism I have is what’s known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which means that my immune system is creating antibodies to thyroid peroxidase (TPO). These antibodies are attacking my thyroid gland, gradual causing its destruction. So it sounds as though, barring some medical breakthrough, I will be on thyroid medicine for the rest of my life. I didn’t ask about possibilities of this being reversed. I imagine that with my immune system causing the problem, the most we can do is counteract the effects.

Since my immune system is attacking one endocrine gland, there is an elevated risk that it might be attacking another one, namely my pancreas. Something called GAD (glutamic acid decarboxylase, thanks Google) antibodies can attack the islet cells of the pancreas, decreasing production of insulin.

This would not match my diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, which is a problem in the use of insulin, not in its production. But it’s possible that I’m going through a slow onset of Type 1 diabetes, in which case I will at some point become dependent upon insulin. We’ll know more after two tests I’ll have at the end of the month, one testing for GAD antibodies and another scanning the pancreas itself for unusual growth.

I learned several other things in this visit: Hashimoto’s disease is significantly more common among women than men, and has a strong genetic component. If the immune system is attacking these endocrine glands, the adrenal glands are often in for some rough treatment as well. (The first symptom would be loss of appetite; no problem there.) Finally, I learned some about the relationship between the pituitary gland and the thyroid gland. The pituitary releases thyrotropin, a thyroid-stimulating hormone, also known as TSH. TSH induces the thyroid to create the hormone thyroxine (T4) as well as others. This T4 then inhibits the pituitary’s release of TSH, in a negative feedback loop. The most sensitive check for thyroid functioning is the check for TSH, since a drop of 50% in T4 corresponds to an 800% increase in TSH. The normal TSH range is 0.5 - 4 mIU/L. My reading was 9.75 mIU/L. I don’t have a sense of how bad that is, except that I’m now on the lowest dose of synthetic thyroid hormone generally prescribed. (And that mathematically, if the top of the normal range is eight times the bottom, having a level 2.5 times that of the top of the range might not be that bad.)

It sounds as though hypothyroidism won’t complicate the treatment of my diabetes, but it is likely to make certain of its symptoms worse. It’s going to be harder to lower my blood pressure, although today’s 105/88 reading is encouraging. It may also make it more difficult to lose weight. After losing 45 pounds in six months, I put eight back on in short order. Now I’ve taken three of those back off, but it’s very slow going. And hypothyroidsm may create cholesterol problems, although my cholesterol has been very good. Dr. Abourizk discussed putting me on statins. He’s very gung-ho on statins, and an article about the uses of statins, originaly published in the Hartford Courant with quotes from and a picture of Dr. Abourizk, is prominently displayed in his office. I will have to do more research first.

Still, I really am feeling old! I’m going to need one of those weekly pillboxes. :-(


Arguing for an upgrade

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:41 pm

My team has a big architectural meeting coming up soon; it will be time to discuss what’s working, what’s not, what our system wants to be when it grows up. It’s a three-day, offsite meeting. We’re flying in team members from Houston and Indianapolis. It’s a big deal. And I’m trying to prepare.

I want to write a document describing some of the benefits of many of the modern software development tools and techniques. But I’m stumped at where to begin. The problem is that there’s far too much to say.

Our current system is an ASP/VB/SQL Server web application. It works only with IE6. Our ASP pages are mixes of presentation, business logic, and data access. Parts of the navigation relies on Javascript. Some of the HTML is generated inside VB DLLs. There are client-specific functions mixed in with generic stuff. There is a very flat directory structure, with no way to distinguish the functionality of various modules.

There are no automated tests, nor any scripts for manual testing. Building the system is a matter of grabbing the code from several different source-code control databases (and all the code that developers have forgotten to check in), moving it to the production machine, then manually trying out anything you’ve been working on, finding the DLLs you forgot you needed to register, trying it again, calling everyone who worked on the system, adding to the database the tables someone forgot to tell you you needed, lathering, rinsing, and repeating until no one notices any further errors.

And of course there is absolutely no documentation.

The initial system was built by a very talented programmer who was quite new to all the technologies used. She did a great job getting things working, but the system has grown in all directions, and there has been little coordination of the efforts.

What I want to propose is a multi-tiered application architecture, using modern development technologies and techniques. My choice would be Java with Hibernate and Spring, although I don’t have much experience with either framework. But I would certainly be willing to live with .NET or a Python framework. I could even see doing all or some of it in PHP. I would be willing to consider full-fledged J2EE, although that scares me a bit.

Out output should be standards-compliant XHTML and CSS. Javascript should be optional, used only to enhance a working page(1).

Everything should be test-driven. No code should be checked in without passing unit tests, and no code should be written without having tests for it to pass. The builds should be automated. There should be automated functional tests.

In short, we should be building a modern, modular, scalable, testable, automated system.

The trouble is in having so much to say that I can’t seem to even begin actually writing my document. I’ve been working around the edges, mostly analysis of the various options for technology. But I need to work on the main part, and I need to do so soon.

Anyone ever seen good sites describing in management’s terms the advantages to modern techniques?

(1) There is one inescapable exception to this. We have a Javascript WYSIWYG editor. We are told we need to maintain a WYSIWYG editor without relying on any plug-in. Nonetheless, everything else should still work with Javascript turned off.


Martin Sexton

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:13 am

Well, everyone’s been telling me about Martin Sexton for years. I finally got a disk, Black Sheep, and it’s stupendous. This is someone I’m going to have to see live!

Hey folks, sorry I’m so slow. But you were right.

Great, one more artist to collect…



Filed under: — site admin @ 4:51 pm

Long time no blog…

It’s not that there hasn’t been much happening. Just the reverse, in fact. Still suffering some post-election depression, but what can you do?

The big thing was an illness last month. I was in bed for ten days, sleeping 12 - 16 hours per day. I was constantly cold. I also had minor gastro-intestinal distress and some joint aches. The doctor had me tested for what she thought was most likely, hypothyroidism, but also tested to try to rule out Lyme disease.

It turns out I had both! I’m on thyroid medicine and antibiotics, and have been feeling much better.

I guess hypothyroidism is not particularly unusual in diabetics. But I’m going to see an endocrinologist to figure out why my glands are starting to give me problems. When I was diagnosed as diabetic last summer, I immediately started detailed research into it. This time, I’ve read almost nothing. I don’t know why the change, except perhaps that hypothyroidism doesn’t seem nearly as threatening. The Wikipedia entry on hypothyroidism isn’t even a tenth the size of the one on diabetes, and I think that’s evidence that hypothyroidsim is not considered nearly as serious.

The illness and the holidays conspired to slow my excercise program to a halt for almost a month, and I’ve gained back six or eight of the forty-five pounds I’d lost. My blood sugars haven’t been nearly as good as they were, although I’m still doing okay. And the blood pressure is way up. I’m a mess!

Man, I’m feeling old.

And I’m not even 39 yet. (Still seven hours until the birthday!)

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