Neologism: Leaning Tower of Hangout

Sep 22 2020

Leaning Tower of Hangout - noun phrase - The covid-19 quarantine phenomenon in which one discovers a stack of hangouts on one's work calendar, all for the exact same time, all flagged as required, all scheduled while you were asleep the night before.

ref, Towers of Hanoi.

Wrestling with mental and physical health.

Sep 17 2020

This isn't easy for me to write because it involves my mental health.  So, if it's not your bag feel free to skip this post.

Helping my mom since her cancer diagnosis has left me in this peculiar state where I don't actually know what I'm feeling.  I call it "running on wires," as in, the silicon I'm connected to is running me, and the organics are off doing... something, maybe.  My therapist calls it alexithymia, and reading about it that's as good a word for it as any.

I've been fighting with clinical depression for most of my life, ever since my grandmother died in 1987 or 1988.ev (somewhen around fourth grade).  I've been in and out of various forms of therapy for most of my life, and while everything seems to help for a while it never lasts.  I've also been fighting with my body's weight (hang on... my weight) for about as long.  When I get depressed my diet goes to hell in a handbasket, and I know that I've put on some weight during the time I was in Pittsburgh.  I don't know how much because I haven't weighed myself, and I haven't wanted to weigh myself because I don't know how I'd react to seeing just how many pounds I've put on.

Under the cut, discussion of eating disorders.  Punch out if you want.

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Calculating entropy with Python.

Sep 13 2020

Fun fact: There is more than one kind of entropy out there.

If you've been through high school chemistry or physics, you might have learned about thermodynamic entropy, which is (roughly speaking) the amount of disorder in a closed system.  Alternatively, and a little more precisely, thermodynamic entropy can be defined as the heat in a volume of space equalizing throughout the volume.  But that's not the kind of entropy that I'm talking about.

Information theory has its own concept of entropy.  One way of explaining information theory is that it's the mathematical study of messages as they travel through a communications system (which you won't need to know anything about for the purposes of this article).  In the year 1948.ev Claude Shannon (the father of information theory) wrote a paper called A Mathematical Theory of Communication in which he proposed that the amount of raw information in a message could be thought of as the amount of uncertainty (or perhaps novelty) in a given volume of bits (a message) in a transmission.  So, Shannon entropy could be thought of as asking the question "How much meaningful information is present in this message?"  Flip a coin and there's only one bit - heads or tails, zero or one.  Look at a more complex message and it's not quite so simple.  However, let's consider a computational building block, if you will:

One bit has two states, zero or one, or 21 states.  Two bits have four possible states: 00, 01, 10, and 11, or 22 possible states.  n bits have 2n possible states, which means that they can store up to n bits of information.  Now we bring in logarithms, which we can think of in this case as "what number foo would we need in 2foo to represent the number of bits in a message?"

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Chemotherapy begins.

Sep 11 2020

Mom had her first round of chemotherapy last Tuesday.  Early that morning I drove her to the Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC, got her checked in, and had to leave as they took her back because, due to the pandemic and generally immunosuppressed state of the other patients in the office I posed a contamination risk.  I spent most of the day puttering around the house, fixing stuff up, cleaning, and getting a bit of dayjob work done after dropping her off.  Mom spent most of the day hooked up to one IV line or another.  Unsurprisingly, it took some time to get the actual procedure started: Mediports can be used for drawing blood samples as well as administering medications.  However, while it was possible to flush her mediport with saline the doctors weren't able to draw any blood samples through it and they couldn't proceed until they were able to.  As I understand the situation, it required three heparin flushes to un-fuck the catheter, which took roughly 90 minutes.

Mom's oncologist says that each run of chemo has to be compounded specifically to the patient's current blood stats, height, and weight, which is why vitals and blood samples need to be taken every time.  Seems like it's pretty tricky stuff to get right and it gets mixed up immediately prior to administration.  Thing is, if the blood sample takes a while to get, the compounding process takes a while, and and and... this is why cancer patients normally bring lunch and things to occupy their time while they're in the office hooked up.  Once they got things going, though, they started the process off with a prophylactic IV antibiotic (probably to minimize the risk of something already in her system getting any ideas while her immune system is suppressed), IV benadryl (because hypersensitivity to chemotheraputic drugs is a known problem), and an IV dose of an anti-nausea drug before the actual chemo drugs went in.

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A quick and easy way of downloading MP3s from Youtube.

Sep 08 2020

Let's say you find a particularly banging' track on Youtube that you'd like to save for posterity.. what's an easy way of grabbing just the audio so you can listen to it later?  Sure, you can go hunting for a sketchy website that'll download the video, strip out the audio, and give it to you in a download, but those come and go and you can never be sure you're getting what you want.  My personal favorite technique is to use youtube-dl: youtube-dl -x --audio-format mp3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO2dPcvf1BQ

But I can never remember off the top of my head what combination of command line switches to use, I always have to go through youtube-dl's online help to find it.  Recently I realized that I could set a shell alias for this command and go about my usual business.  Oh, and document it so the next time I have to set up a box, I can just search my blog for what I did...  It was trivial to do, I just added the following to my ~/.bashrc file: alias mp3-dl='youtube-dl -x --audio-format mp3'

Now I just have to do this:

{09:28:27 @ Tue Sep 08}
[drwho @ windbringer mp3] () $ mp3-dl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO2dPcvf1BQ
[youtube] EO2dPcvf1BQ: Downloading webpage
[youtube] EO2dPcvf1BQ: Downloading MPD manifest
[dashsegments] Total fragments: 12
[download] Destination: Warren Zevon - Real or Not w_Lyrics-EO2dPcvf1BQ.webm
[download] 100% of 1.64MiB in 00:01
[ffmpeg] Destination: Warren Zevon - Real or Not w_Lyrics-EO2dPcvf1BQ.mp3
Deleting original file Warren Zevon - Real or Not w_Lyrics-EO2dPcvf1BQ.webm (pass -k to keep)
{09:28:45 @ Tue Sep 08}
[drwho @ windbringer mp3] () $ 

Share and enjoy!

Another eventful couple of weeks.

Aug 30 2020

CW: Stuff about medicine, post-surgical care, and cancer.  Feel free to close the tab if you need to.

It's been a couple of weeks since my last update.  I was working on a different post in my spare time but I'm not entirely pleased with how it's turning out, plus I think it needs a lot more work, so I thought it'd be easier to write about the last week and change.  By "easier," I mean "easier to write," not "easier to handle."

A little over a week ago, on the 21st of August, I was killing time with mom rewatching Twin Peaks (she didn't know there was a third season so of course we had to rewatch the first two beforehand).  Nothing fancy, just the television and me hacking around a bit on a project.  Partway through the episode, around 2230 local time, she said in that quiet voice that in my family means that something is terribly wrong, that she was having trouble breathing and that I needed to call 911.  I'm sorry to say that I was expecting that something like this would occur so I kept my phone within arm's reach and had a go-bag packed and standing by, so it was the work of a few seconds to dial emergency services, give a situation report, request an ambulance, and get my stuff together.  There isn't much to say about the process of paramedics showing up, gathering data, loading my mom onto a stretcher, and heading to the hospital.  There wasn't any room in the ambulance, unfortunately, so I had to call in a favor from a neighbor to follow.

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Update from the homestead.

Aug 02 2020

CW: Stuff about medicine, post-surgical care, and wounds.  Feel free to close the tab if you need to.

This won't be easy for me to write, mostly because I'm tired, scatterbrained, and trying to put everything in some kind of order.  I'm pretty stressed out and my allergies aren't helping, either.  It's also been difficult to find ideas to put together right now.

Cancer is a nasty adversary.  It runs you down, robs you of your strength, and tries to steal away your dignity.  The overall supply of dignity in the world right now is starting to run low and I don't want to contribute to that.  I'd be lying if I said that I knew, really knew, what mom was going through right now.  I don't, and I can't.  I can imagine what it's like from being here and watching and helping as best I can but that's not the same thing.  Cancer can also throw you curveballs in the same way that an entire team of pissed off baseball pitchers could.  When there are rogue immortal cells gobbling up the body's resources faster than they can be replenished it really wipes you out.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that my mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer and I flew back to Pittsburgh to help take care of her.  Since that time it's been a whirlwind of activity around the old homestead, picking up, cleaning, throwing things out, fixing stuff, ordering parts and tools, and generally trying to get the house ready for her to come home.  It's been a pretty big job, involving more driving in a day than I've done during the entire covid-19 lockdown (that's not saying much, I don't drive all that much back home) and finding myself on a first-name basis with the staff of our friendly neighborhood chain hardware store because they've been helping me track down the stuff I needed.  Closer to mom's discharge date I had to call in assistance with the house because it just got to be too much for one body to handle, and as of when I write this we've been able to make some pretty serious changes for the better.

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At HOPE 2020...

Jul 25 2020

Wednesday... 29 July 2020... 1300 hours Eastern... the Fediverse takes Manhattan.

Join us... at HOPE 2020.

I dropped out of sight for a couple of days.

Jul 22 2020

Observant readers may have been wondering why I seemed to drop off the grid for a couple of days.  Timed posts kept going up as expected, and undoubtedly other socnets seemed like they were being operated by my exocortex (which they were, for the most part).  You've probably been wondering what happened.

You know what?  Fuck it.  I don't have the compute cycles right now to do a proper intro.  I count it as fortune that I have the compute cycles just to type this right now.  There's no easy or polite way to talk about it.  My concentration is shot, my attention span rapidly approaches epsilon, and to be honest I'm a little fed up with Dora (Mom's cat) attacking me repeatedly because she's scared, confused, and doesn't understand what's going on or where her catmom is.

I will say, however, that I sought out permission before writing this.

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