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Week of 17 December 2007


Latest Update: Sunday, 23 December 2007 11:41 -0500

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Monday, 17 December 2007
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12:12 - We just got back from the doctor, where Barbara had out-patient knee surgery. Everything went fine, although she'll have to take it easy for the rest of this week. She's propped up on the sofa right now with her books and the TV remote. She'll have to stay home for the next several days. She may return to work on Friday, but it'll probably be Monday.

Every 1.5 hours for the next three days, we have to empty and re-fill the cold sleeve around Barbara's knee with icewater. They provided what looks like a tall Coleman cooler with a hose connected to it. That hose has a connector that fits a mating connector on the cold sleeve. To empty the sleeve, we just connect the hose, put the cooler below knee-level, and then open the vent on the cooler. After it empties, we just lift the cooler to above the sleeve to refill the sleeve with icewater. It takes about 15 seconds each way.

I asked the nurse if we had to change the water every 1.5 hours even during the night, and she said we should try to do so. So I guess we'll set the alarm to wake us up every 90 minutes for the next couple of nights.



We went out to dinner with Paul and Mary last night. I had my usual, A.C.P. shrimp, and my third beer of the year. I think that's a record for the 24 years that Barbara and I have been married. There've been several years when I've had two beers, and I have at least one beer every year, but a three-beer year is unprecedented.

Paul and Mary stopped over at our house before we went to dinner. I asked them to check out my lab, so that if push ever comes to shove I'll have two independent and unquestionably expert witnesses--Mary and Paul are both Ph.D. organic chemists--to testify to the fact that my home lab isn't used to produce illegal drugs or explosives. It's basically a gigantic chemistry set, and they can now attest to that.


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Tuesday, 18 December 2007
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11:27 - Barbara is recovering well. The cooling collar seems to help a lot, and the oxycodone the doctor prescribed seems to be working pretty well. Barbara is trying to take as little of it as possible. I suspect she'll be off it in the next couple of days, although the doctor prescribed enough of it to allow her to take the maximum recommended dosage (2 tablets every four hours) for four or five days.

Barbara took the gauze bandage off this morning, as recommended, before she showered. We have a shower chair that was my mother's, so Barbara was able to shower sitting down. She's napping now, and will probably be taking frequent naps for the next day or two.



Laura Stevens, whose firm O'Reilly has handling PR for the astronomy book, set up a 10-minute interview segment for me with CBS radio to talk about the current close approach of Mars. I'll record the interview this Friday evening. It's scheduled to run Sunday as part of the CBS hourly news broadcast, airing on all CBS radio affiliates nationwide at the top of every hour that day.


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Wednesday, 19 December 2007
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09:55 - Barbara continues her recovery. She hasn't taken any oxycodone since yesterday morning, and says her knee isn't hurting much. She's doing her knee exercises, and is now walking without assistance.

I'm getting ready to do an interview about Mars at 12:30 with Chicago radio station WBBM, which will run this Saturday and Sunday.




I'm getting pretty disgusted with Netflix. From the time I rejoined in late May they'd seldom throttled me. That lasted though about the end of October, when they started throttling me more and more. I put my account on hold for a week over Thanksgiving, with it set to restart automatically on 26 November. They'd received all three of my outstanding discs back well before then, so they should have shipped me three discs on 11/26 for arrival 11/27. Instead, I got one disc on 11/27, one on 11/28, and the third on 11/29. So much for their claimed one-day shipping and one-day turnaround.

That's persisted ever since. More than half the time, Netflix delays shipping a replacement disc to me by at least one day. They often ship them from a remote distribution center, so it takes two or even three days for them to arrive here. And they've started receiving discs I return in two days instead of just one. The net result has been that they're shipping me between half and two thirds as many discs per month as they had been from May through October.

Even ignoring the throttling, it's time for me to drop Netflix for at least a few months. We've pretty much run out of things we want to watch. There are some upcoming releases, like The Tudors, that we want to watch, but they're not available yet. So I'll probably drop my membership on 12/24, the day before this month's payment expires, and rejoin next May or June.


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Thursday, 20 December 2007
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00:00 -



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Friday, 21 December 2007
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13:00 - I actually forgot to post yesterday, the first time that's happened in a long time.

Barbara continues her recovery, although the doctor did not approve her going back to work today. She has a follow-up visit scheduled at 9:00 a.m. on the 26th, at which time he'll approve or disapprove her going back to work. Her firm won't allow her to return to work until the doctor approves it, which seems odd to me. Shouldn't Barbara be the one who decides when she's well enough to return to work?

We shot some more images for the chemistry book this morning. My editor, Brian Jepson, is getting chapter 7 (Solutions) ready for production, and wanted to have all the images in hand. I'm shooting RAW, which produces 10 MB image files for the production folks, and then thumbnailing them to 800X523 JPEGs to embed in the chapters for reviewers to look at.



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Saturday, 22 December 2007
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10:10 - I'm taking advantage of the fact that Barbara will be home for the next few days by getting a lot of images shot for the chem lab book. The gloved hands you'll see in many of the images in the book will be Barbara's. She's taking her book downstairs so that she can sit and read during the long lulls when I'm doing setups, checking results, and so on. I hope to get most of the remaining images shot over the next three days.



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Sunday, 23 December 2007
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11:41 - Yesterday, we got all of the images shot that require Barbara's hands to be holding or doing something. The remaining images are of results, setups, and so on, and so won't require Barbara's presence. I plan to shoot most of them over the next couple of days. Barbara's family is coming over for Christmas dinner, so I'll have to knock off for a couple of hours, but otherwise Tuesday will be a normal work day.

Some of my long-time readers have asked about my plans for nailing Santa this year. I confess that I'm about out of ideas. In prior years, I've tried reindeer nets, reindeer bait, a high-voltage wire and grounding plate in the chimney, cyanide-laced milk and cookies for Santa, anti-aircraft artillery (a ZSU-23/4 Shilka), a slightly-used Patriot missile battery, and even a particle-beam weapon. Nothing has come even close to nailing Santa. He moves really fast, particularly for an old guy. I blame Rudolph, who was probably chosen as leader for his cunning.



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