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Week of 15 September 2008


Latest Update: Friday, 19 September 2008 10:42 -0500

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Monday, 15 September 2008
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07:48 - I upgraded Barbara's system yesterday from Kubuntu 6.04 to Kubuntu 8.04. It took a lot longer than it should have, and it was because I tried to save a few moments.

Every morning, as part of my routine backup procedure, I create a tar.gz archive of Barbara's home directory and copy it to a USB flash drive. I did that yesterday morning, and then I thought to myself that I could save myself a few minutes by copying her home directory directly to another USB flash drive rather than waiting the minute or two it would take to unarchive the tar.gz file. So I did that, and when I'd finished the bare-metal install of Kubuntu 8.04, I copied her home directory from the second flash drive up to a scratch directory.

She'd been running Firefox 2.x and I'd forgotten that Firefox 3.x uses a different format for its bookmarks. Once I remembered that, it was easy enough to import her old bookmarks. Then came her mail. We both use Kmail, and Barbara's mail files are in /home/barbara/mail. So I fired up Kmail to let it create directories, and then copied over her old mail files.

That would have worked, except for one thing. The flash drive to which I did the direct copy is formatted FAT, so not all of her files ended up being written to it. When I fired up Kmail again there were a bunch of messages listed in the messages pane, but when she clicked on them they simply disappeared. The index file made it over, but the actual mail files didn't. Or at least some of them didn't.

The solution was easy enough once I realized what was going on. I just copied the original tar.gz archive file that I'd made immediately before I started the upgrade to a scratch directory, unarchived it, and copied all of the files to her mail directory. Voila. All her mail was back.

At this point, her system is about 99% complete. I still haven't managed to make her PDA sync, but that's a minor issue. All her major stuff is working fine.



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Tuesday, 16 September 2008
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06:54 - Early start this morning. Barbara's dad is having knee-replacement surgery today. She's picking her parents up this morning and taking them to the hospital. It's a routine procedure, to the extent that any surgery is routine, especially for a man of 86. I expect they'll keep her dad hospitalized for several days.


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Wednesday, 17 September 2008
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07:59 - Long day for Barbara yesterday. She left the house around 6:45 a.m. and didn't get home until about 9:00 p.m. Her dad's knee-replacement surgery went fine. He's been moved to the Sticht Center where he'll remain for a few days of continuous physical therapy. After he returns home, they'll send a physical therapist to work with him at home until he's able to do the therapy exercises on his own.

Barbara's going to work through lunch today and leave at 4:00 p.m. to visit her dad in the hospital. She'll get home a bit later than usual, about the time she normally gets home on a gym night. This is all very stressful for her, so we'll try to keep things as normal as possible.

UPS showed up yesterday with the package from Seattle Pottery Supply. As I expected, the chemicals are packed in paper or plastic bags. It's impossible to estimate purity accurately solely by appearance, but the ones I looked at appeared to be very clean. I'll do a quick quantitative analysis on each of them.



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Thursday, 18 September 2008
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07:38 - About 9:15 yesterday morning, the phone rang. It was Kim, and I could tell she was flustered. As it turned out, Jasmine had written a report that was due for an 11:00 a.m. class, but she'd forgotten to print a copy to take to school with her. Kim couldn't get the document to print, so I headed over to Kim's house to get it printed for her so she could deliver it to the school.

I was going to save a copy of the document to a USB flash drive so that Kim could take an electronic copy as well as the printed copy to Jasmine, but when I clicked on the menu there was no option to save, but only to save-as. Oh, boy. Jas had written a 12-page report and never saved it to disk at all.

A couple years ago, I gave Jas a 1 GB USB flash drive, which was large at the time. Kim has since bought her another. I asked Kim if Jas was using her flash drives to back up, and Kim said she didn't think so. I told Kim I needed to explain to Jas about saving early and often and about hard drive failures and data loss, and show Jas how to back up her stuff to optical discs and her USB flash drives.

While we were walking the dogs after dinner last night, I stopped by to talk briefly to Jas about protecting her work. I explained that hard drives fail like light bulbs, and that if she didn't back up the day would come, probably sooner than later, when she'd have cause for deep regret. As always, Jas was polite, but I could tell that she wasn't taking my advice to heart. I'm afraid Jasmine is going to learn the hard way about the importance of saving and backing up.

And that's okay. I've always believed that pain is a good teacher. Protecting kids from painful mistakes is a bad idea, as long as there's no real injury involved. Jas is a bright kid. She's going to get burned, but it'll only happen once. And that's a small price to pay for learning an important lesson.



12:03 - Just as I published this morning, the Lowes delivery truck showed up. They delivered the new cooktop, vent hood, and disposer, but not the dishwasher. The guy said he'd check into it and get back to me. The counter people are coming tomorrow morning to "template" the new counter, which I assume is a fancy way of saying they're going to measure for it.



Barbara has been quite worried about her dad, who didn't seem to be doing as well as she'd hoped. Originally, she'd expected him to go home Friday, but last night she said she thought he might be staying in the hospital for several more days. When I talked to her this morning, she said he's doing much better, so he may go home tomorrow or Saturday after all.



I just spent an hour or so cleaning up my lab, mostly washing glassware. It needs another couple of hours work, but at least I have some work space again. This is why real chemists have lab assistants.


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Friday, 19 September 2008
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07:39 - From two years ago today...

Arrrrrr! Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

I was looking around for a photo I have of our friend Mary Chervenak wearing a pirate eyepatch and with a parrot on her shoulder--actually, it's a small stuffed baby duck, but we did the best we could--but I couldn't find it. Oh, wait, here it is. Arrrrrr!




10:42 - Duncan's rear end is in bad shape. He doesn't have hip dysplasia, but something more akin to osteoarthritis. We've known since he was a puppy that he'd eventually have problems with his rear hips. Our former vet, Sue Stephens, X-rayed his hips when he was young and said that the socket was shallow.

Now, with Duncan almost 14 years old, I'm afraid the socket portion is nearly gone, between wear-and-tear and loss of bone mass similar to osteoporesis. I think I'm going to ask our vet about strontium treatment. An experimental drug called strontium ranelate is in wide use around the world, although it's not approved by the FDA. The results are quite impressive, including among women over 80 years old, for whom other osteoporesis treatments are largely ineffective.

Interestingly, in most current drugs, it's the anion that's the active agent, but with strontium ranelate it's the strontium cation. That made me wonder why they chose the ranelate salt specifically. Apparently, it has to do with minimizing gastric upset, but based on what little I know I would expect the chloride or citrate salts to be equally effective and no more likely to cause gastric upset.

Perhaps patentability was the issue, because strontium ranelate is a very expensive drug. Strontium chloride is inexpensive, has low toxicity, and is widely used for such purposes as toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Strontium citrate is also inexpensive, and is available OTC in moderately high dosages as a nutritional supplement. I'll do some checking into use of strontium in canines, although there may be little or no data available.


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Saturday, 20 September 2008
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Sunday, 21 September 2008
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