Sunday, 20 May 2012

08:00 – Barbara’s mom came home from the hospital yesterday, and seems to be doing much better. Both of Barbara’s parents have follow-up visits scheduled with their doctors, and I suggested that Barbara talk to the doctors about prescribing supplemental oxygen for her parents to keep at home, preferably an oxygen concentrator rather than something that requires oxygen tanks.

We’ll finish putting together a batch of 18 chemistry kits this afternoon, and resume shipping them tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m still working on the forensics book.


36 thoughts on “Sunday, 20 May 2012”

  1. Yes, thanks.

    Barbara’s mom has suffered from COPD since the 1950’s and her dad now suffers from congestive heart failure, although at this point it’s still manageable. For both of them, I think having emergency oxygen at home would be a good idea.

    Wikipedia to the rescue. I’d suggested to Barbara and her sister that they talk to her parents’ doctors about emergency oxygen, but at that point I was thinking about one of those units that uses compressed gas cylinders. Those are obviously clumsy, expensive, and dangerous. Then the other night while I was reading about COPD on Wikipedia, I followed links to articles on emergency oxygen. I’d never heard of oxygen concentrators, which are an excellent alternative to bottled oxygen.

    The science is also pretty interesting. The devices themselves are pretty simple. If they weren’t medical devices they’d probably sell for under $100. As it is, they sell for about 10 times that. All the unit does is compress room air into a pair of cylinders that contains zeolite (expanded clay, kind of like vermiculite). At a couple or three times atmospheric pressure, zeolite selective adsorbs nitrogen, leaving the compressed gas in the cylinder hugely enriched in oxygen (something like 90%+ oxygen), which is then fed at atmospheric pressure or slightly higher to the patient. The first cylinder is then vented to the room air. The zeolite gives up the adsorbed nitrogen, the cylinder is flood with room air, and the cycle starts again. Using two cylinders allows the supply of oxygen to be continuous, with the cylinders taking turns producing oxygen and feeding it to the patient.

  2. Nice, except for the price. I wonder if they can be cobbled up privately without the med device designation…

    My maternal grandfather had emphysema late in his life and had to tote around an oxygen tank at the house all the time, but he’d rolled his own ciggies from Prince Albert for sixty years or so.

    Having had episodes of asthma off and on for a couple of decades now, plus the usual bouts with flu, bronchitis and pneumonia, I can certainly attest that not being able to breathe really is the pits.

  3. I add my relief at the good news that Barbara’s mother is back home. Hope she is completely back to normal quickly.

  4. A lovely day here in northern Vermont today, though a tad warm by my admittedly cold-hearted standards. And the standard uniform issue for Mr. and Mrs. Boobus Americanus these days in the warm weather:

    He: Wrinkled and dirty, baggy shorts down to mid-calf, and fat hairy mid-calf sports some kind of indecipherable tattoo. Filthy sneakers or sandals. A baggy dirty t-shirt with some kind of commercial slogan on it hanging down past what is probably a really foul crotch. He is also morbidly obese, by any standard of the last thousand years and more so by current “official” medico standards. More tatts on the fat hairy arms and probably at least one earring. Unshaven, and bald gleaming head. Sometimes there is a ratty goatee that is apparently supposed to inspire fear and dread of, I dunno, Rasputin, the Devil? Often a smoker. Drinks shitty American beer.

    She: Also morbidly obese, she takes pride in exposing as much of her sagging pink or brown flesh as possible, so that the tight garishly colored clothing looks ready to burst asunder and thus expose ALL. Wonderful and similarly indecipherable tattoos on the bulging calves, ankles, and sagging rolls that came into the world originally as her upper arms. A head the size of a canned ham with hair pulled back in a tight bun, and more metal attached thereon.

    Both are loud and obnoxious and annoying and an original thought never entered their heads and any nooz they get of the outside world is from the Faux network or the usual shit on the MSM toob.

    Later I will illustrate the standard-issue uniform of our local pseudo-hippie leftist asswipes.

  5. OFD wrote:

    “And the standard uniform issue for Mr. and Mrs. Boobus Americanus these days in the warm weather…”

    Be careful Dave, or people will start to think you’re a cynic…

  6. RBT wrote:

    “I’d never heard of oxygen concentrators, which are an excellent alternative to bottled oxygen.”

    Glad to hear your mother in law is a lot better and at home.

    I was wondering how reliable this gadget would be, and the consequences of it stopping working at 2 AM on Sunday morning. Would it just be a convenience or is something they will come to depend on critically?

  7. Sorry to hear that. I remember playing their very first record released in the US on the radio, “New York Mining Disaster 1941”. That went over well with college-age kids, but it was “To Love Somebody” that established them as more than college radio performers. Robin’s voice always amazed me, and they always seemed to mix him as the loudest in live TV performances.

    Of course, disco being the ultimate, unsurpassed music form, their contributions there cannot be underestimated.

  8. “Massachusetts” was my favourite back in the late Sixties, but they had so many other good ones, and they wrote some really great songs for others.

  9. Can I get a recommendation for a Linux distro that would be easy for a Windows user to get started with? I’ve played with Ubuntu and Kubuntu in the past, but never got very far. Preferably, I’d like something that Just Works ™.

  10. @Miles: Ubuntu is as close as you are going to get for “Just works”.

    Some people like Linux Mint, but it is really just an adaptation of Ubuntu (meaning that you get any Ubuntu issues plus any Mint issues).

    The biggest problem with Ubuntu is that the new interface (“Unity”) follows the same philosophy as Windows 8, namely, your PC screen looks like an overgrown smartphone. IMHO, this is not a suitable paradigm for a PC.

  11. Thanks Brad, I’ve heard Unity slagged her and elsewhere. Not sure if it’s a good thing or not but the more it’s like Windows, at first at least, the better.

    Wouldn’t Kubuntu be better for that reason? I heard it looked a bit more like Windows.

  12. I was wondering how reliable this gadget would be, and the consequences of it stopping working at 2 AM on Sunday morning. Would it just be a convenience or is something they will come to depend on critically?

    Extraordinarily reliable, just as any certified medical equipment must be. That’s the main reason why the price is ten times what it should be.

  13. Extraordinarily reliable, just as any certified medical equipment must be. That’s the main reason why the price is ten times what it should be.

    I suspect there are two other factors in the price that you left out. Factor one, it could be that one thing that’s still made in the United States. Factor two, almost all of them are paid for by insurance, so who really cares how much they cost? Basically, the seller (whether the manufacturer or a dealer) sets a price as the first round of price negotiation with an insurance company.

  14. I had good luck and results with Mint, Greg, which as mentioned is a clone of Ubuntu but which includes a bunch of otherwise proprietary codecs so most if not all stuff just works. Two examples: it immediately found and put into use our wireless MFP and SimpleScan works immediately and accurately from it. I had zero problems running it from laptops and desktops, but as always, YMMV.

  15. Allow me to lob a contentious poo grenade and say I don’t really care which GUI I use on Linux. They’ll all let me open up a browser or Emacs* or whatever. I spend my time in the applications, not in the GUI. The GUI is just a tool, and they all work well enough once I figure out the way they do things. It might be different if I were a developer of graphical client applications, but as it is, my only real concern is how much of a bite the UI takes out of my system resources.

    * Oh, was that another contentious poo grenade? So sorry…

  16. Kubuntu – dunno, I tried it years ago, but don’t really remember the details. I now use Xubuntu, but wouldn’t recommend it for non-techies. It has occasional hiccups, no big deal if you like to fiddle with things, but not good for normal folk.

    Emacs is definitely a poo grenade. I once spent six months learning it – it was great. A couple of years away, and all that knowedge was gone except for a few shortcuts still in my fingers. Didn’t ^X^C do something? Vi is a lot dumber, but I remember how to use it from one week to the next.

  17. Factor two, almost all of them are paid for by insurance, so who really cares how much they cost?

    After my recent experience on purchasing a CPAP machine I think reason #1 is kickbacks.

    The cost of the machine from my DME was $1700.00. Insurance was going to pay nothing because of my high deductible but the amount would apply to my deductible. Of course the cost of the machine is spread out over 10 months in a “rent to own” sort of program.

    However, the same machine purchased online from a supplier is $1100.00. But my insurance company will NOT apply the cost towards my deductible because the place is not an approved provider. The insurance company wants to reduce healthcare costs but when a cheaper alternative is found, the insurance company denies it.

    I think there is a kickback from the DME to the insurance company. Or the DME is fudging the numbers someway that benefits the insurance company.

  18. One thing I see these days, is how easy it is for behind-the-scenes connections to be made between insurance companies and lots of the people they deal with, on all sides of the equation. I would like to believe we live in a basically honest society, but with companies growing to literally unmanageable sizes (to wit most recent: Jamie Dimon losing $2 billion—now grown to $5 billion—of JPMorgan Chase money), the likelihood there is collusion where there should not be, is high, IMO. I agree with Ray.

  19. The reason to stay away from KDE and Kubuntu, is that their developers are known to be bleeding edge and not to stick within proper coding parameters. That causes problems. For instance, the chief developer at the Rivendell automation project advises not using KDE as the installation OS, because certain of Rivendell’s crucial administrative operations do not work when KDE is installed, even though Rivendell obeys all Linux programming prerequisites, and works on every other major Linux OS.

    IMO, Ubuntu is the safest to start with, if you want what is closest to a Windows-like experience. You can still switch the desktop away from Unity to “Classic Ubuntu”, and there are instructions for that residing all over the web. Wireless Wi-Fi cards are probably the biggest problem you might face. Most install without a hitch, but some distros recognize wireless cards that other distros do not. Broadcom cards used in Dell computers are probably among the worst offenders for not working in Ubuntu.

    Nothing wrong with Mint or Lubuntu, but Ubuntu installs a lot of dependencies and development packages that other distros do not, making installation of most software quite painless. For instance, Lubuntu does not install MP3 packages necessary for some audio programs, like Rivendell and Audacity. Ubuntu already has it (say “yes” when they ask during installation if you want proprietary MP3 files installed), whereas you have to do a manual install of various MP3 packages on Lubuntu.

    My suggestion is to start with Ubuntu, and move to something else after you see how it works with software you want to install.

  20. KDE is, of course, a desktop, not an OS. Kubuntu just includes KDE integrated as the default desktop. Sorry I was confusing above.

    As far as desktops go, every OS developer (including Windows) seems hellbent on a universal desktop for all devices, and they have mutually decided that we will get what tablets and phones use, FU very much. Just like Windows changing the computing convention from white letters on green or amber background to black letters on a white background ‘because that is what paper and books use’—which I have always maintained is much harder on the eyes because on screens it is projected light, not the reflected light of paper,—we are going to get this whether users like it or not. And so far, I don’t see much of a revolt.

  21. Funny how last time crude oil was in the $100 to $110 range, gas around here was $3.20+, but this time wholesale has dropped to the same range, gas is $3.80+.

  22. There are two major indexes for the price of crude oil: Brent and West Texas Intermediate ( http://www.oil-price.net/ ). If your refinery uses WTI crude AND natural gas for the crude oil heater, woo-hoo ! They are making money right now. Those refineries are mainly on the gulf coast.

    If your refinery uses Brent crude AND burns oil for its crude oil heater, it’s on the east or west coast of the USA and going bankrupt.

    There is a huge split between the price of natural gas and crude oil, in the range of 30 or 40 to one. Natural gas is a local commodity and crude oil is a world commodity. The pricing of both is vastly affected by transportation to market issues. There are places in the USA (Rocky Mountains) where over half of the natural gas wells are shut down because of no customers. WTI oil is cheaper than Brent because of all the new oil production in South Dakota but it is difficult to get that oil to market as all the pipelines are full. The crude oil market will get leveled in the next 24 months, the natural gas / crude oil market will stay the same or even get worse.

    Your next car, truck or SUV should be natural gas / gasoline. Go luck on buying one without a huge premium for the dual fuel system and the very expensive natural gas storage tank probably rated for 7,500 psia (just the product liability insurance on that tank makes me shiver).

    The even bigger market getting ready to change is the over the road truckers. Diesel is 4 $/gal. LNG is 1.5 $/gal. 18 wheelers get 6 mpg on diesel or 4 mpg on LNG. 18 wheelers typically drive 100,000 miles/year. The $65K kit to upgrade your 18 wheeler from diesel to LNG is a natural if you can figure out where to buy the LNG from coast to coast. Maybe in a couple of years.

  23. The sad thing is every major auto maker already sells natural gas capable vehicles on every continent save North America and Antarctica.

    When the long distance truckers start using LNG is the day LNG shoots up in price.

  24. Down here taxis are major users of LNG, I’ve been noticing them since 1980 or earlier. ((They have to have a small “LNG” sticker on their number plate and the smell of the exhaust when one passes is quite distinctive.) Long distance truckers seem to use diesel here, which used to be much cheaper than petrol per litre but is now more expensive, although it’s still more cost effective to use diesel I’m told. I’m currently looking at getting a new car to replace my 1993 sedan, and I think I’ll pass on turbo and diesel and just get a straight petrol burner.

    Very few private cars use LNG that I’ve noticed, although we’re a major producer. I think a lot of LNG is used domestically. I’ve thought several times of getting LNG heating, but that would be just another bill and I’m not sure it’s cost effective enough to bother with.

  25. “Just like Windows changing the computing convention from white letters on green or amber background to black letters on a white background ‘because that is what paper and books use’—which I have always maintained is much harder on the eyes because on screens it is projected light”

    For many years, it was possible to change this: to set your windows preferences to display bright text on a black background. Unfortunately, most people never fiddle with settings for foreground/background colors, and more and more applications started assuming black text on a light background. Changing the default settings meant that these applications became unusable.

    I haven’t tried the “old” way for at least 10 years. Anyone out there still fighting? Chuck?

  26. This is one of my pet peeves. Doing it the ‘old’ way, actually seems to be getting more difficult. Every day, I thank Jerry Pournelle for having convinced M$ to provide the ‘Pournelle screen’ in Word—dark blue background with white type. I use that for 99% of my work. If you use that option, it is quite apparent how much easier it is on the eyes, when you switch programs and have to look at black letters on an entirely white background.

    I have looked pretty hard, but find nothing in the Linux/FOSS world which duplicates the Pournelle screen. My son told me AbiWord could be modified to provide that, but he spent about 20 minutes on it, and could not get it figured out. Additionally, most word processors want to show you the color of the typeface you have chosen while typing, so even if you are able to choose white type on dark background, any change in typeface color will destroy the altered setup.

    Moreover, the built-in ‘reverse’ display setups for Windows and Linux are really made for people with vision problems, and make all kinds of other changes, like increasing type and icon size, when all I want is to be able to have white letters on a dark background with no other changes.

    So that really makes Word my only alternative for word processing.

  27. Chuck, what about using a text editor? It’s trivial to change the colour scheme on vim to what you described. You could convert to a document format as necessary.

  28. I’m not sure what the problem is. LibreOffice allows you to customize just about everything about appearance, including document background. Just go to Tools -> Options -> Libre Office -> Appearance.

  29. Well, I’ll be danged. Works like a champ. Set the background to blue, and it automatically changes the typeface to white. Just like Word.

    Not only that, but if I click on View > Print Layout it expands to full screen, similar to Word’s “Normal View”. That is the other thing I have desperately wanted in a word processor.

    I was not able to do this with Open Office when I last spent some time with it (which was a while ago). Linux has been slow to catch up, but they sure are getting there. This is just about the last reason for me to stay in Windows.

  30. “When the long distance truckers start using LNG is the day LNG shoots up in price.”

    There are quite a few long distance truckers using LNG already. And truckers at the port of Los Angeles must use LNG or trucks with extra diesel soot retention.

    The price of LNG is dependent on the price of natural gas. I think that we could double the usage of natural gas in the USA and not affect the price of natural gas. There is just that much natural gas shut in right now. Diesel, being a worldwide commodity like crude, is going to keep on going up especially with Japan shutting down its last nuclear power plant ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/05/japan-shuts-down-last-nuclear-reactor ).

  31. I’ve been using OOo/Libre Office for many years. I think I started using it even before I converted to using Linux exclusively, on 4 July 2004. Word 2000, which is the last version I used, is not reliable. It ate documents regularly, corrupting them beyond recovery. After the third or fourth time I had to recover from backup, I swore off using Word and I’ve never looked back.

  32. Lynn wrote: “The price of LNG is dependent on the price of natural gas. I think that we could double the usage of natural gas in the USA and not affect the price of natural gas.”

    Yes, rationally and logically we could. However, we all know that increased demand comes with increased cost for that which we demand.

    Right now my gas bill carries a commodity cost for the actual product, along with the cost of delivering the product to me. Now that the furnace isn’t on, guess which costs more?

  33. Did I mention that I had my first failure of an M$ hardware product? It was a keyboard. Comma stopped working. No help from taking it apart and fooling around, so I went to Walmart and bought another. That one ($16) was $4 cheaper than the previous one ($20), which I bought on returning to the US almost 3 years ago. It is USB, curved keyboard, but not the curved and humped one. And this one is considerably quieter than the previous, which was not noisy in the first place. Everything working fine on this new keyboard. Have had lots of problems with Logitech hardware, but never before with M$. Unfortunately, this keyboard was the only M$ product at my Walmart. All the rest was Logitech. Hope that is not an omen.

    Now using Libre Office, instead of Word. Don’t really notice a difference, and Libre Office is turning out to be far more configurable than my Word 2003. Office 2003 has been pretty dependable for me—no lost or trashed documents. XP and 2003 were a good combo, but it is clear that Linux is now calling.

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