Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Dr. Thomas H. Milhorat

Dr. MilhoratWe found out some interesting things about Michel's doctor, Thomas H. Milhorat. First, he is THE MAN when it comes to Chiari Malformation and syringomyelia. You can read more about it here, but in 1999, Dr. Milhorat redefined Chiari. His research changed the way everyone looked at the disease. He is a founder and director of the Chiari Institute.

His father, Ade T. Milhorat, was also a famous neurologist/scientist/researcher. He was one of the founders of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the organization that you know from the telethons run by Jerry Lewis every year. The elder Milhorat was one of the leaders in researching Muscular Dystrophy. He died a few years ago at the age of 98 and was still doing research. He published a reserach paper with his son on Chiari and syringomyelia when he was in his 90's!

I would say that we were very lucky to find Dr. Milhorat.

The Healing Continues

MichelAs you can see, Michel's head is healing very nicely. The stiches are out and there is no swelling or sign of infection. Michel is also doing much better neurologically. She can now stand straight with her eyes closed without falling over. She also felt pain in her hand when she touched something hot for the first time in months. She still can't walk a straight line but things are definitely looking up.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Christmas Report

Michel is getting better every day. We were worried that she wouldn't be up to going out for Christmas but she felt OK so we went to her brother's (Jimmy) house. She lasted quite a while before she ran out of energy. Beth had a great time with her cousin Tracey and Mikey was reasonably well behaved (at least for Mikey). He did manage to break two china plates but we will blame that on Kathleen (Jimmy's wife) because she took her eye off of him for a minute. Mikey got the first season of Sponge Bob on DVD. He spent most of Christmas watching that and playing with Beth and Tracey. Beth got a bunch of games for her PlayStation 2. Her favorite so far seems to be Final Fantasy X. She has had Final Fantasy X-2 for a while and has finished it but she didn't have the first game.

Michel is going to the doctor today to have her stiches taken out. Our friend, Cindy, is taking her. Every day is another step on the road of recovery. So far things are going well and we are hoping Michel can be back to her old self soon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Home at Last

BethI brought Michel home at about 7 PM. Her potassium levels were good and she had no fever so they decided to let her loose. It's good to have her home. I just want to add at this point that everyone at North Shore Manhassett was wonderful. The staff there was as professional and as dedicated as you would ever hope for.

Beth's ear wasn't too bad. The NP gave us a prescription for anti-bacterial cream and orders not to wear an earring for a few days until it heals. When it gets better, Beth has to wear hoop earrings for awhile to give the ear a chance to fully heal. Not bad considering the horror stories that we heard about infections so bad that the earring had to be surgically removed.

The picture is Beth at the doctor's office and no, she is not playing the air guitar!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Still Not Home

MichelMichel wasn't released so we are hoping for tomorrow. She has been running a fever and has a sore throat so they might keep her until Wednesday. She has her IV out so she can walk around without lugging the pole with her. They removed the bandage from the back of her head so you can see the full incision now. I have provided it as a link so the sqeamish can avoid seeing it. Overall, she is feeling pretty good and we are looking forward to having Michel home.

I should add that I printed the picture of the Christmas tree and brought it to the hospital so Michel could enjoy it. it is amazing what a good picture you can get from these digital cameras.

Meanwhile, Beth had her ears pierced a couple of months ago and one ear has always bothered her a little bit. It looks like she has a nice infection going now. She is probably going to need some antibiotics so I will be taking her to the doctor tomorrow if it doesn't look any better.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Sunday Report

Merry ChristmasI only got to see Michel for about 30 minutes today. I had hoped that Michel's brother would be able to watch the kids but they had plans so they could only watch them for an hour which gave me about 30 minutes at the hospital. Michel wasn't feeling well. She has a cold and has been running fevers on and off. Her potassium levels were low again so she had to get more IV's. We walked three times around the floor and she wasn't worn out. Cindy had complained about the IV stand because the wheels wouldn't turn so they got Michel a new one. It was much easier to push it around the floor when the wheels actually move. We are still hoping Michel will be getting out tomorrow but with the potassium levels and the fevers we aren't overly optimistic. Michel's parents should be back tomorrow.

The picture is of our Christmas tree that my sister put up yesterday. Laura and Beth helped decorate it. Thanks Barb! The cat underneath the tree is Kokie.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Michel's Recovery Continues

MichelMichel has been running slight fevers off and on all day so she doesn't feel quite as well as she did. The doctor came in and he said that she is doing very well and is on course to be booted out on Monday. We walked around the floor twice while I was there. Our friend Cindy dropped in to see Michel. And Eileen's flowers finally were delivered... and they weren't dead. Actually, they were very pretty.

My sister, Barbara, came over, cleaned the house, decorated for Christmas including putting up the tree, and watched Mikey while I went to the hospital and did some shopping. The house feels like Christmas now. Barb's daughter, Laura, took Beth Christmas shopping since Michel isn't going to be doing any and I am not the right person to be picking out clothes for Beth. Michel's parents went back to Brooklyn but they will be back on Monday.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Friday Report and Pictures

MichelI visited Michel after work. She is doing great. I brought her some chicken soup and a bagel. It is amazing how quickly she is recovering from the surgery. She said the pain is very mild. The worst pain is that she had to get an IV with potassium and that apparently burns like hell going in. She has a fat lip. Apparently the anesthesiologist screwed up and Michel bit her lip during the surgery. Michel's surgeon, Dr. Milhorat, was not pleased.

MichelMichel now has three zippers in her head. The big one is under that bandage. She got up for a little bit while I was there and we walked around the hallways. Michel's sister, Eileen, sent flowers but they got lost somewhere in the hospital so we looked around for them. No luck. There were some dead flowers at the nurse's station but they weren't from Eileen.

Morning Update

MichelI spoke with Michel on the phone and she is feeling pretty good considering what she has gone through. She has normal post-operative pain but none of the chiari pain that she has been living with since July. I won't get to see her until tonight because I had to go to work today.

Since I haven't been to the hospital yet today, here is a picture of the hospital that I took yesterday. Nice blue sky!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Two more reviews written...

and another waiting. I read three books in three days while waiting in various waiting rooms at the hospital. I posted the review of Explorer's Guide to the Semantic Web and Core Java 2, Fundamentals today. I still have to post the review of the best of the three books, SWT/JFace in Action. I'll try to get to that one tomorrow.

Second Surgery

Michel A perfect surgery! The operation was 7 hours long but everything went perfectly. They repaired the base of Michel's skull and she now has a plate in her head. I'm not sure what exactly was involved but it was very extensive. The doctors who performed the surgery are the director and associate director at the Chiari Institute, Dr. Milhorat and Dr. Bolognese.

They let me see Michel at around 3:30 PM but she was still out of it. She is spending the night in the recovery room and being sent back to a regular room tomorrow. She seemed to be in a lot of pain compared to Tuesday's surgery. I'm just glad that this is all over and we can start the recovery process.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Day After

Michel is doing very well. She got up and walked around a bit and they let her eat a regular meal for supper (ziti with meatballs). Surgery is tomorrow at 7:30 AM. This surgery will definitely be the worse of the two as they have to cut through the muscles in her neck to get to the section of her brain that they need to work on. If everything goes well they spring her on Monday or Tuesday.

Here is the picture of the day. Rather than post it I have linked to it because some people may be a bit too squeamish to look at it. The doctor came to change the bandage and while he had Michel's head exposed I got a shot. You can see the two incisions in the picture. The larger one on the top of Michel's head is shaped like an upside down "J". At the top of the "J" is a bump under Michel's skin. That is the shunt. You can see the second incision by Michel's ear. The incisions are held together with staples (and yes, they do sometimes use a glue stick). Michel has another incision in her abdomen but I didn't get a shot of that one.

The shunt itself is an amazing piece of technology. It can be set to let more or less fluid flow through it as needed. They use a magnet to change the setting so that they don't have to operate again.

I just want to add a special thanks to the gang at JavaRanch. I appreciate all the good words of support and the beautiful flowers and the teddy bear. You guys and gals are the greatest!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Day in Pictures

Michel This is Michel sitting in the kitchen waiting for it to be time to head off to the hospital. Surprisingly, Michel was not the least bit nervous. She was just anxious to have the surgery so the pain that she has had since her fall back in July would go away.

Michel Here is Michel waiting at the hospital for the surgery. She is listening to London Calling by The Clash. The surgery was scheduled for 3:30 but they wanted us there at 1:30. The problem with showing up on time is that you have to wait.

Michel The surgery was over in almost exactly three hours which is what the doctor told us it would take. It went perfectly and I got to see Michel in recovery about an hour after the surgery was over. Michel's first words when I saw her in recovery were, "I love my shunt." (This is a reference to the Julia Sweeney movie, God Said, "Ha!") The pain between her shoulders was gone for the first time since July. Amazing!

MichelMichel was brought up to the room fairly quickly. She is sore but in good spirits. And she is bald. Completely bald. Totally bald. But she is still beautiful. The next surgery is scheduled for 7:30 AM on Thursday.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Review - Building Portals with the Java Portlet API

Building Portals with the Java Portlet APIReviewed another very good book. I downgraded this one a little bit because the writing isn't as crisp as some of the other books I've read. On JavaRanch, I am giving this 8-horseshoes which makes it a high 4-star book. In the book, the authors mention a web site they are setting up to support the book but at the time of this review, the site didn't exist. The site was supposed to provide some additonal information about using Pluto that the authors didn't include in the book.

Brain Surgery

A BrainTomorrow is the big day. Michel is getting her head chopped open and her brain messed around with. Tomorrow is actually shunt day. Thursday they go back in again to fool around with the base of her brain. I think they need to do the shunt first to relieve the pressure in her brain otherwise when they do the other surgery her head will explode like a can of Coke that has been shaken up. Or something like that.

It just seems like something comes up every year around Christmas. It's always somebody is sick and needs to spend some time in the hospital. We picked up Michel's parents from Brooklyn yesterday. They will be spending some time with us taking care of the kids while Michel is in the hospital. If I say that they are life savers, that would be an understatement.

Since Michel is going to have her head shaved for the surgery, she went and got a short haircut on Saturday. It looks really pretty. Of course, it will all be gone tomorrow but hair grows back. Bald and with staples in her head... my little Frankenstein monster! I will be sure to post some pictures of before and after!

We did get some good news that I forgot to mention. Beth made the honor roll at school. I talked to all of Beth's teachers and they all said that they are happy to have Beth in their class and that she is wonderful girl. This is such a relief after the bad year she had at Our Lady of Mercy. Her sixth grade teacher was a disaster and whenever I asked her why Beth wasn't doing well I always got the same response, "Sixth grade is much harder than fifth grade." What a load of crap. Beth is doing great, loves her teachers, and has made a bunch of great friends. I'm sorry that I ever wasted my money putting Beth in private school.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Blackadder speaks out about free speech

Rowan Atkinson"To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion - that is a right. That is a freedom. The freedom to criticise ideas - any ideas even if they are sincerely held beliefs - is one of the fundamental freedoms of society. And the law which attempts to say you can criticise or ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very peculiar law indeed. It all points to the promotion of the idea that there should be a right not to be offended. But in my view the right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended. The right to ridicule is far more important to society than any right not to be ridiculed because one in my view represents openness - and the other represents oppression." - Rowan Atkinson, speaking out about the latest attempt to criminalize speech in Britain.

BBC article

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Review - Java Reflection in Action

Java Reflection in ActionAnother five star book review. I seem to be finding a bunch of excellent books. This one covers reflection. Reflection is an interesting topic but it also seems to be poorly understood out in the programming world. Everyone knows about reflection but they don't seem anxious to use it in their code perhaps for fear of performance hits or fear of complexity.

About a year ago, another publisher sent me a manuscript of a book on reflection proposed by these authors. It seemed to be geared towards college graduate students and wasn't particularly practical. At the time, I told the publisher that the topic was a great idea but that the approach was all wrong. What was needed was a book that programmers could use in their every day work which would provide them with the knowledge to make use of reflection. It seems that someone took my advice because that book was never published and instead a completely different book, geared towards business programmers, was written by the same authors. So go out and buy this book so that my advice will make me look smart! ;)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Twenty-five Years of Programming

This month is the 25th anniversary of the start of my career as a computer programmer. It was December 3rd, 1979 that I started at Dun and Bradstreet as an Assembler/COBOL programmer. I was working on an IBM 370, which was a state of the art mainframe. This was before the days of personal PC's so programmers were looked on as almost magical. No matter what information you wanted, if it was on a computer you needed a programmer to get it for you.

This first job was in New York City on Church St., just a few blocks north of the World Trade Center. I worked with a fantastic group of people and it was probably the most fun of any job I have ever had. There were a few not-so-fun things that happened shortly after I started. First, the Long Island Rail Road went on strike for a week in what was one of the coldest Decembers in memory. I had to take a bus into the city and then catch the subway. I was tempted to quit right off the start. Then in the Spring, the subways went on strike. The first couple of days I took the train in to the city and then walked, took a bus, took PATH trains, to get to the downtown office. Then they started letting us go into work at night. That actually worked out great as parking was available on the street at night.

In twenty-five years the changes that have happened in the IT field have been amazing. The things that come to my mind are: the change from mainframes to servers, the growth of languages like C and Java, object oriented programming, open source programming, and the biggest one of all, the growth of the internet. From an IT person's point of view, not all of these things have made our jobs better. In many ways, these changes have commoditized what we do making us less valuable as individuals to a corporation. Or maybe I'm just missing the good old days of my mispent youth. I do know this... I would not recommend an IT career to anyone.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Multiple Inheritance

It's been quite a while since I have had anything to say about Java but an article on JavaLobby made me want to respond. The gist of the article is that multiple inheritance is wonderful and would solve many problems for developers and Java should allow it. Let me just sum up my feelings by saying that this is an incredibly bad idea. The lack of multiple inheritance in Java is a good thing, not a defect.

There are two rules that sum up my thinking on this. One comes from Joshua Bloch and the other comes from the gang of four:

1) Favor composition over inheritance
2) Inherit interfaces and not implementations

Inheritance is abused in OO programming and allowing multiple inheritance is inviting more abuse. We should program to interfaces and use those to support multiple inheritance. We should combine separate interfaces in a single class in order to provide the appearance of multiple inheritance. On the good side, the author of the original article did write a post script in which he admitted that he could get around his problem by using interfaces. And that is exactly the right way to do it!