Taking Heart

Since I haven’t been to Pennsylvania to see my father since I started working at Info Tech in September and since plane tickets were cheap and snow wasn’t in the forecast, we flew up to Williamsport yesterday.  Dad looks good, all things considered (growing old in not a task for the weak or cowardly).  We had a good visit and two more days here.

But that’s not the point of this post.

We flew out of Gainesville despite all the problems we had there when we came back from Greece.  Please don’t take this as any sort of endorsement of Gainesville Regional Airport because it really is a po-dunk one-horse place.  But maybe because it is a po-dunk one-horse place, the flight crews that come into it are, shall we say, more relaxed at times.  Every time I fly, I remember the flight announcements from an Eastern flight a million years ago, just as Eastern was failing.  The crew knew they were all losing their jobs soon and decided to go out with a smile:  “Okay, if you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years, I’m going to show you how to use your seat belt.”

Delta’s Connection isn’t going under quite as soon (probably) so the crew was a bit more circumspect.  Still, the flight attendant included prayer as one of the things to do as you were putting on your oxygen mask and even included it as she acted out how to don the mask.  But more interestingly was the announcement from the pilot that we would be given priority into Hartsfield because we were carrying a heart.

Okay, so there were 53 other hearts on board, but those were in bodies, not in coolers.  And, since I wasn’t sure quite what I’d see in Williamsport, I welcomed the opportunity to think about what having a heart on board meant (beside landing with no circling and getting a gate with no waiting).

Two families were dealing with significant emotions…one at the loss, probably sudden, of a loved and the other at the chance for new life (and you just  know the phrase “Christmas miracle” was bandied around that hospital waiting room more than once yesterday).  Hey, it helped to know there were people who were bigger emotional basket cases than I was.

But then I started to wonder, is it really the case that the loss was sudden?  Who are these heart donors anyway?

The Internet is an amazing place and http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/latestData/rptData.asp has all the answers, some of them a bit surprising.

There were 6,011 heart donors last year.  The largest number of them died of stroke (2,471), but a lot (2,340) died of blunt injury (only 942 of these were motor vehicle accidents though).  There were 539 gun shot wound caused deaths.

What I find peculiar is there were 736 who died of cardiovascular causes.  So, the heart didn’t work in one person, let’s try it in someone else?  And there were 243 deaths caused by drug intoxication.  I guess the  drugs caused fatal damage to something other than the heart.

One thing that did come out is that almost all donors died of something sudden.  And getting into Atlanta so quickly was no fluke.  The shelf life of a heart is only about 5 hours.  You have to figure it was still in the guy’s chest when we left for the airport at 4:30 AM, since we didn’t get to Atlanta until a little after 7:00 AM.  What with rush hour traffic, surgical prep, etc. they didn’t have much time.  (That may explain why gate checked baggage took a while to come off the plane.)

And so ends today’s distracting thought.

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Christmas Music, Greek-style

Okay, so the elevators at our hotel in Athens have been playing Christmas music since we arrived Saturday.  This has been peculiar for a number of reasons.

  1. How do they know when to start playing Christmas music?  They don’t have Thanksgiving, so why was it already playing November 28?  Advent hadn’t started, nor had December.
  2. Why is it all in English?  Are there no Greek Christmas songs?
  3. Why is so much of it religious?  This is a fairly international hotel (at least half the entrees are vegetarian, for example and far fewer than half the guests are American), so you’d figure they’d be less likely to play religious music.  But no, lots of it is straight from the hymnal.
  4. And why is so much of it, well, peculiar?  It’s gotten so Charlie’s afraid to get in the elevator.  Of course, I love it.  A new personal favorite is “Never Do a Tango with an Eskimo.”

Yes, “Never do a Tango with an Eskimo.”  A fine piece of music, if you ask me.  (An abomination if you ask anyone else.)  If you haven’t heard it recently, or ever, take a listen at http://www.turnbacktogod.com/never-do-a-tango-with-an-eskimo-song/ .

Besides the joy of the song with a title like that, be sure to notice:

  • Don’t you wish Rankin/Bass (of the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer tv special) had found this instead?  I’ve been meaning to try out animation software though.  Maybe I’ve found my muse.  Appropriate, given my location…
  • The end sure sounds more like a cha cha than a tango to me.  But I like this song, so that tells you about my musical knowledge/taste.
  • The site is for born-again Christians.  Umm, and what do Eskimos have to do with that?  Or maybe it’s the tango?
  • But check the lyrics…there’s nothing about Christmas at all in them.  This should get the creative among you writing new verses.  How about:
When Jesus does a tango, he'd prefer to have a mango
In the fruit bowl that he eats from at the break.
But mangoes in the snow just don't have a chance to grow,
So Eskimos have none for goodness sake.

I guess this means I shouldn’t complain about Christmas music when I get home.  But I still will.

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Lights, Cameras, Athens

One of the unexpected benefits of sabbatical is being able to travel at times other than summer and Christmas vacation. So we really took advantage of this by taking a cruise from Rome to Athens, via Turkey, Cyrus, and Egypt.

We’re in Athens now and have seen all the obligatory sites and taken the obligatory photos. But even though it’s been done before, standing in the shadow of the Parthenon is still pretty durn amazing.The Parthenon

Of course, we also get to see the unusual sites, traveling on our own.  At our local Metro station, there’s an archeological display, since apparently you can’t dig anywhere around here without hitting ruins.

Athens Metro Station

Still, it wouldn’t be travel without some fun and games.  The lights in our room in the Athens Hilton have been a source of amusement for me and annoyance for Charlie.  The closet has a light that comes on automatically when you open the closet and, well, stays on.  I can sleep through just about anything when I’m tired enough (and hiking up the Acropolis makes you tired enough), but Charlie was bound and determined to figure out how to turn out the light.

Athens Hilton

We finally discovered if you take the bulb out of the socket, the light goes off.  Then the next night, we got to learn how the night light in the bathroom was controlled.  (By the switch by the bed of course, you silly Americans!)

One of the strange things about traveling in November is going away when people stay and work. In the academic world, when one professor gets a vacation, they all do, so there’s no going back to an office three weeks ahead of you. Things will be interesting Thursday.

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Today’s geeky thought

So, as part of sabbatical, I’m maybe going to get involved in CMMI and trying to increase the process maturity here.  (Yes, I’m so old I still think of it as the Process Maturity Model.)  Now, what the heck do I really know of process maturity, me a denizen of the ivy covered tower?

And it struck me today.  I’m involved in the AP CS exam, both developing and grading the exam.  And, thanks to the work of a whole lot of people, AP CS really is at level 5.  Maybe not the development of the exam, but oh my, the grading of the free response sure strikes me as a well known, well documented system where measurements are taken and used for improvement.

Cool.  I really might be able to help.

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Sorry Thomas Wolfe…

You can go home again.

You just can’t bring the cat.

So, today we moved back to Gainesville, my home town.  I’ve moved away and back once before when I went to college, joined the army, and saw the world.  After seeing the world, I learned Gainesville wasn’t all that bad.

But I got my degree and left again.  Not really for good, since Charlie always had a job here.  But enough so I can say I’ve come home again.  We closed on a house last Thursday but today is our official move in day.  We’ll be spending our first night here tonight.  We moved the animals today too–Linus the nervous dog with Charlie and Ike the big old cat with me.  Linus made the trip surprisingly well, thanks to a quarter of a doggie tranquilizer, a cozy crate, and some preliminary training in the car with lots of treats.

At first, it looked like Ike did just as well.  He’s always been pretty unflappable.  With as much as Linus barks, Ike has learned to ignore commotion around him.  He was a bit skittish in his carrier at first, but mellow enough so I could open the door and pet him.  He finally decided to move to the back and get a nap for the rest of the drive.

But Ike may be too unflappable.  We got to the house, I set up a litter box and then brought the carrier in and opened its door.  And Ike stayed in the carrier.  I figured he’d come out when he was ready, so did some more unpacking.  While Ike stayed in the carrier.  We even brought his cat condo, so he’d have something familiar here.  And because he’s so good about scratching it instead of the furniture.  Still, Ike didn’t think that the condo was worth coming out of the carrier for.  So I removed the carrier door and let him have some time to figure it out.  Linus would go into the carrier to visit and Ike did come out a couple of times, looked around, realized he didn’t know the place, and went back in to sit down, stare out, and not be flapped.

I finally carried him to the condo, where he looked around for a bit, meandered to a corner to hide in, and, after a few minutes, went back to the carrier.  But he decided to stop in his litter box first.  That was 2 hours ago and he’s still in the litter box. I even sat and knit with him for a while and even yarn wasn’t enough to entice him.

I finally realized that he hasn’t lived any place but “his” house in Macon for the last 4 years.  He hasn’t even been out of there for more than a year.  So I guess we can give him a day or two to realize there can be other places in the world and he can live there.

After all, he’s not hte one coming home again.

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no service

(from an email I sent to Charlie yesterday, while traveling to buy our new home in Gainesville)

my phone can’t get a signal  it is pouring i am pissed

(he claims it’s pure poetry…I meant it to be a little bit bitchier than that)

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And so we begin

So, I’m on sabbatical for the 2009-2010 academic year.

I applied for it almost a year ago and had to describe what I was going to do.  Really?  Am I really supposed to know what I’m doing a year ahead of time?

Fortunately, I’ve reached the point where I figure you may as well be honest, so one of my goals was to live with my husband.  We’ve worked in different states since January 1990 and thought it might be fun to try being in the same town for a while.  So far, so good.  We made an offer on a house in Gainesville last week, had it accepted (okay, we’d done lots of verbal negotiation before going to G’ville to sign the official offer), got a mortgage preliminarily approved, and did the home inspection.  (Yeah, Charlie was busy.)

I also wanted to get some time to explore something in depth.  Teaching 6 different courses a year ranging from Excel for business students to Compiler Theory for computer science majors has kept me a generalist.  Even my extra-curricular work has kept me in a lot of different areas.  As program chair for CCSC:SE, I get to evaluate a broad range of papers (with the help of some wonderful reviewers), but as member of the APCS development committee, I get to do first year computer science education in lots of depth.  And then there’s the programming contest, where I get to think like a code hacker.  So, depth in one area would be fun.

So far though, I can’t shake my internal generalist.  I have spent some time doing more Rails, working through Head First Rails.  I have gone to Rails Conf a couple of times, but that’s usually right at the end of the academic year, so I can’t go back to school and start using what I learn (and the class that ties in best with Rails is taught at most once every other year).  And I’ve just downloaded the Mojo SDK to create apps for the Palm Pre.  That’s a whole blog post in and of itself.  It wasn’t quite ready for prime time, but there are lots of great hackers out there who are posting cool work arounds (I got to edit a msi file–what power!).  I’m getting ready for an APCS meeting in early August and am looking at getting certified in .Net (since I teach that almost every fall).  And, in my copious spare time, I’m getting back up to speed on CMMI to prepare for the main thrust of my sabbatical, working in an industrial environment.

And then there’s the knitting, but I’ve only finished one of the 5 things I really wanted to get done before our 25th anniversary trip.  Pictures soon of it (but it’s a wedding gift and I want it to be a surprise).  I may get 2 of the other 4 things done on the trip, but I’ll believe that when I see it.

But now we’re getting ready to go cruise around Alaska for two weeks (guess how sad I am that Sarah Palin won’t be governor for most of the trip, just try to guess!), so I can forget about sabbatical for 2 weeks.

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