Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Pleasant Saturday

On the way home from dog-interviews, had a sudden craving for a milkshake. We stopped at the Five Guys nearest our house - love their oreo shakes. Unfortunately, partway through making my wife's shake, their machine broke. So, had to leave with craving unsated. Decided that we'd swing by the house, drop off our dog and find another place to get shakes. Decided to go to Holy Cow (in the Del Rey neighborhood of Alexandria). Right next door was a little sushi spot. I realized, "huh - I haven't had anything since the borek at the farmers market this morning. I'm kinda hungry and sushi would hit the spot about now." So, we ducked in. Donna got sashimi and I got nigiri. Donna was a bit bummed that they didn't have idako available as sashimi, but they did have it was an appetizer-salad.

We still wanted milkshakes, but figured that fishy milkshake belches would be an ungood thing. So, we walked around Del Rey, for a bit, before finally ending up back at Holy Cow. I got my oreo cookie shake and Donna got a chocolate shake.

Was a nice respite before tax-drudgery. Still silly that it's not even the final week of March and the temperature was up in the mid-70s.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Random Musings on Death

I've had the opportunity to deal with the deaths of loved ones and pets. I've had the opportunity to see to the disposal of the cremated remains of both. What's interesting is that:

  • Though radically different in size, the volume of ashes doesn't seem proportionate between a full-grown adult and a 50lb dog.
  • Each (pet) death, though done via euthanasia was as unique as the pet being euthanized.
My wife and I believe that one should be present when a pet is being put down. This is at odds with how each was brought up, but it works for us.

Ideally, we're also able to have someone come to the house to administer the euthanasia drugs. This saves the dying pet from having to spend their last few minutes putting up with a car ride to a place they don't like (or are even scared by). It also means that, in a multi-pet household, the surviving pets don't wonder, "where did 'X' disappear to". 

While we've only been able to do the in-home euthanasia thing, once, my wife's preference for doing body-preparation prior to cremation elminates some of the "where did 'X' disappear to" problem. The surviving pets are free to sniff about the body that's being sewn into its burial-shroud and say their goodbyes.

With the euthanasia of our first dog, her survivor howled as we took her out of the house for her death-appointment. He obviously knew something was quite wrong. Doing "in-home" avoids some of that.

Perhaps more interesting is how each pet - even though the methods were notionally the same - died:
  • Upon injection of the white (propofol) Lana, seemed unaffected at first. Then, she blinked twice. Then three times. Then slowly slackened and slid to a prone position as we laid her down. Her eyes closed somewhere between sitting an laying. She lay there knocked out, breathing normally. Then, the vet administered the pink (pentobarbitol), and she ceased to breath soon after. There was only very minor twitching in her extremities as the muscles sought the last bits of oxygen. Overall, it was still fairly peaceful.
  • Our second dog, Puckett, was in very late stage of cutaneous lymphoma. When we took him in, he went differently. He was severely underweight from the cancer, so the drugs acted far more quickly. With the administration of the white, he quickly melted out of my arms and pancaked onto his blanket. He was so skinny. I could see his heart beating. And when the pink was administered, I could see his heart stop. It stopped long before even the full dose of pink was infused. His only death-twitch was a flip of his tail - almost like he was saying a happy goodbye for the release.
  • It was with our cats we first engaged the services of an in-home euthanasia specialist. We'd received the diagnosis that the female cat's kidneys had completely failed and that the males were in stage IV failure. Our vet knew that our cats hated riding in the car, so suggested we look at in-home services. We found Lap of Love. Their staff was very nice and the vet who came to our house to administer the service was very good about providing a non-rushed service (almost too non-rushed: I had a bit of a "can we get on with this" feeling at one point). The cats went a bit differently than the dogs. Upon administration of the white, they went quickly ragdoll. Unlike the dogs - but what is apparently normal for cats - their eyes didn't close. Being less than 20% the weight of the dogs, the administration of the pink was quickly done. And they expired equally quickly - eyes never closing. They twitched a bit more than either of the prior dogs had, but quickly settled.
  • This past week/weekend, we assumed we were going to be able to do similar in-home for our Staffie. The vet knew her kidneys were failing, but thought she probably had a few days left if we were able to keep her adequately hydrated (sent us home with several bags of saline having walked us through administering subcutaneous fluids) and eating. Unfortunately, her kidney failure was complicated by a kidney infection. They'd administerd a fairly powerful antibiotic, and she'd initially seemed to rally, but, after about six hours at home, she crashed. We had to abandon our plans to euthanize her at home. In the pre-dawn hours of Saturday, we concluded with the vet "it's time". We took the short trip into the vet hospital. They'd offered to do the service in the car so she wouldn't have to spend her last minutes in the hospital. Problem was, our staffie had far more distaste for the car than the hospital. So, we brought her back to the same room where we'd put Lana and Pucket down six years prior. As sick dogs are want to do, she rallied a bit. Her energy quickly ebbed, though, and she went back to sitting ...though her tail was still wagging and she was still greeting staff as they came in to help with prep. Unlike the prior two dogs, the white didn't make her eyes close. Even though 20% lighter than either of the prior dogs, she didn't succumb to the effects of the white as quickly. Her melt to the quilt was much slower than Lana's had been ...who, in turn, had melted much faster than Puckett had. Instead of looking sleepy, or confused, her eyes just sort of faded. Lights were on, but nobody was home ...much like the cats. And the melt and the lights-out wasn't until well after the white had been completely administered. After she'd fully settled onto the quilt, the vet administered the pink. As with the white, she didn't succumb to its effects until well after it was completely administered. Her breathing shallowed and eventually ceased. A short time later, you could feel her finally leave, and the vet nodded his head that her pulse had finally ceased. As her corpse lay there, there was a lot more twitching than in any of the prior animals' deaths. I guess that, at 8 years and six months' age, her muscles were still a lot more close to in their prime. So, their oxygen starvation elicited greater responses than that of my 17yo cats, my 11yo Lana or my cancer-ridden Puckett. I can only assume the differences were from being a tough little dog ...and probably why she was able to reach the physical state she had without showing symptoms until just a couple days before everything went to hell. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

When Automated Customer-satisfaction Emails Go Horribly, Laughably Awry...

Last night, we had to take our Staffie into the ER at nearly 4AM. We were there to have her put down (due to her kidneys having finally, totally failed). Undoubtedly, in the coming days and weeks, there will be many more posts as I work through my thoughts on yet another loss of pet(s).

This morning, after getting back from dropping her body off at the cremation service, saw new mail notification on my laptop. It was an auto-generated email from our veterinarian's office. It finished out:

We look forward to seeing you and Cira again soon.

Yeah... Maybe your computers should be configured to "know" what services were rendered and whether it's appropriate to send that email.

Yes, I laughed, but it was through a flood of tears that were not happy tears.

Don't get me wrong, even (especially??) in euthanizations, customer-satisfaction is a great thing to try to capture. Just make sure that the tone and content of emails sent for such purposes is appropriately adjusted.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Deathwatch Begins

Apparently, the month of March really seems to hate my/our having pets.

This week, the upset stomach we'd taken Cira to the vet for ultimately resulted in a terminal diagnosis.

It started late Tuesday morning with stomach upset. She'd bolted her food like she often does and then threw it up shortly thereafter. Scarf/barf. This wasn't something she frequently did, but it wasn't completely out of the blue, either. She had the nickname "hollow-dog" for a reason: she's really food-motivated.

Donna tried again with a small, bland food offering. She ate it. And seemed to do ok with it. But she was still showing som signs of nausea, so we called the vet for guidance. They instructed us to come in for an initial evaluation. We were assuming we were succumbing to the usual "overly-nervous dog parents" thing.

The evening vet did an initial evaluation, and decided that, while a little bit dehydrated, she seemed otherwise fine. She was active, waggy and not showing signs of pain - even with fairly firm abdominal palpation. So, he gave her a subcutaneous fluid injection and some anti-nausea medication. He instructed us to bring her back if she showed further symptoms and they'd order further tests and try to address any further symptoms. He also told us to try some Prilosec, the next day, if the nausea persisted.

The remainder of the evening was fairly uneventful, so I went to the office to work, on Wednesday. Cira was still mostly herself, so Donna tried the process of re-introducing her to food. She started with some plain rice and chicken in the morning, and repeated a few more times throughout the day. She'd also given her a Prilosec in the morning, per the vet's orders.

Thursday, I had a doctor's appointment scheduled, so it was going to be a telework day. An hour or so before sunup, I heard Cira hacking - as though she might be gagging or vomiting. Not wanting to light up the whole room, I came over with my cellphone — flashlight on — to check on her. Since I was shortly due to get up to telework, any way, I opted to bring her downstairs with me so she could nap by my side on my couch.

Donna came down with Lady and fed each dog. I apprised her of why I was downstairs so early with Cira. After the dogs finished their breakfasts, she went upstairs to check for vomit and found some in her bed-area. It was about time for me to leave for my doctor's appointment, so I told her to contact the vet and get an opinion. They advised Donna to bring Cira in and had an appointment available to do so. Donna let me know this while I was at my appointment. My appointment ended early enough that I was able to meet them at the vet only a minute or two after the consult started.

The vet gave her more fluids, some more aggressive medications and a script for medications to administer at home. We were instructed try bland food again with the medications and to call if Cira showed further signs of illness. The plan was that, if Cira did exhibit further issues, they'd do Xrays to verify that there weren't any bowel obstructions.

Donna gave her the meds, but Cira wasn't interested in food. I'd assumed that, because the vet had warned us that the one medicine was very bitter, that Cira wasn't interested in food because of how awful the medication made her mouth taste. Later in the afternoon, she threw up the pills and the food she'd had for breakfast. We tried feeding her again, but she still wouldn't eat. More worryingly, she wasn't even interested in licking peanutbutter off of either of our fingers. Obviously, we called the vet and they told us to bring her back.

This trip, they opted to do an X-ray to ensure that the week's sudden onset of vomiting and persistent nausea hadn't been caused by any kind of bowel blockage. The first indications that something truly dire was going on was that her spleen was noticeably enlarged and she had what appeared to be calcification in both her kidneys. We discussed diagnostic and treatment options. We opted to leave her there for some additional testing, some antibiotics and IV fluids and then returned home.

An hour or so after we got home, the vet unexpectedly called us. We weren't expecting a call till the next morning when the various (sent out) tests should have been back. Usually, early callbacks are rarely good news. This call very much wasn't good news. Cira's kidney-function tests were showing extremely high BUN and creatinine levels - a couple multiples of the numbers typically seen for stage IV renal failure in dogs. The enlarged spleen, while worrying, was no longer the top priority.

And now, we're waiting for ultrasound results to try to determine what all's going on in there. It's unlikely that the results will be anything outside of the immediate to less-immediate spectrum. At this point, it's mostly a case of trying to determine how much time she might have left at an acceptable quality of life. Call's already been put in to the in-home euthanasia service to check provider-availability. So, depending on the sonogram results, this could all be over very shortly or in a few day's time.

The bugger of it all, aside from the shear unexpectedness of it, is the timing. We lost both our cats to renal failure on the twelfth of the previous year's March. Similarly, we'd received a lung-cancer diagnosis for an earlier dog back in March of 2011. So, March is proving to be a hateful month for our pet ownership.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dear Physicians and other Medical Specialists:

Look, I get that HIPAA is a bitch. But you really shouldn't use it as a fucking excuse for not bringing yourselves into the fucking 21st century. Requiring me to either show up and fill out a form, download and print out a form to bring with me or download, print out and fax a form is just fucking stupid. Really, that you're still fucking doing FAXing rather than secure email is fucking stupid.

There's 19Mn cloud-services out there that allow for the secure sharing of documents - many of them are even certified for HIPAA, SOX and other data compliance legislation. If you can't afford to set up your own, self-hosted system, use one of those many cloud services.

Fuck: if you can't figure out how to accept S/MIME- or PGP-encrypted emails just let me email you a link to a protected document on a cloud service of my choosing.

You might have room to talk to me about data protection policies if I wasn't about 99.999% certain that some hacker hasn't already rifled your databases. Really. There's lots of secure options out there. Don't be such righteous pains in the dick.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

To all the Chicken Littles freaking out about Trump

Remember: the US system of governance is a machine. It's a machine that aspires to be the proverbial "immovable object". When you're the one seeking change, this machine sucks. When you're the one seeking to get things done, this machine sucks. For better or worse, it cuts both ways. When people elect the "burn it all down" candidate, that machine acts to blunt those attempts at change and getting things done.

Obama came in in 2008 promising an agenda that would include all sorts of change and transparency: how'd that work out? Is Gitmo closed? Has mass surveillance been curtailed? Have any of the people that created the banking crisis been meaningfully held to task? Are we no longer fighting endless wars? Has any meaningful change really happened that didn't start from the bottom and work its way up?

And, yeah, you might argue that Obama was fighting the House and Senate most of the way. You might argue that Trump has a Republican House and Senate to work with. Really? What does that even mean when a lot of those Congresspeople and Senators are lifers and Republicans that never really considered Trump to be Republican.

While the whackadoos may feel freer to come out from under their rocks, there's not going to be more of those CHUDs than there were Monday night. Things that happened in spite of the machine aren't going to be suddenly undone.

Am I saying things are gonna be just peachy? Am I saying some things aren't going to get worse? No. Not by a long-mile. Just saying that sometimes, you need to trust others' self-interest to keep the fire from turning into a conflagration.

Your Tits: Calm Them

Monday, October 31, 2016

Programming Style Woes

Woulda put this in my tech-wiki, but it's really just a rant and of no real technical value.

Look, I get that the language you wrote your program in isn't your preferred language - and that when you program in your preferred language you're just fine - but there's no excuse for being internally-inconsistent.
  • I don't care if you want to do indents as tabs, two spaces, three spaces four spaces or multiples of one of the preceding. What I do care about is that you pick one and stick with it.
  • PICK A FUCKING TERM-WIDTH AND STICK WITH IT. I don't want to have to keep widening my xterm each time you write a new, wider line than any line you previously wrote
  • I don't care if you want to use module or path/to/module - just be freaking consistent
  • I don't care whether you pre-declare your variables (so you can set their type - even if the initial value is null) or not - just make sure that if you pre-declare some variables you pre-declare all your variables.
  • There really are better ways to write to a file than "open -> append-write -> close ; open -> append-write -> close": just open the damned file, do all your freaking writes to it, then close it
  • If you're gonna regex something using a function that supports multiple operations, call that function ONCE.
  • If you're going to explicitly declare that your regex is an extended-regex, make sure that you're actually doing extended regex rather than standard-regex.
  • If you're doing the exact same things more than once in the same program, CREATE A FUNCTION AND USE IT. Seeing the same two dozen lines of code scattered multiple times throughout a program is not acceptable.
  • Be consistent with how you declare and structure your functions.
  • Be consistent with deciding to create functions: don't turn some things into functions and leave other things repetatively declared elsewhere
  • Be consistent with how you use logic-branching: don't use nested "else ; if" once place and "elif" in others; don't use case-branching logic one place and ginormous if/elifs elsewhere.
I write in a bunch of different languages. If you're familiar with the various languages, it's easy to tell when I've slipped back into my "mother tongue". That said, I try to at least be consistent with my writing within a given program - even if that means my Python looks very shell-ish (etc.).

I can't figure out how people can debug their own code if they don't at least make it internally-consistent. How the hell do they expect anyone else to work with the code if it's constructed so that even the code-owner is going to struggle with it??