10 Year Cancerversary

10 years ago today I was diagnosed with cancer.  My greatest fear come to life.

I found the lump three weeks earlier, but the mind is a funny thing.  I rationally knew it wouldn’t get better and would eventually kill me, but I still couldn’t force myself to do what needed  to be done.

Finally, on May 22 I had enough and the following morning an ultrasound confirmed it – testicular cancer. Continue reading “10 Year Cancerversary”

A blog post approaches!

So. Last time I made a personal post, my daughter looked like this…


Now… she looks like this

Colleen on bike April 30, 2012

Needless to say, it’s been a while.  I started this blog back in 96/97 before the term “blog” existed, and it served it’s purpose for a good decade.  But as I mentioned last time, the facebooks and twitters and other social media outlets have largely eliminated the reason for having a personal blog, at least if it’s a personal “journal” as this one has been.

So, I’ve got another personal post or two to write in the next month, but after that my plan is to transition this into more of a professional blog and cover tech issues in my areas of expertise – web, digital media, streaming, my adventures in programming and so forth.

Not that I won’t ever make personal posts again, but they’ll be the exception rather than the rule.

Posting to your Facebook page with your own name

Keeping up with Facebook’s constant changes can be a full-time job in and of itself.  What used to be “fan pages” are now simply called “Pages” (not to be confused with your “Profile”).

I have several pages on Facebook that I administer.  One minor annoyance is that when you post or comment to a page you administrate, it’s displays the name of your Page next to the comment, rather than your real name.  For example, if I’m an admin for Chucky’s Chicken Shack, whenever I post, it’s going to display the name as “Chucky’s Chicken Shack”, not “Lane”.

Often that is just fine, but not always.  If you admin a page with several other people, it may be desirable to distinguish between who is posting.  In that case, here is how you can change the default setting.  Please note that each admin will need to follow these steps on their own account.

1.       Go to your Facebook page.

2.       Click on Edit Page at the top right.

3.       Now click on the Your Settings option at the far left.

4.       On the Posting Preferences option, uncheck Always comment and post on your page as… and click Save Changes at the bottom.

5.       Now you will post as your profile name by default.  To post as the Page name, click on Use Facebook as {Page Name} on the right side, directly below the Admins list.

6.       Note that you will need to switch back to Use Facebook as {Profile Name}, otherwise everything you do on Facebook will be attributed to your Page name.

Time for the biannual blog post

Tombstone: "I toldl you I was sick"
I’m seriously considering this for my epitaph…

So I’m awake at 2AM for the second night in a row. It’s not due to insomnia, but kidney stones.

Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer over seven years ago, I’ve become quite the hypochondriac. I am acutely aware of everything that goes on in my body, and anything out of the ordinary immediately sends up the metaphorical red flag in my mind.

So about a month ago, I was having odd discomfort in my abdominal area. I knew I had a very small kidney stone due to a CT scan a couple of years back. But what I was experiencing wasn’t the searing, I-wish-I-could-die pain that I’ve always heard associated with kidney stones. I went to my doctor, and he couldn’t find anything wrong. In fact, my health is the best it’s been in a while thanks to losing 20 pounds over the past six months.

I thought I was in the clear, and any discomfort was due to my active imagination. Last Sunday I was proven oh so wrong. We were over at Mom’s for dinner, when I suddenly got very ill. It was certainly painful, but the worst part was the fear – I have never felt anything like that in my life, and it wasn’t anything I could isolate – it hurt all over.

So Mom took me to the ER, and sure enough it was a kidney stone – a large one. They doped me up and sent me home after several hours. A follow-up urologist visit showed that the stone probably wouldn’t pass on it’s own, so I was scheduled for a lithotripsy (shockwave) procedure the following Monday.

The last week passed uneventfully. I was on Percoset for two days, but eventually stopped taking anything due to minimal pain. Monday I went in to have the stone blasted, and from all accounts it was successful. But I have been in fairly significant pain since then, mostly at night. The on-call doctor suggested that the stone wasn’t completely obliterated, and I’m still passing some larger fragments. It’s certainly not unbearable, just annoying, as I’m in more pain now than before I had the procedure! Percoset doesn’t seem to help, but it does make for some crazy dreams. The heating pad seems to be the best source of relief at the moment.

Speaking of which, I need to go pass some more bits and pieces of that stone now…

In other medical-related news, Emily had quite a time with our last round of in-vitro.  We had to stop the initial series of injections due to it being too effective.  We started again in late September, and once we got to the progesterone shots, it was miserable for her.  The last two times were not exactly walks in the park, but this time was worse.  Emily herself is in fantastic shape after nearly a year of exercising daily to get rid of the baby fat.  Unfortunately the progesterone has to be injected directly into the muscle, and this time there was much more muscle to deal with, and made her that much more sore.

To top things off, one night I managed to hit her sciatic nerve, which was unbearably painful for 48-72 hours.  Thankfully, she got better after a few days.  But even after all that –  we transferred three embryos and none of them worked.  We still have two left, and we’re praying for the best, but it has been rather discouraging.

But even if the remaining two embryos do not work, Colleen continues to be the light of our lives – she is walking, talking, and learning more and more every day.  I can’t imagine my life without her now.  This Christmas in particular will be so much fun – she already oohs and ahhs at all the Christmas decorations in the store. Though it remains to be seen if she’ll deal well with Santa this year!

"...and a dolly, and some blocks, and another teddy bear..."
“…and a dolly, and some blocks, and another teddy bear…”

MP3 validator fixes iTunes “Determining Gapless Playback Information” bug

iTunes Determining Gapless Playback Information

One big problem I have had with iTunes is the “Determining Gapless Playback Information” bug.  In a nutshell, every time I open iTunes, it is apparently “determining gapless playback” for the same two dozen tracks.  I keep my iTunes library on my Windows Home Server, and usually access it over wi-fi via my laptop.  With iTunes 8 and 9, this could take upwards of two minutes; in the meantime iTunes was completely unusable – beachball hell.  Connecting my laptop to the router sped things up a bit, but it’s still an annoyance.

Turning off the gapless playback scanning in iTunes preferences didn’t help.  By scouring the Apple support forums, the problem seems to lie in corrupted MP3 files.  They will play back fine, but there’s one issue or another that keeps iTunes from properly doing gapless playback scanning.

My previous solution was just to remove the offending MP3, and then re-encode it from my FLAC archives.   That solution works – up to a point.  The only information I have to go on is the track title that is displayed during the scanning process.  I have a lot of tracks with the same name – for example, I have a lot of Christmas albums, so when one of the offending tracks is “Silent Night”, that means I would need to delete each instance until I found the right one.  Not an ideal way to fix the issue.  So I still had about 15 songs that were subject to this problem.

Enter iTunes 10.  Apple’s latest and greatest still has not fixed the problem, and now it takes far longer to scan the offending files.  We’re talking 5 minutes on a wired connection; I never waited long enough to see how long it took over wifi.  So I had to find a better fix.

After googling “fix my stupid MP3s”, I ran across MP3 Validator at gromkov.com.  I pointed it at my iTunes library, and it chugged away at my collection for about 30-45 minutes.  Surprisingly, about half of my collection was marked as broken.  I allowed it to fix everything, and “a-la peanut butter sandwiches”, I can now work with iTunes as soon as it launches.

Nice work.  Unfortunately this doesn’t help those in a pure Mac environment, as it’s a Windows-only program.  Doing a quick Google search for “Mac MP3 Validator” turned up a similar program: http://triq.net/mac/mp3-validator-mac-os-x (among others.)  I can’t speak to how well it works, but hopefully it will be as effective as well as the program I used.

Easy jQuery Tooltip

Yesterday I went looking for a simple jQuery tooltip, uh, tool, for a website I was working on.  Finding one that wasn’t overly-complicated proved to be more of a challenge than I anticipated.  For the coding noob (e.g. yours truly), “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is the phrase that pays, and most of the ones I came upon tried to do too much and offered too many customization options.

Eventually I stumbled on the self-proclaimed “Simplest jQuery Tooltip Ever“, and I can’t argue with the sentiment.  All you need is jQuery, the additional JavaScript file provided at the link above, and some basic CSS styling (also provided).

Here’s some example code:

<link href="style.css" type="text/css" rel="stylesheet">
<script src="jquery.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="main.js"   type="text/javascript"></script>
<a href="#" title="This is the text that will appear
when you roll over the link">Roll over this link</a>

Let’s break it down…

<link href="style.css" type="text/css" rel="stylesheet">

… calls the stylesheet that contains a reference to the id selector “#tooltip”.  It has some basic styling info (position, border, background, etc.), but nothing too fancy.

<script src="jquery.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="main.js"   type="text/javascript"></script>

This first line calls the jQuery library, the second calls main.js, which contains the tooltip code. (Not sure if this qualifies as a jQuery plugin or not…)

<a href="#" title="This is the text that will appear
when you roll over the link">Roll over this link</a>

This is your standard HTML hyperlink, with a couple of differences.  The text contained in the title field is what will be displayed when a visitor hovers over the link.  The href field can contain an actual link; in this case it just points back to the current page.

Doesn’t get much simpler than that!