RSS Feed

Somebody posted a comment that wound up in my spam folder asking about an RSS feed, but I haven’t checked the spam in a couple of weeks because of a variety of distractions.  I approved the comment, but now I can’t find it.  In any event, what I’d respond is that I’m largly clueless about RSS, but PZ could probably give a good answer.

Another C++ Meeting

I promised in my last post to mention some open-source code that I’ve been working on, but I’ve been distracted.

If you’re interested in what it takes to host a meeting at a hotel and convention center, read on.

The way it usually works (YMMV) is that you contact a sales rep. for the hotel and say when the meeting will be, how many folks will likely attend, and what you’ll need for meeting rooms.  In our case, for example, the meeting will last five and a half days.  Monday morning and Saturday morning will be plenary sessions*, so we’ll need a room for 100+ persons for that; but the rest of the week we’ll break into subgroups where the real work gets done, and so we’ll need a bunch of breakout rooms.

The sales rep. responds with a description of meeting rooms that will be available for the dates of your meeting, the number of guestrooms that will be held for your group, and a group rate for the guestrooms.  In our case, we’ll have 100 guestrooms held for Sunday through Friday nights and 50 for Saturday night; and I’ll be responsible for 80% of that.  (If fewer than 520 room-nights actually get booked, I’ll have to pay for some myself.)

For the meeting rooms, the usual arrangement is that, if you meet some minimum amount for food and beverage service, you get the meeting rooms for no additional charge.  I won’t have any problem meeting the minimum because the guestroom rate doesn’t include breakfast, so I’ll provide a breakfast buffet for six days along with customary mid-morning and mid-afternoon refreshments for five days.  Any A/V equipment you need for the meetings will be extra.

I still have some details to work out.  After my next round of chemo treatments next week, I’ll have a meeting with the hotel’s sale rep. on Tuesday, the 3rd, where I’ll be shown the meeting room area and, I hope, get a few more questions answered.  The following week, I expect to actually sign the contract; then I’ll start working on the food and beverage requirements and the A/V requirements for the meeting rooms.

There’s a fellow in Germany who’s our logistics guru, so I’ll mostly defer to him re the A/V stuff.  We already have our own LCD projectors, audio mixers for the three larger rooms, and pretty much everything we need to allow folks to attend remotely via Zoom; but there are still things that we’ll need from the hotel (projection screens, microphones, WiFi for about 100 in-person attendees, stuff like that).  If, as in our case, everybody will have a laptop computer, or at least a tablet, you’ll need lots of power strips for which the hotel will charge an absurd amount.  It’s often cheaper to just buy your own power strips locally and then donate them to some educational or other non-profit institution when you’re done with them.

We also still need to decide how seating in the rooms will be arranged.  The rooms that the hotel had available for the week of the meeting all have load-bearing columns here and there (it’s an old, historic building…a good excuse) which pretty much eliminates the U-shape setup.  We’ll probably go with the classroom setup (rows of long tables facing the front of the room), although one or two of the smaller rooms might have a boardroom arrangement.

Details, details …

*For some reason, we use “meeting” and “session” to mean the opposite of that they mean in Robert’s Rule of Order.

We’re Baaaack!

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves [from room to room] at dawn looking for an [FtB] fix.

(apologies to Allen Ginsberg)

OK, it’s old news by now; but I didn’t find that Freethought Blogs was back up until I returned from a doctor’s appointment this afternoon, by which time this old fart needed to take a nap.

But I’ve finally gotten caught up on my FtB reading, so now I’m no longer depressed. πŸ˜Ž

I have a post in mind about some easy coding that I was doing to pass the time.  Maybe I’ll get to that after today’s TV news.


Just a quick test to see if I can capture a screenshot and play with it using IrfanView (which I’ve been miscalling InfanView for some reason).

Windows desktop

Yeah, that works, and in the obvious way:   PrtSc, open IrfanView, create a new image, Ctrl-V, Resize/Resample, Save As a JPEG…no sweat.

There’s method to my madness:  on my train trip in November, I can do an occasional screenshot of my GPS display so that you too can see where I am. πŸ˜Ž

(I hope my newbie experiments aren’t boring y’all too badly.)

Another Camera Test

I went by Laumeier Sculpture Park this morning and was underwhelmed.  I walked only the 0.64mi. (ca. 1km) paved “Central Pathway”; and there were only a couple of handfuls of pieces, mostly just geometrical things of steel jutting out seemingly at random.  There are a couple of other trails with, I guess, more, and more interesting, works; but those paths are unpaved, which wouldn’t have worked well with my walker.

There were only a couple of pieces that caught my eye for more than a few seconds, and one of the pictures I took was really bad because I had wiggled the camera when I hit the shutter button.  I have only one picture that I’m willing to admit that I took.

Witkin Piece

Witkin Bio

I need to be a lot more careful about keeping it straight when taking pictures of text.  I should have made the text image bigger, too, so that it would be more legible.  2023-09-11:  I figured out how to rotate the image a bit, and I made it bigger.  There’s still a little distortion because I didn’t have the camera’s focal plane totally parallel to the plaque when I took the picture.

I’m going to need a lot more practice before I burden y’all with any more of this.

Techie Trivia

1.  There’s a switch on the side of each of the two lenses that came with the camera that can be used to turn off autofocus, and I’m happy to turn the focus ring myself.  Also, with autofocus on, the flash magically pops up and wastes energy even in bright sunlight.

2.  I decided not to try to load an image into InfanView directly from the SIM card.  I was a little surprised to find that the SIM card isn’t read-only when it’s out of the camera so, in Windows, I can just copy *.JPG into some directory on my hard drive and del *.JPG on the SIM card when I’m sure that I have all the images on my laptop.  That keeps the SIM card from getting filled up with old images, and normal backup of my hard drive insures that I don’t lose anything.

3.  I decided not to do the “let anybody run it” installation that Marcus suggested.  I just double-click on the icon on my desktop and the program runs fine.  I have administrator privilege, I’m the only person who uses that computer, and I generally keep it with me for physical security.

Finishing my First Round of Chemo

Here I sit in the Cancer Infusion Center writing this post.  I’m really glad I can bring my laptop with me to mitigate the boredom.

I’m finishing my first round of three treatments on consecutive days; and then I’ll have a couple of pills to take at home tomorrow after breakfast.

The first day, Wednesday, started with drawing some blood in the lab.  The young woman in the lab was really good at her job, and I didn’t even feel the needle going in.  I have no end of respect for real expertise.

Each first treatment in a session, I was told, would be giving me two drugs, the first taking about half an hour to drip, and the second about an hour; but they gave me more than that.  After inserting the IV (in an awkward spot on the back of my hand because the nurse couldn’t find a better vein), there was some flushing of the IV with saline solution, then rather a lot of some milky solution administered with a syringe that took maybe about five minutes.  Then more flushing of the IV, the two drugs that I was told about, and more flushing.

I wound up being stuck there in the hospital for about four hours with basically nothing to do, mostly waiting for the lab results to come back before they could start on the real business.  I hadn’t had any lunch that day in the hope of mitigating the nausea that’s sometimes a side effect of chemo; but I learned too late that it doesn’t show up until at least the day following, so I needn’t have skipped it.  I stopped by a Waffle House on the way home to have a big second breakfast for supper and I wasn’t able to watch the Cardinals’ game until the top of the third.

I don’t watch enough TV for cable to make sense, so I watch the games on’s Gameday feature and listen on the radio.  (I confess to watching Baseball Night in America on Fox because of their monopoly, but I stay away from anything Murdoch otherwise.)

Yesterday was quicker.  I had been told that I’d get just the one drug that takes about an hour to drip (I get that one on each of the three days); but what with administrivia, inserting the IV, all the flushing, and yet another drug that I hadn’t been told about, I was there for a couple of hours.  Fortunately, I had thought to ask whether it would be OK to bring my computer with me so that I’d have something to do.  They said that that would be just fine, so I was able to spend the time writing yesterday’s post.

Today should be a repeat of yesterday, except that the nurse had found a really good vein in a good position and could tape up the IV really well after the treatments, so I was able to keep the IV in overnight, and I didn’t need to get stuck again today.  Also, the first extra drug only took about five or so minutes and was administered by syringe, so I’ll have only about one hour of dripping which started at 15:15.  I can hope to be out of here by 16:30, give or take.

I probably won’t have anything more to say about this first round unless something bad happens.  So far, I’ve had none of the usual side effects of chemo, not even a wee bit of nausea or diarrhea, and I currently have no reason to expect it to start.  (I am having frequent hiccups that started around quarter to four this morning.  That’s not listed as a side effect in the blurbs I was given about the drugs I’m getting; but I found a paper about hiccups on (IIRC) (I can’t remember the URL and wouldn’t be competent to critique it in any event) which mentions in a table of side effects that hiccups is a possible result of taking of chemo drugs, but it’s probably not a problem unless it continues for several days.  I’m not having that side effect as I write this.)

I’ll have three more rounds of three treatments on consecutive days, probably Wednesdays through Fridays.  I have an appointment with the chemo doctor next Wednesday where we’ll set up the schedules for the final three rounds; and I’m going to express a really strong preference to begin earlier in the day so that I can get home at a reasonable hour.  It’s already known that my trip to Hawaiʻi will interrupt the sequence such that I’ll have two or three extra weeks after the penultimate round.  The doctor has said that he’s not particularly worried about that, but he’ll want more lab tests after I get back just to make sure that everything is still in order.

So far, I’ve been tremendously fortunate.  The cancer was caught in an early stage before it had metastasized to the lymph nodes (which I’m told is unusual for small cell cancer), so there was no big deal about my refusing major thoracic surgery (which I would have refused at my age in any event), and I’ve had no symptoms that I’m aware of (aside from the hiccups that I mentioned above) from any treatment or from the cancer itself.  We’ll see whether that continues…

Just Testing My New Camera

The Reason

This old fart needed to get with the program and buy a digital camera; so I broke down and got a pretty good one for use during my trip to Hawaiʻi in November.  That will include a round trip on Amtrak’s California Zephyr through the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies, both in daylight, the latter including a ride along the southern bank of the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon.  On the return trip, I also hope to catch the lights of Denver way down below after exiting the Moffat Tunnel a bit after dark.

Some folks might also find interesting the mostly open-air KOA airport and the quick rise from sea level in Kailua-Kona up the mountains of the Big Island.

The Sale

On my way to my chemotherapy appointment today, I stopped by a camera store in St. Louis County, Schillers Camera, that’s not far out of the way.  It didn’t get off to a really good start, though:

Me:  Would it be possible to find a digital camera on which I could use some screw-on lenses from my 50-year-old Pentax 35mm SLR?

Sales clerk:  LOL!

Actually, he was very polite and understanding; but the clear answer was “not easily and probably not worth it”; so in addition to the regular lens, I’ll probably want a shorter lens and a fisheye for taking pictures of my bedroom on the train, and a moderately long zoom for scenes outside the train.  Another requirement is the ability to copy the images directly to my laptop without going through anybody’s “cloud”.

The camera is a Canon EOS Rebel T7.  I opted for the “Premium Kit” which came with two lenses:  an 18-55mm zoom, which is supposed to be wide angle to normal, and a 75-300mm zoom, that should be good for shots of the train from outside and views of the mountains in the distance, along with some niceties like a camera bag and a battery charger.  I also bought an 8-16mm fisheye zoom just in case I need a super-wide angle for pictures of my Zephyr room from the inside.  Are all lenses zooms these days?

The Test

So here’s a trial run just to make sure I remember how to take pictures. πŸ˜Ž

I’m also learning how to copy the images to my laptop.  With one exception, that was really easy…just pull the SIM card out of the camera and stick it in an adaptor that plugs into a USB port on the laptop.  On Windows, it magically comes up as drive D:.  I haven’t tried to mount it on my Linux partition yet.  (Friday, 08:00:  just plug the SIM card and its adaptor into a USB port and it magically shows up as a mount point on Ubuntu Linux.)

The problem was that I couldn’t get the SIM card out with my fingers.  Fortunately, the Infusion Center’s lab had a small hemostat that they graciously allowed me to use for the purpose.  I have a really small hemostat at home that will now become a regular part of my camera equipment. πŸ˜Ž

The entrance to the Cancer Infusion Center is next to the emergency entrance;

Cancer Infusion Center entrance

but I don’t normally use that.

[trying out the fisheye] I park in the main garage (on the left), not far from the main entrance (on the right), so that I can leave my car out of the sun or rain.

garage/main entrance fisheye view

From there, I have just a two or three minute walk, all under cover, to where I’m supposed to check in.

When they get around to me for treatment, I’m supposed to sit in what is thought to be a comfy chair while I get my drugs;

reclining chair

but the nurse said that it would be OK for me to sit in a regular chair to write this post; and she graciously provided me with one of those bedside tables that they have in hospitals.

my improvised workstation

(The boxy thing that connects by a short cable to a USB plug is the SIM card adaptor.
The black box with a button on the viewer’s left is my Verizon WiFi hotspot.)

I hope to have more interesting photos to show you in the future, at least by the time of my November trip.

I Got Nuked

Yesterday I had the first of five radiation treatments for my cancer.

A bit over a week ago, I lay down in what I gathered was basically a CAT scanner.  I was lying on a couple of bags that they filled with, I guess, some kind of fluid that hardened, forming a kind of half cocoon which would keep me immobile during the treatments.  They then did a scan to generate data that would be used to program the machine that would actually administer the radiation (something like an industrial robot capable of precise movements).  Thursday was a “dry run” to make sure that the machine would perform as expected; then yesterday was the first actual treatment.

You don’t feel the radiation.  The radiologist explained to me that the beam would have about the same power as a dental X-ray, but would take longer to administer the required dose.  You just lie there relaxed and unmoving, except for normal breathing, for the fifteen or so minutes that it takes.

To mitigate the boredom, I mentally recited the lyrics to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”; and just as I was starting on “The Balad of the Yarmouth Castle”, they were done.  I made it home in plenty of time to catch DW News on the PBS World Channel. πŸ˜Ž

I’ll have four more treatments, Monday through Thursday; then I’ll start chemo on the 6th.

The radiation machine (I should probably ask what the correct term for it is) was interesting.  The radiation is generated by a roughly disk shaped thing with about an eighteen inch diameter, maybe a bit more, that looked something like this [from Wikipedia] although the rest of the machine was quite different.  Opposite that is a flat thing that, I guess, notes where the other side of the beam is to provide feedback for proper aiming.  The whole thing rotates around you, presumably to zap the cancer from different angles so that they don’t kill the tissues that you want to still be hanging around. πŸ˜Ž

Inside the disk were pairs of pointy things that were about 1mm or so apart.  I had guessed, probably incorrectly, that the “antenna” is actually the space between the points.  There were maybe ten or fifteen pairs, all in slightly different positions so that they would be slightly out of phase with each other, giving more precise control over the directionality of the beam.  This whole paragraph could be way off the mark, though, if the radiation’s wavelength is in the millimicron range, which is what I get from the Wikipedia article.  I’ll have to ask for a more detailed explanation of what’s going on next Monday, not because I have any desire to practice medicine without a license πŸ˜Ž , but because I’m a geek who’d find it interesting.

Motion on the Cancer Front

I had a bronchoscopy on Friday* looking for any movement of the cancer to my lymph nodes.  Everything looked normal, and although I haven’t seen the detailed results of the biopsy yet, I got a phone call from the radiologist’s nurse a while ago saying that there’s no evidence of additional cancer.  That’s good news because it means that the radiation treatment can concentrate on the one lump that we already know about.

I have an appointment with the radiologist tomorrow a bit after noon when we’ll work out the treatment schedule.  I’ll also have another CAT scan, I guess to make sure that the lump hasn’t moved; and I’ll get fitted for the cocoon that will keep me immobile during the radiation.  I’ll update this post tomorrow if there’s actually any more to say.

I’m glad to get moving on this.  I’ll have several radiation treatments (three IIRC); and the chemo, which will have to wait for the radiation to be done, will require four sets of three treatments on consecutive days, the four sets separated from each other by three (IIRC) weeks.  This already bumps into a trip that I’ll be taking in November by a couple of days; but the oncologist, who’ll be doing the chemo, said that he can work around that.  We’ll see…

Update 2023-08-16:  I now have a schedule for my radiation treatments starting a week from tomorrow:  six weekdays from Thursday the 24th through Thursday the 31st.  I’ll have about an hour and a half of driving (round trip) for fifteen-minute appointments. 8-(

I’m told that the first visit will be a dry run just to make sure that everything is working correctly; then I’ll have five actual treatments on Friday, then Monday through Thursday.

I also have some chemo appointments scheduled for later this month, but I think I remember the oncologist saying that we have to wait until after I’m done with the radiation before starting the chemo.  I’ve sent the oncologist a message asking whether we need to reschedule.

Today’s visit went pretty quickly.  They had me lie down in a CAT scanner on top of a couple of bags that, I guess, they filled with some kind of stuff that hardened around my torso.  They then did a CAT scan, I guess to make sure that they know where everything inside me is, and made some marks on my chest, I guess to make sure that they get me correctly positioned in my half-cocoon for the treatments.

Pierce R. Butler commented on a previous post suggesting that I might want to take the half-cocoon, which he called a “mesh”, home with me after the treatments are done.  It doesn’t look like what they made is something I’d ever need for anything.

*The bronchoscopy required general anesthesia, so this extreme introvert, because he has nobody he can rely on to take care of him afterwards, had to spend Friday night in the hospital for “observation”.  I’ve never had any problem with general anesthesia, so as expected, nothing was observed. πŸ˜Ž

I didn’t really mind, aside from the boredom; but I thought that I was taking up a hospital bed for no good reason.  When I mentioned that to one of the doctors, he laughed and said that he’d had patients admitted for less reason than that, so I guess I’m not a bad guy after all.

Possible Movement on the Cancer Front

I got a second PET scan* on the 19th; and the results were basically the same as the one I’d had four months ago:  the cancerous lump hadn’t gotten any bigger, and there’s still no evidence of any spread to my lymph nodes.  It’s possible that I might have to get another biopsy of the lymph nodes just to make sure; but the last I heard, the biopsy guy didn’t think it would be necessary.  We’ll see how that goes.

Assuming that I don’t have to worry about the lymph nodes, which the oncologist I saw today said he thought was highly likely, I’ve decided on radiation and chemotherapy.

I’m told that the radiation will be something like a dental x-ray, except that it’ll take about fifteen minutes during which time I’ll be immobilized inside something that they’ll mold around my body.  IIRC, there will be three treatments on separate days, and I’ll be able to drive myself home after each one.

The chemo will be more complicated:  three treatments on consecutive days repeated three more times at 21-day intervals.  This would bump into my trip to Hawaiʻi in November by a day or two; but the oncologist said that he could work around that.  He also said that, although some folks do get nausious from the drugs that he’ll use for the chemo, very few do; and I should be able to drive myself home after those as well.  That’s important because the flip side of there being no one who depends on me for anything is that there’s nobody whom I can reasonably ask to drive me to and from the hospital and then take care of me after I get home.  (This will be an issue if I need another biopsy since that requires general anesthesia; and so I’d need to be admitted to the hospital overnight for observation.  I wouldn’t mind that except for the boredom, but it seems wasteful to me…like I was hoarding a hospital bed for what would likely be no good reason.)

If there are no lymph node issues, and if the radiation and chemo work as expected, both the radiologist and the oncologist assure me that I should retain sufficient independence and cognitive abilities to continue serving on the ISO C++ committee through next year at least.  That’s good news because next summer’s meeting in Stockholm has fallen through, and I’ve made an offer to host the committee next June or July.

I feel a whole lot better now that I have a plan.

*This was basically like a CAT scan except that they shot me up with radioactive sugar; and the cancer cells said, “OOO, FOOD!”  Unlike a CAT scan, I had to observe a low-carb diet the day before and not eat or drink anything except water after midnight the day of the test; and it took about 45 minutes of my just lying around to get the sugar distributed around my body.