Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Baby names, or how to ensure your kids will need therapy later on in life.

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

As most of you know, Jillian and I are getting married next year.

Being the sort of people we are, we're already picking baby names for when the time comes... and being Catholic, we likely won't be stopping at one or two kids.

While picking names for the first four, I related an earlier story to Jill about a similar situation from a previous relationship...

About a decade ago, around the time I bought my house, my girlfriend at the time told me she was "possibly pregnant".

My reaction was an excited "Cool!  Let's pick out names!" (when it should have been "Are you sure?" and "Is it mine?", but that's another story).

It caught her off-guard at first, but she soon got into the spirit of the occasion.  She suggested a few names of a style that was en vogue (made-up Afro-American sounding names) which I immediately shot down.  I suggested a few, named after my favourite writers.

CJ: I'd love to have a son named Orwell Machiavelli!
FB: Orwell Machiavelli?
CJ: Yeah, it just screams intrigue and guile!
FB: I don't think I'd want my child known for inspiring intrigue and guile.
CJ: Well, neither did my parents at first...
FB: I like TeShawn.  It sounds nice.
CJ: Why?  We're not (black)!
FB: Hmph! Well, how about something Biblical? Like...
CJ (interrupting): Yeah, like Goliath Samson!
FB: Goliath Samson?!
CJ: Yeah!  And if it's a boy, I want to call him Lucifer Azrael!
FB (horrified): Oh my God!  You would call our daughter Goliath Samson?
CJ: Well, if she inherits your looks...
FB: Hey!
CJ: (laughs uncontrollably)
The rest of the conversation is largely unrepeatable.

So, while I'd still like to have a child named Orwell Machiavelli or Goliath Samson, I somehow doubt Jill would even entertain the idea.  We spent the better part of an evening talking about baby names, and this is what we came up with:

For boys, we liked "Shaun Ethan" (named for me and my cat), and "Raymond Lennon" (named after my dad and John Lennon).  I briefly entertained the idea of changing it to Lenin, but I didn't think it'd go over well...

For girls, we liked "Rachel Leah" (after a young girl at Jillian's work who passed away), and Siobhan Aisling (pronounced ShiVONN AshLEEN) 'cause it sounds like a good Irish name (me being part Northern Irish).

We've batted a few more names around as well, such as Padraig, Sarah, Judith, Bastian (after Bastian Schweinsteiger), et cetera, but we'll worry about that when the time comes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Introducing: Mobile CJ!

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

Remember this from last week?

Those of you with the ability to read QR codes may already know, but for those of you who don't, Conceited Jerk Dot Com now has a mobile version entitled Mobile CJ!

As part of my site's upcoming Tenth Anniversary (and because I was bored), I added a mobile portion to the mess that is my site.  It will feature completely new content that will be completely separate from the main site.  Chances are, it'll be designed, updated, and maintained on my Palm Treo 650 smartphone as an experiment in mobile web design (unlike the main site, which is updated and maintained by whichever computer is on my desk at the moment).

I'd been pissing around with Amaya on my Linux box, trying to design a mobile template that would be the essence of the mobile site... something sleek and modern looking, yet wholly functional.  I've been visiting other mobile sites on my Treo, looking for ideas I could steal adopt, and I even turned to my usual design/architecture/art magazines for some sort of inspiration.

I came up with a few interesting ideas, but the end products were largely uninspiring.   After wracking my brain for a couple of hours, I suddenly remembered something I'd said on Twitter at random this morning...

"I have a strong urge to design something using a seriously unsound design philosophy. More fun that way."

It hit me like the proverbial tonne of bricks...I did something back in '02 that was probably one of the most spontaneously dumb things I've ever done... I grabbed a sheet of looseleaf and drew a title/menu page for my site, scanned it, image-mapped it, and threw it onto the web as my Anti-Webpage, in defiance of the millions of sites online that put eye-candy ahead of content.  It still gets comments to this day!

Based on that success (such as it was), I opted to retool the concept for the mobile web.  Since my target audience would be mobile users, the page would have to be formatted for small screens.  It wouldn't do to use a sheet of looseleaf for the design... no, I'd go with something more appropriate:  I grabbed one of the multitude of little 2.5" X 4" coil notepads people keep giving me, tore a page out, grabbed a pen, and went to town.

What the Hell, it worked once!

I opted for pictorial menu selections instead of plain ol' words in the margin this time.  Hopefully it's a bit more user-friendly.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We can rebuild him...we have the technology

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

We had a Hell of a scare on Friday.

My 13-year old cat, Ethin, was lethargic.  Now, Ethin isn't the most active cat to begin with (I swear, your average sloth is more mobile), but something was different with the way he was just lazing around.  He seemed off.

Then I noticed that he wasn't eating.

If you've ever met Ethin, you'll know this is very unlike him.  He will eat anything that even looks remotely edible (including, at one point, the quarter-round near his food dish) and come back for more.

I tried throughout the day to get him to eat, but he wouldn't eat much more than a few nibbles of dry food.  We gave him his insulin at his regular time, and checked him a few hours later.  His blood sugar was still pretty high, but not horribly so.

I told myself I'd get him to the vet first thing in the morning.

That changed pretty fast.

About an hour after taking his Insulin, Ethin started gagging.  He projectile vomited (probably a good three feet!) all over the living room carpet, then collapsed.  I rushed to pick him up, and the smell hit me... his vomit literally smelled like shit!

Now, it doesn't take a genius to know this is not a good sign, so I grabbed the phone book to find a vet (other than Pembina Animal Hospital) that was open at this hour (9pm).

I noticed Southglen Animal Hospital was open until midnight, and that they have NO emergency fee!
I called them up, they said they could squeeze Ethin in, so Jill and I fought to get Ethin into his carrier, then made the trip across town.

It was a good thing we went when we did.

The vet examined Ethin, and found that his blood sugar was pretty high.  She recommended doing bloodwork on him, and we agreed.  One Tim Hortons run later, we returned.  The vet told us that his blood sugars were high, his ketones were through the roof, and his potassium levels were rock bottom.  He was fighting off a severe infection (Ketonic Acetosis), and he'd need to be kept overnight and put on an IV to get his levels back to normal.

The vet called Saturday morning to say he was improving a bit, but his blood sugar was still really high, and he was still expelling ketones.  They wanted to keep him another day to monitor him.  We agreed.
Sunday morning, the vet called again, saying while he was doing much better, Ethin still wasn't quite ready to leave.  We were invited to come visit him, and we jumped at the chance.

Ethin was very happy to see us, and seemed as though he really wanted to get out of there.
We spoke to the vet, and he detailed everything they'd done, and what they were watching.  Ethin hadn't been expelling ketones in his urine since Saturday night, but they wanted to keep him one more night just to make sure his sugars were at an acceptable level.

We agreed, and he gave us a cost estimate.  It was very reasonable given the nature of his illness and the quality of care Ethin received.

Monday evening, after spending the day playing phone tag with the vet and my bank, Ethin was home and happy... much to the delight of the other felines in our house, who missed him terribly.  Ditto his adoptive parents.

Ethin is largely back to his old self.

Jillian and I would like to thank Drs. Sra, Bhandari, and Tait of Southglen Animal Hospital for the excellent care they gave Ethin, and for their positive, professional attitudes throughout.

We'd also like to thank our family and friends for their love, support (emotional and financial), and prayers during Ethin's ordeal.  Thank you.

Ethin's nickname has been "The Six-Million Dollar Cat" for a number of years.

He's a survivor.  Despite his docile, lethargic, and sweet personality, he's very tough.  In his thirteen years, he's suffered urinary tract infections,  kidney and liver problems, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (enlarging of the heart), chronic clinical constipation, rapid changes in weight (from 26 lbs to 9lbs, now stable at 13lbs), and, in the last few years, diabetes.

He's been written off by others, given slim chance after slim chance by previous veterinarians, but he always seems to pull through.

It hasn't always been easy, and has left me in debt on occasion (another reason I call him "Six-Million Dollar Cat"!), but as far as I'm concerned, he's worth it.  If there's even a slim hope of survival, Ethin (and our other cats) will get the best care he can get.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Never Let Your Magazine Run Dry

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

If there's one thing I love, it's print media.

And among the various forms of print media, magazines are my special passion (and not necessarily the kind with centerfolds!). So much so, that I have bought my weight (210#) in magazines some months.

I have a wide variety of interests, and it's not uncommon to see magazines on my coffee table spanning such diverse subjects as radio & communications, architecture & design, urbanism, computers, business, men's fashion, and current events.  It's fairly common to see foreign (language) magazines in the mix as well.

Being somewhat of a self-starter/DIY kinda guy, I have a special place in my heart for 'zines and independently-produced magazines.  A few years ago, while doing a quick Google search for distributors of independent 'zines (domestic and international), I came across Colophon.

Despite never being able to get to Luxembourg to visit (let alone attend the bi-annual Colophon symposium), I have contented myself with their online database of magazines (print, PDF, and... blog).  There is a veritable treasure-trove of magazines, some good, some... not.

Some of my favourites include new type/art/design mag Gratuitous Type,  Aussie design mag DQ, German-language UrbanSpacemag, and a plethora of magazines that didn't seem to last longer than a couple of issues.

Quality ranges from slick, polished glossies to things that look like they were scribbled with Crayolas.  
Have a quick look at their database, there's bound to be something you'll like.

Now, I told you all that so I could tell you this.

My original career choice (when I graduated in '91) was to be a commercial artist and layout designer/paste-up editor, but those plans fell through when Red River Community College (as it was then known) cancelled their Graphic Arts course that year.  The world had changed, and Desktop Publishing had become all the rage.  Not wanting to wait a year or so while the course was revamped or retooled (and under pressure to "go to school"), I opted to make a career out of my "other" interest, computers.

As a side note, my computer career (a tech support lackey for a major computer manufacturer) lasted all of 105 minutes.  After the fourth call, I asked my supervisor if all our callers were this stupid.  When she replied in the affirmative, I said my goodbyes.

I never truly gave up on my dream, however.  I have been an irregular contributor to a few magazines (print and... otherwise) since the mid-90s.  My most recent articles appeared in the first and last issues of computer hobbyist zine 300 Baud, and have had a few dozen articles appear elsewhere in a few other (also now defunct) publications as well.

I started Conceited Jerk Dot Com (originally titled "Welcome to the Darkest Corners of my Mind") as a move into the realm of digital publishing.  To that end, it's been an abject failure on the design front, something I am hoping to alleviate shortly...