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Blog Posts for February 2011

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Health and Care


I write this from my grandmother's room at Rockford Memorial Hospital, where she's in the final day(s) of her life. I'm kinda frustrated, but I'll try to stick to the point of this post...

First, credit where credit is overwhelmingly due. To the nurses Erin and Heather, and I think Cindy, your extraordinary understanding and expertise was so appreciated. I wish we could clone you.

Dr. Bullock, who resembles John Belushi a bit, is an ideal doctor. He gets it, he cares, and he treated Nana with the perfect touch.

And Leslie, the palliative care liaison, is the perfect person for her position. She didn't just come in spout hospital policy at us. She asked us about Nana, her life, her last wishes, how we were doing, etc.

Mom and I have been impressed with the care Nana has received.

A couple of pointers:

  • If you have any involvement with the patient, you might want to read the chart first and actually talk to the family. How does the patient do with movement? Back pain? Neck pain? Hip problems? Might be a good idea to invest in that before taking any action in pursuit of a prescribed treatment.
  • Morphine - always remember: you can update the computer after the morphine injection. The computer doesn't suffer at all while waiting for its update. Patients, on the other hand, do.
  • Visitors... (this doesn't apply to the great gentleman, Marv)... visitors are a tricky thing. When the patient is suddenly in great pain, and disrobing themselves in fits of anguish, and you remain in the room while discussing your Chrysler Sebring, you're rude. And when the family asks you to leave the room, and you do, it probably means to wait until the episode is completely over - not until you get bored in the hallway. Yes, you knew my grandparents. But really... didn't knowing these great people carry over into respect?
My blog sometimes serves as a vent for me.

So vented.

I'll have another post to write in a day or so...


1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 2/3/2011 8:29:50 PM

29,984 Days


My first memory of my grandmother was when I was around 3 or 4. We'd been over at her house on Isabella in Sioux City, Iowa, and I was waving goodbye to her. Mom didn't see me waving, and she shut the car door. Mom realized her mistake in horror and I was back in Nana's house again, soaking my hand in a glass of ice water. I remember Nana stroking my hair, telling me it would be okay.

There were three very key influences in my childhood: my Mom, Aunt Onie, and Nana. Where Mom was someone I tried to care of like she took care of me all through Dad's anger and alcoholism, and where Onie was the loving worrywart who doted on us, Nana was like a mythic figure who was kind of larger than life. She taught me to draw. She taught me to dream. She taught me to look at life with a bit of romance. With Nana, everything seemed possible, and there was beauty in the littlest of things.

After she married Jerry and they moved to Rockford, Illinois, they came back to visit when I was about 8 years old. There was a 50-pound bag of dog food in the back of ol' Jenny, her blue Pontiac wagon.

"I'll bet you can't even pick that up," she said to me.

And there was something in the way she said that if it would have been the Empire State Building, I still would have tried to lift it.

"Oh yes I can."

A minute later, I was shouldering my way under the bag and then rose up under the weight.

"Oh my god - you lifted that bag of dog food. It weighs almost as much as you!"

Then with a twinkle in her eye, "Bet you can't get it to the house!"

I did pretty good. Got it into the house and was almost to the last step of the basement when I slipped and fell, the bag landing in my lap as my feet spread out before me.

"Are you okay?"

And I burst out laughing. "Told ya I could."

Something in her challenged me to be more than I was, to realize every dream in me, to see the potential and goodness in others like she did. Life was not work to her. Life was delicious, to be devoured and savored. Nana found enjoyment in whatever she did, and she taught me that. Just being beside her and working on whatever she was doing was fun.

The picture I posted here was her at her prime. She was working as a chef at a restaurant in Rockford. She had a good man in my grandfather, Jerry. Nana labored long hours in her huge backyard garden, out in the sun, where she would relish the smell of the dirt and its grainy feel smushed into her fingernails.

A year or so later, Jerry decided that he didn't like her working at the restaurant. So she quit. And from my perspective, that was the beginning of the end. She still enjoyed her garden, and totally loved my grandfather, but her friends dwindled to his friends and she didn't get out as much.

I told her throughout my childhood that smoking would be the death of her. Only within the last ten years did she quit, but too late to avoid the diminishing effects of emphysema. She had to stop gardening - because she couldn't walk the steep bank in her backyard. She still managed to grow tomatoes, but gone were her days of playing in the dirt. Then Jerry died two years ago. She was caught between the horrible loneliness of being there in the house by herself and the need to be right in the place where she had built a life with a man she loved so much.

Mom told me that my relationship with Nana was special. Nana would brighten when I showed up, she would say. Mom marveled at this picture that I took of Nana in Panera:

"She's smiling. She looks happy."

"Well, I took her to Panera for a pecan roll and a caramel coffee."

"No, Brett. She smiles like that for you."

If that's true, then she was only mirroring my own smile. I loved being near Nana.

I got the call last weekend that Nana had pneumonia. I was set to leave for Rockford on Sunday when Mom said that Nana was looking and sounding better.

On Tuesday, that changed. Mom told me that Nana had taken a turn. I left my house at 1 PM, and rolled through Iowa, evidently with the roads closing behind me as I went.

In Illinois and well into the evening, I had to drive with my lights off to see the patches of pavement. Too much snow in the 50-mph winds choked my view with my headlights on. Until I absolutely couldn't see the road, I was going to get to where Nana was.

I got into Rockford around 10. The security officer let me in after verifying who I was. I went to Nana's room. She had a bipap machine on her face. She was struggling and her hair was all over the place. Mom leaned into her and said loudly, "Brett's here, Mom."

Nana opened her eyes and connected with me. She mouthed "I love you" through the mask. I took her hand and told her that I loved her. And then she started crying. In her weakened respiratory state, her sobbing looked like torture. Mom told me later that the only time Nana cried through the ordeal was when she saw me.

The first night, we stayed at Nana's house, but after that, I pretty much stayed at her bedside. I knew it was the end, and I was there to make sure that she got her morphine. Her back and neck were killing her. Occasionally, she would be vaguely awake for a minute or two, but only in extreme pain and never again like the moment I got there. Mom thinks she waited for me and then let herself go. Maybe so.

She moved to in-patient hospice care. She was so quiet. Her heart was beating so hard to push oxygen through her body that it lightly shook her bed. Mom and I stayed in the room with her the final 36 hours. Late yesterday morning, all that work started to subside. I stood up by her bed, took her feverish hand, and just counted her breaths.


She saw the look on my face, and got out of the chair. Mom and I stood next to Nana as she drew her last breath. And then the color in her face changed slightly and that was it.

I love her. And I will miss her. But she is fiercely so much a part of who I am, that I will always have her with me.


by Brett Rogers, 2/6/2011 11:42:42 AM




by Brett Rogers, 2/12/2011 10:44:37 AM



As the events in the Mideast have unfolded, a lot of commentators have jumped in on both ends of the spectrum. Some were opportunistically and regrettably premature. Some kind of straddled the fence, trying to be right no matter what happened. And some were honest when they said that they didn't know what it all means yet.

Egypt, while our historical ally, hasn't been a very free country - jailing people for free speech, a highly centralized economy, and routine religious persecution.

On the other hand, the only real democracy in in the Mideast is Israel and Egypt has had peace with Israel for decades. The Suez Canal runs without interference from politics. Stability is, selfishly, good for the United States.

So what's a president to do?

Change for the sake of change is not good. Change usually leads to unexpected results, and what's been easy to see thus far is that we don't have a lot of influence there. Most Egyptians don't respect or like the US, and they don't share what we in the West consider to be humanitarian values. For example, 4 out of 5 Egyptians believe in stoning adulterers, whipping people, and cutting off the hands of thieves. What to do with Egyptians who want to move to a non-Muslim country? 5 out of 6 Egyptians believe that the death penalty is in order.

If the government there actually turns out to be a democracy and run by its own people, odds are that Egypt will no longer be an ally and won't believe in individual freedom.

While I support self-rule by people, the basis of that support is a desire for individuals to be free to choose their own direction in life. Tyranny by a majority that results in restricted freedom for the minority is not a government based in freedom. While it might be democracy, its underlying principle is not liberty.

The president of the US ought to embrace freedom and independence, the core values of our country. Our best allies are those who share those values. In short, the interests of the US lie in freedom-based governments.

Pushing for democratic change in a region where the people do not embrace freedom is far more likely to turn out badly than it is to turn out well - for that nation's people and for the US.

I'm not sure that the Americans who get excited about the military revolution taking place in Egypt understand the desires and wishes of Egyptians, nor do I think that they know its history. The last military coup in Egypt, which suggested an intent to establish democracy, didn't turn out that way at all.

We in the West need to be very firm in our push for free speech, women's rights, religious freedom, individual mobility, and a free market.

There are many in the US willing to push hard for these reforms, but I don't see them in our state department or in the White House, or in much of the American commentariat. Pushing Mubarak out was not the end goal... or at least it shouldn't have been. Do we have more influence in that region than we did one month ago? I honestly doubt we do, especially since the region's leaders trust us less now than before this movement in Egypt started.

So why are we excited about this again?


by Brett Rogers, 2/13/2011 1:43:04 PM




by Brett Rogers, 2/19/2011 10:37:40 AM



Everybody has some government-sponsored favorite thing that they refuse to do without.

If we don't figure out a way to do without, we will pass a worthless currency to our children, and a future bereft of any opportunity for the debt that they will inherit.

It's time for every adult in America to determine the fiscal legacy that we will pass on to our children.


by Brett Rogers, 2/20/2011 4:38:09 PM



Tonight, I'm working on the recurrence engine that will be sewn into 247Toolset's event calendar function, which is based on my development from over five years ago, the EverywhereCalendar.

I currently have two bugs left that I know of:

  1. For some reason, if I select that the event will occur every other weekend, the dates list out Saturday one week, Sunday the next, and so on. Grrr...
  2. If I choose the second and fourth Thursday of every month, it shows up instead as weekly. It's not doing the second and fourth week only.
I'll likely have both bugs worked out before I go to bed (famous last words), but it's the testing that makes this interesting. I had to build a little test page for my local server, and all night, I'm running through various options, and tweaking and fixing as I go.

One of the things that I'm putting into mine is the ability to say that the events should only occur on business days. It automatically excludes weekends and holidays if you choose that option. Therefore, if I say that my event occurs on the 1st and 15th of every month starting from today (2/22/2011), I get this back:

Tuesday 3/1/2011
Tuesday 3/15/2011
Friday 4/1/2011
Friday 4/15/2011
Monday 5/2/2011
Monday 5/16/2011
Wednesday 6/1/2011
Wednesday 6/15/2011
Friday 7/1/2011
Friday 7/15/2011

Notice how it bumped May 1st and May 15th one day forward.

That seems like a nice feature.

Nicer yet would be that each client can create their own list of holidays. American Thanksgiving is not Canadian Thanksgiving. July 4th means nothing to Mexicans.

Also - depending on the organization, maybe Saturday is considered a business day. My favorite bakery in town always takes Monday off.

And look at the ways in which recurrence can take place:

Weekly? Or monthly?

If it's weekly, is it every week? Every other week? Every fourth week? Which days of the week?

If it's monthly, is it by weekday - such as the third Tuesday of every month? Or it is by date - the 10th and 25th, for example? Or maybe the first Monday of every third month? Or what about the last day of every other month?

Lots and lots of variations...

And then the interface. How do I present all of these options to everyone so that it's clear and obvious?

Rather than look at how others have done it, I usually like to take a pass at it myself first. It's more work, but I find that I sometimes make considerations that didn't occur to someone else.

Take a look at Google's interface:

I can't toggle more than one date or more than one weekday during the month for an event. And no allowance for business days.

Is mine better? I don't know about that... but it is different, and in some ways more thorough.

Here's Microsoft's within Outlook 2010:

Pretty much the same as Google. Neither interface will allow me to say that my team meets the first and third Friday of of every month. I can only set it up for the first Friday of the month. Sure, I could set up a second meeting with recurrence for the third Friday of every month - but isn't the object of having a recurrence engine to avoid duplicate entry?

Considerations... that's all this is. What I do know is that mine will be different for having walked it through myself. My market will tell me whether I need to change it and add more to it.

So, back to testing and fixing before I get to bed tonight :)

ETC: Didn't solve either problem before I went to bed. It turns out that the reason for the odd spacing between every other weekend is due to the way the week is set up. My programming was doing exactly what I told it to do.

If I ask you to tell me the days of a week, you might respond with Sunday through Saturday. If you look on a calendar, that's certainly how it's represented.

And I then tell you that every other week, we'll select Sunday and Saturday, you might see how the computer would pick:

Sunday, the following Saturday, then the Sunday eight days later, then the next Saturday, and so on.

But we humans actually group Sunday and Saturday together. We call it a weekend, and we never refer to it as Sunday and Saturday, but rather as Saturday and Sunday - even though each weekend spans two separate weeks. You see? Sunday is well known to be the first day of a new week. My programming saw each day as a separate week, and therefore never grouped the two weekdays together.

So I have to pick a start for a new week other than Sunday if it's likely that people will intuitively group the weekend days together for activities on a calendar, which they will. It's far less frequent that someone will choose to bundle an activity on Sunday and Monday every other week, so Monday has to be the start of a new week in my recurrence engine.

Which meant a rewrite, which meant sleep first.


by Brett Rogers, 2/22/2011 11:59:55 PM

Beat on My Canvas


I finished my revision of the recurrence engine.

You can beat up on it here, if you feel like it.


by Brett Rogers, 2/24/2011 2:25:33 PM

Final Draft


Since I've blogged about it, here's my final draft for the events interface:

At its most simple, you just enter a name, description, date, time, and location.

At its most complex, the form greatly expands as you choose options.


by Brett Rogers, 2/25/2011 12:11:46 AM

Instant Filtered Mapping


Built a new feature that couples BatchGeo's mapping abilities with 247Toolset's robust filtering. The combination produces maps like this in just a few minutes:

Perfect for planning strategy for yard signs, meeting locations, etc.


by Brett Rogers, 2/25/2011 11:51:33 AM

The Color Lab


To help find complimentary colors for a given hex color, I created a Color Lab for me and my son, Aaron, to use when setting up 247Toolset portals. It can convert between hex and RGB values, and when getting the hex value, it will show the color variations.


by Brett Rogers, 2/27/2011 11:24:01 AM

An Allergy to Freedom


Freedom makes people uncomfortable. At least, that's the conclusion I draw.

Some on the right side of the political spectrum don't like the idea of people having social freedom.

Some on the left side of the political spectrum don't like the idea of people having economic freedom.

Now, when I use the word freedom, I'll borrow the dictionary's definition, just to let you know that I'm not choosing my own definition:

Exemption from external control, interference, regulation.

The power to determine action without restraint.

The absence of or release from ties, obligations.

Freedom means that I have the right to determine my own actions and direction in life, and I do not owe anyone anything to which I haven't explicitly obligated myself.

That right there makes some people really uncomfortable.

There are some people on the right who want to use the government to restrict your behavior, even if your behavior is among consenting adults.

There are some people on the left who want to use the government to obligate your personal property, even though they had nothing to do with your voluntary exchange of work to gain that property.

To get around that discomfort, someone abandoned the words "freedom" and "independence" and coined new terms, such as "conservatism" and "progressivism."

A lot of folks have now just inherited those words without giving much thought to them. If you're one of them, I ask you: how do you feel about freedom?


by Brett Rogers, 2/28/2011 9:10:02 AM