Friday, April 29, 2005

Technology in Search & Rescue

tungsten c
Originally uploaded by terpkristin.
As many of my readers probably know, I've been involved with volunteer wilderness search and rescue for quite some time now. Currently, I have my Level 2 certification in cave rescue and am a Field Team Leader within the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference. While I was in the shower today, I thought of an idea for a PDA application that I would find useful, and I think others might too (isn't it great how inspiration so often comes while in the shower?). Anyway, I don't know a darn thing about programming for PDA's, so I was hoping that by posting this on my blog, somebody might have an idea of an existing application or might want to help me develop one.

The general idea is this: Because of injury, I'm currently doing the dispatch duties for my team. That is, when the page comes out that there is a search, it's my responsibility to contact the members of my team, get their availabilities, and, if necessary, send them out to the site of the search. Naturally, searches happen when I'm almost never near my computer, but I keep my T|C within an arm's length 24-7, so most of my dispatching duties are done through my Palm. I keep a copy of the group roster in DTG (Excel format), and usually can use something like DTG/Word To Go to keep track of who I've called and what their status is. However, in doing this yesterday, and thinking about it today, I realized how much more convenient it would be to have a PDA application (theoretically said application should be able to work on PPC, Palm, and Windows/Mac) where you could store your roster info in one menu/page, the particulars of a search (subject description, details, directions to the search) in another menu, and team details (for the specific search) in another menu/page. It would also be quite helpful to be able to work seamlessly between those menues/pages and then, when the search was over, be able to export the information to a formatted text (or maybe HTML) file that could be used/read by anybody if it were necessary in the future (for legal reasons, we keep most everything related to a search in hard and electronic format whenever possible).

One day it might be cool to also develop an application for use in the field, to use in reporting clues found and for completing the report of what area was searched to what POD, etc, etc. Currently, I know many SAR activities use laptops at base, and it would be quite convenient to integrate it all into one (relatively inexpensive, especially for the volunteer groups) package. But, I think a good first effort in this type of project would be to make a useful tool for dispatchers.

If there is already a program that does this kind of thing, then I'd love if somebody could point me to it, and if not and if there's interest, maybe somebody could email me about actually making it. I can be reached at kpilotte_AT_gmail_DOT_com, or on AIM as terptex.

Bamboo Bike Frame

Originally uploaded by terpkristin.
I vaguely remember seeing something about this mountain bike frame made of bamboo and carbon fiber awhile ago in one of my cycling magazines, but today Boing Boing and MAKE Magazine both had links to it. The main article, found here, also has a link to a story about how the bike was actually made, available here.

This looks super-light and super-cool. Though I must confess that I don't mountain bike much anymore (I'm really too injury-prone to do it...), this bike still looks like it'd be a lot of fun to make...and maybe even to turn into a commuting beast. Oh wait, I need a job to commute to before I really plan on commuting anywhere. Well, regardless, this looks like a really fun project, one I'd like to try, maybe once I land myself a job.

UPDATE: It seems the MAKE Magazine trackback link isn't working for me, so if you want to check out this really neat magazine, click here. :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Triple Arthrodesis

Triple Arthrodesis
Originally uploaded by terpkristin.
Finally I was able to get a picture of my xray up on the web. This is my ankle after my surgery on 25 June 2004, where Dr. Mark Myerson performed a triple arthrodesis (complete fusion), sural neurectomy (removal of a portion of the sural nerve), and Chrisman-Snook lateral ligament reconstruction (well, to be honest, a re-re-reconstruction). What can I say, I was a mess. If you click on the picture, it should take you to its flickr page where you can roll your mouse over a few of the notes I added.

For those who don't remember or don't know, the fusion was not the first surgery I had on my ankle and in fact was only performed because I had three prior failed surgeries. My injury progression was:
3 July 2001: Initial injury (acute ankle sprain), which happened when I went up for a head ball while playing soccer and came down on the outside of my ankle/foot intead. OUCH. It turned out that the 3 main ligaments on the outside of my ankle had completely snapped--not just torn or stretched, but snapped right apart.
27 July 2001 & 20 December 2001: Shoulder surgeries. Not related to the ankle at all, but because of these surgeries, I didn't worry too much about my ankle until I was ready to try to play soccer again and couldn't.
mid-March 2002: Realized I could barely walk without rolling my ankle so saw my orthopaedic surgeon. He advised physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support the ankle.
mid-June 2002: PT's laughed at me because my ankle was so bad that we couldn't even keep it from rolling DURING rehab. They sent me back to my surgeon.
15 August 2002: Ankle surgery #1. Watson-Jones procedure to repair the ankle ligaments by using a graft from the peroneus brevis tendon.
First half of 2003: Still in pain following ankle surgery #1, I continue to do rehab. Finally I get referred to a different surgeon, Dr. Paul Cooper at Georgetown University Hospital.
6 August 2003: Dr. Cooper performs ankle surgery #2, an arthroscopic debriedment of my ankle and an open reconstruction of the peroneal tendons (brevis and longus) and re-reconstruction of the lateral ligaments.
24 December 2003: Dr. Cooper performs ankle surgery #3, where he intended to use a cadeaver tendon to re-reconstruct my peroneal tendons (see above). When he got in there, though, he discovered that the muscle in my calf/foot was atrophied to an extent that he couldn't attach the tendon anywhere (this is what happens when you can't exercise for over a year due to pain). Instead, he ended up detaching a tendon from the bottom of my foot and re-routing it behind my tib/fib and used it to "recreate" my peroneus brevis and longus.
25 June 2004: All other surgeries had failed and my gait was severely affected, I finally saw Dr. Mark Myerson who recommended the triple arthrodesis and other procedures. While I can't say that I'm yet 100% pain-free, my gait is mostly normal again and though I'll never run or really jump again, I'm slowly returning to an active life (mostly biking, and I'd be more active if I had a job so I could have insurance so I could get back into physical therapy).

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

I was happy today to come upon a free ebook version of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Not so much that I'd really mind purchasing it, but I know I have at least two copies of it at my parents' house, neither of which I could find as I ransacked the house this past Saturday. I've now put it onto my Palm Pilot as an ebook by cutting and pasting the text into a MS Word file, which I can then read on my T|C via Documents To Go. I know, if I used iSilo, I could have easily converted it into a PDA-friendly ebook, but I don't have a copy of iSilo currently. One day I may, but it will first require a job for the fundage to purchase it (yes I know it's only about $20--if that, but I gotta spend my money wisely).

My desire to reread the book, of course, stems from the hype surrounding the soon-to-be-released movie. What can I say, I'm a sheep. That said, I'm probably going to wait for it to come to DVD before actually seeing it. Maybe I'd have shelled out money for it if the reviews hadn't made it sound so awful, but most everybody seems to think the movie's a dog (or maybe it's a paranoid android). The best review I've read so far comes from the BBC. Sadly, even they decide that, "A lot of effort has gone in to keeping the film as faithful to Adams' vision as possible. But somewhere in the production process the crew has lost sight of the fundamental aspect of the books - they were immensely funny."

Needless to say, as much as the dork in me wants to see the movie irrespective of how awful it is, the practical side of me says it's safe to wait for the DVD release. If any of my regular readers (all 2 of you) actually goes to see this movie, let me know what you think...

UPDATE: I went and saw the movie on 30 April 2005. It really wasn't bad. Sure, I think they may have missed some of the deeper parts of the book (that, admittedly, would be hard to put into a film, anyway), but overall, I was laughing through the entire film and will most likely purchase it when it comes to DVD. My biggest gripe with the movie was the overplayed love scenes and romance in general between Arthur and Trillian. Though, even with that, it was a pretty good flick. If you go see it at the theater, be sure to stay and watch through the credits. :)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Boat Dropped!

It's about time that I got around to posting this. On tax day, 4.15.05, at around 1 p.m. ET, we dropped Daydreams back into the water after a winter in dry dock. While dry docked, major repairs included the replacement of the cutless bearing and re-painting the bottom.

Though it's been 2 weeks since she was dropped, I have yet to get out on her for a sail. Hopefully that situation will be rectified this week...stay tuned for sailing pictures throughout the summer and maybe fall! :)

Daydreams main page (she's a 1986 Seidelmann 30T)
Seidelmann Owners page (created and maintained by my dad, includes boat info from Seidelmann owners around the world, a mailing list for Seidelmann owners, and general boating links)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Forbes on Podcasting

I know, I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's about time the "traditional media" and "older folks" (by that I mean old-fashioned, not necessarily the age-enhanced) recognize and acknowledge the utility and interest in podcasting, something the technologically advanced have been having fun with since the middle of last year. Be that as it may, though, Forbes has a great article on Podcasting, available here. And, while we're on the subject, here are the ones I listen to on a regular basis (with a description if it's not obvious):

Adam Curry's Daily Source Code
Engadget (gadget and technology news)
MAKE Magazine's podcast (Do-It-Yourself news and interviews)
The Gadget Show (from The Podcast Network)
1src (Palm and PDA-related news)
Gadling (travel writing, travel news)
Maximum Geek (geek stuff with Jeff Kirvin and Josh Curry...somewhat related to writing, but it's an acquired taste)
Micah's Minute (sometimes they are "tower 'casts" giving a behind-the-scenes look of air traffic control from what I believe is a private airfield in Toledo, OH, and other times, it's just random musings from Micah)
Mashup of the Week (usually the mashups are pretty good)
The Bottom Division Federation's Bottom Talk (related to the online soccer management game I and many others are addcited to, Hattrick)

Searchable indeces of podcasts of various types may be found at ipodder, PodcastAlley, and The Podcast Network. Personally, I use my RSS reader (Mozilla Thunderbird) to know when new podcasts are ready to be downloaded. Others use various aggregators such as iPodder which downloads the podcasts (usually in mp3 format) automatically and automatically puts them on your mp3 player when you connect it. I like using my RSS reader to do this because it lets me read a preview of the podcast in question and decide if I really want to listen to it. I save it locally, and then either listen to it on my computer while I work or pop it onto my iPod if I'm going to be on the road.

Happy listening!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI Frustrations

It would seem I'm not alone in my frustrations and fears in the selection of Pope Benedict XVI. I don't really consider myself "qualified" to make comments on the state of the religion. Yes, I am Catholic, but I've always been progressive and have always gone to a very progressive/liberal church. I don't see that the selection of the new Pope will change any of that. However, it's nice to hear that others, FAR MORE QUALIFIED THAN I to really have an opinion on the state of the Catholic Church, have the same fears and frustrations that I do; at least I'm not alone. For the views of other Catholics and Christians, I encourage you to read's opinion page on it...

Next Generation Tungsten

So the PalmOne Tungsten E2 was released last week, without much flair. For full reviews on it, I encourage you to check out any of the Palm/PDA-related links in the right sidebar here. I admit, the E-line just isn't exactly what I'm looking for in a Palm (low processing speed and low heap memory are the two major downsides for me, since I play a lot of games on my Palm in addition to "normal" computing uses). Thus, I haven't really read much about the E2, so I can't really offer anything useful on the device.

What does intrigue me, however, is the Tungsten T6/2005/X or LifeDrive device that was really just a rumor back in mid-March when I wrote about it then (see entry here). Now, reviewing the rumors then and the "facts" as we know them now, it seems that the rumors weren't too far off:
*Device name Tungsten T6 or Tungsten 2005 (now assumed to be Tungsten X or LifeDrive)
* OS 6 Cobalt (now assumed to be OS 5.4 Garnet)
* Bluetooth (STILL TRUE!)
* Wavelan a/k/a WiFi (STILL TRUE!)
* 1 GB flash memory (I believe now it's assumed it'll have 32-64--or more, I've heard varying estimates--MB of basic RAM and a 4 GB Hitachi hard drive)
* 3 Megapixel Camera (assumed completely untrue, no Tungsten device has an integrated camera)
* New connector (STILL TRUE! This will probably be the "Athena" connector found on the T5 and T|E2)
* VGA resolution 640 x 480 (actually, I believe it will be 480 x 320 HVGA screen)
* Graffiti 2 plus (the "plus" in theory includes voice commands. I have no idea about this one...)
* Interface to iTunes (this is unlikely, though the integrated mp3 player will be PocketTunes, a very nice player)
* The device is maximum 200 grams (absolutely no idea on this one)
* Automatic software update over internet (absolutely no idea on this one, either)
* Compatibility mode for pocket Windows is built in (not sure what this means)
* Initial price around $400 (now it seems it'll be in the $500-$550 range, more in line with the Dell Axim x50V)
* Launch date approx end of April (estimated date is now mid-May...May 18th range)

So, it seems that this device is going to be real! Now we can only really hope that I have nailed down a job by the time it's released, because I'll REALLY be tempted to buy it. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Good Riddance, John Gilchrist

The Washington Times reported Saturday that junior Terps point guard John Gilchrist will not be returning to the University of Maryland and will instead enter the NBA draft. According to the article, Terps coach Gary Williams believes he's signed with an agent. If this is the case, Gilchrist definitely cannot come back. Good riddance is what I say.

Gilchrist showed great promise in his freshman year and in his sophomore year was named the ACC Tournament MVP. In his junior year, however, he had his head up his ass thinking he was greater than god. I mean, of course, I don't know if that's exactly what he felt, but it's certainly how he played. He feuded with Gary over what his role should be, and I believe that the tension between Gary and John hurt the team's chemistry. Point guards need to be leaders, and he was leading them in the way HE thought it should happen. And, let's be honest here, with his poor shot selection and lackluster playing, he demonstrated he wasn't god's gift to basketball. So he's going to the NBA instead...if he gets taken. Apparently pre-draft estimates have him going late in the first round or early in the 2nd round, but if you've ever seen Gilchrist play, I think you'd agree he's not an NBA-caliber player. Not that it takes much to be "NBA caliber"...The NBA is a joke.

On a side note, I think Gilchrist's decision to leave the team may have been academic. Based on what I know from people who've met him, he's an arrogant asshole (which can be seen in his playing), and probably took that attitude off the court and into the classroom. You may remember back in January Gilchrist was not allowed to play in a game for failing to turn in an academic assignment on time. I think the problem was much deeper, and he may in fact be failing.

So, good riddance, John Gilchrist. Goodbye to bad blood. Now Terps fans can hope that Sterling Leadbetter is ready to step up as point guard. Based on his performance in the NIT, I think we can expect he'll settle into the position well, and just needs to get some confidence and learn how to be the leader the team needs at the position.

Habemas Papam

In what came as a surprise to me, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the 265th Pope today. The name he chose for himself is Benedict XVI. It has already been suggested that Ratzinger was selected because he is old (78) and thus won't have a very long reign. Even if he dies at 84, as Pope John Paul II did, it would be a 6 year Pontificate. Others have suggested that Ratzinger selected his name because his Benedict predecessor, Benedict XV, was Pope for only 8 years, and thus Ratzinger is signifying that his papacy will be short. Either way, this is not the man I believe to be the unifier that the Catholic Church so desperately needs right now, but I suppose it was God's will and we shall see how things play out.

UPDATE: I am also shocked by how quickly Wikipedia updated Ratzinger's entry from "Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger" to "Pope Benedict XVI."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Virginia HOV Story

So, for a little intro to this story, I'm doing some temp work right now with the Northern Virginia Traffic Authority on how quickly their most active parking lots fill up. This entails getting to the parking lot/garage by 7 a.m. and doing car counts of the number of vehicles in the lot every half hour between 7 and 10 (or until the lot fills up).

So this morning, when I left the specific parking lot, I didn't see any sign that the way I was going out was for HOV-3 only. I realized, after I was on this HOV only side road, that I was in the wrong place so I saw a cop who had already pulled somebody over, and I pulled in behind him and waited for him to finish up with that so I could ask him how to get back to the main road. (NOTE: At the time, I realized it might have been irritating for a cop to have somebody pull up behind him--he may expect me to do something violent or something. In order to try to prevent this, I kept my hands on my steering wheel and visible until he'd come to my window, and even then I tried to move with slow, deliberate movements. Of course, me pulling up behind him may still have stressed him out, which may explain why he was such a jerkoff at first). Well, he comes over and is like "You're in violation of Viriginia state law blah blah blah." I tried to explain it was an accident and I was lost and trying to get back to the main road, and he was like "I don't care what you're trying to do, why are on you on this road, there is no reason to be on this road."

So I explain about the car counting, and he's interrupting me, "Why would you be doing that, you have no right to be doing that." So I start to pull out the letter explaining what I'm doing and that it's authorized and stuff, and he doesn't let me even get that out. He says something to the effect of, "Now why would I want to read that? I don't care about that, you are in violation of Virginia HOV law and you have no excuse to be in this lane, I don't believe you're here by accident."

So he takes my license and registration and I'm at this point fuming mad with him, because he's been rude and an asshole to boot. I mean, why would I PULL MYSELF over if I wasn't lost? By the time he finished writing up the ticket before me, I could have easily been to the highway, long past him. So I'm writing all his info (state car tag number, officer name, location, time, all the relevant info) and then he comes back with my license and registration and says, "Ok, ma'am, I believe you're really lost and that this was all an accident."

So I thanked him and got the directions I was looking for and no ticket, but shit. It was like he needed to verify I wasn't a felon or something before he decided I was legit? I mean, why on EARTH would I have pulled up behind a cop who was already giving somebody else a ticket if I hadn't been genuinely confused?! Plus i was worried, the fine for HOV violations in Virginia is a max of 1,000 which I don't have. It was crazy, and I couldn't believe how rude he was and how he was treating me like a prison bitch.

All's ok now, but what a nightmare. I love being guilty until deemed worthy of being innocent.

Friday, April 01, 2005

When PDA's Die...

PDA's (Personal Digital Assistants, for those of you not so technologically inclined...) have become almost ubiquitous in society today. Whether people use the PDA functions built into their cellphones or actually shell out for devices such as those made by PalmOne, HP (iPAQ line), Dell (Axim line), Tapwave (Zodiacs), or any of the other ones out there, the point remains: people like electronic organizers.

The real trick is that some people seem to forget that they cannot keep their data in only one place. Personally, I synchronize my Palm Pilot at least once a day (more than once if I'm looking to update items in Documents to Go or update my news feeds on AvantGo), so I know that all of my important information about schedule and contacts is backed up and accessible through the Palm Desktop software on my computer. But what happens when people DON'T synchronize or otherwise backup their devices? The comic strip, "Real Life Adventues," has an idea, posted here. The upshot of this "Friday usefulness" post? Synchronize your device at least once a week. :)

UPDATE: It seems that the link to the "Real Life Adventures" comic strip won't work for most people (it requires a subscription to ucomics Premium). I'm sure you get the idea, though, of somebody being completely lost without their PDA. No numbers, no schedule, and no way of recreating that stuff if it's lost. Remember to backup your data!