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Collected editorials

As seen in …


While I was having yet another cup of coffee I read that “Caffeine intake was positively related to stress levels and hallucination-proneness, but not persecutory ideation.” I certainly am glad that researchers found that caffeine doesn’t cause persecutory ideation. Maybe they aren’t out to get me, after all.

Why was I having yet another cup of coffee? Because I remembered that coffee protects against Alzheimers. I guess what it comes down to is that in my old age I will have a perfect memory for the things that I see that nobody else does.

As seen in South Dakota Magazine

On page 14 of the South Dakota Magazine you will find a small article about yours truly. The headline reads “Richard Harter’s (Web) World”. The first paragraph reads “Richard Harter is the sage of Hyde County. Every month the Highmore man waxes philosophical in an e-magazine on his web site, Richard Harter’s World.” This excessively flattering article is accompanied by a photo that is about as flattering as it can be, given the material the photographer had to work with.

Although the editor lets slip in some dubious material now and then the South Dakota Magazine is both beautiful and full of interesting material. I can heartily recommend it to anyone who lives in South Dakota, who has lived in South Dakota, who has heard of South Dakota, or wonders why they’ve never heard of South Dakota before. Australians in particular should get the South Dakota Magazine. In case you are wondering how to get it, here is the address and website.

PO Box 175,
Yankton SD 57078
Website: www.southdakotamagazine.com
Subscriptions are $19 a year or $34 (US) for two years. They don’t quote a rate for a life-time subscription, but maybe you could get one if you asked nicely.

But is normal normal?

In December of 2008 I visited Mayo clinic where a phalanx of physicians poked, prodded, and measured my poor body. The thing about Mayo clinic is that they really aren’t satisfied unless they know precisely what is going on in your body.

Sometimes this is a good thing; what seems like an oddity may turn out to be a symptom of something that should be attended to RIGHT NOW. Quite often, however, oddities are simply oddities. Bodies are no produced in cookie cutter style. Most of us have little medical anomalies. It simply isn’t normal to be completely normal.

One of my little anomalies is my body temperature. The current technique for gathering one’s temperature that is used in medical places is to stick a device in your ear. According to these gadgets my body temperature is somewhere in the vicinity of 95 degrees F; it measures as low as 93 and as high as 96. I’m just thankful that none of them have ever asked me if I am really alive.

I chalk the whole thing up to excess ear wax. It’s an explanation. However my body temperature does seem to be low. When I measure it in my mouth with a regular thermometer normal for me is 97.3 degrees F. If it ever gets as high as 98.6 I have a fever. My take on this is that the reptilian part of my brain is out of control. I’ve mentioned this to doctors from time to time and they blow it off, usually with some vague noises about instrumentation. Apparently some anomalies just don’t matter.

Then there is my platelet count. Most of my blood work is down the middle; not so my platelet count. Back in 2006 they measured it at Mayo. It was 600,000 something; normal is between 200,000 something and 400,000 something. A high platelet count increases the risk of a stroke, so it’s something to be concerned about. It’s not dangerously high, but it is a risk factor.

In my December 2008 visit it also was above 600,000, as it had been in a couple of measurements in between the two visits. I set up an appointment with a hematologist to look into the matter more closely. He had some blood work done to test various possible causes for the anomaly. The results came back. Every thing was normal … including my platelet count.

There is no obvious explanation for this, other than an error in the test. The fact that it dropped means that there was something that I was reacting to for years that was causing the platelet count to be elevated. As it happens, the kinds of things that would cause a sustained reaction don’t apply to me. The upshot was that the hematologist said that let’s look at it in a few months and see if it’s changed.

When you’ve been abnormal for years, is it normal to be normal?

Other medical news

I have Barrett’s syndrome. It’s improved a good deal in the past two years. Yay.

I also developed atrial fibrillation in the past six months. They are going to do a cardioversion, which means that they stop my heart and restart it. They say that I will be sedated during the procedure. This is very disappointing to me; I sort of would like to know what it feels like to die and come back to life again. Nobody lets me have any fun. Boo.

As a preparation for this they have put me on rat poison, aka coumadin, aka warfarin sodium. They tell me it is a blood thinner. They’re not fooling me – I know rat poison when I see it. Double boo

Other than that I’m healthy as a horse. Come to think on it, that’s not really saying too much. After all, they shoot horses, don’t they? Let’s just say I am as healthy as a horse that is as healthy as I am and leave it at that.

Richard, the blogger

Once upon a time I protested vigorously that I was not a blogger, that my web site was, is, and will be an e-magazine. And so it is. However I have been hornswoggled into running a blog. You can see it at http://hydecounty.communityblogs.us. It’s not a very exciting and interesting blog, but it definitely is a blog. How did all of this come about, you ask. Well, actually, you probably didn’t ask and don’t much care, but it would be polite upon your part if you do ask.

It’s like this. For reasons that are quite obscure, but have much to do with Our Lady Of The Large Black Dog being into community improvement and other good deeds. I am firmly of the opinion that doing good deeds is not good for you, but my opinion is not wanted in this matter. The upshot is that I have become involved with something called the Horizons program. This very much is a good deeds sort of thing; it involves certain benefactors providing resources and programs to help bedraggled rural communities gain a sense of community consciousness and lift themselves up by their tattered bootstraps.

(I never met a metaphor I couldn’t mangle.)

The Horizons program is very structured. One piece of the structure is to create and maintain a community blog. They set it up and supply the blog. The community supplies the blogger. When all of this was explained everyone looked at me and said, You are just the man. You know all about this internet stuff. You appear in magazines and are on British radio programmes. Go to it, sucker.

It can be hard to argue with that sort of thing. So all of a sudden I was shipped off to blogger school where I learned to run a community blog. (It’s not very hard.) It’s kind of prosaic right now, but I have an awful suspicion that there are limits to how much I can juice it up.

Almost done

One of my many dubious projects is the creation of a piece of software that I call the San threading engine. What it is to let you hook up black boxes up. It then sloshes data back and forth between the boxes. Very handy for writing simulations and that sort of thing.

What is it good for? The intent is to provide a natural environment for writing software that models biological and sociological processes, and for artificial intelligence research. One of the implications of this is that the black boxes can change the connections dynamically, create and destroy each other, and alter each other’s contents. It’s a non-trivial project.

The theory is that it will be a key component in the eventual implementation of the San programming language, which will be just the cat’s meow for this sort of thing. I will concede that implementing the San language is a large project that is getting rather long in the tooth. Still, the engine could be useful in its own right.

I’ve uploaded a new version of the engine software. You can play with it if you like. You can find it at https://richardhartersworld.com/~cri_a/san/source_code/projects/san_engine/. It works, but I’m not done with it. There are things tbat are incomplete and some things that I am not happy about.

The code is a trifle hairy. Not really down in dirt hairy, but a little hairy. Writing it has gone slowly, in part because working on it is very much part, and in part because I keep refining it and redefining it. At this point it is working code that works, but it is still a work in progress. I originally thought it might take just a few weeks to design and code up. That was back in October. It doesn’t seem right that it should take four or five months to write about 1200 lines of code. That works out to about ten lines a day which supposedly the industry average.

It’s fun for a really perverse notion of fun.

Books I may never read

There are programs I may never write, poems I may never learn, and books I may never read. One of those books is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. To explain the concept of this book I can do no better than to quote from the promo for it.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen’s beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy….
I gather that the idea is to introduce Jane Austen to Zombie fans. They may have something here. There are other genres. I look forward to such works as Pride and Prejudice and Vampires, Pride and Prejudice and Porn, Pride and Prejudice and Lovecraft, Pride and Prejudice and the Superbowl. and Pride and Prejudice and Myspace. Literature can only rise to new heights.

Television has gotten into the act too. There is a television series about a Mary Sue who has been injected into the Bennet household. I am not prepared to deal with the concept.

The state of affairs

Perhaps you were expecting a few profound paragraphs from me about the state of the economy and the new administration. Forget it. The entire blogosphere is filled with that stuff. It’s time to cleanse your mind of politics and public affairs and make a bowl of popcorn.

This page was last updated February 3, 2009.

table of contents
Collected editorials