Variations on a Theme by an Insomniac

  • I spent a little time playing with styling this blog by hand, then decided to fall back to one of Blogger's built-in themes. I'm still not 100% happy, but it will do for now.
  • This has been a good 52 Books/52 Weeks year. I finished #66 yesterday; I may get #67 before the year is out.
  • It's midnight, and I'm browsing through blog posts from six years ago instead of sleeping.


#52 is in the house.

So is #53. I don't know which of the two I'll finish first. And it's only the middle of October.


More blog plumbing

I have connected this blog to my Twitter account through twitterfeed. Let's see if this works.


Pardon the dust.

I'm fiddling with the theme and other mechanical whatnots, so things may be a bit on the garish side for a little while. I apologize in advance to anyone who still reads this rag besides me for any offenses to your visual acuity or good taste.

Today, we were supposed to go camping.

Four years ago today, we were supposed to go on a family camping trip. Instead, we went to the hospital, and our lives were never the same again.

September 22, 2005. Abbey started exhibiting the symptoms of a stomach bug: vomiting, lethargy. We were heading down to southern Missouri for a campout the next day, and figured this was a case of bad timing at the worst.

Throughout the night, she was up every half hour to throw up. Then we noticed the panting, the shortness of breath, and started to suspect that there was something more going on. We called the 24-hour nurse line: "Sounds like an asthma attack. Go ahead and take her to the emergency room."

The ER doctor took one whiff of her breath: "She's in DKA—she needs to be admitted immediately." An hour later, we were in the pediatric ICU at Children's Mercy Hospital, feeling shell-shocked and wondering about the future.

* * *

Abbey has been living with type 1 diabetes for four years now. Publicly, she leads the life of a normal ten-year-old, but privately it's anything but. She wears an insulin infusion pump, to ensure that her blood doesn't turn toxic. She sticks her fingers eight times a day to check her blood sugar level, to ensure that it's under control. She monitors what she eats, to ensure that the carbohydrates in her food are matched with enough insulin to metabolize them.

On October 10, 2009, we'll be participating in the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund is committed to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes—not just treatment, but eradication of the disease in those who currently have it as well as its prevention in those who don't.

Please consider donating to our team.


Ten Years Ago: "Cottingham TNG" Ships

This was originally posted to the InfoWorld Electric forums on 01 April 1999.

PR: "Cottingham TNG" Ships

April 1, 1999
For Immediate Release


Cottingham & Cottingham (C&C) of Olathe, KS, USA today announced their first product, Abigail Rose. "This product represents a major milestone for C&C," said marketing director Craig S. Cottingham. "Abigail Rose is was designed and produced entirely by C&C, from the ground up."

C&C describes Abigail Rose as "a cooperative set of non-linear servoactuators controlled by a non-deterministic processor, in a package only 20" long and weighing only 8 lb, 6 oz." What sets Abigail Rose apart is that the processor ships with only basic functionality enabled. More advanced tasks become possible as Abigail Rose adapts to its environment, effectively "learning" new behaviors. "It's amazing to watch," noted Cottingham. "In the few short hours since the release party, we've seen an increase in input/output processing and fewer audible error conditions." Abigail Rose also includes an adaptive code generator featuring C&C's Dynamic Realtime Object Oriented Language (DROOL), and can produce large quantities of DROOL in a short time period.

The product was announced at a developer's conference held on an unlikely date (April 1st, commonly known as "April Fool's Day" in the US) at an unlikely time (5:45 AM CST) in an unlikely location (St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, MO, USA). "At first we were worried that people might think that the announcement was some kind of April Fool's Day prank," Cottingham said. "At C&C, however, we believe that once the product is ready, it ships." As evidence, he pointed to the fact that the development team, led by Angela Cottingham, was working hard right up to the literal moment the product was released. "We're very proud of the quality of work they did. We in the marketing department basically provided them with an incomplete design specification, and they came up with this gem."

Additional details on Abigail Rose, including product illustrations, can be found at http://picasaweb.google.com/craig.cottingham/AbigailRose19990401

About Cottingham & Cottingham (C&C)

C&C was formed in 1995 from the merger of two unrelated corporate entities, with the goal of maximizing long-term gains while providing an enjoyable end-user experience. They can be reached at craig.cottingham@gmail.com.


52 Books in 52 Weeks, 2008 Edition

It’s time for another “52 Books in 52 Weeks” recap.

The grand total was 49 books this year, three short of my goal. I recall around the beginning of December that I was running about 5 or 6 books off my pace, so apparently I made up a little ground at the end. Not enough, as it turns out.

I keep track of both the books I’ve read and my todo list on Backpack, as a checklist. Recently, they added the date an item was checked off to the list display, but it looks like they’ve been collecting it all along. As a result, I now have a record of when I finished each book, to within a day or two.

This lends itself to some more sophisticated statistics.

For instance, here’s a histogram of how many books I read in each month of 2008:

July was my best month, April my worst. April was when I fell behind, and I never recovered the pace, though I came close in July.

Other quantitative facts:

  • Books by sportswriters: 3
  • Books by children of former US Vice Presidents: 1
  • Books made into movies: 3

The biggest disappointment of the year was, I think, The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold. Her first book, The Lovely Bones, remains one of my all-time favorite books, and I was excited to learn earlier today that it’s been made into a movie, by Peter Jackson no less. Compared to it, The Almost Moon was a letdown. No, that’s not entirely fair; it was a letdown even when not compared to The Lovely Bones.

Picking my favorite from this list is a lot harder. In fact, I’m not going to. Maybe I could come up with a top 10, but since that’s almost 20% of the total list, that doesn’t seem terribly useful.

Here’s the entire list for 2008, in reverse chronological order:

  • Fatsis, Stefan. A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL.
  • Sheehan, Michael A. Crush the Cell: How to Defeat Terrorism Without Terrorizing Ourselves.
  • Phillips, Marie. Gods Behaving Badly.
  • de Santis, Pablo. The Paris Enigma.
  • Butcher, Jim. Fool Moon.
  • Quinion, Michael. Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds: ingenious tales of words and their origins.
  • Shepard, Jim. Project X.
  • Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: Why Some People Succeed and Some Don’t.
  • Pelecanos, George P. Hell to Pay.
  • Niven, Larry and Lerner, Edward M. Juggler of Worlds.
  • Posnanski, Joe. The Good Stuff.
  • Petroski, Henry. Pushing the Limits: New Adventures in Engineering.
  • Connelly, Michael. The Black Ice.
  • Deford, Frank. I’m Just Getting Started.
  • Huff, Tanya. Smoke and Shadows.
  • Walsh, Peter. It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff.
  • Gill, Michael Gates. How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else.
  • Sedaris, David. When You Are Engulfed in Flames.
  • Burrough, Bryan. Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34.
  • Miller, John Ramsey. Upside Down.
  • Coupland, Douglas. Girlfriend in a Coma.
  • Spencer-Fleming, Julia. I Shall Not Want.
  • Wells, Ken. Travels with Barley: A Journey Through Beer Culture in America.
  • Winchester, Simon. The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom.
  • Butcher, Jim. Storm Front.
  • Couch, Dick. The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228.
  • Johnson, Adam. Parasites Like Us.
  • Sacks, Oliver. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.
  • Child, Lee. Nothing to Lose.
  • Helprin, Mark. The Pacific and Other Stories.
  • Fuller, Alexandra. Scribbling the Cat.
  • Joss, Morag. Fearful Symmetry.
  • Mezrich, Ben. Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions.
  • Prachett, Terry. Carpe Jugulum.
  • Metzger, Robert A. Cusp.
  • Connelly, Michael. The Overlook.
  • Coupland, Douglas. The Gum Thief.
  • Logan, Chuck. After the Rain.
  • Mayle, Peter. A Good Year.
  • Weisman, Alan. The World Without Us.
  • Crile, George. Charlie Wilson’s War.
  • Gore, Kristin. Sammy’s House.
  • Clarke, Thurston. Searching for Crusoe: A Journey Among the Last Real Islands.
  • Frey, Stephen. The Chairman.
  • Niven, Larry and Lerner, Edward M. Fleet of Worlds.
  • Curtis, Bryan. The Explainer.
  • Sebold, Alice. The Almost Moon.
  • Buford, Bill. Heat : an amateur’s adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta maker, and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany.
  • Grafton, Sue. T is for Trespass.