The miscellaneous ramblings and thoughts of Dan G. Switzer, II

Yeah! No more car payments (at least for the immediate future)

Just last week I sent in my final car payment and I just received the title in the mail. This leaves Jenn & I without a car payment (as Jenn paid off her car earlier in the Spring.) It's a nice feeling to get out from having a monthly car payment. I guess the timing of paying off the car comes at a pretty good time, as I can know put the bulk of that money away each month. It'll also help me to pay off all the Holiday bills next month in a more timely fashion.

My trip to see the Steelers/Cowboys game...

Over the weekend, Jenn & I took our annual trip to Pittsburgh to see the Steelers play. We meet up with our friends Bob & Tina (from Indiana) once a year to see a game at Heinz Field. This is a trip we look forward to all year.

We drove over to Pittsburgh on Saturday, in the middle of the first winter storm of the season. While the weather wasn't that bad, we drove by dozens of car accidents on I-70. Lots of cars that spun off the road and a few multi-car accidents. We even detoured off I-70 briefly due to traffic being completely halted. We ended up jumping on SR-40 (old National Rd) for a few miles to get around the traffic jam. Fortunately we got to Pittsburgh and back without incident.


Yahoo! Sirius Radio Widget mod

[UPDATED: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 4:27:19 PM]

Tanner Jepsen created a Sirius Radio widget I've been using for years. He's since upgraded the widget to a v3 status, but I've never cared for the new UI. I prefer the compact nature of the original version.

Sometime last year, I sent Tanner a mod I had done which adds the ability to post song information to a URL (which is how I get my "now listening to" on my blog updated with my Sirius listening.) He mentioned he'd add the feature to existing updates, but I don't think he ever got around to adding the feature.

However, I recently started using Yahoo! Widget v4.5 and the Sirius Widget v2.2.x stopped working. The reason is the KON file uses some depreciated syntax. So over the weekend I modded the Sirius Widget again so that it would work in Yahoo! Widgets v4.5.

So, I thought I'd go ahead and release my mod to the wild. My mod is based on the original v2.2.0 and does the following:

  • Works with Yahoo! Widgets v4.5
  • Adds the "Web Status URL" preference to the "IM Status" tab (this posts listening information to a URL)
  • Adds new preference for toggle "Check for update" status (you can now disable this to speed initializing)

This mod is not support by Tanner and I make no guarantees the widget will work for you.

Tanner has updated his v2.2.x to include my mods in v2.2.3, but also removed some code that was hitting his server. I've updated the link on this site to point to his new version

Yahoo! Widget - Sirius Tuner v2.2.4

Version History

v2.2.4 [October 18, 2009]

+ This is a link to Tanner's v2.2.4 which includes changes to the code

v2.2.3 [September 30, 2008]

+ Added new preference for toggling the "check for updates" feature

Week 11 - Nikki got the "Ok" from the surgeon...

I haven't really had much to give in terms of updates on my Black Lab Nikki's recovery. The first couple of weeks were a bit rocky, but after that things calmed down and recovery was just slow (but generally uneventful.) She really handled being couped up much better than I imagined she would. She's just such a high energy dog, I thought she'd drive us crazy being confined to her kennel. I think the fact that I took her on 4-5 walks a day helped a lot. While most of the walks were relatively short (mostly just up and down our street,) it allowed her to get out and burn off some energy.

On Wednesday I took Nikki for her 10 week checkup (which was actually on week 11.) The surgeon who performed the double bilateral TTA is doing a paper on healing after the 6 week period, so I've been taking her in every couple of weeks to get new X-Rays done. Since this was part of a research paper he's working on, they haven't been charging for the visits or X-Rays.

After looking at the X-Rays, he gave us the "Ok" to let Nikki resume normal activities. She's allowed to do whatever she wants, but he wants us to limit her amount of activity for the first couple of weeks. He basically wants us to keep physical activities under 2 hours—which quite frankly shouldn't be an issue.

So, last night I finally got to play fetch with both our Labs in the backyard. She's running a little funky still—she short of hops her back legs. I expect as she's able to really stretch things out and regain complete range of motion of her back knees she'll return to full stride. The doctor warned us she'll probably show signs of limping for the first couple of weeks if she plays hard and not to be concerned unless it doesn't go away after a night's rest.

Well our pocket book is much lighter, we finally got our Nikki back. :)

Keep an eye for more contests like I ran yesterday...

Yesterday I ran an announced "contest", which was a simple post of "Speak the word." Although know one knew it was a contest, Jim Priest won being the first person to correctly respond with the answer "Revolution." Jim won a gift off his Amazon Wishlist.

For those of you who don't understand the answer, it's a reference to the song Speak by Queensryche—off their masterpiece Operation Mindcrime. While this was a pretty obscure reference, I knew enough of my readers had pretty similar tastes in music so I thought someone would get the reference. I was a bit surprise Jim got it right off the bat, but it's also what I was hoping would happen.

I got the idea while walking my dog over lunch and listening to my iPod. One of my good friends and I used to play a "game" where we'd just walk up to each and quote some random lyric and you were expected to answer. So, I might pass him in the office and whisper "Speak the word" and I'd expect him to whisper back "Revolution." Anyway, I thought I'd post something to my blog and see if anyone else got the reference. I then decided to make it into a little contest.

I plan to run more of these seemingly random contest, so keep an eye for them. They'll be cryptic postings and I'll provide clues if needed. I'm not sure how often I'll run the contests, but as long as your reading my blog on regular basis, you won't miss it.

As far as the content for the contests, who knows what it'll be. I'll try to make them either broad enough for everyone or at least try to make sure I'm not focusing on a specific genre. I won't do anything to explicitly mark the entry as a content, but it'll be something that appears very cryptic or sound like a riddle. You'll just have to keep reading daily to watch out for the contests. :)

Robotic Tennis Ball Cannon is Truly Dog's Best Friend...

I can't even tell you how much my yellow Lab would love this toy. If we set this up in our house, I'd never see her again.

Blizzard 2008 Pictures...

In the past 24 hours we've been dumped on with probably 14" of snow here at the house. We've been in a Blizzard Warning for the past 18 hours or so (and it's to continue for another 6 hours.) This is the first Blizzard in this area since 1978. While this amount of snow fall is a drop in the hat to what some places are used to, it's a huge snowfall for what this area is used to seeing in a 24 hour period of time.

I love the snow, so I'm really enjoying it. We've got a nice brand new huge 6' x 6' window in our front room, so I'm just enjoying watching the snowfall. I've taken our oldest dog, Maddie, out a couple of times to play in the snow. Nikki (the one that just had surgery) really wants to play when I take her out to go potty, but the snow is just too deep to let her really trek around in. Anyway, Jenn got the camera out and we took these pictures about an hour ago.

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Celebrating Dan² Day

Yesterday my Dad and I celebrating our birthdays. I was born on my Dad's 25th birthday—which is something I've always enjoyed. It's pretty rare to share a birthday with a parent (although my Grandma and Great-Grandma on my mother's side shared a birthday,) but it's a bond between us that is something I'm glad we share.

Since winter is a slower time for my parents, my Mom and Dad drove to Columbus and my Mom made dinner at our house for my Dad and me. She always makes us Beef Stroganoff as it's our favorite meal. Ironically,  neither of our wives care much for it but they make it for us because they know we love it.

Whenever we have a leap year, it always makes me think how close I was to being a leap year baby. If I would have been born 3.5 hours later, I would have actually been celebrating my birthday today. However, I was already almost 3 weeks late, so I'm pretty sure I was just waiting for my Dad's birthday.

By the way, I was an extremely cute baby:

Update on Nikki's Surgery - Week 2

Well finally got the infection under control—at least for the most part. Her left hind leg, which was the one that was really swollen, got back to normal size by Thursday of last week. He right hind leg is still a little irritated, but they were able to take her staples out yesterday. The funny thing is the leg that looked so bad last week, looks really good.

The incision has healed up nicely and you barely notice it. The right leg is still a little red and swollen. Since she still has a bit of an infection and the leg is tender, they want us to keep the eCollar on when we can't keep an eye on her—just to prevent excessive licking. We're able to keep the eCollar off as long as we can keep an eye out to make sure she doesn't keep licking at the wound.

She still handling being in her kennel well. She hasn't really complained, other than the occasion crying around 6am when she needs her potty break.

The one thing that has Jenn and I little concerned is that when we got back to the house yesterday (after getting the staples out) she slipped a bit in the driveway. The Vet told us we didn't have to use her sling anymore, but our intention was to keep using it since it's been so icy outside. Unfortunately, right after I lifted her out of the SUV, but before I could get the sling on her, she slipped a bit in the driveway. She was walking a bit tenderly yesterday, so we're monitoring it closely to make sure she didn't injure it. I think it's just that the infection is still a little tender after getting the staples removed, but we'll know more today I think.

She's also definitely getting her strength back. She's really started to drag us around the backyard. Part of the reason I want to keep using the sling is it helps me control her a little bit. If she's putting to much stress on her back legs, I can lift her rear up a bit and that gets her to stop.

Hopefully by the end of week 3, the infection will be completely gone.

Pictures of Nikki after Surgery

[UPDATED: Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 10:55:31 AM]

Jenn took some pictures last night of Nikki. I wish we would have taken a few pictures over the weekend when he leg was really swollen. The swelling has gone way down and her energy level has gone way up. She's acting more and more normal. This is both good and bad. We're elated that she's feeling better, but she's a very high energy dog and trying to curtail her enthusiasm is going to be tough task for the next 5 weeks.

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The leg with the red blotches is that leg that was really swollen over the weekend. It was at least twice as big as it is now.

UPDATE: I added a lightbox effect to the gallery to make it easier to view.

Update on Nikki's Surgery - Week 1

Well, the last week has been pretty hectic. Nikki had infections in both legs, so we didn't get much sleep over the weekend as we were using hot compresses to try to draw the infection out. She was getting a lot of seepage out of her right hind leg (which is pretty normal) but her left leg swelled up to probably 3-4 times its normal size by Friday night.

We were worried about it enough to take her back to MedVet's ER on Saturday to have it checked out. They ended up changing her antibiotic prescription. Since the ER visit, the swelling and infection looks to be decrease each day. She barely had any seepage out of her right hind leg yesterday and the swelling in her left hind leg has reduced by probably 50%.

As far as her attitude, she's been a real trooper. Everyday she's acting more and more like herself. She's definitely getting bored being crated all day, but she's being much better about it than I thought she would. She typically heads right back to her crate all on her own after we go out for our walk/potty break.

The one thing we've had trouble getting done is her leg stretching routines. Since we spent so much time using hot compresses to get the swelling down, we had trouble getting her to lay still long enough for us to also do the stretching. We usually only get one leg in at a time—when we're supposed to do both legs. However, I talked to the Dr. Barnhart (the surgeon) and he told me that while the exercise are designed to help the recovery, their not crucial to the process and it won't cause the procedure to fail in the long run.

I still want to step up that bit of therapy though. I'm sure the stretching exercises will only help the recovery period, so hopefully we can get her on a better schedule for that part of the therapy.

Overall I think the biggest issue Jenn & I are both battling with is lack of sleep. I've got to stay up for her late night pills, but the dogs are getting me up by 6am each morning. Somehow the 5 to 5½ hours of sleep I'm getting just isn't cutting it. I'm scheduled to go back for my second sleep study next week—in which they'll get me fitted for a CPAP machine to try to fix my sleep apnea issues. Hopefully that will increase the restfulness of my sleep.

Anyway, I'll try to get some pictures of Nikki online. I've gotten really bad of taken pictures of late. I really wish I would have snapped a few pictures when her leg was all swelled up.

My TurboTax dilemma solved with great Customer Service...

Good service oftens goes unnoticed, so I wanted to public thank Bob Meighan, the VP of TurboTax, for helping me get some older .tax files in which I could locate either the PDFs or the original documents I had printed.

I tried tracking down my old TurboTax installations, but I couldn't find the files for the years I was missing. They've either been thrown out or were lost in our robbery last year.

My guess is this isn't an uncommon request, but Bob got me the PDFs I needed ASAP. Anyway, I always like to recognize when a company goes the extra mile to help me out quickly.

Dynamic Template Plug-in for Windows Live Writer

I've been using Windows Live Writer for posting all my blogs. Overall it's a terrific program. It's got a very simple, easy to use interface and it drastically eases the process of blogging.

However, the one complaint I've had with the program is there's no easy way to "add" common HTML tags that you commonly use to the interface. I use the <samp> tag quite frequently when showing inline sample code and for variable names (although I suppose I should use the <var> tag instead.) To use these tags I've had to drop to the HTML Code view and manually add the tags. This is a pain to do—especially on longer posts where I need to add the tag frequently.

To solve my dilemma, I've been periodically searching for a Live Writer Plug-in that might allow me to add some custom HTML snippets. Well today I just happened to stumble on a great little plug-in called Dynamic Template Plugin for Windows Live Writer.

You can use this plug-in for doing something as inserting static text or for modifying the selected text. The real power comes from the fact that the plug-in allows you to use C# code snippets. You can even have the template prompt you for input.

To get you started, here are a couple of templates I just wrote to help me out with a few tasks:


My poor Nik-Niks...

[UPDATED: Friday, February 15, 2008 at 9:24:01 AM]

My black Lab, Nikki, has been suffering from rear knee problems since she was about 18 months old (she just turned 4 last month.) She's ruptured the canine cruciate ligaments in both her hind leg. That's like us having torn ACLs in both knees. While she's had the problems for a while, she normally gets by without too much problem—most people would have no clue she had problems with both her rear legs. For the most part, we had been able to manage the nikki.operationdiscomfort using Deramaxx (which is a joint supplement.)

Last Thursday I noticed she was having a bad day, I could tell her knees were bothering her because she was limping and trying to avoid putting weight on them. She just progressively started getting worse over the weekend. She was barely moving and was no where near her normal energetic self.

On Sunday my wife noticed she was also not putting weight on her front left leg—which she was also having uncontrollable spasms that lasted for over 24 hours (massaging the leg would give temporary relief.)

On Monday morning I took her to the vet to see what we could do to relief her of the pain a little and to get a diagnoses on the front leg. The vet determined she either has a muscle or ligament injury that's either a sprain or a strain (without an MRI it would be impossible to know.) The vet also felt that Nikki has probably ruptured her MCL as well as her CaCL.

We've known that the knee problems would degenerate over time, but we were hoping it wouldn't get this bad. No one wants to see their dog in constant pain. It was quite clear to us that Nikki needed surgery if she was to have any type of quality of life.


Azentek's Atlas CPC-1000 - In-Vehicle PC

One of things I'd love to upgrade in my Toyota 4Runner when I finish paying it off at the end of the year, is the radio. It's currently got a JBL Radio/Navigation system in it, but I've not been able to find an interface that for the radio which will allow me to connect an mp3 player to it. I could buy an FM modulator, but I really don't want to lose sound quality if possible.

However, I'd really love to get a stereo with native hard drive for mp3s, Sirius support (so I can get rid of my Sportster—which I like, but would prefer not to have to have it on the dash) and I'd like to have handsfree Bluetooth support.