Thursday, January 1, 2004

Panorama of Mt Everest

Mount Everest. 360 degree panorama from the top of Mt Everest - QTVR panoramic movie from

e.p.c. posted this at 11:32 GMT on 1-Jan-2004 .

AirGen fuel cell generator

This could be very cool, if I had a few $$$ lying around: Ballard Power Systems - AirGen™ fuel cell generator The AirGen™ fuel cell generator is the world's first portable fuel cell generator for indoor operation. Powered by Ballard's leading fuel cell technology, the AirGen™ system delivers electricity for as long as fuel is supplied.

e.p.c. posted this at 20:21 GMT on 1-Jan-2004 .

Friday, January 2, 2004

Inauspicious start to the year

Got a call from my Aunt this morning that my mom had been found unconscious in her house. She's at the hospital now, intevated and under sedation. I'm planning on driving out tomorrow morning, my brother is going to try to fly in from Oakland.

e.p.c. posted this at 17:13 GMT on 2-Jan-2004 . , Comments [1]

Saturday, January 3, 2004

Neat geek thing: automatic vCard from contact form

In an attempt to control the amount of spam I receive, I don't publish my email address anywhere. That's worked moderately well, except for my address which has spread into the world as both a recipient, as well as sender, of spam.

Anyway, so as I developed this site I decided to create my own "contact" form, nicely linked at /contact.

The form itself is pretty generic, though if you use MSIE or Safari it's supposed to magically fill in a bunch of fields (this seems to randomly work). But behind the scenes I did what, if I do say so myself, was a neat hack.

See, when the form processes the message (using PHP, which I need to rave about some other time) it creates a multi-part MIME message which is then sent as email to me.

The three MIME sections are a text/html section (which basically looks like the page at /contact), an application/xml section (which encodes all of the data in XML using a pseudo-DTD I concocted), and a text/directory section.

It's this last section which is the neat hack. text/directory is the MIME type for vCards, basically electronic business cards. Microsoft Outlook can import and export them as can a variety of other applications. That said, they're not that widely known or used. Anyway, by encoding all of the contact information in a vCard and attaching it to the email, I'm able to click on it and automatically add (or update) an entry in my address book.

Yesterday I got the first "live" vCard from Dan, whom I worked with at IBM many years ago. Dan sent a brief update and link to his family newsletter for the year. I clicked on the vCard and voila, Outlook asked if it could update the entry in the address book, and did. Only problem is that the email indicates Dan lives in Brooklyn, NY which I know isn't the case, so I think there's some debugging code hardcoded in somewhere. I'll check when I'm online again.

Anyway, thanks Dan for dropping by and letting me bask in my geekness for a bit this weekend (even if the code doesn't work 100%, I'm sure I wouldn't have had the error had I been using Case/390 for PHP).

e.p.c. posted this at 14:21 GMT on 3-Jan-2004 .

Sunday, January 4, 2004

So, I flew

I flew out to Chicago tonight. I remembered all the reasons I hated flying (there were obnoxious brats running around the gate area as the flight was endlessly delayed, turbulence shook the plane so much that the attendants had to sit down for about half of the flight, and United seems to be completely incapable of delivering baggage to the carousel they tell you to go to at O'Hare).

I drove directly to the hospital and then around to the end of the hospital since it was after 10:00 and all of the main doors were closed.

It was the quietest, emptiest emergency room I've seen in years. I've frequented this emergency room off and on over the years and have never seen it totally empty as it was tonight.

My mom is in the Surgical Heart Unit, which of course is at the far opposite end of the hospital from the emergency room. I knew this because it's the same unit my father was in after his bypass in 1997.

She's heavily sedated, intevated (someone correct me if the spelling's off). Tonight they are to put in a central or main line. She's in congestive heart failure and also has something called adult respiratory distress syndrome. Basically she can't breathe on her own, her lungs are just not absorbing oxygen. The ventilation is running at high-pressure to literally force O2 into her lungs.

So, not good. I'm staying at a hotel in town (partly to be on the "right" side of the tracks, since it's possible to be on the wrong side of the railroad when a long train comes through). Pat is here as well, though he's staying at the house.

e.p.c. posted this at 03:38 GMT on 4-Jan-2004 .

Hotel WiFi annoyances

So, I'm staying at the Double Tree Guest Suites in Downers Grove. One attaction (a key attaction) was that they have broadband. Now, I interpreted that to mean they had broadbad. What they really mean is that they have slow-speed WiFi access at $10 / day (I knew about the rat). Even with excellent connectivity I'm getting iMb/minute rates.

Also, like the XV Beacon in Boston, the I/T folks here thought they'd be helpful and filter port 25. Port 25 is used by 99.999% of the mailers in the world to transmit (rather than receive mail). Here they intercept it and redirect it to their own mail relay.

The problem is two fold: one, this is an unexpected behavour (it's not documented anyhere that I can find). Two, if you are configured to use authenticated SMTP to send mail, you will get all sorts of errors appearing to be from your mail relay asking you to change your password.

In reality you're getting the error messages from the hotel system. Since the hotel system doesn't known about your userid/password for authenticated SMTP, it rejects the request, but with headers that make the error appear to be from your ISP, not the hotel's ISP.

I managed to create a workaround: I set up an ssh tunnel to the Mac G4 in Brooklyn. I forward localhost:25 traffic to and it seems to work.

e.p.c. posted this at 04:36 GMT on 4-Jan-2004 . , Comments [2]

Frustration with Outlook XP

I've been using Microsoft Outlook XP since leaving IBM in 2001, for both personal as well as "work" email. Generally I have had no complaints, but I do run it in absolute paranoia mode (turning off most "helpful" features that have turned into security holes).

Oddly, my primary reason for using had been the integrated calendar, though really these days that's not that necessary since I'm the one scheduling meetings, if any, and don't really need to integrate with anyone else's calendar.

Anyway, in an end of year cleanup, I went and moved all of my "work" email into an IMAP setup on, figuring that 1) I'd be able to access all of the mail remotely through Pair’s webmail setup, and 2) Outlook allows allowed you to keep IMAP folders offline.

Past tense. Outlook 2000 allowed you to keep a copy of IMAP folders offline. Outlook XP has been enhanced to only support this for users of Microsoft Exchange.

Embraced and extended out of use.

So, now I really have no reason to use Outlook since the one feature I'd used and relied on in the past has been enhanced out of the product.

When I have decent connectivity again I'm going to look at Evolution (I think that's the name).

e.p.c. posted this at 11:27 GMT on 4-Jan-2004 .

Monday, January 5, 2004

mom update

Spent about five hours at the hospital today, split between the morning and evening.

In the morning she was still heavily sedated, but much of that was due to sedation from a central line implantation overnight. We met one of her doctors and my interpretation of what he said amounts to: We don't know what happened, though we know what the result is. We can't tell why this and that are still going on, so because we don't know why it occurred or why this and that are still occurring, we have no idea how to remedy the situation.

She's intubated, not intevated or whatever way I'd spelled it before. So much for ten years of pre-med at the ER medical school (maybe I should have watched with the closed-captioning active). Dropped a few pennies this afternoon on a medical book-cum-dictionary aimed at those in the medical profession, so here's hoping I use the correct words from now on.

Spent the afternoon at the house, looking for some papers that seem to have disappeared in the house, as well as her various medicines. No one was certain what she has been taking so I just grabbed everything I could find and brought it back to the hospital tonight. Still didn't find the papers we were looking for.

This evening we showed up at 6:30 for the 8:00 visiting hours. Hey, I'm usually criticized for being an hour late. They let us in early (7:45) and we spent about an hour inside the room (she's in isolation while they wait for her flu culture results). While we were there, there were some minor complications during a respiratory treatment (more like reaction than complication). Nothing to describe, and she's ok, but the experience of having all of the alarms going off and on and off was a bit unnerving.

e.p.c. posted this at 01:54 GMT on 5-Jan-2004 .

Brief KMC update

Spent the midday at the hospital. She's had moderate improvement overnight. They've dropped her from 100% O2 to 85% yet her O2 levels are remaining in the high 80s - low 90s range. This is a good thing because it indicates they may be able to ween her off the ventilator, eventually.

Also got to talk a bit with the staff about the recovery, that is, I asked for an idea of how the next days and weeks would run assuming all goes well. We're looking at at another week on the ventilator, maybe more (and she'll remain in an isolation ward at any rate until they are certain she is clear of influenza). After that possibly several more weeks of in-hospital recovery.

e.p.c. posted this at 19:13 GMT on 5-Jan-2004 .

Tuesday, January 6, 2004


Peter Merholz writes about his trip to Arcosanti. This is a planned village/city/town designed by Paolo Soleri. We visited the place in 1978 on a Costello family trip through the Southwest and it seemed pretty cool to me at eleven. Some twenty plus years later I looked into revisiting it and...was disappointed. What was cool to me as a kid seemed to be totally impractical as an adult. The economics of the location alone make no sense, and to the adult in me the idea seems like idealistic architecture run amok.

e.p.c. posted this at 00:01 GMT on 6-Jan-2004 .

Evening KMC Update

I spent about an hour inside the isolation room tonight. My mom was more alert than she has been and seemed to recognize me a couple of times. Otherwise no real change in her status.

e.p.c. posted this at 00:10 GMT on 6-Jan-2004 .

KMC Update

Not much change today. There was a bit of a setback in the morning when her O2 level dropped into the 20s for awhile (normal is 85+, good is 90+). I spent about 90 minutes with her midday, and another hour this evening.

One positive thing is that she was negative for influenza, so we don't need to wear gloves and facemasks when we visit her.

Otherwise, slow progress is all we're looking for or expecting.

e.p.c. posted this at 23:56 GMT on 6-Jan-2004 . , Comments [4]

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Unelectable, My Ass!

In AlterNet, Arianna Huffington writes: AlterNet: Unelectable, My Ass! Consider the source. The folks besmirching the good doctor's Election Day viability are the very people who have driven the Democratic Party into irrelevance; who spearheaded the party's resounding 2002 mid-term defeats; and who kinda, sorta, but not really disagreed with President Bush as he led us down the path of preemptive war with Iraq, irresponsible tax cuts and an unprecedented deficit.

e.p.c. posted this at 17:43 GMT on 7-Jan-2004 .

Thursday, January 8, 2004

KMC Update Thursday a.m.

Yesterday (Wednesday) they cut her to 85% and then 65% O2 concentration and her numbers remain good. The goal is in the 15-25% range (normal O2 concentration in the atmosphere is apparently 10% or so).

They removed her chest tube this morning. This was draining some stuff from around her lungs. She still has fluid buildup in her lungs.

Otherwise, slow but steady.

e.p.c. posted this at 14:59 GMT on 8-Jan-2004 .

Friday, January 9, 2004

Not happy

So, today's plan was for me to fly from ORD to CMH and meet up with Lisa and Frisket who were to drive in from Brooklyn. That's not going to happen. Frisket is sick and it'd be asking too much for her to sit in the car for 18-20 hours.

So, I'm hanging out in Downers Grove, IL. Not sure if/when we can try this again as my brother returns to the left coast tomorrow.


e.p.c. posted this at 10:26 GMT on 9-Jan-2004 .

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Update on the mom-of-ed

Didn't post yesterday since there wasn't much to post. She continues to be in ICU, on ventillation. Her stats are relatively ok, stable, not worsening, not really improving. Am hoping to catch up with her primary doctor today to get an idea of the course of recovery.

Pat is returning to the left coast today, he does need to work occasionally to keep his job.

I've hired someone to help me out of the hole I got into on the one engagement I have right now. I'm looking for freelance gigs here in the Chicago area.

As I wrote yesterday, Lisa wasn't able to come out with Frisket since Frisket was sick. At this point I'm now thinking of flying back mid-week next week, spend a couple days in Brooklyn and then return using some manner of transportation.

Thanks to all for the good wishes and good vibes and what not. I wish there was something better to report but it's better than having something worse to report.

e.p.c. posted this at 12:22 GMT on 10-Jan-2004 .

US Payroll Employment: Forecast vs Reported Reality

Payrol Employment Since January 2000

e.p.c. posted this at 13:40 GMT on 10-Jan-2004 .

Monday, January 12, 2004

Sunday Evening Update

I only went in for the afternoon visitation today. My mom was more alert than I've seen in the past week. The staff switched her breathing tubes to one which will make the air more humid.

Otherwise, no change in status.

e.p.c. posted this at 00:04 GMT on 12-Jan-2004 .

War on terrorism doomed, News at 11

War on terrorism doomed, US warned - "The global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious, and accordingly . . . its parameters should be readjusted," and from the Washington Post version of the article: "[T]he global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious, and accordingly . . . its parameters should be readjusted," Record writes. Currently, he adds, the anti-terrorism campaign "is strategically unfocused, promises more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security."

e.p.c. posted this at 10:42 GMT on 12-Jan-2004 .

Mom Update for Monday

My mom was more responsive today. She even asked to write and wrote some notes on a notebook I have. Unfortunately the writing wasn't too legible and the activity seemed to cause her O2 levels to drop a bit so I told her to rest and relax.

e.p.c. posted this at 19:17 GMT on 12-Jan-2004 .

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

KMC Update Tuesday a.m

My mom took a turn for the worse overnight. Yesterday she'd become agitated midday which sent her heart rate racing into the 150s-160s and her O2 levels dropping into the 80s. Overnight she had a high fever and this morning a respiratory arrest, apparently due to blockage of her breathing tube. They re-intubated her but her condition now is quite grave.

e.p.c. posted this at 10:54 GMT on 13-Jan-2004 .

Mom Update

Not much new to report, my mom's condition is still quite serious. Spent the day at the hospital and plan to return in a bit for the evening hours. She was sedated all day. Her heart rate continues to be quite high, and her blood pressure has been all over the place (low this afternoon, high when I left just now). They are trying various medicines to control whatever infection it is that she has, as well as bring her heart rate down and control her blood pressure.

e.p.c. posted this at 19:40 GMT on 13-Jan-2004 .

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The H-Bomb (Apple/HP iPod deal)

Great article in Daring Fireball about the HP/Apple deal on the iPod, here's a longish quote from The H-Bomb:

The Digital Music Platform Computer industry platforms exist at very different levels. For example, “Linux” is a very low-level platform — it’s just a Unix-like operating system kernel that can boot computers and provide access to hardware peripherals. KDE and Gnome are desktop GUI platforms that are built on top of the Linux platform. Tivo is another GUI platform, entirely different than a “desktop”, but also built on top of Linux.

Mac OS X and Windows encompass both these layers — low-level operating system kernels that boot computers and control hardware, and high-level graphical human interfaces for users (and APIs for developers to build their own apps).

I think that what Apple has built, with their three-pronged iPod/iTunes/iTMS, is an even higher-level platform, specifically for digital music (and perhaps in the future, digital media).

Platforms exist for different reasons. Low level platforms are perfect for certain tasks. If you run a high-traffic commercial web site, your servers might run nothing but low-level software. Just Linux or BSD, along with software built for Unix-like platforms: Apache, Perl, PHP, MySQL. No GUIs. No desktops. Just servers running low-level software, very quickly, and very reliably.

e.p.c. posted this at 09:49 GMT on 14-Jan-2004 .

Mom Update Wed 1/14

Spent the morning at the hospital. My mom's situation is still quite critical, however they managed to stablize her overnight. Last night she had a high temperature (104) but it was back to normal today. They discovered a yeast infection in her bloodstream and started treatment for that today. Just now I did a verbal consent for the hospital to replace her central line as the infection control doctor thinks that that may be a source of infection for her (it's been in for over ten days which alone is apparently not a good thing to do).

e.p.c. posted this at 16:20 GMT on 14-Jan-2004 .

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Mom Update Wed 1/14 evening

My mom, Kathleen Costello, passed away tonight from complications from something called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. In 1992 she was accidentally exposed to airborne Toluene or TCE while in her office and the effect was to slowly destroy her lungs over the ensuing 12 years. She took early retirement in 1999 and became more and more confined over the years due to the continuing damage, spending 24 hours a day on various forms of Oxygen at home.

Friday the 2nd she was found, at home, having collapsed or fallen. She spent the next 12 days in the ICU at the hospital here, regaining consciousness occasionally, but never really making an improvement in her health. This past Monday evening she caught an infection of some sort that just added to her problems and diminished her respiratory ability further.

Tonight her heart just wound down and stopped. She didn't respond to resuscitation and it was clear her struggle was over.

For those in the area, the funeral home is Adams-Winterfield in Downers Grove, IL. Visitation will be from 3-8 pm CST on Sunday the 18th of January at Adams-Winterfield in Downers Grove. The funeral will be at 10:00 a.m. CST Monday the 19th at Divine Saviour Catholic Church of Downers Grove, IL. In lieu of flowers, donations to The Newberry Library, The Art Institute of Chicago, or the charity of your choice are appreciated.

So, keep her in your thoughts, prayers, or whatever you exercise your beliefs in.

e.p.c. posted this at 01:24 GMT on 15-Jan-2004 . , Comments [3]

Monday, January 19, 2004


So we held the funeral today. There was a brief prayer service at the funeral home before we headed off for mass at Divine Savior Catholic Church followed by a brief service at the cemetery.

My thanks to everyone who came to the visitation or funeral, or who's sent condolences and sympathies.

Not the way I expected or wanted to start the year, and I'm sure my mom didn't want to start the year this way either.

Lisa and I will return to Brooklyn tomorrow night and I'll spend the rest of the month taking care of some stuff in NY. At the end of the month I'll return to Downers Grove to close out the estate. Pat will stick around until the weekend and then return to Vallejo.

e.p.c. posted this at 19:03 GMT on 19-Jan-2004 .

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Back home

We arrived back in Brooklyn tonight around 8:00 pm. Frisket was home, our friend Nancy had picked her up from Monster Mutt earlier.

e.p.c. posted this at 21:09 GMT on 20-Jan-2004 .

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Wednesday Miscellany

In an attempt to return to some semblance of normalcy, I'm ripping the three Talking Heads CDs I picked up for Christmas (also got the latest Rufus Wainwright and Boomslang by Johnny Marr and the Healers.

Odd observation: there's a DHL truck parked outside with "Sydney" emblazoned across a rendition of the Sydney Opera House.

e.p.c. posted this at 12:28 GMT on 21-Jan-2004 .

Friday, January 23, 2004

How an Art Scene Became a Youthscape (NYT)

Lisa's brother Oliver is featured in: How an Art Scene Became a Youthscape

Imagine that you have opened a Chelsea art gallery. Not a white cube with vaulted ceilings and frosted glass doors, but a showroom in your 200-square-foot studio apartment. Each night, a futon is retrieved from the bathtub and flopped on the floor for sleeping. Come daylight, it is rolled back up and put away in preparation for visitors. How long do you think you would last? Daniel Reich spent two years running such a gallery in his Chelsea studio apartment, and he prospered. Several of the artists he worked with are among those selected for the next Whitney Biennial, and in November he moved his gallery from his bedroom to an upscale storefront on West 23rd Street.
Mr. Reich is not the only young dealer to have started in an apartment. Oliver Kamm, a former employee of the Marianne Boesky Gallery, set up shop in the living room of his one-bedroom Chelsea apartment in late 2002. "The first month I sold $20,000 worth of art, and sales continued steadily," said Mr. Kamm, 31, who in early 2003 moved to a white-cube gallery on West 22nd Street.

Oliver's gallery can be found online at

e.p.c. posted this at 09:32 GMT on 23-Jan-2004 .

The Current Temperature: 57

My office is officially cold. When I returned from being away 3 weeks on Tuesday night it was 43°, however the door had been closed the entire time. Leaving the door open overnight last night hasn't helped warm it up much and the tiny space heater I have is not making much of a dent. Somehow I'd better insulated the window last year, I can feel a draft blowing through even though I have foam insulation all over the thing.

Time for drastic measures: a new space heater.

e.p.c. posted this at 09:47 GMT on 23-Jan-2004 .

Lessons from the Campaign Pressure Cooker I've been on a mission lately: to see what IT workers in the pressure-cooker conditions of political campaigns might teach IT professionals everywhere about the resourceful use of Linux, free software and open-source development methods. What works best? What doesn't work at all? How do you develop and apply solutions to problems all over the country with widely varying participants and circumstances? What are the advantages and limits of open-source models? How do you embrace workers and volunteers accustomed to other platforms and methods? And how do you get stuff done when the deadlines are absolute and the costs of failure are extreme?

e.p.c. posted this at 16:02 GMT on 23-Jan-2004 .

Sunday, January 25, 2004

The end is coming: Ads in games

I'm probably just behind the times on this, but tonight we were playing SSX3 on our Playstation and I noticed that all througout the game are billboards advertising the Honda Element and 7UP (though the 7UP billboards are upside down). The prior versions of SSX had billboards, but the contents were typically internal references within the game, or occasionally references to other Electronic Arts games.

Otherwise I kind of like the game, though it's painfully much harder than the previous two.

e.p.c. posted this at 21:05 GMT on 25-Jan-2004 .

Monday, January 26, 2004

Visualizing Social Networks

Carnegie Mellon: Journal of Social Structure: Visualizing Social Networks: ABSTRACT: This paper documents the use of pictorial images in social network analysis. It shows that such images are critical both in helping investigators to understand network data and to communicate that understanding to others. The paper reviews the long history of image use in the field. It begins with illustrations of the earliest hand-drawn images in which points were placed by using ad hoc rules. It examines the development of systematic procedures for locating points. It goes on to discuss how computers have been used to actually produce drawings of networks, both for printing and for display on computer screens. Finally, it illustrates some of the newest procedures for producing web-based pictures that allow viewers to interact with the network data and to explore their structural properties.

e.p.c. posted this at 22:37 GMT on 26-Jan-2004 .

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

CACM: Outsourced and Out of Control

"Outsourced and Out of Control" Outsourcing (farming out production or other work) is not new. But when advanced technologies such as telecommunications and computing are applied to outsourcing, along with vast differences in pay around the world, the results can be unfair, unwise, alarming, and even dangerous. While frequently providing significant "productivity" enhancements, the associated negative risks include domestic unemployment and underemployment; privacy, security, and reliability concerns; and other serious problems.

e.p.c. posted this at 23:36 GMT on 27-Jan-2004 .

Slightly acerbic and eccentric dog walker who masquerades as a web developer and occasional CTO.

Spent five years running the technology side of the circus known as

More about me here.