The Unix Curmudgeon, Reloaded


It’s been exactly one month since I woke up a little after midnight with a tube down my throat and two more sticking out of my abdomen and a long red seam down my chest, where the good surgeons from Franciscan Cardiothoracic Surgery had pried me open to re-plumb my heart. My last clear memory before they yanked the throat tube out was of looking at an X-ray image of totally blocked main left ventricle cardiac arteries and being told I was headed for surgery instead of home, some 14 hours earlier.

As if recovering from that trauma, which included several hours of having my blood diverted through a fancy aquarium aerator while my heart was taking a nap and my arteries were rearranged and supplemented with veins fished out from behind my left knee was not enough, two weeks later I ended up back in hospital again with severely painful clots (embolisms) in my lungs. Nevertheless, healing proceeds: in the last week or so I’ve been able to spend enough time at the computer to do actual damage.

First, there was the matter of fixing a software package and install script hastily uploaded to the client site the night before surgery. Secondly, a local heat wave was setting off overtemp warnings on my development laptop, when I noticed that the graphics processor wasn’t reporting temperatures. Foolishly, I attempted to upgrade the graphics driver, ending up with a text-only display. Hmm, back out, reinstall the stock drivers, and the graphics desktop returned, albeit with a few quirks. I’m still not up to speed yet–when I think hard, I break into a sweat and have to take a nap, so best not tackle any seriously difficult problems just yet.

Several other projects have simply been put on hold: I have been content with putting in short half-hour spurts of work once or twice a day. As noted elsewhere in earlier posts, my rehabilitation has already started with daily walks to keep the circulation going and build up cardiac strength. Early walks, plodding along in a light-headed daze, have given way to reasonably-paced striding. After having tackled a few wilderness paths that proved to be a bit rugged, we’ve contented ourselves with flat-land walks on the north side of Shelton, close to the medical facilities, or, alternately, on the relatively flat and convoluted running trail through the greenspace near Shelton Creek, a park called, appropriately, “Huff ‘n Puff.” These excursions have extended to 1-3Km, of duration 30-55 minutes. Meanwhile, I’m still under motion restrictions while my sternum knits itself back together under the wire lacing that held it shut after surgery, not to mention recoverying from abused and sore muscles and ribs that were stretched and bent into abnormal shapes.
One of the side effects of such drastic surgery, where life is sustained artificially, is the possibility of cognitive impairment: fortunately, so far only a few well-known facts have had to be re-verified, but we haven’t pushed the envelope too hard or taxed the coding skills excessively. Starting coumadin (warfarin) treatment to avoid repeat emboli has been a bit of an ordeal, with twice-daily injections of blood thinner while adjusting the rat poison dosage to get to the proper levels. The formula also includes careful attention to diet, to reduce the amount of clotting factor, vitamin K, which is present in most green leafy vegetables, a challenge for a dedicated vegetarian. But, finally, after two weeks of injections and frequent blood tests, we are “in range.” This means no more injections and now just a matter of infrequent blood tests to adjust the warfarin dosage from time to time and avoiding cuts and bruises for the next six months while the treatment runs its course.

This interlude of recovery  gives us pause to think about the gift of a few more years to enjoy life and family, and to think about  when to declare a true state of retirement and what exactly that entails.  Unix and Linux will always be a part of our life, but perhaps with a little more focus on enhancing personal goals and less about deadlines and external projects.  We have grandsons who are beginning to mess around with computers and need some guidance (i.e., indoctrination in the benefits of “the one true operating system” and maybe some instruction in scripting and programming).  The new generations of tiny machines with analog interfaces, like the Arduino and Raspberry Pi beg to be incorporated in other hobbies and home projects.  The rehab program requires regular exercise, which means much more time on the bike when we get cleared for that type of activity (probably after the bleeding danger is over: meanwhile, trips to the gym for some stationary workouts are in order).  Yoga is another activity on modified hold until the bones and muscles heal.  Beginning a new phase as a cardiac patient puts a new perspective on life, truly a reboot and fresh start with new priorities and goals.

Oakland Bay County Park

The newest Mason County Park is Oakland Bay Park, off Agate Road near the head of Oakland Bay, 15Km from downtown Shelton.  The park is down a narrow dirt road to a well-appointed parking area and well-signed trail that winds down through a forest of Western Red Cedar and maple, dropping 40 meters in elevation to a bench above the bay, near Malaney Creek before looping back up a series of switchbacks and stair steps.  A single park bench is placed at the only view of the bay, the low point of the trail.
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This hike was possibly a bit more ambitious than expected for less than a month from open heart surgery and two days out from my hospital stay for pulmonary embolism, but we had been fairly active before the operation. The main concern was to avoid falling, due to knitting bones and a heavy load of anti-coagulant.

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We hiked this on July 9, 2014, and had the entire park to ourselves, the previous user having been in process of leaving as we arrived. I’m not sure of the distance for the loop trail, but it was certainly more than 1Km, plus a number of ups and downs and switchbacks over the 40-meter elevation change from top to bottom.

Goldsborough Creek Trail

Because of my recent heart operation, we are off the bike until the bones heal.  However, part of the cardiac rehab is regular walking.  Not satisfied with marching up and down Railroad Avenue (on good days) or circumambulating the sidewalks and trails around Mason General Hospital (on bad days), we’ve been looking at the many short hiking trails around Mason County.  Mason County Washington encompasses the lower arm of Hood Canal and several inlets of South Puget Sound as well as islands and the southern quarter of the Olympic Mountains.  Therefore, there are lots of hiking opportunities.

We started with the county parks, but there are also a few city hikes of note in Shelton.  One is the short Goldsborough Creek trail, that provides access to the former site of the Goldsborough dam that supplied power to the city of Shelton and later to the Simpson Lumber Company from the late 1890s until the late 1990s.  In 2001, the 30-foot-high dam was removed, replaced with 34 concrete weirs spaced down the drop to allow salmon to climb past the former dam site to spawn in the headwaters in the marshes near Little Egypt Road.

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The trail starts just past the Ford/Chrysler/Jeep dealer, at the driveway to the Pavilion (now the Shelton Senior Center), and follows the old dam road for about 400 meters before a side trail leads to the creek and then along the creek side back to behind the car dealership. In addition to the weirs, there are a number of trees that create obstacles and pools. In July, the creek levels are down, but the weirs are popular with white-water kayakers during the spring runoff. The forest is mixed lowland trees and shrubs, with abundant sea spray, just starting to bloom.

The lower loop trail is little more than 1Km. A less-distinct trail continues another several hundred meters to the Simpson Railway where it crosses the creek.

We walked this trail on July 4, 2014.  A couple of hours later, I had a pulmonary embolism that was totally debilitating and required several days treatment and recuperation in hospital, so we were fortunate that the clot didn’t choose to move during this wilderness hike.