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This is my 2002 journal.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Also available: 2003 2001 2000 1990s 1980s

Everything on this page:
Copyright 1985-2002 by Thane Plambeck, except where obviously not.

22 April 2002
Bilateral Laparoscopic Hernia Repair

Imagine that a fat little elf lives in your lower abdomen. He's about 1 inch tall, and 1 inch wide.

You can sometimes feel him in there, and sometimes not. He never causes you any trouble or pain. He seems to enjoy moving around a bit, but he's never far from home. He sometimes passes his time on your right side, and sometimes on your left. Sometimes he's to be found comfortably sunning himself quite near the surface of your skin. Other times, he's retired to your innards, and it almost seems—although you know it isn't true—that the elf isn't there at all.

You have a relationship founded on mutual respect. The elf does his thing, and you do yours.

However, there is this one little thing. The elf doesn't like it when you cough.

It's not that the elf causes you pain when you cough. It's just that you know he doesn't like it. You could even imagine a person less courteous than yourself saying—"Screw the elf. I'll cough when I want." But you try to do better. You want to be nice to the elf.

Still, one day, you cough really hard.

The elf explodes.

However, even the elf's detonation is painless for you. He wasn't such a bad elf, after all. It would be nice to have him back.

Now make a fist, and look at your largest knuckle. Imagine the elf's body, his home, all his belongings—his pipe, sportcoat and curved-toe shoes—everything you imagined the elf might have, all jumbled up in a pile that size on the lower left front of your abdomen, and poking out. It's a permanent abdominal landmark, a tiny elf-or-Viking burial mound of sorts, the final resting place of the elf.

The elf is dead. You go to the doctor to discuss next steps.

He probes in exactly the place where the elf spent his final moments. "That's an inguinal hernia," says the doctor, "and I wouldn't be surprised if there's one on the other side too."

He visits another frequent haunt of the elf, on the right side.

"It's smaller, but you've got one there too."

The doctor recommends bilateral laparoscopic hernia repair. Three smallish incisions, one near the navel for a laparoscope, and two more for "cutting and stapling" tools. The procedure will take 45 minutes, under general anaesthesia. It's outpatient work. You'll be home resting the same day.

The elf's explosion widened the left hernia to about 1.5 inches. The right hernia is a bit smaller. The doctor will put a 3 by 8 inch mesh of fabric over each hole, on the inside of the abdominal cavity, and then staple it to the abdominal wall.

Three by eight inches seems big to you for hernias that are only about 1 inch in diameter, but the doctor is the expert, after all.

The laparoscope goes in near the navel. The doctor points it at the pubic bone and takes two pictures, one before the left hernia is repaired (on the left) and one after the mesh has gone in (on the right). That bright red tube coming out of the middle of the mesh is the spermatic cord.

I had the procedure done at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Surgecenter facility. The surgeon was Michael Trollope.

30 April 2002
World War I and September 11

Copyright Badische Heimat (Germany)

The term "no man's land" has haunted the English language ever since World War I. After September 11, we've had the opportunity to get reacquainted with "ground zero," one of the euphemisms of atomic weapons.

I once bought a scary little book, published in 1915 in Karlsruhe, Germany, that contains sketches for proposed World War I German grave designs. Most of the designers' ideas were for large marble tributes in tasteful garden settings. But the book was assembled before so many people were killed that it was obvious the grand designs in the book would have to passed over for something a bit simpler, eventually mass graves.

Somehow the apparent applicability of "ground zero" to the WTC attacks makes them more horrible.

It's not the number of people killed that really affects a person, it's seeing them all go at once. In WWI, the world was introduced to technological killing and we're still trying to figure out how to deal with it at the basic language level.

6 April 2002
Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb threw out the first pitch at the Palo Alto Little League Opening Day ceremonies today. He looked like he was about 11 years old.

He's a lefty, and the greatgrandson of the Georgia Peach.

It's the fifty year anniversary of the Palo Alto Little League. Ty Cobb (the original) was present at the 1952 inauguration. He lived in Atherton, CA, at that time. He was born in 1886, and died in 1961.

Here's an old joke:
Two men are talking about baseball in a bar.

First man: "If Ty Cobb were alive today, what do you think his batting average would be?"
Second man: "I don't know, maybe .220 or so."
First man: "How can you say he was the greatest baseball player who ever lived, if he would only hit .220 against today's pitching?"
Second man: "You have to remember—he would be over 100 years old..."

5 April 2002
Spam Whacking

Here's an effective and relatively simple way to control spam email. It's easily implemented using Microsoft Outlook (or Outlook Express).

There are two parts. First, if arriving email contains any of the following phrases, immediately delete it.
'click this link'
'search engine'
'unlisted phone'
'18 years old'
'Below is the result of your feedback form'
'active email addresses'
'amazing new'
'as seen on'
'bonus software'
'bulk email'
'child support'
'click here'
'click reply'
'credit card'
'find out anything'
'forward looking'
'gang bang'
'hot pick'
'how to order'
'internet spy'
'it's guaranteed'
'its guaranteed'
'just released!'
'make money working from your home'
'no obligation'
'opt in'
'order form'
'police impounds'
'private investigator'
'removal instructions'
'search engine'
'search resources'
'sent in compliance'
'special situation'
'squirrel's surprise'
'stock pick'
'take control of your'
'to be removed'
'without cost'
'your boss'
It's not too difficult to add a rule (using Outlook's "Tools->Message Rules->Mail" dialog) that automatically implements this content-based auto-deletion policy. Rather than typing in my entire list, you might enjoy starting with a blank list of phrases (as I did) and making your own, based on an analysis of spam you receive. My list is good enough to ensnare 99% of the spam I receive.

I also configure my auto-spam-deleting rule to 'flag' each putative Spam message before deleting it. That way I can easily distinguish auto-deleted from manually-deleted messages in my 'Deleted Items' folder.

To be sure I don't miss any personal email, I have another rule that I configure to run before the spam rule. It examines a sender's email address, and if it matches someone I know I want to receive email from, the Spam Filter doesn't run (the method for this: set the 'Stop Processing More Rules' checkbox). This eliminates some false positives.

I've received 5 spam messages that were auto-deleted while typing this message.