Mother in Law

Last week, my mother in law had the PICC removed from her arm and yesterday she returned to her home.

She is the one who wanted to get back to her home and I understand that feeling. However, I do miss her being around. Unlike the stereotypical mother in law – son in law relationship, I very much enjoy her being at the house

One thing I did notice is her mental acuity and mood seems far better than it has been in the past several years and I think it has to do with her interacting with people. She is 84 and lives alone in her house. All of her friends are now dead, or have been “taken” be dementia and are now in a nursing home. Add the COVID-19 precautions and, to me, she has been merely existing.

My wife plays bluegrass music with 3 other people…a 60 year old man, the 90 year old father of the 60 year old man, and an 80 year old man. Myself, the wife of the 60 year old man and the wife of the 80 year old man come along to listen. The 90 year old man is a widower and is mentally *very* sharp–talking about everything from history and current events to politics.

We would always try to get my mother in law to come along with us, but it was always, “No. It’s too far out of your way and I don’t wan to be a bother”. This was despite our assurances that it was no bother to drive the 3 miles out of our way to go get her.

When she was here, the “3 miles” was not an available ‘excuse’, so she would come along with us.

Now, even with her being back at her home, she has said, “I hope you can come get me for the next jam. I enjoy them a lot.” My wife and I are thrilled.

They Don’t Know a Wall Fell

I was outside working in the yard when I saw a police car, with the emergency lights activated, pull up in front of a neighbor’s house and I saw the officer run into the house.

Less than a minute later, the fire department paramedics pulled up in the ambulance and the medics rushed inside with their their lifesaving equipment.

A minute later another police car arrives and the officer from this car walks into the house.

Ten minutes later, the paramedics leave and a fire department crisis response van arrives.

Twenty minutes later, a van, discretely marked “Medical Examiner”, arrives at the neighbor’s house. At his point, I see the first police officer, his head hung down, slowly walk out of the house, get into his car and sit there a few minutes before driving off. He wasn’t writing a report. He seemed to be collecting his thoughts before going on with the rest of his shift.

Soon, the medical examiner people go get a gurney from the van and take it inside. A few minutes after that, they are pushing the gurney back out to the van. This time I can tell the gurney is no longer empty.

It was the neighbor’s son. I knew him.

He had been in the army and had been in several combat engagements. When he came home, demons followed him. He fought his demons, but to no avail, so he tried building a wall, using whatever he could find, to provide cover from the demons.

He had been in and out of various acute care places and as soon as he was deemed “okay”, the demons would return…and he would start rebuilding his wall.

Today his wall fell on him. A drug overdose.

We live within walking distance of a high school and tonight the football team is playing at home. I can hear the band playing and I can hear the crowd cheering. Obviously the people cheering don’t know what happened just a short distance from the school.

Normally I would be part of the cheering crowd. But not tonight, because I know that a wall fell down.


Since my mother-in-law is home from hospital, some aspects of her continuing treatment fall upon my wife (her daughter) and myself (her son-in-law).

She gets 2 grams of an antibiotic each day through a PICC. A PICC is a long thin tube that is inserted into a vein in the left arm and the tube is pushed in far enough to end just above the heart. The other end of this tube is outside the skin and has valve on it. This valve closes automatically when there is no syringe attached…this prevents blood from coming out the PICC. There is also a clamp that gets closed unless the PICC is actively being used. The clamp is a backup in case the automatic valve fails.

In case you want to see what this whole thing looks like, searching for PICC with any of the internet search engines will show all sorts of descriptions and images.

The PICC has several things that need to be checked; no sign of infection where the tube exits her body, ensuring the tube doesn’t start to come out, that the end of the tube inside the body doesn’t become clogged by clotted blood.

The daily noon-time process takes about 15 minutes and is the same each day except for Monday. On Monday there is additionally a blood sample taken and the sample is sent to the medical testing lab.

The results of the lab analysis are sent to the physician so the physician can decide “what’s next”.


My mother in law is home from hospital and I had to figure out some inconsistencies in her discharge orders.

So, I call the hospital on the telephone and give them her name and date of birth, “November 9, 37”. The person at the hospital, “Is that 1937 or 2037?”

I very much hope that the person at the hospital was just momentarily distracted. 🙂


No, it’s not a sanitized version of what I would say if I were to hit my thumb with a hammer.

I’ve been doing some computer programming and I’m using a lot of what are called “regular expressions” to ensure the users entered correct data to the program.

A regular expression is a template used by a “regular expression engine” (a computer program) to decide if some text presented to the “engine” matches a user supplied template.

The concept is quite powerful because the characters to check do not need to be known in advance. So, one can do things like “check to see if what was input was a specific number of letters followed by some optional characters, but the set of optional characters depend on something else within the characters being considered. but only if”… well you get the idea.

What I needed to do was to decide if a user provided the computer program with a set of characters that could be considered a valid time of day in 24 hour format.

This is not as easy as it seems. There must be four digits with an optional : character between the second and third digits. No other characters are allowed. But wait, there’s more. If the first character is a 0 or 1, then the second character can be any single digit, but if the first character is a 2, then the second character is limited to values in the range of 0-3. The third character is always limited to values in the range of 0-5 and the final character can be any single digit.

Any violations to the above criteria means the number can not be considered a valid time in 24 hour format.

It took me about 5 minutes to get the above stuff to work and I was pleased with myself.

I still can’t decide if that looks like what I said when I realized that I have a bunch of date-time calculations to do (that is a huge mess) or when I realized that “despite it being ‘only yesterday’ when I was 20…I’m over 60 years old.”


My mother in law had been trying to ignore a “bad tooth” and, as expected, it finally was “bad” enough that she decided to go to an emergency dentist. The dentist immediately referred her to the nearby hospital emergency department for treatment of septicemia. The doctors are expecting her to remain in hospital for several more days.

Morse Code

After passing the general class amateur radio license test, my wife is learning morse code. She has learned to recognize seven letters at a speed of about 13 words per minute.

She has been working on this for about two weeks and at the rate she’s going, it will be less than a month for her to be able to know the full alphabet, numbers and punctuation characters. She has tried sending, and that needs some work, but I think that will quickly be learned. It requires a sense of timing to send and her music skills should be quite helpful with this.

Home Again

We made it home in the desert southwest. The drive was nice, if not a bit boring, but that’s okay.

At Hope Pass it was slightly below freezing, with rain-hail-sleet-snow and 60mph/95kph winds. When we arrived home, three days later, it was 109F/43C.

It was hard to not laugh as each of us unloaded a heavy jacket, rain gear, several thin layers of warm clothes and a few medium thick layers of warm clothes.

What we did “up there”.

First, there is no vehicle access to Hope Pass, so it’s “walk there”. We needed to be self sufficient so it was really “backpack there”. Backpacking at12,000 feet/3,700 meters elevation is breathtaking.

My wife and I stationed ourselves near the aid station at a point along the trail where the bushes forced the runners into a single file. From this place, we recorded the runner bib numbers, the time the runner passed us and the runner’s direction of travel. This was a safety check to ensure all the runners were accounted for, and to, if a runner didn’t arrive at the next aid station in a reasonable amount of time, figure out where to begin looking for the runner.

We also kept track of runners that voluntarily dropped out of the race, or were cut (arrived at the aid station after a set deadline). Since no vehicles were at this aid station, these runners had to walk back to the “by the road” aid station. When a runner was cut or dropped out, we communicated the runner number and the time the runner headed to the next aid station so that the runner’s crew could be notified where to pick up “their” runner.

Why ham radio? Ham operators are quite skilled in standing up a self contained temporary communications system. My observations was that the system set up and testing was started the day before the race and the “tear down” was complete within just a few hours after the race.

This is not to downplay the ability of the people maintaining other systems to do similar things–they are often hindered by regulatory, economic and technical considerations that don’t apply to ham operators. For a 30 hour race, it’s not practical for commercial, cellular or public safety systems to expand their systems to cover all the “hills and valleys” along the course. Hams have virtually no regulatory requirements for temporary radio sites, do not require a connection to “the outside world” like many commercial systems, and the economic issues are not really applicable.

Llamas & Leadville

I’m amazed that there is cellular internet service in this location. I’m typing this on a smart phone, so this is a short post.

We (my wife and I) will be camping in a place where we can, in the early morning, start walking up to the Hope Pass aid station for the Leadville 100 ultra marathon.

We, along with many other ham operators, will be providing runner safety communications along the course….where there is no other means of communications.

In case you’re not familiar with the Leadville 100, it is a 100 mile/160km running race in the Colorado mountains. For more details, see

For what it’s worth, it snowed yesterday and will likely do so tomorrow.

Llamas….they are used to haul all the stuff to set up and operate the aid station. They are ideally suited for the cold and high altitudes.

CO Bound

In this case, it’s Colorado and not carbon monoxide. Tomorrow we are leaving home and heading to Leadville, which is in central Colorado.

We will be participating in the Leadville Trail 100, a 100 mile ultra marathon. No, we are not running the race. We are helping put on the race.

In 2018 we were staying at a campground in Leadville, and one of the race “helpers” couldn’t be there due to a health problem. I had been talking to the guy running the logistics part of the race and my wife and volunteered to help. I guess we did okay. Each year since then we have been asked if we were able to help.

It’s a nice opportunity to help and, just as important, it’s a nice opportunity to go where it’s not 110F/43C.