Lassie came home

You may have noticed that has been down for the past week or so, when stopped hosting my blog for reasons that are still unclear to me.  Getting my blog restored by was extremely frustrating, and required 4 phone calls and much waiting.  Here is a time line:

Oct 23 – I logged in to create an entry (a particularly insightful and entertaining entry IMO) and noticed that all past blog entries had disappeared from my Quick Blog account.  At this point, my blog was still viewable on  I phoned and was told that my blog had been removed because it had “bursted”.  I think that this means that I had used too much disk space.  Apparently they had tried to bill me automatically and were unsuccessful.  To be fair, I had received a prior notification instructing me to login to my account and renew an item in the renewal area.  I had done so but found no items requiring renewal, and had assumed that the notice had been generated in error. 

Anyway, I was told that Godaddy could not retrieve any of my data because it was a “free account”.  It pisses me off that there is a different standard of customer care for those with “free accounts”.  I paid for my domain name registration with cold hard currency, and yes, it happens to include “free” hosting.  But this was one of the reasons I picked Godaddy in the first place.  My yearly domain name renewals could potentially generate income for years to come.  In addition, there have been thousands of hits on my blog, so I’m giving Godaddy and Godaddy’s banner ads a hell of a lot of “free” exposure.  Not only that, but I have been encouraging others to start blogging using Godaddy, including my brother (  What kind of business model do they have that doesn’t factor in these intangibles?  If I ever needed hosting for a business website, I would want to feel confident that my work was secure.

I was not ready to give up on my “free” account so easily.  After all, my blog had become like a pet.  It doesn’t talk back, it is there when I need it, and I have grown attached to it despite the fact that sometimes it stinks.  So I kept pressing the customer service representative.  I argued that since I could still view my blog at, the data must still exist somewhere.  After being put on hold for about ten minutes, I was informed that if I paid for Quick Blog (US$28.50/year) they could restore my blog within 24 hours.  As a bonus, there would no longer be any banner ads.  I was fine with paying this amount.  After all the work I had cumulatively put into my blog, I might have paid more than this.  Now I understand how people spend $10,000 to get a liver transplant for their 15 year-old cats.  I’m not there yet, but I can see how it could happen.

Oct 24 – I logged in to my blog and found that nothing had changed, except now was an empty page.  All my data was gone.  This caused me some anxiety.  My pet had been gone for 24 hours, and I didn’t know if it was alive or dead.  I phoned Godaddy again and talked to another customer service representative.  This person was very helpful and tried to fix the problem while I was on the phone.  Unfortunately he soon discovered that my problem was a “tier 2” problem which required him to initiate an “escalation” so that more advanced technical support people, in a completely different location, could start working on it.  There is no way for mere mortals to talk directly with these advanced tekkies, who undoubtedly work in an underground facility somewhere in the Nevada desert that can withstand a direct nuclear attack.

Oct 25 – I did not have time to log into my blog.  It also happened to be my mom’s 61st birthday and Joel’s 30th birthday.  I realized that I forgot to phone Dad to make sure he would be home in the morning for the delivery of the flowers I had ordered for Mom.  I phoned home between classes, mistakenly thinking that there was a three hour time difference, hoping to catch Dad.  What if the flower shop had already tried to make the delivery and he had been out because I forgot to make sure he would be home?  I was surprised when Mom picked up the phone (there was actually only a two hour time difference).  The flowers were beautiful and how thoughtful of me to remember to phone while she was home for lunch.

Oct 26 – My blog had still not returned.  A third phone call revealed that my blog had been found, but was in the pound indefinitely because somewhere somebody had to make a decision about whether or not I was to be charged a fee for removing my blog from the pound.  This decision could only be made by people who could not neither be contacted by me nor the customer service representative.  I’m assuming that this meant the Area 51 people were the only ones with the required security clearance to deal with this sensitive issue.  I wanted to know if my blog was alright – was she in any pain?  I was told not to worry, I would be contacted sometime within the next 24 – 72 hours about the pound fee.  I did not feel reassured.

Oct 27 afternoon – No change.  Phone call number 4 did not achieve anything.  At some point in the future my blog would likely be returned to me, but I could not be given any guarantee on how long it would take, or if there would be a cost.

Oct 27 evening – Lassie came home.


Shocking disregard for human life

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I was down in the Michigan wilderness on the weekend participating in MedWAR, which is like Amazing Race but with a medical twist.  It was a fun way to learn about wilderness medicine, which I knew basically nothing about at the outset (which ended up costing my team dearly).  My lack of knowledge contributed to the paralysis or death of many innocent victims over the course of the 7 hour race.  Each mistake resulted in some kind of penalty involving physical exertion, such as running into the forest to find a password.  There were 30 teams of 3.  Our team came in 5th…from last.  But we did win a special prize which I’ll describe later.  To be fair, a lot of the people were obviously hard-core wilderness medicine people wearing military camouflage and carrying state of the art first aid equipment.  There were firefighters and paramedics.  That we didn’t come in last is an accomplishment, especially considering the number of penalties we incurred and the competition we were up against. 

There were physical challenges as well as medical scenarios that had to be dealt with using nothing but the gear we had packed in with us.  In one case we had to evacuate a victim with a cervical spine injury from the shore of a lake to a campsite about a kilometre away.  Unfortunately we paralyzed her on the first attempt because her neck moved while we were trying to get her onto a tarp that we were intending to use to transport her.  One area where I did excel (believe it or not) was getting a fire going and building a shelter.

In another case we came upon a hunting accident in which the victim had been shot through the chest with an arrow.  The victim had a collapsed lung which required sticking a needle in her chest to let out the air that was compressing her lung.  (We didn’t actually do this, but we had to describe what we would do and we had to show that we had a needle).

Another challenge was to compress, wrap, and splint a fractured ankle and transport the victim across a stream without putting any weight on the ankle.

Our worst performance came when we came across multiple victims of a lightning strike, plus distraught relatives in hysterics.  One victim wasn’t breathing and had no pulse.  A second victim had a branch sticking out of his chest.  A third victim, a child, had a pulse, but wasn’t breathing and was making a gurgling sound.  We started by taking turns doing CPR and artificial respiration on the first victim while we tried to figure out what to do with the other two. 

It quickly became apparent that the child needed an emergency trachiometry.  One of us had a pocket knife, so we made an incision in the what we thought was the trachea in the child’s neck (not a real child – a dummy).  Blood (ketchup) came pouring out.  We were told that we could stop what we were doing because we had sliced into the child’s carotid artery and he was now bleeding out.  I guess we missed the trachea. 

Aside from killing the kid, we had not considered possible spinal injuries, nor did we manage to do anything for the branch-in-chest victim before he bled to death so the penalty we incurred for that medical challenge was huge.  In all we made 8 disastrous mistakes at that station, each one requiring us to transport 10 mL of water from a lake to a urine jar located about 500 meters away using a 5 mL syringe.  We did a lot of running before we got the water level up to the 80 mL mark.  About 5 teams passed us while we were relaying the syringe back and forth.  It turned out that 80 mL was the highest penalty incurred for any of the teams that day.  At the awards ceremony after the race that night we were given the head of the kid we had killed with a pocket knife as a “dubious prize” for our nefarious performance.  Our team name was “The Toronto Terminators” (I had no part in this I promise), but it became a fitting name because we “terminated” so many of our victims.  I’m pretty sure the organizers made up the “dubious prize” especially for us after witnessing our shocking disregard for human life.  I feel sorry for our future patients.

Poor poor Helen

I always thought that if I were to wipeout on my motorcycle I would have some warning.  My experience riding Shelley II in California taught me that I would always know in advance if I was about to drift over the centre-line or onto the shoulder after taking a corner too fast. 

A week ago today, I went down on Helen.  I had no warning whatsoever.  One second I was in complete control of the bike, the next I was down, skidding along the asphalt.  I went over so fast that at first I didn’t even realize what had happened.  I was lying on the road in a state of pure confusion.  I had just slid about 15 feet.  At some point, I must have become separated from my bike because it was lying on its side a few feet behind me.  It wasn’t until the engine cut out in a chocking sputter that it sunk in: I had wiped out.

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I felt no pain.  My first thought was of Helen.  How badly was she damaged?  When I stood up, I noticed that my left knee had trouble supporting my weight.  I looked down at my leg.  My jeans were ripped and blood was oozing from my knee.  I ignored it for the time being.

I went to  Helen and pushed her upright and walked her to the side of the road.  I could tell right away that something was wrong with the steering column.  People started coming up to me, asking me if I was alright.  I guess it must have looked and sounded pretty spectacular.

The wipeout happened right outside the entrance to the underground parking lot of my building.  To exit the parking lot, you climb a steep ramp.  When you get out, you have to turn right and then left, because the entranceway to the parkade is at the bottow of a one-way U-shaped driveway (you exit on the right side of the U).  I had come out this way dozens of times before with no problem.  I had been riding fast, but not recklessly fast.  I had been going somewhere between 35 and 40 km/h.  I had come up the hill, and leaned right.  It was when I had leaned left that the front tire slid out and I went over on the left side.  There wasn’t enough time for me to even experience a split second of feeling unbalanced.

I retraced the course I had taken, looking for something that could explain how I could crash so unexpectedly.  Near where I had first gone down, I found a sheet of acetate (the kind used with old-fashioned overhead projectors) lying on the road.  It was certainly conceivable that hitting that piece of plastic would cause me to lose traction.  But I wondered how something so small could cause such a drastic loss of traction.

I would later find out from John (my mechanic at The Bike Yard) that small slippery things are capable of causing disasters because they get stuck between the tire and the road and get pushed along.  John has seen people go down after hitting a single wet leaf on the road.  They stick to the front tire at the point of contact with the road.  A three inch slippery leaf might as well be 30 feet long.  The same thing could easily have happened with that piece of acetate.

Near the acetate, I also found a big chunk of my windshield, and realized that I had snapped it cleanly in two.

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I put Helen into Neutral and got her started easily enough.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t kick her down into first.  The impact had bent the shift pedal inwards so that it’s downward motion was obstructed.  Also, when the handlebars were pointing forward, the front tire was actually pointing to the right.  There were some new scratches on the left side and the fairing was looser than it had been.  But “luckily” Helen’s previous owner had already gone down hard on the left side so there was really no new cosmetic damage.

Although I wanted to get her fixed right away, I had to park her until after my anatomy exam on Friday.  For most of the past week I’ve had a horrible limp and my knee has been stiff like an arthritic old man’s.  I had a full range of motion so I was reasonably sure that the pain was the result of a soft tissue injury and not torn ligaments, so I elected not to get it checked out.  As I write this, the pain in my knee is mostly gone.  In fact, I have just returned from Michigan where I participated in MedWAR, which is like “Amazing Race” but for medical students.  It required many hours of physical exertion and my knee took it rather well (although Advil and I became good friends).

Instead of going to the Pub after writing the exam on Friday, I took care of my baby.  I took off the shift pedal and beat it back into shape with a hammer.  I gave her a trial run, and was happy to find that I could successfully shift gears.  Next I turned my attention to the steering column.  I phoned John, my mechanic at The Bike Yard, and told him what had happened.  He told me not to take it to a dealership under any circumstances.  He said they’d change my steering forks, front brake disk, etc., and by the time they were finished it would cost me $1500.  He told me to instead drive up against a wall so that the front tire was braced and then turn the handlebars towards the wall until the wheel and handlebars were back in alignment.  This is exactly what I did and the effect was magical.  Apart from only having half a windshield, Helen is now back in great riding condition.

My motorcycle gear took a beating though.  My helmet has new scratches on it.  My beloved black leather biker jacket has scuff marks on it.  The fibreglass knuckle protectors on my gloves are significantly worn down.  But thanks to my protective gear, I came out unscathed except for my left knee.

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Left and Right glove.  After seeing my gloves, I’ve decided that if there is one piece of protective gear that I would never ride without it would be gloves.  My knuckles would have been destroyed.  I would rather ride naked with gloves than fully kitted up but gloveless.

Final Thought: If you’re still using overheads, switch to PowerPoint goddamit!