Harold A Brown

March 16, 2016

Many of you are aware of my Dad’s passing, the morning of Thursday, March 5, 2016 at the Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He had been driving West from Tennessee to visit me and my family in Maricopa, Arizona (Phoenix Area). Several folks have asked me to write down the details of his last days. The following is based on information gathered from various sources including conversations with Dad and his doctors at the hospital before he passed, folks he talked to during his trip, and the contents of his wallet. I write this and hope it will provide some comfort to those who loved him.

Harold A Brown

Preface: For those of you who did not know, Dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (cancer) three years ago. He had what was considered a successful stem cell transplant two years ago, thanks to the amazing staff at Vanderbilt Medical. Dad always said he would die with his disease, not from it. Dad was right, once again.

Dad’s Last Days: Dad set off on his last great road trip on Friday, February 26, 2016. He had been planning the trip for months and was very excited to see me, my wife Linda, and our son Henrik. Dad stopped in North Little Rock, Arkansas to visit his cousin. They had a nice meal at the Outback Steakhouse, Dad had a burger and fries, and a Dr Pepper. Dad and Kathleen talked until the early hours on Saturday, February 27, but despite insistence he stay and rest before continuing his journey West, Dad decided to drive on.

Dad made the trip West through Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, stopping twice along the way to check into a hotel and rest. By Monday, February 29 Dad had made it about 80 miles West of Albuquerque and started feeling really tired. He stopped at the Sky City Hotel in Acoma, New Mexico and checked in. Dad said he was so tired he got into bed without changing into his pajamas. He got up later that night, changed into his pajamas, and went back to sleep. The next day he woke up feeling even more tired, and decided to stay another night. Dad did that for the next two nights, each time thinking he would wake up feeling better. On the morning of Thursday, March 3 Dad knew something was very wrong. He woke up, called his primary oncologist, and was told to get himself to the closest Emergency Room.

Crystelle had been in contact with Dad every day of his trip. When they spoke Thursday morning he admitted to being in bad shape and heading to the Emergency Room. Crystelle called me and I started the drive East not knowing where exactly I would need to go. Dad found help getting to the local Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna Hospital (ACL) in Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico where he was treated for severe dehydration. After some time, and careful negotiation, Crystelle was able to get Dad transferred to the Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque where they were better equipped to treat. Dad was admitted to their Emergency Room at 3:30 PM. I arrived at 7:30 PM. Shortly after my arrival Dad was taken to have an ultrasound done on his Kidneys since the fluid output was not keeping up with the input.

After we returned to his room, I texted Crystelle and we agreed she would take the next available flight to Albuquerque.

At around 10:30 Dad was transferred to a room in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

After a restless night’s sleep, Dad sat up in bed about 9:30 AM the next morning and put his head in his hands. The nurse running some tests asked Dad if he was in any pain. The last articulate words I heard Dad say were, to the nurse, or perhaps to me, himself, or God, “I’m just so weary”.

I picked Crystelle up at the airport at noon on Wednesday, March 4. We talked in the hospital parking lot about Dad’s state. Prepared as possible, we went up to Dad’s room. Crystelle spent a lot of time talking to Dad. He did respond to her several times, and there was ample indication he was aware we were there by his side.

Dad had a rough night, and the next morning his heart stopped.

Causes: The doctors were tireless. They turned over so many stones to piece the puzzle of Dad’s condition together in order to treat. In the end they were able to figure out somewhere either before or during Dad’s trip he had picked up the H1N1 flu, contracted Pneumonia, and as a result of the re-hydration, had Sepsis. Any one of those complications would have killed a lesser man. He fought to the end, but passed without any pain, surrounded by his children.

Postlogue: Dad was an amazing human being. One of a kind. Complicated but practical to his core. He was a renaissance man, artist by trade, but a good athlete, great coach and prolific mentor. He was a craftsman, poet, and historian. He loved his friend and family, and the evidence of that was certainly well represented at his memorial. The experience was amazing and surreal, to see friends from 40, 30, 20, 10 years past there to share a story and say goodbye.

One more thing: My cousin called me the night after the memorial and asked if Dad had planned his memorial before his passing. He was so impressed with every detail. For that, our family would like to thank two amazing men, and two of Dad’s closest friends, Larry Yarborough and Bill Craig. I know how much you loved Dad, and that he also loved you.

High Definition Audio

May 30, 2015

I am not sure I would describe myself as an audiophile. I am a music fan. I am not a music snob. Well, maybe just a little. About a year ago something made me curious about sticking my toe into the water that is high definition audio. I treaded slowly in and have come to a handful of conclusions that may be helpful to others.

1. Lossless is good enough. Most people simply do not have the ear for anything more. It is not like moving from regular television to HDTV in my experience. And if you do not have the hardware, forget about songs with a 5,000 bit rate (kilobits per second or kbps) that cost $30 to but one album.

2. Hardware is key. Invest in an awesome pair of non trendy headphones. Buy the best pair you can afford. I bought a pair of Bowers & Wilkins P7. They are amazing. There are better pairs out there but that is the best I was willing to even consider and I agonized over spending that much money on headphones for over six months.

3. Like with breakfast cereal, you get what you pay for, but not always. I actually think that trendy headphones are sold like snake oil. Just a gut feeling. High end however is high end, with established brands sans celebrity spokespeople.

4. Invest in a digital to analog converter (DAC). Here you do not need to buy the most expensive DAC you can afford. Put that towards your headphones. But make no mistake. You DO want a DAC. It levels your experience up at least as much as the headphones do. The brand Alpen makes a few different FiiO DAC models. I chose a relatively inexpensive portable device the FiiO E17 that doubles as a amplifier. Works great with my iMac where I listen to my lossless files at a bit rate around 1,000 kbps and on my iPhone where I stream music from the Rdio application at a bit rate of 320 kbps. If you are keeping score, iTunes songs are typically 128 to 256.

In conclusion, I have listened to pieces of music a hundred times and with this setup heard instruments that I didn’t even know where in the arrangement before. That trigged one really big smile. Ear to ear, pun intended. Happy listening!

Owen

Eulogy for Paul Bang

January 30, 2015

The word eulogy has a Greek origin. It is a speech or writing in praise of a recent dearly departed. This is my first. I wrote this a few weeks ago and never had an opportunity to have it delivered. I share it here instead. These words are for my dearly departed friend Paul Bang. Paul died recently after what can be described as complications from cancer. Paul decided in what can in its best light be seen as a sort of act of bravery in his situation. I do not care to argue that in any way. Paul decided to call it a life, quits, on his own terms. For Paul.

Paul was a great storyteller. As I write this, I wish I could ask Paul, “Hey, how would you write this?” I would not ask him what he would write about himself. That would be too obvious. I would ask him about the broad strokes of what he would share, and maybe a little bit about how he would share it.

When I first moved to Southern California I knew exactly two people. Paul was my first new friend out there. We worked together. Offices in downtown Burbank. We stayed friends and in the end Paul was one of my oldest friends. He did things I found outrageous. He once flew to San Francisco to meet my wife and I for dinner. He rented a car and driver and had us chauffeured all over the city in style. Never mind Las Vegas trips. Never mind dinners in Los Angeles. Too many to share. Paul had style. Paul was generous.

Truth is Paul was most of the reason we stayed in touch for so many years. Paul was a friend keeper. Someone who does not let their good friends drift too far away. He would call from time to time, and for example, ask for my perspective on a situation. Sometimes it might be advice about how to deal with a workplace challenge. He would always thank me in a funny voice for “my white friend perspective”. I think I know what he meant. It did not require definition.

I have imagined many times over the past weeks, being able to say a real goodbye to Paul. To look him in the eye and tell him how much I miss him. The sadness from his leaving us. I would have used different words, harsher words to his face, and Paul would have appreciated the brutal honesty and emotion. I will tell him now, and imagine him here with me, I miss you brother. Good bye, friend. God speed you to your next, and if not or in the meantime, may your rest be peaceful.

Owen

I can almost remember a time when the only credentials I had to remember was my pin number for my debit card. Once upon a time I was able to remember most all username and password (aka credentials) for my accounts. An email address here, online banking there, a social media site here. I had a pretty clever strategy. Each account had its own three part password. Part one were characters unique to the account. Part two was a special character like @ or #. Part three was a standard phrase and the same for all passwords.

Then I started reading about websites getting hacked and users data being stolen and used for evil purposes. That plus a ballooning number of accounts to keep up with led me to start looking for a better account management solution. A friend and fellow technologist suggested the application 1Password.

Here is the iOS Mobile App Home Page

Mobile App Home Page

You install it on your devices, back up the file in the cloud via Dropbox for example, and have the application auto generate a unique password from 4 to 50 characters. You have as you can see one Master Password to get into the application.

There is also a desktop application.

Desktop App Home Page

How’s that work? You input your account Master Password and get into the application.

Account Types

You have different categories of accounts. You can keep track of websites, apps, etc. You can also keep track of Credit Cards and all of your multiple personalities, err, I mean identities.

To use your listings you just scroll to the account. To add a new account, you click plus and add, just like you would a friend in your contacts list.

Account Edit Page

Then you can tell the 1Password application to generate a password based on the way you tell it to. Based on what they call a Recipe, which you choose. For example, you can have a short password with only lower case letters.

Editing Password for Account

You can have a combo of letters and numbers, use only numbers, or… you can choose to generate a password that is 50 characters long, includes lower and upper case letters that are pronounceable, or not, digits, special characters, symbols, and have characters repeat, or not.

Different Password

What is the downside? You will never memorize that sort of magnificent password. The upside? You do not have to. When you login to the service you copy your credentials (username and password) from the 1Password app and paste it into the fields. Better still you can sync your credentials across your devices. Using Dropbox I have my 1Password credentials data shared on my iMac, iPhone, and iPad mini, as well as on my wife’s iPhone and her iPad.

It did take me a few weeks to get things setup the way I wanted them but now I am using 1Password to generate and manage over 140 different sets of credentials, and counting. Now all I have to do is remember that darn pin number for my debit card.

Owen

Cutting Our Cord

September 18, 2014

There was a time when we watched a lot of television in our house. With a Toddler to keep up with we are now way below the national average which evidently is five hours a day if we are to believe what was reported by the New York Daily News.

2877784014_49e1b24606_z(Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/spin_spin/)

My wife watches less than an hour a day all while she gets in her daily workout. I watch about an hour a day in the evenings. We might also sorta kinda maybe watch an hour together after dinner in between bath and play time. As a result we decided to get rid of our cable and the bill that goes along with it. There is certain programming that we did not want to live without. With all of the options we were able to cobble together solutions that covered everything.

1. Netflix
2. Hulu
3. Plex
4. Tablo TV
5. ESPN3
6. iTunes

All of these combined might cost us $20 a month. Most of these are, or could be with a little negotiating, more or less free. I did pay for the Table DVR and OTA HDTV antenna but after that all of what I pull out of the air and record is free.

We have only been cable free for a few weeks. So far so good.

Owen