Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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Under the Knife, Part II

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

Tchoup Chop
I have my initial consultation appointment with the surgeon slated to perform my cholecystectomy tomorrow morning. As I have stated previously, my normally expected apprehension about this entire ordeal is suppressed as a result of the overshadowing pain and discomfort. I just want to get access to my full, unrestricted life back. I will know at the conclusion of this meeting the exact date, time and location of my procedure. I am going to request it is done on a Thursday or Friday to minimize the amount of time I have to take off from work. I have the paid days available to me, but I obviously prefer not to use too many of them all at once.

UPDATE: After talking with the doctor and reviewing the schedule of available surgical time slots, I set my cholecystectomy for Monday, 30 August 2004 at 0900.

Cleaning House
While Mount Sutro did not benefit from the upgrades and modifications I was planning, I did get a lot accomplished that will ready me for that project. I have decided to postpone working on the site until I am home recovering from the surgery. While during the first day or two I may be restricted to a bed, a better part of my recovery time I am expecting to use as the perfect opportunity to work on things here.

My format and reinstall, complete with Windows XP Service Pack 2, went without a hitch. In addition to the new features and bug fixes, I am finding my aging PC actually running a bit better than before. I also installed Microsoft Office 2003 replacing Office XP. I am ecstatic about a few of the new features added to office and the overall improvement in performance.

Laying Pipe
I decided to finally join the latter half of the twentieth century by purchasing DSL service for myself at home. I could no longer squeak by with a 56k dial-up connection or borrowing faster connections from friends or work when needed. My DSL service through Sprint but peered by EarthLink, should be up and running by Monday, 30 August 2004. There were a few reasons I went with this service over the popular Road Runner cable internet solution offered by resident evil Bright House Networks.

First, I loathe that company and although EarthLink technically falls under the same umbrella, it is enough a separate entity to appease me. Second, the amount of people that use this service in the area is high as I was concerned with the inherent bandwidth problems that can arise on a busy cable network connection. Third, the coaxial cable that runs in my house does a sub-par job at transmitting television data. I can not even imagine how spotty the internet connection would be over the same cables. Fourth, I did not want to have to pay for an installer to come (on their schedule, not mine) and request access to my computer. No, never. Finally, DSL seemed like a good idea when I calculated the local central office, LKBRFLXA, was only 2657.5 feet from my home.

My connection will peer over EarthLink, one of the many names for the once-abhorrent AOL Transit Data Network. I am not anticipating this being much of an issue since they have been forced to upgrade their systems to accommodate the nationwide growth there are experiencing. I am also going to pick-up a wireless router and PCMCIA NIC so I can forego physically running CAT-5 through the house.

Look for an update tomorrow on the surgery and, of course, as soon as my new network connection is established.

Under the Knife

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
Despite the fact things around town will not be back to normal for many months, I feel my live coverage of Hurricane Charley is no longer required. I will instead be returning to normal conversation topics, news articles and reviews.

Speaking of getting back to normal, I am happy to report I have finally determined why I have not been myself for the past few months now. My constant fatigue, disinterest in activities and general feeling of blah are all the result of my gallbladder being diseased.

I had originally been confusing the pains associated with this syndrome with my lactose intolerance, but as the pain got worse and worse and I was able to determine I had not recently consumed any dairy products, my original conclusion seemed less valid. I took my brand new insurance card to a medical facility and explained my situation to the doctor. He ordered me on some medication and scheduled some tests to try to determine the problem.

After being nearly incapacitated with pain yesterday morning, I returned to the doctor's office to have the testing done immediately. The ultrasonic examination of my abdomen revealed the diseased gallbladder and I was referred to an area surgeon for a consultation. Once that meeting takes place in ten days, it will be a matter of only a week or so before I am in the hospital being carved like a roast (cholecystectomy). I will have to take off from work three to five days for recovery time.

As much as I may hate going to doctors, I am really looking forward to having this surgery simply for the fact that I know it has been affecting me for so long now, I can hardly tell the difference. I have wanted to embark on several projects, including a back-end redevelopment of Mount Sutro, uploading of pictures to the Gallery and the formatting and reinstall of both of my computers. I hope that the lack of a gallbladder will return my energy and desire to do things other than sleep.

ADDEDNUM: I will be working on some of the above-referenced projects tonight and this weekend, since I do not really feel up to much else. If you need to contact me, ring, send a text message or e-mail my mobile: mobile @

Be advised during some of these procedures, parts of
Mount Sutro may be inaccessible. I will also be cleaning things up around here, so expect some things to be moved, different or otherwise odd. I hope to keep downtime to a minimum, but it may be unavoidable as I install some new software and scripts to better manage content. I am considering a revamp of the Forum as well. Suggestions for improvement? Send them to upgrade @


by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

[ click here for the current orlando radar ]

Here are some assorted links of news, pictures and general recovery information.

» PowerPoint Slideshow of Damage Photos (2.5 MB; author unknown)
» Orlando Sentinel Reader's Photos

» FEMA Impersonators Reportedly Targeting Storm Victims
» Power outage updates
» Before starting cleanup
» County reports
» Lynx information
» Important phone numbers
» Best way to help
» What to watch out for
» Red Cross safety information
» Dealing with shock
» What's safe to eat

» Federal Emergency Management Agency
» Help with Insurance Claims or Problems
» County by County Comfort Station Locations
» Volunteer Florida
» Hurricane Financial Assistance for Floridians
» American Red Cross Chapters of Florida
» County Emergency Management Contacts
» Emergency Shelters
» Florida Disaster Assistance
» Report Insurance Fraud
» Orlando Utilities Commission
» Florida Power and Light
» Progress Energy
» Kissimmee Utility Authority

Wednesday, 18 August 2004, 1240
I never thought I would be so excited about it, but I got fuel for my car today! I spent quite a bit of time yesterday looking for a gas station that actually had gasoline and walked away with nothing. Thanks to Costco at 741 Orange Avenue in Altamonte Springs for allowing non-members like me to purchase their fuel. I would also like to point out Real Radio 104.1 FM (also nationwide on XM 152) has been operating in relief and information mode since Charley hit, turning its talk radio shows into the best information source in Central Florida, especially for those without power, television or internet. Their on-air personalities and staff have been collecting water, ice, food and other essentials from generous citizens and local businesses such as Darden Restaurants (proprietors of The Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Smokey Bones, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52) and Lombardi's Seafood and personally driving around town passing out these items to those in need.

Monday, 16 August 2004, 1401
I just returned from the Arby's restaurant closest to work and waited forty-five (45) minutes in line to order and get my food. The line was out the door and filled with public service employees and people just happy to be in the air conditioning. The cashier at Arby's said since they had little damage and have been able to operate normally over the past few days, they have been making $20,000 in sales daily!

This location is right across the street from the still-closed Orlando Executive Airport (ORL) on East Colonial Drive (State Road 50). Travelling further east down Colonial there are countless businesses with moderate to severe damage to their buildings, awnings and signage. Only one or two billboards have not fully collapsed, in some cases into car lots filled with new and used cars or buildings themselves. There are still over 500 traffic signals inoperative in the area, many of which are in this eastern part of town where there is a lot of severe damage.

Because of the traffic situation this creates on one of the main thoroughfares in Central Florida, the East-West Expressway (State Road 408) that runs parallel to Colonial Drive has suspended toll operations until further notice.

Many people here at the office still do not have electrical power or other essential services such as water, gas or telephone. Cellular service is better, but still hit-and-miss in locations where damage disabled cellular towers and repeater equipment. Costco gas stations, normally available only to paid members, have opened their pumps to all customers to help alleviate the problem with gas shortages.

Selected photographs and articles:
» North Captiva Island Split In Two
» Lynx Bus Service Restored
» Central Florida Damage Photos
» Orange County Begins Emergency Food Distribution

Monday, 16 August 2004, 1225
Tropical Storm Earl has degenerated into an open tropical wave travelling west-northwest through the Caribbean. It will pose no threat as long as it does not regenerate into an organized tropical depression.

It is very hard to find gas stations with fuel available in Orlando at this time. The last word I heard was that locations in Clermont have fuel, but as word spreads of this, they are sure to run out soon. If you are running low on gasoline, it is advisable to locate the closest available source of fuel and fill your vehicle.

Monday, 16 August 2004, 0837
This morning I am back at the office, where the damage I previously reported seemed to be contained to outside structures. Half of the buildings' environmental controls are inoperative, but that seems to be the only issue as so far. I just heard where the awning and other bits of our building ended up: behind the building embedded in a semi-tracker trailer truck.

Driving through Orlando this morning showed that although many traffic signals have been repaired or replaced, downed power lines, trees and other damage remains. Throughout the area, there are still many people and businesses without electrical power, water, telephone and other services. The major power companies are all estimating repairs should be complete no later than Sunday, 22 August 2004. Area schools are also remaining closed until Wednesday. Public transportation services have resumed although I did not see any buses during my morning commute. The Florida Department of Transportation traffic monitoring system is offline so traffic reports normally available by calling 511 or on the over-head display panels is information being gathered manually by Florida Highway Patrol officers.

Government services are partially open, but many of their resources have been redirected to helping those without essential services and providing general information and support to all residents. Ice, water and non-perishable food products are available at various police and fire stations in town. We are also experiencing a fuel shortage so many stations are open to sell food and convenience store products, but have no gas to sell. It is unclear when shipments of gasoline will resume, but it is likely to be a few days before most gas stations are fully operational.

I spent the balance of my weekend helping to clean up the house and yard of all debris and the large limbs that broke away from my oak trees. I went Saturday evening to my favourite drinking establishment, Saint Andrews Pub, a British tavern in Altamonte Springs, Florida and last night to Tees and Cues pool hall because my normal place Clicks is closed as a result of a gas leak.

The recovery process will be a slow one, but the casualty count remains low (now set at 16 deaths Statewide). All we need to do now is continue to hope that Tropical Storm Earl continues on its westerly path toward Mexico and does not decide to turn north.

Here are some links for local residents who may need further information:
» Fast Facts: Shelters, Closings, Other Effects Of Hurricane Charley
» Important Central Florida Storm Phone Numbers
» 500,000 Still Without Power; Repairs May Take Week

Saturday, 14 August 2004, 2313
Electrical power was restored some time in the past two hours while I was watching the remake of the 1962 political brainwashing film The Manchurian Candidate. For the record I enjoyed the original version better, but I digress. It was nice to come home to power, especially to be able to turn on the air conditioning. It is only 75°F (24°C) right now, but the relative humidity is 94% and the winds have all but stopped. I had to use the weather data from the Sanford-Orlando International Airport (SFB) north of here because my usual NOAA/NWS weather station at the Orlando Executive Airport (ORL) is not functioning. I am not surprised given the damage I spoke of earlier today.

Driving home from the movie theatre it was obvious many areas of Central Florida are still without power. With the estimates being confirmed this afternoon that it could take as long as three to five days to have restoration, we were starting to prepare for the next days. We purchased some dry ice in an attempt to keep some, if not all, of our frozen and refrigerated foods from spoiling.

I did not have a chance to take photos from my drive around town to show you the damage and destruction, but was able to grab these shots at my house this morning. These pictures are of rather poor quality but show my house and just a section of the tree limbs and debris in our yard plus the fallen tree right across the street. I hope to add some more pictures to that album as they become available from alternate sources.

We are all very glad that the damage here was not as bad as it could have been and was in other locations. I know the clean-up and repair efforts will be ongoing for quite a while, but at least the causality list is very small (only five confirmed deaths and approximately ten other unconfirmed deaths). The tropics they are a brewing still, so we will be keeping a very close eye on Tropical Storm Earl who may be trying to copycat Charley's path through the Caribbean and Hurricane Danielle who appears to be no threat to us at this time.

Saturday, 14 August 2004, 1500
The damage to downtown Orlando and the surrounding area varies from mild to severe. In my travels I saw several houses damaged and destroyed by trees and debris. Signs, billboards, traffic signals and awnings are destroyed all over town. The Orlando Executive Airport was hit hard. All of the landing lights are destroyed along with many of the aircraft that were parked there. I cannot even estimate how many trees are uprooted. My office in downtown and next to the Orlando Executive Airport was damaged, but it does not look critical. There are a few restaurants and gas stations open, but many are closed simply because there is so little power available around town. Interstate-4 is backed-up for 85 miles from Orlando to Tampa. Further updates with breaking news.

Saturday, 14 August 2004, 0959
I am going to keep this entry quick as I am using my neighbour's computer as my battery died last night as I was posting an update. The storm is over and the damage in this area is minimal. I had a chance to drive close to downtown last night and witnessed a lot of damaged, downed power lines, trees and some structural damage.

I will post a more elaborate update as soon as I have a better means of doing so. We are fine here as are all of our neighbours. I hope to post again this afternoon from a remote location with electrical power.

Friday, 13 August 2004, 2228
We still have no electrical power nor does most of Central Florida at this time. The howling wind gusts continue but seem to have become slightly less frequent. The horizontal rain continues along with the wind bursts. Transformers all over town are exploding in bright multi-coloured bursts. The television station radio simulcast seems to indicate the worst may be passing through and behind it rain and wind will follow for another hour or two.

Friday, 13 August 2004, 2140
We are now starting to get some of the strong portions of the storm moving into town. The wind gusts are so powerful air is squeezing through sealed doors and windows. Our power is still intermittent and the eye of the storm is going to move into this area within ten minutes or so. Wind gusts have been reported at 105 MPH around Orlando and right now my house is being battered with gusts I approximate to be between 20-40 MPH.

Power is off again now, so I will post again later to conserve battery power.

Friday, 13 August 2004, 2055
We are getting some pretty severe wind gusts right now and heavy downpours. The centre of the storm is still on its way here, but we are already having intermittent power outages. I am writing this entry using my laptop's battery. Debris is flying around outside and branches from the area oak trees are breaking off in small sections. The rain is completely horizontal and the wind gusts worsen every minute.

Friday, 13 August 2004, 2000
The heart of the storm is starting to enter the area. New timetables are placing eye wall interception between 2030-2115 EDT. The rain and wind have started to pick-up again and new weather alerts have been issued. I just stepped outside and with the exception of the wind and rain sounds it is eerily quiet outside.

We have been watching footage from where Charley made landfall in Port Charlotte. The 145 MPH winds have caused major damage there. Luckily the storm has decreased in strength and the predictions for this area are maximum sustained winds of 60-70 MPH.

My next update will be when we start to experience the tropical storm and hurricane force winds.

Friday, 13 August 2004, 1757 It has been relatively uneventful here since I last wrote, with rain only starting to pick-up again now. I used the time to take a nap and now that I am up again I see they have a new forecast model that places the movement and direction of Charley right over my northern suburb city of Altamonte Springs.

It should still be several more hours before we are experiencing substantial winds and damage, but even as I sit here and write this the rain outside is slowly increasing in intensity. Several low-lying areas in Central Florida along with mobile home parks are being or have already been evacuated.

As night falls here, the storms will get stronger and then sometime between 2100 and 2200 EDT, the eye will pass over this area. Of course, there is a margin of error but it seems that everyone is predicting to this be the case. Exactly how long it will take for the storm to arrive and how strong it will be when it does are still variables.

Friday, 13 August 2004, 1515 We have been under a Tornado Warning for a while now that does not end until sometime tomorrow. As a large cell of storms moved in this direction, my family and I decided to take some extra precautions and I just was outside boarding windows. The rain was coming down so hard I could not see in front of me. The lighting and thunder were simultaneous and crashing within approximately one quarter of a mile of my house. The rain has subsided slightly now and I have come inside to change, putting everything I was wearing (shirt, jeans, socks and sneakers) in the dryer while we still have electrical power.

Charley is just about to make landfall now, but we are more concerned with the outer rain bands, the second of which is on a direct course for us now. That last batch was not as bad as we were expecting, but I am sure we have not even seen a portion of the power of this storm.

I am planning on posting again around 1700 EDT.

Friday, 13 August 2004, 1352
A Tornado Watch has just been established until 1400 EDT Saturday! There are several fast moving cells of thunderstorms that have produced tornadoes on route. The storm has increased to a Category Four and has changed course enough to look like it may hit this area damn near head-on.

Friday, 13 August 2004, 1231
I just got home from the office where we all cleared out around 1130 EDT. The traffic on the roads is quite heavy and there are many power trucks coming into town. I also saw several RV's driving from the Tampa area through Central Florida. The traffic information signs on Interstate-4 are displaying a flashing warning about how Interstate-10 and Interstate-75 may be closed as the storm approaches. Gas stations, supermarkets, home supply stores and the like are all packed with cars.

So far there is no precipitation yet, but I expect some outer rain bands to start pushing through in the next few hours. I will post an update when the inclement weather begins and then again as long as telephone service is not lost. My notebook's battery is not the best, but I should be able to post a quick update if and when electrical power fails.

That is the latest from Orlando, Florida! I am off to cook some lunch and take advantage of the time off work.

Friday, 13 August 2004, 1041
The weather is rather nice right now, providing some credibility to the old adage "the calm before the storm." There were some scattered rainstorms in the early morning hours that were not associated with Charley and subsequently passed.

It remains to be seen how strong the storm will be in this area. With any luck, the current predictions will be accurate and the storm will sideswipe Central Florida to the west. Unfortunately, the northeastern quadrants of hurricanes are often the strongest so we may still be decently battered.

I will be leaving work at 1200 EDT today as my company has decided to let everyone go home early to make any necessary preparations. I will write again when there is something new and/or exciting to report.

Thursday, 12 August 2004, 2343
The latest forecast models are now showing Charley making landfall in Tampa Bay itself, bringing the bulk of the ever-growing storm closer to here. The time of impact is supposed to be after 2000 hours with the effects ongoing through Saturday morning. I will be going into work as usual and leaving early if the weather gets to the point where I feel uneasy driving around town. I will update again tomorrow from the office!

Thursday, 12 August 2004, 1822
We experienced minimal effects of Bonnie in this area though I just watched some great video footage of a tornado that struck Jacksonville this afternoon. The forecasts are now predicting we should be experiencing the full-brunt of the storm between 1800 and 2000 hours tomorrow.

Wednesday, 11 August 2004, 1916
Two tropical systems are poised to make landfall in Florida simultaneously. Here are the three-day projection maps for Hurricane Charley and Tropical Storm Bonnie as of 1700 hours today. Stay tuned to the National Hurricane Centre for regular updates, advisories and warnings.

The counties in this area are not currently under an explicit warning from the National Weather Service, though Governor Bush today issued an Executive Order (04-182) declaring a state of emergency and activating the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) in preparation for the pending dual landfall.

It should prove to be a wet, if not interesting week!

Addendum: This article will continue to be edited and updated directly throughout the storm with the latest entries appearing at the top.

The Weekend

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
For the first time in several years, I am travelling to Tallahassee without the Woodgate house to call my own for the weekend. Steven and Erik are back in Orlando, Claire and Ash are settling in to their new place in town (which I will get to see for the first time) and the new Woodgate tenants are moving.

In the absence of Woodgate's reliably generous hospitality, I will be staying with Erik's girlfriend Lauren who continues to live in the Capitol city. Her apartment is a hop, skip and jump away from the Florida State University campus so this weekend might feel more like my visits did back in 1999 when I started regularly coming to town.

I am looking forward to the FSU graduation ceremony I will be attending to watch Steven walk. Specifically the FSU English professor Mark Winegardner who has taken a leave of absence to author a new novel called The Godfather Returns. Apparently, this chapter of the story will take place between the first and second books. I am pretty sure I mentioned before how dismal the guest speaker was for Erik's graduation a few months back, so I hope this will provide some redemption.

In other news, I think I may have an ulcer that has been causing me rather regular discomfort. My original theory that it was my lactose intolerance worsening seems less valid on the basis of the various medical articles I have read about ulcers. As soon as I return to Orlando I will be using my newly activated medical insurance to figure this one out officially.