Friday, August 29, 2008

Kidney Failure

This note is a cross-post from my more active (at least until now) blog:   I'm going to try and move most of my posts to this blog because it has a more general audience.

In February of this year, My second oldest son, Asaf was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure. Simply put, both his kidneys are damaged and scarred from some infection or defect that happened years ago.  They will likely cease to function sometime within the next six months.

The good news is that there is no immediate danger to his life.  Kidney Dialysis is a viable option and can maintain his health for up to ten or more years if necessary.  Unfortunately, the process is not easy and there are potential side effects. Given Asaf's generally excellent health and age, Kidney Dialysis is considered only a stop-gap measure and not a long term solution.

The best solution for Asaf is a kidney transplant.   Many kidneys are donated postmortem. Cadaver kidneys are the most common form of transplant. These organs are allocated on a priority basis to eligible recipients.  In Israel, you must already be on dialysis and meet a
specific set of criteria in order to qualify for one of these rare organs.

The other option is to find a live kidney donor.  Most people are born with two healthy kidneys.  The human body is a marvelous machine and can comfortably get by with just one kidney.   I am a living example, having been born with one kidney.  Live organ donors are considered the best option for kidney transplants.  The percentage of successful transplants is higher from a live donor and the transplanted kidney has a longer chance of surviving in the recipient's body.

Unfortunately, after we discovered Asaf's condition, upon testing the other kids, we found that kidney disease has manifested itself in various non-threatening ways in our other children as well.    Because of incompatible blood types, kidney disease (including one aunt who
also has one kidney), and age, all of Asaf's siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, and all his first cousins have been eliminated as potential donors.

The first step to being a kidney donor is to be in perfect health. The second step is to have a compatible blood type. Asaf has a blood type of B negative.  That means that possible donors are people with B or O  blood.  We recently learned that Rh factor is not an issue in donor transplants, and that should make our search somewhat easier.  B- is one of the rarer blood types, occurring in only %2 of the general population.  B+ is a bit better at %9.

Donating a kidney is not a simple undertaking and not one to be taken lightly. There are potential complications, but most donors live long and successful lives, knowing that they made a difference to someone in need.  The cost of a transplant is covered for both the donor and the
recipient for Israeli citizens.  We don't really know about the rules in the US, but we are beginning to learn.  The medical and legal community has ruled that it is illegal to sell a kidney.  As such, any payment of any kind to the donor will disqualify them.  Kidney donations from live donors must be 100% altruistic.

Please contact us if you know of anyone who might be willing to donate one of their kidneys to Asaf.  The process takes about six months and requires numerous meetings with doctors, social workers, psychologists and committees to make sure that the decision is freely made and will not jeopardize the donor or the recipient. The recovery time for the donor after the transplant can be as fast at 3-4 days.

Right now, Asaf has no symptoms other than very poor blood tests and some slight fatigue.  He has recently changed his diet in an attempt to delay dialysis for as long as possible.  There is no cure for Asaf's existing kidneys.   At his current rate of decline, he will need a kidney transplant sometime in the next 12 months.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Goodbye Randy

Randy Pausch passed away on Friday after a two year struggle with Pancreatic Cancer.  I am proud to have worked with Randy and CMU and to have been his friend. CMU posted a short obituary here.

Randy was a first class researcher in Operating Systems, Computer Graphics and Human Computer Interfaces.   As a current PhD candidate, I can only hope that I could approach his level of contribution.

The last time I saw Randy was back in the 1990's, but he will always be remembered by me for his PhD thesis and for his "Last Lecture".

May you rest in God's Lap, and may your family be comforted.
Goodbye Randy


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Predictions: Applicable for the next few months

I want to get this prediction on record.  Here is the current situation:

A) PM Olmert is under investigation for receiving unreported cash from a US citizen.  At the very least, there is an ethical problem, at most, he is guilty of a number of criminal offenses.   Olmert's political situation is very weak.

B) Rocket and mortar fire from Gaza continues and is inflicting not only "damage", but also maiming and killing Israeli citizens.

C) The keystone of Olmert's coalition is the ultra-orthodox Shas party which is threatening to bolt if the government refuses to increase child support payments.  The government is against this because it wants citizens to be productive workers and not sponges.

D) Olmert is in the US talking to the US government.  The US government is a lame duck presidency with less than six months to go.  There is no significant cost to the US for looking the other way if Israel does anything.


Within two weeks of Olmert's return from the US, the Israeli army will enter Gaza and restart the active war with Hamas.  The initial attack will cause significant collateral damage and will cost lives on both sides.

As with all Israeli wars the opposition will understand that it must support the troops and hence the current government.  This will delay any proceedings to schedule new elections and will effectively silence any discussion about the Olmert investigation.

If Israel recaptures Gaza and/or destroys the Hamas leadership, then the government will claim success and Olmert will be viewed as a hero.  Olmert's criminal investigation will be delayed for two years until he finishes his current term, at which point he will be indicted and convicted.  Of course, he will receive a pardon as the Israeli hero who restored Israel's power to the Middle East.

If Israel fails to achieve its objectives and suffers major losses OR if Hizbalah and/or Syria get involved, then Olmert will go down in history as the man who started two loosing wars and Israel will be hard pressed.

Olmert is betting that:
  • The Israeli army is prepared and ready for Hamas
  • The Iranians are all talk and will back down from a fight, hence Lebanon and Syria will stay quiet.
  • Olmert has nothing to loose.  His political career is over the minute the Knesset gets a chance to vote on new elections.  This way, he has a chance to come out smelling like roses instead of poop.
I sure hope I'm wrong.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Randy Pausch

In the 1980's I attended Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) as a undergraduate on Mathematics.  I followed that with two stints as a Staff Researchers, first in the Psychology Department and them with the Camelot group in the Computer Science Department.    I spent three years working with a group of stellar doctoral students.  They got their degrees while I earned a living and learned about systems and software engineering.

One of our students was Randy Pausch.  He arrived in 1982 and received his PhD in 1988 and went on to bigger things.  Randy came back to CMU and created a program called the Entertainment Technology degreee which merges Virtual Reality, Computer gaming, Art and Industrial Design.

Randy is one of my heros.  He found a way to do cool, fun things in Computer Science without treating it as Applied Mathematics.

The bad news is that in September 1006,  Randy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  The doctors don't give him much more time.

This fall, Randy gave a last talk at CMU.  

I'm very sad that I have not been in touch with Randy and the others from those years.  I wish him health and happiness.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

How not to do backups

I am religious about backups. I bought a large USB hard drive and made sure that my laptop was backed up to the hard-drive every week. I used a tool called SuperDuper, which performed perfectly, even making the external drive bootable in case I totally lost my laptop or its internal disk.

In addition, I recently upgraded to Leopard and I set up a partition on the external hard drive for its 'Time Machine'. I never had to use it, but I did notice that it created very nice incremental backups.

On my wife's computer, I use Xdrive to backup her data to the Internet. It works very well given that she has relatively little data. The 5GB storage limit is plenty. My laptop was approaching 50GB of personal data. The data files for my thesis research add up to more than 20GB.

I made one major mistake. NEVER EVER PUT YOUR BACKUP AND PRIMARY SYSTEMS IN THE SAME ROOM. What, you think I'm talking about a fire or natural disaster. Think again. Its human error (sic).

This week, someone broke into our house in the middle of the night. My laptop was setup in an office on the first floor with an external monitor and the aforementioned external backup drive. The thieves took everything. So, now I have nothing. No laptop and no backup.

We are slowly piecing our life back together. The biggest problem is that all of my writing and research was on those disks. I also had our family images on that system. IPhoto is a very nice tool. Well, its all gone. Hopefully next week, I'll come out of mourning and get my life started again.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Definitions of attack and defense

I caught the following chart from Digg:

I was bothered by the fact that there was no distinction between whether Country A was the attacker or the defender. So I worked up my version of the chart:

A few items became clear. First, what is the invading army's response to a guerrilla? I believe that once a civilian becomes involved in a military action (attack), they loose the protection of being a civilian and become no different from the defending army. Terrorism in this circumstance is a civilian militant attacking a civilian from the invading nation. But, this attack opens the terrorist to retaliation just as if they were part of a formal military.

It seems that the definition of a crime is one native civilian attacking another native civilian. Society has many names for this attack: robbery, homicide, murder, rape, etc. In some circumstances, I believe that a civilian may put themselves in the category of "militant civilian" by attacking other civilians of the same nationality. This is another form of terrorism. It is not a revolt because the militant targets innocent civilians.

I'm not sure this is an advance, but it helped me to organize my thoughts.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lisa 2007

I will be presenting a paper at LISA 2007. Its the 21st Annual Large Installation System Administration conference. When I used to work at Transarc, this conference was the high point of the season. We got to meet all our customers. Transarc used to run training sessions and BOFs (Birds of a Feather sessions) for all AFS adminstrators. I never attended these events because I was part of the development side and not sales.

Well, here is my chance. As part of my research work, I have been building and administering a large distributed cluster in 9 locations across Europe and Middle East. Its been a frustrating but satisfying experience. I'll be talking about the system and our experiences on Thursday, Nov 15th. Please attend my session, I would love to see you!

LISA '07