HomeSite Discontinued

This is an ex-product Last night I found out that HomeSite has been discontinued.

I was surprised to hear this, but not because I thought it was premature – truth is, I was surprised HomeSite hadn’t been discontinued a long time ago.  It’s been almost 15 years since I created HomeSite, and I stopped working on it in 1998 when I left Allaire Corporation.  Several other developers took over after I left, but to the best of my knowledge nobody has touched it for several years, so the fact that it was still being sold until now is a nice testament to how useful people found it.  Kudos to Macromedia and Adobe for keeping it around, despite the fact that it competed with some of their other products.

Sometimes in this blog I’ve made disparaging remarks about HomeSite, but that’s not because I disliked it.  It’s just that it’s hard to look at something you created so long ago without seeing all the mistakes that you’ve learned not to make since then.  I’m actually very proud of HomeSite, and very thankful that it enabled me to quit my job and work at home.  And, funny enough, HomeSite is also what paid for the home I’m living in now.

I’m also incredibly thankful to the great community that sprang up around HomeSite and helped make it so popular.  The Wikipedia page on HomeSite captures a bit of this history:

“Nick Bradbury and then Allaire had a policy of having an open support forum for those interested in its products, both current customers and prospects. The fans of HomeSite would contribute to the development of the product by making suggestions on-line and refining those suggestions amongst themselves. The Allaire developers would join in the discussion, participating and really incorporating user suggestions…Users responded to that respect and love for the tool by supporting each other and by creating and sharing a wide variety of HomeSite extensions.”

These days it’s common practice for programmers to actively involve customers in the creation of their software, but back in 1995 it wasn’t the norm.  I certainly wasn’t the first developer to take this approach, but I like to think I was one of the pioneers.  That more than anything is what I’m most proud of with HomeSite: in some small way, I hope I helped to break down the invisible wall between developers and users.  So much of our society’s future depends on technology that we absolutely must open the lines of communication between those building the tools and those using them.

Anyway, I hope you’ll forgive my patting myself on the back a bit here.  I’ve never had one of my creations go the way of the dodo, so I’m feeling a bit nostalgic at the moment, and I’m looking back and remembering the things (most of them accidental) that got me started down this path I’m on.

Update: I have to add that TopStyle 4.0 is an excellent replacement for HomeSite. It even has the tabbed HTML toolbars that were so popular with HomeSite customers.

Dog Rescue

My daughter has wanted a puppy for as long as I can remember, but I always said "no way."  It’s not that I don’t like dogs; it’s just that we already have two of them (including the asshole), and I couldn’t imagine adding another one to the mix.

Well, last month, after years of playing the role of "evil Dad," I caved.  I finally said that she could have a dog – and there was an immediate rush to visit animal shelters before I changed my mind.

Visiting an animal shelter is always heartbreaking because you wish you could take every dog home with you, but none was more heartbreaking than the last one we visited.  This place was nothing short of inhumane.

Dogs left to sit in their own feces for days, cramped cages designed for one dog holding as many as three, an old, shaggy dog left outside in the heat without shade, etc.  I could say more, but I need to skip the rest of the details because we’re working to get the place cleaned up, and I don’t want to say anything here that could interfere with that process.

On each visit to this hellhole, my wife and I were drawn to a white German Shepherd/Husky mix who shared a dirty cage with her nine-week old female puppy.  These two beautiful dogs were in sharp contrast to the conditions they lived in.  It’s hard to explain, but if you’re a dog lover, then you know what I mean when I say that a dog’s eyes tell you so much about them.  The mother’s eyes radiated intelligence, warmth and courage.

So we decided to get them out of there.

Two days later they were in the back of my car taking a ride into the good life.  After a brief stay at the vet, they came home and were introduced to the two dogs we already own (who we hope have since forgiven us).  And it turns out our initial impression was correct – the mother is a wonderful dog, impressively smart and well-behaved, and also incredibly strong despite being underfed.  She loves to take long walks, runs faster than I can believe, and is a sucker for a double-handed backrub.

Her puppy, of course, has the energy of a cheerleader on crack.  One minute she’s fast asleep; the next, she’s pouncing on her mother’s head just for the fun of it.  The only thing on this planet that has more energy than her is my daughter, who bonded with her immediately.

I had completely forgotten how much work a puppy is, though.  It’s like having a new-born baby: it keeps you awake at all hours of the night, and you just can’t believe something so small could poop so much.  Like babies, if puppies weren’t so cute, then I’m pretty sure that out of sleep-deprived desperation we’d find some way to flush them.  But then they grow up a bit, you get some sleep, and realize they were worth the effort.

PS: We named the mother "Bella," and the puppy was named "Ripley" by our daughter.

On Hiatus

In August, my Dad will once again undergo surgery which will hopefully ease the symptoms of his Parkinson’s Disease.  Given the experience the last time he had surgery, I’ve decided to take a few weeks off to take care of him in any way he needs.

Things will be quiet around here for a little while since I won’t be blogging while I’m away, but chances are I’ll still post to Twitter now and then, so feel free to follow me on Twitter if you’d like to hear me bitch about the U.S. healthcare system.

PS: I plan to disable all comments to this blog before I leave on July 30 just to make sure I don’t have to worry about spammers taking over in my absence.

Yes, This Knee!

Last week I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee.  Just before the procedure, a nurse walked over with a felt-tipped pen and wrote “YES” on my right leg.  When the doctor came over, he confirmed it was my right knee that was being operated on, and then proceeded to write his initials above the “YES.”

Apparently this is how they make sure they operate on the correct body part.

That struck me as both reassuring and unnerving.  On the one hand, it was reassuring to know I wouldn’t wake up to discover a missing testicle.  But on the other hand, it was unnerving to realize I had placed my fate in the hands of a medical system that has to resort to felt-tip markers in order to prevent surgical mistakes.

In the end, of course, they operated on the right knee, and I’m happy to report that I’m healing nicely.

PS: Sadly, even writing on the correct body part sometimes fails.

Flippin’ Dummy

Yes, that's me as a kid (the one on the right) When I was a kid, one of my weirder hobbies was ventriloquism.  I don’t remember why I got started, but I do remember that some people thought I was pretty good at it.  In the short time that I was a ventriloquist, I won several local talent shows, and one time I even got to appear on live TV.

The TV appearance started off badly.

The crew sat me and my dummy in a chair in front of the camera, and soon afterwards the cameraman made some sort of hand motion at me.  I had no idea what the hand motion meant, so I just sat there, assuming it was nothing I needed to be concerned about.

Then he did it again, and this time it was clear that I was supposed to do something.  But I didn’t know what to do, so I simply looked at the camera and said, “what?”  He did it one more time, this time more forcefully, and again I said, “what?”

The cameraman, obviously displeased that I didn’t grok his secret language, leaned forward and said, “YOU’RE ON!”

Oops.  I’d just screwed up on live TV.

I nervously launched into my routine, which began with a joke involving three pieces of candy.  I was supposed to hold up three fingers when I mentioned the candy, but I was so distressed with how things started that I forgot to hold up two of them.

The one finger I held up was the middle one.

In slow motion, my eyes moved to the upheld digit, and a look of sheer terror crossed my face when I realized that I’d flipped off everyone watching.  Doing that as an adult would’ve been bad enough, but it’s infinitely worse doing it as a kid.  The middle finger held a mystical quality back then, and raising it – even accidentally – was a very bad thing.  I was pretty sure that raising it on live TV would mean a lump of coal come Christmas morning, and possibly even eternal torment in the place with the guy with the horns.

To my surprise, nobody mentioned my one-fingered salute after the show, and I never got in trouble for it.  But somewhere deep down, in the same place I store my guilt over setting off those stink bombs in third grade, I just know I’ll eventually pay for flipping off my home town.

Hospitals Are No Place for Sick People

Nine years ago, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  It’s a testament to his character that he used that diagnosis not as an excuse to retreat from the world, but instead as a reason to become more engaged with it.  Since then, he’s traveled the world and become very involved with Rotary International, through which he has helped establish children’s burn centers in Chile and AIDS clinics in Ethiopia.  He was honored for his work by being named Rotarian of the Year, an accomplishment that he’s very proud of.

Late last year he suffered heart trouble, which led to a substantial decline in his mobility and speech, to the point where he became wheelchair-bound and could no longer be involved in his many charitable activities.  Last month he opted to undergo deep brain stimulation (DBS), a surgical procedure that has had success in improving the lives of those who suffer from Parkinson’s.

Four hours into the surgery, we received word that it had been aborted.  Two hours later we found out that an intraventricular hemorrhage had occurred – a vein had been hit, leaking blood into my dad’s brain.  This was a potentially life-threatening situation, and even if my dad survived, there was a good chance that his brain would be permanently damaged.

The next two weeks were spent in the intensive care unit (ICU), during which time we experienced the incredible flaws in our medical system.  The doctor, despite being a well-respected surgeon, was an extremely poor communicator, and did very little to help our family understand what was going on and what needed to be done.  Rather than help us deal with the situation, he basically left it up to us to be in charge of communicating with the various staff involved in my dad’s recovery.

It is absurd that this situation exists.  A sane system would assign the equivalent of a case worker to manage all aspects of an ordeal like this on behalf of the patient and their family.  Instead, our family – already traumatized by seeing our father with tubes coming out of his brain, eyes rolled back into his head – was somehow expected to navigate the insurance-dictated (and ego-driven) landmine of our "modern" healthcare system with very little assistance.

Although on the whole the nurses were excellent, there were some whose bedside manner was non-existent.  More than once I had to force a new nurse to introduce themselves to my dad before poking and prodding him.  Worse, nurses changed on a daily basis – we always had to make sure that the "nurse of the day" understood my dad’s condition (often, they didn’t), and we had to watch over everyone to avoid the mistakes that plague our healthcare system.  We witnessed more examples of errors than I can recount here.  Incorrect dosages of important medicines, failure to deliver medicine when required, ignoring alarms on machines attached to my dad, neglecting to change my dad’s position (resulting in bed sores), bringing him solid food even though he couldn’t even drink liquids – you name it, and we probably saw it.

Soon after my dad became conscious, it was apparent that he was extremely confused, unsure of where he was or even which year he was living in.  He was hallucinating, seeing people, animals and strange objects around him.  One day he’d believe he was in Denver, CO, and the next he’d think he was in London.  Some days he’d think I was someone who worked with him years ago, and he’d ask me to help him finish a work-related proposal despite having retired several years ago.

As you can imagine, we were very worried that what he was experiencing was permanent.  The doctor said he was most likely suffering from ICU psychosis, which often accompanies extended stays in intensive care (which makes you wonder why hospitals don’t realize that any room that turns people psychotic needs some serious rethinking).  But he couldn’t rule out permanent brain damage.

To make matters worse, we later discovered that the doctor didn’t even take our concerns seriously.  Every time we met with the doctor – which, it must be said, was an all-too-infrequent event – we asked what could be done to ease my dad’s delusional behavior, but it wasn’t until he experienced my dad’s confusion himself a week later that he took any action to improve the situation.  Regardless of whether the surgical mistake was a result of negligence, I firmly believe that this doctor had a moral responsibility to help our family in any way he could, and he failed to live up to that responsibility in so many ways.

After two weeks in ICU, my dad was transferred to a non-critical care room.  At first we were delighted, because we assumed it meant that he was recovering.  But soon we were more worried than before, because my dad’s "psychosis" caused him to believe that he could still walk.  Despite his weakness, my dad’s willpower was enormous, and his upper body strength was impressive.  He struggled (and many times succeeded) to get his legs off the bed, and numerous times came close to lifting himself completely over the edge, yet the hospital staff consistently failed to respond to the bed alarm.  Had we not been there, there is no doubt in my mind that he would’ve fallen off the bed and seriously injured himself.

In fact, one day we stepped out to visit a rehab center for a couple hours, and returned to find him hanging sideways, with his upper body stuck in a painful position that made it harder to breathe.  His lunch was on a tray in front of him – and was cold.  He had been like that for at least 30 minutes (probably much longer), and nobody had checked on him despite the ringing bed alarm.

We had to stay with him every night to keep him safe, and every night was a sleepless exercise in explaining to him that he couldn’t walk yet, being careful to do so in a way that didn’t lead him to believe we were keeping him captive.  Ten minutes after he said he understood, he’d be at it again.  It was excruciating for both him and us.  After a week of this, and a week of complaining to the staff about it, the hospital finally told us they could assign a "sitter" to watch over him at night.  Had we known we could get a sitter before then, we could’ve saved ourselves a lot of needless suffering.

After a week of being out of ICU, my dad’s psychosis didn’t go away.  Not only was he still hallucinating, but at times he was also paranoid, believing that we had somehow created an exact replica of the hospital and imprisoned him in it to make him believe he was in a real hospital.  I was only able to convince him otherwise by reminding him of Occam’s razor, a scientific principle which basically says that when a situation has multiple answers, the simplest one is usually correct.  The simplest answer in this situation was that he was actually in the hospital, and was suffering from post-op confusion that led him to believe otherwise.  My dad had spent over forty years in the in the nuclear power industry, both as an engineer and as a manager, so appealing to his sense of reason provided the best results in many similar situations.

The doctor still believed that ICU psychosis was to blame for his behavior, but we were increasingly convinced that it was the result of his changing my dad’s medication, especially his dosage of REQUIP
, which is commonly prescribed to Parkinson’s patients and is known to cause delusions.  Once the dosage was significantly reduced, my dad’s behavior became much more predictable, and he stopped suffering from paranoia and hallucinations.  In my opinion, my dad’s doctor should’ve recognized this long before we offered it as a possible solution.

Earlier this week we moved my dad out of the hospital and into a rehabilitation center, which should’ve been a reason for joy but instead resulted in even more trouble.   To my shock, the ambulance that transferred him wasn’t air-conditioned, a terrible situation for a patient who was already dehydrated.  He spent the entire 90 minute trip perspiring like mad, strapped to a stretcher that made his bed sore excruciating.  When we arrived, we found that the hospital hadn’t provided the rehab center the correct information about his meds, resulting in him not receiving important medicine for an entire night.

As a write this, it is now my dad’s second day in rehab, and I’m happy to report that things are going well so far.  We chose a rehab center that’s surrounded by trees and natural beauty, a welcome change from the four walls of an impersonal hospital room.  I took him on a tour of the outdoors in his wheelchair, and you could almost feel the improvement in his well-being.  Honestly, I don’t know yet whether to be hopeful, because he’s suffering from so many different issues, and we know he will remain permanently changed by this failed surgery.  But his inner strength has pulled him through seemingly insurmountable situations before, and we want to count on it pulling him through this one.

I could end this post here, but instead I want to say how absolutely disgusted I am with our healthcare system.  Far too many times I had to shout at people to get them to act.  I witnessed far too many mistakes – many of which I haven’t mentioned here – and encountered far too many uncompassionate people to ever believe that our medical system is working.  

Numerous friends I’ve spoken with have recounted similar horror stories, as I’m sure many readers here will, too.  My father is a wealthy, well-connected, fully-insured, brilliant man, and this all took place at what is supposed to be one of the best hospitals in the country.  If the healthcare system failed him, it will fail the rest of us, too.

Tennessee Storms

My family can be counted among the lucky ones who escaped the full impact of last night’s storms here in Tennessee

For a while, we weren’t sure we’d be so lucky.  Just after 9pm, a tornado siren less than two miles from our subdivision sounded off, and stepping outside I heard what sounded like a jet plane roaring overhead.  We quickly brought our two children downstairs to the safest place in the house, where they stayed until morning.

The sirens continued sporadically until sometime after 2am, but somehow the worst of the storm passed right by us, leaving our area relatively unscathed.

Others weren’t so fortunate.  My heart goes out to those who lost their loved ones, homes and communities in the series of deadly tornadoes that tore through the region during the night.

The Bradbury Family’s Rocking Weekend

This was a rock-and-roll weekend for the Bradbury household.  It started when my coworker Darrin Long let me know that Rush was playing at Red Rocks this summer.  I mentioned this to my wife, who suggested we both go, and bring our two kids with us.  I was able to get four pre-sale tickets, so fellow NewsGator-ites be forewarned: there will be a Bradbury invasion in June!

The musical mood continued the next day, when I broke down and bought a copy of Rock Band for the Xbox 360.  This turned out to be the perfect game for our family: I was on lead guitar, my son played bass, my daughter banged the drums, and my wife courageously handled the vocals.  It was a blast, although I have to admit, it was weird hearing my lovely wife singing Radiohead’s "Creep."

That night I took a break from Rock Band to attend a Foo Fighters concert here in Nashville.  I like the Foo Fighters, but I’m not a huge fan, and I wasn’t expecting too much from the show.  It turned out to be a great concert, though, especially the acoustic section.  And I believe it was the first time I’ve seen a triangle solo :)

The following morning the Rock Band fun continued after I bought a bunch of new songs on Xbox Live.  My son and I blistered our fingers playing Metallica’s "And Justice for All" and "Blackened" on hard several times in a row.  We’re both itching to play again, but we’ll have to wait until next weekend, because we have a "no video games during the school week" rule here (a rule I’m cursing as much as my son is right now).

Another Weekend Eaten by Guitar Hero

Once again a weekend’s big plans were tossed aside by Guitar Hero.

This time it was the brand-spanking-new Guitar Hero III that laid our plans to waste.  We picked it up on Friday, and didn’t stop playing until the kids went to bed last night.  Oh, alright, I’ll admit it – my kids stopped playing at bedtime, but I kept thrashing away long after they were asleep.

Overall I like the set list in GHII better, but GHIII does have some great additions like "One" (finally, Metallica on Guitar Hero!) and "Cliffs of Dover" (one of my favorite guitar instrumentals).  We had a blast getting through the final "boss" battle, and even struggled our way to the end of the finger-crippling "Through the Fire and Flames" (on medium, of course – and we never did better than three stars).

Today we’re soaking our hands in ice water, hoping to be healed well enough to play again next weekend.