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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Recovery From Cardiac Bypass Surgery: Day 14

Got out of bed around 8 AM, just like on the previous day. After breakfast, I prepared to go out and meet my daughters' abacus teacher to collect a couple of abacuses and the next set of practice books from her. My mother had to visit my father's pension office and other government offices after I came back from my trip, so I wanted to make it as quick as possible. My meeting with the abacus teacher went off fine as I was able to find her offices without much of a problem.

I stopped at a store on the way back and got some DVD's for my daughters. I also wanted to buy an electronic musical instrument that was supposed to help with my daughters' music lessons by producing a constant tone, for their voice training. Somebody had recommended a different store to buy this in, but I stopped by a store on my way home, and they happened to have it, so I decided to get it there. That cut some time off my trip and I was back home well before I was expected back.

Afterwards, I called the other store and found out what their prices were. Their prices were the same, but they had a discount offer on at the moment that would have saved me about $7 (the original price was about $40). If I had been in the US, I would have taken advantage of the price difference by returning the item I had bought at the first store and making a trip out to the other store. But, I decided that it was not worth it in this case because it would be a big hassle making another trip (which alone would cost a couple of dollars out of the $7 I could potentially save), and whether or not the store I had bought it in would even accept returns (returns and other customer-friendly policies are somewhat unheard of where I come from).

My mother was somewhat surprised that I would just let such a large price difference go just like that, and she would be right if it was a few years earlier. But my tolerance for the heat and the logisitcal difficulties of getting around here have slipped to a new low. All I cared about now was making sure I got everything on my shopping list. The prices started out being secondary, but by now had become pretty much immaterial.

I finished reading the novel, Digital Fortress. I was not impressed by the book right from the beginning and the ending was even worse than the beginning (I am not going to talk about the ending though, because that would involve a spoiler. But you will easily understand why I was not impressed if you make the mistake of actually reading the novel to the end). The novel was about cryptography and the author started out by providing impressive statistics about the number of possible keys and how it was impossible to guess at them. He tossed around numbers like 10 raised to the power 120, etc., for the number of key possibilities. Enter, parallel computing to the rescue. Suddenly, a computer with 3 million processors, that can guess 100 billion keys an hour (10 raised to the power 11), was able to crack anything thrown at it in a few minutes and never took more than a couple of hours even on the toughest cases. Say what?!

Here I was thinking 10 raised to the power 120 divided by 10 raised to the power 11 was about 10 raised to the power 109, but in Dan Brown's world, it is about 2 or 3. It was some of the most brainless drivel I have read in a long time. It would have been much better if the author had kept his stupidity and ignorance covered up, and had just claimed that a computer had been built to crack even the best encryption codes. Isn't that what science fiction is all about? Why throw out mathematics that don't make sense, and in fact, just serve to show you up as the ignoramus you are? Only Dan Brown can answer that question.

At another point, the author claims that there is a 64-bit key engraved on a ring worn by a character in the novel. But, the key is in English letters (actually it is a quotation in Latin) and is 64 characters long, so by magic, 64 bits suddenly becomes 64 characters. Say what again?! 64 bits is at best 8 characters, and in some character encodings, could be as few as 4 characters. I don't mind the key being 64 characters long, after all it is a science fiction novel so the details of how long the key is are of no great significance, but don't insult the reader's intelligence by writing stupid and inconsistent things, or by writing a novel about computers without knowing the basics of bits, bytes, characters, etc. Or spend some money to hire an expert to figure out whether any of what you have written makes sense. Reading the novel was still better than watching TV, but only marginally, and that was about it!

In the afternoon, we called up the hospital where my father had undergone surgery to inquire about the procedure for getting an appointment for follow-up investigations. The process was quite confusing, with nobody seeming to know what was supposed to be done. This is a hospital that does about 1,500 of these surgeries in a year, and I am sure every one of them requires follow-up investigations to make sure the surgery was successful, and to adjust medications, dosages, etc. as the patient recovers from surgery over time. But there was no standard procedure for what was supposed to be done or how. But people somehow managed, that was the beauty of it!

The first person I spoke to just asked us to show up around 8 AM on the day of our choosing, get whatever tests we wanted done and then meet some doctors in the afternoon before going back home. My mother, fortunately, knew the personal assistant of the head surgeon personally. To get the procedure cleared up, she called her, and that person said only our cardiologist should determine what tests were to be done. Once they were done, we were to collect the results and go meet the cardiologist again. This seemed eminently more sensible than what I had been told earlier, but still, the whole episode was unnerving in that a famous hospital that treats so many patients on a daily basis neither had a dedicated phone line or person to deal with such enquiries and provide correct information. I understand that bureaucracy is a necessary evil in some places and helps people follow standard operating procedure regardless of the circumstances. It does drive me crazy at times, but I can at least understand bureaucracy with standard operating procedures. This hospital seemed to have bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy with not even any standard operating procedure! The mind, it boggles!

In any case, my mother quickly called up our cardiologist and confirmed with him what tests were to be performed. He just needed some basic blood tests and an ECG. Based on our conversations with the people at the hospital, I asked my mother to check and make doubly sure that the tests had to be performed at the hospital where my father had had the surgery rather than at some local lab which would be a lot more convenient. But my mother felt that it would be a good thing to visit the hospital on the day of the first checkup anyways just to be on the safe side.

Unfortunately, the cardiologist had not had much experience with that hospital, so he did not explicitly advise us to either go there for the tests or get them done elsewhere. So, by default, we decided it would be best to get the tests done at the hospital. The cardiologist also told her that we could get them done on Thursday, and he would meet with us that day if possible to discuss the results. I was planning on leaving on Friday Morning back for the US, so it looked like the timing would be perfect. If the tests worked out fine, I could continue on with my plans, otherwise, it would involve a whole new set of decisions about when and whether I could leave for the US. I am hoping I would not have to face those decisions at all!

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