Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Thursday, February 28, 2002

They have confirmed Danielle van Dam's death.

From here the case will go to prosecution, while the family and those who tried to help grieve. Ironically, the only reason the story became 'newsworthy' enough to make the national news, was due to certain sensational rumours about the parents' lifestyle.

What matters is that their daughter is dead. Nothing can change that now.

I think people lost sight of that. I don't know which is worse--that a missing child is not newsworthy in and of itself, or that scandal is the way to get a story heard. It's true, of course, that anytime a child disappears, you have to look within the family. Unlike the standard "don't talk to strangers" line that we feed our children, they are in much more danger from those they know than from strangers--often within their own home. Sometimes it's the monsters in our own homes we should fear the most. I once got into trouble for pointing that on a bulletin board; it was thought to be too potentially upsetting. That upset me at the time; I had emotional reasons for using that tact, based on my own experiences as a child. Once I was able to distance my emotions from it, I produced a professional yet non-immflamatory piece of education.

But children are in danger from others as well, even from within the perceived safety of their own homes. The cases of Polly Klaas and Danielle van Dam seem to prove that. While rare, it makes it harder for us to reassure children that they're safe--and hard for us to believe it, too. Even though I don't have children, I recognise how hard it must be. I think about a coworker who just gave birth to a son, and I think of her trying to explain something like that, or worse, deal with something like that. It's just mind-boggling.

Where I work we have a special disaster code in case of a missing child. During drills, we all come out of our offices, man the hallways, and stay alert for suspicious activity, a large bag a baby could be carried in, or a child matching that description. The idea is to cover as much territory as possible, and shut down the building to anyone who tries to leave. We are nervously efficient, hoping that it won't ever happen for real. I think some people are reluctant to confront a person who may, after all, be entirely legitimate. But a moment's embarrassment is worth the chance to prevent a tragedy. I think most of the parents would be grateful, once they realised what was going on. I can remember eating at a restaurant once and someone walked over to some children who were playing on something where they could have been hurt and guided them away. The mother came over, angry that some stranger had 'dared' to touch her child, dragging the kids back to the table. She loudly complained, no doubt embarrassing the Good Samaritan. The manager came over and explained what had happened; he had seen everything, and had been on his way over, too. The woman then went over to the person, apologised, and thanked her for interceding.

Maybe the world would be a little better if each of us overcame our fears to do what is right. I had a discussion with a Jewish friend the other day about Daniel Pearl's murder. I know that such evil acts are done every day, but the sheer brutality and senselessness of the murder made me sad and angry. Although my friend is generally very rational, he described the murderers as part of a culture of barbarians who had once been civilised but who let their civilisation disintegrate. I don't agree. I can't make such generalisations. I think there are evil acts, evil ideals, and even evil people, but no one side is wholly good or bad. I despise the murder of Palestinians as much as I despise the murder of Jews. Complex issues can never be solved by simple murders. Might does not make right. My friend said that part of the problem is that peace takes real work, and that people don't always want to work for it. It takes real courage, too. It's a shame that people are thought to be macho for pulling a trigger. That part's easy. It's a lot harder to live with the death of a loved one (as Pearl's widow and unborn child will), and harder still to work to prevent more. I could at least understand killing someone who killed someone you loved. I can't understand killing someone because they represent something hated--because of their nationality, or religion, or simply because you can kill. In the end, it only shows that the murderer, not the victim, is less of a person.

Well, I guess that's enough depressing liberal "why can't we all get along in happiness" musings for one night, don't you think?

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Today they found the body of a child off a road near San Diego.
Although it may take days to confirm, police believe that it is the body of Danielle van Dam. I find that I can't comment on this...what I can do is put this banner at the top of my blog page. It's unlikely that one of you reading would have information on one of these kids. But unlikely does not mean impossible. Maybe it'll help someone else's family out there.
I have a confession to make...

I have never read Tolkien.

Now I realise somewhere on the planet there's probably someone else who hasn't. But see, I read lots of phantasy fiction, and have most of my life. I took lots of linguistics in school, and nearly have a graduate degree in ancient and mediaeval studies. I'm a librarian, for pete's sake. I spent my entire adolescence in epic adventures (um...reading them, that is, which kept me from getting into the more normal teen adventures). But when I tried to read The Hobbit when I was fifteen I...well...I was bored.

Blasphemy, I know. Please don't get me wrong. I love epics. Give me the Iliad, the Ranayama or Beowulf. But like a lot of scholars, Tolkien tended to have a dry writing style. (Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth Peters, Mary Renault, Andrew Greeley, and Marjorie Reeves are some exceptions). As far as I'm concerned, the key to good fiction writing is that the style, no matter what it may be, should draw you in without distracting you. It just didn't do it for me. And I always preferred some major female protagonists, rather than a ethereal blossom of womanhood who mainly gave the hero a favour. From what I've been told, many young girls who have seen the movie will be terribly disappointed when they read the books, because Arwen really doesn't have much to do in print, it being mostly men who go off to save the world, which makes sense in a mediaeval-style world. I am somewhat embarrassed that having been a gaming and computer geek most of my adult life, I did not know that a friend's character, Arwen, was named after the elf, or that another friend's computer name Nazgul, was from Tolkien.

I've decided to try again. There are other things, like Plato, that I despised as a teenager but love to read now--tastes change. And even if I don't like it, I feel like an idiot for not knowing the lingo. I did finally see The Lord of the Rings movie last weekend, and didn't have any trouble understanding it, except that I thought the great ranger Aragorn had a horse named Bill, until it was pointed out to me that it was only a pack pony (and even that has a long backstory in the books, apparently.) Having not read the books I went in without the usual prejudices of the truly Tolkien-mad (you know who you are). I thought the movie was decent enough, had some humour, showed that a bunch of men travelling on a quest will most likely have bad hair (except Legolas--it must be elven magic), and yes, I even cried when Boramir died, though I thought the manner in which he died made up for his being a get through the rest of it. Frankly I don't think you have to wait for the great and powerful wizard Gandalf to tell you to run when all the orcs? goblins? gnomes? whatever those thousands of things crawling down from the ceiling in Moria were suddenly and inexplicably turn tail and run. I found it pretty predictable (remember, I didn't know the story) with shallow/nearly nil characterisation, but I understand there's a time limit, and it's hard to condense Tolkien's description without losing the detail. It lacked the fabled magic of the stories. I'd take Harry Potter or Star Wars over this, although I'll certainly see the rest of the trilogy. And in the meantime, it has inspired me to plough back into Tolkien's prose...I'll let you know if I succeed.

Obviously I couldn't sleep, so I went playing on the Internet. I found out that my Hobbit name is: Ruby Bumbleroot of Haysend. Seemed like a good one. Of all the places I saw in the movie, I loved Lothlorien best (I didn't really care for Rivendell as well, but then I've always wanted to live in giant trees), followed by the Shire. Well, in point of fact, you could just say I liked New Zealand, since that's where it was filmed. I'd make a good hobbit--I've very nearly the feet for it, although they're not quite hairy enough. And while in an earlier post I took a test that said I was most like Galadriel, I must confess, I'm actually more a cross of Frodo and Sam (although I think I would have chucked Pippin somewhere along the way as a matter of survival).

This time I am heading to bed...really.

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

"I am not a delicate flower!"...

...or so my friend Zabet is often heard to quote. I fear, however, that I am. Indeed, I may be a zone 8 flower in a zone 6 world (I grew up on an Air Force base outside Shreveport, Louisiana). In the last 24 hours our temperatures have fallen from a respectable spring-like 65 to the low '20s, with forecasts down to 10 in the next day or so. I feel like I have been stomped, hacked on, flash frozen, and then arranged in a pretty vase and expected to look fresh.

I woke up this morning not able to move. I was feeling fine last night, even went to bed a little early, and this morning everything--my sinuses, my neck, my fingers, and each and every separate bone in my feet hurt. My cell phone was next to me--it hurt to hold it, but I was able to call work. I know that sounds pathetic and whiny, but it's true. Think about the worst case of flu you've ever had and double it, then keep in mind you could literally feel that way whenever you woke up. I've been through this a lot, it's fibromyalgia, or as my friends put it "fibrous migraines". They tend to kid me because I do seem to attract weird syndromes, and I've droned on too much about them in the past. Usually, I can laugh off a little chronic pain. Today, I just tried to sleep through it. I slept until 1 pm, ate a little and slept more. I also seem to have a sinus infection, and I'm not sure if the CPAP could make that worse. And I'm on my period. Not that the masses out there care about that tidbit of information, but I wish somewhere along the way someone would have pointed out to me that one of the problems with being female is that your immune system goes haywire during your 'time of the month'. It took me awhile working in a hospital full of older women where I was getting sick (this apparently happens whenever you start a job in a hospital--new germs come into play) every month like clockwork. I've never seen it written in print, but all the older and wiser women out there seem to know it as fact....

Okay. I'll stop ranting and go back to sleep. It's nearly midnight and some of the pain's let up, although everything (including my hands) is numb and stiff, so I'm making lots of typos. Maybe tomorrow will be better. It usually takes about a day to adjust to the new pressure/temp and then I'm okay again. My boss called me right after I woke up this afternoon, and I told her how I felt, but it sounds so silly to say, well, it's raining/sleeting, and now I can't function. Fortunately she's a sympathetic boss. Sigh. Here's to tomorrow. I hope spring comes soon....

Monday, February 25, 2002

"Luke...hiss...I...hiss...am your...father"

I obstensibly started this weblog not so much to talk about me (yet I do it all the time) or rant (that, too), but to keep a log of how I was handling some health issues that I could refer people to if they ever asked me, "Well, how did you feel when you found out?"

So, now, it's a little bit of everything. Give me a break, it's only been four months. But I will actually share with you such an experience so that, indeed, I can refer said imaginary person to the archives later.

Last month I did a sleep study. I'm tired all the time, and so they wanted to see if my sleep could be the problem (it seemed reasonable). They wanted to do the sleep study, thought I might have sleep apnoea but also wanted to follow with a day-long nap study to rule out narcolepsy. So...one evening I went to a motel that the hospital owns, checked in, and they proceeded to show me what I could expect. They were really great, especially considering 1) I'm not used to anyone watching me sleep except my cat, and I find that unnerving, 2) The only person at the sleep study was I guy I'd never met, and you feel a little vulnerable having a random guy watch you in your nighties, not to mention while you're unconscious, and 3) I've never been in a hospital setting. This was a far cry from it, but there would be leads, electrodes, and that oxygen monitor that looks like it escaped from the movie E.T. The guy was a respiratory therapist who gave me a very stern but friendly lecture on the importance of taking my asthma medicine regularly, put me at ease almost immediately, and joked the time away. He had to attach leads to my legs (in case they jerked--that's one sleep disorder), my chest (to monitor my heart), my head (for brainwaves), the O2 sensor (for oxygen, of course), and a weird thing that looked like a small tuning fork that went in my nose (to check my breathing). He had to use some goop that felt almost like silicon gel between my skin and the electrodes. All of the wires plugged into a black box, which then plugged into a box with a parallel connector just like a printer. Then I was able to read or watch TV, whatever I liked, as long as I told them when I was thinking of turning in. There were two beds in the room--a hospital bed and a regular double bed. Each had a nifty gel mattress designed to keep you from thrashing about as much.

The hardest thing to get used to was the sensor in my nostrils. It hung along my neck, and I hate anything that feels constricting. But it got easier, and I eventually fell asleep. I remember waking up a couple of times, having trouble getting back to sleep again because of unusual noises or the sensor, but eventually he came and woke me up at 6:30 am, a time I'm rarely conscious.

While there were no obvious apnoeas, there were a lot of hypopnoeas, which are times where my breathing got really, really shallow, making my brain panic and kick me awake. I was apparently waking up about 45 times an hour, in the preliminary findings, and this was way too much. I didn't remember waking up because the brain jettisons its short-term memory when you wake up during sleep, so it's as if it never happened. Because I didn't have clear apneas, they'd hold me over for the nap study. He picked all the leads off me, let me shower, and then sent me to get some breakfast at the motel dining room before they'd pass me off to the day staff.

They guy who took over was also funny. He explained that in the nap study they check to see how quickly you fall asleep, whether you go into REM sleep (you shouldn't during a short nap), etc. For this they wouldn't need the nose sensor (yea!) or leg electrodes, but they did have to do the head and chest again. He used this lotion with pumice to rub off my skin (ugh,) or at least the first layer, to give a better contact for the electrode. I think they put more on my head this time. He'd drawn on my head with a grease pencil first--there's just something comical about a stranger drawing designs on your head. I kept laughing, and that would mess up his lines. It was also weird in that I was generally able to be up; the black box came with a strap so I could hang it around my neck. I never thought I went to sleep but he said I did each time. It seemed like I was aware the whole time, but apparently not.

We did an evil cycle of stay up for two hours, nap for 20 minutes, wake up, stay awake for two hours, etc. He did this to me five times, so I didn't get out till 6 pm. I was a bit grumpy, but otherwise okay. The hardest part was staying awake all that time. He'd call me on the intercom whenever I lounged on the bed and he was afraid I'd drop off. I'd brought a book, a very interesting one, but I still kept getting sleepy. TV was the other option, but daytime TV is kind of scary. I think I found every 80s detective show out there, plus some episodes of M*A*S*H, which I loved as a kid but have seen so many times I can recreate them in dreams from opening to closing credits. At one point I watched a "funniest pet videos" show on Animal Planet. That was the low point. They provided lunch, and did remarkably well, considering I'm a vegetarian who's allergic to several foods.

I had to go five naps because on nap 4 I started coughing (asthma attack) and went straight into REM from the cough). You're not supposed to do that. After we were finished, I washing the goop off me and brushed as much out of my hair as I could. Then I went home and took a nice long bath.

I got my results just the other day. I don't have narcolepsy (yea! the ribbing would have been endless), but I do have sleep apnoea. Turns out I did stop breathing at one point, and the shallow breathing means I could stop at any time.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep well that night.

The doctor told me that we could try a CPAP machine, which forces air through a mask into the airway to keep it open. He also said surgery is possible. They take out part of the back of your throat and the uvula. Ick. He then went on to suggest that losing weight could take care of it entirely, and even if it didn't, they'd want me to lose weight before any surgery anyway. I have to admire his timing. Let's see, rip my throat out or exercise. Which would I rather have, my uvula or a doughnut?...hmmm? So, now I'm trying to cut back on my eating and get more exercise.

The CPAP machine looks for all the world like my mom's 1960s bonnet hair dryer or a humidifier with a hose. The hose fits onto a mask, which is held into place with velcroed headgear. Have I mentioned I'm single? Good...no one need see me in this contraption. The woman at the med supply company chose that mask because it's safe for me (I'm allergic to latex, along with most other things out there). There was an alternate mask that just went down the front of the face without the bulkiness, but it looked like an elephant's trunk. I started laughing and said I'd rather look like I had on a cool space mask than that.

So now I need to use this whenever I sleep, even for naps. It's simple to operate. Start. Stop. There are three controls that delay the full airflow until you fall asleep. You can choose 5/10/20 minutes depending on how quickly you drop off. There's a little escape valve that lets you exhale. You can twist it around so the jet of cold air that comes out (because some of the machine's air does too) isn't going straight on a partner, etc.

I had been sleeping on my couch so the first night I tried that. My cat Spock was very amused by the jet of air coming out of the mask. I had to turn it up so he wouldn't play with it. I fell asleep with him on my stomach purring.

I woke up the next day without a sniffle, without having allergies of any sort; I could sing right off the bat and felt awake before I even got something to eat. I'm allergic to my cats and dog, so usually there are enough allergens in the house that it takes about 10 minutes and a warm shower to clear my sinuses. The air that I breathe with the machine doesn't have added oxygen or anything, but it does pass through a filter. Wow. It was just amazing. The only bad thing was the impression of the mask on my face, but it was gone by the time I went to work.

Last night I slept on the bed, no animals, newly laundered sheets, but propped up on pillows because I'd eaten at an Italian restaurant and my stomach was rebelling. I woke up this morning feeling tired, with the mask totally off. Apparently I'd moved more in bed and had shimmied out of it. Tonight I'm adjusting the straps. I have a couple of weeks to get used to it, and then I have to go back for another sleep study so they can calibrate the airflow.

Want to know more about Sleep Apnoea?

Sorry, that was pretty long, and you're probably not interested, but if you are, hopefully it was of help.

Sunday, February 24, 2002

I'm a sentimental idiot...

I think I've cried for about the last hour as the Olympic festivities have come to a close. I guess I'm just one of those people who refuses to doubt that peace will win over war, brotherhood will triumph over division, and that we, as humans, have greater depths of resilience inside us than we realise.

In the months since September 11th, we Americans have felt, I think, more fragile than faithful. The Olympics help remind us that peace is possible. Stripped down, it's just another sporting event. Invested with its tradition and the hope of the future, it is an inspiration. I just wish it could go on and on, and that even, for a little time, not even for the 17 days of the Olympics, but maybe just one day, the world could go through one day where one man did not kill another, one woman was not beaten, one child did not starve, one mine did not explode, and one heart turned from hate to love.

Sentimental, hmmm?...but maybe...one day.

I have to agree with this...

Maybe we should give a gold medal for whining...

And before you say, ah, another American-centric *&^*^, let me point out that I have always tended to root for 1) whichever athlete I thought had done the best, 2) whichever athlete had done well but never quite won the gold, and/or 3) the long-shot no one ever thought could make it, regardless of nationality. I cheered Russians during the Cold War, wanted to grow up like Nadia, and groaned when anyone fell down, because I realise that everytime they take to the ice, ring, slope, arena, etc...they could die.

Sports and politics have always been linked--the original Greek games were riddled with controversy and concerns over regional pride as well. But I think at some point we have to let the atheletes get their moment in the spotlight without trying to make it something of ours. How many times do sports fans say "we won!" when really, they sat at home watching an appliance without moving a muscle, training in the rain, living/breathing the basics, traveling night and day, etc., etc.

So here's to the successes of this Olympics, the questions it raised, the changes it may spark, and here's hoping that the next time the various powers involved act like grown ups and play nicely with one another. After all, that's part of the point of the Olympics, right--peaceful sportsmanship?

Saturday, February 23, 2002

I shouldn't be surprised, but...

It never ceases to amaze me the utterly bizarre things people do. Here's a news of the weird from my own home state, Kentucky:

Pair arrested for sex-slave contract...

Personally, I wonder that the notary didn't think it a mite odd--I mean, you don't see that every day, especially in the Bible belt. The woman was also filing business papers for a psychic hotline business, yet didn't foresee all this fuss. Hmm... Lowers your confidence a bit, doesn't it? Although I guess she got some publicity, although I'm not sure it would be worth it.

It's bad enough that many people, if you mention that you're from Kentucky, automatically assume you're a hick; we're often provincial in terms of dealing with change, certainly. It's often commented that Kentucky's motto is: "Well, at least we're not Mississippi" because for years that state's ranking was all that kept us from being at the bottom in education, etc. The truth is that we've got a lot of good and bad points, just like anywhere else.


Well, at least the weird quality of that story is not on the scale of the Georgia crematorium story. What a nightmare, especially for the families who were deceived. I just can't imagine the justifications that had be in play for this to have happened, or how it could have gone on for so long without anyone realising--and I have a personal understanding of how you can get trapped in justifications, or seem fine and smiling when you really feel like you're crumbling apart under enemy fire. I spent years in the "everything's normal, no one must know" mentality, and even I can't understand this one. Makes me think I'm a lot saner than I sometimes think. The Georgia state government has set up an information page for people dealing with the aftermath.

The creepy thing, too, is that while the son has been arrested, he may have been upholding a warped family tradition. Some of the bodies, they say, may be 15 years old. But he only took over the business a few years ago, and would have been a teenager at that time. (He's 28.) Ugh.

I've always meant to be cremated. My religious tradition holds that the quicker the body breaks down, the quicker the spirit can be reborn. I'd prefer an actual funeral pyre, with appropriate ritual and the remains scattered or buried in a belly-handled amphora (because I'm female) with grave goods, like the ancient Greeks did--or, alternatively, to be placed on a boat and set afire/adrift. (Again, an ancient custom, but one that's been in my mind ever since high school English where we read about Percy Shelley's funeral, whose heart refused to burn, and was fished out by Lord Byron to be brought back to England. Have I mentioned I'm a hopeless romantic?) Somehow, if I die here in the States, I don't think that's going to be possible. But I'm definitely thinking that there needs to be a clause in my will that says the cremation is to be overseen by my executor, in person.

Want to see if you've kept up with those 'where are they now' biopics?

Take the Dead Quiz. The frightening thing is that I scored a 200, putting me at #4 on today's Hall of Fame. I told you, librarians are fonts of Useless Trivia. Indeed, we relish it, wallow in it, paint our bodies with it. Er...let's not go there visually, shall we?

Warning! I'm in a random quiz mood...(some people have better ways to spend their Friday nights, right?)

I took the following test I found on Zabet's blog:

take the which one of the trading spaces cast are you? quiz!

The first time I took it, I answered more like I'd like to be, and got Laurie (I don't watch enough to know what this means, but I'm really not the 'classic' type). Then I went back and answered it like I really am and wound up with Frank. That's fine with me, he's my favourite one--a bit too kitschy at times but much better than the guy who wainscots fireplaces and paints big squares on walls and calls it artistic (I forget his name, but he's never getting near my living room). Frank would cheer up anyone's day.

Friday, February 22, 2002

he he he he...I love Edward Gorey's work (although he was a bit odd; actually he made a living out of being odd)

You are most like Fanny, sucked dry by a leech!

Created by Thren.
Which Gashlycrumb Tiny are you?


As much as I would love to have seen Michelle Kwan win the gold for women's free skate, Sarah Hughes did an outstanding job and definitely deserved the gold. I thought Kwan's programme was too conservative, she fell, and both she and Irina Slutskaya had problems. Sarah Hughes' programme was quite difficult (and history-making, landing two triple combinations in one programme), clean, and well, she just seemed to embody the spirit of ice skating, a spirit sadly lacking in this controversial Olympics. Sasha Cohen had excellent choreography, but she had trouble with her jumps and fell. The commentators kept saying that Kwan had Slutskaya beat in presentation, but I beg to differ. Of course, I tend to prefer the more modern style than serenity on ice.

It was fun to watch a sixteen year-old so thrilled, so taken aback by what she'd done. Maybe that's the problem with ice skating. As people age in the sport, it makes you jaded, with a loss of some of the spontaneus exhuberance that can make it so fun to watch. She seemed happy to just have the chance to skate in the Olympics, nevermind placing, and her energy carried over into her performance. And all the skaters I saw tonight, even those who fell, even those who made mistakes, fought to keep their programmes going and to finish strongly to counteract their problems. That, I think, is Olympic spirit.

I know people who are boycotting the Olympics, because of the shady dealing, etc. While I'm appalled by the scandals that have rocked this Olympic Games, I must say that I see no reason not to support the athletes, who didn't have to do with those scandals. I'll just find it reassuring if we can get through a few more days without bombs, terrorism, or any other major mishaps. Lest we forget, we still haven't managed to deal with the wounds left from the last American Olympics. Indeed, I recently read of the woman killed during the bombing, Alice Hawthorne, husband's disappointment that in the midst of rememberances for those killed during the Munich games in the early '70s and those killed by terror in the 9/11 attacks, that his wife had been forgotten, mainly because it was "only one life" lost to the shrapnel that day. (Another person, a Turkish cameraman, also died, but his was from a heart attack brought on as he rushed to cover the story). As the widower put it, that one life meant everything to him.

So, when I look at the Olympic flame burning in its tower, I think of Sarah Hughes, with her dream of gold, and Alice Hawthorne, who died supporting that same dream.

And when it comes down to it, the thing I find special about the Olympics, in all the years I've watched--through embargoes, scandals, and brilliant moments, is that so many people from so many nations come together in peaceful competion (okay, I'm an optimist), which inspires me and it makes even a pudgy couch-potato like myself want to get up and move.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

You mean I have to start taking care of myself?

Well, the verdict from my sleep study is in. I do not have narcolepsy (yea!--so much for all those friends who were revving up for jokes about narcoleptic librarians.) However, I do have sleep apnea, meaning that sometimes I just stop breathing at night, or breathe so shallowly that my brain wakes me up in an effort to get me to start breathing again. I don't remember waking up (the brain dumps its short-term memory when this happens,) but it means I don't get any real rest, which is why I'm always so tired.

So, what is there to do about it? Well, for mild cases they make a dental appliance that holds your jaw at a better angle so you're not obstructed. Mine's moderate, so they're going to put me on a CPAP machine. I haven't the foggiest idea what that stands for, but basically it's a mask that goes over my nose/mouth that is hooked to a machine that forces air down my airway at sufficient pressure to keep the airway open. I have to use it for a couple of weeks and then go back for another sleep study so they can check it and decide on the final titration of airflow.

Another possibility is to cut the back part of my mouth out, including a part of my palate and the uvula. This, may I just say, is not my first choice. That's what they do when nothing else works. Here's to CPAP! The other reason they tell you this, I suspect, is that one thing that will definitely help is if I can lose weight. I'm going to go back to eating alternatives to the foods I'm allergic to (wheat, eggs, milk=just about everything.) When I did that before, I lost about 20 lbs in water weight immediately. Apparently the allergies cause me to retain water. And my allergy season just started for pollen, so I'll feel better if I cut my allergen load. Since I started back on regular foods I've gained about 40 lbs. Sigh. Dr Westerfield also suggested Weight Watchers, because it's pretty flexible but not as expensive as some of the other programmes in town. I've never tried that. I've never really dieted, for that matter, so at least I don't have the whole yo-yo dieting thing going on. With my problems with blood sugar, being a vegetarian, and having the food allergies, I'm going to try to get some professional advice from a dietician. Oh, and I'm going to check where Zabet and hubby traded in their Gazelle; maybe I can get it cheap. Dr Westerfield also suggested yard sales--apparently they're full of items well-intentioned but chronically flabby people bought but never used.

I had one glitch tonight; my entire exhaust system decided to try to fall off the car. I went by a Marathon station (after slowly negotiating one of the bumpiest roads in Lexington) and got them to temporarily wire everything back into place. I get paid tomorrow, so I guess part of that had better go to the car. I really need to name the car--between what John and Momma have put into it and what I have, the thing nearly has gone through nine lives. Maybe something cat-like? E-mail me with suggestions using the link to the left.

Well, that's it for now!

Flushed with success!

I finished my first professional web design today. I've totally redesigned our hospital website, which incidentally, I coded using good, old faithful, Microsoft Notebook. (We are not what you would call technologically advanced in terms of design tools.) Dreamweaver, we don't need no stinkin' Dreamweaver!--Although seriously, I downloaded an evaluation of Dreamweaver [for home use] and I must say it's my favourite of the WYSIWYG web design programs. Very easy.

Assuming the redesign passes muster and our corporate headquarters puts it up, I'll add a link on my blog page.

One fun thing (and please, don't laugh, I'm a computer geek but I'm fairly new to some of the techniques out there) that I learned today was how to use mouseover HTML code to hide addresses from mine programs that want to get them for spam. If you want to know how, to, check the source code for my e-mail link at left. Thanks to Mark at work! Now if I could just find something to put those stupid closed quotation marks that I forget on my filenames!

Meanwhile, I set my computer to the women's figure skating short programme results at MSNBC.com so that I could play and keep track, too. I'd unfortunately just missed Michelle Kwan and most of the frontrunners right before I got home. So, I just kept track of their scores. Figure skating and English Premier League Soccer are about the only sports I keep up with. The DSL makes it ever so much easier to keep up with such things.

I did some playing around with graphics and mapped out the bare bones of a website (see link at left). Now that I have a reliable connexion to the web I hope to add things quickly. (My first website, which I started in 1996, hasn't been updated in quite some time, good intentions notwithstanding, and I lost a lot of my work on genocide studies with the last computer.) Feel free to visit, or even better, wait a few weeks and then visit. :)

Well, I need to feed the animals and read a few chapters of The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog. The new Amelia Peabody book comes out on my birthday, and I want to re-read the series before then...not that I'm hinting, but it happens to be on my wish list.

Sunday, February 17, 2002

Striking a blow against librarian stereotypes...

I've added a lot of various librarian-related sites along the left menu to give you an idea of what sort of people librarians are really like (and to remind me that I'm not so crazy, after all). Looking on the sites, I realise that I've never fully appreciated that I am part of a subculture by virtue of my training/profession that is terribly misunderstood. I mean, we all have conceptions of what a doctor, nurse, or firefighter does. Lawyers tend to get a bad rap, but they're compensated with money and status. Librarians are about as underappreciated as teachers, but we're seen as stuffy, whereas a good teacher can be "cool". Of course, really smart people quickly realise that a librarian can make their lives much easier without shhshing them one bit. So, feel free to check these links out, and hopefully, they'll open your eyes to the variety of librarian species out there. Indeed, it's really hard to come up with a "typical" librarian. I've known raging radicals and frothing right-wingers, all sorts.


Looking for a behind-the-scenes look at the Winter Olympics?

Try b-may's blog. He's very good at seeing the humour in life (and if you're working security at the Olympics, you need it). Enjoy.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Best, sweetest thing I've seen someone do for Valentine's Day

One of my co-workers, Becky, is very pregnant, as in, while she's not due for another two weeks, the baby is already over 8 lbs. She's retaining water and generally miserable. Let's face it, being 9 months pregnant does not make you feel sexy. And this is the first Valentine's she and her husband are celebrating since they got married.

So...she had a doctor's appointment. Hubby was going to meet her at the doctor's office. Unbeknownst to her, he waited in the parking lot at our workplace and watched until she left. Then he ran into her office with a beautiful bunch of roses and pink statice, and a heart-shaped box full of chocolate. The card said, "Mama, we love you" and was signed by Hubby for both him and the baby. He then ran back out so that he could meet her at the office.

Awwww....That boy was raised right. I wonder if he has a brother?


And, no, that has nothing to do with Valentine's Day. No, I'm talking something much more important to my computer geek heart:

I finally got my DSL equipment.

(Again, Verizon sent it to my home address, but hey, FedEx lets you pick things up that evening. The truck was late but I waited 45 minutes in a cold car with a migraine because, well, it's been two weeks and I didn't trust that package to stay put.)

Know what else? I just talked to my mom, and it turns out that she and John have been waiting two weeks for some software for their satellite connexion. Apparently the stars were not right for my family or something.

So, I've put it all together, which was remarkably easy (the hardest part was getting the cable that came with it to stretch to the phone line. I had to do some rearranging). So now I'm on. I've set up my account, set up my firewall, etc.

It's amazing. It's muuuchhh faster than my work connexion. For the first time in ages I've gone through my web e-mail and gotten it all cleaned out. No waiting for pages to load. It's just there. Wow!

All in all, it was worth the wait. :)

Monday, February 11, 2002

Letter sent to UPS customer service via feedback form this afternoon:

I have never had as much trouble concerning a package as I have in the last week, and I want you to be aware of the problem.

I ordered DSL through Verizon and they shipped my equipment via UPS. Obviously, I cannot use my service until I receive the equipment.

I received a notice on Feb 5th that an attempt was made to deliver the package. Since any future attempts would be during work hours, I contacted UPS and requested that the package be held at the local service counter. They told me that I could pick it up on the 6th.

I went there about 12:30 on the afternoon of the 6th and was told that the package was not there and must still be out on the truck. I then asked if I could reschedule the delivery for my workplace (which is on the same route), for the next day, instead. They said they would do this, and put me on a list.

Unknown to me at that time, the package had actually been sent back to the shipper within the hour before I arrived at the hub. Note that this means the package was only available for 2 hrs before being whisked away. I was told this on the 7th when the package failed to arrive at my workplace. The customer service rep I spoke with said that they would try to intercept the package before it made it back to the shipper, and that the earliest I could expect it would be Monday. When I talked to Verizon, they were being told that the package was showing as scheduled for a second attempt the day after, so they apparently were accessing incorrect information. Here is the tracking info I pulled off your site:

Status: Delivered
Delivered on: Feb 8, 2002 10:39 A.M.
Signed by: WING
Location: RECEIVER
Delivered to: WEST CHESTER, PA, US
Shipped or Billed on: Jan 31, 2002

Tracking Number: 1Z 254 600 03 3349 919 5
Service Type: GROUND
Weight: 4.20 Lbs

Date Time Location Activity

Tracking results provided by UPS: Feb 11, 2002 12:50 P.M. Eastern Time (USA)

When I called today, a woman I spoke to said that the package had been returned because I had never come to pick it up. When I pointed out that this there had been an error and that I had been keeping in touch with UPS and Verizon on a daily basis through the reschedule attempts, she said that I could not have rescheduled more than once, contrary to what I had been told by the rep and counter clerk, who rescheduled the package each time, although to no avail. At this point, I am sorry to say, I used some choice language, and I should not have taken my frustration out on her. She apologised, but there was nothing to do at that point but call Verizon and make arrangements to have this shipped again. I have indeed done so. They are sending it via FEDERAL EXPRESS.

I realise that with the millions of packages you ship that some will fall between the tracks. However, there was some conflicting information, not only in information given to Verizon and myself, the customers, but apparently between UPS departments as well. Hopefully this case presents an example of a need for performance improvement. Thank you.

Saturday, February 09, 2002

I am worth worth exactly: $1,820,028.00 according to www.humanforsale.com. Note: No purchase necessary. That's about $7000 per pound. I guess that's a bit pricey for the aliens, unless they have Kroger Plus Cards.

Alien musings...

I came across an entertaining story where Aliens discover sentient meat and thought you would enjoy.

Which got me reminiscing...

A few years ago, Zabet and I took a course at our local university on Exterrestrial Life in the Universe. Most of us who took it signed up for the sheer novelty; several, I suspect, thought it would be some sort of X-Files-like class, especially since it had been put in a general Arts/Sciences category rather than an actual department, so it could have been anything.

They were wrong.

In actuality, it was a class that blended probability, biology, and astronomy together to get at the question: Is there intelligent life in the universe? The short answer? Yes. We are, right? But beyond that, the probability calculations run basically to the point that since we exist, and we are intelligent, then there is a 1:1 probability that other intelligent life exists in the universe. Now, as to the question of whether we'll ever encounter it...that one's harder.

It was one of the most enjoyable classes I had in the 15 years I was in college, made more so by the fact that I was just auditing and didn't actually have to do anything for a grade and the fact that the teacher, whom we called "Doctor Moshe", was wonderfully (and I suspect without any idea that he was) funny. One of my favourite discussions ran like this:

Doctor Moshe: [Long explanation of how l-amino acids (with left-handed branches) are the basis of all life on Earth, meaning that this was a fundamental aspect in the evolution of terrestrial life. D-amino acids (right-handed, from dexter, although why left-handed ones aren't sinister was never discussed), which we can create in the lab, do actually occur in nature, but only as simple chemical strands;never in living organisms. In fact, if we were to eat a protein goop full of d-amino acids, they would pass through our bodies without us being able to break down the amino acids for sustenance.]

Student: So, if we were to go to a planet where life was based on d-amino acids, what would that mean?

Doctor Moshe: Well, then we could not eat them!


Now, I've thought a lot about what makes us human, and how aliens would see us, and what I want to know is:

Do other species play with their precipitation?

I mean, think about snow. We build igloos out of it, melt it for sustenance, and devise means of transportation to deal with it. You would expect this out of sentient beings. But we play with it. We make snow angels, throw snowballs, create snowmen and snowforts. Adding sugar, milk, and flavouring, we make dessert out of it. (Okay, maybe it's just my family that makes snow cream, or, having grown up in the Southern United States, we just considered it such an unusual treat.) But we also invest it with emotion--we take comfort from it and curse it. Snow can make you a chid again, causing you to stick out your tongue to catch snowflakes. Ice, which often accompanies snow, can dazzle us, can injure us, but at the same time, we play on it by attaching blades to our shoes so that we (I say as a species, not personally, since I have no such coordination) can speed along it or dance upon it. Our Winter Olympics are largely built upon our experiences with precipitation. In some ways, our attitudes towards and uses of snow and ice define our very humanity, our ability to manipulate and adapt to our environment, and our emotional and intellectual depths. Hmmm?

Speaking of the Olympics, I wound up watching part of the opening ceremony last night on television and was quite moved by the part where the Ute, Paiute, Navajo, Shoshoni, and Goshute tribes welcomed the participants. Their languages, dress, and dances were all wonderful. It was good to see the children participating as well. I think, sometimes, that the rest of the world assumes the tribal peoples of America existed only in the past, especially since Hollywood portrays them so often as such; last night the world saw the vibrancy of these cultures. I also loved the ethereal white puppets that were used on the ice to portray moose, beaver, and bison. It was really quite magical--a wonderful piece of theatre.

On a sadder note, since I am commenting on some world events--I was sorry to hear of the death of Princess Margaret of Britain this morning. I am not a "royal watcher", so I had not realised how ill she had become recently. She had always seemed so vibrant, and of course, with the longevity the Queen Mother has enjoyed and with Queen Elizabeth having just celebrated 50 years on the throne, it shocked me when I heard of her death. Unfortunately, she will probably be remembered as a royal who was torn between duty and love, just as King Edward (the Duke of Windor), her uncle, and Charles, her nephew will be, more than for herself. My thoughts are with the royal family and the people of Great Britain for their loss.

Thursday, February 07, 2002

And the saga continues...

Okay, it's during office hours, but I just have to take a moment to rant. I went back to our loading dock to see if the much-awaited package had arrived. You guessed it. It had not.

So, I call UPS. They look it up, and I'm informed that, contrary to my instructions to hold the package, and contrary to the supposed rescheduling it to my work address, that as of 11am yesterday (before I even went to pick up the package) it was on its way back to the shipper due to some error at the system. She apologises, tells me that there's no way they can stop the package, but offers to leave a message for the local office to call me (they can't just give me a phone number, apparently) so that they can grovel and apologise further. [Nice, but it doesn't help me get my package]. Of course, she asked me for my home phone number, which I gave, adding that I was at work. She was about to hang up the line when I asked if she wanted to work phone so they could reach me.


So, I call my phone company to tell them of the problem, and see if they can reship it straight to my workplace to avoid further confusion. They check from their end, and they're told that the package is set to redeliver to my apartment again tomorrow, which, of course, being a workday, I won't be there. So they can't do anything for now. One bright note--my DSL circuit is active. They had called me to let me know that it might be as late as the 11th. Turns out that they didn't push the date back because of problems with the circuit; they just wanted to give me time to get the package. Maybe they were being precognitive.

So, I'm waiting for my phone call. I'm beginning to think they should just point me to the feeding range for DSL modems, give me a network connector cord, and let go lasso one myself.

I just need to remind myself that it should all be worth it. It should all be worth it. It should all be worth it. The thing is, I don't really want an apology. I know mistakes happen. I just want my DSL. Now. This is somehow an exercise in patience/delayed gratification, right?

Until next time...
Not too long ago I signed up for DSL through my phone company. They were running a special where the equipment was free and the setup fee was waived. They sent it via UPS, and it's apparently popping around my city as we speak. Apparently it can only be delivered to me, personally. So, they didn't deliver on the first attempt. I called them to tell them I'd just pick it up. I went out during my lunch today, and it never made it back to the centre--so it's been roaming around on the truck. Sigh. I don't really want to go over there again, since it's on the other side of town, so I asked if they could just deliver to my work, which is just a block away and (presumably) is serviced by the same truck. That's what we're going to try anyway, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Today went pretty well. We had a meeting of our local library consortium. That's when librarians from all over the region get together and network/discuss what's going on in their institutions, etc. We lend materials to each other, that kind of thing. I don't know if I've mentioned that I'm a medical librarian (I know Zabet has, usually in connexion to the latest syndrome I think I have. (Medical librarians tend to be hypochondriacs--I don't know any other of my counterparts who can read about strange reactions to medications that slough off the skin without at least itching). Anyway, this meeting was sort of special because I'm the president this year. That sounds more impressive than it is--we're a laid-back group. It basically means that I do the administrative stuff, lead meetings, introduce speakers, and plan programmes. I really think the secretary-treasurer has to do more, because he/she does all the paperwork and handles the money. But it's a good step for me, because I have always had so much trouble getting up and speaking in front of people. I'm slowly getting used to it--I don't have near the anxiety I used to. It helps that I've known most of these people for several years now, and they're supportive. That's especially appreciated, because like many other traditionally "female" professions, librarianship is aging, so I'm younger than most of the others in the group. (I should point out that early librarians were almost exclusively male; it wasn't until Melvil Dewey decided that we had women going to college who were virtually unemployable due to society's bias, which meant they could be had cheaply, appealing to their sense of "service" that the profession became stereotypically female. Or at least that's what I learned from my history of libraries class).

I've spent a quiet evening at home, reading (a hobby, I might add, that I've sadly been unable to persue much lately). I'm re-reading the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. I love those books. Amelia's son, Ramses, reminds me of a friend--he's just the right mixture of Britishness, precocious intellect, pedagoguery, honour, emotional aloofness, and tender-heartedness. If I didn't know better, I'd say the author knew my friend. Of course, she could have based the character on someone else very much like him. Scary to think of more of them out there. :) Don't get me wrong, I love him like a brother, but he's not an easy person to know, although it's certainly worth the effort.

Anyway, I've spent my evening curled up with my cats, my dog, and my book, warm and snug while it snows outside. It's not so much exciting, but I realise how fortunate I am to have my pets, my apartment, etc. It's those simple things in life that I'm learning to appreciate as I get older.

I hear my cat demanding food, so I'll wrap out for now. Maybe tomorrow I'll be online through the DSL. :)

Wednesday, February 06, 2002

According to the What Scooby are You? quiz:

Congratulations! You managed to finish this test. Sure, it was only 10 questions, but we know the dim lighting in your parents' basement can make you sleepy. Even though you're not exactly a model for hard-core career motivation, your friends and loved ones adore you just the same for your charming personality and comic wit. (Your significant other even adored you four times in one night--and that's a job to be proud of.)

Don't think this describes your Sunnydale self?

Take the quiz again!

I think it came down to the following question: It's the end of the world. Do you 1) Fight, 2) Fight, 3) Fight, or 4) Have Sex, then Fight. You can guess my answer. :)

If I were a Dead Russian Composer, I would be Igor Stravinsky.

Known as a true son of the new 20th Century, my music started out melodic and folky but slowly got more dissonant and bizzare as I aged. I am a traveler and a neat freak, and very much hated those rotten eggs thrown at me after the premiere of "The Rite of Spring."

Who would you be? Dead Russian Composer Personality Test

Hmm...I was hoping for Rachmaninov, but this actually fits well.

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

Hello, all. Just in case you're wondering where I've been, I took a bit of a holiday--literally. It's Imbolc, you see. Feast of Bridget, beginning of Celtic Spring, the beginning of lambing/calving season, etc., etc. It mostly survives as Candlemas, where Catholics have the candles to be used in the coming year blessed, and in the U.S., as Groundhog's Day. Personally, I think it's more civilised to light candles, celebrate with friends, and eat lots of dairy foods than to dress up in top hats and tails, take some poor woodchuck out of his burrow (they hibernate this time of the year, you know), and hold the poor creature up for the crowd to cheer, then say he was afraid of his own shadow. In the old days, they might at least have made a meal out of him, but no, they just chuck him back in his burrow and expect him to go back to sleep. How many of you would like this, I ask you? And before you start sending me hate mail about sacrificing groundhogs, let me just say for the record that I'm a vegetarian, and while I'm a pagan, my sacrifices are limited to libations of wine, pomegranates, honey, that sort of thing.

Anyway, we indeed feasted on Friday at Zabet's and her hubby's, gorging on all sorts of dairy foods--homemade butter, a ricotta torte, a great creamy tomato soup, cheesecake, and the most important dish of all, flaming cheese!!! :) Okay, you may not see that as wonderful, but lighting your food and watching it glow in the dark is a tradition with us. The food was great, and the cooks really outdid themselves. We talked about lots, including Zabet and hubby's ideas for a website (check out her blog for details).

Having dutifully stuffed myself on Friday evening, I spent most of Saturday barely able to move. Have I mentioned I'm allergic to dairy foods? Normally it's not a big deal, but I overdid it. Note: This is a statement of fact and not a plea for sympathy--I knew what I was doing when I did it. Since my friends have listened to my hypochondriac "If I eat this I'll anaphylax and die" I know I do not deserve sympathy. However, I judiciously chose that day to rest, and felt better on Sunday. I was helped in this by the fact that I have a couch, a wonderful couch, given to me by my workplace since they had to get rid of the thing and I've been begging for it for four years. It's 90 inches long and v-e-r-y comfortable. No more watching TV on the floor! The dog and cats love it too. I slept the first couple of nights on it. I know--I need to get a life. A couch should probably not cause that much joy. But, it also means I finally have a place for people to sit when they come and visit, which means they might do so more frequently.

Sunday I game with some friends. We have a campaign that's gone on for almost 11 years. We're trying something different, a blend of Call of Cthulhu and Aeon Trinity. I didn't get home until late only to find that two of my friends were breaking up. (See Zabet's blog for details), but by the time I was able to get a hold of them, they weren't so I guess all is okay, at least for now.

Monday was DBT time, or as one friend puts it, time for me to go to Borderline Land. I came back very unsatisfied, mostly because I'd had a quiet, decent, non-crisisy week, and everyone else was emoting about their problems. Borderlines love attention, and I wasn't getting any, and since I felt left out, I just found everyone else to be annoying. (I'd like to say I was saner than usual, but it doesn't sound like I was doing well, hmm?) If I'm really trying to connect with someone, I try to emphasise good things they've done, or suggest different things they might try, and unfortunately that actually threatens some people. I don't want to solve their problems, and I think that's how they see it--like I don't think they're capable of doing it, when really, I just think that if they faced the problem, they'd feel more in control. A therapist told me going into DBT that my biggest problem would be wanting to play "co-counselor", or feeling like I wasn't needing the counseling so much as everyone else. She sure pegged it. But I realise that this same sort of emotion-laden/crisis-to-crisis/rollercoaster is what I'm like most of the time--it was just a better week for me than usual. I can see why people lose patience with me. I've been lucky to have friends who point out when I'm being irrational, so I can't just escape into my own mind and act like the rest of the world is weird. So on Monday I wasn't being borderline enough to satisfy my psyche, but not sane enough not to resent everyone else. Sigh. Well, I'm kind of failing the whole actually-connect-with-my-fellows thing, but I'm doing better with people in my daily life, and I guess that's what counts. :) Besides, one thing I realised Monday was that when we are in the throes of crisis, things get so magnified, and sometimes it's just a matter of stepping back and putting it all into perspective--to gain the same sort of objectivity that someone else might see. Psychologists would say that's going into "wise mind". So, I guess the session was good after all.

Well, that pretty much brings you up to date with my life, with the exception of two brief happy things: 1) I got my state refund cheque today (yeah!) (the federal one should come in tomorrow--electronic filing is a wonderful thing!) and 2) my DSL equipment has arrived. Okay, it hasn't quite made it to me--UPS would only deliver to me in person, but not at a time when I can receive it, so I made arrangements to go pick it up. But soon....I will be on broadband (drumbeat ensues). Catch you next time.