Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Awful

Pa. man dies in storm when 911 calls unheeded: Pittsburgh officials order investigation, reforms of emergency system

During a major snowstorm, after nearly 30 hours of trying to get help, Curtis Mitchell died. This was after 10 calls to 911, four 911 calls to his home and at least a dozen calls between 911 and paramedics.
Pittsburgh officials have ordered an investigation and reforms of the city's emergency services system as Mitchell's case highlighted key shortcomings:

— Details of Mitchell's calls weren't passed on from one 911 operator to another as shifts changed, so each call was treated as a new incident.

— Twice, ambulances were as close as a quarter-mile from Mitchell's home but drivers said deep snow prevented the vehicles from crossing a small bridge over railroad tracks to reach him. Mitchell was told each time he'd have to walk through the snow to the ambulances; in neither case did paramedics walk to get him.

— Once, an ambulance made it across the bridge and was at the opposite end of the block on the narrow street where the couple lived — a little more than a football field's length. Again, paramedics didn't try to walk.

"We failed this person," said Michael Huss, the city's public safety director.
None of this, of course, will bring him back, but perhaps other lives may be saved as a result. Paramedics have been ordered to always get to the person's door, no matter how. Despite the heavy snow, if they had walked to the house, he might be alive today.

Wow

If you use the tool on this page:

Blogger profiles: How to Search Blogger

that allows you to search geographically, and choose United States of America: Kentucky: Lexington

I am the first profile to pop up. I guess because I've been blogging for almost eight years. But there are over 6,000 blogs in that results set. Surely I wasn't the first in Lexington to blog and fill out my profile?

PS I was searching for Brandon's new blog. Brandon, e-mail me (link to left) with your blog address (I haven't been able to find it.)

PPS My 'D' key on the keyboard is sticking. Do you realise how many words have 'D' in them???? Argh!

Please feel free to post comments

but I'm turning on comment moderation to discourage spam. I don't get much--but most of the comments I get are, indeed, some advertisement masked as a comment. But I get e-mail notification and if it's a legitimate comment (whether positive or negative, I can take criticism, unlike many on the web), I'll mark it okay.

Thanks for your patience.

A second celebrity's son commits suicide, spotlighting the struggle people have with severe depression

Marie Osmond's teenaged son, Michael Blosil, leapt to his death in Los Angeles after a long battle with depression.

This, along with the suicide of Andrew Koenig, the son of Walter Koenig, puts faces to the horrible beast that is depression. Depression is not merely the absence of joy in your life. It weighs on you like some gloating daemon, isolates you from those who love you, and makes you ruminate about things such as killing yourself. I've had depressive episodes on and off throughout my life, sometimes worse than others, sometimes for months or even years. I've even had suicidal thoughts, but never for long periods of time, and more impulsively emotional than the ruminous thoughts you find in major depression. I'm bipolar, so I swing up and down, although I tend to stay more down than up. And fortunately medicine has helped me stay functional and on an even keel. Someone with chronic depression is different than that. Sometimes the depression waxes and wanes. Sometimes it lasts for long periods. Sometimes it's relatively mild, or moderate. But some depression is severe. And some depression is intractable or at least very, very resistant to treatment, whether therapy or medication. I've had several people in my life who have dealt with depression, some extremely severe to the point of contemplating suicide. My own mother was severely depressed during her pregnancy with me.

Here's a link to some statistics about depression that show how prevalent it is and how difficult to treat. [Okay, I'm not advocating the website's treatment protocols, but the statistics are based on decent sources and gathered in one place.]

One statistic I read on depression and suicide stated that up to 15% of those who are clinically depressed die by suicide. Women attempt suicide more than men; men, however, complete their suicide attempts in larger numbers.

Please, if you think you may be clinically depressed, seek out help. Therapy and medications can be effective in many cases. And if you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the suicide hotline at:

1-800-SUICIDE (that's 1-800-784-2433)


And remember, you may not think that there are people that care about you, but there are, and they will devastated without you, as these parents are without their sons. Despite the pain, remember that you have self-worth, and most of all, you have people to reach out to in times of need.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pet peeve #368

Perfectly able 14-16 year-olds who each take a handicapped motorised cart at Kroger's to run through the store, then drive them both through the U-Scan, taking up two stations, even though they're using one.

It is an experience

Riding the bus changes her view
Just to note, there are some pressing things about not having a car and riding the bus that I ponder at times. Like how long it takes me to get somewhere with the leaving the house early to walk the 15 minutes to the bus stop, to wait for the bus, to play stop-and-go down Wilshire. Or, when the bus is late. I mean, I know it happens but it really puts a kink in my schedule. Or, when you just want to listen to the radio and sing at the top of your lungs with the windows rolled down.
All in all, though, she found the bus to be much different than she'd imagined, and she's saving money and helping the environment.

I really get bummed by riding the bus sometimes (and ours doesn't run as late (or probably as frequently as LA's). But now, after six months, I've found it can be a good thing, too, especially in terms of connecting with people. I like most of the bus drivers and I'm recognised as a 'regular'. And although I do mostly keep to myself, I talk to other regulars or sometimes get drawn into conversation. I just wish I could read on a bus; I really must get over my motion sickness problem, since I spend so much time on them, it would be the perfect opportunity.

It also gives me an appreciation for what my taxes go for. The fact of the matter is that I can drive, I'm just without a car currently. Some people can't drive at all for various reasons. For them, the bus is a lifeline that helps them maintain a job and home.

There's kind of a secret code to know when riding the bus, in terms of schedules, what the rules are, which bus stops are serviced in snow, which buses go where, what passes cost what and give you what. A lot of it's available on their website or in the brochures, but a good portion is just learning to navigate the system, and it sort of makes me feel good that I do so pretty well, and can help those who are new find their way, too.

So bus riding has been good for me--but I have to admit, I still want a car for going places on whims, running around at night, or when friends need rides.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Success, by the way

I am now on Actos instead of Avandia. The nurse practitioner left it up to me, but he gave me a 'fact sheet' that was put out by the maker of Avandia. It's true Actos is part of the same class and can cause congestive heart failure. I knew that. I was really more concerned with the heart attack/ischemia issue, to be honest. So I chose to try Actos instead. We'll see how that goes. The Avandia was not appreciably lowering my blood sugar, anyway, so maybe the Actos will do so. They gave me enough samples for a month plus a voucher for another free month, so that was nice.

(I didn't actually see my doctor to discuss it. He was at the desk, though, and offered me some sugar-free jelly beans that were yummy.) :)

Amazing that

1) I got my shoes today, less than 48 hours after I placed the order. Go, New Balance!

2) My feet feel...like they used to after a long day, a little achy at worst. My ankles are fine. Even on grass my feet didn't roll over at all but stayed steady. And for once I actually have shoes small enough for me. (I didn't realise it until I saw these next to the ones I was wearing. I have small feet (6 1/2) but they're very wide (double width). I had to actually trim the orthotics at the end to fit them in, but that's okay, you can tell my toes never touched that part. (Still, it's somewhat daunting to put scissors to something that cost as much as these.) All in all, I spent about $500 between the orthotics ($380) and the shoes ($120). But my feet feel SO much better. I'm usually hobbling by about 2 pm. By 10 pm it's excruciating. Tonight I still had some bounce in my step. I can only hope this will continue to get better, but even if it stayed like this, it would be a hundred times better than it had been.

The shoelaces are a little short, but if all else fails I have an extra set that came with my boots that are longer. Anyway, I'm glad I went ahead and got them. They're made for walking. Maybe if I can get the plantar fasciitis and tendonitis licked, I can start walking more, especially when the weather gets better. :)

:D



The singer is Bryan Bowers.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

An interesting article

The Chemist's War: The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences

The author discovered the government's agenda--and the New York medical examiner's records and opposition to it--whilst researching her new book, The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York. Here's the product description:
Deborah Blum, writing with the high style and skill for suspense that is characteristic of the very best mystery fiction, shares the untold story of how poison rocked Jazz Age New York City. In The Poisoner's Handbook Blum draws from highly original research to track the fascinating, perilous days when a pair of forensic scientists began their trailblazing chemical detective work, fighting to end an era when untraceable poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime.

Drama unfolds case by case as the heroes of The Poisoner's Handbook-chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler-investigate a family mysteriously stricken bald, Barnum and Bailey's Famous Blue Man, factory workers with crumbling bones, a diner serving poisoned pies, and many others. Each case presents a deadly new puzzle and Norris and Gettler work with a creativity that rivals that of the most imaginative murderer, creating revolutionary experiments to tease out even the wiliest compounds from human tissue. Yet in the tricky game of toxins, even science can't always be trusted, as proven when one of Gettler's experiments erroneously sets free a suburban housewife later nicknamed "America's Lucretia Borgia" to continue her nefarious work.

From the vantage of Norris and Gettler's laboratory in the infamous Bellevue Hospital it becomes clear that killers aren't the only toxic threat to New Yorkers. Modern life has created a kind of poison playground, and danger lurks around every corner. Automobiles choke the city streets with carbon monoxide; potent compounds, such as morphine, can be found on store shelves in products ranging from pesticides to cosmetics. Prohibition incites a chemist's war between bootleggers and government chemists while in Gotham's crowded speakeasies each round of cocktails becomes a game of Russian roulette. Norris and Gettler triumph over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry and the gatekeepers of justice during a remarkably deadly time. A beguiling concoction that is equal parts true crime, twentieth-century history, and science thriller, The Poisoner's Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten New York.

It really sounds interesting (of course, I like mysteries, forensics, and for that matter, I'm fascinated by poisons). The Lexington Public Library's online catalogue appears to be down at the moment but I'll check back to see if they're acquiring it.

Speaking of cows...

here's another video YKWIA showed me. It's a California 'Happy Cows' commercial:

Hah hah hah hah hah hah!

YKWIA showed me this:

Of course, the thing that hurt my brain is that the cow referred to a 'well-hung' 'he' has an udder. :)

We will fight for bovine freedom, and hold our large heads high!

For more from Dana Lyons, who is the singer/songwriter, check out: http://www.cowswithguns.com.

Thanks!

I think she would have wanted that

Deadly killer whale 'will stay at SeaWorld'
The killer whale that attacked and drowned its trainer will remain at the Florida marine park where the incident happened, officials said.

SeaWorld said its staff would continue to interact with the whale, named Tilikum, despite calls to release or destroy it.

Trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, died after the orca grabbed her from a poolside platform and dragged her underwater.

The park added that it would be reviewing its safety procedures.

It said that in the meantime it was suspending all orca shows.

"We're going to make any changes we have to, to make sure this doesn't happen again," said Chuck Tompkins, chief of animal training at SeaWorld parks.

He said Tilikum would not survive in the wild because it has been captive for so long.

He added that destroying the whale was not an option because it was an important part of the breeding program at SeaWorld and a companion to seven other whales there.
Well, they have a point. He probably would not survive in the wild. I have to say I'm glad they aren't going to euthanise him, although obviously they're going to have to be very, very careful around him.

I dreamt

that the Greek Gods were involved in a giant game of pinball. Oddly enough, the musical theme was not The Who's 'Pinball Wizard', but rather Elton John's 'Crocodile Rock'. I slept fitfully at best and woke up feeling rather blasphemous. Too much pizza, I suppose.

At four in the morning I woke up to go to the bathroom and it seemed light outside, which didn't mesh with my knowledge of basic astronomy. I looked out. It had snowed. It's maybe an inch at best, but there's yet another canopy of white. I want to see flowers bloom. I want it to be warm. I am so tired of winter, although I realise it has its place.

I guess things will start to really get into spring mode now that March is almost here. But I remember the Spring Break blizzard of 1993, so I'm not holding my breath until winter ends. :)

Hope you have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More on Dawn Brancheau

Trainer decided as child to work with whales
The moment she saw her first Shamu show three decades ago, Dawn Brancheau knew she wanted to work with killer whales.

"It was her dream to do it," said Marion Loverde, Brancheau's mother. "She loved her job."

On Wednesday, Brancheau, 40, gave her life for her dream. Without warning, the killer whale Tilikum dragged her into his tank and she drowned, investigators said.

Whale kills trainer as horrified spectators watch

Trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, was one of the park's most experienced. Her sister said Brancheau wouldn't want anything done to the whale that killed her because she loved the animals like children.

Brancheau was rubbing Tilikum after a noontime show when the 12,000-pound whale grabbed her and pulled her in, said Chuck Tompkins, head of animal training at all SeaWorld parks. It was not clear if she drowned or died from the thrashing.

Because of his size and the previous deaths, trainers were not supposed to get into the water with Tilikum, and only about a dozen of the park's 29 trainers worked with him. Brancheau had more experience with the 30-year-old whale than most.

"We recognized he was different," Tompkins said. He said no decision has been made yet about what will happen to Tilikum, such as transfering him to another facility.

I didn't realise that the missing man

Andrew Koenig (of TV's 'Growing Pains') is the son of Walter Koenig, Chekov of the original 'Star Trek'. Apparently I missed that somewhere. They don't know if he disappeared intentionally or not, but his family is very stressed. According to his father, Andrew Koenig suffers from depression and did not make an expected February 16th flight back to Los Angeles from Vancouver. Police there have tracked some information that indicates he is alive and still in the Vancouver area, perhaps lying low for his own reasons.

Anyway, I hope whatever the reasons everything works out and that he's okay. If for some reason he doesn't want to contact his parents, maybe he'll consider contacting someone else so his friends and family know he's alright.

UPDATE (2/25/10): Andrew Koenig's body was found in the 1000 acre Stanley Park in Vancouver today, his death apparently a suicide. I am so sorry for his family and friends. His father described him as having a lifelong struggle with depression. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Hey, the Scotsman's got Louisville down!

Craig Ferguson lectures on the proper way to pronounce 'Louisville'. :)


Okay, maybe I find it hilarious because 1) I find all Scotsmen hilarious, pretty much (no doubt because I come from good Scottish stock) and 2) I live in Lexington, Kentucky. :)

I rather like Craig Ferguson. I really should watch his show religiously, but I'm usually asleep. Thank goodness for YouTube.

Listening to...



Sometimes when I think of the past, this song comes to mind and I seek out the video once again.

Those drills matter (and courage does, too)

Teacher describes how he stopped shooting
During emergency drills at Deer Creek Middle School, teacher David Benke used to tell his students that if anything ever happened, he wanted to be able to 'do something about it.'

When he saw a man shooting at students as they were leaving the Littleton, Colorado, school on Tuesday, 'What was going through my mind,' Benke said, 'was that I promised.'

Benke tackled the gunman, who had shot and wounded two students, and with the help of another teacher and some bus drivers, was able to hold him until police arrived.

'I noticed that he was working a bolt-action rifle,' he said. 'I noticed that and realized that I had time to get him before he could chamber another round.'
The gunman did manage to hit two students, but neither died and they are expected to recover from their injuries. It was a scary situation that could have been far worse. The last bell had rung and students were streaming out of their classes to the buses.

But thankfully the gunman, who may be schizophrenic or otherwise mentally ill, as his father says he hears voices, did not have an automatic weapon. The teacher tackled him and then others helped hold him down and got the gun away from him. The school is a couple of miles from Colombine High, also in Littleton, and this had been something their system had prepared for ever since that tragedy. Here's to drills, and training, and brave teachers and staff. When the assistant principal, Becky Brown, who'd helped by getting the gun away, was interviewed about why she went towards the gunshots rather than away, said: 'Those kids are my kids, and it's important, and my teachers, we're like family.' That pretty much sums it up. These are caretakers of our children, and they have the right stuff.

How awful

1 killed in whale attack at Florida SeaWorld

SeaWorld trainer killed by killer whale

I have very mixed feelings about keeping large sea mammals in confined spaces and training them for performances. I realise it's an opportunity to educate, and also to research, but I have to agree with the spokesperson from PETA (and I can't believe I'm saying that, since I think they're a little too out there sometimes) that it shouldn't be unexpected to have something like this happen when whales are kept in the equivalent for them of a bathtub. Captivity can bring forth aggressive behaviour in animals as well as humans. According to reports, Tillikum is a male orca who had a history of issues in Canada, and who was then sold to SeaWorld as a stud and had issues there when a man was found on the whale's back years ago who had apparently snuck into the area and drowned in what 'could be called whale horseplay'.

The fact of the matter is that any animal, whether wild or kept in captivity, has certain instincts. If it were a matter of the trainer slipping and falling in, I could see the whale understandably going toward the movement and shaking the object as if it were prey. I don't think the animal could really be blamed about that, exactly. But some witnesses are saying the whale came out of the water and grabbed the trainer by the waist. That's certainly something different. She was apparently a veteran; she knew whale behaviour, but would not have been prepared for that.

I can imagine they'll put down the whale once an enquiry has been made, which is both a shame and perhaps a necessity, given whatever actual circumstances are determined. It will certainly mar the SeaWorld 'Shamu' image as well, which will impact money flow and research. But I am so sorry for this trainer, who no doubt did what she did because she enjoyed doing so, her family, and every every man, woman, and child who witnessed this horrible scene. Thankfully, it didn't happen when one of them was down by the whale.

How horrible all around. Thanks, YKWIA, for alerting me to the story.

PS The name of the trainer has been released. Her name was Dawn Brancheau. According to the Orlando Sentinel:
WESH showed footage of her from 2000, when she talked about her love for the whales. Anchor Jim Payne said Brancheau had told the station that she fell in love with SeaWorld during a trip there when she was 9. WESH promised a special report on Brancheau on the late news after the Olympics.

Whale Kills Trainer at SeaWorld's Shamu Stadium

So sad...

I did something I never do today

I bought shoes online. I need new shoes because my others, which are just 4-5 months old, are already showing the wear pattern pre-orthotics that encourages my feet to still bow out some. So I went to New Balance and found a black shoe in my size that is also good for walking and for diabetes. Unfortunately, although the style is carried by the folks at John's Run/Walk Shop (who own the former New Balance store in Woodhill), they didn't carry it in anything other than beige and not in my size (a 6 1/2 double wide--yes, I have a square foot, just about). These look like my old New Balance shoes, which my podiatrist approved of (but which had been worn out of shape with my ankles turning like they were), with a fairly high ankle support.

Now shoe shopping for me is always tricky, because of the size. A lot of times I have to go up to a 7 or even and 8 normal width. My current shoes are 7 boys'. But I measure as 6 1/2 length and double width--so, we're going to try it. They have a good return policy. The shoes are $120 with shipping, and I'm having them sent to the hospital to be sure I get them, and it should take 2-7 days, shipping today. So, wish me luck.

I have an appointment tomorrow with my doctor

(who I cannot imagine rampaging with a sword, oh, okay, I can, but it's a frightening visual) about changing my prescription. His secretary knew exactly what I was about to ask for--she's apparently fielded several calls since the latest report came out. Anyway, score one for me for taking charge of my health like I should.

Odd Kentucky story of the week: rampaging psychiatrist with sword!

A psychiatrist and doctor of internal medicine, Dr Douglas Rank, attacked a woman with a sword, stabbing her in the chest, in northern Kentucky Sunday. Dr Rank had previously practiced in Lexington, but his licence was suspended for a time over sex with a female patient. Apparently he's also been in trouble over his prescribing practices. The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure found that Rank had given a patient 57 prescriptions, including narcotics, over a 14 month period. According to the police report, Rank had drunk a fifth of brandy and taken two Clonezapams before stabbing the woman. Neighbours heard the woman scream (his office is downstairs, his apartment upstairs) and were able to distract him enough for the woman to get away. The attack took place upstairs and it was unclear whether the woman was a patient or not. I would make a crack about how she shouldn't be billed if she were a patient, but it was pretty serious and she could have died. Fortunately, she's listed as recovering.

(Shakes head.) There are some real looneys out there, and some of them have medical degrees.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I really need to talk to my doctor

This is the third time I have been on the diabetes drug Avandia. I need to talk to Dr Nesbitt about trying Actos instead, due to concerns of heart damage from Avandia. Experts have told diabetics not to stop taking the drug without a doctor's okay, but it really looks like the drug has dangerous side effects. Personally, I don't want to have a heart attack because of something that was supposed to help me. Diabetics are already at risk for heart problems; they don't need anything to help push them along. I think they should pull it from the market. Of course, there's a lot of money and politics in play here, so we'll see how it turns out.
Research Ties Diabetes Drug to Heart Woes
Hundreds of people taking Avandia, a controversial diabetes medicine, needlessly suffer heart attacks and heart failure each month, according to confidential government reports that recommend the drug be removed from the market.

The reports, obtained by The New York Times, say that if every diabetic now taking Avandia were instead given a similar pill named Actos, about 500 heart attacks and 300 cases of heart failure would be averted every month because Avandia can hurt the heart. Avandia, intended to treat Type 2 diabetes, is known as rosiglitazone and was linked to 304 deaths during the third quarter of 2009.

“Rosiglitazone should be removed from the market,” one report, by Dr. David Graham and Dr. Kate Gelperin of the Food and Drug Administration, concludes. Both authors recommended that Avandia be withdrawn.

U.S.: Controversial diabetes drug harms heart: Internal F.D.A. reports are part of fierce debate over Avandia

GSK to face FDA meeting over Avandia safety record

Au Revoir, Avandia? FDA Reviewers Urge Agency to Pull Drug: Doctors, Diabetes Experts Split on Whether Drug Should Be Eliminated

Health Buzz: FDA Report Advises Avandia Be Pulled From the Market

Hi, there

Sorry I've been amiss in blogging. Sunday after the game I went on a mega-run to Kroger, with almost a whole cart devoted to fresh vegetables, plus another cart, and a bill that would nearly pay my rent. Fortunately I wasn't the one buying. Someone I know has a new stove with five burners and two ovens and is in a cooking mood. Last night he slaved for seven hours to produce a meal of acorn squash soup, vegetable lasagna, and endive-egg-avocado salad. Bless his heart, we ate well, but he was too tired to eat. I washed dishes throughout the whole night to help out. He tends to cook from books by Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette, a Benedictine monk. The food is wonderful, but everything is from scratch, using fresh produce and interesting cheeses. You can really taste the difference though--especially in the pasta sauce for the lasagna. So last night we ate at 1 am and I was out till 3, taking a taxi home. I was dragging this morning.

Today I found out that I had a good performance review at the hospital (all satisfactory or above) but unfortunately we will not be getting a raise this year. I can't say I'm surprised. But I did get both a regular raise and market raise last year and am doing much better financially, so I can't really complain.

Tonight was truck night at the store, and it went well. Brandon was able to give me a ride home tonight, so I didn't have to dodge cars. One tried to run over me this morning. It blew through a red light to turn right just as I started crossing with the light. I really wish I had a sci-fi disintegrator sometimes.

So that's what I'm up to. I'll go check the news. The most memorable story I read earlier today was the woman from Louisiana who sold two children for a $1500 cockatoo (yes, you read that right) and $175. She has been sentenced to 15 months hard labour (she could have gotten 20 years). Good Lord.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I very rarely swear

but I let loose quite a few expletives a few minutes ago when someone tried to run me down at a major intersection. Okay, yes, it was 10:30 pm and dark, but I had a light-coloured coat on and was waiting to cross with the light. He waited until it was time for me to cross and then started to zoom into me. Fortunately we both stopped our forward motion at the same time, and he let me pass. But I got scared, and I think I used the 'f' word in imperative, as an adjective, and also as a couple of other parts of speech.

And then, once the danger was passed and I was walking down the other side of the road, I started crying.

I know, it makes no sense. But I cry easily, especially when I'm scared and mad, and both counted this time.

I haven't had such pedestrian rage since a Cadillac tried to run over Liz and me several years ago. The string of various forms of the 'f' word came out even stronger then.

I have a motto as a pedestrian--never trust the drivers. And so I was ready to step back if needed in this case. But for those of you who are driving in your cars, please watch out for pedestrians. Most of us do obey the traffic laws, and for those that don't, well, the fact of the matter is they're going to lose in a battle with your car. So try not to squish anyone.

And please slow down and take your time. I think that may have played a factor in the crash I wrote about--I heard he was late for work and passing a car when it happened. Being late 5 minutes for work is much better than being dead. So take care when you drive, and when you walk.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thoughts and prayers

For my district manager's son and family. His son was injured in a horrible crash this morning on New Circle Road, where he struck an embankment and a tree after losing control whilst passing another car. He's only 21 years old, and the paper describes him as having 'life-threatening injuries'. He apparently wasn't wearing a seat belt, so I imagine his injuries are pretty severe. He and his family are in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks to Teressa for telling me about it.

UPDATE 2/20: I just checked the news. The young man died from his injuries. One of the people who knew him commented on the Herald-Leader site, saying he always wore his seat belt, and was not thrown from the car (they had to cut him out), so I'm not sure what really happened. The link above is to his MySpace page. Here is his obituary. I am so sorry to hear this. His family continues to be in my prayers during this difficult time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Okay, I pretty much just try to catch the figure skating

and I don't know what some of the sports even are, but this was an interesting widget available from the Vancouver Olympics site that gives the medal counts...



Several of my co-workers are recording them on DVR to watch later. One is particularly fascinated with curling. :) I wish I knew when each event was actually aired...the men's free skate happens at 8 pm our time, but I don't know if it will be broadcast live or at some point in the evening's schedule, and I don't want to devote hours to watching. Of course, one of my co-workers pointed out that's the great thing about DVR--being able to fast forward through anything you don't want to watch. We also discussed at lunch that the Olympics seems to be a bigger thing among the older members of their families rather than the young ones. One woman posited that it was because when we were young there were only three channels (okay, four with PBS--she forgot that one, but it was always fuzziest in terms of reception), so it was a bigger deal. I can't say I'm really excited by the Olympics. I didn't think the couples free skate--the only event I've seen--was all that spectacular. But I wish the athletes well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One reason to get a normal amount of sleep

Insomnia may shrink your brain, scans show: Chronic lack of sleep linked to lower gray matter density
I rarely have insomnia (although it does happen on occasion), but I generally don't get enough sleep, although I've been doing much better now that I get home at a reasonable time at night. Still, for years I operated on about five to six hours' sleep, and it wasn't enough. I hope I haven't shrunk any grey matter--I need all the brainpower I can get, since I'm ageing and I'm not sure my brain's ever really been wired right anyway, especially with the ADD.

Speaking of ageing, cognition, and memory, and comic strips, for that matter, a co-worker showed me a great comic by Regan today and I laughed mightily:

Have a good night. I'm off tomorrow afternoon so I plan to pick up some items at the library (a CD and the next two Dresden Files books), but also do some cleaning and work on the game notes. I'll probably blog, too, though. :)

Happy birthday!

It's been eight years since the inception of the 'Unshelved' web comic. I'm glad it's still going strong and I wish Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum much goodness to come. I wouldn't syndicate it here if it weren't wonderful. :)

Rapid environmental change can have noticeable effects on species

American songbirds evolve with forests
Eastern North American songbirds are a pretty adaptable bunch, says a scientist who discovered some remarkable changes in their wings over the last 100 years.

A close look at museum collections of 851 songbird specimens belonging to 21 species shows that most of the birds evolved pointier wings after their forests were fragmented by clear-cutting. Others in re-foresting areas evolved less-pointy wings. The reason for the wing changes: nothing less than the drive to procreate.

Pointier wings can help birds who are long-distance commuters fly more efficiently. More rounded wings, however, are better over short distances.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More bioarchaeology

'Malaria and weak bones' may have killed Tutankhamun
It is the oldest mummified specimen of malaria ever found, but its presence doesn't mean that the disease is what finished him off. However, there are a lot of theories over Tut's death, though, and this is an interesting one.

I've never noticed it

Stinky diabetes drug turns off patients: Medication's fishy smell may explain why many stop taking it, doctors say

The drug is metformin, also known as Glucophage and an ingredient in several combination drugs as well (I take it as Janumet, a combination of metformin and Januvia).

Of course, I don't have an extremely keen sense of smell. But there is one pill I really have trouble taking because of not just the smell of the medication itself, but how it makes me smell--guaifenesin, a drug that is used as an expectorant in such meds as Mucinex (and which was tried, at least, for fibromyalgia back in the day).

Anyway, there's this smell it has that invades all the mucous membranes of my body, and I really find it unpleasant. It also changes the smell and colour of urine. So when I take it (usually for a sinus infection) I try to keep it to a minimum. Back when my fibromyalgia pain was worse, I considered taking it regularly, but couldn't get past the smell. I'm glad I don't smell a fishy odour with metformin, though.

It seems to really be a miracle drug

Okay, you have to watch the stomach issue, and Reye's Syndrome in children and young adults, allergies, etc., so it's not without adverse effects, but...

Aspirin cuts death risk after breast cancer: Large study of nurses showed 50 percent lower risk cancer would spread

That's rather remarkable for a very common and cheap drug that's been around in its present form for over a hundred years.

Aurochs!

One of the things I learnt about in studying mediaeval history about the aurochs, giant wild cattle in Europe that are now extinct. The last died out in the 17th century. They were over 6 feet tall at the shoulder. Remember the cave paintings of cattle? Those were aurochs. Apparently their DNA has been sequenced, giving scientists better insight into the species. Nifty, hmmm???

Speaking of DNA sequencing, I forgot to mention when it came out the story of the man from the now-extinct Saqqaq culture of Greenland from about 4000 years ago whose DNA has been studied to try to understand his roots.

After 4,000 years, DNA suggests ancient Greenland man had risk of baldness and even dry earwax

Dry earwax, incidentally, is a trait more often found in Asia. It is believed that the Saqqaq actually migrated from Siberia. There is an artist's concept of the man in the article.

Anyway, DNA archaeology is on the cutting edge of science. And who knows, maybe someday we'll have aurochs again.

Why you don't really understand history until you take it in college...or read on your own

How Christian Were the Founders? examines the power Conservatives in state school boards--particularly that of Texas--have in shaping what we are taught as we go through primary and secondary education, not just the subject but even exerting pressure on textbook companies in the language of their texts. This political agenda is wrong (and I would argue the same if it were any other political agenda--education should be based on reality, not belief, whether liberal or conservative). History is something discovered (and should be written) based on facts. Both the social sciences and science are only as good as the methodology behind them and facts they incorporate. But with forays in the battle between separation of church and state and proponents of teaching Creationism as science, etc., pre-higher education pretty much tanks in terms of what students actually learn as the truth--whether it be science, history, etc.

I know it sounds elitist to tell someone with just a high school degree that they're really not educated, but it's also true. Even when I was a kid, our history classes never really made it past World War II, and we were past Vietnam. There's a limit to what you can teach 180 days a year to still-developing minds, I guess, and obviously you need to lay a foundation upon which the harder questions can be discussed later. But there's a difference between failing to cover everything and re-writing the actual subject. With this sort of political manoeuvering, you actually need to break down comfortable 'truths' and re-teach a student in so many ways by the time they're in college. Because primary and secondary schooling are as much indoctrination into our culture as much as anything else, and the power behind what goes into your children's minds isn't necessarily those who are educated or those who are fair and impartial. This is one reason I never went into teaching children--I knew the establishment would disillusion me quickly, because education is an incredibly poloarising political issue. It's also why I would have home schooled if at all possible (or at the least, supplemented) if I'd ever had children--not because I am a whacko who wants to put my beliefs into everything they learn, but because I want to explose them to real classics, to discuss issues intelligently, and most important, to build the most valuable skill our educational system can provide (but often does not)...critical thinking.

There are fine educators who aspire to do all these things in the public school system. But they are often shackled by politics. And parents, many of whom have only had a smattering of learning themselves, don't fight for their children's right to a real education. In fact, I see lots of ads for Christian schools that teach science and technology from a Biblical perspective (yeah, I know, it makes my brain hurt, too), and I'm sure there are parents who think this is somehow good, where I would consider it crippling a child terribly.

So parents need to educate themselves on what their system is doing for their child. They need to vote in people who aren't going to micromanage textbook language or tinker with lesson plans. And they need to demand a real education for their children. Our children not only deserve it, they require it. To do anything less is a failure to them and to our society.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hmmm....

This was an interesting video. The music is by Olga Nunes; the lyrics are by Neil Gaiman. (Yes, that one.)


I found it when I looked up Neil Gaiman's YouTube channel, where I also found this prelude to the release of the movie Coraline, based on his book:

Kind of creepy isn't he, I mean it? :)

Of course most people these days probably know

'I Dreamed a Dream' as a song sung by Susan Boyle. I was looking up the Wikipedia article on her and came across this great quote (I don't really watch awards shows, so I didn't see this at the time):
Although not eligible for the 2010 Grammy Awards, its host Stephen Colbert paid tribute to Boyle at the ceremony, telling its audience 'you may be the coolest people in the world, but this year your industry was saved by a 48-year-old Scottish cat lady in sensible shoes.'
Her story is wonderful, and gives an uplift to middle-aged cat ladies everywhere, such as myself (although currently catless). Maybe I'll learn to sing when people are around, too. I can sing (not on professional calibre, of course, but I'm a decent 1st soprano), but I'm too nervous to do it publicly, except in a chorus. I miss singing. The chorus I used to be in has rehearsals that conflict with the Cthulhu game. But if they ever change their practice night, or our game changes nights, I'm going to go back.

I always thought it sounded familiar

I was listening to the 10th anniversary concert soundtrack for Les Misérables, (aka 'The Dream Cast in Concert') and I love Lea Salonga-Chien's rendition of 'On My Own' as Éponine, (a first, as she is Filipina, and she is the first Asian actress to play Éponine on Broadway).

What I didn't know (until I looked up her in the miraculous thing that it Wikipedia) is that she was also the singing voice for both Princess Jasmine of Aladdin and of Fa Mulan in Mulan and Mulan II. But she is best known for her role as Kim in Miss Saigon, for which she won the Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, and Theatre World Awards, the first to do so for a single role.

Here she is singing 'On My Own':


It's my favourite of the female songs from Les Mis (with 'I Dreamed a Dream' as a close second). Both songs resonate with me very strongly. As far as that particular concert edition, however, the most remarkable song was an encore in which they united those who had played Valjean throughout the world together for 'Do You Hear the People Sing?' (which, oddly enough, is not a a Valjean song at all, but still....) Here it is:

Enjoy!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bananas, money, and Marxist rebels

Chiquita finding bittersweet for families of men killed in Colombia
Chiquita, which has admitted making payments to the rebels and was fined $25 million by the U.S. Justice Department, says it was victimized.

'Chiquita acquiesced to extortion payments to protect the lives of its employees,' company spokesman Ed Loyd said.

To some analysts, the issue highlights the difficulties of conducting business in war-torn areas. Marxist guerrillas who call themselves the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, commonly known as FARC, declared war on the government in 1964. Chiquita had more than 200 banana farms in Colombia before selling them in 2004.

'It's really tough doing business in an environment that is lawless and the state is largely absent,' said Bruce Bagley, professor of international studies at the University of Miami.

For Julin, though, the issue is deeply personal. She had been married to Mark Rich for 3½ years when FARC rebels burst into their home in Pucuro, Panama, across the border from Colombia, on January 31, 1993. The rebels abducted Rich while his wife and two daughters -- ages 11 months and 2½ years -- watched in horror.
Her husband was killed three years later by the rebel organisation to which Chiquita paid money, ostensibly to protect their employees. Chiquita sold their banana farms in Colombia in 2004, but for a time up to 10% of their revenue was going to the terrorist group. They admitted providing $1.7 million to yet another group there as well. Now five widows of men killed by FARC are suing the company for damages.

Chiquita argues that it was trying to protect its employees in a lawless, war-torn area. But Gary M. Osen, an attorney for the families, said, 'There's no law that says you have to operate in areas where you have to pay terrorists. That's something they chose to do.' He has a very valid point. Big business' aim, of course, is to make money, but that doesn't abrogate their responsibility to conduct business in an ethical manner.

Now, of course, Chiquita bananas come from other areas. But for a time they were grown there and in a way, bathed in the blood of the rebels' victims--and FARC is responsible not for a handful of murders, but the murder of thousands in Colombia, and our money went to help fund that bloodshed. I think it is our responsibility as consumers to find out what the companies we patronise do in terms of human rights, environment, and other concerns such as this.

Here is a snippet of an interview done for '60 Minutes' from last year regarding Chiquita's payments:

No pun intended, but you must admit, it is food for thought, and a serious matter that we should consider in our consumer choices.

Home at last

Today Brenda couldn't make it to the Call of Cthulhu game because her husband surprised her with Valentine's plans. So the rest of us watched the movie Push (excellent depiction of psionic abilities) and then played anyway. One of Margaret's characters has been kidnapped from gaol in England to become a psychic slave to a despicable uppercrust family. My character's status is uncertain. Most of the characters are stuck in America due to some legal issues, so we're sending a one-eyed Vietnamese character (we're kind of like ninjas against Cthulhoids, with big swords and martial arts training), a revved up biokinetic who can look like anybody and grows claws and thinks she's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and another psychic on the run from the Men in Black who nevertheless agreed to go look for our people. Yes, it's just this sort of thing I call fun, and I've played the game mostly every week for almost nineteen years. And this is downtime, meaning we're not fighting strange cults or things with tentacles. Welcome to horror/science fiction roleplaying of the paper and dice variety, where you really do play out the role, and it's not just about hack and slash. Video games are lame compared to them, especially when a talented gamemaster and the interaction of the players has made for a rich and textured world with complex relationships.

I just checked the weather and they're calling for 5-8 inches of snow overnight for our area. I'm supposed to go to my friends' house again tomorrow, the one where I got stranded last Monday. I definitely need to leave while the buses are still running, therefore. But 'Heroes' is over for the season, so there's no reason to stay really late.

I think I'll check the news and see if there's anything blogworthy. If not, have a great night.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Lunar (Chinese) New Year!

It is the Year of the Tiger. May it bring you luck and good tidings. The Chinese calendar is rather complex, but Wikipedia has a good explanation.

I was born in the year of the Sheep (Goat in Vietnam), and in fact I'm a Fire Sheep, which is kind of funny, as I'm also an Aries, which has a ram as its symbol and is a fire sign in Western astrology. I think that means I'm probably doomed somehow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I picked up the orthotics today

They're thinner than I expected, but within a few minutes of putting them in my shoes, my soles felt much better. They keep my feet from rolling over. My ankle hurts a bit today due to walking over uneven ice created by slushy footprints that froze, but overall things feel better. Now whether that's partly in my head as some sort of placebo effect, I don't know. Don't get me wrong; there's pain. I only got them at 3:30 pm, for example, so I went the rest of the day without them. The real test will come tomorrow at the gas station when I'm standing and climbing the ladder. But if they feel as good tomorrow as today, I have real hope of the tendonitis and plantar fasciitis resolving themselves. Wish me luck!

RIP Casper the Bus-Riding Cat

Casper the commuting cat to be immortalised in new children's book after hit and run death

Proceeds will go to animal charities.

Casper the commuting cat killed by hit-and-run driver: Bus driver and passengers pay tribute to Casper the cat who would board Plymouth bus and ride around city

Celebrity cat killed in hit and run
Marc Reddy, Managing Director of First Devon and Cornwall, expressed the company’s sympathy for the friendly feline.

He said: “We were devastated to hear that Casper had been involved in an accident; he was a regular passenger on Service 3 in Plymouth and had become very well known across the business.

“On hearing the news of his death, many of the drivers expressed sympathy for him and Susan, and we contacted her to offer our collective condolences.

“Casper touched many people’s lives and clearly had a very exciting life – travelling around Plymouth and who knows where else. I suspect he’s now exploring heaven and is telling all the other cats up there about the many adventures he had.”

Casper was so popular that an image of him was emblazoned onto the side of a First Devon and Cornwall bus.

Mr Reddy said: “Casper’s image will remain on the bus for some time to come, and we hope that seeing it around town will give Susan some comfort.”

He added that Casper is also due to feature in a children’s TV programme later this year, detailing his exploits on the bus in the city.

“His memory will live on, giving people pleasure, for a while yet,” he added
Casper the cat could have had an ordinary (and longer) life as an indoor cat, but for whatever reason he developed a penchant for queuing up with other passengers on his local bus route to ride the No. 3 bus along its entire route and back again, and in doing so, touched many lives every day. It's sad that he died. But through the book and television programme, his story will remain and in a way, he'll have a bit of immortality.

Thanks to birdie of LISNews for the story.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Somehow I'm not surprised

Pagans celebrated when the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs added a closer, more robust religious area for Wiccans and other followers of nature-based religions (Academy chapel to add outdoor circle to worship areas). But within a short time, before it could even be properly dedicated, the circle was desecrated (Christians Desecrate Wiccan Religious Site at Air Force Academy) by setting up a large wooden cross there.

I wish people could just learn a little tolerance. Years ago, when the Rosemoon Guild became the first CUUPS group there at the local Unitarian-Universalit Church, we set up a ritual circle. I think they were afraid, in the words of one of my friends, that we'd hex their office equipment. But after our circle was desecrated by some of the locals, they came to our defence, and we became 'their' pagans, at least until we finally parted ways a few years later. For some time, though, the circle became community property between both church and Guild.

I've been doing some research

both for a character in the game and for my own family (they are both linked by Massachusetts, so that wasn't a random progression).

I knew that one of my ancestors, Edouard Bompasse, came to Plymouth in 1621 on the ship Fortune, which was the second ship to land there after the Mayflower, right after the so-called 'First Thanksgiving'. I found out that on that same ship was Philip Delano, an ancestor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Also, Edouard was apparently part of the Leyden group and so was, indeed, a Pilgrim. His family settled in Marshfield, Duxbury, and Scituate, near Plymouth. Eventually his grandson, Samuel, left there and went down to Virginia, where he became a tobacco grower who, it is said, was drowned by his own slaves. From there the family moved to North Carolina, and eventually to Tennessee, near Clarksville, and then married into the Broadbent family, which moved to Cadiz, Kentucky and so then spawned my grandfather (who to be honest, I never met--falling out with fathers runs in my family, apparently). So I am the 14th generation living here in the US on that side. On another side I'm the ninth generation living in Kentucky (and on that side there was a story of a man and his sons who hid in a South Carolina woodpile eating snakes when the Indians attacked--his wife and daughter were killed). That was the Cobb family (my most famous relation, a many-degreed cousin, was Ty Cobb, the baseball player.) All in all my family is Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, maybe some Cornish, and a little bit of Indian mixed in, according to family tradition (My paternal great-great grandmother was supposed to be Blackfoot, and there's Cherokee on my mother's side).

There was one Bumpus cousin who was publicly whipped for having sex with a man in the Plymouth Colony. Well, he was whipped and he had to pay money to her family (I gather he may have been married, and of course was the man, so was seen as the more responsible party, whereas she was whipped for not protesting his advances enough, but was not married, so there was no serious breach of the adultery laws. (I'm not sure how it was with the Pilgrims, but in the actual text of the Bible, and in Judaism, it's only adultery if the woman is married, as a man could have more than one wife during Biblical times.)

So, Pilgrims, Indians, slaveholders, blacksmiths, yeoman farmers--a little bit of everything went into to produce me. Almost all of my ancestors were some kind of independent farmer of various means, until the last generation, really, moving about the country to find new opportunities but then settling for generations once they were found. Some fought in the Revolution. There were those on both sides of the Civil War, too, and of course both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. I love genealogy. I'd like to learn more about the lesser researched members of the family. My mom and aunt are working on the Craig, Lamb, and Reardon families. I know just a bit about the my Duncan side of the family. Of course, I am a librarian, and there's so much more available than there used to be with online forums, but the problem is finding the time to do it.

I love birds, and take every opportunity to observe them

Every morning I have a ritual of sitting on the bus so I can watch the ducks and geese on the reservoir. This morning I couldn't see out of the bus window for the snow and grit, but I did see a hawk flying over the woods near the hospital.

But this afternoon, something wonderful happened. A small bird flew near me and landed in the snow, its bright plumage standing out clearly. It was a bluebird.

I know what they look like, I've seen pictures, drawings, and my family even had a porcelain one my mother china-painted when I was growing up. But despite trips to the farm, being out in the country, and countless bird watching in forty-three years, I have never once seen a real bluebird. For years they declined due to human encroachment upon their environment and myriad introduced predators.  They seem to be making a comeback, though, as evidenced by my sighting in the middle of the city (albeit on a many-acre patch of grass near a stand of woods).

The blue of its feathers was an electric blue, looking almost painted on, and the breast was quite reddish-orange. It was small, delicate, obviously cold, as it was all puffed up. It was absolutely beautiful, a wonderful example of Creation's myriad gifts. Like a colourful flower or butterfly, its plumage was so bright and delicate, even more so as pictured against the white snow. Like other birds, it demonstrated the miracle of flight. And its small, energetic movements demonstrated the activity and wonder of life. I hope the hawk does not find it a tasty meal.

It was quite a lovely experience on a snowy afternoon. I unfortunately couldn't take a picture, as the bus came just then and the bird flew away. But despite having an erratic memory, I think that beautiful blue will remain tucked away for future reference.

For more information on bluebirds and what can be done to help them thrive, check out Bluebird Information and Awareness and the North American Bluebird Society.

As you may have realised, I'm home

I have a rare afternoon and evening to myself, as I am not scheduled at the gas station nor am I going out anywhere. My plans? Rest, read, clean up a bit, do dishes, do laundry, and get caught up on my RSS feeds.

Good news!

My podiatrist's office just called and MY ORTHOTICS ARE HERE! I'm going to pick them up tomorrow after work. Let's just hope they really help the foot issue. Maybe then I'll stop complaining about my feet all the time.

This is so neat!

It's a fun game for kids or big kids alike, and it's from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, home of my friend Tracy. In fact, the first one I built had a Tracy look-alike. But here's mine:

You can send your orbiter or rover to the Moon, Mars (polar), Mars (equator), or the moon Titan. Have fun with different instruments, hairstyles, you name it. And of course I made my rover purple. :)

Try it yourself at: http://jpl.nasa.gov/education/BuildMissionGame.cfm

Sorry I didn't blog last night

I was stranded at my friends' place due to snow that quickly covered the streets. After waiting over three hours for a cab I conceded defeat and bedded down on a rug in their living room. One of their dogs got under the cover with me and cuddled all night. :) She's very comfort oriented. I didn't sleep well, mainly because I didn't have my CPAP machine. At 8 am I got up, took a bus, and arrived home at 10, calling in to work and asking my boss if it would be okay if I took today off, as I was still very tired from the lack of sleep. I tried to catch up on my sleep and didn't get up until 2:40 pm, so that I could be at my other job by 3:30.

The walk wasn't bad because it had rained all day and everything was slushy. Of course, while I was at work the temperature plummeted and the snow started back up. Walking home in -3 degree wind chill with a heavy northwest wind and frozen slush was taxing, particularly on my ankles. So I finally got home, put ice on my ankles and knees, and called my friend to let him know I was home and okay.

I probably would have had a ride, but one of my co-workers at the store was out sick; he has hydrocephalus, which is very serious (although I think I'm the only one there who seems to understand that--it can be fatal). Here's hoping he'll be okay; he has to consult with a neurosurgeon--I suppose they'll discuss putting in a shunt.

Anyway, that's the news on my end. I don't really feel up to looking and commenting on the news. I have something to rant about that YKWIA told me about yesterday, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. The good thing is that I'm off from the store. She's going to try to let me off an extra day, and that helps with my feet. Actually, tonight I did really well in terms of pain until I went down a sidewalk of frozen slush, where the uneven surface really did a number on my tendons. The rest of the time I walked at the edge of the streets (there aren't any sidewalks other than the first 30 yards or so on my way home) and that wasn't so bad, although I had to watch for ice, especially black ice.

I am so ready for spring, and I'm not even having to endure the feet of snow of the mid-Atlantic states.

Okay, good night. I'm going to go on to bed.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

You know

I wonder if I should be concerned that I've recently had a gradual numbing of my fingers on my right hand, plus the dizziness? It's not sudden, like in a stroke. I've had carpal tunnel surgery, so I doubt the numbness could be from that. I think I'll call my doctor tomorrow.

Bleh

I've been dizzy tonight, both during the Cthulhu game and all the way through a trip to Kroger's. My blood pressure is usually dead on normal, 120 over 75 or 80. My blood sugar was 143, which is a little higher than the norm but lower than it usually is for me. Maybe I'm coming down with a migraine; I have a headache, I'm a little sensitive to light and and feel a little nauseous. I haven't had one in years, but the hormonal cycle is right. I don't know--it could be anything. I'll keep a watch on my glucose levels and if the dizziness hits me at the hospital where I work, I'll ask them to take my blood pressure. If it continues or there's an issue, I'll go see my doctor. But in the meantime, I think I'll take it easy tonight and maybe turn in early.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Ice packs are our friends

The other day when I was at the pharmacy I purchased two kinds of packs (2 each) that can be used either for cold or heat. One kind was a gel and another uses some other means of holding the cold or heat. I tried out the gel packs tonight. The ice packs fit in a pocket and a cloth wraparound fastened with velcro works well around ankles and knees. I kept it on my ankles for 10 minutes, my knees for 10 minutes, and finally my back and shoulders. I got under my Snuggie and at least while I had them on my feet and ankles, had the massaging cushion going. It was a little like spa time. I feel much better than when I got home, albeit a little cold (it's very cold outside and I didn't really warm up much before I started using the ice). Now I'm eating some oatmeal and trying to get a little warmer. I'm going to turn in very soon because I have to get up early in the morning around 4:30 am.

I got a thank you card in the mail from the oral surgery office thanking me for being a patient and assuring me that I could call them if I had any issues. I thought that was rather nice.

We got scant snow, nowhere near the 3-4 inches that was predicted, although the wind was very cold. I'm glad I didn't go out to Best Buy, although I'll be very poor tomorrow and Monday.

I guess that's all for now. I'm finished eating and should probably trundle off to bed. Good night.

Starting my day with rajma masala

which is a kidney bean curry. Because the pre-packaged rice pilaf I'd been using had nuts in it (verboten after my surgery), I bought a container of basmati rice. I cooked it like normal rice, which was totally contrary to the instructions, which called for much soaking (I only thought to read it after the fact, since I'm used to making rice, although it isn't a type of rice I've cooked before.) But cooking it Western style was fine. Of course, I was only doing a cup at a time; they were calling for three. I pride myself on my ability to keep rice from sticking to the pan (apparently every Southern woman's dream), but I usually make rice on a gas stove. Electric's a little harder, and a little stuck. But still, it tastes wonderful. The masala is from India, in one of the pre-packaged foil packs. It could be a tad spicier, but I'm assuming they're making it for the lowest common denominator. Anyway, it's healthy and tasty, and within my cooking skills, which are not great. If I ever marry again I'll have to find someone who can cook. But I think it's better that I learn to on my own, as that imaginary person may not even exist.

I feely very blah and achy

and although I do need to go return that graphics card (I have no money until I do, having just paid rent), it looks iffy dealing with the buses before work, even if I leave by 9:30 (I work at 2). Richmond Road only runs once an hour on Saturday, which I knew, but also the Nicholasville Road bus only goes by Southpark once an hour. I'd be let off at Lexington Green at 10:30, then I'd have to get over to Best Buy and complete my transaction and try to get to the bus stop by 10:48. If I can't, I'll have to wait until 11:48. That would put me getting home about 1:00, and then by 1:40 I'd have to walk over to work. It's doable, but I'm not sure it's a good idea before work.

Monday I need to go to a meeting with our district manager at 3. That'll probably take till 3:30. At 4 I could take the bus out and get to Best Buy by 5, catch the bus back at 5:20 or 5:50, and then continue on that same bus to be at a friend's by 6:40 so we can watch 'Heroes' at 9, plus have the money to take a cab home.

I suppose I'm committed to that course of action as I've now blogged to the point where I can't catch the 9:40 bus. In the meantime, I'm going to live off Indian pre-packaged food, a few dollars, and Diet Sunkist. :) But hey, I've had a lot less to survive on, and at least my balance is positive.

Incidentally, when I checked my balance I came across a slew of information from my bank on transferring to the bank in mid-February that bought it. I'm getting a new debit card, for example, and the account numbers will change for my accounts, but direct deposit, etc., shouldn't be effected. Wish me luck! I just ordered cheques and they'll have the original bank's numbers rather than the new ones. I'm supposed to be able to use those until they run out. Heh, heh. It took me three and a half years to go through the last box, as I very, very rarely use a cheque, mostly to withdraw funds at the bank itself. :) I may set a record for longest use of the old ones.

Okay, I'm going back to bed for a little while and see if these aches will go away. If not, I'll take an honest-to-goodness bath later. Maybe I'll read a little of Blood Rites, too. It's so nice not doing the notes at the last minute. I could get used to it. :) And although I really should have gone out this morning, it's a relief not to deal with hours of bussing when you have a headache and don't feel so well.

A little faith goes a long way

Tonight was my night to give my monthly libation to Hekate. As I went out to pour the wine and honey onto the ground, I contemplated whether or not I should pray for something specifically. The people of Haiti need prayer, but that's really Poseidon's or Aisklepios' arena--or the loa, and I don't have any connexion to the loa and also have no desire to build one. So I prayed for a situation of a friend, and for Her wisdom. Then I went inside (it's cold in the winter when you're barefoot).

As I fed the fish, filled my CPAP humidifier, and generally prepared for bed, I suddenly thought, gee, I should have prayed for the return of the book. It's a small, yet important thing. And lo and behold, I looked down and there it was, on a bottom shelf near where I had put the bags. I'd looked there before, but had not seen it.

So thank you Hekate, for the return of the book, and for the gift of my beloved, Cerys (for that is what her name meant), for sixteen years, You who favour dogs:
Dionysos waited for darksome night, and appealed in these words to circle Mene (Moon) in heaven: 'O daughter of Helios (Sun), Mene (Moon) of many turnings, nurse of all! O Selene (Moon), driver of the silver car! If thou art Hekate of many names, if in the night thou doest shake thy mystic torch in brandcarrying hand, come nightwanderer, nurse of puppies because the nightly sound of the hurrying dogs is thy delight with their mournful whimpering.- Nonnus, Dionysiaca 44.198

Good night.

Friday, February 05, 2010

You know, in my day they had this thing called detention

Queens girl Alexa Gonzalez hauled out of school in handcuffs after getting caught doodling on desk
Alexa is the latest in a string of city students who have been cuffed for minor infractions. In 2007, 13-year-old Chelsea Fraser was placed under arrest for writing "okay" on her desk at Intermediate School 201. And in 2008, 5-year-old Dennis Rivera was cuffed and sent to a psych ward after throwing a fit in his kindergarten.
The girl wrote on her desk with an erasable marker. At most she should have had to remove the marks and perhaps had detention. Instead she was arrested and detained for hours, was suspended, and now has an 8-hour community service punishment to fulfill.

In a similar story of overkill, also in New York City, Laura Timoney fumes after son Patrick, 9, is busted for bringing 2-inch-long toy gun to PS 52
Patrick and a friend were playing with Lego figures in the school cafeteria on Tuesday when he pulled out the faux machine gun and stuck it in the hands of his plastic police officer.
His friend's LEGO figure had an axe in his hand, apparently less threatening. The mother received a call from the school and the boy was almost suspended. The mother thinks the principal over-reacted, and I think so, too. It was a two-inch toy that fit in a LEGO hand, and could not in any way be mistaken for a real gun. The boy's father is a retired police officer himself. The boy had to promise not to bring the gun back to school. He's avowed not to bring any toy to school again.

There are things schools should have zero tolerance on--drugs, real guns, bullying, threatening violence--but there's a big dose of common sense needed as well. Kids get suspended these days for giving a classmate with cramps an ibuprofen, or doodling on a desk. It seems the focus on learning is blurring in the school systems, something we cannot afford to have happen in an era of texting with its loss of writing skills and short attention spans. Schools increasingly seem to be playing babysitter (and in their defence, parents seem to encourage this at times), teaching how to beat a test so funding isn't cut, that sort of thing. I've met people in education who are disgusted with today's schooling. That's not to say there are not good teachers, principals, librarians, and programmes out there. But there's a lot of stupid silliness, too, and these stories count.

I am being thwarted by books

which is bad for a librarian.

The first is Jim Butcher's Blood Rites. I had it last Saturday at work and had read the first few pages (a thoroughly entertaining vignette of trying to save a box of puppies from daemonic entities that throw napalm-like excrement, something right out of a Cthulhu game, I could imagine), but I have not seen it since. It is not at work. It is not in the co-worker's car who gave me a ride home. (I've had both him check and checked myself tonight.) But I can't find it at home (it's easy to camouflage a book in my house; there are teeming hoardes, thousands of books in my house). I've checked the bags I was carrying. I've cleaned the landing spot that is also known as a loveseat. I've searched in various places to no avail.

Now, usually, I'd be somewhat annoyed and just wait for the house to give back the book. But this is a *library book*, with 20 days left on loan. I have only once had to replace a library book, one that I didn't actually lose but returned to the high school library only to have it disappear, and since it was checked out in my name, I had to pay for it. I have kept many library books over their appointed time, and racked up horrible fines, but I have never actually lost a library book. So if I seem frantic, I have good reason.

The other book is Runes of the Earth by Stephen R Donaldson. It was a book I was expecting from the PaperbackSwap people, but it never came. Whilst cleaning the couch and looking for the Butcher book, I came across a notice that had nestled in a piece of junk mail of an attempted delivery for said book, with a final date to be sent back to the sender of the next day--something I obviously missed. Even if I'd seen the notice, it's a bus ride across town to that post office, plus several blocks walking, which would have hurt my feet, but I would have done it had I known it was sitting there. They apparently had kept it for two months without me knowing it was there. So sadly, I will not get the book and it was an exercise in futility for the sender. But I have learnt two things: 1) Do not request delivery confirmation for any book I send out, and 2) change my receiving address to my work address, as I am almost never home during delivery hours and have little hope of getting such a package. At least at work someone will be there to receive it, and it will just be put in my mailbox.

I have not given up looking for the Butcher book. It's only a paperback, but I really don't want to have to pay for it. It is a horrible crime for a librarian to actually lose a book. So I hope the house decides to give it back soon, with the tidal flow that is my stuff.

I miss my puppy

On my way back from putting my rent into the slot at the leasing office (on time, and I have been for months--I may be killing my feet but at least I can pay my bills), a couple was out walking their dog, a husky-chow mix that was tiny compared to the parent breeds. She was very friendly, and licked my hand. Most dogs really like me, and recognise me as a dog person. But after they left, I was overcome with a sadness.

It's been over two years since Cerys died, but she had such a profound effect on my life that I still think of her often, and the memories are bittersweet, because she was such a good dog, and now she's gone, although after a good, long life. She was a pound puppy, my very first dog of my own, my responsibility. I was out driving one day and had a very strong urge to go to the local humane society--even though it was in the opposite direction--and fell in love with the black Lab mix that bowed just like my friend's dog (my training dog, if you will, how I learnt to love and take care of dogs). Someone was ahead of me for the adoption, but bowed out. My landlord had to approve. I was desperate for that dog, and it was apparently meant to be. I firmly believe that my Patroness, Hekate, had a hand in that, as she is associated with dogs, especially black ones. That began a wonderful relationship that lasted sixteen years.

Cerys did more than anything to get me out of the funk I was in once my brain returned and I fled my marriage. She loved me unconditionally--something rare in my life.

I remember after I took her home her coming up to the bed and looking forlorn and begging, but afraid to come up (I think she'd been abused before she was abandoned; she was terribly timid, especially at the start). I invited her up and from that moment on it was her bed. Even now, I've finally begun to stretch out on the bed and take her spot, but it took over a year and a change in mattress to do so. That's actually how I knew she was going downhill--she'd started to sleep on the floor, and had difficulty getting up onto a fairly low bed. The floor, even carpeted, had never been good enough for her before.

I have a poor memory for all sorts of things, but vivid ones of Cerys, as a puppy, in middle age, and as an old dog. I treasure every moment I had with her. It's so strange now to have only fish as pets (I'd had three cats for years as well, the last of which was put down a year before Cerys). I am an aunt to two wonderful cats and three dogs that adore me. I am part of their pack. It's enough, mostly. But every now and then I miss my dog, who was really the best dog for me there could have been, and at a time in my life when I desperately needed something in my life like her.

I don't know what happens when animals die, if there's some spirit they have that lives on to be reborn. But if so, I hope Cerys is young and happy and full of life, with someone who loves her as much as I did.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

This is certainly the most entertaining story I have read or heard all week

Awkward Boy Week Continues: A Bad Way To Wake Up

Josh Hanagarne, the World's Strongest Librarian, is a great writer and a fun read. But his anecdote of being horribly embarrassed in junior high hit home with me. His was an erection in Hammer pants after falling asleep in class.

Mine was peeing all over the floor in 8th grade.

Yes. I did. I don't know what happened. I just know I suddenly felt the urge during a vocabulary test, raised my hand, and then the next thing I knew, I was covered in urine. I was mortified. And I had to go find a janitor to get a mop, then call my mother to take me home to get cleaned up and put on new clothes. After class, while waiting for my mom, my English teacher (who was actually Scottish) asked questions to try to pinpoint the cause. I'm not sure what she thought--abuse at home, horrible medical condition, or what, but she cared, and that's what mattered. I'm thinking it was hormones, as I was going through puberty. But I was already the nerdy smart kid in school who was outcast. This just served to underscore my sense of other. The only thing that saved me was moving from California to Kansas that year to a place where no one had witnessed or heard about the incident. School life was marginally better in Kansas (although I had both gum put in my hair and fish guts put in my locker, I didn't get threatened and beaten up like in California.)

Still, it is one of the most mortifiying events in my life. So I understand Josh's reaction. And like him, I've learnt to laugh at it and it has become one of those 'embarrassing anecdotes of childhood'. But I think his is better. There's just nothing like an erection in Hammer pants. :)

A resolution

I assiduously avoided making resolutions this year, because, well, I normally fail them terribly. But I've really gotten to the point with blogging that I either talk a lot about myself (which is fine--it's my blog, after all, and it's a personal one) or I include news stories I find interesting (also okay), but in the latter I rarely add commentary anymore. Sometimes, I'm so pressed in terms of getting some blogging done that I just put up a few links. That's not really creating content, something I think is important when writing online. So I'm going to work at more commentary on news, observations of my day, etc. and not focus quite so much on things like my foot pain, etc. I suspect that's getting old (trust me, having it certainly is). If you're enjoying the blog as is and don't care for changes, let me know. If you have suggestions for topics or just the blog in general, again, let me know. (There's an e-mail link on the sidebar or of course commenting links under each post.) This is my *ninth* year blogging continuously here. I'd like to keep it up. I have to admit that it has become a habit and it makes me antsy to not write at least a little every day (and being offline at times is maddening). Anyway, that's my resolution. Just one. Think I can do it?

It probably won't end the debate

but it's a good move.

Journal Retracts Study Backing Vaccine-Autism Link

The original study examined 12 children in Britain and put forth the hypothesis that the MMR vaccine could be a cause of autism. In Britain, MMR vaccine coverage dropped sharply -- from 92 percent in 1995 to 84 percent in 2002, after the publication of the study. The country has experienced several large measles outbreaks since then.
Umm...even I took enough statistics to know 12 cases do not a good sample number make. Then there's:
More than 20 studies have been conducted since the Lancet study that show there is no association between the MMR vaccine and autism, and no studies have been published in peer-review journals that support the idea, Halsey says.

"It's very important that the article was retracted because it validates that the material that was submitted for publication was not based on good science," he says. "I hope that those parents who still have some apprehension and uncertainty in their minds about MMR will now feel more comfortable having their children immunized and immunized on time."
Of course, there will be parents who are against immunisation anyway, but the fact is the risks from measles, mumps, and rubella--to the child and to those others who are not immune--are far greater than the vaccine's. That's not to say that vaccines are perfectly harmless--there's a reason people are warned against the flu vaccine if they are allergic to eggs, for example. My own mother refused to have me vaccinated against mumps (on religious grounds, since that was the only viable way) when I was in junior high because I'd had it confirmed on both sides of my neck and the chances of a recurrence were very small, compared to a possible reaction to the vaccine. I don't think she was crazy in this. But keeping your children from being vaccinated due to baseless information or even worse, hosting parties so kids will get sick and gain a natural immunity, is just plain, well, wrong. (And I'd call the latter legally actionable, in my opinion, if the child were harmed through contracting the illness.)

The fact of the matter is medicine is based to some extent on probability. There is of course the directive to 'do no harm'. But sometimes it's difficult to determine what will cause the greater harm. In vaccines, however, it's clear that stopping the diseases is really the greater good, with good evidence to that effect.

I have every sympathy for those parents searching for a reason for their children's autism. And with such an increase in diagnoses (some could be because we know more about autism, but I don't think that can possibly account for all the increase), there very well could be something in the environment causing it. I believe that this is the case whole-heartedly, because frankly we have trashed our environment with all sorts of toxins in recent decades. Finding the problem is literally like searching for a needle in a haystack. I've heard ideas ranging from the thimerosal in vaccines to mercury in fish to plastics and beyond. We want an answer. But that's an emotional desire. We can't fit science into our views. We can't make it give us an answer. Science is based on trial, on experimentation, and on repetition of results, and this study did not hold up under scrutiny, and therefore The Lancet is right to retract it. It might let the air out of the sails of the debate a little, but the debate isn't going to go away--again, because it's become emotional, not factual. But, still, it helps set the scientific record straight on the evidence.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Exploring human consciousness

Brains of vegetative patients show life
Of 54 unresponsive patients whose brains were scanned at medical centers in England and Belgium, those five appeared able, when prompted by researchers, to imagine themselves playing tennis, and four of them demonstrated the ability to imagine themselves walking through the rooms of their homes.

One of those patients -- a 22-year-old man who had been unresponsive for five years after an automobile crash -- went on to respond to a series of simple questions with brain activity that clearly indicated yes or no answers, researchers said.

Their work is the first to give physicians and families the prospect of a biological test to determine whether a patient who shows no response to his or her surroundings is conscious and aware of them.

That information, in turn, could bring comfort to families and better care to patients who are able to demonstrate their awareness and communicate their needs. For those consistently unable to respond, such tests may bring a measure of comfort to families inclined to end life support.
This study may make us reevaluate what it means to be alive and sentient. I wanted to know more about their methodology. Fortunately the paper is available online for free:

Willful Modulation of Brain Activity in Disorders of Consciousness

The article is pretty interesting. I have to admit I don't know much about the trustworthiness of functional MRIs for determining answers to test questions, but it sounds like this technique may at least help scientists understand the true status of those diagnosed in vegetative or minimally conscious states.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

I finally worked on the aquarium

It only took about 20 minutes. I came in from work, put my stuff down, and immediately started scooping out duckweed. I probably took out two cups of duckweed. I can't believe I told Brenda I didn't mind duckweed when she gave me a couple of pieces in with a swordtail. I guess I'd forgotten that the last time I had duckweed someone else regularly cleaned it out. :) Then I filled the tank (it took about 10 gallons, and my tank is a 29 gallon long. I treated the water with a conditioning agent and put in a solution of good bacteria. I also fed the fish. I think the duckweed was trapping some of the food, meaning they were hungry and the uneaten food could affect the water quality. I did not vacuum out the tank--that involves siphoning, which you start by mouth--not a good idea when you've just had oral surgery.

Speaking of which, I'm healing pretty well. The gum tissue is growing over the socket and I'm up to fairly non-soft foods like bagels, although I'm avoiding hard things like, say, tortilla chips. I have had very little pain, yay, and I only took two Percocet out of the whole prescription. I've finished the Z-pack of antibiotics and don't seem to have had any ill effects. (There was concern on the part of the doctor and pharmacist because this drug (azithromycin) is related to clindomycin, which I'm allergic to. But I can take erythromycin, which is also related.) I'm also allergic to penicillin, Lortab, and latex, so I'm a problem child when it comes to going to the doctor or dentist. (Please don't plan my demise from bread mould, okay?)

Happy Groundhog Day. If one came out today here it might have seen its shadow during a brief sunlit period, but it was mostly cloudy. More importantly for me, I suppose, is that it's Imbolc, the beginning of the Celtic spring, and which is sacred to the Goddess Brigid. I meant to get some mead the other day as a libation, but couldn't swing the logistics of getting to the liquor store during other errands, so I'll probably lighting a candle as a means of acknowledging Her. She is often associated with a sacred flame, and the Saint Bridget, which took over her dominion in the new faith, was worshipped at Kildare where there was a sacred flame devoted to her. The Goddess is associated with poetry, smithwork, and healing as well. Clooties, small bits of cloth, are tied upon trees near holy wells as a means of praying to Her or asking for healing, even now, although they are these days they are mostly directed to the saint.

That's all for now. Hope your week got off to a good start.