Saturday, December 30, 2006

Buried pain

I spent the day running errands--going to the credit union, getting a haircut, going to the bookstore, going to donate a pint of blood and then doing some food shopping. Now I'm back home and just flipped on the TV to see the last half hour of Superman.

I just watched the part near the end where Superman (played by the late Christopher Reeve) finds Lois Lane dead in her car. I never understood his attraction to her (but then I don't truly understand any man's attraction to women except as friends--of course, that's another story). But that's irrelevant to this post.

As he flies off into the sky to fix this tragedy, as only he could do, he is stopped by a warning that he shouldn't interfere in human history. With that, he hears voices and remembers key moments in his personal history. As it all goes by, he hears his own voice: "All those things I can do. All those powers. And I couldn't even save him." With that, he gets a look of pure determination and continues on to make things right.

He's remembering his own anguish when his father died. Just hearing those words and knowing what he was remembering, I started crying. This never used to happen, but I've found that certain things can get me upset nowadays. Since I started losing some of the most important people in my life, I've developed a reservoir of pain. It seems that it's always in there, ready to be tapped. My Dad died over 8 years ago, and my Mom's gone almost 3 years now. Part of this may come from my having been in a "be strong for the family" role that didn't do much to let me grieve and let the pain out. But I think part is just that there's so much pain.

I wish I knew of a better way to cope with it, but I don't. Maybe this is my coping mechanism. For years to come, I'll let the pain out and continue to grieve in silly little ways like this.


I think I'll go start a fire in the fireplace and read my new book.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Humans aren't smart enough to mess with such things!

Two news items today really worry me. As a species, we suffer from hubris. Hubris, as in way too much arrogance and pride.

The two items giving me concern are F.D.A. Says Food From Cloned Animals Is Safe and Japan, Home of the Cute and Inbred Dog.

The first one... Well, do you want to eat food that was created through science? We don't even understand how our own bodies work, but we're willing to risk our food supply on animals that wouldn't exist if not for scientific work? I'm not! The problem is that the big business assholes and the government whores on their payroll are saying we shouldn't be told which food is from cloned animals. Instead, normal food and food from clones should be packaged exactly the same way.

The second one shows the real result of human meddling. The overall theme of the article is the Japanese ability to get into national obsessions, like the Tamagotchi and Pokémon. Lately, however, they're getting into all kinds of small designer dogs.

The result? Rare dogs are highly prized here, and can set buyers back more than $10,000. But the real problem is what often arrives in the same litter: genetically defective sister and brother puppies born with missing paws or faces lacking eyes and a nose.

There have been dogs with brain disorders so severe that they spent all day running in circles, and others with bones so frail they dissolved in their bodies. Many carry hidden diseases that crop up years later, veterinarians and breeders say.

This isn't just a Japanese phenomenon (although it appears to be a large and growing problem there). It happens here, too, but that's not the point. The point is that human interference in natural processes can lead to disastrous results.

So back to the first article. Cloned food? Yes, that's a completely different process than dog breeding, but it remains the result of human interference. I'll pass on eating anything like that. But, again, the problem is whether we'll be able to tell what's from clones and what's from naturally occurring animals. What? Antibiotics, hormones and other chemical tainting of the food supply wasn't enough? Now we have to do this? Someone please stop it!

(And yes, I'm writing to my legislators immediately!)

One last note: irresponsible dog breeders should be tortured to death very slowly.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Curse words

I was just reading tornwordo's blog and watching a video he'd included. He was trying to get his partner to cooperate, and his partner ("spouse," as he calls him--since he's in Canada, unlike New York, such things are possible) eventually swore at him (in a cute way, not a mean way). He used the word "chalice" as a curse word.

Chalice? That's a profanity?

One of the commenters helped those of us who were confused by this by linking to this article. Apparently, "[i]n French-speaking Quebec, swearing sounds like an inventory being taken at a church." The Quebecois were under strong Catholic influence for a long time, and... "'You swear about things that are taboo,'" said André Lapierre, a professor of linguistics at the University of Ottawa. In the United States, 'it is not appropriate to talk about sex or scatological subjects, so that is what you use in your curse words. The f-word is a perfect example.'"

Louise Lamarre, a Montreal cinematographer said, "In America, you are so Puritan that the swearing is mostly about sex. Here, since we were repressed so long by the church, people use religious terms."


Friday, December 22, 2006

Freeze! And drop the Sudafed!

I went back to work today. Probably a mistake. I'm not over this cold (or whatever it is... Typhoid? Yellow Fever? Ebola virus? Bubonic Plague?) yet.

Once I made it to work, I got my morning coffee and then headed over to Duane Reade to buy some supplies. One thing I definitely needed was Sudafed. Not the newfangled, reformulated crap (Sudafed PE or whatever the hell they're calling it). I wanted the same little red pills I've always used as a decongestant.

However, it's not out on the shelves anymore. You have to go to the Pharmacy counter to get it. It doesn't require a prescription, but they practically do a body cavity search before they'll sell it to you.

I was required to produce government-issued ID with my name and address on it (so I showed them my driver's license). Then they had to fill out a form and have me sign it. Lastly, I had to buy it right there, as opposed to taking it to the main checkout counter with the rest of my items when I was done shopping.

Yes, I know. I've read articles about meth labs trying to get as much pseudoephedrine as they can, because it's a component needed to make methamphetamine. Fine. So what's the response?

Once again, a solution has been crafted that will only inconvenience law-abiding citizens. Yes, they're going to track my box of 24 pills to make sure I'm not making crystal meth on the desk in my office. Brilliant! That should cripple the crystal meth industry.


On an unrelated note, we're watching the second disc of season one of Dante's Cove. We'd both forgotten how shitty this show is--I should have removed disc 2 from my Netflix list as soon as we got done watching disc 1. There are pretty boys and some making out, but it's pretty soft core stuff. Once you've gotten past seeing the pretty boys kiss, you're just left with the ridiculous plot and terrible acting. So if you haven't seen it, I really don't recommend that you bother!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Good news for travelers

As regular readers of this blog may recall, Marc and I flew the all-business class airline Maxjet to London earlier this year. We loved it. It's a bit pricey at full fare (we got our tickets on sale), but it's still a lot cheaper than flying one of the traditional carriers in business class.

Since then, I've been waiting for them (or someone similar) to offer this kind of service to the European Continent. Maxjet sends e-surveys every so often, and my response to each one of them has ended with me offering a comment urging them to fly to Paris or some other city on the Continent. So far, no luck with Maxjet, but there is a positive sign.

As travel authority Rudy Maxa reports in his blog, a new French airline is about to launch. Called L'Avion, they don't even have an English language website yet, but, as I learned from another report, they're working on that.

L'Avion officially launches next week. As Rudy reports, Air France has already announced a price drop for business class tickets. They're still too high for us to be plunking down money on them, but this is a good sign. As the all-business class approach grows, there should be more high-quality airlines like Maxjet with reasonable prices.

I'm probably more excited about these developments than many people would be, but I've been hoping for luxury air travel at reasonable prices for years. In fact, I'm sure many friends have heard me expound on this concept. As in, "I'd be willing to pay a reasonable price for a bit more room and decent service." Actually, if I'd had any real knowledge of the industry (as in, connections, funding, etc.), I probably could have made my fortune in one of these ventures. But I can live with just having access to quality air travel without having to pay six, eight or ten grand to get to Europe (not that we could afford such a thing!).

Death certainly isn't small stuff

Richard Carlson, author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, among other works, died last week.

I admit that I haven't read his books, but some of the excerpts I've read make perfect sense and are good advice for all of us.

For example, We're here for this little tiny millisecond in eternity, and you can make of your life what you will. You can look for what's right and what's good and try to be kind instead of rude. If you live that way, it makes your ordinary life sort of extraordinary.

I don't know what kind of person Mr. Carlson was. I never met the man. Even so, he was spreading good messages--don't get so stressed and be kinder to your fellow human beings. That alone seems reason enough to mourn his loss.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Enough of this crap

I've been sick for a number of days. Ten days ago, I had symptoms of a cold, but that cleared up quickly. I was thankful, but my thankfulness was premature. Late last week, it came roaring back. By Sunday, I felt really crappy (that's a medical term--I work in healthcare, you know). :)

I had to go to work Monday and Tuesday. There were too many important things I had to get done. Today, feeling especially lousy, and being able to cancel today's meetings, I stayed home.

I've been drinking green tea and taking medications to combat the symptoms, but I still feel achy and drained. I wish this thing would go away!

One added concern--sitting here watching a Star Trek: Voyager marathon has apparently had an effect on me. Yes, they're dealing with the Borg in the past two episodes, but I don't think that's sufficient reason for me to have just called Mandy "2 of 3."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Holocaust

I need to vent.

Tonight's 60 Minutes rubbed salt in an open wound. No, not the Holocaust itself--and the enormous damage it did to my family, along with so many others--but, rather, it reminded me that many people don't even realize how a whole nation managed to go mad and slaughter innocent people by the millions. The Holocaust is both a horrible part of human history, although some deny it happened, as well as a cautionary tale. The cries of "Never Again!" are as important today as ever, for genocide still occurs, and we have a duty to stop it. But let's get back to my venting.

A recent recounting of the mechanisms of slaughter made me question how modern Americans--and others--were perceiving what happened in World War II, specifically relating to the Holocaust.

This wasn't one of the little slaughters (of mere scores of people) that littered the landscape of World War II. This was the wholesale rounding up and murdering of twelve million people. 12,000,000! Six million Jews and six million others the Germans considered undesirables. That's on top of the millions of war casualties.

This was an effort so large that there were conspirators in other countries, of other nationalities. It wasn't just limited to Germans.

If someone said to me that there were Germans who were opposed to this butchery, but they couldn't stop it--they were too afraid that speaking out would result in their own deaths--I could understand that. It might well be true--it probably is in many cases. But to suggest that the average German didn't know what was going on is to ask way too much. For any German of that time with even a modicum of intelligence to not have had an excellent grasp of what was happening would have been extraordinary.

For years, Jews and others were stripped of their rights and their property. Jews specifically were stripped of their citizenship in 1935. During Kristallnacht, scores of Jews were murdered and more than 1,000 synagogues were burned.

From the mid-1930s through the mid-1940s, in a country formerly the welcoming home to many Jews, intellectuals and other minorities, all of these people began to vanish. In huge numbers, they simply ceased to exist in daily life. At the very least, to claim a lack of knowledge of what was happening would mean that those not involved in the arrest, transport, imprisoning and murder of the victims utilized an extraordinary effort at willful ignorance.

As for those working in the camps or in towns anywhere near the camps--be they slave labor concentration camps that eventually became murder factories or the "death camps" made for only one purpose--to claim any sort of ignorance of what was happening defies all logic and shows utter disrespect for the victims of the horror.

They knew. They all knew. Maybe some knew and couldn't stop it, but don't think for one second that anyone who was there didn't know. Visitors to the camps years (sometimes even decades) later said there was still an indescribable smell of burnt flesh, rot and death. That's what happens when so many people are killed and bodies burned or buried in one place.

When people talk about conspiracies, they say that they never can stay secret when more than a few people know--and often not even then. Little conspiracies to commit little crimes or hide things for political reasons leak out regularly.

So let's just give this one more review. We're talking about rounding up people at gunpoint, marching them to railroad boxcars, locking them inside, transporting them to concentration camps and murdering them. Those that even made it there, unlike the 23 members of my family who were murdered right in their home town.

Let's look at the numbers again when we consider what was going on and what some claim they had no idea was happening...

Rounding up at gunpoint the population of Manhattan and taking every single person away to be murdered.

And then again rounding up the population of Manhattan and taking every single person away to be murdered.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Every man, woman and child in Manhattan, from the Battery to 220th Street, totals about 1.5 million people. We're talking about making 12,000,000 people disappear. Many were from outside of Germany (although the Germans managed to kill just about every Jew--and gay, Gypsy, intellectual, political activist, etc.--in Germany), but we're talking about 12 million people murdered by a country whose population at the time was around 55 million. And the average person had no idea? Not a chance.


I have major geek potential. I get weekly e-mails from Yahoo with a short list of interesting websites. Every now and then, there's one that looks interesting to me.

I just went through this week's and last week's Yahoo e-mails (I never said I was quick about this!), and look what was in last week's e-mail: PopSci's Best of What's New 2006!!!

I haven't even gone through the whole thing yet, but all you have to do is promise me scientific breakthroughs and neat gadgets and I'm there! Other than offers of sex, it's the easiest way to get my attention. :)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Post-surgical update

Marc's mom went home a couple of days ago. They did the kyphoplasty, and that seems to have been a success. She says that she has occasional shots of pain, but she's pain-free most of the time.

Her leg is doing well enough that the physical therapist says she won't need therapy for long.

So everything's going pretty well. It would be better if she never fell in the first place, but that's obviously not an option! So things are going fine with her, all things considered.

Today, it's holiday party time at my brother and sister-in-law's. That should be fun. The sun's shining. Really, I can't complain! :)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It's kyphoplasty time!

By the way, did I mention that Marc's mom also has a compression fracture of a lumbar vertebra? Yeah, her back was hurting quite a bit, so they did an MRI and found the fracture. They're going to do a procedure where they inject a resin into the fracture to stabilize it. This process is called kyphoplasty. There's an interesting animated explanation of the process here.

We do this procedure where I work, and I spoke to one of our doctors about it. He mentioned that the leading expert on the procedure is in Atlanta. Unfortunately, Marc's mom won't be able to get to him, but they have experienced people at the hospital she's in. They've done a lot of them, and their success rate is very good.

So it's bad that she has more damage, but it's good that there's this new process that shows real hope of giving her a good recovery without major surgery and all of the risks that go with it.

Almost there

I'm not a fan of winter. For that matter, summer's not my favorite, either. I prefer the spring and the fall.

Setting that aside, we're only days away from the winter solstice. In one respect, that's good news, because we'll soon have more hours of sunlight.

I don't like the cold or the ice or the snow, but I really don't like the short days.

I don't like putting the dogs out in the morning in the dark, and I don't like coming home in the dark. So the approaching solstice does bring one reason for cheer--more sunlight! Yay!!! :)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Yet another example

I recently commented on the separation of church and state. That post was in the context of gay marriage.

Reading today's Times, I see yet another example of people who either don't get it or are so unpatriotic and treasonous to the principles upon which this nation was founded that they don't care; they just want to advance their own beliefs.

I won't go through all of the details in the article. You can read it yourself--and I encourage you to do so. It's quite troubling that we have an Executive branch that sees no problem with religion-based initiatives funded with tax dollars. In fact, the head of the "White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives" (and that such an office even exists is pretty troubling) says that a judge's ruling, ordering a religious group to give back tax dollars, is unfair. While I'm sure it's a blow to the group and that they acted on the assurances of government representatives who told them they could have the funding, what's really unfair is that my money is going to teach people about a religion that I don't believe in!

Anyhow, feel free to read the article. It's a sad commentary, but I hope enough people are waking up now to really change the face of politics in America.


On a lighter note, I'm not sure what to make of this, but my rental car experience this week made me worry that I'm getting old.

Let me first say that I drive a gas-guzzling SUV now. I'm not proud of the gas guzzling and would have bought a hybrid if such was offered, but my Explorer is used for many needs around here, so there it is. I offset its low economy by buying pollution tax credits through, and I think that helps. But that's another story.

Before the SUV, I had a Volvo S80 T6. It was a beautiful car with great handling and tons of power and speed from it's twin-turbocharged engine. My point is that I'm not usually into the kind of car we rented, but I was curious about it so we gave it a try.

So what did we get for a rental car during this week's ill-fated trip to Atlanta? A Buick.

Yes, a Buick. A Buick Lacrosse, to be specific. We rented from National. Their prices were pretty good, but, based on what we saw, Hertz has nothing to worry about! A well-oiled machine they are not, at least not in Atlanta.

Getting back to the point, we got a Buick, and it was really nice! It handled nicely, had strong acceleration and a very comfortable ride. I was impressed! It wasn't of the caliber of my old Volvo, but I'm sure it doesn't cost anywhere near what the Volvo did, either.

So now I'm worried that this is a sign of old age. When you start liking Buicks, can the old folks home be far behind? :)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Going well

There were delays and irritations, but the surgery was done last night. Instead of 1:30pm, as was the plan, she had to wait until 11pm. But the important thing is that it seems to have gone well.

I have to head back to New York for a business function, but Marc will stay here through the weekend.

That's the update. More when I have time.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

This really sucks!

We're down in Atlanta to visit Marc's mom before he starts his new job (because we usually visit for her birthday in January, but he doesn't get to take vacation for six months after he starts the new job). We got in late last night (yesterday being his last day at the old job), so this is our first full day here.

This afternoon, things took a bad turn. As we finished lunch, Marc's mom got her foot caught in her chair and fell to the floor. Long story short, she fractured her femur, just below the head (where it fits into the hip). So she's having surgery tomorrow to have screws put into it. This kind of excitement no one needs!

It's a little after 11pm, and my beloved, his sister and I are at the hospital, keeping her company and harassing the staff. They're actually pretty attentive here, but a little harassment at the right moments can be helpful. :-)

Marc's mom was in a lot of pain earlier, so they gave her morphine. That made her nauseous, so then they gave her anti-nausea meds and that knocked her out.

She woke up a little while ago. So what did this thin little lady really want to eat? A chocolate shake. So Marc and I went to Steak & Shake and got her one of their fabulous shakes. Fortunately, they're open 24 hours a day.

Now she's telling us we all need to go home and sleep. We, on the other hand, plan to take turns staying here with her. She's pretty thoroughly incapacitated, so we don't want her to be alone.

I'd be more bummed about this, but there's a "glass half full" side of this. If she'd been alone when this happened, she could have been lying there for hours. The outcome could have been far worse! So it's good we were there.

Now I just hope the surgery goes smoothly tomorrow. Your good thoughts and prayers would be appreciated!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Rugby photos (continued--and this will do it for now)

Okay, that's all I'll post here, but you can see the full set of photos (all 203) from the East Coast Rugby Invitational here.