Friday, July 29, 2005

Swimming column number one is up

My new column about the joys of natural (not naked per se) swimming is up. This was a fun one to do but I got exhausted doing the research and finally paid Cam three dollars to help me out. He was funny, he would find one that looked interesting and mail me the link. His second email was titled I need a raise! And the third one was I'm in the money.

I found enough swimming holes called Rock Slide that I could have done an entire article on various Rock Slides around the country. Maybe next year...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Happy birthday Cullen!

I offered Cul our beat up old van that is supposed to go to the junkyard for his birthday but he turned me down. I don't understand it. I thought every boy wanted a car for his sixteenth birthday.

And in other news I got a telemarketing call from a church. Not only did they want me to join they wanted me to be a leader. How queer is that?

I was so tired writing my column today that when I read the words "stocked with rainbow trout" I thought it said "stocked with baboon." Now that is an interesting image.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

New slogan

Cam called from his Dad's house to say he went fishing with his dad and had a good time. He had called last night to ask if I knew of any gas stations that sold bait. I didn't and couldn't remember seeing one for a very long time. Apparently they do still sell bait at gas stations and they bought some grass shrimp and used it to good effect. All I could think of was a bumper sticker that said "Ass, gas or grass shrimp, nobody rides free." I think that would go over very well.

Sadly I am still suffering from a monster headache. I've had it since Wednesday. It's that kind of PTC headache that is bad enough to wake me up. One night it hurt so much I was convinced I was dying of a stroke. It didn't seem possible to have that much pain in your head and live through it. The really sad part is that Cam was awake and heard me crying but didn't realize what was wrong. I was in so much pain I couldn't remember how to call for help or how to get the top off of the bottle of narcotics. Not that I have many of those left.

It's awful to try and make it through terrible pain without taking anything because you are worried you are going to run out of your pain killer and you think maybe some other headache will be worse than this one.

A few more days of this and I'm going to crack my own skull open and let some fluid out. I'm just sayin'

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Putting the pee into peach

I bought some Kiss My Face Peaches and Cream moisturizer while at Trader Joes the other day. Cam really liked the way it smelled and my skin is wicked dry from taking Diamox so I went ahead and got it. When I put it on I thought it smelled more like cat pee than peaches but then I thought it must be my crazy brain translating the smell wrong.

Chris and I were going out today to go to the Book Thing in Baltimore and after I took my bath I slathered some of this stuff on. The first thing Chris said when he walked in was "Mom it reeks of cat pee in here." I threw the bottle to him and asked him if that was what he was smelling and sure enough it was. George, his cat, also found the scent fascinating.

It's very queer and I have no explanation.

We went to IHOP for breakfast and split an omelet and some pancakes. The pancakes were fucking awesome and our waitress, Jenna, was terrific. Good times. I just hope she didn't mind that I read of cat peaches.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sounds like a lot of work to me

Someone sent me this bit of spam. It's better written than most of its ilk and it's kind of cute and charming but mostly it sounds tiring.

Subject: Re[1]: Hi my Dear Stranger

Hello, Harry

I am a lovely and lonely Lady who is looking for the man who will make me happy and whom I want to feel like in paradise with!

If you want to be my beautiful Hero who will save me from this loneliness find me

and wake me up with a warm kiss.

so long...

I don't know Juli, don't you think you should work on being happy by yourself? Do you really need a Hero? Can't you save yourself from your loneliness? How about some charity work? Do you think that might fill the void? It seems to me that when you are happy and fulfilled you'll have a better chance of a "Harry" checking you out and thinking, "Hmm, I'd like to be part of her life! I want to get me some of that happiness and charm!"

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Creating a community

Someone called me up today to ask me a bunch of questions about the Grapevine. At first I thought she wanted technical information like how much does it cost to run the place and I really couldn't help her but then I got into what helps create an online community and keep it going.

The lady who called me said a couple of times that it must be a full time job and I said no, it's not. I mean I do have a full time job but it's a lot more than the Vine, it's my column and WeirdLoans and all of BrokerUniverse and our various newsletters and our other sites. But I do spend a huge amount of time and mental energy on the Vine. I'm kind of always aware of it and I never let too much time go by without checking on it. Certain members of the Vine call me at home when there is a problem and I do work very weird hours taking care of the place.

But there is a lot more that I think just a few people really understand that I do. I do a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes. If someone writes to me and says they are sorry they called such and such a terrible name then I suggest that they apologize to the person they insulted. I tell them they are being brave and I am proud of them, and I am, very much so because it's hard to tell the whole world you made a mistake. Sometimes I feel like I'm a mom to all 42,715 members and sometimes I feel like a sister or a co-conspirator or a friend.

I often post things that I find of interest that I think my members will like, either under my main name or my alter ego. But I do more than that, I also send links and things to members and I talk to them offline, either through email or on the phone and we talk about things they could post that will keep the place more than just a dumping ground for loan scenarios.

I send some people prewarnings to let them know that if they don't tone down their behavior they are going to get a warning, or more. Sometimes that goes over well and sometimes it doesn't. There are some people at the Vine, and some who are no longer allowed to post, who seem to hate me with a passion. I've seen some pretty nasty posts at other sites about me and I've gotten lots of email that isn't exactly flattering.

I've been with the Vine almost it's entire incarnation, five years in April, and some people say they can't imagine it without me. We've been through a terrorist attack, the violent death of one of our members, the fake death of one of our members, childbirth, great sadness, great joys, wonderful friendships and terrible arguments together.

I guess what it comes down to is if you have a community where people are passionate, passionate about anything, but especially passionate about each other, then you really do have a community. And when you are in charge of a community, even nominally, it's not a full time job, in fact I don't think the word job really works anymore. That's what bugged me about this phone conversation. I can't think of the right word but job isn't it.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

We can't cure that, but we can cure this!

This week was weird for me. When I went to see Dr. LeSage, the neurologist who specializes in sleep disorders, last month I told her I wanted her to fix me and she said okay. She was very positive and seemed to think she could help my terrible sleep, and by extension the pseudotumor, in fact she said don't rush in to brain surgery. Give her a chance to help. Then she sent me for a sleep study to see how my sleep apnea was coming along.

After the study I got a call from Johns Hopkins to schedule my follow-up and that is when I got some devastating news. Dr. LeSage no longer works at Johns Hopkins. I've heard two stories, one is that she was offered a huge amount of money to go elsewhere and two that she went back to school to get some training to work in public health. Funny how those two are opposites. The result for me is the same. The only specialist I have seen since I got sick who said they could help me is gone. I was on the phone with my friend Kevin when Johns Hopkins called and when I picked his line back up I cried from sheer frustration.

Tuesday Chris and I went up for my appointment, scheduled at 11:30. At 1 PM I was told the doctors had all gone to lunch but hopefully someone would see me soon. About twenty minutes later a Dr. Smith came out to get me. He looks like the Blake character in Delirious. Not exactly reassuring.

After a couple of minutes he said my sleep study was very interesting. He said I had no apnea. Later he amended that to an acceptable amount of apnea. I said I had to be the only person in the world to gain twenty pounds and lose their apnea and he said no, it must be the Diamox. I asked him if there were any studies showing a connection and he said no.

Then he said if I had any further questions to call them and he started to get up. I said hold on, if I am cured of apnea why do I feel terrible when I sleep without my CPAP machine? He didn't know. What about the night terrors? What about insomnia? What about the rest of it?

He said that since I have a central nervous system disorder he doesn't want to do anything. I could come back after I get shunt surgery (if I do) but he won't do anything now because there is no way of knowing how the PTC affects treatment.

He didn't care at all that the reason I am there is because when I get a good night's sleep I don't throw up the next day. He refused to help me.

I cannot express how angry I am about this. Kevin says it's like taking your car to the mechanic for carburetor work and the mechanic saying he won't look at it until you get the brakes fixed, but you can't get the brakes fixed because you can't drive your car to the brake shop because the carburetor won't work.

I'm sure you're wondering why I didn't complain more to this doctor and make him help me. I tried and I got so upset I knew if I said one more word I would burst into tears.

I don't want shunt surgery. I especially don't want it if there is a chance I can avoid it. I would particularly hate to get it just because this doctor won't listen or care about me.

Why on earth do you even become a doctor if you don't care about people?

On the plus side I did some research, based on what I know about Diamox treating mountain or air sickness, and in some cases it really does fix sleep apnea. God forbid it should fix my pseudotumor, but it has apparently cured the apnea.

Now I need to learn to sleep without my CPAP. For five years now I have slept with its reassuring noise and the knowledge that if I do stop breathing at night it will help me out. I feel like I'm trying to sleep without a safety net and oh my goodness everything around me is so noisy! I didn't even know my neighbor slept with the radio on all night because the noise of my CPAP blocked it out! But you know, looking on the positive side, maybe my electric bill will go down now that I'm not paying for fifteen pressures of air on all night long.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

File this under worrisome

I found this ad in the most recent edition of Movie Maker newsletter.

T__ G____ at ____ ____ HOME MORTGAGE . I'’m a former film industry executive working in home finance for the sixth largest bank in America. Over the past four years I've helped several writers, directors and artists pull cash out of their homes to finance their projects. I can help you with your home purchase and refinancing needs nationwide. My toll free number is xxx/xxx-xxxx. Call today for expert advice from a person who understands your business.

That's wonderful. This guy is making a living teaching people how to strip the equity from their homes so they can make projects that aren't good enough to get funding. And if you happen to fall behind in your payments and your home is foreclosed, well hey, you can clutch your project on DVD in the comfort of your new refrigerator box. After all art is more important than owning a home, right?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

I bought a new car today

Technically it's used but its new to me. The death van was acting quite funky and when Chris took it into the shop Bob, our mechanic, said to tow it to the junkyard.

Through some bizarre twist of fate I had applied for a car loan through my credit union and I was approved and got my check in the mail today so I bought a Toyota Corolla. It's a 2002 with 65,000 miles on it. It cost just exactly what we could afford and it's nice and pretty and it drives smoothly.

It appears to have a defective serpentine belt so Chris is going to take it back to CarMax on Monday and get it fixed.

Despite the fact that I was vomiting quite a bit this morning I made it through the car buying ordeal in good shape, thanks in part to one Stan who made everything smooth as silk and did not complain at all when I said we had to turn off the fluorescent lights in his office while we filled out the paperwork.

Here is a picture of the car. It looks like every other car out there. Luckily I am clever enough to get the fancy save our farmland license plates so I'll be able to identify it in a parking lot. Sometimes I'm so sharp I could cut myself.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Stranger Things Happen

Sometimes writing a column is like hollering into the void. You aren't quite sure that anyone is listening or if you're doing any good. I'm kind of lucky in that I will sometimes see a post at the Grapevine that indicates someone read a column. In fact they aren't just reading it, they're assimilated whatever I said and are now referring to it, indicating that it is indeed useful.

Two weeks ago I did a review of Cory Doctorow's Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. My goal is for my readers to go out and get a copy of this book and have as much fun with it as I did. When I gave it to my beta readers all four of them asked me for the link so they could download it right away. That was satisfying.

Today I am working on a review of Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen. I am having a hard time with it, mostly because I am so ill today. It's hard to write when my head is pounding, I'm coughing, throwing up and I have stabbing pains in my chest.

When I have to write a column while very sick I worry that it is going to be scattered and all over the place. I just asked Chris if he would read what I had so far. He did and then he took my paper copy of Stranger Things Happen and left. I guess that means it's pretty effective so far.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

George Lucas' New Headquarters

This is where my son Christopher was born. It's where my nieces Astrid and Calista where born. It's also where I saw a medical team working over the shattered body of someone who had jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. It's the place where I saw a man with a fishhook through his face being told he couldn't get emergency medical care because he was well enough to get on a bus and go to the VA hospital.

It's where my prenatal file had watch for Pregnancy Induced Hypertension all over it but I still nearly died from Toxemia because nobody would listen to my symptoms. It's where I was told pregnant women don't get ear infections. It's where my eardrum burst for the first time. It's where I was finally diagnosed with PIH, with a blood pressure of 220 over 180, when I went to the ER after my eardrum burst. It's where they thought my baby was dead because the batteries in the doppler stethoscope were dead.

It's where they called my parents and told them I was dying and to come down to the hospital and say goodbye to me. It's where I had to stay in a dark room for three days after Chris was born so I wouldn't have any more seizures. It's where I learned how to fight for medical care.

It's where a twelve year old girl had to give birth to her brother's child because her mother insisted that is what she wanted. The mother was forcing the child to drop out of school and care for this baby. The nurse I talked to said there was nothing social services could do for the little girl because it was military jurisdiction. There was nothing the military could do because the father was too high ranking.

Somehow, despite all that negative, I still have a fond spot in my heart for the old place. I like to think that there will still be births there, but now it's dreams that will be born and go out into the world to amaze and edify.

Friday, July 01, 2005

More Stuff I Don't Remember Writing

An exchange from Carnal Fear - Sutter is explaining house rules to Aaron as they decide if they are going to be roommates:

"Thank you. He looked around the basement. "I think I could do something with this. Is it a deal?"

"Yep. But no girls after midnight." I laughed at his expression. "Come one, Aaron, don'’t you think that the virtue of other women is my responsibility when they're under my roof?"

"What about my virtue?"

"That is a tangled web best avoided."

Aren't they cute? I love them. And yet I torture them. I am a horrible rotten person.