Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A little best of

My favorite book for 2008 was Cory Doctorow's Little Brother.

My favorite moment was talking with Connie Willis at Balticon.

The best buy of the year was my Wii Fit.

This last year had some definite lows but it had its good points also. Let's all hope for a happy and healthy 2009.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Our continuing mission - to seek out new emo characters

Continuing the conversation I've been having at various places about whether a character is emo or goth, I think Hugh of the Borg is definitely emo, especially in Descent, the episode where poor Geordie is tortured by Data, who is being manipulated by his awful brother.

In other news both Cullen and I have bronchitis. I also have sinusitis and two (2!) ear infections, which kind of explains the dizziness and exhaustion. I've got a pre-op appt scheduled for tomorrow but idk if you can have surgery when you've got bronchitis so I may have to cancel.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Morant Bay Rebellion

I'm doing some research for something and I was appalled to read of The Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865. The behavior of the soldiers in charge is inhuman. I can't even bring myself to quote any of this piece from the BBC. You'll have to click through if you've got the heart.


Friday, December 26, 2008

A little bit better

We're all a little bit better. Coughing like mad but no so much with the sore throats or the other annoying parts of an URI. I spent most of yesterday in bed watching the Start Trek the Next Generation marathon and swigging cough medicine while the boys went to go and visit various friends. We never did get around to having an actual Christmas dinner. Maybe tomorrow if we continue to feel a little better each day.

The most important thing I need to remember is no laughing as that causes massive coughing fits that end badly. I guess I'll trudge off to the doctor on Monday if I'm still hacking away.

I'm still having loads of trouble with the book I started a few months ago. I'm near the end and am in that slump that happens to a lot of writers as they get about three quarters of the way through. Is this book really worth finishing? Maybe I should work on this shiny new idea instead... It's frustrating and I'm hardly writing at all. Maybe five hundred words a day all told. Ugh. I'll be very happy when I finish the first draft and can set it aside for a bit.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All I want for Christmas is to stop coughing up blood

Sunday I took advantage of the day and fell asleep late in the afternoon. I woke up with an ungodly sore throat, which quickly turned into a full fledged upper respiratory infection. I've spent a lot of time since then coughing and throwing up from coughing too much. At one point I picked up a bottle of cough syrup (which had fallen down behind my nightstand, which should totally have been a clue) and misread the label. Instead of being filled in 2008 it had expired last year. The eight was secretly a six. As a result I had a terrible reaction and actually thought I was going to die during the night. My breathing slowed way down and my lungs filled up with gurgles. I felt like no air was actually getting into my blood. I was too sick to reach the phone to call for help and the kids couldn't hear me gasping and calling them. I finally turned on my CPAP machine, thinking the pressure would help force air into my lungs. That kind of worked and I finally fell asleep around six in the morning, which is when I should be getting Cam up for school.

I managed to work the next day, yesterday but still didn't get much sleep last night. Too much coughing and throwing up.

When I woke up this morning I coughed up a lot of blood and my nose bled and bled so I called my hematologist to get the results of my PT/INR, which I had on the 16th. Whoever answered the phone told me he was away from the office and couldn't I wait until Monday? Let's see, that's five days and I'm coughing up blood - no, I don't think I can wait.

Sure enough my PT/INR is too high and I've got to cut back on my blood thinners. It's unfortunate nobody called me earlier. I don't think I should have to wait more than a week to hear my medication is at a dangerous level.

So anyway, in case you can't tell, I'm awfully grouchy and tired. I also have to go and pick Chris up in a little bit, then wrap presents (I've been too sick to bother) before I can even think about going to bed.

I did manage to get the cat to the vet on Monday and drop him off for his glucose tests. His blood is still in the 4oo range so we need to up his insulin to six units twice a day. I also got Cam to his allergy shot and picked up Cullen's RX drugs but it's at times like this that I really wish I had a nice little robot to run errands for me.

Which reminds me, the Wii Fit asked me what my most memorable moment of the year is and I thought and thought and decided it was our conversation with Connie Willis at Balticon this year. I can't even tell you how much she impressed me. She's fantastic.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Truer words were never spoken


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Highs and lows

It's been a madly busy week with me wondering where all my time is going. I finally managed to finish Emma by Jane Austen, a book that seemed to take weeks to read. There were times when I only got through a paragraph when I had to put it down again. This upcoming week promises to be just as busy, with four hours of travel time just on Monday to take the cat to and from the vet to get his first blood series to see how his new insulin regime is working out.

The best part of the week so far was when I played a round of NES golf, the one where you play as Mario in a weirdly patriotic shirt, and got a hole in one, which wasn't just extremely satisfying but also netted me 55 grand in game money. That was quite sweet.

The low was someone accidently buying the wrong toilet paper - which I know isn't really much of a low so things are going pretty well for us. I call this stuff the ass reamer 4000. Of course the person in question bought twenty rolls of it and there are a thousand sheets on each roll. We can't even give it away because it's not right to make the less fortunate even more unfortunate... Maybe I'll give it to the rats and let them shred it up for bedding. I'll have to think of something.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fairy tale classified ad

I like this ad from craigslist because it sounds like part of a fairy tale. It's an ad for free pumpkins and it says:

They are presantly sitting on my front steps - free for the taking - fist come first serve - please dont linger in my yard or take my flower pots and please shut my gate so my dog dont get out and eat someone.

See, if you take the flower pots the dog eats you. If you let the dog out it eats someone else, someone important to your quest. Maybe it eats the princess or someone who was going to help you rescue the princess.

I guess it could also work as part of a video game. Whichever makes you happier.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rats are eating my feet!!!

Check out this awesome post from the Krampus Kard blog. I love how the rat is eating the Krampus' feet. Go rat!

(Don't worry little Krampus, if you come to my house my rats will not eat your feet. I promise. Ha ha ha ha.)


Monday, December 15, 2008

This is mysterious

The Toymaker, who is a personal favorite of mine, has a post about words that have been removed from a dictionary. Her quote, which starts with a quote from an article in the Telegraph:

"Oxford University Press has removed words like "aisle", "bishop", "chapel", "empire" and "monarch" from its Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like "blog", "broadband" and "celebrity". Dozens of words related to the countryside have also been culled."
Excuse me whilst I smooth my crinolines and pour myself a cup of Earl Grey, but it made me feel a bit sad. Poor lost words. So I drew a picture of some of the ones that had been erased so you could see what they look like.

Then she's got some gorgeous drawings, which you should go and look at.

I don't understand why we have to remove words in order to add new ones. Do we think children can only remember so many words? Do we not want to pay for the extra sheet of paper? The mind boggles.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

They're everywhere

I was reading the paper and I saw an image in this piece that caught my eye. The caption reads "Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, the Vatican's top official on bioethics questions, and Maria Luisa Di Pietro, of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, attend a news conference on bioethics at the Vatican. (By Riccardo De Luca -- Associated Press)"

The figure right under the monitor or whatever it is on the wall looked awfully familiar so I did a quick search for Nosferatu images and sure enough, I found this. That's Max Scheck in the role of
Count Orlok. No offense to the person in the AP photograph but they look a lot alike to me.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Changing the meaning of words

Junk Food Science, a blog I discovered earlier this week while reading something about last week's episode of House, has an appalling entry that everyone should read. It's about India, a country with disturbing levels of malnutrition and hunger, has managed to be reclassified as the home of an incipient "obesity epidemic."

How do you create an obesity epidemic in a country with nearly the lowest percentage of “obese” people in the world?

You begin by changing the definition.

On Tuesday, Health Ministry officials in India released the country’s first Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome. It begins by making significant departures from World Health Organization definitions for overweight and obesity. According to new cutoffs enacted by Indian health officials, anyone with a body mass index of 23 kg/m2 is now labeled as overweight. And a BMI of 25 and over is now defined as obese — considerably more stringent than the international cut-off of a BMI 30.

These are the same kinds of tactics I've been reading about for years. At least three times in my lifetime the definition of overweight and obesity has changed, causing people who went to bed at a "normal weight" to wake up with a "medical problem".

I strongly recommend this post and also the excellent book The Obesity Myth, which includes a fantastic look at the economics of "obesity" and who exactly is making billions of dollars from manufactured hysteria.


Friday, December 12, 2008

My breasts, they are stupid; my platelets, they are adequate

I had a mission this week to gather up some test results and give them to another doctor, which meant of course that I read them myself. My platelets are adequate, a comment that means very little to me. I suppose it's good that they're doing their job but it sounds like they're phoning in their performance.

My breasts though, they're heterogeneously dense, an expression that is new to me. So I looked it up and was quite surprised.

Here's a quote about the efficacy of traditional mammograms for women with dense breasts from

The sensitivity for women with dense breasts was only 55 percent for film mammography while the sensitivity for digital mammography was 70 percent. The overall rate of 70 percent is within the expected rate of detection.
So nearly half of all cancers will be missed in women with dense breasts. But that's not all. From this page:

Women with dense breasts have been shown to have a four- to six-fold increased risk of developing breast cancer; only age and BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations increase risk more.
So women with dense breasts, and there are a lot of us, not only have an increased risk of breast cancer but quite a lot of those cancers aren't detected, even among women who are religious about their screening schedules.

This is also interesting, from an article on breast self exam:

Teaching women breast self examination is not cost effective, nor does it lead to improvements in survival from breast cancer, according to a large, 10 year, randomised observational study conducted in Shanghai, China (J Natl Cancer Inst 2002;94:1445-57)

And the final paragraph says:

Advice to women to undertake breast self examination was abandoned over 10 years ago in the United Kingdom.

That's bizarre to me because I read another article saying up to forty percent of cancers are found during breast self exam. Unfortunately I didn't bookmark that page so I can't refer back to it.

The whole thing was rather depressing. What exactly does work? I'd like something with a better accuracy rate, please.

I've got a mammogram scheduled for tomorrow. I hate them. Because I take the blood thinners to prevent blood clots I bruise like mad and there have been a couple of times my breast tissue has actually torn from the test. I don't think this is normal, btw, and if you're someone who has one scheduled I wouldn't worry about it. I think it's just because of the medicine I take. But it's not fun. It's quite painful and now I find out it may not be effective? Ugh.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Standing properly

I've had my Wii Fit since the end of August and I've made considerable improvements in several areas. The main reason I bought it is for balance as the damage to my brain makes me dizzy and wobbly often. I want to keep training myself to balance as much as possible so I make sure I do the two balance tests every day and try to get at least five minutes of balance games in every day.

One of the things I was very surprised to discover is that I treated my feet as though they were gone and only the heels remained. I always had my weight back on my heels and when I first started using my whole feet for the tests I felt like I was leaning forward, into a wind.

I'm now scoring pretty well on the body tests, often coming in fifteen years younger than my actual age. That's pretty exciting.

A couple of years ago, when Neil Gaiman was touring for Fragile Things, I remember particularly because I went to the urgent care on the way home from a reading and signing, I was falling so much I damaged my wrist. I would get up in the night to use the bathroom and fall, catching myself against the wall with my hand flat, huring the wrist. I had to wear a brace when I slept for a long time. But no more. I'm that much more stable. And that makes me quite happy.

Thank you Shigeru Miyamoto.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Those Tennant Boys

This video clip is proof that David Tennant didn't just borrow Neil Tennant's last name; he clearly also borrowed Morrissey's hair when he started Doctor Who. I can't believe I never noticed that until today.

(Don't watch the video if you get migraines. The video will probably bring one on. My apologies for the poor quality.)

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Definitive proof that times are tough

Take a look at this "part time job." It's for donating plasma, which is an important service. I've had to have plasma transfusions myself, twice; once when I had meningitis and once when my PT/INR was crazily too high. But this "job" isn't just donating plasma, it's for a specific type of plasma.

If you have received at least 4 doses of the anthrax vaccine, with the most recent dose in the last 21 days:
-You are eligible for immediate plasma donation

If you have received at least 3 doses of the anthrax vaccine:
-You are eligible for plasma donation about two weeks after your next dose*

If you have never received the anthrax vaccine:
-You are eligible for plasma donation about 6 months after you begin receiving the vaccine*
*To participate you need to be eligible to receive the anthrax vaccine. You can receive the anthrax vaccine by 1) requesting an immunization at your military installation or 2) at our Frederick Biologicals plasma center.

Once you get up to speed on your anthrax you can donate twice a week and bring home a hundred bucks a pop! Go free market!!!


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Mass Hysteria

Several weeks ago two of our sister rats, Delirium and Mass Hysteria, came down with tumors, which were cancerous. Delirium had quite a large tumor that grew so quickly it outgrew its blood supply, necrotized, abscessed and burst open, leaving an open wound down by her belly.

Mass Hysteria had a smaller tumor that also burst open, this one on her haunch. But more worrying, her cancer spread to her lungs and she was wheezing the day we brought the two of them to the vet.

We put them both on Baytril, a broad spectrum antibiotic, to keep the necrosis under control and have been watching them (and spoiling them), dreading the day they were no longer comfortable.

Two nights ago Mass Hysteria suddenly started gasping for breath. It was pretty awful. She looked like she had something caught in her throat. It was pretty late at night so it's not like I could rush her over to our vet, so I treated it like I would if she were a child with croup. We gave her a shot of an albuteral inhaler then took her in the bathroom and ran the shower so she could breathe in some steam. We repeated the treatment in the morning and took her round to see her doctor in the afternoon.

She was in distress when we got there, holding onto the side of her cage with her sides heaving in and out. We tried the inahler again, using a cat inhaler so she could get more of the medicine but she panicked over the face mask, which made her even more short of breath, and she just couldn't get her breath again so we euthanized her.

Her doctor is very good and considerate about pain and fear so he put her in a little box with some oxygen so she would stop feeling like she was suffocating, then he gave her some sleeping gas. He did that for about ten minutes then gave her shot. The whole experience was awful but her actual end was about as gentle as could be managed I think.

Then we stopped at the pet store on the way home to get some special food for the diabetic cat and took Delirium in with us. She was in her cage, which I put in the front of the cart. She was surprisingly uninterested in the birds, which I thought would intrigue her since they're so noisy and bright. She was more interested in the other shoppers. Now she's sleeping in her new hammock/tunnel but I'm wondering if she's ever going to want to go in the car again. She must think it's awful strange that we left here roommate/sister behind.

We've taken her off her antibiotics to see how she does. We don't want her to get a resistance to the medicine so she's taking a break. Hopefully her tumor won't go mad with infection.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Parkour at Old Mill

Here's a nice video of a parkour chase at Old Mill High, Cam's school and Cullen's alma mater. It's especially nice for me to see local kids doing parkour. Well done them.

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Customer service can be frustrating



Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Saving money website

Just a reminder that if you're on a tight budget (you know, if you live on our planet in the early 21st century) you might find useful advice at my saving money site,

This week so far I've got a post about free admission to a Southern California theme park, substantial savings on medication for HIV patients and a free food allergy guide. Check it out.