Monday, April 30, 2007

A Well-Spent Sunday Afternoon

Well that was about as much fun as people have have legally and out of bed!

After more than a year back in the Midwest, we finally got around to inviting my ex-husband Rob over to spend a day with us, and really, my only complaint now is that I didn't do it a year sooner.

What a great day! He got here in the middle of the truck painting project (with pictures to follow...the batteries finally died in the digital camera) and settled in with a beer to watch, help, mock us and laugh. Katie, who hasn't seen her Dad in years, kept pulling me aside and saying, "He's just like us!" And I'd tell her "He is us!"

We didn't see him for all those years we were in Tucson, so we had some serious catching up to do. So we plied him with food and beer and settled in around a fire to visit. And luckily he's a story guy like we are, so we swapped stories until way too late, and then hugged the stuffing out of him and sent him home. At some point before he went home though, we had to generate some more firewood, which was conveniently available to a six-footer with a crowbar and a dead tree. And really...it takes a guy to come up with the idea of taking apart a tree with a crowbar.

As he was leaving Lori said, "You know, there's nothing we like better than trashing the exes. But Ev never has anything bad to say about you."

Well, and now I remember why: what a fun, funny, warmhearted, congenial guy. That was one of the most fun days I've had in a long time.

Maybe after I have more coffee I'll post more.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Okay. I get it now.

Our grass had reached about to my armpits...but I'm short, so it was still workable. Then my neighbor John burned up the bearings on his mower, and I finally caved in. I borrowed Katie's boyfriend's spiffy John Deere mower with the automatic transmission and the cupholders.

It was a little incongruous...pulling that beautiful new mower on John's crappy trailer with the rotten boards, pulled by my crappy eBay pickup, but I can handle a little inconsistancy in my life. I'm just that flexible. Ask anyone. Flexibility is my middle name.

But now...I'm in love with that powerful, shiny mower. It's like the Fabio of Mowers. If mowers could open the top three buttons on their grill, this one would do it. You can imagine it's hair, if it had hair, blowing gently back from it's manly, chiselled features. This mower would NOT get hit in the face with a goose. It'would deflect the goose with it's cupholder. It's just that clever.

I'm going to offer to trade Katie to him for the mower. Think of it as a dowry. She's young and strong and will make him a good wife. And I'll be able to mow the entire three acres in three hours. See? It's a win-win!

Afterwards, while I was still deaf from the mower anyway, I borrowed John's chainsaw and cut down an old tree that was dead and filled with carpenter ants. And that was fun...chainsaws are so butch...but I'm a little stove up today. In fact, I think maybe my hair is the only think that doesn't hurt this morning.

So...while I was tooling around on the ultra-fast John Deere, I was thinking maybe I could get a new one, and consider the other one a restoration project...a show piece, like antiques.

Damn that Dane. He's ruined my love affair with my old mower. He's turned me into a mower whore.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Nerdvana


I drove the long way home tonight with the top down on my car, and somewhere between Crab Orchard Lake, along Spillway Drive, before I got deep into Giant City State Park and wound my way through the Shawnee Forest, it occurred to me that my current life very much resembles what I used to get to do only occasionally on great vacations.

All my adult life, I've sought the same things out when I needed to relax and recharge ... solitude, lush green landscapes, trees, bodies of water and driving along hilly winding roads with great music on the radio.

It used to require an airline ticket and a rental car to get to. Now it requires walking out my front door and turning the key in the ignition.

It used to be almost painful to find one of these places, because I could never stay. It was a vacation from my life ... a few days or a week of trying to soak it in and memorize the smells and the way the air felt and let the landscape burn itself onto my retinas so I could call it up as a great memory later.

In the year I've been here I've known that I love it, and I've known that it's pretty, and I've known that it feels more like home than anywhere I've ever been, but I guess I never had the exact realization that I'm living in a state of pretty much permanent vacation bliss. I can't understand why the whole damn world doesn't live here, but I'm exceedingly glad they don't. Don't get me wrong, world, but a large part of the charm here is that it hasn't been paved over, subdivided, franchised, pruned and trimmed to within an inch of it's life or overrun with civilization.

It's normal here for a 30-year-old mobile home to snuggle up next to a half-million-dollar showplace without anyone batting an eye. What you won't find are HOA's, CC&R's, planned and gated communities, stacked freeways, smog, bumper-to-bumper traffic, piles of trash along the side of the road, high rises, luxury condos or the "wrong side of the tracks."

Last summer I experienced having the vague notion that there was something I wasn't seeing here that I ought to be seeing, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Then, I realized what it was. Airplanes. I used to live in the flight path of Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. I doubt there was ever a fifteen minute period in thirty years when I couldn't look up and see at least two or three airliners in the sky. I haven't seen an airplane other than the rare crop duster in over a year. Today I realized the other thing I don't see here. Billboards. It's sort of amazing to me that I didn't notice that before.

So, it's not earthshaking or funny or thought-provoking, but that's what I felt like saying today. I love Southern Illinois, and you'd have to shoot me and drag me away to get me out of here.
I don't know how many people leave their offices at 5:00 and achieve bliss by 5:30 just by driving home, but I suspect the world would be a better place if everyone could.

Kwach

NPR...Don't Fail Me Now.

I finally managed to slime my way bonelessly out of bed after having all sorts of weird nightmares about fishing, being held hostage at work, and my ex-girlfriend. Fun.

The "held hostage at work" metaphor is directly related to the fact that I agreed to work today (in the middle of my five day holiday) because we're shorthanded. So I'm sure my malaise is partly related to my enthusiasm for the task, which is currently none.


However, I'm very enthusiastic about my May project, which is to take a week off and go fetch my oldest and her boyfriend and their cats and all their stuff, and bring them back to be our neighbors. Yay! The world is awry when mothers live 1600 miles from their daughters.


Of course, the punishment for that happiness will be that long horrid drive across Texas, affectionately known as The Armpit Of The Universe. Chief among my myriad reasons to dislike all things Texas is the ungodly number of silly, pretentious Texans. Somebody once told them that Texas was colorful or unique or something, and they all seem hell bent on trying to prove that they're worthy...by being so self-consciously colorful and unique that they tend to come across as tiresome cookie-cutter versions of unique.


If everyone is unique in the same way...I hate to tell you, Texas...it stops being unique.


One of my favorite qualities about Midwesterners is how self-effacing they are. They don't make a fuss or show off or pretend to be more important than they are. The prevailing attitude is that the world will judge all of that by our deeds, not by our flashy possessions.


We're not unique either, but at least we're honest enough to admit it...and we're okay with that. Uniqueness isn't really anything to strive for. It's just asking for trouble. The world generally does not treat you well when you've made the mistake of being flashy enough to catch it's eye. Better to quetly live your life, go to work, mow your lawn, go fishing and slip below the radar than to laboriously climb onto a pedestal so the universe can knock you off.


So I'll try to get through Texas as fast as I can, listening to 12 or 15 hours of NPR talk shows, and breathe a sigh of relief when I get to New Mexico. Remember Thelma and Louise? They were right. It IS better to die than go to Texas.


This Old Extreme Makeover House

We got up yesterday and started tackling those projects! The first thing on our agenda was to replace the coil on the mower before the grass gets taller than we are. We got the flywheel off with the help of Jerry's gear puller (and without the help of Jerry, who really wanted to come and do it himself - neener) and got the new coil put on. There were cooked wires on the old one, which gave us hope that we'd finally found the right part to replace, so we hooked everything up, but the motor back together, crossed our fingers and fired it up.

A cloud of smoke came billowing out of the engine ... exactly like the cloud of smoke that came billowing out the last time it almost started ... and after re-dismantling it we saw that the new coil was cooked in exactly the same way as the old one. AHA! We're onto something! What we're onto is still a little mysterious, but we know now that it's another layer of electro-mechanics deeper than the coil ... so that's something.

We drove into town to order another coil, and hopefully by the time it arrives we'll have done some more research into the 1967 Tecumseh mower engine and we can avoid blowing it up. Either that, or we'll let Jerry come and fix it. It feels like defeat, but not as much defeat as paying the John Deere people to fix it OR being consumed by the grass ... and Jerry will let us help! : )

Since we were in town in the middle of a week day, which we rarely are, we stopped in at the antiques and collectibles store, where we stumbled across the perfect loveseat for our little house! It was newly reupholstered, comfy as hell, fit in the pickup truck and our budget, and it looks rustic and homey with our wood paneling behind it and Melon Kiwi sleeping on it. It's everything a loveseat should be!


After all that excitement, we decided it was time to go fishing! We picked up some nightcrawlers, packed some beers in the cooler, gathered up the fishin' pole, tackle box, folding chairs and reading material and headed out to the State Pond to see if Ev could catch us some dinner.

She barely got her line wet when the cold wind whipped up and it started to rain.
Oh well ... it was an excuse to go driving around taking pictures of stuff. The first thing I wanted to take pictures of is this great old building by the State Pond. It was built in the 1920's and used to be the county waterworks.

It's been abandoned for years and there's not a pane of glass left in it, but I just fell in love with this place the first time I saw it. Maybe I've seen too much HGTV, but I have a secret yen to live in a converted commercial building, and this is the one. Today we got bonus lucky and found a couple of doors open, so we got to prowl around inside.


In the exterior shot, you can see the huge two-story windows on the front and sides, and between those front windows (under the boards) there are glass and wood double doors (seen here from the inside).

I'm not sure what I'd use this loft area for, but I'm thinking it would be a great place for a huge kitchen overlooking the living area with the twenty foot walls of glass.

This interior shot is also from the tiled deck of the main building, which holds a whole lot of steel pipes, the big festering water tank you can barely see in the shot above, and a lot of birds. That floor is six-inch-square red clay tiles that are almost all in perfect condition, and the walls are all painted brick and in great shape.

In the bedroom area at the back of the building there's a handy freigh elevator for when we move the furniture in.



There are two water storage tanks in the yard, one of which we could convert into a swimming pool once we got the weird blades and rotors and aerators out of them, and theres a great metal stairway, deck and catwalk for conversion into a pool deck.


It also has it's own storm cellar / bomb shelter / wine and fruit cellar!
I thought I was probably the only person in Southern Illinois weird enough to think this would make a great house, but apparently I'm not. Ev says people have approached the county water department before and tried to buy it, but they aren't selling.


Well ... maybe they weren't selling the last however many times someone asked ... but maybe they'd reconsider if just one more person put in an offer ... hmmm???

Anyone want to buy (and remove and haul off) a few tons of scrap iron and steel pipes?

Kwach

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why Earl Scheib Is My New Best Friend

Our collection of crappy pickup trucks are growing in an amoeboid fashion, like they're undergoing mitotic asexual reproduction. If I leave one crappy pickup out in the rain overnight, in the morning there are two! *

At this rate, in six weeks we'll have 4,400,000,000,000 crappy pickups, or 4.4 quintillion crappy pickups for you math scholars.

However, the downside to that is that I've got them both running pretty well, but they look...well, crappy. I checked into having them painted locally and found out that it would cost more than either of them are worth., because the auto body shops here have pride in their work.

And that's why I plan to sand and Bondo and primer them...starting tomorrow. If I can get them in reasonably good condition on the outside, I can take them to St. Louis get them an Earl Scheib paint job. ANY VEHICLE...ONLY $99! THAT'S RIGHT! ANY VEHICLE! ONLY $99! Earl doesn't have any standards at all. He'll put a crappy paint job on a crappy pickup and sleep like a baby at night, knowing that he's screwed another hundred customers out of $99 that day.

And really, that's all I'm looking for. Earl and I are totally on the same page with this.

I think this $300 eBay pickup truck hobby is beginning to wrap around to an obsession. After all, I still have more kids than I have crappy pickups, so my work here isn't done yet.

Bartender! Crappy pickups for all my friends! Wood project be damned. If I'm going to have 4.4 quintillion pickup trucks to work on, I'd better get moving!

*But the dog sure is cute, isn't she? And I'm going to put the hose away right after I water the plants, I swear.

The Godzilla Mutation

Last night we got an order from a doctor's office asking for a DNA test for "the Gzozilla Mutation".

???

What the hell was he asking for? We finally decided that it must be the Godzilla Mutation, which ought to be easy to ascertain visually due to the tendency to grow 50 feet tall with scaly skin.

However, the Godzilla Mutation would be preferable to the Mothra Mutation, since Godzilla usually comes out better in their epic battles.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Spamalot



Most of us know that Andy Rooney never spouted a racist, sexist diatribe on 60 Minutes. In fact, here is what Andy Rooney said in 2003 about the infamous "AMEN, ANDY ROONEY!" spam that seems to be making the rounds (yet again):

"Hundreds of people have written asking me if I really wrote the 20 detestable remarks made under my name that have had such wide circulation on the Internet.

Some of the remarks, which I will not repeat here, are viciously racist and the spirit of the whole thing is nasty, mean and totally inconsistent with my philosophy of life."

He goes on to say that the dissemination of this particularly nasty piece of crap has damaged his reputation and that if he could find the person who invented it, he'd sue them. I feel for him. It's apparent that he will never be free of this albatross. If the people who keep this thing going really admired Mr. Rooney so much, you'd think they'd a) realize it doesn't sound anything like him and b) stop making his life a living hell.

Ditto, George Carlin, who had nothing whatsoever to do with the strikingly similar e-mail attributed to him.

It never ceases to amaze me that there are so many gullible people in the world. But gullibility is one thing. What really irks me is the smirking, salivating, flag-waving, FORWARDING jerks who not only believe this crap but apparently agree with it enough to slap it into an e-mail and group-mail it to everyone whose screen name they're even vaguely familiar with.

Thus, the Rooney piece landed in my e-mail box this week, along with several other old Internet favorites, including that picture we've all received at some point from someone who thinks misogyny is a hoot, depicting a nude swimming woman who spouts water out of her ample bottom ... always titled "Save the Whales" or something equally heinous ... and some anti-immigration spam. I opened the mail because I vaguely recognized the sender's screen name from the AOL message boards, only to find that I had been included in a mass forwarding, along with many people I don't know from Adam. I deleted the e-mails, but was prompted to dash off the following "reply all":

Please, please, PLEASE .... PLEASE DO NOT send me any more Internet Spam. I don't want to receive forwarded flag-waving e-mail full of patriotic rhetoric and thinly veiled American White Supremacist jargon. How do I get off this e-mail list???????????????????????????????????

That was actually quite mild compared to what I really wanted to say, but it was apparently enough to set someone off. The following day I found this in my e-mail box, and dammit, it was just too good to keep to myself!

KWACHIE,

WELL, WHOMEVER THE HANG YOU ARE, I'VE NEVER HEARD OF YOU, YOU'RE NOT IN MY ADDY BOOK, YOUR NAME AND BIRTHDAY AREN'T REGISTERED THERE. SO - WHOMEVER YOU ARE YOU MUST HAVE MISTAKEN ME FOR SOMEONE ELSE or DID A REPLY ALL ICON UPON ONE OF THE PERSONS LISTED IN YOUR ADDY LINES [ \/ BELOW \/ ]. AND I FURTHERMORE DO NOT APPRECIATE YOUR INTRUSION UPON MY SCREEN.

IT IS NOT MY HABIT SINCE I LONG AGO LEARNED OF PEOPLE WHO DISLIKE FORWARDS. I ONLY SEND THOSE EXCEPTIONAL ONES ALONG THEIR WAY LIKE A RARE SPECIES OF TRANSPARENT-WINGED BETTERFLY DISCOVERED IN THE RAIN FORRESTS OF SOUTH AMERICA AND THEIR WINGS GLOW IN THE DARK SO THOSE VILE PERSONS DESTROYING OUR PRECIOUS RAIN FORRESTS CAN CORRECT THEIR ERRING WAYS TO PROTECT RATHER THAN DESTROY! OR ANOTHER RARITY WAS A RECENT PICTURE OF SUNSET AT THE NORTH POLE. IT'S SHAME TO THE HUMAN SPECIES THAT WE ARE DESTROYING THESE FORRESTS AT THE RATE OF ONE FOOTBALL SIZED PIECE OF PER SECOND, ENOUGH BABIES DIE IN THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES DIE AT THE SAME RATE when laid on such a SAME SIZED FIELD. AND GLOBAL WARMING IS MELTING BOTH NORTH AND SOUTH POLAR ICE CAPS. IT IS MY PRAYER THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THAT WE BOTH HAVE MORE PRESSING THINGS WITH WHICH WE COULD DEVOTE OUR TIME, EFFORTS AND THINKING AS OPPOSED TO SUCH CLISED-MINDED (MOST OBVIOUSLY) BIGGOTED PERSONS SUCH AS YOURSELF.

I AM MOST DEFINITELY A PRECIOUS SENSITIVE WITH IMPECCABLE CREDENTIALS, BOTH PERSONALLY AWA HIGHLY TRAINED AND CAPABLE PROFESSIONAL PRIOR TO A GRADE SIX TUMOR FORMING AND ATE UP THE RIGHT, FRONT TWO-THIRDS OF MY BRAIN.

FURTHERMORE, I DO NOT APPRECIATE YOUR SLANDEROUS REMARKS ENDING UP IN MY MAILBOX OBVIOUSLY GENERATED BY POSSIBLY A CLOSED-MINDED BIGOT WITH NO RESPECT AT ALL FOR THE FEELINGS OF SOMEONE SUCH AS MYSELF.

AND BESIDES ALL THESE THINGS, YOU WILL DISCOVER MY E-SIGNATURE BELOW THE TEXT OF THIS EMAIL FOR SIMPLE REASON IS I DON'T REALLY CARE IT SOMEONE KNOWS WHO I AM - AT FIRST ABOVE ALL THINGS ELSE OTHER THAN THESE I LOATHE DESPISE AND DETEST THOSE WHO HIDE BEHIND UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, USELESS GENERIC USERNAMES. TALK ABOUT BEING PIST OFF, I AM - ROYALLY. "IF" AND I REPEAT "IF" IT MIGHT ENLIGHTEN THEE I WOULDN'T TAKE ANY MORE OF YOUR TIME ATTEMPTING TO EXPLAIN SUCH A THING TO SOMEONE SUCH AS YOU. WHY? BECAUSE I WOULD NEED LANGUAGE ON A BASE LEVEL AND IF I USED MY OWN IT WOULD BE FAR ABOVE YOUR HEAD AND MOST OBVIOUSLY YOUR LEVEL OF INTELLECT AND YOU'D NO DOUBT NEED USE OF A DICTIONARY (POSSIBLY) TO EVEN UNDERSTAND MY REPLY.

FURTHER COMMUNICATION WITH ME WILL BE REPORTED TO AOL AS SPAM.

I love the way she worked in the rare Transparent-Winged-Betterfly (sic), the Rain Forrest (sic), the image of the football field full of dead third world babies, the melting ice caps and the tumor that ate 2/3 of her brain, all while calling me a clised-minded biggot (sic) for asking not to be part of her forward-a-thon of hate speech, and suggesting that I might need a dictionary to understand her. Um. I don't think a dictionary would help.

And really, it's icing on the cake to threaten to report me for spamming.

Boy, was she pist (sic)!

Kwach

More Southern Illinois Fun


As a relative newcomer to Southern Illinois, I’d like to take this opportunity to add my commentary on a few of the Things I Have Learned From Living in Southern Illinois.....


1. Possums sleep in the middle of the road with their feet in the air.

Raccoons sleep on the shoulder, grinning at you. Deer sleep sort of smeared between mile markers. The guy who drives his loud-ass motorcycle up Old 51 at 80 mph never sleeps.

2. Iced tea is appropriate for all meals and you start drinking it when you're two.

There are two varieties of tea. “Sweet”and “unsweet.” Sweet is better!

3. DJeet? is actually a phrase meaning "Did you eat?"

The correct response is, “No. Djew?”

4. You measure distance in minutes.

And I love that!

5. You've had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.

Sometimes you have to run one in the living room and the other in the bedroom. Handily, you can do that since the heater sets on yer floor and the A/C hangs in yer winder.

6. "Fix" is a verb. Example: "I'm fixing to go to the store."

There are a variety of ways to pronounce that, none of them having an actual “ing” ending. So far I‘ve heard “finta” … "fidna" ... “fittna” … “fittin’ ta”… and “fixin’ta.” "Fixin' ta" is the fanciest.

7. All the festivals across the state are named after a fruit, vegetable, grain, insect or animal.

Except Makanda Fest. Which reminds me, Fest Season is almost upon us! Wooohoooo!

8. You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.

That’s because they aren’t security lights. They’re the lights you use to see your way to the shed, or find the dawg when she’s outside. It’s DARK in Southern Illinois!

30. It's your God-given right to drive with a beer between your knees, and "Too drunk to walk" is a reasonable excuse for driving drunk.


Okay, I'd almost be willing to bet that Ev added that last one ... she's been telling me that for years. She also tells me it's a fine old tradition in Southern Illinois to park on the lawn “like the good Lord intended.”


Now, allow me to add a few other things I’ve personally learned from living in Southern Illinois:

1. The phrase “I don’t care to” means “I don’t mind” … NOT (as it means everywhere else) “I don’t want to.” So if your co-worker says “I don’t care to help you” or “I don’t care to pick up lunch for you,” she’s being friendly and cooperative … not a snotty bitch.

2. Don’t let that first heat wave in April fool you into planting anything. Just because it’s 80 degrees one week doesn’t mean it’s not going to snow the next week.

3. If you don’t have money for gas, the nice girl at the One Stop will let you fill up and pay for it later.

4. Everyone will think you’re crazy if you have indoor pets … especially cats.

5. There are three ways to get anywhere. If you think you’re lost, don’t panic … just keep going … you’ll eventually come out somewhere familiar, and it will often be within five miles of home.

6. Deer are not doe-eyed, innocent, Bambi-like creatures. They are suicidal maniacs hell-bent on taking you out with them. As the guy at the body shop explained when he was writing up the estimate to replace half of Ev’s SUV, “You know why they stand on the shoulder, don’t you? They’re car shopping.”


Kwach

Fun For Southern Illinoisans (and probably not so much for the rest of you.)

My friend Robin sent this to me. We spent our formative years living down the road from each other, five minutes apart, in Southern Illinois. I came back, she hasn't yet. But she will...they all do. Bwa-ha-ha!

Things I Have Learned From Living in Southern Illinois.....

1. Possums sleep in the middle of the road with their feet in the air.

2. There are 5,000 types of snakes on earth and 4,998 live in Southern Illinois.

3. There are 10,000 types of spiders. All 10,000 live in Southern Illinois plus a couple no one's seen before.

4. If it grows, it sticks; if it crawls, it bites.

5. Onced and Twiced are words.

6. Houses have "Winders" and "Windas", never has a window been seen South of I-64.

7. People actually grow and eat okra.

8. There is no such thing as "lunch." There is only dinner and then there is supper.

9. Iced tea is appropriate for all meals and you start drinking it when you're two.

10. Backards and forwards means "I know everything about you."

11.DJeet? is actually a phrase meaning "Did you eat?"

12. You don't have to wear a watch because it doesn't matter what time it is. You work until you're done or it's too dark to see.

13. You know the distance between stops on "The Wine Trail".

14. You measure distance in minutes.

15. You've had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.

16. You know who/which store has the best deal on cases of Natural Light beer.

17. "Fix" is a verb. Example: "I'm fixing to go to the store."

18. All the festivals across the state are named after a fruit, vegetable, grain, insect or animal.

19. You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.

20. You know what a "DAWG" is.

21. You carry jumper cables in your car . . . for your OWN car.

22. There are only four spices: salt, pepper, Tabasco and ketchup.

23. The local papers cover national and international news on one page, but require 6 pages for local gossip and sports.

24. The first day of deer season is a holiday, and the schools and businesses are closed.

25. 100 degrees Fahrenheit "a little warm." We have four seasons: Summer, still Summer, Christmas, and Mud.

26. Going to Wal-mart is a favorite past time known as "goin' Wal-martin" or off to "Wally World."

27. A cool snap (below 70 degrees) is good pinto-bean weather.

28. Fried catfish is the other white meat.

29. We don't need no stinking driver's ed . . . if our mama says we can drive, we can drive.

30. It's your God-given right to drive with a beer between your knees, and "Too drunk to walk" is a reasonable excuse for driving drunk.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Solution to Campus Violence? More Guns!

I was listening to NPR's Talk of the Nation on my way home from work tonight, and they were talking about the shootings at Virginia Tech. Okay...remember NPR? Part of the liberal-biased media?

About 90% of the calls were from people advocating the arming of campus security, professors and/or students.

The secret to less gun violence is for everyone to carry a gun? That seems a little...hmmm...logically challenged. And shocking, at least to me, that it is widely advocated by tree-hugging, criminal-coddling, pro-fetus murdering NPR listeners.

The almost universal consensus among the callers is that if every human on campus were carrying a concealed handgun, they could have blown that little slant-eyed bastard back into the stone age. Except I never heard anyone mention how many of the other vigilantes would have gotten blown into that same stone age when everyone reached into their backpacks and came out shootin'. Because in the midst of a firefight, I hear it gets a little confusing. And that guy standing next to you with his gun out may be the bad guy, or he may be another concerned citizen. Better to shoot first and ask questions later?

And that's in addition to the obvious seductive impulse to blow away Professor So-and-so when you find out that you just failed his class and you won't be graduating, even though your entire family is coming down to see you in your cap and gown.

Oh, yeah. More guns in the hands of unstable adolescents. That's the ticket! Why didn't I think of that?

When is an ex-Presidential Candidate a DJ? uhhh...Never.

Last night on my way home from work I heard ex-Senator Bill Bradley, whom I would have voted for for president if he would have stuck around that long, DJ-ing a radio show on Sirius Radio.

And calling it the Senator Bradley show didn't help, nor did his self-consciously eclectic song selection, meant to highlight the goodness of America. There was something about the juxtaposition of Bill Bradley, Arlo Guthrie, and Gloria Gaynor that made the experience feel like a Saturday Night Live sketch. I guess when you're an ex-Senator, you can do whatever the hell you want, but he sounded distinctly uncomfortable and wooden...which makes me uncomfortable, since I'm acutely sensitive to situations in which the protagonist ought to feel like an ass, but is too thickheaded to realize it.

Not that that happens to me.

So I already don't love Sirius Radio on Sunday nights because they insist on playing Jazz Profiles on both NPR stations. This accidental exposure to catching one of my political heroes metaphorically playing with himself will certainly clinch my aversion to Sunday night Sirius. I'm going to have to remember to carry more CDs in the truck to avoid trauma like this in the future.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saving Lives Since 2004...One Life At A Time.

So I think it's the height of ironic that on my way home from saving the lives tonight, I almost took someone's, instead.

I drive through a small town on my way home from the hospital at 11 o'clock each night. The main drag has a popular storefront bar with parking across the road, and after 10 or 15 beers, the rules of careful road crossing get a little vague for the patrons.

And I know this. This is NOT my first Saturday night driving past Fuzzy's Bar, so I'm careful. But tonight's drunk was sort of deceptive. She looked like she was making good progress across the street towards the bar...until she fell to one knee in front of my truck.

Lucky for her one of us was sober, because after standing on my brakes and making a satisfyingly scary squealing noise that I hope will haunt her dreams tonight, I managed to stop before my bumper made contact with her skull...not that she'd have actually felt it. But I would have had to spend half the night filling out forms at the County Sheriff's office and probably wouldn't have gotten home in time for coconut cream pie.

So, I'm once again struck by my sainthood. Not only did I save the lives of all the poor innocents in the ER, but I saved the nice intoxicated woman laying down to rest in the road.

St. Evie of the Lab. I wonder if I can get an icon of that? Maybe a beatific woman holding a serial pipetter in one hand and a piece of pie in the other?

Ask Your Doctor If Cialis Is Right For You.

I have a confession to make: I have E.D.

I know this, because the commercial for Cialis tells me it can happen to anyone. I'm someone, and I've never been able to generate an erection, ergo...E.D.

I've also determined that I have Autism, ADHD, Feline Leukemia, and the Heartbreak of Psoriasis. I have social anxiety, thinning bones, and the inability to produce red cells from my cancer treatment. That's the great thing about pharmaceutical companies...they're willing to diagnose us via TV, and urge us to "ask our doctor."

But my doctor is much too conservative. He won't give me the uppers and downers and side-to-siders required for my debilitating conditions. Therefore I have to seek solace in beer, power tools, and cheap women.

Luckily, that's working for me so far. But when the feline leukemia flares up, I'm really going to need the erythropoitin.

Attention!...(It's Not Just For Soldiers Anymore.)

Okay, this is what I've noticed about attention:

If the average person has X units of attention in their attention reservoir, the way they choose to divide it has a characteristic look to it at certain times of their life.

Say that we each have 100 units of attention. During the early parenting years, 95 of them are spent on kids, 5 spent on spouse, none spent on ourselves. Later, as the kids get older, 50 of them are spent on kids, 30 are spent on spouse, and 20 are tentatively spent on ourselves...but we feel guilty the whole time.

So finally the kids are grown. Suddenly your daily allotment of attention units are up for grabs, and it becomes a little mini-crisis to decide how to use them. Suddenly free will has come back into your life...and you freak out.

Which is why, in your mid '40s, you decide that you need to put in a half acre garden and become a combination of Bob Villa and a New York Times book reviewer. Because the precious commodity of attention units are languishing unused on your mental shelf, and you're afraid that if you don't take them down and exercise them, they'll go the way of all your other unexercised parts.

Balance. That's the objective. Write that down, Lori.
And speaking of flight suits:

What happened at NASA yesterday? Apparently not enough to make it newsworthy, because it's been relegated to the back pages of the national papers. It looks like the bar is rising for murder sprees.

Remember that old journalism standard? It takes ten little foreign brown people dying to equal the news value of one American? It's beginning to look like it takes ten domestic murders-at-work to be newsworthy at all.
There's a lot of pressure.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Mission Accomplished!

Aha! I get it now! When Bush was standing on the deck of that aircraft carrier four years ago, we all thought he was talking about the war. But really he was talking about his garden!

He actually meant that he had planned his garden and started his seeds! Whoops! Talk about a major communication breakdown. Our bad.

So in the interest of clarity, let me just say unequivocally: Mission accomplished. The seeds are started.

Should I be wearing a flight suit for that announcement?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Public Declaration of Ambition

Last year when we moved here we managed to pack up an entire U-Haul worth of stuff without bringing anything to sit on, so the first thing I did after we settled in a little was make a couple of adirondack chairs and a little table for the porch.

Almost immediately, my neighbor came over to tell me I should be making them by the hundreds and selling them. Okay...c'mon. They're comfortable and nice looking, but they're adirondack chairs. You make them with lumber, decking screws and a circular saw. This is not fine woodworking.

Had I known at the time that this would be my last wood project for a year, however, I might have taken some extra time to make a dozen more and at least get something accomplished. Because at this point, the only thing I've done with wood in the last year is gather it up from the yard and set it on fire.

So next week I have a five day weekend, and I'm hungering for a nice productive wood project. I think I may have to actually schedule recreational activities into my long weekend so I don't let it slip away.

I want to start a wood project...and I don't have a clue yet what that will be. Also, I'd like to till up a patch of the yard for an actual garden this year, and not just the tomato patch in front of the porch like last year. And lastly, I want to spend a day fishing.

And I know me...if I don't set some goals around those leisurely sounding projects, I'll sit around the house, sleep 'til noon, watch Netflixs, and the next thing I know, my mini-vacation will be over.

So...here's my plan:

Tomorrow, I'll buy seeds and start them in flats.

This weekend, I'm going to pick a spot for the garden, and pick a wood project.

Wednesday, since it's the day before payday, I'll buy chicken wire, 1 x 2s and maybe a compressor to run my air tools...and put together a fence. If there's any time left over, I'll fish. And drink beer.

Thursday: I'll buy a tiller and tear up the yard. After my arms stop shaking, I'll go to the wood store and pick up whatever I need for whatever I'm going to make.

Friday: I'll continue working on the garden project and the wood project, and fix whatever I screwed up the previous two days.

And if I can get that far, I'll be supremely happy with myself.

And now that I have a written record, I'll have something to look back at next week when I'll have forgotten I had these grand ideas. As always, pictures will follow. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

WWPRD? What Would Paul Revere Do?

I looked at the header to the Jane Smiley essay, and the date caught my eye: It's the anniversary of Paul Revere's ride.

Paul Revere's Ride
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend,
"If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,
--One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."


This seems to me to be the only reason for the second amendment, and that time has long since passed. In 1775, when we were without a standing army and didn't have a National Guard unit in every community, and we were under threat of attack by a foreign nation...it made sense. In this time? Not so much.

And don't you wonder what the Founding Fathers would have thought about this bastardization of their lofty ideals? I'm pretty sure they weren't supporting the right of every unhinged college student to go on a killing spree at the university of his choice, or every bitter truck driver to shoot up a schoolroom full of little girls, or every angry husband to shoot his uppity wife.

Well...maybe that last one. The Founding Fathers weren't much into feminism.

When the Bush's first reaction was horror, followed closely by his reaffirmation of support for the right to bear arms, do you suppose he recognized for a moment the cause and effect of those two? That maybe without an extremely well-armed citizenry, these sorts of attacks wouldn't be happening? It's hard to imagine that this slightly-built young man from Virginia Tech would have roamed the campus clubbing 30 people to death without someone successfully intervening.

Like Homer Simpson said when he found out there would be a three day waiting period for his gun purchase, "But I'm angry now!"

Maybe in a time as hectic and stressful as ours, when tempers seem short and we're not much into impulse control...maybe universal gun ownership (whisper this part) is a bad idea.


Yeah...What She Said.

What I Think About Guns

By Jane Smiley, HuffingtonPost.com
Posted on April 18, 2007, Printed on April 18, 2007
http://www.alternet.org/story/50697/

Some years ago, I was talking to a man about guns.

At the time, I didn't really know anyone with guns (still don't), but he did. He had had guns himself. He said, "I gave my gun away, because when I had it, every time something happened that made me mad, my mind would start circling around that gun, and I would be thinking about using it. So I got rid of it and I'm glad I did."

Right up front I will say that I am opposed to casual gun ownership, but I also realize that Americans will always have guns. Period. It's a national fetish. But the mental state my interlocutor was describing years ago is the price we have to pay, along with, of course, the accidental deaths of children and other unprepared and careless people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and in proximity to the wrong gun.

What I would like is for the gun-toting right wing to admit that there is a price we pay, that senseless accidental deaths and traumas are a national cost and that it's not so clear that it's worth it, but hey, we pay it anyway because so many guns are in the hands of so many people that there would never be any getting rid of them.

I would like the right wing to admit that guns are not "good" and that the right to bear arms is not an absolute virtue and that the deaths in the US caused by guns are at least as problematic, philosophically, as abortion. But I'm not holding my breath.

I hadn't intended to write about guns today -- my original source of outrage was the op-ed in the New York Times that related the saga of Georgia Thompson, who worked for the State of Wisconsin. In the course of doing her job, she put the state's travel business out for bids. She chose the lowest bidder, but because, unbeknownst to her, the travel agency making that bid had donated to the Democratic candidate, the Republican campaign accused her of corruption, and -- pay attention, this is the scary part -- the federal prosecuting attorney drummed up a case against her, and got her put in jail. Right before the election. As part of the Republican gubernatorial campaign.

Imagine how Kafka-esque all of this seemed to Ms. Thompson -- the Republicans (possibly at the behest of Washington) destroyed her life for no reason other than political gain, and with so little evidence that the appeals court who just released her was appalled and astonished.
But Ms. Thompson and guns do have a bit of a connection in the eyes of the right wing. Some weeks ago, I blogged about the attorneys scandal as it was just coming to light. My fear was that the federal attorneys were being groomed to either exonerate members of the Bush administration who might otherwise be convicted of breaking laws, or else to drum up show trials against opponents and get rid of them (bingo).

My first piece elicited lots of responses. Many of them were schadenfreudenish exclamations of right wing glee -- if Bush declared martial law, that would show us gun-control adherents, because it would be the well-armed second amendment fanatics who would be able to save themselves from the martial law round-up, while those of us who have no guns would, I assume, be marched off to our detention centers.

Their implication was that the right wing was going to protect us from the right wing. My own view was that the trigger-happy ones were probably going to enlist in private mercenary armies and continue disdaining and condemning us wimps for putting them in such a compromising position as making them have to shoot us.

But that's how it is with the right wing, isn't it? Grievance is something they do, no matter how much power they have. They are shocked, shocked, that they don't have all the power, shocked and victimized and angry.

You could tell it in Bush's response to today's shooting. First he said he was shocked and saddened. Then he said everyone has the right to bear arms. He wouldn't want to let any of those NRA-types imagine for a second that any amount of senseless killing could possibly shake his commitment to a fully-armed populace.

Here's what I think about guns -- guns have no other purpose than killing someone or something. All the other murder weapons Americans use, from automobiles to blunt objects, exist for another purpose and sometimes are used to kill.

But guns are manufactured and bought to kill. They invite their owners to think about killing, to practice killing, and, eventually, to kill, if not other people, then animals.

They are objects of temptation, and every so often, someone comes along who cannot resist the temptation -- someone who would not have murdered, or murdered so many, if he did not have a gun, if he were reduced to a knife or a bludgeon or his own strength.

I wish that the right wing would admit that, while people kill people and even an "automatic" weapon needs a shooter, people with guns kill more people than people without guns do.

Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/50697/

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Day Late and A Dollar Short...As Usual

I know I'm the last to arrive at the table on the Don Imus controversy. I think that's because my initial reaction is that it's a no-brainer. The guy's a boorish moron, but we live in a country in which even boorish morons have the right to speak.

However, we all have the right to not listen, and that's what I've chosen to do. And advertisers have the right to vote with their feet...and that's what they've apparently chosen to do. If Imus wants to stand on a street corner loudly insulting blacks, gays, women, jews, etc., that's his right as an American, and I'll defend it. But that doesn't mean I have to stand on the street corner and listen. Or tune in and hear him on the radio. Or even buy the products of his sponsors.

So...do I think he ought to be silenced? No. But we're a market-driven society, and if no one's listening, and no one's buying the sponsor's product, he's no longer an asset to the radio station and they have every right to fire him.

And then he's welcome, as an American, to head for any street corner with his sidekick and shout out anything he wants to anyone who'll listen.

Yay for free speech.

I Had a Dreamsicle...

I slept in this morning...like, forever...which is always a surprise to us insomniacs. I'm glad I did, though, because it gave me time to have an odd dream that stuck with me.

I dreamed that Lori and I were walking through a huge building, down a long, wide hallway. It had lots of turns and corners, and around each corner was something odd and unexpected. Sometimes it was cool little shops or people we were excited to see. Sometimes it was people we weren't excited to see, and scary places we didn't want to go.

Well, okay. Can you get any more Freudian than that?

I've been thinking about it all day. How good and safe it felt to be walking with someone I love and trust on an unknown journey. During the three years we've been together, we've had some major stuff to struggle through, but we've stuck together and the payoff has been some nifty, unexpected surprises. We've both gotten braver by taking risks that have turned out well for us. I guess that's the thing to remember. Acknowledge the bad stuff, but remember to appreciate the good stuff...and stick together.

Oh...and then I dreamed we had fantastic sex. I think I'm ovulating. Life is good. :-)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Not All Mondays Suck


We all have those days when everything we touch turns to crap, but you gotta love those days when everything just goes right ...

I woke up this morning thinking, "Awwwwww crap, I don't want it to be Monday yet!" But I'm all responsible and shit, so I rolled out of bed and got ready for work.

I was headed to the Illinois office, so that took some of the sting out of it, because I love that office ... and then halfway there I had my first real "yippeeeee!" moment when it dawned on me that the doctor was out today, so I'd be spending the day doing paperwork quietly by myself, which is my favorite way to spend my work day. Right away I was at least 50% happier.

When I got to the office I found out I was going to spend the day learning their surgery scheduling and paperwork ... because they're probably going to be scheduling me more days at the Illinois office ... second "yippeee!"

Surgery scheduling and paperwork is second nature to me, so I took to it like a duck to water and the morning pretty much flew by. So I'm there whizzing through the charts and organizing the paperwork when my co-worker said, "Do you want to go now or finish that chart? You're only scheduled till noon." It never occurred to me to look at the "end" time on my schedule. I just show up at the "start" time and work till there's no more work to do. But okay, now I'm 100% happier than I was four hours ago!

I left the office with several stolen hours of weekday I wasn't expecting to have, laid out before me like a buffet table.

For my first course I chose a haircut. I had a lot of fun chatting and laughing with my hair cutter, and then treated myself to a good smelling new tea tree hair product for volumizing and texturizing my spiffy hairdo ... and what the hell, I bought the tea tree lip balm to go with it.

After the appetizer, it was on to the Big Box Store for the main course. I wandered around looking at things I don't ordinarily have time to wander around and look at, then purchased a whole bunch of girly stuff with which to pamper myself. There's some lavender bubble bath, a box of haircolor with "multi-faceted shimmering highlights," a do-it-yourself glycolic peel kit, a new shade of lipstick and a $10 watch that doesn't look like a $10 watch. I also bought a picture frame for the antique Virgin of Guadalupe made of microscopically tiny pieces of colored wheat my friend Karen sent me last Christmas, which we finally have a place for since we bought new bookcases over the weekend to house the 30 books we bought at the library book sale.

When we bought the bookcases that meant we had to rearrange the living room, which meant we had to Spring clean the living room, so on top of having an unexpected afternoon off, I also didn't have any housework guilt while I was out getting shorn and buying girly stuff.

For dessert I stopped at the AJ One Stop for chocolate and cigarettes, and helped a frail elderly woman carry a thirty pack of beer to her car because it was too heavy for her. Her yappy little chihuahua bit my hand, but he had really little teeth, so he only managed to puncture one knuckle. She was very grateful for the toting, and apologetic about the slight bleeding, and I was happy I could do someone a favor when I was having such a good day of my own.

On top of all that, I came home and read Ev's blog about the little house vs big house dilemma and I was struck again by how nice it is to be so compatible with someone that you can say, "Yeah, I know the other house is newer and has more bathrooms and a bigger kitchen, and I know it has central air and a fireplace, and I know the rooms are bigger ... but this one is kind of quaint and quirky and I really like it, quirks and all," and know they aren't going to to think you're nuts.

Oh, and speaking of nuts, the pan of frosted walnut brownies we baked yesterday is in the kitchen, calling my name.

So the moral of today's blog is that I love my little bitty life, where a half day off, a haircut and a few bucks worth of beauty products can feel like a day at the spa, and where people ask strangers for help carrying their beer to the car and other people are happy to oblige them. I love coming home to this little bitty house, and I love sharing this little bitty life with Ev.

Kwach

How Much Do I Love Change?

The dilemma:

We live in a little three bedroom house (okay, maybe not this little), on three acres that we share with our landlord and his family. We live on the northwest corner of the property and they live on the southeast, so our daily interactions are pretty much confined to waving at each other when we drive down the driveway or making an intentional foray when we need to see him for something.

He's a great guy and they're great neighbors. We love living here and we plan to stay until Katie graduates high school and we can move way, way out in the country.

Okay...the dilemma part is that he bought a new house on more land, and he'll be renting out both houses now. We're dithering about whether to move over into his house, which is much bigger (but maybe not quite this big), or stay here where we know we're happy.

Our house is old and small with inadequate outlets and small bedrooms. But it's comfortable and homey, has an excellent porch for porch sitting, and a big shady backyard. His is much bigger and newer, with a fireplace and a deck and modern wiring. But we love living in this little house.

Decision, decisions.


We've got until June to decide, and we've already changed our minds about 15 times. Luckily, we haven't told him any of that...we'd probably seem ever weirder than we already do.

I think the problem is that I ought to be excited about a bigger, newer house, but I like this one.

Hmmm...

The good thing about time is that it continues to happen, whether you're prepared or not. So either way, June will arrive and a plan will make itself known to us. If Carrie gets here and loves this little house, we'll move out of it and let her and Tyler live here. If she hates it, we'll probably stay.

Either way, we'll mow the grass, plant the garden, sit on the porch and fret about our kids and our jobs, and life will be good...so I guess it doesn't matter too much which box we're surrounded by.

Tsotsi

As the Car Talk guys say at the end of their show, "Well, once again you've wasted another hour." Lori and I puttered away the weekend on low stress activities, which we needed after our high stress week. The weekend came in like a lion of seizure-driven misery and want out like a docile puppy dog. We spent a couple of quiet days shopping for books, rearranging the furniture and cooking. Nest-y stuff.

Yesterday we watched a Netflick called Tsotsi, about a young South African street thug who carjacks a car and shoots the woman driving it, then realizes there is a baby in the back seat. Tsotsi considers abandoning the baby with the car, but eventually takes it with him into the Township. He's clueless about how to take care of it, and ambivalent about whether he wants to. He only dimly remembers his own tumultuous childhood, but over the length of the movie he finds a pocket of unexpected humanity.

It was an excellent story with a fascinating backdrop of South African Township life. Be forewarned, there'll be crying. Oh...and it's subtitled, so wear your glasses.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I've Got An Idea!


You know how sometimes you get a phrase stuck in your head?
The phrase that keeps going through my head today is, "We're all wearing the blue dress now."

I keep remembering how rabidly the Republicans pursued Clinton over his tryst with Monica Lewinski. Like he had, oh, I don't know...let's say...like he'd lied repeatedly to get us into a quagmire of a war with no provocation, no hope of success, and no way out.

Remember all that? All those hearings and votes for impeachment and all that gravitas associated with Clinton's lie about getting a blowjob from someone who wasn't his wife? Remember all the moral outrage?

Okay, now...who remembers the Constitution? The Patriot Act? How about the War Powers Act? Habeus Corpus? Why is our Congress willing to dither and equivocate and rationalize about the gutting of our civil liberties, but they're appalled by sex?
How come we're not having hearings and voting for the impeachment of Bush? Why isn't a war that kills 100,000 people more outrageous than oral sex? I'd be willing to let the entire White House staff blow him until he couldn't walk if he'd end this dumbass war and let the prisoners at Guantanamo go home.

Hell yeah, George! Do all the interns you want! Lie about it until you're blue in the face, I don't give a damn. Just stop killing our kids, okay?

I'll tell you what: we'll take up a collection...maybe coffee cans on the counter at the 7-11 with your picture on them..for a plethora of hookers. A couple every day to keep you occupied until you leave the White House and we can have a real president. What do you say? I'd much rather see my federal dollars going for that than to this other kind of monument to your masculinity.

A couple of Viagra, a couple of hookers and a few all day sex marathons. THEN your dad will be impressed with what a big guy you are. And then we can apologize to the people of Iraq, pack up our tanks and missiles and Hummers and get the hell out of their way.
What do you say, Big Guy?

Happy Tax Day, America

Today is April 15th, and you know what that means: Taxes.

Since I'm the kind of person who has to pay, I'm also the kind of person who files on April 15th. However, this year we actually get until the 17th to get it done, so I'm feeling positively virtuous by having it done on the 15th.

Part of my procrastination is because...well...I'm a procrastinator. But the other part is that I can't quite reconcile the domestic problems that are untended in this country with the massive outlay of dollars...tax dollars...my tax dollars...that is being spent to destroy Iraq and it's citizenry.

C'mon, George! We've already plunged them into civil war and destabilized the region. Now can we address the massive national budget shortfalls for a while?

I bitterly resent my tax dollars being spent on this war, about as much as I resent being forced to provide "homeland security" for Wyoming because it's Dick Cheney's home state.

I know if I were a terrorist, Wyoming would be my first target.

For some reason, more homeland security dollars are spent in places like Wyoming and Montana per capita than in places like New York and Los Angeles.

Even though I love Southern Illinois, it seems insane to me that my hospital got a multi-million dollar windfall from the homeland security budget. My lab alone received a super-duper quarter million dollar blood banking instrument with ongoing software issues. But hey...it'll protect us when Al Quaeda comes pouring into Southern Illinois and we need to crossmatch 20 people at a time.

So since I'm a pinko commie liberal, I'd like my share of the annual tax windfall to be spent on protecting Americans in a more tangible, meaningful way. Maybe on universal healthcare or development of alternative energy sources or a treatment for antibiotic resistant bacteria or something. Or hell, just patch I-57 once in a while; I'm not picky.

It just pisses me off that I work 2000 hours every year and pay into the system so that the army can have one more missile to blow up one more Iraqi wedding party.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut and Me

Several noteworth things happened in the last few days: Kurt Vonnegut died, and I took yet another trip to the ER. And really, if I don't stop that they're going to end up naming a wing after me.

So first the ER, and then Kurt Vonnegut.

I had a series of seizures in fairly rapid succession over the last couple of days. The neurologist said Get Thee to the ER for a large dose of Dilantin to stop the cascading effect, and off I went like a good little patient. And indeed, they checked my pulse, shined a light in my eyes, pronounced me basically healthy and gave me a massive dose of Dilantin. On top of the fairly massive dose of Lamictal I already take. That was yesterday morning at 10-ish. Today at 5:30-ish, 19 hours later, I feel like my eyeballs have stopped rolling around in my skull enough to blog about it.

Each seizure lowers the threshold for the next one, so they tend to come in waves like that. The reason we must control them, as he tells me ad naseum, is that they scar the area of the brain that's firing, and eventually kill that patch of brain cells. For me that would be the hippocampus, which is in charge of my already porous memory, and the sensory cortex, which is in charge of my five senses...which I hope to continue using for another good long while.

The moral of the story, kids, is never, ever put your skull in front of a speeding softball, or you'll be paying for it it ways you can't even imagine for decades.

And speaking of serendipity:

Kurt Vonnegut.

I love him. He wrote thin little novels packed with weighty ideas and presented in ways that made them so crystal-clear that his writing and his ideas helped clarify my generation. Slaughterhouse Five is one of the greatest anti-war novels of all time, with it's feckless hero, casual mayhem and wanton destruction. The take home message? There, but for the grace of God, goes all of us.

He wrote novels about war and evolution and time and a thousand other things that people who haven't had a bunch of seizure meds could descibe. He wrote essays and poems, gave lectures at universities, and did interviews on Public Radio. He was gruff and insightful, witty and sensitive and could make whatever topic was in his head important to us as well. You could feel the war, and marvel at the short-sightedness of humans, admire the graceful adaptive ingenuity of nature.

Vonnegut wrote in that kind of stream-of-consciousness style that starts out looking like the Topic Drift From Hell, but eventually would wrap back around and tie up the subject with a bow. He used short sentences and short paragraphs to maximum effect, and was so eminently readable that I read my first Vonnegut novel in junior high and my last one last year. He was engaging and relevant for every age.

I'll miss him, both for his books and his pithiness. He said something once about the booze and the drugs and the mental illness eventually killing him, but he somehow made it to 84 and died from a common accident instead. A brain injury, in fact.

So it goes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In Appreciation of Cutmen and Sweepers


We have some friends from the old AOL boards, a couple who describe themselves as "A Prizefighter, and the best Cutman in the business." I love that analogy; it instantly brings an image to mind of the person who's out front getting the glory and the person who does all the work to makes it happen.

Think of it as a parallel to the cold-weather sport of curling. One person throws the big stone thingy, and one person sweeps furiously in front of it to give it a smooth path to glide over the ice on. It doesn't work without the glory person and the workhorse operating in tandem.

So in my job, I'm usually the Gloryperson. Someone brings me specimens, I analyze them, and then I call the doctors and tell them what I've found. I'm recognized as an expert, and I receive some respect for my work and my opinions.

Last night we were shorthanded and I was helping the Workhorses out in the front of the lab. The part of the lab where I normally work is a quiet, monastic environment full of humming machinary and studious people peering into microscopes. The area out front is mayhem. I was completely out of my league, and my only objectives were to not screw stuff up too badly for the people who actually do that work professionally, and not to look like a total ass before my shift ended and I could get the hell out of there.

I think I failed on both counts.

In my defense though, it was an extra odd night. I was humming along, receiving specimens and fielding phone calls and thinking, "This isn't too bad. I'm doing okay." Until a couple of things happened almost simultaneously. A woman came in after being hurt at work for a routine chain-of-custody drug screen for Worker's Comp, and a courier brought a box labelled "Human Eyes. Handle With Care."

I signed for the box, but I was thinking, "What the hell do I do with that??" One of the other techs and I consulted, and decided to call the doctor who's name was on the box and ask him about it.

He took the 10pm phone call graciously, and said that the box should be refrigerated and that one of his techs would be down to pick it up in the morning for surgery.

Okay, cool. Problem solved. Except that when I took the box to pathology to stick it in the path fridge, the fridge was pretty much filled up with an entire human leg, wrapped in plastic.

Well, fuck.

I'll admit I tried torquing the leg around a little...angling it in, bending it...trying to make the box fit. No dice.

So I looked in the other departments, and I found room for the box in the chemistry fridge. I knew that no one would know to look for it there, so I left a note on the lab clerks computer, "Dr. X's box of eyes is in the Chemistry fridge. His tech will pick them up in the morning."

In the meantime, we're all laughing. There's a note you never imagine you'll be writing. Ms. Chain-of-Custody drug screen and her husband are cracking up. He says, "I'm glad I came with her. This place is fun!"

And I told him, "It's not normally this much fun. In fact...I blame you. I've never seen either of you before, and I've never received a box of eyeballs before. Ergo, the two are related, and this is your fault."

They laughed at that even more. By then she'd finally drank enough water to be able to pee, she signed the forms and they got ready to leave. When they got to the door, he stopped, came back, and said, "Are y'all hiring by any chance? I want to work here."

I gave him an application and encouraged him to fill it out.

And thus, a lab career is born.

And by then, luckily, my shift was over and I got the hell out of there. But it'll be a long time before I make the mistake of underestimating the Cutmen and the Sweepers again. Their jobs are tough!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Happy Anniversary...I'm Gay

Today was my 24th wedding anniversary, which means that in a few minutes I'll have spent as much time as a lesbian as I did as a married faux-heterosexual.

We got married at 19, and I was married for 12 years. Which means, by my expert calculations, that I was pretending to be straight until I was 31. Now that I've been a practicing homosexual for 12 years (and all that practice has really paid off. I rarely have to consult the manual anymore), that means that I've given each option equal consideration. At 43, this is my big chance to once again shed this tiresome old sexual orientation and take up something new. Celibacy, anyone? Perhaps woman/cat love? Parthenogenesis?

The inescapable moment of truth came for me when my husband and his brother offered to take all three kids camping and give me a weekend alone. I hadn't had more than a few hours to myself in 8 years...since my oldest was born. I'd pretty much spent every waking moment of every day keeping busy so that I could avoid spending any time doing that kind of reflective thinking that inevitably leads to unwanted self-awareness.

So when I finally ran out of things to do, I decided to spend my three days of solitude having an existential crisis in which I reexamined my most fundamental beliefs about myself, and admitted the unavoidable truth about that pesky gender-orientation thing.

In retrospect, it would have been more relaxing to rent a movie.

However, at the end of my quiet weekend, I was no longer able to deny my gayness. In fact, when my ex-husband and I talk about that time now, I tell him it's his fault. "If you hadn't given me quiet time, I would never have had to face the fact that my whole life was a charade. So I blame you."

He's a good guy; he shoulders that responsiblity pretty well.

So now (since it's after midnight), I've spent more of my adult life identifying as a lesbian than a heterosexual, and it's a much better fit. I'd kick myself for being so intentionally obtuse for so many years, except that I feel like I got the best of everything; I have had the experience of raising three nifty kids and watching them grow to be fine adults. I spent 12 years married to a man who patiently fumbled into adulthood with me. Together, we learned that maturity isn't a windsprint...it's a marathon. No one's impressed with how many people you pass in the first mile, the important thing is how well you're holding up over time.

And now I have the relationship of a lifetime with a woman who's such an excellent fit for me that I feel like doing the "I could have had a V-8" head smack for not finding her sooner and getting more time out of our life together. Except we were pretending to be heterosexuals back then....
Life is a lot more complex than you think it's going to be when you're a five year old, isn't it?

Nothing Says Easter Like Semen!

Yesterday morning a man brought a semen specimen into my lab for a complete semen analysis. At 9am. On Easter.

So today, we speculated about the conversation at home that must have gone along with that.

"You know, Honey, we already ate the chocolates, and we went to church last Easter. The sermon this year is bound to be the same. Since dinner at my mom's isn't until 2, what say we swing by the hospital and find out what's up with the swimmers?"

You have to admire such a creative, non-traditional holiday celebration.

Triangulation

I learned an excellent word from PsychLit a few months back: triangulation. It's the concept of inserting a third person into a two-person dispute to get more people involved, garner some support, and swing the momentum a certain way.

It's a concept that everyone knows about, but can't necessarily identify until it has a name. From the earliest childhood squabbles up until...well, death, I suppose....people employ this strategy. If you can get other people to join in, you won't be standing alone, exposed, when you go into battle.

However, once I had a word to decribe the concept and I could recognize it and name it when I see it, I also became acutely aware that I don't want to be associated with it. If you feel strongly enough to take up psychological arms and ride into battle with another human being...good for you. I hope that works out well for you. But if it's not my battle, don't use me as an emotional shield.

So, children...you take your squabble back to your own playground and triangulate amongst yourselves. I don't want to play with you.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Tha's nae ordinary rabbit

Take one lonesome mom, season well with middle-aged health woe, marinade in lachrymal fluid, then let stew in her own juices for several hours and you either have Easter dinner ... or the legendary Rabbit of Caerbannog -- "the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on."

I miss my mom and her amazing Easter baskets.

I miss my son at holidays.

It sucks that Ev has to work on Easter.

I don't want to clean up the kitchen.

Come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth.


Kwach

What Easter Means To Me

You know how it is...people like to complain. If there was nothing to complain about, I'd complain about that.

So...it's Easter Sunday at the hospital. We do a rotating holiday schedule, and I apparently rotated my way into Easter this year. Which would be fine, since I'm not a Christian and I worshipped at the alter of the Dove chocolates already before work, but I'm getting sleepy from inactivity. Apparently most Southern Illinoisans have opted to stay home with their families instead of keeping me productively engaged today.

Selfish people.

Lori cooked a big roast beef-and-vegetable meal, which I politely ate two enormous platefuls of (I was willing to throw myself on those 10,000 calories to spare the others. I'm noble that way.), and then I immediately came to work. So now I'm busy resulting one paltry CBC an hour and watching the clock like it's a television showing a double feature of Lassie Come Home and Boy's Town.

By the way...is anyone else amazed that Roddy McDowell was such a cute little boy and grew up to be such a creepy, fussy man? I think his acting peaked with Lassie.

But the problem, of course, is that the less work I do, the sleepier I get, and the less work I want to do. Which means that when I get to the pinnacle of sleepiness, the zenith of somnambulance, we'll have a massive 12 car pileup on the highway and someone will expect me to spring into action and save some lives or something.

See? Selfish.

"Microsoft Billionaire Charles Simonyi" blasted into space this morning on a Russian rocket. He was accompanied to the launch (for which he paid $25 million) by Martha Stewart, his current girlfriend, who planned the gourmet menu for the Soyuz flight.

It all sounds so very selfish and wasteful ... such a bastardization of the purpose of space exploration ... celebrity space travelers ... Martha Caters Soyuz ... $25 million joyride ...

But before you get whipped up over all that ego-driven conspicuous consumption, let me introduce those of you who don't know him to Dr. Charles Simonyi:

He isn't quite the "billionare thrill-seeker cum Martha's boyfriend" he's being made out to be. Dr. Simonyi left Hungary in 1968 and was part of the legendary Xerox PARC team, where he developed the first WYSIWYG word processor. He holds a degree in mathematical engineering from Berkeley, a PhD in computer science from Stanford, and a multi-engine aircraft pilot's license. He holds a special place in my heart for two reasons:

1) After leaving Xerox PARC, he headed the development team that created the Microsoft Word program ... and I love Microsoft Word.

2) He was a little Hungarian boy looking at the stars and dreaming about being a cosmonaut at the same time I was a little American girl lying in the grass in my backyard, looking at the stars and dreaming of being an astronaut.

Over on his blog, www.charlesinspace.com, you can read about his adventure in space. You can also read a variety of "Ask Charles" questions, many of which were written to insult the guy for his multimillion dollar joyride. I especially liked his response to whether such frivolous pursuits can be justified in the face of world poverty.

"We should not try to eliminate poverty by eliminating those things that people strive for."

So, Charles, here's hoping you have the flight of your dreams, and that it's everything you ever hoped it would be. If I had 25 million bucks I'd be on the next flight.

Woooooohooooooooo!

Kwach

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Look Dad!

On my way in to work today, I was walking down the main hall of the hospital behind a father and his young son. The father looked like a typical Southern Illinois dad; camo Carhartt jacket, camo ball cap, blue jeans and muddy boots. Son had a bright orange t-shirt and a buzz cut, and was waving his arms above his head in ethereal slow motion.

Since I walk a lot faster than six year olds with gently waving arms like flower petals in a breeze, I caught up to them in time to hear this exchange:

Son: "Look, Dad! I'm a ballerina! I have purple flowers in my hair, tucked behind my ears."

Dad: "Well, don't."

And I thought, that's going to be a difficult relationship in a couple of years.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Price Is Right

Today was the confluence of several events: A cold and wintry day, my day off, and Katie's spring break. All of those events collided this morning, like the Titanic and it's iceberg, to cause us to watch The Price Is Right on TV.

I haven't seen The Price Is Right in 20 years, and I noticed a couple of things. First...Bob Barker is OLD. Ancient old. Museum mummy old. He looks like my grandma right before she died, and she was in her 90's. Is Bob Barker in his 90's? Shouldn't CBS have some type of pension plan for him by the time he's...oh...85? Aren't they going to be embarrassed when he drops over dead in the middle of his show?

Imagine how this would look for the network. "CBS released a statement on the death of Mr. Barker. 'Bob died doing what he loved'." Bad. It would look bad.

Would they have made Dan Rather report the news until he was 90 and died in his chair? Maybe he was lucky to have reported about Bush's Vietnam War dodge and gotten fired. Otherwise he might be in indentured servitude to CBS for another 30 or 40 years.

Bob Barker has that wispy white hair that anciently old people have, and a creepy orange tan-in-a-bottle that's probably supposed to make him look outdoorsy, in the way that pumpkins and carrots are outdoorsy. I suppose he seemed healthy, but ungodly old.

Secondly...there's a lot of hopping and screaming on that show. One woman shrieked and wept her way to a new car. Men tend to mostly hop as a form of Price Is Right self-expression, women mostly shriek and flap their hands. I decided that I'm not a good choice for The Price Is Right, since I hate both noise and excessive movement. It might ruin the ebullience if I had to shoot myself in the head.

Thirdly...I don't have any idea what things cost. None whatsoever. I realized that when I couldn't even get close to correctly guessing the price of a stove, a mop, a box of granola bars, or a Ford Mustang.

Clearly, I'm not a good choice for The Price Is Right. Between the head-shooting and the bad price-guessing, I've decided to skip it.

So that was helpful. In just one short hour, I was able to determine that appearing on The Price Is Right is not a good recreational option for me, which frees up more of my time for fishing, sitting around in the yard, and drinking beer.

Knowledge is power.