Friday, August 31, 2007
The longest work week of my life is finally over, and now I can get down to the business of laying around. Well I could get down to it, except that my long neglected home life needs some attention. Since I'm the designated Yard Nazi, I'm going to continue on my never ending Take Back the Yard March. I haven't got a million people to sign up yet (and thank God...they'd ruin the lawn) but I'm going with the "quality, not quantity" strategy. A little burning, a little mowing, a little poison ivy, a lot of beer. Repeat.
I should post a picture of the latest eBay truck, because I think it may be the ugliest one yet. But it runs great and I've decided there's a certain mystique to a really crappy-looking truck. For one thing, no one challenges me in traffic. In the unspoken but well understood rule of the road, we all do a quick assessment of who's got more to lose, and it's never me. So people don't cut me off like they did in my shiny SUV. They assume I'm crazy and let me go by. I roll down the window, rest my farmer-tanned arm on the window ledge, and cruise along at 45. Take that, Escalade-driving bastards. Yes I DO own the road.
Oh...and speaking of...the students are back in Carbondale. That means the bars on the Strip are packed until closing time, and after that it's keg parties for the rest of the night.
I left work at 1 a.m. last night. It was my earliest night this week and I was excited about going home before sunrise. but I had forgotten that the bars close at 1, so it was a like bumper cars at the carnival getting out of town. I managed to not kill any students, although some of them needed killing, and headed home in the middle of the touring group of Drunk Drivers on Parade. We went 70, then 40, then 70, then 40...they took turns driving in the right lane, then the left lane, then the left shoulder, then the dirt on the left side of the left shoulder, then the right shoulder, then back on the right lane...for 20 miles. I bailed at some point and took side roads. Even though I have less to lose, I'm not sure most of them were in any condition to notice.
So the week is over and the lives are all saved. I'm looking a three day weekend dead in the eye, and I won't be the one blinking. Three Day Weekend, I'm coming after YOU! And I'm bringing my weed eater!
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Some people commit to relationships by declaring solemn vows in front of a preacher. Others declare legal vows in front of a Justice of the Peace. Since those avenues are still closed to us, we've had to be somewhat creative in our vows. In our case we solemnly pledged, in the presence of our duly appointed Rural Health Care Practioner and in the sight of her medical assistant , to do all the preventive healthcare and ongoing maintenance required to enable us to live long and process, until death do us begrudgingly part.
We're both historically bad about neglecting little things like preventive healthcare -- preferring to put out medical forest fires as they crop up -- and since I'm older and I've had longer to ignore things, I got to go first.
Today I had my blood pressure checked (118/70 ... woo!), donned the ceremonial hospital gown and paper sheet, and submitted to a Pap Smear. I was also scheduled for my annual Mammogram, but the tiny local hospital doesn't have their new Breast Pulverizer installed yet, so I skated on that one. Next month I get to see the Urologist to find out if my previously bottomless bladder is actually going to fall out on the floor or it's just shrunk to the size of a peanut.
Now that my blood pressure is under excellent control and my heart is going to last forever, we've moved on to discussing whether night sweats require hormone replacement therapy or just a daily dose of calcium (which will also benefit my aching back). Molly then proceeded further down her list of "stuff you should be getting done at your age" and scheduled me for a bone density scan and the last of the middle-aged screening tests I've avoided like the plague for the past three years -- the Colonoscopy.
And here I was worried that I wouldn't meet the $3000 deductible on our crappy new employee HSA (fuck you, Dubya). This is a whole lot of poking and prodding into uncharted places, don't you think? But I promised to get a thorough check-up, and this seems about as thorough as it gets.
Just you wait, Ev. One of these days you're going to turn 50.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Well not quite. But since Aesop's pearls of wisdom have been popping up a lot lately, I thought I might throw in one of my own.
Unfortunately, it's not my heels that are wounded...but my psyche is a little battered. I'm having one of those 12 hour shift weeks, which I've been reminded by some of my more jaded coworkers is my own damn fault. And while it's true that I volunteered, and it's equally true that it's pretty exhausting, I feel good about being able to do something that'll make a big difference in someone else's life.
One of my coworkers was planning to go home to the Philippines this week, and then we came up a tech short. I volunteered to cover half of her shifts so she can see her husband and her family. I consider it an investment. If she gets to make this trip once a year, she's happy. And if she's happy, she'll stick around and won't be shorthanded, and then I'll be happy.
And those cranky old naysayers can say nay all they want, but it sounds like a good long-term outcome for a short period of discomfort to me.
However, that also means I'm tired and more likely to do something dumb. So yesterday I spiked my hand with a dirty needle while loading the blood gas analyzer. Obviously, we have a protocol for needle sticks. For one thing, they're fairly common, and for another, we have a protocol on everything, up to and including how to use the flashlights in a power outage.
So the protocol swung into action. I went to the ER, filled out a stack of forms, and had my blood drawn for HIV and hepatitis testing. Although the process is tedious and the needle stick is stressful, the highlight was the nurses in ER asking me about the source blood.
Newborn babies don't have naturally occurring antibodies for the first 6-ish weeks of their lives. They count on the residual immunity from the shared mother's blood in utero. So baby's blood tends to be "cleaner" than mama's, although there's a risk that if mom is carrying infectious diseases, they can be passed to the baby. But it's not a foregone conclusion.
So...the nurses were asking about the source blood in terms of it's infection potential.
"It's from a(n umbilical) cord blood.", I said.
"Well...is that mom's blood or baby's blood?", asks Nurse.
"Yes", says I, helpfully.
The nurses and I puzzled that one around for a while, and finally decided it doesn't matter. Whatever mama's got, baby's carrying. Baby may be able to shed it, whatever it is, but in the first few weeks of life, baby and mama are immunologically pretty much the same.
So mama and I had out Rapid HIV tests and conveniently we were both negative. I'll do it again three more times in a year before being declared disease free.
Since needle sticks are fairly common in this line of work, almost everyone has a personal story to tell. One of my coworkers was telling me about his only needle stick; it happened when he was trying to draw blood on a drunken homeless guy in the ER.
Of course it did.
That's the way it always seems to go. Drunks are the most combative AND the most risky. They makes every day at work a potential adventure. So if you ever find yourself planning a night of hard drinking, please make an effort to stop before you end up in the ER, pissing yourself, screaming incoherently, and hitting my phlebotomists. Thank you.
So that was my night last night. I'm figuring that tonight is bound to be better since I've got nowhere to go but up from that. I've got a few more 2 a.m. shifts, and then Lori and I can relax this weekend. We're planning to go to the State Fair and eat food on a stick, see the record-sized vegetables and the prize-winning livestock, and get our free flyswatters from the political booths. And THERE'S a metaphor if I've ever seen one.
Wish me luck for tonight.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Okay, now that I have that out of my system...
Larry Craig, tight-assed Republican homophobe Senator from Idaho, was arrested in a Minneapolis airport men's room for soliciting sex from an undercover officer.
He pleaded guilty, but describes the incident as a "misunderstanding." Apparently, what sounded like "suck my dick" to the officer was really, "Hey, Buddy...can I borrow a pen?"
Or maybe he was really saying, "I'm a homophobic prick" or "give my cunt a lick" Whoops...no. Wrong restroom.
Is there anything more delightful and invigorating than when a huge public hypocrite gets handed his ass in public? And if it involves sex in any way, it's even better. But it's the hypocrisy that makes it so much fun, not the sex itself. Would it be anywhere near this delicious if it were Hugh Hefner soliciting sex? Nah. It would just be more of the same. Like Rush Limbaugh soliciting stupid callers or Michael Jackson soliciting 7 year old boys. Tedious.
The part that sticks to your ribs like Lori's excellent stew is the endless parade of "family values" Republicans caught with their hands in someone else's pants. In fact, lately it seems that the surest way to turn up gay is to try to put a stop to it in other people.
No matter what ever happens for the rest of my life, I can console myself by thinking, "At least I'm not Larry Craig."
Hey, Lori? Can I borrow a pen? Heh.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Cedar, we still love you. You're our favorite thickheaded butch that's not already me. We would let you sleep in the middle. If you were our neighbor we'd look at your disgusting wound for you and run your labs and check your eyes and never ask for anything in return except the opportunity to emotionally blackmail you for it later. Either one of us would have your baby, you know...if we weren't all girls, and old and stuff. But otherwise you'd be our first choice for our baby's daddy.
Don't listen those mean kids on the playground. There's a reason they've risen to the top of the mean kid heap. It's because, well...they're mean. They've made "mean" their life's work. They've embraced their meanness with the kind of dedication Mother Theresa had for her work with the poor, or like Hitler had for extermination.
Like the tides, you can't control the mean. All you can do is fill in the beach with toxic waste and build a New Jersey suburb on it. Maybe call it Cedarville or Cedardale or something. And build hideously overpriced McMansions that silly, pretentious people would flock to buy with the money the got from gouging nice people with their junk bonds and real estate scams, or raiding their pension plans and buying $1000 shower curtains for their mistresses.
It's the circle of mean.
Now climb up on Lori's lap and let her pet your head. And let's see that wound again.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Yesterday Lori and I hopped out of bed at the crack of 7 a.m. Okay...maybe Lori hopped. I laid there while she made coffee and brought it back to the bedroom and reminded me to wake up, and then eventually walked out of the room...probably in disgust. I was still laying there, crying on the inside, at 7:30, when she came back and reminded me more emphatically to get up. I flailed and thrashed and whined a little, but eventually snivelled my way to the kitchen for 15 or 20 more cups of coffee.
We had yet another long drive ahead for yet another eBay truck. But lest you think this is becoming an addiction, I'd like to say in my defense that this truck was both a) drivable, and b) bought with the intention of harvesting it's organs. If this truck wakes up in a bathtub full of ice with a note on it's hood and it's transmission missing, call 911.
So we headed for, of course, Indiana, where all things eBay come from. Except for our brief dalliance with Nebraska, my romance with Indiana eBayers has been steadfast. The truck was about 350 miles away, between Muncie and Fort Wayne, but that was fine. 350 miles is nothing to us. It's a stroll in the park, a trip to the store. Hell, we can do 350 miles without ever leaving the county if we try.
But since it was 350 miles each way, I was anxious to get started. We lit out of here at 8:30 in the morning and arrived at our destination at 3 pm. The truck was just as ugly as all the other sub-$500 eBay trucks are, but it started right up and sounded good. We had popped the hood, and the guy was showing us all the things that had recently been replaced, when Lori noticed that there was a fairly large amount of fluid dripping onto the ground. She pointed it out to our seller, and he said, "Shit! It's the fuel pump!"
He got on his phone, called his brother, and told him to run over to AutoZone and buy a replacement. Those nice Hoosier boys replaced the fuel pump and a significant amount of fuel line in an hour and we were on our way home. The truck did great; the engine ran strong, the shifting was smooth, the tires were good...I was pleased.
I keep waiting for eBay to break my heart, but so far eBay has been far less of a disappointment than, say...my last couple of girlfriends. And eBay doesn't keep your shit after the breakup or call to tell you what an asshole you are and how much happier it is with the girl it dumped you for.
Not that that's ever happened to me.
Anyway...once again, the trip home went slick as a whistle, except that we didn't get started for home until about 5pm, and we were pretty tired by the time we got to Effingham at about 10 o'clock, with 100 miles to go.
Stay with me; this is where Jesus and Elvis come in...
I headed south, driving down I-57 with my brain turned down low to conserve power, when I came up behind a flatbed truck. I glanced up at the back of the truck and saw Jesus. This is no lie. No self-respecting atheist would make this kind of embarrassing crap up. It was Jesus, bigger'n hell, standing there looking all Jesus-y.
Jesus was way up in the front of the flatbed, wearing a white robe with his arms outstretched, silently imploring me to do...something. Be a better person. Go to church. Give up this sinful life of illicit carnal congress with persons of my own genital persuasion. Something.
But after a second look, I realized it was actually Elvis! The King himself, in a white jumpsuit with his white silk scarf billowing around his many chins.
Yay! The sexual congress is back on! No church, no struggling to curb my drinking and whoring and embark on a path of righteousness. Elvis was all about sin and excess!
God saw me in my brand new 1988 Ford Ranger with the rusted hood and the mismatched tailgate. He reached in and sent me a message via his second tragic, doomed son...Elvis. A message to enjoy more booze and sex, to decorate with animal prints, eat more junk food and worship my mama.
I felt a warm glow. I finally understood God's mysterious plan for me. I sped up a little, in case Elvis had anything else to tell me from The Other Side. Spiritual guidance, recipes...I didn't care. It's all good. I thought about throwing my truck keys at his feet, or my bra, or the Big Gulp I was drinking.
But when I got close enough to Elvis to clearly see his divine countenance, I realized he was a tarp stretched over a spool and held mostly in place with straps, except for the part flapping like a scarf, or the sleeve of a heavenly robe.
So I'm still up in the air about the Divine Plan. For now, I'm going to assume it means God wants me to get new glasses and go see the neurologist. The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
There is a phenomenon that happens with temporal lobe epilepsy in which some internal wiring gets crossed and your brain makes connections between unrelated things. When I'm having trouble controlling my seizures, one of the warning signs is that kind of cross-wiring. There's a name for it, but I've long since forgotten it and now call it ninja vu.
So lately, I've been experiencing some ninja vu, and it makes me more cautious in conversation. Remember your brain on acid? When you thought you finally understood the secrets of the universe because you could see the mathematical equation that created your cat?
That's ninja vu.
Luckily, it's not as relentless as acid was. It would be hard to do my job with my brain operating like this:
"Red cells greater than 7 microns get a numerical value of 5, while those smaller than 7 microns are 3. Then if neutrophils get 10 points each; lymphs 20; monocytes 50; and basophils and eosinophils each get 25, I should get a numerical value for each diff that relates to the age and relative health of the patient."
And though it does indeed generate a number, it's a number that is completely meaningless. But it's carefully derived drivel. And that's the problem with ninja vu...you feel like you're doing some excellent, insightful thinking, when actually you're just tying things together in odd combinations. It's not like MacGyver; A nail, a shoe, a chocolate bar, and a raisin will not combine to create a small incendiary device.
Which is all well and good, except that I've forgotten the actual point of my post. So here's a picture of Carrie's new kitten and Cuppy.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Stray cats are a particular dilemma in rural areas. First off, there are millions of them. We see 4 or 5 every night on our way home from work. And obviously we can't take them all in, although sometimes it looks like we're headed there. But I also realize that the majority of them will live, as Hobbes once said about humans... nasty, short, and brutish lives. They get hit by cars, eaten by predators, or die from hunger, disease and infections. If they get picked up by animal control (which they rarely do; they're skilled at being invisible), they will doubtlessly be put down.
So...what do you do? Our neighbor Jody used to put out food for them, which means we have several family groups living under our shed, under Jody's shed, in her outbuildings, and in our trash cans. Now Jody's gone, and Carrie feeds them. That seems pointless to me, except that sitting idle and letting them starve seems even more pointless.
But what can you do?
I dimly remember the classic ecological paradigm from some long ago ecology class about the lynxes and the hares. Lynxes eat hares. When there are a lot of hares, lynxes eat well, reproduce well, and live healthy, prosperous lives. Then, when there are so many healthy lynxes that they consume hares at a faster rate than hares can replace themselves, the lynxes have trouble finding food and don't reproduce well, and then their numbers fall.
When the predator population falls, the hares bounce back. They reproduce like, well...bunnies. Soon there are an abundance of hares, and the lynx population recovers.
And so on.
I don't think there's such a tidy paradigm for feral cats. The car population is not reduced by a dearth of cats to run over, nor will the prevalence of trash cans increase if the cat population is reduced. I suppose there's an equilibrium point for feral cats where the population stabilizes, but I can't imagine what causes it.
I read somewhere that a single unneutered cat will produce 67,000 other cats before it dies, assuming that it's offspring and their offspring also remain unneutered. That's a lot of feral cats. I can't figure out why we're not hip-deep in stray cats at that rate.
So...we picked one up. She's a healthy 5-sh week old siamese mix with one googly eye. Carrie named her Vahalla, which is a mighty name for a tiny kitten. I lobbied hard for the name Jesus, so we could say, "Jesus doesn't like it when you do that...", but I lost the vote.
That just leaves 66,999 for the rest of you. Step up to the plate and adopt your share, why don't you?
Monday, August 13, 2007
I'll admit, I expected to be overjoyed at his departure. Instead I'm feeling a little disappointed that he won't be leaving his job in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. After all those Congressional hearings and all those political dirty tricks, he's never even had a perjury conviction for Bush to set aside. He managed to slime his way past accepting responsibility for the Valerie Plame CIA incident, the war against Eye-Rack, and several rigged elections...and he's still going to escape with his pride intact and smelling like a Turdblossom...err...rose.
Not that I'm bitter.
What I would hope for, if I were a more vengeful person, would be a roundup of all the top level Bush staffers for a lengthy stay at Guantanamo as unconvicted "enemies of the state", while the next administration languidly parses the Geneva Convention statutes and the 6th and 8th amendments to the Constitution. I'll bet that would take years. Better take a good book with you, guys...I hear that's not much to do in prison besides read and sharpen your shank.
Oh, and since it's my wish list, I'd like to see an enormous political backlash that would cause every boneless, pandering, poll-addicted Democrat and every pompous, self-righteous, hypocritical Republican in both houses of Congress to wake up unemployed after the next election, AND without their cushy retirement package.
Maybe send them to Guantanamo, too. While I'm being vindictive, I might as well go for the gold. Poison ivy makes me cranky.
In fact, that's all I want for Christmas this year: for all those bastards to live the leisurely life of federal prisoners for an indeterminate length of time. That, or a pony.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I'll be your stand-in blogger for today. Ev's been a little preoccupied. Between slathering on a cornucopia of mostly useless poison ivy creams and potions and tearing at her flesh, she's been too busy to do much of anything else.
It would almost be easier to name the places the rash isn't.
Last night, as she crawled into bed doped to the eyeballs with rash remedies, Benadryl and Xanax, I asked her if there was any place it might be safe to give her a comforting pat. She directed me to the soles of her feet.
This is what comes of yard work, and it's only one of the reasons I'm staunchly not in favor of it. It's hot out there, and there are things that are not your friend. At best you'll end up sunburned, dirty, blistered and drenched in sweat. At worst you'll end up covered in a red, raw, itchy rash that defies all intervention and makes you pray for death ... or at least a two week coma.
I've looked out there. From the safe vantage point of the raised deck, I've observed that there are standing dead trees, bramble bushes, gargantuan garden slugs, a variety of frogs and toads, and mile upon mile of poison ivy vines. It's a jungle out there
Inside it's a comfy 74 degrees and the scariest thing I encounter is the litter box.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
But the part I won't forgive you for is that forevermore, your surly countenance will be up there with the greats. Not the guys who had the best pharmacists, but the guys who were actually baseball geniuses.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
We're all about the bright side here in Nowhere, folks.
Ha! And speaking of the bright side...
I'm at work, pretending to, well...work. However, in between writing e-letters to my girlfriend, I've also been busy trying to get someone to use a unit of platelets I've got that expires at midnight. I've used my most winsome and charming Evie persona on the nice folks in ICU, surgery, and even ER observation. No dice. Suddenly, my platelets are about as popular as a 300 mL bag of maggots. I'm desperate. These things are like gold and at 12:01 a.m., this one goes in the trash.
So here I am, trying to figure out who to call next, when the blood banker at one of the podunkier hospitals in the hinterlands of Nowhere called and asked if I have a short-dated unit of platelets she can have tonight! Hallelujah! Praise...well...something! I thought about playing it cool, but in the end I professed my undying love for her and her facility and offered her a job. But I think I'm doing better; I didn't offer sexual favors this time. Although if she'd asked, I'd have done it. You know, in gratitude.
So the platelets are packed, the courier is on his way, and all is well.
But it's still hot.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
I've made it part of my daily ritual to walk around and gather up the yard crap. I make ever widening circles from the house, and most of it's cleared away at this point. I'm not afraid to dive into the grass with my beloved mower anymore.
But the burn pile has been daunting. It is, no lie, a half acre around and 15 feet high. There are logs in there that I couldn't wrap my arms around. I can't even figure out how he even managed to pile it up so high. Is there a crane or a forklift buried somewhere in all this tall grass??
I started burning around the edges so I could get an idea of what I'm dealing with in the dark interior. The entire thing is wound up in the razor grasses and kudzu and poison ivy, and I wasn't anxious to wade in. Oh, yeah...and snakes. It's FULL of snakes.
So Rob and I burned off the grass and sticks around the edge a few weeks ago, and that gave me a look at the interior which looks something like the Amazon Rainforest after a clearcut, but before the skidders arrive to haul it off.
Yesterday I gathered as much of the light stuff as I could, mixed it all in with the heavy stuff, added 10 pounds of paper and empty boxes, sprinkled it with two gallons of gas, and WHOOSH!
It's still smoldering today, but I can see that about a third of it is burned up now...enough to find oddities like the metal flashing from the last reroofing job, a set of brake drums and calipers, some rebar, more Keystone cans, old Mason jars, and much, much more.
It's sort of fascinating...somewhere between a city dump and a time capsule. This morning I pushed all the loose, partially burned stuff back into the middle and raked out some of the garbage. It's still too hot to move, but after it cools down some I'm going to haul the trash away and burn some more. My ultimate goal is to somehow reclaim that patch and get grass to grow on it.
Then I'll tackle the next one.
I was sort of imagining that this must be what it's like at prayer time for Muslims. "We'll be with you in a minute. Our religion requires that we country line dance at specific times of the day."
So with nothing else to do while my beer mug sat forlornly empty, I watched the dancing. There was a great deal of hootin' and hollerin' and ye-haaawin'. I couldn't help being curious about the African American employees. I wonder how much gusto they bring to this ritualized tribute to redneck culture? Maybe they can tap into a reservoir of Stockholm Syndrome and embrace the moment...take one for the team...carpe the diem...but I know I would have to chop of my foot with a meat cleaver if I worked there.
"Sorry Boss. The doc says no country line dancing until I get used to the new prosthetic device. Darn! I'm really going to miss boot scootin' with y'all. Oh well! Life's full of disappointments."
Which is probably why I work in the farthest backest corner of a lab and not at the IHOB.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
How's this for a silver lining:
Everything I own is currently broken, so there's nothing else to worry about.
Okay, maybe not everything. But my truck and our air conditioner walked off into the sunset together a couple of days ago; and last night I came home to find that we had no water. It was a balmy 1,000 degrees in the house, we were out of ice AND beer, and our water was shut off by the city because the previous owners failed to pay their final bill.
The first thing I did this morning is haul my sweaty self down to the City Hall and stinkily inquire as to the status of my water service. Whoops! We shut off the wrong people!
It took less than 10 minutes for the guys to come back out and turn it back on, but I had visions of retribution dancing merrily in my head. Perhaps something from the artillery group. Where does a person even get a Howitzer around here, anyway? And does it come with instructions?
Is there anything crankier than a girlfriend with no air conditioning? How about a girlfriend with no air conditioning AND no shower! If my girlfriend dumps me in a fit of hysterical hyperthermia, I'm coming after YOU, Ms. Water Department Lady! As soon as I read the Howitzer manual, you're going down!
But things are looking up. The A/C man will be here with the new blower motor soon, the water is flowing freely, and I'm steeling myself up for the truck project. And tonight I get to make another run at the burn pile, and nothing cheers me up like a nice conflagration.
And I'm on vacation until Monday. By then I ought to have spent enough time puttering around in the yard to have restored myself to the state of zen-like serenity that I'm so famous for. By then I think it'll be safe for the Water Department Lady to check out of the witness protection program. Maybe.