21 December 2010

The moon is made of cheddar cheese?

The moon was orange last night... As many of you know, there was a total lunar eclipse last night. Lunar eclipses are rarely visible in the northeast US sky, and this would be a never-repeated-in-my-lifetime event. The reason that we could see this eclipse in Maryland is that the sun is at its most southern point on the winter solstice (December 21). The sun has to be opposite the moon for a total eclipse to occur, and the full moon this month is high in the northern sky.

For a science geek, this was an opportunity not to be missed. And it was a clear night.

The eclipse was maximal at 2:41 am EST, so I set my alarm for 2:30. I could see the moon out of my bedroom window, though it took some contorting. It wasn't like a solar eclipse, where there is a black shadow obscuring the sun, but the moon was definitely darker, like a shadow was obscuring it. TheHusband and I got dressed and trudged outside to take pictures (and see it without kneeling and twisting about to see it out the window). I tried to wake ThePinkThing, but she grumbled, rolled over, and pulled the cover over her head. Her loss, and she's grumpy about it this morning.

At 3:17 am, the moon's color was the most orangey-red. Really lovely and obvious to the naked eye, even without binoculars (TH's binocs are 30 years old and show their age). We have a high-level point-and-shoot camera with lots of settings but no tripod. We were able to get some really nice shots anyway on the "Nightime Nature" setting.

Now I want to see a total solar eclipse, someday. And the Aurora Borealis. Don't you?

19 December 2010

Happy 95th to Zaydie

I am wishing a Happy 95th Birthday to my grandfather (aka, Zaydie) today. Though we celebrated his birthday as a family on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (because most of the grandkids were in for Turkey Day), today is the The Real Thing.

You might remember that I had solicited gift suggestions for a 95th birthday present. I had said at the time that we already had his gift planned. And I promised that I would tell you when the time came.

We got him a web page -- www.zaydie.com. Actually, we regifted him the web page. We (the grandkids) bought our grandfather www.zaydie.net in 2000 to celebrate his 85th birthday. At some point between then and now, zaydie.com became available, so we switched to that address instead. We hadn't updated the web page since 2003, so we collected pictures of ourselves and our kids and revamped zaydie.com. Kudos go to TheHusband who did the majority of the work on the webpage. And our Zaydie has his own (public) photo album of his grandkids and great-grandkids to show off.

This birthday is especially special to all of us, because my grandfather is recovering from a nephrectomy (kidney removal) to treat kidney cancer. When I visited him last weekend at the rehab center he looked better at 10 days post-op than I did at 10 days post-op last year.

I am very lucky.

07 December 2010

Shilling for audiobooks

Happy Chanukah to me! I got a one-year subscription to audible.com for my Chanukah present. It is, for the most part, my first foray into audiobooks. I've listened to a few audiobooks over the years, but I don't love them as I love reading books. However, I am back to spending more time commuting than I like, since my office moved over a year ago. News on the radio just makes me agitated, which is not a good way to start or end the day. I just don't dig music. I've tried, really, but music just doesn't hold my interest longer than a few songs. I don't like hearing the same songs over and over (so my music CDs bore me), and I really don't like commercials (so regular radio is right out). I am not willing to invest in satellite radio. Therefore, in order to keep me sane on my trafficky rides to and from work, I will be listening to audiobooks.

A one year subscription to audible.com comes with 12 "credits", and most books are one credit apiece. I picked out 4 audiobooks last night, 2 each from 2 of my favorite authors, so I have 8 more books to choose. I am looking to find new authors and listen to new books, not just get audio versions of favorites.

I would love suggestions for books that have translated well to the audio format -- books that you've really enjoyed listening to. I tend to read genre fiction -- primarily science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Got any suggestions?

22 November 2010

QotD: (The Uncle Danny version) What am I, chopped liver?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

ThePinkThing's favorite person is here. Uncle Danny arrived yesterday evening, and TPT has only unVelcro'd herself from him to go to sleep. She was really good this morning and waited until 7:55 to go into the guest room to wake him up. For a 7 year-old, 7:55 am is equivalent to 12:00 pm for an adult.

I've become part of the background, useful for answering specific questions ("where are my sneakers?"). That's just fine with me -- she's lucky to have such a wonderful favorite uncle. Now if only we could figure out how to clone her other favorite uncle so he could be here and visiting his family at the same time, TPT's life would be complete...

21 November 2010

QotD: What are you doing on this fine Sunday?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

It's a lovely day outside today, but I haven't enjoyed the outdoors. I've been to the mall to pick up a winter coat and snow pants for ThePinkThing. We were unsuccessful in finding snow boots that fit and were comfortable. Now I'm off to the airport to pick up my brother, who will be visiting for the next week. What are you doing this fine day?

Update: I forgot to officially post this yesterday (11/21), so I am backposting it today (11/22).

20 November 2010

QotD: Isn't she cute?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

Isn't she cute?

19 November 2010

QotD: Do you like your job?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

Fine, I came up with another question, as I am sitting here at work waiting to go to a meeting with the Head Honcho. Actually, it is a series of related questions.

1) Do you like your job?
2) If so/not, why?
3) Is it the job you saw yourself doing 10 years ago?
4) What is your ideal job, if this one isn't it?

I'll answer my own questions:

1) Do you like your job?
Yes. I actually REALLY like my job. I've been at this job for only 3.5 years and never dread going into work (which I was doing at the end of my time at my last position).

2) If so/not, why?
This job allows (forces) me to learn something new everyday, I work with really smart and interesting people (even a few crazy-funny ones), and I feel that I am advantageously impacting the health of many people. Plus the job comes with really good benefits.

3) Is it the job you saw yourself doing 10 years ago?
No. If you told me I'd be doing what I'm doing and working where I'm working, I'd have laughed in your face. I would've said "I couldn't do that!" Surprisingly, I have been doing it, and doing it pretty well.

4) What is your ideal job, if this one isn't it?
I love books, my biggest vice. I've always had a desire to own a used bookstore. Maybe with an attached coffeeshop. Or be a librarian. Not that I am suited for either of those jobs, mind you. It's just that I lust after being paid to work in a bookish world...

QotD: I've run out of questions

It looks like I've run out of questions and haven't been getting many answers anyway. It was fun while it lasted.

The blog shall, therefore, return to its previous quiet existence.

18 November 2010

QotD: Where do extra socks go?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

Where the hell do the extra socks go? I have about 10 or 15 unmatched socks that I just can't get rid of...

17 November 2010

QotD: WTF is it with plastic packaging?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

I have a cut on my left hand. How did I get this cut, you ask? I got it from trying to get something out of its diabolical plastic packaging. In order to remove this item (a camera battery charger, if you must know), I had to resort to my Really Sharp kitchen scissors. In the process of removing the charger from the packaging, I managed to cut my finger (on the plastic, not the scissors).

This isn't the first time I've injured myself trying to remove some gizmo or toy from packaging hell. I suspect that some of you have had it happen, too. In fact, thousands of people go to ERs yearly with injuries caused by plastic packaging.

I am not sure why this kind of indestructible plastic packaging is necessary. Perhaps it reduces in-store theft, but somehow I doubt it. It certainly isn't needed for online purchase. Hello, companyX -- I bought that thingamajig from your website, and you sent it direct to my house. If someone wants to steal it, they'll take the whole box before I get home. "Securing" my thingamajig in indestructible plastic packaging only makes me insane.

Having to deal with this kind of packaging makes me insane. And I'm not the only one who feels that way. There is even a name for that feeling: "Wrap Rage".

Amazon is trying to convince companies to provide their items in "frustration-free" packaging. I do like this option, especially as it appears to be more environmentally freindly, but it not infrequently costs extra. Extra money, so that I don't have the opportunity to slice up my hand on the sharp edge of a plastic clamshell. Whose brilliant idea is that?

And let's not even talk about kids' toys that are secured in the package with 4,276 twist ties...

16 November 2010

QotD: Why does my lane always go the slowest?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

This is the Tuesday Traffic edition of QotD. As I have noted already, I am plagued by (and think about) traffic. For goodness sake, I drive to and from work on the DC Beltway, so traffic is a part of my commuting life. One aspect of my commute that particularly bugs me is that it seems that no matter what lane I'm in, it is the one going the slowest. (This also happens in the check-out line at the grocery store, too...) All the other lanes pass me by. I can be in the farthest left lane, and that one goes the slowest. I get fed up and move over a lane, and then that one comes to a crashing halt. I doesn't seem to matter if my lane has trucks in it or not. You'd think that the lanes with the 18-wheelers would be going slowest in traffic because of the time lag necessary for them to get up to speed and slow down. Nope. If the truck is not in my lane, it passes me by. I'm sure that physics can easily explain this, but I just wish that people would get out of my way.

15 November 2010

QotD: Are blood thinners poison for vampires?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

It won't come as a surprise to most of you that blood thinners are on my mind of late -- specifically warfarin or Coumadin (yes, I'm talking rat poison). That's because I had a new deep vein thrombosis (i.e., blood clot in a leg vein) last month. Yay? A second DVT (even though I did not have a bonus pulmonary embolus, like the last time) basically gets me life-long blood thinners. It wouldn't be so annoying if it were easy to keep my blood just thin enough without being too thin. This is not an uncommon problem, and I've been on the physician side of it many a time. Everything interacts with warfarin, including two of my favorite foods (broccoli and cranberries). I can't take NSAIDs on a daily basis anymore, which is annoying because I continue to have moderate back pain pretty much all the time.

And so, blood thinners being on my mind, I wonder what effect blood thinners might have on vampires. Do they make sucking the blood out all the much easier and so are considered a good thing? Are they poison (like garlic) for a vampire? Do you think a vampire could tell that I'm taking warfarin? I can't decide whether to sleep with a wooden stake next to my bed, or not.

14 November 2010

QotD: If I feed my daughter cereal for dinner, does that make me a bad mother?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

Breakfast is my favorite meal. Pancakes, French toast, bagels with cream cheese, cereal, oatmeal... Yummy all around. Before I had a kid, I would not infrequently eat cold cereal for dinner because it's fast, easy, and nutritious. Now I can't do that so much. But I do serve cold cereal or waffles sometimes for dinner, mostly when TheHusband (who, weirdly, is not a breakfast person) isn't home. We call it a "nutritious dinner". Does this make me a bad mother?

13 November 2010

QotD: Do you have a favorite season?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

Do you have a favorite season of the year? I do -- it's fall, autumn, whatever you call it. I love the change from heat and humidity to crisp and cool. I like how trees that were monochromatically green suddenly become fiery red or sunnily yellow, then change again to brown. I love the sounds of dry leaves crackling underfoot. I like wearing sweaters (which makes my nice Jewish grandmother inherently happy).

I hate winter, though.

12 November 2010

QotD: What do you give someone for his 95th birthday?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

What do you give someone for his 95th birthday?

My grandfather's 95th birthday is next month, and I've tried to come up with a fantabulous and original present for us (the grandkids, grandkids-in-law, and stepgrandkids) to give him. In recent years, we've given my grandparents a personalized photo book from Shutterfly (which turned out fabulously, if I don't say so myself), a cool picture of the grandkids and great-grandkids along with an original poem, and a formal picture of all the grandkids, grandkids-in-law, and the 3 great-grandkids who were born at that time. He doesn't need anything and has the wherewithal to purchase any thing he wants. So I'm stumped.

I did come up with one idea, which is (annoyingly) a rehash of what we gave him for his 85th birthday. No, I'm not going to tell you what it is, but I promise to show it to you (my adoring public) when we're done.

Have any of you been in this boat? If so, did you come up with a really cool original present to give your 95 year-old grandfather? Wanna share it?

11 November 2010

QotD: What do we owe our veterans?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

Happy Veteran's Day. Sort of. I might be the poster child for tree-hugging, bleeding heart liberal, but I am ever thankful for people who are willing to serve my country and protect me by putting themselves in harm's way. Plus, I'm married to a veteran.

I'm a neurologist, so I think about the brain. I think about things that hurt the brain. I think about what happens to the brain after it gets hurt. Mix in thinking about Iraq and Afghanistan, and you see me worrying about the current state (or lack thereof) of adequate health care and mental health care for our returning soldiers. I am lucky that I have good health insurance (providing I remain healthy and employed, that is). TheHusband served in the military and was honorably discharged, so he is entitled to health care through the VA system. Sadly, I am happy that he does not have to receive care there. Trust me, I've worked in a VA Hospital, and I know of what I speak. Issues relating to poor health care in the VA system aren't solely related to the ... um... lack of services at the institutions (I'm being kind here), but also to the lack of coverage where coverage is needed. VA clinics and hospitals are relatively few and far between, especially in rural areas, where the need is likely to be greatest.

Traumatic brain injury and PTSD are seen in increasing numbers of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. While the diagnosis of these disorders may be easy in severe cases, diagnosis and treatment of mild or moderate cases can be difficult and confusing. A simple PubMed search of PTSD plus TBI returned 102 articles, 21 of which were published in 2010. Not an insignificant problem. As you can imagine, something that is difficult to diagnose is likely to be difficult to treat. There is no real good treatment for either of these disorder, which even in their "mild" forms can be quite disabling. Add together disroders that are hard to diagnose, difficult to treat, and a health care system inadequately prepared to deal with these issues, and it equals sick servicemembers who are not receiving care they deserve.

The lack of adequate chronic and mental health care is a concern for all of us, not just for the servicemembers and their family members. The Army Times has identified a serious lack of available care for treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Reports have shown that the Army's efforts to reduce returning soldiers' suicides are failing.

So what do we owe our veterans? At the very least, we owe them adequate health care, especially to take care of war-related injuries.

I wish that this post included brilliant ideas for fixing these problems, but I don't have any. But neither, it seems, do people who are in charge.

10 November 2010

QotD: Neurology question

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

If someone has weakness of the proximal muscles of his legs, does he find it hard to go up stairs or down stairs? Justify your answer. Proximal means "closer to the beginning" and in the case of the leg muscles means thigh and buttocks muscles.

Once enough people respond, I will tell you the answer.

09 November 2010

QotD: Can a man and a woman really be platonic friends?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

There are lots of people who believe that a man and a woman can't really be friends. I'm not talking about a gay man and a straight woman. I'm talking about a straight man and a straight woman having a true platonic friendship.

I've heard it said that men and women can't really be friends because the man always thinks about sex and it interferes with true friendship. (I dunno about that, 'cause I'm a gurrl.) Or that sex is the ultimate goal of most men in a relationship with a woman, and the friendship is just the precursor. Or maybe it's because men and women have ultimately different goals for friendship (whatever the hell that means) or that men and women don't have too much in common. Or that cross-sex friendship only works if one person is gay. Whatever.

Two of my dearest friends are men, so obviously I believe that cross-sex friendship between a man and a woman is possible, even without the specter of sex looming over the relationship. I've been friends with one of these men since the first week of freshman year in college. I've never been interested in anything other than friendship, and I am sure that he feels the same. I met the other guy friend when I was 30. While he was great boyfriend material, we instantly fell into older sister-younger brother mode, even though he's a couple of years older than I am (I am an older sister, and he is a younger brother, so that wasn't a stretch). He's really annoying. (Fine, I'm just kidding. But he is.) Anyway, my friendship with both of these guys is real, deep, and totally platonic. I will admit that each of these guys is married to one of my best friends, but my friendships with the guys predates their relationships with their wives, so I refuse to count that as a reason.

Do you agree that cross-sex friendship is possible? If not, why?

08 November 2010

QotD: Is Jim Wright an asshole?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

Since he hasn't been by my blog in a while, I feel safe asking this question: Is Jim Wright really an asshole? If so, should I update his webpage?

What? You're objecting to this question? It's inappropriate? I'm being offensive and insulting to someone whom I've never met in "real life"? Jim's feelings might be hurt?

Oh stop, now.

Jim can take care of himself -- he's a former Chief Warrant Officer in the US Navy, fergoshsakes. If he wants to go all postal on me, I couldn't stop him. Of course, that possibility doesn't prevent me from poking him with a stick, now does it?

07 November 2010

QotD: Pancakes or French Toast?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

This is the Sunday breakfast version of the QotD. Since breakfast is my favorite meal, I want to talk about it. Which would you rather have -- pancakes or french toast? Then again, there's always an omelet. Or, even better, lox and chive cream cheese on a bagel (onion, lightly toasted)...

And no, it isn't freedom toast.

06 November 2010

QotD: Alaska or Hawaii?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

When I took my Neurology Boards recertification test in 2007, I was semi-convinced I wouldn't pass. Like many people, I tend to obsess about important tests prior to the test, then be calm, cool, and collected once it starts. The Neurology Oral Boards were an exception to that rule (I practically cried during part of it). Anyway, TheHusband believed I would pass on the first try, but wasn't above a little positive reinforcement. He told me that if I passed the recertification on the 1st try, we would go to Alaska or Hawaii; if I passed on the 2nd try, we'd get to go to Florida; but if I passed on the 3rd try, we'd be going to Cleveland. In winter. To visit my mother-in-law. Now my MiL is a wonderful woman, but Cleveland in winter is ... not.

Needless to say, with that incentive, I passed (well) on the first try. So I get to pick between Alaska and Hawaii. Which should I pick and why? And which would you rather visit?

05 November 2010

QotD: Are internet friends just as good friends as meat-space friends?

This month I've decided to post every day. Please don't faint. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

I like finding interesting and like-minded people on the internet. I have met, in person, many of my internet friends and for the most part, I have enjoyed them as much in meat-space as I have on the computer screen. I even met my husband online. However, I have friends and family who view this type of behavior with great dismay and distrust, as if internet friends are inherently axe murderers or, if they are not, internet friends cannot be quite as good as meat-space friends. I disagree with that attitude (duh), but I am curious what y'all think.

Updated 11/6/2010

I followed a link from my friend Janiece to this journal entry written by Roger Ebert. While it is not exactly what I was fishing for in this question, it does touch on online relationships. It is a lovely piece. Go read it.

04 November 2010

QotD: Is it really so hard to drive fast in the left lane and slow in the right?

This month I've decided to post every day. Please don't faint. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

For me to get to work, I have to drive on the dreaded DC Beltway. So that means that I get stuck in traffic. And, therefore, I think about traffic and driving patterns a lot. (so do lots of other people).

One driving behavior that really sticks in my craw is slow cars in the left lane. While I know that all traffic on the Beltway is not caused by moronic driving habits, I am convinced that there are some important driving rules that should be obeyed. And one of those is fast--left, slow--right. What is the lure for these people who like to drive slowly (and by slowly, I mean less than 60 mph) in the left lane? Is is inherent curmudgeonliness? Is it a need to make everyone else around you slow down? Is it simple cluelessness?

My question for today is "Is it really so hard to drive fast in the left lane and slow in the right?"

03 November 2010

QotD (Halloween version): Is it okay to snitch candy from your kid's Halloween candy haul?

This month I've decided to post every day. Please don't faint. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I have no connection to the concept of All Hallow's Eve, being a nice Jewish girl, so Halloween for me has always been about costumes and candy. I grew up in a generic NJ suburb, in a neighborhood with bunches of kids -- fertile hunting ground for candy pickings on Halloween. Most of the time my brother and I trick-or-treated on our own, then with friends as we grew older. Our costumes came mostly from stuff around the house. I remember being a black cat (black leotard, black tights, aluminum foil tail / ears, and whiskers drawn on with eyeliner), a giraffe (my mom made that one from an old blanket), and a doctor (my dad snitched scrubs, mask, and hat from the hospital). My brother and I would typically circle the block, ringing doorbells and chanting "Trick or treat, Smell my feet, Gimme something good to eat". We'd come home with a haul of candy.

The typical post-trick-or-treating activity involved dumping out the sack and sorting the candy. There was the stuff neither of us would touch (Almond Joys, Mounds, taffy, Baby Ruth), candy we liked but would be willing to trade (sweet tarts, licorice, peanut M&M's) and the keepers (Milky Ways, Snickers, Hershey bars, regular M&M's...). There might be a flurry of trading, we'd get to eat a piece or two, then it was brush teeth and off to bed.

Strangely enough, the amounts in our candy bags always seemed to drop more quickly than expected. Mind you, I never caught them at it or had any proof, but I am positive that my parents helped themselves after we were in bed. More than once.

TheHusband has consistently snitched from ThePinkThing's candy haul since she started trick-or-treating. I have taken a piece or two, I will admit, but not many, not like TH. Is it really okay to decimate your kid's Halloween candy stash? (glares at TheHusband)

02 November 2010

QotD: Election Day version about robocalls...

This month I've decided to post everyday. Please don't faint. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

Do political robocalls actually do anything other than annoy the crap out of the recipient? I know nobody who doesn't hate them. Did some firm do a marketing study or other worthless activity that says otherwise?

I can't wait until tomorrow.

01 November 2010

QotD: Is pink fleece fashionable?

This month I've decided to post every day. Please don't faint. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

Question #1: Is pink fleece fashionable?

I love my pink fleecey zip-up jacket. Those of you who know me well know that, in general, I loathe pink. My bedroom when I was a kid was pepto-bismol pink (with pink and white shag carpeting -- it was the 1970's, whaddaya expect?), and I think that scarred me.

I wanted a fleece jacket a couple of years ago, but didn't want to pay full price. I already owned 3 other jackets, so I certainly didn't need it. LL Bean had fleece jackets on sale, but only pink. It was so much cheaper than the full price ones, I decided to branch out into pink. Bright pink. Really, really pink. But is a pink fleece jacket fashionable for a 40-mumble year-old neurologist? Or did I look like a dork walking into work this morning?

29 September 2010

I can haz migraine?

Unfortunately, it seem that I can.

Some of my friends have been troubled with migraines recently. Much as I enjoy sharing things with you, I would prefer that YOU. KEEP. YOUR. MIGRAINES. TO. YOURSELVES.

Thank you.
Brainzz Management Services

28 September 2010

Helpful pie-charting

So, as I said in my last post, one of the things I do for a living is read (and evaluate) clinical trials. Much of the math and statistics remains beyond the ability of my pea-sized math brain to understand. But I do often catch it when the authors are trying to pull a fast one on me. And that irks me.

Dear Scientist,

If you insist on including graphs as scientifically "meaningful" as the one below in your really, really important medical study, you will be laughed at. Then I will wield Janiece's Shovel of Doom (TM) and make you go away.


24 September 2010

Thank God for Biostatisticians!

I work in the medical field. That's a big "Duh!", I know. Part of my job as a physician is to keep up-to-date in my field (neurology). Most of the meaningful neurology articles published in reputable journals come in the form of clinical studies. And those clinical studies, whether prospective randomized placebo-controlled trials or retrospective observational case series studies, include statistics.

I hate statistics. Really, I do. Why, you ask? Well, that's because my stats course in medical school consisted of lectures from a biostats grad student on 8 or 10 successive Friday afternoons. This grad student did not want to be there, and neither did we. It was poorly taught, and (certainly in my case) poorly learned. I swear that I came out of med school with only one statistics "fact" in my head -- p values should be greater than 0.05 (P> .05) for the study results to be significant. Let's just say that this minimalistic view of biostatistics was not really adequate for a practicing physician.

I'm not here to teach or explain statistics (God, no!), but I have learned quite a bit more useful methods of evaluating the adequacy of statistical analyses over the past few years. I greatly appreciate the biostatisticians in my (professional) life (thank you! thank you!).

And so I present this video for your viewing pleasure (found on youtube, of course). If you aren't interested in statistics or scientific analyses, then feel free to move along. But it had me laughing out loud.

14 September 2010


Just wanted to share a nice picture I took. Apparently, this is a begonia. My non-floral brain simply says "pretty pink flower".

13 September 2010

Lice (and Mousie)


And yuck.

ThePinkThing's been scratching her head for a few weeks. I'm not stupid, so the first thing I thought of was lice. I (being a researchy kinda person) looked up lice is diagnosed and followed the instructions. I saw nothing, nothing I tell you. I looked behind her ears and at the back of her head but didn't see nits or bugs. I changed her shampoo and conditioner, I changed our laundry detergent, I even had her use Neutrogena's T-Gel a few times. But she still kept scratching.

I must be blind or something. Since TheHusband was going to TPT's pediatrician's office anyway to fix one of their computers, I sent her along for an evaluation. (TH fixes the computer, KidDoc fixes TPT's itchy head, right? It's a fair trade.) KidDoc apparently saw the nits right away. Eeeeuw. And gross. (Yes, yes, I know that I'm a Brain Doctor, and the sight of brain slices fazes me not in the least. But ooogey bug eggs in my kid's hair gross me out, okay?) When I told KidDoc that I had looked and didn't find anything, there was silence on the phone. I know he was thinking "God save me from these adult specialists who can't even diagnose something basic..."

I followed KidDoc's instructions (Rid shampoo, followed by Prell shampoo, followed by some serious hair inspection/combing). I stripped the beds, washed all of the bedding in hot water, dried it on high, put the pillows in the dryer for 20 minutes on high (Oooo, toasty!), washed the towels, and vacuumed the carpet in her room. I washed everything again before nit-picking session number 2, as well.

I was also instructed to put any stuffed animals she sleeps with in a plastic bag. Note that TPT is not terribly fond of stuffed animals, which is strange considering how stuffed-animal-obsessed my brother and I were (I guess she takes after TH, in that respect). She does have two favorites -- Mousie and Cottontail. Cottontail is a generic rabbit, but Mousie is special. My brother gave Mousie to me in 1989, when I had to have surgery. She is a big, fat, white mouse with personality (though all of our stuffed animals had personalities when we were kids). For some reason, Mousie's signature activity is screeching "MOTHER" at the top of her lungs (yes, I am the voice of Mousie...). TPT thinks it's hilarious and appropriated Mousie for her own a few years ago. She also decided that I am no longer Mousie's "mother", she is. Kids are strange, yes? When I told her that Mousie would have to spend 2 weeks in a plastic garbage bag, TPT became distraught and started to cry. She told me that Mousie doesn't like being in the bag and wants to come out. Eventually she stopped crying and decided to throw Mousie a party in 2 weeks to make up for her captivity. When I mentioned the Mousie-situation to my brother (via text), his response (also via text) was as follows:




When I showed these texts to TPT, she ran around shrieking "Mother, get me out!" at the top of her lungs. Perhaps she does share some stuffed-animal-genes with me and her uncle, after all.

Looking forward to the lice going away and Mousie being sprung from prison. And anytime I scratch my head now, I am paranoid.

11 September 2010

Was Yellow, Now Orange

ThePinkThing has earned her orange belt in karate. I've done my best not to live vicariously through her -- i.e., making her do stuff I couldn't do as a kid. I have made her try various activities, like gymnastics, ballet, and ice skating, more for the exercise and experience than anything. She hasn't enjoyed any of them and happily gave them up as soon as she was allowed. Some of them really happily (not a future prima ballerina...).

However, karate has held her attention for more than 6 months, and she insists that she is going to get her black belt. It is a big time commitment, because the students at her karate school are expected to attend class twice weekly. She has been assiduous in attending her karate classes all summer, only missing them when we were away on vacation. And so, today she took her belt test and progressed from yellow to orange belt. And in keeping with her girly nature, she wore a t-shirt with a pink frosted cupcake on it underneath her uniform. Much to TPT's glee, her friend NT got her yellow belt, so they will be back in the same class again.

Don't mess with TPT or she'll knock your block off!

Round kick! (friend NT in background, behind instructor)

Jump Round Kick!

Broken board

Now an orange belt!

10 September 2010

10 on the 10th

Just like last year, I'd like to take the time to wish TheHusband a happy anniversary. Can you believe it's been 10 years?!?!

Right, me neither.

TheHusband says the tune for this song is from the William Tell Overture. Given my consistently tone-deaf state, I'm forced to agree with him by default (just like an obedient wife, I guess). Is he correct?

09 September 2010

Happy New Year!

I had a friend in college whose parents were both Jewish, but neither were practicing Jews. I don't think either one cared a bit about religion in general, or Judaism in particular. My friend grew up in Southern California, where there are probably half as many Jews as there are in Israel, so she and her sister were (sort of) exposed to Jewish culture.

One fine fall day, my friend's father and sister went to the supermarket to do the grocery shopping. My friend's father was apparently annoyed by the signs and displays in the grocery store. He turned to the sister and said "Why the heck does this store have New Year's signs up? It's September for goodness sake. We haven't even had Halloween or Thanksgiving yet."

The sister replied "Uh, Dad, it's Rosh Hashanah."

Her dad responded with the ever useful "Oh."

Happy New Year and L'shana Tova to those who celebrate it. We're having apples and honey today. And I even took the day off.

07 September 2010

The Curse of Lake Wallenpaupack

Yes, it struck again. I've mentioned that whenever we visit my friends at their house in the Poconos, something bad seems to happen. Even when they come to visit us, badness occurs. I did threaten to leave TheHusband home if we went to the lake house again. This time, he wasn't the problem.

We wanted a low-key, relaxing summer vacation this year. Last summer we went to Great Wolf Lodge right before school started, which was fun but frenetic (add friends with 4 kids and frenetic is definitive). So we tempted fate and stayed at our friends' lake house in the Poconos for a WHOLE WEEK, from 8/21-8/29. I was really tempting fate with a whole week's stay.

Our trip there was mildly annoying, because we left an hour and a half later than planned, forgot the blow-up mattress (thankfully our friends brought theirs), and left the car adapter for the DVD player at home. A Radio Shack along the way didn't have the right tip. So we had a 4 hour car ride with an only child and no obvious method of entertainment (it was dark for almost the whole ride). We survived. And, yes I am fully aware that everyone in my generation (and a million generations before mine) all went on long car trips without such nice methods of entertainment. Yes, yes, I know that. But it does make things so much easier.

The first weekend was nice, although the weather turned against us on Sunday (low 70s and rainy). Seven and four year-olds don't mind going in the lake or hot tub when it's raining. Their parents don't love standing around in the rain quite as much. Later that day, our friends went home and we had almost a whole week of relaxation and fun ahead of us.

It was fun and relaxing. Perhaps a bit more relaxing than expected, as it rained and was cool from Sunday through Wednesday. It was like 500 degrees every day this summer, except that week. Where's the justice in that, eh? We went to 2 different "family fun" places, and ThePinkThing played skee-ball, air hockey, and other arcade games that (of course) promote mental development. TheHusband and I had our usual no-holds-barred, cutthroat game of air hockey, for which I will sacrifice a certain level of back pain. I WON, OF COURSE. We went to a mall to buy some of her school clothes. We drove to NJ to see my grandparents, who live about 2 hours from Lake Wallenpaupack. I even worked one of the days. Not exactly the activities I was expecting for a vacation at the Poconos lake. I figured that our badness this year was the weather. No biggie in the real scheme of things.

Thursday the weather cleared up, although the lake temperature was, um, cool. TheHusband had promised ThePinkThing that he would take her Jet-Skiing, and Thursday was the day. Riding on a Jet-Ski was basically forbidden by SpineDoc for me ("Are you nuts? You had a lumbar fusion a few months ago. You know better than that..."), so I was the cheering section on shore. TPT enjoyed it but got really cold. She also said that she liked going 10 mph better than 40 mph. I wonder what that says about my husband's aquatic driving skills? Friday we went to a very nice beach at the lake. Sunny, nice, cold water, few people, lots of sand, very attentive and hungry ducks. (Did you know that ducks eat ice cream sandwiches? I didn't until that day.)

Friday night (8/27) my friends and their daughters arrived. (Yay, PinkPlaymates! And grown-ups to hang with, too!) Saturday was another beach day. One nice thing about kids of a certain age is that you no longer have to hover over them or watch them every minute.

On the Sunday morning I was silently congratulating myself for surviving the week at Lake Wallenpaupack unscathed. In retrospect, I just should've kept my (internal) piehole shut. TPT and the 7 year-old PinkPlaymate were riding their scooters on the back deck, while the four year-old was alternately begging to join in and whining that the big girls weren't playing with her. The wheel of TPT's scooter must've gotten caught in between the slats of the deck, and she fell over, hitting her face on the edge of the bench. She immediately started crying. She is the kind of kid who cries at the drop of a hat, and I have learned to differentiate the "Wah -- that hurt" cry from the "OMFG WAAAAAAHHHH, a limb is hanging by a thread" kinda cry. She let out one of the latter.

I may have mobility issues, but I can move quickly enough when I need to. She hit her right eye (the eyelid, thank goodness) and the bridge of her nose on a square edge of a bench. She ended up with a laceration on the eyelid and some pretty impressive swelling/bruising of the right eyelid. She may have had a hairline fracture of the bridge of her nose, but if she did, it was asymptomatic and non-displaced.

One other bad thing about this most recent evidence of the Curse was that she had her first day of school on the day after the injury. Poor thing was in a total tizzy about going to school with a black eye -- to the point where she "couldn't fall asleep". Once she got to school, she was fine, but boy it was a chore getting her to go. Note that a swollen eye and bruise on her nose didn't stop her from climbing the street pole, as usual.

A week after the injury, you can't even see it -- the healing power of children. TheHusband has now refused to visit my friends' lake house next summer, in hopes that the Curse of Lake Wallenpaupack may dissipate, if we stay away. He said that if we go to Alaska instead, it might not find us there. I'm game.

06 September 2010

Forsooth, 'twas a funne tyme!

Yes, yes, yes, I know that's a bit precious, but what do you expect from me after I just spent the day at the Maryland Renaissance Festival?

This was our second visit to the MD RenFest, and my third overall visit to a Ren Faire (I went to the NY Renaissance Faire one summer when I was in college). I really like these kinds of events -- people in costume, a variety of performers, music, food, and lovely crafts. It's tame compared to the World Science Fiction Convention. Just like at WorldCon, there are plenty of people wearing costumes that they just shouldn't. Let's just say that there was one woman in a corset that elicited a comment from TPT ("Mommy, why are that lady's boobies coming out of her dress?"). I had a bit of a cat-fest about that costume with another woman. Eeeeuw, it was truly appalling.

We went to the MD Renaissance Festival last summer with friends. It was 15 degrees cooler, 4 kids less, and about 3x more crowded than last year. It was less hectic (nobody got lost, ran off, or got left behind) but TPT had to wait about 25 minutes for a 5 second ride down the big slide. Though I missed my friends, we did meet up with a coworker. I noticed that her Facebook post said she was on her way to the RenFest, so I called her to see if we could meet up. We did, and she was even in costume (much to TPT's enjoyment). It was extra fun wandering the "streets" of Revel Grove with a wench.

  • ate turkey legs (yum!)
  • watched Irish and Scottish dancing (complete with bagpipes)
  • caught bubbles (you can't imagine how disgusting TPT was after this...)
  • went down a big slide (which TPT said was "a little scary")
  • practiced juggling
  • ate chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick
  • saw a jousting match (couldn't understand a thing the MC said, but apparently our team won)
  • got our (well, TPT's) hair braided
  • went through a maze
  • bought a birthday present (some lovely glass work for ME!)
  • got a magic wand
  • and took lots of pictures
We're hoping to go again in October. Wanna come, too?

TPT plus a passing wizard

TPT catching bubbles (bubble soap plus dirt = messy kid)

Turkey (or brontosaurus?) legs for all!

Wheeeeeeeee! Down the slide...

TPT juggling 2 balls, semi-successfully. Perhaps she'll be as good as Uncle Doug someday.

TH, not as successful as TPT, but game to try.

The jousting was fun, but, holy cow, the knights had to have been boiling inside those tin cans!

Braiding successful. Lavender flowers this year.

02 September 2010

In the Stinky Club

I like to eat interesting foods. I have a pretty wide palate. I am gastronomically adventurous. But my dinner tonight stretched my palate practically to the breaking point. I tried a bite, a very small bite, of stinky tofu. What is stinky tofu, you ask? It is tofu that has been soaked for a day in a fermented brine. The brine consists of a bunch of nasty ingredients, apparently. Wikipedia says that stinky tofu smells worse than it tastes. Clearly, I ate a different kind of stinky tofu than the Wiki experts did.

I ate a minuscule piece. It was a not-to-be-repeated experience, but I am glad that I did give it a whirl. But HOLY CRAP, THAT SHIT TASTES BAD.

Why did I eat it? Well, I had dinner with John the Scientist, who is a connoisseur of the stuff. He's even convinced a relatively normal friend of mine to try this stuff. I figured that it wouldn't kill me, although I did worry that I would cast up my crumpets, so to speak, at the table.

I got to the restaurant first. I have a very sensitive nose and smells easily bother me. As soon as I walked into the joint, I noticed a slightly perturbing smell of rotten fried, dirty sweat socks.

We ordered a bunch of different foods -- I allowed John to pick, just telling him that I hate ginger and black pepper and I prefer not to eat items that look like what they were prior to cooking, like chicken feet or shrimp with the eyes still attached (barf!). John ordered Taiwanese hamburgers (which are pork bits and cilantro and some sweet stuff -- totally yummy!), oyster pancakes (I liked everything about those except the oysters), a beef noodle dish (also really good, can't remember its real name), and jellyfish. I have issues with food consistency and was worried about the jellyfish (see it wiggle? see it jiggle?). It has a softer consistency than really good fresh squid, but is along that continuum. It was also yummy. A really boring squid/mushroom soup rounded out the food choices. Well, except for the (dum, dum, dum...) stinky tofu.

John ordered a stinky tofu appetizer. It arrived with the rest of the food and sat on his side of the table about as far from me as possible. It stared at me. It attracted me. I couldn't stop looking at it. It made me nervous. John said that it was much less overtly smelly than the stuff he ate in Taiwan and the stuff he ate with Nathan. However, I could smell it quite well, even though it was as far from me as possible while still remaining on our table. At the end of the meal, John lined up the food that would be his stinky tofu chasers and bit off a sizable bite of a piece. His face sort of scrunched up and screwed around to one side. Then he ate his chasers. Apparently, though this stinky tofu was less smelly, it was pretty strong stuff.

I kept eying it. I wanted to try it, but I didn't want to. It smelled awful. Truly disgusting -- like fried, 10-day-old vomit. John picked a piece off one of the big chunks and gave it to me. It sat on my little plate for a while. I picked it up and looked at it and (unfortunately) smelled it. That was the barrier. If I ate this damn thing, I knew that I'd be putting something that smelled that nasty into my mouth. On purpose. By my own choice. John didn't pressure me at all. (It stank!) But eventually, after much waffling and hesitation, I broke off a smaller piece and put it in my mouth

HOLY FREAKING SHIT! It tasted WORSE than it smelled. But I swallowed quickly, chased it down with some noodles, and didn't puke up my dinner. .I won't ever try it again, but I'm glad that I did eat it, if only for the bragging rights. That shit should be bottled as an appetite suppressant. I am not sure when I will want to eat again. Perhaps next week. But I now consider myself a lifetime member of the Stinky Tofu Club.

And John went back to his hotel (on the Metro) carrying the leftover stinky tofu. I wouldn't want to share a seat with him on the train...

16 March 2010

Bagging Blogging

As has been obvious over the past few months, I have not exactly been an inspired blogger. I've been a mostly-invisible blogger. It's not really that I have nothing to say. It's just that I haven't had anything nice to say. I have to push myself to even think about the blog, and that's not an environment conducive to blogging.

It doesn't help that the back pain is much worse over the past few weeks. The initial improvement in back pain followed by a gradual and significant worsening is not a good sign. It is most suggestive of non-fusion or pseudarthrosis. That is not exactly the outcome I hoped for when I went in for surgery. I was supposed to suffer for a while and then get better. Unfortunately it seems that I suffered more than I expected at the beginning (why yes, I am still on the blood thinners to treat the DVT and pulmonary embolism) without any lasting benefit. I have an xray scheduled for later this week and an appointment with the neurosurgeon next Friday. The options in general suck and I am pretending that everything is A-1, just ducky, going along fine. I swear it takes all of my energy to keep up the pretense.

And that brings me around to the real point of this post. I just don't feel like blogging anymore. I never intended that this become only a place for me to whine and complain -- and that is really all I want to do right now. So I am taking yet another vacation from blogging. Perhaps short-term, maybe long-term, possibly permanent. If the heavens open and angels start to sing (i.e., the back pain magically gets better), I may return.

Thanks for listening over the past year and 178 posts.

22 February 2010

Gadgetty Girl

I got a new phone. I didn't really need a new phone, but I really wanted one. I tend hoard birthday and Chanukah presents. Maybe "hoard" isn't the right word -- more like delay the gratification. I'll say to TheHusband that I don't want a present for a birthday or two, but then cash in on a bigger present -- quality over quantity, I guess. I didn't get a birthday or Chanukah present knowing that I wanted a phone with internet capability. I don't need a phone that can check the internet, I just really want one, and I've wanted one for about 3 years.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I got one. I've played people's iPhones and had phone envy, so I seriously considered getting an iPhone. But I didn't want to switch to AT&T. Their network in the DC area is okay at best, and I've been generally happy with Verizon. In fact, I've had a Verizon wireless account since 1996. I have had various Palm OS-based products for over 10 years now. One of the most valuable products for me is Epocrates -- a program that provides basic information on drugs (a la the PDR), but it has an excellent drug-drug interaction database that I consult frequently. I used to carry a PDA and a cheap cell phone, but about 5 years ago I got a Treo 650 (bought used on eBay), but I never had the data plan ($45/month was too rich for my blood). When that one died of a terminal interaction with a parking lot, I got the Treo 755P but still no data plan.

But I really wanted to be able to check the internet anywhere in my house, so when my "new" Treo started dropping calls, freezing, and generally being annoying, I decided to "use" my delayed presents and get a new smartphone (apparently they aren't called PDA phones anymore) with a data plan. TheHusband was amenable to this so I immediately started my research. One of my coworkers got the Palm Pre (Sprint) last summer, and I liked what I saw. I played with a friend's iPhone and liked that too. I immediately dismissed any Window-based smartphones (look, I'm a Mac-head, Palm-user at heart). Serendipitously, Palm launched the Palm Pre Plus -- a new Palm-based smartphone for Verizon. I decided on that one, especially because I wanted to stick with Verizon wireless.

Then TheHusband expressed interest in getting a smartphone for himself. After I picked myself up from my faint, I dragged him right off to the Verizon store. The visit to the Verizon store just cemented my desire for the Palm Pre Plus, but TheHusband was undecided. Since we could get the rebate automatically if we bought it online, I thanked the guy behind the counter and we left. I felt bad that he didn't get credit for the sale, but I am so bad about sending in rebate paperwork that buying on line made sense. After much cogitation and decision-making, TheHusband decided on the Samsung Rogue for himself. He didn't care so much about the internet, but he wanted something with a keyboard so texting me back wouldn't be so annoying. He wanted to be able to put in his own ringtones, which his old brick-like phone (dated 2000) wouldn't let him do. He wanted to be able to input contacts. He didn't care so much about Wi-Fi, which was a deal-breaker for me.

I love my new phone. It does everything I want. It's cute. I can surf the web in before I go to bed. I have some objections to it -- I do not want to store my contacts and appointments in the "cloud". Neither Google nor Palm needs to know that much about me. I am a casual user -- I don't use the phone for business purposes. I can't check my work email with it, which is fine by me. I found a program that allows me to sync my phone to the old Palm desktop program that I've been using for years. I miss a couple of the PalmOS games that aren't available (yet?) on WebOS. I used an encrypted software program to store passwords and other importnat information. I loved that program. It does exist in a WebOS version, but instead of syncing to my own computer, apparently it syncs to the comapny's central server instead. Ummm, no, I am not putting my passwords and other important information on some random server. Nope, no way, no how. I will wait for a time to see if that company comes to its senses and comes out with a PC desktop for syncing, otherwise I'll find another encrypted program.

TheHusband doesn't love his. he likes the phone except for the volume. He has incredibly acute hearing, but the speaker on his phone sucks. SUCKS. If he can't hear it, then it is just too soft. He even has trouble hearing the damn thing ring. So he will be heading to the Verizon store tomorrow to see if the phone has a bad speaker or if that is what you get with the Rogue. We are still within the 30 day trial period, so exchanging it for something else won't be a big deal. I won't be sorry if he trades it in, to be honest. He decided to call the phone "Sarah" after Sarah Palin, because she's such a rogue. I have been tempted to stomp on the phone simply because of that.

21 February 2010

Crazy friends and pathetic husband

As the follow up to Snobliteration, my best friends from college came to visit. They have 2 daughters, one of whom is a few months younger than ThePinkThing, and the other is 3 years younger. Last time they came to visit for a weekend, their YoungerGirl had to be forcibly removed from TPT's bedroom, due to incessant talking at bedtime. TPT still remembers that moment fondly. Having no siblings, she seems to take joy from younger siblings getting in trouble. To be honest, so did I as a kid, but that was because if a younger sibling in my house got in trouble, it was my brother. Always amusing.

Anyway, these friends had had long-standing plans to visit last weekend, and they weren't going to let a foot or four of snow stop them. They trekked down from NY on Friday, just in time for bedtime. Of course that delayed bedtime until well after 9 pm. Annoyingly, if TPT goes to bed especially late, she always gets up much earlier than usual. That morning was no different -- they were trekking downstairs at 6 am, much to our dismay. Quite a bit of Saturday was spent in the snow -- everyone except me. Wasn't up to that. They tried sledding, which didn't quite work out. They tunneled in the snow. They made a snow fort. All in something like 3 feet of snow. Crazy people. But I love them.

These are the friends whose house we were visiting last summer, when TheHusband went to the ER with possible appendicitis (it wasn't). Three summers ago, when we were staying with them, TPT had to get stitches. She was jumping on the bed with their OlderGirl and fell, hitting her face on the headboard. Two summers ago, TH lost his glasses in the lake, when he was standing on a dock, sneezed, and ploomp went his glasses into the water. Never to be seen again, mind you. I am surprised that they ever let us come visit or even want to see us. This past weekend was no exception. TH got food poisoning. His Saturday evening was spent either doing nasty stuff in the bathroom or sleeping in the recliner. Sigh. Not the best of visits.

Next time we visit them, I'm leaving TH home.

20 February 2010

Lots of snow and the electricity carrot

So I haven't been blogging much lately (duh). This is due to a combination of inertia, work overload, and general crabbiness. If I'm crabby, I see no reason to share it, even if misery loves company.

Also, we were slammed with snow. Snoverload 2.0. Snowmaggedon. Snobliteration. SnowhelpmeGod. Whatever you want to call it.

We got almost 3 feet of snow in the space of about 24 hours on Feb 5-6. I know that the Minnesotans, Alaskans, and Michiganders who read my blog aren't fazed by that amount of snow, but for heaven's sake, this is Montgomery County MD. Where they have a total of like 15 snowplows. And a policy to plow the main roads down to wet pavement before entering into the neighborhoods.

This wouldn't have been a big deal, but my neighborhood lost power sometime that Friday night. We were trapped, because I couldn't slog through almost 3 feet of snow. We have a fireplace, but it does nothing to warm the house. We have a gas stove and a gas hot water heater. But it was too cold to take showers, because we couldn't dry our hair. And coming out of the warm shower into the frigid bathroom was painful. A bunch of our neighbors bailed by walking (slogging) through the snow about a half mile to a main road where they had someone pick them up. Not us.

We stayed. It got really cold. By Sunday, the house was the same temp as the outside. It wasn't so bad during the daytime, but the nights were horrendous. I have never been able to sleep with the covers over my face; I feel like I'm suffocating. But I couldn't sleep with my face out of the covers. because it was too freaking cold. So I didn't really sleep.

Sunday was especially hard, because the power came back on for 30 minutes, then went back off. Up to that time, ThePinkThing had been the model of good behavior. After the electricity carrot had been dangled in front of our faces then yanked away, she had an absolute tantrum. The laying-on-the-floor-and-kicking-her-feet kind of tantrum. I didn't blame her. In fact, I had a small tantrum later that night, when I was literally shaking with cold, unable to sleep and completely miserable. I just waited until I was alone to have it.

We were finally plowed and shoveled out on Monday and went to relatives in the next town. They had heat. And light. And food. And their 5 year-old granddaughter, who was ecstatic to see another kid. And a comfy bed without 5 layers of blankets and 3 layers of clothing. I was actually hot at first. I felt bad about leaving the cats behind, because they are pampered inside-creatures who were confused as to why we were freezing them near to death.

The power came back on on Tuesday afternoon, after almost 4 days. It happened to come back on while we were home picking up the cats. TheHusband was going to take them to the vet to board them while we stayed with our relatives. But then the electricity carrot was offered once again, and this time it wasn't cruelly taken away. We waited 2 hours before committing to stay at home. No biggie, you say -- we could escape if the power went out again. Yeah, but you see we had another blizzard on Wed 2/10. Howling winds, whiteout conditions, another foot-plus of snow. But thankfully this was lighter, fluffier snow. Not the heavy wet stuff of the prior weekend. Our power stayed on. Some neighborhood kids came by and asked if we want to be shoveled out around noon on Thursday (YES!). The street was plowed sometime that evening. We survived.

We learned something too. We need to have either a generator or a kerosene heater, just in case this happens again. I want to buy some old-fashioned hot water bottles. Since we have a gas hot water heater, we could fill them and be a bit warmer at night. I realize that I will never live in Alaska, Minnesota, Vermont, or anywhere where they get boatloads of snow. I'm just too wimpy to handle it.

19 February 2010

Bad patient

I've been a bad patient lately. I still haven't started physical therapy, a month after the neurosurgeon instructed me to. Work has been busy, and I never seem to remember to call during daylight hours. But I called today, and I'll be starting in about 10 days. I know that going back to work full-time in January set me back some -- I had no transition. I had been working 2 hours per day, then BLAM! I was working 8 hours. Given my current position, it has been hard to work a reduced schedule. Everyone wants something from me. And if they don't want it now, they want it tomorrow. It's nice to be popular, but there are limits.

But this isn't why I am a bad patient. I am about to willfully disregard the instructions from one of my doctors. If y'all remember, I had a deep vein thrombosis in my right leg, part of which migrated to my left lung (pulmonary embolus) as a bonus a week after the surgery. That blood clot bought me 6 months on rat poison ... er, I mean a blood thinner (Coumadin or warfarin). They want my level between 2.0 and 3.0. It's been 2.5 or 2.6 since early December, and I have forgotten my Coumadin dose only twice since I started taking the stuff. The hematologist put me on a crazy regimen -- 6 mg on Sun and Wed and 4 mg the rest of the days. But it clearly works, since my levels have been perfect. Today I had my blood checked, and the result was 2.8. I figured that he'd leave the dose alone. But I got a call from the nurse this afternoon instructing me to increase the dose to 6 mg alternating with 4 mg. I thought what the hell? but didn't say that out loud. I asked her if she was sure if that was correct, as my levels have been rock-solid on the other dose. She said that that is what she was instructed to tell me.

I have an appointment with the hematologist this upcoming Thursday, and I have decided to ignore his instruction. I am going to keep taking the Coumadin as I have been until I talk with him. I am not sure if I received instructions meant for a different patient, which would make sense. I have enough medical knowledge (duh) to make my own decisions, although I hate it when my own patients do that. We'll see what he says on Thursday.

01 February 2010

Fighting over Fresca

I love Fresca. You know, that kinda tart, grapefruity soda that people either love or hate. I think more people than not hate it, but I've loved it since I was a kid. My mom would drink it sometimes, and I would snitch some from the bottle (I wonder if she ever figured that out...).

I am not a big soda drinker at all -- soda's fizziness annoys me and makes me burpy. But I do keep a 12 pack of Fresca in the house for those times when I want some soda. (aside -- TheHusband, OTOH, is a total soda-hound, with Pepsi being his libation of choice.) Funnily enough, it came out the year I was born, so we will both be 44 this year. Yay, us!

Prior to 2005, Fresca (at least in the US) came in only one flavor -- grapefruit. In 2005, black cherry/citrus and peach/citrus were added. I think that the black cherry version is an abomination (and I usually like black cherry stuff), but I adore the peach-flavored Fresca. If I had to rank the Fresca flavors, it would be 1st--peach/citrus, 2nd--citrus (original grapefruit), and a far distant 3rd is the cherry version (blech). Oddly, there are other flavors marketed in non-US markets, including a frightening-sounding "grapefruit mint". Grapefruit mint? WTF?

Anyway, there is a sort of point to this discourse on Fresca. It involves a fight over a single can of Fresca. About 4 years ago, I had the great pleasure to attend a real Hollywood premiere of a movie. I know the person who wrote and directed that movie very well and was honored (and totally juiced) to be invited. I flew out to LA from MD on a Tuesday evening, attended the premiere on Wednesday night, and flew back the next day. A whirlwind.

But not only did I get to go to this premiere, I got to go in the limo with writer/director, his family and other friends. One of the other people in the limo was my brother (of the bicycling-across-America fame). I think I've been in a limo only two other times in my life (other than the beaten up ones that take you to-and-from airports in NYC area). This was a king of limos -- a white, stretch Cadillac Escalade. The damn thing was as big as a Rose Bowl Parade float and had about the same turning radius. Only slightly worse than my Mazda station wagon, actually, but that's a separate issue. I needed a freaking stool to get into it, because I am short and it was HUGE.

There were about 10 people in the limo on the way to the premiere. We cracked open a bottle of champagne, but I, my brother, and the writer/director really don't drink alcohol. Not from any moral reasons on my part -- more because I just never really developed a taste besides get-drunk-on-it-while-in-college. Then we discovered a can of Fresca. And a fight ensued. Between me, my brother, and his friend Nina. Literally. Each of us wanted the Fresca. For our own. Grudgingly, we split the can amongst the three of us, while the rest of the passengers probably looked on with bemusement. "Fresca instead of good champagne? What the hell is wrong with them?" is probably what they were thinking. But, yes, Fresca over reasonably good champagne. And no regrets.

And I watched the movie with my eyes closed, because it was a scary movie, and I'm a wimp. The Fresca didn't fix that.

31 January 2010

Recovery Stuff and the Lack of Blogging

Hello? Hello? Anybody there?

Yes, somebody's here. Just not blogging frequently. Or even occasionally. One other post in January does not count as "occasionally". But I will get back to it, I promise.

The recovery from the surgery has been much slower than I expected and than I like. I returned to work full-time on January 5th. I had been working only 2-3 hours/day from home in December, and then we had our Florida/cruise adventures. We returned to MD on Sunday January 3, I took a necessary recovery day on Jan 4, and then worked from home on January 5 and 6. January 7 was my first day back in the office. I had intended to ease back in, but that hasn't been the case. I've been back at full-time since then. Not really much of a transition, and it has definitely impacted the recovery. But I really do like my job, so that isn't that much of a burden.

I am to start physical therapy while I am still in the brace (which makes me look sort of like a weird Mutant Ninja Turtle). We'll see how that goes. I am still using a cane, which I HATE. But at least it isn't a walker, and I am trying to wean myself from it -- using it for longer distances and outside).

I am supposed to wear the brace for 3 months post-op, but the 3-month mark is next week (Feb 4). Can you believe that? SpineDoc will be receiving a phone call on Feb 4, as we aren't scheduled for a visit until the end of March. I want out of this thing, but only if it won't impede the damn fusion. The blood clot has not ever again been symptomatic, and I should only be on the blood thinner (aka rat poison) until early May. My levels have been beautifully consistent (2.5 or 2.6, with the target between 2 and 3) on my current dose.

Someday I will stop walking like a zombie. That was actually a topic of conversation I had with RehabDoc a couple of weeks ago. RehabDoc is handling my rehabilitation. He is a very formal but relaxed kinda guy. We address each other as "Doctor" at his request, even though we are about the same age and work in similar fields. He doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor.

The following is a reasonable transcript of the end of our recent visit:

RehabDoc: Well, it looks like everything is going along nicely. The symptoms related to the L2-3 compression have resolved. (It was probably even more Med-Speak-ish than that.)
NeuronDoc: The back still hurts. I am not really enjoying that.
RD: Give it time. You are only a little over 2 months post-op.
ND: Is this where I should be at this point?
RD (not really sighing, but close) Yes, you are recovering well. Give it time.
ND: Okay. But when am I going to stop walking like a zombie? This Frankenstein-gait is really annoying me.
RD (completely deadpan): Give that another 6-8 weeks. The scarring and fusion need to progress a bit before your gait will improve. Then you should stop walking like a zombie. However, I can't promise that you won't be attacked by a zombie in the future and then start shambling around like one again. That would be completely unrelated to the current issue.

That made me laugh for hours.

17 January 2010

Almost unspeakably crappy day for a friend

You know, there are times that I just have to be thankful that I have a roof over my head. A friend of mine today lost his. His roof, the rest of his house and his pets, actually, in a fire. Apparently the fire occurred while he and his family were at church, and no human lives were lost. It is unclear if the place is a total loss, what can be salvaged, what his family has beyond the clothes on their backs. Shawn and his family are in my thoughts tonight. If you are interested in helping, you can go here and chip in to help them out.

I am off to burn copies of all of my digital pictures and send the discs to my mom in NJ. Just in case.