Monday, June 29, 2009

Bad Bernie Heads for the Big House

schadenfreude (shäd'n-froi'də)
n. satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune

Professional Ratbastard Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison today.

The jailed Madoff already has taken a severe financial hit: Last week, a judge issued a preliminary $171 billion forfeiture order stripping Madoff of all his personal property, including real estate, investments, and $80 million in assets his wife Ruth had claimed were hers. The order left her with $2.5 million.
Hmmm...not good enough. Why should she get to keep $2.5 million? I want Ruth and the boys to live in cardboard boxes and eat dog food. I'm inclined to agree with Jill Schlesinger, Editor-at-Large of CBS MoneyWatch: 150 Years Doesn't Seem Like Enough.

(A very funny Andy Borowitz offers a copy of his new book, Who Moved My Soap? The CEO's Guide to Surviving Prison, The Bernie Madoff Edition.)

I just wanted him to shut up

File it under Strange Coincidence. Yesterday morning, my 'hood was aswarm with cops. In fact, at one point there was a cop and a sniffer-dog in my front yard! The Hoodies were burning up the phone lines trying to find out what happened, and then get updates. Turns out the convenience store around the corner was robbed at gunpoint, and the robber took off on foot (a contender for the Darwin Awards, wouldn't you say?), so the cops were blanketing the area. I think they found him because they all left the area at the same time. It was a bit of a hubbub; not our usual Sunday morning.

Sunday afternoon, Bro 2 called for our weekly catch-up phone call, but began the conversation with, "I just wanted to see if the cops were at your door."

Huh? How on earth did he hear about our little commotion?? Turns out he was talking about something else entirely: Billy Mays, the incredibly annoying TV pitchman, was found dead yesterday. I found him so obnoxious that whenever his commercials came on, no matter what I was doing, I had to race to the remote and hit MUTE. I wrote about him in a post titled Recurring Fantasy.

Well, I'm in the clear. I just wanted him to shut up and go away. And yes, I can account for my whereabouts all day.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

If He's in Trouble, He Must be a Democrat

Not surprising that another Republican, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, was caught with his pants down. (Or as Jon Stewart described, suffering from a conservative mind and a liberal penis.) These stories are almost interchangeable.

What did surprise me at least a little bit, was that Faux News identified him as a Democrat. And that they have a history of committing this same "error" over and over again. The common denominator is that this party mis-identification always happens whenever the Republican in question is in trouble: charged, arrested, arraigned, etc. Here's another article on this tradition, going back almost three years. They never commit party mis-identification when the Republican has made a generous donation to a charity, or won some kind of award, or managed to pass tough legislation (ha, a little joke). Once they straightened out the party-affiliation snafu, Rush Limbaugh adroitly figured out a way to blame the affair on Obama. I kid you not. You would think these Family Values-spouting Turdblossom-wannabes would have learned by now: when you try and stake out the moral high ground, you're going to fall a lot farther.

Great Huffpo blogs on the topic:
Argentine Affair: The Movie
Sanford's Penis Resigns from the Republican Governor's Association
Don't Cry For Me, Right Wing Media
Sanford and Sin


RIP, MJ. Poor Michael Jackson. I'm sure he was as hopped up on Rx pills as Anna Nicole, and just as surrounded by enabling sycophants. The same people who let this deranged, indulged creature turn himself into a freak show. He was tied for First Place on my Least Favorite Child Molester list (sharing the honors with Woody Allen), but I'll always have a soft spot for the old Michael, the black Michael, whose sweet voice provided the soundtrack to much of my adolescent angst. Every Junior High dance featured his hits; I have fond memories of dancing to ABC and doing the Drag & Shuffle to Puppy Love and I'll Be There. I think there's a lesson here, but I'm not sure what it is.

Friday, June 26, 2009

It IS the heat...

We're on our fourth or fifth day of 90º+ temperatures and 90%+ humidity. It's like living in a sauna. Years ago during a similar heat wave, I ventured out to a bookstore. The woman ahead of me at the cashier was a big-haired gal with a voice that dripped peach nectar. She was dismissive about the weather: "Oh, where ah'm from, this idn't nothin'."
I couldn't resist asking, "Where are you from, hell?"
"Close," she turned to smile at me, "Dallas."

I think my internal thermostat broke about ten years ago when Sis & I went to Europe. They were having what was then a record-setting heat wave. (Those records were broken a few years later.) Three factors made it extremely challenging to actually enjoy the trip. 1) Almost nothing in Paris and London is air-conditioned. 2) They definitely have a different standard of personal hygiene. And the killer, 3) Even in Europe, Sis and I are both pretty much at armpit-level to the world. I never did so much mouth-breathing in my life.

Ever since then, I just can't bear to be hot. I know it's traditional to retire to warm places: Phoenix, Miami, Palm Springs. But if I make it to retirement age, I'm more likely to head for Maine or Montana.

I'm probably going to have a cow, man, when I get my next electric bill, but until then, the AC is set on Arctic and all fans are on.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Brother Bully Buddy Baddie: Rock School Dropout

First child, first son, first grandchild, first grandson, and born on the Fourth of July to boot. Yes, the sun and moon shone only for the Golden Boy, Bro 1.

He reigned over the 7 of us (me, my siblings and three cousins) with an iron hand, with Bro 2 taking the brunt of his bullying. I know I suffer a little survivor's guilt for not having interceded more often on Bro 2's behalf. But at the time, all I could think was, "Wow, glad he's not pounding on me."

Bro 1's first dozen years were pretty rocky for those who had to live under his rule. The words "tyrant" and "despot" come to mind. Whatever he wanted to do, the rest of us had to follow, unquestioning. Several times he declared he was producing a "carnival" in our back yard. He made us march up and down the street with signs, shouting, "Come one! Come all!" The carnival? He charged our neighbors to use our swing set and monkey bars! Or he would decide that we were going to put on a show for the neighbors. Again, charging them for the privilege. We would have to stand in front of them and "ad lib" whatever scene he imagined, without a script or scenery or costumes. One time in particular, I recall, the sole purpose of the revue was to impress a little girl he was smitten with. (Of course, whenever Mom caught him, she made him return everyone's money.) Another time he made me turn over my cache of silver dollars, collected and hoarded over several birthdays, just so he could buy a present for the object of another crush, his favorite babysitter. Yes, he was our very own Dennis the Menace.

Bro 1 created a brilliant game he called Rock School, and of course, we had to play it whenever he was in the mood. Our house was at the top of a small rise, and our front yard had a series of steps leading to the street. The "students" sat on the top step and one at a time, tried to guess in which hand the "Teacher" held a small pebble. If we guessed it correctly, we graduated to the next step/grade; if not, we had to stay there and wait for our next turn. In between, the teacher would put the pebble behind his/her back and "mix up" which hand held it. If someone made it all the way to the street, then that person became the Teacher and the game started over. When Bro 1 was the Teacher, it was almost impossible to move ahead. It took us, I'm embarrassed to admit, a very long time to figure out why. Bro 1 was a boy, and therefore had back pockets. So 90% of the time, he would deposit the pebble in one of his pockets, and present two empty closed fists -- we didn't have a chance of finding the pebble.

He's pretty good natured about listening to us reminisce about the Reign of Terror. He doesn't try to insist that we're exaggerating. Maybe he's secretly proud of his ability to maintain absolute control for as long as he did.

There's a lot to this birth order theory; I think oldest children have caregiver tendencies. Bro 1 has become a caregiver, all right, to his wife, two daughters, two dogs, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law, and has been a great support to me and my parents throughout my cancer adventure. (He's also obnoxiously smart, and the only person who's ever beaten me at Scrabble.)

If he hadn't experienced a total transformation around age 12-13, Bro 1 probably would have ended up in prison. But for reasons he's never explained to us, he did a complete 180º and continued on that path, learning to use his powers for good. Somehow that little monster turned into a kind, considerate, thoughtful, generous brother. Miracles can happen.

P.S. I would apply all the same adjectives to Bro 2. I ended up with two great brothers. I guess childhood is not always an accurate prediction.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lost and Found

They've taken almost all the blue streetside mailboxes out of our neighborhood, so now I have to either mail things at the post office, or occasionally I put things out on my mailbox, and the carrier picks them up and puts them in the mail. Today I had a couple of things to mail. I put address stickers and stamps on them... and then, I took my eyes off the prize for just a moment. I put something in my purse, moved something on the table from one stack to another... and poof, they were gone.

I retraced my steps a dozen times, I looked through every stack, I looked under things, I even looked in all kinds of places I knew they could not be, and I couldn't find them. I decided to give it up; sometimes these things suddenly reappear, they materialize in some ridiculous place where you know you've looked, and I hoped that would happen. Hours pass, the mailman comes and goes and I've missed my chance to get them in today's mail. But they do not reappear.

And after lunch, I did some dishes and threw a few things out. A tiny, dim bulb flickered above my feeble brain. I opened the trash can, moved a couple things... and yes, there were my letters. Somehow in my to-ing and fro-ing, I'd thrown a few things away and the letters must have been in my hand at the time.

Even though I'm officially through with chemo, I'm pretty sure I get to use "chemo-brain" as an excuse for at least another 6 months. But then what? Peri-senility?

Are you a mathlete?

Mr. Smartypants, aka Bro 1, claims to have figured out how this works. I'm not even close. Anyone??


I have a love/hate relationship with O magazine. (Okay, that's a bit strong. It's more of a like/dislike relationship.) It often fluctuates between unctuous and preachy. There is often an almost shocking disconnect to the way her readers live: how many of us are going to even consider $1,100 handbags or $600 shoes? And yet, there are features I love, like celebrities telling about their Aha!" moments, and their book recommendations. There are inspirational quotes under the heading, "Live Your Best Life," that also range from saccharine to sharply insightful. In the current (July 09) issue, this one jumped off the page:

Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage a move, loss of a job... And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another -- that is surely the basic instinct... Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.
-- Barbara Kingsolver, from High Time in Tucson

Monday, June 22, 2009

Son of Last Day

Or Not So Happy but Really, Really Last Day.

I didn't want to get chemo today in the worst way. I dreaded it, I hated it, I just couldn't swallow my loathing and frustration. All weekend long, even throughout my crazy car purchase, I thought about calling to cancel my appointment. But I managed to drag my ass back to the infusatorium and put myself through it one more time because I'd made a deal with my brain and heart: after today, I'm done with chemo. I don't care what the oncologist says and I don't care what the numbers say, I've had enough. I could go on getting more chemo, higher doses, different drugs, forever... and it would just be diminishing my quality of life for whatever time I have left.

I'll continue to get Zometa. And I'm still going to get an MRI this week and meet with the surgeon next week. I know how I feel and I need to have an honest discussion with the surgeon (or the oncologist, or both) about the likely progression of this disease. I'm still hopeful that some of my back problems are fixable; a little less optimistic about my aching hips, leg cramps, and rib "hot spots." But all I'm looking for is the truth, as best as they can tell it to me. Enough with the happy talk.

I'm taking this stand, putting myself in the driver's seat and making decisions I believe are best for me, even if it conflicts with what my doctor wants. It's not amazing that I'm doing it now; what's amazing is that I haven't done so for 18 months. My brain and heart are doing little cartwheels. I have been waiting to die for almost two years, and it's time to start living instead.

“Good Lord, Eunice!”

I finally figured out who's been scowling back at me from the mirror for the past 6 months. It hit me this morning, like a clean right cross:

Yes, it's Vicki Lawrence as Mama in Mama's Family, a painfully bad sitcom from the...80s? I'm not even sure. But it's the hair. It's definitely the hair.

Even though I finally colored it from iron gray to a kind of mousy light brown, there is no mistaking the viciously tight, over-permed (or in my case, over-chemo'd) curly do. I might never have connected the dots, but this morning I also had the grimace, the locked lower jaw, and pow! There it was: the hair and the face. I had to go back to bed for awhile. And I may need to cover my mirrors for a few weeks. Now that I've figured it out, I'm seriously considering shaving my head again.

Favorite quotes from a fan site:

  • Aren't you going to introduce your family? “Not if I can help it.”
  • “Well, I'll bet the neighbors are just lovin' this! ”
  • “I tell ya, a guy selling brains could clean up in this family.”
  • “Vint, you've had some stupid ideas, but this one qualifies you for handicapped parking.”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's a Boy!

And his name is Hondo Banal:

Hondo, because what else are you going to name a Kia Rondo? And Banal, because in all the reviews I read, the only negative comment was that the interior was banal. (It is.)

Well, I'm not an impulsive gal, at least not anymore, but when I do follow an impulse, it's a doozy. I've known for some time that the Grannymobile was on her last wheels. She was 10 years old and developing a serious Power Steering Fluid habit. And I was in danger of frittering away my disability settlement check. So I blew the wad yesterday on an almost-new car. I called Bro 2 this morning in a cold, clammy panic but after talking me down from the ledge, he deduced that it was just a reaction from spending so much money in one swell foop.

But I luv my Rondo. Everything is still under warranty and best of all: I can get in and out without grunting and making a series of horrible faces. Hola, Hondo Banal.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Guest House

by Rumi

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
More poems and a brief biography here.

Raised by Wolves?

Summer tastes like... a big sweet tomato. This time of year, dinner is often an ear of corn and a few slices of tomato. It's not quite harvest season yet, but the produce stand around the corner has some gorgeous almost-local 'maters and Mary Ann brought me one. First, it graced a grilled cheese sandwich, with Smoked Gouda. The next day, I grilled a huge Portobello mushroom on my tiny George Foreman grill. (It took me awhile to warm up to this appliance and I have to say, now I'm hooked.) On some great whole grain bread, I stacked several slices of that tomato, the mushroom, a slice of Provolone, and a dab o' Pesto. Tomorrow, the giant tomato will make its grand finale in an omelet. And then I will go shopping for another tomato, because this time of year, they actually taste like tomatoes.

It's a no-sleeping-pill night, and therefore a no-sleep night. Not always, but almost always. I thought I might as well get up out of bed and ramble for awhile. It is also a very warm, muggy night, but I can't blame my sleeplessness on that. As any of my Hoodies or Foodies will attest, you can hang meat in my living room. I'm all for helping save the planet, and I'm willing to make sacrifices large and small, with that notable exception. I refuse to sweat in my own living room. I hate to sweat. (Yes, this also makes aerobic exercise a bit of a problem.) I recycle paper, glass and plastic. I use CFLs - complact fluorescents - in all my lamps. I combine errands. I observe "no-zone" action days. But I hate to be hot, and I hate to sweat, and if I can possibly avoid that, I will.

I've met two of the three new neighbors. First impression is that the three little pigs have been replaced by the three little Bimbeaux. I don't know what kind of work they do -- if they work at all -- but they keep odd hours. And they had quite a party Wednesday night. Strange, no? It was getting noisy around 10-11pm, so I looked out front just to see if the party had spilled outdoors. It hadn't; it was just one noisy Bim. But I noticed that parking had become an issue: there were cars behind and in front of mine, both very close. If I had needed to get out for any reason, I could not have done so without either hitting these cars, or having them towed.

The Bims and their guests slept in. Cars did not start moving until after 10am. I wanted to at least try "catching flies with honey," so when I heard someone start the car behind mine, I went outside and knocked on her window. Turns out she was a guest, not a tenant, but I still asked if she might park just a little more carefully. "Um, yeah, okay..." was the response, but I'm sure she drove away harrumphing, "Whateverrrrrr!" I got almost the same response when I spoke to the girl who parked in front of me. She is a tenant, and had parked less than 6" from my front bumper. Not a word of apology from either one.
"I'm sure you didn't realize this when you parked, but you've had my car pinned in here for more than 12 hours."
"There wasn't any place else to park!" she protested. Of course, this wasn't true. There were plenty of places to park, but they would have required her walking, i.e. manual forward propulsion, 12 feet or more.
"Well, I'd really appreciate it if you would park so that I can at least get my car out."
She just stared at me. I couldn't tell if she'd had an extra bowl of stupid, or if this was really a passive-aggressive nasty thing going on.

I wonder the same thing now as I did with the three little pigs: who is raising these selfish, spoiled brats? Do they think this sense of entitlement is going to suit them their whole lives? I'm not going to accept their youth as an excuse. Supergirls 1 and 2 are shining examples of thoughtful, responsible, kind young people. Likewise, my neighbors across the street, just about the same age, have been awesome neighbors. I'm not thrilled that they also seem to have 4-6 vehicles, but they have been nothing but kind and considerate. In fact, upon seeing the parking debacle, they offered to park 2 of their cars in front of and behind mine so this doesn't happen again.

The house next door seems to be a magnet for boorish, selfish, inconsiderate little boars and sows. And this little piggie has had enough. Now, having vented, perhaps I can sleep just a little bit...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Last month, the Hoodies gathered at Bill & Judy's to thank their cat sitters, and to toast what we thought was the last of my chemo treatments. We'll say it was just a "Good Luck" toast. (I'm in orange; Chris is the mystery hand next to me.) Judy's garden is one of the prettiest spots in the whole 'hood. It is at its peak right now, filled with poppies, daisies, lilies, coral bells and more, with veggies tucked in between.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thai Bell Pepper, Cuke & Peanut Salad

1 Tbs sugar,
1 Tbs Thai fish sauce (or soy sauce, but fish sauce is better)
3 Tbs fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (or more)

2C peeled, seeded cucumber, sliced
1C red bell pepper strips
1C julienne cut carrots
1/2C vertically sliced red onion
2 Tbs chopped fresh mint (optional)
2 Tbs coarsely chopped peanuts

Combine dressing ingredients & stir with a whisk. Combine salad ingredients. Drizzle the dressing over it, tossing gently to coat. Sprinkle with peanuts.

This is a wonderful, fresh combination of sweet and salty and hot. A great summer salad from Cooking Light. I love this salad; I rarely have leftovers.

Go See...

Some Frenchy stuff:
ParisDailyPhoto - the Francophile fix. While we're there...
Stuff Parisians Like - Wearing Black, Foreign Girls, Complaining
ParisHotelBoutique - vintage, one-of-a-kind items.

Here's a Euro-bonus:
The Best of Ikea for the Kitchen
Mmm... Ikea good!

First Rose of Summer

Mom and Bro 1 are the real gardeners in the family, and they both have a knack for roses.

I have a couple of scrawny specimens which have finally accepted my "no sissies" gardening creed. I'll give them the occasional dusting if something vicious is attacking; other than that, I just don't believe in pampering roses. It just encourages dependency and hypochondria. As a result, my roses don't produce much and usually look like they're waiting for triage.

Here is Bro 1's First Rose of Summer, with glossy, unmunched leaves. Good show.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

One year ago...

Last June, my friend Chris held a fundraiser on my behalf. It was mostly our Hoodies, but she has many circles of friends, from work, from volunteering, and she invited them all. At first, I felt slightly mortified to be the beneficiary of a fundraiser. But I decided to get over it, and at least put in an appearance. I was finishing the last of a 6-month chemo cycle, so I felt pretty crappy, but I managed a brief visit; I think (hope) I managed to thank a few people. I know I was on the verge of bursting into tears the whole time. It was a lovely party. Guests pitched in food and beverages, and Chris hired a couple of musicians for the evening. I was so touched at everyone's generosity, including many people who've never met me. And when it was all over, Chris and company raised more than a month's worth of expenses for me. Here are just a few pictures from the party. Thanks to Judy for being my photographer.

Monday, June 15, 2009

La Puncturtorium

La Cootina est mui ouchy! We soared past the old record and set the bar today at 7 sticks in a single visit. Nurse A failed twice for the blood draw, and passed me to Nurse C. Luck was on his side: he found a gusher on the first stick and filled two tubes without incident.

When the labs returned, I went back to the infusatorium and learned that Nurse S, one of my favorites, was having a "bad stick day." "I can't hit the broad side of a barn today," she lamented, and then proved it again, failing twice to find a juicy vein. "Let's get Nurse M," she said. "She's golden today." Well... not completely. Nurse M also missed once, and it was a wretchedly uncomfortable stick on the inside of my forearm, just above my wrist. Finally, with much trepidation and anxiety, they found a spot on the outside of my forearm that was (barely) acceptable and after some unpleasant to-ing and fro-ing, decided it was good enough for the IV hook-up. Well, lordy, we just about ALL threw a party at that point. Thank goodness I'm not a needle-phobe!

They all said that this is not uncommon, especially for someone who has been on steroids for a long time. But they all felt so badly for me, and of course I felt badly for them: a double helix, a vortex of empathy and misery. I'm really going to try to drink gallons of water before my next visit. None of us wants a replay of today.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Darryls and the Maple Monkey

When I first bought my house, I made the large mistake of hiring some tree trimmers who were driving around looking for work. The very short version: They tried to cheat me; I not only caught them but got over on them. Take that. Then there were several escalating phone calls back and forth, and I had a sanity attack. These knuckleheads knew where I lived! Was it worth $80 to have them burn down my house or poison my dog? Compromise reached, price paid, lesson learned.

Fast forward 20 years. A Darryl pulls up in a pick up truck as I finish mowing, and wants to talk to me about my trees. Yes, I know my trees are in pitiful shape. He starts out trying to put together a package deal. Nope, I say, just the giant dead limb in the maple tree, Darryl. He wants $125 but this girl has learned the magic word: cash. On instinct, I decide to squander the last of my birthday money: after some haggling, they agree to cut down and haul away the giant limb, and seal the wound, for $60 cash.

Now, I figure there are more Darryls in the truck, because the Darryl doing the talking is at least 400 lbs. He is actually bigger around than he is tall, and his gut sticks straight out about three feet, like Littermama in her last month. This guy has not left terra firma in a long, long time. Sure enough, two more Darryls climb out of the truck. The first is a tall, scrawny 18-year old with gray teeth; he looks like he'd need two more brains to be a half-wit. Darryl #3 isn't really a Darryl at all; he's also 18 years old, but clean cut, with intelligence shining in his eyes. He's maybe 5' tall and 110 lbs. dripping wet...and he is the Maple Monkey, who actually does the work. He scampers 25 feet up into the tree, ties himself in and then lowers himself to begin cutting the dead limb. He drops it by sections to Darryl 2 -- I've dubbed him Deliverance Darryl -- who hauls it to the truck. It's clear that DD has reached his maximum potential.

The whole thing takes less than an hour, and I think, hey, $20 an hour isn't bad for three high school dropouts. But then I realize that Fat Bastard Darryl is probably paying the boys $5 an hour. As they're packing up, I pay Fat Bastard the agreed-upon $60 cash, then I go up to the Maple Monkey. As I hand him a $5, I say, loud enough for both Darryls to hear, "And I'm buying lunch for the man who actually did the work!" MMs face split into a beautiful grin as wide as a western sky. Maybe because he'd gotten a tip, or been acknowledged for being the workhorse. Or maybe because I'd called him a man. This is a culture that takes no end of pleasure in teasing and tormenting "vertically challenged" men and this kid is going to have a tough row to hoe.

I'm living on a less-than-meager budget, and I can't afford to squander even $1, still (with Slumdog Millionaire fresh in my mind), it occurs to me that may be the best $5 I've spent all year.

If you're not familiar with the Darryls, you need to rent one or two seasons of Newhart, an 80s sitcom with Bob Newhart. (The inn in Vermont, not the psychiatrist.) They show reruns on one of the god stations, and it is still as funny as it was 20 years ago. The first season is hilarious, and the characters are introduced, but subsequent seasons, with Peter Scolari and Julia Duffy, are even better.

Resting, Napping, Sleeping, Resting

I've been in the grip of another paralyzing fatigue. For the last two days, I've been resting or sleeping about 20-22 hours per day. My arms and legs are made of concrete, my head is made of lead. Leadhead. I'm too tired to feel bad about how tired I am; there's no energy left for guilt or regret. I can't even watch foreign movies, because I can't sit up long enough to read the subtitles. How pitiful is that?

Luckily, Slumdog Millionaire (SM) is mostly in English, so I was able to watch it. What an incredible movie! I was thrilled that it had a happy, Bollywood ending complete with musical number. As far as world travel, I've seen most of North America, and bits of the Caribbean and Europe. I haven't been to Asia or Africa, but even that glimpse of the Caribbean made it evident to me that poverty in the rest of the world is not the same thing as poverty in the USA. That point is driven home with a two-ton sledgehammer in SM. There is still some furor over the lives of the child actors in this film, a case of fiction becoming non-fiction. We can hope that they will be lifted from despair and literally given new lives. Of course, it begs the question: what about the millions and millions of kids who are not in the movie? At any rate, if you haven't seen it, add it to your list. And if you have any other Bollywood suggestions, send 'em along. (I've seen most of the "biggies" like Monsoon Wedding.)

I'm going to try to get the front yard mowed before the next line of thunderstorms arrives. I'm sure I will be down for the count afterwards. I haven't felt fatigue to this extreme for almost a year. I wonder if this is going to be an occasional symptom, or if it will go away once I'm in CR.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer Book Reviews

The Miracle at Speedy Motors
by Alexander McCall Smith

This series of literary pearls are part contemporary morality tale, part tribal folk tale, and all delightful. Mma Precious Ramotswe and her assistant Mma Grace Makutsi solve big mysteries and small problems with warmth, insight and humor. My lesson in this particular volume was all about faith. Not the Supreme Being variety, but the kind of faith in a spouse that allows him/her to pursue a dream, unencumbered by doubt and skepticism. Wow. As usual, these quiet little tales seem to skim the surface, but there is a depth and resonance to both the characters and the stories. If you still haven't read the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series yet, start at the beginning.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Julia Jarmand, an American journalist living in Paris, discovers a shameful chapter in French history: in 1942, French police detained thousands of Jews in the Velodrome d'Hiver for days, then deported them to concentration camps in Germany and Poland. The story follows a 10-year old girl who instinctively, impulsively, locks her 4-year old brother in a secret cabinet when the police come to their door, not knowing that she and her parents will be unable to return. Her story is told in flashbacks, alternating with the journalist's present life. As Jarmand unravels the story of the Jewish family, it appears that her husband's family may have been involved and the inevitable tensions put her marriage at risk. The author resists a neat ending, so the story loses momentum near the end, but that is more realistic than a happy Hollywood conclusion. Still, it is a good story with haunting elements.

Spotted in France by Gregory Edmont
I'm only a third of the way through this light non-fiction romp, and while it's not great literature, it's a fun, entertaining summer read. In case you didn't know, the French love dogs. An American writer (yes, another one) acquires a Dalmation, nicknamed "JP" for his lengthy, unpronounceable French name. Greg and JP set off on a vintage Vespa, touring the heart of France en route to meet a Dalmation breeder. Mistakenly called "Pongo" for a famous Disney Dalmation, JP opens hearts and doors among the notoriously aloof French. Of course, I now desperately wish to tour Provence on an old Vespa with Miss Molly in the passenger seat. I know my back couldn't take it... but perhaps a vintage mini Cooper? or even an old Renault?

Next up: The Cat Who Went to Paris by Peter Gethers
Yes, there is clearly a theme, at least this month.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Recovering from a busy weekend with houseguests and activities. Eleven of us had dinner Friday at my sister's. Well done, Sis. The Bat Mitzvah was Saturday morning. It was very nice, except I was a little shocked to discover that I have turned into one of the clucking old hens, commenting on the atrocious behavior of all the children aged 13 and under, and especially the 5-and-under set.

To be fair to myself, they were appalling. I guess you can let your kids act like animals at home. And apparently no one can stop you from bringing your out-of-control beasts into places like public restaurants. But if they can't sit still for 90 minutes, why drag them to a religious service, and spoil the experience for everyone else? Do you think hiring a babysitter is some kind of child abuse? Or are you so eager to demonstrate your poor parenting skills?
Ahem. As I was saying, with that single exception, what a nice weekend. I'm lucky to have such a great family. They are all smart, funny and kind -- people I would choose as friends. My parents stayed here and everyone else was at a hotel. Saturday afternoon I went on a tv-buying expedition and bagged a big 'un. It's a shock to my system after years with a 19" but everyone assures me I'll get used to it. The Brothers got it hooked up to my DVD player and stereo, then Bro 1, Sis-in-law and Supergirl 2 headed home. Mom, Dad, Bro 2 and I made an appearance at the "kids' party" Saturday evening. This has become de rigeur: a themed party with a DJ, and music loud enough to make your ears bleed.

Sunday, Bro 2 helped out with some yard work. Mom and I did some shopping and then everyone came here for a cookout. Since my mother had brought it... BEEF made a rare appearance at the Villa! (My "situational vegetarianism" is such that I can eat beef if someone else cooks it; I just can't cook it, or touch it, or even look at it raw.) And then, I went down like a stone for a 2-hour nap, and never really bounced back. The rest of the family left Sunday afternoon and boy, was it quiet around here.
My new tv is almost this big.

I was back at the infusatorium yesterday morning for chemo; a marathon visit, partly because they were very busy, partly because I was also getting Zometa, which adds 30 minutes. No one really remarked on the fact that I was back again; I guess they see that a lot, and maybe it's easier for them, or they think it's easier for us, to just not say anything. I had a new nurse who wasn't dealing well with the volume of patients, and then got pissy because I refuse to have an IV in my hand. She settled on a spot in mid-forearm. I don't know exactly what she did, but it felt like a barbed harpoon, and I have an impressive little bruise today. Methinks Nurse Pissy will be looking for a new job soon.

Maybe it was the three-week chemo "vacation," making the steroids more of a shock to my system, but my blood sugar was spiking up and down for the rest of the day. Several long naps led to the inevitable sleepless night. Well, the good news is I managed to watch all of Australia. I enjoyed it, it certainly had lots of panoramic beauty (including Hugh Jackman's shower scene) but a good editor could have slashed at least 30 minutes without losing much. Tonight, I have Slumdog Millionaire from Netflix. I'm already appreciating the advantages of a tv the size of Montana.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Returning the Favor

to Bro #1 and everyone who wants a laugh:
Are All Women Born Like This?

(Not all, but many.)

“Love” the “Superfluous” Punctuation

Bro #1 reminded me that I haven't been over to CakeWrecks in a while. I almost missed the Spelling & Grammar feature!
LinkThe time-traveler's special. In the future, looking back, we imagine we'll probably miss you. There's enough here for a second volume of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, a hilarious manifesto on punctuation and why it matters.
The Cake that Started It All

Almost as amazing: It's On the Jump Drive

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Petty Peeve-o-Rama

It's Chevrolet.
Pronounced Shev-roe-lay.

Not Shev-allay.
Not Shivver-lay.
Certainly not Sher-va-lay.


Friday, June 5, 2009

I brog.

If I brag on my blog, is that blagging? or brogging? Well, forgive me. I haven't accomplished much in the last year and a half, except the making of a few afghans. This was for Supergirl #1, who somehow went from adorable chubby-cheeked baby to smart, funny, beautiful, fast-track career gal in the blink of an eye... In fact, she is the only immediate family member who won't be here this weekend. That makes me sad, but she travels a lot for work, so I completely understand wanting to relax and enjoy her weekend.

This pattern was called "Paperweights." It was fun to work on such a colorful project, with so much variety. However, there were 140 floral motifs, and each one had either 8 or 10 yarn ends to sew in. I believe I sewed in nearly 1400 little tails! I love the way this looks, but I don't think I'll be repeating this pattern, unless I can find me a little tail-sewer-inner.

Now I am officially out of excuses. I will sign off until Sunday or Monday. Oh, joy: let the housecleaning begin.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Not so Happy, Not so Last Day

Back in February, the Doc informed me that my SCT was not 100% successful, and that I'd need more chemo. My original plan was to expect 4-6 months of chemo, even though the Doc just ordered 4 cycles, and be pleasantly surprised if it ended sooner. But I fell for it -- I let myself believe that it would be just those 4 cycles, and I'd hit the target and do the CR happy dance.

I found out yesterday that is not the case, and my face fell, probably like the Berlin Wall. Oh, those naughty numbers are still creeping in the right direction, dragging their heels every inch of the way. But I am definitely not within the parameters for CR. So, of course this means more chemo. And that means more steroids. And that means more diabetes, insulin, belly shots, and all attendant 'roid rage and craziness. This time, poor Dr. A is not predicting how many cycles I will need. I feel like I'm back at square one, with only myself to blame, for not having expected -- or at least been prepared for -- this news. Anger, frustration, disappointment: all completely useless, unproductive feelings. I've got a lot of attitude adjustment to do between now and all the family celebrations.

The icing on the cake? The wonderful, brilliant counselor I saw last fall has been axed, in a "budget cutting measure." A counselor providing critical direct services to patients is out looking for a job, while layers of fat bureaucrats and administrators continue stuffing themselves at the cancer trough.

Here is the second afghan I made this winter, for Bro #2. I made one for him a long time ago. It wasn't a bad afghan but it was dated: 80s shades of grey, blue and (shudder) pink.

I think this one is much more classic, and the pattern is a modern twist on an old style. There's nothing I can say or do to reflect his generosity over the last year, so this really is a token of my esteem.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I've been scarce the last week or so. I'm busy talking to home remodelers about some major projects here at the Villa, and getting ready for a big family visit. This weekend we will celebrate Supergirl #4's Bat Mitzvah, the last of her generation. I'll find a few minutes in the next couple of days to catch up. Meanwhile...Dr. Tiller (the murdered physician) has been eulogized often. Here is a particularly moving tribute: The George Tiller I Knew.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Go See...

Cancer Immune Therapies Finally Working

It's not a miracle, but it's a start. Links to related articles at the bottom.

Score One for the Murderers

Score another one for the Hypocritical Lying Murderers: they gunned down a 67-year old doctor, a father of four and grandfather of ten, in his church as he attended Sunday services. Dr. Tiller was a man who dedicated his life to protecting women's health. In addition to reproductive services, his clinic provided group and individual counseling. The anti-abortion forces were "quick to denounce the action" as always, but we know who whips these nutjobs into a frenzy, who fans the flames of their rage, impotence and instability. (I refuse to call them "pro-life." They are anything but.)

Well, I hope they choke on their just desserts. President Obama has made many speeches and gestures to reach across the aisle and work together, to foster an atmosphere of tolerance and compassion. But I'm guessing even he (along with the rest of us) is sick to death of this tragic theocracy that has strangled our country for almost a decade. And now that we're not distracted by imaginary WMDs and imaginary links to Al Queda, maybe we can start cleaning our own house. Let's declare a war on Domestic Terrorists, and everyone who supports them. Let's start by stacking the Supreme Court with the biggest bunch of tree-hugging, pro-choice, gay-marriage supporting rabid lefties this side of Haight Ashbury.

Late-term Abortion Doctor Decries Tiller Killing:
"This is a Fascist Movement"