Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Crazy is as the Virginia GOP Does

Came across an initially dumbfounding license plate/bumper sticker combination at Costco yesterday.  The bumper sticker?  A pro-Ken Cuccinelli thing.  And the license plate?

Proclaimed the vehicle owner a doula.

Just a mock-up for illustration purposes

Think about that--a woman who has dedicated her life to giving aid to women supporting a man who would do all he could to remove women's right to self-determination.  A man bent on restricting access to family planning, including common forms of birth control.  How sick is that?  Who on earth would want a doula who doesn't believe the women she's providing care to deserve to have the right to make decisions concerning their own bodies and reproductive functions?

But then I thought about it, and realized it's wicked-brilliant.  It is.  Ban abortion, restrict access to birth control, trap women into becoming pregnant and carrying to term and suddenly your potential consumer base explodes!  Elect Ken Cuccinelli and that doula is set for life!


Speaking of Cuccinelli (who is falling hard in the polls, please, please please), it's funny, watching the way money is being spent and lines being drawn.  There are plenty of McAuliffe placards about, but not so much in the rich neighborhoods.  A drive along Vint Hill or in certain Gainesville neighborhoods finds almost no McAuliffe signs and GIANT Cuccinelli signs--nearly billboard-sized, but on the lawns of McMansions and gentile horse-country estates.  Oh, and roadside gun stands:

Because nothing says "Cuccinelli" like a roadside gun stand.  Well, nothing except maybe this:

Speaking of the above, Cuccinelli's not the only guy running for Virginia office that scares the daylights out of intelligent women.  There's this guy:

Mark Obenshain.  A guy who is working his hardest to bluster through his utterly poisonous past oratory and his high ratings from such organizations as the NRA, the Family Foundation of Virginia, and the American Conservative Union.  This is a guy who actually proposed a law requiring women who suffered a "medically unattended" miscarriage to report it to THE POLICE (and hand over the "evidence") within 24 hours or risk a YEAR'S IMPRISONMENT.

No, I'm not making that up.  Here:

This guy, like Cuccinelli, also hates the sodomites, though he is a bit quieter about it.

And the third scary guy on the ballot next month?

The BISHOP E. W. Jackson

The Reverend/Biship/Preacher/Mr. Jackson has all the regressive, awful, terrifying, stupid ideas with NONE of the political savvy.  This guy isn't slick, he's embarrassing.  I want you to imagine the cognitive dissonance that must be raging amongst the ass-backwards conservatives of Virginia, who are overwhelmingly lock-down, old-time white, come election day.  Because this guy is a stereotype, and it's hard to imagine our hard-right, KKK crowd swinging this way, but the alternative is a dirty socialist/marxist/communist/fascist/libertard/card-carrying ACLU member.  Or something.  Here--have a taste of our good Bishop:

He sure does read those lines well, but he sounds like a fake, like they're someone else's words.

Mr./Reverend/Bishop Jackson has been running on a platform of, among other things**, bootstrap-tugging, claiming to have grown up destitute in foster homes so poor there was no indoor plumbing and they often went without food.  Yet look how he's pulled himself up!  Problem is, that's not true.  His fellow foster siblings, others who knew him and knew the family state that his stories aren't just embellished, they're fabricated.  

Oh, and according to the folks in the know?  Mr. Jackson was never the Chaplain for the Boston Red Sox, either.  Though he still makes that claim on his site.  

The republicans of Virginia did this to themselves--by choosing to bypass the electorate and select candidates via convention, they wound up with the most extremist bunch possible.  Because, as I've said before, the folks who are most vocal, most active pre-general election (when all the real decisions get made about who we'll get to choose from in November) are the crazies, the radicals, the Teapublicans.  And maybe, just this once, this extremism and subverting of the system by the right will serve the left, because these three candidates?

Appear to be tanking.  So yes, maybe, Virginia, there really is a Santa Clause.

**like anti-choice, anti-Obama, anti-democrat, anti-woman, anti-diversity, anti-Muslim, pro-Gawd, anti-YOGA, anti-federal disaster aid, anti-birth control, anti-sodomy, anti-gay things


Wow.  That't not at all where I'd intended to go today.  I was going to talk about bullies and gun laws and America's propensity toward damage control rather than prevention.

Ah, well.  Tomorrow's only a day away!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pit Bulls and Barnabas Collins Descendants

Reading the newspaper this morning, only to be hit with the most woo-filled bucket of puke I think I've seen in a while.  I was left, quite literally, laughing out loud.  I'm going to give them a break because it is the Halloween season.  I do have to ask, though--why not in the "arts" section instead of the main story on the local headlines?

Anyway--it was a piece on the "Black Hat Society."  Complete with a picture of a "Shaman Intuitive" (oh, NO!) laying out TAROT CARDS.

A "Shaman Intuitive."  You made that up!  You're a "Shaman Intuitive?"  Okay, and I'm a "Druid Medicine Woman Clairvoyant Empath."  Nice to meetcha.  Ya idjit.

One of the individuals interviewed goes on and on about how HER family is the ORIGINAL Black Hat Society, how HER family "introduced the craft to Salem."

By now, I'm howling with laughter.  But it gets better, you see.  SO much better!

Her family?  Served as the basis for "Dark Shadows!"  That's right, HERS is THE Collins family! From Collinsport, Maine!  You know, the FICTIONAL TOWN of Collinsport?

Okay, I'm going to give this silly-seeming creature the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe she's not as stupid and laughable as she seems.  Maybe she's not a gullible dull-wit pretending to sophistication and believing in a clearly false "pedigree."  Maybe she's actually a brilliant businesswoman who pushes this ridiculous persona as a way to make money.  Of course, there is the pesky fact that people may be BELIEVING it.

And that's not okay.  It's not okay to lie to people, especially for the purpose of making money.

Family Portrait


While on the subject of gullibility and sacred cows, let's talk about pit bulls.  

I know, I know--what's wrong with me, engaging the pit bull crowd when the whole movement is a lot of emotion and zero reason?  Or, to quote my husband, "What are you doing, pissing off the pit bull contingent?  They'll sic their dogs on you!"

"Sic," by the way, comes to us from "seek."  At least according to Webster's dictionary.

This is going to be long.  If you hate long, or you love the sweet little pit bulls, you might want to skip it.

Pit bulls are more dangerous than many other breeds.  This isn't supposition or opinion--it's borne out by the numbers.  It's not that pit bulls are more likely to bite, really.  It's that they're far less likely to deliver single, superficial bites.  The old pit bull rallying cry "Poodles are more likely to bite than pits!" is disingenuous--a poodle may be more likely to give one quick nip, but a pit bull is more likely to disembowel your boxer or hamstring you.  

A common "defense" when it comes to pit bull attacks?  "It's bad owners!"

Okay, a couple of things--one, do you have any idea how many "good owners" find themselves scratching their heads and wondering how on earth their sweet little pitty-dog wound up gutting the neighbor's Irish Setter?  How many of them find themselves completely blindsided when their "sweet as pie/wouldn't hurt a fly" pit bull kills the little old lady next door?  And two, do you have any clue just how meaningless "it's bad owners" is?

Who CARES if it's "bad owners" or "bad dogs?"  Dead is dead, maimed is maimed, and regardless of whether or not the owner was "good" or "bad" (and it seems that, to the pit crowd, all the ones whose dogs don't maul something are "good" and all those whose dogs attack are "bad"), the fact remains THE DOG DID HORRENDOUS DAMAGE TO A HUMAN BEING OR TO ANOTHER DOG.  That's like saying assault rifles are a-okay because it's the shooter who is "bad."

Okay, but it's the GUN that launched the ammo that maimed or killed.  It doesn't matter if the owner is "good" or "bad," because it's the dog that maimed or killed.  Sure, we can get into the philosophical issues surrounding pet ownership later--like maybe after the stitches come out or the funeral is over.  But when it happens, the quality of ownership is beside the point--that torn up victim isn't any less torn up because it was a "bad owner" instead of a "bad dog."

And that brings us to the next, horrendous thing the pit crowd so often does--victim blaming.  I remember a news story a few years back, in which an elderly woman rose from the sofa and stepped over the family's pit, which was sleeping.  The dog woke up, completely freaked out, and tore the woman's face to shreds.  Actually launched itself UP and took her down, then tore her face apart.  And the pit defense bunch actually screamed that SHE must have done something to inspire the dog.  That SHE clearly hurt it or surprised it or otherwise caused the attack.  

Okay, folks?  Back away from the nutso trough, huh?  It doesn't matter what she did--if a dog attacks and injures/maims/mauls/kills a person, that dog is responsible.  I'll bet you poke at rape victims, too, don't you?  Tell them that what they were wearing or where they were walking, blah, blah, blah.

Seriously, blaming the victim for being mauled?  The ONLY way that flies is if the victim is a Michael Vick-type.  And even then, the dog is dangerous and needs to be humanely put down. You can't have a dog that thinks a solution to its problems is attacking people.  

All this "it's not the breed, it's the owners" crap is, at best, a pathological form of denial.   

And I should know.  See, I owned a pit-mix.  Pit bull/German Shepherd, to be precise.  We got him believing he was a yellow lab/German Shepherd cross, because that's what we were told, and he was young and small and it looked like a believable background.

Until he grew up.  He grew up, and that forehead became increasingly spatulate, the chest broader and deeper, the legs more "bandied."  He was our California puppy, and we ignored the tawny eyes and pink nose and other tells because he was sweet.

Bodhi as a baby in the Cucamonga Wilderness

Except when you got too close to his face with yours.  That got him growling.  Even as a small puppy.

When Bodhi hit sexual maturity, he became suddenly and frighteningly unpredictable.  You'd have some warning, sometimes, if you knew him well.  His eyes would widen, pupils would dilate, and his ears and tail would both go back and flatten.  It was as if he, himself, felt it coming on, but was helpless to do anything about it.  And sometimes, like if he was napping, you'd have no warning at all--you'd walk past him or step over him, only to have him explode into snarling wakefulness.

Before you say "ooh, he had a medical problem!" No, he didn't.  This wasn't a slow-creeping tumor or an endocrine disorder.  This was Bodhi, and the vets and trainers we spoke to said he wasn't a rarity.

We tried everything with Bodhi, from training tricks and devices (nothing that caused pain!) to pharmaceutical interventions.  Nothing.  Sometimes he was great (and he'd be great for days and even weeks at a time with US), sometimes he was utterly insane, and, except in a few instances, there was no predicting it.

Those few instances?

Strangers, and dogs he didn't know.  Bodhi was a complete maniac around people he didn't know--it took four months to get him accustomed enough to my sister-in-law that she could come care for the dogs while we were on vacation.  We once tried to board Bodhi with our vet (a man familiar with Bodhi's issues) and they called us before we could even get out of town, told us to come get our dog.  Luckily, we found a kennel across town willing to put all three dogs in the same kennel (to help keep Bodhi calm), and willing to just slide food under the door and otherwise leave them alone.  We were gone for a week, and that dog snarled and freaked every time someone came into the kennel area, no matter how many times he'd seen them before.

Believe me, repair people and delivery folks at the door?  Hell.  And company?  Guests?

Forget about it.

When our boy was born, Bodhi took a pretty instant dislike (which was sad, because he spent my entire pregnancy "protecting" me and sleeping with his head on my baby belly).  And so Bodhi was relegated to the kitchen when our boy was out and about, behind a sturdy gate.  When our boy was old enough to walk, two more gates went up, which meant that he and Bodhi were always at least two gates away from each other.  To prevent a reach through and arm bite--or worse.  Introducing our boy and Bodhi was of no help, because Bodhi was so unpredictable.  Life became a constant job of running interference between Bodhi and people, Bodhi and our boy, Bodhi and ourselves, and, sometimes, Bodhi and the other dogs.

By the time our boy was two-and-a-half, we were having to steer him off the gates pretty regularly. By three, it became clear that he was moments away from sussing those gates and having run of the house.  I approached my husband (this was a tough time in our marriage, and he loved that dog) and said, "We're going to have to put the dog down.  We've been working on this for SEVEN YEARS.  It's not getting any better, it's getting worse, and if he hurts our boy, if he maims him, kills him?"

I was expecting a fight.  I was expecting accusations of who-knows-what, but that's not what I got. My husband, eyes misty, nodded and said that, yeah, he knew.  And then he made the appointment.

We almost talked ourselves out of it, but Bodhi himself made the decision, unbeknownst to him. The night before, hubby and Bodhi were in the kitchen, and hubby was playing with him.  And then it happened--the eyes widened, the ears and tail went flat, and Bodhi LUNGED.  Teeth bared, snarling.  Hubby managed to grab him by the collar and pin him back against the cabinet, but it was a near thing.  And it took nearly a half hour for Bodhi to calm down enough that he could be released.

Next morning, as I got Bodhi ready for the appointment, I took him outside to spend some time. I groomed him (he loved being brushed, except when he didn't), gave him treats, and just loved him. I had almost talked myself out of it, was just about to call hubby out and announce that I couldn't go through with it, when he turned.  Like I said, from zero to crazy in seconds flat.  And there I am, holding him by the collar and harness, calling for my husband to give me a hand.

For the first time since he was nine months old, Bodhi didn't freak out at the vet's office.  As usual, we had him in harness, collar, and muzzle.  Normally, he would lunge, snarl, scream, and skitter all over the tile floor at the vet's, but not that day.  That day, he was good as gold.  Hubby hugged him while they gave him the shots, and stroked his freshly-groomed coat while he died.

We did the right thing.  If you're sitting out there shaking your fist and snuffling snot while you curse us for our cruelty, bugger off.  We did the right thing--he almost certainly would have harmed our child (or someone else) eventually.  We allowed our entire existence to be molded by that dog and his behavior.  Our social life, our vacations, our every move was tailored to keep people safe from him.  Handing him over to someone else wasn't an option, for two reasons--one, it took MONTHS for him to acclimate to a new person, and two, no WAY we were handing him off to someone who might not keep him secured in such a way that he didn't pose a threat to others.  Can you imagine, handing him off to someone whose child was then mauled or worse? Even the vet sent us a handwritten note, expressing his condolences and letting us know that we had done the right thing.

We weren't "bad" owners.  We didn't hit him, torture him, teach him to fight, terrorize him, starve him, or otherwise abuse him.  We used established non-aggressive training methods (no aversive/punishing techniques), we had him examined by vets and consulted with trainers.  And they all said the same thing:  Pit Bulls are unpredictable and can be dangerous regardless of the owner's behavior.  Not ALL pit bulls, and not ALL the time.  See, that's the biggest problem--some, like Bodhi, are sweet and dear and then, suddenly, their teeth are in your flesh.

Believe it or not, I'm not arguing for a ban on pit bull ownership.  However, I'd love to see the stupid, feel-good, hokey-denial BS stop.  I'd like to see pit bull owners pull their heads out of the sand and stop pretending it's not the breed.  It's the BREED, come on!  Different breeds have different traits, we ALL know that.  That's why herders get Border Collies and Shelties, that's why hunters get Spaniels, Labs, and Setters.  It's why Cairns have to be kept on leash in open areas (they chase everything), Mastiffs make great guard dogs, and German Shepherds are especially suited to police work.  Specific breeds have specific traits, and to argue that all dogs are the same (yes, I've heard the pit bull folks argue exactly that) is, at best, ignorant.  At worst?


If you have a pit bull, you have an animal that is uniquely prone to doing excessive damage in an attack.  Not necessarily MORE LIKELY to attack, but more likely to be spectacularly dangerous in an attack.  Kind of like driving an old Pinto--you're not more likely to get into an accident, but if you ARE in an accident, you're FAR more likely to BLOW UP.

If you have a pit, you have a dog that is prone to engaging in pack attacks, and you need to take special care to be sure your dog doesn't go on walkabout.

I won't say that your dog, specifically, shouldn't be alone with children, because NO dog should be alone with children.  However, your dog is more likely to kill any child it attacks.  Don't let that happen.

Alter your animals.  If you have pit bulls, get them spayed and neutered.  Do it early, preferably before sexual maturity.  Put your dog in training early, and make it something that doesn't rely on "e-collars" (we called those SHOCK collars when I was a kid), PRONG collars, and other painful, punishing methods.  There are plenty of GOOD trainers out there--don't hook up with some Cesar Millan wannabe (or worse, one of his books).

But most of all (or the culmination of all)?  Be responsible.  And yes, there are those out there who would shriek, "That's all we've been saying--blame the deed, not the breed/Owners not dogs!" but that's not what I'm saying.  I'm saying this--YOU have chosen to own a breed known to pose a greater threat to people and other pets than most breeds.  YOU have chosen to have a dog that is known to do far greater damage in an attack than most breeds.  Therefore, it's on YOU to make sure your choice doesn't cost MY kid his arm.  Or face.

Or life.

How do I feel about breed-specific legislation or insurance companies dropping folks who own pits? I can see why it would be frustrating or angering to the person who does keep his pit under control, who does keep it restrained and protects those around.  Same way a firearm ban might piss off a person who isn't shooting up elementary schools.  But fact is, we clearly can't force pit bull owners to be responsible across the board, so it becomes a question of how much idiocy and danger do we tolerate before we decide that there are just too many folks out there who can't be trusted?  For every "responsible, thoughtful" pit bull owner, there are five or ten scumbag backyard breeders churning out these dogs in crappy environments and selling them to crappy people who think that having a "bad-ass" dog is somehow cool.  How do we deal with that?  How do we deal with the ass at the vaccination clinic whose prong-collar wearing, lunging, snarling, unaltered pit bull is clearly a status symbol?

Personally, I think additional licensing requirements might be a good idea.  Perhaps an annual examination of the dog and a test of temperament, with jail time and a loss of all dog owning privileges for folks who fail to comply.  I don't know.  But the idea that a breed of dog has more "rights" than a group of neighbors who fear for their kids?

Utter BS.

That's Bodhi on the far left

Bodhi near Vernon, Utah

Bodhi in the Wasatch Mountains


And enough of that.  I came across a bunch more crazy Utah names.  I come across dozens, but these are this week's winners:


None of those are typos.  

Oh, and speaking of Utah?  I came across a photo the other day from an Ogden photographer.  A photo of 25th Street, facing west toward the Union Station.  Mr. Picture-taker had digitally enhanced the shades to something you almost never see in Utah (and you certainly never see on 25th Street).  He'd clearly combined shots, because the quality of light was absolutely early morning or late evening, but the shadows?  Were totally wrong--more like 3 pm than 7 pm, and more like January than October.  And the crowning glory?  That ugly, barren, filthy railyard behind the Union Station?  Magically gone, filled with tall, majestic trees in full fall color.  

Hey, I love Photoshop as much as the next person, and this was a brilliantly lovely shot, a tribute to his editing skills, but there's a reason I left Ogden, Utah--it's ugly.  It's grey and yellow and brown and depressed.  It's got one fartsy little street that screams of gentrification, with higher-priced sushi joints and pretentious little art galleries.  And that's pretty much it.  The Egyptian Theater around the block, but that's part of the fanciness.  Now, that fartsy little street (25th Street) is picturesque enough that some movie folks like to stick it in here and there, but it's an artificial oasis in a desert of low wages, depressed job markets, Walmarts, and chain fast food joints.  The mountains are certainly nice enough, if you like dry, if high desert is your thing.  The snow in the winter isn't what is used to be, but it's still good enough to get some better-than-average skiing in.  

Of course, winter is when the air, which is always eh, becomes lethal.  Like some of the worst in the nation-type lethal.

I don't know whose picture this is, it's all over the web, but this is an accurate depiction--do a search if you don't believe it.

The Wasatch Front is home to some of the biggest polluters in the nation.  Utah is also one of the most pro-corporate/right wing states in our country.  So we shouldn't be surprised that the two come together in that giant basin to create this vicious, lung-thrashing, asthma-inducing, cancer-causing soup.  They call it a "temperature inversion," and it's what happens when the air up high is warmer than the air down in the mountain-formed basin.  That warmer air acts as a lid, trapping all the toxins, the pollutants, the particulates down below, leaving the valley floor colder and dirtier than the higher air.

Anyway, back to my point--I like a good Photoshopping session as much as the next person, but I find myself getting upset when I see someone faking photos to make that place seem like more than it is.  Like they're somehow negating my experience.  I know, I shouldn't take it personally, but I lived in that dive for 40 years, and faking a downtown shot so it looks like 25th Street is atop a mountain in Vermont?

Pisses me off.  What can I say?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Some Folks You Never Forget

Unrelated to just about everything, but on my mind this morning?

A man I met only once, only for one day, whose name I can't recall.  Yet he made a huge impression.

Hubby and I were roadtripping, and had decided to spend a night at Old Frisco near Milford, Utah. That would be Old Frisco of the wrenching child graves.

Still trying to figure out this headstone, which broke my heart all those years ago.  I know the poem by heart, and I know the last name is "Staples."  But I have no idea the first name.  It ended with a "y"-perhaps Johnny or Tommy.

Anyway, we had already been on the road for a week or so, and had gathered an astounding number of rocks (we fancied ourselves rockhounds).  We had planned on camping in a particular spot near the kilns, but this gentleman, his brother-in-law (if I'm remembering correctly), and his young nephew had pitched camp while we were off exploring.  We stopped in long enough to warn them of rattlesnakes we'd encountered a shirt distance away, then turned to find a new campsite.  This gentleman gave a yell that we should share the site--safety in numbers, and good to have company.

See the crumbling ones?  Those weren't crumbling when we were there.  That's the result of people climbing on them like idiots so they can get the "good" shots.  That's why there's a fence now.  Stupid people.

They didn't just share their camp, they shared their food and coffee.  I remember the coffee--they had a giant percolating pot that they put right in the center of the fire, then used farrier tongs to pull back out when it started percolating.  Dinner was rice and beans, and the coffee was most excellent.

This gentleman was, as luck would have it, a geologist.  He held a number of mineral claims in the area, plus a jade mine up in . . . Wyoming?  He merrily waded through our rocks, letting us know if our IDs had been correct (and, mostly, they were).  He gave us mineral sample bags for our yellow labradorite, topaz, and other, smaller pieces.  He oohed and aahhed over our gigantic chunks of agate, and was all-around a terrific guy.  He was a bit mournful when we lit up--he had throat cancer, and had sworn to his wife he wouldn't smoke anymore. He did hint at maybe bumming one, and I gently suggested that maybe he didn't really want to do that.

He agreed.  He did have a nasty cigar, which he didn't inhale.  I can't imagine it was any good for him, but he didn't seem particularly optimistic about his prognosis, so perhaps it didn't matter so much at that point.

The next morning, we ponied up the eggs and bacon (though the brother-in-law cooked), and we shared a terrific breakfast.  No one made me feel too stupid about the middle-of-the-night screaming fest borne of a strange dream about a chubby, cheery-faced preacher (who was really a horrid demon) who was playing Pied Piper with the long-gone citizens of Old Frisco (I woke up screaming, which brought the geologist and his brother-in-law out of their tent with guns in hand).  It was a great breakfast, we talked more about rocks (he gave us great hints about where to look for what), and then we broke camp, never to meet again.

This was back in 1994.  Almost 20 years ago.  That young nephew would be in his thirties now.  And that kindly geologist (who was also a geology professor somewhere--Kansas, maybe)?  I hope he made it.  I hope he beat that thing and is still digging holes and loving the earth today.

Not sure why I wrote this down.  Because I've been thinking a lot about mortality and what it means to be remembered, I guess.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What Happened Today

I spent 50 minutes waiting to see the doctor.  Was somewhat reassured when they 1) brought me to an examining room rather than his office, and 2) didn't ask my husband to come back with me. A lot of folks don't realize that these, like the word "suspicious," are telling.  They're code for "this ain't good."

When the doctor came back, he shook my hand and asked how I was.  I asked how HE was, then said, "I don't know--how am I?"

He whipped out the radiology report and said, "There's nothing there."

Nothing there.  This is a 6+ centimeter mass that is growing--it is noticeably larger than it was a year ago, and it is even larger than it was 10 weeks ago.  But there's nothing there but fat.  He even took me out and showed me the MRI.  It's clear as a bell, and it's fat.  Nothing else.

Not showing on an ultrasound?  That's not necessarily surprising, considering I'm overweight AND some neoplasms just don't show on ultrasound.  Not showing on an x-ray?  Even more understandable--x-rays aren't great for soft tissue masses, and, again, my weight could negatively impact the quality of results.  But an MRI?

That's the standard, and, of all the imaging options, it's the one that isn't affected by adipose tissue.  Which isn't to say that an MRI can't miss stuff--just last year, an MRI missed a fibroid/mass.  But a clear x-ray, a clear sonogram, AND a clear MRI?

He offered a biopsy, and I've taken him up on the offer.  Some folks might say I'm being obsessive at this point, but here's where my mind is:

Two weeks ago, this doctor looked at me and said, "The time for an MRI was right after the ultrasound came back negative."  I don't want to be sitting in an oncologist's office a year from now, being told that "the time for a biopsy was right after the MRI came back negative."

Soft tissue sarcomas come in all shapes and sizes, and, while none of them are GOOD, some are particularly BAD, and the prognosis can be devastating.  This is especially true when they've been missed, have had ample time to have their way.  

So tomorrow I'll call the insurance company and figure out whether or not they'll pay for a biopsy performed in a "free standing surgical center."  Then I have to figure out if the surgical center will send the lab work to the correct lab.

Single payer.  I have a dream, you know?

Thanks for the concern, advice, and care.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day After Tomorrow

And it's all I can do to not totally lose cohesion.  My head has felt wrong off and on for a couple of weeks, but starting a few days ago, it became pretty constant.  It's not quite a headache, it's not quite dizziness.  It's a buzzing feeling like pressure.  Think that strange "off" sensation you get when you move your head into an odd position or stand up too quickly.  That weird feeling when you close your eyes, then roll them hard and tense up.  Sort of dizzy.  Sort of stoned.  Sort of painful.  Behind my nose, eyes, and forehead, mostly.  I know, it's probably stress, but there's a voice that whispers "It's spread to your head."

I need an answer.  I need to know what's going on.  And I may not get that answer, come Tuesday.  I may just get a referral to an oncologist.

Which is, in itself, an answer, I suppose.

Going to Shenandoah again today.  Hoping for some fall color.  Can't afford it, doing it anyway, because . . . well, you know.

Doing the obits today, came across a woman who died at my age of cancer.  I may have to hand this task over to someone else until I know what's happening to me.  While it's great that I can shower and cry at the same time (something I already knew from my late teens, but good to know I haven't lost that skill), I'd rather not.  I'd rather be okay.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Krokodiles Eating Junkies and Silly Utah Names

A while back, an old pal/flame of mine who's spent years dealing with serious substance abuse issues (not to mention fidelity problems) got himself ditched from my friends list.  We hadn't been close for almost 20 years, so it was a surprise when he friended me, especially when, sometimes, he didn't seem sure who I was.  Out of the blue, he went off on some astoundingly dippy religious rant, basically telling me that my lack of belief in a deity is what causes any problems in my life, and how ashamed he is of me that I can't see that.  Other crap, all "goll" related, ending with a "truth hurts, are you ready to admit it?" type-pile.

I dumped him.  Turn it around, what if an atheist "friend" showed up on your wall and said "Hey, I know things are rough for you right now, but you deserve what you're getting because you believe in a deity.  I'm ashamed of your belief, and it's what's causing your pain.  Truth hurts?"  

Yeah.  To be "fair," Sean's always been a socially blundering fool, but this went too far.  So I dumped him.  He "apologized" via email (you know, of the "I'm sorry, but YOU" variety, with some interspersed "I've always been blunt and unthinking, it's just who I am" excuses thrown in), and I said that yeah, okay, but I still don't want you in my life anymore.  I'm tired of reading about your infidelities, your inability to maintain yet another marriage, etc.  Good luck, good bye.

Anyway, out of curiosity, I went to check up on him the other day.  To be blunt, I wanted to see if he was still alive.  He tends to relapse when things don't go his way, and he's just ended another marriage.  And what do I find?

A long, vicious rant about parents who don't vaccinate.  About how they're child abusers and morons whose children should be taken from them and raised by the state.  They should be charged with child abuse, neglect, and reckless endangerment.  And a whole host of other punishments fit for parents who fail to toe the health department line.

And all from the guy who cooked meth in his house.  With his kids present.  All from the guy who tweaked and drank and smoked weed and tooted coke and dropped acid while "rearing" his children.

Parenting on Meth

Hey, I have some pretty strong ideas about vaccinations.  In general, they're good.  That said, I think the scheduling and mode of delivery isn't the best out there--it's geared for the lowest common denominator, for parents who might drop the ball, so they try to pump as many vaccines in at a time as possible as early as possible.  I KNOW vaccine reactions are real because my son HAD one--he reacted very badly to the DTaP, which is why his subsequent vaccinations didn't include DTaP, but, instead, only DT.  Because of that reaction, we held off on the MMR until he was older, which our doctor agreed was wise.  After all, our boy was homeschooled and not likely to be exposed.  And, in fact, he wasn't.  By the age of 12, he was fully immunized.  

My point?  I GET the "anti-vaccine" crowd, I just don't agree with the conclusions they've reached based upon the research available right now.  I also GET the pro-vaccine crowd, but disagree with some of the scheduling and "lumping up" of vaccines.  What I don't get?

Is some dull-wit junkie tweaking in front of his kids while condemning folks who, out of (often misguided) concern for their children, don't vaccinate.  Seriously?

"Glass Houses" doesn't even BEGIN to cover that one.


Speaking of drugs, have you heard about "Krokodil?"  From what I can gather, it's all the rage in Russia.  A cheap, dirty version of desomorphine, this stuff leaves addicts with an average life span of less than two years from time of first use.  

Nice, huh?

Apparently, much like meth, this stuff can be cooked up at home, and there's the problem. While it does contain codeine, an opioid, it also resembles meth in the way it's become a jumble of impure and often highly toxic substances.  The high is similar to morphine, but doesn't last nearly as long.

Oh, and it rots you from the inside out.  I'm not going to post the pictures, but you can look them up easily enough.  

This stuff is now making its appearance in the States, and you've got to ask yourself--WHY?  How stupid can a person be?  There was a news story out of Chicago just the other day--three people hospitalized because of this stuff.  Two hadn't known it was Krokodil, and hey, fair enough--you're still an idiot for injecting what you thought was heroin into your veins, but compared to the third person, who KNEW it was Krokodil and did it ANYWAY?

You're bleedin' Einstein.


Speaking of stupid, self-destructive, deluded creatures who cause those around them devastation and pain?

Shutdown ended.  And those nuts are already talking about how they're going to do it all over again in January.

Vote.  Vote them out.  Vote at the primary level.  Vote in the general election.  Make sure your family votes.  Your friends.  And make sure you vote in the Republican primaries--that's where this small, loud, stupid, well-funded group of radical activists makes the difference.  That's where they do the damage.  Don't let this guy become the face of America, huh?


And I'm going to end on a variation of the "stupid baby names."  I'm going to hone in on stupid UTAH names.  Because Utah?

Is it ALL when it comes to atrocious names.  

Just this week, while researching obits/death records for my high school, I've come across the following:

  • VaLaunne
  • LaVor
  • Elihu Moroni
  • DeOrr
  • Lennis
  • LuJean
  • DerMeta
  • LaVelle
  • Coriantumr (I did NOT make that up)
  • Teancum
  • DeeWill
  • LaMonte
  • Enos
  • LeGrande
  • Nephi
  • Leahonai
  • Heber
  • LouRanne
That's not an exhaustive list, just a few favorites.  You may notice something of a trend there--the mash-up.  That's what happens when a Utah man, say, "Merl," marries a Utah woman, perhaps "Nadine."  They mash it on up, and the poor child is left with "Merldene."  

Hey, I have a mother-in-law named "ValDonnis," so it hits close to home.

Scripture aside (that would be the Nephis, the Enoses, the Coriuantumrs and Moronis), there's the "fancify it with a French-seeming prefix" naming convention.  You know, like so:

  • Jean + French=LaJeanne!
  • Orrin + French=DeOrrin!
  • Lonnie + French=VaLaunnee!
And then there's "LeGrande."  You have to ask--which came first, the French Big Mac or the Mormon guy?  Or wait, was that "Le Mac?"  Shoot, and that was funny, too!

Now, don't think that, just because there's an odd tradition of strange, LDS-themed or related names, that Utah doesn't have the flood of just plain crappy American names.  Like:

  • Chassadee (guess that's supposed to be "Chastity?")
  • "Anjelikka
  • Wyntur Reign
  • Kaydense (which is a super-unfortunate name)
  • Daemon (no kidding--I think they meant Damon, which is still stupid, but not quite so malevolent
  • Whisky Jack (like the bird, only with mug shots)
  • Breighleeanne
  • Deztinnee
  • Apathy (seriously)
  • The obligatory "ax" names--like Jaxton, Braxton, Paxton, Maxton
  • The equally obligatory "ay/ey" names--like Kaydon. Rayden, Shayden, Peyton, Layton, and Satan (okay, that last one is a Utah joke--thus far, anyway)
Watch this--the girls may be fake, but the names are spot-on:

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Open" MRIs and Utter Stinking Misery

So, my amazing boy got his green belt in Hapkido on Saturday.  His kicks are getting so much higher and stronger.  Broke his boards.  I'm superbly proud of him.

Yes, he's blurry here.  He's actually always blurry.  It's part of what makes him so special.


Today was my MRI.  What a mess.  What an all-day, drawn out, expensive mess.  Appointment was at 11 am in Rockville, Maryland.  It's a bit of a drive, and we were unsure of how the traffic might be, so we headed out at 9:00 a.m.  Got there killer early, and they took me killer early, which I thought was great.  They take me back, and it is clear I'm not going to fit in that machine.  It's not the "high field open MRI" I was promised.  Instead, it's a "sit down, magnets on either side" gig, with a space between the magnets that makes a coach airline seat look spacious.  I'd have been okay (I did fit), had they not also needed my arms flat to my sides, with my elbows pulled back against my ribs, AND the coil around the bad arm.

THAT wasn't happening.

So they wound up calling their other location--the one that actually HAS the open (not sitting) MRI. They could see me today--at 2 p.m.  Almost a four hour wait.  It was a half-hour drive (to Chevy Chase), so we decided to go straight there.  Figured we could park somewhere, maybe nap.  

Who knew there's no parking in Chevy Chase?  No free parking, anyway.  Considering all the Louis Vuitton, JCrew, and Tiffany's scattered about, I suppose the surfeit of parking meters and high-priced lots shouldn't surprise me.  It would have been 18 dollars to park for the six hours we were going to need (longer, it turned out), so we decided "screw it" and headed back home.  We had just enough time, once home, to grab a credit card to cover the parking (which still wound up being ten bucks), grab a snack, and hit the bathroom.  Then it was back on the road again, back to Chevy Chase (which is a lovely area, though the uber-snobby shopping tells me it's not an area that would likely welcome me).  We got there half-an-hour early, but wound up not being seen until an hour AFTER my scheduled appointment.  

I can't begin to tell you how exhausted I was.  Am.

First off, to the people of the Washington DC/Northern Virginia/Maryland area?  Give a girl a break, ENUNCIATE.  Seriously, the folks in this area have the mushiest, slushiest, laziest way of mouthing words, it's all blurred together in this "yezmm, canahaveyashurazcod" slop.

WHAT?  Seriously, what language is that?  Because if it's something exotic and you can't help it because English isn't your native tongue, okay--you speak slower, I'll lean closer, we'll throw in some hand gestures and a bit of charades and we'll make it work.  But if you're a native English speaker?

Stop chewing your damned tongue, stop slopping your lips together and SPEAK CLEARLY.

Thank you.

Anyway, they finally bring me back, and, speaking of English as a second language, the tech is Ukrainian.  Lovely accent, easier to understand than the mushmouth up front.  However, like so many medical professionals, she doesn't actually LISTEN.  She says, "Okay, left arm."  I say, "No, right arm."  She repeats, more loudly, "LEFT ARM."  I assumed I must be misunderstanding her, because otherwise, she just blew me off.  She had me lie down, and then told me to scoot all the way over so my LEFT arm was in the middle of the "bed."

"It's my right arm."

"No, it's you're left."

"No, really, it's my right arm--right here." (I point to the mass in my right arm).

"Not left?"

"Not left."

"The papers say left!"  (imagine angry Ukrainian voice).

"I'm pretty sure the paper reads 'right distal forearm.'"

"It says LEFT!"

"Okay, but it's NOT left, it's RIGHT."

She scuttles from the room, huffs back a few minutes later, telling me to scoot over to the OTHER side of the table so my RIGHT arm is in the center.

And then comes the agony.  She keeps telling me to scoot farther and farther, until my other arm is hanging off the table.  She tells me I have to rotate my arm in, hold it close to my side, keep it turned, AND don't move.  My arm is clasped to my side, wrist bent and fingers resting on the table, helping support the arm (see, the shoulder and deltoid have been hurting badly for a week now, so any sort of twisting like this is painful from the get-go).  She asks if it's comfortable, I tell her "No, it's not."  She asks if I can manage.  And I say I think I can.

And I probably could have, if she hadn't come back in after 20+ minutes, practically shouting, "Mass?  This is for a MASS?"  I agree, yes, it's for a mass.  She makes a rather rude noise (a sort of a "tschah!") and leaves.  Comes back with two vitamin E gelcaps and some tape.  The second time I've had OTC vitamins taped to my arm as a marker today.  Then she shoves and muscles my arm back into the now VERY painful position she demands, and we start ALL OVER AGAIN.

About 15 minutes in, my upper arm (where the tricep [specifically the tricep brachii longus] meets the scapula [shoulder blade]) begins to twitch.  Just small spasms, but nothing I can do about it. She bursts in and admonishes me to be still, that she's seeing far too much motion.  I explain that I'm being as still as I can, but my arm is spasming and it's beyond my control.

Another "tschah!"

By 25 minutes, my whole arm is searing, burning with pain, and the muscle spasms have spread. By 30 minutes?  My whole arm is trembling and my fingers, which were supporting my arm?  Give out.  Not all of them, just two.  They slip, and that's that.  

I lift my other arm and flag her in.  She rumbles the table out of the machine, and I start to explain what's going on, and . . .

I burst into tears.

This isn't my first rodeo, I've had a number of MRIs.  But I've never had one go bad on me like this.  I've never had a problem being still and being in and out in a relative jiffy.

I've certainly never cried at the tech.  I think I scared her.

Might have something to do with two hours of sleep, a two hour job that turned into an eight hour day, months of fear, and a LOT of pain.  She kept asking what to do to make the arm stop freaking out, but kept shooting down everything I suggested.  We finally, through creative use of wedges and foam bits, managed to get the arm in the right position, get the coil in the right spot, AND have the arm resting in such a way that it wasn't tensed and balanced on fingers.  

And then we started AGAIN.

Another 40 minutes.  My back, my knees, my shoulders, my arm, and, of course, my head?  All a mess.  And when I asked her if the scans were better, she made a noncommittal sort of "eh, better" noise.  Which isn't encouraging.

I should have gone to Fauquier and used their wide-bore MRI.  It's nasty, it's claustrophobia-inspiring, it's snug, but they do the job quickly and correctly. Sure, it would have been a fifty dollar copay, but free parking and we wouldn't have had to drive to Maryland.


Maryland, where gas is markedly more expensive than just a few miles south.

Now, I'm not dogging the tech--I'm frustrated with the time and the hurt, not with her.  She seemed a nice enough lady, though her expressions of frustration weren't particularly comforting.

While driving about, we were sure to take the Capital Beltway, seeking out any of the six teabilly truckers who accomplished nothing with their diminutive "Truckers for the Constitution" joke.  Like yesterday, like the day before, and like the day before that, they were nowhere to be found.

On the way home (the second time), we stopped by the Bolger Center.  It's the place my husband was staying when he decided he wanted to move to the east coast.  For reasons I understand far better than anyone suspects.

Now, because it was a federal holiday (Happy Meteors Discovering Dinosaurs Day), we couldn't drop off the CD at my surgeon's office.  So we'll have to go tomorrow, drop off the CD, make a new appointment, and hope Hubby's boss is understanding.

Speaking of hopes, let's all cross our fingers that the MRI place, which has a contract with my insurance provide, doesn't mean what it says in the financial forms.  A lot of "we don't care what preset amounts your provider may think we'll accept--we have our own ideas, and you're responsible for the full amount, your insurance company be damned" language.  Let's also hope my insurance company pays for the in-office x-rays the surgeon took last week.  Because if not, I've already sunk us, and we don't even have a diagnosis yet.

Health care in America.  Where families routinely have to choose between health and financial solvency.


And that's that.  I'm going to try to snag a few minutes of sleep before the boys come home from Hapkido.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Life Doesn't Have to be a Grudge-fest

So, I've been thinking a lot about conspiracy theories.  About why it is that people, especially less informed, less critically thinking folks, so readily embrace the absurd.  It's easy to write these folks off as "just stupid" or "devastatingly gullible," but I think there's something more to it.

I think it's about control.

I'm not talking about the control the purveyors of these wild notions exert over the believers.  No, I'm talking about the perceived control holding such crazy convictions can give a person.  Control over their environment, over their world.

The world is scary.  It's scary, and sometimes really bad stuff happens.  Scarier?  Having to shake our heads and say "I don't know why bad stuff happens."  That's a crappy, helpless feeling.  But if you can point at the evil government, the black helicopters, the alien lizard-people, the terrorist Arabs, or the black Kenyan/Muslim/Fascist/Communist in the White House?

Well, it makes you feel like you're not being beset by awful, invisible forces.  You can "identify" the culprits, and that enables to you rail against them.  And, false as it is, that does bring about a sense of control, of power over the things that happen.

Doesn't mean it's not crazy.  Usually.  And there's the problem--see it?  We do live in a world where there are shadowy organizations that act in ways we might not be okay with.  We do have a government swayed by corporate influence.

Heck, if you've ever spent time in the West Desert of Utah, you even know we do have black helicopters.

Add that little bit of real to a desperate need to feel ABLE to effect change, and you have the perfect storm of paranoia.


Speaking of things rattling around in my poor head, I ran across an obituary the other day while searching for folks from my high school.  Father of two boys I knew growing up in Utah.  One of the boys, Ricky, was my age.  The other boy, Dee, was about five years older.  My sister's age, actually.  And these kids?

When someone says "junk yard kids," I think of them.  Mean, hard, aggressive, dogged in their pursuit.  Dee tall and blond, Rick short and black haired, both with a spray of freckles across their snub noses, both with dark, narrow eyes, and both with large, square teeth.  Their last name wasn't "Lipnicki," but it may as well have been.  When I think of Scut Farkus, I see a weak, green-toothed imitation of Ricky and Dee.

Anyway, I read the obituary because I really didn't know anything about Dee and Ricky's family.  I knew where they lived (all the better to avoid run-ins, of course), knew where they went to school, knew they liked trucks and beer in their later years, but that was about it.

It turns out their dad owned a business.  Some sort of home repair/service-type thing (not looking to get too specific here).  And after he retired?  The business passed on to his sons.  Yes, THOSE sons.

And my first thought?

"I should warn my family not to call them for repairs."


Seriously, I haven't seen these guys in over 30 years, and that's my first thought?  After I forgave Shelley the skeezy cheerleader (hey, I did, I forgave her the bullying and the meanness, and then found out that, as an adult, she's even worse)?  If I could give Shelley a second chance, surely I could find it in my heart to give Ricky and Dee another shot.


At first, I was feeling pretty bad about that initial, knee-jerk reaction.  See, I have this "rule" of sorts--if I can't remember why we tangled, or even IF we tangled, than it must not be important enough to hold a grudge.  But then I remembered--I DO know why we tangled--Rick and Dee were mean bullies who terrorized me.  So I don't feel GUILT, per se, but I still do feel regret.  I mean, I sure don't want to be judged for what I was or how I acted when I was a child.

Do you?


Speaking of that, I have a story.  A really sad one about a woman who moved away from her hometown many years ago--back in the late fifties.  She always wanted to go back. She dreamed of it, she made little plans in her head, but ultimately, she never dared.  She never dared, even though her brother and his wife still lived there, even though there were still people there who thought of her as their friend.

She didn't go back because she'd made mistakes when she was younger.  She'd been a "party" girl who drank on occasion, smoked cigarettes, and committed the unforgivable sin of getting pregnant out of wedlock.  The child was given up for adoption, but certain of her classmates never, ever forgot.

And they never stopped downing her for it.

Fifty-six years later, an old flame who'd sort of been in touch over the decades (think Christmas cards and the like, mostly from his recently passed wife) began calling.  And they began talking.  It turned serious pretty quickly, a lot of "love you" and "miss you."  And she reveled in it--after being alone for 34 years (since her own marriage had ended), someone wanted her.  Someone was interested in her.  Someone she knew, someone she had once, perhaps, loved.

And then he started talking about coming out to visit.  And worse, about her selling her house and moving back to their hometown.

Understand, this would have been a saving stroke for her--she was floundering, financially, and had no adult companionship other than her grown daughters, who have lives of their own.  They loved all the same things--gambling weekends, morning breakfasts at the local cafe, a little golf here and there, game shows, and old M*A*S*H reruns.  He was financially stable, had a good income, and could have staved off her otherwise-inevitable bankruptcy.  It was, without a doubt, a match made in heaven.

And she panicked.  By the time he flew out, she'd completely talked herself out of it.  She was silent, sullen, withdrawn, and uncooperative.  She made him stay at her daughter's apartment, refusing to do more than come over for dinners, and that because her daughters forced the issue.

And he?  Was heartbroken.  He tried to be helpful around the apartment, but he spent a lot of time crying.  And when he left?

She took to calling him "that bastard" and "that asshole."  Within days, she'd done a complete 180, had him painted a monster.  Pinned the entire debacle on him when, in fact, she was just angry because she'd felt trapped.

Why, you're wondering?

Well, because of her old classmate, Clare McKay, actually.  See, Clare was the son of her long-dead father's business partner.  And Clare had always hated her.  Never given her an ounce of compassion, an inch of leeway.  Almost 60 years, and Clare was still known to dog her.  When her old flame began talking about flying out to see her, Clare laughed and laughed, warned him not to, reminded him what a "whore" she was.  What a slag.

And she knew.  She knew Clare, and people like him, hadn't forgotten one single mistake she'd made.  After almost six decades, they were still eager to gossip about her, condemn her for actions committed when she was still a child.  There was, to quote my atheist-hating neighbor, NO forgiveness.

Life in a small town can be hell.

And so this poor woman decided, consciously or no, to scuttle her own blossoming relationship with a man who had clearly been holding a torch for her all those years rather than risk the scorn of Clare McKay.

The woman?  My mother.  And, while I'm angry at her for the pain she caused this man, for the way she let him believe something was going to come of it, for the way she demonized him after the fact, I totally understand WHY she did it.  Maybe she even hoped that she would find the courage to go through with it.  Certainly, she lacked the courage to level with him while there was still time for him to get a refund on his airline ticket.  No matter how you slice it, it's tragic for everyone involved.

Except Clare, of course.  Clare got to laugh and laugh, got to engage in at least 30 different kinds of "I told you so" venom when that poor, heartsick man flew back home alone.


Walking through Wegmans the other night when, over the sound system, came The Thompson Twins with "Hold Me Now."  Wow, talk about a total first-husband song.  With all the angst and sorrow you can possibly cram into four minutes and forty-five seconds:

Gotta say, though--looking back?  It really was that sad.


Also in Wegmans?  A man, bagging groceries.  Dressed in basic grocery-bagger clothing--Wegmans Izod-type shirt, Docker-style pants.  And I looked at him--really stared.  It was rude, really, but he looked SO familiar, and yet I couldn't come up with it until we were leaving.

He looked exactly like my orthopedic surgeon.  EXACTLY.  Yet I couldn't come up with it because the setting was so wrong.  In a swanky doctor's office with the mahogany hardwood floors and the crisp white jacket, my doctor looks imposing.  He looks solid and calm and competent.  Put that very same face and build in grocery-bagger attire and have him popping boxes of taco shells and packages of ahi tuna in a reusable bag, and he looks very different.  He looks tired.  He looks defeated.  He looks chunky and sorrowful. Not because he looks any different, but because of the baggage *I* carry with me.  I see a man in his 50s bagging groceries, I immediately see tired and defeated.

I need to rethink my preconceptions.


One last thing--the next time some "less thoughtful than perhaps they should be" person tells you that the left and right area all the same, that the shutdown is BOTH parties' fault, show them this.  And tell them to put down the danged Kool-Aid:

Don't get bogged down in the procedural language--look at the practical point here.  The House has barred democrats from calling for a vote to pass a budget and re-open the government.  In fact, they've barred their own republican representatives from introducing any motions to end the shut down.  They've passed a resolution that allows ONLY the Speaker of the House or his designee to introduce such legislation.

So the next idiot who tells you that it's the democrats holding us hostage?  You'll know they're wrong.  This could have been ended days ago--a week ago, easy, except that the right took steps to make SURE it can't be ended.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bourgeoisie and Feeble Minds

So, the "no one in Congress should get paid until this is over" and "cut the deficit, don't pay Congress" wave of not-particularly-deep-thinking?

I get it.  I do, I absolutely understand not wanting to pay them while they refuse to work, while they devastate others with their corporate-interest politicking.  But not paying them is neither going to reduce our debt in any meaningful way NOR hurt them in any real fashion.  They don't make enough for their paychecks to put a dent in the deficit.  Plus, they're rich, the money they make from their Congressional salary?  Chump change for most of them.  The obstructionist, "bend over for the baggers" conservatives?

Most certainly have other, more lucrative income streams.

If we really wanted to make it sting, we'd need to shut down ANY income for them, including corporate sweets and off-shore income.  No investment dividends, no family cash, nothing.  Of course, that's not even a little bit practical (or legal), so it's just dreaming.  The sad reality is that NOTHING we do can stop these maniacs.

Except voting, that is.  Not just in the general elections, but in the PRIMARIES.  Because THAT'S where the insane tea party faction wins.  At the primary level, where they know nobody else is active.  At the primaries, they get to decide WHO is on the ballot come November.  They make sure the most extremist, radical, idiotic bagger takes the republican primary, knowing that most republicans vote straight party line.

If you want sanity back in our politics, if you want our government to stop acting like spoiled terrorists, you need to vote in THE PRIMARIES as well as the general election.

Otherwise?  Get used to this bullshit.


I'm going to flip back to the ACA/"Obamacare" thing once again.  Just a reminder for the folks out there who never saw "School House Rock."

The Affordable Care Act was passed by our representatives.  It was signed into law by our President.  It survived a Constitutional Challenge by our viciously right-leaning Supreme Court.  

It's the LAW.  Now shut up your "I hate the black guy/I'm afraid the tea baggers will nuke me at the primary level" whinging and do your damned jobs.  


I was thinking the other day about religion.  Or, rather, about religions.  About how many are so sure that theirs is the right, the real, the true faith.  About how your faith is determined by where you're born, which means that, if the one true faith is Reformed Latter-Day Saint and you were born in, say, Mumbai, you're pretty much screwed.  So, whichever religion is the "true" one, that's a crappy deity who'd deny most of the world whatever jolly afterlife because they were born in the wrong place.

Think about it.  THINK about it!  You know why so many faiths cram themselves down the throats of children?  Because children are, by default, non-believers.  They are atheists in the truest sense.  But they're also GULLIBLE, they believe in flying horses and talking pigs and unicorns.  They believe what the adults they depend upon tell them.  And so they're filled up like cheap Styrofoam cups with all the hot, steaming dogma their folks can slam in EARLY, while they're still innocent enough to believe it.  And by the time they're old enough to think critically?

Most times, it's too late--that lump of fiction has already slid in before the wall of logic could be constructed, and has taken up residency in the "unquestionable" portion of the brain.  You know what happens when you DON'T fill a kid's mind with mythology?  When you let a kid be a kid and don't bury him under an avalanche of doctrine and woo?

He laughs himself silly the first time he's exposed to the Bible.  Says things like, "God's a BUSH? A TALKING bush?  And he's on FIRE?" followed by peals of laughter.  

Anyway, back to where I was going with this--religions.  So many religions, and yet only one "true" faith.  

And I came up with this:


Dreamed I have cancer.  MRI's on Monday.  Hope I can get some answers soon.  Hope they're happy answers.


I was thinking about learning and when it stops for so many people.  I am in touch with so many folks from high school.  And so many of them seemed so smart back then, and seem so . . . dull now.  It's like they just hit 18 years old and stopped.  Like learning is a job you do until you're done with high school, and then you don't ever have to learn again.  Their grammar is atrocious, their spelling and written communication childish--it's shocking.  I was reading a piece the other day about the number of people who never read another book after high school.  I dug around for a source of the statistics, and found a number of different sources, some from a study conducted in 2003, others cited as more recent (2013).  I couldn't narrow it down further, so I can't say these numbers are dead on.  What I can say?

They dovetail nicely with my personal experiences with folks in my world.

^That's a live link to the source page^

And it's not just reading.  I've known people--family members, even--who've made it quite clear that the opinions they'd formed by the age of 18 were set in stone, unassailable.  And they defend this, like it's a point of pride.  Think about it.  That's like proudly proclaiming "I HAVEN'T LEARNED A DAMNED THING IN 20 YEARS AND I'M PROUD OF IT!"  


New information comes in, new theories are tested, new things are discovered, new ways of doing things invented, and it happens EVERY DAY!  How can you just close up and decide you're done growing?

In psych, we used to call that "premature foreclosure" (thank you, Erikson).  And it's not a good thing.

I learn every day.  And my opinions and feelings are not the same as they were when I was in my 20s.  So long as my brain is working, I want to keep it nimble.  I love to learn.  And I'm torn between pity and horror at those who've decided learning isn't important.  

I don't think there's anything that makes us more human than our capacity to learn.


And here's this--just my way of wishing y'all a happy Columbus day.

Or something.

That's referring to an Oatmeal post (as indicated by the credit there--"The Oatmeal").  You should read it.  It's right HERE.  It's not anything we didn't already know, but it's a snappy way of putting it together.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

More doctors, more scared

Doctor's appointment today.  Orthopedic surgeon a couple towns over.  On the bright side, the traffic was greatly reduced, thanks to the wingnut teabaggers shutting down the government.  On the not so bright side?

Doctor said just what I feared he would--that my PCP screwed up, that she should have ordered an MRI the instant the ultrasound came back showing nothing.  In other words, I should have had an MRI over a year ago.  Instead, this thing, whatever it is, has had an extra 16 months to slowly gain ground.

Thanks, Dr. White.  In case you've ever wondered why I abruptly stopped seeing you?  It's because you always left me feeling I was getting the least you had to offer.

MRI scheduled for next Monday.  Then I'll be seeing the Ortho guy again.  He was good--better than the online review sites led me to think he would be (no, I don't make decisions based upon those, but it's nice to see how folks feel they were treated).  He even refrained from pulling a "nameless female PAC from Ogden Clinic who has a boy's name" act and rolling his eyes and telling me that he didn't have time to read the paperwork I'd brought in.  In fact, he read what I brought in (labs and a previous radiology report), then asked if it was okay to make copies for my file.  It was nice, not being treated like a dull-wit who doesn't have the vaguest clue.

One small complaint--the Ortho guy's receptionist was a rude hag.  Impatient, imperious, clearly irritated by my existence.  I can understand that at the end of the day, but when the office has just opened for the morning?  Paste a smile on, sweetheart.  I may have cancer, and I put one on for you.


My boy had an appointment today, too.  With my old urologist.  As feared, rather than addressing the actual problem (which is not even vaguely foreskin related), he began squealing about circumcising my son.  Because slashing off a perfectly normal, functioning, highly innervated part of the penis is, of course, what American doctors do when faced with the fearful foreskin.  Never mind that the rest of the western world is overwhelmingly intact.  Never mind that nearly 65% of American newborn boys are spared genital modification.  We still have a generation of circumcised doctors who still turn a profit from performing unnecessary surgery on boys.  So we're left scrambling, trying to find a less barbaric doctor who knows more about the foreskin and is capable of addressing the actual issue rather than focusing on my son's foreskin.  I swear, is everyone's life like this? Because it really doesn't seem that way.  It doesn't seem MY life used to be this riddled with disasters and stress.  Is it a "getting old" thing, or is it just ME?


Watching Boehner flip-flop on the debt ceiling, the ACA, and pretty much everything else. Watched an interview with him, and the blustering defensiveness leaves me wondering just how scared he is?  These past few weeks have given me much deeper insight into just how the "Tea Party Patriots" work.  I always knew they were never a "grass roots" organization--they were put together by the Koch brothers to stir up the stupid with jingoistic slogans, whipping them into a frenzy of flag waving and immigrant/poor/women-hating.  But what I didn't get was this--how were they winning these elections when so many Americans don't agree with them?

I've figured it out.

They're active at the primary level.  They get out there EARLY, before any of us sane folks, and they ramrod through whatever extremist freak they're rooting for.  Because the rest of us are fast asleep in our beds on  Primary day, they get to choose who WE get to choose between, come the general election.  So we're left feeling we have a choice when, in fact, our options have been viciously limited through Tea Party manipulation of the primaries.  Yes, there are other issues, like gerrymandering/redistricting and voter fraud and widespread disenfranchisement, but the primaries--that's where it starts.  THAT'S where we can make a difference.  

I remember when I first heard about "Teapublicans" registering as Democrats so they could intentionally ram through the least viable democratic candidate.  Because the average person doesn't vote in primaries, this wasn't hard for them to do.  So, come general election time, folks had a choice to make--the clearly nutty teabagger OR the clearly unqualified democrat.  Republicans who always vote red voted for their nutty teabagger regardless of how they felt about him, democrats didn't vote at all because they weren't enthused by the democratic candidate.  And there you go--bagger wins, even though he doesn't actually have the hearts and minds of most people.  I heard about this, and I was horrified.

How to fix it?

Start voting in the primaries.  Specifically, in the REPUBLICAN primaries.  No, not like the wingnuts do, not trying to ramrod through the least competent republican (they're already doing that--doesn't matter, red votes red regardless in most cases, it seems), but rather trying to bring the sanest republican through the primary so that, even if our guy LOSES, the guy who WINS isn't crazy.

I don't see another way.


Speaking of misinformation and Tea Party hyperbole, this nastiness came across my wall the other day:

And here's the point-by-point debunking of this willfully misleading, politically charged garbage spray..  Thanks to ILLINOIS HEALTH MATTERS for the well-reasoned rebuttal.  


And that's about all.  I napped hard this evening and feel more tired for the sleep.  I think that, emotionally, I may be all used up.  So here, have this--makes me happy, and happy is good: