Saturday, August 2, 2008

E-Alert from RSDSA

La Belle Bianca Castafiore ici! Zeee Retired Educator, she is -- comment le dire? -- occupée? Oui, c'est ça, elle est très occupée. Et puisqu'elle est... she is so très busy this matin, this morning, she ask, she asked to me this favor. Pffft! Elle m'a demandé de faire afficher ce petit article au sujet de... DEVINEZ! DEVINEZ! Il s'agit toujours de cette affreuse maladie, le "CRPS/RSD"! Ooooo, j'en ai vraiment marre... Why does she not never make the spotlight upon -- ohhh, sais pas -- MOI, par exemple? Mais non! I, me, she does not find enough of the interest! Harrumph. Alors... read this below and love it, learn of this disease ridicule! Me, I am doubting that she, er, qu'elle puisse passer *un* jour sans en faire mention! She has not the ability to not talk of it!

[Post-Publication Note from Retired Educator: Well, that was quite the useless introduction, La Belle. sniff. And, for the record? I will be happy to go one day (or two, or three!), without mentioning soit CRPS soit RSD! All YOU have to do is refrain from that damned refrain: Ah je ris de me voir si belle dans ce miroir! D'accord? Alors... le jeu s'en fait. -- R.E.]

{Oh, and please find below an interesting write-up on brain imaging and... well, and... that disorder I am all the time running my mouth on about... but never to the point of obsession. I can stop talking about it at any time. Anywhere. Now. Here. For example. -- R.E.}

E-Alert from RSDSA

Imaging Study Of Pain Sheds Light On Mystery Condition

Harvard School of Public Health

The first-ever functional brain imaging study of chronic pain conducted in children, done by researchers at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital and Children's Hospital Boston, has shed new light on a mysterious condition known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and offers hope for a better understanding of the disorder in both children and adults.

The study, supported by the Mayday Fund of New York, is the result of a joint effort between researchers at Children's who treated the patients in the study and the P.A.I.N. (Pain & Analgesia Imaging and Neuroscience) group at McLean, who conducted the imaging tests.

"Studying pain in children offers us insights into how the brain may cure itself because the young brain is so adaptable relative to the adult brain," says David Borsook, MD, PhD, director of the P.A.I.N. group at McLean, and senior author of the study published in the current issue of Brain (abstract). "This may offer very important insights into the development of new therapeutic approaches to chronic pain-a condition that more than 50 million Americans suffer from with relatively little in terms of highly effective therapies."

CPRS is a disorder of the peripheral nervous system characterized by severe pain, hypersensitivity to stimuli, poor circulation, abnormal sweating, muscle atrophy, joint problems, movement disorders and cognitive changes, among other symptoms.

"This is a significant pain problem that often leaves individuals incapacitated, wheel chair-bound and limited in their physical abilities," notes Borsook, who added that in the pediatric population, girls are affected more frequently than boys. "It can be difficult to diagnose and without proper treatment children and adults living with CPRS live in absolute agony."

Typically, the condition stems from an initial injury, usually the hands or feet, and spreads sometimes to the opposite limb or side of the body, even to the entire body. It is more common in women and is now being seen in some girls after they have suffered sports injuries.

"CRPS is a frightening illness because it can develop as a result of a seemingly trivial injury," says Borsook. "For example, a 14-year-old girl can sprain an ankle during a basketball game, but what seems like a common and easily treatable injury can develop in to CRPS, causing extreme pain throughout her body."

In their novel study, the McLean and Children's researchers developed the first model of the illness that allows them to examine the efficacy of interventional treatments."

"The central nervous system imaging of pain in pediatric patients is a nascent development within the increasingly productive field of functional MRI (fMRI)," explains Alyssa Lebel, MD, senior associate in Pain Medicine and Neurology at Children's and first author on the paper.

"This non-invasive technique provides a unique window into regions of the brain actively engaged in pain transmission and modulation. Contrast to adult, pediatric patients are still developing these regions, along with their connections, and may show fMRI patterns of activation in response to pain that differ from adults. Additionally, children often recover symptomatically from painful disorders, such as CRPS."

Lebel notes that the research team's data provides early information about provocative changes in central nervous system (CNS) circuitry in symptomatic and recovered patients with CRPS, as well as demonstrates that the technique is tolerable and acceptable to children with neuropathic pain.

"We will continue to study pediatric patients with CRPS and with other painful disorders, such as headache, to begin to define the pediatric CNS circuitry of acute and chronic pain," says Lebel. "Such information may eventually allow current and novel therapeutic interventions to target the CNS processes ultimately responsible for the complex sensory and emotional experience of pediatric pain."

In children, the symptoms often appear to resolve in time, while in adults resolution is less common. Treatment is generally limited to pain medications and physical therapy. Because the symptoms in children frequently reverse, the researchers decided to image the brains of children with the condition both while symptoms were present and then after the symptoms had gone away-a comparison that cannot be done in adults.

"Our team took advantage of the opportunity to look at children in the pain state and the non-pain state," said Borsook, who is co-director of the P.A.I.N. Group of the Department of Radiology at Children's with Lino Becerra, PhD. "We were trying to define what happens to a changing brain as it adapts over time in those afflicted with this syndrome." A key advantage of imaging children is that they do not usually have other illnesses and are not typically on other medications that might influence the findings, he adds.

"This paper is not just a first for kids, but also has implications for understanding the adult condition," he said.

The imaging studies revealed some unexpected findings. Most importantly, the images taken in the non-pain state showed that brain recovery was not complete.

"The brain changes seen during the pain state don?t disappear during the early non-pain state. As a result, subsequent injuries could rekindle the condition or other problems could occur later," Borsook warns.

Further studies will seek to evaluate how long it takes brains to recover fully and determine the efficacy of treatments.

"Our results suggest significant changes in CNS circuitry in pediatric patients with CRPS may outlast the signs and symptoms," report the authors. They conclude that even with a more rapid resolution of pain in children, the effect of the nerve damage and other changes that occur in CRPS at a time of development of brain connections may have prolonged effects upon brain circuitry. This could impact upon pain processing in these individuals later in life.

This initial research has been pivotal in establishing a newly formed program P.A.I.N. Group at Children's using fMRI to evaluate pediatric pain disorders; the program has been supported by the hospital and the Departments of Radiology and Anesthesiology.

"It brings new research to understanding acute and chronic pain disorders in childhood," says Borsook. "Furthermore, it integrates programs that are already at the forefront of pediatric pain treatment (such as the newly established Mayo Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program at Children's) with modern neuroimaging facilities recently established at Children's Waltham."

This E-alert was made possible by the contribution of the members of the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association (RSDSA). To learn more about becoming a member of RSDSA, please click here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Disconnect

Bush Praises Pakistan Just Hours After U.S. Strike

Published: July 29, 2008
WASHINGTON — President Bush on Monday praised Pakistan’s commitment to fighting extremists along its deteriorating border with Afghanistan, only hours after an American missile strike destroyed what American and Pakistani officials described as a militant outpost in the region, killing at least six fighters.

Mr. Bush, meeting with Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, at the White House, sought to minimize growing concerns that Pakistan’s willingness to fight extremists was waning, allowing the Taliban and Al Qaeda to regroup inside Pakistan and plan new attacks there and beyond.

********** ********** **********

Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Thursday, July 31, 2008

-- 10:05 PM ET-----

Pakistanis Aided Attack in Kabul

U.S. Officials SayAmerican intelligence agencies have concluded that members of Pakistan's powerful spy service helped plan the deadly July 7 bombing of India's embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to United States government officials. The conclusion was based on intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack, the officials said, providing the clearest evidence to date that Pakistani intelligence officers are actively undermining American efforts to combat militants in the region.

Once upon a time, we used terms like "lies," or "prevarications," "spin," or even the tired, lame, terribly unimaginative "that's on a need-to-know basis."
Now we talk about "disconnects," as if the matters at hand resembled interrupted chatty-cathy telephone conversations between gin-and-tonic socialites scheduling a tennis match at the club. I am sure there must be a definition of disconnect as a political term -- I just haven't found it.

I also concede that my interest in the appropriation of words, the voiding of their semantic baggage, and their subsequent redeployment as a slick, smart-ass word-weapon -- well, my interest is covered by the slick and smarmy label of cultural linguistics when it should more rightly be named a sexual fetish.

Nothing turns me on more than a good etymology that cedes before the awesome power of cultural evolutionary forces. I ain't no prescriptivist, bay-bee.

Mais, je divague: I have lost the train of my thought. Choo choo...

There is something almost Maurice-Blanchot-y about the loud evocative silence in the space of the disconnect... No, that's a lie. No, wait, that is truth itself. It's just an embarrassment to admit any sort of excitement over something so shameful.

((((An irrepressable aside! I was browsing on, thinking of buying a copy of L'Arret de Mort [Death Sentence], half-heartedly, half-awake going through some of the reader reviews, when I was brought up short by this one, authored by one Benjamin Sokal:

Death Sentence is awesome. There are many themes in this book, and if you pay any attention, that keeps the book interesting. It is alternatingly bleak, hilarious, and sometimes bleakly hilarious. The funniest line might be, "What do I care about that honor, or even that friend, or even his unhappiness? My own is immense, and next to it other people mean nothing." Or perhaps the line that the narrator throws in about sleeping in open graves may strike your fancy. If you do not find these bleakly funny, perhaps you are not morbid enough to read this book. Several questions which may keep you up at night are, "Who is the narrator? What is Blanchot saying about French, or other, Cultures? What is the significance of casts? Why does everyone live in hotel rooms? How does Blanchot deal with the concept of death?

Why does everyone live in hotel rooms? Lordy, I about fell out of my wheelchair, laughing. Now *that* is a good -- no! a great -- question!

Intrigued by young Benjamin Sokal and his intrepid intellect, I looked up his other reviews on Amazon, and was quickly brought up short by this:

This movie is AWESOME! The action sizzles, the comedy will have you rolling, and Dennis Rodman stars! But what I like about it most are the philosophical underpinnings. This movie is the perfect metaphor for the postmodern hyperrealist fugue theory proposed by John L. Umblaut in the 1930's. The theory is a brand of religious existentialism except with Kantian overtones. Look it up on the internet if you want more information. This movie is great. Entertaining, funny, thought provoking. Two thumbs up...Way up!

Which was a review of Simon-Sez, which was given the following synopsis by Mark Deming in the All Movie Guide:

Former basketball star Dennis Rodman stars in this action-and-espionage thriller as Simon, an Interpol agent called into action when the daughter of a close friend is abducted. In order to track down the kidnappers, Simon seeks the assistance of a pair of monks (John Pinette and Ricky Harris) who are experts in computer sleuthing. Simon Sez was Rodman's first solo starring vehicle, following his dramatic debut alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme in Double Team.

Slowly. Step. Away. From. The. Review. Avoid. Staring. Into. Benjamin's. Eyes.))))

We linguistic sorts are a sad, sad lot.

Mais je divague: I have lost the train of my thought. Choo choo.

Thursday, July 31, 2008



No, this is not the obligatory Retired Educator's take on cocaine. Rather, it is the Retired Educator's take on the ignominious: how being killed while seated on the toilet is a bugger of a notion.

Fred sat on one toilet, crossword in hand. I sat on another, thumbing through the latest Rolling Stone.

There came the aforementioned
C-R-A-C-K. With a large elm tree attached. Fred, ever fleet of foot, flew out of his bathroom, pants around ankles, a significant portion of himself nekkid as a jay bird.

I just sat there. Fleet of foot? Ha! Not hardly. The door flew open, a wide-eyed and partly nekkid Fred stood babbling before me.

"Go check on La Belle Bianca and The Felines!" I ordered, in my best stentorian... and began the task of putting myself back together and in my wheelchair -- a task most easily done without assistance.

Oh, I could kiss his fleet feet! The elm had definite designs on him and his toilet. It crashed through the roof between that bathroom and the dining room, also taking out a good section of the back porch.

La Belle Bianca refused to budge, and declined the invitation to get up and see the fallen tree or the damage: "Espèce de nain insolite!" (Very impolite, as well as impolitic! And hardly a fair déclamation -- Fred is in no way a nain! She got it from me. Ah, but then, I use her "Sacré bordel" with authoritative frequency, alors on est quitte.)

The felines were all safely ensconced in my dirty clothes hamper, huddled close together, giving community-binding licks to spare ears and eyes, emitting a hum that wasn't quite a purr.

The call to State Farm went off without a hitch -- so-and-so who does such-and-such will be dispatched in a few hours.

Now if someone would just inform Mother Nature to take a break from the sudden showers and storms. These trees are drought-damaged and cannot take the sudden influx of water. When we have this tree removed, we will pick out the next likely offender and have that cut as well.

I wouldn't mind any of this so much had Google made its Q2 earnings.

La Belle Bianca Castafiore may have to start paying rent.

Les Chatons

I just found this photo -- from late April 2007 -- of Marmy's first and only litter. From left to right: Speckle-Belly-White-Foot, Fuzz Bucket, Little Girl, Mascara, and the one, the only Dobby. All were adopted except for Dobby.

Where Are My Shoe?

Silence reigns. It is 3 am and I hurt like hell. While waiting the usual 30-40 minutes for the Percocet to begin to work, I started to go through a pile of old papers stashed in a box in my office closet. (Anything requiring the stash designation ends up in my office closet, be it mine, Fred's, La Belle Bianca Castafiore's, or the odd unattributable find...)

In a folder holding a mélange of basic teaching junk (Excuse me: junque), I found my favorite two First-Day-of-French-One offerings.

On the first day of university level French One class, I always had the students write and turn in the sentence or sentences that they wanted most to be able to say at the end of the course. As an ice-breaker, I would translate a few of them, finding topics with lots of cognates, etc.

I spoke in the target language only, so that first class is generally terrifying to the students. I literally refused to let them flee from the classroom by blocking the door. By the end of the first week, they are happy as clams.

Anyway, this took place at an elite private university that prides itself on its incredible academics, general good looks, and high standards. And so it was with malicious glee that I reread these two papers tonight:

1. Where are my shoe?


2. I am a brain surgen.

Ah, je ris de me voir si belle dans ce miroir!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An Old Diary Post On Blogs 2/4/2007

"Ah, je ris de me voir si belle dans ce
miroir!" -- Un commentaire qui marche bien à illuminer n'importe quelle forme d'écriture (supposément) privée. Une connaisance profonde, cadeau de la Belle Bianca Castafiore.

dear diary,

i had forgotten how seductive the blogosphere can be. this morning, after checking out the *five* blogs maintained by my non-opinionated eldest brother, i decided to click on the "next blog" option in the upper left of my screen.

what a world! suddenly, i am inside someone else's existence -- they are telling me things -- and some of the things are really... important, private, surprising, and almost always, very endearing. i must have visited 15-20 different blogs this afternoon, and no matter the intent of the blogger (to be perceived as super-smart, witty, urbane, the flamekeeper of western civilization, party animal par excellence, whatever), what s/he cannot keep *out* of their writing is whatever they love the most.

invariably, it is children, family, friends, and pets. on a different rung entirely are hung our passions: a profession, a calling, political beliefs, issues. even then, the blogger only succeeds when s/he makes the abstract real by the insertion of children, family, friends, and pets. i suppose that is what the blog is? the intersection of our personal loves with our passions?

it is a world of opinion and discourse -- so linked, connected, and hyperlinked, even, that if you shut your eyes, and quiet your hands, you can hear the shrieking wires and reel from the particulate scatter of radio waves breaking against the planes of your skin.

i love it, but it scares me.

maybe it is a healthy thing for others -- for me, i don't think so. and it probably is fine to get hooked on the blog of a "famous person," people who really are kind of professionals -- the ubiquitous talking heads/pundits in politics and the arts, even in the sciences.

but i keep stumbling on ordinary people -- almost all of whom are doing incredibly *remarkable* things with their lives, apparently without much off-putting obnoxious self-awareness. and as i stumble into their lives, i start to... care.

anyway... it got me through today, and if i start jonesing for a fix of updated information about so-and-so's child with the measles, or whosits' job interview at the mall, or what happened overnight in podunk, usa -- i chose several to put on my steadily lengthening list of favorites.

this is symptomatic of how sucky and insular my life has become, isn't it? (no... i wasn't talking to *you*! i was talking to my CATS! oh dear god.)

all my love, dear diary,
retired educator