Saturday, December 27, 2008

WordleMeister of the Day: Fresca

We have a winner!

Fresca solved Wordle Challenge #1 just by giving it a quick glance. A piece of cake (easy as pie!)!

La Belle et Bonne Bianca Castafiore finds the Wordles a doltish passetemps but is fond of this Citrusy Cyclamate who recently plunked herself down in the middle of one of Retired Educator's many fab pity parties. La Fresca's appreciation of choses tintines and her hearty cries of "blistering barnacles" have endeared her to the shy, retiring diva.

I wondered whether classifying this Wordle Challenge as "easy" was fair -- but the proof was in the pudding (cake and pie). I suppose a person might be able to google his way to the appropriate citation -- Citrusy Cyclamate claims to have done so for Wordle Challenge #2 and to have easily arrived at the solution. "Poobah!" I say. "Poobah!" To her credit, she is keeping the results to herself.

La Fresca has further shown herself to be of an altruistic nature by opting to forward her used copy of the book in question to a starving child, an option designated in the official statement of Wordle Challenge rewards.
As it happens, Little Senasa in Nazareth, Ethiopia, has culinary designs on this delectable chunk o' paper pulp!

The first Wordle was a jumble of the opening of Joyce's Ulysses:

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead,
bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.
A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him
by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:

—Introibo ad altare Dei.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

War is over if you want it

Happy Christmas (War Is Over)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The road is so long
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight


And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so happy Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young


War is over if you want it
War is over now

--John Lennon, Yoko Ono

photo credit

Eartha Kitt

I've always said to my men friends, If you really care for me,

darling, you will give me territory.

Give me land, give me land.

(January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008)

photo credit -- Thank you, Diddy Wah

Cortical Changes in CRPS

Lifted from PubMed -- where I was directed by MedWorm, "the Internet's medical router... over 6000 authoritative RSS feeds go in... hundreds of new RSS feeds by category come out..."

December 18, 2008 European Journal of Pain

Cortical changes in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

Karin Swart CM, Stins JF, Beek PJ.

Research Institute MOVE, Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, van der Boechorststraat 9, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Recent research suggests that changes in cortical structures can contribute to the pathophysiology of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This review provides an overview of studies showing cortical involvement in CRPS, including mislocalizations of tactile stimuli, changes in size and organization of the somatosensory map, changes in motor cortex representation and body perception disturbances. In addition, we review experimental treatment approaches, such as mirror therapy and motor imagery programs, aimed at restoring the integrity of neural processing in the sensory-motor cortex in individuals with CRPS. The intervention effects are promising and can be theoretically motivated on the basis of established principles of neural organization, although important questions concerning the precise neural mechanisms of action remain unanswered.

PMID: 19101181 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Nothing Grows

Yesterday's outing involved the first outpatient visit to the Infectious Disease doctor's office and infusion center. They were incredibly busy, having to fit five days of appointments and procedures into three.

The drill is to see the doctor or PA, then have a vancomycin level and other blood work drawn, and the PICC line dressing changed.

The following day, Fred drives back to pick up the "medicine balls" full of antibiotic that are correctly dosed for the week.

This morning, one of the nurses called to say that we have to go from a once-a-day schedule to every 12 hours because my vancomycin level is very low. We chose midnight and noon as it complements our outrageous lifestyle.

The kicker for me, though, is that my white count is 17,000.

The ID doctor said yesterday that if the pain does not let up in my right shoulder -- from which the prosthesis was removed and a cement spacer put in back at the end of August -- that he was going to recommend operating *again* and removing the spacer. I had a temp of 100.5 -- I stopped checking it when I got home from the hospital -- thinking, dreaming, of smooth sailing.

My cultures still have not grown and he finds that somewhat ominous -- to him this means either a rare bug, fungus, or TB, though the fungus and TB should not have been so very difficult to grow. He has asked the lab for 5 more days.

Where and how did I pick up a rare bug -- in my bones, no less? My understanding of the immune system does not seem to be growing, either. No, I have begun to cling to simplistic notions.

Wherever and however this happened, I hope I had a good time.

As always, more props to Fred. How much can he take? What can I do for him? Does he think of me and wish... well, wish what any normal person might wish?

Ruby* Takes My Love to Town

Fred and I went up and down the hills yesterday, Ruby the Honda CR-V happily putt-putt-putting along. For several years, my darling and I stressed and argued, pitched the various merits and demerits of buying something, anything, that rolled on wheels, was safe and easy to handle -- and what else? Oh yes! Something that could be fitted with a mechanical wheelchair lift.

Without these things, this was the drill for getting Retired Educator out of the house and loaded for transport: I ride to the old low-to-the-ground Toyota in my power chair, dragging along a folded aluminum walker. I resemble a bionic grasshopper, the legs of the walker waving in the wind like buggy antennae. It takes a few minutes to open the difficult passenger side door, and a few moments to sit and weep hysterically afterward. Woe! Woe! Alas! Alas! A few final beats to the breast, then I set up the walker in front of the chair, stand -- and, while holding onto the car door for dear life, do the Gimp Pivot. There follows moments of schizoid conversations between my Will and my Gimpiness, usually held aloud for the entertainment value they offer to the professional women strolling by. Puis, Fred carries out the manual chair and loads it in the back, cursing under his breath but waving at the ladies with a hospitable look about him. Ensuite, he plops into the power chair, balances the walker on his bony knees, and drives it all back into The Manor, plugs in the chair, finally grabs *his* stuff, and... we're off. Of course, we did a similar version of this routine upon our return home -- but usually some sort of Event Intensifier was in play, such as a full bladder -- because Retired Educator cannot manage to pee away from home without assistance, and Fred is not always made welcome in women's bathrooms.

(Forget *me* not having autonomy -- what about *him*?)

Okie-dokie -- choo? Train? Thought? Ah, yes! The first thing that comes to mind in terms of a vehicle, of course, is the Ubiquitous Clunky Van For Crippled People. They seem to come only in white or navy blue. Oooooo! I want me one of those -- big, ugly. Yep, big and ugly -- with unmentionable gas mileage. Sasquatch would have nothing on our carbon footprint.

Fred flat out refused to drive a van or a "large" SUV. Rarely does he say "no" to what I want -- excuse me as I blot the tears and *sniff* -- so I pay attention, especially since "what I want" always seems to involve a sacrifice from him. I want this new car with a lift -- but who has to load the chair and drive the car?

I watched him struggle for years, watched him hurt his back using stopgap ramps and entirely too much muscle power wielded with disdain for basic body mechanics. My "want" was, in great part, an unspoken "need" of his. In subtle ways, too, we were both caving to the difficulties of everyday life. CRPS / RSD erodes social interaction and there's a measure of discipline required to approximate "normal." It is easier and less painful to hide out at home -- but it is counterproductive and subtly will erode at both physical and mental health. I know this because as I look back at those fun times from the future of today, where the state of my health *does* prevent me from going out, I am about to descend into an ulcer-riddled, slobbering idiocy. (Ho! Ho! Ho! And Merrrrrry Christmas!)

I'm just saying: Normal changes. And yes, if pressed to do so, I might admit that my daily life is in many ways blessed. Jeez.

Anyway -- take, for instance, the normal weekly chore of grocery shopping.

Fred is a consummate consumer, very up on availability, totally knowledgeable about prices and how to factor in such things as convenience. He also happens to be one of those lovely people who could easily have taken a career detour into the culinary arts. Yes, Fred can cook! He has had the responsibility of buying and creating two meals a day for 30+ homeless men, each of whom had an active illness with some sort of comorbidity. He has had the responsibility of cooking for Whimsical Moi and La Belle et Bonne Bianca Castafiore -- which can be the source of tension headaches. These days? Well, given the cholesterol count he managed to achieve recently -- I predict arugula, tomates, brocolli and lots of steaming technique.

Yes, Fred can cook. Still, a few months ago, we had to have The Dreaded Talk.

I had to rein in his exuberance for our marvelous local Farmer's Market. Four quarter-pound bags of Ethiopian coffee beans, just enough that we soon end up with funky blends out of some sort of quasi-gourmet necessity. We are occasional fans of the light and winy Yirgacheffe and Limmu -- though nothing will ever get between me and a good honest espresso roast, no matter the country of origin. And spices, oh Lord! The makings for a dozen curries, every sort of pepper and rendition of paprika, plus the everloving let's-try-some-of-this-stuff purchases. Not an issue of price -- rather, a problem with space. I also tend to get peeved when I cannot manipulate the containers -- you try pulling out the plastic cups of cumin and coriander without spilling the cayenne, caraway, cardamom and the other C-Spices -- like yanking the lovely white linen tablecloth from under the Thanksgiving feast and ending up with sweet potato soufflé and fines herbes in your hair.

Train? Train? Choo-choo... Okay, I am back. Ummm. Grocery shopping. And "normal."

Fred is a great shopper and through the times of having to do it alone, has his own habits and efficiencies. For me, the grocery store became a social outting more than a trip for necessities -- The List may as well not even have existed by the time I am done adding to, and altering, it.

There was a period of over two years where I didn't go to the store or market with Fred. We developed a standardized list of food and household cleaners 'n stuff, to which he would add weekly specials. It got harder over time for me to remember the layout of the aisles and which brands were desirable versus store brands -- never mind what anything cost.

I could not figure out why I was so *angry* about something so small as groceries and the act of shopping. Every week, when he was done hauling in the bags and I was helping put things up, something pissed me off. Not knowing what or why, I focused on Fred. Poor Fred.

It turned out that I was frustrated at not being able to ask for, then get, things that I wanted. Bless his heart... I would whine: "I need hair conditioner." "Put it on The List -- just tell me what kind so I get what you want..."

And... EXPLOSION! "How in Tête de Hergé do I know what kind I want? And so on and whiny so forth." This would set him up for playing Twenty Questions, not to mention failure, and having to focus his sweet ADHD-addled brain on a hundred different hair products in the middle of a crowded, noisy store. I needed the experience of walking down the aisles and seeing the products, reading the blurbs, cautions, and claims. (Oh... and seeing people, talking with people, eavesdropping, playing with kids -- I might as well have been at EuroDisney or DollyWood, such fun there was!)

The day the issues behind my behavior clarified, that is the day the plan for a car and a lift was born. Retired Educator needed to venture out, put up with the pain, get tired (because tired can be a great feeling!) -- and take responsibility for getting her own wants and needs met. Not to pretend that this was ever totally accomplished, but things are better, more equitable, since we purchased Ruby the Honda CR-V. Vroom! Vroom! She's not the 1954 MG that I've always wanted, but she is irreplacable, functional, and cute.

It took a long time to make the purchase. Even in this worldly metro area, the only conversions offered seemed to be for huge lifts in huge vans... and the Fredster was having none of that. There were many arguments and hurt feelings.

Hooray for the internet! After hundreds of searches, emails, and phone calls -- we found Bruno.

More specifically, we found this Bruno:

Curb-Sider® Vehicle Lift (Telescoping Model)Model VSL-6900 -- or as we like to call him: Bruno, because Bruno is his name-o.

Okay, so we totally screwed up and it was only by grace and an extra few thousand dollars (not a ho-hum issue chez nous -- we are only squatters in the Captain's Manor, after all) that we ended up with the perfect combination.

First, we bought the car. We bought the wrong car. Luckily, we were able to rectify our error in the space of a day. Caveat emptor, caveat emptor. Changes had been made between last year's CR-V model and the 2008 and those changes impacted the very tight measurements with which we were working. Okay, we have the car. Still a few "oops-es" -- the well in the back for the spare tire... hmm. Fred designed a modification to allow us access in the event of... but you'd have thought he was changing the layout of Fort Knox by the lack of enthusiasm and help he got from the local conversion experts. The Bruno company did not want to give a blanket endorsement of the pairing between the 2008 CR-V and their lift, so we studied and debated the specs, and decided to forge ahead.

Ummm. It turned out that my wheelchair was too big by 3/4 of an inch, and there is no wiggle room in that.

So I had to buy a new wheelchair. Bull Crap Bull Skeet of Tête-de-Hergé, my health insurance folks, wouldn't spring for a new one -- actually, I did not push the issue. I mean, really:

Hi there, BCBS of TdH! I need a new power chair because I bought the wrong car to go with the right lift, only to find that my wheelchair was too big by 3/4 of an inch. It would be nice to be able to leave the house without making the Dear Fred push me around in a manual chair (my shoulders are shot and I cannot self-propel, you'll recall). His poor back hurts and he is tired -- and me? I would like a smidge of autonomy. Oh, you don't cover autonomy? Okie-dokie. I'll dip into The Our Funds Runneth Over Account and spring for the chair... you just sit back and refuse to cover those pre-op MRIs! Fair is fair.

Finally, all the money was spent** and we delivered the wheelchair, the lift, and the car to the people who are supposed to know how to marry them together. Fred sat in the waiting room much like an expectant father unable to withstand the sights and sounds of birth.

The van guys had never done this before, of course, and ended up having to redo it three times. If Fred had not made the revisions in Ruby's back floor, she'd have come out completely mangled. But in the end, we had it -- and as far as we can tell, we are the only people in our neck of the woods*** who do: a car that meets the need of a gimp but that does not scream "I ride to school on the Short Bus."

All so that I can go to the grocery store. Like normal people.


*Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town

(Kenny Rogers)

You've painted up your lips
And rolled and curled your tinted hair
Ruby are you contemplating
Going out somewhere
The shadow on the wall
Tells me the sun is going down
Oh Ruby
Don't take your love to town

It wasn't me
That started that old crazy Asian war
But I was proud to go
And do my patriotic chore
And yes, it's true that
I'm not the man I used to be
Oh, Ruby I still need some company

Its hard to love a man
Whose legs are bent and paralysed
And the wants and the needs of a woman your age
Ruby I realize,
But it won't be long i've heard them say until I not around
Oh Ruby
Don't take your love to town

She's leaving now cause
I just heard the slamming of the door
The way I know I've heard it slam
100 times before
And if I could move I'd get my gun
And put her in the ground
Oh Ruby
Don't take your love to town

Oh Ruby for God's sake turn around

**If any of you followed my outburst at The Happy Hospitalist, let's just say that these purchases designed solely so that I could leave the house without requiring the assistance of Atlas, ate up the entire "settlement." Of course, the fact that the very events behind the settlement necessitated the purchase... Oh, excuse me! Am I lapsing into bitterness?

***In Reply to: Origin of neck of the woods posted by N. Lester on May 12, 2000

: where does the phrase "neck of the woods" come from?

Here's a discussion from February 2000. Anyone got anything new to add?

: What is the origin of the phrase "In your neck of the woods" or "In this neck of the woods"?

: : Here's my theory. In the country, there aren't any street addresses. So you literally use landmarks to refer to where a person lives. Up in your neck of the woods or up the holler. On the mountain. Down on the river.

: "Neck of the woods," meaning a certain region or neighborhood, is one of those phrases we hear so often that we never consider how fundamentally weird they are. In the case of "neck," we have one of a number of terms invented by the colonists in Early America to describe the geographical features of their new home. There was, apparently, a conscious attempt made to depart from the style of place names used in England for thousands of years in favor of new "American" names. So in place of "moor," "heath," "dell," "fen" and other such Old World terms, the colonists came up with "branch," "fork," "hollow," "gap," "flat" and other descriptive terms used both as simple nouns ("We're heading down to the hollow") and parts of proper place names ("Jones Hollow").

: "Neck" had been used in English since around 1555 to describe a narrow strip of land, usually surrounded by water, based on its resemblance to the neck of an animal. But the Americans were the first to apply "neck" to a narrow stand of woods or, more importantly, to a settlement located in a particular part of the woods. In a country then largely covered by forests, your "neck of the woods" was your home, the first American neighborhood

This is an example of a "fossil" word in which an old word has been preserved in only one or two special sayings. Short Shrift is one example. In the case of Neck the ancestor words in Old Breton (cnoch) and Old German (hnack) both had a sense of "hill" or "summit"; ie identifying a place.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Flowers in the Canyons

There are times a sister needs her brother -- and I think we all could use the memory of flowers in the canyons. All photos by TW, selected text from his December 14, 2008 entry over at American Idyll.

what i'll
give you
since you asked
is all my time
take the
rugged sunny days,
the warm and
rocky weather.
take the roads
that i have
walked along
looking for
tomorrow's time,
peace of mind.
as my life
spills into yours,
with the hours,
filling up
the world
with time,
turning time to flowers,
i can show you all the songs that i never sang to one love before.

we have seen a million stones lying by the water.
you have climbed the hills with me to the mountain shelter.
taken off the days one by one, setting them to breathe in the sun.
take the lilies and the lace from the days of childhood,
all the willow winding paths leading up and outward.
this is what i give.
this is what i ask you for.
nothing more.
--judy collins ("since you asked")

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wordle Challenge Rewards

As of yet, there have been no attempts to solve any of the three outstanding Wordle Challenges. [Update -- Challenge #1 was handily elucidated as being the opening line to Joyce's Ulysses.]

Then it occured to me: "Perhaps contestants are awaiting notification of their potential winnings, those money-grubbing bastards!"

Rewards will be as stratified as the challenges themselves, which range from "easy" to "difficult." Should you successfully rearrange a citation and give the correct attribution, in addition to being WordleMeister of the Day,
you win:

Wordle Challenges #1 and #2 (Easy) --
a used copy* of the work in question;
Wordle Challenge #3 (Difficult) -- a used copy* of the work in question AND A Never Before Issued, One-of-a-Kind Commendation.

*Books will likely be obtained via and, therefore, sent to you by a third party. If you're of an altruistic bent, you can forego your winnings -- and the book in question will be sent, second day air, to the starving child of your choice.

Wordle Challenge #1

Wordle Challenge #1, Easy Level: Identify the novel that begins --

Good luck!