Friday, September 18, 2009

Sometimes A Sister Needs A Brother Needs A God (III)

Widforss Point

For reference, see the Turn Your Head Sideways Project.

Stolen, lifted, 5-fingered the discount, the lock, the stock, the barrel, all from TW's various balms over at American Idyll.

Lindsey J. Baum: Watching, Looking, Waiting

Nothing new about Lindsey J. Baum.

You can access an FBI flyer here.

KOMONews published this story on 12 September 2009:

Sep 12, 2009
By Joel Moreno

MCCLEARY, Wash. - Months of disappointments haven't sapped the strength of a search effort for a missing McCleary girl.

Lindsay Baum disappeared 11 weeks ago - and despite a lack of clues, volunteers won't stop looking.

It's slow going, poking through the brush - but volunteers say it's worth any effort to find a clue to Lindsey's disappearance.

"Well, we're looking for anything that's, well, perhaps out of the ordinary," says volunteer Dick Hall. That could be a scrap of clothing, a bit of trash - or anything - to show whether someone has been in a given area.

In 2 1/2 months of searching, nothing has turned up that ties back to the missing girl. But that doesn't stop volunteers from trying.

They were back out again on Saturday, combing through the thick brush.

"This morning we had people standing in line just to register," says Lindsey's mother, Melissa Baum.

She is coordinating this latest effort, with help from the biker club "Guardians of the Children" and a second group called "Helping Heroes Productions."

"I truly believe my daughter's alive and that we're going to bring her home," Melissa says. "I just hope whoever has her would just let her go, let her come home where she's loved and where she's wanted."

Lindsey disappeared on the evening of June 26 while walking home from a friend's house.

Police are stumped.

McCleary is a small town, but there is a lot of open ground and wooded areas for searchers to cover. Volunteers though, say there is strength in numbers.

"Maybe with as many eyes as we have, we'll discover something," says Hall.

Searchers are looking for a miracle - and stories like the California woman who resurfaced 18 years after being kidnapped gives them a reason to go on.

"It gives me hope because it's saying after 18 years, surely probably mostly everybody had given up," says Hall.

Adds Melissa Baum: "It scares me because I just can't imagine the next months - let alone years - of not knowing where my daughter is."

The search resumes Sunday - and people are encouraged to help.

A reward of $10,000 has been offered in this case. You can check for the latest updates on Lindsey at this website.

CRPS/RSD Clinical Trials, September Update

Get details (such as where studies are conducted, and by whom) by clicking on the initial link.

Please pay close attention to study requirements -- sometimes involvement of certain limbs is specified, sometimes a distinction between CRPS Type 1 or 2, sometimes length of illness. Some studies require procedures, some offer treatments (blindly), some require that you not have had any prior treatment.

I have no information regarding remuneration.

I eliminated three studies from the current list called up by the search term "CRPS," as they appeared only loosely related, or not at all.

One short editorial comment! I received an email after my last Clinical Trials posting, the author of which was upset by some mention of psychology/psychiatry in a trial. There is a real fear among people with CRPS, a fear of having pain minimized or dismissed by associating it with depression or anxiety. That fear needs to be addressed, and the mechanics of pain better understood. I encourage anyone with CRPS to find emotional support -- it is IMPOSSIBLE to have this disease without falling prey to the psychological consequences of persistent and severe pain, disability, and the social isolation that often occurs.

** Cerebrospinal Fluid Repository
Conditions: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; Cerebrospinal Fluid; Neurodegenerative Disease; Motor Neuron Disease
Intervention: "The purpose of a CSF repository is to collect samples of spinal fluid from controls and patients with neurologic disorders including but not exclusively ALS, Dementia, CRPS, neuropathies, and other neuromuscular diseases. This CSF repository will allow the use of CSF in biochemical studies of various neurologic diseases. It would also provide a supply of the necessary normal and disease control patients. CSF would be obtained from patients who are undergoing spinal taps for other reasons including diagnosis, treatment, or participation in clinical trials.

** Autonomic Dysfunction and Spinal Cord Stimulation in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Condition: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Interventions/Device: Spinal Cord Stimulator;
Other: CRPS patients under treatment other than spinal cord stimulator
"To demonstrate that spinal cord stimulator has an effect on sympathetic function. Therefore, if the spinal cord stimulator has an effect on sympathetic function, the responses from CRPS patients to different stimuli will differ significantly pre and post SCS implant. If CRPS patients exhibit autonomic, CRPS patients could be stratified according to their sympathetic function pre-implant. It is expected that patients with a moderate/mild form of autonomic dysfunction will have better outcomes with the SCS."

** Effect of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol on the Prevention of Chronic Pain in Patients With Acute CRPS (ETIC-Study)
Conditions: Complex Regional Pain Syndromes; CRPS
Intervention/Drug: Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol
Study is at University of Munich. Complete title: Low Dose Administration of Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol for the Prevention of Hyperalgesia and Chronic Pain in Patients With Acute Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) of the Upper Limb

** Safety and Efficacy Study of Ethosuximide for the Treatment of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).
Condition:Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Interventions/Drug: Placebo; Drug: Ethosuximide
Study is at McGill (Montréal). "Pain remains the most debilitating symptom for adult patients suffering from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Most CRPS patients gain little to no relief from current painkillers. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the efficacy and safety of ethosuximide in search of much-needed adjunctive therapy to relieve the pain and suffering associated with CRPS."

Not yet recruiting
** Graded Exposure (GEXP) in Vivo Versus Physiotherapy in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type I (CRPS-I)
Condition: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type I
Interventions/Behavioral: Graded exposure in vivo; Behavioral: Physiotherapy
Study by Maastricht University Medical Center. "Research on the treatment of CRPS-I, as described in the Dutch evidence based treatment guidelines (Richtlijn Complex Regional Pain Syndrome type I, 2006), mainly showed improvement at the level of pain and coping with pain. Only little improvement in functional restoration was found. Research in other pain populations such al neck- and back-pain patients has shown that pain related fear contributes to the development of functional disability. GEXP in vivo which aims on systematically reducing fear of movement, shows promising results in CRPS-I patients (de Jong et al., 2005)."

** Double Blind Placebo Controlled Study of Outpatient Intravenous Ketamine for the Treatment of CRPS
Condition: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Interventions/Drug: Ketamine; Other: IV NSS; Other: Normal Saline
Drexel University (Schwartzman et al). "Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a debilitating and extremely difficult to treat condition. There is a large body of evidence demonstrating the therapeutic value of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-receptor antagonists in CRPS. The NMDA antagonist ketamine has been shown to be effective in the treatment of CRPS, resulting in complete remission of the disease in some patients. The purpose of this study is to evaluate intravenous outpatient infusion of sub-anesthetic doses of ketamine for the treatment of CRPS. A thorough evaluation of this procedure, providing information into the degree of relief and which of the constellation of RSD symptoms are best alleviated by this procedure would result in the optimization of this therapy for the treatment of CRPS."

Not yet recruiting
** Pain Exposure Physical Therapy (PEPT) Versus CBO in Patients With Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type I (CRPS-1)
Condition: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Type I
Interventions/Procedure: PEPT; Procedure: CBO standard
Radboud University, The Netherlands. "The current Dutch CBO guideline treatment of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type I (CRPS-1) is very disappointing with chronification, disability and subsequent high medical costs and personal suffering. A possible better treatment is intensive function-oriented physical therapy or Pain Exposure in Physical Therapy (PEPT). However, there are no adequate studies performed that demonstrate the efficacy of PEPT and therefore PEPT is lacking in the Dutch CBO CRPS-1 guidelines. Despite a lacking scientific argumentation, the PEPT approach or Macedonian therapy, is now being adopted on a large scale among physical therapists in The Netherlands. There are two level C retrospective cohort studies demonstrating a promising and clinical relevant beneficial effect on pain and function after PEPT. In response to the growing demand for scientific argumentation among doctors and physical therapists with respect to the efficacy of PEPT, we conducted a pilot study at the UMC St Radboud Nijmegen. The results of this pilot study were very promising and therefore, we decided to design a large RCT to investigate the treatment effects and costs in CRPS patients treated with PEPT compared to CRPS patients treated with usual therapy according to the Dutch CBO guidelines."

** Association Between Focal Dystonia and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Conditions: CRPS; Focal Dystonia; Peripheral Nervous System Disease
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). "This study will investigate differences among people with focal dystonia (FD), complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and people who have both conditions to learn more about the cause of both disorders. Participants undergo the following procedures in five visits..." Procedures range from EEG, MRI,TMS, EMG, to skin biopsy.

Not yet recruiting
** The Effect of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (t-DCS) On the P300 Component of Event-Related Potentials in Patients With Chronic Neuropathic Pain Due To CRPS or Diabetic Neuropathy
Conditions: Diabetic Neuropathies; Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type II
Intervention/Device: TDCS/sham procedure on five consecutive days
Pain and palliative care unit, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Beer-Sheva, Israel. "This is a controlled trial designed to determine short- and long-term effects of repeated tDCS on the P300 component of event-related evoked potentials in patients with chronic neuropathic pain due to Complex regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) or diabetic neuropathy as compared with healthy subjects."

Not yet recruiting
** Intravenous Immunoglobulins in Complex-regional Pain Syndrome
Condition: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1
Intervention/Biological: intravenous immunoglobulins
Hospital of the Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Hessen, Germany. "More than one third of the CRPS will continue to chronic disease including loss of function in one limb. Some reports implicate an autoimmune pathogenesis of CRPS. Especially the finding of autoantibodies against peripheral neurons and successful treatment in single cases provide evidence for a possible successful treatment of CRPS with intravenous immunoglobulins (IvIg). Therefore IvIg may be an important anti-inflammatory treatment to prevent severe chronification of CRPS. Since IvIg is mainly effective in B-cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, autoantibodies against autonomic neurons and the concentration of B-cell activating factors BAFF and APRIL will be measured in the course of the study."

** A Study of the Effect of Lenalidamide on Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1
Condition: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Type 1
Intervention/Drug: Lenalidamide
Mayo Clinic/Elgene Chemical.

** Pregabalin Versus Placebo as an Add on for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CPRS) of the Upper Limb Managed by Stellate Ganglion Block (The PREGA Study)
Condition: Complex Regional Pain Syndromes
Interventions/Drug: Pregabalin; Other: Placebo
Hamilton Health Sciences/Pfizer/McMaster University.

** The Efficacy of Motor Cortex Stimulation for Pain Control
Conditions: Neuropathic Pain; Phantom Limb Pain; Stump Pain; Brachial Plexus Avulsion; Deafferentation Pain; Facial Pain; Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Intervention/Device: motor cortex stimulation
Capital District Health Authority, Canada. "This is a prospective, blinded randomized crossover study comparing two stimulation paradigms in three different groups of patients receiving motor cortex stimulation. The aim of this study is to examine the effectiveness of this modality in a controlled blinded manner, which has not been done in previous studies. There are two primary purposes of this study. The first is to compare two different stimulation paradigms: "high" level stimulation (i.e. stimulator activated 'on' for 10 minutes, 'off' for 2 hours; presumed therapeutic dose); versus "low" stimulation ('on' for 1 minute, 'off' for 6 hours; presumed subtherapeutic dose), in a prospective blinded crossover study design.
The second purpose of this study, is to examine the outcome of MCS in three different pain groups. These are: Unilateral upper extremity neuropathic pain such as brachial plexus avulsion, stump pain or phantom limb pain; Neuropathic deafferentation facial pain; Upper extremity complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)"

** Neurotropin to Treat Chronic Neuropathic Pain
Conditions: Causalgia; Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
Intervention/Drug: Neurotropin
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). "Patients with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), re-named Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, type I (CRPS-I), have chronic, post-traumatic pain that spreads beyond the distribution of any single peripheral nerve without evidence of major peripheral nerve damage. A similar disorder, Causalgia, re-named CRPS-II, presents with clear evidence of nerve injury. No successful drug treatment exists for these disorders. Neurotropin is a non-protein extract of cutaneous tissue from rabbits inoculated with vaccinia virus. Neurotropin has been used extensively in Japan to treat RSD and other painful conditions; however, the drug has not undergone clinical therapeutic testing in the United States. This protocol is to carry out double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover studies about clinical efficacy of Neurotropin for acute pain in dental outpatients and for chronic pain in outpatients with CRPS-I or II."

** Evaluation and Diagnosis of People With Pain and Fatigue Syndromes
Conditions: Fatigue; Fibromyalgia; Pain; Complex Regional Pain Syndrome; Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
Intervention: No treatment is offered under this protocol. Information collected in this protocol will be used to determine eligibility to other NINR protocols.

** Regional Anesthesia Military Battlefield Pain Outcomes Study
Conditions: Anxiety Disorders; Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type II; Depressive Disorders; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Substance Abuse
Intervention/Procedure: Regional Anesthesia
Department of Veterans Affairs, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center. "Pain management for combat casualties balances emergent, life-saving care with the removal of soldiers from danger. Thus, control of pain may be impossible until safe evacuation to surgical theatres allows for general anesthesia. Recent evidence suggests the hyperstimulation of central neuronal pathways and neural plasticity in the spinal cord and brain leads to neuropathological remodeling and chronic pain in patients with severe acute unrelieved pain. Also, the stress of combat and prolonged uncontrolled pain and suffering contribute to psychological maladjustment and disorders such as PTSD, depression and substance abuse."

*Note: The poster header is kinda antiquated, as far as theory goes. Consider it proof of how far research has come!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Crash Test Dummy

Word to the wise: When parked on the upper portion of a ramp, leaning to reach the can of chickpeas, roughly 3.5 feet away, off to the right, may cause your chair to tip, and you to crash into the shelving.

I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Crest, fallen

Sacré bordel*, what a day!

More fingerpointing, from one doctor to another.

From MDVIP-man, le boutiqueur(mot inventé, je crois!), I get: "I know it is hard, but hang in there." It's appeasement, a war of attrition. He believes there will be a crisis, through which all will mysteriously be revealed. His money is on this turning out to be some off-the-wall complication involving my lupus or some other connective tissue disease.

From the Infectious Disease Dood et al, I get: "Good luck! We have no idea what to do, and there are no antibiotics left for you to try!" Said with a smile!They want me to go to Mayo or Hopkins. They owe me over $2000 from overpayment -- this somewhat influences my opinion of them, especially since they made me jump through hoop after hoop to prove it. Qu'ils m'emmerdent? A massive understatement.

Finally, from the orthopedic surgeon's PA, I get: well... mostly I got a crestfallen face!

The Surgeon Himself was at the hospital, operating. Fine by me, because I like the PA, a lot. Not just because it turns out he is a neighbor of ours, here at Marlinspike Hall, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé, but because he has taken much time and care to make me feel heard and understood. Also, he is very sharp, good at what he does.

A tradition has been birthed. Today was its first iteration, so hell, soon it will be a *trend*! It began a month ago, at the last ortho appointment. The incision from surgery #7 was finally beginning to heal, though serosanguinous stuff was still leaking out. Ortho Man, his PA, and I were struggling to find something about the situation to celebrate. Ortho Man laughed and said, "Shoot! Let's declare victory over the incision." And like bona fide idiots, all three of us sat there and cheered.

The PA badly wanted to continue the tradition, but -- hélas, I came bearing my latest labs, which were worse than any in the past year. Before he actually looked at them, he made a perfunctory speech about how this and that level might still be elevated from the trauma of the last surgery alone. I smiled politely. Then he reconstructed the timeline, realized that I had already had one lab with improved results -- from about 6 weeks ago. Ergo, these more recent ones couldn't be lauded as "still bad." Do you get my drift? Am I being clear as mud?

He made the same slick lateral move in a quick discussion about pain -- I am laying claim to a considerable improvement, except. Except when I use my arms! Ar ar ar! I didn't realize that on the left side, there is nothing cushioning the metal/bone intersection. If I had maybe given it a little thought, it would have been obvious... but to tell you the truth? I don't like to think about all the things they've done. Anyway, the PA opines that it will probably end up being quite painful on the left due to the thing contained not fitting the container (All those logic classes are paying off. Thanks, Professor Ryan!). So he decided, sort of on the fly, to say that it will be at least a year before we can really evaluate the pain.

I handed him the labs as he was putting today's films in the lightbox. He flipped through the pages, said, "Oh," and then sat down, deflated.

We danced the dance of "watch and wait," I stopped and spoke to a few of the very kind staff there (there's a guy in the outer office who is an incredibly positive person, who always remembers me, and knows pretty much what is going on -- he's good medicine!), and then we were outta there.

In honor of the movement to not speak of unpleasant things, I started humming when Fred wanted to know what had happened today. Hum hum hum. I also smiled, laughed, and changed the subject to the weather. The heavens, right on cue, opened a few moments later, and he had to concentrate on maneuvering through the heavy rain. Traffic, amazingly, kept moving. Hum hum hum.

Tête de Hergé's Department of Transportation doesn't have the greatest Maintenance Division and sometimes the potholes cause perilous weaving in-and-out of the five unidirectional lanes of the interstate. We all generally travel in the same direction here. If you absolutely must go against the grain, against traffic, fine -- take the scenic backroads route -- but be careful of the wagons and wandering dairy cows.

We were happy to see the exit to Marlinspike Hall, glad to go home, glad to have tea and soup, thrilled to see La Bonne et Belle Biance Castafiore, who is very contente to once again be starring in Gounod's Faust, pleased to pet the cats milling around our feet, mewling.

It's only now, Fred gone to an evening thing at church, The Castafiore cuing up her Faust discography, the felines napping after their full bowls of kibble -- only now that I will recognize my fever, the sweat pouring down my head, the legs purple, swollen, and cold, the pain, considerable. Hum hum hum.

*A native speaker will have to enlighten me as to whether sacré bordel is offensive or whether it is just one more sacré + object sort of ho-hum phrasing. A friend and I had it written on a birthday cake for our department chair back in the day -- a lovely man, rather circumspect, but sly, as well. I'm sure we had our reasons for choosing sacré bordel to be written on a celebratory instance of baked goods, but for the life of me, I cannot remember...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More from the canyon

To give the mind a rest, I traveled, courtesy of the Elder Brother-Unit, TW, whose photography and lovely, adventurous, and framing mind is responsible for American Idyll.

you have
noticed that
even in the
slightest breeze
you can hear
the voice
of the
cottonwood tree.
This we
is its prayer
to the
Great Spirit,
for not
only men,
but all things
and all beings
pray to Him
in different ways.
--Black Elk

Je trouve très raisonnable la croyance celtique que les âmes de ceux que nous avons perdus sont captives dans quelque être inférieur, dans une bête, un végétal, une chose inanimée, perdues en effet pour nous jusqu'au jour, qui pour beaucoup ne vient jamais, où nous nous trouvons passer près de l'arbre, entrer en possession de l'objet qui est leur prison. Alors elles tressaillent, nous appellent, et sitôt que nous les avons reconnues, l'enchantement est brisé. Delivrées par nous, elles ont vaincu la mort et reviennent vivre avec nous.
--Du Côté de Chez Swann, Marcel Proust

[With apologies to TW for "piling on" an additional commentary -- but -- and I swear this is the truth -- I was clearing my accumulated drafts and had copied the passage above -- the hopeful genesis for something I now cannot remember. Did I tell you Fred is a druid? One thing is sure: I. need. to. pay. attention. The cottonwood is so beautiful. Here, the dogwoods are starting to turn. Night time coolness has kissed their leaves with faded purples.]

Cottonwood Canyon (left top)
Haunted Canyon (right top)
Hance Canyon (below)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thank you, Judge Jed S. Rakoff*

Judge Rejects Settlement Over Merrill Bonuses

New York Times
Published: September 14, 2009

A Federal District judge on Monday overturned a settlement between the Bank of America and the Securities and Exchange Commission over bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch executives just before the bank took over Merrill last year.

The judge said that Bank of America “materially lied” in shareholder communications about the bonuses.

The $33 million settlement “does not comport with the most elementary notions of justice and morality,” wrote Jed S. Rakoff, the judge assigned to the case in federal court in Lower Manhattan.

The ruling directed both the agency and the bank to prepare for a possible trial that would begin no later than Feb. 1.

The case involved $3.6 billion in bonuses that were paid by Merrill Lynch late last year, just as that firm was about to be merged with Bank of America. Neither company provided details of the bonuses to their shareholders, who voted on Dec. 5 to approve the merger.

The judge focused much of his criticism on the fact that the fine in the case would be paid by the bank’s shareholders, who were the ones that were supposed to have been injured by the lack of disclosure.

“It is quite something else for the very management that is accused of having lied to its shareholders to determine how much of those victims’ money should be used to make the case against the management go away,” the judge wrote.

In a statement, the S.E.C. said on Monday: “As we said in our court filings, we believe the proposed settlement properly balanced all of the relevant considerations. We will carefully review the court’s most recent order.”

A spokesman for the bank, Lawrence Di Rita, said the bank disagreed with the judge’s ruling.

“Bank of America believes the facts demonstrate that proper disclosure was made to shareholders about Merrill bonuses,” Mr. Di Rita said in an e-mail message. “We are prepared to prove that through litigation. We will consider all our legal options over the coming days.”

The judge also criticized the S.E.C., which has been trying to step up the effectiveness of its investigations unit. The judge quoted Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan” in the end of his ruling to say that a cynic is someone “who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

The proposed settlement, the judge continued, “suggests a rather cynical relationship between the parties: the S.E.C. gets to claim that it is exposing wrongdoing on the part of the Bank of America in a high-profile merger; the bank’s management gets to claim that they have been coerced into an onerous settlement by overzealous regulators. And all this is done at the expense, not only of the shareholders, but also of the truth.” [cont.]

*From the blog AboveTheLaw comes this account of Our Hero Judge at the 2008 Southern District of New York's "Courthouse Follies":

Showstopping performance: A boisterous musical number by Judge Jed Rakoff, Judge Laura Taylor Swain, Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis, and Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith. Sung to the tune of "There Once Was a Man" from Doris Day's "The Pajama Game," with additional lyrics and dialogue by Judge Rakoff, the act featured Judge Rakoff in a blond fright wig...

None the Worse for Wear

The felines strike again, and that always leaves me feeling better, usually for having laughed and laughed and laughed. They're a bunch of nutters.

I am in a Period of Inertia. Not unrelated, but not exactly coincidental, either, is the fact that I am spiking fevers over the 101 mark, and doing that daily. It is, to put it mildly, depressing. As of the first of October, I'll cease to have health insurance coverage. There are several important things that need doing before this happens, and I've not done any of them.

As usual, when I am too self-involved, the antics of our pets manage to both help pass the miserable time spent shivering and lost in febrile headaches, as well as to simply keep me amused and somewhat distracted.

Of what significance, then, this gnawing in the pit of my stomach, this trembling of my hands?

[One very good thing of late? The pain I am in has nearly normalized -- I am back to what is a baseline state of being, and am oh-so-grateful.]

We're gifted with four cats: Sam-I-Am, Marmy (a.k.a. Fluffy Butt), Dobby, and Uncle Kitty Big Balls (a.k.a. Little Boy).

Sammy is the Elder Statesman -- which would be news to him, of course. He is a sensitive soul, which is to say, neurotic -- and needy. Marmy and Uncle Kitty Big Balls are siblings. They were both Street Urchins who began dropping by The Manor for the odd meal and a round of petting. Fred, playing on Sam's need for company and on Marmy's very pregnant condition, lobbied for Marmy's adoption, and won. She was essentially a feral cat that put up with us. Her five kittens were as foreign to her as Moon Rocks. We feared for their little lives those first few days -- they would latch on to her and begin nursing, which would trigger a fit of pique in Marmy, and the next thing you knew, she would take off... leaving blind and bald kittens scattered throughout Our Wing of Marlinspike Hall. I nearly flattened a few with my wheelchair. Anyway, we managed to socialize her but it took a tremendous amount of time -- and the trust we earned risks destruction everytime her routine world is rocked. She has a vet visit scheduled in a few weeks and we dread the impact of that on her -- the vet does not figure among her Facebook Friends.

Dobby, Our Little Idiot, was the runt of Marmy's litter. After the birth of the first four, Marmy lost interest in her last delivery -- Fred served as obstetrician. We were sure that Dobby would either not survive at all, or would be terribly damaged. He barely nursed -- indeed, that whole operation seemed to go right over his little bald and blind head. He showed a strange interest in climbing -- no matter where he was, he seemed determined to hike to the highest available altitude. He was roughly two days behind the others in all the developmental landmarks and could often be found struggling to emerge from beneath a fuzzy pile made up of all his siblings. (That might have fed the desire to constantly climb...)

Once it was apparent that he was going to live, he quickly became our favorite due to his courageous Little Spirit. He would be the first to attack My Red Angora Leg Warmers (I'll give you a moment to visualize), the first to leap from the strange heights of The Gigantic Bed to the antique Persian carpets below, and the first to respond to any cries of distress. Because he has remained such an intelligent, small, and social creature, very dedicated to The Common Good, we named him after the House Elf in the Harry Potter series.

And so, there were three. This suited me just fine, although Marmy could be irksome, and keeping her lucious long hairs off of The Captain's finery was a never-ending task.

Marmy's brother remained a stray and we saw him in fits and starts. His health began to go downhill and Fred suffered pangs of guilt for not having taken him in at the same time we adopted his sister, Miss Fluffy Butt. He suffered bouts of mange, then obvious injuries from fighting. Just before going into the hospital in April, I saw him hanging out by The Moat, and realized that he was limping badly. That hospitalization was difficult, and included time in ICU, on a ventilator.

As I lay there, struggling to breathe, Fred came to my side, looking grave and troubled. I couldn't talk to him, but recall thinking I would do most anything to take that worried look from his face. He said, "There is something important I need to talk to you about..." and thoughts of oh-my-God-he-wants-to-turn-off-the-machines-and-let-me-die went through my head, closely followed by fears of Marlinspike Hall having burnt to the ground.

"Uncle Kitty Big Balls came by this afternoon and was looking horrible. I can't stand it anymore; I want to adopt him. If we don't, he is going to die."

Yes, it took me a minute to switch gears. And then I was so profoundly glad that he wasn't planning to euthanize me and that our current home remained standing, that I mouthed and nodded "yes, yes, yes..."

$3,000 later, Uncle Kitty Big Balls was on the road to recovery. He, like me, had a bad case of osteomyelitis and required amputation of a toe, and removal of some infected bone. The famed Big Balls were gone, too, as were the three or four terrible abscesses from his various street fights. (He has an awesome record, his preferred style being a rustic, yet oddly elegant vale tudo.)

His fur was almost completely shaved off, and he was emaciated.

Unbelievably, though, he suffered from none of the terrible illnesses I'd expected -- no feline leukemia, no feline AIDS, no kidney diseases. And week by week, then day by day, he healed.

The cat follows Fred around as if he were some sort of Feline Deity, which I guess he is, from UKBB's point of view!

Whew. So that's the gang. Sometimes I feel for Sammy -- he's up against a family dynasty... But then I watch him enjoy the comaraderie and fun, and so long as we provide him with one-on-one attention, he really benefits from the company. I mean, just look at this picture -- evidence of the Benefits of Dobby -- Nuggler Par Excellence:

Oh, My God. I put a caption on a photo of my cats. I am Cat Woman. Oh. My. God.
I'm pretty much blind without my glasses. Yes, that's right -- go, ahead, picture it -- glasses, purple legs, and a Pressure Sore, Alma de Cuba of the Ischium. Dress that image up with My Red Angora Leg Warmers. Lucky Fred, eh?

Dobby gets bored easily. Because he's such a sweet-natured creature (We figure because he has only ever known us, and we are such good influences -- imagine if we had human progeny, what delights they might be!) -- because he's such a sweet-natured creature, Dobby is clueless sometimes about right and wrong.

He has boundary issues.

Of course, he's also a cat.

He delights in stealing things. It's comical -- he's so tiny and yet will grip whatever booty he's absconded with in his mouth, and fly like the wind through Our Wing of The Manor, eyes bugging out of his little pin head.

We excuse every lapse in etiquette on The Dobster's part by reminding ourselves that he's got a really tiny little head.

He makes off with pens, tweezers, combs (a real favorite), MP3 players, thermometers, and small paring knives (*once*). His larger conquests include my grabber, which he perceived as a mortal enemy when a kitten, Fred's Crox, and just yesterday, the hefty 2010 IKEA catalogue.

He occasionally steals my eyeglasses.

If that were all, it'd be fine. The thing is, once the theft goes down, Dobby loses interest and his fastidious and freaky mother takes over.

Did I mention that without the aid of glasses, I am essentially blind?

So, this morning, when Marmy got the glasses in the hand-off, I glared and yelled in her general direction. Fairly leaping from bed to wheelchair, I sped off in that same general direction, colliding with two walls and one door frame on the way.

Upon arrival at said general location, I realized that I was chasing... a lambswool duster that La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore had left propped in the corner of The Hallway To Our Rustic Kitchen.

Behind me, I heard the taletell sound of an amused *ack*-*ack*-*ack*. Slowly I turned...

and saw the rapidly receding end of Ms. Fluffy Butt, my glasses astride her fluffy fat head.

And so begins another day, here at Marlinspike Hall, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé. If Marmy is true to form, she'll eventually return my spectacles by dropping them in the communal water dish, none the worse for wear.

Though temporarily blind, I am blessed. All that remains is to realize it.

The Zit Poppers' Manifesto by Emilbus of PTZ

Let your Freak Flag fly!

Zit Poppers Unite:

There seems to be a lot of misunderstandings about people who
• Have zits
• Pop zits
• Obsess over zits
• Stare at other peoples zits

First and foremost-EVERYONE has an opinion on zits. Some people think they are gross (these are usually secret zit poppers), those who think they are fun and those who think they are fascinating. Zit poppers do not discriminate; they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and walks of life. Not all zit poppers are the same, however. The fascination with zits and zit popping can take many different forms.

Enthusiastic zit poppers: These people are not only anxious to pop their own zits but always secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) want to pop any zit they see. These people are the ones who run to the restroom if you tell them they have a zit. They do not go there to try to hide the zit but instead to estimate EPPT (Estimated Prime Popping Time).

Patient zit poppers: These incredibly patient people are content to just let nature take its course and wait until just the right time to let that baby explode. They are in no rush. The building excitement is what motivates these zit poppers.

Obsessive zit poppers: Normally, the obsessive zit poppers will check their face (and frequently the rest of their body) for zits quite frequently throughout the day. Any zit, any size or shape and it must be popped immediately for satisfaction to be obtained.

OPZP: These fascinating people do have some interest in their own zits but the real excitement comes when they observe and (hold onto your hats) even get the chance to pop other peoples zits. OPZP stands for “Other people’s zit poppers”. They fantasize about popping the zits of other people. When they are talking to someone who has a juicy zit, they are not really listening. They are imagining themselves reaching out and setting that compilation of pus loose.

Casual zit poppers: These zit poppers have no particularly strong feelings about zits but they will, on occasion, take pleasure in aiding a zit explosion. Casual zit poppers often develop into another more intense type of zit popper, but not always.

No one is immune from zits and there is no one who has absolutely never taken an interest in at least one zit in their life. Even people who find zits completely gross often find themselves fascinated (albeit sickened) when they do pop a zit. For some unexplained reason, it is human nature. Perhaps it is something like primates who pick lice off of themselves and other primates-it’s just what they do.

Every zit popper also has their favorite type of zit as no two zits are created equal. There are some who prefer the meekness of a little whitehead. Some are trying to pop a zit that has barely surfaced and is still just a red bump. The pus factor varies from person to person. Some like just a little pus and others wait until just the right time when the pressure built up by the pus is just right, then they pop it. Ahhhh, satisfaction at last.

People from all walks of life are zit poppers, some just keep it a secret. These people are often found late at night on the web looking for videos of popping zits. They would never admit to their addiction to these sights but they are there none-the-less. Some are just the opposite and are downright enthusiastic about their zit popping adventures. Of course, they realize they have to be careful with whom they share their love of zits but they never really try to hide it. They invite people over to watch videos of popping zits. They are known in the zit popping circles as “zit fanatics”.

There really is nothing one can do if they just happen to love popping zits, or popping other peoples zits, or watching people pop zits. There are more people who have this love of zits than you may ever know. Some lucky zit poppers make the acquaintance of others that share their hobby. There should be no shame in zit popping, especially if you do it in the privacy of your own home. It is not recommended you obsessively try to pop zits and attract attention to it in public places. This often leads to getting banned from those places! Never let anyone shame you for being a zit popper. Everyone has their quirks and the person who is berating you for being a zit popper is probably a nose picker.

Zit poppers can take comfort that they are not alone. The person standing next to you could quite possibly be a zit fanatic. You just never know, do you? Gardeners are known for taking great pride in a sprouting plant that they have planted and tended. On the other hand, there are zit poppers who will pop no zit before it is time. They know precisely when that zit is ready to explode and they find great satisfaction in that. Gardener-Zit popper; same thing really.

Almost everyone gets zits. Even the most obsessively hygienic person can have zits because they are just a fact of life. Zit poppers are often stereotyped and treated badly when they are just like every other member of society. Everyone has their kinks so don’t let anyone tell you that yours is wrong. Often, the harshest judges of zit poppers have habits much worse than simply releasing a pus-filled skin imperfection. There are eye pickers, nose pickers, ear diggers and all sorts of people with bizarre little habits. Zit poppers unite! Stand proud whether you admit your quirk to the world or not, you should never let anyone generalize about you. So, you’re a zit popper. It could be worse. You could be a serial killer. Hold your head up high and keep on blasting those zits. It is said that 3 out of every 4 people is a zit popper. Of course, it is also said that 75% of statistics are made up on the spot.


There are three topics that I hope to keep alive on this blog until such time as it is no longer necessary: the missing child Lindsey J. Baum, updates on CRPS clinical trials, and the infamous case of Dr. Scott Reuben.

The hopes, of course, are that Lindsey will be found, the clinical trials will end up being unnecessary, and Dr. Reuben will be in jail.

Then, too, I continue to find interesting related information in the process, like this article on the frequency of scientific fraud that popped up when I updated my googling of Scott Reuben this morning. I found it at an odd site for archived group mail -- the group in this instance being one about Sustainable Fuels! It was originally published at Natural News but it is worth taking a look at it where I first found it -- just for the supporting articles added at the end.

So -- one in seven "scientists" say that their colleagues falsify the data in their research. If that's the ratio among those willing to admit such a thing -- the actual numbers are awful to contemplate.

One in seven scientists report that they have known colleagues to falsify or
slant the findings of their research, according to a study conducted by
researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and published in the
journal PLoS One.

A number of scientific data falsification scandals have emerged in recent years, such as the case of a South Korean researcher who invented data on stem cell research. At the same time, increasing controversy over close industry ties to medical research has called into question whether researchers who take money from drug companies might be induced to falsify their data.

"Increasing evidence suggests that known frauds are just the tip of the iceberg and that many cases are never discovered," said researcher Daniele Fanelli.

The researchers reviewed the results of 21 different scientific misconduct surveys that had been performed between 1985 and 2005. All respondents were asked whether they or anyone they knew of had taken part in either fabrication (outright invention of data) or "questionable practices."

Questionable practices were any improper procedure short of fabrication, including failing to publish results contradicting one's prior research, modifying data based on a "gut feeling," changing conclusions after pressure from a funder or selectively choosing which data to include in an analysis.

One in seven scientists said that they were aware of colleagues who had engaged in fabrication, while nearly half -- 46 percent -- admitted to knowing of colleagues who had used questionable practices. Only two percent, however, admitted to fabricating results themselves.

While two percent is higher than previous estimates of the prevalence of data fabrication, researchers believe that the number is still too low. In all likelihood, it reflects both a reluctance by researchers to admit to serious misconduct and a tendency to interpret one's behavior as favorably as possible -- questionable instead of fabrication, or acceptable rather than questionable.

Researchers in the medical and pharmacalogical fields were the most likely to admit to misconduct than researchers in other fields.

Well, thank goodness that medical and pharmacological fields lead the pack in fraud! Jeez... And to round out my failing opinions of those industries:

Six prominent medical journals "published a significant number of articles in 2008 that were written by ghostwriters financed by drug companies," according to a New York Times story. The story cites a study by JAMA editors presented at an international meeting of journal editors.

Overall, 7.8% of the authors who responded anonymously to an online questionnaire "acknowledged contributions to their articles by people whose work should have qualified them to be named as authors on the papers but who were not listed," according to the Times.

Here is the "ghostwriting" rate by journal:

New England Journal
of Medicine – 10.9%;
JAMA – 7.9%;
Lancet – 7.6%;
PLoS Medicine – 7.6%;
Annals of Internal Medicine – 4.9%;
Nature Medicine – 2%.

The editors of the NEJM objected that the study "used an improperly broad definition of ghostwriting," according to the Times, an objection that one of the study's authors dismissed.

*Oh, and there was no updated news on either Lindsey Baum or Scott Reuben. But an updated list of clinical trials can always be found here.

photo credit: US Dept. of Energy, The Manhattan Project, The Trinity Test

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Greatest

Thank you for everything, Jack Kramer.

Potpourri: The Stuff of Nightmares

It's more dried stinky stuff (That's potpourri to you.). This is what happens when I wake up agitated.

I'm reading a sub-par detective novel and fell asleep with it in the wee hours. It's a John Sandford book -- Hidden Prey. Without giving away the plot, let me just say that there is a "cell" of old school Communists hanging out in a small town in Minnesota -- Sandford's hero, Lucas Davenport, resides in Minnesota, and is something of a "fixer" for the governor. Anyway, there's this sleeper cell, and a bunch of confused Communists, also one or two assassins -- the most interesting still in high school, obsessed with boobies.

So there is that percolating in my head.

Also, I became somewhat upset earlier in the evening, after watching the Clijsters/Williams match. [Aside: Please note that my customary role as jinx and source of mala fortuna did not come into play; That is, my favored athlete did manage to win, albeit not in a way she, or anyone, liked overly much.]

Actually, I was babbling even before Serena was subjected to that IDIOTIC foot-fault call by The Timid and Conniving LinesWoman. No, the smashing of her racket at the end of the first set didn't set me off -- surprising, I know, given my reaction to Gonzalez yesterday.

No... it was Wozniacki's tennis dress. She is the second woman in the tournament to be a fashion disaster in what can only be described as a Failed Dropped-Waist Contraption. And it was beige. Ecru, if you like. Sand. Café con leche. Whatever.

All that beige really brought out Caroline's pale visage and blond hair.

Yes, I know that the dress is from the new fall/winter Adidas line by Stella McCartney. It certainly does not look bad on Wozniacki, a beautiful girl. But imagine it on your average woman. Imagine it on La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore, for instance.

I'm sorry. No, I'm not! It reminds me so much of a schoolgirl's jumper, deliberately ugly, with a band that bisects the wearer at precisely her widest point. Oh, and then let's amplify that impression with... RUFFLES. Quite the philosophical construction -- all business up top, very hip, spare, monosyllabic, c'est-à-dire masculine -- and all fluff down below, very flouncy, excessive, babbling, c'est-à-dire feminine. Oh, the dichotomy. Oh, my. My.

Again, put The Castafiore in it and suddenly even the umpire would be howling "Foul! Foul! Fashion fault!" Alternatively, the tennis audience would cry out, in alarming syncopation, "My eyes! My eyes!"

In fairness, or at least in equal time, Wickmayer seemed to be wearing something terribly... polyester. It was shiny, an ugly blue. She was brought to us by Nike, I believe. That's a big negatory to Nike. Wickmayer even suffered from that well-known phenomenon of the inner pocket which tunnels its way out of the tight shorts to hang below the leg line. Yes, that well- known phenomenon. Did I mention polyester? [Shhh! Yes, I know that fabric has come a long way, that there's a wicking action, and blahblahblah. It's still POLYESTER and POLYESTER will always be, for me, a failed sign of the failed seventies.]


I also dreamed about George Carlin, and the "seven dirty words you can never say on television." Just to get it out of the way, those words are --


Purists will remember that "motherfucker" constitutes a duplication, so for some, Carlin's bit is better known as "the six dirty words you can never say on television -- with an asterisk."

Now, I figure that the events of the evening were still at play in my dreams, because Carlin is not someone about whom I would normally build castles in Spain.

I was absolutely enraged on behalf of Serena Williams, even though I know that, technically, the supervisor had no recourse but to follow the rules, and the rules are clear enough. Technically, Serena behaved badly and got her just deserts, made her bed, and got what she deserved.

Still... what idiot makes a foot fault call (and makes it erroneously, making me really wonder about her motivations) in what appeared to be the final game of a semi-final professional tennis match? And, I swear, if one reviews the film, one sees a slight smirk on the face of the Dweeb Lineswoman, as she cowers behind the ref and the supervisor.

Remember Marat Safin, and his cool response to a foot fault call? Let me refresh your memory:

In short, my latest oneiric experiences seem to be an apt commentary -- crazed assassins running around in odd flouncy beige polyester leisure suits ... murdering lineswomen, especially of the Dweeb variety.

I have never been very complicated.

*I want to say that I've long been a fan of Brian Earley, the chief U.S. Open ref, and know that he must have felt very conflicted last night -- though he would never say it...