Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mna Mna

Okay, so maybe it harkens back to the days of marijuana and Courvoisier, or maybe it was those brilliant performances for the 'rents from the backseat of the Cadillac, designed to make them pull over at the earliest opportunity. Maybe it was what kept me from killing my stepsister when we were saddled with cleaning up the kitchen.

Whatever. Sometimes I need a Mna Mna.

And if anyone knows what a Mna Mna really is, kindly do leave word.

And just for fun, the most downloaded of all the Muppet Vids, Bohemian Rhapsody:

Repost: War and Peace: I Have the Power When I'm in the Shower

originally posted 11/15/2009
Good morning, Fearless and Beloved Readers! I've missed you, I really have. Give yourselves a hug.

Have a seat on the red horsehair loveseat over yonder. It's one of the few Victorian Pieces in The Manor. {guffawandsnicker} Go figure, huh? Captain Haddock's more recent ancestors were a wily people, a sang froid of common sense running in their blue, blue veins.
The space that we are in today served them as Reception Hall during the American Civil War, and for roughly 60 years afterward. Back then, it was worth their Snooty While to allow a more plebian sort of individual to attend the legendary Marlinspike Hall Afternoon Teas.

But a few changes were necessary, so as to honor their actual intent.

Horsehair furniture. Horsehair as stuffing, horsehair as "fabric." *Small* furniture of unwieldy proportion, shape, and style. American furniture! To provide the necessary Provenance of Snoot, most of it was purchased from a small dealer specializing in the paraphernalia and artefacts of Abraham Lincoln.

We're talking austere. And sturdy.

But mostly? We're talking un-freaking-comfortable! Somehow, some way, the earthier visitors to The Manor found that the rich folks' furniture variously pinched their derrières, squeezed their oversized working class thighs, and often made them break out in an itchy rash. Slowly but surely, word spread, and the afternoon receptions thinned out, freeing up The Haddocks for their beloved Tea Time Mahjongg Tournaments.

Oh, yeah. They also switched from what most people in this region of Tête de Hergé (Très Décédée, D'ailleurs) prefer to drink, a strong polyvalant coffee, to thinly brewed and overly sweetened English teas.

That's the succinct version of why there is such a massive collection of Bone China Coffee Cups, Mugs, and Saucers -- and of why it is hidden from Common View. It must be said, doggone it, that must also be the reason for the chintzy, stained tea cups and the dented, tarnished silver tea sets.

It's not that Haddock Stock disapproved of tea, per se. There are over three dozen delightful tea pots in the working kitchens in the East Wing, alone.

But today, we chose to greet you here in La Recepción! Yes, we are planning a surprise renovation for this space -- from Lincolnesque austerity to teeming, busy Spanish Colonial. Coffee reigns supreme again! I know, it will be a striking change, yes? From itty-bitty loveseats to massive, in-your-face stuff!

My! I do go on. The words seems to have built up over the past few weeks. Explosive posting.

Anyway, please pour yourself a cup of this fine, winey yirgacheffe. It is Fred's favorite from the years he lived in Ethiopia. And why not, let's use the Imported Fine English Bone China Coffee Accoutrements!

Here, look in the bottom of the china cabinet -- note the paw foot, the curved glass -- no, the bottom, there you go! Smart Reader!

If you're a strict, unyielding traditionalist, use one of those Royal Crown Derby Posies-patterned coffee cups and saucers -- a very fine bone china, with both gilded rims and handle bands! Stop! Right there! Very good, Sweet Reader.

It's part of Captain Haddock's extensive Imported Post War Bone China Collection.

Now that everyone is seated, all comfy (how is that horsehair treating your various tushes?),
the inmates here at Marlinspike Hall would also like to extend a Warm Welcome to My Two Cyber Stalkers. I think I spotted them sprinting between haystacks earlier this morning, as dew lay on the Manor Holdings. I'm unclear as to how the Second Cyber Stalker came to be on scene, but I surmise that she is basically an unbalanced woman fallen under The Spell of The Primary Cyber Stalker. Maybe, if I am good, one of them will leave a comment explaining the exponential growth of my fan base. But until such time as the two of you begin to focus on each other -- the absolutely predictable ending to your saga -- please, make yourselves at home.

Just don't touch anything.

This morning, for the first time in about two months, I woke up feeling pretty darned okay (I don't want to jinx it with excessive exuberance).

The cows are giving sweet frothy warm milk again, sparing us another morning of nasty "non-dairy creamer," and providing The Castafiore and Her Denizens with the raw material for yogurts, various creams, and cheeses. We are thinking of reopening The Manor Dairy.

Marmy and her Fluffy Butt has made peace with Sam-I-Am, thereby helping Uncle Kitty Big Balls to de-escalate his frenetic efforts at a military-style feline coup d'état. Sammy is finally able to doze with both eyes shut. In other Cat ChitChat News, Dobby has learned how to wink when prompted. As we tell him with great frequency, Dobby is a very good boy.

La Bonne et Belle Bianca and Fred have had several run-on and amorphous spats, but today? Both have tweeted at me asking for my version of how and why their internescine battle began. I pretended to have a broken tweeter, thereby encouraging them to give up their fruitless efforts to justify the Recent Unpleasantness. Last I saw? They were off to town in Ruby the Honda CRV, laughing and carefree.

I gotta say, if you will permit me to wander just a little from my tight prose, that this household tweeting has become a real thorn in my imaginary side. How much trouble is it to get off one's lazy arse, leave one's quarters, cross over to the Central Ballroom, and take the Checkered Spiral Staircase to the Former Cloak Room, recently converted into My Reference Room Slash Office?

Exercise your stubby legs, get some bloodflow to that congested brain, enjoy some energizing endorphins!

Fill your lungs with bracing fresh air! [We have ongoing draft issues in that Manor Sector... but that is a Tale of Frustration better suited to another time.] If you absolutely cannot make the trip and the message is of real import? Go low tech and give Dobby a note (on letterhead, of course, for verification of authenticity). He always knows where I am. He is a very good boy.

Well, darn. I seem to be the only Responsible Adult left in The Manor at the moment and some children from a neighboring village have asked to tour The Petting Zoo. Now I've no time to edit, to spellcheck, to render the dull, lackluster phrase more witty.

I had planned for this clear but slightly chatty introduction to lead into a wickedly clever, oh-so-subtle excoriation of right wing conservative assholes. Remember, please, that that is just a stream of adjectives so as to particularize "assholes." In and of themselves, those who are "right wing" or "conservative," let's even add "republican" and the slightly deceptive "libertarian" -- those good folk are not necessarily also nominative assholes.

Now I've only time for a rough esquisse and pompous use of easily translated foreign words.

It seems that some of the less able assholes referenced above have chosen to claim a certain photo of President Obama, his family, and some military officials -- situated on a dais -- to be a snap taken on Veterans Day, reflective of the President's lack of respect for the military, even for the war dead. This, because while everyone else in the photo has either hand to heart or arm raised in salute, the President is just standing there, presumably like an ignorant, superior, snotty dolt.

Something, praise Heaven, made me go to in hopes of a thorough debunking of this obviously manipulated photograph -- I thought perhaps it had been PhotoShopped.

It turns out to be something more insidious. In a way, I am glad to not have time to reproduce the hateful email and blog posts written as illustrative introductions to the photo, which turns out to be an unretouched one, taken not on Veterans Day or at the recent Fort Hood memorial, but considerably earlier, on Memorial Day, at Arlington's Memorial Amphitheatre. It was a ceremony held as adjunct to one held at the Tomb of the Unknowns -- this one honoring blacks who fought in the Civil War.

So President Obama had to travel from one honored site to another. He was slipping into the amphitheatre... Well, I guess presidents don't really get to "slip in" -- quiet and unnoticed -- anywhere. No, they are introduced by that pesky toe-tapper, Hail to the Chief.

The deference being displayed was intended to honor him, as required by Department of Defense bylaws, which dictate that the same gesticulations and do-da shown during The Star-Spangled Banner, another American masterpiece, are to be gesticulated and do-da-ed during Hail to the Chief. Therefore, I am a little glad he is not sticking out his tongue, jumping up and down, beating his chest, and acting the insolent fool that the aforementioned assholes apparently envisioned.

He looks, to me, a mite embarrassed and shy.

No. That's not right.

I just momentarily forgot, is all, in the midst of renewing my relationship with my Beloved Readers, wallowing like a happy pig in the squishy mud of what looks to be a great day.

I know that look. So do you.

That's the look of sad. A weary-to-the-bone sadness that, at one time or another, can be seen on all leaders of good heart. Clearer than a precision-tooled 140-charactered tweet. More expressive than the best of mots justes.

It's nice to be back with you, Reader. Thank you for waiting for me to catch back up.

Shit. Now I can't get that "alternate" version of Hail to the Chief from the movie Dave out of my pointy head.

"Hail to the chief, he's the one we all say hail to! I have the power when I am in the shower!"

I gotta get down to the zoo. Y'all feel free to roam around. Someone keep an eye on the two reprobates, would you?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Anal Community Colleague: The Impotence of Proofreading

The following thought piece, by Taylor Mali, is featured today in honor of Dearest Brother-Unit Grader Boob. The Boob just informed me "I've graded 28 with 80 more to go, so the weekend will be hectic. But, as is evident by this email, I look for any opportunity to avoid direct contact with student papers."

God bless him, and God bless the United States.

Always remember and never forget: When it comes to proofreading, the red penis is your friend. Spank you.

The Family

Fred snapped this a few hours ago -- finally, these three together in a photograph. In order from the left: Marmy Fluffy Butt, Dobby, and our newest addition, Uncle Kitty Big Balls.

That they are related is clear. Marmy is Dobby's mother and Uncle Kitty Big Balls' sister. We took Marmy in when she and UKBB were both strays, and she was about as hugely pregnant without bursting as possible.

She had a litter of five, of which we kept the runt, Dobby. Marmy remained almost completely feral for another year, but this past year she turned some mental corner and became a very loving and sociable cat. She's not particularly bright, but she seems happy. She has become a real girly girl lately, and demands more one-on-one time than any of them. Very, very coy is she.

Dobby, you've met.

Uncle Kitty Big Balls. What a guy. He remained on the street for another year or so, although he came to visit now and again. The visits were becoming fewer and he began showing up with wounds, loosing hair, etcetera. There was a long stretch where he seemed to have disappeared and we feared the worst. I had put my foot down after three cats, but felt horribly guilty.

Last April, I was in ICU on a ventilator (just hanging out), and Fred came into my room looking terribly distraught. He said there was something he needed to talk to me about.

"Oh, my God, he's leaving me. He can't handle this anymore."

"Uh-oh. Maybe he wants to disconnect the respirator, the bastard!"

So I wasn't exactly the Reigning Queen of The Cogent!

He informed me that UKBB had turned up just as he was leaving to come to the hospital to be with me, and he was very sorry, but he simply was going to have to take him in. He looked to be near death, and was holding a rear leg off the ground, and clearly had abscesses all over another leg. He barely had any fur left and he was almost skeletal.

How wonderful that acquiescing to such an easy request could make someone so happy. So he left me there in ICU, and ran home to trap this wild and dying cat.

UKBB and I recuperated in syncopated time. Both of us needed a long convalescence. Sadly, part of a rear foot had to be amputated, and he battled severe infections post-op. We dutifully downed our antibiotics together, though it was clear from the beginning that I was just some girl... whereas Fred? Fred was his saviour! He still suffers something akin to a feline panic attack when he cannot locate Fred within the bazillions of rooms and acres of land here at Marlinspike Hall, deep deep in the Tête de Hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs).

He has become our first overweight cat, though if The Castafiore and Fred are to be believed, no one is feeding him little treats shaped like fishes, tasting of eggy tuna, and designed to prevent furballs -- because his fur! His fur is thick and beautiful, the softest thing we have ever felt, our friends have ever felt, even the parish priest is astonished by the silky nothingness of his mane...

So, he's fat and we are not to blame. It is perversely pleasing to see him eat to his heart's content, after all his time hungry and cold on the street.

I cannot keep from laughing out loud when he looks at me. He looks like a Wise Guy, a mafioso. All banged up, eyes crossed. When we're not around, he likes a good stogie. We don't promote smoking but somehow his humidor is ridiculously well stocked with the best cuban cigars. That Bianca!

He has a very sweet and sensitive spirit. He spent almost no time acting ridiculously feral like his sister Marmy had done. No, he took to domestication as if he were the original housecat.

Here is his mugshot:

Our fourth cat, the awesome Sam-I-Am is the eldest now, which is a shock to him, and to us, as he spent many years in the position of postulant. Dobby has been a new life force to him, and I catch them playing like maniacs, Sammy behaving like he was but a few months old, and not a decade into this affair.

But this post seemed more dedicated to The Family: Marmy Fluffy Butt and her valiant brother Uncle Kitty Big Balls, and The Dobster.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dobby: His Wisdom, My New Year's Resolution

In an effort to cheer moi up, The Fredster went a-diggin' through some old photographs of Our Little Idiot, Dobby the Runt, back when he was an otherworldly kitten.

Those old eyes and wizened face were what won us over to begin with -- and how, in almost every photo, however grouped, whomever served as photographer, his sweet little face came shining through like a slightly bored nebula.

I will give you a moment to ponder what a "slightly bored nebula" might look like.

In fact, I will sit here with you, and ponder in tandem. Hope you don't mind Ponder Company!


Today, Dobby is my buddy, my pal. He also figures in my very first resolution of the new year, now not old, but no longer new, either. But because Dobby is part of the wording, I find myself remembering my pledge more often than not.

What is it, you ask?

Like I would tell you!

Just joshing. I will divulge the Dobby Part, and try to explain it, too.

It goes: yadda yadda yadda and remember that Dobby is very wise.

How is he wise, and more importantly, how the heck do I translate that into some real form of behavioral change in myself? Well, in large part, it can all be summarized by The Dobster's Way Of Asking For What He Wants.

It is, of course, The Purity of The Dobster's Way that holds the secret and contains the magic. He never invests his askings with too much desire, and hardly ever with any personalization of intent. Above all, he wastes no time conniving, planning the best approach, fussing over timing or appropriate ambience.

He's too happy a soul to be manipulative. Something occurs to him, bells chime, his eyes light up, and meow, there he is, request ready. No wasted motion or emotion.

His synapses don't burn up with worry.

He doesn't get pissed off when his desires aren't met. He did his damnedest, he asked, and thems is the breaks, as I used to say. (And apparently still do.)

His requests might be turned aside all day but it never occurs to him that anyone would not give him what he wants out of any kind of spite or wicked intention.

Somehow, this trust that he proffers makes the creatures that he meets all want to try very hard to give him just what he has asked for.

He is good natured and willing to be wholeheartedly a fool. That's pretty much it. I strive to be as good natured and wholeheartedly, unabashedly foolish as my cat, Dobby, seen here at a very young age with his brother, Speckle Belly White Foot, who is apparently trying to commit

[c]atricide. Actually, I think that might have been Fuzz Bucket diving for his jugular.

(All his siblings found great homes, by the way.)

As final and further evidence of his "slightly bored nebula" shining star face, here's a group shot. I wish you could experience him. He never fails to make me laugh but can also serve as a soft, warm comfort.

He just brought me his yarn ball, asking to play fetch.

How did he know that's just what I wanted to do?

Did you know that Fred practically birthed this little guy? Dobby was the last kitten to arrive. Marmy Fluffy Butt, not exactly firing on all her Mother cylinders, decided she'd had enough, and just QUIT. Laid her wacky head down for a snooze, leaving Dobby in the precarious position of being not quite delivered!

Already the smallest, he lagged in all the stages of development, behind his confrères by a good 2-3 days. We worried that he was blind and deaf for the longest time.

Then there were the mystifying behaviors -- most notably, he preferred gamely climbing his mother to the joy of nursing, and in this manner missed a lot of meals! But he did get to some imaginary, secret mountaintop. He appeared at the bottom of most piles, was poked, bitten, and smacked with exuberant regularity. Luckily, he came out of it with stupendous smarts and the patience of Job.

This is my favorite picture of Dobby. He has unusual staying power and focus. Fred was at his computer, and offered Dobby a very small box to sit in. Twenty minutes or so went by, and Fred began to feel that feeling of "someone is staring at me." Yes, shock of all shocks, it was our prodigious cat. Doggedly determined to stay in his box until acknowledged by the Alpha, Fred.

(Fred was a psych major and specialized in neuropsychology. He believes that the phenomenon of *feeling* a gaze is not just some fluke or conditioned response. He thinks that there is transfer of energy involved, as well as a sense that we've yet to discover -- we simply lack the ability to render the experience tangible.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I cannot help it, I am full of hope...

One of the numerous feeds to which I subscribe channels news about CRPS -- that's not likely a shock to you!

What probably is news is that whenever I prepare to click on the summarizing email, my lungs, my mind, my heart, all fill with hope. Once I see what news awaits, that hope normally fizzles and fades, losing all its precious buoyancy.

I have an appointment with Dr. PainDude in a little under two hours. It has been a long while since I showed up with papers in hand, with hope. I just printed the following article, and almost miss the days of toner smell, mimeograph fumes. Today, the paper gives nothing away.

It blurs my eyes, these words: The team at the Pain Research Institute discovered that a single, low dose infusion of intravenous immunoglobin (IVIG) significantly reduced pain in just under 50 per cent of patients treated, with few adverse effects. The pain relief lasted on average 5 weeks.

O Christ, O God Almighty: Let it be true.

The text in its entirety below. I will do further research this afternoon.

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have discovered that treating the immune system of patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CPRS) leads to a significant reduction in pain.

CRPS is an unexplained chronic pain condition that usually develops after an injury or trauma to a limb, and continues after the injury has healed. CPRS I - formerly called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - can arise after any type of injury. CRPS II, previously called causalgia (a term coined in the American Civil War when it was first diagnosed), follows partial damage to a nerve. In some cases the pain can be so severe that patients request amputation, only to find that the pain returns in the stump.

CRPS pain can improve within one year after the injury, but if it is still unchanged after 12 months (longstanding CRPS), then it will often not improve at all. Longstanding CRPS affects about 1 in 5,000 people in the UK.

The team at the Pain Research Institute discovered that a single, low dose infusion of intravenous immunoglobin (IVIG) significantly reduced pain in just under 50 per cent of patients treated, with few adverse effects. The pain relief lasted on average 5 weeks. The results of this study may change the future treatment of patients with CRPS, and have an impact on research in other severe chronic pain areas. Intravenous immunoglobulin treatment for CRPS is currently not available on the NHS.

Although the cause of the syndrome is unknown, precipitating factors include injury or damage to the body's tissue. Changes in the way nerves send messages to the brain about pain may occur at the injury site. These changes may then lead to more changes in the nerves of the spinal chord and brain. All these changes are thought to play a role in causing and prolonging the condition. Conventional pain drugs either don't work, or have considerable side effects.

Dr Goebel, Senior Lecturer in Pain Medicine, explains: "In CRPS, the real effect of this treatment in clinic may turn out to be even greater than what we have already seen, because IVIG can be given in higher doses, and repeated treatment may have additional effects. IVIG is normally repeated every four weeks and we are working to develop ways which would allow patients to administer the treatment in their own home."

"The discovery is expected to have a real impact on the treatment of other unexplained chronic pain conditions; if one pain condition can be effectively treated with an immune drug, then it is possible that other types will also respond."

The research is published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Notes: [....]
The research was carried out in collaboration with University College London.
Research activities on the role of the immune system in chronic pain are the focus of the newly created 'Centre for Immune Studies in Pain' (CISP) at the University of Liverpool, led by Dr. Goebel. For further details visit Support for these and other research activities aimed at relieving chronic pain comes from the Pain Relief Foundation in Liverpool.

Sarah Stamper
University of Liverpool

Aha! A better article,* of course, is available at -- from The Annals of Internal Medicine (cutting to the chase, "results... limitation... conclusion"):

Results: 13 eligible participants were randomly assigned between
November 2005 and May 2008; 12 completed the trial. The average
pain intensity was 1.55 units lower after IVIG treatment than
after saline (95% CI, 1.29 to 1.82; P 0.001). In 3 patients, pain
intensity after IVIG was less than after saline by 50% or more. No
serious adverse reactions were reported.

Limitation: The trial was small, and recruitment bias and chance
variation could have influenced results and their interpretation.

Conclusion: IVIG, 0.5 g/kg, can reduce pain in refractory CRPS.
Studies are required to determine the best immunoglobulin dose,
the duration of effect, and when repeated treatments are needed.

*yes, it is a bit of cold water... damn it.

later... in an email to my sister-in-law, this brief but exciting episode was summarized thusly:

i got all excited this morning by a news report that i.v. immunoglobulin had been found to "significantly" reduce pain in CRPS. an hour later, i found out that the big study had all of 13 people in it, one of whom dropped out. "just under 50%" of the participants had positive results. let's see. putting on my thinking cap. half of 12, six. okay, "just under" must mean... FIVE. then hank did his "statistics" speech: there must be at least a cohort of 30 to be statistically relevant... sometimes, i wish he would keep all that book learnin' to himself. i should have known that when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Friday, 5 February 2010:

Further tidbits keep popping up. An editorial accompanied the published research. It sought to temper impulsive enthusiasm as a response to this study, emphasizing caution and the tremendous need for more work. In case you've not kept up with the exciting times in CRPS/RSD research, the authors give a quick gloss at the beginning of their editorial -- and I am resolved to place my hope in that steady progress. It's just that when severe chronic pain and disability roll on unabated for eight years? Well, it can be difficult to be positive. So I tend to grab and latch on to any research that makes sense. I don't mean to mislead anyone by these occasional bursts of unwarranted optimism; Please pardon me if I inadvertently played upon your heartstrings. Also, my case of CRPS is pretty awful and I sometimes forget that most cases are not this bad. I shouldn't be dragging you into my freak show!

Editorial: Intravenous Immunoglobulin to Fight Complex Regional Pain Syndromes: Hopes and Doubts
Frank Birklein, MD, PhD; and Claudia Sommer, MD, PhD

From University of Mainz, Mainz 55131, Germany; and University of Würzburg, Würzburg 97080, Germany.

Chronic pain is multifaceted. It involves changes in somatosensory processing from the primary afferent neurons to the brain; it induces negative emotions, such as fear and depression; and it often entails serious consequences for working ability and personal life. Long-standing complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) has all of these features and may be associated with substantial reduction of limb function, leading to physical impairment.

In recent years, we have made progress in understanding CRPS. Studies of the acute phase of posttraumatic CRPS show the importance of cytokines and growth factors for pain and hyperalgesia; the involvement of peptides in changes in skin perfusion, edema, and sweating; and the effect of sympathetic neurotransmission on pain in selected patients. We have learned that in long-standing CRPS, cortical reorganization of sensory, motor, and autonomic function might underlie the profound disturbances of the body reference scheme. Although acute CRPS can be challenging to treat, the outcome is often favorable. Treatment of chronic CRPS, when central neuroplastic changes are fully established, is especially difficult.

And so concludes a pretty accurate, if embarrassing, example of my emotional ups-and-downs as I follow the thread of medical news, in real time [as real as it gets at Marlinspike Hall, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs)]. Despite my initial over-reaction, all the subsequent information did not cause too much grief -- it simply served as a reminder that this is serious business, for serious people, and that one mustn't let hope get out of hand.


2/15/2010: I was definitively told, via bullhorn, to "step away from the study... toss your hope on the ground and step away from ridiculous hope." Yes, the Hope Police came down on me like the proverbial ton of bricks. My case is extreme; My case is refractory; My course is "complicated." And then there was this surprise statement from Dr. Go-To Guy: "Bianca, ma belle, this is old news."

As soon as I get my breath back, lobbying will begin for a little offlabel use of immunoglobulin. Shhhhh!

photo credit