Friday, March 25, 2011

Wind over Mountain: The Oracular

Well, Arizona completely screwed up a couple of blog drafts that I had laying around the joint -- I was confidant that they'd be waiting, all PERTINENT-like 'n all, when I felt up to finishing them.

Take this one, for instance.  It begins:  "I'd like to see Duke and UConn face off..."

Granted, no matter the nefarious impact of Arizona in the world, I can always conditionally hope to see a match between Duke and UConn.  Just not in the 2011 NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Tournament, West Regionals, in Anaheim.

Arizona.  Jeez.  Let's look at their earlier blow-outs.  Yeah, like their 2-point massacre of the #12 seed (19th in the AP Poll for the season) Tigers of Memphis.  After trouncing Memphis, those wild Wildcats beat the living daylights out of the Longhorns of Texas, to the tune of a deceptively scored single point game, 70-69. 

And then, of course, naturally, as expected, and obviously -- last evening, Arizona beat the Blue Devils 93-77, in a real nail-biter.  Cliff-hanger.  Narrow escape.  Close shave.  Heart stopper.  Photo finish.  Tight squeeze.

Seventeenth in the AP seasonal poll, Arizona had only once this past season posted so high a score, and that was in a triple-overtime game against... Cal. [Yes, Grader Boob, we are witnessing the dismantling of the Prof-de-Rien Lucky Alumnus Basketball Charm.]

I didn't see the game, though I'd planned to.  Much as I'd planned on polishing off the NCAA b-ball draft begun earlier in the week.  Similar to the way I had planned to cook an exciting vegetarian menu as pre-game nourishment -- delivering a mighty blow to Fred's growing affinity for microwaved prefab foods.

But no, I fell asleep.  And woke five hours later to find pus coming from the red, sore corner of the incision for the portacath. 

My theory?  Dr. EyeGuy finally got in touch yesterday morning (via his nurse Ms. I'll-Talk-Over-You) and called in a prescription for another eye drop in the battle against my out-of-control eye pressures.  You remember -- the last drop he added had the beta-blocker Timolol in it, which caused me to feel mighty crappy and to have severe hypertension.  I reviewed that with Ms. I'll-Talk-Over-You and she said, "Uh-huh, uh-huh... well, he called in something else for you... Uh-huh, uh-huh."  So Fred hustled over to the Lone Alp Super-Duper WallMart to pick up the new drops, a nice, cheap generic that is made up of Dorzolomide HCl and Timolol Maleate.

We decided to trust in Dr. EyeGuy, in hopes that this was some differently formulated medication, perhaps a different strength, a refined mechanism of action or some such shit...  I took the first dose around 7 pm, felt rotten at 7:30, put my head down at 7:35, and woke to discover Arizona's perfidy, pus from the surgical wound, and Fred's offering of nuked frozen burritos, all at half past midnight. If I'd had my wits about me, I'd have giggled and called out "Eureka!" [I can't explain the urge or the unhappy pairing of myself with Archimedes, nor the suspicion that I've more in common with the sneaky goldsmith than with the philosopher or snookered king.]

Yes, so.  Don't yell at me, but I've decided to try a topical antibiotic ointment on the incision (I'm already taking an oral antibiotic, remember) but if it doesn't improve by Monday, I'll give the surgeon a call.  I feel like I might tip the delicate balance we've achieved around here if Fred had to dedicate his Friday to more medical junk.  [He has made the difficult decision to resign from the Militant Lesbian Feminist Existentialist Congregation, and has gone off to a lunch date to explain his treasonous ways to The Girls.]

Actually, you, my Faithful Readership, are the lucky party in this instance.  Had I finished this draft, you would have drowned in the weird minutiae that is the I Ching, and I'd have obsessed over the role of its 64 diagrams in Taoism -- wanting the Book of Change to be less a means of prediction and more a group of dynamic reflections, meanings, and, okay, oracular clues.

I did, however, have plans to incorporate one of the funniest moments of my life into that unwieldy narrative
-- the night my Anthropology professor asked me to serve as his "goddess" and allow him to pour beer and honey over my feet in some ceremony or other.  All on the up-and-up, of course.

I kind of figured that this post would need some filler, some entertaining this or that, in order to move from draft status to publishable material... because no way in hell was the Duke-Arizona game to amount to more than boredom.

Big wave to Derrick Williams! (Without him in the first half, Arizona wouldn't have had the chance to dazzle in the second half.  Or so I am told.)

But I also concur with Chris Chase that there was a powerful Jinx at work -- activated when Coach K gave an interview at halftime.

Unwise, very unwise. Outside of the Winning Tradition, and clearly against Oracular Advice...


I'd like to see Duke and UConn face off... Wisconsin and Florida -- except for choosing UConn over SDSU, I'm just advancing the seeds.  That's what it *looks* like.  My picks are actually the result of finely tuned prognostication techniques that I cannot reveal here.

I will say this about that, though:  The I Ching is much maligned.

To the all-important question of the tourney's outcome, I cast hexagram 53 (Chien):

The trigram above – SUN – the Gentle, Wind, Wood;  The trigram below – KEN – Keeping Still, Mountain

The waterwheel makes sure that the field will not dry out. The slow and constant supply of water makes the plants grow harmoniously, without stagnations, abundant.
The wild goose can only reach its far-away destination, and come back every year, by beating its wings second after second, never losing its strength or direction.
Every relation needs a constant supply of water, of feelings, regular love, day after day.
Starting something is usually not the most difficult part; it is harder to keep it going. Every day caring for it, feeding, repairing: every creation has to be kept alive day after day, year after year.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

KittenCam for Tuesday

The first brushing.  Oh, we named him... Buddy.  I know, there are so many good other options for names.  But we listened to what we were already calling him, and Buddy was it.  Unofficially, he is also NumbNut and Sport.

Pisser and Stinky Boy.

StudMuffin and Stinker.

There has been a lot of laundry going on thanks to his various contributions.

The last KittyCam offering of the day -- because I am feeling distinctly ketamine-y, a term that I could not explain for the life of me -- features Buddy as he gets when he is very tired and sleepy but damned and determined not to fall asleep.

(He had his first vet visit this morning and we fear that he is going to be HUGE, as he tops the height and weight charts for his tender age.  He has gained almost a pound in less than a week.  Heh.  Marmy best enjoy her advantage while she has one...)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Basketball Matters Plus The CheeseHead's Video du Jour

Rose candidly discussed his view of the Blue Devils and sparked a debate not only on his derogatory choice of words but on the culture and the recruiting style of Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“For me, Duke was a person,” Rose said in the film. “I hated Duke, and I hated everything Duke stood for. Schools like Duke don’t recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms.” 
--[Steve]Fisher Discusses Fab Five Film

As opposed to my usual composed, tight posts, this will be a hodge-podge, a potpourri.

Today's matchup between Duke and Michigan cannot help but provide free advertising for the ESPN documentary Fab Five.  Hopefully, people will also consider some reasoned responses to Jalen Rose's charge that Duke's black players (of the era, one assumes) were Uncle Toms.  Grant Hill -- definitely of the era -- made his response in a guest appearance in the NYTimes sports blog The Quad, on March 16:

In his garbled but sweeping comment that Duke recruits only “black players that were ‘Uncle Toms,’ ” Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle-class families. He leaves us all guessing exactly what he believes today.

I am beyond fortunate to have two parents who are still working well into their 60s. They received great educations and use them every day. My parents taught me a personal ethic I try to live by and pass on to my children.

I come from a strong legacy of black Americans. My namesake, Henry Hill, my father’s father, was a day laborer in Baltimore. He could not read or write until he was taught to do so by my grandmother. His first present to my dad was a set of encyclopedias, which I now have. He wanted his only child, my father, to have a good education, so he made numerous sacrifices to see that he got an education, including attending Yale.

This is part of our great tradition as black Americans. We aspire for the best or better for our children and work hard to make that happen for them. Jalen’s mother is part of our great black tradition and made the same sacrifices for him.

My teammates at Duke — all of them, black and white — were a band of brothers who came together to play at the highest level for the best coach in basketball. I know most of the black players who preceded and followed me at Duke. They all contribute to our tradition of excellence on the court.

It is insulting and ignorant to suggest that men like Johnny Dawkins (coach at Stanford), Tommy Amaker (coach at Harvard), Billy King (general manager of the Nets), Tony Lang (coach of the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins in Japan), Thomas Hill (small-business owner in Texas), Jeff Capel (former coach at Oklahoma and Virginia Commonwealth), Kenny Blakeney (assistant coach at Harvard), Jay Williams (ESPN analyst), Shane Battier (Memphis Grizzlies) and Chris Duhon (Orlando Magic) ever sold out their race.

To hint that those who grew up in a household with a mother and father are somehow less black than those who did not is beyond ridiculous....

You cannot attend a schizoid institution like Duke without learning how to void a term, sit in its emptiness -- kind of an existential mindfulness meditation exercise -- and then slap a redefinition on it, filling out those edges, what that cheater-of-an-ex-lover writer of mine loved to name limns.  He only used that word, though, when within striking distance of an attractive waitress/poetess.  His was a West Coast pretention -- he who plaintively wondered whether the grunion run.

The edges of reconstituted Duke terms are artfully rusty, aiming for rustic, achieving distress.

No, they didn't reschedule my ketamine treatment for this morning.  The above is actually the result of years of cogitation.  I done thunk it.

The superior commentary comes from Rochelle Riley, columnist for the Detroit Free Press.  Why?  Because she alone of all the commentators I've read on this brouhaha-ha-ha, respects the term.  Voiding a term, redefining a term, is an operation that first demands that one understand the term.  Hence, Uncle Tom Merits Better From Jalen:
The greatest shame isn't that Jalen Rose, when he was a kid, called a rival player a name.

The greatest shame isn't that, at the time, Jalen Rose -- as he reminded people in his ESPN documentary "The Fab Five" -- felt that black students who attended white schools were sellouts.

The greatest shame isn't that Kid Rose must have felt some sense of disloyalty or self-hatred because how else could he attend and become fabulous at the predominantly white University of Michigan and not consider himself a so-called Uncle Tom?

No, the greatest shame is that had Kid Rose read Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly," he would have learned that Tom, the main character, was a beloved hero, a Christian martyr -- and someone who deserves better in history.

Stowe analyzed the daily pain of slavery by telling the stories of people revolving around Uncle Tom. History has masked how the book was intended. Even beloved Tom's story has been lost: He was beaten to death because he would not betray other slaves. All that remains is the fact that he was subservient to white criminals who kept him and other kidnapped Africans captive.

As if he had a choice.

A foolish endeavor
Sadly, that is where black America still exists 159 years later, debating our worth, our successes and failures, our hopes and dreams, based on how they relate to white America.

Instead of one America that measures itself against the world, we measure the gap between black and white, educationally, economically and socially. It is a foolish endeavor since America spent nearly a hundred years of its constituted life ensuring that there was an underclass. (You can't have a superior class without an underclass.) Black people, in the national aggregate, will never catch up, so to speak. Black people individually have surpassed in ways too numerous to count -- although we try to do so every February.

Kid Rose perpetuated a stereotype he didn't understand. Grown-up Rose, a 38-year-old sports analyst, reminded people of what he did. He could have taken out that "Uncle Tom" quote. He didn't because, then as now, he didn't understand the damage it could do.

Achievements and accusations
The bottom line is this: For centuries, white America and black America have spent billions to retain some separateness. So strong is that need for separateness that some black Americans have taken it as insult that other black Americans would seek to excel, would excel.

As the only member of my family to attend a predominantly white university (everyone else went to North Carolina Central University, N.C. A&T State University, Winston-Salem State University, Elizabeth City State University and Fayetteville State University), I heard what Grant Hill heard then and what kids still hear today.

With every achievement, my family beamed, while some peers accused me of trying to be white -- as if that were the only province for exceptional.

Yes, there's plenty to be sad about in this latest little brouhaha about who is and isn't black enough based on how smart they are. I'm sad that the argument still persists.

But I'm sadder that a beloved character in a book that President Abraham Lincoln claimed help start the Civil War, has been turned into a stereotype, his name into a racial epithet.

Uncle Tom deserves better.

After browsing through some other recent posts to The Quad blog, I'd like to make mention of Katie Thomas' feature focussing on the shame of college programs that fail to graduate at least 50% of their athletes:

With the men’s basketball tournament as a backdrop, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan renewed his call for the N.C.A.A. to impose stricter penalties on universities that do not graduate enough of their athletes.

“The vast majority of schools take their responsibility on the academic part of this very seriously,” Duncan said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “However, you have a small set of programs — five to 10 percent of programs, ballpark — who aren’t serious on the academic side. And I just fail to understand why we continue to reward that behavior rather than not tolerate it.”

Duncan, who was a co-captain of his Harvard basketball team, has been a critic of the N.C.A.A.’s academic standards and has joined others in asking the association to ban from postseason play teams that are not on track to graduate at least 50 percent of their players. This year, he endorsed a recommendation by the Knight Commission, a college athletics watchdog group, to change the N.C.A.A.’s revenue distribution system so that it rewards teams for academic success.

A Knight Commission analysis found that 10 of the teams in this year’s men’s tournament — including No. 2 seed San Diego State and No. 3 seeds Purdue and Syracuse — are not on track to graduate half of their players.

Last but not least, my Brother-Unit Grader Boob has finally weighed in on this year's tourney from the selfish point of view of his annual prognostication competition with three longtime friends -- Ric, TC, and TC's wife Karen.

The subject line of his email reads: Step Away From the Bad Essay -- an immediate clue that he is mired in grading... detritus, let us say.

In a brief desperate moment, I'm going to stop grading some very bad Rogerian arguments and say howdy.
Hope all is as well as possible--on the health and the feline fronts.
Got a plagiarism conference call to be involved with later this week, so that should be interesting.
On the NCAA front, I picked several upsets on Thursday and then saw my teams losing by double digits yesterday.
I fear TC or Ric will take the coveted bragging rights. Damn, 4th place again.
Love to all.
Grader (Bored) Boob

The plagiarism reference results from a student who chose to copy -- not an essay or a research paper, not an exam, no... -- she chose to copy a class-specific discussion question answer. Not that I would ever plagiarize, but if I did? I would pick a better battle...

It amazes me that students try to defend themselves when they plagiarize.  It amazes me more that, dependant upon who they are, they are successful in their appeals over Grader Boob's head, trampling over his long, curly tresses as they seek solace from some dean or other.

In other teaching oddities, the aforementioned friend Karen is a prof for a pharmacy program (That'd be an *advanced* program...) and she reports that a student questioned (And continues to question) her far out, wild assertion that the notation .05 is equivalent to "five percent." I have an urgent request to be notified of the institution to which this pharmacist will report for duty.

Well, that's what I've been reading, trying to at least keep college b-ball in mind at all times.

Tomorrow is my second ketamine treatment and I am desperate for relief. If I have the chance, I want to beg for a faster route to the higher dosage that is most associated with success. I think, from reading the commentary of other patients attending the same program, that I will need to go well beyond 100 mg. Many of them are receiving over 200 mg, and all suggest extending the infusion over at least 3 hours to cut back on side effects.  Most of them have "only" limited CRPS, by which I mean involvement of "only" one limb.  From the beginning, I had two extremities affected;  Somewhere around the midpoint of this siege, that number climbed to four, as in *all* -- plus my face. 

I am having one of those desperate days.  The burn is a too heavy burden today.

I also watched a couple of videos ketamine patients have made during their treatments, particularly several out of Hahnemann University Hospital, and lordy, lordy, I hope that's not what I am like after my treatment! Royal goofballs, they are.  No one much mentions the extent of their pain relief, though they manage to mention every other topic under the sun.  They even film themselves having inane phone conversations.  The cult of sickness?

One woman really shocked me.  She had had a port put in, then decided to go out for dinner and drinks (right away, I know we don't share the same pain).  Instead of wearing a top that covers the port insertion point, which is still bruised and sore, being so new, she chooses a low cut, port-revealing and port-enhancing skin-tight leotard.  I'm like, "WTF?" Yes, there is a cachet to her sickness. 

I wish I knew whether it is the ketamine experience that is making me dream such weirdness as I have of late.  Lots of death and, sorry, decomposition.  Smells.  Unhinging smells.  Liquefaction.  Why would I dream such things?

On the feline front, the fuzz ball remains nameless. He has an appointment with the vet on Tuesday and must have a name by then (so I have decreed). Marmy Fluffy Butt continues to attack him at every opportunity, bringing to mind her first weeks with us, when we actually had to carry Sammy from his bedroom hideout to the litter boxes because he was too frightened to run past her imperious self.  He was at least 50% larger than she was, even pregnant, but totally psyched out by her mess-with-me-and-die come-hither look.

Dobby has been a steady ambassador to the the little puff-o'nothing-much, even ignoring the little guy's oversized hisses and growls to go nose-to-nose in friendship. Here he is trying to join in some Turbo Ball play that *somehow* morphs into a game of got-your-tail.  It is neat to witness -- live and in person! -- the will-o'wisp's discoveries.  You can actually see an idea pop into his head (it goes *boing*boing*) and he rarely puts off its execution.

I missed a real photo opportunity, something that was a cross between a "Where's Waldo?" and those old "What's wrong with this picture?"  He climbed a tall bookcase that hosted a bunch of framed photos of some of my neer-do-well relatives, then carefully sat himself in their midst, and... froze.  He held that pose for minutes.  It just made me laugh...